Fifth Test, Sydney January 2, 2007

Postcards from the SCG

They never keep tracks of the stats that matter.
16

GOING OFF IN BAGGY GREEN AND GOLD: Seen at Melbourne airport yesterday: the smiling images of Justin Langer and Glenn McGrath exhorting Aussie fans to ‘Go Off In Green and Gold’ this summer. A useful reminder: retirement not only denies Cricket Australia their services as cricketers, but as recognizable and marketable personalities. The rebuilding challenge was embodied in the photo’s third face: Shane Watson. Perhaps Central Casting was asked for a blonde called Shane. There’ll be one fewer in a week.

THE POWER OF GLOVE: They never keep track of the stats that matter. Today I decided to keep track of England’s glove touch rate. Strauss and Cook reached 20 in the ninth over; at one point, Cook was 0 not out with four glove touches. At this point I lost interest, but the standard rate seems to be something around two an over, usually between overs, with an occasional mid-over touch being the pretext for a particularly good leave outside off stump. Can anyone remember where this habit began? Does anyone feel, as do I, the urge to say ‘shazam’ whenever they see it? Do English cricketers now greet people socially with a jab of the fist rather than a handshake?

A BOUNDARY BEYOND: Most journalism is couched as criticism or complaint, so perhaps it’s worth saluting a worthwhile development in this series that may not be immediately obvious to viewers from afar. Cricket Australia have this summer finally reversed the steady tidal encroachments of the boundary rope. At each venue this summer, the rope has been in far enough to guarantee player safety but no more, so batsmen are working just a little harder for their boundaries and spinners have a little more margin for error. To the power of modern high-performance bats, this is an overdue corrective. Another testimony, perhaps, is the effectiveness of the short cover position, where Bell was caught in Perth, Collingwood in Melbourne and Pietersen might have perishing here: recognition that bats encouraging players to go through with shots for the sheer pleasure of the physical release might also tempt them into indiscretion.

Gideon Haigh is a cricket historian and writer

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Chris on January 4, 2007, 10:33 GMT

    So I am not the only one at the SCG thinking 'Shazaam!'

    I did not count glove touches, but noted that the occasional boundary gave permission for one batsman to the the other's behind. I am not sure what happens if the boundary is a six.

  • Corey_Boardman on January 4, 2007, 8:56 GMT

    Glove Touches.I was a bit young to watch the West Indies excelling at it,but the Indian Batsmen stick out like a sore thumb with glove touches.Just about every second ball they glove touch, it is frustrating to watch as they congratualte themselves for everything,well left,snick through slips to the boundary,well hit four,leg byes.........come to think of it Gideon, the Indian supporters are so fanatical, someone there would have the stats for glove touches!!!!!!!!This area of specialty would be best suited to David Middleton, the rugby league stats guru.

  • marcus on January 3, 2007, 7:38 GMT

    I wouldn't worry about Trumper the cat; as the personal servant of two myself I know that I'd never dare to leave the house without their express permission. I'm sure the same's true with Gideon Haigh's master, Trumper.

  • Crullers on January 3, 2007, 4:39 GMT

    Whenever I see the glove touch, I think "Wonder Twin powers - activate!"

  • doctorshoot on January 3, 2007, 3:09 GMT

    touching reference to west indies invention version of high five. replaced the bottom slap which had other connotations not appropriate to modern male sporting. do women cricketers touch gloves? good gideon article at http://blogs.guardian.co.uk/sport/2007/01/03/beginning_of_the_end_shows_wha.html are you up to the test

  • slb on January 3, 2007, 0:42 GMT

    Yes, we concerned Trumper fans would be relieved to see a photo of him next to a recent newspaper front page.

  • Gus on January 2, 2007, 23:46 GMT

    I remember when the football world cup was on and seeing a breakfast cereal advertisement with what looked like footballers in the starring roles. I had no idea who they were; Harry Kewel maybe, Mark Viduka at a pinch...but the others? After the World Cup of course I could recognise most of the Aussie Heroes, although sadly I have since forgotten them again, or at best would attribute names incorrectly. Shane Watson would draw a blank too I’m afraid as would Tait, Jacques, Rogers, and Cullen. Stuart Clark is starting to make an imprint that would render him recognisable on a hording as is Mike Hussey. With the impending retirement of Messrs Warne et al there are a couple of vacancies in the "Cricket Hero" sector of my brain, lets hope there are replacements good enough to burn a permanent imprint.

