Wednesday, 21 April 2010

What went wrong at Lancashire

I have it on good authority (from Mrs Raggybear) that Warwickshire would have been better to have a bat on winning the toss last week.

It was the promise of seaming conditions and respect for Lancashire's pace battery that prompted the decision, however little were they to know that Jimmy Anderson had been kept awake all night by an owl hooting outside his bedroom window. Maybe if he'd been asked to bowl first thing while bleary eyed and Warwickshire hadn't been facing spin demon 14yo Simon Kerrigan last on a raging turner it could have been a different story.

In other cricket related Twitter news; Graham Swann's cat licked his dinner plate clean when he couldn't be bothered to take into the kitchen.


Monday, 19 April 2010

Met office "fooled by the one that goes on with the arm"

The spectre of Ash is continuing to hang over the UK. In a turn of events familiar to many an opposition batsman facing Ash in the past; the Met office continue to be bemused as they keep expecting the wind to turn, swirl and maybe even die a bit at the last minute, but contrary to all these preconceptions the wind then just blows straight on and shows no perceptible signs of deviation.

Throughout his playing career the phrase "he's missed the straight one" and "I think that was the one that goes on with the arm" were rolled out by commentators the world over. However as seasoned Ash watchers know it was only 4 years after first playing test cricket that Giles got a ball to actually pitch outside leg and take Inzaman's off-stump in the 2001 tour of Pakistan. On this basis the wind is not likely to show any deviation until about 2013-2014. Time to charter a boat.

In cricket news, Warwickshire are stubbornly sticking to the traditional idea that the season starts sometime in late April.

For photo-fans; I found this picture uploaded onto someone's photo feed a while back. I'm not sure whether Giles is patiently indulging the 4 other guys, or if they are indulging him - they all look a little uncomfortable to be there.


Thursday, 15 April 2010

Ash halts all UK flights.

The big news today is that airport officials are concerned about the presence of Ash in the North of Britain. They are so concerned that all inbound and outbound commercial flights from all UK airports have been cancelled until at least tomorrow morning.

The BBC have interviewed an expert on Ashley Giles and he reveals:

Dr Mike Branney, senior lecturer in volcanology, University of Leicester, said: "... ash is not good to plane engines.

"Firstly [he] is highly abrasive and can scour and damage moving parts. Secondly, if [he] enters a jet engine the intense heat of the engine can fuse [him] to the interior of the engine with a caking of hot glass, which ultimately can cause the engine to cut out completely.

"This is a sensible precaution."

It is believed by the Raggy Bear that Giles has never shut down the air traffic in an entire country before, although he quite a good director of cricket and he once met the Queen.

On the upside I live under the flight path of Southampton airport. It's lovely and quiet today, I might go and sit in the garden.


Wednesday, 14 April 2010

Squad for Lancashire

Brian Halford has revealed in the Mail today that the squad remains unchanged for the next championship game, away to Lancashire at Old Trafford. Giles resisting the temptation to chop and change a squad which performed well in bursts against Yorkshire and continues to threaten big things.

That makes the squad

Ian Westwood (Captain)
Varun Chopra
Ian Bell
Jonathan Trott
Jim Troughton
Tim Ambrose (wk)
Rikki Clarke
Chris Woakes
Neil Carter
Ant Botha
Naqaash Tahir
Imran Tahir
Andrew Miller

Rikki Clarke still has a stomach strain that will prevent him from bowling, but the suggestion is that bringing him into the team purely to strengthen the batting will be considered. Incidentally I am quite pleased to find a picture of him for this story that makes him look quite dashing; he doesn't always photograph well young Rikki. Almost certainly the man to make way would be Miller, who went wicketless against Yorkshire. Possibly with Trott picking up a bit more of the bowling duties, where he can perform a useful role in holding up an end with his dibbly-dobblers.

Lancashire meanwhile may welcome back Jimmy Anderson into their team, probably for one of his only appearances of the season. Their other bowlers are likely to be from Sajid Mahmood, Glen Chapple, Darren Powell (former WI) & Tom Smith (with Kyle Hogg and Oliver Newby also in their squad). Spinner Gary Keedy broke his collarbone, which is a big blow and they are likely to opt for Simon Kerrigan to replace him.

