England v Pakistan, 1st Test, Lord’s, 5th day

Final day from Lord’s. Unless Steve Harmison and Matthew Hoggard can produce something extraordinary, this is heading towards a draw. Chat away, though.

Hoggard injures hand

Tim Bresnan, the twit, stood on his hand and he won’t bowl in England A’s match against Pakistan. Oh dear.

The Wisden Cricketers’ Almanack 2006

Wisden Cricketers' AlmanackThe Wisden Cricketers’ Almanack 2006 launches tomorrow. I caught up with the editor, Matthew Engel, and you can read my mumblings at Cricinfo. We can also exclusively reveal the five Cricketers of the Year:

Andrew Flintoff was named Leading Cricketer in the World for 2005.

It’s also an exciting time for Cricinfo. After nearly four years of work, involving countless people, we have launched the Almanack online. This means you can search for any Wisden match report, article or obituary from 1864 – 2006! Pretty cool we hope you agree.

Hoggard’s last of the Summer Wine

The Barmy Army have already been busy in Mumbai. Prior to the Test they held a cricket match and also had a sponsored one mile run through the city streets, all to raise money for Sport Relief.

They’ve also been in fine voice and have brought with them a brass band, who let rip every now and then, especially to signify bowling changes. When Freddie Flintoff comes on they play Meet The Flintstones. Rather more whimsically, Yorkshire man Matthew Hoggard is greeted with the theme from Last Of The Summer Wine.

From Miles Jupp’s brilliant blog. I need to write more about this guy. I know he’s a comedian, or has written things in the past, but I still don’t know why he’s out there. But out there he is (in India for the Test series) and his blog has made for really entertaining reading; the type of stuff I hope I’d come up with if ever given the chance to tour. I suppose I’m especially thankful to him for bringing to our attention Matthew Hoggard’s theme tune!

For those not familiar with it, Last of the Summer Wine is a long-running and particularly dull sitcom set in Yorkshire (I believe) with a bunch of old duffers making mild and pathetic “ooh er, kinky” jokes. It’s utter tripe, but its theme tune is rather apt for Hoggy who is a reet bread-n-butter Yorkie.

Good stuff Miles, keep at it. (Oh, have mentioned him before at El Googly)

Thoughts of day three at Nagpur

(Day three chat and comments)

England’s day? Just about, but India will be over the moon at the wonderful hundred partnership between Anil Kumble and Mohammad Kaif. Were it not for that pair, India would have been bowled out for a really paltry total. Indeed, that would have been all the more probable 12-18 months ago, but this Indian side are tougher than they used to be. Tougher they might be, but they remain vulnerable to the swinging delivery and were brilliantly exposed by Matthew Hoggard who, at one stage, had figures of 4 for 6. This Test is alive and kicking and intriguingly poised.

The late strikes by England has put them in charge. The lead of 71 doesn’t sound significant – it’s not a huge lead by any means – but come the fourth innings, it could prove invaluable. India’s number eleven, Shanthakumaran Sreesanth, has a batting average of 5.66 and ought not to make more than that. India need every run they can muster.

After the disasterous pre-series preparations afflicting England’s squad, they seem to be gelling as a team – led by Andrew Flintoff. But the big story of the day has been Monty Panesar. I know I effed and blinded about his over-the-wicket nonsense, but it’s a valid point. As soon as he reverted to bowling around the wicket, he grabbed a wicket – and the key one of Kaif who, until then, had batted sensibly if a little too obdurately. And what a pearler of a wicket it was. His first in Test cricket happened earlier in the day – none other than Sachin R Tendulkar! – but this second, late wicket was all the better. My Editor sums it up better than I can:

Perfectly flighted to drag the batsman forward, late dip to leave him stranded, and turn and bounce to detonate the middle and off stumps, the first Turbanation of the series had just been witnessed. Remarkably, however, it was England’s players who were doing the celebrations.

Well bowled, Monty. And well batted Kumbles.

Pakistan v England, 1st Test, 2nd day thoughts

Another good day for England with a performance bordering on excellent – and certainly a disappointing and dismal one for Pakistan. Despite their extra-long tail, which is almost unheard of in these days of multi-dimensional cricketers and bowlers “that can bat a bit,” few expected them to capitulate as feebly as they did.

Mind you, it was due to some brilliant bowling from England. Each wicket-taking delivery would, I think, have accounted for better batsmen than the Pakistani tail. First to go was Sami, tempted into a swish outside off in Matthew Hoggard’s first over. Hoggard (perhaps unusually for him) was right on the money from ball one, in ideal dewy conditions, moving the ball away almost at will.

Andrew Flintoff, opening the bowling with Hoggard, accounted for Inzamam who remained England’s only thorn at the start of the day; but even he could only add a handful of runs to his overnight score. Again, Flintoff’s delivery was inch-perfect, squaring up Inzy and presenting Andrew Strauss with a sharp but undroppable chance at second slip, a position he is making his own. This was quality bowling, and England had suddenly seized the advantage.

