Saturday, 30 April 2005

Ben on ... more on Styris' first innings back from injury (and the other guys)

Karl has already mentioned that Styris scored a fine 53 off 47 balls in his first innings for Middlesex. What he didn't mention is that the it included 13 4s. In contrast, Fleming hit only 17 4s (and a 6) in his innings of 111 off 107.

Adams by the way ended up with 2-52 in the first innings against Somerset and is currently 4-31 in the second, including a hat-trick!

(Spearman 35 off 85).

Friday, 29 April 2005

Ben on ... dressing Stephen Fleming

This dressable Stephen Fleming paper doll is one of the many highlights of Fun with Black Caps, quite the most delightful fan site created for any cricket team - or for anything at all, really - put together by Kit of Sydney, showing that not only are the Australians better cricketers than us, they are better fans of our own team.

(If only this Scott Styris fan could be as dedicated.)

Ben on ... drawing matches and losing respect

Shane Warne, captain of Hampshire who last year were deemed to be the least sportsmanlike team in the county league, has been involved in another sledging incident, during a game against Sussex, which despite all the aggro ended up a draw. It seems the Sussex captain Chris Adams was so appalled by Warne's attempts to humiliate his players that he has lost a lot of respect for Warne. In turn Warne was so annoyed by Adams' whinging that he has lost all respect for him.

As usual, there are no details on what was actually said on the field, so everyone involved ends up looking thin-skinned and petulant. If these players are so concerned about respect, perhaps someone whould release the onfield exhanges so we can tell just how worthy of respect these guys are.

Thursday, 28 April 2005

Karl summarises the kiwis in action this week

In England this week, players in action are Stephen Fleming for Notts (v. Sussex), Craig Spearman for Gloucestershire (v. Kent) Andre Adams for Essex (v. Somerset) and Scott Styris for Middlesex (v. Warwickshire).

So far, Adams has 0-38 off 10 overs. Styris, in this first game so far, scored 53 off 47 balls. Fleming and Spearman haven't batted yet.

Wednesday, 27 April 2005

Shoaib

"I am astonished over the language used by Woolmer. I had thought of him as an intelligent person."


Aamir Sohail, chairman of the Pakistan side's national selection committee, in response to coach Bob Woolmer's claim that Shoaib Akhtar is "not an integral part of the team." He is not playing and his lips aren't even moving, but Akhtar somehow still manages to cause chaos in Pakistani cricket.

Monday, 25 April 2005

More on New Zealanders in the county game

Nathan Astle has just picked a short-term contract with Durham and will play for them during June, when Mike Hussey is unavailable due to his selection in the Australian one day side.

Meanwhile Stephen Fleming's first game for Nottinghamshire did not improve much after his first inning's duck. He only made 1 in the second dig and his decision not to enforce the follow-on when he had the chance gave Middlesex enough time in which to save the match. Andre Adams' Essex side had their match against Glamorgan rained out and Craig Spearman scored 16 in his Gloucestershire side's unsuccessful chase of Northamptonshire's total in a one-dayers at Bristol.

Friday, 22 April 2005

Fleming vs Styris

A poor start to the county season for both Stephen Fleming and Scott Styris as their sides clashed at Lord's yesterday. Styris hasn't recovered from knee surgery and failed to make the Middlesex starting line-up while Fleming made a four ball duck in Nottinghamshire's impressive score of 546. Craig Spearman's Glouscestershire's next first-class match is against Kent at Bristol beginning on the 27th of April, the same day that Andre Adams' Essex side take on Somerset at Taunton.

Wednesday, 20 April 2005

Making cheating illegal

Malcolm Speed has called on world governments to make cheating in sports illegal. This follows British gambling legislation which makes it illegal to rig the outcome of a game for profit. At first glance it seems a sensible suggestion, but in my view the borders between "rules" (such as the Laws of Cricket) and "laws" (such as the UK Gambling Act) should be kept as distant as possible.

