The Thursday Thali

It’s time for another of our midweek roundups. It’s what we do when there’s no single burning issue to discuss but a plethora of smaller talking points instead.

I’ll start with Shahid Afridi’s amazing century against Derbyshire in the T20 Blast quarter final. He blitzed 101 off 43 balls. Pretty impressive I think you’ll agree.

Normally I’d argue that a blazing century against Derbyshire ain’t much cop. After all, they’re hardly the most fashionable county. However, last night their attack featured South Africa’s Hardus ‘the hard man’ Viljoen and New Zealand’s Matt Henry – both bowlers I quite rate.

Obviously Afridi has zero respect for reputations. He absolutely destroyed both of them. Their combined figures of 8-0-94-1 weren’t exactly what poor Derbs had in mind when they signed them up on presumably lucrative deals.

The second semi saw Glamorgan overpower poor Leicestershire. It was pretty much game over after 11 overs when the Foxes, who didn’t bat particularly cunningly, slumped to 87-5. There’s very little time to recover in T20 cricket and so it proved.

Although I have nothing particularly against Glamorgan (I’m half Welsh after all) I actually wanted Leicestershire to win this one. Glamorgan’s team seems about as Welsh as Biltong. Do they have much of a soul? Leicestershire, on the other hand, always seem to lose their best players to richer counties so they get the sympathy vote.

It will be interesting to see who wins the remaining quarter finals. One imagines that Notts will overpower Somerset (although it could be close), but the Surrey versus Warwickshire game is harder to call. Netbet Sport make the Londoners favourite but Surrey haven’t been very consistent this year.

I’m tempted to say that Birmingham will win. They have some good younger players and the likes of Sam Hain can be very dangerous. The wily Jeetan Patel will also play an important role. On the flip side, however, Surrey do have a lot of talent. It might be time for me to erect a fence and sit on it.

I’d be interested to know whether everyone has enjoyed this year’s Blast. The crowds have been pretty good (from what I’ve seen) and the unpredictability of the competition has made it quite compelling. There doesn’t seem to be a standout team so perhaps another minnow will lift this year’s trophy?

Obviously, however, The Blast is arguably on borrowed time now that Harrison’s Hairbrained Have-a-Hit is on the horizon. From 2019 it will be completely eclipsed.

And what a difference a new all-singing and all-dancing city-based tournament will surely make. After all, English crowds will finally have the chance to see the world’s biggest overseas T20 stars in action. Players like, erm, Shahid Afridi no less.

The next bit of news – if one can call it that – is the imminent commencement of the second test against the Windies at Headingley. Are you excited? Didn’t think so.

The first test at Edgbaston was utterly depressing if you’re worried about the future of test cricket. Yes the crowds were good – obviously the novelty factor enticed a few more punters to turn up – but the cricket was so one-sided that the Edgbaston square almost tipped over at one point.

How on earth are tests like this, against subpar opponents who aren’t remotely competitive, in the least bit sustainable? The only real winner was Alastair Cook’s batting average. The West Indies looked dispirited and unmotivated throughout. I’ll be amazed if England don’t win comfortably again at Leeds.

There has been lots of talk about introducing two divisions in the aftermath of Edgbaston. Do you think it’s worth a try? The positives are that promotion and relegation might provide extra context and excitement to test cricket. The amount of tedious one-sided games should also be reduced.

Unfortunately, however, one wonders what effect (particularly financial implications) the introduction of two divisions would have on the poorer countries that find themselves in the second tier. With reduced sponsorship opportunities available, and presumably less TV income, it really could be the end of countries like the West Indies. It’s hard to see how Sri Lanka might benefit too.

In order for two divisions to work, and resuscitate test cricket in general, there would have to be a strict NFL-style revenue sharing agreement in place. Good luck trying to get India, England and Australia to agree to that!

However, before I sign off I should mention that there was some good news for test cricket this week: AB de Villiers has decided that he wants to resume his international career in all three formats. Apparently he feels refreshed and energised after taking a break and now feels able to contribute again.

This is obviously very good news for South Africa. It also bodes well for test cricket in general because it suggests that box-office stars still want to balance earning big T20 bucks with representing their country at the highest level.

It’s possible we’ll see more top players take a temporary break from test cricket but then return to the fold later on. Perhaps stars will do what they can to look after themselves and their families financially (while the going’s good) but then pursue career ambitions in the long-form thereafter.

The big worry, as I see it, is that top players simply give up on test cricket entirely and keep chasing ever increasing T20 pay-cheques. At least AB’s return shows that top players still care about the long-form.

James Morgan

Written in collaboration with NetBet

2017-08-24T11:10:01+00:00 August 24th, 2017|News|15 Comments

15 Comments

  1. James August 24, 2017 at 12:02 pm - Reply

    Haven’t followed the Blast closely enough to comment, but an even competition usually brings in the crowds (one of the reasons the English Premier [football] league is so popular is the revenue sharing arrangement that Alex Ferguson to his eternal credit insisted on mean that all matches are competitive). Which brings me to West Indies. No one, I think, wants a repeat of the 1985/6 series (see https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2017/aug/13/scariest-test-england-ever-played-terror-west-indies-cricket-1986-patrick-patterson for details) but many of us think a competitive West Indies is important for the game. The return of Gayle and Samuels for the ODI’s is a good sign. One problem WI have is that their experienced players want to make money playing T20 (fair enough) and the Board wants them to be available to play the corresponding form of domestic cricket. An accommodation needs to be found. It doesn’t help when a leading test player (Darren Bravo) describes the Board president as a “big idiot” (however accurate Darren may have been). Another is the dreadful state of West Indies pitches. they used to be (mostly) fast and true. Now they’re just dead.