It was all over very quickly. Pakistan had succumbed quickly and feebly, losing 5 for 30 in two fewer balls than 20 overs. Agony for the home side and, curiously, a “matter-of-fact” response from the visitors who appear almost to expect this kind of performance. Whether it’s due to years of my own agony in watching England capitulate, much like Pakistan had done today, or whatever – I can’t imagine the day where I expect England to perform like they did today.

The batting, then, was dominant, solid and few would have realised England’s woeful pre-Test form had been such a concern. Marcus Trescothick, who was one of the few afforded a run of form before this game, simply played a blinder; his 13th Test hundred was played with class, confidence and control throughout. Strauss was undone by pace and swing by Sami – who looks a prospect, but shouldn’t he be more than simply a potentially good bowler by now? – and Collingwood relit the doubts I have of his defensive technique, but it was otherwise a great batting display. Not least, indeed, by Ian Bell who was arguably the player under the most amount of pressure. His 71 (?) was solid, reliable and very unflashy – just the sort he needed, and I bet he’s secretly hoping his usual captain buggers off home to rest his knee…

10/10 England. Probably 2 for Pakistan.

Interview with Matthew Hoggard

Enjoyable interview with Matthew Hoggard in today’s Sunday Times:

“There was a game we used to play, four of us in a car at a time when the drink-driving laws in South Africa were not as they are today. We would stop at a traffic lights, everybody had to get out and run round the car until the lights turned green. Then the guy nearest the wheel had to jump in and try to get away before everyone was back in the car. We’d be jumping in windows, on to the roof, anything not to be left there.

“Stupid, stupid things. Laughed like hell at the time, then you’d look back and think, ‘You stupid bastard’. That was not how I lived at home; there I was this very sensible teenager, squeaky-clean sort of boy, and so when the freedom came, I did some very silly things. Part of grow- ing up, and I love that period of my life.”

Hoggard’s Pot Noodles and recipe for a successful marriage

Also put this on Cricinfo’s Surfer, a particularly good article from Matthew Hoggard ahead of his trip to Pakistan:

The main downside to touring is two months spent away from my wife, family and dogs. Our wives tend to decide among themselves whether or not to accompany us on tour and they are not coming this time, but will probably come to India with us after Christmas. It’s never easy to spend so long away from your family, although if you ask Sarah, my wife, she might tell you that having a husband who goes away for weeks at a time is the recipe for a happy marriage.

Full article at The Times.

Review: England v Australia, Trent Bridge

I’ve received a few (8) emails and 28 comments from people disagreeing with my statement that this is the greatest series ever, so this review is a vague attempt to quantify it…but it’s more, simply, a review of another brilliant Test. Few can deny that the game we saw was brilliant theatre and a spectacular sporting occasion.

Simon Jones

At the start of the fourth day, England were without their trump card, Simon Jones. Remarkably, given his outstanding improvement this series, he wasn’t missed too greatly; a wonderful testament to a collective team effort, showing this England side never need rely on one bowler, or one player. In Duncan Fletcher’s terms, Matthew Hoggard “came to the party” and, praised by Andrew Flintoff, he bowled his best spell of the series. Earlier this month, I wrote a piece for Cricinfo on his importance to the England side, but I was worried it [the article] would soon lose its relevance. Thankfully, Hoggard did once again “sweep the shop floor,” picking up two vital wickets. Two, you ask? Two? Not a massive haul, granted, but they were the two most important. Michael Clarke had looked settled, and batted so well in the morning session. Hoggard got his away-swing working perfectly and, pitching it up he drew Clarke into a wishy-washy poke to grab his wicket just before lunch. It was a vital breakthrough.

Clarke and Katich had arguably set the scene for an Adam Gilchrist batting bonanza. Indeed, Gilchrist’s intent was obvious, smashing two fours in quick succession. But Hoggard returned to trap him leg-before. Suddenly, Australia’s hard work by Katich and Clarke in the morning session had been thrown away. Their lead was futile, a handful of runs; but for another aggressive and brilliant innings by Shane Warne (how well has he batted this tour??), the target Australia eventually set would have been far lower than 129.

One hundred and twenty nine runs to lead the series 2-1. I was very confident it would be a walk in the park, but my colleage at Cricinfo was having kittens. He was an absolute nervous wreck from the start. As I said, 129 wasn’t enough for Australia “barring a Shane Warne special,” and while England did reach their target, it was not without considerable alarm. Shane Warne, again, threatened to end England’s chances of winning the Ashes, with a performance to win over a thousand more fans. He is an utter legend and we’re so bloody lucky to watch him perform. The situation was just perfect for him – backs against the wall, defending a target of 129, he took Trescothick, Strauss and Vaughan’s wickets to leave England 57 for 3. It became 57 for 4 as Bell, unwisely, tried to hook Brett Lee. When Andrew Flintoff and Kevin Pietersen were dismissed, my nerves suddenly went into overdrive. “Damn you, Will, and your cocksureness!” I told myself.

