Friday, 30 May 2008

Taylor gets the knives out

Ross Taylor's latest tour diary is damning of his team-mates for their role in the loss at Old Trafford. The most vitriolic attack comes against Jamie How, Iain O'Brien and Michael Mason. They are outed as bogans. Not that Taylor lets himself off the hook entirely. He, Dan Vettori, Jake Oram and Jeetan Patel are all revealed as being R&B fans. Terrible.

Oh and he also criticises the bowlers for not matching Monty Panesar's efforts on the field. But, you know, we knew THAT already.

Thursday, 29 May 2008

The Guardian on Jerry

Jeremy Coney is the new Richie Benaud? According to Rob Bagchi of the Guardian he is:

Coming across as cricket's answer to the poet and critic Tom Paulin, each word is measured for effect and the effort of thoughtfulness is etched across his face as he weighs each comment. He never preaches, though, just talks with the ease of an accomplished raconteur in a charming and shrewd, if slightly kooky fashion. If you still miss the master, catch Coney while you can.

I know some people find his kookiness irritating, but I count myself as a fan. His autobiography was the first cricket book I read that contained any real insights into the game and he can be a marvellously inventive, thoughtful and clever speaker when he feels like it.

If anyone has an MP3 of him and John Parker discussing Parker's only test wicket (during a lull in play at the Basin test between England and New Zealand in 1988)please, for the love of god, post it here so the rest of us can relive one of cricket broadcasting's true golden moments.

Vettori comes under more pressure

Chris Rattue, in this morning's Herald, has sifted through the ashes of the second test and found Vettori's captaincy wanting:

The honeymoon period for Vettori's captaincy is over and this horrible failure must be judged against the harsh standards of international sport. After squandering a surprise series advantage at home to England this year, this sideways drift has reached the point where the leeway is over.

If Vettori cannot inspire and demand more than this, then the captaincy issue is not at rest. There must be serious questions over a side that can so blatantly betray one of the finest centuries ever scored by a New Zealand batsman, a rare gem that has already faded because of what followed.

Wednesday, 28 May 2008

Vettori and the 4th innings blues

Conventional wisdom tells us that spin bowlers should struggle in the first innings of a test match, and improve as the wicket wears and crumbles. Monty Panesar showed us how this works in the Old Trafford test - with 1-101 in the first innings, and 6-37 in the third.

But one exception to this rule seems to be Dan Vettori. I can't count the number of times where he has performed well in the early stages of a match, and then gone missing once the wicket starts to take a bit of spin.

An analysis of his career seems to bear this out. Look at these figures:

Innings --- Wickets --- Average
1st --- 61 --- 41.40
2nd --- 90 --- 29.67
3rd --- 77 --- 32.58
4th --- 28 --- 38.14

The 1st innings figures are probably a reflection of New Zealand conditions. If the wicket is a green-top, then Dan probably won't get a bowl at all. If it is dead flat, then he (and all the other bowlers) get pasted.

But there is clearly a trend from innings 2 to innings 4. The longer the match goes on, the less effective he becomes.

Tuesday, 27 May 2008

Martin Crowe tells us what he really thinks about Geoff Howarth


Oh, it was definitely the culture in the team when I came in that I wasn't made very welcome. Only John Wright actually welcomed me into the team. The captain [Geoff Howarth] called me a show pony the whole time and treated me like shit. That didn't help. Greg Chappell and Rod Marsh were nicer to me than my own team-mates.


Howarth as coach was a joke, and I played under Lee Germon, which was ridiculous.

From here.

The morning after

Should I be writing this now? I am tired, I am grumpy and I managed to get only a couple of hours of sleep last night. It wasn’t that I spent the whole night watching cricket – I turned off when it was clear England were going to stroll to victory – it was that I spent the whole night lying awake seething.

I think I am going to have to restrain myself from ranting though. After all, this blog is going to become as predictable as the New Zealand cricket team if I have a rant after every single bloody victory-turned-into-defeat-by-a-second-innings-collapse.

Uh-oh. I almost couldn’t restrain myself there. I had to interrupt this post to fetch myself a nice cup of tea. Just typing the words “second-innings-collapse” made my blood boil.

Uh-oh. I did it again. Mmmmm, tea. Nice, soothing tea.

Positives. Yeah, positives. Let’s look at some positives. Forcing myself to look for a silver lining always helps me get over a loss. Jamie How is starting to look the goods now isn’t he? And Ross Taylor is proving himself to be a world-class batsman. And I bet Iain O’Brien’s first innings spell really surprised a few people.

