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On wondering what more James Vince has to do to play for England…?

The ECB and the England team have a long-standard in-joke that the rest of us mere mortals just don’t understand. For years they’ve decided that Hampshire players are not deserving of playing for England and the only time they’ll play one is in a really bad situation where they can fail a lot easier so they can quickly say that they’ve tried and the player failed. It is getting boring but they still find it funny. The rest of us don’t.

The latest example is James Vince. Look as those who know me will attest, James Vince has been frustrating me for a good few years because you knew there was a mighty fine player in there ready to break out but he would more often than not flatter to deceive. This year though that has all changed and I completely trust Vince’s batting because he has performed week in, week out at the T20 format and indeed was the top run scorer in the competition this season.

Vince is a classical player and has been likened to Michael Vaughan for several years but as Michael Atherton pointed out on Saturday during Sky’s coverage of the T20 Blast Finals Day, what you are surprised with is just how hard Vince hits the ball. He isn’t all muscle but is just a pure striker of the ball. He isn’t getting out in dumb ways any more and instead is extremely reliable. He susses up a pitch very quickly and to be frank is clearly the best player who has played a full season at domestic level this season.

Today with Joe Root being out then he could easily have slotted in at number three but the selectors and captain have decided to go with Moeen Ali instead. Ali is a good player and might well play well but at some point you have to see what you’ve got with Vince instead of just taking him around from ground to ground with no desire to play him. Of course Vince can open but England have clearly decided that Jason Roy and his top score of 39 in all international matches is the man for them. I mused on twitter that had Roy played for Hampshire and Vince for Surrey that Vince would have gotten his chance. T20 isn’t all crash, bang wallop, you need to have some basic technique too and I think Roy technically is not just a notch below Vince but a full level.

This is just the latest snub from England on Hampshire players. Michael Carberry played just one T20 international and six ODIs. He of course played six Test matches when he was in superb form in the warm-up games that he was only playing in because of injury concerns to other players and got the nod. He wasn’t great in the Ashes tests but he wasn’t completely out of his depth either and was arguably the best batsmen on that tour. England though went with the new golden boy Sam Robson for the next series and Carberry was discarded.

Danny Briggs had a few games but then got smashed around the Bellerive Oval on a road and England decided that was enough so brought in Stephen Parry for the T20 World Cup. The Lancashire spinner wouldn’t take a wicket. You don’t get dropped for one bad game, certainly when you are a spinner on the flattest and hardest of decks when you are asked to bowl in a Powerplay. Yet again though this backs up by PoV that England do not put Hampshire players in a position to succeed, in fact it is quite the opposite.

Hampshire have made in to Finals Day six years on the spin and in that period Hampshire have been represented England at T20 level on just eight occasions (seven for Briggs and one for Carberry). By then England had moved on from Dimitri Mascarenhas. James Vince has never played and nor has Chris Wood. There was even a year when Jimmy Adams was the top scorer in the T20 tournament but he was never given a shot by England.

The hate that England have for Hampshire players is pathetic and I just don’t know what more James Vince can do. He is clearly more than good enough to play but they keep deciding not to give him a go. I can only image just how frustrated Vince is, I am and I’m only a fan. Jason Roy scored 273 in ten innings for Surrey in the T20 Blast this season. James Vince scored 710 in 16. Vince’s season average is nearly double that of Roy but lets keep Jason Roy and his helicopter bat in the side because he plays for a big county in Surrey and therefore he must be good.

Give us a break.

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On BT Sport blowing Sky out of the water for Ashes Cricket in 2017/2018

I wrote this blog but by the time I went to publish it, Charles Sale had revised the fee to £80million over five years – I thought I’d leave in the original figure in the blog post just to show how much Charles Sale changed his report after publication. My fury is not quelled by the amount being a lot less but the money certainly isn’t completely insane. If indeed Sky walked away from the rights at that figure then fuck me did they overspend for the EPL and have dropped a right bollock on this one.

