Wednesday, 30 May 2012

Tim Bresnan...the new Whats His Name?'

Much has been written, said and of course tweeted with regards the place in the England side of Yorkshire all rounder Tim Bresnan this summer.  Before Lords, it was accepted that he was worth his place in the side as the 3rd seamer due to his ability to score runs, something that The Peoples favourite (and by people I mean a majority led Southern press) Steven Finn has shown little capacity to do in his short England career.  He followed this glowing vote of confidence up by registering a five ball duck at Lords in a match in which he seemed to struggle with the ball on a surface that Jimmy Anderson and Stuart Broad made look perfect for them at times.  The match did end in a win, the 12th consecutive of Bresnan's Test life (already extending his national record for the best start to a Test career).  And so the same grumbling seemed to come from those hacks for whom a winning England side provides nowhere near the amount of fresh meat needing to satiate their appetite for criticism.  If not Finn, then surely Graham Onions must be recalled for the 2nd Test at Trent Bridge.  Fortunately, Geoff Miller (head of England's selectors) does not have an office in Fleet Street, and so England were unchanged.

At the end of the 1st Day, it may have looked to some that the sound of sharpening knives had finally hit Tim too hard.  His figures at the end of an exhilarating first day were 1-78, and he had hardly troubled the batsman save for his one success in dismissing the poor Dinesh Ramdin.  Within an hour and a half of play starting on Saturday, the doubters were nowhere to be seen.  Bresnan took 3 of the last four wickets to fall, getting the ball to reverse swing in a manner that Broad and Anderson were struggling to replicate.  Not satisfied with this, on Sunday he finished 39* after a partnership with Broad rescued England from a position where they may have ended up trailing the visitors after an old school England middle order collapse, and then ended day 3 with 3-10 (all lbw decisions) as the Windies were reeling on 61-6.  Monday saw him take his 4th wicket of the innings (Sammy, lbw) and collect the man of the match award, as England cruised to a 9 wicket win.  13 out of 13.

Those in the media and those who know nothing about cricket (this is not essentially two separate groups) like to call Bresnan "England's Lucky Mascot", as if he is being brought along by Andrew Strauss to help his side pick up wins after his turning up at the ground one day suddenly led to a revival of England's fortunes.  His career record to date suggests otherwise. He is well deserving of the title of "International All Rounder.  As we see here ;

Played 13 Runs 362 High Score 91 Average 40.22 Wickets 52 Average 25.46 Catches 6.

Compare these figures to the two recognised all rounders currently in the England side with him in their first 13 Test matches.
Graeme Swann
Runs 441 High Score 85 Average 36.75 Wickets 53 Average 31.32 Catches 7
Stuart Broad
Runs 422 High Score 76 Average 28.13 Wickets 35 Average 38.68 Catches 4

Though scoring fewer runs than both of his two mates, he boasts a better batting average, and though he has taken one less wicket than Swann, his wickets come so much cheaper than both of this.  Now compare them with these numbers from the first 13 Tests of another England player.

Runs 396 High Score 137 Average 18.85 Wickets 15 Average 46.46 Catches 7

Who gave us these numbers at the beginning of his Test career, figures that show little but flashes of talent and promise? They belong to Andrew Flintoff.

Obviously Freddie was taking his first steps in Test cricket into a mostly awful England side, and had to combat a lot of injuries and slagging from the media (only seems to happen to the Northerners, doesn't it?), but Bresnan's figures stack up marvellously well against these other prizes of English cricket.

There was a time during the early 1990s when the media and fans alike cried out for a replacement to their lost figurehead, one of the four great all rounders to dominate the game for much of the 1980s.  A whole host of promising youngsters were saddled with the tag of being "The next....(I'm not even going to mention his name, but he does lots of walks for charity and his quite friendly with Sir Viv), including Darren Gough, Dominic Cork, David Capel, Ronnie Irani (Jesus Christ....).  As England's recent successful run continues, the calls for a new saviour seem to be quieter, allowing the next generation to continue in their own sweet time.  I would not dare use this article to saddle Tim Bresnan with the weight of being the next "___ ______", or even the next Andrew Flintoff.  I am merely happy that he continues to be the best Tim Bresnan he can be.

