Harmison feels betrayed by Fletcher

I asked Stuart Broad for his thoughts on the Duncan Fletcher futore the other day. “Don’t read books,” he announced with a broad smile (sorry). “Not enough pictures!” It was a predictable response, and I applauded his blatant bullshitting.

Steve Harmison, though, doesn’t really care what he says these days – especially if it means coming to the defence of his old chum Andrew Flintoff. Somehow, though, Harmison’s comments don’t carry the weight of, say, Andrew Strauss or Matthew Hoggard. You feel if Flintoff had run over a dog on purpose, before roasting it on a spit, Harmison would say “Andrew has learned his lesson. He might be a canine killer but he’s still great fun to be around; an inspiration. Just ask anyone. Anyone but the dog and its owner of course.”

Nevertheless, his outburst to the Daily Mail made for enjoyable reading and was yet another nail in Fletcher’s coffin. I can’t see how this affair will simply “blow over”. I see Nasser Hussain has also been making comments, in the same paper, about the lily-livered decision makers in the ECB, and their handing jobs to Hugh Morris and Mike Gatting. It feels like 1999 all over again…

England name squad for Sri Lanka tour

England have named their squad for the tour of Sri Lanka, and it’s pretty much as predicted:

Vaughan, Cook, Bell, Pietersen, Collingwood, Shah, Bopara, Mustard, Prior, Broad, Hoggard, Anderson, Sidebottom, Swann, Panesar.

Some initial thoughts:

1) It’s pretty harsh on Chris Tremlett, who hasn’t really put a foot wrong yet for England. Unless – gasp! – they’re punishing him unfairly for his indifferent one-day form.

2) If the selectors were going to drop Strauss they should have replaced him with another opener, rather than naming three number sixes and promoting Vaughan, who doesn’t even want to open.

3) If both of Harmison’s practice games get rained off, where does that leave him?

4) Either Broad or Swann has to bat at number eight. Which means that, cruelly, one of Anderson or Sidebottom has to sit out. Or both, if Harmison waltzes back into the team. In other words, all three pacemen from the India series could be left out in favour of someone who wasn’t even good enough to make the side at the time. Hmmm.

5) The fact that Mustard has been named in the full squad, rather than placed on standby in Chennai, is hardly a resounding vote of confidence in Prior. Is Mustard, in fact, the reserve opening batsman?

What are everyone else’s thoughts?

Notes from the pavilion for October 17th

Links of note from the past 24 hours:

Too highly rated?

I see Kevin Pietersen has been knocked off the top spot in the ODIs by Ricky Ponting. Very difficult to argue with that – Ponting is surely the stand out batsman in both forms of the game. Looking at the other batting rankings, it is difficult to find fault, although on current form, Shiv Chanderpaul ought to be in the test top three at least. Also, I struggle to understand how Mahela Jayawardene doesn’t break into either top ten, while Hussey retains a top five place in both. He’s very good, granted, but is he top five?

Jason Gillespie

The bowlers are altogether more perplexing. For one, how can Shoaib Akhtar still be at number 10 in tests? He’s played four tests since the start of 2006 and taken only a handful of wickets. Maybe in the current game, not playing is the way to climb the rankings. Likewise, Jason Gillespie (22) is still deemed a better Test bowler than Lasith Malinga (28)!

Agreed, it must be difficult to devise a workable system. Also, stats don’t tell the full story. But things start to look decidedly suspect when you inspect the Best Ever Ratings, which is a list of players at their peak. Ponting at four is just about fair enough, given his recent dominance. However, Peter May above Viv Richards shows a flaw, while Matthew Hayden in the top ten is just crazy. KP (21) is one place higher than Sachin and two places higher than Wally Hammond. Enough said.

For the bowlers, I half expected to see the list packed high with bowlers of yesteryear, given how modern bowlers are meant to have struggled, but it does put Murali, McGrath, Pollock, Waqar and Warne in the top 15. Of course, Warne should be in the top three, if not top of the pile. Wasim Akram limps in at number 57 behind the likes of Ntini, Shoaib and Harmison, which doesn’t seem right.

That said, like most critics, I can’t think of a better way. There must be some bright spark at Cricinfo with a formula….?

Harmison and his blind guide dog

While his master leads the England bowling attack, Steve Harmison’s dog, Magoo, participates in the British Dog Agility Championships.

