Thursday, 30 August 2012

Thanks Skip...

100 test matches, 7037 test runs, 21 centuries.  Captain of the most successful England cricket team in over forty years and a gentleman on and off the field.  Andrew Strauss retired yesterday and should walk away from cricket with his head held high.

I can remember him beaming with delight whilst celebrating his debut century at Lords in 2004.  That smile was on his face a lot throughout his career which has coincided with the most successful period of English cricket of my lifetime.  He was a major part of the all conquering side led by Michael Vaughan through 2004/05.  We all remember the fabulous Ashes victory, when Strauss scored two centuries but he also scored three tons in a series win in South Africa.  It was this that instilled the belief in all of us that the Ashes win was possible.

He was captain of the next great England team which made it to No. 1 in the rankings and was widely respected, a gentleman both on and off the field (with one notable exception).  I suppose personal highlights would have been fewer in this period but the 161 in an Ashes victory at Lords stands out amongst three years of team successes.  Whenever I watched him live I seemed to bring bad luck but I did see him score 55 against India in 2007 and saw part of his recent 141 against the West Indies.

He took over the team in the aftermath of a KP induced meltdown and his retirement followed another attack of the uncontrollable ego.

Enjoy your retirement Straussy and thanks!

Tuesday, 21 August 2012

End of summer


So England’s reign as world number one has come to an end. Over this series we have been thoroughly beaten by a better team. South Africa have batted, bowled and fielded better and deserve to go to number one in the world. However I still believe that had this series been played a year ago, England would have won.

This year we have been guilty of the kind of errors our opponents had been making previously, dropped catches and run outs went a long way to costing England the third test for example. It’s difficult not to wonder what the team spirit has been like with all the bollocks surrounding KP going on. I still feel shocked and disappointed by his disgusting behaviour.

What of the future? I still believe Andrew Strauss is the right man to lead the team. There is talk about his form but it seems to have been forgotten that he scored two centuries against West Indies a couple of months back. He has always handled himself with dignity and genuinely seems to be a good bloke. Overall his record stands up there with the very best, over 7000 test runs with 21 hundreds.

James Taylor came into the side at Headingly where he scored a battling 34 but in this last match he didn’t contribute. Johnny Bairstow looked out of his depth against WI, in fact at the time I wrote “Roach takes the new ball it’s a different matter.  Bell is out quickly and Bairstow comes to the wicket.  To be frank the youngster is out of his depth and Roach makes mincemeat out of him.  If he’s to have a test career he needs to learn to play the short ball”. Well Bairstow has gone away and improved scoring 95 and 51 against the best attack in the world!  I expect he’ll be a fixture in the side for many years to come.

The test summer has come to an end, next up is a tour of India but before that the ODIs.

Tuesday, 14 August 2012

Pride & Prejudice

The London 2012 Olympics has just finished and what a fantastic show it was!  I must confess I was completely uninterested in the whole thing until the games got under way.  Actually to be precise it was at the opening ceremony when the sound of “Going underground” by the Jam came booming out.  The opening ceremony had me feeling confused up until that point by from then on I enjoyed it.

The games themselves were great too.  I celebrated every medal won by TeamGB, no matter what the sport, even the Dressage.  What a performance from Bradley Wiggins added a gold to the Tour de France he’d won only a couple of weeks earlier!!  The middle Saturday was fantastic with the under pressure Jess Ennis winning the Gold the country demanded and winning it in style.  Then Greg Rutherford won a surprise gold in the long jump and looked like he couldn’t believe it either.  The evening was completed when Mo Farah won the 10000 metres and the sight of his wife & daughter running to greet him brought a lump to my throat.  One of my friends missed all this because he was watching second rate football on the other channel.

The undisputed king of the athletics stadium was Jamaican Usain Bolt, whenever he ran the world stopped and for the second games in a row he was unbeatable.  GB dominated the cycling, done bloody well in the rowing and equestrian events too.  Lots of medals in boxing and a few more to our sailors.  On the last Saturday Mo Farrah picked up a second gold for 5000 metres, what a star!

There was lots of talk about being “proud to be British” after all of this.  I can understand this but I don’t feel any more or less proud to be British because our TeamGB done so well.  I gained enjoyment from watching people who had worked hard and trained for the last four years, reach the pinnacle of their career in their own home Olympic games and share the experience with all of us.  I enjoyed it on a more personal level rather than the extension of “TeamGB have done well therefore I must be great too because I’m British”.  However one enjoyed it doesn’t matter though.  Our games were a success on every level, who could have predicted TeamGB finishing third on the medal table?

