A really great video of Matthew Hoggard’s 7 for 61 against South Africa, January 2005. The only blemish to an otherwise enthralling few minutes of video is the diabolical commentary from Bob Willis. He “described” (reacted to) the first five wickets, so you can turn the sound up on the sixth.
A very enjoyable game was cut short by messyrs Rain, Duckworth & Lewis (1 | 2) which England won. South Africa’s selectorial commitee did their utmost to give everyone something to talk about by making some cracking decisions: leaving out De Villiers (hit 190+ in the last Test Match, is young, a good athelete and can also keep wicket) and bringing back Adam Bacher after five years! England made their own oddities by leaving out Solanki (100 in his last ODI) and promoting Jones to open. In fact – although it’s tough on Solanki, I get the impression he’s on his way out…
Needless to say, the middle order was spineless and England ran through them. Although England made a hash of things to keep us interested, the main talking point was of Kevin Pietersen and his welcome. He marched to the crease looking pretty nervous, and the massive partisan croud booed him all the way. The commentators on Sky again proved they don’t read the newspapers by making a big thing of Andre Nel’s antics towards him – at one point, Pietersen came through for a single on Vaughan’s call. Nel, chasing the ball from his follow-through, pushed and barged him all the way much to the enjoyment of the croud. It was a good moment which lightened the atmosphere, and had the commentators read the Telegraph they’d have realised the pair were good mates
It was an impressive innings from Pietersen. South Africa aren’t quite ontop of their game, but the atmosphere was fiercely hostile (and England were in a hole at 44/3). He survived it and played a couple of classy shots, confirming not only his ability but his ticker as well.
Earlier today, Clive Lloyd attacked Michael Vaughan and accused him of lacking respect. And, just now, a scathing attack on Vaughan and his team has been made by Neil Manthrop who I’ve mentioned in a previous post. I’d urge you to read it.
Of particular interest, or more pressingly concern, is the following:
“A couple of months ago, Vaughan walked out of a Test match to be at the birth of his daughter. It was the right thing to do and a special example to sportsmen the world over. In four or five years’ time he will, no doubt, do all he can to be there for her first day at big school. I hope he makes it. Then he can tell me all about it because that’s what I gave up to interview him. Not that I blame him – it was my decision. If the England team never speak to me again but do face up to the fact that adopting a ‘siege mentality’ while on tour is not the way forward to long-term greatness or even success, then it will be worth the sacrifice. I know. I’ve spent the past 10 years trying to write and broadcast the South Africa team out of behaving with similar suspicion and contempt.”
Having followed English cricket for over 10 years, I’ve never heard anyone attack a team and his captain in this way – and it disappoints me. I don’t doubt for a second what Neil writes is true – the article is written with a great deal of feeling, and I hope England’s media-men and management take it all on board. Duncan Fletcher – an apparently soft-spoken, mild-mannered “people’s” coach – is another who doesn’t come off well. This is a very sad end to an excellent tour.
A lot has been written about Kevin Pietersen over here (UK) in the past few days, so I thought I’d do my own summary of events and of the man himself.
Pietersen left South Africa 4 years ago, with the claim that South Africa’s quota system prevented him from getting a game (and more specifically, he felt, prevented his chances of playing international cricket). He qualified to play for England last September, thanks to his English Mother, and has terrorised County bowling attacks for the last 2 or 3 seasons (5512 @ 54.03). So that’s his background.
The South Africans have, unsuprisingly, not really taken to him very politely; this is, after all, the country of his birth and many South Africans, rightly so, resent him for jumping ship. Smith has said: “He ran out when things got tough. If he didn’t want to be here then we don’t want him here.”
In short, this is a cricketer with immense talent and awesome power – perhaps the Saffers are jealous (much as the English were when Andrew Symonds decided to play for Australia instead of England). On top of all this, he just happens to be the most confident and arrogant cricketer around at the moment – a trait which forced his moving to Hampshire after upsetting his first county
Northamptonshire Nottinghamshire. You have to hear him to beleive him! Lots of Aussies regard Flintoff as an arrogant sod – rightly or wrongly (wrongly) – but this guy wrote the script on arrogance, and does himself no favours whatsoever. Arrogance is all very well if it’s justified, but he’s setting a dangerous precedant by making these comments without having established himself as an England player
Yesterday, in a simplistic solution to national identity, he said he’d do a Gough and have the 3 lions tatooed on his arm:
“That’s not a Christmas present,” Pietersen said, “that’s there for life. Anyone who abuses me, tells me I’m not English…” He slaps his shoulder. “I would do it now, but tattoos scab over and then I wouldn’t be able to dive.”