I was going to have a bath. Well I was thinking about it anyway. A way to soothe my aching limbs on a Sunday evening but thought I’d watch the end of the baseball first. My phone beeps, I wander over to it and I see a tweet with a link, so I walk over to my PC to investigate and the story is how BT Sport have reportedly won the rights to show all matches from Cricket Australia in a five-year deal worth – now don’t fall over or faint here – £70million per year. That is £350million over the next five years.

Now whilst this deal is for 32 test matches, for us in reality it is all about five, the next Ashes series down under. For the past two plus decades we’ve had all live England Test matches overseas on Sky Sports and whilst some of those matches haven’t been a full Sky Sports production, they have all had some of the Sky guys in the commentary box.

The thing is, Sky’s cricket coverage is the best coverage of any sport in the UK. I can’t really write that as fact but is merely my opinion – and indeed that of many avid sport watchers. The mix of voices in the commentary box is first rate. I have written about it before in a blog entitled, Why mess with nigh on perfection? and I very much stick by what I wrote in that blog post.

The joy of the Sky box isn’t just in the commentary and the presenting but also the chats during rain delays and the like. The level of voice they have is just second to none. From Michael Atherton to Nasser Hussein to Bumble to Lord Gower to Sir Ian Botham and of course to Michael Holding. Michael Holding is quite simply one of those people you wish you could just sit down with in a pub for a drink and a chat because he is quite amazing and Michael Atherton is the next Richie Benaud, he is that good. They get the right voices from overseas (both Ian Smith and Ricky Ponting just knocked it out of the ball park this summer) and to be frank, there is no way on Earth BT could even get close to the quality of coverage Sky do and do you know why we know this?

Because they cover football these days and there is no-one out there saying they want to see more Jake Humphrey presenting or need to listen to more Michael Owen butcher another co-commentary. Sky again outshine BT in football coverage and it is no surprise, they have been the best for a number of years so they know what they are doing. Yes sometimes a change can revolutionise a sports coverage (see Cricket, BBC to Channel Four – another thing I wrote about) but at best all this deal will do is mean for one tour BT will have to put together a second rate team to cover these matches as al the top dogs are signed up to Sky and indeed will stay with Sky considering all the other matches bar one England series are still with the corporation. Although it could mean that Geoffrey Boycott could return to live TV commentary but that is a long ways away.

As you can tell I’m not happy but it isn’t just the fact that BT will be showing the Ashes in 2017/2018 but look at the money they are paying. I have a friend who always says, ‘well its not my money so who cares?’ but as customers we should care. £70million a year (again if the report is true – it is Charles Sale) is just insane. Flat out insane for what they would be getting. The previous deal was for £50million over four years and this is £350million over five years. Cricket rights have not gone up that much and yes whilst I agree The Big Bash is worth a few quid, it is paltry compared to the Test matches and if BT really think that the value of these rights have gone up by 600% in four years well then, those that said Sky overpaid for EPL rights must be looking at BT and thinking there was an ink issue with the fax offer sheet.

The loser in all of this is firstly the cricket fan, a) they’ll lose the best coverage of the sport for five extremely important Test matches and b) will have to shell out yet another subscription fee to watch cricket but there is also c) the average BT customer who will likely have these exorbitant rights fees passed on to them with rises in their subscription costs, even if they don’t want to watch cricket.

We’ll see if this story is true but if it is, the next Ashes series might just be the host broadcaster coverage (and I don’t hate Channel Nine’s coverage but lets be honest, it is not what it once was with the passing of Greig, Benaud and the retirement of Lawry) but they aren’t Sky and of course if BT put together their own list of broadcasters then expect the 2017/2018 Ashes series to have commentary from the likes of Matthew Hoggard, Darren Gough and who knows, maybe they can get more value out of Michael Owen and put him in for a few stints just to brighten all our nights and early mornings in three winters’ time.

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On why would TMS hire Kevin Pietersen?

So I’m reading BBC Sport this morning and an article caught my eye about Kevin Pietersen joining TMS for the World Cup and I shook my head in despair. I have no particular issue with KP but it just goes to show that when it comes to broadcasting, stations often prefer to go with the ‘name’ instead of the person best suited to the job.

