Sharjah Day 1 – And Bits Of Other Stuff

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So we move to the Third Test of this fascinating series. Both the first two tests have gone down to the wire, both in unlikely circumstances. In the former, the spinner derided by the journo who tells us know-nothings what’s what, nearly won us a game, and in the latter the spinner derided by the journo who…., nearly saved us when all seemed lost.

But we are where we are, 1-0 down. There’s stuff about we deserve to be level, etc. but that’s just the stuff of hopes and dreams. Winning a test match, as the Pakistanis found in Dubai, is about sealing the deal, closing the match, and sometimes it is bloody hard to do so. Clearly, a win in Sharjah by this team would be up there with Mumbai 2006, Colombo 2001, Karachi 2000 in the pantheon of great, unexpected, away wins. I don’t include either of the two in India in 2012 as that was an experienced, road-tested, England team out there, great as those wins were.

England will make changes. One is forced – Mark Wood’s ankle problems are being managed (and please God, not by another cortisone shot…) and so he steps down. While the wickets column isn’t totally his friend at the moment, he is developing rapidly as a test bowler and has tremendous promise. I fear for his injuries. Fingers crossed for him.

Also, widely trailed, is the “resting” of Jos Buttler. The replacement keeper will be Jonny Bairstow which, in my view, is cripplingly unfair to both of them. Bairstow has shown a bit of stickability in the middle order and is trying to nail down a place. Having to do that while keeping wicket in a one-off test is ratcheting up the difficulty level. Also, will dropping Jos Buttler do him any good? There’s a school of thought that he’ll get his confidence back in the ODIs – that didn’t happen in England.

James Taylor may well be getting the nod for this game, but I’m also seeing others floating someone else opening (Bell – WTF?). I’m pretty sure they’ll stick with Ali for this test, but who knows? Bayliss doesn’t seem the type to chop and change without due thought and process. With the press confirming that Taylor and Bairstow are playing, we have to believe that with Plunkett for Wood, we have our XI. If this tweet is anything to go by, it’s looking good for James. All the best to him.

KP isn’t happy at the dropping of Jos. His article is very insightful though on how to come to terms with spin bowling, and for that, I think it is well worth a read. Haters will hate, though.

Pakistan are without Imran Khan. Will Azhar Ali come into the team? Will we solve the Yasir conundrum? A fascinating contest is in store.

Some statitude….

There have been 15 test centuries in Sharjah. Brendon McCullum’s 202 is the highest. Mohammed Hafeez (197) and Kane Williamson (192) made the next two highest scores in the same test match in November 2014. The next hundred by a Pakistani will be the 10th by a “home” player there. Azhar Ali, Asad Shafiq and Younus Khan (2) all have hundreds there.

New Zealand’s 690 there in 2014 is a major stat outlier which will be tough to beat. The next best innings total is 493 by Pakistan in 2002 v West Indies.

Of 7 test matches played in Sharjah, there has been one draw.

In those 7 tests, there have been hundred partnerships for each of the first 7 wickets. Most vulnerable? 125 for the 4th by Misbah and Mohammad Hafeez? 116 for the 3rd by Taylor and Williamson for New Zealand? Record partnership is for the 2nd between Williamson and McCullum.

Mark Craig has the best ever bowling figures at Sharjah in tests; 7 for 94. Other five wicket hauls have been from Shoaib Akhtar, Shane Warne, Chanaka Welegedara and Rangana Herath.

England have made 20 hundreds in away test matches against Pakistan. Cook has the two highest scores for English players in the UAE – 263 and 94.

Elsewhere we’ve seen the conclusion of the day-night round of the Sheffield Shield. All three matches ended in results:

Tasmania v Western AustraliaScorecard here. Double century watch – Michael Klinger made 202 not out in the first innings

Victoria v QueenslandScorecard here. Including a massive performance by Travis Dean who was on the field for the entire match (unless he nipped off for a call of nature, of course)

South Australia v New South WalesScorecard here. Steve Smith and Ed Cowan with hundreds. Mitchell Starc with 8 wickets.

Of course, double hundreds for Aaron Finch (288*) and Ryan Carters in the warm-up match were buried under the stories over the pitch. Australia are getting a bit of a rep for preparing stupid surfaces for warm-up games. Going to be an interesting test series. My mate in Adelaide has been saying there has been a ton of complaints, but this seems to indicate batsmen can make scores, and bowlers can take wickets. A balance is important. There have been a few 150s, and some decent bowling performances. There will be more news to come.

Some house news. You will note we’ve changed the domain name. Using the old domain still works, but it might be best to update your bookmarks. beingoutsidecricket.com is ours……

Sad to see The Full Toss reaching the end of the road. We were aware something was in the wash as Maxie has a new baby and freelance work to get to grips with and had said to us over a beer in the summer that he thought he would step down after the Ashes. James has a hell of a task widening his remit on the new venture, but we wish him all the best. It may be that we get even more attention than before, now that Maxie, who was increasingly becoming a punchbag for certain posters, will now not be available to have a pop at. Us sinister lot!

