January 2011

Send England's ADHD Batsmen To The Beach For Some Much Needed Tips.

by daniel 31. January 2011 14:00

When we began Test Match Sofa in summer 2009 I promised myself that we would never become jaded or bored by the cricket we were watching. We would never fall into the trap of sounding like we wished we were anywhere but in front of the telly soaking up our favourite game. After all, I’m content watching six overweight blokes comically swishing the air at beach cricket, or indeed spending a whole season experiencing the unfathomable lows that attend every day of being a Surrey CCC season ticket holder, so what horrors could possibly accompany a simple ODI between my beloved England and their oldest foe?

Well, I’ve finally seen the barrel scraped and yet have two more of these ludicrous encounters to endure. At the Gabba on Sunday, England’s batsmen contrived dismissals that had they come from the bats of Hansie Cronje or Salman Butt would have invited an international enquiry.

For in truth the pitch, whilst slower than Brisbane pitches in normal summers, was perfectly acceptable. England’s bowlers, led by the estimable Chris Woakes and, for a time, by the ODI debutant Steve Finn, had restricted Australia to a well under par 249 all out. There was some distinctly substandard bating as usual from the Aussies; perhaps top scorer Michael Clarke (54 from 72 balls) being the worst culprit. Marsh has looked all at sea since getting his ton in the second match. David Hussey has disappointed throughout, but even amidst the sea of mediocrity Australia has managed to conjure competitive totals thanks to everyone getting double figures, albeit not much more.

Woakes was a revelation. For such an inexperienced bowler, and one with no express pace, he demonstrated variety of speed and consistency of line that stifled all Australia’s batsmen and he well deserved his figures of 6-45 (the second best by an Englishman in any ODI). Ably supported by Collingwood who bowled his ten overs straight through for 36 runs, and only occasionally let down by Shahzad’s wilder offerings, Woakes will have felt the cosy glow that comes with putting your team on top, and might have settled down to watch a regulation run chase.

But then he looks too smart for that. Instead he was probably in the nets practicing his batting in the safe and certain knowledge that his team mates would struggle to chase down 50, let alone 250.

Within 6.1 overs England had lost their top three; Prior tried to late cut a full ball that hit the top of off stump at express pace (I know commentators complain that they don’t see enough late cuts, but I’m really not sure we meant people to try executing this deftest of shots off 90 mph half volleys). Strauss, next ball, showed the kind of strategic phlegmatism normally associated with Japanese kamikaze pilots and pulled straight into the hands of square leg, and then Trott managed to get caught at leg gully low down to Bollinger’s right. This at least had the merit of being the only time I’d seen someone get out that way since the limit on leg side fielders was imposed following the Bodyline series of 32/3.

There then followed a passage of play commonly known as “lull”. Lull is good. Lull is what wins batting sides matches. Lull is what the Aussies have been imposing on the middle overs of innings for 15 years and winning as a result. The way of lull is to embrace the relaxing qualities of the pushed single into the massive gaps on both sides of the wicket once the power play restrictions are lifted. When defending a total of 250, the fielding side can ill afford lull to take over for more than 15 overs or else the game will get away.

Pietersen and Bell were in just such a phase, cruising along at 5 an over for 15 overs with no alarms. Clarke, not the sharpest tool in the box, looked more clueless than usual as he surveyed a bowling attack without teeth, a wicket without devils and two of the better batsmen in world cricket comfortably helping themselves to singles with the alacrity of a child who’s been left in charge of the sweet tin while his parents go out for the weekend.

But then an awful thing happened. Hastings bowled an over that went for 2 runs and poor old KP became instantly bogged down. Scoreboard pressure got to him. After all, the rate had crept up to a daunting 5.3 an over from its original 5.0. Hastings bowled a slow looping long hop, Pietersen, who had committed to the shot 5 minutes earlier, top edged and thereafter began a slide of woefully depressing proportions.

