England in Bangladesh 2010 March 30, 2010

The James Tredwell Story, and New Zealand's Wilf Rhodes

The English domestic season has begun, albeit in the wrong country and with the wrong ball, why England's win in Bangladesh is like balancing a pencil on your nose, and why Vettori can almost claim to being the greatest No
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Tim Murtagh finds out giant antacids cannot be used to bounce out a batsman © PA Photos
 

Hello again, Confectionery Stallers. Break out your picnic baskets, don your sombreros, and ring work to tell them you’re feeling a bit ill and will be off sick for the next six months − the English domestic season has begun.

Admittedly, it began yesterday in what traditionalists would vociferously bark was (a) the wrong month, (b) the wrong country, and (c) the wrong weather. And, most unarguably, (d) with the wrong ball – as Gubby Allen would no doubt have said about the pink curiosity that has been used in the March sunshine in Abu Dhabi: “Never play cricket with something that looks like a prescription drug elephants might take for long-standing digestive problems.”

At least the season began with the traditional number of people taking the blindest bit of notice. The county cricket season, like middle age, is something that creeps up on the consciousness gradually, imperceptibly, almost furtively. Some seasons pass by almost completely unnoticed – there is still little concrete proof that the 1998 domestic summer actually happened. The schedule generally splats indecipherably onto the calendar as if it had been typed onto an orange and hurled by an unusually irate chimpanzee.

All this before the commemorative highlights DVD of England’s triumphant victory in Bangladesh has even been released, or the avalanche of ghost-written player diaries has hit the shelves. Whether The James Tredwell Story will sell as well as the Freddie Flintoff tomes that flew into Britain’s bookshops at the speed of agitated light in 2005, remains to be seen.

Tredwell’s first-Test substitute appearance – a formidable one-handed diving catch seconds after trotting onto the field of play – merits a chapter in itself. Not all subs make such an impact. I once played in a match in which the opposition loaned my team a fielder to cover for a latecomer. The substitute took a fine catch to dismiss his own captain, then hurled the ball in the air, whooped with delight, and started high-fiving us, his temporary, surrogate team-mates. Which suggested that all was not harmonious in the opposition dressing room.

England duly completed their almost unavoidable 2-0 series win. On the scale of great human achievements, this ranks some way below Beethoven’s symphonies and the plays of Shakespeare, and some way above balancing a pencil on your head for 15 seconds without it falling off, or making a sandwich. It was fine. Not great, not bad.

The pitches were difficult for bowlers and spectators alike, and Bangladesh have the strongest batting line-up in their short and unglamorous history, but England should nevertheless be a little concerned that their seam attack finished with comfortably the worst-ever collective series average (40.70) against Bangladesh.

But the Tigers’ bowling “attack” is still, by Test standards, cannon fodder, and England were startlingly cautious at times, as if nervously trying to defuse a loaf of bread. In the second Test, they scored the third slowest team innings of 350 or more against Bangladesh, featuring two of the five slowest ever innings of 50 or more against them (Tim Bresnan’s careful 91 came in a creditable fifth, and Jonathan Trott’s study in passivity was second only to Nasser Hussain’s achingly constipated six-hour 76 in Chittagong in 2003, an innings that had the physio sending out bags of dried apricots to loosen things up.)

For the home team, the dream of winning Test matches (without the aid of civil war in West Indian cricket) remains distant, but their batting, and pancake-flat pitches, suggest that the goal of at least emerging with occasional draws is now achievable. In Dhaka, they recorded their highest match aggregate, and saw four players pass 50 in an innings for only the second time.

No. 8 was a particularly fruitful position for Bangladesh, with scores of 79, 36, 59 not out and 28. It has been a vintage millennium so far for Test No. 8s, who have averaged close to 23.5, 15% above the figure for the previous millennium (which itself had smashed the preceding millennium’s record).