“I know I can expect that sort of stick during the whole series,” Pietersen said yesterday. “It was only stares and swearwords really, nothing serious. I just laugh about it because they can hardly speak proper English.”
Not the best thing to say to calm down the situation! England has had a number of South African and Zimbabwe players come and play for England – many of them bristling with ability, not least G Hick (remember him? Many who saw him play regarded him as the most talented player they’d ever seen….). And now they have another. All this bravado and bullish talk will be very quickly forgotten if he doesn’t perform – but, dare I say it, he’s already threatening having just hit a brutal/brilliant 97 against South Africa ‘A’ 2 days ago. Rod Marsh, his coach at the Academy, can perhaps conclude this piece better than I:
Rod Marsh, Pietersen’s coach at the National Academy, is adamant that his country of origin played no part in his omission from the South Africa tour, adding that England will benefit from his desire to play at the highest level. “English cricket’s spirit will be strengthened by him, not diluted,” said Marsh. “He has made an enormous sacrifice of leaving his own country. Maybe English cricket’s spirit has been diluted in the past by those English players who have not wanted it enough.”
Well played cricket by England, who have played below par all series but still come out on top. Today saw some farcical captaincy and tactics by Smith and South Africa. They failed to attack England before or after lunch, and eventually set England a target of about 180 in 40 overs. Initially, I felt England would canter it – but they lost 3 very quick wickets, and had to be content to go for the draw.
It was South Africa who should have been forcing the initiative. It was they who were 1 down in the series, and had they given themselves 60 overs to bowl England out, they could well have levelled the series. It got to the stage where, once Smith was out, Kallis (batting at the other end) walked with him back to the pavillion and had a heated discussion! As if say to say “what are our tactics skip?” It was poor stuff, and South Africa really must look at this side of their game – especially if their captain makes statements like “I’m a go for broke captain…”
Meanwhile, thanks to self-proclaimed-England-hater-and-fellow-cricket-blogger Jagadish, Langer writes of his mate Strauss. Much has been said over here of their similarities in batting-style (although, having watched Strauss play since his debut at Middlesex, his style is probably his own…I’d say), and it’s nice to read of Langer’s praise for Andrew. Jagadish, inescapably honest (!), seems to think it’s a bit sycophantic and sickly. They’re good mates, and I’m confident Langer is a solid bloke who’s more than willing to accept his former team-mate has come good. (Thank you for stealing my Technorati idea by the way Mr Jagadish :))
Naturally, all talk is on The Ashes which is already becoming tiring. The expectation on England is going to be massive and, in my opinion, they can only win if Harmison is on form, Flintoff bats naturally and bowls quickly, Strauss & Trescothick continue to score hundreds and Vaughan too. They’ll also benefit from a) winning the toss, b) some luck and c) someone breaking McGrath’s arm. England – whether you like or agree with Jagdish’s views – are a fine team, captained superbly, and whatever happens let’s hope the media don’t shoot them down. (incidentally tickets for the Lord’s game are going for over Â£300 I heard in the pub last week, on eBay and private sellers etc…)
South Africa have declared on 296-6 at Tea on one of the most confusing, and tactically bereft days of cricket I’ve seen in a long time. There’s a suggestion that SA are more worried about slipping down a table in the ICC rankings than winning the game…find that hard not to beleive. Shall post thoughts later.
Yesterday, I commented how I thought it difficult to see how a result was possible in this game. 24 hours later and England have a distinct chance of winning, playing some outstanding cricket – their best day all series.
Today was the day when the real England turned up. They had threatened to do so all series, but have been 80% at best – today they exceeded themselves.
Thorpe and Flintoff batted very calmly and patiently – hardly scoring over 2/over – but both walked back to the hut at lunch. After lunch, Flintoff showed why he’s such a crowd favourite in England by going from 30 to 77 in quick time. Both were out quickly, and Geraint Jones played a memorable knock of 50 (and another 50 partnership with Giles who, incidentally, is averaging around 25 with the bat this series)…a gem of an innings from only 52 balls. He is a fine & destructive player when on song, and South Africa are lucky that this was only his 2nd 50 of the series.
This all meant England had a lead of 112 – not what South Africa had planned at all. After his innings of 77, he opened the bowling and produced yet another superb bit of cricket. Man he’s a terrific cricketer! Gibbs was unlucky to be given caught-behind, but Hall – bizarrely promoted to 3, presumabely as a pinch-hitter – was clean bowled to leave South Africa trailing by 53. They are, in effect, minus 53-2 going into Day 5. The way Kallis played (19 at a run a ball) suggested he was frustrated and demoralised – even he, the great Kallis, took very risky shots…South Africa MUST just knuckle down and beleive they can draw it. England, rightly so, beleive they can win this series 3-1.
