The Alternative Review | Currie Cup

This is not the place to find who won, who scored, or who played well. This is what I thought of what I saw, mostly useless information, and why the refs and commentators were sh1t.

Free State Cheetahs v Blue Bulls | 12 October 2013

Commentator Gavin Cowley has called Elgar Watts “a most underrated kicker” before, and just like before Watts went on to miss the first simple kick he lined up on Saturday. Maybe it’s time for a different description, Gav. Maybe try “an overrated kicker” next time?

wattskick

Having said that, and after he missed a further sitter, Watts did set up the Cheetahs’ first try with a classic flyhalf break (around a fattie).

What is it about the Currie Cup that we see so many “highly regarded” loose forwards, as captains of their sides nogal, who are mediocre rugby players at best.

Boom Prinsloo and Jono Ross from this game fit that description, while both Keegan Daniel and Jacques Botes fit the bill at the Sharks.

boomross

I couldn’t stop laughing when Akona Ndungane tried to go round Raymond Rhule. He actually saw Rhule, lined him up, and tried to out-pace him. It was hilarious… I can only think he somehow mistook Rhule for Trevor Nyakane.

Perhaps Ndungane was somehow blinded by the reflection off his own incredible forehead. Peter Ndoro would be proud.

shinyheads

Gavin Cowley then got some sun in his eye, as he credited Trevor Nyakane with a lineout win. God help Cowley if the actual lineout winner, Oupa Mohoje, ever hears about the confusion…

Because Oupa Mohoje is tough. He cleans out rucks like my oupa used to clean his tool shed – seriously f&cking hard, all the time, and with a satisfied smile on his face.

The facts are these: Adriaan Strauss scored a try at the end by beating JJ Engelbrecht to a ball that had been kicked through; he had a head-start; the ball bounced kindly for him; and he’s a f&cking hard guy to get around in less than 25 metres.

strausstry

It was a fine try, but I’d love to hear him describe it in 20 years time…

There wasn’t much that Engelbrecht could do about that try, but then there wasn’t much he did all day. Both he and Jan Serfontein were quiet, with the latter wasted on crash-ball duty while JJ got cold outside him.

Coverage concluded with the #humanspirit moment, that try by Strauss in fact, which I gather is part of some competition being run by Supersport. God that’s lame… Even Oprah would vom in her mouth at the thought.

supersport

Tweets from the game…

@tricyclebear Cheetahs penalty, Goosen kicks to touch, breaks arm.

@ThalaMsutu77 I still say the Bulls have been playing crap since the lineout calls have been in English.

And from the WP v Sharks game, that I hardly saw any of…

@WykaSpies Steven Kitshoff se hare kan nie nat word nie. #ssrugby

== FULL TIME ==

The Alternative Rugby Review | 13/14 Sept 2013

This is not the place to find who won, who scored, or who played well. This is what I thought of what I saw, mostly useless information, and why the refs and commentators were sh1t.

Currie Cup | Free State Cheetahs v Golden Lions

According to the first graphic we saw, the combined age of the Cheetahs front row was 75, and that of the Lions was nine. It struck me as an error immediately, given that I know for a fact that CJ van der Linde is older than that himself because I watched him play for South Africa back in 2002.

I recall CJ’s debut in particular because I remember commenting at the time that I thought he looked like an only slightly more mannish Natalie du Toit.

CJnatalie

Commentator Gareth Wright attributed the Lions elevated position on the log to Elton Jantjies’ willingness and ability to take the ball flat. Entirely to that, and only that. The Old Flyhalves Club is a real thing.

This game featured, for the first time that I’ve seen, a “shadow referee”. From what I could tell, this is a teenage poppie who takes the ref his water bottle when he’s thirsty.

