A hundred

The Hundred is a camel designed by a Horse Committee. A Horse Committee specially convened despite all the perfectly fine thoroughbreds grazing the paddock. 

A contrivance, built on the run by an organisation that got it right sixteen years ago, with what we now call the T20 Blast, but decided they wanted more. And a contrivance that had to be different for the necessity of it being different if it was going to exist. 

A development process that looks from the outside like it was written for a Project Management How Not-To Manual. A program in which participation by female cricketers seems to have been an afterthought which still hasn’t been fully fleshed out. 

There are many reasons why I believe The Hundred should never have happened. But it is happening. The teams are created, the coaching staff hired, many of the players drafted. The sponsors – all brand names of one “snack food” manufacturer – have been announced, as have the team kits which look deliberately like said snack food wrappers.  

The rules of The Hundred may or may not be so simple that “mums and kids” (shorthand, presumably, for “Grocery Shopper With Child”) can understand them. I am sceptical that they will be. Every aspect of The Hundred can almost be visualised by the scribble on the whiteboard upon which they surely were invented. 

I am sceptical about The Hundred’s entire Reason For Being. But now it’s time to move forward. The ECB has staked so heavily on The Hundred that it is entering the Too Big To Fail category. But even if this brave new Cricket-As-Game-Show is a success, and by whichever metric is convenient on the day it surely will be, will the rest of English cricket flourish along with it? 

What of the eighteen-team major county system? What of equal playing opportunity for women at county level and above? What of the T20 Blast? What of England’s competitiveness in fifty and twenty-over World Cups? What of the kids? 

I look forward in the coming years to new and exciting creations from the ECB’s Horse Committee. 

Steve Smith wins the 2019 Midwinter-Midwinter

Australia’s Steve Smith is the winner of the Midwinter-Midwinter for 2019.

Smith accumulated the most points during the 2019 Ashes for the Best-on-Ground awarded on each day of each of the five Tests as announced on the @rickeyrecricket Twitter account.

Smith, playing his first Test series since his twelve-month suspension for a Cricket Australia Code of Conduct breach, scored 774 runs in four Tests at an average of 110.57, with a top score of 211 among his three centuries. In only one of his seven innings did he fail to reach 80.

The first player in Test history to be substituted because of concussion, Smith missed one-and-a-half Test matches yet was still rated Best On Ground on five separate days during the series.

With the best three players ranked each day on 3-2-1 basis, Smith amassed an exceptional 19 points for the series. This was Smith’s second victory in the Midwinter-Midwinter, having come first in the 2017-18 Ashes with a score of 17.

There was a three-way tie for runner-up between Pat Cummins, Josh Hazlewood and Jofra Archer, who each scored 11 points.

Full tally:
19 – Steve Smith;
11 – Jofra Archer, Josh Hazlewood, Pat Cummins;
8 – Joe Root;
7 – Stuart Broad, Joe Denly, Ben Stokes;
6 – Rory Burns, Marnus Labuschagne, Nathan Lyon;
5 – Matthew Wade;
3 – Mitchell Marsh;
2 – Jonny Bairstow, Jos Buttler, Tim Paine, Chris Woakes;
1 – Sam Curran, Travis Head, Jack Leach, James Pattinson, Mitchell Starc, David Warner;
0 – Moeen Ali, James Anderson, Cameron Bancroft, Marcus Harris, Usman Khawaja, Craig Overton, Jason Roy, Peter Siddle.

In total, Australians scored 67 points to England’s 54.

The full spreadsheet of the daily scores can be seen here.

The Midwinter-Midwinter is the @rickeyrecricket BoG (Best on Ground) award given for the most valuable player of each Ashes Test series.

There is no physical award as such, and the Midwinter-Midwinter is not endorsed by any cricket board, advertising agency or anti-doping authority. But most importantly, it’s not the Compton-Miller Medal.

Points are awarded for the best three players on each day of a Test match in the series, on a 3-2-1 basis. 

The Midwinter-Midwinter is named for Billy Midwinter (1851-1890), the only person to have played Test cricket for both Australia and England in Test matches against each other.

Further explanation of the Midwinter-Midwinter, its background, the scoring system and past winners can be seen here.

Sydney Thunder pre T20 era XI

As part of a debate that developed downstream from a team listing put together by Brad Hodge and tweeted by @7cricket a few days ago (see below), I have assembled a hypothetical Sydney Thunder squad of players from the pre-T20 era.

