Wednesday, 31 December 2008

The Cricketing Year 2008: A Round Up

2008 has flown by, providing cricket with too much to mention. Nightwatchgirl feels it necessary to do a run-down of the good, the bad and the ugly.

Good year for:

Kevin Pietersen becoming captain of England
South Africa beating everyone in Test cricket.
Middlesex beating everyone in the Twenty20.
India beating everyone playing in India.
England beating South Africa in the ODI series 4-0.
Bangladesh doing better than expected.
Steve Harmison remembering he needed to play for England again.
Crazy Krejza being picked to play for Australia.
The new TV gadget of hot-spot. Genius.
The Stanford All Stars who are now very rich.
NWG meeting Michael Clarke and thinking he needs a good meal.
England to be rubbish because 2008 means nothing compared with 2009.
Sussex players who will undoubtedly be picked for England.

Bad year for:

The Australian cricket fan who bought a ticket for the fifth day at the MCG, December '08.
England - in all forms of the game.
Surrey- ditto.
Michael Vaughan standing down (maybe that should be in the good year section).
Owais Shah always being over-looked.
Simon Jones being constantly injured.
Crazy Krejza being hailed as the new spinner for Australia and then being dropped.
Matthew Hoggard (sob).
England wicket keepers.
The English summer. We need a good one for 2009.
Players who play for any other county except Sussex and want to play for England.

An ugly year for:

Matthew Hayden forgetting how to bat.
Ricky Ponting being captain of Australia when they start to lose.
Australia (again) in general.
Kevin Pietersen the tail end of the year when England couldn't even buy a win (illegally of course).
Ryan Sidebottom being moody, mean and not very good.
Daniel Flynn having to have mouth surgery when two teeth were unceremoniously removed by a cricket ball in England.
The IPL making cricketers behave like circus monkeys.
Stanford - ditto but for England.
Graeme Swann for the worst over-throw in history against New Zealand.

Tuesday, 30 December 2008

1992: A History of Cricket and Other Things

In 1992 George Bush was President.

In 1992 Aladdin was the number one grossing film.

In 1992 John Major was Prime Minster.

And it was in 1992 that Australia last lost a series in Australia.

Monday, 29 December 2008

Australia Begins To Worry

It's always a worrying sign when a tailender (in this case Mitchell Johnson with 43) is the second highest scorer.

It's always a worrying sign when Michael Hussey, so short of runs he can't even buy them, gets out for 2.

It's always a worrying sign when Andrew Symonds, the big gun of the Australian team, gets a duck.

It's always a worrying sign when Dale Steyn manages to score 76 in his first innings and then collect 5-67.

It's always a worrying sign when a team need only 183 runs to clinch victory.

It's always a worrying sign when a team is one down in a three match series and poised to lose another game.

As the saying goes: 

quidquid latine dictum sit altum viditur

Sunday, 28 December 2008

How Did He Duminy That?

When it looked impossible, when Australia should have wrapped the South African tail up in an hour, Duminy (166) played an absolute peach of an innings.

Although obviously he deserves praise and admiration for his batting, NWG couldn't help but draw attention to one particular person:

Michael Hussey.

For his attempted catch was more than just providing some humour for the neutral observer. It was down right comical (and probably would resemble NWG trying to catch a cricket ball).  

He stood there, trying to shield his eyes from the sun with one hand, then the other, then moved about a bit to see if that would help, and then the ball dropped behind him while he was still looking for it in the air.

Poor Hussey.  He's not having the greatest series.  But surely this clip on youtube will ensure he will never be forgotten and kids everywhere will learn how not to catch a ball.

Saturday, 27 December 2008

Never Kick An Aussie

So there was South Africa, all puffed up after winning the first Test, all puffed up after a good first day yesterday, and then Australia decided that that was enough and they wanted to win this one.

South Africa finished on 198-7. Smith was seemingly the only batsman wanting to score runs, as McKenzie was out for a duck (England please take note: apparently he does get out, it was just you being rubbish), and apart from Duminy, no other South African batsmen scored over 30.

This puts Australia in a firm lead, and unless lightening strikes twice (Graeme, lightning conductor might help you out here), Australia will most likely level the series.

This is a good thing for the neutral observer. The final Test will most likely be the king of all games, where heroics are a necessity and mistakes of any kind will be regretted.

NWG may even try and stay up and watch.

Friday, 26 December 2008

Hayden's Christmas Hangover

Just as Nightwatchgirl was putting the turkey back in the fridge and insisting on another glass of wine (always a mistake), she realised that the cricket world had not abandoned her. The cricket world had provided another Test match to watch and she was grateful.

The second Test between Australia and South Africa has not disappointed. NWG watched Hayden get out again (is this the end for him?), and then was forced to stop imagining what a Christmas in Australia was like (oh to be warm again) and go to bed.

But that didn't stop Ponting or Katich knocking around the ball, but it did stop Hussey (another duck, not the greatest Christmas present ever) and Australia will start tomorrow 280-6, with Michael Clarke (36) and Brett Lee trying to get a few more precious runs.

While England stuff themselves full of everything available, Australia and South Africa are living up to the hype (Aussies may not agree with that last statement).

It's a close contest; it's aggressive; and best of all England can't lose (for once).

Wednesday, 24 December 2008

The Pietersen Drinks Party

"What a lovely sight this is, Jessica, you've done so well with the Christmas decorations," KP said, gazing around the room in awe of all the flashing lights, and the ten foot tall Christmas tree, decorated with bats and cricket balls (part of the sponsoring deal).

"Thanks husband," Jessica giggled, she still couldn't get used to the fact that somehow she married the England captain.

Jessica and Rachel (Flintoff) were very competitive with each other, even down to the size of their sunglasses. While Rachel had a modelling contract with Asda, Jessica had managed to land a lucrative place on Dancing On Ice; a highlight for any celebrity: the thrill of broken bones and ice skates is often a combination many can't turn down (and the tour and possible part in Chicago). And while Rachel had to live down the sight of Freddy drunk and disorderly and falling off pedaloes, all Jessica had to cope with was being married to a South African who used to have a haircut similar to a badger.

"What time are the team coming over for the drinks party?" Asked KP. He had started a new tradition where the England captain must host the Christmas party for his team.

"In about 10 minutes," she replied, straightening the carpet to line up symmetrically with the sofa (she has a serious case of OCD).

The doorbell rang. Jessica opened the door and in poured the entire England set-up, physio and all.

That night was one for the history books. Matt and Ian spent twenty minutes trying to decide who was taller with Peter siding with Matt (big surprise), Ryan shouted at Monty for not buying him a present and Stuart cried when Steve told him Santa didn't exist. KP showed off by serving drinks with his left and right hand.

At the end of the night, KP and Jessica stood in their living room (featured in OK magazine) and surveyed the mess. Alastair had been sick in the fireplace. Owais had thrown a brick through the window because he wasn't invited and an unexpected phone call from Ricky explaining how to captain properly had really thrown KP off his guard.

"Don't worry babe," Jessica said reassuringly, "once I win DOI, I'll bring out a single and next thing you know, I'll be touring again and you can watch me from the side of the stage."

KP nodded his head. He didn't really like playing cricket anyway.

Tuesday, 23 December 2008

What A Test Match


The most exciting Test match of all time. So tense. So nerve-wracking. It ended with.....

a draw.

In fact the most thrilling moment came right at the last over when Dhoni decided he fancied a little bowl.

Still. England have reasons to be grateful:

1. They didn't lose. Definite improvement.
2. In the second innings, Bell managed not to get out (faced a whopping 70 balls).
3. Yuvraj only scored 86 (call that a score?).
4. England are due home for Christmas, to eat puddings, turkeys and mince pies. Perfect preparation for 2009.

So all in all, what a great Test match.

Bravo England.

Nightwatchgirl hopes that Father Christmas brings you everything on your list. You deserve it.

Monday, 22 December 2008

Yuv Got To Be Kidding

After yesterday's brave efforts between KP and Flintoff in the batting department, England fizzled out hopelessly today.

The last five batsmen made a measly 19 runs between them (NWM Jimmy - not out, important distinction), to leave England dangling at 302.

And then India were batting again. Scoring runs again. Not getting out again. Leaving them on 134-4 (Yuvraj 39, Gambhir 44) at the end of play.

If this game peters out in to a draw, England will have done well.

But NWG doesn't hold out much hope. She has become a fervent pessimist. The only thing that could save her now, is the return of Hoggard, and although she has asked Santa very kindly, she feels that Peter Moores will over-rule her.

Sunday, 21 December 2008

KP and Freddy To The Rescue

After the worst possible start (England were 1-2, more of a football score than cricket), England recovered as well as could have been expected.

Nightwatchgirl finally figured out that KP was batting so badly in the last Test, so that his score of 144 would look so much better. That's very clever, Kevin. But NWG has found you out.

Yes, England are 282-6, yes, James Anderson is currently being NWG's equivalent, and yes there is only Prior, Swann and Broad to go who can really bat, but at least England have given it a good go.

That's all an England fan can really hope for when playing India in India.

And NWG is grateful.

Because as England will eventually, at least Australia lost too.

It's not too often you can say that.

Ho Ho Ho

And so there it was.