Cricket is an international sport. And making laws which govern international contests raised interesting questions. Does the law change in the UK mean that an Indian cricketer touring England needs to be made aware of the Gambling Act? What if New Zealand passes a slightly different law? Do cricketers have to learn the relevant laws in all countries in which they play? What happens if the Indian cricketer breaks the Gambling Act while on tour in the UK but the crime isn't detected until after he leaves? It would be unlikely that he would be extradited so presumably he could just avoid touring England again to avoid being punished. And if this isn't the case then doesn't the law raise the spectre of double jeopardy? Could a player punished under the Gambling Act (with a fine presumably) argue that further punishment by the ICC or a cricket board would effectively mean he is being punished twice for the same offence? Dan might correct me, but my understanding is that this is not permissible in the eyes of the law. And could any punishment that the British courts impose be the equal of the life-ban from the game from the ICC?

To me, Speed's suggestion raises too many questions and doesn't appear to provide any deterrent that a life-ban from the ICC already provides. The only thing it does add is to legislate for non-cricketers (such as bookies who attempt to bribe cricketers) who are outside the jurisdiction of the ICC. I believe that for these persons national law would (and is) an appropriate forum for legislation. But the Laws of Cricket are international, have teeth and those teeth are used. Introduction of national laws will do little to prevent future corruption in the game.

Tuesday, 19 April 2005

New Zealanders in county cricket

According to Sporting Life the following New Zealanders are currently contracted to play in this year's county championship:

Andre Adams (Essex)
Scott Styris (Middlesex)
Stephen Fleming (Nottinghamshire)

Craig Spearman (Gloucestershire) is another, but he is not listed as he qualifies as a local. Under the new "Kolpak" system it is much easier for overseas players to obtain contracts, but it seems the counties are generally reluctant to start signing vast numbers of international stars. Apart from Australians that is - 14 Aussies have been snapped up despite the fact that the national team will be touring and will miss a big chunk of the season.

Interestingly both Adams and Spearman make Sporting Life's picks for players to watch this season.

Ben on ... further more ratings

Stuff has rated the Black Caps again, considering the whole of the summer post-Bangladesh. It is interesting to compare with their earlier ratings of just the home series against Australia.

Chris Martin, following his storming run against Sri Lanka (11 wickets in two tests, compared with 7 against Australia in five), raised his rating from a terrible 2.5 to a poor but not embarrassing 4.

Lou Vincent, not surprisingly, increased his rating by a point following the Sri Lanka series, as did Stephen Fleming.

The biggest loser, however, was Ian O'Brien. Given the benefit of the doubt after the Australian series with a pass mark of 5, after not being needed for the Sri Lanka series, his rating dropped to 3.

Monday, 18 April 2005

Spearman vs Moreton

This news is a couple of days' old, but I just noticed it. In a recent first-class match between Gloucestershire and Oxford University former New Zealand opener Craig Spearman struck 216 ("retired out") off only 168 balls. One poor unfortunate - a Mr SJP Moreton - making his debut for Oxford bowled one over in the match. The significant thing about this one over was that it was delivered to Spearman, who whacked it for 34 runs.

Not a bad start to the season for Spearman then. Andre Adams didn't do too badly in his first game for Essex either. He took 3-52 and 0-9 in a rain affected match against Yorkshire.

Where are the swing bowlers?

Evan Gray asks the question "where are the swing bowlers?" over at the TVNZ website and then refuses to tell us the answer. Miserable bastard.

The players' awards

The New Zealand Herald, always one to bury good news beneath bad, has stuck with its usual reporting policy by noting the fact that Daniel Vettori was the players' choice for player of the year in an article entitled "Facilities not good enough say players". Both pieces of news came from the New Zealand Cricket Players Association annual survey of players. Amongst other highlights of this survey were the voting of Brent Bowden as best umpire (which the Herald led into with "While players agree that umpiring standards need to be raised..."), Stephen Fleming best test batsman, Nathan Astle best one-day batsman, Hamish Marshall best fielder and Ross Taylor the best emerging player.

I guess the Herald just finds that bad news sells more papers. Perhaps we could take a similar line here at Mike on Cricket to raise our readership? Expect to see a series of articles coming soon with headings like "Kyle Mills - NOT voted cricketer of the year", "Nathan Astle makes a golden duck (and in other news New Zealand win by an innings)" and "Wellington lose State Championship final".

Karl marvels at a thrilling series

Six games. Pakistan won 4 games to India's 2. Pakistan scored 1685 runs (average: 281 per game) and lost 49 wickets. India scored 1558 runs (average 260 per game) and lost 49 wickets. Five innings totals were over 300 (with another at 298). The play from all players on both sides was marvellous and it was a thrilling contest up to the last match. The last match was an anti-climax though with the crowd throwing objects onto the pitch.

