England v Pakistan, 2nd Test, Old Trafford

Another Test, another foray into the land of the unexpected. Interesting times; Younis Khan returns for Pakistan, and Andrew Strauss leads an England side further depleted by injury. I’m very curious about Duncan Fletcher’s decision to omit Jamie Dalrymple which, to me at least, rather suggests he eyes Monty Panesar as a key weapon to dismantle Pakistan’s batting lineup. Either that or Dalrymple called him a rude name behind his back.

Anyway, do hope you’ll all be tuning in and leaving comments and generally making an absolute nuisance of yourselves here.

Chat away!

Is too much cricket really never enough?

With all this media blather about over-worked cricket, I might as well put in my 0.02 cents.

Look, in one sense, it’s a bit rich for cricketers to complain that they are over-worked. Yes, Australia have played eleven Test matches and 18 ODI’s since October, but it is April, now. That is 70 odd days work in six months. Hardly the most onerous of work loads. And Australia have got a few extra days off in that lot by defeating opponents in Test matches in pretty short order. And they get paid literally millions. And they get the best groupies, as you might have noticed if you watch the Allan Border Medal night. So, you know, it’s not that hard a life being an international cricketer.

But on another level, it IS hard work. Adam Gilchrist is not only a fine keeper, passable stand-in captain, mighty batting hero and all round good guy, but he’s usually quite particular about his appearance. I’m not accusing him of being a metrosexual or a wannabe David Beckham, he’s just normally a neat and tidy guy. But in the First Test, he gave a fair impression that he was dressing like a flood victim. Overdue for a shave, too. Miss Zainub would NOT have approved.

Because it is what they are doing on those days off that really tells on the players. English domestic cricket is far more demanding because you are playing cricket day in, day out for months on end. However it takes far less of a toll on the players because they don’t have to travel nearly as much. For a player in a midlands county, away games are just a shire away. None of this intercontinental travel stuff. If you are playing for Derbyshire, half your away games are in driving distance. I’ve had daily commutes longer then the distance between Headingley and Old Trafford.

But for the international cricketer, it is a way bit tougher then that. The cricket is more intense, the pressure higher, the distances are further, and the time away from family is more crushing. Away from the field the temptations and distractions of fame slowly become a burden, the aches and pains dull the senses and it is a wonder that players stay as switched on as they do.

I’m not sure the current surfeit of international Test cricket is entirely good for the fans either. I think something is lost from the anticipation point of view, and that takes away something of the ‘specialness’ of the occasion. Test Cricket, like caviar, should not be indulged in every week of the year. It isn’t good for the players or the fans. When the players identify with Bob Segar, we know we have a problem

Photos from Old Trafford

rufiky has some great photos taken at the Old Trafford Test.

At 7am!

Queue at 7am at Old Trafford

Noisy supporters

Noisy supporters at Old Trafford

Good stuff. If you don’t use Flickr and/or want your cricket photos showcased, send ‘em in: stumps@cricket.mailliw.com

Photo of a lone Aussie at Old Trafford



Lone Aussie

Photo taken by Charlie Sutton @ Flickr.com.


Another excellent shot from Charlie, picturing a very lonesome Australia at Old Trafford. For those not interested in photography, I apologise; I’m a rather tragic photography freak. Combined with my love of The Great Game, cricket photography is like a manna from Heaven!

Charlie..just a thought, this could be even more effective as a cut-out..not sure how you’d do it (isolating just the yellow Aussie) but it would look fantastic. Keep shooting and sharing (everyone).

UPDATE (August 18): And Charlie’s done it, see below. Looks brilliant!

Lone Aussie

Photo (panoramic) of Old Trafford



Old trafford

Photo taken by Fjordish @ Flickr.com.


Quite a good panorama of Old Trafford here, taken a few days ago

Cricket is the new football

(England v Australia, Third Test, Old Trafford)

Excellent newspaper and media round-up by my Cricinfo colleague par excellence, Jenny Thompson, including such gems as:

More prosaically, The Times reported that England cricket shirts are outselling football strips across the country, and even reported on a 20% upsurge in sales of cucumber, scones and tea: “all staple ingredients for a good afternoon tea at the cricket, suggesting newcomers to the sport enjoy all aspects associated with watching it”.

