Left arm over

Thanks to England’s decision to delay their squad announcement until 4pm yesterday afternoon, I was stuck on the A45 in rush hour by the time some vaguely pertinent details crackled over the radio. Jammed into a minibus with cricketers with various levels of interest in the national game, needless to say, the news of Ryan Sidebottom’s inclusion received a predominant chorus of ‘Who?’

It is a curious choice. It is certainly not one for the future – while 29 is by no means ancient, and Stuart Clark has shown it possible to found an international bowling career in your thirties, Graham Onions is fit and in form even if Stuart Broad is not. Nor is this a Shah incident, where a consistent county performer has filled an injury hole. In fact, Sidebottom does not presently rank as even Nottinghamshire’s top performer, being out-averaged by Ealham and out-wicketed by Shreck. The same occurred last season, and only last week, teammate Mark Wagh was talking up Shreck’s chances of an England cap. So what brings the potential of a second Test cap to top Sidebottom’s distinctive curly locks?

After Plunkett and Harmison dealt so poorly with an undercooked West Indian batting line-up, it is only natural that England look for variation – and thus, to the left arm seamer. The former Yorkshire stalwart may not be the most in form or reliable of options, but at least he is something different. True, Sidebottom is unlikely to play a part. However, it may just be that while Moores publicly backs his Durham seamers to come good, there is a feeling that something, indeed anything, different might be what is needed to take 11 wickets. Of course, it can’t hurt that a substantial part of the now Nottingham player’s game was developed at Headingley. Interestingly, Sidebottom’s only previous Test cap was due to an injury to Hoggard some 6 years ago. Might he be adding to his headwear in similar circumstances by the weekend?

As if six injuries weren’t enough

Matthew Hoggard gave the media a scare today by pulling up with a possible side strain. I’m trying not to get too carried away with this, as we’re bound to be twitching over twinges for the next ten weeks. It’s just that almost every injury problem England have started off with something small. Simon Jones gets cramp in the outfield, falls over in the nets some months later, and is on crutches for months. Flintoff plays a first class game as a final warm up, and then has to hobble off for the rest of the summer. Trescothick leaves a ground in tears, then leaves the country, and now can’t go back for medical reasons… and it goes on. So I’ll postpone my sigh of relief until the second MRI tomorrow.

Regardless of the test results, the scare has already left a mark on Yorkshire’s search for the vital points they need to pull themselves from the bottom spot in the Championship’s first division. Whilst they have yet to field, the Northern county will surely miss the Hogster’s guile and experience, as they look to set nothing more than a par first innings score against Notts.

What has Twenty20 done to D/L?

Another day, another Pro40. Today, though, saw a late season glimpse of Twenty20 batting, after Sky’s televised game from Trent Bridge faced several interruptions. After high winds, lightning and finally an evening drizzle, Warwickshire saw their required total reduced to 124, with some 70 runs to get from just 10.5 overs. Once upon a time, a team would have balked at the sight of a required rate above 6 an over, and the visitors tried their best to suggest this hadn’t changed with the loss of two wickets in as many balls.

These days, however, such recalculations place a strike-rate savvy batting side at an advantage. Whilst I would much rather see a game play on, and wouldn’t know where to start if asked to algebra my way to a better system, Duckworth/Lewis calculations often seem a few runs light on games of significantly reduced length. Nottinghamshire, having rebuilt their innings in their last few overs to place themselves at a competitive total, will feel a little hard done by.

What this result does do is ensure that Nick Knight has played his last domestic one-day game. Having announced his retirement at the end of this season, this final win places Warwickshire safe from relegation. A pity, then, that he lost his wicket for a mere 9 runs, from an ill-advised prod outside off stump.

Stuart Broad proves appetite for big stage

The Twenty20 Final is arguably the most important day in English cricket. Many will be scoffing at that thought…but after witnessing Trent Bridge yesterday on finals day, for the first time, I am utterly sold by the whole idea. It is a brilliant concept, its credentials further enhanced by Allan Stanford whose cash-injection has produced a superb tournament over in the Caribbean.

It was a big moment for Stuart Broad, then, Leicestershire’s 20-year-old giant. He has bowled quite superbly throughout the tournament, and is among the most economical. Again, yesterday, in the semi-final and final, he was very, very impressive: a smooth, uncomplicated run-up, reasonably high arm, and unerringly accurate. He is 6 foot 6 I believe, and although doctors are predicting he still has room to grow, I hope he stops now. If he grows any taller, he will find it very difficult to sustain himself in this modern world where cricket never stops. But sod the negatives, let’s just enjoy watching him bowl. He could well be on the plane to Australia.

I also enjoyed the Sugar Babes yesterday! Great fun – really brilliant to have mid-match entertainment. And Keedie was there too, belting out some choons. I took some photos, one of which is below

The Sugar Babes

But this has to be my favourite: look at the grumpy pair in the middle!