While India didn't win the series, John Wright finished his coaching stint with them on a high note, producing a thrilling competitive series.

Mr John Wright

The Telegraph of India has an interesting interview with John Wright on the eve of his retirement from coaching the Indian team. There are some interesting insights into his coaching style and the frustrations of coaching India. One insight I found particularly interesting was his hard attitude towards players in private ("having too many [support staff] around leads to too many shoulders to cry on") and how this contrasts with the unwavering support he gives them in public. Wrighty reveals that he is returning home to Christchurch to spend more time with his kids. I hope Martin Snedden has been in touch...

Saturday, 16 April 2005

Karl on the Master of Chaos



Shahid Afridi on his way to the 2nd fastest ODI hundred - 102 runs, 9 sixes, 10 fours, 45 balls faced to get the century - as Pakistan beat India in the fifth ODI of their 6-match series. Afridi has scored the most sixes in ODIs. A comparison with number four on that list shows:
Afridi: 204 matches, 195 innings, 4523 runs, average of 24.31, 4 centuries, 203 sixes and a strike rate of 106.97
C. Cairns: 204 matches, 184 innings, 4767 runs, average of 29.42, 4 centuries, 147 sixes and a strike rate of 83.69

Reference.

Friday, 15 April 2005

Cricket ratings

The various ICC (previously PWC) rating systems have been updated in light of the recently completed test series. Unfortunately this isn't very exciting news. The main reason it isn't interesting is that the new ratings website is both boring and difficult to navigate. But don't worry, I have done the difficult work for you and found the ratings that matter. Not that they are that much more interesting. The team rating has barely changed and we remain ranked at 7th, above the West Indies and below South Africa. And there are no New Zealanders in either of the individual top 10s. Stephen Fleming is our top ranked batsman at 24th, and Daniel Vettori is our best ranked bowler at 18th. Chris Martin (23rd) and James Franklin (35th) are notable risers amongst the bowlers while Lou Vincent has rapidly climbed to 37th in the batting stakes, one place below Hamish Marshall.
Victory - and Lou Vincent put your bloody tongue away!

Poll results and a new poll

My last poll asked you to tell me which young New Zealand cricketers are destined to have long and profitable New Zealand careers. Jacob Oram received far and away the most votes with 11, while Hamish Marshall and Brendon McCullum followed on 9. It was a sharp drop back to James Franklin on 4 votes and Craig Cumming and James Marshall each received 2 votes. Only one person thought poor old Ian Butler has much in the way of prospects. How quickly figures of 6-46 against a strong Pakistan side are forgotten.

My new poll asks you to decide on that vexed area where sport and politics collide. Let me know whether the New Zealand side should tour Zimbabwe come August.

Ben on ... super 6s

From the Cricinfo bulletin for the third day's play:
...followed by a useful cameo from Mills, whose contribution included a six struck so sweetly off Malinga that it sailed down Wellington High Street, where it was fielded by a bemused shopper.

That is a mighty 6. High Street is in Island Bay, right down near the coast.

Money, money, money

In the Dominion Post Jonthan Millmow has started speculating about who might win a contract with New Zealand Cricket next season.

Thursday, 14 April 2005

Series stats

Batting

Name - runs (ave)
L Vincent - 276 (92.00)
HJH Marshall - 172 (57.33)
SP Fleming - 145 (48.33)
NJ Astle - 133 (44.33)
JAH Marshall - 119 (39.66)
BB McCullum - 106 (35.33)
PJ Wiseman - 59 (29.50)
JEC Franklin - 77 (25.66)
CD Cumming - 75 (25.00)
KD Mills - 57 (19.00)
CS Martin - 9 (-)

Bowling

Name - wickets (ave)
NJ Astle - 7 (15.42)
CS Martin - 11 (21.54)
JEC Franklin - 9 (28.22)
KD Mills - 2 (71.50)
PJ Wiseman - 1 (215.00)

