Lahore Lions v Rawalpindi Rams at Faisalabad, Faysal Bank Super Eight T-20 Cup, Semi-Final

As I was falling asleep last night, my brain was swimming, SWIMMING, with topics to write about this morning.  I must have used them all up in my dreams as I am utterly empty headed right now.

One bit of news yesterday from the ICC meetings in Hong Kong, the number of teams in the t20 World Championships (I think that’s what it is called) was reduced from 16 to 12, which means only two of the associate or affiliate nations will be able to compete in the tournament this fall.

One would think that the ICC would know better:  don’t tick off the Associates. They are already planning a protest.

There was really no explanation behind the move.  It probably was simply a trade off for increasing the teams participating in the 2015 World Cup from 10 to 14.  But I seriously do not get it: why is the ICC so hell bent on limiting the growth of the game?  We are are global society, and for cricket to compete, in needs to globalize itself.  This means allowing non-test countries to compete in all ICC events.

What’s really bizarre is that Associate Qualification is already well under way.  Only now there are only two spots up for grabs, instead of six.  Imagine if FIFA, halfway through a world cup cycle, changed the format of the tournament?  The world would end!  Furthermore: they would never do that!  Because that would be insane!

Also:

BIG BASH!!

Last night I was watching the first few episodes of Two Pricks at the Ashes, the precursor to The Chuck Fleetwood Smiths (aka, the Two Chucks).  These were from late last year, before the show was gobbled up by the Worldwide Leader.  Very entertaining, if a tad rough.

It seems the two guys simply met while covering the Ashes in Australia and started making a video podcast which, not a few months later, was acquired by ESPN.  It’s wild to think how all of that can happen so fast.  I mean, I realize these guys are not superstars or anything, but it is, well, inspiring.

Oh, and one of the Chucks has another book coming out this summer.  I am looking forward to it. I am judging a book by its cover here, but it looks like Hunter S Thompson is alive, well, and writing about the Ashes:

Now here is a topic to write about, now that we are nearly done: entire libraries have been filled with books about cricket.  And as such I have been having a terrible time picking one to read, so I have read none of them.  I think the above might be my first one.  I also was intrigued by A Last English Summer.  More than anything, I want to read about the county game, but I don’t want to slog through 500 pages of county history.  I will figure something out.  Or maybe I will write my own.

On the pitch: rain in Bridgetown, semi-finals in Pakistan (hey, ball by ball!), and a full slate of county games to follow.

(It is positively crazy that Cricinfo has ball by ball for Pakistani domestic t20, but not for English county games. It must be a copyright issue).

And two more things: the Future Tours Programme (PDF, big file) was ratified by the ICC yesterday.  Loads of interesting things to talk about going forward (it is seriously crazy that the next decade of international cricket is for all intents and purposes already planned), but I will save that discussion for another day.

Quickly though, it looks like Pakistan is, interestingly enough, slated to host England next year, I am assuming that is going to be at a neutral venue though, unfortunately.

Why, unfortunately?  Because for some reason I get a ton of clicks when I mention Faisalabad stadium.

It does look like international cricket will be returning to Pakistan soon, however, as Bangladesh are scheduled for a test series there in 2012.

Finally, it looks like there is going to be a World Test Playoff in England, in 2013.  I think I am going to make a real effort to get there.

Until tomorrow.

BIG BASH!!

Scotland v Netherlands at Aberdeen, 2nd ODI

I thought for sure the above match was part of the ICC’s plan for an ODI tournament for the Associates, which would run alongside the Intercontinental Cup.  But it seems it is simply just part of a Dutch tour of England and Scotland.  Hm.  The ICC just needs to come up with a plan for the Associates and stick. with. it.  Every 18 months or so it seems like a new process our tournament is being announced to slowly feed the Associates into full Member status.  It is oh so confusing.  Hopefully this latest complicated structure of matches will do the trick.

Okay, I just spent 15 minutes reading about the Intercontinental Cup, the Intercontinental Shield, the World Cricket League Division 2 and holy crap now I am even more confused.   But, wait, I just found this article over on (where else?) ESPNCricinfo – wonderfully entitled:  The Mystery Unraveled. While that post is a tad old, it does clear it up a little, I guess.

But I still have found very little about this mysterious ODI tournament for the Associates – isn’t that simply the World Cricket League, division one?

Maybe this is why the ICC tried to leave the Associates out of the 2015 World Cup.  The qualification process would be just too laborious.