It’s hard looking back to decide which of Bell, Morgan and Collingwood played the worst shot; probably Morgan trying to hit against the spin of Smith having faced only three balls. But then again Bell’s limp attempt to run a ball down to third man and playing on was pretty close. 

In short, England subsided to 145-9. Finn and Anderson put on 53 hilarious runs for the 10th wicket and Finn came within another six of being the first number 11 to top score in an ODI, but it was all rather pointless.

I’ve said it four times before and I’ll say it again; England’s batsmen are in the very worst nick. Maybe they have mentally left Australia. If that is the case can I urge them physically to leave as well and so spare us any more of this needless torment. I can’t believe the Aussies are taking much confidence from this either as their batsmen crumble to England’s second and third string bowling.

Form and the motivation to apply ones skills are capricious beasts and they may well return by the time of the World Cup. Meanwhile I advise you to head to the nearest beach and watch some proper batsmanship by a bunch of middle aged fat blokes and their 8 year old children flapping around with a tennis ball.

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One Day Internationals are for Making Money

by sophiajuliet 29. January 2011 14:30
Brisbane. Remember that place? Where England’s victorious campaign to retain the Ashes began. Where the “Should Be Dropped” Alistair Cook scored the runs required for all of Cricket Bet Live’s punters to get their money back on his series runs. So – this is a batting track, right?

Well... kind of. 

11 out of the last 21 first innings here have been between 241 and 274 – With teams not bowled out averaging 259 and winning 8 times out of 11 finished games. It seems like if you bat through your innings and get a total on the board then you’re most likely to win.

Bet Tip #1: 
If you want a middle on England/Australia’s first innings; Go for 225-289. Both teams have a fairly gritty batting line-up that will most likely last the innings (Perhaps England’s being a bit more fragile with Anderson back in the mix) and get over 225.

However, be warned. The Average score for a team bowled out is only 214 with only one out of 6 finished games ending in the score being defended. So if England bat first, feel free (If you’re Australian) to shove your money on England being bowled out under 230 and losing – if you’re that deluded.
As for the players, Trott is the only batsmen I’d back. He has performed time and time again this series – so if you want to back an English batsman go for him. But you’re all intelligent people (as you follow Test Match Sofa) so you knew that one. 

Betting Tip #2 (And #2.5): 
Cricket Bet Live have decided to pair him against Shaun Marsh – who has failed a few times more this series than Trott has – so that batsman match bet is a good one to pick, potentially along with Trott’s player performance of over 38.5.

As for the Bowlers... 

In the last 10 years at Brisbane: 
Pace Bowlers have taken 211 wickets. 
Spin bowlers? Well... only 40.   
More interestingly; Jimmy Anderson’s last two games here have given him 4 wickets in total. Put into Cricket Bet Live Player Performance words, he averages 40 points without any extra runs or catches (which we know he can do!). So...

Betting Tip #3: 
Jimmy Anderson Player Performance – Going Over on him on 32.5 is a bet in your favour as 2 wickets is a doddle for this man!

Betting Tip #4: 
Brett Lee Player Performance – Going Over on him on 37.5 is also a bet in your favour as he gets a few runs along with wickets.

The reason for this is Lee has 11 wickets at Brisbane, and along with his Points Average of 49.75 in the series so far, everything seems to make me think he’ll make the points comfortably.

Backing the bits and pieces bowlers like Smith and Yardy could backfire on you on this pitch. Alright, Smith Averages 49.25 points this series but as I said Spin Bowlers (Or Slow Bowlers in this case) have barely taken wickets here – with the top two being the great Murali and, funnily enough, Clarke. 

Betting Tip #5: 
If you feel gutsy and want to back an all-rounder then back David Hussey, even on over 40.5. Averaging 61 points this series he has been a stand out player for me (and has made me some money too).

Betting Tip #6: 
England to Win. England has better pace bowlers and Colly. It’s a pace man’s pitch. However; take into account Cricket Bet Live is ran by Aussies. Wait until the England line creeps up near 2.7 after Prior gets out cheaply and then profit out of it.
However I do have one final word of warning, kind of a disclaimer. This pitch might not be the same due to the recent disaster in Australia. So don’t get mad at my interpretations of the stats if all goes wrong; as I most likely myself will be down a few quid.

Statistics provided by the Test Match Sofa wizard @howe_zat (Jake Howe) and Advice/Tips provided by @Cerebz (Steven Ellans) and website used for betting is www.TestMatchSofa.com sponsor www.cricketbetlive.com – what I find to be the best cricket betting website out there and what this article is based upon.

*Player Performance Points are based upon the following scoring:   
20 points per wicket, 1/run, 10/catch, 25/stumping and nothing for run-outs.

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I Told You They Should Have Dropped Trott

by daniel 27. January 2011 10:48

So, after carving out decent opportunities to win the 1st and 2nd ODIs but blowing it with dreadful batting, England finally chalked up a victory thanks in large part to Jonathan Trott who I didn’t think should have been playing. Note to self; give up punditry.

The Sofa was delighted to welcome back Aussie agent provocateur Jarrod Kimber for the Australia Day game at Adelaide and his foul mouthed dismissal of all things Australia Day related worked like a charm as his own brethren failed to answer the patriotic call of duty out on the pitch.

Brett Lee’s first “ball” set the tone for 50 overs of largely limp, often heinous and mostly wayward bowling. Indeed England were 12-0 after that first over and Prior had avoided the ignominy of three consecutive ducks.

Strauss again got started and got out, this time edging flat footedly at Lee who had uncharacteristically unleashed a volley of words at the England skipper the ball before. I guess he may try that again.

The arrival of Trott is usually a good time to put the kettle on, grab a quick shower and file your tax return, but in concert with the newly revived Prior he added 113 in 19 overs for the second wicket. In truth Prior was the main contributor but Trott was demonstrating that priceless, but hardly revolutionary ability to score singles which so often eludes England’s top order. And not all of them were on the leg side this time. Well over 50% of his runs were pushes into the off side and the rotation of strike ensured a good tempo at a time when England innings usually become becalmed in the fruitless search for boundaries.

Prior, who I said should never be opening, was impressive at the top of the order against some brainless filth from Bollinger, Lee and Hastings. It took the hitherto unrealized talents of Steve Smith to put a brake on the innings which he did in spectacular fashion by removing Prior to a log hop, Pietersen to humdrum innocuousness and Bell to an indeterminate dab in the space of 16 balls. “What a bowler” screamed Jarrod, hopefully ironically though sometimes it’s hard to tell, and once more England looked to have imploded at just the wrong time.

But the value of a man scoring a hundred cannot be underestimated in ODIs; simply look at Watson and Marsh in the first two matches if you don’t believe me. Without losing his shape or becoming frustrated, Trott moved serenely to his ton and his 126 ball innings contained only 6 boundaries.

If he can be faulted it is in his timidity in not taking the power play. He and Morgan were well set when David Hussey was brought into the attack. They both promptly departed; Trott dragging a wide turning long hop onto his middle stump and Morgan inexplicably unfurling the reverse thwack just at the wrong time. As a result England were stuck with a walking wicket in Collingwood and an earnest trier in Yardy to negotiate the final nine overs and still no power play had been taken.

But in an act of extraordinarily polite generosity, Clarke whipped his best bowlers, Smith and Hussey, out of the attack and reintroduced the bizarre stylings of Lee and Bollinger for a 5 over stint that yielded 46 runs and took England to the brink of 300 at the close of the innings. Clarke is not a popular man in Australia and with decisions like that it isn’t hard to see why. The pitch was so clearly favouring the slower bowlers that to leave Smith (3-33) with three overs unused bordered on the criminal. Hussey ended up with 4-21 from his 4 overs.

England, by contrast, had no slow bowlers to employ, unless you count the flat medium slow club darts of Yardy, but Strauss intelligently employed Collingwood and Trott in the middle overs to stifle Australia’s charge.