The batting line-up is likely to be Stephen Moore, Gareth Cross (wk), Ashwell Prince, Steven Croft, Karl Brown and Luke Procter.

So with all respect on paper their batting looks a little thin, but the pace line-up looks formidable. With Bell and Trott set to play Warwickshire look to have better batting, but Lancashire look the more likely to take 20 wickets, particularly if Warwickshire play only 4 bowlers.

Match starts on Thursday.


Tuesday, 13 April 2010

A great advert for County Cricket

Warwickshire's opening match of the season ended in defeat yesterday. Perhaps fittingly picking out the positive and negative indicators from of the match is as tricky as picking the winner during the first 10 sessions of the match itself.

Firstly I want to start with the positives as I see them. The match was an absolute cracker as entertainment. I might not speak for all Warwickshire fans, but I would much rather have competitive cricket of this type all season and for Warwickshire to get relegated, than having a succession of bore draws and first division status secured on bonus points.

Memory is a tricky thing, but I make this the only properly competitive first class match we've had at Edgbaston for at least 3 seasons, although I'm prepared to be corrected. It certainly makes a welcome change and its a relief that when a pitch which balances bat and ball is delivered, so is the entertainment. Supporters and players have been calling for this for a while.

There are a couple of caveats that need to be said though. The first is that the pitch was not part of a masterplan. Your trusty correspondent emailed the BBC commentary team and Clive Eakin (I believe) said that he'd spoken to Giles the day before and he revealed that the pitch was more a product of the season and the weather, although he added that the general plan was for more life in the pitches than has been seen recently.

The second is that Warwickshire lost. There has got to be a temptation to go back to the flat boring pitches of previous seasons to try and secure first division status with a plethora of draws and batting bonus points.

It is always difficult as a fan to look back at a lost match (however entertaining) and pick out positive performances, the temptation is to focus on the weaker showings and hold them up as reasons for the loss. I make no apologies for doing this, and as a Brummy I also make no apologies for having the common default setting of pessimism with regards to my supported sports team!

Although the match see-sawed from session-to-session, Warwickshire's failure to close out the match, or to put themselves in more commanding positions was down to two simple and fundamental failings which have dogged them since the days of Greatbatch. A failure to score enough runs, particularly under pressure, and the failure of the bowling unit to either hunt as a pack, or (in the absence of the first) to produce/sign a stand out partnership breaking bowler.

The batting really concerns me. Once Bell and Trott go on England duty, the top 5 will be (injury apart) Westwood, Chopra, Maddy, Troughton & Ambrose, which on the form of last season is not particularly imposing.

Below that the worries really start. Ricky Clarke, if he plays comes in as a 5th bowler who can bat in the top 7 and will strengthen the middle order. Our 5th specialist batsman will be either Barker, Javid or Ord. I am not convinced that a line-up of say:

Westwood, Chopra, Maddy, Troughton, Ambrose, Clarke, Barker, Woakes, N.Tahir, Carter, I. Tahir

Is going to be consistently posting 350-450 on pitches with even a little bit in them.

The bowling has hamstrung Warwickshire for years. Make no mistake it is getting better, but that is a relative term. Woakes has a lot of potential to become a great player, but possibly a great England player.. What Warwickshire need is to develop a pack mentality where all the bowlers keep up pressure and contribute to wickets at the other end, not just taking them themselves. To often we see sloppy bowling at one end letting the pressure up.

Carter is a great trier, but this is surely his last season of significant first class cricket, when you look beyond him & Woakes it becomes tricky to pick the best out of the remaining 6 seamers. Essentially we have an awful lot of 4th and 5th seamers; just about 1st change standard. Even Carter and Woakes have mainly heart/experience and potential respectively to recommend them rather than consistent, penetrative performances.

There is no easy fix to this, and I make my comments about the team not to doom-monger, or be unnecessarily pessimistic off the back of one game; but rather to provide a note of caution and realism to reports pre-season of a title challenge and competitiveness in all formats.

