Australia vs England: Women’s Ashes

If the build up to the men’s series has been, for England at least, somewhat problematic, there have been few such distractions for their female counterparts. Winning the World Cup in the summer is an obvious highlight, and with the series played over the format of points for the ODIs, Test and the T20s, a competitive series seems more likely here than in the one starting next month. 

Australia are missing Meg Lanning due to a shoulder injury that keeps her out for the entire series, while England have had limited time to warm up due to bad weather.  Yet England are probably still the favourites, although Australia’s home advantage and position as holders does make it all to play for. 

As ever, the large number of points available means that the Test match is pivotal to the outcome, although its importance to the series has led to a desire to avoid defeat rather than go for the win on occasion. 

The rise in popularity of women’s cricket has been one of the more intriguing developments in cricket, particularly set against the problems in the men’s game. Participation continues to rocket, indeed it is women’s cricket that disguises the continuing drop in male participation – the ECB have taken to publishing combined figures in the last few years – and the World Cup final undoubtedly grabbed attention beyond the niche support that had been the case up until then. 

Oh, and it’s not on Sky, so expect them to go out of their way to pretend it isn’t happening. 

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Hiatus month

October is a funny time for those based in England – the season is done, the winter tours are still seemingly distant, the football and rugby seasons are properly underway, and for the assorted scribblers that make up this place, it’s a busy time at work.  This is probably why the ICC pick this time of year to slip out proposed changes to the game, just to ensure maximum annoyance at BOC Towers.

Of course, we’ve been here before, the stillborn Test Championship being a case in point, and when our Glorious Overlords come up with their latest wheeze to create “context” for the game of cricket, there’s a temptation to sigh and reach for the brandy.  Or revolver.

The concept is simple enough, for Test cricket to work towards becoming a competition with a winner at the end of it, the proposal being for the top nine teams to play each other home and away over a two year period culminating in final to determine the winner.  So far so good.  Given the abandonment of the Future Tours Programme as being anything more than a suggestion, some kind of plan for how Test cricket should function should be welcomed.  But the proposal has very little meat on the bones, and the plan for it to start in 2019 puts rather a tight timetable on it being adopted.   There’s little information announced about what the next step would be thus far at least, and we’re already closing fast on 2018.

There’s also the element of announcement fatigue when it comes to ICC edicts.  We’ve been here so many times before.  But let’s be generous and assume it’s going to come off.  A proper competition could actually be rather fun, with all series having something riding on them, whether for the teams hoping to reach a final, or those further down who hope to still be involved next time around.  That in itself does create a problem, for the 10th placed team might find it somewhat difficult to arrange series to get themselves involved for the following competition.  There’s little indicating a pathway for Zimbabwe, Afghanistan and Ireland, which doesn’t in itself mean there won’t be one, just that it’s either not been thought about, or not been considered.  Sceptics about the ICC can make up their own minds.

Equally, when the round of matches comes to a conclusion, it will presumably be straight into the next one once the final has been played.  The leading sides would be fairly reluctant to organise a series against a team who might not be involved for the following summer, and the potential for the lower ranking sides to be left dangling has to be real.  In any case, having only to play 6 of the 8 sides could offer the possibility of gaming the system on the one hand, or simply ignoring the lesser lights on the other.  Quite how it could be made compulsory to ensure all nine teams actually get those 6 series in two years hasn’t been explained; Bangladesh only just managed to reach the required number over the last two years, while the fraught bilateral relationship between India and Pakistan is an obvious problem.

Nine is perhaps a specifically chosen number, for it would exclude Zimbabwe, a country who would find it problematic to arrange series against some countries, notably England.  The lack of requirement for everyone to play everyone else might be considered deliberate in that light.

The length of series too is merely confined to be a minimum of two and a maximum of five, suggesting a complete refusal to become involved in changing the tendency to play as little as possible against the smaller nations.  It’s probably not too surprising in itself, for the ICC is not a governing body in the normal sense, more an outlet for the collective musings of the bigger countries.   The points system too is unknown, and that could provide some grounds for decent argument, given how the Test championship table can give rise to some interesting aberrations from time to time.

Still being generous (which gets harder by the day), it could provide grounds for a Test series to matter more to spectators and participants alike.  Yet it’s tough to see this as any kind of radical change, more trying to fit a competition around what more or less exists at present.  In some respects, that might well be as much as is possible to do at this stage; the various vested interests have always managed to kill attempts to bring forward genuine change – unless money is involved of course, for then it’s a different matter.

Of perhaps more interest in terms of a significant change is the proposed ODI league due to start a year after its Test equivalent.  One day series have always been utterly disposable (without looking it up, can you remember the series results even from this summer?), to the point that the acronym JAMODI  – work it out yourself – gained some currency.  The proposal appears to be that the eight series to be played over that time will be over three matches, and unlike with the Test programme, that’s not put forward as a minimum, but an absolute.  If that is the case, then shorter ODI series would appear to be the way forward, which is intriguing in itself were it to happen.

The last major change being mooted is to trial four day Test matches, probably beginning with the Boxing Day Test between South Africa and Zimbabwe later this year.  There’s a rationale there, for a fixture such as that the likelihood of it going five days is questionable, and for Test cricket to have a future, then it does need to pay its way.  The problem with this is what it always has been – it’s messing with a format that works as a cricket one.  The ECB have been in favour for a while, because Tests in England are often finishing in four days.  But there is, and always has been, a fundamental difference between noting that trend (and it needs to be shouted long and loud that elsewhere this is not an issue) and removing the potential for the kind of fifth day we saw only this summer against the West Indies.  Accepting the need for Test cricket to pay its way is hardly an argument in the country that retains the greatest interest in the format.