When Sky Sports decided to bring in Andrew Strauss for England Test Matches, it was just more of the same. Strauss is a very poor pundit and has not developed at all in the years since he first became part of Sky’s top tier.

KP had a brief go at commentating during the Big Bash. I adored the Big Bash and found the level of cricket and the level of coverage first rate (although the constant promos and discussions for who the Australian cricket player going into the I’m a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here did seem to be flogging that horse one too many times). In a game he he chomping at the bit to get in the booth and after a bit of a batting collapse, he came in before his planned time.

Now the Big Bash had four guest appearances this season from what I saw. Sir Viv, who is an absolute legend and one of the greats of the game has been involved in BBL coverage for a while and whilst he’s great, he’s not a great voice. Andrew Flintoff was involved in the BBL this year and was fantastic and a natural behind the microphone. If Sky wanted to add a younger voice to its team (and kicking out Strauss) then they could do a lot worse than Flintoff. He would be tremendous if involved in the T20. Bumble did a guest stint as well and was typically great. Then we get to KP…

He came in like an over excitable schoolboy giggling at everything he said. Laughing at your own jokes is bad enough but laughing at everything you just say is poor. He was ‘interviewed’ by Ricky Ponting and I think it is fair to say that only one of the two came out with any credit and it wasn’t the English batsman. He circled around issues and never seemed comfortable. It wasn’t car crash TV but it was certainly the low point of the whole coverage of the Big Bash and his performance in the booth was the worst of all the commentators by a significant margin.

I just wonder why TMS (and Sky with Strauss) value the name over the actual quality. Yes of course some pundits can get better with time but TMS has many pundits who can do a good job on radio but they felt the need to get a big name to bring something extra to their coverage. They are wrong. They didn’t. TMS has such a good reputation for putting out excellent coverage of cricket with good play-by-play voices and good pundits.

In the Press Release linked to earlier, they listed some of the names who KP will be joining and they include people who have developed and become very good at punditry. KP never seemed like a natural pundit when he was playing and on the brief occasions I’ve heard him, he hasn’t impressed either. To be good at this job you need to be either insightful, engaging or funny and preferably a good mix of all three. KP isn’t and nor is Andrew Strauss. This is just another case of the value of a name instead of adding quality to the broadcast and for that, the BBC should be disappointed in itself.

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On how to fix the domestic T20 competition and how great the BBL is…

First of all let me put this one there, I freaking love Test cricket. Like can hardly get enough of it. A couple of weeks back it was possible to watch non-stop Test cricket from 9:30PM to 7AM and then have the South Africa v West Indies Test start up an hour or so later. I watched a lot of this. Watching good Test cricket is the pinnacle of sport watching in my opinion. However this blog post isn’t about fixing Test cricket (which doesn’t need a root and branch fix but is clearly struggling in many parts of the world *cough* sub-continent and West Indies *cough*) No, this is about our domestic T20 competition.

The thing is I have never been a true lover of the 50 over game. It seems too long for a short format but not long enough to get into the individual battles and nuances of a Test series. T20 though is fantastic. A game that lasts roughly three hours with shows off a very different aspect of the sport. I watch our domestic T20 competition a lot in the summer and until last year, it was in a fixed window in the calendar so you knew that if there wasn’t a Test match on then it was very likely a domestic T20 match was on. Even if it wasn’t the mighty Hampshire it was likely that I would have it on. Last year though they re-branded the tournament and played it primarily on Friday nights and it just didn’t work.

Now here in deepest darkest winter my mornings (well in reality my afternoons as I sleep in and either Sky+ or watch the replay) are being livened up by the Big Bash from Australia and let me tell you this folks, this tournament is terrific and Cricket Australia has to be lauded for how it has firstly embraced the format and also how they have marketed it from both a spectator and TV viewer point of view.

Firstly we have too many teams. Yes I know the county system is in place but T20 needs to be separated from the county system. Have nine franchises playing at the nine Test playing venues (Lord’s, The Oval, Rose Bowl, Sophia Gardens, Edgbaston, Headingley, Old Trafford, Trent Bridge and Chester-le-Street – and yes I know I’ve not used their proper sponsorship endorsed names…). I know the other nine counties will wonder about money and for some of them T20 is their lifeblood but find a way to sort that ECB.

The people in charge of English cricket are getting huge piles of cash thanks to their Sky contract and who has a clue what they spend it on? They have to ensure the future of the sport and that is by getting kids excited by the game and they do that by T20. The reason I say 18 teams is too much is because the product gets diluted. If we had nine franchises then only half the amount of players would get contracts and they would be the better players.

T20 is clearly the vehicle to get kids enthralled by the sport. Young people need to be able to see their heroes and this brings me on to my next point. After two years of being behind a pay-wall and doing ok, for the third season of the Big Bash the rights were bought by a FTA station and they scheduled their evening programming around the Big Bash for the whole tournament and the TV ratings took off along with the crowds going to the games. A whole generation of people were watching domestic T20 FTA for the first time and they were attracted to the sport.

Also Cricket Australia play the games at the right time – the summer holidays and in a block. Our domestic T20 game should be in a block in the summer holidays so people can go and see. If it battles with the Ashes or with other big Test series then it isn’t a problem. The live game can be in an evening like they do in Australia and like most televised T20 games are here anyway. In Australia the Test matches are on Channel Nine and the T20 on Ten, so people can watch both, they aren’t in direct competition.

Next up is a biggie, the TV contract. Sky have exclusive rights to the T20 competition and all live county cricket through 2019. They pay an awful lot of money for this but in reality they are paying for the Test matches and the domestic game is a small percentage of what they are paying overall. If the ECB wanted to look forward instead of just looking at short-term money then they need to split these contracts and find a FTA partner for the T20 competition. Whether that is BBC2, ITV4 or Channel Four or Channel Five I don’t know but find a partner and start making it work. Channel Ten are seeing audiences grow but also all importantly the advertising revenue is set to rise between 80-90% compared to last year. Advertisers are seeing that people are watching and they are flocking to give Channel Ten their money.

I’ve never been a big IPL man as the cricket just seems secondary and it seems like a lot of rich businessmen having a very expensive toy, also the questions of corruption have been rife. The BBL hasn’t had that and instead has just been full of great hard-nosed cricket with innovative marketing and strides forward in terms of technology and interactivity with players and fans. I know over here we have players on the mic but over there they speak to them more often, the players know they are part of the show and embrace that. They are also marketed as stars. They bring in overseas players and they light up the competition.

I have just been so impressed by the whole BBL and would love the ECB to go to franchises for this competition. Play it n a month block, nine franchises, eight games, four home and four away each season so families are only paying out four times a campaign, top four go into semi-finals that are either played like they are in Australia on separate days with the final on another separate date or if they wanted to keep Final’s Day then they could find a way to do that but whilst I adore Final’s Day, I prefer the Aussie system of two semi-finals with the top two teams rewarded with the final at home in front of their home fans.

The final could either be played at the highest seeded team left or at different venues that can bid for the final a la the Super Bowl. Lastly find a FTA partner who is willing to not only invest money but more importantly invest air time and marketing into getting it right. The domestic T20 competition here can flourish but it needs balls and vision. That is not something the ECB has ever really shown us but they have the opportunity. The rest of the world is not playing cricket in July and August bar the West Indies. The big names will come and with a plan the English T20 competition can be as much of a success as the Big Bash is becoming. I just fear the ECB don’t have the vision or the cojones to take it to where it could be.

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Andrew Strauss calls Kevin Pietersen a c*** on live TV but keeps his job – what bull

Oh an open microphone. Broadcasting is a strange beast. I have dabbled as many will know and whilst many may have sympathy for Andrew Strauss following events yesterday. I do not. For the record I am no big fan of Strauss but nor am I a big fan of KP. I don’t really have a horse in this race.

For those who don’t know what happened then here is the article from the Independent – Andrew Strauss ‘mortified’ and ‘profusely sorry’ after he calls Kevin Pietersen a ‘c**t’ live on air. The former England captain thought he was off air (Sky were on an ad break) but in fact they were still live in other parts of the world and decided it was a good time to call Kevin Pietersen the c-word whilst his microphone was on.

Sky quickly made an apology, tweeting the following, Earlier comments were made during a break of play which were heard overseas. We apologise for the language used and Strauss followed suit by stating I apologise unreservedly, particularly to Kevin Pietersen. I am mortified and profusely sorry.

Sources seem to suggest that this will be the end of the matter but that just rings hollow to me. I have been a staunch admirer of Sky’s cricket coverage for many many years. I genuinely think their team is the best in the sport and might well be the best in any sport I watch. They hired Andrew Strauss specifically because they wanted him, fresh out of the sport after his issues with Kevin Pietersen, to essentially give a good insight into the inner workings of the England dressing room. Sadly for them, all he’s done is not comment or criticise because he’s still mates with except everyone bar Kevin Pietersen, who he’s been happy to tear apart, this is unprofessional and poor broadcasting but it is still not an open personal attack, which now he has done.

If Sky really believed in their brand and product then they would fire him on the spot. In all fairness the fact they extended his original contract (which covered the two Ashes series last year according to reports at the time) seems highly questionable. His broadcasting talents are well below the standards of his fellow top tier of Sky cricket commentators. Strauss can’t hold a candle to the likes of Atherton, Holding, Bumble, Hussain, Warne, Gower and yes even Botham and his constant grumpiness that he’s watching cricket and not fishing. Strauss adds nothing to the team but yet he seems to be being molded for big things by the corporation.

He should be gone and even if they chose not to fire him, he should be taken out of the spotlight of their Test team sooner rather than later. The first test against India starts on Wednesday and if Strauss is involved then we’ll know what Sky think is more important, keeping Strauss happy or allowing personal vitriolic attacks on people. Andrew Strauss is perfectly entitled to his opinion on KP but he is not sitting around watching the game on his sofa with his mates, he’s being paid a good amount of money by a big company to professional broadcast.

If Sky won’t remove Strauss from the firing line then he should do it himself. Ask to be stepped down or offer his resignation. I doubt he’ll do either but Andrew Strauss has never come across as a man high on principles anyway. Many many people have been involved in many many broadcasts and knowing what you can and can’t say isn’t exactly rocket science. If there is a chance your microphone is on then it is best not to say anything that can get you into trouble. Strauss fell foul of this and because of what he said and who he said it about (given their history) then his position would seem to me to be untenable but Sky have a history of backing their people beyond where they should so come Wednesday I fully expect to see the previous England captain on my screen and it will push me further towards TMS even though I’d be loathed to not listen to Michael Atherton or Michael Holding, who are supreme.

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Oh my word – my heart – she cannae take any more captain!

So. This evening I was out on the radio so I was unable to sit here and watch the Hampshire v Lancashire T20 Quarter-Final but I was full of confidence. I kept away from the interweb including twitter, Facebook et al as I didn’t want to know the result. I did see a tweet early in proceedings so I knew Hampshire were batting first and James Vince had batted really well but apart from that I knew naff all.

So I sit down to watch the game when I get in and oh my word. Talk about going through the wringer. Had I been watching it live I know exactly what I’d have been like. I’d have been pacing up and down and cursing as Lancashire stayed in touch with the Royals.

Hampshire had batted marvelously and put on 202 and in a way that might have been a disappointing score as the home side could easily have scored 15-20 more. James Vince and Michael Carberry were just electric at the top of the innings with Vince who frustrates me more than any other Hampshire player breaking out getting 60 off 30 balls and then getting out to a waist high full toss that he probably should have deposited for six wherever he liked. The reason Vince frustrates me is because I know how talented he is. He has all the shots and power and always gets in and then gets out to a sloppy shot for 20 odd but tonight he out-paced Carberry to get the Royals off to a flyer.

Speaking of Michael Carberry that man has to be in the England T20 squad and pretty much has to open. He is just so destructive and has been in great nick all summer long. In all honesty the IPL should come calling and next spring he should be in the sub-continent plying his trade. He scored an unbeaten century with an inside edge scramble for two off the last ball of the innings. It was magnificent from Hampshire but 202 might actually have been short considering we only got 23 off the last 20 deliveries.

Lancashire though hadn’t read the script. Dimitri Mascarenhas was expensive which isn’t exactly the norm and the away side kept up with the mammoth run rate needed. Two wickets in two balls from Danny Briggs looked set to call a halt to any hopes of a Lancashire win but they just wouldn’t go away. Chris Wood bowled a fantastic four balls in the penultimate over but then a ramp four and a big six meant Lancs needed 17 off the final over and when Sohail Tanvir bowled a dumb waist high no ball with the first delivery of the last over that meant 14 off six needed and that was very much in play.

In the end it came down to the final ball and I was pacing up and down my living room ready to curse but Tanvir just about came through as a low full toss was only straight driven down the ground for two and the defending champions squeaked home. I have said all summer long that Hampshire are the best team in this competition but tonight for the first time I saw the bowlers struggle but somehow we just got there and have made it two south group teams already at Finals Day with Essex still to play tonight.

I am not a huge fan of international ODI and T20 cricket but I think the domestic T20 tournament is fantastic for the game. Little things made the difference tonight. James Vince made a quite insane save of a boundary and Jimmy Adams drove a ball straight into the umpire that would have been four. Such small margins but my plans for Saturday week seem more solid than they were. I still think Hampshire should be regarded as favourites for the competition and this close run thing should help.

The Royals know how to win games and winning is a great habit. The other great thing on show tonight was a terrific spectacle and a huge amount of entertainment. A belter of a wicket led to a belter of a game and whilst the game has probably led to more colours of shall we say a lighter shade appearing on my head, I think it is fair to say any naturals watching will have been well and truly entertained and isn’t that the point of sport? We all love winning and don’t love losing but we all love is to be entertained and tonight both Hampshire and Lancashire helped by a stunning pitch delivered a quality nights entertainment.

Having said all that though. Thank fuck we won.

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Picking my Test Match XI of my generation

Last night (well in the early hours of today) whilst watching Australia v South Africa in the second test from Adelaide I was laying in bed and trying to work out my Test team of my lifetime and decided to blog about it so here we are.

I am only including players I saw who were at the height of their game in my watching life. This means that players like Botham and Marshall – two players who would certainly be in the mix are not going to be considered. Also this is not a ‘best team of my generation’ but more a team that I’d put out if I had to win a Test match. Also for the basis of this team I’m saying the Test is not on the sub-continent so only one spinner will play.

So we start with my openers and one is easy – Graeme Smith. Smith I think is a class act both in mind and skill. He averages a tick under 50 as a Test Match opener and has that gumption about him. His opening partner was more tricky. I love Chris Gayle but could I trust him? Matthew Hayden was terrific and Virender Sehwag is explosive but I think I’ll have to go with the little master Sachin Tendulkar. He averages a tick under 55 in Tests and is a magical player.

Next up we have the middle order (3-5) and boy have we seen some great5 players in my time. Here is a brief look at the players who I’m not picking…Steve Waugh, Shivnarine Chanderpaul, Hashim Amla, Mahela Jayawardene, Kumar Sangakkara, Kevin Pietersen, Inzamam-ul-Haq, Rahul Dravid. That is some list of players but I think 3-5 is actually really easy. I’d have Ricky Ponting at three, Jacques Kallis at four and Brian Charles Lara at five. Kallis also provides the fourth seamer option as he can easily give me 10-15 overs in a day.

Now at number six is without a doubt my most controversial choice and in so a player who most people wouldn’t even think of. I think in the middle order you need at least one player who can be the glue is everything is going wrong. This is another spot where Rahul Dravid could easily have been picked or Mr Cricket himself – Michael Hussey but I’m going with my only English player – one who played 100 Tests for England and was always the guy you wanted to see coming in at 30/3 if times were hard – Graham Thorpe. He averaged ‘only’ 44.66 but was always the anchor when England needed him. A team full of All Stars probably doesn’t need that anchor but I’d still want one so Thorpe is in for me.

Coming in at seven is Adam Gilchrist who has the gloves. I don’t think anyone would argue this. Averaged 47.60 in Tests and changed the way we viewed wicketkeeping. Do I need to say much more about this? Not really. Don’t have to justify it as no-one else really got a look in despite my love of Mark Boucher he wasn’t in Gilly’s league.

