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Xray the Enforcer

Cricket 42: The answer to life, the universe, and the inevitable English batting collapse

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Should have called it "Death, taxes and English batting collapses".

But England were always going to lose it from the position at the end of the fourth day.

 

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X,

This is why us plebs need to be able to multi-quote from locked threads. After I posted that I went for a jog then took a shower! :tantrum::P

@Paxter, if they show it here I'll check it out, but that's the rub, I never see cricket on any services. Randomly a game will be carried, but it's usually at a time that makes it next to impossible to watch if you're not a diehard fan. The same was true of European football five years ago though, and now it's pretty easy to find so maybe cricket will go the same way.

@Xray the Enforcer, that's still kind of meaningless to me. I don't know the differences between the different formats. Shit, I can't even figure out what the fielders are doing most of the time. But without context it would be like me explaining basketball to someone without pointing out how different the NBA is from the college game, how both are different from the international game, and how all three having nothing in common with 3v3. For example, I watched the highlights of an India-Pakistan match and it was like small ball baseball. I watched a different one between Australia and NZ and it was like a homerun derby. 

@Consigliere, to be fair, if Test is the super long format, I've heard it best described as taking a three game series in baseball and treating it as one match.

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4 hours ago, Tywin et al. said:

X,

This is why us plebs need to be able to multi-quote from locked threads. After I posted that I went for a jog then took a shower! :tantrum::P

@Xray the Enforcer, that's still kind of meaningless to me. I don't know the differences between the different formats. Shit, I can't even figure out what the fielders are doing most of the time. But without context it would be like me explaining basketball to someone without pointing out how different the NBA is from the college game, how both are different from the international game, and how all three having nothing in common with 3v3. For example, I watched the highlights of an India-Pakistan match and it was like small ball baseball. I watched a different one between Australia and NZ and it was like a homerun derby. 

 

OK, to start very basically, one of the fundamental structural units of cricket is an "over", much like how in baseball we have an "inning." I say this because your stereotypical baseball game has nine innings, right? (And to get a little granular, just like an inning in baseball is dictated by six batters being retired, in cricket an over = the bowler bowling six balls.) 

Well, in T20 cricket and One Day International (ODI) cricket, the basic structural unit of both of those games is the number of "overs." In T20, each team gets 20 overs to get done whatever needs to get done (score runs, or get batters out). In ODI, each team gets 50 overs to score runs or get batters out. As such, T20 cricket is the shortest form of the game (~3 hours). ODI is in the middle (it usually takes about 7 hours). Test cricket abides by different rules that I won't get into now, but the rules of the game dictate that a Test can be AT MOST five days long -- if you don't have a result by the end of five days, the match is considered a draw. 

T20 is played either by leagues (like NFL, MLB, EPL, etc) of teams that recruit internationally during a regular season, or they're played by national teams (like World Cup footy) during international competition. ODI format is mostly for international competitions like ICC World Cup. 

Anyway, so if you're not keen to watch how a battle unfolds between two teams over the course of five days, something like the Indian Premier League (it's like the EPL but for T20 cricket) is maybe a better way to get acquainted with the sport. 

As for the fielders -- they do basically what outfielders do in baseball: catch or attempt to catch balls. A lot of the action and nuance of cricket happens with the bowlers and how the batters deal with them, so that's where I'd start when it comes to appreciating the game. I still can't remember half of the fielding positions (silly point, cow corner, WTF) but that doesn't lessen my enjoyment of the sport.  

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To get a little more specific here in regards to the differences in gameplay between cricket formats -- your aforementioned difference between college, NBA, 3v3, etc... There isn't a perfect one-to-one analogy, but you do see different tactics on display in the different formats. T20 is like the home-run derby -- the whole point is to rack up as many runs as possible during your team's time on offense by launching the ball as far as possible toward the stands. There's very little room for nuanced play on offense. Bowlers have more room for nuance -- one of the good ways to get people out in cricket is to trick them by changing the speed and angle of each ball you bowl. So play is fast and splashy. 

Test cricket is really different because you have time -- so much time -- on offense to be patient and wait for the bowlers to get tired. Conversely, the bowlers have time -- so much time -- to really bore and/or piss you off into making mistakes. Imagine someone flinging an unplayable ball at your head at 90mph for an hour while you're standing in the blazing 110F Australian sun with full pads on while 10 obnoxious shitheads cheerfully tell you just how much you suck. And you have to just wait it out, hour after hour, until the opposing team fucks up. Unsurprisingly, there aren't a whole lot of people who are good at that kind of play -- they get mad and swing at the wrong ball and then they're out and walking back to the dressing room.

To me, that's the main difference between the two forms: in Test, time is an incredibly powerful weapon because there are so many different ways to deploy it.

