Monday, August 31, 2009

The 2009/10 SA test team - Openers

Today I found myself thinking about the upcoming SA-ENG tour and what, if any, changes there could be to the test squad. It's gonna be a bit too long for one update so each day I'll focus on a new position. Once finished, CSA can print out my posts and go ahead and announce the squad.

The Openers

Assuming he doesn't break a finger playing table tennis or something, Smith will be back in his familiar opening spot. But who will be his partner? Previously on Square Pegs and Round Holes - Neil Mckenzie was dropped for the final test against Australia, due to an extended run of low scores. In that final game the young up and comer Imraan Khan got a good looking 20, if there is such a thing as a good looking 20. He also destroyed everyone in the domestic leagues. His partner was Ashwell Prince, opening for the first time. Ash knocked up a fantastic 150 and his overall record for SA is fantastic.

Personally I think Prince will stay as Smith's partner for now. Mckenzie also wasn't a test opener...until he was. That little experiment proved to be a huge success, although it has now run its course. I can't help but think Amla might be a better long term prospect as an opener, but Prince deserves a chance to make the spot his own. He certainly has the right temperament for the job.

As for Neil, I just can't see him getting back into the team. Go hump your gorgeous wife, you've earned it.

As for young Imraan, I think they will try and make him the new Duminy, meaning he'll spend a lot of time in and around squads, but very little on the field of play. It certainly worked for JP.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

45 over game under threat?

Earlier I saw this article on SuperCricket. Below is the main thrust.

The Board of Cricket South Africa has resolved to investigate innovative ways to improve the domestic limited overs product following concern from different quarters that the domestic 45-over game is in danger with the growth in popularity of the twenty-over format.

CSA, sorry but the horse has well and truly bolted. There are only two ways to make the 45 domestic format a draw again is to a) have all the big names show up, plus a few international stars or b) bring back the "come on, Summer!" B&H advert.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Bespectacled respect

Dan Vettori has now joined the 300 test wicket club - a club that has a slide made of candy cane and hookers with respectable names like Janet and Doris. Since Dan is as unassuming as it gets, I will simply say: "Well played."

If he put a bit more effort into his personality and off field antics I might have put a bit more effort into this post.

Probably not though.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Random Ashes musings

- "You can't keep Freddie out of the game" - Andrew Strauss. As the curtain draws closed on Freddie Flintoff's test career, I think the one thing you could definitely say is that all too often Fred was kept out of the game. We've all seen him perform heroics. The guy was more than capable with the bat and ball. But his statistics suggest a player who didn't turn up nearly often enough.

This series, as with so much of his career, he was seen as a talisman. With KP out, he was the teams star player. I know he was carrying an injury but a return of 8 wickets at an average of 52 and 200 runs at an average of 33 are not the numbers of greatness. His career bowling average of 33 and his batting average of 32 also tell the tale of a good all rounder, not a great one.

On the bright side, replacing Fred shouldn't be too hard. Broad is already almost as good and, at 24 years old, can only get better.

- Australia had 6 of the top 7 run scorers. They also had the top 3 wicket takers. Their problem was not good individual performances, it was in not delivering as a team when it mattered most. Australia is most known for its mental strength on the cricket field, so this will be most troubling of all.

- Australia will look forward to Windies and Pakistan touring Oz later this year. It's hard to see them not winning both series. With South Africa hosting England and then touring India, and Sri Lanka and India squaring off against each other...its not that big a stretch to imagine Australia back on top of the heap sooner rather than later.

- Didn't I tell you Shane Watson was a cricketing God?

And the winner is...

In reverse order of merit (which is also a fantastic sexual position, by the way)...

Damith from The Fly Slip

Damith got points from the Man of the Series, Best Tosser, 4th Test Result, Fred playing 4 games and there being one Innings Victory. He may have been last but he'd kick all our asses in Sri Lankan predictions.

25 pts

Brian from Different Shades Of Green

Brian was undone by Pieterson's injury but still managed points for 1st and 5th Test Results, Best Tosser, Rain and McDonald being overlooked. Brian also lost 1 pt for submitting his predictions a little late.