Victory at last

And it is one to be savoured too. Ignore the feeling that this is an end of season blip - that is just the timing talking. This is a comprehensive series victory over a good test side. The fact that it occured during a hurried, late season mongrel of a tour stuffed into the itinerary as a make-up and held during the middle of a week did not matter to the players involved. And those players all contributed - even Kyle Mills. Lou Vincent, Chris Martin and Jimmy Franklin all provided critical contributions but just as importantly they found support at the other end. Lou Vincent would never have reached 224 if it weren't for stolid batting from Franklin, Mills and Wiseman. Martin wouldn't have got 6 wickets in the first innings without pressure at the other end from Astle and Mills, and Franklin's incisive spell in the second innings could not have occurred without water-tight bowling from Astle, Mills and Wiseman. About the only player not to make a significant contribution was Hamish Marshall - and he probably deserved a break.

Matthew Maynard

Some of you who might recall Matthew Maynard's brilliant time with Northern Districts back in the early '90s might be interested in this tribute to him in the Guardian.

Wednesday, 13 April 2005

The class of the man is undeniable

1991 redux

Andrew McLean, perhaps overcome with pessimism in the face of such a strong New Zealand performance, is having flashbacks to 1990/91 when New Zealand saved a match against Sri Lanka in similar circumstances at the Basin. The Basin has a very different wicket nowadays however. If the southerly keeps refreshing the pitch I think Sri Lanka will be in for a very difficult struggle.

Day two continued

Its a conspiracy. I try to prepare you for the long, cricketless winter by easing off on the posting and the Sydney Morning Herald publishes a photo of Shane Warne with a ciggie in his mouth and his trousers around his ankles. Not only that, but the New Zealand Herald reveals a plot by New Zealand Cricket to keep Sonny Shaw (flag-waving cricket fan and convicted sex offender) out of shot AND publishes an article by Richard Boock which gets stuck into Stephen Fleming's captaincy.

Day two

You are getting a real cheat today. All I am offering you is this link to Andrew McLean's article on Lou Vincent. I'm not even going to add a hint of mocking or outrage to it. No commentary whatsoever. And not even a hint of a critique. Just the link. Slack I know. But what are you going to do about it?

Tuesday, 12 April 2005

Day one

A couple of stories from the first day's play. Firstly Daryl Hair has refused New Zealand requests to wear white trousers or at least drape something down his front. New Zealand batsmen have said that they have had problems because Malinga's arm comes down directly infront of the umpire and the ball disappears as it merges into the black of the umpire's trousers. Good old Daryl. Always keen to put himself first.

And secondly, Andrew McLean has passed verdict on Chris Martin's excellent performance yesterday.

Flem gets angry

One of the more interesting aspects of yesterday's play was the bollocking Stephen Fleming gave his entire team very early in the day's play. It worked, but I was left wondering whether it was an inspired piece of captaincy or simply frustration boiling over.

Beefy and Lamby

Alex has kindly forwarded me this link to show us what happens to players once they stop getting paid to hit a ball about.

Monday, 11 April 2005

Karl thinks about ... cricket, politics and politicising cricket

While New Zealand cricket is avoiding the political/governance problems afflicting other associations at the moment, it's starting to face a Political dilemma - Zimbabwe: tour or not tour?

The Listener has a useful introduction to the issue. It's a tough issue that will be made harder for the Black Caps by the tour taking place close to the New Zealand election, making this too juicy an issue for politicians to steer clear of.

In discussing the ability of players to make a moral stand and not tour, Ian Smith in the Listener article says that there are only four players who could not tour and still be guaranteed a place in the side: Fleming, H Marshall, McCullum and Vettori. For the rest of the players this will be a tough time, especially following the recent elections in Zimbabwe which indicate no letup by the Mugabe regime in its way of governing.

The Greens have written to all 25 squad members to stay home. If the team didn't tour, New Zealand would face a financial penalty - if the Government thinks they shouldn't (and the NZ Goivernment is staying at arms-length from this at the moment) then should they pay the fine?

Saturday, 9 April 2005

Day five and the end of the domestic season

Well, we survived the final day and the draw lost some of its snore factor thanks to New Zealand's attempt to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. Meanwhile Auckland took away the State Championship after smacking Wellington around on the outer oval at Eden Park. This was slightly surprising given that Auckland spent most of the competition with only one batsman.

