Australia v West Indies, 2nd Test, 1st day

My optimism at the start of this series has gone. “Same old, same old” say the fans and critics, and who can argue with them? They still rely on Brian who, himself, is in the throes of a form depression. His team-mates feed like scavangers off his batting genius, but only if he fires; they couldn’t, and nor could Lara, find any answer to McGrath, Lee and MacGill. Warne, curiously, went wicketless.

Peter English writes a very well balanced piece on Lara, Anand Vasu did the bulletin, Scott is looking forward to Australia feasting on the vulnerable. At least they have something to celebrate, in T&T qualifying for the World Cup. Ryan is beside himself.

Flintoff 1 Football Nil

Just seen on the box that Flintoff walked out on Maine Road (that’s a football ground I think – he didn’t stumble, drunkedly, onto a main road, although I imagine he probably did the other day) to watch his “beloved” Man City, and he received a massive standing ovation and applause.

Blinkin’ brilliant that is. I don’t know how many were at the game, but it’s terrific to see and hear these cricketers receiving the praise they deserve. Especially that bloody legend, Andrew Flintoff.

Cricket more competitive than Football?

Interesting dicussion on Sky News just now. Some bloke called Ellis, a “football sociologist” (what? Is? That?), was asked: “has cricket stolen his heart?”

“Well my heart maybe with Football, but no other part of me is: I’m fatigued by Football, it’s not competitive any longer. The beauty of cricket is it’s exactly that- intensely competitive. We’re seeing a genuine competition. I’d like to say it’ll be with us for a long time to come [Britain's 'new' love of the game], but I think we’ve seen it all before. Remember after we won the Rugby world cup? Jonny Wilkinson was going to be the new David Beckam – none of that happened. Once the Ashes is over we may forget about Cricket.”

And this is an important point. My Editor at Cricinfo interviewed Martin Corry a week ago, England’s Rugby Union Captain, who was coy about the effect winning the Ashes could have on Cricket in this country. Read the interview here.

The Sky bloke went on to ask, “Are Flintoff, Strauss, Trescothick and so on going to become characters that the public identify with, in same way Beckham, Owen and Gerrard have been?”

“Flintoff certainly has [become a character the public love], and he’s been very charismatic. The big market capture is women, who are now watching the game. Young people are now out there batting and bowling, aquanting themselves with the game.”

There was a bit of discussion on the Cricket v Football debate here, a week ago, and for more on this see my Football tag.

Cricket: the new sport of choice

Another fascinating article about the rise of Cricket in Britain. I’m copying it below for posterity – all copyright and rights remain with The Observer and the original author.

Last friday afternoon, the group of young boys were gathered as usual in the inner-city playground next to the estate where they live, white, black and Asian youngsters idling away the summer doing what kids do best – playing. They gather there every summer, as regular as migratory birds, shooting hoops into the desultory basket, or more likely playing out their football fantasies against a dusty background of competing replica shirts.

But last week something was different: the boys were, as usual, playing but their sport of choice was new. They were playing cricket. There must have been 20 of them crowding the outfield and in the centre was a brand new set of bright blue plastic stumps being defended by an excited youngster swinging his shiny new blue bat with determined animation.

A friend who has passed this playground for the past 10 years had never before seen these young boys of summer playing anything but football or basketball. Here was proof if any were needed, in the week in which the England football team, multi-millionaires to a man, were beaten so abjectly in Copenhagen, that cricket is the sporting news this summer.

No Test series has been more eagerly awaited than the present one and none, not even Ian Botham’s Ashes of 1981, has proved more continuously inspiring or produced such intense and enthralling cricket. The Australians arrived in England at the beginning of June acclaimed not only as the greatest team ever to have played the game but as revolutionaries, the team that had re-made Test cricket as a more vigorous, athletic, attacking game for our impatient age.

They had in their ranks three players – Shane Warne, Glenn McGrath, Adam Gilchrist – who would be automatic selections for an all-time great cricketing XI, and most of their batsmen averaged more than 50. They had spent the best part of the past decade or so beating teams hollow all over the world, and, with their usual swagger and arrogance, expected to do the same to the Poms.

We knew England were an improving team. We knew that under coach Duncan Fletcher and captain Michael Vaughan the team had remade itself and was winning series in difficult places such as South Africa and Pakistan. We knew that in Andrew Flintoff, Steve Harmison, Simon Jones, Matthew Hoggard, and Marcus Trescothick, as well as the captain himself, we had young cricketers of character, determination and high ability.

What we didn’t know was just how determined they were to take on the Aussies, and how, through doing so with such gusto and aggression, they would introduce a new generation to the intrigues and complexities of Test cricket, perhaps the greatest of all games.

The tied one-day final at Lord’s in July, the clatter of 17 wickets on the first day of the first Test, England’s thrillingly narrow victory at Edgbaston, then the almost unbearably exciting draw at Old Trafford in the third Test… it is impossible to predict what will happen next in this remarkable summer of cricket. What is certain is that both teams will continue to play hard and to win, but, following Flintoff’s example at Edgbaston, when in the immediate aftermath of England’s victory he thought only of consoling Brett Lee, who had come so close to leading Australia to improbable triumph, they will also play with courtesy, sportsmanship and fellow feeling.

If you contrast the attitude of our cricketers with that of the monosyllabic truculence of the pampered and often preening footballers who represented England in Copenhagen you will understand why those boys in the playground were last week playing a different game.

My only regret is that from next year no cricket will be available on terrestrial television for them to watch and be inspired by.

