The Official Ashes Non-Drinking Game


Given the non-alcoholic nature of my university exploits (shocking), and the necessity to actually be able to function to do a bit of work the next day, a collaborative effort has been made to create a variation on a drinking game. The “Ashes Crumpet Fund” will impose a series of fines in order to pay for the snacks consumed through the night.

If you wish to transform this into a drinking game, I take no responsibility for the carnage it may cause.

Ashes Crumpet Fund:

Offence Value Bonus Points
Commentary (pence)
Bumble says ‘start the car’ 20
Holding bemoans the decline of third man 10
Siddle is described as having a big heart (variations thereof) 10 Double if he’s called an ‘Australian hero’
Botham criticises England for insufficiently attacking fields 5
Hussain mocked for inserting Aussies in 2002 5 Double if not Botham
Warne praises Clarke/criticises Cook’s captaincy 5 Double if simultaneous
Knight asks a rhetorical question 5
Gower gets mocked for being posh 5
Atherton criticises DRS/technology 5
Charles Colville has a row with a pundit 5 Double if Cork retaliates
Willis looks grumpy 5
Strauss speaks in cliches 5 Double if someone notices
Trott’s guard-marking routine brought to viewer’s attention 5
Carberry’s space-age helmet mentioned 5
Action
Hat-trick 100 Double if Siddle (again)
Shane Watson is out lbw 50 Double if he reviews it
Missed stumping 20 Double if Bairstow
Ryan Harris gets injured 20
Wicket off a no ball 20
Mitchell Johnson bowls a wide 10 Double if it goes for 4
Dropped catch 10 Double if described as sitter/shocker/dolly
Clarke gets hit on head 10 Double if Broad
Pietersen/Warner caught on boundary 10
Golden duck 10
Swann gets wicket in first over of spell 10
Warner caught/run out/dismissed by Root 10
Stuart Broad review 5 Double if correct
Interactive
Fall asleep 100
Causing England wicket to fall 50
Miss wicket 50
Score at interval (furthest away) 10
Moaning about commentators 10 Double if Russel Arnold; Exempt if its Warne
Lbw decision called incorrectly 5 Increases with number of counts on which it is wrong (height, line etc.)
Crowd
‘Bob Key Fan Club, On Tour’ flag spotted 100 (First person to exclaim ‘We Are Kent’ exempted)
Catch taken 10 Double if one-handed; triple if holding beer (unspilled)
Barmy Army shown singing Mitchell Johnson song 10 Double if commentators heard giggling
Kent flag/shirt spotted 10
Streaker 10
Fan gets kicked out 5
Merv Hughes sighted in cheap seats 5

There is a distinct possibility that we may become skint by the end of the series, but if it means we survived the nights thanks to having large food stocks, we won’t mind that much.

Further suggestions welcomed.

Bring on the cricket!

The alternative TMS version essentially amounts to ‘Boycott Bingo‘. Click the link to a list of his favourite quotes. 

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Test Match Diary: All-night Ashes


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Lord Bell

A series of unknowns awaits, both on and off the field. Can England win their fourth Ashes series in succession? How long before Shane Warne praises Michael Clarke for putting Australia in a losing position? Can Mitchell Johnson bowl straight? Will Stuart Broad manage to survive the hostility? Will Malcolm Conn ever praise England? Many more questions to ask, but the most relevant to those of us back in England is this: How long can we last?

The Ashes Down Under present a unique set of challenges for the English spectator. With play beginning at midnight for the first two Tests, and 23:30 for the final two, it is relatively easy to start watching a day’s play. I was at school the last time we toured Australia, meaning it was always a case of pushing boundaries. I didn’t manage as long as most, until Melbourne and the glories of day one. I witnessed many of the great moments of that series, and it really was special given the years of hurt endured before then.

Back in 2010, I watched the first hour of the series before going to bed, and leaving the radio on. I awoke randomly in the middle of the night, and focussed on the cricket. Cook, Prior and Broad were dismissed in consecutive deliveries. Essentially, I’d woken up to hear our worst over of the series. It was a crushing blow. Its a demonstration of how the events on the field are enhanced by the memories of the supporter off it. My personal recollection of England’s greatest (and worst) moments come alongside a location – where they were witnessed. In 2005, I was in a French bar packed full of English holidaymakers when Geraint Jones held on to that catch to win the Edgbaston Test – the room exploded, and the French were confused. Instead of spending my first lunchtime at secondary school that same year mixing with my new friends, I snuck into the sixth-form area and watched Kevin Pietersen smashing boundary after boundary off Brett Lee. When Katich was run out at Adelaide, I fell off the sofa, having settled down for what was supposed to be a relatively uneventful session. You can’t always go to the game, but you can often remember where you were.