Haddin had earlier got the hosts off to a flier and was looking good when backing away and striking over extra cover, but the slower ball had to come at some point and duly did for him. Marsh has had his score for the series so meekly departed for one allowing the reviled Clarke further to blot his copy book with a wonderfully scratchy 15 off 27 balls. When Watson reached 50 and soon after wafted at a wide half tracker from Shahzad to leave Australia 116-4 off 24 overs, the game was pretty much up.

White and Hussey were unable to get on top of England’s dobbers, departed in frustration and the game was up. The last ten overs were a largely academic exercise as Smith and Lee played themselves into some batting form against England’s seamers but the eventual loss by 21 runs may as well have been 121 runs for all the likelihood of them attaining the target.

What made the difference? Obviously Trott with both bat and ball was the cornerstone of England’s victory, but once again both sides exposed their failings in the middle order. It has been a series thus far of mostly batting incompetence on good pitches. England did manage to cut out the ludicrous run outs for once, but they will be severely concerned over the form of Bell, Pietersen, Morgan and Collingwood, whose 27 off 27 balls looked no better than his 1 off two balls the other day.

At Adelaide the difference between the teams was probably in the atrocious garbage bowled by Australia’s seamers. Anderson, returning for England, looked rusty but not far off his best, and Shahzad merely needs to cut out the occasional wild leg side 5 wide ball to be truly top class.

So I suppose there is still some life left in this series after all. Though frankly, if the first four games are anything to go by, it’s not a life that any but the most unfortunate would willingly choose.


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Can We Just Go Home Now, Please.

by daniel 24. January 2011 12:35

The whole ODI scene has gone ill for England. A thumping defeat in the 3rd match of a 7 match series may not be immediately fatal for England’s chances at the World Cup, but an alarming tendency to ineptitude with the bat hints at deeper structural problems in the longer limited overs format.

The first two matches had seen long passages of play during which England were well on top of their hosts. How they failed to get over 300 in the first match, and throw away a position of seemingly impregnable dominance at Hobart in the 2nd we can only guess, but at Sydney they were truly woeful from beginning almost to the end.

The rigidity of making the wicket keeper open the batting is currently doing Prior no favours and again he failed to make a run. And again it was a fine ball from Lee that did for him, but why is he being expected to face fast bowlers with the new ball?

Strauss, as has been the case all tour, looked comfortable enough but his run out with both he and Trott at the same end encapsulated all that is currently wrong with England’s batting.

And as for Morgan, he looks the part but is contriving the oddest ways to get out. At Sydney he managed, like Trott at Hobart, to direct a full blooded pull off a slow long hop in to the hands of mid wicket. In truth it was a fine catch by Clarke, but Morgan had 60 rows of the stands to aim for and emphatically missed them.

Collingwood, whose presence in the ODI side in theory gives England the balance they will so desperately require on the subcontinent, looks like his body is currently possessed by an 80 year old nun. His two balls featured a lucky inside edge that just evaded his leg stump and a blind grope at a straight ball from Doherty. Everyone goes through losses of form, but this is more like a loss of every sensory capacity required for the most basic fulfillment of life. I can offer no solution to his current problem more practical than the employment of an exorcist.

Thereafter England scratched their way to a total 30 runs short of respectability. There was even time for Tremlett to throw away his wicket by absent mindedly failing to ground his bat, leaving Trott stranded on 84* with two overs unused.

Australia’s reply had its own moments of comedy value. Watson’s ton in the 1st match was clearly the worst thing that could have happened to him as thereafter he has looked like a wicket waiting to happen. Sure enough Tremlett did for him cheaply.

Hobart’s century maker Marsh was trapped in front, called for a review and was surely surprised to discover the replay suggesting it would have hit middle half way up. White seems chronically out of form and Clarke is currently batting for the opposition. With only Haddin showing any fluency England began to believe they could somehow get back into the match. When the gritty keeper chipped an easy catch to long on off Collingwood the hosts had slumped to 100-5 and we had a game on our hands.