Australia lose.

South Africa win by six wickets.

The second highest run chase in history.

Ponting et al were left stunned. He said "another very flat batting wicket," which gave a "certain advantage batting second." Come, come Ricky, be a good sport, won't you?

Graeme Smith et al were overjoyed.

All that talk about South Africa not being able to handle the pressure was wrong (this time).

What a cracker.

Nightwatchgirl is glad that Test cricket in the southern hemisphere is alive and well.

Saturday, 20 December 2008

England In Hospital

As predicted by Nightwatchgirl, Gambhir was thinking about making his highest score (almost got there, it was his second highest. His top score is against Australia - 206, NWG felt it necessary to mention), and made a more than decent 179.

And then there was Dravid, who made 136.

And they made England bowl 676 balls at just them.


Right. The positives:

1. Tendulkar, Laxman and Yuvraj scored 67 runs combined. Which is excellent.
2. Swann (3-122) and Flintoff (3-54) bowled well-ish.
3. It's a Saturday.
4. It's almost Christmas.

1. England will never score more than 400, let alone 453.
2. Yuvraj was dropped when on 8 or 11, NWG can't remember now, but it was bad.
3. England must be tired. NWG knows she is.
4. It's almost Christmas.
5. NWG has had enough. It is doubtful she will watch the rest of the day's play.

Friday, 19 December 2008

Brutal India Give England a Black Eye and Broken Jaw

When the Earth is nearest the Moon; when the constellation of Taurus is perpendicular with the Sun; when it is winter and cold and dark; cricket comes along and gives Nightwatchgirl two Test matches to watch. (For the Australian Test, see cricket news)

How nice.

Only trouble is, the India v England series is becoming rather one-sided.

KP lost the toss (again). India batted like robots programmed by WG Grace. The only difference being that it wasn't Sehwag smacking the England bowlers around for fun. It was Gambhir and the almost-sacked Dravid (bet they're relieved they didn't get rid of him in the end).

That seems to be the trouble with the India batting line-up. Get rid of one, and another just comes along to replace him. So Sehwag was out for a duck. Big whoop. Gambhir and Dravid clocked up 179 runs. And then there's Tendulker, Laxman, Yuvraj, Dhoni and Harbhajan. Will it never end?

This leaves England nowhere. Their bowling was not of the highest order. The batting is certainly not of the highest order.

Nightwatchgirl cannot get up at 4am just to watch England being smacked around. It's like watching your neighbour's husband hitting his wife: brutal, illegal and morally reprehensible.

England. Call the police immediately.

Thursday, 18 December 2008

It's Cheese And Crackers Time

It's great day when Nightwatchgirl can feel that she can be moderately neutral. She has no vested interest in Australia or South Africa winning. Both beat England pretty regularly and both seek to beat one another. This makes her feel like she can be truly honest.

It's wonderfully liberating.

Day two has been another cracker. Mitchell Johnson, with figures of 7-42, ravaged his way through South Africa, leaving them 243-8. A lot of runs behind Australia.

Johnson, ever the eloquent cricketer, summed up how his performance went today: "it all just seemed to happen." Is that modesty or does he have a bit of the James Anderson about him?

Either way, South Africa must recover from their 5-7 debacle late in the last session and take to the field with some purpose, and Australia must be looking to consolidate their lead with piling on the runs tonight.

England must take heed from this series. They need to (somehow) find Australia's weak points and learn how to exploit them, whilst also concentrating on the start of the second Test tomorrow. Is KP capable of thinking about more than one thing at once?

Answers on a postcard.

Wednesday, 17 December 2008

Just Like A Ripe Melon

Well, well, well.

Day one of the Australia v South Africa Test and things are as juicy as Nightwatchgirl predicted.

Hayden (12) and Ponting (0), after talking the talk failed to walk the walk (and Hussy (0) to be fair, but he's not a big talker).

And it was the grafters who turned things around (Katich (83) and Clarke (62)).

The Sydney Morning Herald reported that Katich missed "a fifth Test hundred of 2008." Going by that logic, Andrew Flintoff has missed eight hundreds this year and Monty Panesar has had nineteen.

But let's not forget the lower order, who expertly showed the 'proper' batsmen how to do it. Lee (29) and 'crazy' Krejza (19*) proved scoring runs was possible.

Nightwatchgirl is very much looking forward to tonight and seeing if South Africa can match Australia's score.

The battle of the Titans continues.

Tuesday, 16 December 2008

Excuses Will Get You Nowhere

Since India's impressive and dramatic victory yesterday, the England camp have been rather forthcoming with a range of excuses to explain how it was they lost.

1. "When you're trying to set fields to a magician like that, it's very difficult." KP

2. "We didn't capitalise on our position." Geoff Miller, selector.

3. "I have got a fractured rib." KP

4. "I don't think it's tactics, it's skill." Peter Moores.

5. "I think we were a little defensive." Andy Flower.

6. "We must look to capitalise on our momentum." Andy Flower.

7. "In some ways, I feel for Monty in that our preparation was compromised alot." Peter Moores.

Seven reasons why England lost.

Seven made up excuses for why India are better than England.

Nightwatchgirl's dog has a suggestion, how about getting more runs and not declaring?

England, back to the drawing board. Immediately.

1. -get over it. 2. - yup. 3. - so what? stop moaning. 4. - no, it's tactics and skill. Two things England lack. 5. - A little? Try a lot. 6. - once again, stating the obvious. 7. - Everything was compromised.

Monday, 15 December 2008

All's Well That Ends Well (or not)

Bloody hell.

What did Nightwatchgirl say? Never declare.

In fact, avoid playing any good teams in the future. England are clearly not good enough.

India showed today how a side, with their backs against the wall, can turn a game around and win.


A concept England are not familiar with.

But England needn't lose complete heart; India are the best Test team in the world right now. No more Australia, no more South Africa.

England need to re-group, re-focus and get that ridiculous notion out of their minds that they really stood any chance today of beating a side filled to the brim with the best batsmen this side of the milky way.

They did not.

Sunday, 14 December 2008

Nightwatchgirl Declares Declarations are Scary

Declarations are a risky business. Declarations suggest that you have enough runs to last you till next year, that you have no fear that the other team will even get near it. Declarations are for Australians and South Africans, not the English.

This is why:

1. England's bowlers hate pressure (a worrying fact, NWG knows, but still true).
2. India's batsmen are unbelievable (bloody Sehwag, 83 off 68 - does he not know this is Test cricket?).
3. Monty Panesar was never likely to score a hundred, but still, he could have added maybe one or two runs to the total.
4. A team can never have too many runs when playing India. Repeat five hundred times.

Now England fans are left with getting up (again) at 4am and watching some of the greatest batsmen of our time (basically the whole top order of India) whittle down the total and unless something great happens, something completely and utterly fantastic, the game will be a draw or India will win.

England need another Edgbaston performance from Flintoff or Harmison's golden Test against the West Indies way back when. Swann needs to channel Crazy Krejza. And all India need to do is to not get out.

It will be a tense day, just how Nightwatchgirl likes it.

Saturday, 13 December 2008

Andrew And Paul: The Fab Two

Day 3 of the first Test against India, and England have once again had a damn fine day. Where has this team come from and why didn't they show up during the ODI series?

England now lead by 247 runs after bowling India out in under 70 overs for 241.

Andrew Strauss (73*) has been a re-revelation. Nightwatchgirl knows he is a great batsman, this isn't news to her, but maybe England should be thinking of sticking him in to the one day side too.

England's less reliable batsmen (Cook - still to really prove himself, Bell - sometimes rings, other times misses his cue, Pietersen - two innings and only 5 runs to show for it, that really is poor) left England in a pickle (or other words to that effect) at 43-3, but Strauss and Collingwood (60*) grafted and finished the day on 172-3.

Perhaps if Cook spent less time putting on mascara and Pietersen concentrated on the cricket instead of his wife's up and coming performance on the less than classy 'Dancing on Ice,' England might be in an even better position.

Friday, 12 December 2008

England Fight Back

What a cracker of a day. Finally what Test cricket has been after (or England at least). Jimmy Anderson obviously had a quick peruse on NWG and decided to give his female counterpart something to cheer about, scoring 19, but off a massive 82 balls - the very definition of a nightwatchman (and showing KP how it's done). And Prior, not NWG's favourite players of all time, managed a half century, taking England's total to a well fed 316.

Commentators were saying last night that England needed at least 370 to make it competitive, but given their performance in the field this morning, NWG needn't have worried. The excellent bowling from the England boys ensured all top six batsmen were licking their wounds (especially Yuvraj, who looked decidedly unsettled after each Flintoff spell), leaving Dhoni and Harbhajan to face their wrath tomorrow.

Whatever the result, England have shown some fighting spirit today, something of a necessity if they're going to get through the next year of cricket.

Nightwatchgirl is grateful and excited. England weren't lucky today, they showed aggression, skill and determination, key attributes for a winning side.
The only downside is that NWG has been up since 5am and now feels like she should be eating her dinner. Time difference is confusing for both brain and stomach.

Thursday, 11 December 2008

Nightwatchgirl and Nightwatchman Sitting By the Tree....