I’ve always had a high opinion of O’Brien. I remember watching him bowl for Wellington years ago and being surprised at how quick he was. Mark Gillespie was bowling with the wind at one end and looked sharp, but O’Brien looked even sharper and more dangerous bowling into the breeze.

Another reason I have a fondness for O’Brien comes thanks to a bunch of annoying school kids who once perched themselves next to me during a State Shield match. The tykes had a not very endearing dimness to them, which was highlighted by the constant high-pitched abuse they piled on Iain. Maybe they don’t teach school kids about apostrophes anymore, because those idiots were pronouncing his name “Ob-re-on” – which meant O’Brien didn’t actually notice that their abuse was directed at him. I still find that funny. The abuse becoming increasingly shrill as O’Brien obliviously wandered back and forth in front of the embankment.

I think I might have told that story before.

What else can I talk about to distract myself from the nature of our loss? I could complain about the lack of variety in our defeats I guess. Wouldn’t it be really nice if just – for once – New Zealand failed in the first innings and then went gloriously to defeat with a battling second innings performance? I know the end result would be the same – but I think I would respect the team a lot more. And, you know, variety is the spice of life - for both cricket and blogging.

Saturday, 24 May 2008

Ben on..hit wicket (tooth)

End of 1st day, 2nd test: NZ 404/4, Taylor 67*, Oram 22*; Flynn retired hurt 4:

Not wishing to be macabre by posting this video, but that visual of the tooth is something else. I really hope Flynn is doing okay and that he'll be back with a vengeance.

Friday, 23 May 2008


I like books. And I occasionally get a hankering to read what I call in my mind "a great American novel". I am not sure what I even mean by that, and I am usually disappointed with whatever pretender I happen to pick up ("Cold Mountain", I am looking at you). I am starting to get that old hankering again, and am very tempted to pick up the latest attempt by a novelist to capture the American condition in print. Mainly because the vehicle that author has chosen as base his novel on is - weirdly enough - cricket.

"Netherland" by Joseph O'Neill isn't just attracting great reviews, it is also selling like hotcakes (as of this second it is the 10th biggest seller at Amazon). And the New York Times has even run an article about the real-life Staten Island Cricket Club, where the protagonist of "Netherland" plies his trade.

Billy Bowden pops up in the oddest places

I was flicking through a medical journal this morning and came across an almost full-page photo of Billy Bowden signalling a wide. The photo was part of an ad for a cream that treats arthritis by "depleting substance P from the whole c-fibre neurone both peripherally and centrally".

I'm not sure how I feel about cricket umpires having a media profile, but I guess a) Billy has a good reason to be involved in advertising an arthritis treatment, b) an ad in a medical journal hardly counts as having a media profile and c) it is certainly no worse than Stephen Fleming promoting deoderant and air conditioning.

Thursday, 22 May 2008

Ben on...Carry On at Lord's

You have to love the English and their love of double entendres. The cricket at the Lord's test has already faded from memory, but the match will still be remembered with a chortle because of this 30-second snatch of commentary by Christopher Martin-Jenkins.

Some of the New Zealand commentators had a go at their own suggestive commentary, but not with the same panache. Ian Smith's quip about Oram's level of arousal has attracted comments, whereas Jeremy Coney's exposition about Jesse Ryder practising pulling in the shower has rightly been ignored (and, in a completely different vein, I bet he's hoping his shocker on Ross Taylor will be too).

Tuesday, 20 May 2008

Ben on...updated honours board

Go Big Jake!

Year Batsman Country Runs
J.D.P. Oram
New Zealand
2004M.H. Richardson New Zealand 101
1999 M.J. Horne New Zealand 100
1994 M.D. Crowe New Zealand 142
1990 T.J. Franklin New Zealand 101
1986M.D. Crowe New Zealand 106
1978 G.P. Howarth New Zealand 123
1973 B.E. Congdon New Zealand 175

M.G. Burgess New Zealand 105

V. Pollard New Zealand 105*
1949 M.P. Donnelly New Zealand 206
1931 C.S. Dempster New Zealand 120

M.L. Page New Zealand 104

Monday, 19 May 2008

Ben on...Vaughn and Vettori on the honours board

Despite the fact that the current test is heading for a likely rain-affected, dilatory draw, two players have earned honours: Vaughn's 106 and Vettori's 5-69 are the latest additions to the England batting and visitors bowling Lord's honours boards.

It is great to see Vettori's name being immortalised, even if it is in a meaningless (probably) test.

