At A Slow Trott…

30 05 2011

Usually a man who has just scored 203 gets a little slack. Usually a man who has just scored 203 as part of a wider run scoring record which in recent times approaches Bradman-esque proportions could do no wrong. Usually a man who does this whilst filling in what has, even until relatively recent times, been a problem number 3 position for England could be expected to to not have a word said against him.

Yet, the remarkable thing about Mr. IJL Trott of Warickshire and England, is that in his particular case this does not appear to be the case with regular, albeit sly, reference to his failings by the commentators and several pundits in the media.

To illustrate this, words commonly associated with Trott and his batting are adjectives such as ‘plodding’, ‘one paced’, and ‘turgid’ to go along with the more pleasant ‘rock like’ and ‘solid’ – the innate causes of the vernacular employed being both his greatest strength and his weakest trait. To see Trott bat in the recent World Cup was to be consistently torn between the two extremes of ‘thank god he’s there – without him we’d be stuffed’ to ‘get a move on mate – you’re going to cost us the game by batting too slowly’.

We usually talk about an excess of 20/20 cricket being bad for players techniques and concentration, yet Trott is one player who it would undoubtedly help. An example of this would be former countryman Jacques Kallis who, in his younger days, was consistently accused of the same thing and it was only relatively late in his career and the advent of the IPL that he seemed to gain another gear. Since then Kallis has become admired not only for his remarkable ability to accumulate runs, but also (crucially) for his ability to bat to the situation. Whilst we have never been hugely keen on the IPL as a tournament itself, even we can see the positive effect that it has had on the South African’s batting.

We once heard Boycott, him of the excellent cricketing mother and grandmother, explain why Ken Barrington is not held in higher esteem by students of the English game – essentially that despite his test average of 58 and 20 odd hundreds he bored the pants off people – and one feels that perhaps Trott might be treading the same path. (Boycott escapes a similar fate by being an ever present on the radio/tv and singing his own praises at every opportunity!)

This is hardly a new idea but until Trott discovers 3rd gear he is unlikely to move from the merely very good to the potentially exceptional and until then, he can expect these murmurs to continue. Mind you, we’re not sure that Trott himself would care as long as the runs keep coming…

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Legends, Comebacks and ‘Resting’ Players

22 12 2010

There has been a fair bit of cricket and cricketing news over the past couple of days that we haven’t had time to comment on, so, in very disjointed but hopefully lucid style, we are going to round up our thoughts on these matters.

  • Where else to start but with Sachin? Much has already been written and will undoubtedly continue to be  written about this great little man but his achievement against South Africa was of such a magnitude that we feel the need to add to the cacophony of voices.

    We remember back in 1996 on the Indian tour of England one of the Indian commentators saying that Sachin would one day be the first man to get to 100 international hundreds. At the time this was such a ridiculous number (and quite frankly still is!) that we ascribed this comment to over enthusiasm. With 50 test hundreds and 46 ODI centuries this forgotten commentator has been proved right as it is surely inevitable now.

    With age forcing the decline of other leading players in the game such as Ponting and Dravid, it is not only Sachin’s amount of runs but also his longevity and fitness which should be praised as the little Indian appears to simply get better with age. We believe there is no reason why he can’t go on for another two or three years, in which time it is conceivable that he might end up with close to 120 international hundreds. Certainly we imagine there would be fairly short odds on him reaching 60 test hundreds.

  • From one all time great to another. Jacques Kallis scored 201 not out in South Africa’s one sided game against the Indians over the weekend. Remarkably it was his 38th test match century, yet only his  first double which is an oddity in itself.

    In our eyes he is undoubtedly South Africa’s finest cricketer ever and, perhaps extraordinarily, deserves genuine comparison to the great Sir Garry Sobers. Sobers is consistently called the finest all round cricketer ever to have played the game yet Kallis has achieved figures directly comparable to the great man, undoubtedly without the flair but certainly at a similar level of effectiveness. Well played Sir!

  • New Zealand’s Dan Vettori  has been removed from his all singing and dancing role in New Zealand cricket and been allowed to concentrate on his own game and captaining the side.

    In the turmoil and angst that is New Zealand cricket, Vettori has been a consistently world class operator and effective with ball and bat. If the Black Caps are to remain competitive on the world stage they need him to be firing and so this reduced work load can only be a good thing.