Review: England v Australia, Old Trafford

Old Trafford, England v Australia, 2005 – the match which set ablaze the Ashes. England were so good, and dominated it with such gusto, that this humble blogger proclaimed the tide had turned. And to get so close to winning, it is surely like a loss to England – and a win to Australia. But that doesn’t tell the full story of what we saw.

To have witnessed a drawn match (which did go down to the wire again, despite my plea that it wouldn’t!, was commonplace in previous eras, and indeed in the early 1990s. However, these days it’s all about runs, wickets and 3/4 day Tests – the one-day format has infliltrated into Tests, which is partly the cause for Cricket’s high in Britain at the moment. The main reason is England’s continued success, of course.

Old Trafford saw England continue its momentum gained from Edgbaston, in that thriller, but no one expected a similar nail-biting encounter. There was a nervous stage, for English fans, as Ricky Ponting threatened to go for the win. But, needing over eight per over to achieve it, it was never seriously in the running. England took wickets regularly throughout the day, except that of Ponting whose innings was one of guts, determination and a mass of skill. Outdone by England’s bowlers in the previous three Tests, his eyes revealed his motives at Old Trafford: he was never going to give in to England, especially when all his colleagues collapsed around him. A fabulous knock.

His innings aside, England again dominated Australia’s batting machine on day five. Once Ponting was ninth out, for 156, English hopes were understandably high. Unlike Edgbaston, in which Mike Kasprowicz replaced an ankle-injured Glenn McGrath, Australia’s tail was weakened by McGrath’s prescence at Old Trafford. His plucky pronouncement that he was overdue batting promotion would only have amused England – he is a dreadful batsman and a classic number eleven, but must be given credit for his obdurity in this Test. Given the pressure he was under (he came in with five overs to spare), his innings of nine balls was one of his most crucial.

Much credit and respect must go to Brett Lee, too, who again thwarted England’s bowlers. While Australia’s top-order have really not looked the force they can be, their tail-enders have been brilliant. Shane Warne is a most-underestimated batsman – damn him! – but even he must admit he’s played out of his skin this series. As it stands at the moment, he’s hit 204 runs at 34. More than Langer, Martyn, Hayden, Gilchrist & Katich. More, even, than Andrew Flintoff and Ian Bell, and only one run behind Andrew Strauss! Quite remarkable, and damn him for his brilliance!

Simon Jones' amazing wicket to dismiss Michael Clarke

Key moment of the day (match?): Simon Jones going off with cramp during the latter overs, as England’s desperation increased. Jones had, once again, bowled quite superbly, including a spectacular delivery to bowl Michael Clarke. He cramped up, and Steve Harmison replaced him – but bowled far too short and wide, allowing McGrath to shoulder-arms and leave several balls. This was a big factor in England failing to take the final wicket.

So, who takes the momentum? Arguably Australia – it is, for them, much like a win, as Justin Langer himself admitted. But they were still outplayed and outskilled by an improving English team, for the majority of the match. As miffed as England will feel, they will be quick to remind themselves of their dominance in the past two Tests, as well they might.

My proclamation that the tide has turned still stands. I was crushed by the draw yesterday, and needed some time for the ramifications of it to fully absorb. Australia have the problems, not England: they have just two bowlers they can put their trust in, McGrath and Warne. Gillespie might have played his last Test of his career, and almost certainly the last of this series – but Mike Kasprowicz doesn’t frighten England as much as Australia need him to. Indeed, the manner of the draw – “captain stands alone as team fight for draw” – is worryingly similar to England’s performances of the past 20 years. One in particular

It was especially gutting for English fans, as cricket’s appeal in Britain soared to an unprecendant level of histeria. It is BRILLIANT news and long may it continue. I’ve even noticed it on this mere blog – over 3000 people (not hits, people) arrived yesterday alone. I’ll write more specifically about this later though.

All in all, regardless of the result, it was brilliant cricket. As Geoff Boycott said on TV, no one moved from their seats. They were glued there, and cheered and whooped all day long, much as we did from our sofas (and beds!). Cricket won the hearts of many in five days of unstoppable, brilliant sport. That’s the best result of all.