Via Patrick and Pootergeek.

Harmison hype

There’s too much hype about Harmison. At test level, he’s a really average bowler.

Read in this week’s Time Out London in their brilliant column, Overhead underground (from themanwhofellasleep.com).

Honestly, Michael

Just read the piece on Cricinfo about Michael Vaughan implying that the Fredalo incident ruined England’s chances at the World Cup and it got me thinking. There has been plenty written in the last few months that Vaughan should not be skipper; his ego hurts the team; he’s not worth his place etc etc. While his classy hundred against the Windies at Headingley may have bought a little respite from the nay-sayers, it wouldn’t take much for them to get tetchy again.

What this article tells me is that he is still the right man for the job. Vaughan is basically saying that Fred was a bloody idiot and messed it up for everyone by attracting every tabloid paper to the hotel lobby. Fair enough, he did. He also went on to criticise himself and admit that his ODI record sucks. It does. But given how guarded interviews tend to be nowadays until the sportsman has retired, this was pretty candid. A new skipper might not have been so forthright, but Vaughan is about the only one who can say boo to a goose like Freddy or his buddy Harmy for that matter. And we need those two loons back to full throttle if we’re going to threaten the Aussies next time round. Which, if I’m really really honest with myself, is all that matters in the longterm. Vaughan, 32, is still the man to do that.

As for ODIs, I would let him continue as skipper. I’ll admit I am a big fan of his (the Michael Vaughan extra cover drive marks the start of my summer), so this is subjective as ever, but given nobody else is nailing down a place in the top three, what harm is he doing….?

Jones! Bowden!

Where were you for the Edgbaston climax in 2005? I was driving home in a car that only had FM, so I had to get updates from Michael Parkinson on Radio Two. Happily, the old cove would regularly interrupt his guests to give details, but all the same I missed the Jones!! Bowden!! Kasprowicz!! finale.

Harmison, Jones, Kasprowicz

I mention it because I now know what it must have felt like to be Michael Vaughan that day. OK, so the stakes were a little lower in our South Cotswolds Division Three clash last Saturday, but the match situation was very similar. They were chasing 230-odd and we had them 190 for 9 with six overs left. Numbers nine and eleven at the crease. A formality or so we thought. But somehow, the ball kept missing the stumps and fielders, and we began to panic. Before we realised what had happened, they needed 11 to win off the last over. Still ours to lose, right?

A couple of good balls and a decent stop on the third man boundary brought it to eight needed off three, with the better batsman on strike. ‘Give him the single, lads!’ So we drop back five paces and he duly clips it to mid off. ‘Hold the ball!’ We now have the rabbit on strike and he needs seven off two. Game over.

But no! Wait! Mid-off has not held the ball, but instead he has slung it at the non-striker’s end. It misses by a yard and I fluff backing it up (it bobbled, honest!). They run a second. Six off two, with the better batsman on strike.

The next ball goes over cover’s head for four. Two to win, last ball. What do you do? Stop the single and win; or give them one and take the tie? Mostly we did neither. Some came in, some drifted, others minced about. Our heads were scrambled. How Harmison was even able to grip the ball, let alone bowl it, I have no idea! How Jones could have felt his legs, let alone move them!

I dropped in to a short-ish mid-wicket and the ball was chipped over my head for the winning two runs. Had I stayed where I was, it would have been an easy catch, with Richie Benaud crying out my name (in my head). Time will tell if I’m picked for next week’s match….

Harmison and Jones on the comeback trail

So Steve Harmison is beginning to show signs of mental rehabilitation from the horror show of last winter, with eight wickets in the match against Worcestershire. In an interesting piece for The Times, Robin Scott-Elliott notes that Harmison has already bowled more Championship overs a week into the 2007 season than he did all last summer (just 32).

Today is an important milestone for Simon Jones who plays in his first competitive game for Glamorgan in almost a year, a Friends Provident Trophy thing against Somerset. Will he last a whole game intact?

Photos from MCC v Sussex, Lord’s

Some cracking photos from Peter Meade of MCC v Sussex.

Matthew Hoggard in typical unrestrained, relaxed, un-mediary pose:

Matthew Hoggard

Steve Harmison. Pensive as ever.

Steve Harmison

And finally…

Friends Provident