  • A brief Ashes thought now as we are pleased to see that Andy Flower has committed to keeping four bowlers for the Boxing Day test match. There is talk of ‘resting’ Finn and playing either Bresnan or Shahzad in a similar way to which Greg Chappell apparently said Mitchell Johnson was ‘rested for the Adelaide test’. Pure rubbish as anyone can see – if you are removed from the side you are dropped – there is no two ways about it.

    For all his woes at Perth Finn still picked up some crucial wickets and is the leading wicket taker in the series on either side. Leave him in, give him some confidence and he will grow in stature as a test match bowler. We personally don’t mind him leaking a few runs if he is taking wickets.

    If a change is required though, please let it be Shahzad who comes in rather than Bresnan…

  • We feel a little dirty for mentioning this competition – being as it is not one of our favourite developments in world cricket – but the IPL announced their rosters from which sides could pick. The top reserve price is $400,000 and is the level in which such luminaries as KP, Yuvraj Singh, Adam Gilchrist, Dan Vettori and Chris Gayle sit.

    Included in any IPL list for the first time and sitting pretty in this top bracket at the age of 41 and after four years of no cricket was Brian Lara. When his possible signing for Surrey was mooted earlier this year we wrote then that we thought it was a bad idea and we haven’t changed our mind now.

    The problem when legends make come backs is that they rarely enhance their previous reputations. We remember Lara as the mercurial flashing blade that won numerous test matches for the West Indies single handedly. We don’t want to remember him scratching around for 20 off 20 balls in an over hyped domestic competition.

Thoughts on the above?





A Day For Test Cricket Lovers and Chris Gayle

16 11 2010

Yesterday was one of those brilliant days that test cricket lovers enjoy so much. With three separate games going on – one in Sri Lanka, one in India and one in Dubai – it was a joy to switch between the three. Sometimes watching McCullum score what could yet be a match winning century against India; sometimes watching Amla and Kallis setting South Africa up for what will surely be a final day win; and on other occasions watching the coolest cricketer in the world, Chris Gayle, scoring a remarkable 219 not out.

Slightly inevitably, given the fact that Gayle was batting and taking into our account soft spot for the West Indians anyway, we spent most of the time marveling at the power shown by the big Jamaican. In an innings described as ‘mature’ by both the commentators and Cricinfo’s ball by ball coverage several times, he still managed to score at more or less a run a ball and, remarkably, has so far hit eight sixes.

There was a time when a test match innings containing even two or three sixes was worthy of special mention, yet, in this mornings press there wasn’t even much mention of it. It seems that in this modern day and age Gayle was simply doing what is expected – or certainly at any rate, what is expected of him!

What was also notable was the precise yet still infinitely casual manner of his batting. When he hit a six it wasn’t the bludgeoning carve so often seen from him in the shorter forms, but a studied cricket shot that somehow, despite the apparent lack of effort, still went an extraordinary long way.

Having been relieved of the captaincy for this tour we had wondered how he would respond, and, if this is the way he intends to play, the rest of the world better look out. Gayle has long been someone who probably hasn’t done justice to his enormous talent – something that will be an enormous boon to the West Indies should he now push on.

A quick mention for Darren Bravo too. Dwayne’s younger brother, Darren looked calm and collected on his test debut scoring a fine 58 at number 3. Watching him cover drive for four one was strongly reminded of Brian Lara – an unwanted comparison for any young cricketer – yet from a style perspective at least it was uncanny. If Bravo can score even half the number of runs Bravo did – the West Indies will be happy.

In India Brendon McCullum showed further evidence that perhaps finally he is turning into a top class test match player. With the Indian’s achieving a 127 run lead in the first innings it was crucial to New Zealand that someone stood up to ensure that, at the very least, they did not lose the match.

With the final day having got under way at Hyderabad, McCullum is currently 168 not out and the Black Caps lead stands at just over 200 runs. It is unlikely that there will be enough time to go for the win or that they would have enough fire power to get through the superstar Indian line up – yet this match marks another success story for the Kiwis. With their chances written off in all quarters after their heavy defeat to the Bangladeshi’s last month, this tour (providing they don’t lose today) has already been a victory of sorts. With a draw here you never know what might happen in the third and final test…

Finally in Dubai for Pakistan’s ‘home’ test series against the South Africans, the class of the visitors appears to have told. With the pitch in the new Dubai cricket stadium holding up – a triumph for the Dubai authorities – Amla and Kallis both scored hundreds whilst setting Pakistan 451 to win. Pakistan have started reasonably well but with two men out for 109 and the Pakistani psyche hardly set up to play for draws, we suspect that Steyn and co will roll them today.

