Fifth Test, Sydney January 2, 2007

Postcards from the SCG

They never keep tracks of the stats that matter.

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

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