Much of this improvement is due to Daniel Vettori. Now promoted to No. 6, Vettori has completed his transformation from useful tailender (averaging 16 in his first 46 Tests), to fully qualified batsman (averaging 42 in his last 54). His bowling average, interestingly, was 33 in that first period of his career, and has remained 33 ever since, as he has mutated into the Wilfred Rhodes New Zealand cricket had been waiting for ever since, well, ever since Wilfred Rhodes was born in England and failed to emigrate to New Zealand.

Vettori can lay an almost legally binding claim to being the greatest No. 8 in Test history. He recently overtook Shane Warne as the highest scorer at that position of all time, with 2072 runs at an average of 42 – higher than the career Test averages of, amongst others, Mark Waugh, Dilip Vengsarkar, Herschelle Gibbs, Andy Zaltzman, Alec Stewart, Lalit Modi (sue me if it’s not true), Chris Gayle, Marilyn Monroe and Monty Panesar. He has also scored three centuries and 13 half-centuries batting at 8, both records. And, to prove that he is not a specialist No. 8, he also holds the record for most runs scored by a No. 9 (1075). The man is a true allrounder.

An all-time XI of highest scorers in each position reads as follows: 1. Gavaskar, 2. Hayden, 3. Ponting, 4. Tendulkar, 5. Steve Waugh, 6. Steve Waugh, 7. Gilchrist, 8. Vettori, 9. Vettori, 10. Waqar Younis, 11. Muralitharan.

A strong team, certainly, but whether Vettori and Vettori could combine effectively as a spin-bowling partnership is open to doubt, and there may be an awkward personality clash between the two Steve Waughs, particularly when one (the captain) asks the other (the vice-captain) to open the bowling.

It seems that the end may be nearing, however, for another Kiwi tail-end stalwart. Chris Martin has served New Zealand nobly with the ball, but he has served humanity heroically with the bat. In an age of increased professionalism and coaching, Martin has clung to his batting ineptitude with the pride and dedication of a true imperfectionist.

He has hit 12 fours in a decade-long Test career, amassing 84 runs at an average of 2.15. No Test batsman has failed with such bloody-minded persistence, an inspiration to those of us who can only dream of playing international cricket, but who can secretly (or publicly) reassure ourselves that, if we played 56 Tests, we might not take the 181 wickets Martin has notched on his bedpost, but we would have a fighting chance of scoring at least 85 runs.

Meanwhile, in the IPL, well, to be honest, I’m not entirely sure what is going on. I have tried to get into it, readers, but I have failed. Yesterday, I switched my television on, and within five minutes I had seen David Warner reach a hundred and clout some sixes, David Hussey take an extraordinary boundary-defying catch, some pretty women dancing around with almost authentic enthusiasm, and at least 150 different logos. But I still cannot force myself to care genuinely who wins, or why. Possibly because of the logos.

Andy Zaltzman is a stand-up comedian, a regular on the BBC Radio 4, and a writer

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Sampathkumar on May 5, 2010, 9:44 GMT

    Where are you Andy? It has been more than a month since savouring your shenanigans.. Our fortnight is never complete without your confectionary stall. And we are suffering incomplete fortnights after incomplete fortnights. Come on Andy!!!!

  • adrian on April 16, 2010, 11:11 GMT

    A ferret!!!! - got to love that.

  • niels on April 7, 2010, 13:40 GMT

    OY!! Where's the latest installment of the world Cricket podcast??

  • Benbro on April 6, 2010, 7:20 GMT

    Andy - have you noticed Chris Martin's headwear when bowling? The fluffy white sweatband ensconcing his noggin gives him the surreal look of a man wearing a flesh-coloured santa hat. Once you notice, it's impossible to take your eyes off and you start to wish he would get sunburnt just for comic effect... Lovely fella; and a true ferret - one who goes in after the rabbits... Keep up the great work Ben

  • njr1330 on April 3, 2010, 20:22 GMT

    Clearly, like the Americans, India does not do irony!

  • John, Johannesburg on April 3, 2010, 19:12 GMT

    Said it before, will say it again. I read on average 20 articles a day on cricket, in or out of season. This one is consistently the most entertaining and enjoyable. Don't ever stop, I may have to read Harsha Bogle again, or whatever his name is.