34 pts

Our very own Roscoe

Roscoe proved to have great foresight in predicting Pup's good form, but that was undone by his 4-0 Aussie win prediction. He also nabbed points for the 1st and 4th Test Results and nailed the number of games that Fred played.

35 pts

Q from Well Pitched

Q also thought the Aussies would kick sand in the English eyes, but managed to get points for Man of the Series, Best Tosser, 4th Test Result, and McDonald and Lee being overlooked.

35 pts

Krish from...errr...the comments section

Perhaps we bloggers don't know it all? Naaah! Krish got points for Strauss, 4th and 5th Test Results, a single Innings Victory and McDonald. He lost 1 pt for being a little late to the party.

39 pts

Jrod from Cricket With Balls

Mr Balls accumulated his pts with a Strauss, a McDonald and a Lee, and the 1st and 4th Test Results. He lost out on joint 2nd place by being tardy and losing a point.

39 pts

Me from here

Darren showed remarkable foresight in choosing Strauss as the top England run getter. He also nailed the 1st and 4th Test Results, the single innings victory and the "points for jam" McDonald.

40 pts

Skroegerj from the comments section

Not content with stealing my victory, Skroegerj also tried to spoil the notion that if you write a blog you are an expert. He got Tosser, 1st and 5th Test Results and the Innings Victory. But what clinched it was not only predicting an England win, but getting the correct series result. What a bastard!

44 pts

Since the guys that actually take to the field in the Ashes only win this, Skroegerj's trophy will have to be viewed under a microscope.

Thanks to everyone that participated. It was a bit of a slap dash competition but we'll endeavour to make the Champs Trophy competition even better.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Congratulations England

The Ashes return to England, no doubt thanks to the South African triumvirate of Strauss-Trott-Prior, which means Australia are now the 4th best test team in the world.

Excuse me while I


Tomorrow - More thoughts, our prediction results and plenty of snark.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

The ghosts remain

Geez, I tell Phil Hughes, "I bet you couldn't hit a cows arse with a banjo" and now the ICC has to get involved? Thanks a lot, Hansie.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Doctor Spin Presents: Paul Harris

Paul Harris is a left arm orthodox spinner. At the start of his test career he was roundly criticised by all and sundry, with Geoffrey Boycott famously calling him "roobish" on the 2008 tour of England. But his ability to hold up an end for long periods has earned him grudging respect from his opponents and cricket viewers. This reliability allowed Graeme Smith to rotate his strike bowlers at the other end. Although South Africa's bowling arsenal is dominated by the quickies, Harris is the spine of the bowling strategy in test matches between overs 35 and 79.

There's nothing flash about his run up at all. The only vaguely remarkable thing is that as a left arm spinner, he comes off a straight run up from around the wicket to right handers. Most lefties come through and around to RH batsmen. His grip for his stock delivery is conventional and as is the case for most SLA's, it's easily changeable in the gather to deliver an arm ball.

Harris never really extracts Hollywood turn from any surface. The angle of his delivery arm is closer to 45 degrees than next to his ear. This makes the seam travel through the air more along the X axis, resulting in the ball hitting the surface on the leather more often than the seam. Harris loses a lot of mechanical grip off the pitch because of that. He also loses the prospect of topspin (resulting in dip and bounce) and natural drift as a result.

But it ain't really broke, so he shouldn't fix it. What Harris does well is he sets up his gather from side-on, sharply rotating his hip at the point of delivery, resulting in a natural heavy rotation of the front foot.

Harris has found the optimal speed for his bowling over the last 12 months. He's slowed down by about 5kph since he came onto the scene. Consequently we are seeing him toss the ball up more often. This change in flight is very subtle, almost indiscernible, but very effective. His control of his variation is exceptional. The Aussies targeted him as the weak link in the bowling lineup and many of them were perished when they were well settled at the crease. There aren't many long hops or full tosses in a Paul Harris spell, resulting in batsmen having to manufacture boundary scoring opportunities. In test matches, a bowler would come out on top in this scenario more often than not.

Harris delivers the ball from very wide in the crease. He's not the biggest turner in the world, but getting closer to the stumps will result in the perception of more turn, because of a more wicket-to-wicket angle. This perception of more turn could create doubt in the mind of the batsman.

I would like to see him get closer to the stumps on occasion as another variation. If Harris wants to turn the ball more, I would have him learn to bowl through and around the wicket, and get his left arm closer to his ear to encourage more overspin. The rotation of his hips, together with the angle and momentum of his run up would result in more revolutions on the ball through the air. This remodeling would take about a year, and I don't think the juice is worth the squeeze.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Ashes Cricket Review (PC Game)

We don't really do reviews, so this will probably be a bit of a trainrape. Nevertheless, we'll do one anyway with lots of colourful language to paper over the chasmic cracks in our journalistic "technique".

Ashes Cricket is made by Codemasters, the guys who made Brian Lara International Cricket. BLIC is probably the most fun and playable cricket game ever made. so when the Codemasters logo pops up, they're off to a good start.

If you like your game intros to feature tricksy motion control shots, epilepsy-inducing editing, real footage seamlessly transitioning into rendered graphics, all set to a pumping Queens of the Stone Age track, then you'll LOVE the intro of Ashes Cricket. Beause there is no intro.

The interface is ok. The menus are easy to navigate.

The training mode is very useful, if erring on the side of the pedantic.

Once Darren and I learned the controls, we did a T20 match between SA and Pakistan. we batted first and got about 150 all out. Batting gives you a good degree of freedom as far as shot selection is concerned. If a ball is pitched on a length on middle stump, you can choose one of a vast array of shots, depending on the field set. It's the one cricket game that's captured the satisfaction of clipping one off the stumps through the legside. That shot in particular looks gorgeous, especially off the back foot.

When batting first, make hay while the sun shines. Those first 6 overs are the easiest to score off.

The wicket keepers are way too good. It's commonplace for a keeper to dive full length to first slip and take a spectacular one handed catch while standing up to the stumps.

There are a few other un-crickety things. When you edge a ball into the slip cordon, it loops up, as though you've just hit an overripe orange into the air with a giant red dildo.

Shots behind square on both sides of the wicket also tend to be few and far between. The AI leads you to playing in the V more often than not. You often find yourself rotating the strike with a full blooded cover drive to the sweeper, rather than a neat tickle down to third man.

Pakistan then went in to bat. We opened the bowling with Steyn and Ntini. A major bug seems to be specific to Makhaya Ntini. Sometimes he'll run in and clip the bail on the bowlers end with his hand. This leads to a reset, with Maccie going back to the top of his run up, no runs being scored off that ball, and only 5 balls remaining in the over. This has happened twice now.

The MAJOR concern with the bowling is that the makers of the game have deemed a ball pitched on the 4 meter mark to be the ideal length. Anything else is a poor delivery and the AI batsmen take full advantage. The problem is exacerbated by the fact that because of the depth perspective, a ball on an ideal length (as defined by Codemasters) looks like a half volley. This is very unsatisfactory.

In an ideal gaming world, the optimum length should be determined by pitch condition, ball condition, match situation, batsman on strike and, most importantly, the bowler himself. In the real world, Andrew Flintoff's optimum line and length is slightly shorter and more outside of off stump than Dale Steyn, who looks to pitch it slightly fuller and closer towards middle.

Apart from that, the catching system is a game within itself. You have to be ready though! It's based on the "what if" situation of Keanu Reeves and Morpheus playing cricket in the Matrix trilogy.

The big screw up is the AI's sense of judgement when it comes to running. In our game against India, we took 4 wickets. Every other batsman ran themselves out. This is easily fixable with a good patch, but what do I know? Maybe it's harder than jazz music.

Having lost in the semi-finals to India (we were South Africa. We don't do finals), we decided to play an Ashes test match. The main headache was trying to decide whether to be England or Australia. We went with England, who are mainly shit. To our delight, we discovered that Michael Vaughan is in the test match squad.