But this was a temporary illusion. David Hussey is a much underrated earnest battler and the situation was tailor made for him. With no pressure on the scoring rate he was able to busy himself with ones and twos as Strauss failed to attack with Tremlett. Shorn of his other strike bowlers in Anderson, Broad and Swann, a diet of Yardy and the commendable but hardly threatening Collingwood was not what the doctor ordered.

Smith, true to type, did manage to toss away his wicket in pointless fashion just as the game looked won, briefly raising England’s spirits but a mundane ODI got the finish England deserved as Hussey and Hastings cantered to victory.

People will speculate about tiredness, will offer the excuse of missing players (Pietersen was unavailable through unspecified injury to go with the front line bowlers) and may even suggest that the whole series is something of an anticlimax after the thrills of the Ashes. But in truth, England’s batsmen are so far away from any kind of limited overs form that the situation looks bleak.

It could all change. Pietersen and Morgan could score heavily at Adelaide, Bell may even get to open one day, and Strauss might just go on to convert a good start into an anchoring hundred. For sure the Aussies look vulnerable with both bat and ball, but no matter how well England’s second string bowlers compete, no side will defend 214 on a regular basis.

I’ve been told by hundreds of listeners that it doesn’t actually matter. England won the Ashes and frankly who cares about these ODIs? What really counts is India’s test tour of England in the summer.

Well, we on Test Match Sofa are about to embark on a 30 game World Cup marathon. With a bit of luck it may be one of the last 50 over tournaments ever staged. If England keep up their current batting form I will be reporting on far more humiliating defeats than the three we’ve suffered at the hands of the number one ODI side in the world. Bangladesh won’t be the worst of it. Ireland? Netherlands? It could be a long dark teatime of the soul.

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As If Twatto's Ton Wasn't Bad Enough Now It Turns Out Bollinger Is Sobers. Yee Gods.

by daniel 21. January 2011 14:26

This is all starting to become depressingly familiar. In 2009, a less good England won the Ashes against a slightly better Australia and then promptly slumped to six consecutive one day defeats. Following today’s dismal showing with the bat, England have now lost three matches on the trot (including the second T20) and have got a job on their hands if they’re to win this seven match series.

It all began so well. Twenty past three in the morning is not a great time to find yourself commentating on cricket, but Australia’s batsmen proved to be the perfect cure for narcolepsy as the top order, put in to bat by Strauss, succumbed to the fabulous new ball bowling of Shahzad and Tremlett.

First to shuffle off was last Sunday’s all Australian hero Shane Watson, playing on to Shahzad whilst trying to cut a fullish ball down on the angle to third man. I’d been predicting he’d get out like that since late November and finally he obliged. Haddin drove more airily than a limp wristed Queen’s wave in the back of a bulletproof limousine. Same result.

Clarke is so out hopelessly out of nick that we need to rename him The Hopelessly Out Of Nick Clarke. And obligingly for England he tends to waste 20 balls or so proving that hypothesis. Today he managed to smack a long hop to Bell in the covers. When Hussey departed to a fine catch by Strauss off Tremlett I and the rest of the Sofa team began to fantasise about getting back to bed before sunrise.

But from 33-4, White and Marsh (playing his first game of the international Australian summer) batted sensibly. Like a host of Australian batsmen over the last 20 years they are masters at inducing lull; that moribund passage of play when boundaries aren’t scored but wickets aren’t taken. And when you find the gaps as adroitly as Aussies always seem to, five runs an over with no risks taken is invariably the outcome.

On the Sofa we were screaming for the seamers to come back into the attack, but really Strauss was hamstrung by his selection of two slow bowlers (you will never get me to call Yardy a spinner) on a track tailor made for the seamers. He could have gone for the jugular but gambled on getting through some innocuous overs while the batsmen were concerned with preserving their wickets.

It didn’t work and a 100 run partnership at 5 an over ensued which was only broken by a good bit of slow bowling from Yardy who followed White making space for himself outside leg stump, cramped him for room and accepted the difficult return catch wide to his left with aplomb but absolutely no balletic grace. Well, you can’t have it all.