  • Tadhg on January 2, 2007, 22:37 GMT

    From where I was sitting, a lot of glove touches were coming as a form of congratulations from the non-striker to the striker. Usually, "Congratulations for not edging that one." Sure, it may show team spirit, which the Poms are so keen to keep talking up, but I'd rather just see the batsmen knuckle down like Steve Waugh and Justin Langer, get in, and then actually put the pressure back on the bowlers by scoring some runs! Good effort from England to be only four down at the end of play on day one, but if Flintoff had replaced Bell earlier in the day, or Bell hadn't monopolized the strike to the extent that Pietersen got frustrated, the score would've been higher.

  • Paul Bennett on January 2, 2007, 21:35 GMT

    Good time for Langer to go in my opinion. I've never really heard him interviewed before but after hearing an interview with him earlier this series it seemed pretty apparent that he's been hit on the head a few times too many.

    No offense Justin, old bean, but those slightly staring eyes and slurred speech rather suggest a man whose had more than his day in the sun.

  • Nail on January 2, 2007, 21:07 GMT

    My memory is glove touching started with Greenidge and Haynes, certainly with that great West Indian side as it toured Australia in the 80's. They however only touched after 4's and at the end of the over. Can you imagine Greenidge walking up to Haynes and touching after a particularly elegant leave?

  • Chris on January 4, 2007, 10:33 GMT

    So I am not the only one at the SCG thinking 'Shazaam!'

    I did not count glove touches, but noted that the occasional boundary gave permission for one batsman to the the other's behind. I am not sure what happens if the boundary is a six.

  • Corey_Boardman on January 4, 2007, 8:56 GMT

    Glove Touches.I was a bit young to watch the West Indies excelling at it,but the Indian Batsmen stick out like a sore thumb with glove touches.Just about every second ball they glove touch, it is frustrating to watch as they congratualte themselves for everything,well left,snick through slips to the boundary,well hit four,leg byes.........come to think of it Gideon, the Indian supporters are so fanatical, someone there would have the stats for glove touches!!!!!!!!This area of specialty would be best suited to David Middleton, the rugby league stats guru.

  • marcus on January 3, 2007, 7:38 GMT

    I wouldn't worry about Trumper the cat; as the personal servant of two myself I know that I'd never dare to leave the house without their express permission. I'm sure the same's true with Gideon Haigh's master, Trumper.

  • Crullers on January 3, 2007, 4:39 GMT

    Whenever I see the glove touch, I think "Wonder Twin powers - activate!"

  • doctorshoot on January 3, 2007, 3:09 GMT

    touching reference to west indies invention version of high five. replaced the bottom slap which had other connotations not appropriate to modern male sporting. do women cricketers touch gloves? good gideon article at http://blogs.guardian.co.uk/sport/2007/01/03/beginning_of_the_end_shows_wha.html are you up to the test

  • slb on January 3, 2007, 0:42 GMT

    Yes, we concerned Trumper fans would be relieved to see a photo of him next to a recent newspaper front page.

  • Gus on January 2, 2007, 23:46 GMT

    I remember when the football world cup was on and seeing a breakfast cereal advertisement with what looked like footballers in the starring roles. I had no idea who they were; Harry Kewel maybe, Mark Viduka at a pinch...but the others? After the World Cup of course I could recognise most of the Aussie Heroes, although sadly I have since forgotten them again, or at best would attribute names incorrectly. Shane Watson would draw a blank too I’m afraid as would Tait, Jacques, Rogers, and Cullen. Stuart Clark is starting to make an imprint that would render him recognisable on a hording as is Mike Hussey. With the impending retirement of Messrs Warne et al there are a couple of vacancies in the "Cricket Hero" sector of my brain, lets hope there are replacements good enough to burn a permanent imprint.