Experiment by all means, but note that the players appear to be rather opposed.

It’s easy to be cynical about the ICC, but then they do keep giving those cynics reason to be so.  The announcements have been made, and all will wait to see if anything comes of them.  It could be good, but then few would be surprised if it all unravelled to leave nothing but the four day Tests behind.  Cynicism is so often a product of repeatedly being let down.

In other news, BT Sport have announced their commentary line up for the forthcoming Ashes series.  With the usual Sky commentators clearly unavailable, many of the names will come as little surprise, such as Michael Vaughan and Geoffrey Boycott.  Having Ricky Ponting and Adam Gilchrist to represent the home team does at least offer the potential for some kind of insight, while Matt Smith will be the main presenter.  Graeme Swann has also been listed as being present, though there is some debate as to whether he will only be there until Perth before coming home if England are losing.

I Had Some Dreams, They Were Clouds In My Coffee

21st November 2002. Adelaide. After a chastening first test defeat at Brisbane, the England Ashes tour moved to Adelaide. So had I. On my first visit to watch England overseas it was time for the last leg of the most amazing holiday. Day 1 at Adelaide, after the awful queues and mix-up over tickets, was lit up by an innings of unimagined brilliance. Michael Vaughan slipped the gears, flowed beautifully, took advantage of short square boundaries and made 177 magnificent runs. To be there was a privilege. Hell, for a day at least it even gave us a little hope, although we were disappointed he was out from the last ball of the day. If cricket is entertainment, then Vaughan was the main show for England. Sure he’s made a couple of 190s against India in the preceding summer. This was the Ashes, my Ashes, and I had an England hero to be proud of. He even stood straight faced as he did not walk and pissed Justin Langer off. That was a win-win as far as I was concerned.

24th November 2002. Adelaide. The game is over. Despite Vaughan adding a decent 40-odd in the second innings, Ricky Ponting has been made man of the match. The Barmy Army, based by the scoreboard at Adelaide Oval sing “Michael Vaughan, My Lord, Michael Vaughan” in the immediate aftermath of the announcement. How could the adjudicators not watch that innings and put it above Ponting’s? A minor quibble.

12th September 2005. London. After that successful Ashes, where he made two more big hundreds, Vaughan ascended to the captaincy and pointed England in the right direction, making them more ruthless in association with the development of a couple of key weapons. There was the rampage through 2004. A win in South Africa, and then the coup de grace. Winning the Ashes in front of amazed crowds, with a team that should be remembered for all time. They winged it a bit, arguably did not win in their most dominant performance (Old Trafford), but come the final day the series was in the balance. This amazing Day 5 will, or at least should, never be forgotten. A man playing to his captain’s orders saved the day. England celebrated. Vaughan was seen as a genius, a man able to get the best out of his team, to make it gel, and together with Duncan Fletcher, a team that played exciting attacking cricket, with a team of stars and artisans.

Michael Vaughan, for a couple of years, was the star of English cricket. He had become the world number 1 batsman after a run of form so magical it was scarcely believable. While his batting paid the price in the wake of his appointment as captain, he proved himself to be tactically astute, an infuser of confidence, a beacon of control. He did, also, have a really good bowling attack which, after 2005, never played together in full again. I bought his books, bad as they were. I watched the videos time and again. I still have his 177 in full, I think, converted to DVD. Being there for that was incredible. There was such confidence in his strokeplay, such clean hitting, and confidence. That was what struck out at me, his confidence. While Hussain pottered about at the other end, scratching runs here and there, Vaughan was playing a different game.

Fast forward 15 years since then, 12 years since those Ashes, and the picture could hardly be more different. I’ll wager that the England cricket supporters on here would not have had a bad word said about Vaughan after 2005. In hindsight, and with the benefit of what we know now, Vaughan’s role as a captain may even be questioned, such has been the body of evidence post career of insensitivity, stupidity and downright nonsense uttered from our ex-captain that you wonder how he could lead. When we look at Sky, and I am not a fan of many of them, at least ex-captains Hussain and Atherton grip you with what they say. Nass may go off the deep end every now and then, but you see and hear the utter passion he has for the game at heart. Atherton, in his own way, shows his love for international cricket behind a reserved, considered approach very much akin to the way Richie Benaud approached things. Both ex-captains are, I think, still very much respected for different methodologies, but also because their commentary and analysis avoids you thinking “what are they after?”

Michael Vaughan is all over the bloody airwaves, and social media. He is on Radio 5 Live, both in his stint as a commentator on TMS and a podcast show with the vacuous faux joker Phil Tufnell. Even in the days of HDWLIA when I tried to read and listen to everything, these two clowns were not exactly required listening. At least Freddie makes no bones about wanting to get into show-business. Vaughan can also be found commentating on the dead zone that is Channel 5’s highlights, and if that isn’t enough, he’s going to be on BT Sport’s coverage of the Ashes this winter, was on their sofa last year, and is sure to be put up alongside Graeme Swann as the face of the winter. I love the Ashes, especially in Australia (2002 and 2006 did that to me, even though we lost all 4 matches I went to) and we are going to have to put up with this. In the words of one of my favourite pop collectives, What Have I Done To Deserve This?

