Tuesday, 31 August 2004

A breathless hush

A new anthology, A Breathless Hush, shows that the beauty of cricket is reflected in writings about it:


Monday, 30 August 2004

Happy days. Gilchrist (left), Bond (right) and MIddle Stump (missing).
In a rain-shortened one-day match against Glamorgan, Ian Butler took 2-11 off five overs and then, with six needed off the last ball, smashed a full toss from Adrian Dale out of the ground. It was Dale's last ball in competitive cricket in his last match before retirement.

If this were an action movie Dale's buddy Bruce Willis would be putting on his best vest and winging his way to the home counties for revenge right now.

Sunday, 29 August 2004

Spearman gets loved up - again

Angus Fraser in the Indepedent joins the Craig Spearman fanclub. Sigh. If only he had earned this adulation while playing for New Zealand:

Spearman prepares to steal Hick thunder
Angus Fraser
28 August 2004

For the past 20 years the mention of Graeme Hick has been enough to make the normally steady fingers of a seasoned county bowler twitch in an uncontrollable manner. And with justification. Since making his debut for Worcestershire in 1984 the Zimbabwe born right-hander has amassed 57,752 runs in Test, first-class and one-day cricket.

The 38 year old remains a formidable opponent for bowlers, but there is now a batsman in English domestic cricket who instills greater fear in bowlers. He plays for Gloucestershire against Worcestershire in today's Cheltenham and Gloucester Trophy final at Lord's.

Craig Spearman arrived in England in 2001 after becoming disillusioned with cricket in New Zealand. The Welsh roots of the former Kiwi opener allowed him to gain employment in England, and initially he aimed to pursue a career in the City. Several counties were aware of his availability, but Spearman's Test and first-class records in New Zealand were modest and gave little indication of the havoc he could cause. Gloucestershire, who were then being coached by John Bracewell - a fellow Kiwi - clinched his signature, and what an inspired decision that has proved to be.

Spearman has performed with distinction during his three seasons in England. So much so that Bracewell, who is now the New Zealand coach, has asked him to come out of international retirement. Spearman turned down the offer because he wants to remain in Britain and qualify to play for England. He will be eligible in 12 months time.

In first-class cricket the 32 year old has scored more than 3,600 runs at an average of 47, the highlight being the 341 he smashed against Middlesex - the highest score by a Gloucestershire cricketer. But it is in one-day cricket that Spearman has made the biggest impact. He is tall for a batsman at six foot, but it is his timing that allows him to effortlessly hit the ball over the fielders, whether they are on the edge of the 30-yard circle or the boundary. In the past three years no batsman has scored more one-day runs than Spearman, and no player comes close to touching his strike-rate of almost a run a ball.

His record in this year's C&G Trophy is superb. In four matches he has scored 294 runs at an average of 96, with 184 of these runs coming in boundaries. The highlight was his unbeaten 143 in the semi-final against Yorkshire. Few teams have successfully chased down a score of 243 in Bristol, but Spearman guided Gloucestershire to their seventh Lord's final in six seasons.


Saturday, 28 August 2004

The quick in the red

Brett Lee has just gone to court to try and get almost A$1 million back from a dodgy sounding Aussie businessman. His brother Shane and high-flying former Aussie opener Michael Slater are also out of pocket to the tune of about A$400,000 each. Colour me surprised to reveal that Brett Lee is not the brightest biccie in the packet:

Sydney Morning Herald

Lee signed unread documents presented to him by Streetwise's David Steer, not appreciating they were allowing the refinancing of his own property holdings and the drawdown of $981,000 to the Bangaru group of companies.


Thursday, 26 August 2004

A nasty winter virus

Sigh. The only man in the country who can out cock the cocky Aussies calls our cross-Tasman neighbours arrogant and then tells Glenn McGrath and Shane Warne that they are past it. Warne will have more talent at 90 than you will even have Scotty. And his dye job will still look better than yours.

New Zealand Herald
26 August 2004

Australia's cricketing 'arrogance' is a weapon which can be used against them, according to Black Caps batsman Scott Styris.


"They try and bully and blow you away from the start but if you hang in and take them to day five their arrogance will force them to try and hurry it and maybe make a mistake.

"You can put pressure on them and frustrate them."


"They have players who're coming to the end of fantastic careers and it could be an opportunity to strike," Styris said.

Wednesday, 25 August 2004

End of the not so golden summer

As the English football season starts with Newcastle United's usual combination of ineptitude and self-destruction, the cricket season begins to wind down. That gives us a chance to review the form of the New Zealanders in England. We'll get the worst out of the way first, the form of the touring national side.

