Harmison feels betrayed by Fletcher

I asked Stuart Broad for his thoughts on the Duncan Fletcher futore the other day. “Don’t read books,” he announced with a broad smile (sorry). “Not enough pictures!” It was a predictable response, and I applauded his blatant bullshitting.

Steve Harmison, though, doesn’t really care what he says these days – especially if it means coming to the defence of his old chum Andrew Flintoff. Somehow, though, Harmison’s comments don’t carry the weight of, say, Andrew Strauss or Matthew Hoggard. You feel if Flintoff had run over a dog on purpose, before roasting it on a spit, Harmison would say “Andrew has learned his lesson. He might be a canine killer but he’s still great fun to be around; an inspiration. Just ask anyone. Anyone but the dog and its owner of course.”

Nevertheless, his outburst to the Daily Mail made for enjoyable reading and was yet another nail in Fletcher’s coffin. I can’t see how this affair will simply “blow over”. I see Nasser Hussain has also been making comments, in the same paper, about the lily-livered decision makers in the ECB, and their handing jobs to Hugh Morris and Mike Gatting. It feels like 1999 all over again…

Notes from the pavilion

Duncan’s book

So then. No going quietly into the shadows for Duncan Fletcher, whose autobiography is exposing Andrew Flintoff’s drink problems (among other things). But where do the public stand on the whole issue? I’d be interested to hear everyone’s thoughts.

Fletcher says he’s been let down by Flintoff, that Fred was too wrecked to even throw a ball (let alone catch it). This is woeful behaviour for a sportsman, especially one described by Brett Lee as a supreme athelete. But why didn’t Fletcher – the most powerful man in English cricket – nip it in the bud at the first offence?

And why was Flintoff given the captaincy ahead of Andrew Strauss? At the time, we all bought into the fanciful notion that Flintoff alone could help us retain the Ashes; a leader of men rather than a tactician. He’ll drag the players with him through sheer brute force, we thought. So, it seems, did Duncan. Or was Fletcher so concerned with Flintoff’s levels of drinking that he thought the captaincy might rein him in? Either way, he – and David Graveney – must be accountable. It was a gross error and has cost England, Flintoff (and Strauss, let’s be honest) severely.

Who was he out drinking with? Yep, Ian Botham (who naturally doesn’t think there’s anything wrong with sinking 12 bottles of Chardonnay. In an evening). Me and my miniature mate Dan from the magazine were discussing this today, and he reminded me of a piece Simon Hughes wrote in relation to Flintoff’s World Cup boozing:

Before the last day of an England Test in 2004, I was on the pitch chatting with Andrew Flintoff when Ian Botham strode over. “There he is, the world expert on batting,” Botham chortled, referring to me, “the bloke who used to fall asleep fielding at long leg. True, you know! [Unfortunately it is]. Now then Freddie, you and Harmy are coming out with me tomorrow night!’ Flintoff nodded in approval.

When the two had gone their respective ways, Michael Vaughan wandered over. I congratulated him on his second century of the match. “Thanks,” he said. “Nice track, innit. What was Botham saying?”

“Oh, he was promising Harmy and Freddie he’d take them out tomorrow night,” I replied.

“Oh no he’s not,” Vaughan said. “They’re not going out with Beefy! There’s another Test match in three days’ time.”

Vaughan’s authority is his greatest asset. What will Duncan’s book bring tomorrow?

Notes from the pavilion for October 27th

Thanks, Fred, and goodnight

So that’s probably it for Freddie, then. Whatever drivel the ECB can try and spin about his ankle needing time “to settle and recover before the process of further strengthening and assessment is intensified” – medico-speak for “he’s done it in again” – it’s probably safe to assume that a man on the wrong side of 30 who has played just one of his team’s last four Test series isn’t really one for the future. It’s time to look beyond.