Alas*, the ICC changed its mind yesterday and expanded the 2015 World Cup to 14 teams.  They probably just could have made it 11 and allowed Ireland to play, as they seemed to be more upset about the snub than anyone.  I will freely admit, however, that I don’t read a great deal about Afghani or Kenyan cricket.

(Not really “alas”, as I am happy they expanded it).

Back on the pitch: England destroyed Sri Lanka yesterday in a rain shortened ODI.  It was a good old fashioned thumping, thanks mainly to James Anderson and his four early wickets.  Swann also took three, while poor Stuart Broad was 0-32.  Down in Bridgetown, the pitch is the man of the match so far, with yesterday seeing 13 wickets in the first day’s play.  Back in England, Sussex are finally playing a County Championship match again – it feels like it has been nothing but t20 for them lately.  Unfortunately, it is showing, as they have lost five early wickets. Nash, Joyce, Wright…all gone.

Oh, and finally, while reading the early notes on the test match in Bridgetown, I learned players can earn up to one million USD for playing in Australia’s t20 tournament – also known as the Australian BIG BASH.  Which is, seriously, and excuse me, the dumbest fucking name for anything…ever.  I will take corporate sponsorship names for tournaments over that any day.  What’s next, is MLB going to rebrand itself as AMERICAN SUPER HOME RUN TOWN? Or maybe the Friends Life NOTHING BUT SIXES?

Why am I shouting?

The ESPNCricinfo commentator says it right: give me test cricket any day.

I don’t mind twenty20 cricket, but this super premiere league cash grabs just feel…gross.  And there is just one after another after another.  I guess I am on the anti-t20 bandwagon now.

But I am still excited to watch the Sri Lankan Premiere League on ESPN3.  Mostly because I like the league’s name.

I am fickle.

Until tomorrow.

Lancashire v Durham at Liverpool, County Championship Division One (Day 1)

Now, it is Monday.   These are the dark times. The times when I mistakenly call the West Indies “West India.”   The times when entire paragraphs are somehow missing a single verb.

I am also writing this with a fancy pair of bruised ribs.

In other words, you have been warned: this blog is going to suck.

Speaking of sucking:  I was able to watch England’s collapse against Sri Lanka in the only t20 of the series.   Other than a fine 3rd wicket stand by Morgen and Pieterson, England were very dismal down in Bristol.  Sri Lanka on the other hand were more than up for the match – shouting and talking and excited in the field.  It was quite the contrast.

Via Willow (dot) TV, I was able to watch the first 10 or so overs of the Sri Lankan innings.  Initially, I was disappointed that I was not able to watch more, but it sounds like I did not miss much.

Also, on Sunday morning, I was able to watch Somerset v Glamorgan in another t20.  Not the most thrilling match ever.  In fact, the only thing that really stuck out at me was Mark Cosgrove’s, um, substantial girth.  I am not saying that he cannot play, I know he has had a fine one day career so far, but it is so terribly odd in today’s athletic culture to see an over-weight person perform at such a high level (NFL defensive linemen and Prince Fielder notwithstanding).  But hey, if it works, it works.

In other county cricket news, a big day for Gloucestershire (wow, that was hard to spell) over at Uxbridge County Cricket Club, as both Kevin O’brien and Hamish Miller put up tons in the same t20 innings; and a record setting day at Chelmsford for Essex, as Wheater and Foster’s sixth wicket stand went for 267, besting the previous record partnership for County Cricket.  They each spent over three hours at the crease – I cannot imagine that level of mental and physical exhaustion.  I bet Mark Cosgrove couldn’t do that…

Finally, at the ICC summit in Hong Kong: DRS is now required for tests and ODIs, and the associate nations were given a 2015 world cup lifeline.  Both decisions, while expected, will be quite good for the game. Are you listening, FIFA?

Until tomorrow.

Faisalabad Wolves v Multan Tigers at Faisalabad, Faysal Bank Super Eight T-20 Cup

So far, my favorite part about having willow.tv is the archives, as I have yet to have a chance to watch a great deal of live cricket.  So I have been instead watching chunks of the 2010 Ashes in Australia.  It is brilliant just being able to watch and learn.  I am getting to know the fielding positions, the strategies, the pace of the game. It is just wonderful, I love it so much. The game is more than I ever imagined.

Tomorrow morning, I hope to be able to watch the England v Sri Lanka t20 match, or at least a part of it.

