England v Sri Lanka at Cardiff, 1st Test

Oh, computers.  Computers and rain.

After six glorious weeks of sunshine in England this spring, the first day of the first test of international cricket in England this summer is truncated by rain.

Sri Lanka started boldly, but lost two late wickets.   Today, at drinks, they are a very respectable 269/5.  However, thanks to the late start yesterday, most pundits foresee a draw.

What’s worse is I could not even write about the above because my computer decided to, well, fail.  And even when the IT monkey got it working again, the screen resolution was (and still is) wonky at best, and headache inducing at worst.  How am I supposed to write a blog that no one reads if I cannot view the cricket scores in high definition? Oh, wait, you would prefer I sell things?  Oh, I see.  Whatever.

In other news:  Tendulkar, Yuvraj and Gambhir have all backed out of India’s tour of the West Indies.  Now, it is unfortunate for the Windies, as these players would have drawn fans to the arenas, but it also bodes well for their chances in the series.

And today is yet another “final” in the IPL.  This will make three, with one more to come, in case you lost count.

During the previous “final”, there were lots of murmurings about the stadium being half full, despite Tendulkar, despite Mumbai, despite the fact that it was a “final.”  Is the luster of the IPL well and truly gone?

Finally: love those Sri Lankan sweater vests.

Chris Tremlett ended Tharanga Paranavitana's stubborn innings, England v Sri Lanka, 1st Test, Cardiff, 2nd day, May 27 2011. © Getty Images

Mumbai Indians v Kolkata Knight Riders at Mumbai, Indian Premier League, Elimination Final

The IPL playoff format is similar to that in Aussie Rules Football.  The teams that finish in 1st and 2nd play each other, while the teams that finished 3rd and 4th play each other.

The winner of the former match goes directly to the final, while the loser has to play the winner of the latter match.  The loser of the latter match is eliminated.   Or something.

In Aussie Rules Football, however, the playoffs include eight teams instead of four, last an entire month, and honestly are ridiculously hard to comprehend when reading about them for the first time.

Now, I get why this format exists:  you reward teams for finishing higher in the table, give underdogs a chance, and give the fans more meaningful matches to watch. But, to me, it just feels like yet another money grab by the IPL.  I mean, why not just give the higher table teams a bye, like the NFL does? But in the interest of TV revenue, they are doing everything they can to make the players play as many matches as humanely possible.

Now, I know, the system has been in place since 2000 in Aussie Rules and while they do last the entire month of September, it is widely considered one of the more exciting tournaments in sport.  (I tend to agree).  So, I guess, I should cut the IPL some slack like I am always asking others to do.

However, one thing: stop calling every match a “final”.   There can be only one final.  That’s why it is called a final.

Also, another thing, and this is a big thing: the “qualifying” match between the 1st and 2nd teams feels absolutely meaningless.  Yes, yesterday, Chennai stormed back to shock Bangalore, but at the end of the day, who cares?  Yes, Chennai play one fewer match, but it’s not like they would have been out of the tournament if they had not completed such a thrilling chase.

(Sidebar: are underarm deliveries illegal in the IPL? Something to look into.)

Today, there is a proper knockout match: Mumbai v Kolkata.  Tendulkar v Gambhir.  Prime time at the Wankhede Stadium. Should be a good one.

And, tomorrow: day one of the first test between England and Sri Lanka.  I am pretty excited for this one.

(Sidebar 2: come one, ECB, you couldn’t wait two weeks to start the tour?  Stop being petty and wait for the IPL to finish up next time.  You too, WICB.)

Anyway, first ball is at 5am my time in Cardiff; Sophia Gardens to be exact.  More on the ground tomorrow.

