World 20/20: India and Australia Looking Good

3 05 2010

The major nations of world cricket got under way last night, India playing South Africa in a true heavy weight clash and Australia facing reigning world champions Pakistan. Like before, some thoughts:

India vs South Africa
India won by 14 runs.

Suresh Raina: Another limited overs specialist, Raina currently holds the record for the most ODI’s without a test match appearance which quite honestly simply goes to show how much depth India have to their batting. Yesterday his timing, footwork and ability to hit a ‘long ball’, as they say, were masterful. Who needs Sachin, Sehwag or Gambhir?

Kallis and Smith: Whilst on paper they did well putting on 97 together, in the end there were too many dot balls which meant that De Villiers and Morkel had too much to do in the last 5 overs. Kallis was the less guilty partner but we are not sure about the merits of Smith at 3. De Villiers can give the ball a serious hit and should probably have come in as Kallis was the man still batting.

The Game: Not the most exciting spectacle in the end as the Indian’s always looked too strong. Having watched the South African’s fail to compete we are very worried about our semi final prediction for the Proteas. Our basis for this prediction was that South Africa have one of the stronger bowling attacks around. The absence though of a selection of spinners to slow things down appears to be a flaw in their make up. Steyn, Morkel, Kallis and Kleinveldt’s bowling all ‘traveled’, in cricketing jargon. India on the other hand look strong and. unlike the Protea’s, have quite the selection of slow bowlers. We are not sure this proliferation of average bowling is good for the game of the cricket but it appears to be a crucial element of this tournament. More on that later though.

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Australia vs Pakistan
Australia won by 34 runs

Shane Watson: Brilliant innings from Australia’s opening batsman. Inevitably a great deal of the focus when Australia play is on David Warner, however, last night Watson proved that they have another powerful batsman at the top of the order. Scoring 81 from only 49 balls and hitting 11 boundaries, including 4 cleanly struck sixes, he proved how important he is to this Aussie side.

David Warner: Warner must be the most graceless batsman in world cricket, effective yes, good at 20/20 cricket yes, but we would still not pay to watch him. Classic moment came when he was interviewed during the game and said that he hoped that if he performed well in this format for Australia, he might get a go in the test matches (or words to that effect). Being Australian he obviously still considers test cricket to be the pinnacle of the game, but if he thinks that, in this age of specialisation, 20/20 cricket is a route into the test side he is probably much mistaken!

David Hussey: Brilliant innings of 53 in 29 balls just when Michael Clarke had threatened to push Australia into a quieter middle period. At one point hit 4 sixes and 28 runs off one Mohamed Sami over. For a man who appears to be so thin he might snap at any point, he hits the ball with immense power.

Mohamed Aamer: Figures of 4 overs, 3-23 including one wicket maiden, belie the fact that his young prodigy is only 18 and already Pakistan’s ‘go to’ bowler. We can’t find the requisite statistic anywhere but we are almost certain that no man will have ever bowled a triple wicket maiden in the final over of a 20/20 game. Not only that but on two of the other three balls, Kamran Akmal ran out Steve Smith and Dirk Nannes giving the Pakistani’s an extraordinary 5 wickets in 6 balls.

Australian Seam Attack: We were astonished to find that the Australians had left out the IPL’s best bowler Doug Bollinger, yet on this basis we can see why they thought they didn’t need them. Nannes, Tait and Johnson provide a fearsome three pronged attack, which also has the added value from a neutrals point of view that something is guaranteed to happen almost every ball. None of them are exactly line and length specialists, instead relying on pace, swing and aggression meaning that they will regularly end up with figures similar to Nannes’ yesterday of 3-41 from their alloted 4 overs.

Catches Win Matches: Yesterday’s games demonstrated this amply.

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So after the first 6 games our predictions made before the tournament are looking way off the mark. Sri Lanka go into today’s game against Zimbabwe having to win to qualify, which isn’t perhaps as simple as it sounds with Zimbabwe beating Australia in their warm up games. England then face the West Indies later knowing one win will see them safe through to the Super 8’s. With the Windies already qualified, and England facing a potential banana skin against Ireland on Wednesday, it would make life much easier for their supporters if they did it the easy way. How often does this happen with England though!





Harris Attack

11 02 2010

Bearing in mind Paul Harris’ recent change in bowling styles from an even slower version of his namesake Chris Harris to test class left arm spinner, we think that India preparing a raging turner could severely backfire on them.*

Despite the protestations of the curator (that’s a groundsman to anyone in the UK) that he is not under pressure to create a turning wicket, we know he is almost certainly lying. If we were the BCCI and worried about hanging on to our number 1 test status, that is exactly what we would do.