Test cricket has returned. And it's about time. NWG had missed the whites and red balls (ok, what she really means is that she's missed Andrew Strauss).

England started well. Better than expected. Strauss (a magnificant 123) and Cook (52) were actually scoring runs quite nicely. And then it went a but wrong. Bell (17), Pietersen (4) and Collingwood (9 - but wasn't out. Clearly a mistake) all came and went in quick succession, leaving Strauss and Flintoff (18*) to hold out till end of play. They didn't.

But, the best news of all, and something that makes NWG feel all warm and fuzzy inside is that Jimmy Anderson (2*), not known for his batting prowess came in as Nightwatchman. Finally NWG feels at home.

And he did her proud. Blocking here, there and everywhere, even scoring some runs (probably accidentally), but still a run is a run and at 229-5, they need every last one.

Nightwatchmen are not to be underestimated. Part of a now dying breed (previously Matthew Hoggard had been Mr. Reliable, but is currently unceremoniously shunned from the England side), Anderson has taken up the challenge. And as he has 40+ Test appearances without a duck (impressive), he seems to be a sensible choice.

NWG hopes that Jimmy will stick around and have a good go tomorrow.

Wednesday, 10 December 2008

KP: One Large Foot Inserted Into One Large Mouth

The England captain, for which the hopes and dreams rest on his dainty South African shoulders, has come out today with a few crackers.

KP, ever the subtle and intelligent man has strangely said: "you could say we couldn't lose in this situation."


KP. Yes you can. If India beat you, England lose. Does NWG need to run through the rules of Test cricket with you again? Because that'll be the fourth time this week.

The selectors went with Graeme Swann and Matt Prior (big surprise) to play ahead of Ambrose and Broad.

KP has these kind words to say about Swann: "he's a lovely confident boy." Hang on a tic. Swann is actually a year older than KP. Some would consider that kind of comment a tad patronising. And annoying (NWG certainly did).

Tuesday, 9 December 2008

A Great Dane To The Recue

With the realisation that Ryan Sidebottom is still too crook to play in the India Test series, the England selectors had a little something up their sleeve, and it wasn't a really long flag, pulled out endlessly to the ooohs and ahhhs from the crowd.

And while it wasn't a pastry filled with apple deliciousness, it did have something to do with a Danish twist.

Amjad Khan, born in Denmark (and played cricket for Denmark - who knew?), has received his first England call up at the age of 28. A Kent player and another bowler partial to an injury or two, Khan is known for his cleverness with the enigmatic skill of reverse swing.

Picked ahead of Sajid Mamood and Liam Plunkett (where have they been hiding all year?), England have high hopes for Khan (no pressure there, then).

And if he plays in the Ashes next year, Nightwatchgirl can add him to her Top 10 Ashes heroes born in another country to which they played for on Line and Length.

Monday, 8 December 2008

The England Tour

England will tour India for their brief two match Test series. This is great news for England, England fans, and most importantly, India. Britney Spears is even getting in on the action by donating her big, burly bodyguards. There is Christmas spirit after all.

The only downside is that England will most definitely lose. And on top of that, will lose badly. But this is not the point about these games. These games now represent defiance, stiff upper lip syndrome and comradery.

So, when Thursday comes and England are out for 100 and India have posted 1693-3, fans can remind themselves that cricket is more than just a game and it's about more than just winning (or in England's case losing).

Nightwatchgirl has one more thing to add: cricket rules all.

Sunday, 7 December 2008

Harmy for the Tango?

Is Steve Harmison the next cricketer to sign up for Strictly Come Dancing? By the looks of this picture, he has the flexibility for it.
And maybe a bit of Saturday Night Fever.
He'd get NWG's vote.

Wednesday, 3 December 2008

South Africa v Australia. In One Word: Tasty.

The up and coming series between Australia and South Africa is hotting up. Australia, back in form after losing in India, demolished New Zealand and are now facing their toughest task yet.

South Africa is a team not willing to bow down to Australia's lofty status as the no. 1 Test side in the world. This is due to:

a) they are pretty good anyway, NWG should know, she did witness it over the summer.
b) they're just as arrogant as Australia, which is extremely useful in many ways.
c) they have every right to be arrogant: they have in their possession very useful batsmen and some excellent fast bowlers.

And now there is their secret weapon: fill the coaching staff with as many 'consultants' as possible who have been part of teams who have beaten Australia.

Duncan Fletcher: enigmatic coach of England.
Gary Kirsten: Indian mentor.

This series is a juicy one. Aside from South Africa talking themselves up (not a surprise: what else is there to do, announce that you'll lose?), Australia are revealing some rather large dents in their armour.

But, playing in Australia is like Superman being forced to fly with kryptonite. It's a very tough ask.

NWG will be up in the early hours watching this one.

Correction: First Test is 17 December.

Tuesday, 2 December 2008

Awards Announced

With trumpets tooting, with men in fancy clothes with tights on, with the Queen waiting anxiously by the television, with the whole of the nation on tenterhooks: the nominees for the sports personality of the year were announced.

NWG, waiting patiently, as each name was read out (in no particular order), was shocked, when, at the end of the announcement she realised that there were no cricketers in the list.




And then she remembered that 2008 has not been a cricket highlight (but wait, how can that be?).

The Nominees:

Rebecca Addlington: can swim a bit and reasonably fast, but who can't?
Ben Ainslie: can point a boat in the right direction.
Joe Calzaghe: can hit people and get paid for it.
Nicole Cooke: cycles. NWG learnt how to do that when she was 5, big whoop.
Lewis Hamilton: won some races driving a car. Bet he couldn't navigate Hyde Park Corner.
Chris Hoy: another cyclist, yawn.
Andy Murray: can hit a ball with a racquet. Oh yeah, and is moody and petulant - added bonus.
Christine Ohuruogo: can stand on two legs and run. Brilliant.
Rebecca Romero: again, cycling. Going round and round and round.
Bradley Wiggins: another cyclist? zzzzz.

So, no cricketers worthy of some recognition. Is this a surprise? Nightwatchgirl thinks not. No stand out players, no heroic wins, no big games. Just same old, same old. England win some, they lose some and if they're really lucky, they draw some.

NWG will be doing a look back over the cricketing year towards the end of the month. She needs all this time to think of something interesting to say about a year as exciting as a turnip.

Wednesday, 26 November 2008

Fact or Fiction?

Fact: India are brilliant.

Fiction: England are brilliant.

Fact: England can't play ODIs.

Fiction: England are 'improving.'

Fact: Pietersen is not the greatest England captain ever.

Fiction: Pietersen's century made a difference.

Fact: Training the day before a game is important.

Fiction: Talking before a game is just as useful as learning how to bat.

Symonds At It Again

Andrew Symonds has once again been forced to apologise to Australian fans and team mates after going out for a drink with the (shock, horror) losing Australian Rugby League side after the New Zealand Test Match at a hotel.

Symonds, trying to be contrite, said that he "had learnt a valuable lesson from this incident and I know that actions speak louder than words and that's how I will be judged."

Andrew: your actions are speaking louder than your words. You prefer fishing and drinking to practice and recovery. We get it.

And Nightwatchgirl is not complaining. In fact, she's pretty happy. All England need to do is provide a good fishing spot and some sporting friends to take him out for drinks during the Ashes.

Apparently, alcohol and sitting still for long periods are not known to increase a player's ability.

This is perfect.

Tuesday, 25 November 2008

Why Practice When You Can Just Talk?

England have cancelled a training session today, opting instead for having a nice little chat round the fire.

In a warped attempt to find some answers for England's poor show in the India ODI series so far, Peter Moores et al now think that by talking this will somehow improve the players and help their batting and bowling.

Why does Nightwatchgirl have to do all the thinking for England?

Listen, KP, Moores, in fact everyone in the whole world: you can only get better with practice. This is a proven, scientific fact in the laws of nature. Jabbering about it, discussing the finer points of a forward drive, detailing how to bowl a yorker, will not make these things happen. They must be rehearsed. They must be done a thousand times.

Leave the talking to the people who have to put up with watching the game (and crying). You just get on and play. And try. And make an effort.

That is all we ask.

Sunday, 23 November 2008

India Singing In The Rain

Well, who'd have thought it?

A game was played. It rained a lot. And then stopped. And then rained again. They played a bit more. For a moment it looked slightly hopeful. And then England lost.


India take the series and England look and are defeated (only by 19 runs in the end).

Still, there is a slight glimmer of hope.

Owais Shah (72 off 48) batted like his life depended on it (KP, take note), Flintoff (41 off 30) finally started to play properly and Samit Patel bowled sensibly.

It just wasn't enough.

Now only pride is at stake. Will England rise to the challenge when the pressure is off?

From Politics To Sport: It's All Connected

It's come to Nightwatchgirl's attention that after Gordon Brown's new Cabinet bouncer, Liam Byrne, issued his "Working with Liam Byrne" manifesto, that Kevin Pietersen should do the same.

Liam Byrne: " I like a cappuccino when I come in, an espresso at 3pm and soup at 12.30pm to 1pm. The room should be cleared before I arrive in the morning." Most importantly, he added this statement: " If I see things that are not of acceptable quality, I will blame you."

