The ambiguity of selection; Ratings, 22nd May
Russell Degnan

3rd TestWest IndiesvEngland
Pre-rating865.91097.3
Form-13.7+34.8
Expected MarginEngland by 66 runs
Actual MarginWest Indies by 5 wickets
Post-rating876.01088.8
Series rating949.31010.0

It is hard to know whether to label this English side as inexperienced - and therefore capable of much more in the future - or under-performing. The core of Cook, Anderson, Broad and Bell (and Trott, in theory), provided a century, a six wicket haul, and a pair to this match - England's biggest contributions, but not sufficient when the players around them were providing 20s and 30s, and the odd wicket amongst a glut of runs. They bat deep, but were bowled out for 257 and 123; they have ample bowlers, but apart from Anderson looked largely toothless, particularly once Bravo and Blackwood settled in the second innings.

Inexperience isn't an excuse, or even a reason for poor performance. A player is either the best available in that role, or they are not. The usual justification for a younger, but inferior player, who will grow and learn, make sense in the context of a domestic club which needs to retain and develop assets, but not a national side. First class cricket ought to be the finishing school for future test performers, yet in the rush to "test" young players, they are put into situations where they are expected to fail, and in which the team fails with them. If England had a few players in the prime of their career it would hardly matter, but it is hard to point to anyone who fits that bill. Even Broad - of the right age - seems to be burnt out from the workload.

The West Indies suffer similarly, but this is partly forced upon them by the absence of quality (available) players in that age group. Bravo, whose 82 anchored the chase, and who, at 26, might just be ready to handle the duel burdens of being the best batsman in a weak side, and the inevitable comparisons to Brian Lara. Blackwood may be several years from a similar leap; but with Chanderpaul on his last legs, and Samuels likely to follow, they represent a hope that victories like this won't be the rarity they have been in the past few years.


2 TestsBangladeshvPakistan
Pre-rating594.61106.1
Form+3.5-16.3
Expected MarginPakistan by 206 runs
Actual MarginMatch drawn
Pakistan by 328 runs
Post-rating594.21103.8
Series rating685.81013.8

Bangladesh need to improve their pitches.

In recent years, presumably (and relatively successfully) in pursuit of draws that would arrest the endless series of home losses, their pitches have been especially slow and easy to bat on. In the first test of this series they survived Pakistan's massive 628 run total thanks to an equally impressive 312 stand between Tamin Iqbal and Imrul Kayes. In the second test, they did not. Their first innings was insufficient to prevent Pakistan racing to create a target, on top of yet another 550 plus total, and they lost on day 4.

Against a team like Australia, whose weakness against spin is glaring, these type of pitches offer their best hope of victory. Against Pakistan, accomplished players on slow pitches, capable of scoring quickly with the bat, and exploiting conditions with the ball, their best outcome is a very tedious draw. Yet, in Australia for the world cup, we saw a Bangladesh attack capable of playing on faster pitches, of exploiting bounce, and (less often) of making runs. Bangladeshi wickets will always be a little slow and take some spin, but lifeless serves only to produce draws and losses. They need to back themselves to bowl out the opposition in home conditions, and produce surfaces that the opposition won't score 500 or 600 plus on.

This series, in the end, showed very little about either side's cricket, as Pakistan were barely challenged with the bat, and trusted on the continuing inconsistencies of Bangladesh to create a win. The ratings gap is still very large, but the talent gap has closed, and Bangladesh will start closing the former, when their players have belief they can win matches.


I-Cup MatchNamibiavHong Kong
Pre-rating383.4145.2
Form-49.9-7.2
Expected MarginNamibia by 169 runs
Actual MarginNamibia by 114 runs
Post-rating369.2150.1

With only one prior first-class match for Hong Kong, this is a bit of a step into the unknown. They have established themselves as a quality T20 side, and translated that into good ODI performances. But absent three players (though Namibia were missing Williams and Snyman), and with little experience in even two-day cricket, let along four, they were always going to lack the discipline to bat for long periods, and the energy to return for two and three spells. Namibia exploited the latter in their second innings, setting up a target of 302 on the last day perfectly, and but for some runs down the order, Hong Kong would have lost even more heavily.