  • Tadhg on January 2, 2007, 22:37 GMT

    From where I was sitting, a lot of glove touches were coming as a form of congratulations from the non-striker to the striker. Usually, "Congratulations for not edging that one." Sure, it may show team spirit, which the Poms are so keen to keep talking up, but I'd rather just see the batsmen knuckle down like Steve Waugh and Justin Langer, get in, and then actually put the pressure back on the bowlers by scoring some runs! Good effort from England to be only four down at the end of play on day one, but if Flintoff had replaced Bell earlier in the day, or Bell hadn't monopolized the strike to the extent that Pietersen got frustrated, the score would've been higher.

  • Paul Bennett on January 2, 2007, 21:35 GMT

    Good time for Langer to go in my opinion. I've never really heard him interviewed before but after hearing an interview with him earlier this series it seemed pretty apparent that he's been hit on the head a few times too many.

    No offense Justin, old bean, but those slightly staring eyes and slurred speech rather suggest a man whose had more than his day in the sun.

  • Nail on January 2, 2007, 21:07 GMT

    My memory is glove touching started with Greenidge and Haynes, certainly with that great West Indian side as it toured Australia in the 80's. They however only touched after 4's and at the end of the over. Can you imagine Greenidge walking up to Haynes and touching after a particularly elegant leave?

  • hoss on January 2, 2007, 14:16 GMT

    I have felt for a while that it Brett Lee the marketable figure, more than Brett Lee the reliable bowler that has kept him in the side for so long. I hope that Cricket Australia realises that the are backing him as the most experienced bowler in the team once McGrath and Warne leave. Maybe they should look beyond the blonde.

  • Jag on January 2, 2007, 12:30 GMT

    Is anyone yet to find out what happens to Trumper the cat when Gideon goes to watch the cricket?

  • Thommo on January 2, 2007, 11:46 GMT

    The shazam glove punching is West Indian so England probably started it on the 2004 tour there (when Steve Harmison briefly became "the best bowler in the world"...). There's an amusing note in Ricky Ponting's 2005 Captain's Diary, about the World v Asia benefit match after the 2004 tsunami, when he batted with Brian Lara who tried to shazam him after each run ... Punter writes that the Australian team think it's rather silly and he tried to avoid doing it but gave in, deciding it would be rude to Lara not to.

  • CB Fry on January 2, 2007, 11:42 GMT

    The shazam is a West Indian thing, right? Though it looks natural when Mr Cool Chris Gayle touches gloves with the King of the Windies Lara having slapped a boundary. When white public school boys Strauss and Cook do it following a stylish "leave" outside off-stump, it becomes a lot less cool, like middle-class American teenagers listening to rap music...aiiiggght.

  • j on January 2, 2007, 10:29 GMT

    Hey Guideon. I reckon that 20/20 is two batsman friendly. i think games would be more intresting if the pitch was extremly bowler friendly. Like imagine having to face 20 overs against the 80's windies face attack on a greentop (really really green) survival would be the challenge and it would be more intresting, or a recent australian side on a dustbowl, warne, Mcgill, Clarke, Symonds, Mcgrath, waugh. survival again would make it more intresting but attatacking batsman like Gilly, Pieterson, Sewag, Jaisuria, lara, tendulker would still fancy themselves what do you think

  • Dirtman on January 2, 2007, 6:37 GMT

    Thanks for keeping us up to date on the glove touch rate. How are you measuring this statistic? Do you attribute glove touches only to the player on strike at the time of instigating the touch? What about when a touch results from a particularly good cry of 'No!' from the non-striker?

    Seriously, though, it seems to me that nought not out with four glove touches (presuming the touches are counted only when Cook was on strike, i.e. was the one responsible for the 'action' that resulted in the glove touch) says something about England's measurement for success -- in this match, at least, and perhaps over the whole series...or more disturbingly, England's measurement of success at cricket in general. An opener being congratulated on not having gone out yet? It seems like they're selling themselves a bit short if they think that is something specifically worth acknowledging.

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  • Dirtman on January 2, 2007, 6:37 GMT

    Thanks for keeping us up to date on the glove touch rate. How are you measuring this statistic? Do you attribute glove touches only to the player on strike at the time of instigating the touch? What about when a touch results from a particularly good cry of 'No!' from the non-striker?

    Seriously, though, it seems to me that nought not out with four glove touches (presuming the touches are counted only when Cook was on strike, i.e. was the one responsible for the 'action' that resulted in the glove touch) says something about England's measurement for success -- in this match, at least, and perhaps over the whole series...or more disturbingly, England's measurement of success at cricket in general. An opener being congratulated on not having gone out yet? It seems like they're selling themselves a bit short if they think that is something specifically worth acknowledging.