Gavin Cowley, bless him he was there at the World Cup final back in ’95, has turned into our grandfathers. I get the impression he’s just sitting back in the comms box letting Shimmie do the hard work, until he thinks he sees something to complain about. Often mistakenly.

gavincowley

Like when Jantjies was given a yellow card, he ranted on about how it was just a little push and he didn’t even start it, when the penalty was actually for the cynical and professional foul of throwing the ball away.

Or when he couldn’t understand what Minnie did wrong, despite us all hearing the ref say Minnie was fine, it was from a “previous advantage” three separate times.

I also enjoyed how he wondered whether this game was going to be a “game of two halves”, because the curtain raiser before it was a “game of two halves”, apparently. I suspect it will.

Towards the end of the match the ref called “Use it!” to the Lions scrumhalf, but he clearly didn’t hear because he made no move to do so. But CJ van der Linde standing at first receiver heard him, and was then clearly heard himself passing the message on to his scrummie: “Use it! Use it! Use die fokkin’ ding!”

Rugby Championship | New Zealand v South Africa

I didn’t see this game live because I was away enjoying the last of the British summer, but I managed to not hear the result until I got home on Sunday night. At which point, entering my home, I announced to my housemate, “I don’t know what happened in the rugby, don’t tell me the score.” And she replied, “Oh you don’t want to know!”

So I killed her, and I don’t believe there’s a judge or jury in the world that would convict me.

I used to love the Haka. I used to really get into it and get a thrill watching the challenge laid down and accepted.

haka

But it’s hard these days to get excited by it when there are three cameramen and their sound guys between the two teams, when one of those cameramen is giving me a view right up Kieran Read’s nose, and when some cheesy fireworks go off at the end. #betterinmyday

Zane Kirchner is picked at fullback largely because it’s thought that he’s “good out the air”. So then how come every bomb that went up, ours or theirs, either ended in New Zealand winning it back or Kirchner knocking it on?

In one damning example Ben Smith will be credited with winning the ball out of the air even though he was lying on the ground. That’s how bad we were at kick and catch on Saturday.

Sam Cane left about a pint of blood on Eden Park on Saturday, and nobody even offered him tea and a biscuit afterwards.

samkane

I don’t mean to be insensitive, I know many have suffered as a result of the earthquakes that have struck New Zealand, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the collision between Coenie Oosthuizen and Charlie Faumuina registered on a Richter scale somewhere.

A lot has been said about Bismarck du Plessis’ yellow and red cards, by some people who speak more sense than me and a lot who don’t. It is what it is. But what I wonder is whether he was more severely punished or whether those instances were more closely scrutinised because in both cases a New Zealander was left injured on the ground.

Victor Matfield went into every tackle he ever took leading with his elbow. Pierre Spies does a similar thing and indeed several others in world rugby do the same. And all of them should be penalised every time they do, but they aren’t. It just looks a lot worse when a guy the size of Liam Messam goes down clutching his throat as a result.

Despite everything, New Zealand were better on the day. They were more clinical and more composed. But I’ll put my alternative reputation on a South African victory in Johannesburg in three weeks time.

Rugby Championship | Australia v Argentina

They call Nick Cummins “The Honey Badger”, presumably because he’s all energy and aggression and what not. And he is. But on current form and evidence it looks like an actual honey badger would have better ball skills.

badger

I didn’t see much else in this game worth commenting on. I mainly watched it on fast forward so I didn’t hear the gems and gaffes that I presume the Australian commentators came up with. But I trust they were there and you enjoyed them nonetheless.

Tell me what you think

Did I get something right? Or wrong? Was I too harsh, or not harsh enough? Do you agree CJ and Natalie could be the same person? Tweet me at @tricyclebear and let me know.

Not Your Normal Football Report | 31 August 2013

I don’t have the patience to watch an entire weekend of football, so all of my (alternative) conclusions and opinions are based on whatever they show on Match of the Day.

