Dubai Day 1

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Comments on the day’s play here, as well as the other international fixtures being played today if they take your fancy.

I look forward to hearing from you….. this is going to be an interesting, interesting game.

As I post, Pakistan are batting and are 40 odd for no loss.

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The Second Test – The Expectation

As I’m just using the phone at present, there will be no long discussion from me on the test starting tomorrow in Dubai. (UPDATED since)

Forged in the heat of battle.
Forged in the heat of battle.

I’ll write more tonight, all being well. The reaction to the first test has been interesting to say the least. If you can’t use a momentous 263 to “inform the malcontents of the error of their ways” then when can you?  Adil has been getting his props but don’t worry, one bad game and his critics will be out.

Some statistical stuff. The next man to score a century in Dubai will be the scorer of the 20th test century at that venue. Graeme Smith holds the record score (234) and is the only visitor to score two centuries at the venue. Younis Khan has four centuries there, and Sarfraz Ahmed two. Azhar Ali, who isn’t, it looks, playing tomorrow also has two, including his match-turning 157 in 2012.

The highest team score is 517 by South Africa in 2013. There has been a 454, and two 403s, but nothing else over 400. This indicates it is the sort of surface that doesn’t resemble DXB’s runway. England’s four scores are 252, 192, 160 and 141. The lowest score is 99, made by Pakistan on two occasions. Once, of course, against England.

STEELY WATCH

Alastair Cook has the air of satisfaction, rightly it should be said, of a man who has scored 263 in the first Test of a series. But the left-hander has not become England’s leading run scorer (9,593) by looking back on his achievements. He looks forward with steely determination, ready to again quench his thirst for runs.

If you see quotes that contain steel (or other metals) and our Al, please let me have them!

Al’s record in Dubai. 3,5,1 & 49. Bell’s record in Dubai. 0,4,5,10. Yikes.

There is a fair bit of international cricket on tomorrow. Sri Lanka meet the Windies at PSS Colombo in the second test; India try to draw their ODI series level in Chennai against South Africa and Zimbabwe meet Afghanistan in Bulawayo. All comments welcome.

Did You Know? The highest ODI score in Chennai is 337/7 by an Asian XI. Pakistan have the highest score by a national team (327/5) and India have never made 300 there. South Africa have played one ODI in Chennai – England beat them in a World Cup group game in 2011.

I do believe this is the West Indies first test at the P Sara Oval. The record score at the stadium is 541/9 by the hosts against Bangladesh. The ground record score is Stephen Fleming with 274. It was also the venue of my favourite of the Master Trilogy Centuries by the man who can’t be mentioned.

So, looking forward to tomorrow, and let’s have your views on all the cricket.

I hear Stokes has the guts ache. The poor sod. Feel for you sir. Put it this way. He ain’t the only one!

The Lyrical Gangster

Evening all.

Thanks for all the comments today. I thought I’d just link a few articles around the web and see where we go.

Never, Ever, A Team Man
Never, Ever, A Team Man

First up, because I’m totally obsessed with the man, and I’m like a broken record, and courtesy of Steve in the comments section, are two articles in the Telegraph on Kevin Pietersen. As if people haven’t noticed, he has a new book coming out, and he’s doing what all good sportsmen do, and plugging it (incidentally, Alan Butcher has one coming out soon, and I’ll be getting that, while Tim Cahill, a legend from my club, has one too – and he retweeted me yesterday, so I’m happy). Not sure who ghost wrote it with him, but I don’t think it was FICJAM (who wrote Flintoff’s latest).

OK. The two articles….

Why I Was The Wrong Choice As England Captain

and

They’ve Not Told Me Why I’m Dropped

There’s not a lot new here. A few meat on the Graham Gooch bones, a bit on not looking at the data, a bit on there was no-one else to captain. All pretty rehashed old stuff, packaged for the bilious. And my oh my don’t they go to town.