The Sugar Babes don't receive the acclaim they deserve from this pair of miserable gits

My thoughts on the day, and of Twenty20, are at Cricinfo.

Twenty20 finals day at Trent Bridge

Can’t wait for tomorrow. For various reasons I’ve yet to taste Twenty20 cricket; after the first season, I vowed it was utter tosh. But it’s since grown and, certainly from a bystander’s view, it now appears to be acknowledged as an important (the most important?) tournament in English domestic cricket. It just looks bloody fun, a riotous day out and I’ll be snapping pics on my trawl through the crowds.

It’ll be great to actually be there sampling the atmosphere and speaking to the fans. I’m really keen to see what the attraction is to, for example, someone with an indifference to cricket. My colleage went to one at Chelmsford a few weeks ago and spoke to people there, one of whom was adament that he didn’t watch, follow or particularly like cricket. He did, though, enjoy Twenty20.

Best of all, judging by Nottingham’s lack of hotel rooms, it’s going to be a sell-out too.

Stuck a preview up on Cricinfo. The teams involved are Essex, Nottinghamshire, Surrey and Leicestershire.

Mark Ealham goes beserk

At work today, we weren’t sure if the scorecard was faulty/wrong or whether Mark Ealham had, actually, hit a blistering century. It looks like it did happen though:

Nottinghamshire 2nd innings                                     R   M   B  4 6
DJ Bicknell                              b Bresnan              0   2   4  0 0
*JER Gallian          c Cook             b Panesar            171   0 230 27 1
RJ Warren             c Davies           b Bresnan              4  14  10  1 0
DJ Hussey                                b Bopara              19  37  23  4 0
WR Smith              c Clarke           b Footitt             39   0  15  5 0
+CMW Read             not out                                 110   0 156 14 2
MA Ealham             not out                                 112   0  53 11 8
Extras                (b 2, lb 7, w 3, nb 4)                   16
Total                 (5 wickets declared, 93.4 overs)        471

53 balls for 112!

MCC v Notts, Lord’s, 1st day

The NatWest Media Centre at Lord'sA great day today. Not only did I get into Lord’s for free thanks to my golden ticket (otherwise known as a media pass) but my boss got me into the pavillion and took me on a guided tour. What a place! What a bloody place. It was like a hotel or, as one of the stewards put it, “a lovely old museum” which was spot on. There are many bars (5, Martin?), many plush and comfortable seats and countless stunning paintings, most of which are original and many date back well into the 1800s.

The long room was particularly amazing. The name rather gives away its essence, for it is a rather long room – and, apparently, packed on match days. The whole place was like a village, a cricket-fan’s slice of heaven, with a slightly different and invariably better view of the play from whichever room/floor you happen to be in.

At the very top is another bar, and on the terracotta-coloured brickwork on the outside are the engravings of player’s names. Rain has stopped play since the game’s inception, but it’s nevertheless magical to see written proof of a player’s boredom, stretching back to the 1800s. Priceless. Let’s hope they remain there for ever.

Jason Gallian defendsBefore the pavillion I was introduced to the media centre. The lift heaved us to the top and, when the doors opened, my initial reaction was “Shit. I’m in a Big Brother house” which does a huge disservice to the centre’s architect! The design is ultra-modern and incredibly well-planned. All emphasis is on the ground, on the playing area, and the view is astonishing. The roof’s curve naturally dip down onto the glass, and so does your focus; you can’t get away from the view. It’s massive, and “there” – quite brilliant. Lots of blue everywhere too. And free coffee!

I didn’t watch any of the game from the media centre – play didn’t begin until 2pm – but on first glance, it felt…detached, somehow, from the game. The view is so clear, so uninterrupted, you could almost be watching a TV. I imagine I might prefer sitting in the stands for much of a day’s play, or perching somewhere, instead of spending the whole day in the media centre despite its’ many obvious benefits. Oh, it’s all bloody wicked.

Photos are here. More tomorrow.

Ed Joyce stands alone

As a Middlesex supporter, I’m obviously biased – however, my opinions of Ed Joyce are shared by far better judges than me. Today, he hit 192 out of a total of just 345 ao. The next highest score was a paltry 39 by Ed Smith, posh bloke, author and recently snatched from Kent.

I’m incredibly excited by this. Joyce, as I’ve mentioned once before, is Irish and finally qualifies to play for England in July. He is a great talent, an eye-catching player and this innings took him past 4000 runs averaging 45 in 63 matches.

Last year, when Hussain injured himself in the nets, Andrew Strauss was called upon (“plucked from obscurity”) – and we know what he’s done since. 5 hundreds, over 1200 runs, averaging 56. Whilst it’s unfair to compare the two, Joyce does have very similar and slightly better statistics. About a third fewer FC matches, but already has 12 hundreds to Strauss’ 16. This bloke can play. Don’t discount seeing him in the winter touring party if he continues to score hundreds like the one today which, incidentally, a radio journalist called “The best hundred I’ve seen for years.”