Tuesday, 30 May 2006

Matthew Horne retires

The Black Caps website is reporting that Matthew Horne has announced his retirement. Horne is a batsman that Mark Richardson feels should have spent more time at the top. And Mark Richardson isn't the only one to think that way. Horne played 35 tests as an opener and while his average of 28.38 is not that impressive, it is better than many of those who followed him and probably more reflects the lack of faith placed in him by the selectors than his ability. Horne's final first-class average was over 40 and few batsmen have scored as many runs for one province as he scored for Auckland. He scored a test hundred against England at Lords and he 133 against Australia at Bellerive Oval. Not even Mark Richardson managed centuries against both opponents - in fact you have to go back to John Wright to find another New Zealand opener who has.

Monday, 29 May 2006

Franklin to Glamorgan

After a very thorough sounding physical, Jimmy Franklin has finally put pen to paper and signed with Glamorgan.

Sunday, 28 May 2006

Vincent to Worcestershire

In his Sunday column for the Herald Dylan Cleaver has announced that Lou Vincent has been offered a short-term contract playing for Worcestershire.

Cleaver also tells us that New Zealand Cricket has loosened the purse strings a little to allow each province to contract 12 players next season, rather than the usual 11.

And Cleaver's final offering is to hint that Craig McMillan, who Richard Boock told us is facing the chop, may actually get an international contract this season.

In other news, it has not been a good weekend for New Zealand players in England. Dan Vettori took 0-92 and scored 27, Scott Styris managed 13 and 0-65, Stephen Fleming made 42 and 0, Craig Spearman 19 and 30. Andre Adams was the only one to show any sort of form taking 3-71 and 4-72 and scoring 44 not out to help Essex to victory over Spearman's Gloucestershire. Adams took Spearman's wicket in both innings.

Friday, 26 May 2006

Andre Adams in the wickets

The Black Caps website has a good summary of how New Zealand players are faring in the latest round of the County Championship. The stand-out so far has been Andre Adams, who has picked up Craig Spearman cheaply on the way to 3-33 (following 3-71 in the first innings) against Gloucestershire.

Wednesday, 24 May 2006

The real reason New Zealand isn't popular?

Seeing Cricinfo had posted an analysis of the fastest and slowest batting in an innings I rushed to see if some of New Zealand's assault and battery efforts had made the list. But there was no Ian Smith-led assault against India. No Craig McMillan-led battery of Pakistan. No Chris Cairns-led massacre against, well, everyone really. In fact no New Zealand effort made the top fifteen.

A look at the world's slowest innings gave me another shock. According to Cricinfo's ever reliable statisticians you can thank New Zealand for nine of the fifteen most painfully slow efforts in test history.

Perhaps it should be pointed out to those arranging the future tours programme that eight of these efforts came before 1966 (and seven before 1957), and that the other one was an innings which ended with the score on a grand total of 16/1 (and that was way back in 1985/6).

West Indies vs India

West Indies vs India appeared to be just one of those series, a tour made only to meet obligations to the ICC - but it has just started to become very interesting. Three ODIs have been played and all three have been classics. The Windies have just completed a win in the third match to take a 2-1 lead in the series with two matches to play. Lets just hope that they can maintain their momentum through to the test series.

Tuesday, 23 May 2006

Karl on ... bowlers, unusual styles and injuries

The Guardian has an excellent article as part of the leadup to the second test between Sri Lanka and England. Ostensibly it is about Sri Lankan bowler Lasith Malinga - Malinga The Slinger. New Zealanders know Malinga well - he's played here over the last couple of summers and will do again this coming summer.

Where the article gets interesting is in the description of his action and looking at other bowler's actions. The article states that the change of the no-ball lawyer from the back-foot rule to the front-foot rule has resulted in a change of the ideal action. The change has also increased the chances of back injuries for those bowlers who stuck to the traditional model of bowling action - side on, hips and shoulders in synch.

In discussing how Malinga's action came about, I enjoyed the final sentence: "It is just a good job that no coach managed to get hold of him before his point was made."