  • hattrick on April 3, 2010, 4:04 GMT

    Perhaps it's now time to conjure up a narrative of a World T20 XI vs a World Test XI, playing a Test match. Would such a game be over in 2 days? Or perhaps it'll leave enough time for one of the Test XI batsmen to score 700 n.o. over 4 days. The toss will suddenly take on a new insignificance - the T20 team bats first, no matter what.

  • Adway on April 2, 2010, 12:19 GMT

    Hi Andy! I understand your ignorance towards IPL, but I've something to confess as well. I've never given a penny in last 25 years to the outcome of Surrey Vs Middlesex. Will you wake up to the fact that it's been some time since Cricket moved beyond its boundaries of incompetence called English Cricket?

  • IPL watchdog on April 2, 2010, 7:07 GMT

    IPL is to India what the EPL or county cricket is to the UK. It really doesn't matter what you think of the IPL as much as i couldn't care what happens in the EPL or county cricket. Just the fact that every article has to mention something about the IPL (whether for or against) is proof enough to suggest that IPL is here to stay. Andy, please don't lose sleep over it. Good article otherwise, as always.

  • Almost on April 2, 2010, 5:50 GMT

    What about Brian Lara? And Sachin?

  • Sampathkumar on May 5, 2010, 9:44 GMT

    Where are you Andy? It has been more than a month since savouring your shenanigans.. Our fortnight is never complete without your confectionary stall. And we are suffering incomplete fortnights after incomplete fortnights. Come on Andy!!!!

  • adrian on April 16, 2010, 11:11 GMT

    A ferret!!!! - got to love that.

  • niels on April 7, 2010, 13:40 GMT

    OY!! Where's the latest installment of the world Cricket podcast??

  • Benbro on April 6, 2010, 7:20 GMT

    Andy - have you noticed Chris Martin's headwear when bowling? The fluffy white sweatband ensconcing his noggin gives him the surreal look of a man wearing a flesh-coloured santa hat. Once you notice, it's impossible to take your eyes off and you start to wish he would get sunburnt just for comic effect... Lovely fella; and a true ferret - one who goes in after the rabbits... Keep up the great work Ben

  • njr1330 on April 3, 2010, 20:22 GMT

    Clearly, like the Americans, India does not do irony!

  • John, Johannesburg on April 3, 2010, 19:12 GMT

    Said it before, will say it again. I read on average 20 articles a day on cricket, in or out of season. This one is consistently the most entertaining and enjoyable. Don't ever stop, I may have to read Harsha Bogle again, or whatever his name is.

  • hattrick on April 3, 2010, 4:04 GMT

    Perhaps it's now time to conjure up a narrative of a World T20 XI vs a World Test XI, playing a Test match. Would such a game be over in 2 days? Or perhaps it'll leave enough time for one of the Test XI batsmen to score 700 n.o. over 4 days. The toss will suddenly take on a new insignificance - the T20 team bats first, no matter what.

  • Adway on April 2, 2010, 12:19 GMT

    Hi Andy! I understand your ignorance towards IPL, but I've something to confess as well. I've never given a penny in last 25 years to the outcome of Surrey Vs Middlesex. Will you wake up to the fact that it's been some time since Cricket moved beyond its boundaries of incompetence called English Cricket?

  • IPL watchdog on April 2, 2010, 7:07 GMT

    IPL is to India what the EPL or county cricket is to the UK. It really doesn't matter what you think of the IPL as much as i couldn't care what happens in the EPL or county cricket. Just the fact that every article has to mention something about the IPL (whether for or against) is proof enough to suggest that IPL is here to stay. Andy, please don't lose sleep over it. Good article otherwise, as always.

  • Almost on April 2, 2010, 5:50 GMT

    What about Brian Lara? And Sachin?