KP, take heed from this valuable document. NWG has some tips:

1. When KP comes in for training, he expects his bat to be by the nets waiting for him.
2. KP wants a Red Bull at 9am, 12pm and 3pm, except on game day, when he requires one before England take the field and before he goes out to bat (and two will be required during the India series).
3. If KP asks you to bowl, take a wicket. Otherwise he will blame you.
4. When you go out to bat, score some runs. Otherwise KP will blame you.
5. Win. Otherwise KP will blame you.

If this doesn't help England win, Nightwatchgirl is all out of ideas.

p.s. No, you haven't missed the review of the ODI against India. Currently puddles are forming on the ground and the England team are drinking tea and discussing knitting patterns. A result looks unlikely. TBC....

Thursday, 20 November 2008

A New Love Affair Starts

Day 1 of Australia v New Zealand at The Gabba. Australia 214, New Zealand 7-0.

Andrew Symonds makes 26 on his return. At least he remembers the difference between holding a fishing rod and a cricket bat. Progress.

Ponting is, not surprisingly, very happy Symonds is back, sparking off rumours of a bromance. After declaring he wants the Symonds "of old," Ponting continues: "that's what we all love about him. We love his personality and the way he is around the team. I love the way he goes about his cricket on the field as well...he adds that X-factor, he adds that great presence in the field."

We get it Ricky, you're really, really happy. NWG is very pleased for you.

Smog Smothers England's Hopes (Again)

Now England have a new enemy and its name is smog. Admittedly, India played better than England again and even if the light had not deteriorated would most likely have won. But, now we will never know. Smog has robbed us of a result.

And there were some highlights. A change in the England batting order helped matters. Bopara (60), instead of languishing down the line-up, was promoted to open with Bell (46) and they added 79 for the first wicket. Finally, a decent start.

Shah (40) has also been thrown down the order, coming in after Flintoff (26), but that seemed to work for him and work for England.

England's efforts in the field were also slightly improved. What Nightwatchgirl means is that Yuvraj (38 - call that a score?) didn't make a ton and was actually, hold the phone, out. This is a definite improvement.

So, there are positives and negatives to be taken from this game. Another advantage is that the next game is a day/night and therefore there will be light(s). A game with a result, how novel.

But there remains a slight problem. England must now win every game to win the series.

A small ask then.

Wednesday, 19 November 2008

Nightwatchgirl's New Top 10

Nightwatchgirl has a new Ashes Top 10 on the great blog that is Line and Length. This time it's Ashes heroes born in another country to which they represented.

See what you think.

Nightwatchgirl likes a friendly discussion.

Graeme Swanns In To Save The Day

Graeme Swann has been added to the England ODI team for tomorrow's game in the hope that he can perform some sort of miracle.

This seems unlikely.

Both Broad and Pietersen have been giving interviews detailing how "we're still a good side. We beat South Africa 4-0." And how England "definitely have a chance."

Nightwatchgirl doesn't see it that way. England still rely on past games to make themselves feel better. They must learn from their mistakes. Just because you beat a team in one series, this will have no bearing on another, unless you are, like, really good.

England are not.

Score some runs, take some wickets.

Take it one run at a time.

England need to start from the bottom and work their way up.

Monday, 17 November 2008

Yuv(raj) Got To Do Better England

India are just too good. Another win under their belts and another example of England's batting and bowling being shown to be average, when what is required is exceptional.

Only three Indian batsmen were needed to take the game away from England. Yuvraj, once again showed his new all-rounder status, amassing 118 runs and 4-28, Gambhir (70) and Pathan (50) proving that all that's needed is some big hitting and confidence.

England once again failed to bowl India out and it was only Broad who showed some liking for the Indore pitch, with figures of 4-55.

England's batting showed slightly more resolve. Prior (38), Shah (58), Pietersen (33) and Flintoff (43) made decent scores, but the game needed every batsman to dig in and prosper.

A loss by 54 runs is definitely an improvement from the last game. That's a positive. Nightwatchgirl wants to be an optimist....but it's really, really hard.

The next game on Thursday needs to see an England bowling attack demolish the Indian batsmen and an England batting side scoring runs like they're going out of fashion.

There's the bigger picture to think of now. 2009 is a big cricket year and England must be up to the challenge, or Nightwatchgirl is going to cry.

Saturday, 15 November 2008

Christmas Will Be Cold

Miss Field; the brilliant; the witty; the Australia fan; has written an interesting piece this week involving calendars and cricketers not wearing very much.

This got Nightwatchgirl thinking. Surely the ECB would capitalise on the England cricket team's good looks? It's obvious they're short of money (else, why is NWG paying £95 a ticket for Lord's), so a calendar filled with England's finest would surely be a top seller.

Imagine, Ian Bell looking all surly and sultry in to the camera, or Paul Collingwood emerging from the water like Mitchell Johnson wearing not very much. Nightwatchgirl says yes please (and also realises sarcasm is hard to communicate by words alone).

So, Nightwatchgirl went looking. And there she found it. The ECB calendar. But were there any pictures of half dressed cricketers?

That's a no, then.

Instead, what's the best Team England can provide?
How did you guess?

What every cricket fan wants. A magnetised cricket ball that you can stick your paper clips too. How useful.

England, you must do better. Your country needs you.

Friday, 14 November 2008

Can That Be A Practice Match? Please?

Should Nightwatchgirl focus on the positives and ignore the fact that England were thrashed by 158 runs?

She'll try.


1.Flintoff isn't injured.
2. Broad is back.
3. Bopara's batting was useful and confident.
4. The sky was very blue.
5. Nightwatchgirl can't think of another thing.


1.England failed to bowl India out.
2. England's batting was rubbish (exceptions: Pietersen and Bopara).
3. The whole experience is likely to be repeated on Monday, for ODI no.2.
4. India are looking worryingly brilliant, especially Yuvraj.
5. England were bowled out in 37 overs. At least finish at 50 lads. Come on.
6. Nightwatchgirl has been up a very long time, and it's only 10.30am.

Thursday, 13 November 2008

Ashes Top 10 Heroes

Nightwatchgirl is very pleased to present her top 10 Ashes heroes on Line and Length.

Go on, have a look.

Give the ECB a Red Card

The news that a yellow card system will be introduced next season to those guilty of excessive sledging or appealing has upset Nightwatchgirl.

There's nothing wrong with a bit of banter. No one gets hurt. And it's also rather funny when picked up by the stump microphone. Who can forget Flintoff and Tino Best? (If you have, search youtube for it - it is brilliant).

Excessive appealing also has its perks. Monty and Warne (ok, so he is retired, but that's not the point) are and were both guilty of yelling a bit too often, but what's wrong with that?

Cricket runs the risk of cutting out parts of the game that provide endless entertainment. First it was no instruments taken in to the ground. Then the end of the beer glasses being piled up endlessly into long snakes. And now this.

Cricket is not a health and safety sport. There are no human right infringements on the field. And if things continue on at this pace there will be nothing left that is fun.

To the ICC and ECB: stop tweaking the rules. Leave things be. Let the fans and players enjoy themselves and cricket will remain cricket.

What's next? A player hurting himself and calling injury lawyers for compensation?



Wednesday, 12 November 2008

Sickness And Fitness Attack Strikes England Team

As if the beating yesterday wasn't enough for the England fan to take, it now has come to light that England may be a couple of bowlers light for the first ODI against India.

Ryan Sidebottom has an Achilles problem and Stuart Broad has a bad knee. Ryan is definitely out (such a shame, NWG is truly upset - sob), but Broad faces a fitness test tomorrow.

If he fails, England are in serious trouble.

This brings Nightwatchgirl to her most important sentence of her entire blogging career: The return of Matthew Hoggard. OK, so he's not technically in the England team at the moment, never mind the ODI squad, but (and it's a big but) he could be their saviour.

So, to Peter Moores, to Kevin Pietersen: pick Hoggard and save the series.
It's a risk, but he won't let you down.

Tuesday, 11 November 2008

It Doesn't Count So It Doesn't Matter....Or Something

Oh dear. Pietersen should be hanging his head in shame (and a duck to boot).

The Mumbai President's XI beat England, sorry Nightwatchgirl means thrashed, by 124 runs. Only Patel, Swann and Anderson got in to double figures. That's about as good as it gets.

What's the problem?

The openers failed.

The middle order failed.

The bowlers failed (and some called in sick).

Let's start with the excuses:

1. It's hot.
2. Bowlers were sick.
3. The batsmen aren't used to batting.
4. It's all an elaborate hoax to make the India side think the ODI series will be a walk in the park.

How clever.

Monday, 10 November 2008

India Take the Series and Roy Returns

India have won the Test series against Australia 2-0 today. The final Test at Nagpur proved too much for the Aussies, who lost by 172 runs.

England can take great hope from this series. Prick Australia and they will bleed. Even Ricky Ponting concedes that Australia did not play perfect cricket for once.

But England must also take heed. India are a nifty Test side and an even better One Day team. Packed full of batsmen in form and bowlers thirsty for wickets, KP and his team must be feeling a bit apprehensive. It will not be easy work for the up and coming series, starting next week, for England.

