Friday, 30 April 2010

So, where from here?

Ummm, ahem, (insert expletive). 3 out of 3. Top drawer, Hampshire, top drawer. Relying on rain for two days was perhaps unfeasible, but hey, at least we aren't as bad as Middlesex!

I don't know what the next game is and to be frank I don't really care at the moment. I do know we have Notts in a 40 over game this Sunday so I'll focus on that. Cork has to play, as does Herath and possibly Riazzudin. Dawson definitely into the side, with either McKenzie or Benham sitting out the game. I'd go with this team for Sunday:

Pothas (though I'd give Bates a go and give the captaincy to Adams)

Adams had a poor match against W...W...W oh never mind that Brum team, but he is vital to the side. Who we really need back are Dimi and Lumb, though neither will be back for a while.

Thursday, 29 April 2010

A quick cry

So after an alright recovery on the first day, Hampshire then had Warwickshire on their knees before a ridiculous pair of partnerships turned the game around and now Hampshire face defeat (AGAIN) unless the rain gods intervene tomorrow (like, all day please?).

It isn't even annoying me anymore, this run of *cough* form, I may as well make it feel like the norm, so that elusive victory will feel like I've just won the lottery and euromillions at the same time.

Sunday, 25 April 2010

Luck for the Irish?

After a mildly disappointing campaign in England last summer (read as: no giant killing except Bangladesh), the coming World 20/20 in the Caribbean presents more of an opportunity for Ireland than, in my opinion, the World Cup in 2007. The focus in terms of team selection has drifted away from 'imports' (remember Dave Langford-Smith and his funny jigs?) and onto creating a very solid base of young, homegrown players. Ireland have quickly progressed from a happy go-lucky mish mash, to a team that expects to be knocking on the big 8's door at every opportunity:


Leading from the front will be captain and opener William Porterfield. A young man with a very talented game, Porterfield has benefitted from becoming an integral part of Gloucestershire's team. Indeed he is one of the more dangerous openers operating on the domestic one day circuit. Porterfield possesses the ability to crunch even the best players through the on-side in the opening overs, and isn't afraid to go over the top either. Niall O'Brien is likely to be Porterfield's opening partner, and probably Ireland's most dangerous weapon. Another player who has developed very quickly thanks to a county contract, O'Brien, like Porterfield, can take opening bowlers apart and is agressive against the spinners too. Expect him to play as a specialist batsman despite his skills behind the stumps. Brian Sterling is possibly Ireland's most promising talents, and again has the ability to score quickly but also in an orthodox manner. He will be key to Ireland's batting, probably coming in at either 3 or 4.

Wicketkeeper: Despite O'Brien's skill as a wicketkeeper, I expect the gloves and probably the number 4 spot to go to Surrey's reserve wicketkeeper Gary Wilson. The 24 year old has become very talented with the bat and is capable of big scores. He will provide good solidity to the middle order.


The vocation of choice it seems, Ireland's allrounders come in all shapes, sizes, styles and age. Much will depend upon ex-captain and possibly one of the best associate players going, Trent Johnston. Johnston is has unbelievable accuacy with his medium pacers, and can strangle the life out of any batting line-up. His own skills with the bat are more than useful. Johnston has learnt to become the crisis man it seems for Ireland, often bailing the side out after a collapse. His six hitting capability makes him extremely dangerous in the final overs of a match. The other half of the O'Brien brothers, Kevin will also have an important role to play. Though he has struggled for form over the past 9 months, 'KOB' (I won't abbreviate Niall's name) is still renowned for his game changing skill, whilst he is able to give the impression he's batting on a pitch the size of a piece of paper. His bowling will be key in the middle overs, and if Porterfield so wishes, at the start of an innings too.
Another grizzled veteran in the Johnston style is Andre Botha. Botha has suffered horribly from injuries, but like Johnston he has nagging length dobblers to send down, and is no fool with the bat. A further allrounder in the team is Alex Cusack, who can bowl at a brisk pace and can clobber a few too.


Ireland possess one of the tallest fast bowlers in world cricket, Boyd Rankin, and if his back allows him, Rankin may well be amongst the wickets in the Caribbean. Though his performances have been limited, Rankin has impressed at Warwickshire, and did well in the 2007 World Cup. Capable of pace and bounce, Rankin will spearhead the attack. Peter Connell is likely to be Rankin's opening partner, and has excellent average (15.6) and economy (6.11) at international 20/20 level. Andrew White will provide the main spin option for Ireland, and will be hoping to score a few runs too. Also included in the squad is the 17 year old George Dockrell, who could well be a spin partner with White. Dockrell has impressed so far in 20/20 internationals, picking up 9 wickets at just over 10 with his slow left arm. The ever present John Mooney is also in the squad.

Further squad members: Nigel Jones, Gary Kidd (never heard of them)

Likely team:

Porterfield (C)
N O'Brien
Wilson (wk)
K O'Brien

The Afghan chances

Well, the fairytale team are in the World 20/20, and boy will they enjoy themselves. Their rise over the last few years has been nothing short of monumental, and finally they are given their opportunity on the International stage. So how will they fare in a group alongside the powerhouses South Africa and India? Erm, probably not very well. But the experience they'll gain will be out of this world.

