A little bit about me and my little blog

This is by far not the first cricket blog to be written and it certainly won't be the last (or necessarily the best). But it's mine.

This is mainly an excuse for me to carry on about a sport that has been something of an obsession since I was knee high to a middle stump. An obsession which has never left throughout the many highs (behave, there have been some) and lows (and boy have there been many of those…..) of being and England cricket fan in the years since.

The views and opinions in this blog are entirely my own. Sometimes light-hearted, occasionally irreverent, hopefully never offensive.

What gives this fool the right to have an opinion on this great sport? Where are his credentials I hear you ask? Well I think my catch at mid-on in the inter-house final at Heath Grammar school in 1981 speaks for itself…..

Wednesday, 7 August 2013

The Ashes - 3rd Test: Old Trafford

The evening of the final days play (or non play) saw me as most evenings do, spending a little time on some online escapade (keep it clean please again people!). During the course of that evening I happened to find myself in the middle of an a slightly disagreeable Twitter discussion with a rather disgruntled and frankly rude Australian Cricket supporter. Now as I'm currently not particularly up on the latest legal ramifications of Twitter libel laws I shall simply refer to him as 'Disgruntled Aussie fan' (DAF)

It went something along these lines;

Disgruntled Aussie fan (DAF): Awww strewth, look Cobber me old pom (OK, maybe I made that first part up) You were completely outplayed Poms! You guys were bloody lucky your British weather saved your arses!

Me: Now look here old chap, old bean (yep, made that bit up too) Your guys were the better team - but I still think we would have held out, bad weather or not.

(DAF): You're talking out of your arse Pom - we're playing you off the park this series!

Me: But you're 2-0 down.

(DAF): Balls! - we have a better captain, better bowlers and better batsmen! You'd be crap without Anderson & Pietersen

Me: But our leading wicket taker is Swann & leading Batsman is Bell.

(DAF): And your a bunch of whinging cheaters!

Me: Er, how?

(DAF): That cheating ***** Broad should have walked, he knew he nicked the ball in the last Test.

Me: Didn't Clarke not walk when he was given out? Oh and Warner didn't walk when he clipped it in this match?

(DAF): That's different. Plus you lot took the piss wasting time on the final day.

Me: How?

(DAF): Bell wasting time getting the physio on so he could wait until it started raining

Me: But his thumb had just been smashed by a bouncer from Ryan Harris! 

(DAF): nah he's just a soft Pom bastard - our lot play through pain.

Me: Er, well Clarke called the Physio on the day before when he got hit on the hand.

(DAF): Well bowling your overs slow on purpose when you knew it was going to rain was cheating too!

Me: We'd be fined for excessively slow over rates - we haven't been fined. Should we have bowled them quicker to help you guys win?

(DAF): Aussies always play fair!!!!!

Me: We're no Angels I accept, but don't all teams play to win?

(DAF): See see!! you admit you cheat!!

ME: I didn't say that - what I'm saying is that we all play to win and we're winning the series.

(DAF): You're only winning because we're so rubbish that we make you look good. You're very bloody ordinary!

ME: But you said earlier you have the better…………...

And on it went………… not only with the increasingly energetic twittering of DAF but also with one or two of his 'Twattering followers' joining in with a bit of communal Pom-bashing. I must add that DAF doesn't necessarily resemble the attitude, fairness and humour of my numerous Aussie friends - I actually have a good many friends from the land of Oz and a few of them are actually quite normal and decent people. The mutual respect and good-natured ribbing is one of the great things about Ashes cricket. No, what is really starting to get on my nerves is some of the hypocritical and self-serving nonsense that is being spouted about the England Cricket team - often comments from people who should know better - Yes ex-England captains commentating for a certain satellite channel, I'm partly talking about you! 

DAF may only be an extreme example of this attitude to English cricket…...Maybe i'm just getting crabby as the years progress!

You should know me by now, namely that I'm not one to shy away from saying that "I told you so". So in the case of those who were glibly proclaiming that we would thrash the Aussies 5-0 and would whitewash them within a whisker of their cricketing lives - I bloody well told you so!! I say that because this Test match saw us outplayed for the vast majority of the 5 days…. in fact some would argue our most effective phase of play was the impressive speed of putting the rain covers on the pitch as soon as the Manchester rain (thankfully) arrived. There are also some that would argue that when the final day saw a drawn game and by design, the retention of the Ashes, it was all something of an anti-climax. I wouldn't disagree with that final point, well maybe only a little.