The end of the domestic season gives us a chance to look at the form of individual players. The batting averages show that only two batsmen scored over 500 runs and averaged over 50 - Lou Vincent (563 at 112.60) and Peter Fulton (828 runs at 69.00). Promising players like Jamie How, Jesse Ryder, Craig Cumming, Jarrod Engelfield and Ross Taylor all had solid seasons without really setting the world on fire and their averages merely sat alongside those of reliable, older players like the Parlane brothers and Gary Stead rather than outstripping them.

The bowling averages saw a whole crop of players taking 20 or 30 wickets at an average of under 25. The problem is trying to work out which of those bowlers took their wickets through skill and pace or spin. I mean, what can we learn from the figures of the reasonably unknown Warren McSkimming (25 wickets at 22.88) when we also see that Tama Canning took 27 wickets at 23.85 with his military medium seamers? Not a lot. Two bowlers which do stand out from the masses were James Franklin (23 wickets at 14.13) and Paul Wiseman (35 wickets at 15.11).

So. Onto Wellington we go and the last match of the season. And if the forecast is right, then there might be even less than five days of cricket left before the long, dark of winter takes hold.

Friday, 8 April 2005

Day four

Why is it that whenever New Zealand reaches the end of a snore draw we crumble? For as long as I have watched cricket we have either spent the last day of a draw struggling to 164/7 or letting the opposition blast their way to 203/0. At this stage, 64/2 could easily turn into another of those 164/7-type scores.

Having said that, some people seem to think that a snore draw with New Zealand struggling to 164/7 would be a good result for the Black Caps. Cricket Australia, who have some insight into our ability to dramatically collapse, headline their coverage of day four with Black Caps not safe yet.

It was nice to see Martin and Franklin get some wickets yesterday, and to see them both getting the ball to reverse swing. It was less nice to see Craig Cumming dismissed lbw again. The Australians picked that he has a tendency to tuck his bat behind his pad and got him that way, and the Sri Lankans appear to be quick learners.

Thursday, 7 April 2005

Adam Gilchrist in knickerbockers

According to the Sydney Morning Herald the Boston Red Sox have been trying to persuade Adam Gilchrist to take up baseball. Ian Chappell (a former Australian representative baseballer as well as captain of the Australian cricket team) thinks Gilchrist hasn't got the fielding skills to make it and the man himself doesn't seem to show any kind of interest, but it is an interesting development nonetheless. The same article mentions that the Arizona Diamondbacks (whoever they are) once approached Brett Lee along similar lines.

Hmmm, I smell an idea for finally breaking the Australian team's dominance over the red ball game...

A new Wisden

The new Wisden has been released. This isn't awfully exciting news on this side of the world, but it is probably more interesting than the test match at this stage. One interesting feature of the new edition is that every single one of the "five players of the year" is an Englishman. This seems totally outrageous until you consider that the awards are judged on their influence on the previous "English summer" rather than on world cricket. If you recall, England spent the previous summer thrashing a hapless New Zealand side and there was therefore not much competition for places in the top five from players who live outside England.

One of the more unlikely winners of the player of the year award is Ashley Giles. And it is depressing to read the summary of his season to see that he was struggling for form, being smashed around by the New Zealanders and on the verge of being dropped when something happened to completely change his season:

"Still bowling that negative stuff over the wicket?" goaded [Scott] Styris upon his arrival at the crease. Giles stayed over the wicket, yielded nothing and soon had Styris snaffled at silly point in a spell that ensured his survival as a Test cricketer.


With his confidence back, Giles took six wickets in the next match and scored 81 match-winning runs. Gee. I didn't think there was much else I could blame Scott for, but I was wrong.

Wisden's list of the world's top forty cricketers in 2004 also makes for some heart-breaking reading. Two New Zealanders are on the list. Stephen Fleming is one with the comment that while his captaincy skills seemed to have lost their sheen, his batting form was superlative. The other New Zealander is the crocked Jacob Oram.

New Zealand managed to have two of the world's top forty cricketers in 2003 (when it was Fleming and Richardson) and 2004. At this stage only Hamish Marshall looks to have any chance of making the 2005 list.

Wednesday, 6 April 2005

Day two

The press, and even the players, are already writing off this test as a snore draw. But we can already reflect on some very positive aspects of the match. Hamish Marshall for one. Jimmy Franklin finally showing us he can bat for two. And Nathan Astle soldiering on for three. Brendon McCullum's 99, like all 99s, is in the too tragic to be positive, too positive to be tragic category.