Here's the list of honoured New Zealand bowlers:

Year Bowler Country Figures
2008D.L. VettoriNew Zealand5-69
1999 C.L. Cairns New Zealand 6-77
1994D.J. NashNew Zealand6-76

D.J. NashNew Zealand5-93

D.J. NashNew Zealand11-169
R.J. Hadlee New Zealand 6-80
1983 R.J. Hadlee New Zealand 5-93
1978 R.J. Hadlee New Zealand 5-84

And here are the batsmen:

Year Batsman Country Runs
2004M.H. Richardson New Zealand 101
1999 M.J. Horne New Zealand 100
1994 M.D. Crowe New Zealand 142
1990 T.J. Franklin New Zealand 101
1986M.D. Crowe New Zealand 106
1978 G.P. Howarth New Zealand 123
1973 B.E. Congdon New Zealand 175

M.G. Burgess New Zealand 105

V. Pollard New Zealand 105*
1949 M.P. Donnelly New Zealand 206
1931 C.S. Dempster New Zealand 120

M.L. Page New Zealand 104

Little joys

It’s the little things that make following cricket at Lord’s such a joy. Little things like hearing David Gower lament that the English bowlers could not roll a batting line-up as weak as New Zealand’s in conditions perfectly suited to their bowling. Little things like waking up to hear that England have been bowled out for 319, when the last thing you can recall before going to sleep was Strauss and Cook marching on while Nasser Hussain warbled on about batting conditions being so good that Michael Vaughan should look for a lead of at least 200 and to still be batting by the close of play. Little things like having pessimistic expectations and a few English egos punctured.

Let’s just hope that these little things and my joy can last for at least one more day.

Saturday, 17 May 2008

Ben royalty

I think it may be time to add King Cricket to the blogroll. He's the one on the right (courtesy of AYaLAC's Valentine special):

They love their King Cricket up in the northern hemisphere. It's even been featured in Wisden Cricketer. It's a good blog. I've just been too much of a republican to add it here. Actually, the main reason I haven't added it to the blogroll is because of my raging parochialism – it seemed to me that the king just didn't mention our little dominion often enough, even though we've been playing each other for the last four months. I may have been too quick to judgement however; a look at his "New Zealand" tag reveals the occasional hat tip to a New Zealand player (which is of course more than I've ever written about an opposing team). In fact one of his more recent posts was about Brendon McCullum.

The post that prompted me to pay more attention to the blog though was about replacing Shane Bond with some recently discovered alternatives. I'm pinching the picture of Ryan Shanebondom:

Friday, 16 May 2008

Ben depths plumbed in journalism

I recommend that you do not read this article. It is wrong in so many ways and insulting to New Zealand on so many levels. Just don't read it. Read this instead – Prince Brendan McCullum one of the 5 most important cricketers.

Ben on...claws out in the comments

We don't get many comments at Mike on Cricket. If I make a poor post, there will most likely be no response (though I might possibly get JRod or Sportsfreak pop in to make a pithy comment, saving me some embarrassment). I should count my blessings. Check out the harsh comments in this blog. And here are some of the deleted comments:

3. At 8:01 pm on 14 May 2008, Rvvm wrote:

No offence, but I have no idea who you are.

Any chance you could get a journalist who has played the game at this level or at least has some knowledge of the game to write the next blog?


5. At 06:54 am on 15 May 2008, bonedoc70 wrote:

I agree with much of the above. Sorry to be negative but you appear to be describing the routine happenings of a build up to a game of cricket! It is the most banal piece of writing I have read in a world (wide web) that is overflowing with the trite and cliched.

"The groundsmen have been working on the pitch and the wicket since 9am and were still going around with a lawnmower at 4pm."


Did you speak to the groundstaff? What is the wicket going to play like?

"...........the caterers bring in all the beer, champagne and pies they will need while sponsors tents have also gone up."


Furthermore your piece is one large contradiction. Initially you state that England vs NZ is not "box office stuff" then go on to say "the excitement is building......bring it on" and there are "legends to be made". The next line I was expecting was "he was a slow left armer from the wrong side of the tracks who broke all the rules......this time its personal" you actually like cricket? Do you know anything about it? I am sorry to be negative but there was nothing of interest in your piece and it also sadly betrayed a lack of passion and understanding of the game.

6. At on 15 May 2008, edbaron wrote:

Is this the worst BBC sport blog ever written. Comments about the grass being cut and pie tents going up suggest this person won a Blue Peter prize to write about this blog. What does she know about cricket? Less than G Boycott's cat I would venture. If the BBC has stopped showing the cricket on TV at least have journos who know something about the game passing comment on it!