Some better news for the Australians. Andrew Symonds has been deemed to have completed "the prescribed welfare process" and is allowed back into the team to play a twenty20 game. No doubt, his fishing obsession is at an end and he remembers why he started playing cricket in the first place. Nightwatchgirl hopes so, anyway.

Any more disciplinary mistakes and Symonds could face the possibility of not returning to England next year. And Australia could probably do with an injection of plaice, whoops, NWG means pace.

Saturday, 8 November 2008

KP Falls To New Low

With the India series mere days away for the England camp, Pietersen has once again been trying to deny or deflect the disaster that was the Stanford Super Series.

By cleverly implying that the game in Antigua would be some sort of new game of cricket, KP thinks that people will obviously care less about the humiliating loss.

Not so, my friend.

KP declared: "we went into the Stanford game not knowing what was going to happen." Does Nightwatchgirl need to explain everything to you? This isn't scottish dancing. The Stanford match was a twenty20 game, requiring England to score some runs and then defend a good total. They managed neither.

KP continued: "We dived into depths of uncertainty." What did KP find uncertain? Same rules, same bats, same balls. The only thing wrong surely was the beating England received.

Thursday, 6 November 2008

Frightening Photo of 25 year old man in 35 year old's body

To the Australian Cricket Board:

Nightwatchgirl has heard about your new magical spinner Jason Krezja, on whose dainty shoulders rest a nation's hopes and dreams of holding a small urn of Ashes, but he seems to have been locked in a time machine and aged ten years.

NWG knows of many 25 year olds, and none look like him, except those kept out in the sun too long.

Can she suggest factor 50+ sun block and some facials with bird poo and caviar. Apparently they do wonders for the skin. Also some fish oil should help his creaky joints and it's probably sensible to have his eyes tested.

Yours cheerfully,


Wednesday, 5 November 2008

NWG Super Stars: Confirmed Team

NWG has just finished talking to all the relevant PR people and agents, discussed contracts, fee appearances, charity donations and outfit colours and she can now reveal who made it in to her NWG SuperStars.

Matthew Hoggard (with Ernie in a baby sling)
Adam Gilchrist (book promotion - thanks P)
Shane Warne (ditto)
Jimmy Anderson (thrilled to be given a game)
Sachin Tendulkar (couldn't wait to get the pads back on)
Glenn McGrath (initial thought was too tall, but that's discrimination, so...)
Brendan McCullum (finally a chance for him to play with the big boys)
Ashley Giles (NWG wanted royalty and she got royalty)
Chris Gayle (without the funny business)
Andrew Flintoff (jumped at the chance not to play for England)
Gary Pratt (who else?)

The game is set to start a week today. The first training session has taken place and NWG really made sure they are all fit enough to cope. The only one slightly puffed was Shane Warne, but then what do you expect?

Unfortunately this will be a closed event; no press allowed. But NWG will be keeping score, umpiring (what's LBW again?) and the team's physio (oh yes).

And before you ask, Nightwatchgirl has sat on all their laps and found them to be most comfortable.

Monday, 3 November 2008

Like the Cat That Got the Cream

What's he smiling about?

Answers on a postcard please.

No Moore Whining Please

So Peter Moores thinks that if England don't call themselves England, that this will somehow change how they play.

This is wrong.

A name is a name is a name.

Just because you call a pineapple a pear, it still remains a pineapple.

Nightwatchgirl has some handy hints for Peter Moores and England:

1. Play better.
2. Stop the team from getting out so quickly.
3. Make them score some runs. It makes the rest of the game far more enjoyable.
4. Bowl better.
5. Take wickets.
6. Don't moan after you lose. It doesn't change things and whining is for girls.

If England can't follow these basic steps, the team is done for.

Nightwatchgirl has done all she can do. The rest is up to England All Stars, or the much more catchy: The Team Waiting To Hand You a Shed Load of Money.

Sunday, 2 November 2008

Oh Well

It didn't really mean anything, did it?

So it doesn't matter.

That's NWG's story and she's sticking to it.

Friday, 31 October 2008

The $20,000,000 Line Up

The ECB have released the final England team line-up ready for Saturday. And not without a few surprises.

Gone is Ryan 'I'm Too Good For The Team' Sidebottom (how's your bank balance now, curly?) and James Anderson, replaced by Steve Harmison and Graeme Swann. And magically it seems everyone has recovered sufficiently from carrot chunksitis.

Now, NWG is all about forgiveness and redemption. She wants to move on and let the past be the past etc. etc. But, with Swann's track record, it seems slightly worrying to include him in a team where so much rides on every move each player makes. Who can forget that tragic over throw at the Oval against New Zealand? (Well, others might, but NWG can't, aside from the fact she was there witnessing the world's worst overthrow, Swann threw away that match without thinking through the options; it's all about the options)

The match on Saturday doesn't really mean anything to the average cricket fan. They are not privy to a cut of the winnings (how good would that be?), but when it comes down to it, a match is a match and England must be fired up to win, otherwise what's the point of even being alive? (Don't answer that)

England must perfect their Twenty20 strategies for the up and coming World Cup next year and this seems a good opportunity to have a go. So, it may be without spirit, it may be without (healthy or unhealthy) guts and glory, but an England win is good for the team, for the fans and for 2009.

Full Line Up:

Ian Bell, Matt Prior (wk), Owais Shah, Kevin Pietersen (capt), Andrew Flintoff, Paul Collingwood, Samit Patel, Luke Wright, Stuart Broad, Graeme Swann, Steve Harmison

The Line Up for Nightwatchgirl's Super Series will be announced over the weekend.

Thursday, 30 October 2008

17, 21, 28, 44, 49, 50

A typical day for Nightwatchgirl:

On a whim, Nightwatchgirl bought a lottery ticket. She watched the draw and looked at her numbers.

All of a sudden it dawned on her. She had won. And not just £10. She had won the jackpot. £20,000,000.

After the shock and allowing her time for the news to sink in, an idea came in to her head. What could be the best way to spend her money? What would make Nightwatchgirl extremely happy? And then it hit her.

She was going to organise the Nightwatchgirl Super Series in Bognor Regis. After sending a very polite letter to the ECB suggesting this very thing, Giles Clarke wrote back.

The Series is on. England v NWG Super Stars. And it starts next week.

NWG knew happiness could be bought. It just took her a very long time to realise.

The Red Light Cricket Game

Kevin Pietersen has officially lost his mind. After weeks of 3 line whipping the England camp in to shape over what great experience the Stanford Super Series will be and how it's all about the game and not the money, KP has admitted that "the longer this week goes on the more I want to get it over with."

Only days after harping on and on to all who would listen about the privilege of playing for England, having the three lions on your shirt, KP now can't wait to get home. What has changed?

Could it be the atmosphere the games are played in? Could it be the sight of England WAGS getting cosy with Stanford? Could it possibly be the sight of cricket being sold to the highest bidder is finally chaffing a little?

Either way, Nightwatchgirl is left confused. Should she be enjoying the cricket in Antigua or boycotting it? It feels like such a long time since England were playing regular games that it is a welcome relief to be able to watch her team at all.

You would never hear KP talk about other more 'worthy' series this way. There will be no mention of getting the Ashes out the way (unless England repeat the last encounter), so why this?

Nightwatchgirl has come to the conclusion that even the players feel a little bit dirty at being paid to perform like circus monkeys. The series has no worth except money.

It's a dark day for cricket when the England captain can't be bothered, even if it is for a $1,000,000.

Wednesday, 29 October 2008

England Get the Runs (finally, but unfortunately)

The second England Twenty20 match went with a bang, a yelp and pint of milk of magnesia. There was no lack of trying from the England batting line-up; no one can argue that they don't want the joy and pride only achieved after a win in the Stanford series (wait, Nightwatchgirl didn't mean joy and pride, she meant a growing bank balance, a new car, an extension and a small charity donation - not necessarily in that order).

The game was not the most exciting ever witnessed by NWG, although she appreciated how close it was towards the end. Free hits that should have been launched in to the lucky crowd were missed, KP messed around too much deciding which way he wanted to hit the ball, whilst also checking whether his wife was being accosted by the host and Flintoff failed to live up to his batting potential (and could possibly be bloody injured. Again).

And, along with the stomach bug that has ripped through the England camp (NWG wonders who will be feeling ill on Saturday. Her guess is that all symptoms magically disappear), England still looked pretty scrappy in the field.

Still, Nightwatchgirl does not want to be too picky. England won and that surely is the most important point. Harmison, Collingwood, Patel and Bopara got a bowl. Pietersen got some runs. Catches were dropped....

But whichever way Nightwatchgirl looks at this series, it still feels like England are selling their soul to the cricket devil. Perhaps Saturday will be more exciting. Perhaps Saturday will prove England are a side that want to win, not because of the money but because of pride and glory. And hopefully there will be a tie at the end of the forty overs, because Nightwatchgirl likes the sound of this extra magical over, where it becomes a mini match; anyone could win. How would you like that kind of pressure?

Bring. It. On.

Monday, 27 October 2008

England Light Their Way With First Win

Oh the excitement. Oh the drama. Who would take the glory? Who would rise to the occasion? Who would make their team proud?