Marshall's development has, as I have said before, been the revelation of the summer. I still worry that it could be a flash in the pan - a repetition of the early stages in the careers of players like Mark Greatbatch or Lou Vincent - but Marshall's technique is built on such simple methods that you would hope that the vagaries of form will have less effect than it would on other players.

Tuesday, 5 April 2005

Day one

The Marshall twins may have put on a century partnership and Hamish Marshall may well have scored his second test century, but the New Zealand media has mostly been focussed on the bowling action of Lasith Malinga. A good start to the match nonetheless.

Monday, 4 April 2005

Napier test preview

Cricinfo have published some stats to cheer us up before the first test. The numbers game column has analysed New Zealand second innings scores and has unsurprisingly concluded that we are rubbish in the second dig - averaging less than half our first innings score in games since 2003. And if you scroll down to the bottom of this article you will also find another disturbing set of statistics, in ODIs since 2003 New Zealand has a) scored less runs in the last 10 overs than any of the other major sides and b) scored less runs overall than any of the other major sides. Not that this really belongs in a test preview, but it is disturbing news nonetheless.

Having cheered us up with that kind of analysis, Cricinfo has then published a preview which cheerfully points out all the holes in the side - no top order, no bowlers, that kind of thing. They also tell us the exciting news that Ian O'Brien has been made 12th man, meaning Kyle Mills' dismal performances in Australia earlier this season have been rewarded with another test cap.

The media does have some good news for you though, the weather. Sunny, warm and scheduled to stay that way. And despite all the other doom and gloom, I am feeling kinda upbeat. This could be a good contest. Sri Lanka have some brilliant batsmen, but swing and seam could be their undoing. And while Chaminda Vaas is always a handful on greenish wickets, the rest of the bowling line-up is not going to send shivers through New Zealand spines.

Friday, 1 April 2005

Its like a Russian novel and the ball is made of wood

Americans try to get to grip with cricket again. I don't know where the hell they got the idea that the game is played with wooden balls.

Player of the year

Dan Vettori came away with the plaudits at the New Zealand Cricket awards ceremony last night. By taking 42 wickets at 27.78 in test cricket this season without much support he won both player of the year and the Winsor Cup for bowler of the year. By my calculations Vettori also scored 365 test runs at 33.18, which must put him up amongst our better performed batsmen after consistently dismal performances at the top of the order. One batsman who did perform was Hamish Marshall, who ended the season with 378 test runs at 54.00 and who took the Redpath Cup for batsman of the year. Vettori and Marshall also took the awards for bowling and batting in ODIs.

English on Italian

Peter English, has written a profile of Daniel Vettori for Baggy Green in which he calls for Dan's selection in the World XI matches against Australia and slams the rest of the New Zealand attack.

Dan on the Ashes

After the abysmal Australian series, Stephen Fleming was brazen enough to suggest that the England team were likely headed for similar treatment in the Ashes series set to commence in July. It is obviously tempting for Fleming to hold onto some last shreds of self-respect by adopting the position that the Aussie team is so good it can destroy anyone - but is England really destined for the same fate as the hapless Black Caps?

An alternative view is that the 2005 Ashes series may actually be a very close run event; perhaps even the first sign that Australia's dominance will not last forever. England's test team has been on fire since last year. England are now second in the world in the ICC Test rankings (as opposed to New Zealand's seventh place) and have had a golden run of successes including beating the West Indies in the West Indies (3-0 [one draw]) and in England (4-0), beating New Zealand in England (3-0) and a first series win in South Africa since 1964-1965 (3-1 [two draws]), all in the space of little over a year.

England last won the Ashes in 1987 and the 2005 team is one of the best I've seen in my lifetime. Harmison, Flintoff and Strauss are truly world-class players, backed up well by Pieterson, Trescothick, Hoggard, Giles, Jones and Vaughan. Man for man, it is a far better team than New Zealand have been able to put on the park in some time.

Moreover, the team has attitude and strength - as is shown by their ability to come back from dififcult situations, such as the first few days of the New Zealand tests, or the lost first test against SA. The question is whether this is enough or whether the Aussies are really, as Fleming hints, made of kryptonite.