The African side's challenges will come in the future. They have an admirable record in this competition, and are an outside chance of progressing to the final if things fall their way. Their weakness, as ever, is a lack of a quality fast bowler, and a seemingly endless stream of all-rounders doesn't make up for the absence of someone capable of rolling sides.


2 TestsEnglandvNew Zealand
Pre-rating1088.8986.2
Form+9.0+47.3
Expected MarginEngland by 101 runs

New Zealand's rapid rise up the ratings, boasting a form-line more akin to the associates who don't play enough matches to remain stable, has narrowed the gap between these two sides to less than 100 points. But England remain at home, and their record their against New Zealand is fairly overwhelming. This could be a fairly spectacular match, given McCullum's captaincy and his team's aggressive approach to scoring, swing bowling and fielding. The English online commentariat would love to see the same from their side - a source of some ambivalence over both the result and the non-selection of Kevin Pietersen.

Too much has already been written about him, but it is worth dwelling on one essential point. One the English dressing room ought to appreciate. There are really only two questions that need to be answered. Firstly, does Pietersen offer more value than the next best selection, and by how much? The three weakest middle-order batsmen (assuming they don't drop Bell) either bowl or keep. Arguably England have too many bowlers with Mooen Ali at eight, but it isn't a bad thing to get runs from the lower order (with Broad's batting basically non-existent the tail is now achingly long). Do the (at most) 20 runs Pietersen adds make up for the bowling (or the fielding)?

Secondly, do the "trust" issues mean the players around him play worse? And if so, by what amount? Cricket is a very individual game, but if a player can be shown to be having a detrimental effect on those around him, then that is a problem. If he doesn't then the decision smacks of spite and convenience, not sound selection. It isn't clear that any player was performing worse because of Pietersen, though Cook looks a broken man, that is just as likely to be the effect of the incompetence of the ECB hierarchy. Perhaps they field worse when unhappy; perhaps the unhappiness was a broader issue, not least amongst players who've already moved on. Pietersen hasn't ever come across as an inspiring team-mate, and they probably haven't lost much for his absence (all things considered), but the utter disaster of how it was brought about has undoubtedly damaged the ECB, and their relationship with some players (nor were selection and coaching issues limited to just KP). A clean-out would be rather more effective if it started with those wielding the brooms.


F/C MatchScotlandvU.A.E.
Pre-rating412.0257.3
Form-41.7+49.2
Expected MarginScotland by 77 runs

A warm-up match in Southampton (of all places, but perhaps the weather will be fine. The relative form lines of these two sides mean this ought to be closer than the ratings suggest. Scotland are in season though, and playing in more familiar conditions. The U.A.E. have performed better than expected in those sort of pace-friendly environments, and would consider themselves well matched against Scotland. Neither side may approach it as more than a warmup for the much more important matches next week, but it will still be worth keeping an eye on.


Rankings at 22nd May 2015
1.South Africa1288.3
2.Australia1225.8
3.Pakistan1103.8
4.India1094.5
5.England1088.8
6.Sri Lanka1033.1
7.New Zealand986.2
8.West Indies876.0
10.Bangladesh594.2
12.Zimbabwe559.8

9.Ireland594.8
11.Afghanistan587.6
13.Scotland430.3
14.Namibia369.2
15.Kenya276.4
16.U.A.E.257.3
17.Netherlands182.4
18.Hong Kong150.1
19.Canada147.9

Shaded teams have played fewer than 2 games per season. Non-test team ratings are not comparable to test ratings as they don't play each other.