But lets compare his figures to English crickets foremost Knight of the Realm anyway! Remember, these figures are merely for his first 13 Tests.

Runs 590 High Score 108 Average 39.33 Wickets 70 Average 18.48 Catches 13.

Bres doesn't have THAT far to go, does he?

Monday, 21 May 2012

When People Answer THIS Critic

Listening to Test Match Special on Friday, I was able to hear the moment that England captain Andrew Strauss finally reached three figures for England, 18 months after his last century and nearly three years since his last one in England.  Stopping short of calling for the head of our run less (by comparison) skipper, I had been very critical of Strauss and the seemingly easy ride he was being given by the media, remembering the treatment meted out to my hero Michael Vaughan leading up to his 2008 relinquishing of power.  Now he seems to be safe, and a safe bet to probably be in post not only for the upcoming South Africa series, not to mention the tour to India and probably next Summers Ashes series.

The achievement of Strauss led me to think about the current England XI, and made me realise how many of them I have, shall we say, not exactly backed 100% (wanted them out and away from the Test side) at one stage or another of their careers.  Here, I take a look at the low and high watermarks for the England side, in my eyes.

Andrew Strauss - After a lacklustre 2007, highlighted by Strauss nicking off to first slip to an endless number of back of a length deliveries, I felt it was time for him to sit out.  Indeed, I was quite happy with the prospect of Vaughan moving back up to opening with the new wunderkind Alastair Cook.  He was dropped for a three match tour of Sri Lanka.  Cook and Vaughan were not a disaster, but the middle order failed to fire, so Strauss returned to bat at 3 for the New Zealand tour.  The first two tests produced very very close to bugger all, but he saved the 3rd test with 177 to set up a win.  By the time the Kiwi's toured England a few months later, he was back opening the innings.  Less than a year later, he was England captain.
Alastair Cook - After a run of failing to convert starts into big scores was halted during his caretaker captaincy trip of Bangladesh, Cook seemed to have regressed again during the summer tests in 2010 against the same opponents and Pakistan.  I made no secret of the fact that I felt Cook should be left out of the 3rd test at the Oval.  He was not, and produced an innings low on quality but big on heart, scoring 110.  I remained unconvinced, and bemoaned the fact that this knock had guaranteed him an Ashes berth.  Well, we all remember what happened then don't we....
Jonathon Trott - I have never actually called for Trott to be dropped, though I did voice a concern that he should not be batting at 3 after a torrid tour in South Africa, and should maybe be moved into the middle order.  Wrong again...
Kevin Pietersen - After losing the England captaincy, KP had endured a rough time with the bat, going from March 2009 to December 2010 without a test century.  His double ton at Adelaide went a long way towards winning the match, but he failed to significantly contribute for the remainder of the Ashes.  I don't recall ever seeking his removal (though I recall saying Ian Bell may be a better choice at number 4...), but I was keen for him to get his bloody head down and start scoring some runs when it mattered.  In 2011, he averaged 78 in Test cricket, including a blistering 202* against India at Lords.