Our players who are not quite fulfilling their potential, or living up to the talent we think they have may well come good this season and its certainly possible that we can score 500 and take 20 wickets. However I suspect we will see a battle against relegation from the championship this season, but with some possibility of light relief in the form of a few One Day adventures.

I certainly hope we see much more of the fantastic competitive cricket we were treated to over the past four days.


Sunday, 11 April 2010

Betting scandal - As predicted by The Raggy Bear

It seems that my most dire predictions on the state of the English One Day game have come to pass with the revealations that two Essex players under investigation by police for "match irregularities".

It's sad and it gives me no satisfaction to see my concerns about a glut of meaningless cricket realised. Andrew McGlashan on Cricinfo reports that the allegations against the un-named players relate to the practise of "spot fixing", which is basically taking bungs to bowl a specified number of no-balls, wides, etc. As McGlashan rightly says this can be seen as something which can be done without materially affecting the outcome of the match. The allegations relate to a televised Pro40 match that was available in the sub-continent. The rumours are that Danish Kaneria and Mervyn Westfield are the two players concerned.

I first raised concerns that the ECB's management of the English domestic game was exacerbating the potential for exactly this sort of thing to happen back in September 2007

Both these changes [to the one day league and the expansion of Twenty20 Cup] raise the possibility of playing the same sides throughout the season and risking spectator apathy.... I am also concerned that with every competition being a league there is a chance that many of these games could be "dead games", and that is where the possibility of match-fixing rears its head. The ECB will need to be very careful that with so many meaningless repeat matches, and the low rewards on offer, that we don't get our own domestic Cronje, or Azharuddin."

Again in May 2008

Where you have so many games, and with leagues there will inevitably be meaningless games, with largely non-existent "local" rivalries (compared to Warwicks v Worcester or the Roses match) the spectre of match fixing would be ever present."

And lastly, just last week in my thoughts on the latest round of domestic reorganisation I predicted that the exact scenario we are seeing played out had almost certainly already occurred somewhere in the county game:

"A reorganisation in itself though isn't necessarily a bad thing, but I would argue that in any system review the most wasteful and superfluous parts should be cut first. Namely the One Day formats. I've said before, although it might draw in a few hundred more spectators than a CC day there is too much meaningless one day county cricket and it is frankly a match fixing disaster waiting to happen. I hate to besmirch the honest county professionals, but I would be staggered if no-one had taken a bung to send down a few extra wide deliveries, or no-balls for a spreadbet on a pointless one day county match."

No doubt out of this investigation there will be calls for greater regulation, greater scrutiny of matches and results. Possibly there will be a new or revamped body formed to be on the look out for "match irregularities", perhaps even a new or revamped 3rd umpire role. All of these things would no doubt be welcome, but surely the most important thing to do is to reorganise the domestic game so that there is less meaningless one day cricket, which encourages exactly the sort of actions alleged against these Essex players.

Clearly it's time for the ECB to read start reading this blog and then take things from there. My consultancy rates are very reasonable, my half-baked opinions and reactionary nonsense is as free to them as it is to the rest of you.


Friday, 9 April 2010

Warwickshire v Yorkshire, Day 1 - tea

Not wishing to be negative so early in the season, but I can officially reveal that the first use of the verb "capitulate" in reference to Warwickshire this season was on the BBC radio commentary at 3.42pm on the opening day of the season.

After being put in by Yorkshire, Warwickshire made 217 all out. It may still prove to be a decent total as the pitch is something of an unknown quantity this season, with calls for more grass on the wicket and more results pitches. I emailed the BBC commentary team this morning about the pitch and they said there was some grass on the pitch and that it wasn't totally brown, but it isn't a green seamer by any means.

The suspicion is that with a few starts from the batsmen (Bell - 31, Troughton - 39, Westwood - 39) as well as Carter top scoring down the order, there is runs in the pitch and perhaps a lack of concentration did for some of the batsmen.

Warwickshire will need a big effort now from their bowlers to try and restrict Yorkshire to something under 300 and try and post a decent 2nd innings. I think there are 100 overs in a day this year, leaving Yorkshire 38 to bat tonight. Mrs Raggy Bear (a Yorky) reckons that if Yorkshire are only 3 down tonight then they'll be doing well. Probably an accurate assessment.