Afghanistan possess two of the most talented associate players in batsman Mohammad Shahzad and quick Hamid Hassan. Both will be key to Afghanistan's performances, as will the talented allrounder Nabi. Nabi constantly picks up wickets with his offspin, and is more than capable of putting bat to ball. Of course, alot of the focus will be on Hamid, who in a way represents the entire team. A tearaway who goes wild at the first sign of success, this guy puts everything into every ball he bowls, and could unsettle a few of the Saffers and Indians. It will be an amazing experience for young captain Nowroz Mangal, who will also be required to weigh in with runs in the middle order.

For me though, the key man will be Shahzad. Yes it will be a huge responsibility for such a young man (he is only 18), but he has displayed class in all forms of the game, most notably an amazing 214* to lead Afghanistan in a successful chase of 494 against Canada in the Intercontinental Cup. One thing you can expect from Afghanistan will be a no fear approach, and if Karim Sadiq's comment on Dale Steyn (when asked about facing South Africa, Sadiq replied " Dale Steyn will be no problem") are to be taken as a measure of confidence, then the Afghans will not roll over wondering.

Saturday, 24 April 2010

Hants? Pants more like

Welly welly well. Awesome bowling conspired to mean that Durham lost just 5 wickets chasing I forget but it was around the 260 mark. On the 4th day. Lacklustre Hampshire batted pretty poorly, surviving till just pass lunch, when an extra hour would have put the result beyond doubt. Sir Nic got a decent score and Ervine hit a few this time but it was never going to be enough, not when the fat guy Blackwell started warming up for the 40 over match tomorrow. Fair play to them for reaching the target but we were woeful. Think Middlesex. Ok, maybe not quite that bad.

Friday, 23 April 2010

Vettori to use 'Mongoose' bat at World 20/20

As if being best batsman, bowler, captain, selector, coach and team bus driver wasn't enough, Black Cap captain Dan Vettori will be revealing his new 'Mongoose' bat at next month's World 20/20 in the Caribbean.

Unlike the bat used by Stuart Law in last year's English domestic 20/20 and by Matthew Hayden in this year's IPL, Vettori revealed in an exclusive to some New Zealander who was actually interested in cricket that the bat was infact 100% Mongoose. Vettori was quick to allay any worries of animal welfare people. "The animals were caught humanely" Vettori quickly pointed out. "It has come about during the past few years of touring to other countries. We had so much free time, what with the constant test match beatings in 3 days at best, that I would spend it stalking and hunting the critters in the wild by myself with my bare hands and maybe an armguard. Mongooses are renouned for their ability to defeat snakes, but they were no match for my guile and ingenuity."

Vettori also revealed the technique of crafting a bat out of the animals. "I would do it during any match we were playing - our batsmen were always in a procession to and from the middle, so I'd simply place my catches in the doorway to the changing room, and they'd compact nicely." Team mate Kyle Mills had reservations about his captain's technique "Yeah the changing rooms smell kind of funky alot of the time, especially if he's been hunting and then we don't have a match for a week or two. It's Baz (Brendon McCullum) I feel sorry for, 'cos he has to room with him on tour, and Dan's pretty fond of his collecting bag".

Again a let down

Hampshire needed to go into today and wrap up the Durham tail, then set about building a decent second innings. To be honest they let themselves down on both fronts. Plunkett jettisoned Durham ahead of Hampshire's first innings after a fine opening spell which removed Stokes and the dangerous Mustard. Carberry and Adams then were unable to replicate their first innings efforts, before McKenzie then sent a return catch to Thorp. Benham played well and showed a glimmer of what he's capable of before falling as well for 43. What followed was a crucial partnership between the young Vince and captain Pothas, but a few overs before close Vince let down his guard and was bowled by Stokes.

With Tommo in as nightwatchman with Pothas, I fear we won't be able to bat enough of tomorrow to secure a draw. Ervine is in woeful form and to be honest Pothas has been poor too. Ali, Briggs and Griffiths will of course give their all with the bat, but I fear a couple of quick wickets in the morning could spell another defeat for Hampshire.

Thursday, 22 April 2010

Good, not great

So at the end of the second day Hampshire still lead by 61 runs, though Durham have 5 wickets in hand. After Briggs' fine efforts this morning, the bowling was rather benign on an equally placid wicket. di Venuto and Coetzer knocked up a hundred opening partnership similar to Carbs and Adams yesterday. However that man Briggs broke the partnership and continued to chip away (Griff flattened Benkenstein's stumps) until predictably Blackwell went on the counter attack. Thankfully he was removed for a vicious 80 odd, to give Hampshire yet another chance of keeping the game alive. The fast bowling was disappointing, as both Ali and Griffiths were expensive whilst Tommo went wicketless. Shock of the day goes to Sean Ervine who picked up a wicket! At least he made some contribution.

As for tomorrow I can't foresee Durham falling short of Hampshire's score. It will certainly be tough for Hampshire's batsmen as they will have to knock off any defecit before they can start setting Durham a challanging total. The key question is, how much will the defecit be?

