Surrey beaten by students!

The Championship favourites, Surrey, have been beaten by Yorkshire students. Brilliant – made my day!

Fidel Edwards back for West Indies

Any doubts about whether Fidel Edwards would have lost some pace (after injury) have vanished. No wickets yet, but he’s up to and beyond 94mph

Ed Joyce stands alone

As a Middlesex supporter, I’m obviously biased – however, my opinions of Ed Joyce are shared by far better judges than me. Today, he hit 192 out of a total of just 345 ao. The next highest score was a paltry 39 by Ed Smith, posh bloke, author and recently snatched from Kent.

I’m incredibly excited by this. Joyce, as I’ve mentioned once before, is Irish and finally qualifies to play for England in July. He is a great talent, an eye-catching player and this innings took him past 4000 runs averaging 45 in 63 matches.

Last year, when Hussain injured himself in the nets, Andrew Strauss was called upon (“plucked from obscurity”) – and we know what he’s done since. 5 hundreds, over 1200 runs, averaging 56. Whilst it’s unfair to compare the two, Joyce does have very similar and slightly better statistics. About a third fewer FC matches, but already has 12 hundreds to Strauss’ 16. This bloke can play. Don’t discount seeing him in the winter touring party if he continues to score hundreds like the one today which, incidentally, a radio journalist called “The best hundred I’ve seen for years.”

Harmison warms up with a hat-trick

Despite being overshadowed initially by 2 other bowlers – Davies in the first innings and Plunkett taking 3 top-order wickets – Harmison today took his first 5-for for Durham against Worcestershire in 2 years, including a hat-trick (his second in his career – first being last year in an ODI). As excellent news this is, it should be noted that four of his wickets (including the hat-trick) were numbers 7, 9, 10 and jack.

It’s still very encouraging news – especially since he’s hitting the stumps. Four out of his five second innings wickets were bowled, and he took eight in the match. It’s early days, and means virtually nothing in terms of his form – but will give his confidence a massive boost, as it will David Graveney, chairman of selectors, who apparently was watching.

Perhaps more importantly, this was a crushing victory for Durham to go along with their other one against Leicestershire. If only Cricinfo was up, I could check Durham’s stats…

Bowling a maiden over

Very enjoyable article by Nick Bryant, a BBC foreign correspondant, who’s tried his hand at cricket commentary. And failed. Miserably!

I am sad to report that my sub-continental cricketing career has much in common with my ongoing search for an Indian bride:

I have yet to bowl a maiden over.

Ponting’s bat: graphite aint wood!

Well well well, things are hotting up. Apparently, Ricky Ponting’s bat has graphite support to strengthen it and ye olde MCC don’t like it one little bit:

Ponting’s Kookaburra bat is strengthened by a thin carbon graphite strip and MCC fear this gives him extra power and may damage the ball.

This one at Kookaburra’s site doesn’t mention graphite, but seeing as only 300 have been made it might well be the same one. But it gets better:

Rob Elliot, the managing director of Kookaburra, said it was “rubbish” to suggest the graphite provided extra power or would damage the ball. He said the MCC wanted to ban the bat and felt it could be a part of MCC’s attempt to try to destabilise Australia’s Ashes campaign.

I doubt the MCC are that clever! Some old fart in the corridors of Lord’s heard “graphite” and “willow” mentioned in the same breath and has objected. Storm in a tea-cup, but a funny one. England just need to ensure all balls bowled at Ponting’s magic graphite willow hit the outside / inside edges :)

Pietersen ducks out

Kevin Pietersen’s 2nd appearance for his new county Hampshire ended in a second failure – out for a 2nd ball duck. Oops. Chasing 252, Hampshire are struggling a bit on 98-4 – Kirtley has 3 so far, and his action looks even more questionable than in previous seasonssee a video of him bowling and decide for yourself.

Hampshire v Sussex highlights

To save you going to Sussex’s poorly designed, IE-only, popup-riddled website, right click here & choose Save As to see video highlights of today’s game (7MB), as mentioned yesterday. It’s worth downloading if only to see a stupendous C&B by Warne to dismiss Adams. Man, he’s got great hands! Great slipper, too.

I was also pleased to see Chris Tremlett in action. He’s the son of Tim Tremlett, ex Hampshire himself and I think was Hampshire’s coach (maybe still is). Chris is 6 foot 7″ – same as Curtly Ambrose – and is down on Cricinfo as RMF, but he looked nippier than that in the highlights. The English selectors do have their eye on him.

Ticket availability for The Ashes

The BBC highlight how scarce tickets have been for English & Australian fans for this summer’s Ashes. In fact, scarce is the wrong word: they’ve been sold out for bloody months. Interestingly…

Fans do still have a chance of going to the fifth day of an Ashes match this year with most grounds, including Lord’s, not selling final day tickets in advance.

It also highlights the numbers of tickets (and the exorbitant prices – showing demand) available on eBay, as I mentioned a couple of weeks back.

Scott from Ubersportingpundit takes up the ticket-scarcity issue with a different line, though, questioning how the hell they’ve sold out at all.

I think there are quite a few reasons. Firstly, it’s The Ashes. Even a sportsfan, and not a hardline cricket-nut, knows the significance of any cricket match played between England and Australia. So that’s one. Secondly, *any* cricket fan in this country – be they minor or major – would want to see England and Australia play in an Ashes contest and I’m sure they would amount to a large percentage of the tickets sold. And thirdly, bloody corporations have probably bought up hundreds and hundreds of tickets in advance.

It’s true, Cricket isn’t Football and does suffer as a result. The past 20 years has seen some truly crap cricket by England, combined with some underachieving players and shit coaches. Public lost faith, media took the piss – but that’s turning around now, thanks in large part to Flintoff. It’s going to take time though to get borderline cricket fans to cross over to genuine lovers of the game – so continued success of the National team is absolutely vital to the popularity of the game in England.

Dale Steyn signs for Essex

Dale Steyn
A great signing for Essex as they snatch Dale Steyn, the young South African quick. It was rumoured in January Warwickshire were itching to sign him in the winter, but Essex have got in first.