Please click on the country names for links to the live scoreboards of the Pakistan match, the West Indies match and the Kiwi game – should you be interested.

 





World 20/20: Team of the Tournament

18 05 2010

With the World Cup 20/20 now having finished and the excitement of England’s win wearing off, it is time of the Compulsive Hooker to choose our team of the tournament.

1. Mahela Jayawardene (Sri Lanka – 302 runs @ SR of 159.78*)
Alongside his team mate, Kumar Sangakarra, probably the most graceful batsmen on the planet possessing exquisite timing and surprising power for a small man. Top run scorer in the tournament and and possessor of the second highest strike rate of batsmen who have scored over 100 runs, his selection is a no-brainer.

2. Kamran Akmal (Pakistan – 180 runs @ SR of 120.80)
Perhaps a surprise selection given the amount of media coverage given to Australia and England’s opening pairs. Yet Akmal scored more runs than any of them bar Kieswetter and was one of the more consistent Pakistani players (if there is such a thing!). His runs in the semi-final against Australia were crucial and almost contributed to a surprise victory.

3. Kevin Pietersen (England – 248 runs @ SR of 137.77)
Who else quite frankly? This tournament was an emphatic way to answer KP’s critics and his batting on occasions defied belief (his destruction of Dale Steyn will live long in the memory). Shane Warne yesterday called him ‘the most destructive batsmen in world cricket’ and that’s good enough for us.

4.   Cameron White (Australia – 180 runs @ SR of 146.34)
There is a strong argument doing the rounds that White should bat at 3 or 4 and skipper the Australian side instead of Clarke. For us there seems to be little wrong with this idea as time and again White proved how good he is in this format. He didn’t necessarily score the bulk of runs as one or two others due to his late entrances, yet his strike rate and his excellent innings against Bangladesh mean he is, in our opinion, the best pick for this position.

5. Eoin Morgan (England – 183 runs @ SR of 128.87)
Morgan continues to impress in an England shirt, and with him and Hussey in this team, we would back them to chase any total down. More impressive finishers in world cricket there are not. The invention of his stroke play catches the eye, yet it is the cleverness with which he does it that is truly impressive. Invariably he chooses the right ball and unlike some other batsman known for their audaciousness, he is rarely dismissed doing it. Must play test cricket soon.

6. Michael Hussey (Australia – 188 runs @ SR of 175.70)
Who would have thought that prior to the tournament Mike Hussey would have had the highest strike rate in Australia’s team, let alone overall! This is a promotion up the order from his Australian spot at 7, yet we think he has deserved it. His performance in the semi final against Pakistan was remarkable, not just for his hitting, but for the coolness with which he did it.

7. Daniel Vettori (New Zealand – 69 runs @ SR of 109.52 & 3 wickets @ ER** of 5.68)
Whilst he only had a reasonable tournament with the bat, Vettori was brilliant once again with the ball conceding less than 6 runs an over. Rapidly proving himself to be an intelligent skipper as well, he gets our vote to lead this side.

8. Darren Sammy (West Indies – 6 wickets @ ER of 5.26)
Sammy surprised the Compulsive Hooker enormously in this tournament with his control and consistency. The best West Indian bowler by some distance he is an easy pick for this XI. Would also provide some big hitting at number 8 as he showed in a brutal innings of 30 early in the competition.

9. Graeme Swann (England – 10 wickets @ ER of 6.54)
Recognised as the premier spinner in world cricket now by no less a judge as Shane Warne, Swann bowled with tight control whilst retaining his wicket taking flight and spin. His handy batting, whilst not needed by England in the tournament would come in handy at 9 in this eleven.

10. Mitchell Johnson (Australia – 10 wickets @ ER of 6.49)
Part of what was reckoned to be the strongest seam bowling attack in the tournament, Johnson gets the nod for his excellent performances throughout, plus his ability to hit the ball along way late in the batting order. Wasn’t shown up by England in the same way Tait was in the final, hence his inclusion despite Tait’s more economical figures tournament long.