© Getty Images

West Indies v Pakistan at Basseterre, 2nd Test

Wait a minute.  Something’s not right.  But I just cannot put my finger on it…

Oh, yes: No IPL matches today.  None.  First time in what seems like ages.  In fact, the only real cricket of note today is the match above.  And Pakistan look to be firmly in control there.  I am hoping that the Windies can hang on for a draw and take the series.  However, that is seeming more and more unlikely, considering how poorly they have been batting.  I predict a early declaration from Pakistan today – and heck I could see them taking all ten of the West Indian wickets today, as well.

In the IPL, however, the first playoff match (AKA, the “qualifier”) is tomorrow, with Bangalore taking on Chennai in Mumbai. The second match (AKA, the “eliminator”) is the following day, also in Mumbai, and features Mumbai and Kolkata.  The 2nd qualifier is the 27th and final is the 28th.  And then the cricketing landscape goes dark until the next T20 tournament starts up.   You know, because the IPL has killed cricket.  Right?

Not right.  In fact, a cracking summer of cricket is just getting started.  This week alone features county cricket, the first test between Sri Lanka and England at Cardiff, and, most intriguingly, an ODI between Pakistan and Ireland in Belfast.

I saw the latter match this morning on my Google Calendar and thought: “hm, that’s right, Ireland declined the ECB’s invitation to the CB40 to concentrate on international duties.   They must have a wholes series of ODIs this summer.”

So I looked it up.

Five.

Five ODI matches.  That’s it.  Two against Pakistan this spring, and then one each against Sri Lanka, Scotland, and England.  Five matches between the World Cup last April and the end of August.

Of course, their elite players, for the most part, play County Cricket and will play in the CB 40 anyway, but goodness, what about your non-elite players?  What better opportunity for them to play against some of the best cricketers in the world?

I just do not understand the decision.

Now, I like Ireland, and I like how they have become a darling of the cricket world, but honestly, as I have mentioned before, they seem to be letting things go to their head.

Oh, well, Sussex won yesterday and are now top of their group in the CB40, thanks, in part, to an Irishman.  So I guess I should stop complaining.  Until tomorrow.

Kemar Roach crunches one through the off side, West Indies v Pakistan, 2nd Test, St Kitts, 2nd day, May 21, 2011

Nottinghamshire v Warwickshire at Nottingham, County Championship Division One

Today is the final test between West Indies and Pakistan.  The Windies can wrap up a famous series win this weekend, but goodness me two test series really shouldn’t count as “famous”.  But, hey, when in Basseterre

Warner Park was built in 2006, like most of the cricket grounds in the Caribbean it seems.  It is located, as mentioned above, in Basseterre, which is on the island of St. Kitts and Nevis…

…which is located here:

I do apologize for turning this blog into a geography lesson, but I find it fascinating to imagine world class sport on these tiny little island outposts.

As mentioned several times previously, I most assuredly have a soft spot in my heart for the West Indies cricketers.  Which brings us to an interesting topic: Being that the US will never, ever, field a competitive cricket team, at least not in my lifetime, sooner or later I will have to adopt a favorite national team, right?  I mean, we are a global society and a global economy, what is wrong with “choosing”  a country to support?

Now, England would be the obvious choice.  I have been to England, I love England.  They are very, well, American, and it is the country that birthed the sport.  However: boring.

And when it comes to cricket, I have always enjoyed India, mostly because of the insane levels of popularity the sport has achieved there, and I totally dig on their baby blue One Day International kits:

…but that would be like “choosing” Manchester United or the New York Yankees.

Australia and New Zealand?  No thank you.  Not sure why.  South Africa?  Same boat.  A total snooze.   Pakistan?  Too…terroristy.

Which leaves, I guess, the Associate nations.  Ireland is a good bet, and I love Canada.  But, just like the US, neither will ever really field a competitive squad.

So I guess that leaves us with the West Indies.  We will see how that goes.  They have been in the gutter for a decade now, hopefully they will win this series against Pakistan and become, once again, a world cricketing power.

Hey, one can always dream, right?

Until tomorrow.