  • Pete on April 2, 2010, 3:56 GMT

    Andy: Excellent as always, but: why aren't your "Yes, it's the Ashes" podcasts available? I'd gladly purchase them--been exerting a herculean effort to scour the internet to download this. Just goes to show BBC's nuthead marketing--here in the US, they know how to sell and make money--it seems BBC knows how to make excellent product, but has no idea of how to make a buck out of it.

  • mikeindex on April 1, 2010, 18:55 GMT

    Alfred Mynn, well said. Lightly lie the turf upon thee.

    Probably the funniest thing on cricinfo these days - sorry Andy, even you, and much funnier than Andrew Hughes - is the IPL fans who leap out of the woodwork every time an article says or lightly implies anything the least bit negative about the ludicrous circus to scream 'CONSPIRACY!!! EVERYONE IS OUT TO GET THE IPL!!! STOP CALLING US PARANOID!!!' (e.g., on another page: Ponting: 'NZ need to get Shane Bond back'. IPL fan: 'SHAME ON YOU PONTING! ANOTHER ANTI-IPL CONSPIRACY! WHY SHOULDNT BOND PLAY IN THE IPL! STOP DRAGGING THE IPL INTO EVERYTHING!!!!!')

    Almost makes you believe in conspiracies.

  • Steak & Ale Pie on April 1, 2010, 13:07 GMT

    It will be a truly sad day should this be the end of Chris Martin's test career. It may herald the end of one of life's great pleasures, watching a true bunny at the crease, be it Courtney Walsh's baby giraffe impressions, Tuffers knocking over the umpire as he has backed away so far or the high priest of rabbits - Chris Martin. I call on Test Playing Nations to maintain the tradition and make it mandatory for each Test Team to field a completely inept No. 11. England took this entertainment approach too far with a 9,10 & 11 of Mullaley,Tuffers & Malcolm. Please let this not be the end. Pommie Mbwanga, Pigeon, Reon King, Danny Morrison, Peter Such....we miss you.

  • Spaceman! on April 1, 2010, 10:31 GMT

    Coder, the difference is, you're not paid to give your opinion about fruit. if you were, then you would be more than welcome to voice your objections about apples at the annual apple fayre.

  • Henry on April 1, 2010, 4:52 GMT

    I thought he was mocking the "traditionalist" view of the IPL by focusing on something as vague as the logos, just a thought...

  • Alfred Mynn on April 1, 2010, 4:48 GMT

    Great article as usual. Although I must admit that the comments from psychotic Indian fans are what I really come here to read. This article is a classic example: the innocent last paragraph was sufficient to spark the delusions that the whole world is against them. Andy, I suggest an experiment. Go through an entire IPL season without mentioning the IPL even once. Religiously ignore it. I predict that you'll still get comments taking you to task for NOT writing about it.

  • Rastawookie on April 1, 2010, 2:14 GMT

    Andy, again, marvellous writing. Its appears true, that statistics can be used to prove anything thats even remotely true.

    And to The Coder. Fine mate, have your beef with cricinfo, but this is a blog. Blogs do not need to represent both sides of a story, they are an opinon piece, not journalism. Andy works hard to entertain us all, and does a terrific job, dont have a go at a blooger as part of your vendetta against biased journalism.

  • Iyer on March 31, 2010, 9:04 GMT

    Average article by Zaltzman's standard. But its unwanted comments on IPL. Author may well note IPL is for us and not for him to care. Its gonna be successful as long as we Indians like it. Truly cricinfo is getting biased. But the moderators need to remember that they need IPL rather than the other way around.

  • AJ on March 31, 2010, 7:38 GMT

    Pink curiosity! That ball looks like it was borrowed from Mario bros!

    Very funny article! and I'm with you about the IPL... couldn't care less who wins or losses.. BCCI get a ego hype, players get a bucket load to spend, and viewers get something to distract themselves every night..Just because the game has changed doesn't mean our taste has to...

  • Jake on March 30, 2010, 20:49 GMT

    This is the first ever article that I've laughed along as I read it - notably the Chris Martin part. That's my tribute to you Andy.