Crystal Palace v Sunderland

South African midfielder Kagisho Dikgacoi celebrated as if he’d scored Palace’s first goal, despite replays showing that Danny Gabbidon got the final touch and Dikgacoi hardly even touched the ball at all.

dikgacoi

I was going to make a joke about South Africa’s famously high crime rate and stealing goals and credit, but then I learned that Dikgacoi’s actual middle name is “Evidence” and the pressure became too much so I left it.

I didn’t watch the game, I only saw the highlights, so I can’t say for sure that it didn’t happen, but I’d be disappointed if the commentator didn’t at some stage say that Crystal Palace’s Jason is Puncheon above his weight

The only thing worse than Dwight Gayle’s penalty was goalkeeper Keiren Westwood’s attempt at saving it. They call that the Sydney Harbour Bridge in Australia.

Judging by what I saw, Palace were happy to let their captain Mile Jedinak shoot from distance whenever he liked. And so were Sunderland. The only people unhappy about it were the fans in the stands who kept getting hit.

nose

Manchester City v Hull City

This looked like being a game of far-misses as Aluko, Toure and Negredo seemed to shoot at touch rather than goal.

Negredo eventually did get one on target, right in the middle of the target. Hull’s ‘keeper Allan McGregor was clearly taken by surprise because even though the shot couldn’t have been more in the middle of the goal, he managed to miss it.

But after all the ‘striking’ and ‘saving’ comedy Yaya Toure gave us perfection, rolling a free kick into the ‘keeper’s top right corner that even a man on the line couldn’t stop.

toure

Newcastle v Fulham

Papiss Cisse had a strong header on goal blocked in the first half, by his teammate Fabricio Coloccini. The idiot. But to be fair to Coloccini, he was blocking the goalkeeper and a defender as well. You have to think one of them would’ve got something in the way if Coloccini hadn’t been there to do their job for them.

He’s only little, but Ben Arfa would do better than expected at rugby on the evidence of the hand-off he delivered in the first half. Dan Carter would’ve been proud of that, that and the left-footed strike that the French player unleashed right at the end.

Imagine you’re Yohan Cabaye. You want to leave, Arsenal want you to come, how do you convince your manager and teammates that it’s in everyone’s best interests? You come on as a second-half substitute and foul anyone that gets close enough for you to kick a foot at.

Norwich v Southampton

The ref was right not to award Southampton a penalty when Lallana’s shot hit Bradley Johnson’s raised arms. It was clearly a charge-down and not a deliberate knock-down, so “play on” was the right call.

chargedown

Unless the rules aren’t the same in football as they are in rugby, in which case a blind Norwich supporter could’ve seen it was a blatant handball in the box.

Norwich appealed for a penalty of their own in injury time, but it was clearly a dive. By the defender. In front of the Norwich attacker’s feet. It was basically a rugby tackle, but it wasn’t high at all so the ref was right to wave the game on.

He didn’t get off the subs bench this week, but Wesley (Patches O’) Hoolahan is still my favourite name in the Premier League.

West Ham v Stoke

When Jermaine Pennant curled in a brilliant free kick with eight minutes left to secure the win for Stoke, I thought I’d say something about “stealing victory” because Pennant has had troubles with the law in the past.

But it turns out he’s never been in trouble for anything in the theft category, so I ditched that idea. Nevertheless, the Personal Life section on his Wikipedia page is worth a read for pure entertainment and disbelief value. (#PoliceAnkleMonitor)

pennant

Cardiff v Everton

Malky Mackay, Cardiff City’s manager, has a cartoon name, a cartoon accent, and something about him reminds me of Patrick Warburton who does the cartoon voice of cartoon character Joe Swanson in the cartoon show Family Guy.

You had to feel for Leighton Baines this weekend:

  • Elbowed in the face, didn’t get a free kick
  • Fouled in the box, didn’t get a penalty
  • Wanted by Manchester United, didn’t get to go

It’s tough being a really good player who stays out of the spotlight and doesn’t cause any trouble or think too highly of himself and just gets on with his job very, very well.

Arsenal v Spurs

To my eyes, André Villas-Boas and Hugo Lloris look so much alike I’m inclined to ask if anyone has ever seen them in the same place together?

hugoavb

If anyone has, frankly, there must be some dark magic involved because I can’t believe they’re not the same person otherwise.

avbmagic

Liverpool v Manchester United

Is Steven Gerrard one of those guys that people easily forget is actually a piece of sh1t? Or am I the only one that thinks he comes across as egotistical, self-righteous and just a bit of a crap bloke? Maybe I’m wrong, but at least I know El-Hadji Diouf agrees with me.

Daniel Sturridge is in the best form of his life and probably England’s number one striker at the moment, but he still has to bow to Danny Welbeck in the hi-top fade haircut stakes.

hitopfade

The Alternative Rugby Review | 23/24 August 2013

This is not the place to find who won, who scored, or who played well. This is what I thought of what I saw, mostly useless information, and why the refs and commentators were sh1t.

Currie Cup | Free State Cheetahs v Sharks

Os du Randt has the entire back row of the Cheetahs coaching box to himself, and he needs it. He’s like your ears is Os, he never stops growing.

As kick-offs go, one of Riaan’s Smit’s efforts in the first half was about the worst attempt I’ve ever seen. It didn’t just not cross the 10m line, it actually went into touch inside his own half. It was the kick-off equivalent of Miley Cyrus.

miley

Referee Jason Jaftha has a bad case of Kaplanitis. Symptoms include blowing your whistle twice as loud and long as is necessary, thinking you’re better than everybody else, and always needing to be the centre of attention.

I can’t stand quick tap penalties, I think it’s unfair to not wait until the opposition is ready. At the very least I reckon they should play touch rugby rules, where the guy who takes the tap isn’t allowed to score. Seriously.

The Cheetahs forwards have the best handling skills of all South African teams. In fact, I’d back them in a catch and pass competition against any past South African backline that included Braam van Straaten, De Wet Barry, Marius Joubert and Pieter Rossouw.

One of those forwards is named Hercú Liebenberg, although I do enjoy how Gavin Cowley keeps calling him Hercules.

hercu

How is there not a better fullback than Hennie Daniller in the Free State. He hasn’t broken a tackle since 1997 and every single Cheetahs forward is faster than him. Who’s playing at 15 for Grey Bloem this year? Get him in there.

Rugby Championship | New Zealand v Australia

I said last week that the Australians are smart to get a strong male voice to sing their pop-song anthem. So I guess it’s equally smart by New Zealand then to get what looked like Claire Johnston from Mango Groove to sing Advance Australia Fair in Wellington.

Did they really need to fly four neutral officials in from South Africa? I know the assistants play a bigger part in decisions these days, but think of the carbon footprint (and the officials who have to spend a week in Wellington…)

Tom Taylor had a fine debut, showing excellent running and handling skills throughout. But he can’t kick off to save a baby, he only got about half his restarts above the height of Brodie Retallick’s shoulders.

But Wellington is a tough place to make your debut as a kicker. Even Christian Lealiifano missed his first kick in Test rugby. It seems cruel, though, that Tom Taylor managed to hit both uprights with the same kick, and have the ball bounce back his way instead of over.

Ma’a Nonu has clearly forgotten how to play rugby. He’s just lost it completely.

nonumad

After watching him all year I now believe Nonu must’ve taken a massive blow to the head in pre-season and he is suffering from rugby-specific amnesia. How else do you explain:

  • He hasn’t broken the line once all year,
  • Kicking the ball long and directly out off a lineout steal,
  • Throwing a skip-two pass straight to the wrong Israel, and
  • That shoulder charge on James Slipper where he actually made an effort to put his hands behind his back.

They should just drop Nonu, get him some proper medical care, and pick a Smith or Whitelock to replace him. (Let’s face it, the All Blacks could probably pick a side made up entirely of Smiths and Whitelocks and it would probably be competitive.)