Monday, 22 May 2006

The 'A' team concept

Dylan Cleaver had a really interesting piece in yesterday's Herald on Sunday looking at the concept of 'A' team tours and the pros and cons of funding these instead of improving the structure of the domestic game. In the same paper on the same day Mark Richardson has penned a piece which states that the high performance centre at Lincoln should be a higher funding priority than 'A' tours on the grounds that:

Our top-order batsmen, in particular, have technical issues which can only be fixed in a controlled environment.

For many, match play should only come at the end of an extensive skills development process.

It would disappoint me to see some of our best players playing meaningless cricket at the expense of overhauling their techniques

Saturday, 20 May 2006

Axe set to fall

Richard Boock, who always seems to have the inside oil, says that New Zealand Cricket is about to cut the contracts of four long serving New Zealand players. It is no surprise that Chris Harris, Paul Wiseman and Daryl Tuffey are for the chop. Harris and Wiseman have both hit the late-30s and haven't done an awful lot to impress over the last year and Tuffey has yet to return from a long lay-off due to injury and public humiliation. The one player who might be a surprise casualty is Craig McMillan. McMillan is still only 29 and has a superb test record, but has been in shocking form for New Zealand in the past couple of seasons and failed to right the boat in last season's domestic competition (scoring only 260 runs at 32.50). McMillan has been given a lot of rope compared to colleagues like Mathew Sinclair and Matthew Horne, but it seems like he has finely ended his golden run.

Craig Cumming and Chris Cairns are the other players that Boock says are for the chop. Cairns for obvious reasons (retirement) and Cumming on form (only 173 runs at 21.62 in the State Championship).

Boock - as usual - leads with the bad news. And what we really should be focusing on is the good news. Because those six vacancies mean that there are six new players set to receive shiny new contracts. Boock speculates that Jeetan Patel, Michael Mason, Jamie How, Peter Fulton, Ross Taylor and Mathew Sinclair are the players to be rewarded. I would liked to have seen Andre Adams or Jesse Ryder make the list ahead of Michael Mason, but Boock tells us that Adams has told the selectors he would rather concentrate on playing for Essex and I guess Ryder has yet to really put his mark on the domestic game.

Thursday, 18 May 2006

Another New Zealanders joins the county scene

The Black Caps website reports that Jimmy Franklin's injury isn't as bad as first thought and that he will be able to take up his contract with Glamorgan.

Wednesday, 17 May 2006

New Zealanders playing county cricket

The Herald reports that Dan Vettori has just signed a contract with Warwickshire and will play his first game for them on Monday. He will be joining the other New Zealanders on the county scene, Craig Spearman and Hamish Marshall (Gloucestershire), Andre Adams (Essex), Stephen Fleming (Nottinghamshire) and Scott Styris (Middlesex).

Tuesday, 16 May 2006

A great escape

Who would have believed - right up until the dying moments of this test - that Sri Lanka would ever escape with a draw? On the last day the Sri Lankans only lost three wickets and three members of the tail managed to score 50 or more. Bad light had a part to play, but it was still an outstanding effort.

Sunday, 14 May 2006

The openers issue

The Sunday Herald has talked to a couple of experts to get their view on how to solve the opening problem. They don't have any silver bullet solutions, but they do suggest getting rid of the "select the six best batsmen and get two of them to open" selection policy and making the first-class scene a harder school for openers.

Paul Lewis on John Bracewell

Writing in the Herald Paul Lewis looks at John Bracewell's record as coach.

Does anyone else think that Bracewell's reign is starting to resemble a broken record?

Unpopular New Zealand

Cricinfo has crunched the numbers and worked out exactly how many days of cricket each test side has coming their way over the next six years. India, predictably, get the most cricket with 578 days of cricket (an average of 96.33 days per year). New Zealand gets a puny 394 days (65.67 per year) - less than everyone except for Zimbabwe and Bangladesh.

Saturday, 13 May 2006

Tough opponents?

