Friday, 15 April 2011

Of Hair Pulling and Griff

Hampshire took 9 wickets today at a cost of less than 300 runs. Pleasing? Not one bloody bit. Truth is that by the close Notts should have been 15 down for about 160, but a taxi has to be called for a Mr N.D McKenzie and a Mr D.G Cork. It's great to have the worldly experience of these guys in the team but they are not infalliable. Dropping Patel first ball, then dropping him a further 3 times on his way to 116 is amateurish, as were the other 2 or maybe 3 dropped catches in the day.

The bloke I feel most sorry for is David Griffiths. Given his chance (finally!!) after 11 months out of action, Griff delivered more in his first 3 overs than Jones did in the match against Durham. First ball? Flatten Paul Franks' stumps. 8 balls later? Mark Wagh got the same treatment. After 3 overs his figures read 3-3-0-2. THIS was what had been missing from the attack.

Alex Hales shoulders arms to a Griffiths delivery
 Griffiths is one of those bowlers who, in a strange way, you know exactly what you're going to get. You're going to get very, very fast deliveries from a bowler who puts everything that he has into them. He's slingy, he delivers from an awkward height and if he manages to get the ball to target the stumps then let's be honest you're not going to stand much of a chance. Last season a ball that dismissed Ryan ten Doeschate was described in no uncertain terms by a journalist simply as 'violent'. He's the sort of bowler who on his day can pick up a 5er without too much problem. 5-72 from 25 overs a case in point.

In the context of this match though, Hampshire still have a fair way to go. Already 75 behind, we need to remove the last Notts wicket straight away then set about our first target - securing a draw. Rather than collapsing in a heap like a bunch of pansies the middle order must keep their wickets without losing sight of the fact that we can still win this game. If we have say 4 wickets in hand by the close tomorrow then we can look to declare at some point in the morning session of the 4th day. However we mustn't get ahead of ourselves, and I suppose the first aim is for Adams and Dawson to continue their fine work at the top.

At times today our cricket has been sublime whilst at others it has been laughable. Please please please don't leave me torn between laughing and crying tomorrow evening.

New start (perhaps)

Ok ok, having been dragged kicking and screaming by Wes I'm back to the blog. Long story to maybe a shorter length; the creative juices kind of went the way of the Romanovs these past 6 months hence part two to the Ervine saga still has not materialised. I think it's finally safe to parade the head above the parapets finally with that story so I'll tackle that at some point in the nearish future.

New season! And we're playing crap again. Put it this way my enthusiasm for the first day but a week ago was extremely high. My bound to the Rose Bowl on the first morning was matched only by a Friedel de Wet run up. Hell the sun was shining, it was way too warm to be early April. That scented brew of exhaust fumes, housing estate grass verges and Factor 15 combined with the sight of cool bags and club park permits quickly made me forget I had ever been away.

The deja vu feeling was compounded by the utter domination by the Durham batting lineup. We waved goodbye to victory at the toss and di Venuto and Stoneman somehow managed to mark their guard in the tarmac. Despite the high scoring rate I'd have said that after 40 overs neither side was on top. Danny Briggs softened the Tahir injury news by showing himself off as a Championship bowler (the single most exciting thing I took from this match) whilst the bunny Friedel bowled well without getting a wicket.

We were guilty of plonking the ball in too far back of a length, perhaps the Ponzi wicket was to blame. Yes it was hot, dry and easy to score on but pitch the ball up FFS! Back to de Wet again (this could become a recurring theme) but he cut Muchall in half two balls out of three by giving the ball time to do something. How he didn't get an LBW decision against Benkenstein is still a mystery. And top marks to Benks by the way, another two fingers up at those within the ECB who say that kolpaks bring nothing to the game.

The afternoon session was woeful from a Hampshire perspective, a catch off a Slug no-ball capping it off as the team returned to the dressing room to dine on tea to a chorus of muffled boos and shouts. The 400 racked up in the day gave a taste of what was awaiting us in the next three days, Adams' first baller a heart wrenching exception. What was extremely pleasing was Dawson's winter transformation from 'why?' to stoic Carberry replacement. At time of babble he currently sits top of both the run scoring chart and the averages chart, and has probably got more runs these three innings than he did for most of last year. That long awaited second century can't be far away, surely?