GJ Hopkins Runs 71 HS 71 Ave 71.00
MH Richardson Runs 583 HS 101 Ave 58.30
SP Fleming Runs 482 HS 117 Ave 53.55
JDP Oram Runs 263 HS 103* Ave 52.60
NJ Astle Runs 343 HS 93 Ave 38.11
CL Cairns Runs 349 HS 82 Ave 34.90
DL Vettori Runs 250 HS 77 Ave 31.25
CD McMillan Runs 245 HS 86 Ave 30.62
BB McCullum Runs 298 HS 96 Ave 29.80
SB Styris Runs 343 HS 108 Ave 28.58
KD Mills Runs 57 HS 42* Ave 28.50
MHW Papps Runs 241 HS 126 Ave 26.77
DR Tuffey Runs 57 HS 14* Ave 11.40
SE Bond Runs 7 HS 7 Ave 3.50
CS Martin Runs13 HS 7 Ave 3.25

CL Cairns Wkts 18 Ave 28.66 BB 5-79
DL Vettori Wkts 20 Ave 30.60 BB 5-92
KD Mills Wkts 3 Ave 39.00 BB 3-51
CS Martin Wkts 14 Ave 44.57 BB 4-92
SB Styris Wkts 7 Ave 46.42 BB 3-88
SE Bond Wkts 4 Ave 50.00 BB 2-46
DR Tuffey Wkts 8 Ave 55.50 BB 4-57
JDP Oram Wkts 3 Ave 106.33 BB 2-76

Sigh. There are very few positives to look at here. The form of Richardson, Fleming and Oram with the bat being one small ray of sunshine. And Chris Martin boosted his career batting average. The bowling averages on the other hand are an almost complete disaster.

Moving on to brighter things. Here are the averages for the players with county contracts. Adams and Spearman have a game or two to add to their figures.

CM Spearman Runs 1257 HS 341 Ave 62.85 (SR 77)
AR Adams Runs 177 HS 124 Ave 35.40 (SR 124)
IG Butler Runs 166 HS 68 Ave 33.20
JEC Franklin Runs 155 HS 44 Ave 31.00

AR Adams Wkts 17 Ave 20.70 BB 5-93
JEC Franklin Wkts 18 Ave 23.05 BB 7-60
IG Butler Wkts 8 54.50 BB 4-114

Certianly there are a few more things we can sing about here. The batting of Spearman being an obvious high, along with the form of Adams with both bat and ball. Franklin didn't embarrass himself either - his spell of 7-60 on debut being a highlight of his time with Gloucestershire. And although Ian Butler's bowling figures are very, very average - he did play on a series of particularly flat wickets. Butler also attracted press attention for his pace. Here is the Telegraph on his one day debut:

Butler proves a wow on his bow
By Kate Laven at Canterbury

Ian Butler made a dramatic entrance for Kent with a virtual single-handed slaying of Sussex, taking four catches and three wickets to set up an easy 47-run victory.

The New Zealander, fresh from his side's victory over West Indies at Lord's on Saturday, was making his debut and after one showing could prove to be one of Kent's most exciting signings...

...Ward gave the Kiwi the first of four superb catches, all of them at square leg near to the boundary.

... Butler completed the destruction with a fine spell of bowling, finishing with three for 19 from 3.5 overs, and wrapping up the victory with a ball to spare.

And the Telegraph, in a later review of the team's form, noted that Kent had "a threadbare attack which, with the notable exception of Ian Butler, posed little threat [to batsmen]"

Monday, 23 August 2004

Spearman fills his boots

From the pages of the Independent:

Spearman fills his boots
Warwickshire 350 Gloucestershire 352-3
By David Llewellyn at Bristol
21 August 2004

After his achievements for Gloucestershire this season Craig Spearman should change his name to something more appropriate - "Batman" springs to mind. And while his five-hour innings here might not have been quite in the superhero class, it further established him among Gloucestershire's immortals.

Not content with obliterating the long-standing record of W G Grace for the highest individual innings - his 341 at the beginning of June surpassing the previous mark of 318 not out scored against Yorkshire at Cheltenham in 1876 - the powerful New Zealander yesterday became the first Gloucestershire batsman to score a double century on this ground since Wally Hammond against Somerset in 1946.

He gave not a glimmer of a chance until the record had been secured and even then, on 219, it was probably more tiredness than anything else which saw him carve a hard chance to Jonathan Trott in the gully.

It was all far too much for championship leaders Warwickshire, handicapped as they were by being unable to call on the services of the Zimbabwe strike bowler Heath Streak. He might be called sometime today, but the second innings, if Gloucestershire have to bat again, is the more likely option as he nurses a thigh injury.

His absence was Gloucestershire's streak of luck and they took full advantage. Spearman was immovable, intractable and impossible to bowl at. Despite 19 New Zealand Test caps he is clearly at his best in the West Country, because all three of his big hundreds, when he has passed 150, have been scored for Gloucestershire, and this was his 10th century for the county and the 21st of his career.

He qualifies for England in January 2006, although the England and Wales Cricket Board has dispensation to reduce the waiting time. At 32, though, Spearman is unlikely to feature in England squads, but there is still plenty of county life left in him to satisfy his employers at Gloucestershire.