Michael Hooper is a very good player, but everything he does (and I mean absolutely everything) is at least 25% illegal.

hooper

In fact the Australian side in general has gone back to playing what they like to call “clever rugby”. It’s also known as “obstructive running”, “playing the man off the ball” and “moaning to the ref about everything, even stuff that happened last week”.

At least scrumhalves are putting the ball into the scrum straight (after a week of testing and being penalised by the refs). But is it still a rule that the hooker can’t raise his foot early, because Steven Moore practically had his foot up before Japtha called “Bind” and “Set”.

Israel Folau was unbelievably good against the British and Irish Lions, but he’s added something extra to his game against the All Blacks: the ability to turn himself invisible for large parts of the game.

Admittedly being invisible probably helped him grab that intercept towards the end.

folau

And the fact that the pass was thrown by Nonu, a man more out of touch than Mugabe.

But wait, there’s more. For Griquas v WP, Lions v Bulls and Argentina v South Africa:

Continue reading

The Alternative Rugby Review | 16/17 August 2013

This is not the place to find who won, who scored, or who played well. This is what I thought of what I saw, mostly useless information, and why the refs and commentators were sh1t.

 Currie Cup | Sharks v Golden Lions

I’ve heard of Anthony Volmink before, but I remember him as a skinny guy that I didn’t think much of. But that first try of his was special, in a Joe Rokocoko kind of way. He’s fast, he’s bulked up, and later in the game he showed some real skill. I hope I hear more about him.

What I didn’t need to hear was Andy Capostagno saying that Sharks centre Heimar Williams has “Nice hips.” Regardless of whether he does or doesn’t, Andy, there’s absolutely no need to say so.

heimar

For most of the first half it sounded like the main broadcast microphone was in the children’s section. The only thing worse than hearing high-pitched voices in the background is hearing them boo when a shot is being taken at goal. Be better, Durban kids.

Chris van Zyl made his debut at lock for the Golden Lions. The brother of Anton and Nick, son of Mike, and a kid I remember from Rondebosch Boys’ High, he seems to have followed in the van Zyl tradition of doubling in size after leaving high school.

Elton Jantjies just looks better in a Golden Lions jersey. And as a Stormers supporter, I feel like I’m very well qualified to say that.

Willie Britz could be this year’s token crazy hair guy. No sign yet of token crazy beard guy (come back Josh Strauss, we miss you), but it’s still early in the season I suppose.

williebritz

Golden Lions flank Jaco Kriel should’ve been denied his try because the pass he received from Deon Helberg was forward. The commentators trotted out the usual “backwards out the hands” line, but just saying it doesn’t make it true. It was a clumsy shovel, and it was forward from the day it was born. Hell of a chip and chase, though.

 Rugby Championship | Australia v New Zealand

Have you noticed how the Australians always get a strong male voice to sing their national anthem? It’s a good idea, because Advance Australia Fair sounds more like a girl group pop song than an inspiring and intimidating anthem.

lilmix

Having Hore and Woodcock in the same front row is enough to make any grown man giggle. In funny names terms, there hasn’t been a better front row combination since Jonas Bigg, Phillip Scabby and Colin Pooper packed down for England in the 1940s.

How does Ma’a Nonu keep making the All Blacks starting XV? He wasn’t even a regular for the Highlanders this season, and when he did play he was poor.

Matt Toomua got his first cap on Saturday, but the way the Aussies played – shifting every ball two channels away from the breakdown, every time – they could’ve picked anybody to stand at 10 and just catch and pass. Anybody except Quade, obviously.

There have been and are faster wings than Ben Smith, and bigger ones too, but his balance and intelligence make him one of the most dangerous outside backs in the world right now. Then again, it’s always been pretty easy being an All Black wing.

bensmith

There was a lot of chat between the teams after the game, with players just hanging around on the field chatting to the opposition. That’s nice to see, from an old-fashioned amateur’s point of view, but what would Allan Border think?!

