Friday 31 December 2010

The Third Annual OB Innings Of The Year Award

It's odd looking back on the first and second editions of this arbitrary, random and little-known Award [it's not an award that's actually awarded, of course, nor do its recipients know anything about receiving it, and no-one has to turn up at a dodgy casino to collect it but if you are the winner, feel free to email to address on the right...]. The first, offered in 2008, took in a 'career-saving' hundred from Andrew Strauss [fancy that...], and had Virender Sehwag pegged as 'misunderstood' [we hear your truth now, Viru...]; while last year's opened with twin hundreds from Phil Hughes and Cricinfo's opinion that Australia's 'transitional period is over'. And it was, too... just not in the way you thought, boys...

As much as anything they serve notice of the brutal short-termism of writing about sport. Time shifts, contexts change. What's true today is true in a different way tomorrow, let alone next year. But with that, the envelope please... As usual, the criteria for this glittering prize is simple: it has to be an innings played in the last year, that I've seen, either in the flesh or on the box, that upholds the noble principal that a transcendent knock is more than just the numbers in the book, that it's how as well as how many.

There is little doubt about the batsman of the year, or the bat. Sachin Tendulkar has risen again, perhaps higher than ever before, and he has done it with some sort of deeply mysterious, Arturian broadsword in his hand, a bat that has very probably scored more Test match hundreds than any bat ever made. Its middle is blackening now, the cracks horizontal as well as vertical, its deep bow deeply exaggerated by the thousands of balls that it has struck. But what a bat it has been, and no wonder the little master won't lay it to rest. He'll probably have to throw it back into the lake, or at the very least re-insert it into the stone from which it came, because it must have something supernatural about it. Imagine how it feels to hold it, especially now it has struck the man's fiftieth ton. Let's hope it goes to a museum where we can all gaze upon it and wonder. Was Tendulkar ever better than he was in Bangalore in October, a towering 214 in the first innings, and that icy 50-odd not out in the second? It was the match that took him back to the top of the rankings for the ninth time. What a man he is, and has been.

At times, Tendulkar visibly conquered his nerves. Like a genetic freak who feels no pain, VVS Laxman doesn't appear to have any. If the theme of this year has been the final decline of the monolithic Australian empire, then he was the man who knifed them in that deathless next game in Mohali. They say that some blades are so sharp, you don't feel them go in: Laxman's 73 not out left them gutted before they realised it. He did it again in Durban, too, with 96 that set up an equalising win against South Africa, India's potential usurpers.

It's no batsman's year in South Africa - not with those pitches they're doctoring anyhow - and nor was it in a green and grey English summer in which Pakistan's brilliant but tainted seamers bowled some mesmerising stuff. Eoin Morgan delivered a pitch-perfect ODI ton under lights at the Rose Bowl to do in Australia, but then that doesn't quite have the cache it once did. Jonathan Trott served notice of the winter to come with a double at Lord's but surely the best innings of the summer were a brace of hundreds from Tamim Iqbal at Lord's and then Old Trafford. His eye is as pure as his heart, and Bangladesh have a true star in their midst.

Jacques Kallis got a hair transplant and a double hundred back to back, and it's hard to decide which one was more impressive, but then it's easy to be blase about Jacques. You get the feeling he's Jonathan Trott's hero, though, and KP named him the greatest cricketer ever, albeit via the underwhelming medium of Twitter.

For an Englishman though, 2010 has been about England versus Australia, first in the Carribbean at the T20 World Cup and then in Oz itself [and it really has been like Oz rather than Aus, hasn't it, we certainly ain't in Kansas any more...]. Mike Hussey's knee-trembling last-over semi-final hitathon was gobsmacking, and his renaissance in the Ashes Tests proves that it doesn't always hurt to be a nice guy in love with the game. He is a man beyond cynicism. Well played, Huss.

But it's England who have prevailed and the T20 final perhaps carries more weight than it seems. Australia had found a key to their T20 cricket at last, pairing Shaun Tait and Dirk Nannes as the short-form, less hairy Lillee and Thommo. They were terrifyingly quick [T20 will surely be the arena for the world's fastest bowling in the future], yet come the final, the team visibly cracked when Kevin Pietersen simply walked down the wicket to Tait and deposited him into the crowd over long off. Suddenly the mirage of England actually winning a limited overs trophy became solid. Kieswetter's violent unpredictability played its part, but Pietersen's eye and skill were unmatchable.

