Blind faith of cricket fans

A Scotsman has sold his house to follow England in the Ashes.
In case you mis-read that, I’ll type it again. A Scotsman has sold his house to follow England in the Ashes. Here’s the big winner:

He got £180,000 for his pad and is now jobless, homeless and watching England get a pasting in Australia. It could only happen to a Brit. More at the Mirror.

Ashes stars in your office

Michael Tormey, Tom Noble and Nick Place write:

Flintoff: (Warehouse Stock Coordinator): If he ever has a day off sick, the place will fall apart. Or to use a cricket analogy: if he doesn’t take all the wickets and score all the runs, it’s just not going to happen.

Harmison (Creative Director): Big reputation, big salary – has to be carried by rest of the team.

Watson (IT Manager): Offers key solutions to all problems but keeps crashing. Hamstrung by software problems.

Warnie: (PR Director): Always on the phone, always spinning something, always out for long lunches. A genius. Regularly embarrasses himself at the office Christmas party.

Pietersen (New Business Manager): The young bull, poached from rival company, who can star on occasions but ego might be a problem.

McGrath (Production Line Manager): The 70-year-old manager who just can’t let go and you know what, is still better than the kids out of uni trying to take his job.

S. Clark (Assistant Workflow Manager): Not rated, hangs around in the warehouse, and you suddenly realise he’s been singlehandedly holding contracts together for the past 12 months.

Langer (Accounts): Accident-prone 67-year-old veteran with a head for figures. Refuses to retire. Somehow keeps up with changes to GST and other tax legislation. Likes martial arts.

Martyn (Retail Manager): The irritating but smooth bloke you’re always trying to get rid of but customers love him and he sells just enough to keep his place.

G. Jones (Office Assistant): The PA you feel a bit sorry for because he has no idea, but the boss likes him and will give him time to develop. Who knows? He may even make a competent middle manager one day.

Lee (Sales Executive): The face of the company with a big laugh, a flash car and charisma to burn. Does he ever sell anything? No idea.

Ponting (Managing Director): There were early question marks over his commitment and longevity in the company, but he’s matured and now is responsible for more than half the company’s turnover all by himself, while also managing the office.

Giles (Assistant Marketing Manager): Been at the company for years, nobody likes him, nobody rates what he does. Must have compromising photos of the boss to keep his job.

Vaughan (CEO): Allegedly in charge but hasn’t been seen around the office for months. His shadow remains.

Bell (Accounts Manager): The university graduate with the Rhodes Scholarship who has now been with the firm for more than a year, lords over the blue collar workers but is yet to actually deliver when it matters.

MacGill (Marketing Manager): Annoying worker who wants to be PR Director but can’t get a shot at the job. Request for office car and phone rejected. Attends Anger Management courses.

Panesar (Intern): Always smiling, keen, energetic, model employee. Strangely overlooked for promotion at every turn.

Hair (Company Secretary): Recently retrenched (suddenly). Last seen being led from the building by security.

Is the end nigh for Greg’s Indian summer?

I tuned in to watch India play South Africa the other evening at Cape Town. I am not a huge fan of the fifty over game, but this was one of the more entertaining and memorable games. India ripped through South Africa’s top order before Justin Kemp scored a blazing century to put a large score on the board, and then India struggled before Dhoni engineered a brief revival. However once he was out, India crashed to another defeat.

For India, losing one day games is a serious business. Australia lost an ODI series to South Africa earlier this year, and this caused mild annoyance. For India losing two ODI games has caused mobs to burn Greg Chappell’s effigy and questions to be raised in Parliament.

Chappell in turn has quipped back, causing yet more uproar. India’s more passionate fans and political figures are making a collosal racket, and South African observers must be having a nice old chuckle at the disarray that Indian cricket is in.

I would be having a nice old chuckle myself at the spectacle India’s cricket community is making of itself, if not for the fact that India’s cricket establishment is only going to grow more important in world cricket in the years ahead. The fact that they are carrying on like this does not bode well for cricket’s future.

And as for Greg Chappell’s future? Well, I’m sure he’d be open to offers.

Fast, and not so fast, bowlers

There’s been more ink and bytes spilled on the Steve Harmison issue then any other English player in the last week or so then I can remember. Given that so many English hopes rested on his shoulders, that is understandable.

