What’s the definition of an optimist?

An England coach talking up England’s World Cup chances.

But on a slightly more serious note, what is the guy supposed to say? “We are crap, the players have lost it, and we don’t know where our next win is coming from?” A coach really can not say that, even if it is true.

A nice night out at Adelaide Oval

So I wandered along to the Adelaide Oval yesterday after all, and took up my seat in the Chappell Stands with New Zealand struggling at 3 for 60 after about 20 overs. England were right on top, and as I’d found myself next to a rather chatty fellow, we discussed the match, and also the possibility that we’d be going home early. As it was, we DID end up going home early, but that was because New Zealand had won the game.

How did they escape? Well, Jacob Oram batted well. England made it easy though for him, because he came out to bat and was facing the fire and brimstone of Paul Collingwood. My own view that Flintoff should have brought Anderson back into the attack eventually filtered through to the England captain four overs after I had said it, by which time Oram had settled in.

He’s a big lad, is Oram. After a spell from the game, his footwork was understandably rusty but once he found his range, he was able to power the New Zealand innings onwards. He found an ally in Brendon McCullum, who looked totally out of form, but was still able to contribute by running like a whippet.

A late flurry by Franklin took New Zealand to 210. I wandered off for chips, a hot-dog, and a chocolate ice-cream, all the ingredients needed for a balanced diet. I think the Black Caps might have had something a little more healthy because they came out on all cylinders.

Franklin took the first over from the Cathederal End because of the considerable breeze coming from the south. He took three wickets in his opening spell, though he was helped by a withering blast from the River End by Shane Bond.

Bond bowls with the pace of a Brett Lee and the accuracy of.. well he’s not quite in the McGrath mould, but he’s certainly pretty accurate. He pinned down the English upper order, and Mal Loye was in no mood to try his sweep shot this time around.

Franklin and Bond bowled the first fourteen overs, before being relieved. It was the introduction of Daniel Vettori that proved England’s undoing. He bowled a lovely spell; with the breeze to bowl into, he obtained drift and flight, and England’s batsmen did not have the footwork to cope with him. What particularly struck me was the way that England’s batsmen were stuck in two minds about whether or not to come forward, or to play back. Quite often they were caught in no-man’s land.

This certainly didn’t help England’s scoring rate. Ed Joyce was the only batsman to get past twenty. New Zealand fielded much better then they did in Sydney with Gillespie’s catch the highlight. Bond came back to finish the game, taking his 100th wicket in just his 55th match, and New Zealand’s large contingent of fans in the outer celebrated in style.

Speaking as a spectator, it was a nice evening out. I rather enjoy going to these ‘neutral’ games because since my team is not playing, I’m not that emotionally invested in the outcome, and therefore I can enjoy the cricket as it happens. But I have to say it- England were indeed woeful.

Egad, an Englishman coaching England? I’ve a better idea

Bob Woolmer has admitted an interest in the England job, and Allan Donald has come out in support of his application. Donald is well qualified to talk about Woolmer given their long association both for Warwickshire and South Africa. And Woolmer’s track record for South Africa and Pakistan speak for themselves. Pakistan is a reasonable chance of challenging for the 2007 World Cup, and have just leveled the current series in South Africa.

But here’s a thought out of left field. Maybe Australia should try to poach him first. There’s absolutely no reason why an Englishman can’t have a leading role in Australian cricket. And there’s no doubt that from a professional point of view, coaching the best side in the world would be a new experience.

I’m not saying that Australia should definately go down that path. But I think it is an idea that merits some consideration, as well.

England vs New Zealand, and I’m not going

The New Zealanders are bringing back Jacob Oram and Kyle Mills. But Shane Bond isn’t yet fit. With the greatest respect to Oram and Mills, I’m not shelling out money to watch them.

Anyway, chat away yonder, my merry readers. An England victory here would be a great leap forward towards them making the finals.

UPDATE – Oh, Bond’s been included. New Zealand are batting first, so I might wander along after all.

Kiwis rue their lost opportunities

I had to await today’s highlights of yesterday’s Australia vs New Zealand fixture due to the fact that I did a ‘spur of the moment’ trek into the Australian interior. Drought-breaking rains have flooded the mid-north of South Australia, and that looked more exciting to me then another hum-drum one-dayer between Australia and New Zealand. In any event, I could listen to it on the radio.

An unusual green strip in the SCG pitch gave fast bowlers the edge, and Australia’s pace attack made short work of the New Zealand top order, before Craig McMillan launched a brave revival, after he demonstrated that he’s no more likely to walk then Michael Hussey. Umpires Simon Taufell and Asad Rauf will hope this game is forgotten as quickly as possible because they both had bad games. New Zealand ended up with 218.

And they reduced Australia to 3 for 17 before Michael Clarke stabilised things. He was edgy early and gave a easy chance, only to be dropped. Michael Hussey should have been run out early as well, but survived to see Australia home.

