Posts Tagged ‘the oval’
So Sir Alec Bedser is dead. Given his reactionary stance on most aspects of modern cricket it is highly probable that among his dying wishes was the installation of a rotisserie spit in his grave in order for him to spin in it at his leisure.
He would have been given an early opportunity to give the spit a test drive as his county Surrey kicked off their season by subsiding apologetically to a first defeat to Derbyshire at Oval since 1966. Bedser was probably moving through the gears as it was revealed that big money signing Chris Tremlett was being rested for the first game to “manage his workload”. To be fair to Tremlett, it’s been a long old season so far what with all the team photos and tracksuit fittings.
It didn’t get much better today down at Hove as another Tremlett-less side muddled their way to 199-7 against Sussex, reliant mainly on a heroically stolid performance from Arun Harinath who blazed his way to 62 off 290 balls.
In fairness to the Lions (they’ve reverted back from the Brown Caps to add “a bit of bite to the team” according to Chris Adams – crank it up Sir Alec) they faced up against a Sussex team with the bit between the proverbial. They welcomed back recent defectors from beyond the county line – coach Adams and new captain Rory Hamilton-Brown, poached from the Sharks in the winter.
I was hoping for at least one burning effigy of the Surrey skipper or maybe just a pig’s head lobbed onto the outfield, but perhaps the Sussex fans were pre-occupied mounting this zealous protest against the assassination of a local fox at the orders of Sussex chief executive Dave Brooks.
I’m not sure what I find funniest about this story. Possibly the fact that the police were called on the night of the killing as gunshots were heard. Or that Brooks justified the murder by claiming that the fox was “behaving strangely” and could have led to the cancellation of matches. Or the one local resident who questioned the safety of Hove’s cat population amid all this gunfire. Or the other one who speculated on the plight of the widowed vixen.
Or maybe just the demonstration itself, so pleasingly emblematic of county cricket – poorly attended, half-hearted and probably smelling faintly of Scotch eggs.
Maybe this is all an ill-conceived publicity stunt to boost numbers – the Leicestershire Foxes are visiting Hove next week after all. In fact, is that Dave Brooks hiding behind the hastily-created banner? I hope he hasn’t shot himself in the foot.
Spare a thought for Steve Davies, England’s new third-choice wicketkeeper. Not only has he spent the last fortnight watching a South African interloper snuggle into his reserve keeper berth, but has been forced to do so from the uneasy distance of about 22 yards away. The England Lions novel tactic of opening the innings with two glovemen has pitted Davies against Craig Kieswetter in a cricketing version of a gladiatorial fight with pugil sticks, a tussle which has left Davies eating crash mat.
Kieswetter has almost certainly impressed the Colly-Flower management axis to such extent that he should think about packing his Bermuda shorts for the Caribbean and the Twenty20 World Cup. England could feasibly repeat the selection of two keepers in the side to accommodate Kieswetter at the top of the innings. It could catch on, like three centre-backs did in the nineties.
Davies is now left to stitch an ironic ‘England’s No.3′ into his gloves and head off down to the shadowy depths of LVCC Division 2 and his new club at the Oval. I wish him well, not only as a Surrey fan, but because there’s a vague danger that Chris Adams is currently transforming the county into a cricketing sister of Newcastle United: a graveyard for the potential of talented young cricketers, whose reputations are hoovered up into nothing.
Not that I’m overly pessimistic.
England’s inconsistency in test matches over the last six months is taking on a mesmeric quality. Their form now has a sort of rhythm, a thumping techno beat of alternate triumph and disaster or near disaster. If we trace the story back to Chester-le-Street in May and we scratch from the record the moist non-event that was the third Ashes Test at Edgbaston, then a pleasing pattern can be spied:
2nd test vs West Indies, Chester-le-Street: Win
1st test vs Australia, Cardiff: Near defeat
2nd test vs Australia, Lords: Win
4th test vs Australia, Headingley: Defeat
5th test vs Australia, Oval: Win
1st test vs South Africa, Centurion: Near defeat
2nd test vs South Africa, Durban: Win
3rd test vs South Africa, Cape Town: Near defeat
All of which means that it’s a fallacy to suggest that you never know what to expect from this England side. You know exactly what to expect, just reverse the performance from the previous game. Happily the formula dictates that we should have nothing to fear at the Wanderers and a series-clinching victory should be facile.
It’s Chittagong in early spring that we should be worried about.
Paul Harris bowling Ian Bell during the first innings of the test match just gone at Centurion was not the best thing I’ve ever seen on a cricket pitch. And I’ve seen a man run himself out because he thought the game was over. That was an American boy at my school actually.
Unfortunately sometimes when Bell gets out he really gets out. It’s the kind of You’ve Been Framed caper that has the unhappy effect of extinguishing memories of Bell’s more worthy achievements in the game. Like the very essential 72 he scored against the Australians at the Oval without which the pilfering of the Ashes would not have been possible. That was in the last test match before this one lest anyone had forgotten.
