Thursday, December 29, 2011

Essex's 2011: A Review

In 2010, Essex reached the semi-finals of the 40 over competition (only to lose to the eventual runners up, Somerset), reached the semi-finals of the Twenty20 (only to lose to the eventual champions, Hampshire) but also got relegated from Division One of the County Championship. The promotion to Division One in 2009 was fantastic, but Essex got it after a generous declaration from Derbyshire. 2010 was always going to be a tough season for them and it ended up being so, with Essex only winning two matches (against Hampshire and eventual champions, Nottingamshire). The weather didn't help Essex's cause, so for the season of 2011, it was hoped that the skies would remain clear and that Essex could at least go one better in the limited overs competitions.

Well, that was the hope. In reality, Essex's 2011 season will go down as one of being distinctly average and tinged with disappointment. For most cricket fans, the first class season finished around early to mid September. For Essex fans, it finished in mid August after a damp squib against Derbyshire.

April was a balmy month. In fact, for most of it, it was warmer than the majority of the summer to come. Essex, though, did not get off to a bright start. Their first opponents were Kent and things did not go well. With the Indian Premier League (IPL) occurring in India, Essex had lost Ryan ten Doeschate and Owais Shah. Ravi Bopara decided to turn down the chance to play for Rajasthan to instead concentrate on battling for the place vacated by Paul Collingwood's retirement from Test cricket.

It didn't go well for him. Even though Essex were bolstered by the return of winter run machine, Alastair Cook, Essex were blown away by Darren Stevens after bowling Kent out for a relatively modest 247, after youngster Sam Northeast opened his account for the season with a century. Kent had been 140-7 but, in what turned out to be a foreshadowing for the rest of Essex's season, they struggled to finish off the tail and the last three wickets were able to add over 100 runs. Essex struggled against the Tiflex ball and limped along to 48-6, Bopara getting an incredibly painful 16 ball duck. 
Ravi Bopara actually connecting with the ball in what can only be described as a horrific passage of play.
After a lower order recovery, Essex reached 201 all out, 46 runs behind Kent. A second innings 5 wicket haul from the youngster Reece Topley handed Essex some hope, but they, ultimately, ended up losing by 57 runs as Darren Stevens added three more wickets to his six in the Essex first innings and Robbie Joseph picked up 4.

The start of the season heralded the start of a certain youngster's first class career. Ipswich born (© every paper you'll ever read in Suffolk) Reece Topley, son of former Essex bowler Don and famous for being clattered on the side of the head by Kevin Pietersen, when he was only 15, back in 2009. You might have read his tweets worshipping The Only Way is Essex or his attempts to "banter" with the Essex team. On the pitch, though, Reece started his County Championship debut with (as mentioned above) a second innings 5 wicket haul. A tall, left-arm seam bowler, in the first innings, he took 2 wickets, including ripping Joe Denly's stumps out of the ground. He bowled with pace and (reported) swing and although he did tire towards the end of the day and become more expensive, he bowled well and has certainly got great potential for the county. He's still growing and isn't 18 until February, but freshly dropped out of sixth form, Reece will hopefully be able to gain more valuable experience by playing and training with the Essex first team.

Meanwhile, Essex were still searching for an overseas bowler to help boost the ranks a bit. Peter Siddle was lined up, but then Cricket Australia pulled the plug on the deal. Tim Southee was a possibility, but he decided to go for the IPL instead and joined us for the Twenty20 tournament (more about that later). So that left us with the South African pace bowler of Lonwabo Tsotsobe, and it seemed his brief stay at the club was doomed the moment he decided he was going to come to England. A family bereavement delayed his debut and when he finally got here... Well, let's just say his comments (the generic "I am thrilled to be joining up with [insert county here]")when he arrived at the club didn't really sing true with his performances. He was axed as the youth of Essex showed more desire to be playing for the club and, seemingly, far more capable of putting in decent performances. During the CB40 match against Lancashire, he reportedly stood at fine leg with his hands in his pockets and when a catch looked like it was coming towards him, he continued to have a look of indifference about the state of the game. He was dropped after poor performances in the County Championship and ended up venting his frustration on Twitter.

He left the club with immediate effect and the scathing words of Paul Grayson, "His work rate and attitude hasn't been up to the standard I would expect of someone with his experience as an international cricketer", ringing in his ears.

After the loss to Kent, next up was a trip to Lord's to play (the eventual champions) Middlesex. Here, Steven Finn and Tim Murtagh ripped through the Essex team, leaving them with two heavy losses to begin the season. It wasn't an ideal start considering we'd only have the man of the winter up until the middle of May. He was succumbing to the April conditions and the other potential England guy looked like he couldn't hit a barn door with a banjo, let alone a cricket ball with a bat. With Tendo and Shah still at the IPL until at least the end of April and Napier still recovering from a pretty horrible injury last season, it was up to a road of a pitch at Northants to get Essex to stop the rot.

In what was an unseasonably warm April, Cook made the Northamptonshire bowlers empathise with some of the Australians as he cracked his first century of the season. He was joined on three figures by Jaik Mickleburgh as Essex posted a big total of 433 all out in the first innings, Chaminda Vaas being the pick of the Northants bowlers with 5-76. However, the pitch was the same for the Northants boys and with an undercooked Tsotsobe (he bowled 15 no-balls) and a just turned 17 year old in the attack, Northants were able to go past Essex's first innings total and declare on 538-9 (Stephen Peters with a century, Niall O'Brien and Vaas both getting 96). Essex were in trouble at 82-4, but an unbroken 5th wicket partnership between Pettini and Walker meant that Essex were able to leave Wantage Road with a draw.

Victory finally came for Essex as Jerusalem rang out at Westminster Abbey. Ravi Bopara finally remembered what the middle of the bat looked like and made a century in a potentially tricky run chase that saw Essex claim victory against Glamorgan by 6 wickets. Chasing 400 on a fourth day pitch at Chelmsford was never going to be easy, especially going by some of the batting of the three previous games, but Bopara (136*) and Matt Walker (97) combined to put on a partnership of 217 and put Essex well on course for their first victory of the season.

May saw the start of the CB40 campaign. After a much needed, morale boosting victory, Essex were hoping to put the previous season's disappointment behind them. Group C was a strong group with Somerset, Lancashire, Notts, Glamorgan, Gloucestershire and the Unicorns joining Essex to make up the 7. The bridesmaids of Somerset were probably the favourites to top the group, but if Essex were on form, they could provide a stiff challenge for, at least, second place and try and be the best placed runners up.

It started well for Essex, with back-to-back CB40 wins against Nottinghamshire and Lancashire at Chelmsford. Then came the trip down to Wales and what was to become Essex's downfall of the campaign: the weather. Essex only lost 3 matches, one less than second placed Nottinghamshire and one more than winners Somerset, but the 3 no results meant that Essex were only able to pick up 1 point rather than two, which they may well have been able to do at Cardiff (a Graham Napier hat-trick certainly helped down there), at Trent Bridge (where Notts scored 127-7 off their already reduced amount of overs) and also against Glamorgan at Chelmsford (chasing 133 off 15 overs, Essex were 53-2 off 6.2 overs when the rain came). Of course, Essex could've royally messed it up and would've quite happily taken 1 point over 0 any day of the week, but it's just a shame that any finish was denied by our old friend the British summer. Bless you, you horribly magnificent beast.

Still, having said this about the weather, it was the south west which also proved our downfall. A very disappointing loss to Gloucestershire at the end of July didn't help the cause and two losses to Somerset also meant that the CB40 campaign ended in disappointment for the Eagles. I was at both the Southend fixture versus Somerset and the Taunton fixture on the Bank Holiday Monday in August (battling National Express East Anglia on a Bank Holiday on very little sleep is always going to be fun) and both times Essex were undone by the Somerset bowling and blown away by a decent batting line up. For the Taunton fixture, Essex had a fairly young and inexperienced bowling attack (with Masters being rested and Mills, Topley and Craddock joining Napier, Phillips and ten Doeschate as the main bowlers) and ended up being whacked about by Peter Trego, James Hildreth and Chris Jones. I think my day down in Taunton can probably be summed up by the lovely old gent who said, "Oh, I'm so sorry" after I informed him I was an Essex fan when he gave me a victorious smile...

I guess you could say that this picture is a visual metaphor for Essex's season.
Despite Essex not reaching it, I did end up at the CB40 final at Lord's. That's all I'm really going to say on the soggy mess of a match. 

