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…..

Tuesday, 20 May 2014

NatWest T20 Blast: 5 things that occurred to me in Week 1.

As a novice  T20 wannabee-lover, a certain number of thing occurred to me after watching the first round of matches on Friday and Saturday.

1) This T20 malarkey can be rather exciting - I must admit that the experience of getting home on a Friday night after a long and stressful week at work and then settling down to watch some fun and exciting (nearly) cricket was actually rather enjoyable, and the size of some of the crowds at some of the games would suggest that they agree too. 

The first televised match saw a crowd of 11,000 at Nottinghamshire's opening match of the 2014 and the crowd of 5,417 at Headingley was an improvement on the clubs own attendances for the majority of their home T20 matches last season. The viewing figures so for the television coverage also seem to be on the healthy side of things if early reports are to be believed.

So at first glance it would seem that the ECB's rebranding of the competition may have got off to a good start in terms of viewing figures. However, let's not get too carried away as yet because I noticed that for some reason, the crowds in the midlands and south seem to be larger than in the North of the country - and I'm not really sure why. While the bumper crowds at Notts etc were clear to see, the opening attendance, for example, of 2,633 for Durham's game against the rebranded Worcestershire Rapids may be a concern.

Maybe it is a case that those southern softies seem to prefer the lights and razzmatazz of the T20 format more than we do in the North. I'm not sure.

2) If I see one more 'Flintoff to come out of retirement' story I may well choke on my Corn Flakes - Don't get me wrong, I loved Freddie as a player. He was charismatic and great box office in his time as an England all-rounder and of course he was a fine player, though not as great a player as many would have you think. We (and I include myself in this) have been guilty in the past of including Freddie as one of the all-time greats in our ever-lasting search for the next great white all-rounder hope after the 1980's exploits a certain Mr Botham. In actuality, Freddie's figures were never that earth shattering with a batting average in Tests of 31.77 actually being lower than his bowling average of 32.78. His averages in ODI's were admittedly better with a batting average of 32.01 far exceeding his 24.38 bowling figures. While he could occasionally turn matches on their head, he was more often than not, simply inconsistent.

However, what cannot be denied is that he was a genuine talisman as a man and player and on more than one occasion was responsible for the occasional match changing and match winning performance. I will never forget that run-out at the Oval in 2009, when in the fading twilight of his career he ran out Ricky Ponting just the Aussies were seemingly cruising through the Test Match. I was watching that moment on TV and that feeling of joy for the game (and the man) that I felt right in that very minute of time will stay with me until the end of my time.

And therein lies the rub. The man has a ruined knee, a shot to pieces ankle and a face that was at the receiving end of a misjudged foray into boxing recently. Yes, his return to Lancashire will mean ticket sales and big box office and I would never begrudge him or the club a chance to benefit from a brief return as part of the T20 competition. I simply do not want his cricketing reputation and legacy sullied and demeaned by an ill-judged attempt to regain previous glories.

We'll always have the Oval in 2009, Andrew. Let's leave it at that.

 Graeme White (left) and Ben Duckett celebrate their win over Yorkshire - Gits.
3) Watching Yorkshire isn't going to be easy - and that's not just because Headingley doesn't have floodlights. So far this season, it's been something of a roller coaster when watching the Tykes (or whatever the hell their current rebranding is). One minute the boys are coasting to the top of the first division of the County Championship, the next they are on the receiving end of the third-highest successful run chase in County Championship history when Chris Rogers (when will these Aussies stop kicking me when I'm down?!) helped himself to 241 at Lord's a couple of weeks ago in his innings that formed the bedrock of Middlesex's pursuit of 472 against the Yorkie boys.

I had just about recovered from that and was agog with excitement (well, quite looking forward) to our first game in the 'Blast' against Northants at Headingley on Friday. It had all started so well with the boys making a respectable 162-7 in the 20 overs - thanks mainly to Liam Plunkett (36) and Tim Bresnan (34) enabling a competitive score to be posted. Even when Northants hit 45 from their first five overs they then started losing wickets and the match looked to be ours when Matthew Spriegel was run out by the redoubtable Ryan Sidebottom which meant that Northants needed nine from the final four balls. However......rather annoyingly the Northants wicketkepper, Ben Duckett sealed with the win for the visitors with just one ball left. The fact that Duckett has been a shining light of the England Under-19s was only a slight consolation, his unbeaten 39 from 29 balls was pretty special- that boy may go far.

But bloody hell, Yorkshire.....

4) There's a limit to the re-branding  and re-launching of cricket in England - Or rather, should there be a limit? I really don't mind the music, the lights and the fireworks. As a matter of fact I quite like it, It really works for the T20 format and as long as it stays there then I'll be happy. However, Warwickshire's decision before the competition began to rebrand the club 'Birmingham Bears' isn't one that some are too comfortable with. I've seen reports of some within and outside the club citing it as the slippery road to IPL or Big Bash type city franchises and bemoaning the loss of tradition etc etc. I can understand their dislike of name changing, I'm as much a lover of cricketing tradition as the next person.

However, I can understand why they have done it, to be honest. There was a feeling by some within the club that the organisation itself (like some others that shall remain nameless) has something of an outdated and stuffy image, particularly amongst the population of Birmingham. As a consequence there has been a strong feeling that it was losing out on attracting sections of the local community that felt excluded from the outset from the club's infrastructure and youth development.

I personally think that Warwickshire, sorry, the Birmingham Bears, should be applauded for making an attempt to change it's image in an effort to attract local interest. It is not an attempt to please the overlords at Sky television, it is a genuine attempt to engage the local population.

I must admit though, I never knew we had Bears wandering around the Midlands - who knew?

5) I'm Pants at this Fantasy team thing - once again. While it may be too early to judge just how much my latest attempts at forging a winning fantasy team in ANY sport is going, it seams that once again my latest picks have been less than successful. 

The team I picked for is just one of two teams in one of the leagues I'm in - and I believe that I'm currently second. That's right, I'm currently losing in a league of two. I can't bring myself to look at the other league my team is in where there are a much higher number of teams. I fear the worst.

It kooks like tomorrow I will be doing some serious trading.

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