There’s no sanctuary on social media. There he is, bestriding Twitter with his faux man of the people act that soon disappears when someone picks him up on something he says, or lawks a mercy, mentions potential conflicts of interest when ISM clients are discussed. If there’s an opinion to be had, he’ll have one. If there’s an acca to promote, he’ll promote it (where he is a “rep” for an online betting company, thus turning an innocent sharing of a bet into a commercial opportunity). He’s also someone who lurches into hyperbole far too readily. If there’s a greatest ever, then he’s onto it. I’m a grump, but I find this nonsense tiresome. And for someone bemoaning a drinking culture (once he saw how the land laid) he’s quick to say it’s “vino o’clock”. Harmless? Sure, but when he’s doing it. Oh, and how about filming a commercial with Stokes for an alcoholic beverage? I suppose it was OK as Hales wasn’t about.

If you think you are safe in newspaper land, well you’d be wrong. He has a gig at the Telegraph where he can share with us his knowledge of mental health issues, his social responsibility agenda, and generally act as a slightly more refined Robbie Savage. Jonathan Liew said of Savage that he always has an opinion, and if you hang about long enough, he’ll give you a diametrically opposite opinion. Vaughan is cricket’s equivalent, a sort of Instant Messenger form of writing. He can say something, hope you’ll forget it, and then say something totally different when he sees how the wind is blowing. Note how he’s changed from a sorrowful, almost excusing tone earlier in the Stokes affair, converting to a full on hammering down, even throwing Alex Hales under the bus too. With friends like these, who the hell needs enemies? One minute we need to understand why Stokes needs to unwind, but once the media line to take was set, it’s you never want to go on a night out with these headbangers.

I think, for me, the beginning of the end was how Vaughan watched how the wind was blowing post 2013-14 and made the case for KP. It was always couched in the public should be told, and that this appeared a question of management. One could almost be fooled that he was on “our side”. If KP made runs in the Big Bash, Vaughan would be on Twitter, saying that he’s useful, he should be in our T20 side at least etc. etc. He was, undoubtedly, playing to the gallery. He is well entrenched into the England cricketing firmament, and he was running with hare and hunting with the hounds. So while, on his radio show, he’d be in tune with us, saying those things we wanted to hear, in reality he was talking out of the side of his mouth. It was more self-referential mentions of how he managed to keep KP in check, and less why the ECB were being ocean-going morons with their outside cricket, dodgy dossiers and contempt for the public. Oh sure, he picked the low-hanging fruit, but he never convinced us he’d do anything about it. When the story came and went, ebbed and flowed, he’d be there to talk about it, but given he has an unspoken influence in the game, he didn’t seem to want to get involved or have a true pop.

Because when he got the chance to do it, he bottled it. He may not have won but for a man supposedly so keen for his views to be heard, and to have influence over the game, he should have gone up against a man who could hardly be seen to be on the same hymn sheet as Vaughan. Michael made it known how he wanted talent to run free, to play positively, to attack, to “fight fire with fire”. Strauss was a man of process, of management theory, of team-building through bonding and stability, buy-in and culture. There was bowling dry, team ethics, winning with pressure applied, and when the team made runs on the board, they were formidable. The ultimate company man, the man who would eschew public opinion and do things his way against a so-called “man of the people”. Process against charisma. Stability against Invention. Bowling dry against pedal to the metal.

Vaughan may have read the runes and said to himself that the ECB would never go for him, but he retreated with caution. There were whispers, most notably from the key domestic cricket writer on ESPN Cricinfo that Vaughan had serious conflicts of interest he would have to divest, which were providing him with a nice little sideline to his commentary and writing gigs. Most notably, and the one which has us wondering quite what we have now is his involvement in ISM.

This is a trick played by all the celebs who claim to love the “bantz” but when it is directed at them, it’s “only opinions”. As if Michael Vaughan’s opinions have absolutely no weighting on any decisions made. I could spend months trawling his twitter feed for examples of this opinion forming manifested itself into team selections. For example, Jonathan Trott, after his first absence from the team made a double hundred for England Lions in South Africa. Off he went on the bandwagon that Trott should return as opener for the West Indies tour coming up. Sam Robson had been dumped and in came Trott. A couple of iffy innings later and Vaughan is saying there’s no way Trott can play in the Ashes, and lo and behold, Adam Lyth is his successor, and he gets the nod. Lyth has a tough time, and Vaughan, yet again gets it right..

Moeen Ali doesn’t have a great tour in the Emirates and Alex Hales comes in. Lo and behold, Vaughan was again in favour…

Vaughan echoed Hussain’s sentiments when he selected his ideal England XI to line-up against South Africa in Durban on Boxing Day.

“(Hales) deserves the chance to open the batting,” Vaughan wrote in The Telegraph.

“It will not be easy to face Steyn and Morkel on his first tour as Test opener but he will have plenty of opportunity in warm up games to find form and a bit of confidence.

Don’t you think we can all do this? Listen to the leaks, report on them, “back” them, because all pundits need to “back” decisions and then repent at leisure. Because, as we know, Hales kept his place for the early part of the 2016 summer and Vaughan had his own focus… James Vince.

This is the issue with Vaughan. Even if he believes James Vince is the answer to our Ashes issues now, or the next taxi on the rank back in 2016, there is, below the surface, the conflict of interest Jonathan Trott went to town on in his book. Vince is in the ISM gang, and that causes a problem with the smell test.