Well, no one in fact. A pretty low-key game: not much entertainment (apart from Ryan Sidebottoms's new hair - just wrong in so many ways), not a lot of huge hitting and terrible, awful, faintly embarrassing catching (or not).

Neither England nor Middlesex really looked bothered to be part of this Stanford series. And what did the great England captain have to say about the match? Some wise words indeed: "I am as concerned about the lights as I am about the wicket." Oh help. The England captain is now moaning about lights.

Pietersen is more worked up about Neil Carter's brief move to Middlesex from Warwickshire for this series, branding it a "disgrace," than he is about England putting in an exciting performance.

England need a reality check. Focus on the game, not the people in the other team. Focus on catching the bloody ball, not what's lighting it, and focus on making England fans glad they paid all that money to travel out to the West Indies or pay their Sky subscription.

That is all.

Friday, 24 October 2008

Money + Cricket = Stanford

The Stanford series starts (finally) this weekend with a bang and a suitcase full of money. If anyone was in any doubt about cricket being slave to the dollar during IPL season, that can be firmly shut out of everyone's mind now that money is being thrown at cricketers in the West Indies for this series.

And Nightwatchgirl is not complaining. No, she actually quite likes watching the game. It's an alright spectator sport. Bit of hitting here, bit of throwing there and before you know it, you can buy a Rolex with extra gold and diamonds. Sheer joy. Cricketers have never had it so easy.

The first England game on Sunday sees them playing Middlesex. Obviously. Carbon footprints as big as Yeti's are stamped all over Antigua. Who cares about CO2 emissions when you can be watching and playing cricket in the warm, balmy weather of the West Indies?

Nightwatchgirl is doing the honourable thing and not flying out, but settling down on a comfy sofa and enjoying the game. That's almost as good...

Wednesday, 22 October 2008

The Oval Rules

Nightwatchgirl has an important announcement to make in numerical order (but not in order of importance, obviously).

1. She has Oval Ashes tickets.

2. She bought them off the Surrey website without any fuss or hullabaloo.

3. There was no queuing for an hour and a half.

4. There will be no buying off ebay for extortionate, over the top prices fit only for holidays and handbags.

5. England and Australia will be there too. Bonus.

6. It will rain or day will turn in to night at some point during the Test, without biblical implications.

7. NWG will not be allowed to take her cello with her. Boo.

8. India beat Australia, which gives England a glimmer of hope.

Monday, 20 October 2008

No Clowning Around for England

Kevin Pietersen, England captain and now philanthropist (apparently he will be donating part of his prize winnings to charity), has come out today defending the $1,000,000 prize fund that will accompany a win in the Stanford series.

Whilst the rest of the world are contemplating a dry spell when it comes to finances, the England camp could potentially win more money than many earn in five years, let alone one. But Nightwatchgirl is not blaming the England team. But that hasn't stopped KP.

For some unknown reason, Pietersen feels he needs to assert that he doesn't want "anyone [in the England camp] carrying on like a clown."

What is this statement in relation to? Is a big, curly, red wig and make-up part of the appearance fee? Will Harmison and Broad be required to bowl on a unicycle? Will Collingwood have water squirted in his eye when he's trying to take a catch?

If this is the case, Nightwatchgirl thinks the prize should be doubled and maybe accompanied by the West Indian players having to field while riding elephants and possibly Prior jumping on a trampoline whilst trying to keep wicket.

Test Cricket Found Alive and Well in India

Who said Test cricket is boring?

Day 4 of the India v Australia Test proves that the five day Test match is alive and well. India piled on the runs, revealing Australia's weak point at having no decent spinner. Gambhir, Sehwag and Dhoni were able to accumulate a whopping 314-3 before declaring.

After an aggressive start by Katich and Hayden, Australia appeared to be doing what they do best: bat like their lives depend on it. That was until Harbhajan and Sharma turned up and decided enough was enough and ripped apart the top order, leaving Australia 58-5.

And then the fightback began. Haddin and Clarke are proving that there is still potential to score and hold their own on 141-5.

Tomorrow will prove to be an excellent day of cricket, whichever way it goes.

Friday, 17 October 2008

King Sachin, the New Ruler of Cricket World

All hail the Sachin run machine, who today has broken the record, and the 12,000 runs mark, for the highest test runs total ever. Obviously Nightwatchgirl's jealousy over Tendulkar's nationality (oh, why can't he be English?) goes without saying, but she does pass on her genuine congratulations and computer applause.

The really worrying part of this whole saga is the discovery that even when England's most prolific batsmen, Flintoff (3444), Pietersen (3890) and Strauss' (3943) runs total are added up and put TOGETHER, they still don't get anywhere near to Sachin's total.

England needs a serious run maker, hungry, no starving to score more and more runs than considered necessary or possible. Where will this person be found? When will he reveal himself? And, if he could just show up between now and July 09, that would be just great. If anyone has any clue where the England batting saviour is, please capture him, wrap him in cotton wool, place neatly in a box and post straight to the ECB.

Much appreciated.

Thursday, 16 October 2008

Nightwatchgirl: The Sponsorship Deal of the Century

It has come to Nightwatchgirl's attention that the enormously popular Andrew Flintoff and Kevin Pietersen are now without bat sponsorship.

Nightwatchgirl would like to officially announce that she, a humble blogger, will be competing for the right to have NWG plastered all over their bats.

Given the current credit crunch situation, she can only offer baked goods in return for this sponsorship. On the menu: blueberry muffins, chocolate cake and her speciality: Portuguese tarts. These are all cleverly mixed with Red Bull to give the players maximum energy (and wings, obviously).

So far, her phone calls have not been returned by Flintoff and Pietersen's agents, but she expects to hear from them soon.

NWG will keep you posted.

Wednesday, 15 October 2008

Howzat Fair?

The ICC have just announced that the England tour of the West Indies will use the umpire decision review system, along with the West Indies v New Zealand, India v Pakistan and South Africa v Australia tours next near.

Nightwatchgirl is in two minds about this.

Yes, it will end contentious LBW decisions and players may well feel that they have slightly more control over their batting destiny. But (and it's a big but), will the teams feel comfortable openly undermining an umpire? Will that effect future decisions? What happens if a team uses up their three attempts early on and leave a batsman needing the winning runs and feeling like he was not out? Will the captain have more of a right to use it than a tailender? Who should get the final decision? Will the umpiring become more timid knowing that their decision could be scrutinised so quickly?

When the ECB experimented with the system in county cricket, players hardly used it at all. Will England have the courage (well, South Africa and Australia will) to use it? Will it be used in the Ashes?

So many questions and so few answers. The only way to find out is obviously to use it, but it may well be a step too far, after all, umpires are paid fairly well and that is their whole point of existence. The ICC are denying their destiny.

Nightwatchgirl is not yet entirely convinced.

Tuesday, 14 October 2008

All's Fair in Love and (a) Draw

The First Test between India and Australia ended in a draw. A slight anti-climax given the rivalry and history of these Test nations. But there were some interesting points and some insightful comments by both sides after the end of the match.

Ricky Ponting, ever the modest captain, declared that Australia "dominated this Test match." Oh Ricky. When will you ever learn? To dominate is to win and to win means bowling out the side before they reach your total. Does Nightwatchgirl have to explain everything (and especially to a captain, surely he should know the rules by now)?

What was evident was Australia, on a fifth day pitch, couldn't get their "spinner," Cameron White to take the advantage as they "didn't create enough opportunities," Ricky - it's the opportunities that win you a game. India may have played out for a draw, which NWG considers to be fair enough, but Australia failed to win.

But it has been Zaheer Khan that has let his tongue run away with him (though he did win man of the match, his excitement, like a little puppy, is understandable) by declaring that Australia "can't take our [India] twenty wickets. They couldn't get me and Bhaji out, what else do you want?" Oh Zaheer. Never, ever anger the beast. Waving the red flag in front of Australia is always a bad idea. Keep quiet and mysterious. Stare at them with scary eyes. Bowl them round their legs, but don't intentionally wander in to the bullfighter's ring with a limp and a cold against Australia. You're just asking for trouble. They're aggressive enough as it is, without any encouragement.

The Second Test starts on Friday in Mohali and NWG can guarantee that there will be many rude words spoken, many bouncers aimed for the head and plenty of eyeballs at dawn. Will Australia's bowling attack let rip or will India's previously so reliable top order batsmen collect the runs to push Australia out of the game?

Now it gets exciting.

Saturday, 11 October 2008

IPL causes England to have a MFH (Migraine From Hell)

It appears that the Sri Lanka series, scheduled in England for next summer, is now in doubt due to contractual obligations of the Sri Lankan players to the IPL.

The Sri Lankan Board have assured the England camp the series will happen, just without 12 of their top players. Oh, well, that's alright then. Who needs Muttiah Muralitharan, Mahela Jayarwardene and Chaminda Vass?

And the reason the tour is in jeopardy? Obviously not because these players want to earn their crust in a tournament not representing their country, but a franchise, and not because they feel it more important to be participating in such a competition than being in jolly old England, but apparently because the England and Wales Cricket board are concerned about how this will effect the television rights without Sri Lanka's best bunch of cricketers.

What has this once beautiful cricket world become? Representing your country comes second place to money and tours may be postponed or cancelled because the amount of money originally estimated may deflate faster than the FTSE on Friday morning.