Adams continues to frustrate and delight in equal measures whilst Myburgh needs to stop throwing the bat at everything. Having said that the way he plays I reckon he is going to play one of those mind blowing one day innings at some point this season. Batting out for the draw against Durham was satisfying, and probably not a result we would have ended up with three years ago.

Normal service resumed of course at Trent Bridge, the batsmen leaving it all to do for the bowlers. I take solace in hoping that the game follows a similar pattern to this fixture last year of : super start, terrible bit just after it, blur for 3 days, super Macca smashing win. You can't say I'm a pessimist all of the time.

What de Wet, Griffiths and Cork need to do is get Brown and Read out. No one else really matters quite so much but these two fall into the Blackwell/Trego/Rashid/Yardy/Schofield group of ruining the best laid plans of mice and Corky or whoever is captain at the time. You could have a team 0/5 after 0.5 overs and one of this axis of evil would still get a century.

And so continues the cycle. Great squad, infact best I can honestly say I've ever seen but heck we can't bat and we can't bowl. Yet. The 8 injuries/MIA hasn't helped either, leaving only 7 spare players who have an average age of just less than 20. Give it time they say, they'll come good. They need to come good. Today would be nice, thanks.


In a slightly unrelated but wholely important matter, the perennial melon DC has been strutting his stuff for DC in the IPL, with beard. DC watch is alive and well!

Monday, 10 January 2011

Will he? Won't he? I'm starting to not give a sh... Part 1

New year, new start apparently but the frustrating saga surrounding Sean Ervine and his umming and ahhring over whether he should return to International cricket with Zimbabwe or not continues. It's been ramped up today with Radio Solent reporting that Ervine has told them that he's leaving Hampshire after the Caribbean T20 to return to Zimbabwe. In reply Hampshire have said that no decision has been made. This isn't the first time that Ervine has gone to the press and it isn't the first time that Hampshire have rebuked the claims. Back in November, it was reported that Ervine had spoken to Zimbabwe Cricket and had agreed to return home to play for the national team. This was followed by a Hampshire statement that expressed in no uncertain terms that Ervine was still under contract with the club, and that discussions over Ervine's future would be held during the Carib T20.

It is clear that Zimbabwe Cricket and its supporters see Ervine as the last and largest piece in the puzzle, with his return signalling a new era for the national side as they re-embark on their journey as a test playing nation. Certainly Ervine would supplement a line up that though talented was painfully exposed by the Bangladeshi spinners and the South African fast bowlers in consecutive tours. The likes of Brendan Taylor, Craig Ervine and Tatenda Taibu are deserving of their place and of a chance to face the best bowlers around the world in the longest form of the game and likewise Zimbabwe deserve a chance again. I fear that Ervine may not be the answer though. Completely, at least.

Having followed this winding saga for a while, something that has concerned me has been the expectations placed upon Ervine by the fans, and I fear that such expectations may also be harboured by the board. I've often wondered about the effects caused by player dislocation and the resultant talent exaggeration this can cause. It can occur in any sport but cricket and specifically Zimbabwe cricket, given their history, most of all. It would appear that perceived ability and influence a player has on a team is directly proportional to the length of time that player is absent from that team. Ervine has been out of the side for six years, and it is hoped by many fans that he will bat at four in the test side, and be the first change bowler, as he apparently can bowl the ball fast and swing it.

The last thing that I want this to be is sour grapes. Maybe it is in a way though. Hampshire are losing a fine allrounder, one of our best performers who puts his heart into everything he does. And yes he is a good batsman. But a test level number four? At first class level the highest Hampshire were happy to bat Ervine was at five, often with him coming in at six or seven. Ervine is of an International standard on his day, and in limited overs matches he works better batting slightly further up the order, but five first class centuries in six years suggests that if Zimbabwe are looking for a number four test batsman then Ervine is not their man. The less spoken about his bowling, the better.

Ok, repeat: I am not bitter. I am not bitter. I am not bitter...