Speaking of Surrey, there was also some County Championship action in May, and it's here I've got to get a mention of Napier in again. Having been out for pretty much all of last season with a career threatening back injury, he returned to the Essex 4 day fold and in some style, by smacking the Surrey attack (including Chris Tremlett) out of the Croydon park for 6, sixteen times. It equalled Andrew Symonds' feat from 1995 (and it was something Jesse Ryder did last month for New Zealand in a warm up match before the Australia series) and the second time Napier himself has done it (v Sussex in the Twenty20 in 2008). The match ultimately ended up in a draw, as did the Derbyshire match which preceded it, thanks to the weather and kind umpiring...

And so we move into June, where the Twenty20 tournament took up most of the fixture list. Tucked away amongst those fixtures was a tour match against the visiting Sri Lankans. A team containing Sangakkara, Paranavitana and Prasanna Jayawardene were pitted against a side with an average age of 23. This match marked the first class debut of (then) 18 year old Tymal Mills, 18 year old wicket keeper Ben Foakes and the (then) 21 year old Tom Craddock, on trial at the club having been impressive for the Unicorns. I was stuck up in Lancaster revising, but a mammoth partnership between Westley and ten Doeschate meant that even with a hat-trick for Randiv, Essex were able to have a slender lead over Sri Lanka's first innings total of 337, with centuries for Thirimanne and Sangakkara being a huge part of that total. Rain saved Sri Lanka from a potential defeat (Reece Topley and Maurice Chambers having reduced them to 38-3 at lunch), but for Essex, it provided an incredibly encouraging signs that they have some promising youngsters amongst their ranks.

One of those promising youngsters is Tymal Mills, a guy from the Suffolk/Norfolk border who has ended up causing quite a stir amongst the county cricket community. After only six matches for Essex across the 2011 season, Mills has spent his winter with the England Performance Programme squad. He had originally been in the development squad (along with young wicketkeeper-batsman Adam Wheater), but an injury to Ajmal Shahzad meant that he was called up to the full EPP squad. Over the 2011 summer, Mills played for Mildenhall in the top division of the Marshall Hatchick Two Counties league of Suffolk and Essex. In fact, the day before only his 5th match for Essex, I was watching him play against my club in the finals day of the county's Twenty20 tournament. He had to miss the final (if you care, Mildenhall won) due to being named in the squad for the match against Somerset and I ended up watching him play for Essex the next day. I watched a couple of days of the Surrey match, in which he was controlled in Surrey's first innings and more expensive in the second, but he's promising and his rise has the potential to be a wonderful thing for cricket in Suffolk. Having decided to take a year out from his studies, Mills can only hope that 2012 is even more successful and exciting year for him.

Enough banging on the home county pride drum, back to Essex's season. Due to my exam timetable and an impromptu holiday in early July, I could only make one Twenty20 fixture and it was the one against Middlesex on 2nd July. But I made use of the wonderful BBC radio service and was able to listen to what was, ultimately, another massive disappointment of a tournament for the Eagles. Scott Styris returned to the Essex fold and brought Tim Southee with him. Limited overs cricket is seen as one of Essex's stronger points, and the team looked good on paper. On the pitch, however, things did not click and Essex failed to reach the quarter finals after a bad-tempered match against rivals Kent. One of those "catches which are probably out but because the TV footage makes it look like the ball has hit the ground, it's not" incidents occurred (Scott Styris is probably still seething) and Darren Stevens took full advantage of his reprieve and some very poor Essex bowling to hit 41 not out. Denly, Key and Azhar Mahmood also took advantage as Kent posted 183-6. A combination of that and the bowling of Darren Stevens extinguished the slim chance that Essex had of reaching the quarter finals.

It was a mixed bag of tournament for Essex, with some decent performances thrown in with some horror shows. It was also one marked by poor behaviour, when he wasn't chasing pigeons, captain James Foster got banned for two matches for dissent after finding himself incredibly unhappy (read: irate) with his dismissal in the first match against Surrey. He subsequently missed the matches against Hampshire and Glamorgan in mid July. The performances on the pitched ranged between being thrashed after a Marcus Trescothick masterclass to managing to defend what was probably a below par 139 against Middlesex (luckily for us, they were having a dreadful tournament). There were some great individual displays, like Tim Southee's 6-16 against Glamorgan and some of his various cameos coming in at number 3 (he opened the batting against Hampshire and ended up with 74 off 34 balls). There was also Ravi Bopara's desperate attempt to regain form which somehow ended up with him in the England squad for the Sri Lanka series.