  • mikeindex on March 30, 2010, 15:38 GMT

    A very entertaining article, one of your best. Spot on about the IPL - excruciatingly dull cricket because it's all the same, even setting all the showbiz nonsense to one side.

    @The Coder - could it be that the reason a few cricinfo blogs lately have criticised various aspects of the IPL is that the authors, as individuals, all see some aspects of it as less than perfect? That's so crazy it just might work.

  • Arnold D'Souza on March 30, 2010, 15:17 GMT

    @Chris: The other problem is not only is the number of tests increasing rapidly (hence the Aggregate records get skewed), but less noticeably there's been something of a Run Inflation that's been in existence. Basically, runs have become easier to come by with time. Hence, they're worth less today. Or rather, they should be. Thus, even the Average (as opposed to Aggregate) records are skewed in favor of modern cricketers.

    We need a way to even that out too.

  • The Coder on March 30, 2010, 14:28 GMT

    Sha, I agree about writing being a form of expression. But don't tell me cricinfo does not have a bias against IPL. I'll give you an example. Forget about the articles in cricinfo. Just go to the Cricinfo Surfer section. If you read Indian newspapers, you'll know that many newspapers point out the horrible stuff about IPL - the in-between-overs advertisements and stuff. But they also cover the nice things about IPL too - the money being invested in Indian cricket for one thing. But in cricinfo Surfer section, you'll ONLY see the articles that show the IPL in a bad way. That Mr.Sha is also a form of expression : but a very dirty one. Its actually a disgrace.

  • JMike on March 30, 2010, 14:07 GMT

    The people who like to say what you should write about say "write about what you know." I wonder what you have to know to write "write about what you know"? Anyway, upon seeing the several .. um .. digestive-regularity-related comments in the early part of this article, I can't help wondering whether all is .. er .. passing well with Mr. Zaltzman? Any .. distress?

    :)

    --JMike

  • niels on March 30, 2010, 13:16 GMT

    Very funny. Pity you don't like IPL... some great stuff going on in that competition.

  • Voice of Reason on March 30, 2010, 13:09 GMT

    Who are these 'traditionalists' who get trotted out when something different happens in cricket? The only 'traditionalists' seem to be the journos sitting in their air conditioned sanitised press boxes thinking they know what the public wants (or rather stating what the public wants without speaking to the public)

    Most cricket fans are ok with change, maybe its the journos who arent?

  • GrayJ on March 30, 2010, 13:05 GMT

    You could always take the stalks off before you eat them....

  • Norman on March 30, 2010, 13:02 GMT

    I like Apples, not keen on Kiwi fruit though.

  • Chris on March 30, 2010, 12:18 GMT

    Given that all bar one of the 11 highest scorers (well the 9 of them) have operated within the last decade - I think Andy's the man to try to dream up a weighted average stat. In the same way as a county bat scoring a 1000 runs in a summer is hard now, but a Test bat getting a 1000 runs in a calendar year is almost pedestrian ...

    We need a good way of comparing 1910 (just 7 tests) with 2010 (13 already), or the 1960s (186 tests between 7 countries) and the 2000s (464 between 10 countries) ...

  • Sha on March 30, 2010, 12:01 GMT

    I think the Coder needs to relax... Andy simply can't come to care about the IPL, niether can I... but he's the most entertaining cricket writer I've ever come across and I hope he keeps speaking his mind. Cricinfo has no beef with the IPL and there are people who speak on both sides of the fence... Writing is a form of expression... express away Andy.

  • Tushar on March 30, 2010, 9:02 GMT

    Seriously funny article, like all of your previous ones. Your comment on the IPL has been one of the most sensible ones I have read on the subject. Extremely entertaining, without twisting facts or making mockery of anything (even the Bangla batting). I am already eagerly waiting for the next one.

