Australia v India at Adelaide, 4th Test

Big news in test cricket today, of course, as Ireland announced its plans to achieve full Test status no later than 2020 (a delightfully ironic year to choose as a goal, for sure.)  The plans include growing the popularity overall as well as the establishment of a first class domestic league.

And I must admit that I am excited, I think Ireland will make a wonderful addition to the Test cricket family.  I even voiced a bit of excitement over on Twitter – unfortunately, as you can see, the party was properly spoilt by @grangergabblog.

Of course, she was not completely serious, as even if Test cricket was finally and properly dying, I do think it is going to hang around in one form or another for at least another eight years, but her point about India is a valid one: will Test cricket die if India, or any other Test playing nation for that matter, loses interest in Tests, and if so should we ALL be worried about India’s current Test form?

The answer to the first question is a resounding yes – save for one qualifier: if Bangladesh or Zimbabwe started focusing on their one day game, and the fans become disinterested in Tests, then while I think cricket as a sport would suffer overall, but I think Test cricket would be just fine.

The answer to the second question is no, of course not. India has been playing Test cricket for 80 years, and the long format has a wonderful tradition in that country.  Sure their form has been awful, but one 12 month blip is not going to erase eight decades worth of achievement; and sure there is the IPL, and sure their most recent success has come in the 50-over format, but just reading the Indian blogs shows me that Indian fans are still fanatical for Test cricket, and while the players might look disinterested, the passion from the terraces will surely continue to keep Test cricket alive and well in India for generations to come.

But to insure the above: make the Test Cricket Playoff a reality and let Mumbai host it in 2017.

In fact, doing that strengthens the format all over, and would serve to keep all countries interested and competitive – and competitive Test squads from all 10 nations is imperative to the growth of the game.

And that is why I am really excited about the prospect of seeing Ireland play Test series around the globe throughout the next decade.  Good for Ireland, good for Tests, good for Cricket.  Surely.

And it’s a big few days for Test cricket: Australia is putting the hammer down on India at the dead rubber in Adelaide (just a real shame how this series is ending – it started with so much promise.)

Meanwhile, in Abu Dhabi, the second test between Pakistan and England is due to start in about four and a half hours: a must win for England? Not necessarily – but at the very least they are going to need a draw to avoid a serious media inquest.

Finally, the first and only Test between New Zealand and Zimbabwe starts tomorrow afternoon, Minneapolis time.  I will probably choose to watch that over day three of India bending over for Michael Clarke and Ricky Ponting.

And, yes, that ugly metaphor is accurate: they have scored 1,038 runs between the two of them in this series. And while their remorseless accumulations have been impressive, surely, even the most diehard of India supporters would tell you that a lot of those runs were given away rather cheaply – easy runs, for the most part, in other words.

As we speak, Clark is at 206no and Ponting 193no – and India just seems to have no interest whatsoever in getting them out…

Isn’t it, like, a million degrees in Adelaide this morning? Don’t they want to get off the field?

And thus this series will wilt to a close. So very disappointing…Dhoni and Co. should reimburse the travel expenses of the traveling fans. It’s been that bad.

And that’s it for tonight. Look tomorrow for the start of a new feature here at Limited Overs!

Until next time.

Kurunegala Youth Cricket Club v Sri Lanka Army at Kurunegala, Premier League Tournament Tier B

Sure, it’s only one test, but’s it worthy of a preview, as I have mentioned about 17 different times on the blog already, the match is going to be live on Willow TV at a very reasonable hour: first ball at 15:30.

This will be the eighth test match series between the hosts, New Zealand, and the minnows, Zimbabwe. New Zealand have won five of those series, the other three have been drawn.  In fact, New Zealand has never lost a test match to Zimbabwe; over their 14 head to head meetings, the Kiwis have won eight and drawn six – most recently beating them by 34 runs this past November at the Queens Sports Club, Bulawayo, Zimbabwe.

Nine of the matches have been played in Zimbabwe, only five in New Zealand, none at a neutral ground (it won’t be long until every head to head history will have to include a “neutral ground” category, so I am getting on board early: the U.A.E. will host an England v Australia ODI series within 10 years, you heard it hear first.)

The Ground

The one test of this series will take place at the…

Okay, please do allow me to editorialize just for a second here: one test? ONE!?

I realize it is an abbreviated series overall (three ODIs, two T20s), but they couldn’t find room for one more test in the schedule?  Don’t the ICC and the cricket boards of New Zealand and Zimbabwe want their countries to improve at test cricket?

Maybe not, maybe the money is in the one-dayers, and maybe their cricket boards feel that either way, their domestic leagues do enough to develop cricketers who excel in the long form of the game, but I just don’t know…

One test feels wasteful; and a strong Zimbabwe is terribly important to test cricket, as is a strong New Zealand.

And I realize I am preaching to the converted here, mostly, and I freely admit that I don’t get all the ins and outs of cricket scheduling, and I am sure there are a myriad of other considerations that I am not touching on, but one single test during a month long tour is just simply short sighted.

And, shoot, tests rarely last the full five days anymore anyway, so it’s not like a second test would add that many days to the tour.  I digress…

The one test of this series will take place from 26 January through 30 January at the McClean Park Ground in Napier, New Zealand.

The ground has four stands and large grass bank.  I love a ground with a grass bank.

And from what I can tell via Google Maps, the ground is actually set right into the heart of an urban area, unusual in world cricket:

And here is your geography lesson:

The ground has hosted nine tests. The first in 1979 featured the hosts against Pakistan, and ended in a draw. The most recent was in 2009, also against Pakistan, and it also ended in a draw.

In fact, of the nine tests played at the ground, only two have produced a result, and both were New Zealand losses: to Sri Lanka in 1995, and to England in 2008.