The main reason why the Bell detractors were polishing their spank-paddles was who was lumbering in at the other end when he shouldered arms. Paul Harris is a man famed for his inability to spin the majority of his deliveries. When I remind myself that Harris took five wickets in that innings and he is in fact in the Top 10 of the test bowler’s hit parade, it is impossible to do so without my inner voice sounding like a patronising uncle.
Who knows what thoughts were floating around the Bell brain when Harris bowled that delivery? It is entirely feasible that he was gazing up the wicket and pondering what actually Paul Harris is. He doesn’t look like a spinner. He doesn’t really look like a cricketer. More a strange fuzzy giant from a distant island. Maybe that’s his mystery.
I really enjoyed the Sky coverage of the abandoned Twenty20 international at Old Trafford on Tuesday, particularly David Lloyd, whose trademark look-to-camera was at its most intense. I was disappointed however the producers did not feel the necessity to send out Paul Allott and his microphone to collect some samples of the outrage among the crowd. I felt sure we’d be treated to some ancient gurning Lancastrian muttering darkly about the muddy patch and how it compared unfavourably to the fields of Passchendaele.
I also felt the lack of one Peter Siddle. He’d been given the last week off since the Oval (as days in lieu maybe) and taken his ladyfriend off to Disneyworld in Paris. When you fly with Peter Siddle you fly first-class.
I’d like to think that in taking this trip Siddle was making some oblique statement about the ‘Mickey Mouse’ status of Twenty20 cricket but I would hazard that it is probably more likely that he’s just a massive fan of people dressed in large furry Goofy costumes.
I don’t think I’m going to pass comment on cricket any more. I will certainly abstain from making any predictions. On Thursday evening I described England as ‘a bit shit’. Today they won the Ashes. I guess I’ll just write stuff about how massive Shane Watson’s ass is or ponder on whether Bob Willis is actually a horrible old woman.
One thing I will say about today is that we should all spare a thought for Ravi Bopara. I heard both Steve Harmison and Andy Flower refer to the fourteen men who had won England back the Ashes. Fourteen? Okay. So there were the eleven on the pitch at the Oval. And Graham Onions, Monty Panesar and Kevin Pieter Pietersen in attendance to join the party and collect their medallions. That’s fourteen. But just because Bopara wasn’t actually there doesn’t mean he doesn’t exist any more. It seems that not only has he been dropped but also wiped from the memory bank like Kate Winslet in The Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind.
Admittedly Bopara did not make much of an impact on the series. But…er…remember that 36 he scored in the first innings at Cardiff? It took vital time out of the game which proved crucial later on. Massive straw-clutch. Don’t care. Give that man a medallion.
If yesterday had been an X Factor audition for England’s no.3 batsman at the Oval then Simon Cowell would have hitched up his trousers and flounced out of the studio some time after tea. At this rate no-one will step up to the task. Which presents an interesting tactical twist for the selectors to consider:
They don’t have to pick a no.3 at all. Imagine the Australian discombobulation when Strauss or Cook falls and Paul Collingwood comes charging out to bat at no.4. This also gives the management licence further down the order and introduce a no.12 for some clownish biffage late on in the innings to raise the spirits and annoy the oppostion to an extent that a no.3 could never achieve (no.12 is Monty Panesar’s favourite position and where he scored most first-class runs). The added advantage being that two spinners can now be chosen without any fear of further selectorial migraines, and bowl England to the victory they crave.
The fact that Geoff Miller revealed that he is not ruling anyone out in his selection of the England squad for the final Ashes test at the Oval suggests that he has his ruler out and some general rulage will ensue. Which spells trouble for the encumbent eleven particularly the middle order and even more particularly Ravi Bopara who looks like he might be on the sharp end of Miller’s ruler.
I assuming that Miller’s announcement is a slight overstatement. I’m guessing that I’ve been ruled out for instance. Which leaves us a few candidates. The most obvious pick is Jonathon Trott, who made the last squad. The brilliant advantage of Trott is that he is South African and therefore not “flat and lazy” like most of his would-be team-mates. Justin Langer does know everything after all. And Trott is, by all accounts I’ve heard, something of a arrogant nob which is an excellent quality to possess to take on these Aussies.
Among the other names that Miller may be flicking through his Rolodex for is Robert Key. His is a cultish popularity unlike any other I can think of, largely based on the fact that he is quite tubby and smokes to stop himself sweating before he bats and seems like a thoroughly decent chap. But this season for Kent has been a microcosm of his test career: mainly underachieving apart from an anomalous double century against inferior opposition. But Shane Warne likes him and that counts for a lot apparently.
Mark Ramprakash is another cricketer who never managed to pin test cricket against a wall and tell it who was in charge. But he remains one of a small crew of England cricketers whose average against Australia is higher than his overall test figure: 42.40 no less. And he is on form. That is an understatement. He is on form, in form, around form, by form, through form. Mark Ramprakash is form. And if you can look Bruno Tonioli in the eye and survive to tell the tale then Mitchell Johnson should hold no fear.
I’m assuming that Trott will win over the sentimental lobby and get the call. Almost certainly in place of Bopara but I would prefer to see Ian Bell relegated again. Justin Langer thinks Bopara is a very good batsman. And Justin does know everything.