Geraint Jones followed, with a really dreadful smite off Shane Warne and suddenly, incredibly, England were 116 for 7. 13 to win. Three wickets left. Ashley Giles and Matthew Hoggard at the crease. How dare you give us another national coronary, England?! Giles and Hoggard saw England home in what Richie Benaud described as one the most tense matches he had ever come across.

We've done it

I suppose, arguably, England should never have let Australia in with a chance. But Warne is Warne, and if this series has showed us anything, it is the power of a chastened champion.

At Old Trafford, I wrote the tide was turning. In fact, I wrote the tide had turned. England failed to win that (“England lack the killer blow” and all). And so we’ve seen it develop in this Test match, as England really demonstrated their total lack of fear of Australia. As a supporter who has for his entire life only ever witnessed Australia’s dominance over the Urn, it is a proud, special moment. Once again, England trounced Australia for 99% of this Test; brilliant team performance, and one individual again proving his might. Andrew Flintoff, future King, Prime Minister and anything else he wishes for! Already approaching legendary status before this game, his hundred (first against Australia in his first series against them) was a thing of beauty. It almost appeared pedestrian in its pace, yet came from just 132 balls and was the key to England reaching 477 (winning the toss and batting first). His muted celebrations said much about the man. There was no wild hoorays and badge-kissing; simply a raised bat, a standing ovation, and a smile which said “Ta – but this is just the start of things.”

I’ll do a blog and paper round-up later.

Hoggard beats South Africa

[Updated 18 Jan to include links and pictures]

Today, Matthew Hoggard took the final wicket and his 12th in the match to seel a win for England versus South Africa. Yet just a few hours before, it was South Africa who were box favourites. Hoggard will deservedly take the tabloids tomorrow, but Trescothick setup the real chance of a win with a brutal 180. He started the day on 101, which had so far taken him 159 balls. By the time he was out, he’d left South Africa an improbable 324 to win. His striking and clean hitting was a sight to watch – in the space of a couple of hours, he’d demolished any hope SA had of winning. His feet might not move, but his bat certainly does! As destructive an innings to start the day as I’ve seen in years.

Given the weather forecast, which turned out to be wrong, England had to strike early with the new ball. After 20-odd overs, the ball went incredibly soft and the pitch became a belter – and Hoggard duly obliged, with an awesome display of old-fashioned swing bowling. He’s never been an out-and-out pace bowler (although he did top 91mph 4 years ago…younger and stupider back then!), but has always swung the ball. He’s had many good performances in the past 18 months – today was by far his best one. He’s an unfashionable bowler – a workhorse, engineroom, machine…he just keeps on going, and rarely lets the team down. A true team player, one who I think even opposing players would warm to and share a beer with. A bloody good bloke and today was just reward for his efforts, especially with England lacking a fit-n-firing Harmison.

It was perhaps England’s best win for years. They were well beaten at Cape Town, and again looked weary and jaded in this game. In fact – some of the cricket was truly awful; a really scrappy, backyard-fight, bare-knuckle-contest of a Test match. Both sides kept winning back the momentum, and both sides kept losing it – sometimes through special bowling, more often through poor shots – but when England had a sniff, they honed onto the victory like a white-shark on a dead seal. The rustiness, apart from Hoggard, was still there – Jones missed a run-out, Vaughan dropped a catch and Anderson dropped a sitter – but the sheer belief of the team is just thrilling to behold. Some of my Indian and Pakistani readers refuse to concede England are a good side – performances like today might sway some of you to change your opinions.

Favourite moments

  • Hoggard to Rudolph – stumps cartwheeled
  • Hoggard to Kallis, next ball – edged to first slip, Jones doing his best to screw it up by diving in front!
  • Flintoff to Pollock: really unsettled him, during a spell where he roared in. No one mentions his pace, Flintoff, but he’s right up there – and when his adrenanline is flowing, he’s as quick as anyone. Ball smashes into Pollock’s helmet, and is then caught behind later in the over. Classic fast bowling.
  • Smith coming into bat. Advised against even taking the field by the medics, after being concussed by his sadist of a coach Ray Jennings (who else?)…made a memorable half-century. Guts.

Newspapers, quotes etc

Cricinfo have an excellent newspaper roundup.

South African journalist Neil Manthorp writes quite a sad, passionate article on South Africa’s performance and the state of cricket in their country. Including this on Ray Jennings:

“The coaching style of Ray Jennings will no doubt again be questioned. His aggressive methods, which caused the injury to his captain Graeme Smith during the warm-up on this Test’s fourth morning, are controversial to say the least. If Smith’s injury had been an unlucky accident Jennings could be forgiven, but this is the second time in two months that a player has been concussed courtesy of Jennings’ warm-up bat. In Kanpur six weeks ago the unlucky man was Dippenaar. It is one thing having a hard nut as a coach, quite another having simply a nut.”

It contains a lot more, so much that I’ll reflect on it in another post later.