About dongles

I don't like cricket, I love it.

Test Cricket Comes Roaring Back

Test cricket is back and so is dongles. It’s been a very long time since my last post. The few days have confirmed to me that I still love cricket, specifically Test cricket. I have been absent from cyberspace in recent times due to other interests grabbing my attention more than the monotonous diet of limited overs cricket. I’m in a cricketing mood today because I’m off to the Hobart Test next week, the first day of the Australian Test summer kicked-off and there have been some excellent matches on the world stage.

A few days ago, Bangladesh celebrated its first victory over England and indeed, one of its few Test victories over any team. The two Test series was drawn 1-1 and both Tests were very even. Bangladesh lost the first Test by an agonising 22 runs but came roaring back, winning the second by 108 runs. England was set 273 for victory – a serious challenge as 300 had not been reached in the series – and started well, reaching 100 without loss. Bangladesh then took all 10 wickets in a single session for a famous victory.

Just yesterday, the West Indies had a very creditable win over Pakistan. Sure, it was a dead rubber (Pakistan took the series 2-1) but to put the win into perspective, consider this: The West Indies had not won a Test against a team ranked higher than them since 2007 – nine years. And Pakistan is very highly ranked – currently number two, having only recently lost the number one ranking to India. This was young Jason Holder’s first win as captain, in his 12th attempt.

It was not a one-man show for the West Indies but one man, opener, Kraigg Brathwaithe had an epic match. One for the ages. But for a few spells off the field during Pakistan’s innings, Braithwaite was on the field for the entire match. He carried the bat in the first innings, scoring 142 not out over six and a quarter hours. He then made 60 not out in a nervous run chase. The West Indies won by five wickets in the end but had stumbled to 5-67, still requiring almost 90 for victory.

Australia started its summer yesterday in fine style against South Africa, in Perth. This is the last “big ticket” match at the WACA so it was nice to see a pitch with some life in it. Australia dismissed South Africa with good bowling and catching for 242. Then, from the comfort of my own armchair in Sydney (I love Tests in Perth), I watched a Davey Warner special. He is 73 from 62 balls, with 58 coming in boundaries. Naturally, the Australian press is crowing but it is early days. This is why I love Test cricket. Australia batting last, is still more than 130 behind South Africa. It is quite possible that South Africa will break through in the morning, when the pitch is fresh and expose Australia’s brittle batting. Test cricket is for the long haul.

One of my functions over the years has been to make sure the punters know of important events. One such is event is some changes in the DRS rules. Number one is that if the fielding side refers and is unsuccessful because of a no-ball (that was not called), that referral is not lost (we saw that yesterday with Warner). More significantly, the stumps have been made bigger for lbw referrals. Not really, but the strike zone has been expanded to all of the stumps. Less balls will be “clipping”. It used to be that more than half of the ball had to be hitting the inside half of the stumps. This has been changed so that all of the stump is included, increasing the bowler’s chance of success by 19mm. it doesn’t sound much but it is significant and is good for the game, I think. The same applies to adjudicating if the batsman’s pads were struck in line with the stumps. This video explains it very well if you care to take a look.

http://www.espncricinfo.com/ci/content/story/1058755.html

I will be attending the first two days of the second Test in Hobart – my first visit to Bellerive Oval (I refuse to call it that other name).  I am almost excited about this as my birding daytrip to Bruny Island (which should give you a hint about my new number one pastime). Now if I can just remember my password, I can upload the post to the dongles blog.

Henriques Again

I used to feel that one of the purposes of my blog was to make sure people knew what was going on in the world of cricket. I didn’t understand why people didn’t study Cricinfo everyday like I did but as I knew they didn’t, I saw it as my job to fill in the gaps. Now I am that person. So I am writing this for me too. Australia is in Sri Lanka to play Tests. Hooray! A surprise inclusion in the squad is Moises Henriques.

The 1st Test commences on 26 July and will be interesting. Sri Lanka was unimpressive against England but things will be different at home. Australia has not played a Test since late Feb so it will be five months since they pulled on the Baggy Green. And for that matter, Australia was not so impressive in their last series against England. And has not been impressive on the sub continent for a long time. In fact, you probably have to go back five years, to Australia’s last series in Sri Lanka, for a series win. They won that three Test series 1-0.