The humour here is that, as we’ve pointed out, the real rage, the real bile has been from those who are almost rabid in their hatred. It’s everywhere. I love how they all complain to say he’s an attention seeker (now that’s familiar) and why do the papers keep printing stories about yesterday’s man, then say Cook doesn’t get the attention (there are plenty of stories on him on the web after his 263), and then they take it in turns to prove just how much they hate him, in words. Lots of them.

KP’s two posts at time of writing have 120 and 40 comments. Cook on Rashid has 27. Celebrating Cook’s double hundred has 7. The papers are printing what gets hits, people. You keep feeding them, they’ll keep printing. We’ve moved on from the instransigence and stupidity of our selection process, you lot clearly haven’t. You’ve got what you want, why all the anger?

Next, let’s move on to the wonder of modern literature that is Ed Smith. Now I know we are all massive fans of the know-it-all Eddy, but this latest work on Cricinfo is in need of a serious look. In trying to show how clever he is, how well read and educated, he manages to bury in a sea of orgiastic self-indulgence the point. That cricket is absolutely nuts, and it doesn’t take Einstein, or indeed Ed Smith’s intellect, to sort it.

Let us begin. With the classics. He’s a classics student, isn’t he?

Homer’s Odyssey describes the ordeal of Odysseus as he tries to return home in order to be reunited with his wife, Penelope. It takes Odysseus ten years but he gets there in the end. So the analogy with this Test match only half-fits. The first four days of tedious cricket in Abu Dhabi certainly felt like a ten-year ordeal. But when nirvana approached – in the form of an actual competitive match with the prospect of a result – both sides were ushered off the field and a draw was pronounced.

He so desperately wants to shoe horn in a Greek literature reference that it hurts. In the end it goes nowhere. Tickers was all over that, and loved it so much, he missed the next. An all time classic… Swiss Toni in the house…

It was like pursuing a beautiful woman around the world for ten years, finally persuading her to have dinner, only to announce after the starter course, “Sorry to leave early, but I pre-booked a taxi home at 9pm. Bye.”

My sides were splitting.

I’m not going to fisk the rest, because, frankly, I want to put the TV on, but I’ll save you the bother of clicking a link for this tortuous piece of analogy that had me thinking of the scenes in Airplane where Ted Stryker tells his life story to a passenger he’s sitting next to.

So why does cricket continue to get bogged down by the problems that beset the first Test here? The explanation was provided in 1950 by Albert Tucker, the Princeton mathematician and game theorist. He formalised “The Prisoners’ Dilemma”. The theoretical experiment explains how when two agents pursue narrow self-interest it can work against the long-term benefit of both parties.

Imagine two members of the same gang are imprisoned in separate cells. They are not allowed to communicate. But there is insufficient evidence against them. To try to force a confession, the police offer each of them the same bargain – known as Defect or Cooperate.

Admit that your partner committed the crime – and if he stays silent – then you will go free and your partner will get three years in prison.

But if you stay silent and your partner testifies that you did it, you will face prison for three years and he will walk free.

If you both betray each other, you both go to prison for two years.

If you both stay silent, you both get only one year in prison.

What is the best strategy, defect or cooperate?

The best outcome, in terms of combined punishment, is obviously for both prisoners to cooperate – to remain silent. The combined punishment would be two single-year prison terms.

But that isn’t what they do. Because they cannot communicate, the rational response is to anticipate what the other prisoner will do. If you think the other prisoner will stay silent, the rational response is to defect – and hence walk free. If you think the other prisoner will defect, the rational response is still to defect – and hence serve only two years in prison rather than three. The playing out of the game is both entirely rational and yet still works against the self-interest ofboth prisoners. Here is a short video summary.

The point is very simple. There are some circumstances in life when the failure to communicate and agree to a collective response leads to a series of rational responses that ultimately work against everyone’s interests.

Cricket is currently suffering its own versions of the Prisoner’s Dilemma. Individual teams play on pitches that may suit their own team, but certainly don’t suit the game as a spectacle.

Bloody hell. Get to the point man!