Now I could continue this piece about the first day day being about more DRS controversies, or rather the seeming ineptitude of the 3rd umpire to use it in a logical and reasonable way that would actually make sense to commentators and public alike. But I won't. I could also talk about a captain losing the toss then subsequently wasting numerous referrals which meant at least twice that a cast Iron howler from the on field umpire was unable to be challenged ( this time Captain Cook, not Captain Clarke). But I wont.
"This is a bat, you use it to score runs" shouts Clarke
to his team
No, I would rather mention the class innings from a genuinely great modern day player - the fact that he happens to be the Australian captain, and therefore by definition Is bloody annoying from an 'England easily retaining the Ashes' point of view.  won't profess to know a lot about Michael Clarke the man, but he seems like an genuinely decent guy. 

This may result in messages of accounts that he once pulled a girls' pig-tails in a primary school class or that he has a secret addiction to watching The Care Bears movie on repeat after repeat viewing whilst drinking nothing but extra-sweetened prune juice..... But I admire the guy, bloody hell I even like the guy - well at least some of the time.  This Test match exemplified why I love the Australian approach to cricket- the annoying buggers just never know when they are bloody beaten! It also exemplified why sometimes the attitude by some to English cricket gets on my blooming nerves - but more of that later.

This match witnessed the Aussies regenerated by Clarke's magisterial total of 187, with the tourists helping themselves to a massive 527-7 in their first innings. In fact, only Khawaja and Watson (insert your own joke here) of the top the Aussie top order failed to score heavily - and Mr Khawaja can feel mightily aggrieved about his dismissal, as I shall mention in a moment or two. I would talk about David Warner's pantomime appearance but the 'poor sod' got enough of a message from the Old Trafford crowd. Perhaps the only plus point from England's point of view was spin King Swann's Pfieffer (5-159)….golden god Jimmy Anderson to be frank looks plain knackered, being bowled into the ground earlier in the series now looks like coming back to bite us.

The 'tag you're it' game starts with defeat for KP

My boys being bowled out for 368 on what was looking increasingly like a flat bed of concrete was pretty pants - the Aussie bowling was as equally impressive as their batting had been with Siddle looking as excellent as ever with his 4-63. It's not that our batting was completely terrible, Cook finally got some runs and KP decided it was time for him and his ego to join in the Ashes fun. The way that he took the Aussie spinner apart was pure vintage - the man is still word class. In addition to that, Ian Bell continued on his rich vein of form with another tasty innings. He may have fallen short of a 4th successive Ashes century but there was one particular cover drive in his total of 60 that should really have pride of place on a 18 and over adult website - it was that delicious.

So the follow-on was saved, the Aussies had to bat again on what was fast becoming a race against time as the notoriously wet Manchester weather was fast approaching…..this was going to be a cracker…….

The resemblance to any umpire is purely intentional
However, it seems that this Ashes series is in danger of being renamed from being the Investec Ashes to  the DRS Ashes - yes more Umpiring controversy on day one, two, three and four. 

For some time now I and many others have been more than a little unhappy with the BCCI's refusal to accept the use of DRS in any series that it plays in. The refusal of one governing body to accept a system that every other cricketing body accepts sets a dangerous precedent in challenging whatever cricket criteria that the majority accept. The BCCI'S assertion that they won't accept DRS because the technology is flawed and won't solve 100% of the decisions completely misses the point, it is there to HELP rather than solve the umpiring decisions. 

The general opinion is that yesterdays furore with DRS will play into the BCCI's hands in unilaterally refusing it's implementation - already I've been reading a few "I told you so" from supporters of their position. 

Let me be clear - this is not an anti Indian stance, I have a huge amount of respect for Indian cricket. I have the same problem with the stance of the BCCI in exactly the same way I would have with the ECB if a similar unilateral decision had been made by my cricket board. For example, many in this country don't agree with the notion of having an  elite panel of neutral umpires. This system clearly doesn't work as there are many excellent ( and possibly far better than currently available) English umpires that are not willing to travel the world and so cannot umpire a home Test match - Peter Willey to name but one. Yet we have to agree with the will of the ICC. The BCCI should do the same

The real problem that occurs with DRS, like any method used to gauge whether a batsman is out etc is the standard of the umpire himself. This is where the problem lies and the source behind the controversies on day one of the pal at Old Trafford.

