Bloomfield Cricket and Athletic Club v Colts Cricket Club at Colombo, Premier League Tournament

Sooner or later, I knew it would come to this.  I knew that someday there would be a test match that I was highly interested in, was available for legal viewing online, and was on in the middle of the night.

And that day…err…night…has finally come.

The second day of Pakistan versus England starts in one hour and 40 minutes.  It is 20 minutes after 10 o’clock here in the Midwest, I have to be at the office at eight am.  In other words: the match is happening during the exact same eight hour window when I am usually sleeping.

And, yet, here I am, typing away on a blog post, drinking tea, biding my time, fully committed to making it at least to the lunch break.

This is the life of American cricket fan.

Nah, that’s inappropriately arrogant.

England fans suffer through a similar loopy schedule when England visiting Australia, just as one example.  Lunchtime in Melbourne is 2am in London.

Cricket fans everywhere suffer for their sport, sacrificing sleep like no other group of sports fans.

Maybe that’s why Stuart Robertson invented Twenty20? He was sick of not getting eight hours a night.

I had debated maybe going to bed extremely early and then getting up extremely early (like, say, 4am-ish), but I decided instead to take a quick power nap after getting home from work and then fortify myself with caffeine and a James Ellroy novel to pass the time.

I will probably try the early riser option next test – although I have found that it is always easier to stay up late then to get up early.

Honestly, I think if the match had taken a different turn yesterday, I might have decided just to see what the scores were when I got up in the morning; I really don’t need to see Jonathon Trott scratching away for session after session…again…

But the match is wonderfully poised.  England need wickets today – and that need should make for entertaining viewing.

And, really, I am excited to finally suffer for my sport.

Getting up at 6:15am to watch Arsenal play is gong to feel easy after this.

Hopefully, Twitter is alive and kicking with Brits up early for the match, and hopefully Willow TV will still be showing the game – nothing but love for Cricinfo’s ball-by-ball, but I am not going to sacrifice quality sack time unless I have a proper video stream.

All right, one hour and twenty minutes to go, time to make a sandwich.

Until next time.

Canada v Guyana at Bridgetown, Caribbean T20

Last night, while working out, I listened to the pundits via Cricinfo (Andrew Miller…et al) talk rather confidently about England’s chances in the U.A.E. against Pakistan.

This morning I woke up to see that England had been spun off the pitch for 192 and Pakistan were 42/0.

What a day for Pakistan, what a day for Saeed Ajmal.

Now, of course, it is only the first day of the first test; but England has to be a little worried right about now. If they collapse in this series and lose 2-1 or 1-0, then their 2012 coronation march might have to be cancelled; and these last 18 months of glory will be all but forgotten.

Cricket fans have notoriously short memories.

I am jumping the gun a bit, of course, there is a lot of game left, a lot of series left.  But if England is not seriously looking at how to readjust to Pakistan’s spin attack, then this could all be over but the shouting.

One hightlight from the day for England was Prior’s 70*.  A true captain’s innings – similar to what we saw recently from Clarke, but more akin to what we saw from Dhoni in Sydney.

When teams are having trouble, the captain needs to stand up and drag them across the line – and that’s what Prior did for England.  If he gets out for 10 or 20 or even if he hits his test average of 44 and change, then England are in an even hotter pot of boiling water then they are now.

The role of the captain on the field in sport is severely underrated in some camps, but if you have the best captain for your squad, then it can make a world of difference.

Especially, of course, in a sport like cricket where the duties of the captain are far more important than, say, the duties of a football captain.

That said, no matter the sport, if you put the capital “C” on the right guy’s jersey, it can make for the difference between a Championship and second place.

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Some light housekeeping notes:

I went to bed last night still a little blue that I was going to be unable to watch any of the #PakvEng series.  But then I woke up this morning to several @s in my Twitter feeding telling me that Willow.tv was showing the match on their player, just not on YouTube, Roku, or any mobile devices.  Huzzah!  Hopefully, HOPEFULLY, this wasn’t a glitch and I will be able to watch tonight.

Thanks to @thecricketcouch and @goodacre for the good news.

Also, in cricket news, @thetwochucks are making a movie.  And you really should support them.  I pledged a tenner and hope to more later.