Of the English opposition, Border said: “Don’t talk to them at all as they go by.”
And: “I am not talking to anyone in the British media … They are all pr1cks.”

More than 68,000 people watched the game at Stadium Australia, an impressive effort and an indication that there’s no hangover after the Lions tour. Imagine how many would show up if Australia started winning.

Rugby Championship | South Africa v Argentina

I like the Zulu warrior that leads the Springboks out onto the field before home games. They must have been a fearsome sight in battle, the Zulus, what with fireworks shooting off their shields and out their assegais like that.

When it comes to pre-match ceremony there’s an unwritten rule that there should never be more dignitaries than players. That rule was broken on Saturday as everybody who has ever been in politics in South Africa shook hands with the two teams.

The only things more abundantly present than dignitaries were vuvuzelas.

vuvuzela

And don’t tell me vuvuzelas add atmosphere, they do exactly the opposite. It’s impossible to get any sense of atmosphere, any rise or fall in the crowd, any rousing crescendo or hushed anticipation, when all you can hear is a constant drone of noise.

I’m glad to see Willie le Roux in the starting XV, but I’m worried he’s struggling to come to terms with his new popular profile. Take his hair, for example. His latest ‘do’ is somewhere between farm boy and Backstreet Boy, and that’s a terrible place to be.

After and despite 51 tries in 87 Test matches, Bryan Habana still hasn’t learned to side step. He is awesome in a straight line, but he changes direction like somebody is steering him using the arrow keys on a keyboard.

By 10 minutes into the second half the game was won and I could switch to the men’s 200m final from the World Champs in Moscow. Where things were even more one-sided.

bolt200

Pierre Spies is nursing a bicep injury (sustained during his usual 2000 curls before breakfast) but the stats still show he made 37 tackles and 467 running metres during the game.

Fourie du Preez put his incredible return to Springbok duty down to the special water he’s been drinking in Japan. “From the foothills of Fukushima,” he said, “I’ve never felt better.”

A new Mayan manuscript has been discovered, predicting that the world will end the day Jean de Villiers retires and Heyneke Meyer makes Adriaan Strauss captain. It says, “One man will burn so bright with rage that all humanity will be destroyed.”

SA v PAK – 5 things for Proteas fans to worry about

The Proteas will play two Tests against Pakistan in the UAE in October and I’m worried things aren’t going to go as well as people expect.

With four ranking places and 33 ratings points between the two Test teams1, and given the Proteas’ 3-0 victory against the same opposition in South Africa earlier this year, most would make the South Africans favourites in the Tests. But these five things concern me.

1. No first-class form

When the first Test starts it will have been eight months since the Proteas last played a Test match. Their only international exposure during that time has been a disappointing showing at the Champions Trophy, four ODI losses out of five in Sri Lanka, and an admittedly morale-boosting but ultimately meaningless T20 series victory in Sri Lanka.

A few players (Philander, Petersen, Elgar) have had stints in county cricket, but conditions in the UK are the cricketing opposite of what they’ll find in Abu Dhabi and Dubai. Elgar has at least, and impressively, made big runs recently against Australia ‘A’, but will he even play?

elgarcut

Elgar is the incumbent, but just one score (103* v New Zealand in Cape Town) in eight Test innings won’t be enough to keep out JP Duminy, the man he replaced due to injury. And even though Faf du Plessis has been woeful in green lately – his 85 in the final T20 is more than he managed in the seven innings he played before it combined – he has a Test average of 69 and has earned the right to continue his Test career in the way in which he started it.

2. Injuries to key players

Graeme Smith‘s county season was cut short in May when he injured (again) and then had surgery (again) on his troublesome ankle. The optimists will say the timing was perfect, and Smith is due to be fit in time for Pakistan, but how often does a heavy-set 32 year-old man come back from ankle surgery without complications?