A brief note on Danny Briggs

The man from the Isle of Wight has given Hampshire a glimmer of hope in this game against Durham with a morale boosting 28 at the end. Along with Kabir Ali and Griffiths, Briggs helped Hampshire add 61 for the last two wickets after the dreadful collapse yesterday afternoon. Starting the day on 298-8, Kabir secured the vital third batting point by the fourth ball of the day, though fell not all that long after. Griffiths joined Briggs at the crease and thrashed his second ball for four, but from then on the early morning belonged to the 18 year old spinner, who carted Plunkett for 16 in one over, including consecutive fours and a 6. To fall agonisingly short of a fourth batting point is frustrating but I would have taken 345 with both hands if offered it at 10:50 this morning.

Wednesday, 21 April 2010

Jayawardene - a dying breed

Perhaps the most pleasing on the eye for long time MCC members out of the recent crop of Sri Lankan players, Mahela Jayawardene represents a fast dying, much loved period in cricketing history. Amongst Jayasuriya’s onslaughts, Dilshan’s outrageous scoops, Mathews’ physics defying fielding and Mendis’ mystery balls (lets not even touch upon Murali and Malinga), we find a man for whom the cover drive and clean slip catches are king and queen. Bringing up the name Denagamage Proboth Mahela de Silva Jayawardene raises sceptical looks in some circles (and worried glances towards alcoholic drinks stocks in others). Debate will continue about the integrity of Jayawardene’s stats. Some claim he is a flat track bully, who feeds off of bowlers on the dead or dying wickets of the sub-continent, whilst others will suggest that he will be looked upon as a cricketing great after he retires.

Whatever the point of view, one undisputable fact is that the man from Colombo possesses one of the most thoughtful, precise and increasingly endangered techniques in the game. Inch perfect footwork, a solid forward defensive, patience, timing and above all elegance oozing from every stroke of the blade are what Jayawardene should hopefully be remembered for when he eventually calls time on his career. Jayawardene is perhaps one of the few remaining old guard, whose technique could adorn the pages of any coaching manual. Sadly in a world where powerplays and advertising deals are fast overtaking the straight drive in importance, Jayawardene’s kind will find it increasingly difficult to find a home. In this day and age, 8000 people will not turn up to watch a batting line up full of players such as Jayawardene, Misbah, Nash and Katich. Cricket has been introduced to the fast food generation, and it must learn to adapt or wallow in mediocrity.

The consequences of this? More emphasis on being able to score runs in unusual places, and to hit it out of the park at least once an over. A bigger demand for players with the power of Pollard or Yuvraj, with the daring-do of Dilshan, or with the all-round capabilities of Afridi. The marginalisation of technically correct accumulators such as Jayawardene and Kallis will soon follow. What use is it having a batsman who times the ball through the covers for 4 every other over if you can have two guys who can mow it over cow corner twice an over?

Jayawardene is not exactly a stranger to big hitting, though. In my opinion he played the perfect one day innings against New Zealand in the World Cup semi-final in 2007. Coming in at 67-2 in the 14th over, Jayawardene took ten balls to get off the mark with a single. What followed was a steady accumulation of singles and well judged twos. His first boundary came up in the 31st over, with his second following in the 38th. A third boundary and some more excellent running brought Jayawardene 50 in the 41st over off of 76 balls. What followed was a masterclass in innings acceleration, as first Patel, then Oram and Franklin were dispatched to all parts of the ground in a near faultless display of counter-attacking. His next 50 came off just 28 balls, including six fours and two sixes. The finale came with Jayawardene taking 11 runs from the four balls he faced of Bond’s 50th over to finish on 115 not out from 109 balls and ultimately carry Sri Lanka into the final.

Add to this he is a very fine, safe slip catcher, and his partnerships with Vaas and Muralitharan have played a huge part in Sri Lanka’s rise over the last 6 years. He also captained the side admirably to a 1-1 draw in England in 2006 (his first series as captain), follwed by a 5-0 whitewash of the same opponents in the One Day series. Traditional, almost ‘cliched’ batting has taken some major blows in recent times with the retirements of Fleming, Vaughan, Lara and Inzamam. Let’s hope that when Jayawardene bows out of test cricket, we are saying goodbye only to an excellent technician, and not to the last of his kind.

Not the best first post!

Another day another collapse! Hampshire managed to throw away an extremely good position to look like 300 will be the first innings total. Michael Carberry struck a good century, and he was ably supported by Jimmy Adams but from there it went down the plug 'ole. The number three spot seems problematic whilst Lumb is out of the country, with Benham this time getting a go and not taking his chance fully. The middle order looks worryingly brittle, considering it was a relative strength last season and a fair few previously. Both Pothas and Ervine are struggling, whilst Dawson and Vince need time to bed down into regular spots rather than wafting about the top 6.

The first objective tomorrow will be to get the two runs to pass 300 and get a third batting point. From then on it'll just be seeing how many Kabir, Briggs and Griffiths can muster for the last two wickets.