And, finally, there might be another post later tonight, but there will not be one tomorrow, as LimitedOvers will be participating in the Internet Blackout to protest SOPA and PIPA.  Again, I suggest you do the same.

Until next time.

Pakistan v England at Dubai, 1st Test

While I will not be able to watch any of #PakvEng, I will be able to watch a smattering of other high quality cricket, as the final of the Ranji Trophy, India’s version of England’s County Championship, will be streamed live on bcci.tv.

As such, I thought I would do a preview of the match, I will start with a brief history of the competition:

While it is similar to the County Championship in that the matches are four-day, first-class matches, there is one major difference: a knockout competition at the end of the season decides the winner, instead of simply total points.

The format has changed several times throughout the years, currently there are two divisions, the Super League and the Plate League (division 1 and division 2, basically).

Each league is divided into two groups. The top three teams from the two groups in the Super League and the top two teams from the Plate League (decided with a four team knock out stage) play in a knock out tournament to decide the winner of the Ranji Trophy.

(The last place teams in each of the two groups in the Super League are relegated, the top two teams in the Plate League are promoted.)

(And I thought the Aussie Rules football format was overly complex.)

The league itself was formed in 1934 and is named after the wildly famous Indian cricketer, Ranjitsinhji.

Here is a great article on him. According to John Lord, author of the The Maharajahs, Ranjijitsinhji was “the first Indian of any kind to become universally known and popular.”  Neville Cardus, an English cricket writer, described him “the Midsummer night’s dream of cricket.”

He was also an Indian Prince, and represented India at the League of Nations.

Over the history of the tournament, Bombay/Mumbai has won a positively jaw dropping 39 of the competition’s 77 titles. Including 15 in a row between 1958 and 1973.

Both of those stats harken back to my posts on Surrey and their seven County Championships in a row; and Yorkshire’s 30 overall County titles.

In the former, I surmised that Surrey’s record surpassed the Celtics’s eight titles in a row, and other than that I had a difficult time finding a comparison.  Mumbai’s 15 in a row, however, no matter the quality of the league, is beyond impressive.

And regarding the former, again, no matter the league, winning 51% of the available titles in a league that has been around since the 1930s is the definition of domination.  Especially considering the next closest team, Delhi, only has seven titles to its name.

Despite the above, in comparison to La Liga and the Scottish Premiere League, the domination of Mumbai and Delhi of their league does not even approach the manner in which Barcelona and Real Madrid rule Spain’s first division (64% of the titles), or how Celtic and Rangers boss the SPL (85%.)

(Update: hat tip to @thecricketcouch (twitter, blog) for pointing out that John Wooden’s UCLA men’s basketball teams of the 60s and 70s deserved to be mentioned in the Surrey post, the Yorkshire post, and in this post.  Ten championships between 1963 and 1975, including seven in a row. Domination.)

So will Mumbai win number 40 this year?

Nope, they will be at home, watching the final on television, as they lost their semi-final match against Tamil Nadu in a tie-breaker.

In the final, Tamil Nadu will face last years champion, Rajasthan:

Rajasthan is an interesting story:  last year’s Ranji Trophy was the first in the club’s history (they had been runners up a painful 11 times before lifting the trophy.)  Even more interesting is that they started the season in the Plate League, the lower division.

This year Rajasthan played in the Super League, finishing third in Group A (Mumbai finished first) with record of played seven, won two, drawn five.   They finished level on points with Saurashtra and Utter Pradash – I am not sure what the tiebreaker is but I am guessing it’s either runs scored or head to head record or a combination of the two.

In the knockout stages, they defeated Hyderabad in the quarter-finals and Haryana in the semi-finals.  The former ended in a draw, with Rajasthan advancing on first innings runs scored; they won the semi-final outright by 64 runs.

Key players for Rajasthan this season include Robin Bist, who led the entire competition in runs scored this season with 885.  On the bowling side, the man to watch is Pankaj Singh, a right armed medium pacer.  He had the third highest wicket total in the league this season, with 32 – he also took 12 of Haryana’s wickets in his squad’s semi-final match.

Back to Tamil Nadu:  They have won the trophy twice, most recently in 1988, and have finished second 10 times.  This season, in the Super League, they won Group B outright with a record of played six, won one, drawn five.