  • j on January 2, 2007, 10:29 GMT

    Hey Guideon. I reckon that 20/20 is two batsman friendly. i think games would be more intresting if the pitch was extremly bowler friendly. Like imagine having to face 20 overs against the 80's windies face attack on a greentop (really really green) survival would be the challenge and it would be more intresting, or a recent australian side on a dustbowl, warne, Mcgill, Clarke, Symonds, Mcgrath, waugh. survival again would make it more intresting but attatacking batsman like Gilly, Pieterson, Sewag, Jaisuria, lara, tendulker would still fancy themselves what do you think

  • CB Fry on January 2, 2007, 11:42 GMT

    The shazam is a West Indian thing, right? Though it looks natural when Mr Cool Chris Gayle touches gloves with the King of the Windies Lara having slapped a boundary. When white public school boys Strauss and Cook do it following a stylish "leave" outside off-stump, it becomes a lot less cool, like middle-class American teenagers listening to rap music...aiiiggght.

  • Thommo on January 2, 2007, 11:46 GMT

    The shazam glove punching is West Indian so England probably started it on the 2004 tour there (when Steve Harmison briefly became "the best bowler in the world"...). There's an amusing note in Ricky Ponting's 2005 Captain's Diary, about the World v Asia benefit match after the 2004 tsunami, when he batted with Brian Lara who tried to shazam him after each run ... Punter writes that the Australian team think it's rather silly and he tried to avoid doing it but gave in, deciding it would be rude to Lara not to.

  • Jag on January 2, 2007, 12:30 GMT

    Is anyone yet to find out what happens to Trumper the cat when Gideon goes to watch the cricket?

  • hoss on January 2, 2007, 14:16 GMT

    I have felt for a while that it Brett Lee the marketable figure, more than Brett Lee the reliable bowler that has kept him in the side for so long. I hope that Cricket Australia realises that the are backing him as the most experienced bowler in the team once McGrath and Warne leave. Maybe they should look beyond the blonde.

  • Nail on January 2, 2007, 21:07 GMT

    My memory is glove touching started with Greenidge and Haynes, certainly with that great West Indian side as it toured Australia in the 80's. They however only touched after 4's and at the end of the over. Can you imagine Greenidge walking up to Haynes and touching after a particularly elegant leave?

  • Paul Bennett on January 2, 2007, 21:35 GMT

    Good time for Langer to go in my opinion. I've never really heard him interviewed before but after hearing an interview with him earlier this series it seemed pretty apparent that he's been hit on the head a few times too many.

    No offense Justin, old bean, but those slightly staring eyes and slurred speech rather suggest a man whose had more than his day in the sun.

  • Tadhg on January 2, 2007, 22:37 GMT

    From where I was sitting, a lot of glove touches were coming as a form of congratulations from the non-striker to the striker. Usually, "Congratulations for not edging that one." Sure, it may show team spirit, which the Poms are so keen to keep talking up, but I'd rather just see the batsmen knuckle down like Steve Waugh and Justin Langer, get in, and then actually put the pressure back on the bowlers by scoring some runs! Good effort from England to be only four down at the end of play on day one, but if Flintoff had replaced Bell earlier in the day, or Bell hadn't monopolized the strike to the extent that Pietersen got frustrated, the score would've been higher.

  • Gus on January 2, 2007, 23:46 GMT

    I remember when the football world cup was on and seeing a breakfast cereal advertisement with what looked like footballers in the starring roles. I had no idea who they were; Harry Kewel maybe, Mark Viduka at a pinch...but the others? After the World Cup of course I could recognise most of the Aussie Heroes, although sadly I have since forgotten them again, or at best would attribute names incorrectly. Shane Watson would draw a blank too I’m afraid as would Tait, Jacques, Rogers, and Cullen. Stuart Clark is starting to make an imprint that would render him recognisable on a hording as is Mike Hussey. With the impending retirement of Messrs Warne et al there are a couple of vacancies in the "Cricket Hero" sector of my brain, lets hope there are replacements good enough to burn a permanent imprint.