Bit of a break on the blogging front as I have spent consecutive weekends pootling up and down the M40 in search of a game of cricket, only to be continuously thwarted by the piss poor weather. Not a great excuse for failing to write, but true nonetheless.
Anyway, the summer is now threatening to stutter into gear. There’s the small matter of the Olympics coming up (why not give GB hockey-ist and ratified ‘good bloke’ Dan Fox a follow on twitter @danfox450), but first we have England’s test series against South Africa, which gets underway at The Oval on Thursday.
Meetings between the two sides have, since SA’s readmission, been hyper-competitive affairs and have always appealed to the punters (if sometimes a little too much).
I remember Allan Donald’s scorching battle with Mike Atherton in 1998 and I’ve got high hopes that we might see a similar intensity of fast bowling this time around with Steyn, Philander and Morkel a much-hyped attack.
South Africa go into the opening test somewhat undercooked with only a few days warm-up cricket under their belts; perhaps one reason why England are 39-43 on the Sporting Index series market (25 pts per test won, 10 pts per draw, 3 match series).
England might gallantly be clinging to the top of the ICC Test Rankings, but they did look vulnerable at times against the West Indies and, against a more mature international cricket side, might have been punished. I can’t see England white-washing the Proteas, indeed, I’d expect SA to win at least one Test and, consequently, would look to oppose England’ s outright index.
One of the series’ more interesting sub-plots is the international return of Ravi Bopara. This is surely the Essex man’s last tilt at securing a test spot; with a raft of young talent (Hales, Bairstow, Vince to name but a few) waiting in the wings Bopara needs to act now or join the likes of Ramprakash, Shah, Key and Hick in the category of county championship bullies who never quite did the business for England.
SpIn go 160-175 on Ravi’s series runs, by a distance the lowest quote of England’s top six (Cook is top of the shop at 230-245). I’m struggling to see a great deal of value on either side of the spread. If you’re looking for a sell, I think Jonathan Trott might be pitched a shade high (225-240) against his ‘native’ South Africa.
Looking at the South African batsmen, I’m interested in buying Graeme Smith’s series ton-ups at 18-24 as the skipper’s mega-tons on recent tours (I recall a seemingly interminable 277) live long in the memory and being on the right side of his tons quote is the only way of making watching him bat for long periods bearable. An interesting piece on Cricinfo pointed out Jacques Kallis‘ relative failure in English conditions and following the impeccable analysis of Mr Rajesh a sell of Jacques’ series runs at 220 might well be in order.
On a sad note, as, myself, a member of the keepers’ union it’s a terrible shame to hear of Mark Boucher’s eye injury that has forced his retirement from international cricket. Your skills and competitiveness will be fondly remembered, especially this: