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Be warned: This is not a vitriolic post full of nationalistic pride, nor is it a ridiculous outburst at the scandal of England's World Cup showing. That might come later, possibly following alcohol consumption...
As most of you will have already heard, Michael Vaughan is missing the start of the summer tests because, simply, his fingers are constructed from sellotape and crisps. This leaves the new England camp in something of a dilemma - who do they turn to?
England semi-success Dominic Cork has been one voice calling for Flintoff to hop off the pedalo and return to the ships helm. Given that Cork and Flintoff are a) best friends and b) team mates we can probably discount Cork's temporary stance as Cricketing sage.
Flintoff's performances as captain have been nothing short of woeful. The experience has clearly left him devoid of energy and will. It should be seen as an indictment on the ECB that it can take one of the world's great cricketers, put him through the bureacratic mangle and on the other side produce a shadow of his former self.
Lacklustre in all facets of the game Flintoff needs to be granted the time to improve his currently flawed game, not his currently flawed captaincy. Being blessed with national pride does not a captain make.
Who are the other options for this test series?
Perhaps his affable manner and consistent performance put him in the think tank, but I'm not entirely sure Collingwood is human. Look at the evidence: Go go gadget catching hands, monosyllabic voice, and an ageless face like that android thing in Star Trek. Terrifying.
Even though he's in the form of his life, playing with clear head, sound mind and fuelled by razor clams, donkeys, buildings and whatever else they eat in Somerset, but apparently he's entirely unable to appear for his test side.
I imagine, knowing Marcus as I do, that he's very sensitive to the current plight of the England side, and doesn't want to upset them by scoring more than the rest of the team combined.
Pietersen, Bell, Hoggard, et al.
A bunch of bloke-ish, lout-ish, image conscious idiots, culpable for their team's failure in the last 12 months. Living off past glories and getting paid too much money for doing such little work has affected the spirit of the England side. They absolutely need to change priorities...
Well, there's no one else left...
After something of a sabbatical due, in no small part, to underhand bourgeois tactics by my employers, ICCWC is relaunching as of... TODAY!
I am faced with a problem. Now the World Cup is over, the acronym ICCWC is going to be irrelevant for a period of four years, and frankly that's going to make me look like Daryll Cullinan - and no one wants that.
If anyone can think of a funny acronym that fits the theme of this blog then let the whole world know about it.
Your prize? 4 free drinks at the Twenty20 cup final. Tickets, transport and spending money are all not included. But if you can find me... You shall be plied with ale like it's milk and honey from ancient Egypt's hallowed firmament.
So, what do you reckon?
I'm sorry to all those people who have been coming back for updates. I'm afraid due to some incredibly frustrating work arrangements I haven't been able to post at all in the last month. I shall endeavour though, to cath up and provide some insights into what I believe have been the relative successes and failures of this world cup.
Can readers note that this Blog will transform into a traditional cricket blog from the conclusion of the ICC World Cup, so just because the tournament has finished, it doesn't mean the rumours, chat and discussion stops.
Labels: World Cup
Selfishly, my work place has stopped my direct access to blogger. Bloody Capitalists. I shall though, find time to report on my near perfect prediction regarding the Scotland game and a continued look at the smaller nations in the competition.
Labels: World Cup
Teams for Australia v Scotland @ St. Kitts
Gilchrist + , Hadyden, Ponting (c) , Clarke, Hodge, Hussey, Watson, Hogg, Bracken, Tait, McGrath
Watts, Haq, Watson, Hamilton, Brown, Poonin, Smith + , Wright (c), Rogers, Blain and Hoffman
Scotland won Ze Toss, and have chosen to concede 400 runs and then attempt bravely to chase them down only to be bowled out for 80.
In the first game of the tournament we had a shock, or did we? Playing in front of a home crowd, imbued by Red Stripe and sense of celebration, those gathered to see the West Indies play roared and cheered every ball as though it might be the last they'd see.
The players one would normally rely on to score the big knocks looked pedestrian, and scraped to jittery double-figure scores. It took the man who commentators have frequently called upon to show his real cricketing self: Marlon Samuels to provide the backbone of the West Indian innings. His 63 was a cultured and sometimes brutal display of batting, laying the foundations for a respectable 241/9 by the island side.
On a pitch which offered more pace than anticipated, the score seemed eminently 'gettable' for the Pakistanis. Their core batsmen of Inzi, Yousuf and Younis rival any in the modern age, but on this occasion all three failed much like the West Indian trio, and this proved to be their downfall losing them for a combined total of just 82.
What was remarkable about this victory (or loss) was the way for the first time in memory, the West Indies bowled as a unit. All five bowlers took wickets, and none conceded more than 4.5 per over. They pressurised at all times, giving away little - the West Indian bowlers conceded just 17 boundaries compared to the 28 leaked by Pakistan - and this was the factor which beat the tourists into submission.
If the Windies batting fires, and the bowling remains this strong, we may find ourselves, in six months time, with the first victors on home soil. But there's still a long way to go...
This is definately how to catch a ball. Although I am suspicious of all American sports, this 'chuck' or 'lob' or whatever they call it to the catcher was incredible. I shall never say that again, should I die of embarassment. The catcher is called Tyrone Prothro, the chappie who fails miserably to forsee that he was going to catch a baguette shaped object on his back is called a fool.
But seriously folks, don't try this at home, you'll fall asleep.
Just heard on commentary that, there's lot's of spectators standing here...
a) To do with the fact that the stadium was about 0.6% ready at 9.30 am?
b) It's an unbelievable game, unparalleled in modern cricketing history?
c) It's so hot that people are turning their bottoms into ribeye steaks by sitting down?
d) They are in fact sitting down, but Jonathan Agnew has seen a new breed of people?
If you answered anything other than a) you are to go to Hove in the middle of winter, have an outdoor net with Graham Gooch in the pouring rain and not kill yourself.
In the end, the WI, not the God fearing women from middle England, but the Caribbean Cricket team, got a hugely average 241, thanks in no small part to some lusty middle and lower order pinch hitting.
Marlon Samuels broke free of the shackles that have restrained him in the early part of his career, and crafted a delicious 63 off just 70 balls including 3 enormous sixes. Accompanying him on his journey were Ramnaresh Sarwan and Lara who got 49 and 37 respectively.
The Islanders though, never got into full flow on the Sabina Park pitch which offered more pace than many had speculated it might, where a par score looked to be 280+.
For all the West Indian Failings, there were moments for the Jamaican crowd to cheer, including some bazooka-like hitting from Bravo and Smith, and Corey Collymore hitting 'the greatest shot ever by a number eleven' out of the stadium on the very last ball of the innings to give the score an air of respectability at 241-9.
Pakistan's bowlers did well to contain the West Indian attack, especially in the middle part of the game where Lara and Samuels were cutting loose. Iftikhar Anjum was worthy of individual note in taking 3/44 off his full allocation but his performance was simply a part of a fine team effort by Pakistan. It was all nearly ruined with some odd fielding, most humorously by Danish Kaneria who, when offering a return catch to the Pakistan 'keeper Kamran Akmal lobbed it straight over his head for four.
What is notable about the game so far is that we've had crowd noise, boundaries, and some fun. If it continues in this fashion, the World Cup will certainly be one to remember.
Oh, Jerome Taylor has already got 1/13... I'm not going to say I told you so yet...
- Gayle gone without troubling the scorers much in the third over for two...
- Sarwan first four in the fourth over... 9/1
- Windies reach their 50 without further trouble... Chanderpaul 16, Sarwan 30 (15th over)
- Chanderpaul out in the 20th over to a snorter from Anjum who's been excellent this morning. 64/2
- Samuels in with Sarwan
- Sarwan out! Anjum again, this fella is bowling with some spirit, although the West Indian Batsmen have certainly been helping the bowlers here at 'New' Sabina Park. One short of his fifty. 77/3, 24th over.
- Not quite the last hope for the Indies, but the great man is in to bat. No, not Alex Tudor - It's Brian Lara.
- Kaneria and Anjum keeing things neat and tidy, giving away little at the end of the 20's...
- Lara and Samuels playing excellent cricket at the end of the 35th over - upping the pace with some HUGE hitting from both men. Each has cleared the fence and the boundary is starting to take a bashing. Run Rate up - classic finish in prospect... 138/3 15 overs to go
One of Cricket's truly memorable stadia, Sabina Park has been host to centuries, controversy and cacophanous noise over the years it has been a test match host. The old Sabina Park though, is no more. The advent of the ICC World Cup has brought about drastic changes to the stadium that was host to Sobers' test match batting record. It is now renovated and truly ready to host cricket at the highest level.
Some believe the tinkering (seating has been bumped up by 5,000) will ruin the deafening and mind-boggling atmosphere once found there, but those who believe it will be a chastening experience for the ground are outnumbered by those, including me, who are saying 'about bloody time'.
On more than one occasion the ground has been under great suspicion for providing pitches which more resembled martian surfaces than grass, and recently England's game with the West Indies was abandoned because of danger to life and limb. But what will the two teams face when they arrive for the game on tuesday?
The West Indies, regardless of their triumphant opening ceremony, could not come into this game on a lower note. Demolished by India in the recent warm-up games, and rumours of money frustrations still abound, it is going to take something heroic from their ageing Captain to mould this team into something resembling professionals.
With age and talent on his (left-hand) side, Chris Gayle ought to be the performer of the tournament. Brutal but languid power, coupled with an eagle-eye for the ball and some laconic but accurate bowling, means Gayle is the proverbial man for all seasons. The current regulations, although no doubt they will change probably mid-over, play right into the Jamaican's gloves. With the field set in for the first ten overs, he is in a position to play a game within a game, much like Sri Lanka did in 1996.
Gayle cannot carry a team all by himself, and the senior and frankly, superior, players around him must mentally turn up at Sabina if they're to stand any chance of winning. Sarwan, Lara and Chanderpaul have vast experience of the world game and all average 40+ in the shortened version of the game, there is no excuse for these men to fail on home soil. If they can't do it in the West Indies, it might be time to make wholesale changes.
Key man: Jerome Taylor
Frightening speed and hitherto unharnessed accuracy could mean that on a good day, he can give his team mates the chance to get an early bath.
Although I have dismissed the chances of the West Indies, because they are a team lacking in direction at least they haven't got a couple of disgraceful drug cheats ruining the party for everyone else.
The media melee surrounding Asif and Akhtar means that Pakistan are going to be guaranteed a multimedis scrum whereever they set foot, and it must, for the players, be impossible to ignore.
Their case is an example of the total lack of communication and correlation between the confederate cricketing nations and their overseer, the ICC. One moment they are not banned, then banned for life, and then it is reduced and increased incrementally, and finally they are not playing because they conveniently have injuries, most probably to their egos. The ICC members should have stood up off their Saville Row-ed backsides and done something about it before the World Cup started, because to still have the row rumbling on, is for me, showing a great deal of disrespect to the host nations.
Problems aside though and Pakistan have to be seen as one of the top four teams in the competition. With the established 'golden tripod' of Inzamam, Yousuf and Younis, Pakistan have a central core to rival Australia. Kamran Akmal is emerging as a huge talent in the game, and Danish Kaneria's hybrid leg-spin/impish pest routine has accounted for the best in the world.
As long as Politics doesn't spill into the dressing room, Pakistan will surely be a force to be reckoned with this year, and will hope for a repeat of their 1991 success.
Winner: Pakistan by either 80 runs or 5 wickets.
Here is a link:
To Andrew Miller's potted history of last night's events. The fact that he uses the word 'Jerk Chicken' makes it worth the read.
But it is very good and he covers everything that happened.
Emotions are running high in the office, so I apologise for the brief tirade in the last post :)
I am also fretting about the fact that the SKY man, as yet, hasn't been to put my dish in. I am buying SKY for the simple reason I want to watch as much cricket as my retinas will take over the course of the nest 2 months... I have rung up at least twice inquiring of the whereabouts of said dish... but to no avail: 'SKY is very popular at the moment Mr Burt, but we'll get it to you as soon as we can...' I threatened to move over to Virgin, but that idea was poohpoohed when the woman at the other end of the line sniggered. Defeated by a girly giggle. I'm less of a man than I thought I was.
But enough babble:- To the Cricket.
Last night, we and the world saw the opening of the greatest show on Earth (until Zippo's comes back into town anyway) and damn it was good fun. But then again it was always going to be the case.
As holders of the official title: 'The most fun nation on the planet', the West Indies produced a sonic and visual feast to savour in Montego Bay. 2,000 dancers, a collection of the greatest cricketers of all time, $2,000,000 spent, one of the most awesome singers in the world Jimmy Cliff (with Shaggy... can't have everything I suppose), and party to savour.