    • Nick August 24, 2017 at 12:54 pm - Reply

      It looks like that rule about playing domestic Cricket in the WI will be dropped, Quite impressed by Johnny Grave will be interesting to see if he can cut though all the politics and bring in good changes.

      Its a shame that all the bickering that goes on masks that the ICC (the big three) have been able to under fund their competition and just make it look like their own incompetence.

      If Cricket is going to be a closed shop then it needs to at least look after those inside the circle. A lot of it comes down to money, re-laying the pitches is an expense that has been too long avoided

  2. Nick August 24, 2017 at 12:31 pm - Reply

    Athers wrote a good piece on this defending the teams involved in the quarter finals which is worth checking out. Guess there is a debate to be had on if signing other teams players like Warwickshire are doing, like Yorkshire have done with Willey and TKC is worse that getting imports in from elsewhere.

    On the bright side the first two days at Headingley are almost sold out with 70% sold for day three despite ‘Windies’ poor show at Edgbaston. Who would have thought people would rather sit outside in August than May?

    Lots to go at there, you also missed the big news that Eoin Morgan has also signed for the Barbados Tridents…

  3. Comte August 24, 2017 at 1:17 pm - Reply

    Re Afridi. Hants came up with a plan to neutralise Madsen and it came off brilliantly. Derby were confused and hapless.
    Leics lost their bottle when it counted.
    I didn’t like the day/night Test at all. It just doesn’t seem right. But in any case I get limited pleasure in seeing us stuff a team which was so utterly poor. Test cricket needs a competitive Caribbean team, whatever they call it.
    Good and very welcome news about ABdeV, who has been missed in so many ways.

  4. Dave G August 24, 2017 at 2:46 pm - Reply

    Just read an interview with Westley on Cricinfo. Is it just me, or was there more than a whiff of Ballance with his suggestion that he will continue to play for England in the same way as he does for Essex (ie, plunder leg side runs)?
    Clearly, other batsmen have been successful, internationally, with a ‘heavy’ bottom hand, so no need for drastic action, necessarily. Nevertheless, as we saw with Ballance and Vince, among others, aiming to play in exactly the same way (as at county level) against international attacks can lead to a very short international career.
    It just seems daft to be, or appear to be, so stubborn – he probably just needs to aim to play slightly straighter.

    • James Morgan August 24, 2017 at 5:34 pm - Reply

      It’s a difficult one. I imagine the selectors say to new players ‘do exactly what earned you selection out in the middle’ … which seems like a fair enough approach. I imagine Westley will have more success playing on overseas wickets that don’t move around quite so much.

      The problem with Ballance is that he was found wanting during two or three different stints in the side yet came back the same player each time. I’m inclined to give Westley more rope at this point as he’s still in his first opportunity in international cricket. If he keeps failing again and again, however, then it might be time to change something.

    • Cricket ricketcricket August 24, 2017 at 5:44 pm - Reply

      Kane Williamson is an example of a player who is actually bottom handed. The difference being the good players can not allow it to dominate their game.

  5. stephenfh August 25, 2017 at 8:14 am - Reply

    As good as Afridi was, the innings by Adam Lyth was even better; even some of the Northants players seemed to be smiling at being part of such an elevated performance.
    A contender for T20 innings of the season certainly.

  6. Dave G August 25, 2017 at 11:31 am - Reply

    I understand the merit of the advice to new players: that they should play the way that earned them selection. It is sound advice that the likes of Compton would have benefited from remembering.

    At the same time, one imagines (or at least, would hope) that one of the criteria for selecting a Test batsman is that they show some level of adaptability – to conditions, the match situation, the opposition bowling, etc. Surely this is part of what makes a Test batsman.

    I suppose I was disappointed that there did not seem to be even a hint, from Westley, that he might need to adjust, even slightly, in the face of higher quality bowling.

    I note that he’s out lbw this morning playing across a straight one.

  7. AB August 25, 2017 at 12:13 pm - Reply

    The quality has been great in parts, average in parts. Sky always seem to pick very odd matches to show.

    The schedule has been bloody awful. I mean really bloody stupid. Even I get bored of watching T20 cricket for 3 nights in a row. How they expect crowds to continue to turn up night in, night out, is beyond me. The miserable weather hasn’t helped – typically, we had a lovely long hot spell in june, but no T20 to watch!

    Its also meant that I wasn’t able to take my junior team to a game, because by the time the competition finally started, they were all away on holiday. They get back next week – just in time for it to finish.

  8. Neil August 26, 2017 at 7:14 am - Reply

    I’ve barely watched the blast this year, but when I have turned it on I haven’t been able to get into it. Can’t put my finger as to why , I’ve enjoyed it in previous years.
    Maybe its the block of fixtures, Its summer there is loads more to be doing.
    Maybe its the lack of quality, it could be the amount of journeyman kolpak players.
    I actually don’t think sky’s coverage is very good, some of the commentary is shoddy.

    I watched last nights game and it was decent, but I was very surprised by the crowd, there must have been 5,000 empty seats. One Surrey fan told me it was because the club didn’t have the time to promote the game to the lads in the city.
    I’m sure finals day will be packed out and all will seem well and good, but it isn’t. I didn’t think I’d say this but I’m starting to come round to the change thats down the line in 3 years

  9. Neil August 27, 2017 at 8:52 am - Reply

    There’s a draft going on for the new South African T20 tournament.
    Carberry, Hales, Lyth, Bell, Ballance, Billings, Duckett, Livingstone, Vince, Bresnan, Finn, Wood, Panesar, Rashid all hoping to get a gig.

    The T20 circus rolls on.

  10. lijo george August 27, 2017 at 9:00 am - Reply

    AB really showed his class by making this decision.. hats off to the man
    lets see how his body holds up to full-time action after this break. Fingers crossed!!

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