Flintoff

Probably most likely to step into the breach in the short-term is Ravi Bopara. But he’s untried at Test level and despite knocking Mike Hussey over on his ODI debut, it’s hard to imagine him knocking over Test sides with his gentle trundlers off a short run. Similarly Paul Collingwood, who encouragingly hasn’t let snaffling Sourav Ganguly on a lucky LBW shout go to his head.

So let’s look to the current crop of youngsters. There’s Adil Rashid, who scored his first Championship century this season, and team-mate Tim Bresnan, who has fought back well from being Jayasuriya’s bitch last summer. Younger still, there’s Alex Wakely at Northants and James Harris at Glamorgan. For some of these it looks like the next Ashes in 2009 will come a bit soon (Harris was born in 1990, for heaven’s sake), while none of them really looks like a potential Test number six. But then again, nor does Freddie at the moment.

Who does everyone think will end up filling Fred’s specially-modified boots? A batsman? A bowler? Or is it time David Graveney got Mark Ealham back on the phone?

Strauss off Key?

Sorry about the contrived headline, but it is fairly self-explanatory. Has Andrew Strauss failed to deliver for too long? It’s been forever since he last scored a Test hundred, while his one good knock this summer was gifted by Dinesh Karthik’s appalling drop. All the other batsmen have scored tons, while he has struggled to convert, despite getting a few starts.

There’s no doubting his class, but is it time to try someone else? Robert Key would jump at the chance, as would Ravi Bopara. Or does Andrew Flintoff bat six when he returns, with Ian Bell going to three? Perhaps Strauss should get yet another chance, given he has managed to get to 30 regularly and is possibly one big score from finding top form.

For what it’s worth, I’d go with Rob Key.

Beginning of the end for Flintoff?

It might be premature to say this, but Andrew Flintoff’s latest ankle surgery could signal the beginning of the end. If that’s too grand a statement then, at the very least, I cannot see him leading England’s bowling attack ever again (certainly not in the way he did in 2004-05 and especially during the Ashes).

The other alarming problem is he’s forgotten how to bat. How, then, will he get back into the team if he is not firing in either discipline? For his captaincy? Er, perhaps not.

The Geoffrey Oi!cotts (disGrace on bass; Alan Knott on drums)

Further to Scott’s post, and Andrew’s piece, comes this example of YouTube at its brilliant, bizarre best. Among the historical gems, a lot of the other videos there are fairly drab’n’dull recollections of fans playing village cricket. Boring. But searching for “cricket” throws up the odd seemingly inexplicable video, such as this: a band called the Geoffrey Oi!cotts. Their MySpace entry reveals the following:

Band Members
Freddy Skintoft (vocals) W.C. disGrace (bass) A.P.E. sKnott (drums) Devon Malcolm McClaren (guitar) The Dickie Birds (backing troupe and groupies)

Influences
Yorkshire pride.

Sounds Like
The thwack of willow on leather on a sunny yorkshire afternoon..

Record Label
hahahahahaha

What a brilliant image that is. Alan Knott on drums (still equipped with wicketkeeping gloves, and a toothy grin); Devon Malcolm, massive 1980s bottle-top glasses, attached to a Fender and – best of all? – several Dickie Birds, rolling up their sleeves and tottering in the background. The Geoffrey Oi!cotts, based in Leeds, also do a passable cover of the Cockney Rejects’ only decent song, Oi! Oi! Oi!, as below (click here if it doesn’t show up).

All of this musicery begs the question: which five cricketers, past or present, would be in your band? The stupider, most unlikely the better. Tony Lewis would have to be lead vocalist for a start, closely followed by Mike Smith on drums…

England v Kenya, World Cup, Gros Islet

Okay, Andrew Flintoff, here’s your chance. Apparently he’s been stepping up the gas in the nets – and also bowling quite fast – so today’s match against Kenya represents an ideal opportunity for him to single handedly boost England’s fledgling confidence. Kenya aren’t at their best and ought to be swept aside…well, quite. Leave your comments below, and keep an eye on the scorecard.

‘I was playing cricket’

Today’s Matt in The Telegraph