Jagadish crunches some numbers on Harmison. Meanwhile, his fellow fast bowlers escape scrutiny.

England’s other bowlers deserve some stick as well. Matthew Hoggard is an honest toiler, but he will struggle in Australian conditions. The lack of reverse swing has gone a long way to de-fang him. And, let me make it clear, it would have de-fanged Simon Jones as well, if he had been here. There might have been a few less half volleys, but it is wishful thinking to think that England’s attack would be much more dangerous with Jones about. At best, he might have stemmed the tide.

Since Jones is not around, England called upon two younger sorts. Jimmy Anderson got the nod at Brisbane, and he was mediocre. His bowling figures reflect that too. He was not able to bowl a consistent line or length to develop any pressure on the batsmen and Australia’s batsmen just waited for the bad balls and picked him off.

And there’s no excuse for that- his performance was barely worthy of first class cricket. Anderson needs to stop worrying about his hair product, get a copy of his Brisbane pitchmap, and get his arse in the nets and start working.

He certainly doesn’t deserve a place in the Adelaide Test but he might get it; the only other pace alternative is Sajid Mahmood. I saw Mahmood in the first game of the tour against the Prime Minister’s XI, and he was even worse then Anderson. If England seriously bring him into the XI for Adelaide, it will be Christmas come early for the Australian batsman.

Much more likely is the introduction of Monty Panesar. I’ve not seen him bowl except for highlights, but everyone that has seen him was surprised that he wasn’t included at the Gabba. From what I can tell, England’s best option is to include both spinners, and rely on Flintoff to attack with short sharp bursts, including the new ball.

Giles is not regarded as a serious wicket-taking options, but he does have the merit of keeping it tight. That is a handy virtue to have while Panesar is attacking at the other end. It is a huge ask to Panesar on Ashes debut, but England’s bowling plight is desperate, and there’s nothing else for it.

Anyway, that’s my take. Tim de Lisle has his take here. What’s your take?

Steady as she goes

Australia have named an unchanged squad for the Adelaide Test, and aren’t likely to make any changes to the team. After all, why would you?

All eyes will be on England as they ponder their options.

An Ashes Christmas Carol

Gather round, boys and girls, and let dear old Uncle Scott tell you a cricket story. This especially goes out to all you smartarses out there that think this series is over bar the shouting.

Once upon a time, there was a country called England. They played cricket, but they weren’t very good at it, and they hardly ever got to have the Ashes. But eventually, they gave the captaincy of their cricket side to a hardcase Yorkshireman, and after a very tight home series, the Ashes were regained at the Oval, and there was much rejoicing through the land.

Needless to say, the Australians weren’t very happy about this state of affairs, and later in the next year, the English came to Australia to defend the Ashes. And at the First Test in Brisbane, Australia absolutely smashed them, scoring over 600 and winning by a mile.

England had put their hopes on a new fast bowling sensation, but he had gone for 1 for 160 in Australia’s innings and the Australians were not very worried. It seemed that the Ashes were coming home to Australia for sure. Then this happened, and this happened and this happened, and Australia was very annoyed indeed because the English had beaten them three Tests in a row for the first time in 25 years.

So the lesson is, boys and girls, is that it’s not over till its over. And if England were to bounce back and thrash Australia in this series, it would be no more then history repeating itself. Especially if Steve Harmison were to be the agent of Australia’s undoing.

The elephant in the room

I’ve just been watching Inside Cricket, an Australian television cricket show where former Test players Brenden Julian, Mark Waugh, Allan Border, and Damien Fleming, have been discussing the First Test, with an English contribution from Graham Thorpe.

They all failed to mention the really big story that came out of the First Test and that is that England were beaten by three bowlers.

Brett Lee is the elephant that none dare mention; his contribution, especially in England’s second dig, could politely be called ‘crap’. He got a wicket because Kevin Pieterson gifted him one in the first over this morning, but really, he was a very fierce bad rabbit; his bad record against England just got worse.

And the pundits on television did not mention his name once. After all, the less said the better.

I’m a huge fan of Lee in one day cricket- in that form of the game, he keeps on performing, and while he keeps on taking wickets, he should be taking the new ball. But his Test performances, especially against England, continue to be ordinary.