There’s plenty on the net about the ICC and IOC meeting, including mention that the form of cricket to be played might be the indoor version. The IOC will take two minutes consideration before booting that one out. The impression from afar is that the ICC aren’t serious, and when the prime movers (India) are pretty much motivated by internal short-termism (and the decision today to allow Aleem Dar to step down as umpire for the current series is an absolute utter disgrace and they ought to be ashamed of themselves) that isn’t going to change. You all know how I think Clarke will play it in this International Ambassador role he has. The game needs to grow more than it needs to worry about the odd batting track being skewed in favour of the home team, and this provides an opportunity. A long-term eye rather than a short-term blindness might help. As soon as Dave Richardson gets wheeled out, I know we are in for disappointment.

Viru - The Oval - 2011. Hitting the ball for four.
Viru – The Oval – 2011. Hitting the ball for four.

Finally, lots on the wires that Viru has retired from international cricket. Aside from the fact that I doubt he’d be picked again for his national side, you have to say “what a player”. Sadly, I never saw him really score any runs. He was undercooked (putting it politely) in 2011 and didn’t play in 2007. It is close between him and Dravid for my favourite Indian batsman, but when it comes to being entertaining, there was no-one better, and no-one more scary. And judging by that selfie last year when playing for the MCC, not someone who took himself too seriously. He is missed, and the formality of the announcement, such as it was (so he can play Masters Cricket) brings back the memories. Two test triple hundreds. The strike rate. A 290 odd too. The foot movement (!). Much loved, Viru. Much loved.

Citius, Altius, Fortius

The reports, carried by Tim Wigmore on ESPN, that Colin Graves is about to propose that cricket be in the Olympics, is interesting on many levels. This is about long-term development and broadening the game in the future. But it’s also about the ECB now. Very much now. Who knows, this could be the funniest power struggle yet?

2024 is almost a decade away and the landscape may have changed by then, because the land has changed a great deal in the last 10 years. There’s no certainty cricket will be selected as an Olympic sport even if it chooses to seek inclusion (although India’s might could help if they were interested as their Olympic record is not good), and not many of our current team will be around for it. But the prospects it opens for associate nations and broadening the game can’t be underestimated. Spare me the wailing sirens of us losing a test series – the NHL in each Winter Olympics shuts for a couple of weeks and then re-opens again. There is too much international cricket in the summer as it is.

Don’t worry all you Ashes lovers. A series isn’t scheduled in England that summer. Yet. We’ll probably play two test against South Africa instead.

What interests me is this is Colin Graves challenging his predecessor. Now, you know my position and I’ve still not changed it. Giles runs English cricket and Graves has not stood up to him. Now Graves seems to have found his balls. This could get interesting, quickly. Under the Yorkie watch he has overseen a change of personnel in charge of the national team, a revitalisation of the ODI team into an attractive, attacking unit, and, of course, an unlikely Ashes win. He has the press salivating over the new Director, Comma as well as the beatification of our captain. There’s a rump of us who have the hump, but we’re not important. Frankly, if he can’t impose his own authority over matters now, when can he?

Now Giles is coming off the back of some negative publicity. His performance in Death of a Gentleman was awe inspiring, playing to his typecast role of unreconstructed snob, the sort of villain straight out of Hollywood’s central casting for “quintessential evil English toff”. His high-handedness was inspiring. One wonders how a man is so self-confident while lacking so much in self-awareness. I think someone removed his “I give a shit” gene. Giles is a master of politicking, and I don’t mean that as a compliment. He will likely be put into bat for cricket in the Olympics by the people he lorded over, and have to put the case. I for one reckon we’ll be hearing back precisely what Srini thinks as a reason for inclusion or exclusion, and Graves can say all he likes. Giles is not a man for turning, and his protestations that he’s protecting his board in DoaG didn’t look like those of a man considering all sides of the argument. Will he take his orders, given he made sure Brearley was put in his place when it was suggested he would have to. Oh yes, Giles Clarke is going to be a great watch throughout this. Wally has already deserted, but then again, it’s not his country’s summer this jamboree is going to take place in!