The ground is known for its batter friendly pitch, which would explain all of the draws.

The Squads

New Zealand finished 2011 with that dramatic victory over Australia at Hobart, of course, but otherwise had a quiet and unsuccessful year, test wise. They only played five total tests, winning two (Australia and Zimbabwe), losing two (Australia and Pakistan), and drawing one (Pakistan.)

Zimbabwe took a forced leave of absence from tests in 2005, and played its first test since the layoff just this past summer, beating Bangladesh at Harare.  And they only played two other tests in 2011, losing both (Pakistan and New Zealand.)

New Zealand has announced its test squad for the match, and back is the young quick Doug Bracewell who took six wickets in the Kiwis’ win at Hobart – and it looks as though the talisman Vettori is back in the squad, as well, after being out injured in Tasmania.

I will admit I know very little about Zimbabwean cricket, but here is their squad list.

They are captained by Brendan Taylor, who has played in 16 tests – a lot considering Zimbabwe’s layoff for most of the last seven years. Taylor has been in the international squad since he was 18, and has played in 129 ODIs for his country, despite being only 25.

He also plays domestic cricket in New Zealand, so he should be well suited to the conditions.

And the conditions should be good, weather wise: mid 70s and cloudy, which should keep the pitch from being too batter friendly.

Prediction?  A draw. But it will go the full five days, something really unheard of in test cricket lately.

Back on the pitch:

South Africa and Sri Lanka are playing in their final ODI today in Kimberley.  South Africa has already won the series, so its a bit of dead rubber, but it would be nice for Sri Lanka if they could win at least one of these games.

The hosts are 291/7 with one over left. That’s a lot for Sri Lanka to chase, and I just don’t see it happening for them.

Also, in Chennai, Rajasthan just keeps…on…batting…. They are 404/2 after two full days.  And considering the match can be decided on first innings runs, I suppose we can’t really expect to see a sporting declaration any time soon.

Vineet Saxena, one the openers, has 207 runs off of 555 balls, his strike rate a miniscule 37.29.  He is 31 years old, has never played for his country, and probably never will. He made his debut for Rajasthan in 1998 and they have been his only team…77 first class matches, 4,500 runs, and nine 100s…

I think is a great story, a double ton to bring his only club their second Championship in as many years, so I will forgive his rather unexciting approach to batting.

Enjoy your time out in the sun, Vineet.

Until next time.

South Africa Under-19s v Pakistan Under-19s at Stellenbosch, Tri-Nation Under-19s Tournament

On the pitch:

Last night, while I slept, on the other side of the earth: Pakistan humbled England, and the two openers in Chennai batted on and on and on.

Re: the former: When I woke up and checked the score on my phone, at first I was a little confused. Pakistan had gotten to 338 in the first innings, okay, and then it appeared as if England were 160 for none in their second innings, but something didn’t look right, and then I saw it: “Pakistan won by 15 runs.”

England were not 160/0, they were 160 all out, bowled out by Gul and Ajmal. Then Hafeez and Umar came back out, batted for just shy of 30 minutes, and won the match.

Amazing turn of events.

I have not had a chance to read any commentary, any punditry, not even any tweets, but I must say this: England are in real trouble; they are going to lose this series.

Not 48 hours ago, I was reading articles from England fans saying that they had a real chance to win not just every series in 2012, but every match, as well.  And now the former dream is over, and the latter dream is in serious doubt.

Some might say that it is far too early to panic, that England is the number one test team on earth.

But, really, outside of the ICC rankings, are they?  Sure, we all know what happened last year: retaining the Ashes IN Australia, beatingSri Lanka 1-0 (thanks to one hapless day in Cardiff from the visitors), and white washing India (in England.) But they lost a series to the West Indies not three years ago, and before that most of the test results were mixed, at best.

Sure, the last two years have been a great run, but Bangladesh aside, they have not won outside of England or Australia since 2007/2008 in New Zealand; and they have not won on the subcontinent since 2000/2001 against Pakistana and Sri Lanka.

If we are going to lambaste India for losing outside of the subcontinent, then we need to paint England with similar strokes for their absolute failure to win in Asia.

And, yes, it is time to panic. They did not lose a squeaker in five days, they had their doors blown off, pure and simple.

Optimists will point to England’s resilient bowling as a silver lining, but I didn’t see resilient bowling, I saw bowling that allowed Pakistan to put up 338 runs on the same pitch that England were bowled out on for 192 and 160.  That’s not resilient bowling, that is troublesome and worrisome bowling.

And even if Monty Panesar comes into the squad and evens out the attack with more spin, then what of England’s batting?  I can only assume that the wicket will be similar in Abu Dhabi, and Pakistan surely will not make any squad changes, and this is an England side that saw the majority of its top order batsmen losing their wickets with single digit run totals.

Cook’s two innings total? Eight.

Pietersen’s? Two.

Bell’s? Four.

That’s 14 total runs from three of England’s best batsmen.

Troublesome.  Worrisome.

For England.

Pakistan on the other hand? They look unstoppable. Unfortunately, they will not be playing a test series against the other scorching hot team in world cricket, Australia, until the fall of 2014.

The second test of #pakveng starts on the 26th and it very well could be the most important test of 2012 for England.

Meanwhile, in Chennai, Rajasthan won the toss, put Tamil Nadu in the field, and Chopra and Saxena batted on and on and on and on. 221/0 – a big score in a match where the tiebreaker is first innings runs.

I had a lot of fun watching that match last night, and hope to be able to watch more tonight.

Also, tonight, look for a LimitedOvers style preview of the only New Zealand v Zimbabwe test.

Until then.

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.

********************************************************

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.

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.