Action from said match against Middlesex. Owais Shah celebrates picking up the wicket of Scott Newman. I'm just putting it here to brighten up the post.
The rest of Essex's four day campaign was ultimately nothing to write home about. There were some superb results tucked away in there, like a big victory against Northamptonshire, who had had a very good start to the season, but were bowled out for 99 at Chelmsford. There was a 440 minute knock of 178 from stand-in captain Ravi Bopara, on what was a tricky pitch at Garon's Park and later on in the same match, David Masters picking up 8-10 as Leicestershire were blown away for 34 all out in a County Championship season to forget for them. This was followed by an exciting draw against Glamorgan at Cardiff. With Essex precariously placed at 62-3 at tea and reduced to 104-6 in the 33rd over, Napier (with an uncharacteristic strike rate of 22) and Phillips were able to see out the remaining 20 overs and secure a draw.

Really, the four day campaign can really be summed up as batting collapses, a failure to finish off the tail, David Masters getting 91 wickets and exciting young prospects coming through. There was a slender chance against Gloucestershire to take victory after a rebuilding effort between Wheater, ten Doeschate and Napier had put Essex in a strong position, but an unbeaten century and half century from Chris Taylor and Will Gidman respectively meant that Gloucestershire were able to see out the remainder of the day and snuff out Essex's slim hopes of being a part of the promotion battle. The final nail in the coffin came mid August during the damp squib against Derbyshire and back to back losses against Kent and Surrey meant that the season was ended in a nice book-ended fashion.

So, what have Essex got to looked forward to in 2012 at the moment?

With contracts given to the youngsters of Topley, Mills, Foakes and Craddock, contract extensions to numerous players, managing to keep hold of James Foster, Napier being handed a benefit year and the signings of Greg Smith from Derbyshire and Charl Willoughby from Somerset, Essex will be hoping that 2012 is one of progress. The youngsters have got their debuts under their belts and players with experience to assist them in their development. Cook was one of the players who signed a contract extension, his being an additional two years and signed back in July. But with him now being captain of the England ODI side and having an incredibly successful 2011, it's unlikely Essex will see as much of him next season as they have done in previous years.

Matt Walker, Essex's new batting coach with the loss of Graham Gooch (definitely not Tom Westley) to England, has stated that Essex need to focus on their batting after it has "flattered to deceive the last two or three seasons". Rumours of an overseas batsman to fill in for those away on international or IPL duty have included Phil Hughes, Jacques Rudolph and Alviro Petersen, but Phil Hughes is now a Pear for (some of) the season, and nothing has come of the Rudolph/Petersen rumours for now. Hashim Amla, who had a successful spell here in 2009 is definitely out as he has decided to stay in South Africa. His wife is due to give birth to their first child in February, so it's completely understandable that he wishes to spend as much time as possible with his family, so all the best to them. I think it goes without saying that it's hoped that anyone who does sign has a better time of it and a far better attitude than Tsotsobe...

Reading the Essex website, it appears Essex players are spread across the globe preparing for the new season. A few, like Wheater, ten Doeschate and Pettini, have/will be in Zimbabwe, whilst player of the year David Masters isn't playing cricket at all and is instead working for his dad. Unfortunately for Graham Napier he picked up a nasty elbow injury whilst playing for Central Districts in the HRV Cup in New Zealand, so his winter preparation has turned into rehabilitation.

With the 2012 fixtures now out, studied and highlighted more than Adam Bede, I'll be back down at Chelmsford in the members area in April and ending up at random grounds across the country throughout next summer. 2011 may not have been a successful one for Essex, but I've still enjoyed myself and have spent my time with some lovely people, managed to get a terrified Steven Finn to pose with a duck wrapped in a drinks holder and got to watch some young, exciting and more importantly, Suffolk raised, talent get on the county stage.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Save our County Cricket Service

The BBC are making cuts at a local level and this could mean the end for the wonderful county cricket commentary that the online versions of local radios provide for those who cannot attend the matches, for various reasons.

