Positive spin

Only yesterday, at Sky’s only televised County Championship match of the season, David Lloyd was to be found grumbling at the lack of positivity in modern English first-class cricket. Although the Roses match is normally a lure, I’m afraid, Bumble, you were just at the wrong game.

For most teams in the County Championship, it would be fair to say that the days of the sporting declaration have, for the most part, disappeared. This is especially so when the first 5 teams in the top division are within elbows distance of each other. The bonus system, which rewards first innings performances with bat and ball, boosts the meagre four points handed to teams who draw without an over bowled. As such, when Yorkshire were all out this morning for 320, Lancashire merely began their first innings as if there were still days to play.

Shane Warne has brough many things to the County Championship. Yet high on this list must be his forthright version of captaincy. Hampshire are not a team to draw many games, and today was no exception. In a deal that must be applauded, Warne, and Warwickshire counterpart Darren Maddy, arranged a declaration and forfeiture to set up a run chase, which was so closely contested that it took a career best 192* from Michael Carberry to secure the game in the final over for Hampshire.

Does it seem right the Warwickshire are in a worse position for playing a competitive match than either of the Roses teams are after a draw in which the only tension rested in whether Lancashire could make it to their second bowling point before they ran out of overs? Yorkshire’s former captain, Darren Lehmann, was rather vehement on the subject and but two years ago, Warne himself accused David Fulton, then captain of Kent, of handing Nottinghamshire the Championship by refusing to accept such a deal on the last day of the season.

Certainly, the Australian system is far more rewarding of results over ‘score draws’, and the whole point of the extention to four day cricket was to avoid games without victors. However impressive the scorecard of Essex’s game against Nottingham these last four days, neither team showed any hunger for the win over inflated career averages and record breaking. Unfortunately for Chris Read, the two overs he bowled in a final session dedicated to over-rate improvement did not yield him his first wicket in all competitions. That, at least, might have been vaguely entertaining.

Blimey Marto, we didn’t mean it!

From the Corridor last week:

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.

I think there’s a bit more to Damien Martyn‘s retirement then meets the eye. With Martyn, there always is. He is a sensitive and wary character that doesn’t care for the spotlight, and he’s had enough of the guff that comes with being a Test cricketer. That’s what I am guessing has happened here.

He wasn’t always so shy though.

Martyn was the brightest star in a ‘new wave’ of talented young Australian batsmen that emerged around 1990. He captained Australia’s under 19 side that toured England, leading the likes of Adam Gilchrist. There were plenty of other good players in that ‘new wave’ like Matthew Hayden, Darren Lehmann and Justin Langer. But there was no doubt that ‘Marto’ was the best.

He was ‘fast-tracked’ as they say, and along with Justin Langer, he was cast into the furnace of facing Ambrose and Walsh and co at their height in 1992-93. He proved he had the makings, scoring a vital half century in the same match that Warne first made his name.

But he couldn’t score that breakthrough century that would have sealed his place, and there were stories going ’round the traps’ about his attitude. He had replaced Dean Jones in the side and brought not only a Jones-like talent, but a Jones-like mouth. When he specacularly failed to bring Australia home in a Test match the next summer, he was made the scapegoat, and cast back into the grind of State cricket.

The demotion was hard for Martyn and he lost his way for several years. He was even dropped from the West Australian side for a while, and it seemed a great talent had been lost.

I do not know what it was that turned things around for him. However, he got back into the side when Ricky Ponting injured his knee prior to the New Zealand tour of 1999/2000, and made some valuable contributions. However he was a different sort of player- still as elegant and obviously talented as ever, but clearly not altogether anxious to attract attention.

He piled on the runs though, and had the support of his team-mates. 2004 was his golden year, as he scored centuries against India and Sri Lanka that were crucial to series victories. In 2003 he had played in the World Cup Final with a broken finger and still scored a masterful innings, albiet completely over-shadowed by Ricky Ponting. And this year in the ICC Champion’s Trophy, he was playing as well as ever.

Well, whatever is behind this, good luck to ‘Marto’ in whatever he decides to do. He got married in the off-season, and maybe he just wants to settle down and enjoy life. He left plenty of fond memories in the minds of cricket lovers not just in Australia but around the world.

Lehmann England’s next coach?

Darren Gough is a bit of a rumour merchant, but he does know Darren Lehmann pretty well. And last night, Gough said Lehmann was a “strong rumour” to replace Duncan Fletcher as England coach. Thanks to Rod:

The old boy stories continue with the news of an on-stage interview with Darren Gough last night, at the Adelaide pre-Test dinner. The former England bowler said that Darren Lehmann, the South Australian skipper, was a ‘strong rumour’ as the next England coach after Duncan Fletcher. Whether it was a blast at the current coach is unknown, but Gough said: “He teaches enjoyment to the players… his knowledge is second-to-none, especially of the England players after playing in the country for so long.”

Thoughts?

Who ate all the South African pies?

Kep Wessells calls Graeme Smith a porker! In response South African coach Mickey Arthur suggests that Wessells doesn’t have the interests of South African cricket in mind.

Whee! Handbags at 20 paces!

Of course, if Australia follow Darren Lehmann’s advice, we Aussies might not be able to laff at the silly Saffie fatties for too much longer. But I’ll enjoy it while I still can!

Who ate all the pies?

Darren Lehmann has nominated fellow fattie Mark Cosgrove to be Australia’s new batting sensation who can win the 2007 World Cup for Australia. Cosgrove was so fat at the start of the season that the South Australian selectors told him to put down that pie and lose some weight before they’d consider him. To the lad’s credit, he’s shrunk enough to get back into the side, and has had a merry old time of it in both forms of the game. He’s still a figure of substance though, and I can’t imagine the selectors liking his fielding atheleticism too much.

While I don’t think Cosgrove will get in for 2007 World Cup, he may well feature in the baggy green afterwards, because he’s quality. And speaking as a fellow-fattie, I think it’s a myth that only skinny weedy guys can be good fielders. With Merv Hughes on the selection panel, I’d like to think that Cosgrove has a chance, but after muching on it, you have to admit he’s a real outsider.

Cricketers are ALL slimline athletes!

Update: Stephen Fleming attacks Mark Richardson, or does he?! It was a joke apparently.

Update: click here to listen to the MP3 of the race.

I think you’ll agree that this shows the true fitness of cricketers; lean, mean, sporting machines. Or not, as Mark Richardson and Darren Lehmann perfectly demonstrate here! This is a bit of fun Mark Richardson has introduced over the past few years – donning a full-length (swimming?) costume, and challenging the least-athletic of the opposing team, at the end of a series! Great fun :)

Although one wonders if this isn’t just an opportunity for NZ to start winning something (sorry) :)