Hmmmm, perhaps I went too far in saying that Sri Lanka would prove no walkover for England...

Friday, 12 May 2006

England vs Sri Lanka

I can't think of a better team for England to play than Sri Lanka as they start to stretch their legs in anticipation of next seasons Ashes. Sri Lanka do not look a strong side now Chaminda Vaas has lost his zip and Muttiah Muralitharan his sparkle. And I can't understand why a batting order that looks so fragile can contain so many batsmen averaging over 40. But this is not to say that Sri Lanka are a terrible side. They should put up a decent amount of resistence. And England are going to need some hard games to get them ready for their reception in Australia.

I just hope Sri Lanka get a little bit harder than they have been so far on day one of the series. Letting England reach 318/3 is not the way they would have wanted to start.

Why Tony Blair should be worried

"Matthew Hoggard called the Prime Minister a knob when we were celebrating winning the Ashes at a Downing Street function, and you know what? That's the first thing Hoggy's got right in a while. Blair is a knob."

Andrew Flintoff lines up Tony Blair.

Think what would happen to Helen Clark's popularity if Tana or Richie said something similar about her. When sportsmen start insulting you, you know its time to go.

Wednesday, 10 May 2006

Injury worries for James Franklin

The BBC is reporting that James Franklin has had to withdraw from his contract with Glamorgan because he requires surgery to repair a cartilage tear.

The new FTP

The ICC has just released the Future Tours Programme 2006-2011. Click on the link to see who will be playing who over the next five years.

There are a few odd things to note. Our next overseas test tour is to South Africa and we don't play an Asian country until India tour in February 2009. One nice aspect is that we do have quite a few three test tours lined up instead of the usual array of blink-and-you-miss-them two-test-and-no-warm-up-games series. In fact the majority of tours in the next five years will consist of three tests - with twelve scheduled compared to just seven two test series.

Ben on...future tours programme

The Future Tours Programme has been been released by the ICC, now extended to a six-year cycle.

It is nicely laid out and colour coded, but will take some time to analyse. However, one thing that stands out for me is that New Zealand seems to be the only country with anything like a regular off season.

I would really like to know how the schedule is decided, as the sequence of tours seems quite strange. New Zealand's next overseas tour is to South Africa, the same as our last overseas tour. And this won't come until the '07/'08 season. In that season we also play host to England, and then less than a month after hosting them we travel there for another series.

Monday, 8 May 2006

Poll results and a new poll

I smell some cheeky vote rigging. My last poll asked you how New Zealand would do in South Africa and up until this weekend voting was very even. One match down already then yet another batting collapse and suddenly I had a host of new voters telling me that New Zealand was going to get thrashed. Ya think?

Anyway. Prior to the late extra votes I had one confident person tell me we were going to kick Protea bottie, nine tell me that Bond, Vettori and Oram would give us a slight edge, three predicting winter rain and dull draws, eight predicting injuries to Bond, Vettori and Oram would dull our edge and four claiming Makhaya Ntini would go through us like a dose of Suzy's special sauce. I am not counting the eight late votes. You know who you are.

My new poll is a very simple "yes/no" affair. Should John Bracewell stay or should he go?

John Bracewell's record as coach

John Bracewell was appointed New Zealand coach in September 2003. Since then he has coached the side in eleven test series as follows:

Tour - Wins - Losses
In India - 0 - 0
vs Pakistan - 0 - 1
vs South Africa - 1 - 1
In England - 0 - 3
In Bangladesh - 2 - 0
In Australia - 0 - 2
vs Australia - 0 - 2
vs Sri Lanka - 1 - 0
In Zimbabwe - 2 - 0
vs West Indies - 2 - 0
In South Africa - 0 - 2

A record of eight wins and eleven losses doesn't sound too bad until you start to look at who the opponents were. Six of our wins came against very weak sides from Bangladesh, Zimbabwe and the West Indies and only two came against teams of even middling ability - Sri Lanka and South Africa.