During his post-match interview at Lord's with Mike Atherton, Andrew Strauss jokingly said, "I was just saying what a great medium radio is," after he had been disturbed from his interview with Jonathan Agnew. It may've been a statement in jest, but it raises a point. Cricket and radio go hand in hand. You can have debates about cricket, cake and break off into raucous giggling all in the space of a few balls. Test Match Special has been on the air waves since 1957. With the loss of cricket on terrestrial/Freeview channels, those who cannot afford, or do not want, to get Sky rely on TMS in order to get their fill of England's international summer. Whilst this is at international level, it's similar at county level as well.

If you can't attend a football match, you can switch on your local radio station and listen to it (unless you live far away and want to listen online, but more about that later). Cricket is our summer's national sport. County cricket, despite people believing the hype, is not dying. Not if I and many other younger people I know can help it. Not if you've been sat down at Chelmsford or Colchester or Southend this season. Not if you're a listener to the local BBC radio station's county cricket service.

I discovered BBC Essex's commentary during my AS levels. As I was revising the structure of antibodies, the voice of Dick Davies describing David Masters running in flooded around the room I had locked myself in and made me feel like I really down at the County Ground, rather than staring at a massive sheet of paper on a wall. The county cricket service got me through my A-levels and then this year, when I was finishing my first year at university. I'm at university in Lancashire, about 250 miles from my home in Suffolk and even further from Chelmsford. I was able to listen to the four day, CB40 and Twenty20 matches when, again, I found myself locked in my room staring at a piece of paper covered in notes about the English language. It meant I was able to be informed about how Tsotsobe was playing in "the worst two months of my life", was able to listen to Ravi Bopara scratch his way out of form and the crumbling of Essex's top order. It meant I was able to listen to it, rather than frantically refresh a scoreboard on Cricinfo that doesn't tell you whether there's any swing or just how nervous somebody looks at the crease.

And what I love most about being able to listen to the county cricket commentaries (for I don't listen to just BBC Essex), is that you actually can listen to them online. You don't have to subscribe to anything. You can put on the commentary and just carry on with your day as you listen to the county you support. This is something I can't do with my football team. Once you reach 3pm on a Saturday, the online Radio Suffolk service disappears saying, "This programme is not available". Why? Because Radio Suffolk doesn't have the internet streaming rights. Ipswich Town do, meaning you have to subscribe to Ipswich Player in order to listen to Brenner Woolley.

If you're not already, follow @SaveBBC_Cricket on Twitter and let the BBC Trust know your thoughts on local radio. The BBC local radio county cricket service is a fantastic resource. It is listened to around the world (e-mails to BBC Essex regularly come in from places around Europe, Asia and Oceania), around the country (You're reading a Lancashire based Essex fan from Suffolk, for example) and across the county in which the cricket is being played. It brings hours of joy to many people and employs people who work tirelessly and passionately about the counties that they cover. 

In such a golden era of English cricket, this valuable coverage should not be forced to die. Help make sure that it isn't.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

England v India: Only Twenty20

With the Test series over, all Indian eyes turned to the limited overs format. Both the Twenty20 and the ODI series can expect to draw in large, noisy and passionate crowds. The Twenty20 happened almost a week ago, but again I've been all over the place and have only just got round to being able to duckify it. Here's what happened at the cricket in t'north west:

Calling over on "The Barbie Army"

A while ago now, I was given the link to a post by King Cricket. I decided to do a bit of Googling to see if I could find the original article/press release from Viagogo. I don't think I managed to, but I found this one and, as a female cricket fan, was overwhelmed by not only the sheer ignorance, but the perpetual stereotyping of women as types who are easily influenced by celebrities and their inane fancies, care what the players look like or are glory hunters.

Cheers. Clearly we know nothing about the history of the game, clearly we have not experienced England's pain in the past and clearly we're not there because we love this fantastic sport. We obviously don't have a thirst and a knowledge for it that can only be quenched by parting with our hard earned cash, battling the public transport system of the nation and making our way to far flung corners of the country to watch some beautiful cover drives or a masterclass of swing bowling.