He reached each of the fifties in his innings with boundaries, the 100 and 150 coming up with big sixes, and each blow further reduced Warwickshire's expectations in this match.

Victory is now pretty much out of the question, although barring disaster they could wring a draw out of the game, especially if Streak can get into the action. But in this form even he might struggle to find a way past Spearman's bat.

It was a disconsolate Warwickshire who trooped off for bad light three-quarters-of-an-hour before the scheduled close of a day in which 20 overs in total were lost to the weather, with Gloucestershire a nose in front.

The King of Spain

I thought there might be one or two of you who might be wondering why Ashley Giles keeps getting called "The King of Spain" by the British press. It is because he ordered a whole bunch of mugs to be made for sale at his testimonial. And they arrived with an unordered "a".

Which has to be one of the classic typos.

Grevious Bodily Harmison

There are two good things about Steve Harmison topping the PWC bowling table:

1) It makes New Zealand's capitulation against England seem slightly more forgivable
2) And at least its not sodding Andrew Flintoff.

On the other hand, doesn't it make you wonder where Shane Bond would be without his injury curse. Bond is twice the bowler Harmison is.


Graeme Hick. Is anyone else old enough to remember when he was the greatest batsman in the world? I can remember the utter excitement I experienced when he signed for Northern Districts. And I can remember the awe I felt when he scored a bizillion runs for them. Has any player any faced greater expectation when they came to test cricket? And has any player ever spluttered and fizzled for so long without ever catching fire?


(Sorry, you will have to cut and paste the link - the button ain't working)

Wednesday, 11 August 2004

A murder of Crowes

I have borrowed a couple of paragraphs from this week's "The Spin", the Guardian's weekly cricket newsletter:

The Spin has always liked to think of itself as a sort of on-line, brown-haired, cigarless Jimmy Saville, fulfilling dreams with the tap-tap of the keyboard and the click of a mouse. Now, there isn't a lot of evidence to support this view, but there's a first time for everything. News arrives from one of the Spin's professional spies in New Zealand's Beige Brigade about a weird but wonderful election to choose "The Wandering Golfer" on an American website called http://www.fineliving.com/. The winner gets to pass the time of day at the most luxurious golf courses on the planet and - and! - gets to present Fine Living's "new series", which sounds impressive. It even has a tenuous link with cricket, because the final shortlist of four consists of three random Americans - and a former Test captain. Step forward Jeff Crowe, brother of Martin and cousin of Russell. As a moderate batsman, he played 39 Tests for New Zealand, captaining them in six, and later became the national team manager. "Before moving to the US," explains the website blurb, "Jeff played cricket internationally as a professional for 10 years on the New Zealand Cricket Team and was honored as Captain for two years." Now Jeff would like your vote to play the sport he really loves. And this is where you, dear reader, come in. (Non-interactive? The Spin? Bah!) All you have to do is visit and cast your vote. The Spin doesn't know much about these things, but frankly the opposition leaves a little to be desired. Chad, Troy and Sam all look like worthy fellows in their own way - Chad works for a software consulting firm, Troy once deflected a golf ball with the shaft of his club, Sam loves a great Argentinian steak with a robust cabernet. But none of them can claim to have scored a Test century in Jamaica against Marshall, Garner and Walsh. When the Spin voted last night, Jeff had over 50% of the vote, which suggested that New Zealanders the world over had already girded their loins. But these things can change quickly. Remember: Saddam Hussein was deposed not long after claiming over 99% of the vote in the Iraqi general elections. Your former Kiwi Test cricketer needs you!

Now get clicking...

Thursday, 5 August 2004

Wondrous Oblivion

A movie review, permitted by virtue of its cricketedness. I saw Wondrous Oblivion last weekend and have some comments from a "Mike on Cricket" perspective. Firstly, most of the cricket related bits (which in actual fact is most of the movie) are pretty good. Frank Worrell seemed stately and Gary Sobers had a big toothy smile. The one glaring error for a movie set in 1960 was the appearance CLR James' "Beyond a Boundary". At one point Dennis (Delroy Lindo) waves a battered old copy around and quotes a paragraph. The movie was clearly inspired by CLR's beautiful analysis of social attitudes, the West Indies and cricket - but unfortunately the book was not actually published until 1963.

Although I enjoyed it, the film was not entirely satisfying from a movie-fan perspective either. I liked the slightly unexpected ending, but otherwise it might as well have been called "Billy Elliot bats it like Beckham". Not that this is neccessarily a bad thing, its just that compared to "Billy" and "Bend it" I thought "Oblivion" was slightly lacking. Despite a bit more overt magic (courtesy of David - Sam Smith - and his animated cricket cards), the mystical spark which elevates a good movie to the realm of the great was missing. Don't get me wrong though - I did think this was a good movie. Perhaps it was just not as good as it could have been.