Stuff:

Cricinfo photo gallery. Andrew Miller’s verdict. Boycott says England must, and will, remain positive. Paul Hayward reckons Fred is the one They fear. Glenn McGrath thinks, well – need I tell you?

Blogs:

Dave provides his thoughts. Despite being awake for 36 hours, Scott found it enthralling. Stu is itching to find negatives for England, but concedes it is Australia who have the problems. Before the match was over, Darryl questioned Australia and whether it was the end of an era (what do you think now, Darryl, out of interest?). Jagadish nearly praises England, but is clearly happier with Australia drawing.

Crappy post, sorry; too busy to put my mind to it properly. Shall probably add more thoughts later.

England v Australia, Old Trafford, Day Five

The evening after the evening before: Review

18.49: England, needing just one more wicket, tossed the ball to Steve Harmison who bowled poorly, to end the game in a thrilling draw. We asked whether Edgbaston could be bettered and, arguably, it just has. Australia are very lucky to come away with a draw, despite a monumental innings by Ricky Ponting. I’ve never witnessed such a series, and nor have 21,000+ at Old Trafford. Gutting for England, elation for Australia. Momentum now shifts to the Aussie camp? I need more beer, and can’t even think about cricket for the time being. Thanks for the comments everyone, enjoyable as always.

17.52: Australia are going for the win. Ponting and Warne are still in, 337-7. As if a draw wouldn’t depress England enough, they surely can’t lose this? 71 balls left, 86 to win for Australia and 3 wickets for England to get. They look knackered and flat

UPDATE: Australia 269/7. Simon Jones bowling wonderfully, and Ricky Ponting the lone batsman on 103*

England needs 10 wickets to go 2-1 up in the 2005 Ashes series.

Australia needs 399 runs in (about) 90 overs.

I really can’t call this one. England start favourites, but as fifth-day pitches go, it doesn’t look too bad. Should be an absorbing day, and could be thrilling. Please, let’s hope it doesn’t go down to the wire again though!

Roebuck: the end is nigh

I don’t find it easy reading Peter Roebuck’s articles. They are often aggressive, disrespectful and unnecessarily unfair to whoever he hates that week, but this doesn’t stop me reading them, so I must even respect him in some way. Mumblings aside, his latest musings in the SMH provided interest, with the following:

Suddenly this team [Australia] is looking its age. Sometimes, when the end comes, it is quick. Regardless of the outcome of this series – and it is worth remembering that England stand second in the rankings and are playing at home, and that Australia lost by only two runs in Birmingham and that the score is level (in other words, it has not been a debacle) – the selectors will need to take stock.

Rejuvenation is needed, the sort of vitality Hussey can bring to the top of the order, and others elsewhere. Not that Australian cricket has an abundance of emerging talent. It’s been a wonderful run. Harder days lie ahead.

Mike Hussey’s marvellous form, and plentiful skill, was one of few highlights for Australia in the one-day series earlier in the summer. Apart from his innings-salvaging batting (he was the leading run scorer for Australia), his fielding was sharp, dynamic and youthful which are three aspects clearly lacking from Ponting’s Test side at the moment. Only an ageless Glenn McGrath and Shane Warne have demonstrated keeness, focus and finely-honed skill – indeed, the latter has done more to embarass his own side with his batting. Roebuck puts this down to the quality of England’s bowling more than anything else, and so he should.

Before this series started, Australia’s reaction to this “new England” was that they had heard it all before. This arrogance, especially by their batsmen, has cost them, and their fervent fans, dearly. Even in the dying overs of today, with Michael Vaughan and Ashley Giles bowling, chances were being created, and Hayden should have been given out leg-before to M.P. Vaughan. He’s more than useful, and ought to bowl himself more often – but, come on…

Roebuck has for so long, so often lambasted England as a cricketing nation. I suppose the point of this post was the revelation that England has conquered the most ardent Australian cricket fan, and won the respect of one Peter Roebuck. Regardless of what happens tomorrow, that’s no mean feat.

England v Australia, Old Trafford, Day Four

Strangely defensive tactics by England today so far this morning. They surely can’t allow Warne his first Test hundred?

Gillespie has batted superbly, yet again. I wrote a piece at Cricinfo on his obduracy in the Lord’s Test, which is equally relevant today.