Someone on the radio said at some point that ‘you can’t argue with 200 Test wickets’. Well actually you can. Just ask Jason Gillespie. Lee’s inability to take wickets has been glossed over in the hype of a big victory, but I do wonder if he is a luxury that Australia can afford over the course of a five Test series.

Live: Australia v England, 1st Test, Brisbane, 5th day

The fifth and final day from Brisbane. It looks as though the rain will hold off for Australia – late thunder is forecast, but that’s about all – so England will almost certainly enter the second Test on Friday 0-1 down. But all is not lost. Yesterday, they competed at last. Paul Collingwood – my secret tip for this series – looked increasingly fluent and combative in the afternoon, falling four short of a richly deserved hundred. And Kevin Pietersen batted with controlled mania for once, which was both exhilarating to watch and heartening for England’s cause; his duel against Shane Warne was not to be missed. Friends turned foes.

So let’s hope for everyone’s sake England can delay the inevitable and give Australia something to think about. Get chatting. I’m in work at 6 and will turn on TMS (for the first time in years, it seems) at about 5 to hear our fate…hopefully with Pietersen approaching 300 and England either scenting the most extraordinary win of all time, or a draw. Yes, quite.

Boned: The 12th Man

Buy Boned: The 12th Man by Billy Birmingham

I’ve often mentioned Billy Birmingham’s 12th Man Tapes here, and most (not all) of Cricinfo’s editorial team are complete addicts. We heard from the latest Australian member of the team, Brydon, that Birmingham is releasing a new album in time for Christmas which got the biggest cheer of the day. Fantastic news.

Billy Birmingham on a sofa

Called Boned, it contains all the usual stuff with Richie Benaud, Tony Greig, Bill Lawry and Ian Chappell. It’s going to be immense – Amazon are doing pre-orders so buy it now.

The Sydney Morning Herald have an interview with Birmingham who begins with what could be Quote of the Century.

“I’m all over the place like a suicide bomber’s sandshoe,” he tells The Sun-Herald.

“There’s so much material. The drama has been trying to cut it all down so it fits onto a double album.”

The 12th Man’s catalogue stands at almost 2million units sold. Have no doubt about Boned!becoming the biggest-selling album at Christmas. All six previous albums from The 12th Man have reached No.1 on the ARIA chart, making Birmingham the only Australian recording artist to have reached top spot with every one of his releases.

“It couldn’t have happened in any other country,” he says. “We’re a nation of sports nuts and piss-takers and all I’ve done is combine the two.”

McGuire telephones Benaud and tells him he’s been boned: the term bandied about when the real-life McGuire was thinking about sacking Channel Nine presenter Jessica Rowe. That night, Richie dreams that he telephones Kerry Packer in heaven and the former Nine boss tells him to fight the good fight against McGuire. Benaud, Ian Chappell, Tony Greig, Bill Lawry, Mark Nicholas and the rest of the commentators storm Martin Place in Sydney with a petition to get their jobs back.

Rip-off cricket

Reader ‘Glamorous Organ’ has a moan.

Watching Test cricket, or just about any other sport is no longer a pursuit for the working man. Even at the “liberal” enclave of Lords fussy stewarding depresses the spirits. A friend who went to the Oval last summer was so hacked off with the rip-off prices for crap beer and greasy burgers, he’s sworn never to go again.

He’s not the only unhappy camper. During today’s play, BBC legend Jonathan Agnew told how he has to drink decaffeinated coffee (I’d lose the will to live without real coffee, but I digress) and since it wasn’t supplied at the media centre at The Oval, he brought his own. But the Oval stewards confiscated it off him.

Now if Aggers can’t escape the rip off mentality that has enveloped the world’s cricket grounds, what hope is there for the rest of us?

He also said that £5 bottles of wine were going for around £35 at The Oval. That’s nice if you can get it.

At Brisbane, a half-pint is going for $5.50, so about £2. So work out how much a day at the cricket is going to cost you given your own drinking habits. Even if you are a more sober sort of individual, don’t expect water or soft-drinks to be much cheaper.

Anyway, consider this to be an open forum for readers to list their favourite gripes about rip-offs at the cricket.