In the quarter-finals they defeated Maharashtra via the tiebreaker and, as mentioned above, they defeated Mumbai in the semi-finals, again via first innings runs.

Tamil Nadu’s key players include Abhinav Mukund at the crease. He finished second in overall runs scored this season, and he also has 16 100s in only 88 first-class innings.

They only have one bowler that finished in the top 10 in wickets taken, though that might have something to do with the fact that Group B teams play one fewer game than Group A teams (making Mukund’s second place finish in runs scored even more impressive.)   One bowler to watch would be Lakshmipathy Balaji, he took four wickets in the first innings against Mumbai, while also restricting his opponents to a stingy 1.86 runs per over in his 16 overs, which at the end of the day probably won Tamil Nadu the match.

So who is going to win?

Well, hard to tell.  They did not face each other during the regular season, so a true head to head comparison is out the window.

Over the season, Rajasthan averaged 556 runs per game, while Tamil Nadu averaged 482.  Meanwhile the former conceded an average of 533 per game, while the latter conceded 393 per game.

The match is also being played at Tamil Nadu’s home ground, the MA Chidambaram Stadium in Chennai, so considering that along with the stats above, I predict the hosts to win in a squeaker.

First ball is at 10pm Minneapolis time on the 18th.

Hash tag…#ranjitrophyfinal? Let me know if someone comes up with something better.

Until next time.

Bangladesh A v England Lions at Sylhet, 4th unofficial ODI

Yesterday was all about the go-karts here at LimitedOvers, but today I am back into the cricket.  Unfortunately, today cricket is all potential energy, with very little kinetic.

The cricket world is waiting for Pakistan-England, for New Zealand-Zimbabwe (maybe just me), for Adelaide (no, really), for the third ODI between Sri Lanka and South Africa, for the Ranji final in Chennai, and India supporters are waiting to see just what exactly is going to happen to their team.

Adelaide will be the first taste of the BCCI’s future plans, and that’s why I am looking forward to the match, and that’s why I think the whole of India is looking forward to it.  Of course, we all have to wait an entire week…wait, wait, wait.

Thankfully, for those with access to Dish Network, the first test between Pakistan and England starts tonight at midnight, central time.

For a true preview of the match, I would suggest checking out Cricinfo, for today, I give you a quick history of cricket in the U.A.E.:

The game itself was brought to the region in 1892, when England took over control of what was then known as the “Sheikdoms” – and the sport gained in popularity during World War 2, as the Australian and English military established bases in cities through the Sheikdoms.

UAE declared its independence from Britain in 1971 and interest in the game steadily declined, but domestic leagues and clubs grew as Indian and Pakistani immigrants moved to their adopted home.

(Three of the UAE’s most successful cricketers at the international level were from Lahore, Pakistan. Mazhar Hussain (179 ODI runs, the most for his country), Saleem Raza (159 ODI runs, the second most), and Azhar Saeed (highest individual score in an ICC match.)

And though I was unable to find a great deal of information on their current international squad, I know at least one of their bowlers, Zahid Shah, is Pakistani.

Other than this article, I was also unable to find much on the UAE’s domestic leagues, so in the interest of time, let’s move on to the international level:

Their first international match was in 1976 against Pakistan (match abandoned.) They became Affiliate members of the ICC in 1989, and Associate members in 1990.

An international cricket stadium, the Sharjah Cricket Association Stadium, opened in 1982.  The ground has hosted almost 200 ODIs and five tests.

Two other grounds have hosted tests in the UAE, the Dubai International Cricket Stadium and the Sheikh Zayed Cricket Stadium, with each hosting two.

Despite the investment of the wealthy cricket loving elite to build the above stadiums, the UAE national team has not seen a great deal of success: They have appeared in one World Cup (1996, they finished 1-4-0), but they are participating in the current version of the Interncontinental Cup, which is serving as qualifying for the 2015 World Cup – they were invited into that competition despite not having full ODI status after winning the 2nd division of the World Cricket League, an event they also won in 2007.

Most of their success took place in the Asian Cricket Council Trophy competition, an event they won in 2000, 2002, 2004, and 2006.

Other the Intercontinental Cup, there is not much happening for the international squad.  They failed to finish in the top four of the 2011 ACC Twenty20 and therefore were not invited to the final round of qualifiers for the World Twenty20.  Unfortunately, for them, they are hosting the final qualifying round.

