Winter (Do you love me?)

I love the Northern hemisphere winter; it’s the most beautiful time. In the last few years all of my happiest memories have been staged against this dark and cold season. It is also the real summer for any cricket fan. In the British summer we merely have England’s fixtures and perhaps some in the Caribbean also. No no no. Winter to me is every season. As I’ve stated recently, my absence was forced due to a hefty workload. A lot has gone on since, thus here are my words….

Let’s look back on the first half of India’s test series against England. The first test went exactly as most had predicted: India batted first; scored heavily and England capitulated against their spinners. Ojha surprised most by outbowling his spin partner Ashwin; to be honest Ashwin has only impressed in the shorter form and against a hopelessly confused Kiwi team. He is not half the bowler Harbajahan is (when on form). Ojha bowled skilfully and willingly, floating the ball and drawing considerable turn from the surface. Excusing Cook and Prior, England were bewitched by the most orthodox of spin bowling. Pietersen particularly did not covet himself in glory, dancing like a pale white kid, entranced by the girl he’s come with to an indie disco (yes, I am looking in the mirror).

Do I Feel Gloomy? You probably won’t get that reference, never mind….

The second innings saw Cook score a stunning rear-guard century ( his 3rd  in 3 test matches as England captain) as England batted out the entire fourth day. Aided by Prior (91), they staved off the embarrassment of a defeat with a day to spare and tired the Indian bowlers, but the loss was always coming. Just three days later the two teams met again, England without Ian Bell (away on paternal leave, though pray God he stays and never returns) and Tim Bresnan (just a lump of average-ness): Bairstow and Panesar took their places. Monty Panesar being left out of the first test XI was universally criticised; one wonders how Andy Flower and his (they surely bow to his royal Zimbabwean self) selectors could have been so blind as to misread the pitch for that Ahmendabad test: to me it stinks of conservatism. I hope Cook is not bowed by the rigid practices of Flower and his predecessor.

It was the comebacks of two men that took the headlines in Mumbai: Panesar’s 11 wicket haul and Pietersen’s majestic 186, his 3rd explosive century in 8 tests. To think it was very likely that neither of these men would have played in this match, is fairly staggering. Cook and Pietersen (both scoring their 22nd test tonnes, drawing level with Boycott, Hutton and Hammond as the men with the most test centuries for England. Surely the safe money is on Cook to breach new territory first?) almost singled-handedly gave England the lead that allowed Panesar to decimate the home batting line-up. The victory was complete with time to spare. The world was shocked, I was too, primarily because we looked so awful and played with only 6 players (Cook, Pietersen, Anderson, Prior, Swann and Panesar, the rest were fairly awful). Thankfully India only had the splendid Pujara (so young and talented, but we shall wait for South Africa next year before judging him fully), Ojha and a gritty Gambhir innings in them. Now the pressure is thrown onto the Indians, I can’t see them enjoying it. The final two tests shall be quite some battle. I do not think the English will prevail sadly, ding-dong Bell will manhandle his way back into the side (thus wasting the chance to have a batsman who can actually play the spinning ball on sub continental pitches), the selectors will probably stick with does a bit of this, does a bit of that Patel and run for the hills, even keep that petulant skinny/sub-Flintoff: Stuart Broad!

I’m hopeful but alas blunt. 2-1 India, a bore draw and another smothering by spin, because us English never like to conquer our demons. We like to fret and worry and constantly insist on a change we never have any intention of putting into practice. Oh life.

The Australia – South Africa series has been real test match cricket. I’d bemoan the lack of a fourth and/or fifth test, but both teams (the Australians particularly) have more injured men in their ranks than University degrees (bit unfair). The first test saw the South Africans do well, the Aussies really well and the South Africans alright again. There was a lot of talk about momentum going to the Australians as they went to Adelaide and I agreed etc. The Australians destroyed the South Africans for the first 4 and a bit days: Clarke scored even more runs and nobody was bored as the Aussies went at the Saffer attack as though they were Bangladesh. It took one of the great defensive innings by South Africa’s newest gritty batsman: Faf Du Plessis. Apparently he almost signed a Kolpak deal that would have seen him qualify for England.

HE COULD HAVE BEEN OUR NEW PAUL COLLINGWOOD.

We like batsman with bottom hand grips, not afraid to meet the ball with a disregard for such trivial things as TV demographics and viewing figures and ticket sales. He played test cricket and it was beautiful, fantastic, compulsive viewing. For myself anyway.

He didn’t FAF around (geddit).

The third test is 20% complete and with the South Africans bundled out for a below-par score we shall see a result. I still think the Australians will win, though I want the Saffers to prevail. I’m sick of being right…..

…. Remember when I went on about the Kiwis being rubbish since last November, but they had bags of potential and all that? Well they were rubbish in Galle and were comprehensively destroyed, BUT, they were stunning in Colombo winning for the first time in Sri Lanka this millennium. Williamson and Taylors proved their class and that seam attack did the job it’s done all year. With Southee, Bracewell, Boult, Martin, Wagner, Milne, Gillespie and others in reserve, bring on the conducive services of South Africa in the New Year, you never know eh…

To finish the news (hardly news as most of it happened ages ago, well its old news at least), Bangladesh scored more runs in an innings then they ever had and for only the second time in test history a number ten batsmen got a tonne (on debut no less), but they are still woefully inconsistent. The new look West Indies side prevailed in both tests (the first one being fairly competitive till half way through the final day) displaying their progress in the last year since they visited previously. One merely weeps at the lack of quality test cricket they have on the horizon. We can only pray that things stay as they are and continue to develop in the sunny islands of the west.

That’s the cricket; this has very much been a catch up. I hope if you’ve read this (some will though you probably stumbled upon it and regret wasting 10 minutes skimming it, or you know and hate me, in which case I LOVE YOU) it has made you feel something…. Anything. I’ll be posting something next week, hopefully you might be interested…

CULT PLAYER OF THE MONTH.

A monthly thing I’m going to do starting with…. I dunno.

We’ll both find out, I feel like some pancakes and coffee because my eyes are getting at me and some stuff is always so brghargh.

Till next time.

Maybe some cranberry and raspberry juice actually.

“Do you love me? I love you.”

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