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Surely this won’t happen again…

Ashes series in Australia are difficult to watch, but if you manage it, the memories will stick because of the ridiculousness of the task you’ve undertaken. You’ll be sat there, clock ticking towards 4am, whilst Shane Warne is spouting another one of his diatribes about how the defensiveness of Cook is going to lose England the game, despite the 200-run lead they have on the board. It will be a struggle, and there will be times where you look at yourself, then the time, and wonder why on earth you ever thought this was a good idea. But if and when those rare moments of joy arrive, it will all have been worth it. 

Supporting a side is about loyalty, and fortunately this series I’m in a situation where I can afford to lose many hours of sleep watching the cricket. Many can’t, due to work commitments, but that won’t mean the buzz isn’t still there. For every England fan this winter, there’ll be a different story of how the Tests were followed. That’s what I love about sport – the variety of experiences everyone has when witnessing the same event.

I’ve managed just the one all-night shift watching England – the heroic draw in Auckland earlier this year. After the adrenaline and excitement had finally dissipated, it was getting light outside as I made it to bed. But that was just one night. Five in succession? Madness. I doubt I can manage that.

Anything could happen this series, but when it does, I’ll definitely remember it. Unless I’ve fallen asleep…

England thoroughly deserve Ashes triumph


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Clarke had to be forcibly restrained by the umpire’s, such was his panicked desperation to spare his blushes and avoid defeat.

England could well have won the series four nil with a sensational victory at The Oval, but the ICC’s idiotic lack of common sense in umpiring meant that the capacity crowd were denied one of the most exciting finishes in recent years. Only cricket would do that.

Michael Clarke’s declaration on the fifth day was one clearly made with the expectation that England would tamely block out the draw. However, what followed was almost one of the most incredible day five chases in a long time, thanks mainly due to Kevin Pietesen’s blitz. As England batted themselves closer and closer to victory, it was clear that Clarke had realised what a fool he had been. He was seriously panicking out there, delaying the game with fielding changes, confronting the umpires incessantly about the light, and looking like he’d seen a ghost. He was spared his blushes in the end. A lot of praise has been directed his way for making a game of it, but once again I think its a case of him being viewed as this all-conquering, attacking captain. What Clarke did was careless, and almost cost Australia a Test Match. I would not want a captain who is so willing to throw away a match from what was a dominant position. If you can’t win, don’t lose. England haven’t lost in 13 matches now, and whilst it was an exciting evening at the Oval, for Australia a 4-0 defeat in the series would have been humiliating. The old argument that “4-0 doesn’t reflect the series fairly” is rubbish. If you set yourself in a position where you risk losing the game, and lose, it is not misfortune but idiocy. This was especially the case as the pitch was still very good for batting, as all the runs over the course of the day had shown.

In a way, England in their own unique way have demoralised Australia. Whilst the press and most of the fans wanted us to destroy them by an innings, instead England wound them up superbly by batting very sensibly on day three, to make sure they couldn’t lose the game – Clarke, take note. Then, on day four, as the rain incessantly fell from the London sky, the Australians had time to stew, moan, and complain about England’s tactics. The arrogance with which James Faulkner delivered his words in the press conference suggested they carried a lot of weight, or importance. Instead, he just appeared a little bitter about his side’s inability to make any inroads in their attempt to win the match. Day five was the perfect way to obliterate all that nonsense talk of ‘negative cricket’. England sailed along in the morning session, eventually being bowled out for 377. Swann hit a glorious straight six off Lyon, as well as an exquisite crunching cover drive off Starc. Prior too looked in better touch, with his aggression being rewarded with a solid score, after a poor series.

Australia’s response was to be attacking, and mess about with the batting order. Warner, Watson, Faulkner, Haddin, Clarke, Smith, Harris, Starc. After a decent start, Anderson and Swann removed the opening pair, before Broad ran through the rest with four wickets, including Haddin for a golden duck. Particularly enjoyable was when the irritating, jingoistic Shane Warne watched Steve Smith whack Broad down the ground, shouting “shot!”, only for Mike Atherton to wait and shout “its caught!” Nice one Shane.

Clarke declared at tea on 111/6, leaving England a target of 227 in 44 overs. A modest start saw Root caught behind on 11 attempting to cut. Trott arrived and played some very nice strokes on the legside, pushing up the run rate and suggesting England might go for an unlikely victory. With the score 86 in the 20th over, Cook fell lbw for 34, bringing Kevin Pietersen to the crease. He looked completely focussed as he set about bludgeoning the Australian bowlers around the park. He was at his brutal, belligerent, dismissive best. He hauled the rate down to just 6.7 an over, before taking on one shot too many and holing out to wide long-on off the bowling of Harris. Pietersen’s 55 ball 62 included 10 fours, and had set the game up wonderfully.

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Pietersen raises his bat after a magnificent half-century

Trott soon fell lbw to Faulkner, walking in front of his stumps whilst trying to work to leg, but only succeeding in being trapped lbw. That brought Woakes together with Ian Bell, and the pair ran superbly to keep the required rate an achievable one. Ian Bell skipped down to one of the seamers and cleared mid-off to score a boundary. At this point, the crowd was gripped. At the end of one over, there was an enormous roar, that built and built to a crescendo. Cricket has this wonderful ability to produce scenarios like this, where the entire nation is on the edge of their seat in anticipation of what could’ve been a sensational victory. Starc came on, and his over proved costly. His no-ball full toss was edged down to third man for four, to the delight of the crowd. At this point Clarke was clearly panicking ridiculously, realising that he was likely to have cost Australia a match where they should never even have been in a position to lose it. It was like a self-inflicted ‘Adelaide’. He was remonstrating ceaselessly with the umpires about the light, and constantly tinkering with his field. Starc even ran through and failed to deliver the ball, to waste even more time. The last ball of the over approached, and Bell’s shot down the ground was blocked by Starc’s boot. It bobbled nicely, and his turn-and-throw was enough to run Bell out, despite a spectacular dive to regain his ground. This cost even more time, and was enough for the umpires to decide to take the players off. An idiotic decision with 21 needed from 24 balls. The final nail in the ICC’s umpiring coffin, as throughout the series the decision making of the officials has been consistently dire.  Given the regulations, the umpires had to make the decision, which illustrates how inflexible and stupid the current regulations are. A capacity crowd denied one of the most sensational finishes in years.

I take exception to a few schools of thought that have emerged in the past few days:
1) “Australia did not deserve to lose 4-0.” Rubbish. As I said above, if you are willing to put the game at risk with a tempting delcaration, and lose, it is your own fault, not that of bad luck. England have been the better side this series, with one standout batsman, but all round a more successful bowling attack. Four first innings leads were held by Australia, yet England won three (and almost four) matches, indicating that England’s bowlers were seriously impressive. Australia crumbled when the pressure was on, hence they lost matches. They were fortunate at Trent Bridge to make it close, given that Ashton Agar was clearly out stumped when in single figures, whilst at Lords they were abysmal, and they collapsed under pressure at Durham. The right side won the series, and despite that they still weren’t at their best. If England’s batsmen click into gear over the winter, there could well be another series on its way to England.
1658752) “Michael Clarke is the world’s greatest captain ever.” He isn’t. He might set lots of impressive, eye-catching fields, but a captain must be judged on results. Andy Flower’s words after the game about Cook’s leadership on and off the pitch spoke volumes. Clarke has failed to command unity in the dressing room, made clear by the numerous incidents in the run up to the series. He looks like an attacking captain, but had to resort to exactly the sort of negative tactics he castigated England for the other day in a desperate bid to avoid a humiliating, self-inflicted defeat. People are praising him for almost being vindicated in his bold declaration. If I had a captain so willing to lose Test Matches, I’d be going mad. But the likes of Shane Warne seem to have elevated Clarke to a new level of worship. Warne was so quick to criticise England whenever the game was going their way. And yet the series was lost by Clarke with a comprehensive scoreline.  He is not getting results, which surely is one of the key criteria when judging a captain.
3) “England didn’t play the right way.” This is perhaps the most infuriating line. After day three, instead of praising England for their determined batting, to save the game and avoid defeat, the press launched an attack about our inability to play attacking cricket. It did not help that we made a poor overall selection decision, and did not have Tremlett, so when you start 500 behind, not losing is a valiant aim. Yet people were very critical of England not trying to win the game. It was almost the perfect wind-up, rounded off by England going ballistic on day five and almost pulling off victory. Yes, Cook may appear defensive, but the results he is achieving with this side speak for themselves. A 3-0 win in a home Ashes series is an incredibly impressive feat, even if it was against a modest visiting team. Results speak for themselves.

On the whole, it was an odd series. England couldn’t quite piece together a victory like those by an innings down under last time round, but they had enough to win at least three matches. A lot was said about how we got out of jail at Old Trafford, but as England showed in Auckland, you cannot simply suggest the game would have been lost. Trent Bridge was a game where both sets of batsmen seemed determined to lose. Australia were the definition of ‘village’ at Lords. This Australia side is one that needs to bat first, otherwise their batting order gets very exposed by the combination of scoreboard pressure and a more worn pitch. Durham was again saved by Ian Bell, and rounded off by a fearsome Broad spell. The Oval should always have been a draw, but Clarke’s willingness to lose was very much appreciated.

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Australia’s bowling attack was their most impressive area. Ryan Harris deserved his award, with his 24 wickets coming in four Test Matches – a run of games almost as impressive as his haul of wickets, given his well documented fitness issues. Whilst they bowled well, the batting remains seriously flawed. Clarke still hasn’t settled on his best team. The murmurings that Rogers may not be included down under is quite frankly ridiculous, as his century at Durham was one of the best seen all series.

One man stands head and shoulders above the rest after this series. Ian Bell. Once vilified for his cluelessness, now worshipped for his reliability. His three centuries were all vital to England’s cause, particularly those at Trent Bridge and Chester-le-Street. His success was built upon solid defence and beautiful strokeplay. Though in 2005 I was not a fan, I grew to like Bell for the player he was, and always felt criticism of him was unfair. “Only scores runs when it doesn’t matter.” Well, this series, he has 562 runs to refute that suggestion.  A masterclass from Bell, not just technically but mentally too, as he showed great resilience at the crease. Shane Watson’s attempt to sledge him after his first hundred in 47 Test matches was incredibly amusing, particularly as Pietersen then wandered down the pitch to tell Watson that Bell has scored as many hundreds in 6 weeks as Watson has in his Test career.

Player Mat Inns NO Runs HS Ave BF SR 100 50 0 4s 6s
IR Bell 5 10 1 562 113 62.44 1157 48.57 3 2 0 75 1

An odd series, but a thoroughly enjoyable one. England fully deserve their Ashes triumph.

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Man of the Series, Ian Bell

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Triumphant England hold the urn aloft

Ashes 2013: England Edge Thriller


On Sunday afternoon, one of the most unpredictable, turbulent and utterly captivating test matches reached its thrilling climax. It wasn’t quite Edgbaston 05, but it was undoubtedly a match that drew you in from the very beginning, and stubbornly refused to let you go for four and a half days. The match was one where the momentum was constantly shifting – as soon as you thought one side was ahead, minutes later things were back in the balance. It left everyone with a vaguely sound mind in no doubt that Test Cricket is the greatest form of the game. And we’ve got nine more Ashes Tests to come.

Timeline:

The events by this stage are well known, but I can’t resist reliving them. England batted first, and from a solid position of 98/2 at lunch, they fell apart to be bowled out for 215 – losing the last 4 wickets for just 2 runs. Then, in reply, Australia capitulated spectacularly on a sunny second morning to 127/9, thanks to some superb swing bowling by Jimmy Anderson. Yet from that position, Australia finished 280 all out, thanks to a fearless 98 struck by number 11, and Test debutant Ashton Agar. The fact that he was shown to be out stumped when still in single figures really rubbed salt into the wounds of England fans, who had seen a dominant lead slip away. Even more amazing was that Phil Hughes was the not out batsman.

England’s second innings attempted to bring calm to a match which had been ceaselessly frenetic from the start, and they did so despite losing two early wickets – the Trott DRS decision first ball enough to tip some England fans over the edge, given the unavailability of a hotspot camera that would probably have indicated a mark on the inside edge. Yet whilst the scorecard appeared to signal calm, the slow, attritional nature of the evening brought with it a new tension, something a Test Match is so brilliant at creating. Again, as England slowly moved forward, things looked positive, but a the double strike after the first hour on day three to remove both Cook and Pietersen suddenly made the lead look insignificant, and the situation incredibly perilous. Ian Bell strode to the crease with an hour to bat before lunch, and after a wonderful sustained effort he was able to walk from the field of play, undefeated on 95, at the close of play, with England in a much more promising position. The home side also had Stuart Broad (and Aleem Dar) to thank, with the duo having put on over one hundred together, unbroken thanks to the audacity of Broad to look completely innocent and not walk, having got a thick edge that was caught at slip after deflecting off Haddin’s gloves. No need to delve into the debate. He didn’t walk. Most people don’t walk. Australia had wasted their reviews hopefully, so ultimately they paid the price.

England eventually were prised out for 375, meaning the Aussies needed to score 311 to win on a dry, slow and dusting pitch. It was definitely getable, but I felt the current Australian line-up lacked the patience to survive long periods without scoring boundaries, combined with a technical inability to negotiate the reverse swing of Anderson, and the turn of Swann. As it happened, they coped with the latter well enough, but the former proved too hot to handle.