Methinks he protests too much…What Vaughan does not get, and seems to bristle at whenever it is mentioned is that he put himself in this position. He has not exactly been quiet when evaluating James Vince’s early performances. As I say, I remember him bigging up Vince’s fielding when he was in the early days of his test career, more than I’ve ever really heard from him before. It just seemed like an additional promo for “his man”. Now he denies this furiously wherever he goes, even threatening to take legal action against Jonathan Trott and, I presume, his co-writer George Dobell, for making that contention. It’s a dead cert to get you blocked should you try it on on Twitter. The reaction to Vince being touted as an Ashes batsman was greeted with incredulity by those who give much of their time up following it, but were quickly dismissed as “outside the game” by Swann in a pairing with Vaughan. But, presumably as an exercise in thinking who should go to the Ashes tour, rather than who would be going, Vaughan showed that telepathy with the selectors for which he is renowned.

Just had my final Ashes selection meeting with myself … and this is what I have come up with … #Ashes …

A post shared by Michael vaughan (@michaelvaughan) on

Ignore the bowlers, no-one really cares about them! The thing about this is I don’t know anyone suggesting Vince prior to the weekend before selection and yet an ISM client is put in an ISM client’s list is just happenstance? It came together with the ready packed line to take (he may have the technique for Australia – which is interesting because Vaughan bemoaned Vince’s “hard hands” a year ago and was frustrated that he wasn’t showing the required temperament – presumably these disappear in Brisbane) and off we ran.

But perhaps the single thing that cheeses me off with Vaughan is his unquenchable thirst to promote four day test matches. I’ll go into this more when I do a piece on this risible nonsense, and look at the pros and cons put in the article in the Cricketer (Tim, Tim, why have you let us down on this one). He just does not listen to the arguments against. Imagine how you would have felt, Michael, on the Saturday of the Old Trafford test in 2005. We put 400 on the board, Australia had avoided the follow-on on a rain ruined Day 3. That test would simply have had nowhere to go. England 180 in front, Australia with three wickets left. Day 4 a total irrelevance. Your 166 in the first innings in total vain. A nice bon mot in a game that died. Even with an additional ten overs each day, you aren’t really in a better position. Then we would not have had that wonderful Day 5 drama, played in front of a packed house, watched by millions on TV, entertainment at its best, drama at its best, evolving in the natural flow of the game. 4 day cricket will only get the same results by contrivance. Doctoring pitches, and yes, I’ve heard it all about bowler-friendly wickets being more exciting, but they can also be more of a lottery, forced declarations. But the other thing it could do is make the home team going 1-0 up in a major series prepare roads that would not have to last that long. I can go on.

None of this matters to Vaughan. Test cricket is “dying” (no-one bothering to work out how or why it is being “killed”) and needs to be saved. The only way to do so is to shorten it. But you aren’t really because you’d bowl more overs in the day (stop laughing at the flaw in that argument), so all those exciting five day games would have been finished within his timeline… Anyone who isn’t on board is not with the program. Is prepared to see test cricket die. And if you dare mention it is to squeeze in more money opportunities for the top players that might just be hooked up to ISM, well, there you have it. A block for you.

Back in 2002, when I saw a man take it to the Aussies, in person, in front of my eyes, I would have given anything to be like him. The brilliant shots, the amazing tempo, the courage of his batting convictions. When he captained us in 2005, before my eyes, with control, with verve, with a desire to fight toe to toe with a mighty foe, he could have taken over English cricket at that time and I would have been a fervent fan. Fast forward and I see a man who has gone beyond disappointing me, to being a man I actually loathe hearing from. Sadly, as a cricket fan, I can hardly avoid him. He’s everywhere. He doesn’t pass the honesty smell test, no matter how much he protests. He sways with the wind, pretending, yes, in my view pretending, he’s in with the common fan, but he doesn’t half have a way of being in step with what the powers that be want. It’s almost uncanny. Of course he wants a new T20 competition in England and to hell with the consequences. Of course he wants 4 day test matches, and to hell with whether it will work, only we have to try. Of course he has his fingers on the pulse, because he’s so rarely off the air, I’m surprised anyone else has a chance to get a word in. Laugh at that Power List as we do, there’s a reason he’s that high up on it. There’s a special place in my little list for those who I thought were on our side, but are as inside cricket as can be and act like it when challenged. Number 39, for all his sins, and there are many, makes few bones about it. Hell, he named his podcast Inside Cricket. Vaughan pretended to be for the common fan. He’s nowhere near it. The Shiny Toy with the Mr Green Acca, the Ashes winning captain with the media platform.The faux man of the people. It’s only an opinion Shiny Toy.

I’m not a fan.

https://twitter.com/MichaelVaughan/status/918725486536138752
Give me a reason why it’s better. 

I Fought the Law – the Law Definitely Won

Regular contributor Andy Oliver with his take on the recent law changes:

Why are we here?

For some reason, known only to the cricket gods, I decided to have a look at the just happened changes to the good old Laws (never rules – unless you want to wind up an umpire / stickler) of cricket.

The changes came into force internationally on the 1st October 2017, and seem to bring the worldwide game more into line with the playing conditions associated with International cricket (within reason obviously).

This has been a three year process by the MCC involving no one that I had ever heard of, except for Simon Taufel (ex-Aus umpire) so hopefully there has been an element of sense and improvement in the changes.

Some of the changes have the potential to create a greater impact on the overall game, and some are tweaks to existing laws.  I think there are some that will cause a good few arguments on the village green – so advise any umpires / clubs to have a copy of the updated laws with them on the field, or at the least, at the ground!  But that assumes the batsmen/bowlers actually know the Laws in the first place…

Dismissals

You will no longer be able to collect your honorary Graham Gooch award and be given out for handling the ball.  This mode of dismissal has been removed; however if a batsman were to handle the ball, they can instead be given out for obstructing the field – so don’t go willy-nilly handling your balls without invitation…

So there are now nine modes of dismissal, can you name them (no Googling at the back)?  I’ve been out to five of them I think.