But this was a game New Zealand should have won. They gave Australia vital chances, and this is something they cannot afford to do. There are some talented players in the New Zealand team, and they are skillfully led, but the gap between the New Zealand team and domestic first class cricket is very large. You might think this is unavoidable, but according to one young lady who knows more about domestic New Zealand cricket then I do, the main problem in New Zealand is attitude.

Obviously I am not against having a good time but this sort of larrikin behaviour is standard for a touring cricket team during the domestic NZ competition. They don’t take the whole thing seriously. The players think because they have scored a hundred in some piss arse domestic competition that they are now good enough to play international cricket.

This lack of professionalism filters through to the Black Caps as there literally is no pressure on players in the current squad to perform as there is no one to replace them. Players such as Astle, McMillan and Marshall have been cruising in Black Cap mode for years now. A guy like Matthew Sinclair should be a world class batsman, he’s not. And where the hell is Lou Vincent?

The situation is the reverse in Australia. Guys sit in State competitions for years and score thousands of runs and are still not good enough to break into the Australian side who game after game produces consistent form. Australian players have their share of off field incidents, Shane Warne and Andrew Symonds being the main offenders. The difference between Australian cricketers and New Zealand cricketers is that they seem to perform better on the field than they do off it.

(Read Kate’s entire essay for an eye-opening look at New Zealand cricket)

There really is no reason why New Zealand can not punch weight with Australia. Cricket’s not just about talent, it is about attitude. India has a population of over a billion, and by all measures they should be the country with a kick-arse cricket team, not Australia. But India isn’t serious about playing WINNING cricket.

New Zealand is semi-serious. They only need to look at how their rugby side dominates, and bring the same attitude to their cricket.

So, semi-serious England play semi-serious New Zealand in Adelaide tomorrow. I’m semi-seriously considering wandering along to have a look. I haven’t made up my mind yet though. If Bond plays, I will probably go.

Seriously!

Wisden advertising in the 1800s

Marquees

Although its primary role is to document cricket, the early editions of The Wisden Cricketers’ Almanack have become a fascinating time machine into society in the 19th century. There are a whole bunch of advertisements in the late 1800s, offering various questionable concoctions to improve your health; Naturalists guns; Carry-All Fishing Baskets; Marquees (as used by Oxford and Cambridge!); false knee caps “made of finest plated steel wire, meshed so as to contract and expand with the movement of the knee.” You name it, Wisden advertised it.

Click here to see one I scanned for this brilliant article in the 1992 Almanack. Benjamin Edgington’s marquees, on Duke Street (roughly Borough High Street as it is today). You need to register (no bad thing anyway) to read it, but it’s worth doing. There are some absolute gems in there.

And by the by, Thomas Williams was indicted for stealing 40 yards of Edgington’s canvas on February 2, 1833, and transported to Australia for seven years. So now you know.

The return of Caribbean Cricket

No, sadly I don’t have the answer to the Caribbean’s descent into oblivion, nor any exciting news of its regeneration. This is just a reminder that Ryan Narine’s CaribbeanCricket.com and blog are both back in the land of the living which, if nothing else, is the best news West Indies cricket has had in months. Check out both and keep reading.

It is, as Tony Cozier said the other day, an “intimately informed” website and required reading for anyone interested in cricket.

With that good news comes another depressing comment, this time from Tony Becca.

“Cricket, once the king of sports in this country, has become a second-rate sport in this country.”

Kathmandu cricket

Terrific shot here of cricket being played in the Kathmandu valley, Nepal.

Nepal have a thriving interest in cricket and are worth keeping an eye on. Me and Martin Williamson try to cover them in Beyond the Test World although news from Nepal has been pretty thin on the ground in recent weeks. Keep an eye on our blog at Cricinfo.

Cricket in New York

India and Australia are planning a one-day series to be played in New York. More at Cricinfo.

News.com reported that Cricket Australia operations manager Michael Brown confirmed last night that Australia had been approached by India for the series, though the details remained to be worked out. “You never say never but details at this stage are sketchy,” Brown said.

Two possible stumbling blocks in the negotiations could be Australia’s tour programme and wrangling over the percentage of revenues to be shared between the rival boards, with Australia reportedly demanding an equal share and the Indians demurring.

What would New Yorkers make of it, I wonder?

Big Brother isn’t watching you

All you people who have been watching this ‘Big Brother’ imbroglio should hang your heads in shame. When the British Prime Minister is commenting on it, then it’s a sure sign that England’s sense of priorities are warped. No wonder England’s cricket team doesn’t win much.

Mind you they came close last night- a four wicket victory and a bonus point to Australia doesn’t indicate how tense it was out there for a while. That Australia won was due to the nerves and good luck of Michael Hussey, who got a clear edge early in his innings. However, unlike Adam Gilchrist, he’s never been a walker.

Who knows what might have happened if England had set Australia a decent target?  England got their first opening partnership of 50 thanks to the introduction of Mal Loye. The rest of them went down to McGrath and co very meekly.

And to make matters worse for England, Michael Vaughan won’t be available for another couple of matches. England’s one day summer is turning out as bad as was feared.