Prior to Bracewell's tenure we had such triumphs as the drawn series in Australia of 2001/2, a home victory over India in 2002/3 and a series win in England in 1999. We even dared - for a short period of time - to call our team the second best in the world.

According to the latest rankings we are now ranked sixth. Only Sri Lanka, West Indies, Zimbabwe and Bangladesh sit below us.

To be honest, I felt we should have won the recent series in South Africa. And I have no doubt that a side which included cast-offs like Ian Butler, Lou Vincent, Matthew Sinclair, Craig Spearman and Mark Richardson probably would have won.

New Zealand is too small a nation to exclude players of ability from its test side. And the main cause of players being excluded seems to be that man John Bracewell.

Shane Warne - oh dear

A warning. The pictures in this News of the World article are not for family viewing. If you are too polite to click, in summary there are a series of grainy, black and white photos of an almost naked Shane Warne and two even more naked young women. Poor, old, stupid Shane.

Saturday, 6 May 2006

A terrible first day

What a complete disaster. Why do we even bother having a top order? Wouldn't it be less painful all round if we just selected 8 middle order and tail order players and started each innings at 0/3?

I really think some questions do need to be asked. The tail is outstanding (the best in the world according to this analysis), so its not that New Zealanders can't bat. If we look at this innings in isolation, we could blame superb deliveries (Papps, How, Astle), typically horrific umpiring from Darryl Hair (Fleming, Oram) and stupidity (Scott Styris). But we shouldn't look at this innings in isolation, we should look at it in the context of consistently poor performances. And if we start doing that then we need to start wondering why our best batsmen aren't playing. Who are the best opening batsmen we have? I'll give you a clue - one of them is currently in the commentary box and the other has just scored yet another century for Gloucestershire. And - Fleming apart - who are our best players at three and four? Sinclair and Vincent, who have both been cut down in their prime.

Our team is not performing because the top order is not performing. And the top order is not performing because of poor man-management. And things are not going to improve until there is a change to the team management. Since John Bracewell took charge the New Zealand team has tumbled from being one of the best in the world to the team that fills the gap between West Indies, Bangladesh, Zimbabwe and the rest of the test nations. As a nation we don't like sacking people. And I certainly don't like calling for heads. But it is time for Bracewell to go.

Thursday, 4 May 2006

Asia "bought" Windies World Cup vote

I always thought the ICC was incompetent and blind, but up until now I never actually thought it would be corrupt.

Karl on ... the quote of the week

Stephen Fleming, when discussing why James Franklin shouldn't move up the batting order, said:

Daniel Vettori's ... been one of our most successful test batsmen over the past 12 months.

High praise for the number 8 - but damning of the ones ahead of

Wednesday, 3 May 2006

Captain Insatiable

Cricinfo's "Top Performer" column this week profiles New Zealand captain Stephen Fleming. I'm not really sure what the "Captain Insatiable" label is all about though.

Tuesday, 2 May 2006

Ratings movers and shakers

Now the second test finally has dribbled to its inevitable conclusion, some interest can be gleaned from changes in the ICC ratings tables. Stephen Fleming made the most obvious move, clawing his way up no less than ten places on the batting chart to declare himself the 14th best batsman in the world. James Franklin's performance with the ball saw him climb to 17th spot on the bowling chart, but his unbeaten century was not enough for him to break the top 100 on the batting table.

Meanwhile, the injured Shane Bond's rating value has depreciated from 778 to 727 and he has slipped to 10th place on the bowling chart.

Monday, 1 May 2006

Ben on...2011

Congratulations Asia on winning the rights to hold the 2011 World Cup. I'm sure it will be a great event. I am also keenly looking forward to the tournament in 2015 in Australasia.

As the hosting of future world cups are decided, I do hope the ICC does not give much weight to Sharad Pawar's comments:

South Asian has four of the 10 test-playing nations and a large part of the money earned from cricket comes from here, so there is good reason that every third World Cup be held here.

It don't believe that it follows that a country should see more world cups just because they have more cricket playing neighbours.