For someone who finds the ECB shenanigans fascinating, this is like Christmas. The former deputy, coming in with the reports of a blunt intstrument ready to hit all and sundry, put in his place over his attempts to bring back someone the establishment want rid of, and for correctly assessing West Indies ability to play test cricket, is now feeling he can say something. This something challenges his former king. It could be seen as betrayal. It could be seen as a challenge. How Clarke responds will be riveting, at least for me.

Read Tim’s piece by clicking here.

Also, this is a stat I was supposed to write a whole piece on. It does shine an exceptionally good light on our captain’s performances in Asian conditions. A good player of spin, not as many concerns on his areas of weakness (caught behind, chopping on), and a method and indefatigability that is almost inhuman. There’s no taking away this statistic from him. I’m not sure anyone is denying that these conditions suit his game (and not many others) and he cashes in.

Selvey, of course, wants you to know how much he loved Cook’s performance. This from a cricket correspondent who, since the release around three months ago of an important film on cricket hasn’t bothered to watch it, but still seems “remarkably informed” at what the ICC is thinking given his tweets on the IOC approach.

As I’m writing India are collapsing to defeat against South Africa.

Enter Darkness…. Some Quick Notes From The End Of The First Test

You see, the thing with Test cricket is very rarely is a game totally dead. It only takes a combination of some inspirational cricket, a scrambled mindset, a bit of daftness or two, and it is game on. It is what makes this game so bloody great. We’ve been hooked on that finish – well I know I was.

Now if you excuse me to make some comments, given I’ve lost what talent I had, and am wierd and a coward (Hinge and Bracket again), let’s run through some intitial thoughts:

  • Let’s not be silly and pin this on Cook’s failure to up the ante. At the start of the England innings our aim was to draw this test. Given 2012, given the experience of the team in these conditions, given how the spin bowling performed in the first innings, the knock by Cook was what we needed. It ensured we would not lose in a game where the chance to win, no matter how bloody well we played, was remote. This was sit-in cricket, which won us the series in 2001. If you don’t believe me, read Michael Henderson on Mike Atherton’s century in that match.
  • I said we needed one of our more flair players to really make a big score. Sadly they made half centuries. That’s not really a knock on them, but if one had stayed there we might have been able to declare a half hour earlier. I think Cook got the declaration pretty much right and was impressed, yes impressed, with his captaincy. This doesn’t absolve his sins in my eyes, but unlike others who pop, shows that I do come to fair assessments. Meanwhile, those lot were blathering on about KP. Says much.
  • Well done Adil Rashid. I’m proud he shoved the garbage back down the throats of his critics. The bar is set ludicrously high for our leg spinners, thinking we’ll have a Warne or a Mushy and if we don’t then let us not bother. Given our ability to scorch the tail has been a sore point for a while now, Rashid’s evisceration of the lower order batting was mightily impressive. He bowled with flight, he got enough turn, and his fielders did the rest. Moeen was a really good partner too, and Anderson bowled excellently up front. This was a really good team performance.
  • I do hope no-one goes on about time-wasting. England are just as adept as the opposition at this. We know this. This is no morality game. I might be being cynical, but in the last two overs Bell and Root decidedly did not go airborne, while Jonny B is trying to cart it to all parts. Better not have been some average harvesting there (I know Root skied a couple up in the air…..)
  • Matt Prior in the studio. FML.
  • On to Dubai for the next match. There’s always something about a Pakistan test series that just has that edge and it’s really great we are playing them. It’s such a refreshing change from Australia and India. I’m going to enjoy this winter.

Please add  your thoughts. I might do some more on the match later.

PS – You might be interested in this….Hinge and Bracket.

Day 5

After an almost two month hiatus it’s back to normal. We see the puritanical, pompous muppets firing at the blog and its commenters for the same old reasons. We ain’t cheering hard enough.

Some on here aren’t England fans, if they hadn’t noticed, and a lot of those who comment who are from these shores still feel betrayed. All the paeans to our glorious leader aren’t going to change that. If anything, they exacerbate matters. It’s really not that hard to understand if you try.