Season set to start

Warwickshire's season gets under way today against Yorkshire. I've updated the "latest match scorecard" link at the top of the blog for your viewing pleasure.

Yorkshire have left Brophy out of their squad for the game, which is: Sayers, Lyth, Rudolph, McGrath, Gale (c), Bairstow (wk), Rashid, Bresnan, Shahzad, Wainwright, Hannon-Dalby, Patterson, Pyrah.

Expect probably the first 9 names to be certainties and then the last 2 spots from the last 4 names, although Wainwright is unlikely to play alongside Rashid in early April. Having said that Warwickshire may start with both Botha and Imran Tahir, so you never know.


Ricky Clarke has a stomach muscle injury and is therefore left out, as is Botha. Side is: Westwood, Chopra, Bell, Trott, Troughton, Ambrose, Woakes, Carter, N.Tahir, I.Tahir, Miller


Wednesday, 7 April 2010

Squad to face Yorkshire

Warwickshire have announced their squad for Friday's County Championship opener against Yorkshire at Edgbaston. The made the announcement at the annual "press day" at Edgbaston. My invitation was mysteriously lost, must be the Royal Mail.

Squad is:
Ian Westwood (Captain)
Varun Chopra
Ian Bell
Jonathan Trott
Jim Troughton
Tim Ambrose (wk)
Rikki Clarke
Chris Woakes
Neil Carter
Ant Botha
Naqaash Tahir
Imran Tahir
Andrew Miller

I'd probably leave out Miller and one from Carter/Botha.

Meanwhile Yorkshire are not hopeful of securing a work permit for Tino Best. At the moment he is still in the Caribbean according to the Bradford Argus, so it seems unlikely to be sorted in time. The squad will be announced tomorrow morning, but the Argus reckons on the first 9 names on the sheet being "Joe Sayers, Jacques Rudolph, Anthony McGrath, Gale, Jonny Bairstow, Gerard Brophy, Adil Rashid, Tim Bresnan and Ajmal Shahzad all set to play" and the remaining 2 spots in the team between "Oliver Hannon-Dalby, James Lee, Steve Patterson, Rich Pyrah, Ben Sanderson and possibly Best vying for two spots – and there would be no place for England Lions left-arm spinner David Wainwright".

"Gale said: “I can’t see us playing two spinners this early in the season. It’s April 9 and we are expecting it to be more suited to the seamers rather than spinners.” "

So a smattering of some very good individuals, but on paper not a formidable looking team. I could be talking about either team there, I'll leave it up to you.


Season Previews - updated 09/04

The season preview season has well and truly begun with pundits lining up to cast their eye over the counties and make some predictions as to their performance this season.

The Telegraph obviously aren't being paid by the word - basically; Warwickshire have recruited Tahir. They drew a lot last season.

Cricket365 have got in on the act today and have a far more comprehensive preview of how Warwickshire might do and what their strengths and weaknesses are.

I'm sure more will follow, The Guardian, The Times and Cricinfo at least usually get in on the act. I'll add them to this post as and when they appear.


Cricinfo have an 11 players to watch article, naming Chris Woakes as pushing for England selection as one of the more exciting young pace bowlers around with Steve Finn.

Cricinfo have also added a season preview to the site, the reckon on a solid but unspectacular campaign, possible better in One Day cricket than FC.

The Times have their Division 2 preview today (Thursday), probably with Division 1 to following tomorrow.


The Times weighs in with a shambolically formatted preview on their website.

The Guardian published their club-by-club season preview yesterday, but it wasn't in yesterday's print edition, which may explain where national paper's priorities lie with regards to domestic cricket! For all that it is probably the most thorough of the previews. They have Warwickshire finishing 8th in the championship, but maybe doing a bit better in One Day format.

Hard to argue with that at the moment. Tahir comes with a good reputation, but it really feels like the season where we had Dale Steyn as overseas - if he fires then he can paper over some of the cracks in the team and get some results but once the England season starts and Bell and Trott leave I can see Warwickshire struggling badly, if Woakes gets called up then it could turn very ugly.