11. Hamid Hassan (Afghanistan – 4 wickets @ ER of 4.14)
And now for the bolter in the team! Hassan gets picked for being the most economical bowler in the tournament, which before you naysayers disagree saying he only played 2 matches – remember those two games were against the two powerhouses of India and South Africa. Would also provide the team with a character and someone wearing a sweatband around their head 80’s style!

12th Man: Jacques Kallis (South Africa 171 runs @ SR of 116.32 & 2 wickets @ ER of 6.40)
Able to slot in anywhere with bat and ball, he would be the ideal man for the job.

So there you have it 3 English, 3 Australia, 1 West Indian, 1 Kiwi, 1 Pakistani, 1 Afghani and 1 Sri Lankan. We would back this team to win most games although we confess to being worried about a few catches going down behind the stumps. Akmal, however, was the only gloveman other than Kieswetter to push himself into contention and he gets our vote for his greater contribution with the bat. With the bat Suresh Raina can count himself unlucky having scored the only other 100 in the tournament, however he failed when India needed him most and so we have counted that against him. In the bowlers Shaun Tait, Dirk Nannes, Stuart Broad, Harbhajan Singh and Jacques Kallis can all count themselves unlucky however we think the 5 selected would do the job.

What are your thoughts? Who would you have picked?

* SR (Strike rate) is given as number of runs scored per 100 balls.
** ER (Economy rate) is given as runs per over.





A Proper 20/20 Tournament: World Cup 2010

28 04 2010

With only two days before the World 20/20 cup gets under way, the Compulsive Hooker thought we would take a look at what we think might happen. It is unlikely that any predictions we make will come off as our track record in this sort of thing is usually appalling.

Contrary to what regular readers might think (and to tell the truth it has surprised us too), we are actually quite excited by this tournament. For us this competition is likely to be what every 20/20 tournament, and indeed any cricket tournament, should be with the focus going entirely on the cricket itself. The IPL of course from a cricketing point of view had its moments, yet it is irrevocably sullied in our eyes by the never ending circus and incredible levels of marketing surrounding it, not to mention the alleged misbehaviour behind the scenes.

With match fixing, or more recently spot fixing, firmly back in the limelight it is crucial for crickets image that this tournament passes by without this particular shadow being cast over it. 20/20 cricket is a game which in many ways lends itself to match fixing, as in the shorter form of the game a wicket or a bad over has a larger significance than in other forms. With less money flying around in the Caribbean, and therefore less temptation to indulge in these nefarious practises, hopefully we can have a controversy free tournament.

And so on to the cricket.

Group D

England: Touted as undercooked by their coach and several pundits in the media, we have a sneaky suspicion that now they have got rid of Mr. Trott at the top of the order, England may surprise a few people. Collingwood and Morgan are key in our opinion, with the Durham man probably one of the single most important players to his team in the whole tournament. With West Indian pitches a far cry from the pacey tracks of old, Swann certainly and perhaps Tredwell could also be important in taking the pace off the ball.
Prediction: Semi’s

Ireland: Having lost their best players in Joyce and Morgan to England, this could be a tough tournament for the Irish. Talking a good game behind the scenes, yet recent results haven’t gone their way and they look limited, particularly in the batting. If the O’Brien brothers don’t fire there is not a great deal else with the greatest of respect to skipper Porterfield who is perhaps more of a 4 day player.
Prediction: Fail to qualify from group stages.

West Indies: Who knows quite honestly! If Gayle and Pollard fire then anything is possible and with the benefit of home support, perhaps this could be there year. On the other hand they are just as likely to lose to Ireland and fail to qualify at all. There is a backbone of quality there with Chanderpaul and Sarwan also being destructive players in this format, yet we worry about them! New coach Ottis Gibson needs a good tournament after their travails against Zimbabwe recently. After Afghanistan, we will be supporting the West Indies as it would be a wonderful boost for cricket in this region.
Prediction: Knocked out at Super 8’s stage.

Group C

Afghanistan: We have detailed their rise on this site before and it is truly one of the most inspiring stories to come out of that war torn country. (Click here and particularly here for more on this). With undoubted talent in their ranks and confidence overflowing it is not a totally far fetched proposition that they could beat one of India or South Africa. Officially the Compulsive Hooker’s favourite team in the tournament, we will be covering their every move.
Prediction: We would like to say Super 8’s but out head tells us that India and the Proteas will be too strong. Lets hope not.