Ian Bell - I called for Bell to be dropped after the Ashes 2005, in which he performed an excellent impression of a minesweeper being horrified to be caught nicking other peoples drinks, tormented as he was by Warne.  He returned the following summer, batting at six, and performed admirably.  For the next few years he flitted between five and six, before moving up to 3 after Vaughan retired.  After playing a shot best described as "f***ing awful" in Jamaica, sparking a collapse that would see England bowled out for 51, I demanded he be consigned to the scrapheap again.  He was, but once again returned soon after.  His form since then has been nothing short of exceptional, but he should never ever be allowed to bat at three again.
Jonny Bairstow - England Test debut.  Can't really call for him to be dropped, plus he's a Yorkshireman.
Matt Prior - After a summer of solid batting and amusingly laughable wicket keeping in 2007, Prior produced an absolutely garbage level of performance away in Sri Lanka, leading to his dropping for Tim Ambrose.  Ambrose's keeping was slick and steady, but he looked very much out of depth with the bat.  Prior returned in 2008, and has shown a dramatic improvement in his keeping.  More, he has shown that he is without question the best keeper batsman in the world at the moment, with six test centuries (three at Lords.)  And my word what a beard.
Tim Bresnan - Never called for him to be dropped. (see Bairstow) Plus he has won 12 out of 12.  And he bowled Ricky Ponting.
Stuart Broad - Broads self appointed role of "enforcer" of the attack in 2011 seemed to consist of him bowling a succession of poorly directed bouncers at the Sri Lankan batsmen, none of whom seemed in the slightest bit scared/bothered/to even notice.  Added to a stagnation of his batting skills, I was quite vociferous in calling for his head prior to the Indian series in favour of Bresnan.  My call was not answered, and Broad proceeded to enjoy a Flintoff-esque series against the poorly labelled best team in the world, highlighted by a hat trick and six wickets at Trent Bridge, helping England to climb to the top of the world rankings.
Graeme Swann - Never EVER want to see him dropped.  He gave the world The Sprinkler Dance.
Jimmy Anderson - Ah, Jimmy, where do I start...wanted him dropped during the South Africa series in 2003 (he was).  Wanted him dropped in 2004 in favour of Martin Saggers (he got injured instead).  Couldn't believe he was called in for Simon Jones for the 4th test in South Africa (he bowled like a drain).  Wanted him dropped after allowing Sehwag to get off to a tremendous start to an epic run chase in Mumbai in 2008 (he was out by the time England travelled to the West Indies for the first test).  Its quite strange when I think about it, but it is not a bowling performance that finally won me over for Jimmy, but it is instead his epic last wicket stand with Monty Panesar in Cardiff in 2009.  Since then, he has of course become one of the best bowlers in the world, culminating in a 24 wicket series in Australia.  He now has over 260 test wickets, and if he remains fit he should become the first England bowler to 400 test wickets.