Mike Atherton on Dan Vettori

Ouch! As you might guess from the title of his column, "Daniel Vettori has failed to lead by example for New Zealand", Mike Atherton is not best pleased with Dan.

Thursday, 15 May 2008

Ben on...anticipation

While the English press and the English players are boring us with their boring stories about how boring the England tour is going to be, a couple of Englishers are giving more nuanced opinions.

The Atheist proves that he alone in England has a memory by noting that it wasn't that long ago that there was little separating England and New Zealand. Recalling the last time the two teams met in a tour, too long ago for most to remember:
And what happened? We won some games here. They one some games there. It was like watching two lobotomised quadriplegics trying to play “flip the coin.” Of course, there could only be one winner in such a contest: the coin.
Miriam has made a delightfully optimistic and up-beat post about her joyous anticipation of the start of the cricket season (helped no doubt by the presence of a certain librarian). The first test will apparently be like "the first time you sleep with someone after you've both been anticipating it for months."

Speaking of Miriam and the Atheist: There is a lot to be said for anonymity in the blogosphere. We will all have seen the Atheist in his appearances in his series of blu tack re-enactments of matches. Knowing what he looks like doesn't impact on his posts. If anything, it gives them character. However, in an indescribable post, he has, in a way, given faces to several of his blogging friends. Apparently the zany pairing of JRod and Miriam over at Cricket with Balls are the cricket blogging equivalent of Peter Andre and Jordan:

The analogy is strangely appropriate, but I suspect that the image of Pete and Jordan will change my reading of the posts at Cricket with Balls.

New Zealand 'B' vs England, first test preview

Cricinfo is all over the first test. From stats, to the weather (wet) to interviews and tour diaries. It is not often that a New Zealand 'B' tour gets this much fanfare. I can't wait to see what sort of coverage Shane Bond and the rest of the 'A' team get when they arrive.


As my excessively heavy use of the 'B' team literary device and my tips over at Sportsfreak indicate, I am not particularly optimistic about our success on this tour. Even worse, even at this stage I am not particularly enthusiastic about it either. The two-faced treatment of Shane Bond; the defections of Lou Vincent, Hamish Marshall et al; the shabby treatment of Stephen Fleming - all these things have taken a toll on my love for the game. I know I will still be staying up to watch the first session on Sky. And I know my heart will still beat at a million miles an hour in the build-up to the toss. But right now any excitement lingers a long way behind some real bitterness.

Luckily none of that bitterness extends to any of the team. And once the real cricket starts, all the administrative blundering is just going to become a bad memory. So, as of tonight, my posturing and complaining about this being a New Zealand 'B' side is going to stop. The players with ferns over their breasts are my team, and I am going to damn well support them.

So out with the bitching, and in with the cheering. Go kiwi! Smash 'em McCullum! Show us yer cover-drive Ross! Rip out their stumps Tim! Go lads, GO!


Speaking of fantasy cricket, Mike and I have been drafted into the Sportsfreak tipping premier league, which has had its first round of tips for the NZ–Eng test series as a whole. (Look out soon for the first-test tips.)

We're running at a combined score of 0 at the moment, which isn't actually that bad considering the series hasn't started. We would be doing much worse except that Mike got a bonus point for doing some research, counteracting the penalty I got for my own, rather underhand, research (bloody Flintoff factor again).

As a matter of interest, here are the series outcome predictions (for NZ): 0-2, 0-3, 0-2, 0-3, 0-3, 1-1, 1-1, 1-1, 0-2, 2-1!!!, 1-1, 0-2, for an average of 0.5-1.83.

Sunday, 11 May 2008

Ben on...the Flintoff factor

So Andrew Flintoff won't be playing for at least the first two tests. This will disappoint some commentators, but not others.

I gotta say, I'm not convinced by Flintoff. I know he carried England to Ashes victory and spent a couple of years at the top of rankings. But I picked him in a round of some fantasy cricket thing once and he got no wickets, so I ended up getting 0 points in that round and never recovered.

Monday, 5 May 2008

Ben on...Black Caps' performance rated

If the Black Caps was your (male) lover:
New Zealand: Underrated, with a quiet librarian-esque charm, underneath which lay a second layer of librarian-esque charm, but underneath THAT lay some extremely good all-round skills. Didn't talk the talk as much as I would have liked, though, and had a tendency to collapse at the same point too early in every innings. Rarely good for more than one-dayers / day-nighters.

or (female):
New Zealand – a shy bookkeeper I’ve seen a few times. Not the most attractive girl I’ve ever been with, but more than makes up for it with her performances on the pitch. Plays above herself almost every time she takes the field. Wildly inventive and proves yet again looks can be deceiving. Not a world cup winner, but you know you’ll get a few good wins out of her.