Cricket - Ratings - Test 22nd May, 2015 03:57:06   [#] [0 comments] 

Americas Div1 T20, Europe Div1 T20 with Chris Minty, Germany with Brian Mantle; Associate and Affiliate Cricket Podcast
Russell Degnan

There is so much cricket on it is hard to kep up, but Andrew Nixon (@andrewnixon79) and Russell Degnan (@idlesummers) will do their best. The final two regional qualifiers for the WT20 qualifier were played, with Canada winning the Americas region (0:27), and Jersey springing a mild surprise in Europe (10:50). Andrew spoke to chief executive of the Jersey Cricket Board, Chris Minty about hosting the tournament and the challenge of stepping up to the next level in July (5:00). Norway also had a successful week, moving into the World Cricket League with victory over France (17:20). Not for the first time, Ireland's biennial fixture against England was washed out, so we talk about whether the ECB is taking the match (and Irish development) seriously (18:44). Namibia hosted the first matches of the new Intercontinental Cup and World Cricket League Championship cycle against Hong Kong, winning the four day game, but splitting the others. (24:19) In development chat, we have an interview with the general manager of Cricket Germany, Brian Mantle, who discusses how they are positioning themselves for growth, and the importance of women's cricket in the country. (27:48) And we preview the I-Cup matches involving Scotland, Afghanistan, Ireland and the UAE. (36:52).

Direct Download Running Time 43min. Music from Martin Solveig, "Big in Japan"

The associate and affiliate cricket podcast is an attempt to expand coverage of associate tournaments by obtaining local knowledge of the relevant nations. If you have or intend to go to a tournament at associate level - men's women's, ICC, unaffiliated - then please get in touch in the comments or by email.

Cricket - Associate - Podcast 19th May, 2015 01:05:37   [#] [0 comments] 

ICC Meeting, Regional T20 Previews; Associate and Affiliate Cricket Podcast
Russell Degnan

After a short break for lack of cricket, Andrew Nixon (@andrewnixon79) and Russell Degnan (@idlesummers) return to discuss the outcomes - those released anyway - of the recent ICC meeting. We discuss the non-decisions over the 2019 world cup (0:35), and USACA (3:24). And the hosting of the U/19 world cup qualifier in Nepal (5:00) which will hopefully still be able to go ahead, despite the recent disaster, for which we send our thoughts. We touch on the implications of any split, in light of the Essel Group plans to form a breakaway governing body (6:46). In previews, Americas Division One is taking place in Indianapolis (11:36), followed by European Division One in Jersey (15:58), and be sure to check the ICC Europe website for the live-stream of the final day. There are also previews of Ireland's ODI versus England (20:36) and the Namibia versus Hong Kong I-Cup and WCL championship matches in Windhoek (23:40). And there is some future tournament news out of Africa (26:45).

Direct Download Running Time 31min. Music from Martin Solveig, "Big in Japan"

The associate and affiliate cricket podcast is an attempt to expand coverage of associate tournaments by obtaining local knowledge of the relevant nations. If you have or intend to go to a tournament at associate level - men's women's, ICC, unaffiliated - then please get in touch in the comments or by email.

Cricket - Associate - Podcast 5th May, 2015 01:15:40   [#] [0 comments] 

Inconsistency, or the ebbs and flows of modern crickets; Ratings 27th April
Russell Degnan

2nd TestWest IndiesvEngland
Pre-rating874.41083.4
Form+4.5+27.5
Expected MarginEngland by 54 runs
Actual MarginEngland by 9 wickets
Post-rating865.81097.3

It is tempting to say England won this match in two days. They didn't, in reality it lasted until well into the fifth, but they did put in about two days of decent cricket, and that was sufficient to roll over a West Indies side that, in patches, plays okay.

Marlon Samuels, who if he always tried might be a good cricketer but seems to reserve those moments for personal vainglory and vendettas, anchored the West Indies first innings, making 103, but while there were runs in the tail, neither the batsmen nor the bowlers played well. Cook, Trott and Ballance made a good start, for once, but the innings of note was Root's 182 not out, left short of a double century by some typically lackadaisical batting from Broad and Anderson, who followed it up with poor bowling.

At stumps on day four, the West Indies needed to bat to tea to save a game they'd never really been in. At which point Anderson took control, removing Braithwaite for 116, along with Samuels, Chanderpaul and any remaining resistance. Cook and Ballance knocked off the runs, and the tourists took the win. You suspect any win is a good win for England these days, but given the weaknesses of the opposition, that merely underlines the lack of confidence still plaguing the side.