Strange that his year bowed so much in the middle, but the double ton in Adelaide pointed to a new, less fraught KP. Again, Australia could not bowl to him. England's sheer weight of runs have, along with a new bowling potency, retained the Ashes, and outside of Pietersen, they have been scored by the side's great pragmatists: Strauss, Cook and Trott.

Of all of them, few moments matched the one when those of us in the Northern hemisphere awoke to news of the fourth day's play in Brisbane. Here was a Test match drowning in hype that began with England losing a wicket to the third ball of the series, so often the kind of portent that has heralded disaster. Instead, the scoreboard read 309-1. England's flag was in the beach, Australia's bowlers undermined. It was Cook who blunted them, and come the end of his epic, bloodless, 235 not out, he was honest enough to admit that he wasn't certain that he actually had it in him until his moment came.

Therein is the greatness of the game and what it offers to its combatants. It wasn't the most beautiful innings ever played, but it was symbolic of the trajectories of both teams: they crossed as one rose and one fell. Cookie, with your girlie eyes and iffy backlift, we salute you: the innings of the year is yours.

Thursday 30 December 2010

Fourth Test, Wrap Up: Twilight of the Gods

Threes and Fives: Michael Vaughan, now the Beeb's bumptious but insightful between-ball waffler, said the other day that he'd only had two players that he didn't want in the side landed on him by the selectors during his years as England captain*.

It's a consistency of selection that England nicked from Australia, of whom it used to be claimed that the only thing more difficult than getting into the side was getting out of it again. Now the rot goes far deeper than the 34-odd players used over the last four years. Choosing the team is only half of selection. Choosing how the team fits together is the other, tougher half.

England's batting order only really dropped into place with the unlikely arrival of Jonathan Trott [strange now to think that his rival for the place was the lost prince, Ramps...]. Asked on TV the other night to name great England number threes, Bob Willis came up with Barrington, Cowdrey and Dexter. The gap since has yawned somewhat. The theory with number three is that it's either the position for your best bat - Richards, Ponting, Lara [when he felt like it] - or someone who is essentially a third opener - Boon, Dravid, Amla. Trott is the latter and offers a solidity that Bell couldn't come up with. He has quelled thoughts of Pietersen shifting up. He's also weird enough to bat there for years, whittling away at the crease, in thrall to the rituals that get him through. England's order will probably jiggle after Sydney and the likely farewell of faithful Colly, but Bell to five and Morgan in as a tyro six offers a line-up that can push them towards the top of the rankings.

By contrast, it's hard to think of an Australian who is batting in the right position. There are probably only two: Hughes, who they should stick with, and Hussey. Australia haven't had to think about number three for a generation, but Punter has done his noble time there. That leaves Watson, who is a natural number five, Clarke, who has failed at four but made his name at five, and Ponting, should he stay to shepherd the transition, ready to bat five. And of course Hussey, who looks fit for another long stretch at... number five.

Trotters - not the maddest in the dressing room: 'There has been more ribbing this week about my crease-scratching, especially when I put in one final scratch after James Anderson had been dismissed to leave our side all out. I’ll probably still be doing it when I’m 80 years old and standing in the street... I’d like to point out, though, that I’m not the most superstitious person in our changing room. On this tour in Australia, I’ve seen a few things go on that make me think, “Crikey, I’m not as mad as everybody else”... I’m not going to name names, but you might want to look out for the bloke who always bowls the same number of warm-up balls to mid-off, and then to mid-on...'

And...: 'Apparently the only other batsman to average over 100 in Ashes cricket is Albert Trott, an Australian all-rounder who played around the end of the 19th century. My grandfather always said that he was related to Albert Trott, though I never knew how. What I do know is that Trott shot himself at the age of 41, after living his life in the fast lane. I prefer the slow lane myself' - Daily Telegraph

Compliment of the day: It's massive pressure coming into the side for the Boxing Day Test. Luckily he's thick as two short planks so he didn't realise' - Graeme Swann on Tim Bresnan

*One was Darren Pattinson, the identity of the other remains mysterious...

Tuesday 28 December 2010

Fourth Test, Third Day: Yorkshire 1, England 1, Australia 0

Proper bowler: 'They say England play well when there is a Yorkshireman in the side...' - Geoffrey Boycott, Telegraph

Modesty Blaize: 'He [Ricky Ponting]'s out of form, He's under pressure and he starts playing an innings that's totally foreign to him. There are certain people I've seen in my career who in playing a long, disciplined rearguard action are comfortable with it. I could do it' - Geoffrey Boycott, TMS

Number of the day: Five - the amount of times Shane Watson has been dismissed between 51 and 57 in his last 11 innings

Battle of the metaphors: 'Fish rots from the head' - Sydney Daily Telegraph; 'It was like the band was still playing as the stern began to rise' - The Australian; 'Like visiting a dear friend with a terminal disease' - Herald Sun; 'Perth can be seen for what it was, one dead cat bounce' - SMH

Tim Bresnan - hacks get poetic: 'He has a heart the size of a cabbage' - Kevin Mitchell, Guardian; 'He looks like a coalminer and weekend leagues cricketer' - Greg Baum, SMH

Who can he be referring to? 'Andrew Strauss's side has been a cut above the glamorous England outfits of the 1980s, an era in which the team's failings were hidden by the emergence of a handful of gifted players.That was a time of rebel tours, dissolution, cynical domestic exchanges, lazy champions and false prophets' - Peter Roebuck, SMH

Someone call Alanis Morrissette: 9am: 'In my heart and in my mind, I still believe he [KP] inside-edged that ball' - Ricky Ponting on ABC Radio; 4pm - bowled off an inside edge

Monday 27 December 2010

Fourth Test, Second Day: Simply Seeking Clarification

KP - the Verdict: 'Terrific batsman, great entertainer, huge presence at the crease. But still a wanker' - Chucker, The Age

What happened honest, by R Ponting, age 36 and 8 days: 'I entered into discussion with the umpires about the detail of the decision having viewed replays being shown on the big screen. I accept the discussion went for too long and I understand the reasons for the dissent charge handed down by the ICC this evening. I was simply trying to seek clarification from the umpires regarding how the decision had been made after being referred to the third umpire' - CA statement

Trotters - lone boozer: 'he is the batting equivalent of the fellow at a party who no one recognises, who stays in the kitchen on his own but is last to leave' - Mike Selvey, Guardian

Righteous anger: 'Not one Australian applauds Prior's half-century - not good to see' - Michael Vaughan, via Twitter

Old Proghead daddio: Michael Vaughan is now following Muse on Twitter

Pots, kettles etc: 'And the award for Most Graceless Captain in World Sport goes to...Ricky Ponting. What a shocking little hissy fit' - Piers Morgan, via Twitter

Cross-sport commentary: 'another Aussie bottling it on the darts' - Andrew Flintoff, via Twitter

Sunday 26 December 2010

Fourth Test, First Day: The Death Of Momentum

Parwatch - all over now: Manchester United take a 4-0 half time lead over Chelsea at Old Trafford, only for Chelsea to draw 4-4. In the next fixture Chelsea win 7-0, before United strike back with a 6-0 victory the following week. They play again, when Chelsea go 3-0 up after ten minutes... Roger Federer beats Rafael Nadal 6-0, 6-1, 6-0, then Nadal hits him with a triple bagel next time out... Frazier kayos Ali in round number one, before Ali sparks Smokin' Joe after a minute in the return...

Not really on, is it? Cricket is unique in that closely-matched opponents sometimes display that closeness over a series rather than in matches that can veer wildly from one side to another. It is a sport that is measured differently, more slowly, than most, and that has narratives that take their time to emerge. It is also more of a slave to external forces - the climate, the conditions - than the others. The concept of momentum has seeped in from other sports. It's an easy line to drop into the endless press conferences [their volume also a product of the sprawl of a series]. But it's hard to make a case for its existence. Generally speaking, the longer the teams play for, the more chance that the best side will win, and in cricket, they play for a long time. That's all the momentum you need, isn't it?

On Tremmers: Cricket, in common with most sports, is in thrall to aesthetics: it's the reason that Lara's cover drive hits a place in the heart that Simon Katich's doesn't. Aesthetically, Chris Tremlett appears lab-produced, a physically-perfect specimen built for fast bowing. The incongruity of his apparent psychological frailty, the propensity for that giant body to implode, cut against the visual evidence to produce an anomoly that was as amusing as it was frustrating. Tremmers is the one laughing now, and rightly so. Is he the new Andy Caddick? The next Richard Ellison? England's McGrath? Come back in five years for the answer...

You sure? 'Australia has suffered its worst cricketing day for 100 years' - Peter Roebuck, SMH

Past tense, Michael? 'Ricky has been an amazing leader, a wonderful player' - Michael Clarke

Things we don't seem to talk about any more: The Kookaburra ball

Stat of the day I: '[In] The second over of the match... Phil Hughes took Tremlett for more than 10% of the final total' - Mike Selvey, Guardian

Stat of the day II: 'Australia was bowled out for 98, roughly a run for every 1000 spectators' - Peter Roebuck, SMH

Phil Space Trophy Flight Of Fancy: 'Of the phoenix that was Australia in Perth, only ashes remain. The namesake trophy - once Australia's pride and joy - is again England's to parade as they see fit' - Greg Baum, SMH

Monday 20 December 2010

Third Test, final day: Time through the hourglass

Today, Dominic Cork announced that he'll be one of the contestants on Dancing On Ice, confirmation that this endlessly competitive, estimable cricketer has crept onto the celeb Z-list. Yes, it'll be funny to see him expressing his hitherto well-concealed aesthetic bent, but hell, ain't it sad, too? They all go so quickly, those days on the field - as Buk once put it, 'they run away like wild horses over the hills'.

The newly-connected Twittering world draws the lines even more clearly now: there's Goughy flying home from doing his laddish radio bits in Perth, MPV joshing with his golf partners, Tresco sitting, suited and booted, at the Sports Personality of the Year awards, and many more of them, newly embarked on their long afterlives.

This Ashes series feels concertina-d; three-fifths gone already and it's barely started, the other two matches back to back. It's over so quickly in a way it never used to be, played in a rush so that they can shoehorn in lots of one-dayers before another world cup and then another full summer, another winter, all strung together in such a way that the rhythm of the game feels disrupted. Such acceleration saps the joy for everyone. Even the players are wishing away their days.

It doesn't always do to be winsome, but the great series in cricket have a feel of semi-permanence to them, or at least they should have. Even the Ashes of 2005 unfolded, and they were nothing compared to the summer-long duels of the 1980s and 1990s, where the Tests would stop for county and state fixtures, and the one-day series were fitted in halfway through.

It comes and it goes quickly, this stuff, and it needs to be held and savoured for a while because before you know it, you're Corky, sat backstage in a dreadful TV studio, pulling on a lycra jumpsuit and hoping that the public still dig you.

Saturday 18 December 2010

Third Test, Day Three: Underneath The Lid

Middle day, middle Test - halfway through the series already. All to play for then, boys...

Best Readers Poll: 'Is this the worst Australian team of all-time?' - Guardian, Friday morning

Who's on first?
'The way they were out was exactly the way we planned. They'll have to second-guess themselves now' - Ryan Harris

Momentum - a new understanding: 'We're not worried about momentum. They are going to take some momentum with a positive performance on their front, but we're going to concentrate on our game. We're still full of confidence, we're still 1-0 up in the series and there's always tomorrow and we still believe we can do it' - Chris Tremlett

The Great Twitter Rug Debate, sponsored by Advanced Hair Studio: 'Seems Ricky's found his tongue! Is he in your barnet gang? Looks thick on top' [Andrew Flintoff to Michael Vaughan]; 'I believe he is a member of the club... He is getting very excited.. Job's on the line' [Vaughan to Flintoff]; 'Is it true that Kallis has had a thatch too? Between the 3 of you there's about 25000 test runs under them rugs!' [Flintoff's reply]

The last person you expected to say something sensible: 'Teams are always going to do well sometimes. You can't just think that they're going to be poor or be great all the time' - Peter Siddle

Friday 17 December 2010

Third Test, Day Two: Double Reverse Ferret

The reverse ferret is a 1990s adaptation of Orwell's famous notion of Doublethink - the art of being able to hold two apparently contradictory opinions as true. It was invented specifically for journalists by Sun editor Kelvin MacKenzie, and used whenever an overnight volte face was required. As the cameras scanned the press boxes during the day's play, hacks of both hues - Australian and English - wore the looks of me who were about to reverse ferret on two of their favourite and previously immutable subjects, Mitchell Johnson and the destination of the Ashes.

Of course, the true art of the Reverse Ferret is to allow just enough wriggle room to reverse it once more...

Too good to be true: 'A mythical God. He grabbed the world and his own fate and forced it to roll his way' - Peter Lalor on Mitch [The Australian]

Not us, mate: 'They [the selectors] were pilloried by any number of former players mystified as to why Johnson was not sent back to State cricket' - Malcolm Conn [The Australian]

All down to you now, buddy: 'When Johnson is good, Australia is good. When he loses his way it seems to drag down the entire show. Australia pins its mojo to his mast' - Robert Craddock, Courier Mail

As you were: 'Mitchell sets off the Collapsometer! England had batted so sublimely in this a series that we had almost forgotten how our "collapsometer" worked.' - Vic Marks, Guardian

Tweet Reason: 'Just hold fire for a day or so ... It's not over yet.. We could chase 350' - Michael Vaughan

Double Reverse Room For Manouvre Man Of The Day: 'Australia will be forced to revive its Ashes hopes without Ricky Ponting and Michael Clarke after the leaders failed again' - Malcolm Conn [The Australian]

Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow: 'It's a long game, Test cricket, and there is time for decisions and revisions which, as Alfred Prufrock says, a minute will reverse. Harold Pinter was a keen cricket fan and wrote a poem about Len Hutton that went "I saw Len Hutton in his prime/Another time/another time". He sent the three-line poem to his friend, the playwright Simon Gray, and when he hadn't heard anything from him for a week or so rang to ask what he thought of it.Gray replied that he hadn't finished it yet. The same could be said of the Ashes and some of its key protagonists' - Peter Lalor

Thursday 16 December 2010

Third Test, Day One: The Sound Of One Knife Sharpening

Is he mad... Is he bad... Is he sad... Ricky Ponting WACA Ashes Special

Early Onset: 'Ponting is physically at his fittest and looks in fabulous shape, but his mind, 36 years old on Monday, is winding down' - Peter English, Cricinfo

False Memory Syndrome: 'Ricky Ponting turns 36 this month and he appears to be morphing into Steve Waugh in the final few years of his Test career - jerky, nervous, uncertain' - Robert Craddock, Courier Mail

Dry your eyes mate: 'He doesn't want to leave the scene, as he showed with his funereal shuffle off the ground' - Peter English, Cricinfo

Bunny: 'He's nearly done. Jimmy Anderson has him three times in the series for just 15 runs' - Crash Craddock, Courier Mail

From the other side: 'The Don, had he been alive, would have been appalled' - Andrew Faulkner on the decision to omit Michael Beer from the XI

Everyday occurrence: 'Yet another Ashes series slips away' - Malcolm Conn, The Australian

Dead Man Walking's Shoes: 'Michael Clarke, leader in waiting' [cricinfo]; 'Captaincy bolter Michael Hussey' [SMH]; 'Shane Watson, come on down' - [Herald Sun]

Key criteria: 'How can we have a bloke captain Australia with tattoos? It's just not on' - Ian Chappell

Absolutely no exaggeration: 'Such mistrust [of the media] is understandable given the September 11-like coverage of his relationship and break-up with Lara Bingle' - Andrew Webster on Michael Clarke

From the coach's mouth: 'Each and every one of us must relax and live in the moment, enjoying every contest between bat and ball...all day, every day' - Tim Nielsen [via his blog]

Sunday 12 December 2010

Friday 10 December 2010

Ricky: Don't Lose His Number

As entertaining as it's been to watch Australia - or more accurately Australia's press - react to the obviously irredeemable situation of being one down with three to play, there's surely a place for a more measured view. The vilification of Ponting has been an embarrassment to them. If anyone is genuinely of the opinion that - for example - Mike Brearley could have affected a different result at Adelaide with the resources at Australia's disposal, then they simply don't know the game. England played as well as they have since 2005, and back then they beat the Australia of legend. Confronted with bowlers who couldn't keep to one side of the wicket, let alone build pressure through a period of overs, the Punter was screwed, hoist by his own petard.

He is a decent man and a proud cricketer, one of the greats. He demands respect, from both the English crowd [thankfully there is apparently now an insurrection on the matter of booing him to the crease] and from the writers who have spent half of their careers feting him, and who owe much of the space they get in the paper to the success of the teams that he's played in. He has grown up in public, and he is a credit to the sport in that regard. He is a fearsome opponent, the first name that Strauss and Flower would scratch from Australia's team sheet if they were given the choice. Imagine what a rabble they would be without him.