Instead we got a load of old twaddle and a promise that the chief muppet won’t comment on here. We can but hope. I offered him a genuine opportunity to write something on his blog about the achievement of Alastair Cook in becoming the highest non-Asian test run scorer in Asia, but he declined and gave me some links to his KP pieces? I’m as confused as I was before.

So, we come to Day 5. I saw something that said the draw was 20/1 on, and I think that’s generous. For England to have won, that lead needed to be 80 or 90 and perhaps have a little dart tonight. I don’t blame them for being cautious, and for grinding Pakistan into the dust of Abu Dhabi, not at all. This is a step up from the capitulations on good batting tracks at the Oval and Lord’s and a necessary one. Root, Bell, Stokes and to some extent Buttler got some batting time under their belts, but we needed a dasher to make a dasher’s hundred on a non-dasher’s pitch and I’m not going to stick forks in them for not doing so.

As for Cook, I’m afraid people who don’t want to understand aren’t going to be persuaded. Back in 2011, when Cook was piling on 294 in much the same way as he did in Abu Dhabi, even some of his staunchest allies complained that it was all a bit too self-serving. I thought that harsh in a game where time was absolutely no issue. I was egging him on to get 300. I’m a fan of triple hundreds. I love the quiz on Sporcle about test 300s, often forgetting Younus Khan, for instance! England haven’t had one since 1990. They haven’t had one away since the 1930s.

Times have changed. If this were Root, if this were Ali, if this were Bell, if this were Bairstow, if this were Stokes, I’d have loved to see 300. But it’s Cook. And I’m afraid I just don’t like him. So while I sit here and say it was an excellent innings, it has pulled England by their bootstraps to a position of total safety, and it is an innings no-one else in the England team of the past 20 years could have played, do I rejoice? No. We all know why, and I’m not going into it. To pretend that I’m joyless, or sour, is to miss the point. Was Cook’s innings a joyful one? No. No-one is going to re-watch it for its aesthetic beauty or languid strokes. You are going to sit back and go “that was some effort. What concentration. What ability” but there’s no joy there. He’s done a magnificent job. I just don’t like him. That’s it. In the same way our critics didn’t like someone else, but we’re not allowed to mention that, because we’re obsessed.

On to the pitch and the utter nonsense being spouted about “pitches like these will kill test cricket”. If every dull game at a World Cup football Finals would lead to these calls, then the internet would blow up. For every good Champions League tie, there are a load of god awful ones. I’ve been to nearly 1000 football matches. I’d say 20% have been shockers. You aren’t guaranteed great entertainment on any surface. Spare me, please.

This pitch is as skewed against bowlers as Trent Bridge was against batsmen this summer. But that doesn’t matter, because England win on the latter, and have a tendency not to on the former. In 2012, South Africa made 600+ for the loss of 2 wickets and Anderson, Broad, Swann et al looked no more likely to get a wicket than they did in Abu Dhabi. But as we got humped on that surface, nothing seemed to get mentioned. If chances were taken in this match, the game would be a fair way more advanced. They weren’t. I’m not saying this is a great wicket – it clearly isn’t – but spare me the “death of test” twaddle. England getting a draw here will be a very, very decent achievement.

If you watched the 2000/01 series in Pakistan we endured 14 days of toil, attritional cricket, lit up at the end by the drama of Karachi. In 2005/6 we saw Pakistan pile on runs and England fail to cope. In 2011/12, we saw a team all at sea against spin. England have piled on well over 500. It’s a very good base to prepare for the next game.

I know the last two months have been slow on here. That’s been because I’ve found more interesting things to do, work has been busy, I got a great trip to Johannesburg, had tons of home media issues to sort (seems to be almost there) and, well, I was knackered. I’m not sure I feel that energised now, but I’m sure as hell not going to be fed a pile of old cack by people who, as usual, wilfully misrepresent what we do here. I’m thrilled so many have returned for these test matches. We’re back to well over four figures a day again, and it’s terrific. TLG will be returning soon, the cricket will keep us going, and the media will make us howl.

Plus ca change, you vile lot. Plumbing the depths. They do make me chuckle.