They do have a new coach, Kabir Khan, a former member of the Pakistani national team (played in four tests for them even), and is also the former coach of Afghanistan – and huge credit to him for taking that team from obscurity into a real Associate member powerhouse.

And that, in a nutshell, is cricket in the UAE.

Some stadium porn to finish things off for the day, that’s the Dubai International Cricket Stadium:

Until next time.

Dolphins v Cape Cobras at Pietermaritzburg, SuperSport Series

When I went to bed last night, Australia were 301-3.

When I woke up this morning, they were 369 all out and India were…88-4.

I am pretty sure I audibly groaned when I saw the overnight scores on my phone.

Now that’s it, the series is well and truly over. I no longer have any hope of India storming back into the series. In Adelaide, and it breaks my heart to say this, India should probably rest the veterans, and let the kids have a go.

And with that, the Australian summer ends.

There will be thousands of pages written over the next few weeks dissecting just what exactly happened in Melbourne, in Sydney, in Perth…and honestly that should all be fascinating reading, and I am already excited to see what India’s test side looks like when they next travel outside of the sub-Continent (Zimbabwe in the summer of 2013 – a full 18 months to figure things out.)

I probably will not watch tonight, and honestly I probably won’t watch as much of the Adelaide test as I had the earlier tests, though really I should take full advantage of cricket in Oceania while I can…there won’t be a test in the region until…hold on…I’lll only  have to wait a couple weeks, as Zimbabwe and New Zealand start their one and only test on the 26th of January…I am excited already.

On the other side of the earth, there is another drubbing happening in the ODI series between South Africa and Sri Lanka.

The hosts took a 2-0 lead today in East London, despite a better performance from Sri Lanka (236-6 is leagues better than 43 all out, of course.)

I have a serious cricketing soft spot for Sri Lanka, and I really do hope they can turn the series around.  But that 43 all out against  in Paarl the other day was truly disheartening.

Not ten months ago they were in the World Cup Final – beating England by 10 wickets in the quarterfinals, and demolishing New Zealand in the semifinals.  And they were World Cup Finalists in 2007, as well.  ODI is their format – and seeing players such as Dilshan and Sangakkara and Jayawardene and Chanidmal (the same Chandimal who scored a century against England at Lord’s this past summer) collapse in such an…historic…way, was shocking.

And it was historic: for it was the fourth lowest score in the history of the format (3,226 ODIs over 41 years) (actually it tied the fourth lowest total – Pakistan were also all out for 43 against the West Indies at Cape Town in…1993…err, doesn’t count.)

(Also, interestingly enough the three lower scores in an ODI innings were all against Sri Lanka:

In ODI #2122, Zimbabwe all out for 35 against Sri Lanka at Harare in April of 2004; in ODI #1958, Canada were all out for 36 against Sri Lanka at, hey, at Paarl (!!) in February of 2003; while in ODI #1776 Zimbabwe were all for 38 against Sri Lanka at Colombo in December of 2001.)

(Of the five innings mentioned above, only Sri Lanka’s this week happened in the 2nd innings.)

But I digress:

What exactly is going on with Sri Lanka?  Their downward spiral has been just as violent as India’s, if not more so.  A topic to look into for another post, for sure.

(Yes, I am thinking about starting to research these posts before I go, instead of researching as a write which can be quite time consuming.)

And that’s all I really have for today, tune in tomorrow when I write about what I had for breakfast.

Warriors v Lions at Port Elizabeth, SuperSport Series

Honestly, I feel a little silly writing a post in defense of English County Cricket.  Mostly because I am so terribly new to the sport: I am not a member, I have never attended a match, and I don’t even support a specific club.

I also feel silly because, shoot, County Cricket has been around for 130 odd years: does it really need defending?  It’s older than all of us here.

But County Cricket has had a bad week…there was the adoption of the Morgan Report and the stripping of two Championship matches, there was Westfield’s admission of guilt in the match fixing scandal, and there was Gloucestershire’s failure to gain support for its necessary ground upgrades…so I thought I should at the very least offer my meager defense of this wonderful cricketing tradition:

Throughout much of November and December, I wrote mini-histories of each of the 18 counties.  I wrote about the grounds, the players, the number of championships won by each county.  And in doing so, I gained a deep respect for the competition – or I should say a deeper respect, as I had been a fan of the County game since the beginning.