This is not cricket. This is not how it is meant to be. The IPL is clouding players' judgement and money has become the devil.

Alastair Cook was honest enough (or maybe just without his PR bodyguard at the time) to admit that the Stanford game is all about the prize bonus and not about the competition, the high of beating the better team, the buzz of lifting a trophy that's been worked for, grafted for and earnt and not their bank balance (although desperate times...).

The game is losing its soul. Something is rotten in this state of cricket.

(Sunday, October 12. Further to this blog, Scyld Berry has written a very interesting article about this fiasco here, Simon Briggs also has an interesting view on this debacle here.)

Thursday, 9 October 2008

Ponting to the Rescue

The first day of the first Test against India and Australia has seen an interesting start by the two teams. The score finished on 254-4 and wasn't without some drama along the way. Matthew Hayden was out for a duck in the first over to Zaheer Khan, Michael Clarke, still obviously troubled by his stomach spinning like a washing machine was out for just 11, but it was Ricky Ponting's mammoth innings that interests Nightwatchgirl.

Making 123 before getting out by, you guessed it - Australia's most loved Indian, Harbhajan, Ponting has once again shown that when it comes to amassing runs, he still has the hunger and drive.

Is Ponting an actual run machine?

Wednesday, 8 October 2008

All Dressed Up with No Where To Go

The only England cricket series in months (ok, a month) is looking doubtful today, as the West Indies Hight Court ruled that no player with a West Indies contract could participate in the Stanford series.

Digicel, the main sponsor of the West Indies team, felt all left out after being told they would not receive full advertising rights during this new series and the High Court agreed (curses).

This means, aside from all the dollar signs fading from the England team's eyes, there might be no series at all. Don't they know that Nighwatchgirl and all cricket fans are in serious withdrawal?

The most disturbing part of this whole saga is the focus on money and advertising. Have they all forgotten about the cricket? Is the game no longer important?

This is the trouble when billionaires start their own series. The fan is left out in the cold, and Kevin Pietersen is left with a £15 million mortgage and no new funds.

Oh the horror.

Monday, 6 October 2008

Baseball v Cricket: Actual Battle....and cricket lost.

As if by some kind of spooky, psychic magic, Somerset, or more specifically Marcus Trescothick in his benefit year, organised a game of baseball against the Great Britain Baseball team yesterday. This comes only a week after Nightwatchgirl wrote several incredibly insightful blogs about the differences between cricket and baseball. Coincidence? There are no coincidences.

On Trescothick's team were Ashes heroes Ashley Giles and Geraint Jones and some Somerset regulars. The Great Britain Baseball team was made up of, well, proper baseball players.

The game did not go well. And that's being polite. The professionals thumped Somerset 21-1, which NWG thinks means they lost. Badly. But, on the positive side Geraint Jones managed to score one, whatever that means, so at least one point was achieved (grasping at straws...).

This obviously proves NWG completely wrong on the differences between cricket and baseball. Baseball appears to be much more difficult than considered previously. She apologises profusely to all baseball fans.

What Nightwatchgirl did find interesting was that Great Britain even had a baseball team, and furthermore, they are competing in the World Cup next year. Go Great Britain! What is not clear is whether America will be competing, or if this is just a European competition. Kind of makes a difference.

Friday, 3 October 2008

The 1st Nighties Awards Ceremony

Nightwatchgirl has of late been feeling left out. It seems all the cool blogs are giving awards out here, there and everywhere.

So, not one to be left behind, NWG introduces you to the Nighties. An award ceremony so lush, so lavish, so extravagant that every player in the world wants to get their hands on one of these bad boys.

Awards are based entirely on NWG's opinion on any particular day; she, like every other woman in the world, can and regularly does, change her mind on everything (especially when it comes to cricket).

And without wasting another second: the awards...

The Nightie for Best Eyelashes: Alastair Cook (but seriously, does he wear mascara? Because that's in a similar vein to taking drugs to make you run faster - it's wrong to cheat).

The Nightie for Most Stroppy Player: Ryan Sidebottom (who else?).

The Nightie for Worst Overthrow of the Century: Graeme Swann (damn him).

The Nightie for Best Comeback: Joint Winners - Andrew Flintoff and Steve Harmison.

The Nightie for The Whitest Whites You Can Get: England's new Test outfit.

The Nightie for Most Over-Looked Player of the Season: Matthew Hoggard (aka Ernie's Dad).

The Nightie for Best Haircut: Joint winners - Andrew Flintoff and Kevin Pietersen (for keeping it simple).

The Nightie for Missing Important Games: Andrew Symonds (fishing anyone?).

The Nightie for the Player Impossible to Get Out: Neil McKenzie (annoying, but true).

The Nightie for Retiring to Put England Out of Their Misery: Shane Warne (thank you).

The Nightie for Greatest Twenty20 Innings of the Season: Graham Napier (should be in the Stanford Team).

The Nightie for Best Eyebrows: James Anderson (it's like they're out of Sesame Street).

And finally. The most important award of all (drum roll):

The Nightie for Best Adapted Screen Play of a Cricketer's Life: Shane Warne - The Musical.

And so, above the loud and constant applause, the 1st Nighties is over. And what a night is has been. Laughter, tears, drama and a bit of fighting (you guessed it), the award ceremony was a huge success. Of course, there were those who lost out, who go home empty handed, but there is always next time. They can improve. They can work hard. The Nighties will always recognise hard graft.

Adieu and congratulations to all the winners (and losers).

Nightwatchgirl must get changed out of her red carpet-ready dress, her five inch heels and finally have a sit down. It's been emotional.

Tuesday, 30 September 2008

Eeny, Meeny, Miny, Mo

The England Test squad has been announced and not without a few surprises (or not, depending how cynical you are. Nightwatchgirl is off the scale).

As it had already become public knowledge that Michael Vaughan would not be included and instead be forced to remember what it's like to get in to double figures, who his spot would go to came down to Owais Shah and Ravi Bopara. Shah has won this particular battle, which is not that greater surprise given his performances with the bat against South Africa during the summer (albeit in the ODI format).

The two spinners up for one spot saw a victory for Graeme Swann (v Samit Patel), which seems a shame as Patel proved both useful with the ball and bat.

However, the hotly awaited race is once again involving the wicketkeeper. Can no one make up their mind? First Prior, then Ambrose, then Prior again and now the selectors, like a man choosing between a burger and a beer at the cricket, have included both in the 15 man squad. When will they make up their mind and stick with just one?

And who has sneaked in the back quietly and without much of a fanfare? None other than Mr. Moody himself - Ryan 'I'm-too-good-for-the-team' Sidebottom. Who will he be shouting at next? With his ridiculous wispy hair and his short temper, Nightwatchgirl can't help but think that having that sort of player on a team is not helpful for morale, but also Harmison, Broad, Flintoff and Anderson proved that England can do just fine (if not better) without him.

Nightwatchgirl applied for her tickets at Lord's for the Ashes yesterday. The game just got serious...

Monday, 29 September 2008

Shane Warne and the Technicolour Pill

Today is the day for news. Today reaches some kind of peak. Today is the best day so far, ever, in the universe.

Nightwatchgirl literally cannot type fast enough to get this blog out. For today (drum roll please) sees a story in The Sun that Shane Warne is having a musical made about his life (and no this is no April Fools, or September fools or whatever - this. is. real.) and it's due in Australia this December.

'Shane Warne - The Musical' (catchy title) has 24 songs and details his life in cricket, and the colourful one he enjoyed outside the game (notably diuretic pills and a lot of women). Song titles include: 'What an SMS I'm in,' and 'Take the Pill.' Genius.

Warne is far from pleased at all this attention and song-writing in his direction. Apparently he has had no say and not given the go-ahead (which also can be read to mean that he's not getting a cut of the profits). Warne also believes that 'it should be law' to 'have their permission off anyone to write about their life.' I bet that's not what Joseph and the Technicolour Dreamcoat thought, or for that matter Simba from the Lion King and it did them no harm.

Facts still waiting to be proved correct:
1. Will the man (I assume it will be a man, and not like in Peter Pan, where Peter is always played by a girl) wear a fat suit at any time during the play?
2. Will there be actual cricket involved or just a lot of drinking and singing about girls?
3. Will his hair re-growth advert get a mention?
4. Will the musical be funny or in a similar vein to Les Miserables?
5. Will Warne go to see it?
6. When is it coming to the West End? Nightwatchgirl wants a ticket.

Friday, 26 September 2008

Cricket vs Baseball: Round 3 - Protection

The final round in the colossal firefight between cricket and baseball ends today with a look at the protection required to keep players from injuring themselves. As both sports involve hard balls being thrown at the batsman as fast as possible, you would think that they would have developed a similar style. But no.

What attracted Nightwatchgirl's attention initially was the hat the baseball players wear when batting. Depending upon whether they are left or right handed, the side of the head facing the pitcher (correct term?) will cover their ear. The other side will not. This is annoying. Why not just have both sides covering both ears? Is it frowned upon? Does it use up too much plastic (when has America really cared about unnecessary wastage when it comes to, well, anything?)?

The cricket helmet is the bees knees of ball-in-the-face protection. With a hefty grill covering the front of the face, you could naturally assume that it would protect the head area adequately. Alas, that would be incorrect. For as much as it looks like it could offer some relief from being smashed in the skull by a hard ball, it has abandoned many a player in their second of need. Teeth have been knocked out (New Zealander, Daniel Flynn, two to be exact), scars have been made (Aussie, Ricky Ponting) and wickets have been dismantled (Kevin Pietersen - it was pretty comical).

Then there comes the art of padding in cricket. Almost every area conceivable has its own version of the pad. Legs, arms, ribs, hands, teeth and baby-making equipment each have their own pad design. This also does not offer complete protection from broken bones or nasty bruises.

In baseball, it seems only one player gets the padding and that is for the catcher (is this the correct term?). He gets all the padding in the world, covering him basically from head to toe. His face, his body and his legs are all deeply padded or grilled (this is definitely necessary).

We must now turn to gloves. Only one member of a cricket team is allowed to wear gloves and this is the wicketkeeper. These have a sort of webbing that might be handy for swimming as well as catching the balls left by the batsmen (or if the batsman's unlucky and he does hit the ball, but didn't mean to).

In baseball, all the fielders get to wear gloves. Only on one hand. And they are shaped very strangely. This seems unfair because it surely provides them with a greater chance of being able to catch the ball, because they look more like a giant scooping device.

And there ends the great debate between cricket and baseball. Both sports feature runs, innings, balls and bats but they couldn't be more different. Each have their plus points (food in seats really does appeal) and each have their own negative points (baseball: it's not cricket, cricket: no food in seats - Nightwatchgirl is becoming slightly obsessed).

Nightwatchgirl will stick to cricket for the time being. But it's been an interesting ride along the way and Americans aren't as crazy as previously thought; baseball has potential.

So, it obviously must come down to how many hits on google for each sport. When cricket is typed in to google it gets 84.2 million hits. Baseball gets 237. Million. Bum.

Wednesday, 24 September 2008

Cricket vs Baseball: Round 2 - The Outfits

The outfit for playing sport professionally is vitally important. It requires keeping you warm and cool when necessary (obviously at different points in time). It needs to cover all the right places constantly (kilts in this situation would definitely not work) and, finally, it has to look good (read professional).

Cricketers change their outfit depending upon which form of the game they are playing. For Test matches, it will always be white (well, it used to be cream, but Addidas put a stop to that and now it's whiter than white, even blinding white). For some reason, One Day Internationals and Twenty20 games require a whole different colour scheme (reasons unknown. Would we get confused if they always played in their whites? More importantly, would the players get confused playing in whites and forget which form of the game they were playing?).

Die hard, old school cricket fans (the MCC member) call this look (i.e. the outfit with colours) 'pyjamas.' This is because they hate it and the shorter forms of the game (this will never change - ever). It has nothing to do with sleeping. At all.

Baseball outfits are very different. There are weird, tight trousers (leggings?) involved and cardigans. Basically, the attention to detail and imagination have been lost somewhere over the Atlantic. Do they keep the player cool when they're hot? Do they keep the player warm when cold? There does not appear to be any use in Baseball of the magical 'skins' used by cricketers underneath their outfit as some sort of alien device that helps their muscles contract or whatever it is that they do magically.

Therefore, in conclusion, baseball outfits lack colour change, imagination and variety. Cricket lacks the cardigans, which might make a nice change from the jumper-with-no-sleeves approach.

Perhaps a combination of the two would produce some super, hybrid technology that would play the sport for the player without the player having to actually do anything. Genius.

Tuesday, 23 September 2008

Cricket vs Baseball: Round 1

Nightwatchgirl couldn't help but enquire as she was gliding round New York, in between all the shopping in the warm sunshine, as to why it is that baseball is so popular in the States and cricket is not.

OK, so she is totally out of her comfort zone when discussing the American game, perhaps even to go as far as she has no real idea of why or how anyone could find it remotely interesting, but there are a lot (a lot) of Americans who are as potty about baseball as the rest of the world is about cricket. So there must be something about it. But what?

Is it easier?

More exciting?

More daring?

The answer is yes (wink wink), no and no.

Nightwatchgirl is aware that there are some Americans who occasionally glance at this blog, so she beseeches them, no, pleads with them, to explain what it is about baseball that is better than cricket.

And why it is that any mention of cricket to an American, their eyes glaze over, they yawn incessantly and start to try and do an English accent (badly).

As Nightwatchgirl understands it, cricket is the fastest growing sport in the US. Will it ever achieve baseball standards? Definitely no. But with the better weather over there, their love of food being sold directly in their seats (seriously, cricket organisers - this is a great idea), the game (or at least twenty20) could catch on as an underground, secret, cult-like status pastime.

The idea of being encouraged to drink for the entire length of the game must be an incentive to get the American interested (it does us alright). And then, who knows....?

Monday, 22 September 2008

KP Battles Economic Woe for Britain - What a Hero

All Nightwatchgirl does is travel across the pond and on her return, despite the world losing all its pocket change down the back of a really large sofa with extra big cushions and making the governments of the world go find it, Kevin Pietersen is buying a house four sizes too big for him from some poor banker who probably had to sell due to a serious case of over-spending.

The house in question is a whopping and eye-watering £15 million.

£15 million ( just in case you missed it the first time).

Where has he found all this money from?

And what has happened in this world that cricketers are now buying footballers homes and, more importantly where does this leave the humble footballer? Buckingham Palace?

p.s. it's good to be back.

Sunday, 14 September 2008

New York New York

Nightwatchgirl is off to New York today. She will be keeping a close eye out for any suspicious looking sport fans who need converting from baseball and getting herself a well-earned tan.

Please alert if there are any exciting events in the cricket world. Nightwatchgirl is a world away.

Wednesday, 10 September 2008

A Play. By Nightwatchgirl.

Michael Vaughan enters the Bank Manager's Office, he ends a phone call on his mobile whilst also listening to loud music on his ipod. He sits down on the chair opposite the Bank Manager's desk. Michael wears the full England training kit and carries an umbrella. He wears three gold rings on various fingers and has a large, gold chain around his neck. He has a big grin on his face. The Bank Manager, Barry, wears a suit and tie. He is also smiling.

In this skit Michael Vaughan is a wannabe rude boy from Peckham (read Manchester). Barry is from Mayfair.

Barry: Hello Mr. Vaughan. Terribly sorry about your recent loss as captain of our great nation.

Michael: Whassup Bazza. Ain't no prob mate, me got the new contract and I is rolling in it, innit.

Barry: Excellent. Well, you'll be pleased to know that your central contract has been deposited in to your account, and our discussion the other week about buying the Bentley is now more of a possibility.

Michael: Yes mate (makes hand gestures), that is banging. I is going to have Michael Vaughan in red stitching on all the seats, you get me. And massive screens so I can play Brian Lara on me playstation to get me batting up to standard.

Barry: Er. Excellent. (shifts uncomfortably in his seat, but Michael continues)

Michael: That KP is a fool. He finks I actually want to get back in the team, innit, but what's the point when they're paying me to not to play? I is going to sit this winter out, mate. And the summer. (laughs uncontrollably)

Barry: Well, we need to discuss your long term investments and your pension plan.

Michael: Yeah, whatever. (Michael's phone rings. He answers) Yes mate. How's it going? Nah, Goughy, I ain't feeling it, I'm buying me Bentley this afternoon. Later. (Michael ends the conversation) Baz, I gotta roll. Check you later, rudeboy.

Michael leaves the Bank Manager's office. He passes Matthew Hoggard who is just about to enter. They exchange a complicated set of hand gestures to indicate a greeting. Just as Michael is about to leave, Matthew kicks him in the shin and shouts abuse at him, before mugging Michael for his phone and wallet.

Revenge. A dish best served cold (no carbohydrates please). Vaughan, a batsman incapable of scoring runs. Hoggard, a bowler left out in the cold, to fend for himself because of a side strain. One has a central contract for no apparent reason. The other has a baby called Ernie, no contract and a Times column. Where is the justice?

Lights fade to black.

Tuesday, 9 September 2008

The $15 million Squad

The Stanford squad team has been announced (and the One Day series in India). And those lucky enough to be picked only now have the small task of winning the matches to each earn their $1,000,000 prize.

There are no major shock inclusions in the squad (no Graham Napier, which is a shame) and no surprising players left out (which means Sidebottom is in...).

The full squad:

Kevin Pietersen, James Anderson, Ian Bell, Ravi Bopara, Stuart Broad, Paul Collingwood, Alastair Cook, Andrew Flintoff, Stephen Harmison, Samit Patel, Matt Prior, Owais Shah, Graeme Swann, Ryan Sidebottom, Luke Wright.

Sticking with the same team from the South Africa series seems to be the sensible answer (why fix something that ain't broke?), but who will be able to handle the pressure when there is only 20 runs off the last over to win the cash? Could Harmison and Flintoff stop the Stanford team from hitting the winning runs off the final overs?

Nightwatchgirl will sit back and enjoy the games this October/November safe in the knowledge that this England squad have a better chance of winning than they did a year ago, than they did two months ago, and that money motivates all (which is a little bit sad, but unfortunately true).