England Lions v Sri Lankans at Derby, Tour Match

Honestly, I never much understood these tour matches.  I mean, how are the England Lions different than just plain old England?  Or Sri Lankans different than simply Sri Lanka? Yes, I realize the squads are very different, and that the matches are simply a tune up for the traveling country, but why the odd names for the squads?  How about just calling them an exhibition?

Insular American Alert.  Insular American Alert.

In County Cricket, Sussex bowled Somerset out for a paltry 213, then proceeded to fumble eight wickets themselves over 38 overs.  113/8 right now and at risk of a follow on.   There are other matches happening of course, but goodness writing a bulletin for all of County Cricket is something I just not prepared to do.   For now, I will concentrate on Sussex unless other, “bigger” matches are happening.

Over in the IPL, Kolkata looks to seal a playoff spot against Pune.  First ball in 34 minutes.  Should be a fun one.

Finally this morning, great article last night on the evolution of the game thanks mainly to the helmet.  The sport must truly be unrecognizable to those that have followed it through both eras.

Until tomorrow.

Lancashire v Yorkshire at Liverpool, County Championship Division One

This blog is helping me fall in love with cricket all over again.

I am not sure if it is just because it is forcing to pay more attention to the game, or if it is providing me with a deeper understanding, but all I know is that yesterday I pulled up this picture of Lord’s and felt that old familiar thrill that I felt when I initially fell for the sport back in the spring of 2007.

© Getty Images

One of these days I will tell the full story of my courtship with the game, but that is best left for another day.

Last night I watched Gilchrist’s “aggressive” and “violent” IPL innings for KXIP against RCB over on IndiaTimes.  All the pundits were correct: it was an amazing spell.

At first it looked like his batting versus Sri Lanka in the 2007 World Cup (scoreboard here), where he hit 149 off of 104 deliveries over 2 1/2 hours, but as the innings continued yesterday, it was pretty clear that this was something altogether more brilliant.  His strike rate was more than 50 runs higher, and his strikes were like poetry.  No meathead baseball swings, just one beautiful stroke after another.

And, honestly, good thing his batting is so attractive, as Mr. Gilchrist is one funny looking dude.

Also, important question: does he still put the squash ball in his glove?

In other news, there were a couple CB40 matches yesterday: Derbyshire earned a hard fought with the Dutch in Holland (didn’t know Holland played their home matches away from England) and Middlesex beat Worcestershire by six wickets to move to the top of the table.

The ECB live tweeted the latter match from Lord’s, which was a nice treat.  As mentioned before, I was able to briefly visit the ground last March.  I do hope to get back for a match at some point.   From what I can tell, I won’t have to worry about finding a seat.

And, finally, more County Championship matches this morning.  I am off to follow Sussex v Somerset at Hove.  Until tomorrow.

Scotland v Durham at Edinburgh, Clydesdale Bank 40

Love that there is a Clydesdale Bank match to follow this morning.  It was also great to see the West Indies bowl their way through the Pakistani batsmen on Sunday.  Only one more test to go, can the Windies take the series?

Here’s what I do find interesting: there are three groups in the Clydesdale Bank competition in England.  On top of the 18 English Counties, each of the three has an invited guest squad playing – The Netherlands in Group A, Scotland in Group B, and in Group C?

The Unicorns.

I surfed around but found very little information on this oh so poorly named sports franchise on Cricinfo, but thankfully their wikipedia page was more than helpful.

Now, great idea for a team (group of contract-less cricketers or “free agents” formed initially to fill the spot in the 40 Over competition vacated by Ireland….also: they are UNPAID), but oh my goodness who came up with that name?  Is that really the best you could do?

Also, does anyone else feel that maybe Ireland is getting too big for its britches?  I mean, they had a nice world cup and have some fine players, but they  are still an associate member – why turn up your nose at an English competition?

Finally, this morning Middlesex is taking the Sri Lankans exhibition squad in some odd three day test match.  The Sri Lankans are chasing 213 with ten wickets left.

Until tomorrow.