Warne to Retire

20 December, 2006

Sad news today that Warnie is to retire after the Sydney test. Only twice more will we watch those long overs of him ripping the ball across hapless English batsmen and tail enders, running his fingers through the bleach blonde advanced hair and appealing on almost every ball.

I loved Warne in those early years, a leg spinner a novelty in my life of watching cricket and a damn good one at that. So many memorable events, the seven wickets he took against the Windies in 92/93 at the MCG, his first tour of England 29 wickets and they knew little of what to do about him. The seven wickets he took on the first day at the SCG against South Africa in 93/94. From memory for 5 consecutive overs he came on and took a wicket, including bowling Cullinan for the first time. The best spell of bowling I’ve watched at the ground.

Then there was his off field behaviour culminating in the drugs charge and slowly but surely I came to loathe the man while still admiring his cricket. It was perhaps harsh to place such judgement on him I think back now. The media pack was baying for his blood and it can’t have been easy on him but still Warnie made himself most problems you can’t deny.

I think little of the idea of sports people as role models. We expect them to play hard and fair but must realise that does not make them any more likely to be decent people off the field. He was a cricketer one of the best, and we should admire him for that and expect no more. I can’t condone his behaviour but what he does off the field is his own business.

He turned this all around for me in 2005 and once more I came to love Warnie. As the Ashes was about to begin his private life imploded around him. It was his own doing but Fleet street were also determined to trap him with whatever dirt they could dig up.

In the midst of this with McGrath out suddenly with an injury, Gillespie badly out of form and Lee only good in spells Warne stepped up and shouldered the burden. He took wickets in the first session of the tests and he knocked over openers. When Ponting looked bereft of ideas it was Warne there discussing tactics, and motivating the team, in the end they lost two close matches and the series. Warne with 40 wickets in 5 tests bowled out of his skin in my mind the best series he ever played.

Sure his tally was helped by the inability of the other bowlers to contribute, but his bowling was superb regardless. Twelve years after his first appearance in England, with his bowling scrutinized and his variations well studied he was still there making breakthroughs that others couldn’t.

Since watching that series I’ve thought it was a shame he was never made Captain, due of course to his off field behaviour. When Australia were in trouble in 2005 it was Warne who looked to be keeping them in the game. He had a fine brain for cricket, even if his batting was disappointingly impulsive at times.

There is no question that Warne has bowled well this series, but no where near his best. I had hoped to see him continue on. I’m sure if he was willing to stay fit he could have played till he was 40.

I will miss Warne and those hours of watching him work away, chip away, fizzing balls past stumps and bats, strangled cries of catch and his tentative and regular “how was that one”.

Advertisements

Did Duncan Fletcher cost England the Ashes?

14 December, 2006

Any English cricket fan must be wondering right now how different the series might have been if Duncan Fletcher had shown a bit of aggression and picked Monty Panesar over Giles from the first test. It seems obvious to win a cricket match you pick bowlers to take wickets. Bowlers save more runs by taking a couple of wickets than they gain by sticking around to make a hard fought 20 runs.

Giles was a defensive move, and never looked dangerous in two tests. The Australians already had good measure of his limited capabilities. Panesar had the advantage of being good, unknown and attacking. It was a mistake to pick Giles in Brisbane, and a disaster to pick him in Adelaide.

After Panesar’s performance in the first innings in Perth it seems likely that he could have delivered England a large first innings lead in the second test and set them up for a potential victory. We’ll never know of course and judging by the short last session by Australia his contribution might not be enough to turn the Perth test either. However it requires a particularly fertile imagination to think of Giles taking 5 wickets on day one of a test match.


Test Cricket never boring.

5 December, 2006

It’s not the ankle that’s hurting at the moment.

says Flintoff and I’m sure he’s right.

Well what can I say Australia crushed England today in the cricket. Crushed their batsmen and then cruised to victory on a flat deck.

To go 2-0 down after two tests, and particularly one where England must have thought that after two and a bit days they had set up for a potential victory or at worst a draw, is totally crushing. I remember how Australia reacted when India levelled the series after following on, and I suggest that England will be feeling the same way and do something similar.

I will be very surprised if they can bounce back knowing they have to win at least 2 of three games when they haven’t been able to bowl Australia out for less than 500. Hoggard has been bowling great but Anderson was lucky to get McGrath and Harmison just isn’t dangerous. Giles is a joke, never looks like getting a wicket unless someone gifts him one when they don’t quite slog him over the boundary well, except for the wicket he took off Martyn, which brings me to another topic.

What the hell was Damien Martyn doing? Needing less than 4 runs an over, and he’s already slogged Flintoff first ball so he tries to back away and hits it of course straight to slip in a manner reminiscent of catching practice. If Watson is fit and they want him in the side its Martyn that has to go, he’s old, out of form and cracks under pressure.

If you look at the Average in Games Won/ Average in Games Drawn or Lost, as some measure of how someone performs under difficult circumstances, Gilchrist is the only one of the long term batsmen who has a comparably bad ratio but at least he’s doing the keeper’s job as well.

cricketstats.jpg

This doesn’t of course measure the one day games where he comes in takes 5 overs to score 2 runs, runs out an set player down the other end and then gets out in single digits.

Martyn must be dumped. We’ve known he was a choker since this game in 1994. Six runs from 59 balls with McDermott cracking fours down the other end and victory 6 runs away and what does he do? Holes out to cover. Twelve years later little has changed. Fortunately Hussey and Clarke have steadier heads.

Update: Perhaps my blog post, convinced him but anyway I should note that Damien Martyn has retired from cricket.


Hair affair

23 August, 2006

Was Darrell Hair’s first decision to penalise Pakistan for ball tampering right? I don’t know. Was he and his co-umpire right to call the game off when Pakistan refused to come out and play? Yes, they were absolutely correct.

Anyone who has played any sport knows that the umpire’s decision is final. You can appeal the decision later through appropriate channels if its so grossly unreasonable but if, even once, umpires start letting themselves be pushed around during the game by player protests then players will always protest. If this had been allowed to occur Pakistan would potentially be able to refuse to play every time a dodgy LBW decision is given. A bad LBW decision being a worse penalty than 5 runs in terms of the game outcome.

Cricinfo described it like this

After waiting in the middle of the pitch for twenty minutes, the umpires went to the Pakistan dressing-room to ask whether or not Inzamam-ul-Haq would lead out his team or not before they went out, took the bails off and left, thus awarding the Test to England.

Bob Woolmer told Cricinfo that after Pakistan refused to come out after the tea break, both umpires, after waiting on the field, went to the Pakistan dressing room to ask whether or not they would continue to play. Inzamam countered by asking the umpires why they had changed the ball, which led to the Pakistan team protesting.

“We are not here to answer that question,” Hair was reported to have said, and when Inzamam didn’t provide any reply to their initial query, they walked back out again. By the time Pakistan were eventually led out onto the field by Inzamam, the umpires had already walked on, knocked the bails off and gone back inside, refusing to come out again.

The umpires came onto the field and waited for twenty minutes then came back in and asked them to come out. To give any more chances would be to cave into the Pakistan’s petulance, and at that point would have brought the whole authority of the umpires into question. You can blame Hair perhaps for a bad ball tampering decision, but the forfeiture of the game was wholly Pakistan’s fault.