December 3, 2010

Ashes

Another (totally accurate) Ashes prediction

Andy Zaltzman
James Anderson launches an unsuccessful appeal for lbw on the first day of England's tour match, Western Australia v England XI, 1st day, Perth, November 5, 2010
'Anderson won't take a wicket in Adelaide' - Zaltzman  © PA Photos
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Pay attention, Confectionery Stallers. I am about to tell you what will happen in the Adelaide Test. Admittedly, by the time you read this, what I am about to say will happen may already not have happened, or, at least, have started not happening. But, as I write it a couple of hours before play begins, it has not yet not happened, so it could still happen.

This will enable you to free up some extra family time by not having to watch my forecastings unfold live on your televisions (for any Europe-based readers following our continent’s greatest cricket team take on the best Australasia has to offer, I realise this freed-up family time may be in the middle of the night; your children may not appreciate being woken up at 2 o’clock in the morning to play Scrabble/arm-wrestle with Daddy/Mummy (delete as you wish), but during an Australian Ashes series, you must take such opportunities as they arise).

Before unveiling the official Confectionery Stall 2nd Test forecast, I should admit that my Ashes-predicting form has not, thus far, been especially incisive. Indeed, my own personal Ashes began almost as disastrously as Mitchell Johnson’s. I, too, was way off target. I watched the long-awaited opening-day skirmishes of the long-awaited first Test of this long-awaited series on the Test Match Sofa. During the lunch interval, I confidently predicted that Peter Siddle – who bowled reasonably in 2009, since when he had done little of note other than fail to remove his rather unnecessary facial topiary, and be injured − would pose little threat to England at any point in the series.

Good prediction, Andy. Bang, bang. Slight gap. Bang-bang-bang, bang. Nearly another bang. Six wickets for not many. There, in two stints of high-class fast-medium probery, went my chances of picking up next year’s Nobel Prize For Cricket Punditry.

In my defence, there was not exactly a chorus of disagreement from my fellow Sofa-sitters – “Are we talking about the same Peter Siddle?”, no-one asked. “The guy who has now limbered up in the morning session and is clearly about to scythe through England like a piping-hot chainsaw through suicidal butter?” they did not continue. In further mitigation, I also said that England might have more to fear from bowlers not playing in Brisbane − Bollinger, Ryan Harris, and, at a stretch, Lillee, or, at an even greater stretch, Lindwall (there’s no substitute for experience). So I was potentially not entirely wrong on that score.

Siddle’s hat-trick (unexpected on sofas on the other side of the equator as well judging by the pre-match build-up) was probably the best in the Ashes in terms of quality of batsmen splattered since England’s Jack Hearne catapulted Clem Hill, Syd Gregory and Monty Noble back to the Headingley pavilion in 1899. Sections of the Australian press have been arguing that, if the Australian selectors insist on having a batsman in the team with the initials MN who can send down a few tidy overs of spin, they might as well pick Noble in place of Marcus North. Some have even suggesting ex-Panamanian despot Manuel Noriega for the role ahead of the beleaguered offspinner who can intermittently bat a bit.

In an effort to replicate and invert my Siddlecasting blooper of last Thursday, I should now predict that, on Day 1 of the second Test, Jimmy Anderson will take 0 for 180 off 25 overs of needlessly short-pitched garbage described by Richie Benaud as “the worst thing I’ve seen in any medium since Tony Greig’s glove-puppet rendition of Verdi’s La Traviata in the MCG toilets in 1979”.

However, I will resist that temptation, and instead issue this forecast for England’s first Test match in Adelaide since 2002-03 (neither I nor anyone in my immediate family can remember any Ashes Test there in the interim, least of all one exactly four years ago culminating in the longest all-night cricket-watching waking nightmare of my entire life): England will absolutely not declare at 550-odd for 6, have Australia in trouble, let them off the hook by dropping Ponting, still not really being in trouble despite Australia topping 500, before suffering one of the chokiest of team chokes in sport history and subsiding to an alarmingly easy defeat. That will not happen. That will not happen. That cannot happen. Please don’t let that happen.

To conclude, some statistics on England’s second-innings psychologislam in Brisbane:

• England smashed the Test record for the first two wickets of a team’s second innings as if it were a cheap and brittle plate as a particularly exuberant Greek wedding between two Olympic discus champions during an earthquake. The previous highest total for the first two wickets of a second innings was 366, by India as they almost successfully chased 429 to win at the Oval in 1979.

• Of the 12 times a team has reached 450 for 1 in all Test cricket, seven have been this millennium.

• On which point, the eight Tests played in November 2010 produced almost 9000 runs at an average of 43.6 runs per wicket, and 22 centuries, including one triple century, three doubles hundreds (equalling the record for most 200-plus scores in a month), and two more innings in the 190s. Seven of the eight games were draws, none of which even came close to producing a result. Commiserations bowlers. You should have paid more attention at school and got a proper job.

• Cook, who scored more runs in Brisbane than he did in either of his previous two complete Ashes series, became the seventh man (and first left-hander) to score 300 runs in a match against Australia, after three Englishmen from a long time ago (RE Foster, Herbert Sutcliffe and Len Hutton), and three Indians from no time ago (Laxman, Dravid and Tendulkar).

• Jonathan Trott now has the highest Ashes batting average in history – 108 in two matches − shunting the now-clearly-overrated Don Bradman (89 in 37) down into bronze medal position. In second place – Jonathan’s much, much elder Australian brother Albert Trott, averaging 102 in his three Tests in 1895.

• England scored as many 180+ partnerships in their second innings as they had against Australia (a) in the three previous Ashes series combined, (b) in the entire 1990s, 1970s or 1960s, and (c) between the birth of Julius Caesar and the death of Queen Victoria.

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

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Posted by Vyass on (December 8, 2010, 3:38 GMT)

Andy Zaltzman.. Hats off.. You are just so wonderful... I had read your predictions before the test but this is the first time I read your match analysis. I was of the impression that you were a humorous writer... but reading this and your analysis of the first test, I can safely say for whatever I am worth that you are definitely one of the best analyzer of the game and especially who presents it in such a way that the reader jsut wants more and more. It was like reading Harry Potter or any interesting novel, where you keep reading as fact as you can(since its sooo good) but at the same you don't want it to finish. Its amazing that you write articles of such a size that others may never even think of but its very small for us. We want MORE (I know I'm being very childish and selfish here but everyone would be feeling this way).

Please keep it coming

Posted by Graz on (December 4, 2010, 1:52 GMT)

I believe Sir Donald Bradman actually averaged 99.94, Andy. Rather than the paltry 89 you suggested.

Posted by MattShortForBob on (December 3, 2010, 18:32 GMT)

You, sir, are an antipredictive genius. A veritable Luap the Octopus, as it were. Your knighthood is at hand: simply publish the words "England will, on the second day, be out for 2, in 3.4 overs, after the Australian appeal against England's second legbye is denied (something which Ponting, being a gentleman of epic sanguinity, will shrug off with a benign smile). England will definitely not score 673/4 dec in record time." Quick! The mental health of the Kingdom relies on it.

Posted by Ninad on (December 3, 2010, 16:47 GMT)

Haha. Andy, only u can dare to call Don Bradman "clearly-overrated". You are as funny as PCB's oratory.

Posted by mike on (December 3, 2010, 15:17 GMT)

Your predictions are really running amock, though it is with sadness and joy that I bring news of your complete ineptitude at predicting. Anderson in a blitz of unplayable swing bowling took 4 wickets for not very many. But please do not be discouraged!! After all many of us predicted a 5-0 Ashes victory last time-to England!!! Anyway you're still funny!!!

Posted by Anil on (December 3, 2010, 14:20 GMT)

Ricky, Clarkey, Northy, Katty...Please read this article and please pray that Andy writes another piece immediately tonight predicting each one of you getting golden ducks...and predicting Straussy, Cooky, Trotty, Kevy, Colly all gather humongous tons for themselves. Mitchy, please pray that Andy predicts you will never ever wear a Baggy Green again. Wow...how much those 22 able men and another bunch on the fringe must be praying for Andy to writing something! Dear Goddy (God), do you have the ability/zeal/enthusiasm---and-what-nots to grant all those wishes in reciprocal line of what Zalzy predicts? Come on, Goddy, and prove that you are a God by proving Zalzy wrong and by rewarding all those who wish being cursed by Zazly.

Posted by rambo on (December 3, 2010, 13:15 GMT)

Wrong again re. anderson! But I don't blame you for that. In fact I don't predict Anderson will end up with any more than 19 wickets in 5 matches, and his average for the series would be around 35.

For me Anderson and most 'good' English swing bowlers fall into a category of their own, who at times can turn in awe-inspiring performances, but overall they will never make it into a World XI of any era. In this sense even Mo Sami of Pakistan might fit into the category as well. Despite averaging 50+ for quite a few matches running, he continues to give this impression in every match that he might just do something, well almost, maybe, in the next match. But of course even if I lump Anderson and Sami together in the same category I'd still say Anderson is way ahead of Sami in terms of sheer 'greatness' and definitely beats Sami hands down in terms of 'english'ness.

Posted by Andy on (December 3, 2010, 12:55 GMT)

well done Andy, nice double-jinx on Anderson, worked a treat.

Posted by Pradyumn Sharma on (December 3, 2010, 9:40 GMT)

Regarding your comment: "Commiserations bowlers. You should have paid more attention at school and got a proper job."

Harbhajan Singh of India was smart. A spin bowler by profession, he scored two centuries in three tests against NZ, though he didn't do much of note as a bowler. And end up being the man-of-the-series. Best example of adapting to the changing market conditions.

Posted by waterbuffalo on (December 3, 2010, 9:39 GMT)

After the fact, but Anderson , Broad and Swann are terrific bowlers, and Finn is the perfect height, even though his length is imperfect, my thought is this, if you win the toss, just bowl, you have marvelous bowlers, I like Trott but Hussey is going to score 4 thousand runs, yes I know he was out for 93, but that guy is never going to get out. Another thing I've noticed about England, they do not have the injuries that they used to have, so give the fitness guy a raise. I think the Aussies blaming Mitchell is a mistake, the fact is, Doherty, though a decent bowler is not a genius like Warne, and when Aussies drop catches, you cannot blame the bowler, I still remember the slips way back when, Tubby Taylor, M. Waugh, Warne, S. Waugh at gully, M. Waugh was a genius, never even got dirty, the ball would be in the air before you knew what thel happened, and Heals and Gilchrist were very fine stumpers, never made a mistake, now Aussie spin is just ordinary, and Aussie pace is not as fast.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Andy Zaltzman
Andy Zaltzman was born in obscurity in 1974. He has been a sporadically-acclaimed stand-up comedian since 1999, and has appeared regularly on BBC Radio 4. He is currently one half of TimesOnline's hit satirical podcast The Bugle, alongside John Oliver. Zaltzman's love of cricket outshone his aptitude for the game by a humiliating margin. He once scored 6 in 75 minutes in an Under-15 match, and failed to hit a six between the ages of 9 and 23. He would have been ideally suited to Tests, had not a congenital defect left him unable to play the game to anything above genuine village standard. He writes the Confectionery Stall blog on Cricinfo.

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