2 TestsBangladeshvPakistan
Pre-rating594.61106.1
Form+3.5-16.3
Expected MarginPakistan by 206 runs

One-day series rarely provide much of a guide to a test series, but Bangladesh's demolition of Pakistan raises more than a few questions. The performances of Bangladesh at home have been improving for some time, as has the consistency of their cricket, as the talented youth have finally began to make their mark. Conversely, is this the same Pakistan that Australia had no answers to less than 12 months ago? The squad for the tests sees the eturn of Younis Khan and Misbah-ul-Haq, and with them ought to come that stability and nous to see off Bangladesh. But the world cup showed a side of the Bangles that was new, and this is the sort of opportunity they need to take. If they play nearer their potential, this should be a much more interesting series than the rating gap suggets.

Rankings at 27th April 2015
1.South Africa1288.3
2.Australia1225.8
3.Pakistan1106.1
4.England1097.3
5.India1094.5
6.Sri Lanka1033.1
7.New Zealand986.2
8.West Indies865.8
10.Bangladesh594.6
12.Zimbabwe559.8

9.Ireland594.8
11.Afghanistan587.6
13.Scotland430.3
14.Namibia383.4
15.Kenya276.4
16.U.A.E.257.3
17.Netherlands182.4
18.Canada147.9

Shaded teams have played fewer than 2 games per season. Non-test team ratings are not comparable to test ratings as they don't play each other.

Cricket - Ratings - Test 27th April, 2015 22:28:08   [#] [0 comments] 

A lot of bowling for scant reward; Ratings 21st April
Russell Degnan

1st TestWest IndiesvEngland
Pre-rating872.41084.7
Form+1.7+40.2
Expected MarginEngland by 56 runs
Actual MarginMatch Drawn
Post-rating874.41083.4

Ratings-wise, a draw in this match was not a significant surprise. Nor, historically, is a pitch in the West Indies offering little to the batsmen. But for the current West Indies side, and despite the bets efforts of their top-order to give away their wickets, fighting out 130 overs to draw was a rare and significant achievement. Holder was the hero, of course, batting out the last 50 overs when 6 down, to score 103, supported by Ramdin and Roach. But Smith and Blackwood both made significant contributions in the match. As did Roach and Taylor with the ball.

England's openers both failed, though it is unlikely this is a permanent state for Cook and Trott. But they got runs through the middle order, scored quickly, and gave themselves enough time to win. They just didn't.

Fortunately, Tredwell took the bulk of the overs, but having bowled at the West Indies for 240 overs across 4 days, and with only a 4 day rest, there is no better chance for the West Indies to score runs and press for a victory. As Sri Lanka showed in the last English summer, holding on for a draw can be enough if fortune smiles favourably in the following match.


Rankings at 21st April 2015
1.South Africa1288.3
2.Australia1225.8
3.Pakistan1106.1
4.India1094.5
5.England1083.4
6.Sri Lanka1033.1
7.New Zealand986.2
8.West Indies874.4
10.Bangladesh594.6
12.Zimbabwe559.8

9.Ireland594.8
11.Afghanistan587.6
13.Scotland430.3
14.Namibia383.4
15.Kenya276.4
16.U.A.E.257.3
17.Netherlands182.4
18.Canada147.9

Shaded teams have played fewer than 2 games per season. Non-test team ratings are not comparable to test ratings as they don't play each other.

Cricket - Ratings - Test 22nd April, 2015 01:56:12   [#] [0 comments] 

Africa Division 1 T20, Wisden CRTW with James Coyne; Associate and Affiliate Cricket Podcast
Russell Degnan

As has become a tradition, assistant editor of the Wisden Cricketers' Almanack, James Coyne (@coynejames), joins us to discuss the Cricket Round the World section some of the interesting historical entries in the supplementary obituaries, and the increasingly global stance of the Wisden Almanack. (25:35) Andrew Nixon (@andrewnixon79) and Russell Degnan (@idlesummers) review the African Division One T20 qualifiers won by Namibia on an extraordinary final day, as well as the attached WCL6 qualifier won by Botswana. (0:30) They take a final look at the world cup, discussing what we should aim for in a format, and why a 20 team world cup is the best of many possible options. (7:35) Much of the news has to wait for the ICC conference to leak out, but there is still news from USACA (0:48:30), we touch on Richie Benaud's role as the patron of French cricket (0:54:40), discuss the grants available to EAP members (0:58:30) and note the retirement of Binod Das (1:00:40).