India: As at the last tournament, they go in as odds on favourites and have bags and bags of talent. With Sachin at the top of the order and class acts such as Raina, Gambhir, and Yuvraj Singh it is truly a batting line up to give opposing bowlers nightmares. The bowling however is relatively weak and will be relying on the batting to win them games. Under the huge pressure of expectation as always, we feel that this could be their year.
Prediction: Finalists

South Africa: Crickets perennial chokers have as good a chance as anyone in this years tournament. With quality throughout their ranks and in all departments (providing they get rid of JP Duminy), they should provide India  with genuine competition for top place in the group stages. Look out for Kallis to continue his IPL run scoring antics and prove to everyone that he is not the one dimensional player of legend. Loots Bosman could also be key on as a big hitting opener.
Prediction: Semis

Group B

New Zealand: Solid performers in 20/20 cricket, they are the only people to have beaten Australia this Summer down under in any form of the game. If McCullum and Taylor come off more than once, Oram and Bond stays fit and Vettori continues to weave his magic spells, then they have a real chance. Strength in depth is not their forte, they could suffer if one of these five get injured. Unlike some other sides, the Kiwis will be looking to win matches with their bowling for which Shane Bond in particular is crucial. Probably one of the best fast bowlers of the past 15 years, it is a crying shame he has not played more. As cricket fans it is important to enjoy watching him while he’s fit.
Prediction: Could easily win it, but we are going to go for the Kiwis to be knocked out at the Super 8 stage.

Sri Lanka: Another dark horse with high levels of innate quality that could see them all the way. Sangakarra, Jayawardene and the evergreen Jayasuriya they have plenty of runs in them. Look out for Dilshan and his famous ‘scoop’ shot, though, as in the past year he has lost little in comparison to Sehwag, which is saying something. Murali will keep it tight although it is more than likely that, like India, they will be relying on their batsman to win them games.
Prediction: Winners. Big call but we have to pick someone!

Zimbabwe: Fresh off a brilliant win against Australia last night in the warm up games, and having taken a couple of wins of the West Indies recently, they should not be underestimated. Tiny Tatenda Taibu, Hamilton Masakadza and newly signed county overseas player Elton Chigumbura will be the most valuable players in this side. Andy Blignaut has recently come back into the side after a self imposed exile and will be keen to make up for lost time too.
Prediction: Sadly they having picked the other two sides from this group to go through we must say they will exit at the group stage. Don’t be surprised if they manage to pull something off though.

Group A

Australia: Australia are coming off an exceptional home Summer, only having lost to the Kiwis in any form of cricket. A very effective unit with big hitting capabilities in the shape of David Warner, Shane Watson amongst others, they will be very hard to beat. The bowling is strong with Doug Bollinger in particular looking like he will be a real handful. Johnson too will be a threat, although he is the type of bowler that could end with figures of 3-42 from four overs as easily as not. Look out for Dirk Nannes and (even though we hate to say it) Nathan Bracken too.
Prediction: We hope first round exit, but we think it will be Super 8 stages. Equally it would be typically Australian to go and win the whole thing, yet we have picked the Sri Lankans for that so Super 8’s it is!

Bangladesh: A side that despite having a number of talented players, never quite seem to perform all at the same time. We suspect this could be a tough tournament for Bangladesh unless Tamim Iqbal fires regularly. Shakib will provide control on the bowling side of things, yet in a tough group we feel it will be too much.
Prediction: Group stage exit.

Pakistan: Last years champions and as dangerous a team as you could find on their day, we however feel they will struggle in this years tournament. In fighting has been rife and with several important players banned/retired in a fit of pique, this could be a tricky tournament. ‘Boom Boom’ Afridi captains and remains key to their progress, providing of course he doesn’t get hungry again….
Prediction: Super 8’s. Inconsistency to let them down.





County Cricket, IPL and the MCC

14 04 2010

It may have been noticed that the Compulsive Hooker’s offerings have been rare over the past week and a half. From today, however, we are back to normal and have much to talk about. Some of it is news a few days old, but due to other commitments we were unable to publish anything about it at the time, so forgive us if you feel the opinion we offer isn’t as topical as it might be!

