Monday, July 28, 2008

Ramps gets the runs

The 2008 cricket season is in full swing, so it's probably about time for a cricket-related post.

First up then, the saga of Mark Ramprakash's hundredth first-class hundred. Much has been written since I mentioned the possibility of it happening a year or so ago; even more since he clocked up his 99th hundred in his 665th first-class innings against Sussex in May. Since then he's played 9 further innings without scoring more than 48.

Those of you who appreciate statistical minutiae of this sort will be interested to know that this means he has another four innings to make his hundredth hundred in order to claim eighth place on the list of fastest batsman to the target (he would be the 25th overall to get there). The current holder of eighth place is the legendary Walter Hammond, who reached his 100th 100 in his 679th innings in 1935. First place is held, inevitably, by Don Bradman who required a scarcely credible 295 innings; others like WG Grace (the first man to make 100 100s) and, more recently, Dennis Amiss, required more than 1000 innings to get there. The other batsmen to achieve the feat faster than Ramprakash are listed here.

Ramprakash's name still crops up in some quarters when England Test selection policy is being discussed; his problems at Test level over the years (52 caps, 2 centuries, an average of 27) have been largely perceived as mental rather than technical, and Geoff Boycott has drawn the interesting parallel between his struggles in the Test match arena and his current problems getting "over the line" now that the full media spotlight is on him. It's all about how you perform under pressure, in other words.

As far as England's current selectorial issues go, though, the main problems are with the bowling. The bizarre decision to cap Darren Pattinson at Headingley and the unedifying mutual hand-washing by Michael Vaughan and Geoff Miller afterwards were bad enough, but the other bowlers knocking on the door of the team must be wondering what they have to do to get a game, Matthew Hoggard particularly. The selectors have pulled another rabbit out of the hat by recalling Steve Harmison for the next Test - his county figures since he was dropped during the New Zealand series earlier in the year have been good, and he offers the sort of pace and bounce that England could have done with at Headingley, but, like Ramprakash, there are a whole host of unanswered questions about his mental fragility. His previous record against South Africa (18 wickets at 59.55) doesn't make pretty reading either.

There have been calls for a recall for Simon Jones as well, and his recent form for Worcestershire has been good. I wonder if the selectors are keeping their powder dry in that quarter with one eye on the home Ashes series in 2009. You can see the temptation to do so, but it could be fatal to take one eye off the ball against what is a very good South African side. And the fact that they have achieved, so far, a comfortable draw and a crushing win without a major score from their best batsman, Jacques Kallis, is a little worrying as well.

No comments: