Friday, July 30, 2010

Take a bow, Tony Hill

I think I like Tony Hill, the Kiwi umpire currently doing duty in the England-Pakistan test at Trent Bridge. He has been very good with the LBW decisions (a trying task when bowlers are moving the ball around): he can both take his time and be rapid-fire in his adjudications. A man to keep an eye on, just like Messrs. Steve Davis and Ian Gould (a pair I praised in these pages in March).

And, yes, this is part of my "if-we-diss-umpires-when-they-stuff-it-up-then-we-should-send-'em-flowers-when-they-get-it-right" campaign.

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Thursday, July 29, 2010

Begging for mercy

Viru, one short, and how

Thursday, July 22, 2010

The expected and the unexpected

Come the first test of a series featuring India, and one can expect a reasonably incompetent performance, possibly culminating in a heavy defeat. The Galle test, therefore, is not much of an aberration, but rather, just another data point that further clarifies and establishes the claim that Team India is very consistent with its inconsistency. Things will be better in the second test, I'm sure (or maybe I'm not - is such certainty justified with such an inconsistent outfit?)

What is an aberration, however, is that a test bowler is retiring with 800 wickets to his name. To be honest, I haven't still quite wrapped my head around that number. 300 wickets used to be a lot and then it got to 400. From that point on, the wicket-taking record became an increasingly fantastic number. 500? 600? 700? These numbers simply boggled the mind. Murali has gone one further, and staked out a point that is going to be very hard to get to for any bowler that follows him. Besides the usual worries about injuries, form, getting "found-out", will bowlers of the future even play enough test cricket?

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Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Santo Mierda!

Wow, those two deliveries by Mohammed Aamer straight after tea at Headlingley are among the two best I've seen in test cricket in recent years. It's a pity they were bowled to lower-order batsmen, but that's just a minor blemish.

This kid is something else. I hope someone is putting together a highlights reel for him. Early days but he is already putting together a decent collection.

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Doesn't get better than this (could get worse though)

Let's say you are a test batsman, keen to make a strong showing to lock down your position in the batting order, or to regain your form after a slump, or to regain your confidence after a partial return to form. What match situation would you most like to be placed in? Well, I would say the one the Pakistani batsman find themselves in now: it is very early days in a test match, and you have just rolled your opposition for a very low score. Every run you make is a valuable one for the team (thus increasing its psychological value for you), and there is plenty of time to settle down and get comfortable.

Lets stop beating around the bush: if Pakistan can't beat Australia from here, they should consider merging with Bangladesh to form a combined Pakistani team. For old times sake.

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Galle'ing cricket

Meanwhile, far, far away in the fair isle of Serendip, the number-one-ranked, yet strangely (for some fans) inconsistent test cricket team i.e., India, is up to its sternum in the smelly stuff. The wash-out of the second day is the only reason I say "sternum" as opposed to a more northward-located part of the anatomy. India are still 63 runs behind, with only VVS, Dhoni and the limpest tail of all time to come. When Sri Lanka were 344-6 in the first innings (or when Sehwag was batting), I would have considered putting a fiver on the chances of this test being a tad more competitive. But that was a long time and a 115-run partnership for the ninth wicket ago.

All the usual signs of an Indian return to cricket are visible: the injuries to bowlers, the shakiness in the batting line-up, the inability to close out an innings which looks like it's on its last legs (and oh, lets not forget, the usual blazing ton from Sehwag, possibly again in a losing cause. Sigh). And since they are "usual" I am able to retain a certain sangfroid, and start looking forward to the second test. Score settling in Sri Lanka will have to wait for a bit.

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One more than 87; still an unlucky number

A sub-100 score in test cricket is always exciting. Especially on the first day of a test match. The first time I saw (actually heard) it happen was when England bowled out India for 96 at Lords in 1979. On this latest occasion, England is again the venue, but the countries involved aren't. It's Australia and Pakistan. I've missed all the wickets to fall so the highlights package promises to be a thriller, especially as it means seeing a lot of Mohammed Aamer.

Addendum: Oh, and presumably, a wicket on which a test side can be bowled out for 88 on the first day of a test match is a "good test wicket cricket"? As opposed to one in which a side is bowled out for 88 on the fifth day of a test match? Just making sure, you know, that I'm still a good user of English-as-she-is-sprechen-in-journalism?

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Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Shooting Ramiz in a barrel

Picking holes in the Raja's commentary is easy. Too easy. Used to be fun and sometimes can still provide entertainment. As in "that was a good, decent, simple catch". Makes you wonder, when did the attributes of catches become those of family figures?

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The Sri Lankan BP XI likes our new bowling attack

Phew. That scoreboard from India's tour match against the Sri Lankan Board President's XI does not make for pretty reading. When all the caveat-raising has been done and dispensed with, there are the numbers: 432/4 off 88.5 overs. With Zaheer and Sreesanth injured the shape of India's pace bowling attack for the tests isn't too clear, but even the spinners have combined to further obscure the picture, for Mishra and Ojha have spent down 50 overs for 253 runs and five wickets.

As far as slow starts go, this is a classic. For the Indians, that is.

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The missing short-leg missing no more

Mohammed Aamer's dismissal of Ricky Ponting belongs to a vanishing breed: the quick, sharp catch taken at forward short-leg off a fast bowler. For one thing, captains don't use that placement too often. Thus, fielders lack vital practice in that position, and more often than not, spill the sharp bat-pad, or fend-off, or flick that does come their way.

But on this occasion, everything went to plan (how gratifying for the television commentators too, who had been calling for a fielder to be put in there). The debutant was duly moved into the firing line, Aamer continued with his excellent line, jagging the ball in, and Ponting obliged with the flick off the pads. And then, the sharp, reflex catch by Amin.

(As I write this, Clarke has sent another one Amin's way and its only just avoided his despairing fingers).

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The spirit of cricket test

The spirit of cricket tests are upon us, and I'm happy to see them. Seeing Pakistan and Australia play test cricket in England is an oddity, of course, but it isn't too hard for me to forget about the location of the game and just focus on the action. (Live cricket from England bears a particular and peculiar relationship to me in my current spatio-temporal location: the hours work for me as I'm on my summer break!)

And if that over by Mohammed Aamer to Ricky Ponting (the fifteenth of the innings) is any indicator, the test cricket action could be of very high quality. Except of course, that everyone has trooped off the field thanks to the light not co-operating.

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