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Previous Entry 522 Jul. 18th, 2009 @ 10:52 pm Next Entry
If England declare overnight, that will be Australia's target to win the game. It's over 100 more than the highest successful fourth-innings chase in a Test, yet a surprising number of people are fretting about whether the Aussies might just do it, pointing to that 674/6 declared at Cardiff. The fourth innings is a very different beast from the second innings, though: frankly, if the Aussies can break a world record by that margin then England might as well hand over the Ashes right now. England should not be tempted to bat on tomorrow, especially if (as seems likely) it's overcast.

This discussion has, though, brought up once again something that bothers me a good deal, which is the increasing prevalence of 500+ scores in Tests. This Cricinfo article about Murali points out the advantages batsmen have been given in recent years: powerful bats, flat pitches and small boundaries, not to mention two-faced bats, which I personally think should be banned in the way aluminium bats were, rather than accepted as part of the game as vast tennis racquets have been. Two-faced bats are sensationally ugly, anyway!

The ICC have been discussing the future of Test cricket, and have concluded that it is in real danger of dying out. It's hardly surprising when it's ceasing to become an even contest between bat and ball. A 600/4 pitch is every bit as poor and unfit a playing surface as a 100 all out pitch, and those venues which provide the former should be penalised just as those who provide the latter are already. I'm slightly, if cautiously, encouraged by the ECB's recent pronouncement that Test venues will no longer be selected simply according to the size of the cheque they can wave, but this needs to go further: it should be made absolutely clear that chief executives who place going the full five days above providing a sporting surface will not get any days of Test cricket.

I've enjoyed the Lord's match so far, partly for obvious partisan reasons (seeing Ponting drop an absolute dolly today has been the icing on the cake) but also because it hasn't been bat over ball the whole way, and good bowlers have had a chance to be the stars. We need more of this, otherwise the already noticeably thin ranks of world-class bowlers will shrink even further and we'll end up with a sport where all that matters is how fast the batsmen can thrash boundaries. That prospect leaves me cold.

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From:duj_1arm
Date:July 18th, 2009 10:37 pm (UTC)
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T20 is the great Satan. Long live the Test Match.

I've enjoyed the first 3 days no end, and the draw in Cardiff was one of the best tests I've seen since the 2005 Ashes, though some of England's bowling was diabolical.

I'm listening to the Duckworth Lewis Method to prepare for tomorrow's intense day of cricket watching.

TV on, Volume down, TMS turned right up...

Why yes, I have been drinking.
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From:loganberrybunny
Date:July 18th, 2009 11:28 pm (UTC)
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Oddly enough, I actually quite enjoy T20 occasionally - the World T20 was quite fun. What I don't enjoy is the prospect of 3000 tournaments of it every year with commercialism that Allen Stanford would consider crass.

Test cricket is proper cricket, though, without a doubt.
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From:prasun
Date:July 19th, 2009 12:14 am (UTC)
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Great test matches over the last few days! (Ashes, Pak-SL and even WI-Bang)

One thing that I don't like, though, is the increasing number of occasions where the follow-on is not enforced. I like follow-ons and I believe not enforcing usually comes from a defensive mindset. At first I thought it was India that was doing it but now everyone seems to be doing it.

Four hundred ought to be a large enough total for any game anywhere. If the team wants to guarantee that it's not going to lose, 500 should be enough. Anything above that is usually a waste of time. In this case, England does have 6 sessions and even if they batted for a whole sessions they'd still have 5 sessions to get those 10 outs.
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From:pappubahry
Date:July 19th, 2009 12:31 am (UTC)
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One thing that I don't like, though, is the increasing number of occasions where the follow-on is not enforced.

Unless time is short, I see no reason why you would not bat again. No Test team has lost batting again since 1950/1, and the win rate when doing so is somewhere above 90%.

Whereas enforcing the follow-on has led to two famous defeats, and a win rate of around 80%. Even supposing that the lower win rate is because the team didn't have enough time to take the wickets, it's clear that batting again is at least on a par with enforcing the follow-on, and comes with the added advantage of giving the bowlers a rest, something not to be ignored in these days of cramped Test series.

Four hundred ought to be a large enough total for any game anywhere.
Ought or otherwise, South Africa made such a chase in Australia last summer.
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From:prasun
Date:July 19th, 2009 01:30 am (UTC)
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We had this discussion in another post. I do see the point you are making(it's hard to disagree with numbers!) but somehow I just like follow-ons :)
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From:loganberrybunny
Date:July 19th, 2009 12:35 am (UTC)
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I was hoping we'd enforce the follow-on, especially since the last time we did so was at Trent Bridge in 2005. That said, I don't think it's turned out too badly on this occasion: the weather was quite good for batting today but is likely to be cloudier and showery on the last two days, which will help Anderson in particular. Plus there's the fact that the drainage at Lord's is so good that a few showers shouldn't remove too much playing time,

I suspect England are still slightly bothered by that loss against India, when Tendulkar & co chased down something like 387, not to mention losing after scoring 551/6 declared in Adelaide, and so don't quite believe that 400 is certain to be enough. Personally I feel that in good bowling conditions we should be aiming to get the Aussies out for under 300, but England are rarely that predictable...
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From:pappubahry
Date:July 19th, 2009 12:34 am (UTC)
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two-faced bats, which I personally think should be banned in the way aluminium bats were
I'm more than happy with two-sided bats. I've yet to see anyone successfully use the reverse side in a game - David Warner (to much hype from the bat maker) used one in a domestic one-dayer last summer, hit 20odd runs with the front face and then called for a regular bat. If someone does find a use for it (presumably a nudge-nurdler type), I'm happy to see him try it.