Direct Download Running Time 62min. Music from Martin Solveig, "Big in Japan"

The associate and affiliate cricket podcast is an attempt to expand coverage of associate tournaments by obtaining local knowledge of the relevant nations. If you have or intend to go to a tournament at associate level - men's women's, ICC, unaffiliated - then please get in touch in the comments or by email.

Cricket - Associate - Podcast 17th April, 2015 01:14:07   [#] [3 comments] 

A new season; Ratings 13th April
Russell Degnan

3 TestsWest IndiesvEngland
Pre-rating872.41084.7
Form+1.7+40.2
Expected MarginEngland by 56 runs

Apparently test cricket is still a thing. England will be desperate to return to its longer certainties after a long winter hiatus from the form that amounted to nothing. When they last took the field they made a mess of India - which is still reflected in their form - but their rating still puts them as a middling side. Favourites, but with the potential to lose if the West Indies hit their straps.

For their part, and perhaps for the first time in a decade, the West Indies are fielding something approaching a proper pace bowling unit. In Roach, Taylor and the impressive young Holder there is the possibility of regularly taking 20 wickets. Unfortunately, a weak batting lineup further gutted by the IPL, and as dependent on the ageless Chanderpaul as ever, wont regularly produce defendable targets. An upset win is a possibility, but it won't be just the new ECB chairman looking askance if England don't win.


4th TestAustraliavIndia
Pre-rating1232.01092.7
Form-17.8-16.1
Expected MarginAustralia by 120 runs
Actual MarginMatch Drawn
Post-rating1225.81094.5
Series rating1199.41129.9

Maybe a little delayed, but there wasn't much to say about any of these post-new year tests. India, with Kohli in supreme form (and newly appointed captain) continued their pre-new year form to thwart Australia, but never at any point in the series looked like taking enough wickets. The only possible chance at victory came in Adelaide when they were given a declaration target. The rest of their summer was spent watching Steve Smith bat, and leaving the Australian selectors the somewhat difficult choice of form batsmen to leave out when (and if) Clarke returns.

Australia's bowling wasn't as strong as they might have liked, and they showed particular weakness as the innings progressed and the lack of turn or reverse swing left them with a lot of work. There will be, again, calls to drop Lyon on the back of performances at home, but they should be resisted. Australia is a spinner's graveyard and he is the best option for the Ashes.

3rd TestSouth AfricavWest Indies
Pre-rating1293.6869.0
Form-6.7-6.7
Expected MarginSouth Africa by 262 runs
Actual MarginSouth Africa by 8 wickets
Post-rating1288.3872.4
Series rating1298.9864.3

South Africa came nowhere near their expected margin in this match, which perhaps is the most interesting element of an otherwise routine victory. Steyn ad de Villiers provided the bulk of the wickets and runs, and in Harmer they've found another South African spinner batsmen and fans alike will invariably under-estimate and dislike.

For a brief moment in the third innings, with Samuels and Chanderpaul at the crease, and a lead of 100, the West Indies were capable of putting South Africa under pressure. But a rash shot from Samuels after a prolonged period of accurate bowling, then a fairly abject collapse of 7/33 in 15 overs ended any chance of a contest. South Africa aren't the team they were even a year ago. But the West Indies remain a brittle and easily beaten unit.


2nd TestNew ZealandvSri Lanka
Pre-rating968.01042.1
Form+43.5-3.9
Expected MarginNew Zealand by 13 runs
Actual MarginNew Zealand by 193 runs
Post-rating986.21033.1
Series rating1190.2815.4

New Zealand ended the year on a run of form that has almost lifted them back over 1000 rating points for the first time since Shane Bond could be relied on. Like then, having an attack (or a bowler) capable of taking wickets makes all the difference; unlike then, in Williamson they have a batsman of genuine class who could raise them to heights not visited in 30 years.