On the matters of yesterday, where according to the usual supsects I was part of some conspiracy with Maxie, I am gobsmacked. I had no part in it other than to say to Tregaskis that he still had “it” and saying I was watching while munching popcorn! To be honest, I knew nothing about the golf game, who played with who, or why. Frankly, I don’t care. I’ve been on the end of hospitality before, and I’m not influenced other than I like people who have done it. If they ain’t VFM in what they supply, they don’t have a chance. I think that goes anywhere. I thought the reaction was more interesting than the substance, to be fair. I spoke to some of the contributors during the day but barely touched on the golf. I’m just too busy at work, and enjoying myself with mates after work to be conducting some grand plan. Some people need to look at themselves, frankly.

OK. Test cricket. Sharjah. Game on. Comments below.

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A Hornet’s Nest

Over at our friends at the Full Toss, a proper debate has been going on – it started initially on Twitter, with Tregaskis raising a point, and snowballed from there. ¬†The whole thing can be read through Maxie’s post on TFT, and I’m not going to repeat it here, so the link is as follows:

http://www.thefulltoss.com/england-cricket-blog/the-return-of-caesars-wife/

Here’s the thing. ¬†I like Maxie. ¬†I like his writing, and I like him personally. ¬†I’ve had a couple of good nights out with him, and enjoyed his company thoroughly. ¬†Which is why I know that saying I disagree with his premise is not going to be met with shock and horror, but more “Oh really, why?” ¬† Because if there’s one thing I do know about him, it’s that he’s exceptionally comfortable with the idea people hold different views to him – it’s something that always makes me smile when you get the more virulent criticism of him for his articles, he is quite interested in those who don’t agree.

It’s one of those things that is striking across a few of these blogs. ¬† Dmitri is the same, forever worrying about whether his perspective is a reasonable one. ¬†The irony is that it’s me who tells him to ignore the trolling and the abuse, yet I’m the one who is probably thought of as less polemical and more nuanced. ¬†The true beauty of all of these debates is that it involves real people, who can be hurt.

From his post, it seems Lawrence Booth in particular felt that he was being unfairly maligned, and here I have enormous sympathy with him. ¬†I really can’t see a thing wrong with something like a golf day that might involve a few players. ¬†And this is why – in my own line of work there is a fair bit of what we might call “promotional” activity. ¬†The deal is what is has been for generations across many kinds of career, we take them out, spoil them, show them a good time and when it comes to contracting maybe they’ll be better disposed to us than our competitors. Naturally, our competitors do the same. ¬†It’s the kind of thing that tends to be pontificated about as somehow dubious, but it’s normal practice. ¬†More specifically, I’d fall down in a faint if something like that made a potential client switch to me, it doesn’t happen, it’s way more complex than that involving building trust and – the key point – getting to know people.

For journalists, their stock in trade is copy for their newspapers. ¬†It’s nothing like as simple as on here – I can write any old rubbish and click “Publish” and up it goes. ¬†The press pack have to pass it via their editors and hope that some kind of simulcrum of what they wrote appears in the paper the following day. ¬†It is extremely easy to be totally cynical of all media output, and it just ain’t that simple.

Want the proof? ¬†I can write a piece on here talking about Kevin Pietersen, and the hits we get double from normal. ¬†Hell, just the fact his name is used will add a few extra ones. It’s extremely easy for us to manipulate the content if we were so inclined, and thus when online papers do it, the line that it’s clickbait might be true, but it’s successful¬†clickbait.

Neither Dmitri nor I make a penny from this place, so we can say what we like, but it’s pretty easy to see how commercial sites love it when you can do something that straightforward to get extra hits.

So for a newspaper journalist, first and foremost they need to create copy that attracts attention. ¬†That might be about – say – Joe Root, as we’ve seen with the Telegraph interview with him that has got plenty of notice. ¬†But what we can’t do is expect those articles to come out of the ether, and that’s where the whole point of argument has stemmed from. ¬†It’s a fair bit easier for former England batsman and captain Michael Vaughan to do it, but for a normal cricket journalist, to provide an angle requires them to do the legwork both before and after.

We know what Root (poor lad, still using him as the example) did in raw figures and anyone can write that, it’s just that barely anyone will read it because it’s dull. ¬†How does a journalist provide context and colour? ¬†It’s by getting to know them, talking to them, allowing a sufficient degree of trust that they will speak to them in the first place. ¬†So both because of my rationale about hosting events, and because of the peculiarities of sports journalism, events such as a golf day are critical. ¬†What else would people desire of their correspondents? ¬†Glorious isolation? It simply is not going to happen, and the journalists aren’t doing their jobs if it does happen.

The unguarded comment from someone suckered in by a journalist they trust is in itself part of the job, but they can’t do that unless they know them in the first place. ¬†It’s just not a fair argument to attack people for doing what is in reality their job.

On here we have offered up plenty of criticism for journalists not holding the ECB or ICC to account, and those criticisms stand absolutely. The frustration about that can’t mean though that everything they do is therefore criticised, we have to be fair about this. When we get a fascinating interview with Nick Compton, it’s because that journalist spent time getting to know him well enough for him to talk, and created sufficient trust for him to open up. It doesn’t help anyone to pretend the means by which that happened shouldn’t.

Criticism for not doing their jobs properly is legitimate and necessary. But not for when they are. ¬†And heaven only knows there are enough things to complain about there, for there really is much too cosy a relationship between some journalists and the ECB, while the fact that the senior cricket correspondent of one of the broadsheets can’t even be bothered to watch Death of a Gentleman remains as pathetic a dereliction of duty as there is. ¬†But seeing reds under every bed weakens the argument, it doesn’t strengthen it. ¬†Sometimes they’ve simply done nothing wrong.