Coming in at nine would be by spin bowler and in was a two horse race. Either you pick Muttiah Muralitharan or like me you select Shane Warne. Also here is the surprise. Warne never captained Australia in Test cricket but he would be my captain. I think Warne is one of the finest cricketing brains out there and there is no doubt he is the greatest captain Australia never had.

With Warne coming in at nine that means I have a pace bowler coming in ahead of Warne (which shows great depth in batting). I just about saw Wasim Akram in his prime and for me he has to be in this side. His pace and swing was years before his time and his long time opening bowling partner Waqar Younis could be seen as hard done by not to make the side. However Wasim is my first change bowler so I have a strike pair yet to be announced.

Glenn McGrath is a no brainer. Australia had the best spin bowler of all time and the best pace bowler of his generation in McGrath playing in the same team. That is in no small part to why they dominated the sport. He’ll bat at 11 and at 10 and taking the new ball with McGrath is Curtley Ambrose. I know Courtney Walsh had a better record but I always felt that when at full pace and when he was really up for it Ambrose was the hardest and fiercest pace bowler of his generation. I was a huge Ambrose fan. Players like Walsh, Allan Donald, Shaun Pollock and Andrew Flintoff got a brief glance. Flintoff as a bowler was extremely good but he was never an all-rounder (apart from his very early years).

I think this team has every angle covered. I know a couple of players would be questioned (Thorpe and Ambrose certainly) but this is all subjective. If we were just having a ‘best players in my generation’ team then Kevin Pietersen may well had made the team instead of Thorpe and Walsh’s consistency may well have knocked Ambrose out but I think Thorpe and Ambrose bring something to my team that Pietersen and Walsh don’t (steel and raw aggression).

So to recap:

Gilchrist (wkt)
Warne (Capt)

If I was picking a squad of 16 for a tour you can add Sehwag, Pietersen, Boucher, Muralitharan and Walsh and I’m still not picking players I truly loved like Chanderpaul, Ul-Haq, Hussey…we have seen real quality in recent years. I might well do my generation team for T20 games in the near future and if I do I’d be interested to see how many of the Test players make that squad…I’m putting the over/under at five but I haven’t really thought about it yet.

Who would make your Test team if you had to pick a team to win a Test match of only players you’ve seen play?

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Nick Knight is still the Sky Sports Test cricket weak link

I have written before about how great the Sky Sports coverage is but the piece wasn’t just about praise. It was entitled Why mess with nigh-on perfection? *glares at Sky Sports Test Cricket* and the main crux of the issue was the addition of Nick Knight to the rotation of commentators for Sky Sports Test Cricket coverage.

Well the summer Test season started on Thursday and sadly for this (and many cricket fans) Nick Knight is still on the team. I don’t know Nick Knight and I certainly don’t have any personal vendetta against him but the truth is he just doesn’t fit in with the rest of the team. I saw a great tweet yesterday which said ‘Nick Knight just talks too much and likes the sound of his own voice’ which I think is bang on the money.

Cricket is a sport where you don’t really have play-by-play commentary. Instead you have chat about the game and of course those chats are known to shall we say get off the subject. It is part of what makes cricket coverage great and TMS do it just as well as the radio and around the Globe the teams are known to just chat cricket and whatever else takes their fancy. It is a huge part of why the coverage is different to many other sports and it is something we all enjoy.

People like talking about cake on TMS. They like hearing about Bumble’s missing lawnmower. They like Michael Holding talking about not trusting a bungee rope just as much as they do him talking about how awfully the West Indies Cricket Board have treated Jerome Taylor. The six of them – Gower, Holding, Botham, Hussain, Lloyd and Atherton just work despite Botham being a distinct notch below the other five.

Atherton is becoming the new Benaud and he does this not by talking a lot but by saying insightful things. It is quality over quantity when it comes of cricket commentary on the TV. It really is. Also there is a feeling that Nick Knight – a man who didn’t even average 24 in Test cricket – isn’t the right man to talk about players who were far better than him with regards to their technique. You can understand any of the other six discussing it but it just doesn’t work from Knight.

I get the feeling that he tries just a little bit too hard to be smarter and more insightful than the other guys but it just doesn’t come off. If Sky need an extra voice bring back Paul Allott to the Test rotation as he has an easy style to listen to. Shane Warne has been involved recently and if Sky could bring him on board full-time like they have with Michael Holding then that seven man team would be out of this world.

As for Nick Knight he needs to learn to talk less and remember the pictures tell the story and he is there to add to the story not to tell the story again. That is his biggest problem in this Sky Sports Cricket viewers opinion.

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It’s not just us who are racist…

This afternoon I went on to YouTube to watch the final session highlights of the wonderful Australia v New Zealand test match that ended in Hobart overnight. I did watch it live but wanted to see it again. I found a good video showing the last five minutes and the two overturned decisions. The video is embedded below;

However after my happiness of finding a good edit I saw the most popular comment underneath the video which is uploaded below:

Aussie Racism...

Oh boy. My heart sunk. The fact that the commenter used the word moral when he meant morale annoyed me a little bit but the open racism makes me want to puke. The young cricketer in question is a fine left handed prospect and he deserves no stick just because of his skin colour. All this comment did was to remind me that racism exists all over the world and the belief that we are all equal certainly isn’t an overwhelming narrative that the rest of the world lives by. The other thing that crushed me was how many people agreed with it as it has the most thumbs up of any comment.

Racism is all over and it makes me sad.

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And they say Test Cricket is dead…

Yesterday I woke up and stuck Sky Sports 2 on quick sharpish and thanks to a delay in starting the days play I saw nearly the whole of the final days play between South Africa and Australia. As most know cricket is where my heart lies deep down with regards to sport and good Test Cricket still dumps on any other sporting encounter and yesterday we were treated to how a Test Match should be played.

The Aussies needed 310 to win, which would be the highest successful chase ever at the Wanderers ground. The day started with all three outcomes very possible but South Africa became the favourites when they finally removed Ricky Ponting. Michael Hussey hung around for a bit but when he went it was down to the out-of-form Brad Haddin and the mercurial Mitchell Johnson. These two played terrifically and Australia were on the verge of winning.

Then Haddin nicked off and Peter Siddle was gone within a few balls and the equation was simple. The Aussies needed 18 to win and the South Africans needed two wickets. It was tight and it was very tense. Dale Steyn then dropped a hard caught and bowled chance and Imran Tahir probably had young Cummings out lbw but hawkeye said it was umpires call whether it hit him in line so it stayed not out. This was couple with the most wonderful replay of the #11 batsman Lyon looking up to the sky and shaking his head in disbelief as he clearly didn’t want any part of being out there in the middle.

Australia got over the line and won a fantastic Test Match. The fact it is just a two-match series disgusts me but what I also found worrying was how few fans were in the stands. I’m guessing not too many over 3,000 and that is putting a positive spin on it. I know it was a working day but the prices were dirt cheap and they even allowed people in free midway through the afternoon session but seemingly few showed up for what was a great ending to a great Test Match.

In this country and in other countries if a game is going down to the wire and they open the gates then people do flood in. I recall the 2006/2007 Ashes tour and the second Test after England collapsed and the Aussies sniffed an unlikely win on Day five and the home fans poured through the gates. It is something which is a concern to the future of the premier type of cricket match.

One thing is for certain in my mind though that the ebbs and flows, the drama of investing five days in a sporting occasion is not matched anywhere else. A good Test Match still ranks as one of the very best sporting theatres out there and I can safely say that certain Test finishes are still etched into my mind, Karachi 2000 where Graham Thorpe won a Test in the pitch black, the 2009 West Indies Test at the old Antigua Rec, the whole of the 2005 and 2010/2011 Ashes tours, Steve Harmison’s 7/12 in the West Indies, Matthew Hoggard’s seven wickets in Jo’Berg to win a Test Match for England, so many memories that just aren’t generated by ODIs and T20s (although I positively love T20 at domestic level – far less so internationally).

Test Cricket is still the pinnacle of the sport and boy I hope that never changes.

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