MARCH 30, 2015

England news

Father Time takes a knock at Lord's

It has been a fixture of Lord's since 1926 but on Monday morning there was a different look to English cricket HQ with the famous Father Time weathervane bent back almost 90 degrees. Stiff winds in St John's Wood caused the damage and the MCC are working with specialists to restore an iconic item of Lord's.

Father Time has been damaged before - in 1992 it was struck by lightning and during the Second World War was tugged off it's perch by cables from a barrage balloon.

The weathervane - the Grim Reaper holding his scythe over his shoulder and one bail over the stumps in a skeletal hand - has stood over Lord's since 1926 when it was presented by architect Sir Herbert Baker as an apology for building work being delayed by the general strike

The famous weathervane at Lord's couldn't withstand the weather © Marylebone Cricket Club
MARCH 26, 2015

Word Cup 2015

London to Melbourne...for the weekend

To support his team during the World Cup final, a New Zealand fan has decided to embark on a journey so long in terms of distance, yet so short in terms of time, that it will surely inspire a whole new generation of cricket followers. Peter Thompson of London has his trans-continental jaunt all neatly planned out: finish work on Friday, get on the plane to Melbourne, see McCullum's men lift the trophy hopefully, and be back at work on Tuesday morning.

All in all, that's a trip of almost 34000 kms but it will only last 55 hours door to door, for a roughly 18.5 hour Australian holiday. And he'll have to fork out more than 7000 dollars.

"After the semi-final and the emotion of the way that happened, there was no way I was going to miss out on the opportunity to go," Thompson told the New Zealand Herald.

However, a bigger challenge awaits Thompson. The match kicks off at 2.30 pm local time, and 3.30 am London time, probably well beyond his bed time. No wonder it's keeping him awake.

"If I fall asleep for 10 minutes or so when Brendon McCullum is batting, he will have scored 70 and got out. So I'll definitely make sure I am awake when he comes to the crease."

MARCH 25, 2015

The Buzz

Early photograph unearthed of cricket at Eton

One of the earliest cricket photographs ever recorded - and perhaps the earliest schools cricket picture ever - has been discovered in a box of books and ephemera about Eton, the public school where the British prime minister, David Cameron, and a fair proportion of his cabinet, were former pupils.

The image has been dated c1862 and is signed on the mount by Victor Prout, who was best known for his portraits of the River Thames. It shows 11 schoolboys in trousers and waistcoats and such is its sense of languor it is not immediately clear whether the match is in progress or they are waiting for it to begin.

It is expected to raise in the region of £500 when it is put under the hammer by Dominic Winter Auctioneers in Cirencester. The earliest cricket photo of all is thought to precede this photo by about five years.

MARCH 15, 2015

The Buzz

Con man dupes BBC as Pakistan star

A club cricketer in northern England has duped the BBC into paying him to appear on programmes by pretending to be the former Pakistan batsman Nadeem Abbasi.

Abbasi is furious about being impersonated regularly on BBC World News, BBC Asian Network and Radio Five Live and told The Sun that he would punch Alam in the face if he ever met him for "damaging the country's reputation".

Abbasi, 46, played three Tests for Pakistan in the late 1980s and now coaches a team in Rawalpindi. The wannabe Abbasi is reported to live in Hulme, a suburb of Manchester, and has just played a bit of local cricket in and around Huddersfield.

A BBC spokesman said: "We apologise to the real Mr Abbasi and we will be looking seriously into what has happened."

MARCH 11, 2015

World Cup 2015

All head to McLean Park

If cricket loves its statistics, Statistics New Zealand loves the World Cup even more. Napier has been name as the country's "most prolific cricket-watching centre, by the the country's official statistical body, reported the New Zealand Herald. Napier was given top-dog status from a calculation made after dividing the crowd figures at every New Zealand World Cup venue. Napier's 10022 at the New Zealand v Afghanistan match was 7.59 per cent of the regional population, with Wellington, where 7.14 percent of its regional population of 422103 i.e. a crowd of 30,148 showed up for the New Zealand v England game, a close second.

The best crowd figures for every World Cup game in New Zealand were compared to their regional populations i.e. people living within 50km of every ground. Statistics New Zealand spokesman Colin Marshall spelt out the official stance, "We at Statistics New Zealand love cricket and cricket statistics in particular." He added that the calculation did not include a few factors: travelling fans at every game, the capacity of every ground or whether it was sold out and the likely performance of England cricketers (said with a straight face no doubt).

MARCH 10, 2015

Australia news

All not well in the land of Dungog Doug

Australia loves little more than celebrating the authenticity of its Bush cricketers who rose from humble beginnings to achieve greatness on the international stage.

But while Australia co-hosts the World Cup, one news story that will go largely overlooked is a warning that all is not well for cricket in more isolated parts.

Dungog Shire, a hilly agricultural and tourism area in the Hunter Region of New South Wales, 75kms north of Newcastle, is famous for producing Australian cricketers of the calibre of Arthur Morris and Doug Walters.

'Dungog Doug' was the son of a dairy farming family and began by playing cricket on the verandah and later on a pitch rolled out of ant beds. But such is the lack of enthusiasm for cricket in this region - in which a sparse population of 8,000 is spread over 2,200 sq kms - that Dungog junior cricket is now on the verge of being disbanded.

The Dungog Chronicle has reported that the lack of interest at a recent annual meeting has led the Dungog Junior Cricket Club committee to abandon all hope and discontinue the sport.

At a time when the World Cup is in Australia, and the Big Bash League is taking the country by storm, not all is necessarily as well as it first appears.

MARCH 07, 2015

India news

High Court backs inmates' World Cup plea

Inmates in an Indian prison have successfully argued in the High Court that watching the World Cup is part of their fundamental human rights.

The High Court in Guhawati has ordered that a cable connection must be laid within five days with Justice Arup Kumar Goswami ruling: "Prisoners need recreation for a healthy mind."

Although prisoners were already able to watch the state-run Doordarshan channel, which is screening India's matches, the majority of matches in the World Cup are only available on cable TV.

Lawyers representing the prisoners had argued that television was part of the "right to life and personal liberty" set out by India's constitution.

The ruling only applies to "under trial prisoners" - those whose case has not yet been heard.

It remains to be seen if the whole of India will now petition that the chance to watch the World Cup is a right they cannot fairly be denied.

MARCH 06, 2015

Worcestershire make Hughes shirt tribute

Worcestershire have unveiled a shirt for their pre-season tour that features a tribute to Phillip Hughes. The shirt, made by Canterbury, has 408 - Hughes' Australia Test cap number - on the sleeve, as well as "P. Hughes 63 not out" below the badge.

Hughes, who died last year after being struck by a ball, was a popular figure at New Road, where he spent much of the 2012 season. Shirts worn by Worcestershire players in Abu Dhabi will be auctioned off and there are also plans for it to be stocked in the club shop, with all proceeds going to charity.

"Following the tragic death of Phil Hughes at the back end of last year, without doubt it hit the club and the staff really hard," Worcestershire's commercial director, Jon Graham, said. "Phil was such a popular guy and, when things like that happen, you want to do something that is befitting of the individual and commemorate his name.

"For the trip to Abu Dhabi, we thought it would be a good idea to develop a one-off kit in honour of Phil's name. We have worked alongside Canterbury to design that and I'm sure the lads will be proud to wear that kit."

"All the playing kit that the lads wear in Abu Dhabi will be auctioned off throughout the course of the year. All proceeds will go to a charity of Phil Hughes' families choice. It is about recognising a very good player for Worcestershire and what an absolute legend of a man he was.

"We will also have a very limited run of the Phil Hughes kit that we will sell in the club shop, probably no more than 50 items."

The squad departed for their 11-day trip to the UAE this week, with Worcestershire allrounder Moeen Ali, currently away with England at the World Cup, tweeting a picture of the kit.

MARCH 06, 2015

England cricket

Taxman goes after Ashes heroes

Ten years on from the Ashes series that briefly made English cricket sexy, some of the players involved are facing allegations of impropriety in that most unsexy of areas: tax.

A number of former England cricketers, including members of the 2005 Ashes-winning side, could be facing "very substantial" bills from the UK taxman, according to a report in the Guardian. The demands concern investments made almost a decade ago, which Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs is investigating as alleged tax avoidance.

Players including Michael Vaughan, Matthew Hoggard, Ashley Giles and Paul Collingwood - who played in the 2005 Ashes - reportedly invested in the UK film industry via partnerships set up by a company called Ingenious Media. HMRC is now challenging the tax relief granted by such schemes.

Three former England captains, David Gower, Mark Butcher and Alec Stewart, as well as the current managing director of England cricket, Paul Downton, are all listed as investors.

The Professional Cricketers' Association has put those concerned in touch with a financial advisor to assist in their cases, and Ingenious is currently challenging HMRC's demands at a tribunal. Of those named, only Gower was willing to talk publicly to the Guardian, and he was critical of the tax authority's stance.

"For me the money involved is not life-threatening, it won't wipe me out," Gower said. "But the principle is just wrong and I want to stand up against it. The government wanted to encourage investment in the film industry, there was a genuine element of risk. The films were successful and generated more than £1bn in taxable income and now HMRC is coming back 10 years later saying the schemes weren't valid.

"There was a tax planning element to the scheme, I would be wrong to deny that; you are always looking for ways to make the most of your resources. But efficient tax planning is 100% legal. Now the political outlook has changed, tax avoidance has become unpopular and HMRC is changing the rules retrospectively, which is appalling."

MARCH 02, 2015

England news

That's Out! Dickie Bird opens his wallet for Yorkshire

Dickie Bird, one the most famous of former Test umpires, has gone beyond the call of duty to help with Yorkshire's development of Headingley by funding a new dressing room balcony out of his own pocket.

Bird, now 81, is revered in his native Yorkshire for his eccentric good nature, and as his largesse is applauded around the county, the jokes that nobody has ever seen his wallet have now become outdated in quite wonderful style.

Bird has been nominated to stand for a second term as Yorkshire president at the AGM in April - an uncommon honour which even passed Geoffrey Boycott by, and which has been proposed in recognition of the support role he played as the county won the Championship for the first time in 13 years.

"These lads have given me so much pleasure over the past 12 months with their magnificent performances in the Championship and I wanted to reward them for their efforts," he said.

"I want to invest in the team and give something back. When they said the players need to have their own external balcony, located directly behind the bowler's arm, I had no hesitation in making it happen. They will benefit from being outside watching the cricket rather than being behind glass in the current viewing area."

Yorkshire's director of cricket Martyn Moxon added: "I can't thank Dickie enough. The players are delighted. Our current viewing gallery can get a little claustrophobic, particularly on warm days. Dickie is well respected in the dressing room and the fact he never misses a game is testament to his passion and love for Yorkshire cricket."

Bird's home town, Barnsley, honoured him some years ago with a statue in the main square where late-night revellers would throw underwear and other items onto his outstretched finger, so much so that the council had to raise the plinth by several feet.

FEBRUARY 28, 2015

England news

National anthem leaves Morgan lost for words

National anthems are routinely played at ICC world tournaments, but singing them out loud has never been regarded as obligatory… has it?

Eoin Morgan, England's Dublin-born captain, has enough problems to deal with without being the subject of media debate about why he has never sung the national anthem during his six years of playing for England. As captain, though, it is now deemed to matter.

"I have never sang the national anthem when playing for Ireland or England," he said. "It does not make me any less proud to be an English cricketer. It is a long story. It is a personal thing."

Personal reasons not to offer up a stirring rendition of God Save the Queen deserve respect - millions in Britain view it with discomfort - and, in Morgan's case, there is also the history of the troubles that have bedevilled the history between England and Ireland.

Such complexities have been dismissed, though, by Kevin Jennings, the deputy headmaster at the Catholic University School in Dublin where Morgan was a pupil: he told the Daily Telegraph it was more likely to be down to "shyness".

Predictably the message boards and social media have reverberated with the debate about whether Morgan has inalienable right not to sing an anthem or whether he has now been exposed as an imposter, adopting England as a matter of convenience. The fact several England players choose not to sing has been conveniently overlooked.

Meanwhile, Morgan might take comfort from the picture on this story which suggests that Australia's captain Michael Clarke does not exactly belt out every note.

FEBRUARY 27, 2015

World Cup 2015

Leave your fruit and veg at home

Fans heading to Eden Park on Saturday for the match between New Zealand and Australia in Auckland have been implored to leave their fruit and vegetables at home by the very people who grow them.

That's not bad marketing.

In a full-page advertisement in the New Zealand Herald, the country's commercial fruit and vegetable growers have asked cricket fans to "hit an unwelcome Aussie visitor for six!" And they don't mean the cricketers from across the ditch. They are referring to a "potentially devastating" Australian (Queensland) fruit fly - not Merv Hughes either - which was discovered in Grey Lynn, a suburb of Auckland, last week.

"This is the only time we will ask you not to eat fruit," the ad says. "New Zealand growers appeal to cricket fans - Please don't take any fruit to the big game tomorrow."

The pest, if not controlled and eradicated, could impact New Zealand's fruit, vegetable and horticulture industries. "Eden Park, the venue for Saturday's World Cup Cricket clash between Australia and New Zealand, is right on the border of the controlled area. This means no fruit and vegetable material can be taken out of the stadium," Horticulture New Zealand chief executive Peter Silcock said. "We are asking cricket fans to leave their fruit and vegetables at home when they head to the stadium. You know it must be a serious situation if we are asking people NOT to have fruit and vegetables."

Carbs and fat it is then.

FEBRUARY 23, 2015

World Cup 2015

Federer apologises for #BleedBlue marketing stunt

Roger Federer has issued a public apology - doesn't everyone these days? - after ill-advisedly agreeing to a Facebook marketing stunt showing him drooling over India's World Cup shirt.

Federer's display of loyalty was to his sponsor, Nike, rather than any affinity with the Indian cricket team, but his comment "Dressing up for a gentleman's game today #BleedBlue" brought such a hostile reaction from some fans that as a non-cricket lover he could never have imagined.

Federer, a 17-times Grand Slam winner, explained: "It was more of a Nike thing to be quite honest. I met some of the Indian players and I had just spent some time in India so they presented the shirt to me. I support South Africa, and everybody knows that. The idea wasn't to spark any fire and I'm sorry if it did that."

Federer's mother Lynette is from South Africa and the Roger Federer Foundation has raised money for disadvantaged South African children.

One Pakistan supporter, a student at Cambridge University, told Pakistan's Express Tribune that he had deleted all his photos of Federer and also claimed to have taken a rudimentary opinion poll "in which ten out of 12 Pakistanis felt hurt or betrayed".

Federer's commitment to cricket sounds distinctly hit and miss. "It really depends where you are," he said. "When I'm in America definitely not. When I'm in Europe definitely not. But then when I'm in Australia and here in the UAE a little bit sometimes."

Even now, cricket fans in the United States and England (which Federer might have briefly forgotten is in Europe) are preparing to be offended.

FEBRUARY 18, 2015

Afghanistan news

US Embassy mistakenly hails great Afghan victory

Cricket history will forever relate that Afghanistan's World Cup bow ended with defeat against Bangladesh, but there was a point in the match when at least one observer saw it rather differently.

An Afghanistan victory was prematurely pronounced by the United States embassy in Kabul which seemed under the illusion that they had won the match even though at that stage it was midway through the first innings.

"Congratulations to #Afghanistan for their win over #Bangladesh in the #CWC15 #AFGvsBAN# the US Embassy's official Twitter account pronounced in a tweet that was more impressive for its liberal use of hashtags than the accuracy of its information.

With millions in Afghanistan estimated to be watching the biggest match in their history, the breakdown in American intelligence brought a rush of amused responses, causing the Embassy to apologise for prematurely announcing a victory that never quite came and to wish them good luck in their next match.

FEBRUARY 17, 2015

Australia cricket

Watson has 3.6m reasons to smile

Shane Watson may have one of the saddest faces in cricket, latterly on show when he made a duck against England in the opening match of the World Cup, but at last he is smiling all the way to the bank according to the latest Rich List for Australian sports stars.

Watson's 2014 earnings are estimated at USD $3.6m, leaving him eighth among Australian sports stars and the top cricketer on the list, ahead of Mitchell Johnson (10th), Michael Clarke (11th) and David Warner (12th).

Australian sportsmen and women rely heavily on overseas earnings in the United States and India to achieve such wealth. Salaries for Watson, Johnson and Warner all topped $1m in 2014. Australia's women do not fare well in the latest survey with only two named in the top 50.

Watson's earnings fall well below the top Indian cricketer, however: MS Dhoni's annual earnings are estimated at around $30m a year. He was also dwarfed - in more ways than one - by Australia's No 1 earner: Andrew Bogut, a 7ft basketball centre in the United States, turned in estimated earnings of $12m.

Perhaps that accounts for Watson's sad face after all.

FEBRUARY 09, 2015

England cricket

Harmison switches sports to take charge of Ashington

He made his name as a fearsome fast bowler but now Steve Harmison hopes to build his reputation in a different sport - as manager of Ashington football club.

Harmison, who rose to become the No.1-ranked bowler in the world and was part of the England attack that won the 2005 Ashes, will now hope to steer his hometown football club to success.

Ashington play in the Northern League Division One - the ninth tier of English football - and have a history with the Harmison family. Steve played for them briefly as a teenager, his older brother James is a former club captain and their father Jimmy was once assistant manager.

The club trains twice a week and Harmison will manage them for a "token wage". His immediate task was a home match against Bishop Auckland on February 10. He began well, too, with a 1-0 victory.

Harmison told the Daily Telegraph: ""This is not a publicity stunt; this is not a short-term ploy to get Ashington some media attention. I'm serious about this. I don't know where it will take me, I'm not trying to become a league manager, I just want to do a good job for Ashington.

"I used to say, tongue in cheek, that I would have rather have played number nine for Newcastle, than play cricket for England, but football has always been a huge part of my life. When I look back at my cricket career, there were times when I should have challenged myself more, when I should have taken opportunities to do something different, and when Ian Lavery [Ashington chairman] asked me if I was interested, I thought: 'Why not, let's have a go.'"

FEBRUARY 06, 2015

Bangladesh cricket

Bangladesh schoolboy scores 325 in 50-over match

There have been the odd double-hundreds in Bangladesh's school cricket, one of which was scored by current Bangladesh batsman Soumya Sarkar. Now Mostafizur Rahman Lipu has gone past all and scored the first triple-hundred in the Young Tigers national schools cricket tournament.

A student of Lalmonirhat Government High School, Lipu scored 325 in a 50-over match on Friday against Giasuddin High School. He struck 35 fours and 19 sixes at the Sheikh Kamal Stadium, situated in the northwestern town which is about 354kms from Dhaka.

Giasuddin High School were later bowled out for 117 runs, losing the game by 398 runs.

With the World Cup looming and the Bangladeshi batsmen still finding their feet in Australia, wouldn't Mashrafe Mortaza want Lipu in his side?

JANUARY 27, 2015

Pakistan cricket

Sohail spooked by hotel 'ghost'

Haris Sohail has had a frightful experience in New Zealand. The Pakistan allrounder was spooked in his Christchurch hotel room, convinced he had felt a "supernatural" presence.

Naveed Akram Cheeva, the Pakistan team manager, said Sohail phoned a member of the coaching team to say he had been woken by his bed at the Rydges Latimer hotel being rattled.

Sohail was found shaken and feverish and would not accept the suggestion that it was the fever that had caused the experience. A quick examination by team doctor found nothing to be concerned about. He then moved to the coach's room.

"He's OK and he's concentrating on cricket as he should be," Cheeva said. "He had a fever. We think it was the fever that caused it but the player still believes his bed was shaken by something and it was a supernatural something."

A spokesman for the hotel said they knew of "no active ghost" on the premises.

Some reports in the Pakistan media suggest it was his 'encounter' that led to him missing Pakistan's first warm-up match, although he did play the second game where he scored 6 and bowled four overs.

Sohail is not the first international cricketer to feel an unworldly presence in a hotel. In 2005, Shane Watson hunkered down with Brett Lee after being scared out of his room in Lumley Castle near Durham's Chester-le-Street ground. Darren Gough didn't miss a chance to remind him during the one-day international.

And last year Stuart Broad had enough of his room at the Langham Hotel in London after being woken in the night with all the taps running. "I turned the lights on and the taps turned themselves off. Then when I turned the lights off again, the taps came on. It was very weird," he said.

JANUARY 17, 2015

World Cup 2015

Tiger Shoaib appeals to the Prime Minister

Shoaib Ali Bukhari is the Bangladesh fan who paints his body like a tiger, attends most home matches and screams all day from the grandstand at the Shere Bangla National Stadium in Mirpur. He has traveled to India, Sri Lanka and Zimbabwe over the last nine years following the Bangladesh team.

Usually he is financially supported by corporate houses, current and former players, board officials and a supporters group for his travels. But this time he has struggled to find sufficient funds in his quest to travel to Australia and New Zealand for the World Cup.

As a result, he has appealed to the country's Prime Minister to help him. In a press conference arranged by a supporters group called BCSA, Shoaib said that he is itching to watch the World Cup in person, and knows that his support is what the team requires. The BCB has assured that he will get match tickets.

A motor mechanic by profession, Shoaib has gained following even among the Bangladesh players who call him "Tiger". Taskin Ahmed and Al-Amin Hossain, speaking at a press conference in Mirpur, said that he inspires them.

Al-Amin said: "We always see him in Bangladesh, so we will surely get inspired by his presence when we will see him in Australia."

JANUARY 15, 2015

Kevin's world

Born in South Africa, England's leading international run-scorer, a star in the IPL and Big Bash: Kevin Pietersen has always been a man of the world. And now he has had his own version inked on to his body. KP's world is, perhaps not surpisingly, KP-centric, with a star denoting all the locations where he has scored international hundreds.

Pietersen tweeted a photo of his new body artwork, helpfully pointing out: "It isn't the wrong way around. It's just the reflection!" Eagle-eyed readers will note that while Pietersen has 32 Test and ODI hundreds, there are only 14 stars on show - possibly due to a lack of space meaning he could only fit one on England. But then, KP was always too big for one country to contain.

During the Big Bash, he has restated his intentions to play for England again. But, for now, the likelihood is that Pietersen won't have to update his tattoo in the near future.

#tattoo #globalcitizen #stars It isn't the wrong way around. It's just the reflection!

A photo posted by KP (@kp24) on