The problem for India comes with their under performing spinners and the fact that Paul Harris is the form slow bowler in either side. Harbhajan Singh currently has the wicket taking ability of Peter Such and Amit Mishra appears to be a poor man’s Ian Salisbury (and that is very poor indeed) whilst Harris has metamorphosed into Bishen Bedi.

Okay, perhaps we are seriously over egging the pudding, but on the last test’s evidence the Indian batsmen should be worried. A sledge delivered by Harris to Andrew Symonds in 2008 sums up Harris for us and makes his wickets in the last test all the more remarkable. “How s**t must you be if I got you out twice” he asked upon dismissing Symonds for he second time in the game. It is rare that an international cricketer will admit to being hopeless but this is essentially what Harris is doing here. We wonder whether he gave Tendulkar some of this too?

With selection issues likely to be resolved we believe that India will fight more this time round, although we are still backing the Proteas to clean up the series 2-0. We are also backing Graeme Smith to score a hundred (probably in the second innings) as he always scores runs when South Africa need them most.

*We don’t really think that Harris will be crucial and fully expect him to play second fiddle to Steyn, Morkel and Parnell.





Collapses, Sackings and Dirty Pints

27 01 2010

As expected Bangladesh have done it although in a style that has confounded even the Compulsive Hookers predictions. Yesterday, we said that Bangladesh would be bowled out with a lead of 75 and the game would be over by tea. In a collapse that even an England team of the 90’s and a tail comprising Caddick, Giddins, Tuffnell and Mullaly would have been proud of, Bangladesh went from 290-3 to 312 all out. From looking like they might set a reasonable target to only 1 in front. Needless to say India won by 10 wickets…. After our comments about Mohamed Ashraful yesterday we are pleased to say it was him that started the collapse with ‘a wildly irresponsible shot’. All this on a very flat subcontinental wicket.

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More mystery emerging from South Africa following Mickey Arthur’s shock resignation two days ago. It now appears that the entire board of selectors has been fired as well. No explanations have been although rumours of rifts between Smith and Arthur have surfaced along with concerns over the racial make up of the team. Arthur and the selectors may have had a tricky last two test series, but surely everything they have achieved prior to this would have saved them from the chop for a while at least?

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The worlds most miserable man, Andy Murray, got a little bit happier yesterday with his win over Rafael Nadal. Nadal, far from being the only man who could possibly challenge Federer for global dominance has now lost 9 out of 11 of his most recent games to top 10 players. Murray is in much finer fettle and on this evidence has a real opportunity to win his first grand slam ever. If he beats Cilic, Murray should find himself in the final against Federer and anything can happen then.

Here at the Compulsive Hooker we are still slightly unconvinced about supporting him – you have to of course being British, but somehow with Murray the ‘care factor’ is missing.

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For all those rugby players around the country who have suffered at the hands of club Social Sec’s, Captains etc during their initiation rituals you will be interested to read the article on BBC Sport’s website here. Having seen similar scenes ourselves, we suspect the general reaction to the news would be one of laughter and outrage that the RFU should see fit to interfere with what is an important part of club bonding. We at the Compulsive Hooker would be willing to bet that the decision makers within the RFU who decided to prosecute these charges have participated in worse themselves…..





The Cost of Harper’s Folly

16 01 2010

An unfortunate thing has occurred. A prediction made by the Compulsive Hooker has more or less come to pass, but sadly for all England cricket fans, not the one we wanted. Smith scored a hundred, De Villiers and Boucher made runs and South Africa have declared 37 runs short of the predicted 460.

In terms of the match situation, England are in an enormous hole and bar the unlikely event of a brilliant batting performance, this match will be lost. Whilst the Compulsive Hooker is firm in the belief that the match was made unwinnable by England’s limp batting performance, Daryl Harper must take responsibility for the fact that the South African’s were able to get into such a dominant decision. A second bad decision today whilst De Villiers was batting also cost England valuable runs and surely his place on the ICC panel must come under scrutiny.

It has to be said though that a 1-1 series result is eminently fair with South Africa having dominated 3 out of the 4 tests.





A Maths Lesson

15 01 2010

With rain coming down at the Wanderers ground, Jo’burg (and every English cricket supporter hoping it continues) the Compulsive Hooker has decided to take a look at the difference between 36-2 and 201-2. Quite alot, or more specifically 165, is the obvious answer. In terms of a scoreline it is hugely significant. A team at 36-2 finds itself under a great deal of pressure with the pressure mounting whereas a score of 201-2 is comfortable and dominant.