Law 5

Everyone who has played club cricket will know that one batsman who has a ridiculous, massive, too heavy bat which they can only just lift, but when they do make contact the ball disappears (it’s just all too infrequent).  Well now the MCC have decided that batsmen have been riding their luck with too many top edges for six.

Now the batsmen must have a bat that fits within a certain size range – however it can still be as heavy as they want, so I don’t know what impact that might have as there will still be heavy bats that impart significant energy onto the ball (equal and opposite reaction and all that).  They will just be made with denser willow.

I believe they had a panel that reviewed the impact bat size made on scores etc.  How they did this I don’t know given there are many other variables in play at the same time.

I personally think too many dead wickets are to blame, as well as too many fielding restrictions and the whole two balls in play at once (for ODIs).  You could also make an argument for the increased protection of batsmen (better pads/helmets etc) as well as fitter batsmen also impacting on higher scores.

Batsmen are still going to hit big sixes, and they are still going to get lucky edges that fly away to the boundary.

Law 8.3.4

This is an interesting one.

This law allows for the placement of a tether between the bails and stumps.  I guess this is to try and prevent eye injuries to wicketkeepers (or slip fielders?).

It does not appear to be a mandatory law, just allowing for the provision subject to the relevant Governing Body.  I doubt we will see this filtering into general play, but I could foresee it in the professional game county game, but perhaps not in international cricket.  Although would it reduce the spectacle of ‘bails flying’?

My guess is that a lawyer somewhere said that the MCC have a liability because the previous law prohibited any tether/3rd component and without this law they would actually be restricting a potentially injury preventing system.

Law 21

This one has been amended to state that the ball may only bounce once (before it reaches the opposite popping crease) after being bowled.

It’s a simple change that is standard in professional cricket.  The update makes a comment about ‘competent recreational cricket’, they have obviously not seen me playing in the seconds –  I might need to practice my bowling a bit more if I want to avoid racking up those no balls!

It could cause a few arguments for those who don’t know about the change and have always ‘got away with it’, or it may just bring a couple of umpires I know of into line with the Laws rather than their interpretation of them…

Law 24

A substitute fielder can now keep wicket if needed.  I guess this is a result of the role being seen as a specialist position that could lead to injury if a non-keeper took up the gloves.

While not relevant to village cricket (we struggle to get ten, let alone having a twelfth man who is an expert wicket keeper), I can see this on the international stage for sure (if the ICC playing regulations bring it in).

I don’t know how this affects the batting order, but I assume that whomever was named in the original starting 11 would be expected to bat and if incapable, you only have nine wickets.

Again, it may be a liability thing, (someone who is not a keeper getting injured because the MCC not allowing a specialist substitute) but it would keep the big game spectacle because you are not having to ‘make do’ with a part timer.

Law 30

One for the TV more than the village green I think.

A running or diving batsman who grounds his bat, but it then bounces up will not be given out.  The key is it has to be a diving/forward momentum (i.e. you could still be stumped if you ‘wobble’ forward, but if running in you are fine).

On the flip side, if a batsman has grounded his bat but lifts (and comes out of his crease) it to take ‘evasive action’ he is not out.

This brings to mind Cooks only Test run out.  India, 3rd day at Eden Gardens, Kolkata in 2012.

Cook, only just out of his ground, took evasive action to avoid a throw at the stumps by Kohli.  The problem was that he had not grounded his bat in the first place before moving.  If he had just allowed himself to be hit, he would be fine (as he did not make a deliberate attempt to block the ball), If he had grounded his bat, and then moved – he would have been fine as well.

As it was, it was his only run out dismissal apparently.

Law 41

There have been a number of changes to Law 41, mostly tweaks but some good/bigger ones.  This law deals with fair and unfair play. 

Law 41.8

Check your betting slips…

This law make it an offense to bowl deliberate front foot no balls (good job Kieron Pollard did it already….).  If caught, then you will be suspended from bowling.

I doubt we will ever see this in a live game.  What umpire is going to know if a no ball is deliberate or not?

I’ve seen some doosies just from regular village play!!

Law 41.15

Batsmen cannot “take a stance where they will inevitably encroach on the protected area.”

I assume this means they cannot bat 4ft out of their crease (the protected area starting 5ft in front of the popping crease).  I guess that when a batsman runs down the wicket to a spinner, it’s still ok though as they are going through the motion of taking a shot.

I know what some of our (my village that is) bowlers would do if they saw someone batting that far out!

Law 41.16

This is a good one and bound to cause a few arguments.

Ever heard of “Mankading”?  Yup, the one that causes all the arguments.  The one where Butler was run out for leaving his crease early (correctly, under the previous law 41.15).

There, my cards are on the table.

Well, Law 41.16 explicitly deals with this and I present the full law below;

If the non-striker is out of his/her ground from the moment the ball comes into play to the instant when the bowler would normally have been expected to release the ball, the bowler is permitted to attempt to run him/her out. Whether the attempt is successful or not, the ball shall not count as one in the over.

 If the bowler fails in an attempt to run out the non-striker, the umpire shall call and signal Dead ball as soon as possible.

The ball ‘comes into play’ as the bowler begins his run up, so the bowler can remove the bails at any point up to delivering the ball and if the non-striker is out his ground, then he is gone.