Comments on Day 5 here. We’ll do a round-up at the end of proceedings. As always, you may not agree with me, but you can disagree here. I won’t take it from those who do it from the sidelines, and I will remain like that. It’s much easier when you are a contented person, and at the moment, life isn’t too bad at all.

UPDATE – Twitter is funny this morning. I mean rib-achingly funny.

Day 4

Evening all.

On the train home and setting up tomorrow. Not read the eulogies, not particularly interested to be honest. This appears to be a road. Shoaib Malik made 245 on it. Alastair Cook is a class bat who can be incredibly tough to get out. He has played well.

I’m going to go off piste a little. I don’t blame Pakistan for a pitch like this. If I were them I’d prepare one where I’d go for a batting contest and take my chances. It is too good a surface but we collapsed on belters in England. It is not the entertainment business. It is sport. I don’t pretend they are exciting but they are part of test cricket. England will do very well to draw. They are doing very well.

Imbeciles like Vaughan need to wind their necks in. We’ve won two (I think) overseas tests v Pakistan for a reason. They are not cheap. They are phenomenally hard earned. Sticking us on disintegrated pitches where it is who has the best spinners and batsman against it world elicit the same moans. We are sounding a lot like Aussies. This is not a contest played for our benefit. Sub continental cricket is hard. Very hard.

I can’t go through the post without responding to the usual muppet. I suggest, if you so love my content, you do one of two things. Fight your corner here or Foxtrot Oscar. I’ve taken a back seat for the past two months. Had a break. Done other things. It’s been nice. It’s not us making it him v him. Distance hasn’t validated the decision. Don’t like it? Don’t come here. I’m a nobody.

The fourth day beckons. Think it will be dull. Might see a triple. You never know. …

Day 3

Comments below. Will populate later.

England start the day with a mountain to climb but a base camp set. At time of wittering we are 118 for 1 and Cook settled in. Here on BOC we fear the worst. A Cook ton. For no reason other than the tide of lamentable nonsense that follows. Newman is going to need sedation.

Keep the comments flowing.

Also, did you see Sky’s winter cricket promo? All those T20 leagues with a notable player who played for England signed to all of them? A draw card. No. It’s Chris Gayle and Freddie singing. I may be “obsessed” but it is genuinely funny the lengths they seem to go to avoid mentioning him.

On the plane home I watched the highlights of KP’S innings in Mumbai. In hindsight it might be a touch overrated. I still believe his Colombo knock was better. But it was still brilliant. Yet in reading the comments to his interviews online it is an innings many never wanted him to play. Many want never to acknowledge. Read the comments and stick nails in your eyes and tell me which is more excruciating.

May have another overseas trip during this tour. Getting harder to keep up with developments. Karunaratne and Chandimal putting the West Indies to the sword. An ODI series between India and South Africa, and of course Australia sitting at home. It’s a mad world!

Checking in

Morning everyone…

So my trip to Burma is coming to a close, and I’ll be home for the weekend. As far as this test is concerned I haven’t seen or heard a ball, but it looks from afar like it might be a super flattie, with a draw on the cards as long as England don’t self destruct. 

For anyone who is remotely interested, I’ve written up my trip across the country on my till now dormant site, https://thelegglance.wordpress.com/ as one of my employers asked me to write up the trip on a daily basis. 

It’s pretty rough and ready as I’ve not had chance to do any kind of prettifying given the lack of reliable wifi, but I’ll do that when I get back. 

Obviously no cricket content is ever going to go on there!

Anyway, back soon, for the second Test at least.

1st Test, Day 2 – Pakistan v England – Comments Thread

Will be on the way home tonight from Johannesburg, where I’ve had a great time and done a lot of good work which has been rewarding.

I have seen none of the play, and caught the score only in glimpses. You’ve been filling in the blanks in the comments, and I look forward to tomorrow.

286 for 4. Pakistan look good in this position given England’s propensity to react to scoreboard pressure in the same way as I do to a plate of mushrooms.

The commentary and press seems especially rubbish. Long may that continue.

Dmitri