20 July 2011 Read 2338 times

Chris Maguire's Latest If The Cap Fits Blog entry looks at various approaches when there is moisture in the sky.

 

AS somebody who spent three years in the Northern League, and has so far clocked up a similar period in the Palace Shield, I’m often asked to compare the standard between the two.

I enjoyed most of my time at Chorley in the seconds, but was lucky enough to play three times for the firsts and for the thirds.
In the Palace Shield I’ve spent the last two seasons in the White Coppice 1st XI in Division One.

The common theme between both clubs is that I’ve talked more rubbish than Charlie Sheen, and got under the skin of most of my opponents.

Both leagues are blessed with some lovely grounds and a mix of talented youngsters and seasoned old journeymen.
There’s no doubt the Northern League is stronger because of the presence of the professional but, in my view, the best Palace Shield teams would be an equal match for all but the very best Northern League ones.

Several of the worst teams in Division Two of the NL would struggle in Division One of the Palace Shield.

rainHowever the biggest difference is what happens in the event of rain.

In the NL you always knew that if it rained on Saturday morning then the chances of playing in the afternoon were remote.

There were two exceptions. The first was Chorley. In the second team’s case, captain John Hotham would be so desperate to play he’d be down at Windsor Park at 9am to talk to the wicket to evaporate the dampness.

The other exception was Darwen. If it rained on Wednesday then the weekend’s game was under threat.

In the Palace Shield, the rule is if it’s not raining then you’re probably playing.

Take this Saturday for example.

It chucked it down on Saturday morning and three of the NL’s six 1st XI games were abandoned without a ball being bowled. Darwen’s game with Kendal, Morecambe’s match with leaders St Annes and Netherfield’s contest with Lancaster were washed away.

It was even worse in Division Two with the games at Lancaster, St Annes, Kendal and Barrow washed away.
Compare that with the Palace Shield. Of the top five divisions there were 30 games and 28 were played, albeit rain-reduced.
The only two matches to fall victim to the weather were at Withnell Fold and Ribchester.

Why? Does it rain less over Palace Shield grounds than NL clubs? No. Is the drainage better at Palace League clubs like Penwortham and Thornton Cleveleys than Lancaster and St Annes? No. Are the covers better in the Palace League? Definitely no.
So, if it’s none of these, what is it? I don’t know, but I do know that I’ve only encountered one Palace Shield side who simply didn’t want to play because of the weather.

In the Northern League I lost count of the number of players who looked at the wicket, glanced at the sky and said: “No chance.”
At White Coppice on Saturday, we turned up and immediately set about getting the pitch ready for play against Thornton Cleveleys 2nds. Kyle Dixon went up and down with a water hog devouring the surface water from the covers while I grabbed a couple of plastic cups and scooped up the puddles.

The game itself turned out to be a damp squib (pardon the pun) and I didn’t bat or bowl but at least we played.

Only the Northern League clubs who didn’t play on Saturday know whether they could have done more to get some sort of meaningful contest.

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12 July 2011 Read 2407 times

Chris Maguire's latest column sees him name drop and find every excuse under the sun for his saturday performance

’I'm not one to name drop, but on Saturday night I was chewing the cricketing fat with former England captains Michael Vaughan and Alex Stewart.

They clocked up 215 Test matches between them and racked up a total of 33 hundreds and 63 fifties in the process.
If they were aware of my stats (291 runs this season at an average of 29.1) they did a good job of not letting on, but they only knew me as ‘Chris from Chorley’.

That’s because I was one of the callers on their new BBC Radio 5 Live cricket show 6-Duck-6. I felt well qualified to talk to them after bagging a 19-ball duck on a pudding of a wicket at Penwortham for White Coppice, but more of that later.

We discussed Kevin Pietersen’s batting woes and the lack of Test cricket in the North of England when Vaughany interrupted.
“There’s been a goal in the World Cup Women’s quarter-final between England and France,” he said, then never came back to me.

I’ve never liked the French much and I like them even less now after they ruined by once-in-a-lifetime conversation with two cricketing legends.

It’s fair to say my cricket this week has mirrored the fortunes of the News of the World. After my abject display at Penwortham 2nds on Saturday, I daresay I’ll be put out to pasture too. But the only hacking I’m guilty of was a terrible a mow to short cover for a duck.

I’m not one to make excuses, but here’s three reasons for my performance.

The first is that Mrs M failed to wash my kit this week. (MRS M’S NOTE: He forgot to get his kit out of his bag.)
My three previous knocks of 35, 65 and 39no have been when I’ve had clean whites so there must be something in that theory.

The second excuse was the appearance of umpire Colin Dawber. Colin famously has the initials CJD, so it was fitting my batting resembled a mad cow.

The third excuse was the state of Penwortham’s pitch – if it was a pudding, it would have been of the sticky toffee variety.

So I was feeling fairly miffed when I was reading the local cricket round-up in Friday’s Lancashire Evening Post.
They had an interview with Garstang’s star batsmen Michael Walling, after he smashed 182 off 128 balls at Longridge – 10 of which went for six.

“I’ve been doing okay all season,” was his matter-of-fact assessement.

Talk about understatements. The only way I’ll get 182 runs next to my name in one match is if I take up bowling!

I decided to check out Walling’s statistics. So far this season he’s scored 1,030 runs (729 in the league) with three centuries.
If that wasn’t bad enough, his 182 against Longridge wasn’t even his highest score as he hit 200 not out in 2006 on the sandcastle that is South Shore.