An 84-run opening partnership seemed to have steered the game in Australia’s favour, with Watson and Rogers coping well with what England could throw at them. The pitch was offering little, as were the atmospheric conditions, but England plugged away. Watson fell lbw having yet again gotten a good start. Cowan survived longer than his first innings stay of one delivery, but in trying to impose himself by attacking the part-time spin of Root, he edged to slip. Rogers chipped a slightly slower one from Anderson to mid-wicket, and the celebration clearly indicated that a plan had been formulated at tea with David Saker to try and create such a dismissal. After a partnership between Smith and Clarke began to build, the breakthrough England wanted arrived. Clarke nicked Anderson behind. The ball clearly carried, but was checked by the umpires. When they confirmed the dismissal, Clarke promptly reviewed, despite having followed the ball with his head in the way that most guilty batsmen do when they’ve nicked it (the audacious Broad aside). He had indeed made contact with the ball. Cheerio! Smith then went back to a Swann delivery that hit him right in front of off-stump. Another gone. Hughes came in and looked technically alarming against the spinning ball, and sure enough he was trapped lbw, with the ball narrowly being shown to have pitched in line after England reviewed. It was a superb delivery, but the way Hughes plays spin, it was made to look even better than that. Haddin and Agar – promoted to 8 – saw it through to the close.

4 wickets to take on day five for England, or 134 runs to win for Australia. As was seemingly inevitable given the momentum swings in the match, it went down to the wire. Agar and Haddin brought the target below one hundred, before Anderson’s magic was unleashed. From around the wicket, an away swinger at the left-handed Agar forced a forward prod, which was edged and well caught by Cook at slip. Starc survived 4 balls before he succumbed in similar fashion – Anderson slanting the ball across the left-hander from over the wicket, again pouched by Cook. Siddle was then dropped by Cook, waist high to his left, before he clung on to a spectacular diving effort to his right minutes later. Anderson had taken 3/6 in 24 balls and seemingly had won the match for England. But as had always been the case with this match, there was still another twist to come.

Pattinson joined Haddin, who was picking the deliveries to attack skilfully, and chipping away at the target. The run rate picked up with the last wicket pair at the crease, no doubt aided by Steven Finn being plundered for 15 off his first over, and his second conceding 9 (four of which were byes). Pattinson launched Swann for a six, and then Haddin was dropped by Finn running round from fine leg to square leg, the diving effort resulting in the ball being spilled for four. Lunch was delayed by half an hour, and by the time the interval was taken, only 20 runs were required.

The interval favoured England, undoubtedly, as Anderson could freshen up having left the field with cramp following his mammoth 13-over spell in the morning session. It took three overs after lunch before the decisive blow was struck. Somewhat fittingly, Haddin tried to whack Anderson over the covers following a tight over where Ian Bell had done extremely well to dive and stop a single from being taken. The ball reversed in towards the stumps slightly, and there was a faint noise. Anderson wasn’t convinced, and neither was Dar – hence the not out decision – but Cook and Prior soared into the air, pleading for the umpire to raise his finger. They quickly reviewed, and hotspot showed a mark on the inside edge of the bat, and the edge was definitely audible during the real-time replay. The crowd cheered having seen what they thought was an edge, but they couldn’t be certain. Aleem Dar adjusted his radio, crossed his arms to signal an amended decision, and then finally raised his finger. England had won by 14 runs.

That moment sparked some incredible celebrations, none more spectacular than the eruption of the England team. Having been huddled together, they all charged around in utter joy – and relief. Haddin and Pattinson stood in the middle, unable to bring themselves to move. Another Ashes defeat by the narrowest of margins. Around those two in despair, chaotic joy reigned supreme – leader of the attack was rightly the centre of the celebration. Jimmy Anderson’s name was gloriously chorused as he walked from the field. His incredible skill level and relentless effort had dragged England over the line, when it looked like victory may have cruelly slipped away.

The struggle to watch…

I was largely unable to watch much of the drama unfold over the course of the five days, but boy did I feel the tension. A stupidly arranged office job for the summer meant I was restricted to following the ball-by-ball coverage on Cricinfo, and flicking on TMS when I could get away with it. If I’d been exposed to that test match on TV for its duration, it’s unlikely I’d still have been alive to write this. What’s worse was having to go out to bat on Sunday at 1:30, and being boringly defensive enough to have lasted until the Test resumed after lunch with Australia needing just 20. It’s best I don’t list the chain of expletives I let loose when in the changing room listening on TMS to Finn spilling that catch at deep backward square. But we won. I nicked one behind about 20 minutes later (having only scored 23). Umpire shook his head, just as I tucked my bat under my arm and walked off. Well, it wasn’t like I was playing against Australia…

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England’s Heroes:

Plenty of talking points, but I will start with England’s two match-winning players. Jimmy Anderson and Ian Bell played a vital role in ensuring England emerged with a victory, and what determined performances they both put in. First, Bell. He played an absolutely superb innings which began on the fourth day before lunch. He was not his usual free-flowing self – it was not a pitch that let batsmen score that quickly – but he showed admirable calm and restraint. His wagon wheel indicated that during his entire innings he resisted playing any strokes down the ground, and instead focussed on scoring runs square of the wicket, as well as down to third man. The result was his second-slowest Test century, but by far and away his finest. What made it so wonderful was that at no moment throughout the day were England in a position where they could afford Bell to lose his wicket. He had to dig in and grind his way through the overs, managing it brilliantly. He more than deserved his hundred, which was brought up early on the fourth morning. For all the defensive strokes, one sumptuous shot sticks in the mind – he moved onto the back foot and played a wonderful drive through the covers for four. It was glorious. England needed all the runs they could get, and for that they have to thank Bell. And to think lots wanted him dropped. He hasn’t had the most prolific 18 months, but he now has 18 Test centuries. The thought of dropping one of England’s best batsmen is an alarming one.

Jimmy Anderson was described as the most skillful bowler in the world by his coach David Saker, and whilst many South Africans will be lining up to vent their righteous fury, I can see exactly why Saker said it. Anderson’s ability to bowl such accurate spells and make the ball swing have turned him into one of the best fast bowlers of recent years. His value was underlined in this Test, where his 10 wickets only cost 158 runs. Not bad, that. He dragged England across the line on the fifth day, taking all four wickets to fall when it seemed the game was drifting towards the Australians. His control of the ball is so good that he’s able to manoeuvre batsmen around and induce an edge, or a poor shot. He is going to be Australia’s nemesis this summer, such is the skill level he currently operates at (combined with the severe technical deficiencies of the visiting top order.) He fully deserved that man of the match. The 13-over spell during the morning session was a superhuman effort.

The DRS debate:

132233844_cricket_431204cObviously the Decision Review System is a good thing for cricket given it increases the number of correct decisions made on the field. But even so, there were a number of poor uses of technology, as well as the standard failings of human eyesight, that had big impacts on the direction of the match. None more so than Marais Erasmus’ baffling inability to give Ashton Agar out stumped on single figures – a decision that cost England in excess of 150 runs. If he’d been given, it might not have been one of the great Test Matches, as England would’ve been able to build a commanding lead. The shadow may have inhibited the view, but the toe of the boot is on the line, and not behind. It was out. Not given.

Aleem Dar missing Stuart Broad’s clear edge to Michael Clarke at slip was also very poor. The walk/don’t-walk debate is one I don’t need to get into, but the Australians claiming the English were cheating by not walking sounded a bit rich. The real problem was that Clarke had used his two reviews up. Cook is a clever user of the review, whereas Clarke is an emotional one. He will often base his decision to review on the state of the game rather than the likelihood of success. Hence, he was left in despair when Dar shook his head, and Broad stood his ground.

I’m usually a fan of Michael Atherton’s commentary, but the way he called the final moments of the game were disappointing. He tried to paint the picture of a DRS controversy handing England the Test Match, despite hot spot and audio both suggesting an edge, before Snicko later put the final nail into the coffin. He edged it, no doubt. It was the correct decision to overturn the not out call. The issues in this Test have arisen both because of a few poor calls by the umpires, and mainly Clarke’s haste in using up his referrals. Shane Warne was adamant that the Hughes delivery pitched outside leg. It didn’t. More than half of the ball was in line with leg, hence it was overturned and given out. The only issue with the system at the moment is that the ICC have set the parameters badly. The region of “umpire’s call” is far to large, meaning that when 49% of the ball is careering into leg stump, a not out call is deemed to be “correct”. Now isn’t the time and the place, but the error percentage of the predicted path of the ball should equate to the amount of the ball that has to be hitting the stumps for it to be deemed as “hitting”. Umpire’s call is currently being used to give the umpire’s the benefit of the doubt, regardless of whether it was a good or bad decision.