Ben on...the English view

I'm really liking the new Guardian website. It's got some proper articles at last and they're easy to find. Here's a profile of Ross Taylor. And here's one of Jacob Oram from the Times. Nice to see these papers think the New Zealand players are interesting enough to profile. Not like the bloody Independent.

Saturday, 3 May 2008

Ben on...the boys are back

The Black Caps are playing Essex at the moment. We managed to score a healthy total in our first dig, with Essex starting their innings as I write.

Our line up looks much better now that the IPL contractors are back in the team. There might be a couple of changes for the first test (Martin in, Flynn out?), but we are fielding a near to full strength side.

The IPL guys seem to be finding their feet in the longer form of the game as well, all of them keeping their scoring rates in check – McCullum in particular scoring at a very responsible 33.33 runs per 100 balls. Unfortunately, they seem to be forgetting how to hang on to their wickets; the five IPL players scored only 64 between them, in a total of 355.

Friday, 2 May 2008

Ben on...ICL wrap-up

Chris Harris won the ICL 20s Grand Championship with the Hyderabad Heroes. He was also the only New Zealander that turned in anything like an outstanding performance, with his bowling at least.

I've tabulated everyone's stats. I don't really know which stat is the most important in 20-20, but I have chosen to sort everything by average, simply because I like the fact that this puts Shane Bond at the top of the batting chart and the bottom of the bowling chart.

Batsman              I   Runs  Avg   SR    6s
Bond (Delhi) 5 31 31 114.81 0
McMillan (Kolkata) 9 198 24.75 133.78 8
Astle (Mumbai) 7 148 24.66 102.06 5
Cairns (Chandigarh) 5 119 23.8 143.37 8
Adams (Kolkata) 5 77 19.25 126.22 4
Vincent (Chandigarh) 7 108 15.42 99.08 3
Harris (Hyderabad) 7 74 14.8 127.58 4
Tuffey (Chandigarh) 4 17 8.5 113.33 0
Parore (Chennai) 4 6 2 60 0

Bowler I Wk Avg Ecn SR
Harris 9 9 19.88 6.62 18
Cairns 2 3 20.33 8.71 14
Tuffey 7 10 24.5 8.16 18
Vincent 4 2 24.5 8.16 18
Adams 8 9 24.66 7.08 20.8
McMillan 6 3 31.33 8.54 22
Astle 5 2 33.5 8.04 25
Bond 7 2 86.5 6.25 83

There isn't much that can be taken from these stats. Bond had a shocker, as did Parore (3 catches, 2 stumpings). Cairns remains good value. All in all, certainly no one lit up the competition like McCullum and Taylor have been doing over in the IPL. (Is it too much to hope that the ICL will realise that Bond's how-many-$100,000 for 2 wickets is too dear and decide to release him to return to New Zealand cricket and the brighter lights of the IPL?)

We had a few kiwis selected for the World XI team for the ICL 20s World Series, Cairns (c), Harris, Tuffey and Vincent (wk), who lost the final to the India XI. No one covering themselves with any glory.

Batsman I   Runs  Avg   SR    6s
Vincent 7 108 15.42 99.08 3
Cairns 3 28 9.33 77.77 1
Harris - - - - -
Tuffey - - - - -

Bowler I Wk Avg Ecn SR
Harris 1 - 0 6.33 -
Cairns 1 1 12 12 6
Tuffey 4 4 29 8.28 21
Vincent - - - - -

Thursday, 1 May 2008

Ben on...Bond on Bond

Anyone interested in what Shane Bond's up to might find this interview interesting (from the revamped Guardian online; hope they still have live commentary).

He seems to have moved on and is having a good time playing ICL T20, counting his earnings and talking cricket with cricketers. Good for him.

He's still carrying a chip on his shoulders however. A couple in fact. He's blaming NZC for him not being in the IPL. And everyone who said "It's a shame you can't play anymore but thanks for your contributions and good luck," (which really seems to be the prevailing attitude, even amongst those of us who also said "Oh, he doesn't want to play anymore so bugger off!") will be a bit disappointed to hear him say: one even said: 'It's a shame you can't play anymore but thanks for your contributions and good luck.' It was just a case of, 'Oh, he doesn't want to play anymore so bugger off!' That irritates me most.

Also, here's a nice little report about the other ICL superstar Chris Cairns and his efforts to cause embarrassment to ex-coach.