Monday, 5 April 2010

More comment on Championship Changes

Vic Marks writing in this Saturday's Observer also picks up on the self-inflicted problems of the ECB's flagship first-class competition and it's uncertain future. Following on (although not necessarily linked!) to earlier pieces by Brian Halford and The Raggy Bear.


Saturday, 3 April 2010

Brown on England shortlist

Dougie Brown, along with former bear great Allan Donald has been shortlisted for the job of England bowling coach. Could be bad news for the bears if he goes as the position of assistant coach would be empty right at the start of the season. With Brown's short tenure in the job so far for Warwickshire the jury has to remain out on whether it will be a good thing or not for England if they appoint him! For Warwickshire's pack of young seamers consistency has to be desirable, they were only under Donald for 2 years, then he was replaced by Brown and then Welch a matter of months ago, for another new coach to be bought into the squad after he's worked with them all winter would only add confusion.

Although the situation for England is possibly even more unsettled, I make it at least 4 bowling coaches in 5 years (Troy Cooley, Kevin Shine, Donald and Ottis Gibson) including several spells (such as this winter) without a bowling coach at all. For this reason I would expect them to be looking toward the Ashes in the winter and beyond and try and pick someone who will last the distance. Brown's inexperience and his application coming only months after being appointed to a new position at Warwickshire may count against him. Donald's own confusion over where he wants to work, which was surely the reason he didn't get the bears' job, will likely mean he has some convincing to do.

Craig McDermott is being touted as the favourite, but perversely his ambition may possibly count against him. England have already lost one ambitious young bowling coach to a higher position (Gibson) and this is where Donald, who has not expressed any ambition to coach higher than as a national bowling coach may prove to be an attractive candidate.


Thursday, 1 April 2010

Brian Halford Article

A good article on the future of the County Championship by Brian Halford on his Blog. Well worth a look, with a handy breakdown of the scant opportunities afforded the CC fan to actually watch any weekend cricket by yours truly in the comments section.

A fuller breakdown of my "working out" follows:

warning! Stats and maths. In no way does the author imply this will constitute entertainment or enjoyment in any form.

If you break the calender for fixtures down into groups of matches starting within a day of each other, you get 21 distinct blocks of fixtures. Americans would no doubt call these "game days". Of these the first three blocks (2, 4 and 4 matches respectively) fall on weekends in Mid-April. Two more, blocks 9 & 10 (3 fixtures each) fall on weekends at the start of June. And finally block 14 is the last weekend in July (3 fixtures). Apart from 4 lone fixtures that are shunted a day later to finish on a Saturday, none of the final 7 blocks of fixtures, (the final 3rd of the season) fall on a weekend.

Allowing for no weather interruptions the breakdown by county is as follows:
Days of Home Championship Cricket falling on a Saturday or Sunday. (NB: 8 home fixtures = 32 days of cricket, maximum home days possible = 16)
Essex - 5
Warwickshire - 7
Durham - 3
Notts - 5
Yorkshire - 4
Somerset - 2
Kent - 6
Hampshire - 4
Lancashire - 2

It's a bad year to be a Somerset or Lancashire fan with a job.


Friendly Cancelled

Unfortunately due to the poor weather of the past few days the friendly against Leicestershire has been cancelled. Apparently the ground at Grace Road is unfit to host cricket and is waterlogged.

A bit of a shame for Warwickshire as their bowlers have not had any time bowling in the middle in the UK so far, and I believe there are no more matches scheduled before their opening championship match on the 9th.

The breif tour to South Africa pre-season is starting to look like a good decision, as at least it has given the players some experience of match cricket before the season start, albeit not top competitive cricket.

Chopra is already with the squad (and was probably due to start in the friendly). Imran Tahir is joining the squad on Monday (flying in on Sunday), and is likely to go straight into the side, but it leaves an interesting selection decision as Botha will probably then be surplus to requirements. Two spinners in the side on a (wet) early April pitch would seem an embarrassment of riches.

No news as yet as to whether Bell and Trott will be released by England to play in any matches. I would expect so as neither made the ICC World Twenty20 squad yesterday, so their next England committments will be the Bangladesh series in mid-May.