08 September 2007

The 2007 Cricketing Summer

The English summer of (international) cricket came to a close today as England somehow managed to cruise to a 7 wicket win in the seventh, and decisive, one-day game against the touring India side. I've not posted anything about the sport this summer as a result of a number of factors - highest amongst them the fact that this has been the first year that I have been stuck at work so unable to listen to web-streamed radio commentaries and there has been no terrestrial TV coverage.

There is also the fact that the weather was as bad as it was (7 degrees at Headingly in June during the Test series against the West Indies for example), and the quality on show was not always high or competitive.

A brief summation of results doesn't look too bad, but equally not too good. West Indies were seen off 3-0 in Tests, but recovered to win the ODIs 2-1 and share the Twenty20 Internationals too, whilst India won their Test series 1-0 and lost the ODIs 4-3. As always with Cricket, the results alone don't tell the whole story. The Test they won, India dominated utterly, but England had had just as much dominance in the first game only to have it snatched from them by a not-given LBW shout and the closing in of the rain that blighted the first half of the season; the final game petered out as India played safe for the series win, though I think with some better luck with umpiring - the poorest aspect of the summer by some way - they would have been better placed to push for a match win, too.

From a personal point of view, I think the layout of the summer was all wrong. Seven ODIs is far too long a series (as most people in this country seem to agree), and the Windies' Test side, Shiv Chanderpaul apart, are poor and unworthy of the four Test series they were given for the time being, whilst the India series was always going to be keenly contested, and felt too short with only the three matches. Certainly the summer would have looked more appetising if the better touring side had had the greater share of Tests.

It has, however, been interesting almost despite the games - foul luck with injuries gave chances to players who were nowhere near selection a year ago, and to a one those who came in excelled themselves. Well, OK, Owais Shah did not cover himself in glory in his Test appearance at Lords when Vaughan was out injured, but he came back strong with his ODI performances.

There is no rest, however, as the team fly out to South Africa for the Twenty20 World Cup, the team packed full of surprises; Chris Schofield is the biggest of them. The selectors went back on all 8 yeas of Duncan Fletcher's thinking and have packed the squad with so-called "specialists" based on the domestic Twenty20 performances, and Schofield - who couldn't get a county to play him not so long ago - covered himself in glory enough to catch the eye. Strange, and bold, moves such as this will go one of two ways: either it will work, and England's extra experience in the format will pay dividends with a good showing, or it will backfire spectacularly as we find that journeymen county pros simply cannot live with top class internationals. I know which my money would be on.

I miss not being able to watch the cricket in the summers; highlights packages do not do it for me, and never could. Thankfully Test Match Special is on-going, and Cricinfo's online text coverage means scores are generally easily followed, but between working now and the loss of Tests on free-to-air TV this summer has been the least interesting for a while for me. There wasn't even an Oval-gate equivalent to liven things up. That said, with finds like Stuart Broad and Ravi Bopara proving themselves and a larger nucleus of good, and ready, players proving themselves the future looks promising, even if I will not be able to hear and see most of it.

Not sure what the point of this post was really, but I felt I had to write something. So I did.

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