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Good explanation! The other major impact of time in Test match cricket is on the pitch and ball. In T20 and ODI cricket the pitch and the ball stay much the same, generally hard and flat, meaning that attack is easier for the batsman. In Test cricket, the pitch changes over the five days, getting rougher, so the ball changes direction when it lands, both vertically and horizontally. The ball also changes as it suffers more abuse, getting softer, losing its shines so it generally swings in the air less, making survival important for the batter so they can cash in later. However, as the pitch gets less predictable each team’s innings is generally more difficult than the last, making the overall strategy more important.

Lastly, climatic conditions are more important and can affect when and how you choose to bat. In England, you want to bowl when it’s cloudy or damp, as the ball swings in the air and bounces sideways off the pitch more. If it’s sunny and dry, you want to bat, as the ball does less. But, if it’s dry, the pitch roughs up quicker, as does the ball, so batting last is difficult as the ball will spin sideways off the pitch, there will be variable vertical bounce and there’s something called “reverse swing” which I’m not even going to try to explain at this point!

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Cricket is actually a quite simple game, famously explained as follows:

Quote

 

You have two sides, one out in the field and one in. Each man that's in the side that's in, goes out, and when he's out, he comes in and the next man goes in until he's out. When they are all out the side that's out comes in and the side that's been in goes out and tries to get those coming in out. Sometimes you get men still in and not out. When both sides have been in and out including the not-outs, that's the end of the game.

Howzat?

 

 

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Paraphrasing George Bernard Shaw. 11 fools play. 11,000 fools watch. Billions now.

 

The Sun never sets on the Cricket empire. 

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2 hours ago, Hereward said:

Good explanation! The other major impact of time in Test match cricket is on the pitch and ball. ...

Incredibly important point! This is another thing I love about Test cricket. Even the very ground you walk upon is mutable and treacherous over the course of the match. 

One last thing that's related to my example of someone bowling dozens of 90mph balls at your head: cricket balls are pretty similar to baseballs in size and hardness/density. Batters have suffered broken fingers, hands, wrists, and ribs after being hit by the cricket ball, and a couple of years ago an Australian cricketer named Phillip Hughes died after being hit on the side of the neck by a ball during competition (it hit a spot not protected by his helmet). There's a long history to this kind of aggressive bowling, where you bowl in such a way that the ball would likely hit the batter somewhere on their torso/arms where they don't have any padding, and unlike baseball you don't get ejected from the game for doing it. I'll defer to an Australian or English cricket fan to dive into detail, since the tactic emerged from Test matches between those two sides back in the 30s. 

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Yes, intimidatory bowling is part and parcel of the game. The original barrage of fast bowlers deliberately targeting the batters’ bodies was by England against Australia in 1932-33 and was the result of a plan to deal with the best batter who has ever played the game, Don Bradman. It led to an international incident, a change in the rules to ban certain field settings and the sacking of the England captain.

These days the tactic is commonplace, though the fielding restrictions still apply, and unlike until the end of the 70s, helmets are worn. The most famous proponents of the tactic would be the utterly dominant West Indies team of the late 70s and 80s. There’s an excellent documentary called Fire in Babylon, available on YouTube, which covers the rise of this tactic, and the racial discrimination and dynamics involved too.

 

Edited by Hereward

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I mean, the 5 day format is an improvement over timeless Tests.

One of the key differences between baseball and cricket (for a physicist at least) is that the cricket ball has a seam dividing it into 2 halves; and its allowed to pitch on the ground (called the pitch sometimes, go figure) as well. So the condition of the pitch is quite important for sure, and unlike the timeless Tests of yore, pitches these days are curated quite well (covers, rollers etc..). Another big difference because of the seam and the two halves is how the cricket ball can be legally 'modified' so they have different aerodynamic properties (for instance, shining one side compared to another leads to differences in air flow around them so the ball can swing in the direction of lower resistance. Unlike baseball, saliva for instance can also be used on the ball to affect its roughness. All in all it makes for a more 'cerebral' game if you will, although I suspect most players approach it intuitively rather than try to figure the science of it all.

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Starting to look like the inaugural Australia v Afghanistan test will be canned. Women’s cricket is likely to be banned under Taliban rule and it’s not a great look for Australia or the ICC to even indirectly allow that.

Edited by Paxter

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Manchester test potentially in doubt with players isolating? Would be a weird note to end on, though I’m grateful we have had four unaffected tests so far.

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6 hours ago, Paxter said:

Manchester test potentially in doubt with players isolating? Would be a weird note to end on, though I’m grateful we have had four unaffected tests so far.

It would be a bit anti-climatic but the latest news seems to be that it is going ahead as planned.

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12 hours ago, williamjm said:

It would be a bit anti-climatic but the latest news seems to be that it is going ahead as planned.

But now it's definitely cancelled :(

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Well that’s a bit of a shit note to end the series on. Honestly I didn’t have any real confidence England were going to get a win to level the series though.

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