Monday, 26 August 2013

An Ashes battle won on the pitch and in the mind

I suspect that when we think back to the Ashes series of 2013 it won’t be with the fondness reserved for the to and fro of 2009 or the sheer Hollywood drama that was 2005.

The Australian fightback was brave yes but when you are beaten and beaten well in the first two tests its almost academic. We should know, English cricket teams fought for 18 years when the Ashes were gone or almost gone!

But 3-0 is 3-0 and while some experts say England did not deserve 4-0 they were within a light meter
reading of notching it up.

Truth be told England have not been brilliant, neither have Australia, but when it came to it, England delivered big time, Australia didn’t.

As a veteran Ashes watcher (ok I am 31 but god England let me down a lot when I was a young pup) what has been interesting is the sentence above – England won the big moments.

Before 2005, England had Australia down but just when the final push for victory began, Warne,
Waugh, Ponting, McGrath or someone else popped up and denied England.

That does not happen now, Australia have competed hard in this series, but when the final push began, they floundered at the hands of Anderson, Broad, Swann and Bell.

At Trent Bridge, the Australians took a lead in the first innings and had England on the ropes, enter Ian Bell with a hundred. In the chase, every time Australia looked to be on the way to victory they lost wickets.

At Lords, they bowled England out for much less than the ‘experts’ said was par, but were rolled for 128 themselves. Even when they reduced England to 30 for 3 the lead was still 263, it was a target they never looked like chasing.

Rain ruined their chances at Old Trafford but in Durham the Aussies were 168 for 2 and looking comfy chasing 299 for victory.

But when the winning post beckoned them, again Australia tripped themselves up and Stuart Broad took six for 20 in 45 balls to seal a stunning win.

I suspect Michael Clarke wanted to set England 250 at the Oval but again Cook’s bowlers chipped away in what was a second innings slog meaning the Aussie skipper had no choice but to offer 227 in 44 overs, rather generous..

What will happen Down Under? I suspect England will play better on quicker pitches but if Australia can go back to the old days and win the big moments it won’t be the cake-walk many expect.

As it stands though, many English cricket fans my age had not seen England win the Ashes in their lifetime, now we are celebrating a fourth win in five series.

Keep it up lads!

Stupidity denies spectacular end to boring test

WHEN cricket breathes its last breath it will look back to events like Sunday and say ‘Ohhh yeah, we could have done better there’.

Just 21 were needed for England to win the fifth and final Ashes test when Aleem Dar and Kumar Dharmasena decided it was far too dark to carry on and took the players off.

We’ll ignore the fact their concern did not prevent them letting Mitchell Starc bowl 90mph for six balls, we’ll also ignore the fact that it seemed only Peter Siddle was struggling to pick up the ball.

Two balls before the end, mid on dashed into to field a ball, clean and one handed threw it back to the bowler, you see it was pitch black out there....

We’ll also ignore Michael Clarke’s badgering of the umpires – as Geoff Boycott said you can’t dangle a carrot and then protest when it looks like you will lose.

Instead thousands who had been roused for an unexpected finale were told it was too dark, then looked up to see four big floodlights illuminating the ground.

The ICC have to wake up and realise t20 cricket is so popular because it’s free from bureaucracy and silly regulation.

The same MUST be applied to test cricket, too much will be said tomorrow about poor Michael Clarke and what a lovely declaration.

The truth is if some fielders couldn’t see the ball, I bet Bell and Woakes were having a bit of trouble picking up 90mph deliveries – it was the same for both teams!

Surely in 2013 we can have a regulation where the light can be over-ruled if there is a realistic prospect of a result?

Especially at the end of a test match which, let’s face it, hardly provided value for the money test match fans are now being asked for.

The light was closing in, but this was not Karachi in 2000 when England and Pakistan played to a finish in the dark.

Some commentators have pointed to that as a reason for the ICC not to go back to the rule where the light was offered to the batsmen.

But the argument is false, there were no floodlights in Karachi, had there not been at the Oval there would be no debate – it was that dark.

But the field was illuminated and surely messers Dar and Dharmasena should have a ‘common sense mandate’ to say a result is possible, the light is the same for both sides, let’s finish.

The reaction of the crowd spoke volumes, cricket has not got the same mass appeal as football, it cannot afford to annoy its spectators too much.

Are you listening Mr Richardson?