Sri Lanka made them work in this match, with Lakmal and Pradeep taking seven between them, and only Williamson's 69 preventing an embarrassment as they lost 8 wickets between lunch and tea. Sri Lanka's reply of 356 looks rather better than it was purely because of Sangakarra, whose late career form continues to defy belief, and whose coming absence will be felt more than normal when a great retires.

New Zealand were four down and yet to pass Sri Lanka when Watling joined Williamson in the second innings, but 402 runs later, the match was effectively safe. It took until tea on day five to turn it into another comprehensive victory, but New Zealand are playing as well as anyone right now, and they'll offer an interesting test to England (and to the English psyche) when they travel there at the start of summer.


Rankings at 13th April 2015
1.South Africa1288.3
2.Australia1225.8
3.Pakistan1106.1
4.India1094.5
5.England1084.7
6.Sri Lanka1033.1
7.New Zealand986.2
8.West Indies872.4
10.Bangladesh594.6
12.Zimbabwe559.8

9.Ireland594.8
11.Afghanistan587.6
13.Scotland430.3
14.Namibia383.4
15.Kenya276.4
16.U.A.E.257.3
17.Netherlands182.4
18.Canada147.9

Shaded teams have played fewer than 2 games per season. Non-test team ratings are not comparable to test ratings as they don't play each other.

Cricket - Ratings - Test 16th April, 2015 01:57:20   [#] [0 comments] 

Development, the F1 Board Game
Russell Degnan

I can easily recall the first sporting event I was allowed to forgo "bed time" and stay up late for: the Wimbledon men's final of 1987. Whether my parents' realised it, or were merely helpless to prevent it happening anyway, this represented a watershed in what became (and has continued to be) an endless series of late-night sporting vigils for cricket, cycling, tennis, football, and in the immediate years after 1987, Formula One.

This was something of a pity though, because 1986 and 1987 represented the best two years of F1 racing for probably the next twenty-five years. Five drivers won races from four different teams in both those years, with three drivers contending for the championship decided in Adelaide in 1986. Subsequent years were less kind, as first McLaren then Williams dominated the standings.

The highpoint in my interest, and my board game making and playing, was in 1990. The cars lack any of my brother's precise (albeit much older) hand, but offset it with surprising detail in the colours and shape of the air intakes. There were plenty of teams and obscure names in those years for the aspiring anorak, and hand drawing each and every one of them was a handy starting place.

In around 1989, my brother made a wooden and paper-mache version of the board, now stored at my parents, complete with hills and painted colours. It was magnificent, but couldn't deal with number of cars, or an expanding sense of what made a good game. Other tracks were created, three A3 sheets big and coated in contact. Future board games would get cardboard backs and computer printing, but this depended on rulers and smudged ink.

Racing lines were introduced, and pass cards (for lapping vehicles). Somewhere there is a clipboard full of race results, each lap recorded against the number of turns, and the fraction of each turn used to cross the line (I can still calculate fractions for every number up to 24). Fastest lap times and time gaps, carefully recorded, and whole seasons run on the floor of a bedroom.

Probability simulations became something of a hobby as my mathematics knowledge (and my general nerdiness) increased. This came to its fullest fruition in cricket, but there were changes in F1 too. There was an obvious difference between a real race, with a small handful of passing manoeuvres in tens of laps, and a board game where a car could run back to front with a handful of lucky rolls.

Some basic ideas were developed around gears, where a car would accelerate out of corners, keeping its position; on tyre wear; and in making the better teams very slightly faster, turn on turn. There are further notes on game practice and recording results efficiently, and a multi-coloured board that made good use of a derwent pencil set.

And then? Computers happened. Microprose Grand Prix specifically, which was quicker to play, and somewhat more fun. Then serious school (sort-of) and university. The bits and pieces got filed in the cupboard, appearing only recently, when I decided to revive the board game. But that's another post.

Formula One 6th April, 2015 23:10:48   [#] [2 comments]