Monday, December 18, 2006

So What Went Wrong?

The silver lining for Chris Read, Monty Panesar and Andrew Strauss's captaincy ambitions is that when the history of how England surrendered the Ashes in 2006 is written, it will conclude that they were "not guilty".

The same cannot be said of Flintoff and Fletcher. Selectors are usually very reluctant to change a winning side. Panesar, Read and Strauss were the men in possession and to replace them was what Sir Humphrey Appleby would have described as "a courageous decision".

Strauss had just led England to a revenge victory against a dangerous Pakistan. He inherited a side that had failed to beat a vulnerable Sri Lankan team and was bereft of its talismatic all-rounder. Read has scored runs at crucial times since his recall, while Panesar is England's most dangerous spinner since Phil Tufnell and at 24 can only get better. What did these players do wrong?

Thursday, December 14, 2006

The Monty Show

My fears that England's tour would turn into a one-sided humiliation were dissipated by the seventh ashes delivery from the Sikh of tweak. Monty went on to take 5 wickets on the first day of this match, unheard of for an England spinner. Monty's enthusiasm as much as his wickets makes the man a joy to watch. Take note Mr Fletcher, drop this man again at your peril.

That Harmison deserved his four wickets is as important as the wickets themselves. England's bowling attack suddenly looks more balanced, although the question mark over the fourth seamer remains as inevitable as Australia's fightback. England were reduced to a fortuatous 51-2. Game-on.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

So When Is The Ball Dead?

A few years ago a team mate was run out whilst he did a bit of gardening outside off-stump. We were disgusted, both by the behaviour of the wicket-keeper and the failure of their captain to withdraw the appeal. Our captain got hold of the rules, only to find it particularly ambiguous. Law 23 (Dead ball) states at paragraph 1(a)i that the ball is dead when "it is finally settled in the hands of the wicket-keeper or the bowler." Paragraph 2 adds that "whether the ball is finally settled or not is a matter for the umpire alone to decide." Not good news for our player umpiring at square leg.

In a superfluous attempt at clarification the laws conclude "the ball shall be considered to be dead when it is clear to the umpire at the bowler's end that the fielding side and both batsmen at the wicket have ceased to regard it as in play." There will never be a problem if both teams consider the ball to be dead.

Today at the first test between New Zealand and Sri Lanka, Muralitharan was run out as he went down the pitch to congratulate Sangakkara on his gritty century. This event has polarised opinion; as the Sri Lankan team were visibly outraged on the team balcony, Kiwi commentator Martin Crowe stated that Muralitharan had "suffered a brain explosion."

Certainly to walk out of your ground as the ball comes in from the outfield is not to be recommended and although Brendan McCullum was unsporting when he broke the stumps and appealed, Muralitharan should not have given him the opportunity.

New Zealand captain Stephen Fleming asserted: "You can't just wander off when the ball's in mid-air and if we'd had an overthrow I'm sure they would have taken that." I guess only the Sri Lankan batsmen can answer that.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Refections on the Adelaide Test

I have been an England fan for as long as I can remember. I have been hooked on watching my team play ever since I thought an over meant the number of times the ball went over the wicket. If GK Chesterton's "Great Scorer" exists then I will be an England fan for eternity. So it will take more than one humiliating defeat to make me indifferent.

I have supported this England team through the truly dark days; I was there at the Oval when defeat against New Zealand made us officially the worst team in the world. So why are the journalists describing this as one of the worst England defeats? It is because after two days it all looked so promising. As John Cleese's character said in the film Clockwise "I can handle the despair, it's the hope I can't stand."

The England Selectors should avoid scapegoats or otherwise the tour will turn into a rout. A full review can come later, in the meantime Panesar must be selected, probably in the place of Anderson, but the backbone of the team must remain the same.