Jaques Kallis has made himself unavailable for the last two tours and, while his “personal reasons” remain his own, it’s hard not to wonder whether he’s carrying an injury or at least working very hard to avoid one.

Dale Steyn was rested for the Sri Lanka tour after a hip injury cut short his Champions Trophy. He should be fit and well in time to lead the attack in the UAE, but it’s another niggle to keep an eye on, especially if he’s going to bowl a lot of overs on two hard, dry decks.

dalesteyn

Then there’s ‘How will AB de Villiers’ back hold up?’, ‘Is Amla carrying an injury?’, and ‘Hasn’t Morne Morkel done a lot of bowling lately?’ And from a purely pessimistic point of view it starts to look like the Proteas better take a lot of tape and an extra physio on tour.

3. Scars from Sri Lanka

The Proteas have two months to switch their minds from what happened in England and Sri Lanka to what awaits in the UAE, and hopefully that’s enough time to apply the mental Bio-Oil to the psychological scars incurred. The spin test they failed in Sri Lanka won’t be any easier in the UAE and it’s going to be just as dry and hot for the bowlers in the desert.

As a team another terrible international tournament and a sound beating in Sri Lanka is loose sand upon which to set a confident stall, and as individuals several players have struggled completely out of any sort of form.

Faf du Plessis, as noted by everyone, has been in a patch of form that is more pumpkin than purple this year. Of course he proved us all wrong in the third T20 in Sri Lanka, but his blade had seemed cursed until then. I’m sure he’ll keep his place at six or seven, but I hope for his sake he rediscovers the belief and form that secured him that spot to begin with.

Robin Peterson was dropped for the final ODI in Sri Lanka and not picked for the T20s after taking just two wickets for 166 runs from 30 overs in spin-friendly conditions. He won’t go for 35 runs in an over every day, but it takes an especially thick skin to bounce back from such dismissive, disdainful treatment as he encountered (and has encountered before).

robbiep

Alviro Petersen hasn’t been a fixture in the Proteas ODI side but he got a chance to show he should be when Amla was injured. He would’ve been hoping for better than 61 runs from three matches, but that was only enough to get him dropped for the last two. Pakistan’s opening bowlers will also remember (or be reminded by their analysts) that Petersen couldn’t get past 27 in five Test innings against them in South Africa at the beginning of the year.

There’s a big difference between ODI and Test cricket, but it’ll take some real mental strength and time spent practising to put the recent failures against the Sri Lankans out of their minds when they’re 22 yards away from Ajmal and friends.

4. Just the one warm-up game

The two Tests are first on the tour schedule, with five ODIs and two T20s to follow. This means the only chance the players will have to get used to conditions will be a single three-day warm-up game against what I presume will be an invitational XI. I understand that nobody likes long, drawn out tours, but it strikes me as risky to hope that three days will be enough to acclimatise to conditions on and above the ground.

The fact that it’s only a two-Test series makes the first one, and the first few days of it, even more important. It would be silly and a shame to be caught cold on day one and two and have to urgently play catch-up thereafter.

Still on the subject of preparation, this will be Russell Domingo’s first series in charge of the Test side. The number one ranked Test side in the world. The side that beat Pakistan 3-0 in Gary Kirsten’s last Test series earlier this year. I don’t know Russell Domingo personally, but he’s made of stern stuff if that kind of expectation doesn’t weigh him down.

domingo

5. Pakistan’s record in the UAE

Pakistan don’t often lose Test matches in their adopted home, and they normally win them. Like the 3-0 whitewash they served England in 2012. South Africa probably did well to draw the two Tests they played in 2010, and might even be pleased with similar this time around, because you have to go back to 2002, against Steve Waugh’s Australian juggernaut, for the last and only two Tests (out of 12) that Pakistan have lost in the UAE.