If this infectious start continues, we'll not only have one of the best Cricket World Cup's ever, but one of the first truly memorable sporting events of this new Millenia.
Sitting in my pokey office, my day is currently bearing all the hallmarks of the similarly titles TV show. It is related to the cricket, so bear with it...
I have just had to do a health and safety assessment which encompassed the following:
1) "Stacking chairs - The efficient, correct and quick method."
2) "Fire: What and what not to do" My question about fighting fire, if your name happened to be fire didn't go down as was intended:
"Mr Burt, should that situation ever occur, I would advise that everyone involved got out of the building, and did not persist with tackling, battling or indeed as you say, fighting the fire. That would be insane."
Dan 0, sense of humour failure 1
3) "Coffee, tea and the hazards of workplace related burns." After hearing the horror stories from this talk, I'm very much going to stick the fags, Mountain Dew and Red Bull - None of which seem as harmful as the sinister cuppa that's just been described to me:
"The heat of a boiling cup of tea is more than capable of doing as much damage to your skin as a hot oven or stove..."
In that instance I was transported back to year nine science. How can this be proven or disproven? Already in my mind I was imagining how I might write up the experiment for the H&S man to mark for me... I would be aiming for a B+
2 x Hands
1 x Body
1 x Oven (Aga will suffice, but middle class status must be confirmed before commencement of experiment)
2 x Leather driving gloves
1 x Tea Bag (optional sugar)
1 x Splash of Milk
3 x Nice Biscuits
1 x Sponge cake
Get two human hands placing one in a steaming mug of tea and the other on a red hot/nuclear stove.
What I will do:
I will place one of my two hands in a mug of tea, and at the same time, put my remaining hand onto an electric stove. I will be timing the two hands to see how long it takes for them to jump away from each heat source. As a placebo I will take a third hand and plunge it into a Victoria Sponge cake to see how long this third hand lasts (Walnut or Battenburg shall suffice).
Hand one lasted 3 seconds in the tea.
Hand two is still attached to the hob and making a funny smell.
Hand three got bitten off by Tracey Wilkins.
Put self on hand donor list at local hospital.
But this all brings me to my point (at last). I work in a mundane, veluxed and white office with little danger of death, apart from impending World War and canteen pies. I sit on my own, I drink 2 cups of tea a day and I go to the toilet perhaps 3 times a day.
I do not have the following happen to me:
- Concrete balls being deliberately thrown at my head, at an average velocity of 85MPH/130KPH
- Stand three feet away from someone hitting concrete balls AT me, at an average velocity of 60MPH/100KPH
- Try to catch balls in rubber gloves bowled by Steve Harmison, Shane Bond or Brett Lee
- Inzamam Ul-Haq running anywhere near me.
- Go for a 'quiet' drink with Andrew Flintoff
There is more chance of dying on a cricket pitch than there ever will be in an office. I have to sign various disclaimers because of a toilet roll, these guys just get on with it, for the love of the game, and the chance to do it to someone else next time around. It seems to me that, in a world where everything is becoming increasingly complex, cricket, for all its failings represents a time when life was life. This exhibition of cricket in the West Indies, should highlight to the World, that sometimes it's important to look beyond form 13.4(a).
Today's match between England and Australia will tell us more in 100 overs than the Commonwealth Bank series did in 000's.
It was Imran Khan who uttered those immortal words 'Cornered Tigers' (or something like that - lion, tiger, lynx, crested hyena...) and Australia, today, will be the embodiment of that very sentiment.
Reeling from two huge series defeats in the space of just two months, Ricky Ponting's team have much to prove not only to themselves, but to the world's media. Doubts about commitment, stamina and age have surfaced and even their own players have gone on record as suggesting as much:
"It's not a nice feeling. It's a demoralising loss and probably as low as we've
been." The Huss, AKA Mr Cricket, AKA Don't hassle the huss AKA Mike
For the first time in (my own) living memory, Australia are a genuinely beatable team. The current lack of disparity between the top 8 nations means that Australia's position as 2-1 favourite for this World Cup has never looked more suspect.
In today's 'Warm-up' game, there will precious few rivalries to resurrect from the last 24 months sparring between the two sides. Retirements, injuries and the blooding of new talent on both sides makes this game different in both feel and balance.