Criteria for inclusion:

  1. They must have played for a club (or a predecessor) that competes in the Thunder Conference of the 2018-19 Kingsgrove Sports T20 competition in NSW Premier Cricket (that is: Bankstown, Blacktown, Campbelltown-Camden, Fairfield-Liverpool, Hawkesbury, Northern District, Parramatta, Penrith, Sydney University, Western Suburbs, ACT, Central Coast)
  2. They must not have played in a major T20 tournament since the birth of the format in 2003. (I have included the ICL in this definition, which disqualifies Michael Bevan)

Continue reading “Sydney Thunder pre T20 era XI”

Merry Ashesmas!

The biggest rivalry in cricket? Comparing The Ashes to other cricketing rivalries is like comparing Sir Donald Bradman to other batsmen. It beats everything else by a huge margin.

With about three hours till the start of the Ashes of 2017-18, both teams have their vulnerabilities. I’m predicting with some degree of confidence that Australia will regain the Ashes yet with the knowledge that fortunes could change at any time in this seven-week journey.
Continue reading “Merry Ashesmas!”

Why do I love cricket?

This morning I was completing a “fan survey” commissioned by the ICC which they had publicised through their Twitter feed. Amid the feedback about the website, complaint about the lack of archival material on World Cricket League tournaments, and the likelihood they will have no idea why I referred to J.Barton King, I gave an answer to the question “Why do you love cricket”, the simplicity of which shocked even myself.

Let me repeat it here:

It is a unique sport, rich in competitiveness, diversity, heritage. It can unite people through a summer’s day and night like no other sport can.

Test cricket is not dying — the five day game still has a unique place in world sport

Is Test cricket dying? (Spoiler: No.)

But before I explain, here’s a couple of short videos to watch. Firstly, Moeen Ali’s hat-trick ball to seal England’s Test victory over South Africa at The Oval on July 31:

Second, eighteen year-old Rashid Khan taking the first ever hat-trick of the Twenty20 Caribbean Premier League at Brian Lara Stadium, Trinidad on September 6:

Which game had the bigger crowd and the better atmosphere, and which hat-trick do you think will be remembered in twenty years’ time, or even next year?

Test cricket is not dying, but in many ways it has failed to grow at the same rate as the sport’s newer versions, the one-day game and Twenty20. The Ashes, starting in Australia in November, are close to selling out, and most England Test tours are a major event for the Barmy Army.

Christmas and New Year Tests in Australia, regardless of the opponent, attract big crowds and massive TV ratings.

Day-night Test matches are increasingly becoming part of the mix. The first two at Adelaide in the past two years have attracted large crowds and healthy television audiences. England’s first day-night Test – against West Indies at Edgbaston in August – has also been seen as a success, despite the visitors losing two days early.

While the boards will continue to pursue the commercial imperatives of day-night Tests, there are still bugs to be sorted out, the biggest being that the players simply don’t like playing with a pink cricket ball in changing light conditions.

We are yet to see how the popularity of “pink ball” Tests withstands either a dull fifth-day draw or the frustrations of constant rain interruptions. Not once, in the four day-night Tests played in Australia and England to date, has a match extended into a Monday evening.

The biggest threats to the viability of Test cricket have arisen with the exponential growth in the number of matches played in the past three decades, in which period the number of Test teams has grown from seven to ten (and soon to twelve).

Traditional encounters like the Ashes or India’s home Tests remain popular, and indeed have grown in popularity with the extended reach of live television and the internet.

Other series have failed to deliver the same growth. It’s difficult to argue, for example, that the rivalry between South Africa and Bangladesh (who have just completed a lop-sided two match series) is dying off when it never existed in the first place.

But there needs to be a reason for being if Test cricket is to be more than just the cash cow of a handful of nations.

The International Cricket Council (ICC) board is meeting in New Zealand later this week and is set to approve a World Test Championship structure that would involve the nine leading Test teams playing each other in a two-year cycle beginning in 2019 with the top two meeting in a Final at Lord’s in 2021.

Exactly how this would function in the instance of India’s fixture with Pakistan is not clear, but it otherwise guarantees each team a minimum number of Tests, with competition points up for grabs in each series.

This would mean, for example, that Bangladesh would have split competition points with Australia in their recent 1-1 Test series, but would have taken none from their 0-2 loss to South Africa last week. Every Test would have some degree of broader context.

Test cricket deserves to survive, and will, alongside Twenty20 just as the marathon is as much a part of the athletics calendar as the 100 metres sprint. It will never be the major money-earner of the game, that is the role of Twenty20 these days.

But the advent of a functional world Test league, together with some smart scheduling including the occasional day-nighter, will reinforce the five-day game’s unique place in world sport.

(This article was first published on October 9 2017 by iSportconnect).