Henriques’ entire Test career has been played on the sub continent. In one series, in fact. One, very unscholarly series in India. Australia was demolished at the depths of its blues but Henriques did his homework, got the call up and shone in his debut Test. He made 68 and 81* and a new star was born. Alas,it was a shooting star. He made just seven runs in his next four innings and we have not seen him for over three years. Unless you watch Big Bash.

He’s going to have another crack now. If he gets a game.

While speaking of England, Pakistan is playing them at Lord’s at present. Pakistan are making a good fist of the match and lead by 281 runs with 2 second innings wickets in hand. The big surprise of the match is that Woakes (not Stokes) has taken 11 wickets and counting. Well, it surprises me but probably not his mother. Stokes is not playing. He might be injured but I can’t be bothered checking. That’s how it is with dongles these days. Now I have to see if I can remember my admin password to log into the dongles website.

 

I used to feel that one of the purposes of my blog was to make sure people knew what was going on in the world of cricket. I didn’t understand why people didn’t study Cricinfo everyday like I did but as I knew they didn’t, I saw it as my job to fill in the gaps. Now I am that person. So I am writing this for me too. Australia is in Sri Lanka to play Tests. Hooray! A surprise inclusion in the squad is Moises Henriques.

Life Imitates Art; Sport Imitates Life

In one of my alternate universes I watch rom-coms with my wife and daughters and I particularly enjoy movies starring Hugh Grant. While Mickey Blue Eyes is not in my top five it does have a line that captures my fancy. Towards the end of the movie a strange scene from a painting actually occurs. Someone (not Hugh) comments that, “life imitates art”. As I contemplate my disinterest in cricket’s current affairs, I wonder how much of that is because cricket imitates life, or at least culture.

I am interested in many things (alternate universes again) and they all compete for my time and attention but cricket has been a constant over four decades. The amount of time spent playing, watching and writing has varied but it has always been there. So it troubles me that for the past few months that it has taken a back seat to other pursuits. I have hardly written on the blog in the past three months and it has been cricket season. I didn’t even bother to go to the Sydney Test this year – the first time I have missed it for more than 25 years. Is it me or is it cricket?

I have come to the conclusion that it is cricket more than anything. Test cricket suffers from falling standards and a game that favours the batsmen more than ever. While I understand its necessity, the West Indies tour of Australia was hardly inspiring. And then there is T20. Too much T20. I have said before that I don’t mind watching T20 – it can be exciting – high octane, as they say but after a while it becomes like gorging yourself on cheap takeaway. I watched some of Khawaja’s innings last night and it was beautiful but I went to bed when he was about 70 because I just didn’t care, even though it was a Big Bash semi-final.

Sport imitates life and we live in a generation when instant gratification is very important. We hear that cricket needs to reach “new markets”. What that really means is that administrators want to make more money. We hear that cricket needs to “remain relevant” or it will die. Relevant to whom? The new markets or the existing supporters? I understand the need to move with the times. We do courses at work on change – Who Moved my Cheese? and My Iceberg is Melting and we read books like Watership Down which are about leadership and change.

T20 is reshaping cricket. Should I accept that is inevitable? What are the new markets that cricket is seeking? Expanding to new countries is one with the Holy Grail being the USA. But I think even the most optimistic ICC executive recognizes that as a fantasy. The most significant target is the non-cricket watching population of cricket playing nations. Importantly, this includes the younger generation. As with any market, clients are lost through attrition and need to be replaced. In this case, I am talking about aging and dying supporters. Nobody lives forever and younger generations must be captured. My daughter, Maddie, loves cricket including Test cricket just as much as I do but perhaps she is not typical. In addition, she is a fan of the Big Bash. She pays far more attention to it than I do.

All organised activities will be a reflection of culture and beliefs at any given time and cricket is no exception. For example, I read a book recently about birds. It discussed conservation and looked at some of the nature conservation and preservation societies from the early 20th century. Many of the activities of those groups focused on killing and collecting (eggs and museum specimen etc)! On one expedition of a bird protection society, one member went on record as saying he would shoot at least a dozen birds of prey each morning at the local water hole. It’s eye popping stuff.

And how’s this for another? In Shackleton’s famous journey from Antarctica back to civilization, the leg from Elephant Island to Georgia (not in the USA) is recorded by one of the party, Captain Frank Worsley in his book, Shackleton’s Boat Journey. The whole journey is astonishing but there was one anecdote that made me think. When three freezing, starving men reached Georgia, they found nesting albatross. Those enormous, fluffy chicks made magnificent meals when roasted. I have no issue with that and would have tucked into the unfortunate birds myself, God rest their souls. The interesting part to relate was the intimation of the group’s conversation about how when they got themselves out of this whole mess and back to normal life, they simply must start a restaurant in London, serving albatross chicks! That idea would seem a bit dated today.

What I find interesting about cricket is that more than most sports and activities, it is a game of tradition. Not only is it “more than a game”, it has very deep roots that reach down into a world that simply does not exist anymore. Furthermore, it is a game that has strongholds based on Colonial dispersion and those strongholds no longer wish to be associated with those origins.

For me, Test cricket is the most important thing. I understand that limited overs cricket (20 and 50 over formats) is how the game remains relevant, reaches new markets and in reality, pays for Test cricket. I have two major concerns: 1) Getting the balance right and not playing too much limited overs and 2) That Test cricket currently is not as testing as it should be. The players themselves say that Test cricket is the pinnacle so it needs to test skill and character. With batsman friendly pitches, partly due to drop in pitches and bats that give way to much value of edges and badly timed shots, there is not enough testing. Of the batsmen, at least.

I am not against changes in Test cricket. Over time, the rules have changed. The length of overs has changed, the maximum length of matches has changed, and the colour of the ball is even starting to change. These changes can happen without detriment to the character of Test cricket. And cultural changes have occurred as cricket does move, with glacial majesty, with the times. There was a time when the captain of England had to be a gentleman, not a professional. That eventually changed after WWII and was broadly accepted by about 1990. Rest days are no longer offered, we have neutral umpires and technology plays a large part in umpiring. Moving with the times (except for India in the case of the last point).

The game of cricket overall is healthy and has a great following. The part of cricket that I love, Test cricket is on shaky ground. While the players support it, I believe it will remain. But how much of that support is lip service?  It’s all well and good to say that Test cricket is the main thing but it needs to be backed up by preferring Test cricket and First Class cricket* over T20. And that means giving up some cash. That’s easy for me say because it’s not my income to forego but that is the truth of it. Cricket is imitating life in so many ways and I’m not sure I like it.

* For those of you who have forgotten, First Class cricket is the next level down from Test cricket. They play in whites and use a red ball, except when the pink ball is being trialled. Games last for three or four days. First Class cricket used to be regarded by administrators as important in preparing players for Test cricket.

The Pink Ball Passes with Flying Colours

The first day of Day/Night Test cricket went off without a hitch. It was not the most exciting day of play and there were absolutely no problems with the pink ball. I think everyone could see it. To prove the point, a lucky lad took a sensational mark in the eastern stand in the final session when Southee tonked a six over square leg. The ball didn’t seem to swing any more than the red ball, contrary to expectations and the colour seemed to hold as did the shape, which was a welcome change from the previous test with the standard, red Kookaburra.

It was a pretty slow day of play with just over 250 runs being scored but I don’t attribute that to the pink ball. I was left with the feeling that we didn’t get too much night cricket. The sun was setting at about 8:30 and there was only about 60 minutes play when it was truly dark. Perhaps they should start a little later.

On a day without that many highlights, the most exciting period, aside from the novelty of the lights, was just after the tea break. Australia claimed three wickets in three overs, all caught behind by Nevill, from three different bowlers. I have to say that I was underwhelmed by Nevill’s keeping in the Ashes but he seems to have improved this series. He was excellent yesterday and the catch of Latham of Lyon was brilliant. It was one of those wicketkeeper catches to spinners that are so easy to under-appreciate. There was a thick edge and a big deviation and it was very well taken.

I’m heading off again shortly, hopefully to see some exciting batting from Steve Smith. New Zealand will have been very disappointed to have made just 202 but they are in the Match. With the Marsh brothers forming the middle order, the Australian order it at its most vulnerable for some time.

Starc bowls the first pink ball Finally dark Beautiful Adelaide sunset