A year ago, you could have named both sides before putting a shrimp on the barbie. However in the current cricketing climate, one would struggle to name half the players guaranteed a place in the starting XI's. What it means though, is that today's match is a chance for those on the periphery - Bopara, Hodge, Tait and Mahmood et al to cement those places which currently hang by a proverbial coat of varnish.
This will be much more than a friendly, and at its conclusion, should provide further evidence for, or against, Australia's backing as the team to beat in the WC2007.
More 'great' news emerged from the England camp today as it was announced that Michael Vaughan is only fit enough to captain England for up to 30 overs at a time.
Taking the maths to another level, Vaughan bats on average for 34 balls per innings in ODI's. This means that he's on the pitch for 11% of the batting. 30 overs fielding means 60% of the bowling and a total of 40.5% of the total game involved with it...
Is this the first time an international team will have an official co-captain? The World Cup is a 50-over format, meaning that 40% of the time Vaughan won't be captaining England on the field. With Strauss being resigned to becoming the Justin Langer of the England set-up, and
let's not for one minute believe that Flintoff's relative success in the triangular series was anything more than a gruelling, luck-ridden fluke against a half-hearted and hugely dispirited Australian side lacking in drive, commitment and 1st XI players. He is not the man to co-captain England to a World Cup success.
England need to get this side of their tactics completely nailed before they step onto the pitch against New Zealand on the 16th of March. Will Vaughan lead from the dressing room or will the stand-in be in charge of events? Will there be a compromise between the two?
Cricket is a game, undoubtedly centred around instinct and reacting to pressure situations - something Vaughan has proved incredible at. But if he is off the field in the 43rd over and England need to take two wickets and not concede more than 50 runs... Who makes that snap decision? Because they can't take 5 minutes out of the game to ask, but then again isn't that what the 12th man has always been for?
Looking at the group stages leaves me slightly short of breath. It makes me wonder as a fan why things couldn't have been a little more 'edgy'.
The ICC has effectively cleared a path for the top 8 teams to sail through to next phase of the competition, by grouping the two strong teams with two of the world's so-called minnows.
Politics and frustration aside, what position does this leave the humble gambler in?
Well, let's face it it's not great, but I've singled out a few bets which might bring some smiles to everyone's faces in the group stages. Prices are as of 7/3/07.
1) South Africa to win group A @ 5/4.
Australia head the betting at a stingy 4/7, but with all their recent turmoil one would have to plump for the Africans here
2) Holland to Beat Scotland in the group game
Holland have shown themselves to be a none-too-shabby batting side over recent years. Even when Sri Lanka posted the highest even one day score against them, they still scored heavily and quickly. Scotland have shown poor form coming into the Cup, and even on their day, will struggle to beat a keen Dutch side.
3) Spread Bet: Sri Lanka and/or India to put 400+ past the Bahamas
Only one man in the Bahamian team managed to contain the English batsmen, so with the extended talent of India and Sri Lanka, one would fear for the averages of the small nation's bowlers.
4) Ireland to beat Zimbabwe in the group game
The Irish without a hint of luck nearly embarassed the Proteas yesterday, and with Zimbabwe's crushing defeat at the hands of Australia, an Irish win, and a good price should be well on the cards.
As something of an addendum to this post, I just saw that Mike Hussey is the best part of 30/1 to be leading runscorer with Paddy Power. For a man who averages close to 80 in ODI's, and is commonly regarded as the best finisher in world cricket this has to be one of the bets of the year.
Today's shock statement by Ricky Ponting regarding the state of his team's bowling attack, should worry those who have taken the ridiculously short price on the Aussies lifting the trophy:
"If we are not convinced on what our best XI is, then we may have to give six or seven bowlers seven or eight overs each," - Ricky Ponting
It seems like the debacle of the Hadlee/Chappell trophy has caused more than a short term bruise to the egos of the one-time Brits.
At the moment, Australia can be got from anything between 2-1 with Ladbrokes and 9-4 with Stan James on the outright result of the tournament. This, to me is money burnt. India at 8-1 and Sri Lanka wavering at 7's are the big bets of the competition, especially for those seeking each-way value.
With Australian confidence at a 20 year low, now is the time to lay the Ozzies and back the Asian nations.