It is much easier to feel proud of people like Jess Ennis, Mo Farrah, Bradley Wiggins, Chris Hoy, Victoria Pendleton and so on than it is the overpaid footballing thugs who will be all over our TV screens again very soon.  It’s also easier to feel affection for all of our Olympic athletes than a certain mercenary cricketer who has been in the headlines lately.  The third and final test begins at Lords tomorrow and I was glad to see KP has been left out of the squad, I don’t think England had any choice even if it makes winning the test to level the series that bit harder.  Maybe the improvement in morale will give England a boost but it’s hard to see England defeating a very good South African team.  We live in hope!!

Wednesday, 8 August 2012

The best and worst of Kevin Pietersen

2nd Test Headingly

Thursday morning and are we England fans looking forward to the start of play?  I was thinking …”it can’t get much worse but how much better can we play?”  First surprise of the day is the omission of Swanny even though I’m pleased to see Finn in the team.  As expected Taylor is in at no. 6 for a test debut.  Next up Strass inserted the Saffers after winning the toss…another surprise, would England make it count?  I’ve managed to find a spot for the radio at work so its TMS all the way now
In short, no.  SA were 84-1 at lunch with missed chances costing England dearly.  However the bowlers kept on plugging away and eventually got rewards, with the odd wicket falling here and there.  Amla managed to run himself out for 9 which was a great bonus but no England bowler has dismissed him yet and his series average is 320.  The second new ball sees the end of de Villiers and night-watchman Steyn just before the close but Alviro Petersen hit a ton and was unbeaten at the close.

Day two started with England bowling brilliantly but Saffer batsmen surviving.  Things were looking ominous for England now with Petersen passed 150 but just before lunch the wicket of Rudolph falls, the unlikely bowler is KP!!!  But it makes you wonder why no Swann?  The tide turns in the afternoon session, Petersen is finally out for 182, Duminy bats well with the tail but England’s bowlers keep chipping away, sharing the wickets and bowling SA out for 419.  Then it’s our turn to bat and the openers make it to the close scoring 48 runs along the way.

The third day begins with England in high hopes of batting all day but SA have other ideas.  Every time a partnership begins to form a wicket falls.  When Bell falls for 11 after playing a crap shot Taylor joins KP at the wicket with England at the precarious position of 173-4 and a new ball not far away.  Pietersen then plays an amazing innings. Of all the batsmen in world cricket only he is capable of this kind of thing.  Taylor plays well and scores 34 in support but KP dominates smashing the ball to all parts.  The shot of the day was a disdainful straight six, back over the head of bowler Steyn.  Taylor was out in the last session but KP continues and finishes the day on 149*.

Day four and England have a chance of setting up a win with KP and Prior at the crease there’s the chance of quick runs.  Second ball of the day and KP departs…oh well!  Prior bats well with the tail scoring 68, but no-one else really contributes and England finish up all out for 425.  If we can get a couple of early wickets we can put SA under pressure, we don’t and rain washes away most of the day and probably any chance of a result in this match.

Or so we thought…..  The final day began as expected, Smith and stand in opener Rudolph batted comfortably putting on a partnership of 120 before that man Kevin Pietersen took the wicket of Rudolph for the second time in the match.  A short while later KP removed Smith and a little later Amla making him the leading English wicket taker at that point in the series.  This makes the dropping of Swann seem even more ridiculous!  In the afternoon a burst of wickets from Broad saw SA fall from 182-3 to 258-9 and then Smith cheekily declared leaving England an unlikely target of 253 to win the match.  In truth this was never a realistic proposition but England maintained the pretence of going for the win by re-jigging the batting line up and opening with KP.  England appeared to be going for it for a while but after the departure of Prior, Trott and Bell dropped anchor and the match meandered to a draw.  Then the fireworks really started!!

Kevin Pietersen rightly won the man of the match award for his all-round performance but instead of concentrating on the match, the press conference was all about KP’s grievances and his threat to retire from international cricket. Having watched the video all I see is a man putting himself and his own petty problems before the good of the team.  Apparently KP is upset by a spoof twitter account mocking him and blames unknown team mates, this has been denied.  I find his behaviour in this instance a disgrace.  The dressing room must be an uncomfortable place, the team spirit must be shattered and it is hard to see how this England team can conjure up the win they need to square the series from here.  However, if indeed there is someone within the ECB leaking things to the media then they need to be named and shamed.

Since KP became a fixture of England teams in 2005 I have loved watching him bat but given his background and his history of selfish outbursts it’s hard to think of him as anything other than a mercenary.  I sincerely hope I’m proven wrong.