Some of these County Clubs, I learned, have been in existence since the 1830s.  In his passionate defense of  County Cricket on the Switch Hit Podcast, UK Cricinfo editor David Hopps claimed that the Morgan Report was destroying 130 years of tradition.  Wrong.  Try 180 years in come cases.

But does the Morgan Report really do that?  Does it really ruin the County game?  Will two less matches, eight fewer days of first-class cricket, really make a difference?

Some say England’s strong first-class tournament is the reason behind their recent success at the international level – but what about 10, 15 years ago when England were positively rubbish?  Were there not a full 16 matches of first-class cricket then?

And some will say, rightfully so, that the clubs need the money from the increased t20 matches taking the place of the first-class matches, that the County game will not exist AT ALL without the additional revenue.  And as such a sacrifice is necessary.

Sure, people love to shit on the game’s shortest format, and we all  love to thumb our noses at the Champions League.  But those two things earn clubs a great deal of money.

And some will say that change can be a good thing, that traditionalists need to stop clucking at any change to the tournament.  That County Cricket now exists in an extraordinarily competitive entertainment marketplace.  This ain’t 1952 anymore.  Change. Or die.

And those are all points well heard, and well taken.  But I also say: rubbish.

England have played 915 test matches, winning 326 of them.  Neither of those records exist without a strong first class County Championship.

Furthermore, I honestly believe that Twenty20 is a fad, that multiple day cricket is still the FUTURE of the game, and trimming your schedule now is shortsighted, as you will surely have to put those two matches back on the schedule sooner or later.

And I realize there are financial concerns at stake. But there has to be a better way to reclaim lost revenue. These clubs and their championship have existed through two world wars, surely they can weather a recession and increased competition without having to completely alter the nature of their primary tournament.

I do this a lot on here, I know, I criticize sans proposal, but there simply has to be a way to increase profits without needing to add two Twenty20 matches.  And, really, for crying out loud, the vast majority of the t20 matches during the second half of the season are meaningless anyway, so all you are really doing is adding two additional meaningless matches.

Last I heard, cricket fans aren’t all that interested in meaningless matches.

I might not be able to specifically suggest money making schemes for the clubs, but I can make suggestions to those fans up in arms: support your club. Attend first class matches, buy a jersey, become a member, go to concerts at the ground. Put your money where your mouth is – and I will do it, too, I will quit with the lip service.  As soon as I done here, I will head over to an online club shop and buy a kit (really unfortunate though how ugly most of them are – how can you screw up a white polo? – maybe I will get a sweater instead.)

The third and final argument in favor of the Morgan Report is that clubs need to change formats, that traditionalists need to get over themselves, and I just think that is simple fucking bullshit, excuse me.

Traditions are extraordinarily important to the long term survival of the County Championship.  Changing it does not support it – in fact it does the opposite, it weakens it, it leaves it open to further, deeper wounds.

One of, if not the core strength of first-class cricket is its tradition.  It is a generational level of passion that exists nowhere else in sport.

County Cricket needs its traditions, more so than it needs additional revenue from the flippin’ Champions League.

Which segues nicely into the second piece of bad news delivered to County Cricket this week: Gloucestershire.

Poor, hapless Gloucestershire.  Never won a County Championship, and now sadly probably never will.  Without the necessary upgrades to its ground, making it ODI friendly, the club simply cannot compete.

This, THIS, is where the ECB needs to step in. This is where we need a flippin’ Morgan report.

The ECB needs to help its counties improve their grounds so that ALL eighteen counties are capable of hosting international matches.  Spread the love, and the profits.

Ground improvements, not more Twenty20s, English Cricket Board.  Gloucestershire’s long, long, LONG suffering fans thank you in advance.

Unfortunately, that will probably never happen, and so Gloucestershire’s supporters will have to continue to wait, and hope.  Best of luck, folks, sincerely.  And hopefully the club will still exist in five years time.

Hm. I wonder what the Gloucestershire first class kit looks like?

Update:

Big ups to Dave at the Silly Mid Off for pointing out that the ECB’s encouragement of the Counties to make their grounds international cricket friendly has led to many clubs’ debt problems, and either way there simply just isn’t enough international cricket to spread out evenly anyway.

