Friday, April 20, 2007

summer is in the air.....

...yeah, I know spring was in the air only a fortnight or so ago (just before the US Masters in fact), but things move quickly in this crazy post-millennial world of ours. So a matter of weeks later it's the start of the English cricket season - ergo, summer. Simple.

It's also the World Cup, of course, though it seems to have been going on forever. After tomorrow the interminable Super 8 stage will be over, though the last two matches (Australia v New Zealand today, and England v West Indies tomorrow) are irrelevant in terms of the semi-final line-up, though in certain unlikely circumstances (specifically, New Zealand thrashing Australia today with a substantial difference in run-rate) the "who plays who" situation could change. Most likely semi-final matches are Australia v South Africa, and Sri Lanka v New Zealand. This is (to a neutral observer anyway) the "right" line-up, as these are clearly the best four one-day sides in the world (India and Pakistan might have something to say about that, but they failed to qualify, so we'll choose to ignore them). That said I'd be extremely surprised if Ricky Ponting's Australians don't win the cup. Sticking my neck out, I'd say that the game they could lose is the semi-final against South Africa - if they get to the final they'll win.

Back to England - I see Duncan Fletcher has stood down as coach, which I think was pretty inevitable after the winter England have had. I think in general he can look back and be pretty proud of what he achieved with the team, particularly the period leading up to the Ashes triumph of 2005. He was unlucky to never be able to field the Ashes-winning Test team again owing to illness and injury to various key people (Vaughan, Trescothick and Simon Jones most significantly), and I think he was hampered by having a slightly too chummy relationship with his two captains, Nasser Hussain and Michael Vaughan; Vaughan's continuing presence in the one-day side is a symptom of this. I see also that Peter Moores has been installed as caretaker coach. I don't know much about Moores except that he was heavily involved with the Sussex team that's been so dominant in the County Championship recently - his lack of Test experience at either playing or coaching level may count against him when the big guns like Tom Moody and John Wright start expressing an interest in the job on a more permanent basis, though.

Nice to see Marcus Trescothick in the runs for Somerset, and Steve Harmison picking up a few wickets for Durham. We really need these two back in the Test team pronto. Mark Ramprakash continues to stack up runs at a rate of knots as well, though I suspect even he would have to concede his Test-playing days are over.

It's a strange quirk of modern cricket that while in the old days the pinnacle of batsmanship, membership of the 100 100's club, was the preserve of the finest batsmen of their time, men like Jack Hobbs, Walter Hammond, Don Bradman, Len Hutton etc., these days it's much more of a niche market because of the smaller number of county games, and the greater number of Test matches and the preparation time devoted to them. Specifically, entry these days depends on being a county run-machine who never quite cracked it at Test level - the two shining examples being Graeme Hick (already a member) and Ramprakash (87 first-class centuries up to the start of this season, I think he made one last week, and he made 115 for Surrey against Yorkshire today - spooky).

No comments: