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…..

Sunday, 8 June 2014

Prelude to the England - Sri Lanka Test series. Would you like that with or without added needle, Sir?

© The Cricketer
Picture the scene. It is the year 1974 and the first Test match in England’s tour of the Caribbean is taking place at Queen’s Park Oval in the Port of Spain. We are nearing the end of the 2nd day and my brave England boys, it’s safe to say, are on the receiving end of a bit an early thrashing, with a 143 first innings lead by the West Indies. A lead inspired in the main by Alvin Kallicharran’s 142 not out.

The final over of the day is about to be bowled by Mr Deadly Derek ‘deadly’ Underwood, English off-spinner extraordinaire and apparently a wee bit deadly with the ball, hence his nickname of 'deadly'. As it’s the final over, the players are hot, thirsty, tired and apparently ready to go through the usual end of day motions for the final six balls before heading off for showers, beers and whatever else Trinidad had to offer a touring England cricketer abroad. After all, nobody wanted any controversy so late in the day, right? Well it seems that somebody else had other ideas.

A rather uneventful over then indeed proceeded to take place, that is until the very last ball when Bernhard (not sure of his nickname) Julien had offered a tired defensive shot as he gently prodded the final ball away. At this point the England wicketkeeper, Allan ‘knotty’ Knott was preparing to flick the bails off and the backing –up batsman, Alvin ‘Kalli’ Kallicharan, was heading straight off down the wicket. The West Indian batsman was on his way presumably to chat with his partner on the way back to the pavilion about their plans for the evening, or something like that. Crucially, no-one had noticed that the Umpire hadn’t yet had the opportunity to call for the end of the over to signal that play had ended. Well, that is, no-one except Mr Controversy himself, Tony ‘Greigy’ Greig.

Greigy Greg immediately pounced upon the ball and in the swiftest of movements threw it and scuttled the stumps at the bowler’s end. Greigy Greig immediately appealed to the umpire, who quite frankly was as non-plussed as the rest of the players as to what had just happened. After a moment of indecision he gave Kalli Kallicharan out, which immediately incensed the player as he stormed off the field, violently throwing his bat to the ground. He must have been angry as he had left his batting partner behind without even arranging which Trinidadian establishment they were going to meet up at for a cola or two. The crowd that had remained were confused as to why he had been given out, indeed many had already left without knowing at all what had happened.

As the evening progressed it was abundantly clear that major controversy,  and even potential international incident, was developing a life of its own concerning the alleged transgression by Greigy Greig towards the ‘spirit of the game’. After three hours of intense discussion the England powers-that-be decided to officially withdraw the appeal and would ask the umpires to reinstate Kalli Kallicharan. Later that evening, a statement from the English board went even further by offering an apology on behalf of Greigy Greig concerning the affront to the spirit of the game, etc etc etc. Blah blah blah.

The simple facts are: Tony Greig broke absolutely no laws of cricket. Kallicharan should not have left his ground while the ball was still live. The Umpires were perfectly correct in giving the batsman out. There should never have been any apology on behalf of England player involved, much in the same way that Harold Larwood should never have been forced  to apologise for implementing Douglas Jardine’s Leg theory. Tony Greig himself went to his grave vehemently refusing to personally apologise for his action, believing that under the laws of cricket he was fully entitled to run out the opposing batsman. After all, he was there to win, not to be nice. The man is my hero, simple as that.

After the fifth and final ODI between England and Sri Lanka this week at Edgbaston, Sachithra Senanayake shouldnt apologise either.  Although the 'incident' this week and what took place in 1974 differ slightly in their nature, what does tie the two closely together is that neither actions contravene any laws of cricket. As for the so-called spirit of cricket, please don’t get me started on that.

The 'incident' this week was if course the 'mankading' that took place in the 5th and final ODI between England and Sri Lanka. Having been warned twice by the Sri Lankan off-spinner Sachithra Senanayake, for 'stealing a start' at the non-strikers end, Jos Buttler was unceremoniously run-out. Cue much amazement and furore of the England players, crowd and a veritable plethora of ex-players come pundits willing to decry the actions of the Sri Lankans who were vilified for laughing in the face of the spirit of the game. 

Judging by the groundswell of opinion it seems the outcry was such that I felt sure that the touring team would be immediately be deported and a Royal Navy task force deployed to teach them a lesson in retaliation that they would never forget. Even Mr calm and collected himself, brave captain Cook, exchanged heated words with the Sri Lankan captain as the game finished and then accused the tourists of “crossing the line” for refusing to withdraw their appeal which, yes you guessed it, breached the spirit of cricket. 

It seems that the fact that removing the bails in such a manner is an albeit rare but perfectly legal mode of dismissal is a mere technicality for some (Yes Mr Vaughan, once again I'm talking about you).  However, even though I know that occasionally I can be as blinkered and less than objective about my beloved England team, on this occasion I have absolutely no problem in the Sri Lankans employment of the little used mode of dismissal. 

In fact I almost admire what they did. Have the vast majority of batsmen had it easy in getting away for too long and stealing a metre or so before a ball is even bowled? Yes. Was it the case that the Sri Lankans may have even purposely targeted danger man Buttler after his one man show heroics in the previous match? Possibly, and I wouldn't blame them if that was the case. Indeed, there is a school of thought that, back in that 1974 Test match, far from being a spur of the moment decision by Greigy Greig, it was a far more pre-meditated decision by the great man to get rid of a batsman that showed no sign of ever being dismissed by conventional means. 

The simple fact is that Buttler was lazily out of his crease after twice being warned. I can almost hear Greigy Greig chuckling up there at the irony of it all.

If nothing else, Mankadgate has meant that an added element of spice has been added to the two match Test series that begins between the two sides on June 12th. In the spirit of such controversy the squad named by England was suitably predictable regarding the direction we intend to play, with no spinner being named and the emphasis being emphatically placed on pace. The noticeable inclusion is that of fast bowler Liam Plunkett, who is in line to play his first Test since 2007 after experiencing something of a resurgence of form at god's own team, Yorkshire. The fact that no spinner was picked might have a little bit to do with us having something of a bare cupboard when it comes to established spin talent, though Monty's ongoing talent for screwing up his cricket career shows no sign go relenting just yet. 
Image taken from
England also named the uncapped  Sam Robson, Chris Jordan, and Moeen Ali in the squad. If nothing else, this blogger was pretty darned happy to see Matt Prior once again included after being dropped during the calamity down under. I for one will be keeping my fingers crossed that Prior can rediscover his best form.

The full squads are:

Alastair Cook (Essex, capt), Moeen Ali (Worcestershire), James Anderson (Lancashire), Gary Ballance (Yorkshire), Ian Bell (Warwickshire), Stuart Broad (Nottinghamshire), Chris Jordan (Sussex), Liam Plunkett (Yorkshire), Matt Prior (Sussex, wk), Sam Robson (Middlesex), Joe Root (Yorkshire), Chris Woakes (Warwickshire).

Sri Lanka

Angelo Mathews (capt), Lahiru Thirimanne (vice-capt), Dimuth Karunaratne, Kaushal Silva, Kumar Sangakkara, Mahela Jayawardene, Prasanna Jayawardene (wk), Dinesh Chandimal, Rangana Herath, Dilruwan Perera, Shaminda Eranga, Nuwan Kulasekara, Nuwan Pradeep, Chanaka Welagedara, Dhammika Prasad.

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