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Sight Screen

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

International round up

The focus is now on the Natwest Challenge -- must confess I can't wait for that one, since we'll get to see for the first time how the new rules shape up in actual play. England meanwhile named Matt Prior, a wicket-keeper with reportedly explosive batting abilities, as its super-sub. Interesting choice -- England using the substitution rule primarily to beef up its batting, rather than opt for someone who can fill in as either batsman or bowler.
Angus Fraser weighs in on Prior in the Independent:
Prior's selection suggests that England will be looking to bat second in each of the three games, a move which would allow them to add an extra batsman to their team in the pursuit of Australia's total.
It is a risky decision but it makes sense because a batsman can bat for up to 50 overs in a one-day game, whereas a bowler can only bowl 10 overs.

Not so sure the argument is sound, though -- if a batsman, a substitute batsman that is, is good enough to bat the full 50, he would be in the playing eleven, yes? Again, if one of your four regular bowlers has an off day, you as captain would like the option of taking the guy off, and limiting the damage by bringing on someone who can bowl you a few tight ones.
Richard Hobson in the Times -- like Fraser -- suggests the ploy is an indicator that England prefers to chase (Rajesh, on Cricinfo, suggests why):
Prior fits the bill as an “impact” player who will come into his own when England bat second. In that case he can replace one of the bowlers — probably Stephen Harmison — to give extra power to a chase for runs. Should England be asked to defend a target then he may still be of some value as an outstanding fielder, even though he does not bowl.

Derek Pringle, in The Telegraph, suggests that most teams will name batsmen as their super-subs, giving them an advantage in the chase.
While both sides have to name their sub before the toss, it is not compulsory to use one during the game, although he can be called upon at any time. As most subs will be batsmen, teams are more likely to want to chase, if only to allow them longer to weigh up the options, especially as fielding restrictions have been increased from 15 to 20 overs with half of them coming in two five-over tranches chosen by the fielding captain.

Donno -- I'd personally think the best option is a batsman who can bowl you a few tight ones (Australia are said to be considering Simon Katich; India would want to seriously consider Dinesh Mongia).
The Age suggests that Prior has been picked at least in part to provide cover for England's top order, which has been less than impressive against the Aus new ball attack. Interesting thought, one that could well explain why someone like Ian Blackwell, say, wasn't considered for the job.
John Rawling, meanwhile, puts his finger on something that's been puzzling me, too -- wherefore the three-game Natwest Challenge?
You can understand the Australian model of having a three-game final; this model, however, is a bit weird -- you played for the trophy, it's done and dusted, and now you play three more. As Rawling puts it:
There seems no possible justification for the three matches of the NatWest Challenge to follow so soon after the NatWest Series, apart from putting more money in the coffers of all concerned, and getting the name of one of our banking institutions, the series sponsor, in print as often as possible (three two times in this column so far and, yes, I would be interested in preferential mortgage rates).

Elsewhere, Brett Lee has vowed not to bowl any more beamers; Malcolm Conn on Fox Sports has some interesting takes on the physics of the fast bowler, even as he says none of this is an excuse for Lee's head-hunting:
In a recent analysis of Australia's pacemen, computers suggested that this country's fastest bowler was propelling as much as 10 times his own body weight through his left leg in the act of generating deliveries which can top 150km/h.
This compares to Jason Gillespie, who has the pressure of about seven times his body weight, and Glenn McGrath, about three times his weight, every time they bowl.
So Lee can have nine metal sprigs on a slippery pitch attempting to hold fast more than 800kg of force the instant before he releases the ball.

Shane Warne in his Times column says he will be back in action this week. He also says -- I think -- that Simon Jones wasn't off base when he flung that return into the body of Mathew Hayden at Edgbaston:
Sometimes a bowler will throw the ball hard towards the stumps in frustration or to release some aggression. I have done it as a way of pumping myself up for a contest. Sledging is as much about concentrating your own mind as unsettling an opponent. But I do think if a ball is thrown at the batsman, he has every right to try to whack it away.

Um... does the batsman get any runs for 'whacking it away' would Shane know? Strange -- the problem with throws aimed at the body is not the batsman's notional right of reply; it is the risk factor, given that the batsman may be otherwise occupied and unlikely to see it coming.

And to round Ashes-related links off quite nicely, John Buchanan and Duncan Fletcher are 1-1 in their own private Ashes battle, with Buchanan seemingly suggesting that England go into any game three wickets down for next to nothing. Scyld Berry in the Telegraph agrees -- McGrath, he suggests, has the wood on the England top order.
That's enough about England's top order, the Aussies aren't exactly firing on all cylinders, points out David Gower in the Sunday Times.
Let’s take one example: Adam Gilchrist. In the first two clashes he was caught behind, first off Steve Harmison and then off Chris Tremlett. Both times he was looking to what should be his strong area, square on the off side, only to be confounded by the angles and lengths of the England bowlers.

Outside of the Ashes, there's the Windies-Sri Lanka Tests coming up -- a bit of an occasion, given it's the 150th Test in SL history. Wish it had been against better opposition, says Marvan Atapattu; Murali wishes Brian Lara were coming (don't we all); not so fast, says Windies manager Tony Howard, our team may be young, but it can give SL a good fight. Garfield Myers, in the Jamaica Observer, rues the incompetence that has led Windies to this point, and suggests en masse resignation as the cure.
Elsewhere, England joins the list of nations that will not play in Karachi; bit ironic, since Pakistan is -- last I heard from GW Bush -- in the forefront of the war on terror.

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