Sunday, 11 September 2011

Will Gidman and the 'minor double'

In the 1906 first-class season, Yorkshire's George Hirst scored 2,385 runs and took 208 wickets. In 1937, Sussex allrounder James Parks scored 3,003 runs in first-class matches and took 101 wickets.

These kind of achievements now seem incredible. A maximum of sixteen Championship matches means our expectations of individual feats over the course of the English season have been adjusted significantly downward.

Players must now normally average at least 40 in order to score 1,000 runs, and very few modern bowlers can boast of taking 100 wickets in a season. Last season, no bowler even came close - Nottinghamshire's Andre Adams topped the list with just 68.

So we must celebrate less impressive numbers - such as Gloucestershire allrounder Will Gidman's. With one match remaining of his season, Gidman has now scored 977 runs and taken 46 wickets. These figures are particularly remarkable since prior to this season, he had only played one first-class match over a seven-year career.

The minor double he is approaching is surprisingly rare. In fact, no cricketer has achieved it since 1996, when West Indian allrounder Phil Simmons scored 1,244 runs and took 56 wickets for Leicestershire.

Dominic Cork, Graeme Welch, Phil DeFreitas, Robert Croft, Dougie Brown - all excellent allrounders who achieved (or continue) to achieve much over long county careers. But none ever achieved this minor double.

If Gidman takes four wickets and scores 23 runs against Northamptonshire next week, his would be an achievement truly worth celebrating.

Wednesday, 7 September 2011

Gloucestershire go in search of promotion

Gloucestershire are struggling at lunch on the first day of their penultimate County Championship game of the season, against Leicestershire at Bristol. Having lost the toss, Matthew Hoggard and Nathan Buck have reduced them to 78/4.

However, I'm not too bothered. Gloucestershire have to win in order to sustain their challenge for promotion, and, considering the weather forecast over the next few days, surely only a low-scoring wicket-fest will do.

For once, 78/4 looks like a decent score. As long as the wickets continue to fall when Leicestershire get their turn with the bat later today.

Sunday, 28 August 2011

Rob Smyth's The Spirit of Cricket - nice book, shame about the editing

There are few things in life more annoying than a potentially good book ruined by poor editing.

Take Rob Smyth's The Spirit of Cricket (subtitled 'what makes cricket the greatest game on Earth'). On almost every page, there is something that jars - a mistake, a typo, or something that just seems not quite right.

For example, why is Mike Brearley continually referred to as 'Michael' Brearley? Has he ever been referred to in any other situation as 'Michael' Brearley? Not as far as I know.

Later, we are told that Ian Botham's dismissal by Trevor Hohns in 1989 (you know the one - charging down the pitch before he had even got off the mark, and missing completely) is a good example of the spirit of cricket. Surely most right-minded people would think of it as the egocentric act of an over-the-hill cricketer, failing miserably to recapture the glory days of his past.

Another weird example is Garry Sobers' sporting declaration against England in 1967-68. This is apparently 'infamous', and one of the 'biggest of the few black marks' on Sobers' career. If so, why is it included in a book on the spirit of cricket?

And the structure is strange, too - divided into four apparently random, untitled chapters, with an introduction and conclusion whose content is indistinguishable from the rest of the book, and finishing with a 'Spirit of Cricket XI', in which many of the examples already mentioned are repeated.

To complicate things further, within each chapter are boxed-off contributions from some of the game's greats (including David Gower, Richie Benaud, Nasser Hussain...and Andy Bull). I am still unclear whether these should be read in isolation or as part of the main text, particularly when it is also necessary to contend with further unboxed but subtitled accounts of great matches.

These are just a few examples, but there are many more. 

This is all doubly annoying, because the book could be so great. All the classic anecdotes are present and correct (the Dwayne Leverock catch, Johnners and Aggers falling apart on Test Match Special, Gary Pratt). We may have heard them a hundred times before, but when they are this good, who cares?

Tuesday, 23 August 2011

The end for Hamish Marshall?

Could this be Hamish Marshall's last season for Gloucestershire? As my brother has just pointed out, he has scored less first-class runs this season than Jon Lewis!

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

The third man mystery

The second ball of today's third Test was a good one from James Anderson. It forced Indian opener Gautam Gambhir into an obviously nervy and unconvincing shot.

And yet Gambhir scored four from it to get off the mark. Why? Because the ball went to an unguarded third man boundary.

The modern trend is for fielding captains not to use a third man, but this doesn't make it any more explicable. By denying your bowler a third man, are you not, in effect, punishing him for good bowling?

Presumably Strauss believed that the fielder who would have been third man was better employed in a more obviously 'attacking' position. But if Strauss gave more thought to the pressure exerted on the batsman by the denial of easy runs, perhaps he might see that a third man can be just as attacking as a slip or gully.

Tuesday, 9 August 2011

The Cambridge Companion to Cricket - isn't 'pastoral' an adjective?

I must admit that I am struggling to enjoy The Cambridge Companion to Cricket

Perhaps it's been too long since I left university. Perhaps I've got more used to ghosted autobiographies and tour diaries. Perhaps I'm just a bit thick. 

Whatever it is, sentences such as this one cause me serious problems: "village cricket signifies sameness and continuity, not only through history, but across geographical space, a quality that endows this auratic English locale with an imperial dimension."

That comes from the book's opening chapter, 'Cricket pastoral and Englishness' by Anthony Bateman. Even that title ('cricket pastoral'?) seems unnecessarily clever.

But I will persevere - still to come are essays by David Frith, Rob Steen and Mihir Bose amongst others.