Previously the ‘run out’ had to be performed prior to the bowler entering his delivery stride, but it was basically the same, they can just pull out before delivering

In other words, get back into the crease you cheating batsman, or I’ll have ya!

I expect many arguments to ensue over how this is against the spirit of the game, while ignoring the batsman stealing yards being against the ‘spirit’ instead.

Law 42

This law is the meaty new one (and thus is also the largest explanation).  While there were 42 Laws previously, the juggling has made room for a new law to be made, while keeping it at 42.

This Law is a conduct Law, and allows for in-match consequences for poor behaviour.  It’s probably also the one that will cause most arguments if attempted on the village green – so I don’t expect to see much of it happening.

There are 4 ‘levels’ of offence and it is the umpires’ discretion as to which level the offence falls into.  First the penalties:

Level 1: Warning (first offence) then 5 penalty runs to the opposition for a repeat offence.

Level 2: 5 Penalty runs to the opposition.

Level 3: Offending player is suspended for a number of overs (10 overs in normal cricket, 1/5th of the innings overs in limited overs cricket), depending on the length of the match, plus 5 Penalty runs to the opposition.

Level 4: Offending player is removed from the field for the rest of the match, plus 5 Penalty runs to the opposition.

Level 1 offences:

– Wilfully mistreating any part of the cricket ground, equipment or implements used in the match (Broad kicking a lump out of the Headingley wicket anyone?)

– showing dissent at an umpire’s decision by word or action (most of my team when I’m umpiring)

– using language that, in the circumstances, is obscene, offensive or insulting (me when I’m umpiring)

– making an obscene gesture

– appealing excessively (Shamsi in the CPL final anyone – if you have not seen it look it up)

– advancing towards an umpire in an aggressive manner when appealing any other misconduct, the nature of which is, in the opinion of the umpires, equivalent to a Level 1 offence.

Level 2 offences

Showing serious dissent at an umpire’s decision by word or action

– making inappropriate and deliberate physical contact with another player

– throwing the ball at a player, umpire or another person in an inappropriate and dangerous manner

– using language or gesture to another player, umpire, team official or spectator that, in the circumstances, is obscene or of a serious insulting nature

– or any other misconduct, the nature of which is, in the opinion of the umpires, equivalent to a Level 2 offence.

Level 3 offences

– intimidating an umpire by language or gesture

– threatening to assault a player or any other person except an umpire. See Law 42.5.1.

Level 4 offences

– threatening to assault an umpire

– making inappropriate and deliberate physical contact with an umpire

– physically assaulting a player or any other person

– committing any other act of violence.

No substitutes are allowed, and if the fielder is removed before batting (or a batsman removed) under a level 4 offence, then they are deemed ‘retired – out’.  So a double punishment if you are that naughty while fielding in the first innings.

I do look forward to amateur umpires kicking people out of games.  I can see that going really well.

Summary

So broadly speaking I think the changes to the laws make things more comparable to the professional/international game.

Some changes are logical and won’t cause any arguments, however other ones have the potential to wind up some batsmen/fielders who aren’t up to speed with the changes.

There are plenty of other smaller tweaks and amendments that I’ve not got to so I heartily recommend having a read of the Laws and the accompanying ‘explanation’ booklet – if you want something that is just a confusing self-referential nightmare to read that is.  I mean seriously, who needs to offer a second document to actually explain the first one.  Just make the first one easier to read.

Follow Andy on Twitter:  @oshodisa or add your comments below as he’ll be around from time to time to answer any queries!

 

 

 

 

Interview with a Vampire

Cricket has an interesting reputation in the minds of many followers of the game – somehow the saying “it’s not cricket” seems to speak to a kind of wishful thinking about the way the game was, and what it is today.   In some ways, the association of modern cricket with gambling, both legal and illegal is viewed as being new, when it is anything but given the origins of the sport.  Some of the older English clubs have records detailing huge crowds attending matches played by the leading performers of the time with details of the stakes involved, and the pressure to create fixed laws derived as much as anything from a desire to ensure that the gambling was run according to proper rules rather than anything else.  To that end, there is an irony about the horror at the gambling promotion associated with modern cricket.  There are a number of issues here, the corruption and match fixing that blights the sport today would be entirely familiar to the pioneers of the game, as would the volume of it from spectators and observers.  What has changed is that with the rise of the internet it is immediately accessible to millions, and the promotion of it therein has dramatically increased.

On that basis, an article about gambling and cricket seemed to be one that might be quite interesting.  Only there’s a problem.

I don’t gamble.

I don’t have a moral crusade against it or anything, it’s just that I’m not terribly interested.  A recent work trip to Macau – the Las Vegas of the east – realised a grand total of 0 minutes spent gambling.  It’s just not my thing.  Therefore attempting to write an article on a subject about which I know absolutely nothing could prove somewhat challenging.  What to do?  Fortunately, there’s a well known Twitter account run by a cricket fan who is also a professional gambler, and thus, following a bit of discussion and claims that he’s a numbers and not a words man, Innocent Bystander agreed to have a bit of a chat.  The outcome was that of a series of extremely naïve questions, and very knowledgeable answers.  I began by asking him him what impact gambling has on the game of cricket – does it help drive the game or is it incidental?

“Cricket wouldn’t exist if it wasn’t for gambling, the first laws were laid down to try to legislate a game that was entirely driven by gambling.  Today I would say that in a lot of jurisdictions gambling is the prime reason an event exists.  Often you will find at some matches the ‘crowd’ consists solely of gamblers as huge sums are traded on the game.  T20 is a bigger draw for the general cricket fan, but it’s also a prime vehicle for gambling.  In fact I’d say 20 overs a side is too long, and I would expect to see 10 over a side games appear over the next few years (as is happening in Dubai this winter) – more games, more opportunities to punt, and the appeal to the cricket fan is a side issue, which is why ideas like this that seem pointless to you take off.

“That’s why One Day Internationals became so popular in the subcontinent.  If India were to lose, so what – there’s always another game tomorrow or the day after.  Lose a Test match on the other hand and it’s a week or two before the next.  Can you imagine how quickly a 10 over or 5 over match would be forgotten if the next one starts in 20 minutes time?”

A fairly depressing answer, but one that has a horrible ring of truth to it.  There’s also the implication that cricket gambling has reached a point where it’s so big it can materially affect not just the volume but the format of the game.  Which made me curious how big cricket gambling had become:

“Well, the individual markets are huge, but there are a relatively small number of games – which makes it different from sports such as football, racing or tennis.  Some of the biggest markets on Betfair have been cricket matches though, for example the New Zealand – South Africa World Cup semi-final.  This summer the Champions Trophy matches had over £100 million matched on Betfair, and Betfair is fraction of the world market, and that’s before you even consider the illegal betting in South Asia, which dwarfs that many times over”

The scale of the illegal betting market in cricket really came to the fore with the Hansie Cronje affair, and corruption in cricket has been a live issue ever since.  Players get banned, and the ICC’s anti-corruption unit have, shall we say, been rather busy over the years, with their efficacy in combating it very much in question.  To that end, would that be noticeable to someone who does it legally for a living?

“Hugely so.  If it wasn’t for the illegal betting the volumes put through Betfair would be miniscule on cricket.  Money flows from the subcontinent to Dubai and into Betfair.  It’s impossible to trace but fully washed, ironed and hung out to dry.  The average man on the street in India might bet 10 rupees with his local bookie and he then hedges those bets through the illegal bigger bookies who then push their money into the sub accounts of large Betfair account holders.  That money flows both ways using the Hawala networks”.

In mentioning Betfair, it brought to mind Ed Hawkins book, “Bookie, Gambler, Fixer, Spy”, which detailed the underground betting markets in India and how the operate.  With something like this, the general readership tend to swallow whole what is written, because it’s outside their experience.  So how true does Innocent Bystander think it is?

“I’d say there are elements of truth, but the Indian bookies do tend to ‘big up’ their part to make them look more important than they actually are.  Ed does have a book to sell after all. So if there’s no story, there’s no sales. Let’s call it ‘Vaughaning’ it up a bit…”

Ouch.

So what form of cricket would make the most money I wondered, might it be T20 or ODIs, or even domestic cricket…?

“The weather!”

Ask a silly question.

On these pages, the cricket supporters tend to be Test match ones, the site traffic plummets when the one dayers come along, and since gambling appears to be directly influencing the game, is Test match gambling the weak link?

“No, I wouldn’t say that.  All formats are increasing, betting on tests is a long game, with the markets ebbing and flowing rather than violently gyrating in the space of a ball.  Personally, I would say betting on tests is, like the game itself, the purest form of betting”

If there’s one indication about the scale of sports gambling these days, it has to be the amount of TV advertising about it.  It’s seemingly constant, every break represents another opportunity to offer up some special odds, and encourage people to do more than enjoy the sport for its own sake.  To that end, and given it’s his business, it might be expected that there would be no objection to it.  Far from it:

“It’s pretty poor isn’t it?  My wife loves tennis and watches a lot, and every advert on tennis is for gambling.  She does rather wonder why she is deemed to be a target market!  But it’s important to remember that adverts on TV aren’t looking for the professional punter at all, they’re marketing to the casual gambler, which then leads to problem gambling, and despite all their guff about protecting the customer these are exactly the mugs the bookies want, as they will give them all their money.”

Mmmm.  This is why I don’t gamble.  Some years ago I had our club’s overseas cricketer living with me for the summer.  He was a professional gambler too, and used to play late at night in particular, because it was easy to take the cash off those who would come online when they’d had a few drinks. I didn’t blame him then and I don’t now, but it rather reinforced the image of professionals lying in wait to fleece me.  Presumably given the degree of promotion it must still be growing as an industry?

“It’s growing faster and faster and will continue to do so until the government has the balls to actually legislate properly.  As it is, if betting is legalised in India and USA we haven’t even begun seen the potential explosion that will come.”

Of course, the other element of the advertising is the sheer number of ex-pros or media types being involved.  Is that a problem?

“It’s about as insidious as the relationship between ex players and the media!”

Interesting point that.  The question over self-interest of the ex-players in the media, especially those who have player management companies with whom they are associated has long been criticised, not least by us.  It may be worth watching closely for any apparently innocent gambling related comments from summarisers and commentators.

Given the old saying about people being prepared to gamble on two flies climbing up a wall, is there no end to this?  Will even fantasy sports end up with a sizeable market?  It seems to have a foothold in the US.

 “I’m not so sure on that.  But interestingly  I had a chat with an ACSU chap [Anti-Corruption and Security Unit].  He was in Dubai for the pre-season T20 hitarounds they have out there and he gave the usual speech about corruption and approaches.  Over the next day or so he was approached by a dozen or more county players panicking about approaches they had received from social media.  Fearful about an epidemic of potential fixing, the ACSU delved more deeply only to discover all the approaches were related to Fantasy Sports Leagues!!!  Is this a danger? No, but there is money punted on this”.

This was the point at which my postage stamp knowledge of gambling expired.  So casting around for one final question, I finally hit on a brainwave:

Why don’t you like Alastair Cook?

“Because he is such a handsome devil…”

Follow  @InnoBystander for betting observations, pithy comments and getting into arguments with Indian cricket fans.  My thanks to him for answering my silly questions and not objecting to the rather cruel title I gave this piece.

 

Is English Cricket Too Posh?

It seems fair to say that cricket in England has always been a class-based affair. For almost 200 years there was a separation between the independently wealthy amateur gentlemen and working-class professionals. It was only in 1963 that amateurism officially ended in English first-class cricket. There has always been a sense that English cricket is a game for aristocrats which the proles can only play at their sufferance and on their terms.

Even in recent history, there has been a bias toward people from privileged backgrounds. In the last 40 years, public school boys have accounted for 80% of the ECB/TCCB chairmen, 67.5% of the chairmen of selectors, and Test captains in 65% of the games. To put these numbers into context, in 2016/17 the percentage of children attending public schools in the UK was 7.9%.

Considering the over-representation of the well-to-do in the higher echelons of English cricket, you will be unsurprised to learn that this pattern continues in the selection of the England Test team. In the past 10 years there have been 126 England Men’s Test matches featuring 61 cricketers. Players who attended fee-paying schools make up 56.2% of the appearances in this period.

This was higher than I expected, but the real shock came when I looked a little deeper. If we divide the players into two groups, batsmen and wicketkeepers versus bowlers and allrounders, there is a massive disparity between the two. “Only” 26.5% of appearances by bowlers were by public school boys, and Stuart Broad’s 109 games account for 17.2% of them. Conversely, 81.7% of appearances by batsmen were from public school boys. That is a patently ridiculous figure.

The question this begs for me is this: “Why are people from ‘the right kind of family’ more likely to be batsmen than bowlers?” The most likely answer that I can give is coaching. People who attend fee-paying schools probably receive a higher level of cricket coaching from a younger age than people who go to comprehensive schools. It’s possible to train someone of average height, average strength and average speed to become a decent batsman, and wealthy people have the ability to make that happen.

The same is not necessarily true of bowling. There is an old adage in coaching: “You can’t teach speed”. I mean, you obviously can, but every person has a limit beyond which they can’t get any faster. One thing you definitely can’t train is height, which is also an advantage when becoming a fast bowler. No matter how much money you throw at it, you can’t make a posh boy grow 6’4″ tall and be capable of bowling at 85 mph. Bowling is therefore a significantly more representative and meritocratic discipline in English cricket.

I suspect that when counties scout their local clubs and schools, children from public schools would appear to be superior choices. Having received better coaching from a younger age, they will be playing closer to their potential abilities. This would however mean that counties overlook kids from less affluent areas who might have lesser abilities but greater potential.

There are, I suspect, other reasons. As I’ve pointed out at the start, senior roles in the ECB tend to favour people from privileged backgrounds. Public school boys have a reputation for intelligence, confidence and leadership ability. You only have to look at other areas of public life which they dominate like investment banking or politics to see how quickly these stereotypes fall apart under even the slightest scrutiny, but nevertheless they are considered “well-spoken” and “the kind of boy you hope your daughter marries”.

This disparity angers me for several reasons, not the least of which is that we as a country are probably losing multiple potentially great Test batsmen from the game simply because of the circumstances of their birth. It also has a massive long-term impact on the game. Most of the off-the-field roles in English cricket are taken by former players. Administrators, coaches, selectors, journalists, commentators and pundits are all likely to be former players. If the majority of players are from public schools, that means that they will also dominate all of the other aspects of English cricket.

So what can be done about it? Fortunately, there is already an example of a country whose cricket was also dominated by a wealthy and privileged elite but have reversed that trend in recent years. Of course, that country was South Africa.

Obviously the two situations aren’t even remotely comparable. Black South Africans had faced over a century of institutionalised racism in all aspects of society, including cricket. Even after reinstatement into world cricket and the election of the ANC, there were relatively few cricket clubs in black communities. One of the solutions to this issue has been the use of quotas, requiring minimum numbers of black and coloured players in their international and first-class teams.

This approach is not without its downsides. I’m sure most people on this blog will be aware that Kevin Pietersen cited CSA’s policies as restricting his chances of playing in his home country. Several Kolpak players in county cricket have also suggested this, although a more cynical person might suggest that for most it seems like a straightforward financial decision. I don’t think this would be as strong an issue as it is in South Africa.

The current system in South Africa allows 5 white players in any first-class team, and there are only 6 first-class teams. This means that there are essentially 30 professional contracts available to white South Africans, which does seem somewhat restrictive. If similar quotas were enforced for privately educated players in county cricket, there would be 90 spots for them because English cricket has three times the number of teams. This seems like an eminently workable number, allowing room for both experienced professionals and developing future stars but without allowing a wealthy minority to dominate the sport.

A quota system would force counties to look beyond the low-hanging fruit of public school cricketers and encourage them to help promote mainstream youth participation in their regions. If the privately educated became minorities on the cricket field, hopefully that would also filter through over time to all of the other facets of the game. Indeed, if English cricket ever weans itself off rich entitled men being in charge, perhaps they will finally close the divide between those Inside and Outside Cricket?

As always, we welcome your thoughts and comments below.