It's a very English trait to admire someone more once they're gone. You'll rarely read a bad word about Mike Atherton, Alec Stewart or Nasser Hussain any more, such is the afterglow of memory. It's seductive, that kind of nostalgia. It's easy to feel it already in the talk of replacing him.

The harder question is this: who do Australia have who's better? Michael Clarke? Marcus North? Cameron White? Shane Warne? Ponting's fire still burns, despite the forces ranged against him. As an Englishman who has lived through the bad old days, here's one piece of advice: be careful what you wish for.

Tuesday 7 December 2010

Second Test Day Five: 99 Problems [but the pitch ain't one]

On The Rise: New ICC Test Rankings out - Australia up one place to fourth

A week's a long time...
'He is a bit of an X-factor for the Australians. He's the sort of guy who gives them a bit of aggro and that's exactly what they need. They need some penetration in their bowling attack' - Mark Taylor on... Mitchell Johnson

Devil's number: 666 - the number of 4s hit by Kevin Pietersen in Test cricket following his knock in Adelaide

Phil Space Award, Best Metaphor: 'The final two days at Adelaide, we were assured, was when we would find out what this Australian team was made of. The results are not yet back from the lab, but it seems to be some sort of gooey, soft-centred material that melts rapidly when heat is applied, is easily removed from flat surfaces, does not bounce or spin and which stinks to high heaven' - Richard Hinds, SMH

Wagging tail: 0 - the number of runs scored by number eight batsmen in this series so far [four innings in total, by Broad, Johnson and Harris]

Maybe give the newsagents a miss, boys: Those Australian newspaper headlines in full - 'This Isn't Working'; 'Australian Cricket A Product Of Self-Indulgence'; 'This Side Would Be Lucky To Beat Bangladesh'; 'Blunders, Bloopers And Clean-Bowled'; 'Let's Rearrange The Deckchairs In The Australian Team'; 'Slide Feels As Bad As 80s Nadir'; 'Axe Could Fall At Summer's End'...

...And: 'Sorry Punter It's Time For Captain Warnie' [SMH]; 'At 41, Warne Our Only Spin Option' [Courier-Mail]

Shane's plans: 'London UK tonight. Etihad Airways I'm flying. Best airline in the world' - via Twitter

Leave him, it's not worth it: At least there was one decent fight at the Adelaide Oval

Shane Watson - predictable: Has passed 30 in all nine innings he has played against England, but never made more than 62 [more statto oddities from Andy Zaltzman here]

Monday 6 December 2010

Second Test, Day Four: One For The Bowlologists

Question: Does Michael Clarke get out in the last over a lot more than other people, or it just more memorable when he does it?

One eye on the captaincy? 'I just want to apologise for not walking off the ground when I hit the ball' - Michael Clarke. This was a strange one: Tony Hill gave Clarke not out, and England called for the review. So why the apology?

Second best: 'He's a very important player in a rich vein of form, the second best batman this Ashes.' Graeme Swann on Mike Hussey. Wot, not KP, Swanny?

Better than Geoffrey's granny? 'My mother could have beaten me about the place that first morning in Brisbane' - Graeme Swann

Freddie's [Birthday] night: 'Now I'm 33, off for a civilised evening with the wife. It's what people my age do. Pedalo on standby just in case tho!' - via Twitter

Best served cold: 'Now the Aussies know what it felt like for the England team I played in getting battered every day LOL' - Darren Gough, via Twitter

Words we never used to have: 'I am the Bowlologist' - Damien Fleming, via Twitter

Phil Space Award - Over-Analysis of the Day: 'Before Michael Clarke drifted off to sleep on sunday night, he was doing what many modern-day Australian cricketers do - watching a romantic comedy on television. He was watching The Break Up, which is about a couple whose split becomes nasty and bitter. Given how Clarke's personal and professional life have been entwined this year, the irony was too tantalising and impossible to ignore' - Andrew Webster, Sydney Daily Telegraph

Glass half full [day two]: 'Simon Katich has almost no chance of playing again this series' - Malcolm Conn, The Australian