Supposedly, I should be able to watch replays of certain County Cricket matches, but I have yet to find them on the site.  That is the one complaint I have: the site is an unnavigable mess.  It’s like it was designed in 1999 by eight year olds. However, the player they use is top notch (none of the Microsoft Silverlight crap), and the video, as mentioned previously, does not jump or skip.

In other news: The match in the title of this post is taking place at the Iqbal Stadium in Faisalabad, Pakistan (link goes to its wiki page, worth a perusal).  Over the years, the lovely ground has hosted 25 international test matches, including this one from 2005 against England:

via Wikipedia Commons

Pakistan, of course, is having a difficult time hosting international matches, due to security concerns after the attacks on the Sri Lankan team.  They are a team without a home right now.  The Israelites of cricket, if you will.  (You won’t, and that’s cool). Which I find just a little sad, especially considering how beloved the sport is there.  Hopefully the Sri Lankans will visit again, and we can all move on.

Also, it is a tad unfair, as Mumbai was allowed to host the world cup final, despite the recent terrorist attacks there.   Yes, India is a tad more stable than the country that was hosting, you know, Osama bin Laden, but I still do not think that is proper cause for isolation and exile.

Or maybe it is.

And there was the whole match fixing scandal last summer in London…

What murky waters I have waded into here.

What else is happening? Well, cricket training is weird; I have a serious double man crush on Two Chucks and I totally want nothing more than to hang out and watch cricket with them; India beat the West Indies by 63 runs despite a strong fight from the Windies; and the ICC’s annual conference starts on 06/26, where they will talk World Cup Format and DRS (instant reply).  Hopefully they will cover other topics, as well, such as the future prospects for what is obviously a very unhealthy sport.  t20 is not the answer, it never will be.  Neither are pink balls or flood lights.   Do I know the answer?  Nope.  But I think that might be the ultimate goal of this blog.

I mean, I live in Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA.  And up until 2007, I knew very, very, very little about cricket.  The sport was a complete mystery to me, and it is still a mystery to 99% of American sports fans.  Most will say: so what? Americans have their sport, leave ours alone. I say: the sport is lovely and infinitely interesting, and exposing Americans to at least the basics would be phenomenal for the sport.  As would exposing it to Asia.  Say what you will about FIFA, but their global brand strategy is working.  You can’t swing a stick in any country on the planet without hitting a dude in a Man United kit.

The first step?  Get the sport into the Olympics.

Anyway, lots of cricket to watch this weekend.  Yep you read that right: WATCH.  Including Stuart Broad’s first taste of the armband and a boatload of County Cricket.  Until Monday.

Glamorgan v Sussex at Cardiff, Friends Life t20, South Group

Not a great deal of time to write this morning, late start to the day thanks to a trip to the dentist.

Rollicking test match down in Jamaica, and it just keeps getting better.  Dravid put up what some are calling his most thrilling ton in a decade, all the while setting up what seems to be an impossible run chase for the West Indies.  If they do happen to win this match, however, it might go down in history as one of the most famous wins ever for the Windies.

It seems run chases like the one required, however, just do not happen in Jamaica, specifically on the pitch they are playing on today.  This is a part of the game that I find just fascinating.  Every pitch is wholly different from every other pitch.  Not just because of recent weather, or any other small sample sizes, but based on long sheets of historical data.  There are pitches that are known to be good for bowlers, and pitches that are known to be good for batsmen.  Some have slopes, some have grassy patches, some are hard as rocks. Getting to know each pitch has proven to be tough for this cricket novice.  But if you say the word “Adelaide” to an avid cricket follower, he will be able to tell you all about the pitch.

In American baseball, there are hitters parks and pitchers parks, of course, but those are based simply on the boundaries and sometimes on elevation.

(I love baseball because every field is different. Same with cricket. There is room for magic.)

Back in County Cricket: Sussex are off to Cardiff this evening, while Notthinghamshire defeated Lancashire by six wickets in the County Championship.  There are several other FLt20 matches today, as well, and I am looking forward to the weekend when I will be able to watch them on willow.tv.

Other than the big test series (Ashes, India in England…etc), County Cricket is what most intrigues me.  Some day, I hope to put my feet up in a deck chair at a sparsely crowded county ground, coffee in hand, and take in an entire day’s worth of cricket.  Some day.