Lords:

Shane Warne believes that Australia have the momentum going into Lords, and that “England were lucky to win” despite conveniently not mentioning the Agar stumping incident, and subsequent benefit it gave to his nation. There were many things I tweeted about this article he wrote, but the description that it is ‘jingoistic tripe’ shall suffice. England under-performed, yes, but he willfully neglects the fact that the Australian top order was saved twice by the tail. England will improve, as they have tended to do after the first Tests in recent series. Australia remain a poor side with the bat, and with Jimmy Anderson bowling as he is, runs will remain hard to come by (unless we pick Finn again). I would select Bresnan – he might not have the attacking threat, but he has a far greater capability to control the ball, and with it the flow of runs. The plan to strangle the Aussies worked in 10/11, and should work again with their fragile batting line-up keen to score runs. Personally, I think Root is of better use at 6 this series – it isn’t the best time to be introduced to opening in Test Cricket, and the success of Compton against this very attack in the warm-up matches indicated that he was more than up to the task at hand. But making that call would involve the selectors admitting they were wrong – and they won’t do that. Bairstow will continue at 6. He looks a bit too fragile to me, despite Michael Vaughan’s desperate attempts to claim he performed adequately with the bat. Yorkshire mafia and all that…

What a brilliant start to the series, and here’s hoping for an equally thrilling game at Lords – with an England win at the end, again, of course…

“ODI Cricket Is Not Dead” – Sri Lanka through after gripping Oval encounter


A brilliant day at the Oval, thanks not just to a wonderful atmosphere, but an enthralling game of one day cricket.

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Yesterday was spent calculating potential scenarios that could occur in order to send through or knock out each team. England thankfully came through their game against New Zealand with a win, so Sri Lanka knew that a win would send them through, and Australia needed to win comprehensively to stand a chance of leap-frogging NZ on Net Run Rate. Also, the extent of SL’s potential victory would determine if they themselves came second (most likely) or first, forcing England to face India. Lots of possibilities.

Australia won the toss and chisel to bowl. In hindsight, presumably that were backing themselves to gun down the target quickly enough to go through. Things didn’t start well as Mitchell Johnson served up a short wide long-hop which was gleefully carved over the top for four by Perera. The next ball was down leg, flicking the pad to bring up another boundary. Third ball, Perera walked across and was trapped in front of the stumps, and given out by umpire Tony Hill.

Sangakkara came out to bat, and there I was hoping he’d produce one of his classy innings to show Judy how good a player he is. Instead, he looked unsettled, nearly running himself out before slicing a wide length ball to point where it was easily caught. It was all happening.

20/2 was a bit sticky, so SL sent out Thirimanne, who played very calmly and sensibly for his half century. Him and Dilshan built slowly and carefully to push the score towards one hundred, before the latter tried to work Doherty to leg, but edged it low to the right of slip, where Watson dived and took a very good catch.

That brought Jayawardene to the crease with the score 120/4. He played himself in despite the slow run rate, but that enabled him to execute his shots properly. Thirimanne departed, mis-timing a pull to short mid-wicket for a well made 57, but you felt it was an untimely wicket given the score became 128/4. Jayawardene began to show his class, sweeping one, and reverse sweeping the next for four of Glen Maxwell. Along with Chandimal, at the crease after Matthews failed, they started to pick up the rate. Mahela played some exquisite shots – a couple gloriously timed over cover, two or three cut shots placed perfectly into the gaps – and reached a well deserved 59. As batsmen kept losing their wicket at the other end, Jayawardene continued to up the rate. My particular favourites were his skip down the wicket in order to hit s four over cover, and a cut off a slower ball that perfectly bisected third man and point, trickling away for four. He continued gracefully yet powerfully hitting the ball to all parts, finally ending on 84* off 81 balls. A quite outstanding effort on a fairly sluggish pitch, given he’d been 10* (24) at on stage.

I was incredibly impressed. Undoubtedly one of the best innings I’ve ever witnessed. His skill, timing and shot selection were all superb, and some of the boundaries he hit were a joy to behold. It wasn’t just the shots, but the way he marshalled the innings which could well have faltered, before lifting his side to a very competitive 253. I certainly thought that would be enough to win the game.

That thought was one which assumed Australia would try and reach the target in standard fashion – that is by pacing the innings to bat pretty much the full 50 overs. It also assumed their batsmen weren’t anywhere near good enough to do it – which ultimately was probably right. But they tried to chase it down rapidly. They needed to win inside 29.1 overs in order to go through on Net Run Rate, and that is exactly what they set out to do. It was a remarkable innings, simply because of the bizarre way it panned out.

Watson hit a lovely cover drive first ball, and Hughes managed one of his trademark edges past the keeper after attempting a cut, and all looked quite encouraging. That was until Watson chopped on trying to run Kulasekara down to third man. Glen Maxwell was promoted to three, and despite severe scepticism on my part, bludgeoned a few boundaries, including a six. A Malinga yorker proved his undoing, and soon after Hughes edged behind to make it 3 down.

Bailey and Voges were together at the crease – a duo I would say were Australia’s most sensible and reliable players. That assumed they could run between the wickets. Bailey padded one to shot fine leg, and casually ambled half a run before realising the fielder was throwing to his end. He sprinted but ended up a yard short. Australia seemed doomed. This feeling was multiplied after Mitchell Marsh came in – a man who looks a woeful indictment of an international cricketer. He scratched around and was bowled for 4, playing all around a straight slower delivery. He is useless.