South Africa look a team in shock. Before England arrived, South Africa refused to concede they could lose against them. I don’t think they took England’s status as 2nd best side in the world seriously but now, in this 5th Test, they look tired and jaded and disillusioned. Odds on for a draw unless England can snaffle out 2+ before lunch.
Either way – only a miracle will save SA from losing this series. Not since 1964/65 has England won a series in South Africa, and only Australia has beaten them at home since their return to international cricket in 1991.
Terrific, old-fashioned play by England today not losing a wicket before lunch. Flintoff’s just made an impressive 50 – the last 15 of those came very quickly, but before that it was defence defence defence. Again, South Africa don’t look like they beleive they can win. Thorpe on 80 and these 2 have made the 7th hundred partnership in this series (by England). South Africa…only 3, which is perhaps the difference between the two sides.
…decisions take so long in Cricket. The players came back onto the field for one over. 6 balls. Strauss couldn’t pick up the ball at all. Umpires appeared to offer the light to the batsmen who rightly took it (as any batsman would), but they didn’t take a light reading. Off walk Strauss and Thorpe. Smith and South Africa stayed on the pitch, wondering what was going on – then spent a couple of minutes looking at the stump camera’s cable to see if the ball would go underneath it! What the hell’s going on?
Vaughan at the Wanderer’s was fined his entire match fee – 100% – for asking for consistency in offering the light to batsmen. It’s an utter farce and the umpires must be held responsible, especially Bucknor.
(d) If at any time the umpires together agree that the conditions of
ground, weather or light are so bad that there is obvious and
foreseeable risk to the safety of any player or umpire, so that
it would be unreasonable or dangerous for play to take place,
then notwithstanding the provisions of (b)(i) and (b)(ii) above,
they shall immediately suspend play, or not allow play to
commence or to restart. The decision as to whether conditions
are so bad as to warrant such action is one for the umpires
alone to make.
I don’t think this clause has been used all series. Certainly not at the Wande I don’t think the umpires are interpreting this rule correctly. It is my understanding that the light’s quality during a Test match is “tested” at various intervals. For argument’s sake, let’s say good/excellent light equals 10. At 4pm it starts to get gloomy, and the umpires re-test the light which comes to 8, a minor reduction. Why can’t there be a standardised format, which would introduce much better consistency, for light metering? If the light falls below X, take another reading. If it then falls further to Y, offer the light and don’t come back on the park until it reaches X.
Another suggestion: how about having a light meter embedded in the stumps? This would be accurate, and constantly monitored by the 3rd umpire. It could even be relayed to “The Big Screen” for spectators to see? I suppose the argument against this could be it could cause a tactical change in captains, who would be able to see whether the light was decreasing (but – they’ve got eyes, they can see the bloody light anyway).
Post your thoughts if you have any.
England haven’t batted great so far today, before a thunderstorm brought the players off, but it’s been gripping viewing, not least listening and watching Andre Nel (henceforth to be known as Nelly the Elephant).
England are 79/3 with both Strauss and Thorpe batting with toothpicks – although Strauss was starting to find the middle before they sprinted for cover. Nelly has caused minor uproar if the emails to Sky (broadcasting the cricket) is anything to go by. Lots of Parents saying how disgusted they are by his histrionics, and what a bad example he’s setting. I can’t say I disagree entirely – I’m in favour of aggressive cricketers, but only if they have a justified reason for doing so. (Donald v Atherton 1998. McGrath v Anyone. Great bowlers are allowed to).
Nelly is all talk – he bowled some reasonable deliveries, but nothing England should concern themselves with. His follow-through is unbeleivably ridiculous – within a couple of feet of the batsman, and he effs and blinds like a maniac – whether he’s been hit for four or gone past the outside edge. It’s all for show, and makes him look very daft.
I also still can’t work out his action – he’s nearly bowling off the wrong foot, chest-on! Try it at home (if, like me, you phantom-bowl in your living room off 2 steps) – it’s impossible.
Back to the game, and it’s difficult to see a result happening in this game. The thunderstorm pelted rain down and they’re waiting for it to dry. It’s day 3 today, and England trail by over 150 – they’d need to chase down South Africa’s total and get a lead by close of play tonight, but are 3 down with the Saffers bowling quite well. Lots of great stuff in the papers today which I’ll go through later.