Now the main problem with test matches in computer games is that it takes huge amounts of concentration and patience to wait for the right scoring opportunity, whilst watchfully blocking or leaving dangerous deliveries. After 10 overs we were 22/1. It probably takes more discipline and mental application to leave a series of balls pitched in the corridor of uncertainty in the computer game context than it does in a real test match. So inevitably we went "fuck this" and started tonking Shane Watson to all parts of the field. Kevin Pietersen's clip off the legs looks truly stunning.

With our newfound gay abandon, we were dismissed for 277 after 40 overs. Australia, after starting well, were bowled out just after tea on day one for a paltry 175. We went in to bat again and made about 120. Australia were then bowled out after drinks in the first session of Day 2, 30 runs shy of victory. Day 3 ticket holders would've been annoyed.

Herein lies the problem. I defy anyone to play a test match in a cricket computer game that lasts 5 full days without engineering it that way. (International Cricket Captain doesn't count).

All in all, it's the best cricket game to come out since BLIC. We hope that Codemasters build on this, because while it may not be the best, it's on the right track.

There can be only one...other format

I thought it was interesting to see both Shane Warne and Shaun Pollock weighing in on the 50 Over vs 20 Over debate.

Shane reckons 50 over cricket has "passed its sell by date" and she "put a shotgun in its mouth, pull the trigger and paint the wall red, by crikey!"

While Pollock takes the stance that T20 is just a bit of fun and if you have a bad start there's not enough time to recover.

Personally, I'm stuck between the two. Right in the middle of a Pollock-Warne sandwich.

Sometimes I think that the 50 over game doesn't have a place anymore. It's not fun enough for Joe Spectator. It's not strategic enough for Jim Wisden. It just falls in no mans land.

But other times I feel like maybe its the best of both worlds? It's the middle ground between the two distinctly opposite forms. It's the gateway.

Besides, we can't drop the format without SA having never won the bloody thing. The only thing getting me up in the morning is the hope that one day SA will atone for the World Cup sins of the past.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Dale Steyn - drug addict

Some would point out that Dale Steyn has been cleared of any suspicion regarding the extra morphine found in his system during tests in the IPL.

What you don't know is that 6 months ago I was preparing for the most important cricket match of my life - a one vs one battle royale between myself and Roscoe, to take place in the leafy street outside my house. I was concerned that I wouldn't be able to hit Roscoe for quite as many sixes as I usually do, so I placed an ad online for coaching advice.

What I got instead was an email from Dale Steyn. He told me the secret to his success, and the potential solution for my problem, was morphine. Like a fool I was immediately suckered in to his dark world.

I met up with Dale in a really seedy part of the city, the parking area around the back of Blue Route Mall, and we exchanged money and drugs. And some bodily fluid - supposedly to seal the deal. I dunno, I'm not very "street". As soon as I got him I took my first hit and dreamed of the six hitting to come.

How did the game against Roscoe go? I got dizzy, flushed, confused and constipated so we had to go inside and play PES instead.

It's morphine for crying out loud, why is this a news story?!?!

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Modi has lost his damn mind

Cricket fans of the world: "Lalit, the IPL is an enjoyable enough waste of everyone's time. But please sort out the number of games played. It's ridiculous"

Modi: "You're right, it is ridiculous. Ridiculous that we're throwing money away by not squeezing as many games in as possible. So from next year each team will play 18 group games instead of 14!"

Cricket fans: "Lalit, you tit, we meant LESS games not more!"

I'm in shock, although I shouldn't be surprised. The one thing you could say about the IPL that even though it was garish and overly long, at least the format was fair. Each time plays every other team home and away. Now what? How do you add 4 group games for each team?

5 days after the next IPL ends, the T20 world cup begins. I'm sorry but that's overkill. They finally have a format that "the people" love and they're going to kill the damn thing because of greed.

Saturday, August 8, 2009


Just when I finally got excited about the prospect of England winning the Ashes, they implode in spectacular fashion. I should have never gotten excited when I heard that Aus losing the series would mean they would drop down to 4th in the test rankings.