Tuesday, 20 August 2013

Britain is tumbling towards the edge

The row over David Miranda has convinced me to write this blog and confess something, I am geniunely frightened for the future of the UK.
A number of events have taken place in the last few weeks which make me think we as British citizens are heading for disaster.
No I am not talking about immigration, the economy or even politics as such, I am genuinely frightened about the direction of this country.
We have a campaign to get a woman on the £10 note, ignoring the fact there has been one on all banknotes for more than 60 years, she is called HM The Queen.
Not for one second do I condone the morons who targeted the lady who led the campaign – they are sad pathetic little boys with little else to do.
We have a campaign to ban Page 3 and to get lads mags to cover up in supermarkets – to hear supporters of such campaigns talk it makes me think these ladies are tied up and gagged until they agree to pose for such pictures!
'It demeans women' and most shamefully there is a quote at the top of this page which links page three to rape and sexual assault.
Let's make this clear, rapists don't get their kicks off page three then go and rape a woman. Rapists
are cold blooded vile human beings who see no harm in the vile crime they perpetrate.
'The paper is left lying around for children to see' – then if they ask let's go back to a time where adults answer questions about the human body in an age appropriate way.
We don't talk to children about sex and their growing bodies enough, too many then seek to explore with the unwanted consequences of unplanned pregnancy.
'It makes girls think about their bodies' – on this I am with the campaigners, the pressure on teenage girls is vile at times, more needs to be done to encourage young girls to be who they are not what magazines tell them to be.
But is page 3 or Zoo magazine guilty of that? What about Heat, OK, Closer with their celebrity images, should they be blacked out to because they show the 'desired' body of Jennifer Aniston et al.
No, we as a society need to talk, to tell teenage girls that their bodies are just that, theirs and the only
opinion that matters is there own.
And finally, David Miranda being detained for nine hours......for taking stolen classified documents through an airport.
To listen to Glenn Greenwald and the Guardian's reporters you would think Britain had become some police state, that Miranda was beaten and tortured...
Ironic that a newspaper that supported state regulation of the press after Leveson now is complaining about......state regulation of the press!
When you listen to the debate, remember Edward Snowden now lives in Russia having spilled state American and perhaps British secrets to the Chinese and Putin in Moscow.
Snowden should be going down in history as a modern day William Mark Felt Sr (Deep Throat) for exposing a naughty Government programme.
And that dear reader is why I am frightened, all of this going on yet when the elected Prime Minister
of the day asks us to vote whether we want a new Government or not, less than 40 per cent of us take part.
There is a dark side to modern Britain, something I'm not sure I want to see

Monday, 19 August 2013

Panesar pain is sad to see

THE news Monty Panesar is being released by Sussex at the end of the season and joining Essex on loan is another chapter in a desperately sad story.
His altercation with bouncers in a Hove nightclub was initially quite funny, sadly that was before the full facts emerged.
In the cold light of day it could be seen as a cry for help, something I suspect more than one cricketer needs.
Panesar’s marriage has collapsed and he is away from family and friends both living in Hove and while on the relentless schedule that is county cricket.
He turned to alcohol alongside Rory Hamilton-Brown, another cricketer who needs support after the death of his friend Tom Maynard.
Salvation has never been found in the bottle of lager and while Hamilton-Brown is rebuilding his very existence away from the pain of the Oval, Panesar is in search of answers.
It’s very easy to say he throwing his life away, that he did not perform for England in New Zealand and that his actions recently deserve an exclusion from the England team.
But unlike Hamilton-Brown who escaped London for the seclusion of Hove, Monty needs acceptance, being in the England team was his buzz and his raison d’ĂȘtre.
No one knows how much trouble his personal life was in when he was away in New Zealand and hopefully Andy Flower is understanding enough not to call time on Panesar’s career with England.

But a bowling average of 40 for Sussex compared to 23 last year is not going to earn him a place in the team.

And it is not Monty who should seek answers, he should be given them by those closest to him, Sussex have allowed him closer to home, important for him.

But England need to tell him the door is not closed for good but a winter at home with his loved ones will be much better than one in the pressure cooker that is the Ashes in Australia.

It’s too easy to say sportsmen shouldn’t have troubles, they are human like everyone else.

Many of us are big Monty fans, the delight he had playing for England was infectious; hopefully it may happen again one day.