I like cricket. Actually no, I don't like it. I absolutely bloody love it. I love the competitiveness, the skills involved, how it's not just about physical strength. I absolutely love the statistics and I love the analysis. I'm regularly found on Cricinfo's statsguru in the small hours of the morning, comparing Ravi Bopara's averages against the various Test nations he's played against. I love the Hawkeye, pitch maps, beehives, wagon wheels. I love the jargon. I love the people I meet, the people it attracts to the ground (where else would you get a load of people dressed as bananas being chased by a guy dressed as a gorilla?), the intricate conversations you can have, discussing things from someone's weakness outside the off stump to why Essex have had a rubbish season and I love that something can bring so many people together in a shared passion.

So, what kind of message do outlandish public statements like the one from Viagogo send? The amount of ticket sales amongst women has increased. Brilliant! Let's question our customers motives. Do they have a press release for the different age brackets? Young people like sport too, why aren't they being "congratulated"? Why not the kids?

Yes, I'm happy to admit that the current England team are an aesthetically pleasing bunch. But so what I think so-and-so's attractive? For me, and the many other female cricket fans that I know, the sport always comes first. Oh, so-and-so's at fine leg? Brilliant, I can shout at him to stop bowling so short or applaud him for a cracking delivery to break a crucial partnership. I don't care that Liz Hurley is dating Shane "I look like I belong in Madame Tussauds" Warne. I remember Warne because of his bowling and when he managed to take out his own stumps with his foot at Edgbaston in 2005. 

I'm not the only female cricket fan out there (and if you're really that interested my cricket introduction is here) and in curiosity, and because I wanted other people's opinions, I decided to ask other female cricket fans I know why they love cricket. Here are some of the responses: 

I've played since I was six, and then my dad got me really into watching the games and I gradually became more and more obsessed - definitely watch for the cricket, but it helps that the England team are all so damn cute together! ... I probably watch it for pretty much the same reason as any guy would, which is because I love the game and find it fascinating to watch. 

I'm a bit of a sucker for history, and cricket's history is ridiculously posh and colonial and upper class and amazing. The Gentlemen and Players, North v South, Anybody's XI v Someone Else's XI. It's a nice throwback to the era of high society and stiff upper lip Britishness when men were men and played cricket in top hats which would fall off and hit their wicket.
- Liz, a volunteer at Lord's and someone who I now regularly watch cricket with.

I like that it’s both a team and individual sport at the same time.
I love the way batsmen lean on their bats. I find fast bowling beautiful and will watch it in slo mo for hours if possible. I love the sound of the ball hitting the bat.
I like the fact that it’s a psychological battle just as well as a physical one.
I love that there is a break for tea.
I love that there is a way to measure and count and average pretty much everything, yet some of the most important factors are still a flip of a coin and the weather.
I also like it because in my country it’s an unknown sport and so among my friends it’s in a way mine.
itallstartedokay, a cricket fan from the Czech Republic.

In the early 90s, I hated cricket. In my opinion, it took too long, and (more importantly) the Ashes used to steal my father away from me…it irritated me that he would rather sit and watch some weird moustached man (Graham Gooch) instead of playing Scrabble with me. Hmph. 
Fast forward to January 1996. I was in hospital, and utterly bored in my room. As luck would have it, the TV in the room would only show one channel - the same channel that was showing Sri Lanka’s infamous tour of Australia. I had two choices: try and follow the cricket, or die of boredom. And so I followed. I listened to the commentary, and tried to figure out what the hell was going on. I filled in the gaps by quizzing my father during visiting hours. And then I was discharged, just in time for the World Cup (which Sri Lanka won). The rest, as they say, is history.
Being my silly American self, I had never heard of cricket until right before the 2010-2011 Ashes series (and, yes, I do feel really self conscious about how long I’ve liked it compared to everyone who has followed it for ages). I have always been up for trying and learning new things and I was just curious about how the game was played. I read everything I could online and watched a billion video clips until I understood what was going on. ... I don’t know how I made my way through life without it before now!
- Emma, a cricket fan from Atlanta.  

When I was little we used to go to the local ground by my Grandma’s house to watch the matches. As a family, we watched a lot of the cricket on Sky, from the county Twenty20 matches to the Ashes series and various England tests, complete with graphics of ducks stomping off screen when a batter got out for 0.
- Amy, someone else who I now regularly watch cricket with.