On the other hand…

Here are three very good reasons for the Proteas and their fans to be quietly confident. Continue reading

What the Queen said to the cricketers at Lord’s

Her Majesty the Queen met the English and Australian players before the start of the second Ashes Test. Here are some of the (made-up) conversations that weren’t heard.*

MCC President Mike Griffith introduced Her Majesty to England Captain Alastair Cook, after apologising on behalf of the England team for the slight delay. “James Anderson had to carry Stuart Broad onto the field,” he said, “because Broad refused to walk.”

Queen Elizabeth II

_____

Alastair Cook: Good morning Your Majesty.

Queen Elizabeth: It will be if you win the toss and bat, my boy. The pitch looks flatter than Catherine’s chest before Wills knocked her up.

Alastair Cook: Of course, ma’am.

_____

Alastair Cook: Your Majesty, Joe Root.

Queen Elizabeth: Good heavens, child, shouldn’t you be in school? Did you win a competition to be here today?

Joe Root: Forgive me ma’am, no. I’m part of the team. I’m 22.

Queen Elizabeth: Yes, well, just be careful – One has endured more scandals involving men playing with boys than One cares to forget.

_____

Alastair Cook: Your Majesty, Jonathan Trott.

Queen Elizabeth: Ah yes, Mr Reliable. But listen here, One isn’t getting any younger, so wouldn’t you be a good import and speed up your scoring rate? One would be much obliged.

_____

Alastair Cook: Your Majesty, Kevin Pietersen.

Queen Elizabeth: Ah yes, how could One forget the party that night you lot got your MBEs.

Kevin Pietersen: Funny, I don’t remember that night at all.

Queen Elizabeth: Yes, very funny. Just be sure to score some runs today dear, else One might tear up that British passport you’re so happy with and send you back to Africa.

kpmbe

_____

Alastair Cook: Your Majesty, Ian Bell.

Queen Elizabeth: Not interested.

_____

Alastair Cook: Your Majesty, Johnny Bairstow.

Queen Elizabeth: Good Lord, you gave One a fright with that orange hair! One thought you were Harry for a second, but to be honest you look more like Fergie.

_____

Alastair Cook: Your Majesty, Matt Prior.

Queen Elizabeth: You’re also originally from my African Republic aren’t you?

Matt Prior: Yes ma’am, I was born in South Africa, but I’ve lived in Britain since I was 11.

Queen Elizabeth: Well done. I say, [turning to Cook] his head looks upside down, don’t you think, with all his hair on his chin and none on top? Very odd, these savages.

_____

Alastair Cook: Your Majesty, Tim Bresnan.

Queen Elizabeth: How do you do. [To Cook] He looks boring, who’s next?

_____

Alastair Cook: Your Majesty, Stuart Broad.

Queen Elizabeth: Oh dear, they do like to make fun of you, don’t they.

[Broad sniffles, nods]

Queen Elizabeth: Do you think it’s because you’re such a little b1tch?

[Broad starts crying]

Queen Elizabeth: If it makes you feel better, my son Charles is a big fan of yours.

[Broad perks up, hopefully]

Queen Elizabeth: But that’s hardly surprising. I remember even as a child he used to love playing with his sister’s Barbies.

barbie

_____

Alastair Cook: Your Majesty, Graeme Swann.

Queen Elizabeth: The DoE asked me to remind you that One owns all the swans in Britain, so if he fancies it you’ll be summoned to bowl at him in the Royal nets until he’s had enough.

_____

Alastair Cook: Your Majesty, Jimmy Anderson.

Queen Elizabeth: They say you’re a bit of a hero these days, and a nice guy to boot.

Jimmy Anderson: Thank you ma’am.

Queen Elizabeth: They said the same thing about another Jimmy I used to know. He also knew a bit about swinging balls and Nick’s behind… One will be watching you closely.

…..

Continue reading for the Queen’s conversations with the Australians.

Continue reading