But to get there, I first need to sell some things.  So: until tomorrow: Here’s one of those grounds:

Radcliffe Road end of Trent Bridge, via Wikipedia Commons

Scotland v Netherlands at Aberdeen, ICC Intercontinental Cup

I honestly don’t know how any cricket gets played anywhere, ever.  It just feels like soggy rain delay after soggy rain delay.  I can only imagine how frustrating it must be for the players and the media, but especially for the fans who I can only assume have to take a day off work to attend a week-day match, only to have it canceled by rain…again.

Then again, the unemployment rate in Scotland is, what, like 50%?  So, maybe they didn’t have to take the day off…

Back on the pitch and India and the West Indies are locked in what is blossoming into a thrilling test match in Jamaica.  India hold a slight edge going into day three, but I foresee a fierce day from the Windies bowlers, as well as some rain.

In USA television news, it seems ESPN3, the worldwide leader’s online component, is planning on showing the Sri Lankan Premiere League, starting with the debut match on July 19th.  The matches must be on during prime time in Sri Lanka, as they are actually on at unfortunate viewing times here in the states: 5:30am and 9:30am, mostly on weekdays.  There will be replays available, it seems, but it won’t be the same.

Speaking of SE Asian Premiere Leagues:  Last night I was watching The Two Chucks (more on that in a second) – it was the episode where England was in Cardiff, the first test versus Sr Lanka, and the same day as the IPL final.  I was SHOCKED at the filthy bile being spit at the IPL as the two hosts asked spectators if they knew which two teams were in the final. It was, goodness I hate to do this, but it just seemed a little a little racist, and a lot xenophobic.

Yes, the IPL is a little gross, with its cheerleaders and its rock music and its flash and its money money money. But it is still cricket.

The point is I was shocked at how much hate was directed at it.  I just assumed all the IPL bashing by sport punditry was the English press stirring the pot, but it seems they are simply reflecting the mood of the average cricket fan in England…errrrr…Wales.

I am curious to see how the Sri Lankan Premiere League will be treated – and, well, I am excited to be able to watch at least some of it live here in the states.

Finally, regarding The Two Chucks, I think their show just might be my favorite thing in the world right now – and it could very well be my favorite cricket related thing ever. For serious.  The two hosts GET IT.  The obviously know the sport backward and forward, but they also don’t take it so freaking seriously.  And it shouldn’t be taken seriously, it is a silly bat and ball game played by grown men.  If only the Welsh bile spewers understood that, too.

Until tomorrow.

 

Middlesex v Kent at Lord’s, County Championship Division Two

Over the weekend, Saturday night to be exact, I finally decided to sign up for Willow.tv.  Within minutes, all I could ask myself was “what took you so long?”

It is only $15 a month, and all the major tours will be shown: Sri Lanka in England, India in England, Australia in South Africa, Sri Lanka in South Africa, New Zealand in Australia, India in Australia…and, supposedly, English County Cricket.  The latter, I must admit, I am most excited about.

Since I ordered it on Saturday night, on Sunday morning I was able to wake up, drink instant coffee, and watch cricket.  Specifically: England v Sri Lanka.  I was able to see Bell and Morgen’s fantastic partnership, followed by Strauss’s surprising declaration.  It was just wonderful to watch live cricket that was not either text based or audio only or a choppy illegal internet stream.

To the chagrin of my wife and my grades, I plan on spending a great deal of time with my new pal, willow.tv.

The only real drawbacks were the picture quality and the commercials.  Regarding the former, I am not going to whine too much. I could blow it up to full screen without losing too much quality, but it is not HD by any means.  Both ESPN3 and foxsoccer.tv are of better quality, for example.  And I was annoyed at the lack of a pop-out-able, re-sizable window.  But only Hulu offers that, so again, I am not going to complain too much.

I will say that the stream was not the slightest bit choppy.  It never froze and it never jumped.

The commercials were JARRING.  They were obviously not part of the live broadcast feed and they were consistently interrupting the calls of the broadcast team.  However, I did kind of enjoy the commercials – I have always loved foreign advertisements. Unlike in Southampton, every cloud does have a silver lining, I guess.

Final grade: B+

Back on the pitch: Sangakkara and Samaraweera’s 5th wicket stand at the Rose Bowl has halted England’s pursuit of an outright victory.  I must say I was impressed to see Strauss go for it yesterday with the early declaration, but it slipped through their fingers this morning.

The first test between the West Indies and India’s B team starts today in Jamaica, as well.  And the County Championship is back, too, with a host of four day matches throughout England.

And being that my head is throbbing and I am half asleep, that is all I can muster today.

Until tomorrow.