And since females make up a majority of the cricket watching public, which is the point of this post, I also wanted to know of any experiences that other women had had at cricket matches, no matter what the level. Here are a couple of responses:
It’s true that I usually get more derisive remarks because I’m a girl who likes cricket, rather than a girl who likes cricket but when someone does mock my love of the game, what usually works best for me is smile and let them know I probably know more about cricket then they do. ... Like this one guy at a local match. He’d just been bowled for 8 and wasn’t particularly happy about it. We started chatting and he tried to impress me by explaining the rules. Right. Still trying to be nice, I asked him who his favourite player was. He just laughed and replied that I don’t know any Indian players anyway. I assured him I do and he asked me to name three, with that condescending smile. Eventually he told me his favourite was Sehwag and he would like to play like him. He left after I smiled my best innocent smile and asked him if he’d been following the Eng v Ind Test series.
- itallstartedokay. 
I got really rather cross with a Middlesex member in the MCC Library the other week when I was sat with my digital radio listening to TMS from The Oval. It was loud and clear for the library to hear and most of the gentlemen in there would come and talk to me about what was going on, or show me passages from books they were reading which would interest me. This one man came over, looked at me, noticed I was female and said (in a rather patronising voice) "So you like cricket do you?" to which my response was naturally a yes. "...oh", he replied, shot me a look and walked off.
 - Liz.

The experiences I've had at cricket matches, as a woman sat on my own, are generally positive. I've had the odd look and the occasional "not many women like cricket" comments, but generally, nobody even gives you a second glance. Back in April, I befriended some of the Essex members as they were having a discussion about young Reece Topley. I, having a local newspaper that loves having people with potential from Suffolk, knew a little bit about him, so was able to tell these elderly folks some facts and statistics. They labelled me "better than Playfair" and asked me if I would come along more often. I then spent much of the afternoon discussing cricket, university and English Literature.

However, I've had some moments that have made me feel a bit awkward. I've been cornered on a train before after it became obvious I'd spent my afternoon at a cricket match. The moment you say you like sport, you suddenly discover that you can either be questioned endlessly in order to "prove" your love of the various games you follow, or that you suddenly become an object of desire, there to receive awful attempts at being wooed rather than be treated as someone who is just there to watch cricket. Engage me in a conversation about cricket and I'll talk for hours and end up boring you. Try and engage me in a conversation about my marital status and I'll just stare at you until you shut up.

As for the label of "The Barbie Army"? Was this press release accompanied by the infernal Here Come the Girls? The term "Barbie" evokes all kinds of connotations which to me feel mostly negative. It's also a nickname for Stuart Broad, but we won't go there. You may get ladies dressed up in nice outfits and looking stylish (I just rock up in a pair of jeans/shorts and whatever shirt's clean), but at heart, they're spending their time doing exactly what a bloke who rocks up in a suit is doing.

I accept that some women are there because they do love this game because they have a crush on the players. Requesting marriage, telling someone they can "bowl this maiden over" and they have "six appeal" are all things that I've seen at cricket matches. Whenever a player gets a century, they usually flick the camera over to the area in which the family are sat in so you can see what their wife/girlfriend thinks of it. But what's not to say that these people are just as passionate about the game of cricket? Rather than make ridiculous assumptions involving the celebrity culture about why more women are going to cricket, why not actually think that women like cricket for the same reason as men, that we are just as passionate about the actual game? Because, as you can see, this is almost certainly the case.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

England v Ireland: Only ODI

This happened over a week ago now and it was a pretty pointless ODI that was ravaged by rain. Still, I told Andrew Strauss that I did duck recreations of every match England had played this summer, and I'm not going to lie to the captain of the England cricket team. Here's what happened in sunny Dublin last week:
Eoin Morgan, captaining the England side for the first time, loses the toss. William Porterfield decides that he wants to field first. 
The first boundary of the day comes to Jonathan Trott, who is playing his first match since recovering from the shoulder injury he picked up at Trent Bridge. 

He glances it to fine leg for a four.
Kieswetter gets all in a tangle to Rankin...