Football’s own goal

Enjoyable piece by Jim Maxwell on his Ashes blog:

Comparing the conduct and behaviour of cricketers and footballers has won respect for cricket, as football opens its doors to more of the same histrionics that demean the integrity of the game.

Yes, sledging or the art of mental disintegration can be distasteful and unnecessary, though it’s occasionally leavened by subtlety or humour.

One of the outstanding virtues of cricket is the acceptance of the umpire’s decision; Damien Martyn’s leg before dismissal in the second innings of the Third Test a prime example.

Steve Bucknor erred in not seeing or hearing a serious inside edge, but Martyn took his leave, surprised but not hysterical with rage like footballers who have become perennial dissenters.

And then there’s the image of Andrew Flintoff consoling Brett Lee after England’s gripping win/Australia’s narrow loss at Edgbaston.

Lee reciprocated at Old Trafford, when a weary Flintoff couldn’t take the last wicket.

These chivalrous acts have revitalised faith in sporting ideals.

Football’s own goal has been a failure to address the ugliness of petty cheating and indiscipline. Moves aiming to restore order and integrity are occurring, with a structural review by the English FA, but that won’t come soon enough to stop players and managers from disrespecting referees’ decisions.

Watching the cricket

Watching the cricket

Photo taken by Adam Tinworth @

Loving this photo – brilliant stuff! Londoners crowding to “find” and watch the cricket on TVs. Cricket’s back, everyone – say goodbye, Football, your reign is over!

The BBC and football’s intrusion on our summer of cricket

The BBC, who now must be regretting their decision not to fight for the TV rights of cricket in Britain, published an interesting piece on football’s intrusion on our summer of Ashes fun. The Beeb are a non-commercial organisation, despite taxing us each year for the privledge of watching TV, yet their fondness of Football has always irked me somewhat. BBC Radio Five Live is an excellent station, but the dominance Football has had on our airwaves has been depressing for a cricket fan…until this summer! It has been encouraging to see the Beeb spend so much time on cricket on the radio; even their newsreaders seem to have been taught the rules of the game.

They no longer look surprised when uttering “England ended with a score of four HUNDRED and fourty four runs today.” Massive emphasis on HUNDRED. It’s a cricket score, BBC people – they tend to get into the hundreds you know.

Also noteworthy today was the news that the BBC are to broadcast their first cricket match on TV for six years. Before you get excited, it’s only available to the lucky Scots, for their one-day game against the mighty Australians. The Telegraph have more on this.

Are the BBC regretting handing over the rights to Channel 4 (in 1999), and now Sky? You bet they are…

Sexy Cricket

I’m not talking about the ladies’ game! My colleague and writer supremo, Jenny Thompson, has some thoughts on the recent ladies Ashes Test here)

Fans pay £500 to see ‘sexy’ cricket

TICKETS for today’s third Ashes Test have been changing hands for up to £500 as English cricket surfs a wave of popularity not seen since Ian Botham’s heyday.

More than 100,000 people will watch the match live at Old Trafford if it runs the full five days, contributing an estimated £20 million to the Manchester economy.

[via The Times]

Wonderful news. I wrote, briefly, about the availability of tickets and of Football’s influence on the country here, back in April, where I said:

It’s true, Cricket isn’t Football and does suffer as a result. The past 20 years has seen some truly crap cricket by England, combined with some underachieving players and shit coaches. Public lost faith, media took the piss – but that’s turning around now, thanks in large part to Flintoff. It’s going to take time though to get borderline cricket fans to cross over to genuine lovers of the game – so continued success of the National team is absolutely vital to the popularity of the game in England.

And so it’s starting to happen. A happy, successful English Cricket team will attract fringe followers. I’ve seen it myself, and no doubt you have too – even some of my most cricket-hating friends are perking their ears up and thinking: “Hey, Flintoff’s good isn’t he? That Vaughan bloke can hit well can’t he?” You do, of course, have to excuse the cringe-making language they use (“hit” instead of “bat”; “throw” instead of “bowl”) – but they’ll get there!

I feel passionately about the game, and want to see it succeed and prosper in Britain. For too long there has been a British sense of “Oh, I see England lost again!” said in a jocular, only-half-joking manner. For so long, visiting ex-pro Australians would even say “You lot don’t even know how to win – you’re losers. Your media hate you – you’re better off playing Football.” And as a young cricket fan, that used to sting. I’m 23, and finally I’m seeing a team to be proud of. I hope there are thousands of 10 year olds out there all relishing watching their heroes play, and I hope it inspires them to take up the great game. Cricket is sexy – what has the world come to?

Bowl out!!!

Tonight, cricket saw its first “bowl out”! The Twenty20 game between Surrey and Warwickshire was tied – Warwickshire, who I can only presume were set a revised target (Duckworth / Lewis) due to rain, tied the game with Surrey…and a football-style penalty shoot-out (hence “bowl out”) took place.

I only saw the final two balls – but the goal, if you’ll pardon the pun, is fairly obvious. Each team has to bowl at, and hit, the stumps. Tim Murtagh sealed the win for Surrey 4-3 – each side having bowled 12 times! Not that difficult to hit the stumps, is it? :) Murtagh tore his shirt off, lampooning around the boundary like a football freak! Amazing scenes! Should be more news on this tomorrow.

Playing in the Garden – Football versus Cricket

Playing in the Garden

Photo taken by cight @

I liked this image – almost Cricket v Football (“Which one shall we choose?”). Or perhaps that little guy on the left is about to whack his brother with the bat :)