My original point was that the ECB should help, not merely encourage, but Dave’s point is a valid one.

Also, those WCCC kits are pretty sweet – and only 10 quid!

Finally, regarding the match fixing: I think County Cricket will survive, and maybe even be better off.  Other sports have survived worse scandals (Pete Rose, of course, plus the NBA had its share of gambling related problems) and spot fixing is surely a matter of just a few bad eggs.  Thankfully, it looks as though the ECB is going to truly attempt to crack down on those pulling the strings, and if it took Westfield’s guilty plea to wake them up, then there is your silver lining.

The one thing to remember here, is that this is cricket’s problem.  It is not just Pakistan’s problem, it is not just India’s problem, and it is not just England’s problem – the entire sport needs to band together and rid the game of this scourge, before one more match or one more moment is tainted.  The last thing we all want is to question whether every wide was maybe, just maybe, on purpose.

All of that said, I think County Cricket will be just fine.  Us cricket fans really do enjoy prematurely declaring formats, or leagues, or tournaments, or players, or whatever, dead.

I think, more than anything, what the County Championship needs is for the season to start, and for it to be an absolute cracker.  That will help us all forget about Morgan, and Westfield, and the Gloucestershire county council.

I love County Cricket, and I hope I am correct that it will survive and thrive in ALL formats, as cricket around the world will suffer if it does not, as a weak English first-class domestic competition means a weak English test team.

Finally, if BBC decides to go ahead with its plans to cancel local match radio commentary, then the Championship really is dead.

Long live the Championship.

Mashonaland Eagles v Mountaineers at Harare, Coca-Cola Pro50 Championship

At this point and time, I am truly happy that I am not a supporter of the Indian national cricket team, a member of the “Swami Army” if you will.

Last night they collapsed, and I mean COLLAPSED, at the WACA, only to watch David Warner follow up with a blistering century off of 80 balls on the same pitch.  It was truly a brilliant innings from the King of t20.  And it sunk India.

I don’t see a way back for them in this match, and I think they will have an even more difficult time of things at Adelaide.

As such, I am glad I am not an India supporter, as that must be truly freaking depressing right now.  Sure, they won the World Cup not nine months ago, but after what happened in England, and what is happening in Australia, it must be down right embarrassing.

India has been pathetic, to put it bluntly.  Sure there are injuries, and they are older, and they are not accustomed to the conditions, and Australia has played better than anyone expected them to, but those are simply excuses.  The truth of the matter is: India is shit right now.

Again, to put it bluntly.

And these are not nobodies, these are world class cricketers, some of the best batsmen in the history of cricket, and they are getting out cheaply and easily.

It all feels so…wasteful.

As long a long suffering Arsenal supporter, I can almost relate.  The last six years have been tough, sure, and there was that 8-2 drumming at the hands of Man United last September, but the team has changed over several times, and the league has changed immensely; while the Indian squad has remained largely the same, with only a few tweaks here and there.

Then I think: what if Wegner had kept the Invincibles together? Henry would be 34, Bergkamp 42, Pires 38, Viera 35, Campbell 37, Ljundberg 34, Lehmann 42…

Sound familiar, India?

And what if those guys were all still playing for Arsenal, and I had to watch those once proud world beaters get demolished in the same way India is getting demolished? Well, that would be positively wrenching – it would depress the life out of me.

Therefore, India supporters, you have my sincere condolences.  Hang in there.  Your boys will be home again soon.

Personally, I am just ticked because I was looking forward to watching cricket tonight, and tomorrow, and the next day.  And while I will still watch, it won’t have that “edge of your seat” drama that I was hoping for.

And, yet, I can feel that old demon “hope” start to creep in – what if India take a couple quick wickets?  What if they can get Australia out before lunch? What if Sehwag finally starts to look like the batsman we all know he is?

Class is permanent, form temporary, right?

And there I go again…

Remember, India, it’s not the disappointment that’ll kill ya…

…it’s the hope.

Until next time.

Australia v India at Perth, 3rd Test

Been a weird day in the world of cricket (just ask the proprietor of Deep Backward Point): I woke up to see the spot fixing story making front page news on Twitter, as well as a vague story on the Australian squad having some sort of booze fueled romp on the Perth wicket (or something.)

