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Murder, match-fixing and heartbreak

By black caps and Cricket

Behind you! Bob Woolmer calls a time-out in the nets at Lord's, September 1, 2006© Getty Images . Michael Vaughan, at a press conference ahead of England’s final pool match against Kenya (today’s Guardian):

Do I think the problem persists? That is a hard question,“ he said, ”and if I’m honest I have to say yes, maybe it does go on. I have never experienced it within any of my teams or with any player I’ve played with or against but my gut feeling is that there is still something going on in the game. Nothing specific but just bad things that I’ve seen with certain passages of play or games that look slightly unusual. My gut feeling, and this is a huge statement I know, is that it is very hard to clear the whole world of cricket of it.

Mike Selvey comments:

…for me there still lurks doubt that all is not well in every case — nothing to put your finger on, but as with Vaughan just a nagging notion that all is not entirely well for no better reason than the pessimistic one that it can’t be — and I just wonder now how much that impacts on spectators and followers of the game now. Here is an analogy. There was once no finer sight in sport than an Olympic 100metres final. I’ve never seen one live but my father went to Rome in 1960 and told me of how the German sprinter Armin Hary outstripped the favoured Americans to take the title. Today, is there anyone who watches the event without regarding it as having about as much probity as World Federation Wrestling? It is a novelty show, which of course does a total disservice to those athletes who are determined to play the sport clean.

Cynics suspect malpractice everywhere, so even excellence through genuine endeavour alone, particularly if it involves improvement beyond the norm, is regarded with suspicion. But the consensus surrounding athletes and drugs seems to be that improved testing procedures have not eradicated the problem but merely has led to more sophisticated masking techniques. Our “gut instinct” tells us no longer to believe the evidence of our eyes.

And so it is with cricket and match fixing. The ACSU can scrutinise their matches all they like and monitor betting patterns on the subcontinent. These are skilled people with strong forensic backgrounds. But they are not cricketers. it takes a Vaughan, with what he calls his “gut instinct” but which in reality is accumulated intelligence, to spot the counterfeit coin amongst the stack of change.

I’m sitting here with tears in my eyes, and it’s not just because of the rotten cold that has confined me to quarters for the duration. This year New Zealand look like genuine contenders and the upsets have removed a few of our usual stumbling blocks (Pakistan have turfed us out twice in the last four tournaments). As I said to Jeremy Anderson yesterday, we look increasingly like possible winners this time around but the shadow cast by Woolmer’s murder means it will probably be a hollow victory and that’s a crying shame.

The Spin handicaps the Cricket World Cup

By black caps, Cricket and Sport

From The Spin, The Guardian’s occasional cricket e‑mail:

New Zealand

Suddenly, you quite fancy them. A lower-middle order of Jacob Oram and Brendon McCullum means they are never out of the game; Shane Bond — assuming he doesn’t break down — could be the fastest man in the competition; and Stephen Fleming has regained the reputation he lost in England in 2004 as the smartest captain in the game. Lack of bowling depth and the occasional tendency of the top order to go awol are both concerns, but the off-spinner Jeetan Patel could be one of the competition’s unsung heroes. And they will field like Lou Vincents. Very backable dark horses.

One-day record since last World Cup: P88 W44 L39 T0 NR5
Last 10 matches: W5 L5

Brendan McCullumThe stats are very interesting. I’ve always said that in One Day cricket the best NZ can ever really expect is to win as many as we lose and we are just ahead of that over the last four years.

“All I ask for is a little consistency” say the pundits. Well, you can only be consistently winning or consistently losing and the first one isn’t realistic so I’ll take the glorious inconsistency thanks.

But then again, all we need is seven wins in a row from March 17 and we are home free.

And the TAB has us at $7.00 with Australia at $2.75; South Africa $5.00 and India $8.50. I might get a piece of those odds come pay day.

Luck-Lack

By black caps, Cricket, Football, Hammers and Sport

Mitchell Johnson dismisses Peter Fulton and New Zeaoland lose their second wicket, Australia v New Zealand, CB Series, 8th match, Perth, January 28, 2007“You make your own luck” in sport they say. Gary Player once said, “The harder I practice the luckier I get” as if things were really that simple.

No team deserves to win a game dropping Hayden twice before he’d scored 4 or chasing 334 but Lady Luck did not shine her torch on the Black Caps at Perth tonight. Falling 7 runs short with 5 wickets in hand is an outstanding performance in anyone’s book, and more evidence that the summer has been turned around since that awful shellacking by Sri Lanka in December.

But … but … We could have done without Rauf firing Vincent out when he was looking in great touch and don’t get me started on the rain interruption! It’s hard enough being competitive in Australia when everything from the travel schedule to having to play the best team in the world is stacked against you. For the last seven or eight years this Black Cap side has backed itself to score 11+ an over in the final ten if they have wickets in hand (and they bat accordingly). Duckworth-Lewis doesn’t take that into account (and probably shouldn’t even try) but it was the rain break that killed the run chase – and it never seems to happen to Australia IN AUSTRALIA.

[And on the subject of luck: how about losing your best striker for seven months to a munted ankle in his first ever England training session. And your new star signing doing his ankle ligaments 20 minutes into his first game for the club — out for seven weeks minimum. I’d like to see Gary Player explain away that rubbish.]

Still, we scored 335 against Australia and Oram’s 100 was the fastest ever by a New Zealander in ODIs. Our luck will have to change soon.

Summer

By black caps, Cricket and Sport

No disrespect to Sri Lanka and the England Ashes effort (well, maybe some) but my Summer starts today with the Black Caps first game in the Commonwealth Bank series (the series formerly known as Benson & Hedges & VB). It helps that these games are on at a time when I can pay them more attention (home all day today with the tv on) but as we approach the World Cup these games start to really mean something.

There was a plan to get to Hobart for these two games (Australia today and England on Tuesday) but financial considerations mean I’ll have my feet up on the couch for the run chase. As I type, the game is but four overs old and we haven’t managed a wicket yet but we always raise our game against the Aussies and on a flat track we should see McCullum get a few more than his usual quick-fire 20 or so.

The brilliant Mark Nicholas is commentating for Channel 9 along with the usual suspects – not sure whether Ian Smith has been tempted over but I hope so.

So, game on.

And, by the way: what are Australia wearing this season?

 Db Pictures Cms 70600 70679

Sporting Weekend

By black caps, Cricket, Football, Hammers, Lions, Rugby and Sport

A bad weekend for all the teams I follow. The horror, the horror.

West Ham United CrestThe Hammers have now lost seven on the spin, haven’t won in eight and haven’t scored in 10 and a half hours 11 hours (a club record); The Lions became the second Wellington team this year to lose a major rugby final; The Knights have also lost seven in a row but at least scored a couple of times in Adelaide; The Black Caps rolled over and had their tummy’s scratched by Sri Lanka in that unwatchable tournament in India and my Dad’s team (Torquay United) have also lost six in a row so there’s no respite at home.

Common sense says, like the crap weather, this has to change but I struggle to see when. West Ham could easily get turned over by Colchester in the Carling Cup on Thursday morning the way we are playing; the rugby season is over; the Black Caps have to beat Pakistan to progress in India and we never beat them when we have to; I can’t see the Knights winning again this decade and the future isn’t promising for The Gulls (sorry, Dad).

Oh, and Newtown Athletic had the weekend off (or a ‘bye’ if you prefer) due to the long weekend. At least that isn’t a defeat…