The Light Roller: A full cricketing calendar means no let-up in the excitement

The diary of a cricket obsessive

Less than a month since the English season ended and the Light Roller trundles back into action, escaping the groundsman's dank shed and heading for adventure Down Under.

In fact, even tucked up in storage, with only a lawnmower and a bag of sawdust for company, it has been impossible to avoid the notion that cricket no longer sleeps. England's women have been in T20 action in the Caribbean (with mixed results); Australia and India have been steadily out-scoring one another amidst Tendulkar retirement-mania; test series are underway in Bangladesh and the United Arab Emirates; and it's only nine days before England begin their first warm-up against Western Australia in Perth. 

It's grist to the mill of those who bemoan over-full scheduling. But since cricket, unlike football (snooze), has so many discrete contests and competitions in which fans are likely to take an interest, the packed calendar is generally a source of great joy.

 

Misbah is the greatest leader of the day

For all that the 'endless Ashes' (cp 'timeless test') encourages debate about the respective captaincy skills of Alastair Cook and Michael Clarke, there can be no doubt that the best captain in world cricket right now is Misbah ul-Haq – notwithstanding today’s disaster in Dubai.

Pakistan cricket ought, by rights, to be in a fine old mess. The national team can't play at home because of concerns about security; the board has recently been dissolved; the ghosts of match-fixing are everywhere; and anyone can get a chance behind the stumps provided that they're called Akmal.

And yet. Since Misbah was recalled to lead the team in the wake of the 2010 match-fixing scandal he has, against all odds, brought unity and a measure of success. In 23 tests he has overseen eleven wins and just five losses; and only one series defeat, away to South Africa. He averages a little under 60 in that time - and nigh on 50 in one-dayers. The team can still infuriate (see their recent loss to Zimbabwe and this morning’s collapse against the Proteas) but nonetheless, Pakistan's victory last week against South Africa ought not to have come as a complete surprise. And how fitting that Misbah should have hit the winning runs. Not bad for a 39 year old.

 

England's women need more runs

The current Twenty20 tri-nation competition in Barbados is turning into a bit of a thriller, with games generally in the balance for most of their duration.

England’s defeat of New Zealand Women last night secured their progress to Saturday’s final against West Indies – with a dead rubber against the same opposition to come tomorrow.  But while the bowling looks strong, England’s batting is troublingly inconsistent.  Although they managed to cope yesterday without the excellent Charlotte Edwards – on whom the team is sometimes overly-reliant – the top six (Edwards aside) have only made four individual scores above 13 in sixteen attempts. 

T20s may not be the place for consistent high-scoring – and when bowlers are taking hat-tricks, as Natalie Sciver did last night, big totals may not matter so much.  But England may need to up the ante at the weekend if they are successfully to take on the hosts.

 

Downton brings real class to the ECB

For a moment it appeared that the ECB had signalled an aristocratic, nay royalist approach to appointments by announcing a chap called Downton as its new managing director and a James Whitaker to lead the selection panel.

Alas, the late royal-watcher must communicate his picks from the 'other side', while allowing his one-test wonder namesake to take over Geoff Miller's mantle. Downton, meanwhile, got the nod over a man known during his playing career as Lord Brocket. His earthy background in law and the City were evidently the clinchers.

Then again, his own nickname is 'Nobby', according to Cricinfo.  A nobleman in the ranks? Off to the Abbey with you Paul.

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