Flintoff playing against Kent

Andrew Flintoff makes his Championship comeback today against Kent. Live scorecard.

Update: 2 for 11 from 10 overs. Nice.

Oh Boy, I am Excited!!!!

In the UK, the County Championship started last night. Lancs are giving Hampshire a hard time and Gloucestershire are doing well against Somerset. Yay for County Cricket.

All joking aside, it would seem to me that the reform of county cricket into a two-division system seems to have had a positive effect in producing tougher cricketers for England.

The importance of being earnest

Tim de Lisle opened up in Cricinfo with an interesting post relating to independence in the media.

Trescothick is much liked, and even after his story changed, most commentators were gentle with him. But one pundit was conspicuously tough: Mike Atherton, cricket columnist for the Sunday Telegraph, who said Trescothick’s virus line was “so utterly implausible” that “ridicule is the only proper response”.

Atherton used to open the batting for England with Trescothick. He was a team-mate for years at Lancashire of Trescothick’s agent, Neil Fairbrother, who also came in for criticism in Atherton’s piece, albeit unnamed. The condemnation possibly went a touch too far, but it came from the right place: a belief in honesty. Atherton can’t stand spin – of the PR variety – and he is right to highlight the way it is spreading through the sports world.

Atherton is one of the best ex-player pundits for three reasons. He wants to get better; after a tentative start, his writing has steadily acquired more scope and flair. He is curious: he asks questions, while some ex-players still wait for the questions to come to them. And he has a clear grasp of the importance of being independent. He knows he is now batting not for England, but for his readers.

In a free press, that distinction is straightforward. In televised sport, it is becoming a grey area. The ultimate producer of cricket in India is now the Indian board. Atherton, who commentated for Sky on the India-England series, says local commentators were “asked not to mention sensitive subjects”. This provoked denials, but it will continue to be an issue. And some ex-players just don’t seem to see that it matters.

I posit that it is not quite so simple as this though. As a general rule of thumb, in whatever field you work in, you do not crap in your own nest. Cricket authorities are different in various places but all of them expect their broadcast partners to be supportive. And the management of the broadcasters themselves would be most displeased if the commentators were to disparage the game, lest they invite viewers to change the channel.

After all Michael Atherton would hardly expect the Sunday Telegraph to be very friendly to him if he bagged the paper in his column.

That is why there will always be a role for newspapers and blogs in cricket and indeed, in many other areas. We can ask the questions that broadcast media can not ask.

No news is good news

Well not quite. But there’s really not much going on, at all, apart from this Afro-Asia (or is it Africa-Asia, or African-Asian?) cup – which I’m finding great difficulty in getting excited over. The C&G semi-finals are in progress, too, which are far more interesting.

Yorkshire are being totally outplayed by Hampshire, and Lancashire have a fight on their hands

Yorks v Hants bulletin, Warwicks v Lancs bulletin

Hampshire and Warwickshire go into the final

Lancashire v Somerset, Twenty20 final 2005

Great day’s cricket – I’m liking Twenty20 more and more. The catching today has been outstanding – I can think of at least three very special catches, highlighting the quality of cricket on display. The gimmicks Twenty20 first provided have been lost to quality, high-class cricket – and who would have thought that? Having the semis and the final in one day is inspired – and I really think The Oval looks a spectacle tonight, with the new OCS stand and the lights. Twenty20 is a winner.

So Somerset dismissed Lancashire for just 114. Their big-guns, Flintoff and Symonds, both fell short – but Flintoff is steaming in now. Steaming. He looks as pumped-up and ferocious as he does in a Test – and has taken two of the three wickets to fall. Graeme Smith is still in for Somerset, who need 44 from 42. The cup is within their grasp.

Symonds coming on to bowl.

Update: all over, Somerset are the 2005 champions. Considering Lancs’ batting lineup, that is some effort. Twenty20 is here to stay, if you’ll pardon the tabloid-style pun!

Twenty20 Finals Day

I’m definately a Twenty20 convert. Even at the start of this season I was a fringe-fan, but now I’m definately enjoying it. Today has seen some brilliant Cricket. Flintoff and Symonds, for Lancashire, were typically awesome (Lancashire won to go through to the finals), and a few minutes ago David Masters pulled off the catch of the day/cup/summer to dismiss Graeme Smith. Smith chipped it to a deep long-on, and Masters dived backwards, clinging on one-handed…brilliant!

So, who will Lancashire play? Somerset and Leicestershire are in progress/action and the weather is holding. Great fun.

My bulletin on the Surrey / Lancs. game here, and a Gallery is being added to as the day goes on.

Symonds signs for Lancashire

Lancashire have scooped up Andrew Symonds for the remainder of the season…replacing Murali. Good signing.

Ben Harmison to make debut

Ben Harmison, brother of Steve, will make his debut for Durham this evening in a Twenty20 encounter against Lancashire.

James Anderson: victim of nannying?

James Anderson

James Anderson features in two newspaper articles today. The first, in an interview with the excellent Angus Fraser, he discusses his frustrations he’s had in the past 18 months. It makes for revealing reading – I can’t help a) feeling sorry for him and b) worrying what the future holds for him. He sounds like a young, troubled bowler who doesn’t really know where his next wicket is coming from. Contine reading

Lancashire indebted to Flintoff

Flintoff hasn’t played a lot for Lancashire in the past few years – and he’s already nearing the end of his season with them, as the Bangladesh series starts in just over a week – but today he provided 4 cheap wickets, showing everyone why he’s such a valuable cricketer. He’s still in recovery from his surgery, so to start back bowling as well as he has is an excellent sign. 10 overs, 4 for 26 is a very decent return.