From the relative safety of 133-4 the Aussies collapsed again. Smith, who isn’t so much out of nick as out of his depth drove ineptly at a wide one from Shazad and dragged on for a painstaking duck off two balls. The returning Hauritz, fresh from his batting heroics in Shield cricket was well caught by the sweaty handed Trott in the deep and Lee missed an even flatter, even straighter one from Yardy to leave Australia dead and buried at 142-8.
What followed was so perplexing I am still struggling for a plausible explanation. Bollinger, with a previous top score of 3*, arrived to keep Marsh company for what we expected to be the length of time it used to take him to wash his hair. Instead he began channeling the spirit of the great George Headley, carving England’s bowlers hither and yon while the magnificent Marsh stepped up a gear. In 11.2 overs of mayhem they added 88 runs, Australia’s highest ever 9th wicket partnership in ODIs.

It is true that England’s bowlers lost their lines and lengths. Indeed, the failure to bounce Bolly was puzzling in the extreme, but he took full advantage, played intelligently and supported Marsh as the latter passed a hundred. His dismissal off the 1st ball of the 49th over was followed immediately by Marsh’s to a superb catch by Bell in the deep.

Marsh’s innings was in every way perfect. He ran expertly between the wickets, took no risks until Bollinger came in and then cut loose. If the Australian selectors really believe Steve Smith should be picked ahead of this man as a batsman they are in need of instant incarceration in a mental health facility. Perhaps he could have been given out stumped early in his innings but with no stump camera angle provided it was impossible to say whether his foot was down or not. Either way, nothing should detract from his excellence. He’ll only play in the World Cup if Hussey is unfit. Lunacy.

Nonetheless 230 seemed more than gettable. The wicket was far from a batsman’s paradise but neither was it doing much. Instead, England contrived to mess it up pretty much from the beginning.

Prior got probably the ball of the day from Lee and edged to Watson at slip in the 3rd over for a duck. I still don’t think he should be opening, being much better suited to the lower middle order, but to him little blame could be attached today.

But it was the last two balls of the 8th over which really knocked the stuffing out of England’s innings as the rejevunated Bollinger, now channeling Alan Davidson and Wasim Akram simultaneously trapped Strauss in front and bowled Pietersen through the gate first up.

Trott and Bell made a good job of repairing the innings and at 83-3 in the 24th over looked to have got England back on top, especially as that purveyor of long hops and non turning filth, Steve Smith, was into the attack. But of course as a commentator it doesn’t pay to express one’s opinions too forcefully, and just as I was rubbing my hands with glee at another half tracker, Trott contrived to pull said ball into the mitts of David Hussey at mid wicket.

Even after Bell went cutting loosely at Lee to make the score 96-5 Morgan and Yardy still managed to fight back. But just as we were applauding their bravery in taking the “batting powerplay”, the one thing that always happens in “batting powerplays” happened. The bowlers took wickets. First Morgan was well caught in the deep by Tait, then Yardy insanely got involved in a mix up with Bresnan and Prior (running for Bresnan who had a calf niggle) and was run out by yards.

The rest is too painful to tell save that England were bowled out for 184 with five overs remaining. There was the odd lusty blow from Bresnan and a delicious cut from Tredwell but it was never going to be enough.

No doubt England will console themselves with the thought that Anderson and Broad wait to return, but it is not in the bowling department that England are failing. It is the batsmen’s inability to display the patience so on show during the test series that is currently their undoing.

No one is carving out the innings around which the other batsmen can play their shots. Watson and Marsh have shown the value of patience and what runs can be made when the eye is well and truly in. Too often England’s batsmen are panicking, and the dreadful running between the wickets is further evidence of muddled thinking.

They have time before the World Cup to sort it out, but Trott looks like a man in need of a rest. Bell needs to open, and Collingwood needs to come back into the side.

Australia’s batting is vulnerable and they have twice been saved by stand out innings so the cause is far from lost, but if England aren’t careful it will take until the 7th match to work it out, and that kind of déjà vu I can live without.

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