County Cricket

Beginning with cricket and the first round of the County Championship matches, the stand out performer bearing an English passport was undoubtedly Steve Finn who took an incredible 14 for 106 in the match. This included an amazing 9-37 in the second innings as Worcestershire folded for a mere 119. Unbelievably, Middlesex and Finn went on to lose the match by the sizeable margin of 111 runs as the Middlesex batsman folded in the 4th innings chasing 281. Rarely can a bowler have done more for a side, only to see them lose.

On the positive side for Finn, Andrew Strauss, who missed the Bangladesh leg of the Winter tours, will have been highly impressed and it can only have done his prospects of a longer run in the test side good. Finn probably only rated as a ‘solid’ performer in Bangladesh, with Cook on occasions seeming reluctant to throw him the ball, yet if he can maintain this sort of form, who knows where he might find himself at the end of the Summer. Maybe even on a plane to Australia!

For Worcestershire this represents a magnificent start to a season in which they were deemed one of the favourites for the wooden spoon in Division II. Looking at their team, excluding it must be said the Australian Phil Jacques, the names are a roll call of journeyman (and worse) cricketers. Vikram Solanki is probably their best known player having played a handful of one day games for England, and with this in mind they must be secretly relieved to have got off to such a good start.

With changes seemingly inevitable in the format of the County Championship, it is imperative that sides like Worcestershire, Derbyshire and Glamorgan remain competitive in all formats. If they don’t it will simply provide more ammunition for the advocates of the conference scheme amongst other things. For a superbly argued piece on why these changes should be either avoided due to the high number of false premises these changes are being based upon, read George Dobell’s piece ‘Heading into the abyss’.

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IPL Continues Inexorably On

It seems to us that the IPL has been going on for at least 3 months already. Having checked on Cricinfo, it seems scarcely believable that in fact it has only been on for the relatively short matter of 1 month and 2 days. The Compulsive Hooker must confess that we were hardly enamoured by it at the beginning, yet surely the masses of Indian (and other nationalities following it closely) must have got bored by now.

20/20 cricket is a game by definition that is over in a flurry of big hits almost before you’ve realised it’s begun. In many ways this is perfect for the modern high speed, always in a hurry world, Yet the complexities of the game have been lost and certainly its ability to surprise. We read a statistic somewhere recently, that in this years competition, a six has been hit every 24 balls. A quick look at the ‘Most Sixes’ table reveals that most batsman have been scoring at least one six per innings, with Yusuf Pathan, Chris Gayle and Uthappa all scoring 2 per visit to the crease. Even Jacques Kallis, usually more of a Boycott type player, has scored a four or a six every 5 balls. (In actual fact his enormous success in this format is a real shot in the arm to those who suggested that his game was limited, proving that the great players are always adaptable).

Cricket, as mentioned above, is a game in which the element of surprise is key. 20/20 cricket has lost this with so many balls disappearing for four or six, wickets going down due to ridiculous shots rather than an inspired bit of bowling and the  consequently the sheer predictability of it. As calls are made once more for an ‘English Premier League’ based on franchises around various cities in the UK, we really hope that the powers that be resist this particular sirens call. In the recent few weeks, authorities such as Adam Gilchrist and India’s Sports Minister M.S. Gill have said that any more 20/20 cricket would be harmful towards itself as well as test cricket. In Mr. Gill’s case he also criticised the B.C.C.I. for their apparent conflict of interest regarding their financial backing of the IPL. With the more powerful English counties uniting with the ECB to try and push this idea through, potentially at the expense of the lesser counties, the danger has never been more apparent to the English game.

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M.C.C. to Sponsor Australia vs Pakistan Series

Good news emerged from Lords yesterday, with the MCC agreeing to sponsor the Australia versus Pakistan series to be played in England over the Summer months. With the PCB unable to hold home test series due to the unstable nature of their country’s politics, it is good to see the traditional guardians of the game step up with the necessary financial backing. This will be the first time that the MCC have ever sponsored a series and it should provide an enormous fillip to Pakistani cricket. Pakistan have long been a country who produce exceptionally talented, if a little mercurial, cricketers and a strong Pakistan is essential for test cricket in particular. Whilst recent results have gone against them at the hands of a dominant Australian team, they possess enough young talent, that given exposure to top level cricket will mean their demotion from the top table of world cricket is not a long one.

From Australia’s point of view this gives their players an ideal opportunity to experience English conditions and measure themselves directly against the English team who are also playing Pakistan at home this Summer. As English supporters, the Compulsive Hooker hopes that they struggle and Pakistan post and unlikely win over the men from down under.