Not to mention the fact that the ECB was meeting behind closed doors to decide the future of County Cricket, and that Australia and India were set to play the pivotal third test in their series (well, pivotal for India, anyway).

And, finally, I had a post I had written on the Associates (a favorite topic of mine) posted over on The Sight Screen.  Check it out.

So, really, I had a ton of ideas for today’s blog.  A review of the Morgan report, putting the spot fixing in to a wider sport context, some notes on athletes and booze, or maybe simply link to the article above and call it a night.

I’ve decided to save the first three topics for another day, and go with number four: please do check out the link above, read the story, and let me know your thoughts.

The Associates are a huge part of the cricket playing world, so hopefully the ICC will sooner or later sort out how exactly to handle them.

Before signing off, a few quick notes on India v Australia:

1.  Australia won the toss and elected to field: and promptly took Sehwag’s wicket rather cheaply.

However Gambhir is looking quite comfortable tonight (finally) and Dravid looks his usual calm and collected self.

So despite Sehwag, there is hope that this test might at the very least be competitive for the entire five days.

I am a confirmed neutral, of course, but right now I am firmly in India’s corner.   Give us a match. will ya?

2.  Perth is such an impressive stadium, what a great setting for sport.  It seats almost 25,000 and just like yesterday in Paarl, most of those seats are filled – always great to see.

3.  I found myself looking forward to this match all day. Despite the fact that it very well could be an uneventful five days, despite the fact that I support neither country, despite all of the bad news in the world of cricket, despite the fact that I had just a simply terribly day at the office.

Nothing makes everything else disappear quite like a test match.

And with that: until tomorrow.

South Africa v Sri Lanka at Paarl, 1st ODI

I am home today, and therefore have the opportunity to watch the first ODI between South African and Sri Lanka.  It is the second innings, Sri Lanka are chasing 302, and they have already lost two of their openers.  So unless Chandimal and Sangakkara can steady the ship, this could be over pretty quickly.

I was however able to watch “Slinga” Malinga rip through South Africa’s tail – always a joy to watch him bowl (especially against tail enders.)

Cool stadium, by the way, at Paarl.  It is nestled in amongst the hills just northeast of Cape Town.

The ground seats 10,000, and it is full today – impressive for a week day.  (I say “seats” – but  it is mostly just a grassy hill overlooking the ground.)

Sri Lanka need six runs an over, very doable, hopefully they will make a game out of this, as it is not every day I can watch an entire ODI chase.

And speaking of Sri Lankan cricket:

During the Switch-Hit podcast a few weeks back, right after Sri Lanka defeated South Africa at Durban, the hosts mentioned how important it is for the future of world cricket to have a strong Sri Lanka, a strong West Indies, a strong Pakistan.

The latter two of those three nations will be facing England, the world test number one, for three tests a piece here in 2012, giving us all a great opportunity to see if the future of world cricket is bright or not.  If Pakistan can win one, or even two, in Dubai, and if the West Indies can travel to a damp England and win just one, I think it will be very good for this game we all love.

And even if England wins both series in a pair of white-washes, hopefully Pakistan and the Windies can at the very least give them a fight, something that didn’t happen for 386 days.

Which brings us nicely into a chance for a Limited Overs style preview of the Pakistan v England test series.

The first test starts on January 13th, the second starts on January 25th, and the third on February 3rd.

The first and third tests will be taking place at the Dubai International Cricket Stadium, with the second taking place Sheikh Zayed Stadium in Abu Dhabi.

(For information on the grounds, see this older post of mine.)

What can we expect from the weather?  Well, I have a feeling it will be hot, and dry, but not as hot as you would think – the forecasts calls for highs in the 70s for Saturday and Sunday, and not as dry as you might think, the humidity levels will be hovering in the 60% range.

This, of course, means the condition of the wicket will be a lot more of an issue than I had assumed.  I had assumed hot, dry, and flat, but we might get some cloud cover, might get some humidity, might get some cool mornings.  It should make for an interesting few days play.

The boys on Switch Hit also talked about the crowds, or lack thereof, expected for the matches.  I guess the ECB is giving tickets away for free, but I still expect both stadiums to be basically empty for all three matches, despite the presence of the Barmy Army.

