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Archive for November, 2009

With the range of emotions shown by Jonathan Trott over the past 6 months, it is hard to keep up with how he is feeling at any one time.  For your convenience, here are some to look out for with a helpful description of what they mean.

“I’m working hard on my game”

“I’ve just got out”

“A smile to keep the suits happy.”

“I’ve won the Ashes for England”

“We’ve just whipped South Africa”

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This week, the MCC have unveiled plans to expand and modernise Lord’s, the latest in a line of stories of English county sides looking to redevelop their ground.  Click here to see The Times draft of the plans.

The MCC, however, have a far tougher job with Lord’s than any other ground.  It is a cliché, but there really is something undeniably special about walking into the ground and it cannot lose this.  One only has to look at the uproar over unfounded rumours that the ground would be selling its naming rights to see just how close to their hearts English cricket fans hold the traditions of the ground.  Any cosmetic changes are likely to be scrutinised in minute detail.

Yet the signs of the proposed new development are exceptionally encouraging.  For a start, the word “ground” is used instead of “stadium”.   This might seem like a very simple piece of terminology, but its purpose is extremely important.  Australia have stadiums, huge bowls designed to get as many people in as possible.  England have grounds, an eclectic mix of history blended next to modern architecture.  They are not the most efficient way of seating spectators, but every different stand is a nod to the period it was built in.  It is this that makes our venues, and in particular Lord’s, so special.

The plans of the new-look Lord’s reflect this.  The pavilion will thankfully remain, almost exactly as it was in the Victorian period and Old Father Time will continue to watch over the ground.  The new development looks as though it will complement these features, rather than overshadow them.  The new stands at each corner of the ground look typically English in design, and don’t look as though they will affect the open atmosphere that is such a feature of the “Home of cricket”.

There will undoubtably be people who automatically oppose any changes to Lord’s.  However, a ground cannot rely on history alone to sustain it.  Lord’s must be taken into the 21st century.  The Media Centre had its opposers at first, but is now as much a part of the ground as the pavilion that it sits opposite.  The improvements to the green areas outside the ground, including the Nursery Ground, are the cherry on the cake.  It is an ambitious, exciting plan which will ensure that this most famous of grounds remains the Mecca of the sport.

Interestingly, these plans come out a couple of weeks after the proposal that the Olympic Stadium could become a Twenty20 venue after 2012, an idea so ridiculously flawed it is hard to believe it has ever come to light.  These new plans should put an end to this speculation.

If the doubters need any more convincing, one only needs to look at Trent Bridge as a shining example of how to develop a cricket ground in this country.  It is not the huge bowl that the MCG is, nor the cauldron of Eden Gardens, but it does not try to be.  Despite the modernisation,  it retains a typically open feel and it is genuinely a pleasure to watch cricket there.  Ambitious development has invigorated the viewing experience.  This is what Lord’s must look to emulate, and the early signs are that the MCC intend to do exactly that.

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Realisation

It turns out watching batsmen hit endless sixes does get very boring, very quickly.

The New David Warner

Step forward Loots Bosman.  The proud possessor of two shots – the smear over cow and straight flat bat – he was able to clump any length bowling into the stands.  With England about, there was plenty of stuff in his slot. Add in a catchy nickname, “The Bossman”, and he is the man T20 was made for.

The Bowling Attack

Anderson, Bresnan, Mahmood, Wright, Rashid, Denly, Pietersen.  With all due respect to Anderson, it is hardly an attack that is going to give Graeme Smith sleepless nights.  Wright and Rashid have barely bowled in any form of cricket for England, and Pietersen and Denly struggle to get a bowl for their county sides.  Meanwhile, Bresnan has done more in his short England career with the bat than the ball, and Mahmood has apparently come back a different cricketer after his hiatus from international cricket.  Judging by his opening performances, this is at least true – he has got worse.

The Shot

Anything Eoin Morgan hit.  Whether a ridiculous reverse leg glance or a good old fashioned biff into the flats, Morgan seemed to have it all.  After years of the selectors finding the biggest bloke they can find in county cricket and making him their “power hitter”, it turns out that the answer might have been a midget from Ireland.

Captain

“If someone had said last year that Cook would be captaining in Twenty20’s, you’d have laughed at them”, proclaimed Nasser Hussain.  Last year?  I’m still laughing now.

Catching

Great catching from both sides, but they were outshone by the South African fans.  Admittedly they got more practice at it than the players, but very rarely was a chance missed.  By the second game, one guy was so casual he caught it in his sunhat.

Equation

South Africa + Rain + Duckworth Lewis = Hilarity

Cliché

Thank God that is out of the way.  Trott and Pietersen have now batted together, so the tiresome “no English players on the pitch” line has been used.  By Bumble, naturally.  Hopefully, that will be the end of that, but Hussain and Knight spending the last 5 overs discussing the amount of sixes hit by South African players suggests that might be wishful thinking.

Hated Man

Pietersen, who was batted at 9 in South Africa and moved to England to get a game, is roundly booed by the South African fans.  Trott, who actually PLAYED for South Africa in youth cricket, is barely noticed.  Work that one out.

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Sri Lanka v England

3rd December 2007

Asgiriya Stadium, Kandy

sri-lanka-bowler-murali

From 2004, Muralitharan and Warne had played pass the parcel with the highest wicket-taker in test cricket crown.  When Warne retired on 708, it seemed only a matter of time before Murali it reclaimed once again.  However, for a while the expectation hung like a millstone around his neck.  Stuck on 700, he managed just 4 wickets on the tour of Australia in 2007.  It needed the arrival of his favourite opposition, England, to finally seal the deal.  On his way to 9 wickets in the first test, he clean bowled Paul Collingwood to claim the record.  He currently has 783 wickets – the nearest current bowler is Makhaya Ntini with 388.  Murali might just have the record for good this time.

Australia v England

1st – 5th December 2006

Adelaide Oval, Adelaide

warne ade

As good as he has been, Shane Keith Warne is in danger of leaving the Australian side without the Ashes.  The 2006/07 series was supposed to be his swansong, but despite a crushing victory for Australia in Brisbane, Warne is anonymous.   On to Adelaide and for two days he is destroyed by Pietersen and Collingwood.  He finishes with figures of 53-9-167–1, and England are back in the series.  Surely it can’t end this way?

Of course it can’t.  Australia get close to first innings parity, and Warne has his opening.  In 32 overs of the highest quality, he tortures England.  It is mesmerizing to watch.  England are slowly, meticulously, painfully strangled to 129 all out on a good pitch.  Australia go 2-0 up, the Ashes are as good as back, and Warne has his glorious footnote.

India v Australia

Eden Gardens, Kolkata

11th-15th March 2001

laxman

1-0 up in a three match series, Australia look as though they are about to pass the ultimate test in cricket – beating India in India.  A masterful 110 from Steve Waugh leads them to 445 in the first innings of the second test, and Glenn McGrath skittles the Indians for 171.   Waugh enforces the follow on, and India seemingly have only pride to play for.  That is until Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman come together in the second innings.  A magnificent 180 from Dravid is eclipsed by Laxman’s 281, and India can dare to dream of the unthinkable – winning a test match after following on.  Harbhajan and Tendulkar tease the Australians out for 212, and India go on to win the series.  The most astounding turn-around of all time is complete, and Waugh never gets an opportunity to win in India again.

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Australia v. Pakistan

18th-22nd November 1999

Bellerive Oval, Hobart

langer-gilchrist

It is hard to believe that there was a time when Australia were merely thought of as “very good”.  It took a staggering run-chase as the 20th century drew to a close before they were compared to the West Indies side of the 70’s and 80’s.  Pakistan set Australia an enormous 369 to win.  By the time Adam Gilchrist comes to join Justin Langer, Australia are 126/5 and almost down and out.  Langer has scored 1 hundred in his last 12 tests, and Gilchrist is in his second test.  Spin has already accounted for 15 wickets in the match, and Saqlain is responsible 7 of them.

It is Saqlain who takes the next wicket, only it falls at 364.  Australia win the unwinnable and Gilchrist has arrived.  Australia go on to win 16 matches in a row at the start of the 00’s, and the aura of invincibility gets stronger and stronger.

Despite this being in 1999, it is the moment when the dominant side of the noughties was set in stone.

Australia v Sri Lanka

WC Final 2007 – 28th April 2007

Kensington Oval, Barbados

WC

Twenty20 cricket is taking the world by storm.  Administrators, players and journalists are worried for the future of ODI cricket, and the World Cup needs to deliver.  What it doesn’t need is over a month a half and 52 games of mostly meaningless cricket.  By the time Australia beat Sri Lanka in typically farcical circumstances in the final, the world has lost interest

 

 

 

 

West Indies v. England

10th-14th April 2004

Antigua Recreation Ground, Antigua400

In 1994, Brian Lara broke the world record for the first time against England in Antigua.  Since then, the West Indies have declined at such an alarming rate that they have already lost at home to England for the first time in a generation.  Hayden has  made 380 against Zimbabwe to take the record.  Lara himself looks finished – he struggles throughout the series against Steve Harmison and Andrew Flintoff, and with the burden of captaincy has the tired eyes of a man performing the last rites of his career.  On 0 in the final test of the series, in Antigua naturally, he is seemingly caught behind by Geraint Jones.  Darrell Hair gives him not out, and replays prove inconclusive.

From there, he is unstoppable.  In 582 balls of batting masterclass, he makes 400*.  The king retains his crown, and the West Indies finally have something to cheer about.  Lara makes 9 more centuries in two years before calling time on a career we will never see the likes of again.

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