This is some epically poor cricket from England, though. They need a rocket up their asses before the 5th test. Australia in 4th place, come on you bastards!

Friday, August 7, 2009

You are a better number 3 than Ravi Bopara

I don't care if the "you" in question is a 12 year old girl in a wheelchair.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Gibbs chooses Chargers over Cobras

The inaugural T20 Champions League kicks off in October and, like its football counterpart, also intends to use the term "champions" very loosely. Nevertheless, the real exciting news is that Herschelle Gibbs has chosen to represent his IPL team, the Deccan Chargers, instead of his home team of Cape Cobras.

To be fair, he's only been playing for the Cobras for half his life. That surely can't compete with the love he must feel for that ragtag team of mercenaries that own his ass for one month a year.

Then again, teams competing in the tournament that lose local players to IPL teams, get compensated $200 000. Is Gibbs worth that much to the Cobras?

That was rhetorical. The answer is FUCK NO!

Can we drop the booing discussion now?

Even Ponting feels that fans should boo him and that it creates a great atmosphere.

"I have said for a long time that the Barmy Army are the best sporting crowd in the world. I don't care what sport you are talking about, or what country -- they are unbelievably good supporters. There is never anything untoward, it is always good light-hearted stuff, and when England have a sniff of winning the volume goes up tenfold. They add a lot to the whole experience of the Ashes."

Reminds me of the time I was at Newlands with some friends. It was back in the early days of High School and was a local game between Western Province and Free State (who are now rebranded to The McDonalds Cows and The Nashua Ricoh Aficio MP C5000 (50 ppm B&W, 50 ppm) Colour Printers, respectively). Nicky Boje was batting at the end of the Free State innings and he went out for...I can't remember really but lets say 2. He walked back to the members section, which took him right past our seats.

My friend then said, with sarcasm dripping, "well batted, Nicky". Nicky clearly didn't think as highly of his knock and turned to my friend, who was a 14 year old boy, and said some really nasty things. I can't remember what he said let's just say he called him a queer Nazi lover.

The point of all that? Boo players. It's fun!

Sunday, August 2, 2009

4 musings from day 4

1) Earlier Sky showed an interview with Brett Lee, who reckons he's just about ready for a return. He was asked about all the injuries to fast bowlers, specifically Flintoff, and what it all means. Lee didn't really answer the question, because its stupid and the answer is obvious, but he did say that he thought he had a couple more years in him and wanted to concentrate on TEST CRICKET. I think Lee is a dick but I almost pumped my fist (dick, pump, fist...this is some amazing foreshadowing) in the air at that comment. Unlike that big lump Flintoff, Lee would rather play less shorter forms of the game to extend his test career.

Dropping tests to concentrate on ODI and T20 is like dropping sex to concentrate on masturbation.

2) Earlier today Warne was lambasting Rudi Koetzen for another poor decision (an LBW appeal against Bell that did look good). But then they showed the replay...ball hits above the roll. Still, Warne doesn't waver. Then they show hawkeye, which says that the ball would have comfortably gone over the stumps.

At this point Warne realized his error and acknowledged Rudi's impressive call. Like fuck he did! He expects us to buy that his eyes are better than science. Lets do away with the speed gun and instead just ask Warney after each delivery, "how fast was that one?" To which he'd reply, "132.5 km/h".

3) Yesterday Sky put up winning percentages of teams over the least 19 months. South Africa was comfortably top of the test table with Sri Lanka in second. I wish I had written down the stats but if I recall SA was close to 70% winning percentage. England and Australia were around 30-40%. And in those 19 months we've played away in Oz, India and England. Not too shabby.

Then they showed the ODI rankings and, again, SA was well out front with England and Australia lagging far behind.

Finally they showed the T20 rankings and, yup, SA was top, although this time the top spot was shared with Sri Lanka.

I'm sure South Africa will fall back down to earth before too long but all this talk of Australia still being the best or India being the new kings...sorry, right now SA are the best of the best.

4) Told you Bell and Watson would do well. I'm like Nostradmus...if Nostradmus could actually get a prediction right once in awhile.

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