So what do I know? Not a lot, but will this stop me ranting raving and posturing?

Hell no.

Monday, 7 May 2012

Not a Clue

In the absence of any NFL news, and also the damp weather conditions impinging on my cricket season, I have decided to write about something that has starting to particularly bug me lately.  Its probably been around for a while, but I've only just noticed it.  It is the seemingly low IQ of people who go on quiz shows.

This will be an angrier blog than my more recent writings, but I shall endeavour to keep the language clean.

Many years ago, there was a Norman Lovett skit where he plays a contestant on Mastermind.  His chosen specialised subject was "Extremely Easy Questions That Have Existed Since The Beginning of Time", and included such taxing queries as "Red Blue Yellow and Orange are all what?" (they're all colours, in case you're confused).  He scored 26 in the first round.  At the end of the general knowledge round, his score was...26.  On a recent edition of Mastermind, at the end of his specialised subject, a contestant had scored, from his 90 seconds, 1.  His two minutes of general knowledge pushed his score up to a staggering...9.  Why did he bother? I'm sure many of us would like to be on telly, and would no doubt tell all our friends to watch out for us, but to appear on the gogglebox and make a total tit of yourself must be the career ambition of a total shit for brains.

And speaking of shit for brains brings me nicely to the entertaining Saturday night Lottery gameshow "In It To Win It",  hosted by the ageless (well, he's looked 50 odd for nearly twenty years) Dale Winton.  Aside from the weekly hilarity whenever Dale banishes a constesant to his "red area", the show has an impressive production line of morons.  The standard response when asked a question about ANYTHING seems to be "Oh I don't have a clue Dale".  ABOUT ANYTHING!!! I saw a man on this show wearing a cricket sweater, and when asked a question about what the prize fought for between England and Australia at cricket was called seemed intent on going with "the Calcutta Cup" before he "suddenly remembered". (The Ashes, in case any wannabe IITWI contestants are reading).  The scary thing is how many of these cretins, when asked what they'd like to do with any money they win on the show, answer "start my own business".  The economy of the United Kingdom is on its arse, the last thing it needs is dickheads entering the market who don't know how many events constitute a decathlon (Ten).

Of course, sometimes the poor buggers are shafted by the questions before they have a chance to embarrass themselves.  I don't know many (well, ANY if I'm honest) 70 year old retirees who know that Rhianna sang Rude Boy.  But the special girls out there who not only like sport but also know a bit about it have their credibility destroyed whenever a question about football comes up and a brassy blonde tart (usually from London, and a particular area in London) answers "I don't know a fing about football Dale, I'm a girl!"

My dad and sister take great pleasure in watching that incredibly pointless show Deal or No Deal (a quiz show with only one question - where does Noel Edmonds buy his shirts?) and seeing someone blow a fortune having ignored the bankers last tantalising offer.  I take a similar delight in watching some idiot who has fluked his way into the hunt for (usually) £20,000 blow it by revealing a total lack of knowledge regarding post World War One peace treaties.  Maybe I'm just an angry bitter man.  Maybe I'm just a know it all who is proud of the amount of information I've learned over the years.

Maybe I'm both.

Thursday, 3 May 2012

Some Musings...

My Powerade bottle arrived today...

So while I enjoy a small piece of humble pie, here are some things I think this week.


Wednesday evening saw the news that legendary NFL linebacker Junior Seau was dead, aged only 43.  Indications are that he shot himself.  One of the hardest hitting linebackers (or players full stop), his was one of the most appropriate surnames of any player in living memory (pronounced "Say Ow").  He enjoyed a stellar 20 year NFL career, though never won a Superbowl.

Tragically, he is the 8th member of the 1994 San Diego Chargers Superbowl team to die, all at a young age.

There is currently a very substantial legal battle between the NFL and a cadre of former players regarding how they were treated after receiving concussions during their careers.  Many report feelings of depression.  There is a popular, and worryingly premature, theory that maybe Seau's mental state had been affected due to a number of jarring hits received during his stints with San Diego, Miami and New England.  HOWEVER, Seau was never listed as receiving treatment for a concussion during his career.  This of course does not mean he never had one.

Regardless of the reasons, the sport of American Football has lost one of its best.  Seau is eligible for induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2015.  I am sure he will be a first year inductee.


The 2012 NFL Draft was fast, furious and flipping frenetic.  16 out of 32 picks were traded during a record fast first round.  The obvious picks happened, Luck is now a Colt, Griffin must toil away as a Redskin, Cleveland added a stud running back in Trent Richardson, and Seattle reached for player Pete Carroll must love but no one else does.

The constant changing of the draft order made it hard work for anyone taking part in a mock draft.  Mainzey and I did however.  Mainzey managed to correctly guess 24 out of the 32 first round players, compared to my 22.  However, I managed to match 9 players to teams, whereas Mainz could only correctly pair seven names to their new homes.  The result being that, come Saturday morning, I will be enjoying a Frankie and Benny's breakfast paid for by Mainzeys dime.  Can't wait.


Through a combination of a great run of form since Dave Jones's arrival at Hillsborough and a downturn in fortunes at Bramall Lane, Sheffield Wednesday go into this weekends final round of games needing a win to secure promotion.  The Owls are 1 point ahead of Sheffield United, and are at home to already relegated Wycombe.  Its all in our hands.

And that's what scares me.

I shall say no more on the subject, as I'm really very nervous.  I hope by the time I write again my boys have done something truly special.  But I've supported Wednesday for 20 years, and if there is one team that you could guarantee to make matters truly difficult when all things are on their side...Wednesday would be their name.