I guess cricket is wildly popular in the middle east, and has a long and storied history in that region (more on that another day), but that fanaticism has yet to translate into people actually attending matches.

Personally, and I know it is an impossiblity, I just wish that these matches were being played in Islamabad (as does the whole of Pakistan, surely.)  That would make this series infinitely more exciting, and infinitely more challenging for England  – a real chance to prove they really the best test side in the world.

Also, unfortunately, the matches will not be available via Willow.tv here in the states, only in Canada.  Why this is, I don’t know, but considering Willow.tv is having its law firm contact those that watch cricket illegally, I think I will stick to following these matches via Cricinfo.  Too bad, though, as I think all three matches are going to be ragers.

Prediction?  It finishes 1-1.

Now back to watching Sri Lanka collapse, until next time.

Mumbai v Tamil Nadu at Mumbai, Ranji Trophy Elite

I have been compiling a list of topics for posts.  Each time one comes to me, I put it in a Google task list.  And tonight I had planned to simply pull out one of those topics, bang it out for 800 words, and call it a night.

But none of those topics really seemed to be hitting home with me.

Earlier tonight, I had finished Dave Eggers’ wonderful piece of non-fiction-fiction: What is the What.

For those unaware, it is the story of Valentino Deng, a Sudanese refugee, as told by Mr. Eggers.  It follows him from his youth in Sudan during the 22 year long Sudanese civil war: from his once peaceful village in South Sudan, to a refugee camp in Ethiopia, to another refugee camp in Kenya, and finally to America.

It is a heartbreaking story.  Full of death, and tragedy.  It describes what is like to have one’s entire known world destroyed – to actually experience Apocalypse.

But it is also uplifting, and inspirational: Humans are remarkable creatures.

I highly recommend it.

So, tonight, when I sat at my computer in my comfortable home in a comfortable city, having known the blessing of America my entire life, I found it all of a sudden very difficult to write a preview of Pakistan v England, or a post about Indian domestic leagues, or what have you.

And then I started to think about Africa, and its relation to cricket.

Two test playing nations are, of course, African, as is a third with full ODI status.

Now, of course, Africa is a large continent, and putting South Africa on par with Sudan or any war torn east Africa nation would be ignorant.

But South Africa has seen its troubles, of which we are all aware, and while Kenya has been largely peaceful, Zimbabwe suffered through decades of deadly uprisings following its independence.

And then I look to the other test nations, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka – countries that have suffered more than I could possibly imagine, and the tribulations are far more than I could even begin to write about on my silly little cricket blog.

The Sri Lankan Civil War, just as an example, lasted for 25 years.

25 years.

And then I look again to the nations with ODI status, and I see the country of Afghanistan – a country that has not seen peace in a dozen generations.

After all of that, I force myself to think about the sport of cricket again, and how it is a thread that binds all of these nations.

Zimbabwe, in March, will visit the modern nation of New Zealand – a country that recently hosted the Rugby World Cup, a country that is 79 spots ahead of them on a list of all countries sorted by GDP – and while there, they will gather on a field in the city of Napier…and they will play a test match.

I don’t know why, but I take comfort in that.

Sport, rightfully so, gets put down at times by certain members of society.  They will say it is a waste of time, of resources.  That grown men that leap for joy when their team wins are silly men, are uneducated men, are ignorant men.

But I claim the opposite.  I believe that sport is extraordinarily important to our global society – it is a common language, a shared experience.  And this is even more true for global sports such as football and cricket.

And while the men and women who weep when their team loses might be looked down upon by their peers, I commend them for allowing themselves to be swept up in a shared experience, to allow themselves to see what a black and white world would look like, instead of all the shades of gray we all see everyday.

Sport will not fix Africa, but it can aid in its repair, give the citizens of war torn countries something maybe to believe in, to be proud of – and for a short while, it may also allow its citizenry to see the line between good and evil clearly defined, instead of all muddied as it usually is.

Reading back over this, I realize it doesn’t make a great deal of sense, and I fear that I come off a bit of an asshole, but hopefully my point is clear: cricket is one thread that binds us all together, and for that reason, we should all cherish it, and see that it is well cared for, and healthy, and that it continues to grow, to bind others together.

Until next time.