But still ends up getting a six that he doesn't know much about.
But, in what seems to be the standard Kieswetter international innings, he gets a start but then gets out.
John Mooney picks up the first wicket as Kieswetter edges behind to be caught by Niall O'Brien. England are 24-1.
He goes for 14.
The Leicestershire batsman, James Taylor, is the next one in, but he departs for a single.
He top edges a pull...
And is caught by Wilson. England are 34-2.
Soon after Taylor's wicket, the rain started to come down. (In er... bright sunshine, clearly.)
In comes Eoin Morgan. He decides that with Trott anchoring one end, it's his job to put some impetus into the England innings. 
He hits a four that causes the Irish DJ to bring out 'That Don't Impress Me Much'.
In a shock to everyone, Trott gets a boundary with a reverse sweep.
Morgan brings up his 50 with another four.
He raises his bat and shares an old fashioned shake of the wings with Trott.
Trott also brings up his half century.

He reaches it with a single...
And also raises his bat. The Sky commentary box is not as appreciative. 
Paul Stirling finally gets the breakthrough for Ireland. 
Morgan manages to get a leading edge...
And Stirling takes the catch. Morgan goes for 59 and the Irish know how important that wicket is. 
In comes Bopara...
And out he goes. He looks to guide a Jones delivery down to third man, but instead guides it into the gloves of O'Brien. 
Ben Stokes comes in.
But Paul Stirling strikes again as he takes the return catch. Stokes goes for 3 and England are 148-5.
Patel comes in and gets a couple of boundaries, but then goes for the big shot.

Kevin O'Brien takes the catch at long off. England are 172-6 in their reduced overs innings.
Trott departs a couple of overs later.
He decides to try and hit out...
But instead only finds Jones in the deep. He goes for 69 off 105 deliveries and it leaves England on 172-7.
Scott Borthwick gets dropped by Joyce after a paddle sweep. 
After these drops, Borthwick hits Mooney straight down the ground for a 6.
Borthwick attempts to go for another big shot...
But can only find Stirling. Borthwick goes for 15 off 9 and England are 197-8.
England's innings closes with a 4 and they reach 201-8 off 42. With no more rain, the match could potentially get interesting.
Woakes takes the first over, Finn takes the second. He begins with a wide and then Stirling smashes him over the ropes for a 6.

Stirling attempts to go for another big shot...
But instead can only sky it. Bopara sets himself for the catch.
Which he takes. Ireland are 6-1.
The wicket seems to boost Finn's confidence a bit. Both he and Woakes are bowling well and Finn soon picks up the wicket of Joyce.
He's caught behind by Kieswetter for 10. As Joyce departs, it's still raining.
And eventually, with Ireland 42-2, the rain forces the players off for a rain delay of over an hour. When Ireland return, they need 129 off 23 overs. 
Their chase doesn't start off well. Porterfield goes for a single that was never there...
And does not get back into his crease fast enough. 
He gets run out by Borthwick and Ireland are 43-3.
In comes Kevin O'Brien and here you have to make a mandatory World Cup reference. He takes a couple of deliveries to get his eye in...
And then hits Borthwick for one six...
And then another.

Niall O'Brien gets a slower ball bouncer...
Which he pulls, but cannot keep down.
And Finn takes the catch. 66-4.
Bopara joins in on the wicket taking. He bowls Nigel Jones for 2 to reduce Ireland to 71-5.
A lot is riding on KOB. He's got 25 off 13, but then gets a yorker from Dernbach...
And gets bowled leg stump. It's a huge wicket for England and a massive blow to Ireland. It reduces them to 77-6 and that's probably Ireland's challenge over.
Or is it?
Mooney hits a six off a Dernbach slower ball and Ireland need 36 off 22.
With the last ball of the over, Mooney goes for another big shot...
He almost gets a hold of it...
But Stokes takes a good catch on the boundary. Mooney goes for 15 off 8 and Ireland are 97-7.
Wilson goes to Patel a couple of overs later. 
He looks for the boundary, but instead can only get an outside edge on a flighted delivery and is caught by Bopara. 108-8.
Ireland need 19 to win off the last over and young George Dockrell faces the final three deliveries. He needs a six...
He smashes a full toss down the ground...
But it bounces before the rope and goes for only four.
Ireland need 13 off the final ball. Dernbach doesn't bowl a wide or a no-ball...
And Ireland scamper through for a bye. England win by 11 runs. 
The stand in captain of Eoin Morgan is named man of the match. England don't really learn much from the match and Trott gets all the negative media again. A standard ODI game really.