the wrong 'un

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Oh Mudhsuden, Mudhsuden.

As well as being a physical and mental challenge cricket, like most sports, has its artistic side, and there is little about the game of cricket that is more enjoyable than watching quality spin bowling. In theory, batsmen who can find the time to play attacking shots at balls which seam or swing and are bowled at upward of ninety miles an hour should have no difficulty dispatching spinning deliveries bowled at fifty, but they do. And as it is easier for the spectator to pick the subtle variations of the accomplished spinner without recourse to Hawkeye and Slo-mo, the entertainment to the viewer is enhanced.

And now, glory be, after a long hiatus, England have decided once again to play a spin bowler worthy of the name. Where once the pedestrian Giles would send down over after over of flightless, turnless, over-the-wicket dross, we have now moved into the broad sunlit uplands of flight, drift, turn and bounce. It is never easy to project the likely career progress of young sportsmen, but from what we've seen so far, Monty seems to have the potential to be a world class spinner for the next decade and beyond.

Monty is no Murali or Warne, being neither a freak of nature, nor simply a freak, (although England appear to have found a Murali-like bowler in Pietersen, albeit only as far as the bent elbow is concerned), but I hope that he is told that he will play every Test this summer, in preparation for playing every Test next winter in Australia. No, he isn't what baseball analysts call a five tool player, but somebody has to bat at eleven and his fielding will improve, not that it's as bad as some pundits would have us believe.

The future's bright, the future's Monty.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Where Did It All Go Right ?

Well hindsight's a wonderful thing, and I wasn't entirely sure I'd be writing this at 84-0, but even so backing Sri Lanka at any point in the last day and a half turned out to be money for jam, old rope, or both. Why ? What created the value and how can we spot it next time ? I'm going to post up three potential reasons for discussion.

1) Overvaluing the team batting last. Could it be that people see teams posting 350+ on a regular basis in the first innings and think "325 to win, yeah that's possible". Chasing 300+ is very difficult in any circumstances, least of all against Murali on a turning wicket. Not just because the wicket is rarely going to be good on the 4th and 5th days, but simply because of the pressure involved. It's also possible that a team with as weak a tail as England currently have is going to find it even more difficult. You don't knock 300+ off for five very often that's for sure.

2) Overvaluing England. Heart ruling the head ? There's an interesting theory I read about football, in that England are always underpriced against teams perceived to be weaker than them (Paraguay and Sweden spring to mind), but overpriced against the real top sides. People expect England to roll over no-name teams, but their natural pessimism kicks in when, say, Argentina or Italy come to town. Is the same happening in cricket ? Are England always going to be over-priced against Sri Lanka, and under-priced against Australia ? What about Pakistan who are up next ?

3) Hedging. As Alex pointed out, there were big swings in the odds during this match. It's a possibility that punters who had backed Sri Lanka earlier in the match were now laying them off to hedge, and so adjusting the odds. I'm not sold on this one. I don't think that the people who bet big are as keen to lay back as the likes of you and me (and especially Titmus who is a notorious wussy hedger). I could be wrong though, it's been known.

I'm saying a lot of 1), a bit of 2), but not much of 3) if any. Any thoughts ? Any more possible reasons ?

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Why Are Sri Lanka So Brilliant?

Really, why ? Is this just because... stop me if you've heard this before.

Lanka have been over 12-1 at stages in this game and now they're 8/13. With a lead over 250 today and more batting left before Muralitharan has the thick end of two days to bowl at England on a dustbowl they were still over Evens. Even for a side who are, um, inconsistent in their performances this was enormous, thirst-quenching value.