Sunday 5 December 2010

Second Test, Day Three: Here Be Monsters

Bowler's wicket: 'Marcus North was turning it square and it's hard to drive on' - Kevin Pietersen [KP Pietersen 213*, 31x4, 1x6]

Avert your eyes, mate: 1068-5 - England's last two innings combined

Big question: 'What are the reasons we haven't been able to get as many wickets as we've liked? that's something we've been talking about,' - Shane Watson

Glass half full: 'Even Australia's occasional moral victories contained presentiments of the crushing defeat to come' - Greg Baum, SMH

What did you really used to think of us, then? 'It's payback time for England as they aim to atone for the atrocities of summers past' - SMH

Media training 101: 'Are we praying for rain? I don't know how honest I can be...' - Shane Watson

Michael Clarke's evening: 'Watching The Break Up. Very funny show. Jennifer Aniston is hot' - via Twitter

Tim Bresnan goes to see Eric Clapton: 'It were rubbish, all guitars' - via GP Swann's Twitter

Saturday 4 December 2010

Second Test, Day Two: Geoffrey And The Deathly Hallows

Thickos: 'Anyone who gets out on this pitch is an idiot' - Geoffrey Boycott

Voldemort lives: Geoffrey wore this at the Adelaide Oval [for charity...]

Sexy cricket: 'This pitch was not just friendly to batsmen, it was passionately in love with them' - Vic Marks, Guardian

Could be better: 'It was almost ideal batting conditions' - Alistair Cook

It's only a day away: 'Never give up and the sun will come up tomorrow. Who knows what it will bring!!! Never give up!!!' - Shane Warne, via Twitter

Gambling man: 'Just gets better, Cook's earning me money every run he scores and when KP gets a big hundred tomorrow and Jimmy knocks them over happy days' - Andrew Flintoff's Dubai-based get rich quick scheme, via Twitter

Betas need not apply: 'Australia must unearth an alpha male to lead its struggling pace battery' - Courier Mail

Rumour mill: 'He was being sacked, he had been in a fight, he was badly beaten up — Bumble had also mentioned being jostled by some drunks in the centre of Brisbane on Sunday — he was dying, he had cancer...' - Martin Samuel on the fall-out of David Lloyd's resignation from Twitter, Daily Mail

Par Watch: Cancelled.

Friday 3 December 2010

Second Test, Day One: The Rise And Fall Of Little Voice

In space, no-one can hear you scream: 'The run out was my fault. The call was too soft, it just didn't come out,' Shane Watson

Nice problem to have: 'I think Steve Waugh also got a golden duck in his 150th Test,' - Mike Atherton on commentary for Ricky Ponting's dismissal

Why they call him Mr Cricket: 'Hussey was eager for any advice from Border. One gem was: "Always ensure that your practice replicates as closely as possible what happens in the middle." So what did Hussey do in the unforgiving heat of Perth? He organised himself a net and a posse of bowlers. Then he batted for two hours from 10 o'clock to midday, whereupon he took a break of 40 minutes. Then he batted for another two hours before resting for 20 minutes. Then another two hours,' - Vic Marks, Guardian

Aussie Press Stats Round-up: 18.50 - Michael Clarke's average in the 12 matches since he moved up to number four [Courier Mail]
17 - Number of Tests since Australian selectors dropped a batsman [The Australian]
4 - Number of batsmen on the four-man selection panel [The Australian]
22 - Number of years since Australia has gone four Tests without a victory [The Australian]
8.29 - Marcus North's average when called upon to bat before Australia have made 150 [SMH]
54.79 - North's average when going in with 150+ on the board [SMH]
1 - Number of players to make a 'diamond duck' in an Ashes Test before yesterday [Rodney Hogg run out by Dennis Lillee, 1981 - SMH]

Par Watch: 'It turned out to be a good toss to lose,' - Jimmy Anderson; 'We know we're going to have to bowl well,' - Mike Hussey [oh god, he's not going to bowl too, is he...?]

Expert gambling tip: '3-1 both teams over 300 first innings' - Andrew Flintoff, via Twitter

Cultural Divide: 'Weird Pom says bring back Warnie' - Racing commentator John McCririck interviewed in the Courier Mail

Can't keep him away: 'Warnie copped mixed reviews for his debut, with viewers fixated as much on his tan and unnaturally white teeth as his interviewing style,' The Herald Sun on Shane's new chat show