Proteas Walking Tall And Diminutive Footballers

8 02 2010

The battle for number one of the test cricketing world is under way in Jagpur, India. So far in the match South Africa have belied predictions made on this website only a few days ago of an imminent decline, by grinding the Indian bowlers into the dusty pitch. Hashim Amla, the man who we are always convinced is a walking wicket, scored a career best 253 not out and with that batting machine, Jacques Kallis, also scoring 173 India are going to have to bat well to ensure they stay in this game. We are soon going to have to reclassify Amla as ‘battling wristy run scorer’ if he continues his recent run of form. There simply have not been enough early dismissals to call him a walking wicket despite the fact his bat comes down from cover point.

Badrinath - a late starter

Tests in India do have a strange tendency to only come to life on day 3 or 4 however and nothing is certain but with India losing 3 quick wickets in the first session, including Tendulkar, the Proteas are certainly favourites. The great Lord Sehwag is still batting and ominously for the South African’s is 63 not out as we write. At the other end is a man making his debut, Mr. S. Badrinath, who incredibly averages 59 in first class cricket. “Very good yes, but amazing how?” We hear you say. Well Mr. Badrinath is a mature 29 years old and is only now making his debut for India, A nation who regularly delight in throwing in cricketers age 15 and upwards. Quite how he has managed to escape test cricket’s clutches with a record like this and Yuvraj Singh in the test team we don’t know. Either way, not knowing anything more about him than his delightful statistics (and all cricketers love these…), we hope he does well and banishes mediocrities like Singh to other less important forms of the game such as 20/20.

We also wish we were in from of a TV right now as to see Dale Steyn, the worlds best fast bowler, running in at full tilt to Sehwag is a battle to be truly relished. If you are able to turn it on, do so. It’s sure to be interesting.

Our prediction for this game remains a draw or Saffa win, unless Sehwag gets going and India score 650, then bowl the Proteas out for 180 second time round.

UPDATE

The Indian’s at the end of the day are 2 down following on with Dale Steyn having taken 7-51. Looks like India’s claims to the number one slot are falling away rapidly!

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The draw for the Euro 2012 qualifying was made yesterday and England were handed one of two groups that Fabio Capello wanted to avoid, opponents including Switzerland, Bulgaria and Wales. The bookies nevertheless installed England as very short priced favourites to win the group which seems reasonable. It is after qualifying (and even the sure ability to qualify has only been a certainty recently) that the problems begin for English football teams.

Unfortunately England are a nation of perennial under achievers in the footballing world. Blessed with players such as Lampard, Gerrard, Rooney and the two Coles there is absolutely no reason why they should not be challenging for top honours every time they enter a major competition. Yet rarely do they threaten these dizzy heights and we are at a loss as to why.

Therefore we are confident that we will qualify, despite this challenging group, but hold little hope for the competition itself. Similarly, with the world cup in South Africa this Summer, England have as good a chance as any. Dare we say it but under Capello probably a better chance than usual. We still fully expect a quarter final exit on penalties however.

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Too small?

As Arsenal’s premiership campaign came off the rails last night against Chelsea, we were struck by three things. Firstly that the entire Arsenal team, bar perhaps Abou Diaby and William Gallas, appear to be four and a half feet tall weaklings, secondly that the pitch looked to be in pretty poor condition and thirdly that they need a new goal keeper.

Again and again, Arsenal’s players were muscled off the ball and this must be a real concern to Wenger. It is an old criticism but against the likes of Drogba and Ballack, they were simply no match.

With regard to the pitch it crossed our minds that perhaps the pitch was purposely prepared like this by Chelsea, which if so was an intelligent thing to have done to hinder Arsenal’s natural game. Perhaps a reader could inform us as to the usual state of the Stamford Bridge pitch, is it normally better than this? Or was it simply bad weather etc in the run up to the game?

Arsenal’s keeper issue has been raised in the past, and indeed in the comments section of the Compulsive Hooker previously so it is not a new problem, but surely Wenger needs to purchase a top class keeper asap. Drogba’s second goal, whilst hit hard was almost straight at him and a top class keeper may have made the save. This and other fallible moments mean that this should be Wenger’s top priority. He has a strange blind spot with keepers as since Seaman retired Arsenal haven’t had top class performer in goal.








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