The Light Roller: Shane Watson the match-winner needs to flatter without deceiving

Diary of a cricket obsessive

From the international season it’s over and out

England must be about as fond of Southampton as Pompey fans after another hefty defeat last night at the Rose Bowl.

A chill evening in September is hardly the ideal time to bring an international cricket season to a close but the cockles of the south coast will have been warmed by Shane Watson's match-winning performance. Ballerina white may still not quite suit him - swan lake moment at the Oval notwithstanding - but there is no doubting Watto when he pulls on the big-truck yellow.

Yet fundamentally Watson's performances this summer are symptomatic of Australia's more generally: flattering to deceive and winning too few of the big moments. Yesterday's century and win may be exceptions to that rule but if the Aussies are to have any chance of regaining the Ashes this winter they'll need much greater consistency.

 

Rankin and Stokes show their mettle

Quite what England will take from this ODI series is as mysterious as Peter Andre's girl.

There have undoubtedly been some winners, most notably Boyd Rankin, who was the team's most economical bowler by a distance and who looked absolutely at home. It has also been a good series for Ben Stokes, not least because he has seemingly drawn a line under the problems that saw him sent home from the last Lions tour.  He played a couple of promising knocks and finally got decent rewards yesterday for some consistently threatening bowling. Only one more five-for in ODIs and he'll have matched Freddie Flintoff's career total.

But, as in the tests, the top order under-performed and it was too often left to Eoin Morgan and Jos Buttler to attempt a rescue. From being absolute bankers at the start of the summer, Joe Root and Jonathan Trott suddenly look in need of a rest and a re-tune.

 

A team of Zim and vigour

Zimbabwe's victory over Pakistan was a moment of genuine cheer, a clear marker of the African country's cricketing resurgence. The result might also tell us something about the current state of Pakistani cricket - but we'll leave that for another day.

It is not the first time Zimbabwe have beaten Pakistan in tests. But to look at the team responsible for the previous victory is to be reminded of how deep the talent pool in Zimbabwe was by the end of the 1990s - and how quickly it dried up as the 2000s brought political, economic and social upheaval.

The Flower brothers led a strong batting line up, which also included Murray Goodwin, Alastair Cambell and Neil Johnson, who scored his maiden test century in that match in Peshawar in 1998 against Wasim, Waqar and Mushtaq. The mainstays of the bowling attack - Heath Streak, Henry Olonga and Pommie Mbangwa each took six wickets as Zimbabwe overcame a first innings deficit to win with room to spare.

May Brendon Taylor's new men take up the mantle of those past masters.

 

The earthy pleasures of the northern leagues

To step out of the Lancashire league and take five wickets for Sussex against Yorkshire was quite an achievement for Ashar Zaidi last week. (Although a Yorkshireman friend immediately emailed me to note that his brother had taken a hundred runs off Zaidi earlier in the season.)

The wonders of northern league cricket are chronichled in Harry Pearson’s brilliant Slipless in Settle.  And while the largest crowds may be a thing of the past, the cricket remains unyielding.

There is certainly nothing I'd rather do on a visit to Blackpool than settle down to watch the town's cricketers take the field at Stanley Park. Then again, there are evidently those who visit the Paris of the north for earthier pleasure: Blackpool's sea front is the only place I have ever seen vending machines that sell crotchless panties. Classy.

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