The Mongoose bat could be more of a problem - the batsman gets his eye in with a regular bat, then calls for the Mongoose, which supposedly gives 10-15% more power.
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From:loganberrybunny
Date:July 19th, 2009 12:40 am (UTC)
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If I'm totally honest, my objection to the two-sided bat is mostly an aesthetic one I think they look pretty horrible. I bet Dermot Reeve would have loved one, however!

Good point about the Mongoose: perhaps a regulation could be introduced that would state that a batsman must use the same type of bat throughout a match. If they do become widespread, though, I wonder whether slow bowlers may increase in prominence, as they've done in Twenty20.
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From:pappubahry
Date:July 19th, 2009 01:40 am (UTC)
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Regulating the Mongoose is easy - just add a note to the laws saying how long the handle can be, and set a maximum distance allowed between the end of the handle and the maximum width of the bat.

I don't think there's much of a move on for that to happen though, the MCC were happy when they were used in some county games.
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From:ghede
Date:July 20th, 2009 08:10 pm (UTC)
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The massive scores are something of a concern to me. I remember going to see an Australia Vs West Indies match about 15 or so years ago in Sydney, on the day that Australia knocked up over 400 runs in their first innings. At the time, this score seemed enormous to me. I couldn't believe any team would score so highly in a single innings of a test match, and that memory has stuck with me all this time. I have become dismayed to see that a first innings test score below 400 (for Australia, at least - though that seems to be changing with the spotty form of the side lately) seems to be becoming pretty much par for the course, and 500+ is certainly not out of the realm of expectation. If grounds are going to continually serve up pitches so heavily skewed to the batsmen, we might as well do away with bowlers altogether and just build bowling machines at each end - at least then there'll be one more player able to try and cut off boundaries and we would still have a similar game.
I understand that people see the sport as too slow and boring, and who doesn't like to see the Gilchrists and Petersons thrash a quick century or two. But, anyone who understands the game and loves it for what it is is just as excited to see the McGraths and Flintoffs topple a batting order. Seeing either happen every match, however, becomes tedious.
You're absolutely right, venues should be forced to produce more varied pitches, or else it comes down purely to which side has the better batting line up and can notch up the fastest runs.

Going on from what an earlier poster said: Against all my better judgement, I have come to quite enjoy t20 cricket. The spectacle of the IPL especially is impressive, and I'm all for anything which brings more people to the ground and gives them an interest in the sport. Hopefully that will translate into an interest in the more "pure" form of the sport - the test matches.
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From:loganberrybunny
Date:July 20th, 2009 11:11 pm (UTC)
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I've followed cricket since about the late 1980s (the 1989 series was my first Ashes - not a great start for an Englishman!) and my brain still thinks of 300 as a reasonable par score in a Test first innings on an average pitch. I think it would be a better game if 300 pitches were once again the norm. Perhaps 350 to allow for today's faster scoring, which is mostly a good thing, but not 500 and more. And it should be hard work to score over about 250 in the fourth innings.

One of my favourite innings is Gooch's 154* v West Indies at Headingley in 1991. It was gripping because the pitch was against the batsmen, as Headingley pitches used to be and as I think they sometimes still should be. It surely is no coincidence that the ranks of great bowlers, especially truly fast bowlers, have thinned so noticeably in the last decade or so. After Flintoff (and Harmison, when in the mood) have gone, who is going to bowl consistently at 90+ mph for England?

As far as T20 goes, I differ slightly from you, I think. I've come to enjoy it as a format, and like seeing spinners to the fore. The World T20 was a good tournament, and ironically the pitches did deteriorate a bit by the end thanks to their having been used so intensively. I'd like to see big sixes made a little bit less common, though: even in T20 they should be an event. After all, you don't get eight home runs in every baseball game.

The IPL, however, I can't warm to at all, and this is where my essentially traditionalist character comes to the fore. It was initially spectacular, but I'm getting bored with it now: it just seems an empty shell with no heart. Heaven knows cricket, like other sports, has chased the dollar (or rupee) enough in recent years, but there does come a time at which someone has to call "enough", and for me we've reached that point.
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From:pappubahry
Date:July 22nd, 2009 04:22 am (UTC)
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the 1989 series was my first Ashes ... my brain still thinks of 300 as a reasonable par score in a Test first innings on an average pitch.

Presumably these statements aren't linked - as I recall Australia's par first-innings score for that series was about 5/600!
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From:loganberrybunny
Date:July 22nd, 2009 11:39 am (UTC)
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Australia made 301 on the first day at Trent Bridge. Unfortunately they didn't lose any wickets, and made another 301 before they declared, but one can't have everything...

Anyway, England's performance in that series doesn't count as "reasonable"!
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From:pappubahry
Date:July 22nd, 2009 04:16 am (UTC)
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I remember going to see an Australia Vs West Indies match about 15 or so years ago in Sydney, on the day that Australia knocked up over 400 runs in their first innings.
The game when Lara made 277? That was the deadest of dead pitches. Aus made 500, Windies replied with 600. That would still be a high-scoring game today, though they would probably score the runs quicker these days. Similar to the high-scoring borefest in India against Australia recently.

But yes, big scores are becoming more common.

it comes down purely to which side has the better batting line up and can notch up the fastest runs.
I am never convinced by this argument. If the overall average were to skyrocket to (say) 45, then a bowler who averages 35 would be a good bowler.
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