The reason we are thinking of this difference is that Graeme Smith was adjudicated not out to a catch behind the wicket when the score was 36-0. With Prince falling 3 balls later this would have made the score 36-2. Before the Compulsive Hooker is accused of being ‘one eyed’ and all those other craven qualities of a fanatical supporter which we despise, it must be said that upon Strauss referring the decision to the 3rd umpire (the dreaded Daryl Harper), the video was inconclusive. With that alone the Compulsive Hooker is willing to forgive the decision. What both the on field and 3rd umpires had failed to notice though was a clearly audible sound as the ball passed the bat. With Smith cutting the only thing it could have been was ball on bat, ally this to the unison of appeal from the fielders plus speed of decision in referring it to the 3rd umpire and there is enough to overturn the original decision. Unless Harper had the sound turned down of course…

The DRS (Decision Review System) was developed to ensure mistakes like these were not made. With the SA cricket board choosing not to employ a snickometer or hotspot technology to assist the third umpire, in the eyes of the Compulsive Hooker, perhaps it would be better leaving everything in the hands of the on field umpires?

Decisions go both ways but the DRS is supposed to eradicate this element of chance. It is the humble opinion of the Compulsive Hooker that the simplest way for the ICC to go about this is to simply dismiss Rudi Koertzen and Daryl Harper from the International Umpires list. With 92% of decisions already being given correctly by this elite panel of umpires, the removal of this disastrous pair would raise the mark to close to 99%!





Boring? Cricket? Not When England Play.

15 01 2010

As I settled down to watch the Fourth Test yesterday and took note of the TV screen, I thought ‘Oh no, its raining. They’re showing the highlights and I can’t justify slipping off from work to be here if its raining’. All that was being shown was a procession of England wickets along with the odd boundary guided through the slips. Nevertheless, watching any cricket is better than work so I persevered in the off chance that play might restart.

As I watched I began to notice things that I didn’t remember having happened. I haven’t seen Pietersen out caught at mid on in this series, have I? Or Cook refer an LBW? When was this game I’m watching?

Slowly, ever so slowly, the realisation dawned on me that I was watching this horrifying spectacle live.

I have written before about the pitfalls that an England cricket supporter faces when sitting down to watch a game with any semblance of confidence. Inevitably this confidence is misplaced and bad things (from and England perspective) happen. Two days ago I wrote a piece on KP in which I said he would score a hundred and put England on course to winning the series. When writing it I hesitated, deleting it twice before deciding the argument I was trying to put across was more important than a cricketing superstition. How wrong I was.

Therefore in the interests of redressing the balance here is my prediction for the rest of test match… Smith to score a big hundred, possibly a double, Kallis or De Villiers to score a hundred and Boucher to chip in with an irritating 60 or 70. They will be all out for around 460 leaving England needing to bat for the best part of 3 days to  get past South Africa’s total and secure a draw. Unfortunately predictions for the opposition sometimes come true so I am not holding out too much hope.

It must drive other sides crazy when playing cricket against England as you never know which England side is going to turn up. The world beaters who can win a game in 3 or 4 days by huge margins, or the England that collapses like an underdone flan. In the last year England have also perfected the ‘exciting draw’ meaning that there is a further element of doubt to be thrown in. This last option is however sadly out of reach in this game.

All out for 180 England’s only hope is to take some quick wickets this morning but I’m going with my prediction of 460 all out. That way England have a slight chance.





Why is it so hard?!

7 01 2010

England's unlikely hero (again!)

England yesterday drew the 3rd test in Cape Town and (as I predicted earlier) it was not straightforward. Rather than a lovely 300-6 England almost threw the game away and our tail end hero, Graham Onions, had to survive 11 balls for a valiant and match saving 0*.

Previously to Onion’s heroics Paul Collingwood had batted more or less as expected for 234,939 balls for 40. Surprisingly his companion for the majority of this lesson in crease occupation was Ian Bell. No you have not misread – this man who previously had the stickability and inner steel of a wet stick of celery suddenly became the proverbial immovable object.

That is until there were 17 heart stopping balls to go when he suddenly reverted to type and poked at a ball he could have left alone to provide Smith with a sitter at slip. Enter Onions. After an over from Steyn which Swann played almost nonchalantly, Onions got stuck in and provided the tonic to the England Supporters nervousness.

South Africa have again been left wondering what might have been and still find themselves 1-0 down with 1 to play. It could have been 2-1 in the Bok’s favour (as Daryl Cullinan repeatedly kept saying) but fantastically it isn’t.

The day where England comfortably bat out a game with two recognised batsmen at the crease will be an extraordinary one and I would not be alone amongst England supporters unsure of how to treat it. This past 12 months we have had 2 games in the West Indies where England could not remove Fidel Edwards, the Panesar and Anderson heroics at Cardiff in the Ashes and now 2 in 3 tests in South Africa. Attacking draws or losing draws – England excel in such circumstances.

All that remains to mention is my thoughts on the next test. I expect (fitness permitting) both sides to retain the same teams although the places of Duminy and Prince for SA can’t be assured and for England to secure at least a draw giving them the series victory. One day and test series wins away from home do not come often for England separately, let alone in tandem meaning if they can get over the line it would truly be something to treasure.








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