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I’m quite pleased I managed to take a picture of this. Johnson clearly realising how poor a side Australia currently are.

Matthew Wade came in. He’s your classical Australian prick, without the ability to back it up. He actually managed to strike some impressive boundaries. At one point he collided with Kulasekara when running a single, prompting me to shout out like a hooligan about him wanting a call up to play against the Lions. Anyway, predictably he also skied one and was well caught.

Faulkner came in and played a cameo, but tried to whack Herath to long-on, only to edge the ball behind to Sangakkara. Once he was out, you thought that was that. Mitchell Johnson found one of the deep fielders, bringing Clint McKay to the crease. At this stage Australia were 168/8 off 25 overs, so it was a bit odd that once the NRR target became impossible, they didn’t bat sensibly to win the game outright. Still needing about 70, the 29.1 over passed, and having played sensibly for his 49, Voges seemingly threw in the towel and chipped one to long on. Doherty joined McKay, and despite a significant runs total facing them, they needed less than 3 an over, such was the aggression Australia had shown up to that point.

The two tailenders batted very sensibly, picking up singles every now and then, as well as the odd boundary. The runs required gradually came down, and from thinking it was a matter of time before the game was over, the game became a very tight one, with everyone on edge. Sri Lanka had to find that final wicket, but in the process of trying to stem the flow of runs, their premier bowlers had almost used all their overs. Dilshan had to come on, and the runs continued to be picked off one by one. I felt they would start to get nervous and edgy once the finishing line approached, and they did.

Doherty edged Dilshan wide of slip playing a loose drive, and in his next over, McKay almost spooned a return catch back to him when trying to turn the ball to leg. Next ball, he did the same, and the ball flew to Dilshan’s right. He flung himself in the air, in a spectacular change of direction, and clung on to an incredible catch to win the game. He charged off towards the crowd, who were going absolutely ballistic, myself included. It was a wonderful moment, such joy expressed by the Sri Lankan crowd, given the increasing tension in the final few overs. A great finale to a bizarre chase, and a superb game of cricket.

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Sri Lankan players and supporters explode with joy after the final wicket.

On the whole, it was a thoroughly enjoyable, slightly bizarre yet completely enthralling game of one-day cricket. I find T20 cricket is too easily swayed by a good innings, or a poor start, but today’s ODI perfectly illustrated the ebb and flow of the game, and the unpredictability of it as well. Australia bowled rather well, but it took a superbly paced innings of sheer class to lift SL to a decent total, and whilst Australia were forced into assaulting the total in a kamikaze fashion, it still ended up being an encapsulating game. I’m not sure the Aussies would have been able to chase down 253 had they gone about it properly, but the NRR scenario forced them into an alternative, exciting, novel strategy. It seemed doomed, but it was entertaining nonetheless. It shows you how good one-day cricket is when some meaning is attached. 7 match series can become monotonous, but in a major tournament where the best nations are competing for the prize, the quality and the tension is ramped up.

In all honesty, when Voges was still at the crease after 30 overs, I felt he should have been able to see the Australians home – or at least be the last man standing. I saw him and Bailey as the two reliable players, but oddly both had moments where they lost concentration and gifted their wickets away. Australia, for all the criticism and mockery, bowled well, and it took an inspired innings to lift Sri Lanka to what looked like a competitive score. The batting, though, is shoddy at best – horrifying at worst. There are too many unreliable players in there. It was once again shown up today. Though the context was different, the dismissals were fairly needless. There was an image of Michael Clarke on the balcony with his head in his hands, and I can’t imagine it’ll be the last time we see him looking in despair this summer.

Sri Lanka will face India, who have looked a very good side, albeit in favourable conditions. England face South Africa at the Oval. I would guess at an India England final, and I’d be interested to see how the former gets on in conditions where the ball is moving around, as I suspect they might be a shadow of the side that they currently appear to be.

Undoubtedly the ODI format has the ability to draw crowds, entertain and enthrall. Today was the perfect example of a match with meaning that encapsulated all that were there, and produced a stunning finale. It’s sad that this Champions Trophy will probably be the last, as the standard of cricket, and quality of match has been excellent. I will continue to support the format as it requires sustained quality – shown by Jayawardene – and not just a pinch hit from one or two batsmen. That’s why I prefer the longer format, and today was a perfect illustration of just how good it can be.

I’m incredibly thankful that I was able to see a man of Jayawardene’s class produce a special innings like that. A great day.