  • The Coder on March 30, 2010, 8:46 GMT

    I would honestly like to know the instruction from cricinfo for this article. I think I see a pattern in all the articles recently published in cricinfo. Every single one of the has a gripe about IPL. I don't like apples but I don't go around shouting at the top of my voice to my friends 'I don't like apples, beacause its got a stalk at the top'. The apple has to have a stalk at the top people, or else there won't be an apple. And more than 500 million Indians like apples. You dont matter. Hard, but true too

  • Kunal on March 30, 2010, 8:30 GMT

    Andy, a nice read indeed. The moments of success garnered in Bangladesh by England will go some way in preparing them for the Ashes, or at least in handling the summer heat down under. Remember the first over blow-out by Harmison at the Gabba? The decade long career of Chris Martin is striking. And what about IPL? I went for a game myself, and although the cheergirls were fit as a fiddle, the cricket didn't tickle my fancy. You are right, it's probably the logos.

  • Aaron on March 30, 2010, 7:33 GMT

    Andy, the things you can do with statistics continue to astound me. The best bit was having Steve Waugh's name suddenly pop up twice in the list of batsmen. Genius.

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  • Aaron on March 30, 2010, 7:33 GMT

    Andy, the things you can do with statistics continue to astound me. The best bit was having Steve Waugh's name suddenly pop up twice in the list of batsmen. Genius.

  • Kunal on March 30, 2010, 8:30 GMT

    Andy, a nice read indeed. The moments of success garnered in Bangladesh by England will go some way in preparing them for the Ashes, or at least in handling the summer heat down under. Remember the first over blow-out by Harmison at the Gabba? The decade long career of Chris Martin is striking. And what about IPL? I went for a game myself, and although the cheergirls were fit as a fiddle, the cricket didn't tickle my fancy. You are right, it's probably the logos.

  • The Coder on March 30, 2010, 8:46 GMT

    I would honestly like to know the instruction from cricinfo for this article. I think I see a pattern in all the articles recently published in cricinfo. Every single one of the has a gripe about IPL. I don't like apples but I don't go around shouting at the top of my voice to my friends 'I don't like apples, beacause its got a stalk at the top'. The apple has to have a stalk at the top people, or else there won't be an apple. And more than 500 million Indians like apples. You dont matter. Hard, but true too

  • Tushar on March 30, 2010, 9:02 GMT

    Seriously funny article, like all of your previous ones. Your comment on the IPL has been one of the most sensible ones I have read on the subject. Extremely entertaining, without twisting facts or making mockery of anything (even the Bangla batting). I am already eagerly waiting for the next one.

  • Sha on March 30, 2010, 12:01 GMT

    I think the Coder needs to relax... Andy simply can't come to care about the IPL, niether can I... but he's the most entertaining cricket writer I've ever come across and I hope he keeps speaking his mind. Cricinfo has no beef with the IPL and there are people who speak on both sides of the fence... Writing is a form of expression... express away Andy.

  • Chris on March 30, 2010, 12:18 GMT

    Given that all bar one of the 11 highest scorers (well the 9 of them) have operated within the last decade - I think Andy's the man to try to dream up a weighted average stat. In the same way as a county bat scoring a 1000 runs in a summer is hard now, but a Test bat getting a 1000 runs in a calendar year is almost pedestrian ...

    We need a good way of comparing 1910 (just 7 tests) with 2010 (13 already), or the 1960s (186 tests between 7 countries) and the 2000s (464 between 10 countries) ...

  • Norman on March 30, 2010, 13:02 GMT

    I like Apples, not keen on Kiwi fruit though.

  • GrayJ on March 30, 2010, 13:05 GMT

    You could always take the stalks off before you eat them....

  • Voice of Reason on March 30, 2010, 13:09 GMT

    Who are these 'traditionalists' who get trotted out when something different happens in cricket? The only 'traditionalists' seem to be the journos sitting in their air conditioned sanitised press boxes thinking they know what the public wants (or rather stating what the public wants without speaking to the public)

    Most cricket fans are ok with change, maybe its the journos who arent?

  • niels on March 30, 2010, 13:16 GMT

    Very funny. Pity you don't like IPL... some great stuff going on in that competition.