The main source of controversy in the Aussie first innings was the dismissal of Usman Khawaja. The Aussie batsman had been dismissed by Umpire Hill after being adjudged to have nicked a ball from Spin King Graeme Swann. The decision was then reviewed by Khawaja, though interestingly not immediately as some have chosen to remember, he did delay the referral for a few moments. The replayed footage clearly showed no mark on Hotspot, there was daylight between bat and ball. In addition,  there was a small noise but from the pictures it clearly appeared to be as a result of the bat hitting the pad rather than the ball.

DRS was clearly doing its job - an incorrect decision by on on-field umpire has going to be overturned as the evidence clearly suggested that he had got it wrong. However, third umpire Kumar Dharmasena was apparently looking at a completely different piece of film footage as he told Hill to stick with his original decision. Cue furore in the commentary box, with Shane Warne rightly calling it a terrible decision. It may seem odd that I happen to be agreeing with anything Shane Warne says, but let me redeem myself immediately by mentioning later on that he went on to spout some absolute clap trap of the highest order. The controversy even found its way to diplomatic circles with even the Aussie Prime Minister Kevin Rudd tweeting "That was one of the worst cricket umpiring decisions I have ever seen".

And that Mr Rudd is exactly the point - it was a terrible decision - but it wasn't the fault of DRS, it was a fault of human interpretation of technology. It would exactly the same if the on-field umpire had given a batsmen not out lbw when the ball was clearly going to hit middle stump, we would have had the same level of controversy surely? 

Smith lbw bowled Broad - er, not

Well actually it seems not. England had used their final review up when they were certain that a ball from Jimmy Anderson was believed to have been nicked to keeper Matt Prior - Jimmy was clearly sure the batsman had touched it, it was a clear noise but umpire Erasmus gave it not out. The Hotspot referral again showed no mark, the noise was clear, but doubt was there. This time the 3rd umpire did precisely what he should have done with Khawaja's referral, 

he said not enough evidence to give it out. Inconsistency in human decision making, not DRS.

The problem was further compounded when shortly after, Stuart Broad clearly had Smith out lbw, but unbelievably the umpire gave it not out.

For some strange reason, the fact that England were clearly too on the wrong end of human umpiring decisions seems to have been ignored. The Khawaja decision was clearly wrong - he should never have been given out. However, the Smith lbw decision in my eyes was just as clearly wrong - yet the emphasis seems to be on the DRS orientated decision. 

DRS is not the problem, if anything the matches in the series have showed more than ever that it was a series of human mistakes, in both onfield decisions and with the use of technology. Or is it? For only yesterday an Australian newspaper that shall remain nameless ( libel laws and all that) ran a story about the ICC investigating the use of silicone tape being used by unnamed English & Aussie batsmen to mask the effects of Hotspot. Well I say 'unnamed players' because they did actually name one player, a certain MR Kevin Pietersen - poor old KP, I can completely understand why he gets so pissed off with the media - no clear evidence of doing something (that isn't actually illegal) and he's the only only one 'outed'. 

Blimey - I didn't mean to go on so much about that, its easy to forget that there was actually a very, very good cricket match going on. 

The god of English cricket proclaims "Let there be rain"
And there was rain. And it was good.
Well it would have been very good. If not for the weather this could have been something of a classic finish to a Test match. The Aussies needed to bat again and they needed to bat fast. Their 172 in 36 overs looks pretty fast - but i would argue that Clarke and his peeps made a serous misjudgment of the time. Captain Cook and his team were never going to chase down a big score on the final day or so, there was far too much at stake of the sometime negative approach argued by some that is employed by modern Cricket England. Australia were already in a commanding position well before finally setting England a target of 332 - they should have declared much earlier. Yet little is being made of this, for if the roles had of been reversed then Cook and Flower would be being hung drawn and quartered in the sporting press for wasting time.

After losing Cook, Trott (who looks woefully out of form) and KP  to reduce us to 37-3 panic was starting to reach even this most optimistic of bloggers - but soon the rain was here in abundance.

I've read once or twice over the past couple of days that hoping for rain to save a match is rather,pathetic and very English. Apparently, we're in the realms of only something and England Cricket supporter would say or hope for - after all, an Australian, South African or any other national would hope for the same? Erm, of course not. Lord give me strength! Were we outplayed by the better team? Yes we were. Would we have lost the Test match if the weather had not of intervened? Possibly. Have England ever lost out to the weather? Yes. Do I care that we retained the Ashes this way? Not one jot.

The simple fact is that England have held the Ashes for four out of the last five Ashes series. That one fact is a remarkable and beautiful thing.

Let me out it another way…….. The little beauty below is RETAINED.

Some parts of this piece feature in the marvellous website - I'm now a featured writer there you know!

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