Batsmen have their scores recorded on a  graph called a ‘Manhattan’, because it resembles the Manhattan skyline.
Scores of between 0-9 runs make up one skyscraper, 11-19 another and so on.

Well, Michael Walling’s Manhattan stretches as far as the eye can see with a skyscraper for scores of ‘more than 150’.
My Manhattan, in comparison, looks like the centre of Leyland – instead of the Empire State, I’ve got the corner shop.

As Devon Malcolm once said: “I’m off to fill in my run chart.”

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06 July 2011 Read 2406 times

Chris Maguire's unique look on the world of cricket this week focus's on one of his White Coppice teammates.

Last week I published the names of 89 batsmen who’d all got ducks in the previous weekend’s Palace Shield and Northern League fixtures.

Not every scorecard was published, so the true number of ‘blobs’ in 44 matches was probably closer to 100.
I did this to highlight the fact that cricket is a bowler’s game.
Behind every duck is a story of woe, despair and personal tragedy.

This is the story about the owner of one of those ducks – Matthew Garstang.
Matt opens the batting for White Coppice and if picking out the only fielder on the leg side was a welcome trait, he’d be playing for England.
He was working last Saturday and ahead of walking out to bat against Great Eccleston 2nds he pointed out that the longest he’d batted all season was 45 minutes.
“Do you think I’ll have enough time to bat and get to work on time?” he asked.

Two overs later he was walking back to the pavilion after flicking one straight to square leg.
A comforting word of encouragement as we crossed on the outfield was not advisable as his nickname of Semtex is well merited. If the cap fits.

Fast forward a week and we’re in the changing room at White Coppice ahead of our game with league leaders Freckleton.
Our scorer had produced a sheet of averages for all our players, but missed out our cup match – when Matt got 70.
“8.22222 runs,” he said mournfully. “That’s my average from nine league matches.”

The White Coppice changing room is not the place for the faint-hearted.
By his own admission, Matt wasn’t at the back of the queue when God handed out appetites or a thirst.
Two weeks ago I looked up after doing my shoe laces to be met by Matt’s extremely full derrière.
I don’t think Beyonce needs to worry, but I bet she doesn’t wear a pair of boxer shorts in support of England’s 2010 World Cup team with the words ‘Getting Behind England’ emblazoned across them.

The funniest sight in cricket was the day Matt walked into the changing room and pulled on a ‘skin’ to make him more areodynamic in the field.
Athletes wear them and as well as making them faster, the ‘skin’ serves to pull in all your flabby bits.
When Matt pulled his on he looked like a used tea bag, and if it made him quicker then the difference was marginal.

Ahead of Saturday’s game, Freckleton went through their exhausting fielding drills, while the Coppice players tried to hit a few throw-downs as far as we could. The exception was Matt, who undertook a rigourous fitness test which entailed smoking a Benson & Hedges cigarette in under 90 seconds. He passed with flying colours.

As his form has suffered in recent years, Matt had taken to talking about his golden summer of 1993 when he scored 1,000 runs for Withnell Fold.
Whenever he fails, which has been a frequent occurrence this year, he resorts to talking about a season when current team-mate Thomas Bates wasn’t actually born.
“Back in 1993, I scored a hundred in 14 balls,” is the gist of his story-telling.

Statistics – however old – tell a lot and it was former Indian opener Narjot Singh Sidhu who came up with my favourite ever cricket phrase.
“Statistics are like miniskirts,” he said. “They reveal more than what they hide.”

Well, one look at Matt Garstang’s statistics tell you that· he’s the world’s most unlucky batsman. He’s been out 11 times this season and five have been LBW.
Last year the figure was 11/20 and not one of them has been out (according to Matt).

Even when the ball hit him on the ankle in front of middle as he played back, he reckoned there was an element of doubt.
Matt’s batting is like Russian Roulette. You know there’s a live one in the barrel but there’s only a one in six chance of it going off.
Matt has got nine 50s in 72 games for White Coppice 1st XI so he was ‘due one’ on Saturday – and he didn’t disappoint.
When it comes to batting he’s as cultured as a combine harvester and he mowed his way to 87 off 65 balls – 76 of which came in boundaries.

He batted for a little over an hour – which was the closest he’s come to giving up smoking.
Freckleton’s bowlers didn’t know what happened.
His chats at the end of the over amounted to ‘I need a fag’.

When he was out in the 19th over – LBW – his face was as red as tomato. He could have scored 187 but that’s not the way he plays. He lives for the moment.

All the Freckleton fielders shook his hand as he staggered off in search of his B&H.
Every one of his team-mates was made up – mainly because we were spared more golden memories of 1993.
After three cigarettes he’d got his breath together to give his assesessment of his knock.
“Didn’t middle one of those sixes,” he said. “But at least that’s boosted my average to 16.1”

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28 June 2011 Read 3412 times

MARTIN McKeever; Chris Boyes; Vinny Wilkinson; Simon Marshall; David Jackson; Daniel Whiley; Andy Lester; Greg Cowburn; James Ainscough; Ben Parkinson; Adam Green; Reza Hussain; Mustaq Mohammed; Miyaahhem Lunat; Gavin Cooper; Matt Garstang;  Ross Dixon; Steven Ramsey; Joshua Winter; Robert Woods; Ben Ward; Mark Huyton; Simon Pett; Daniel Cairns; Alan Maguire (no relation); Mohmed Rafik Patel; Fareez Moosa; Jamie Moss; Craig McDermott; James McDermott;  Ben Southwell; Graham Thompson; Chris Brindle; Andy Carten; John Lyons; Daniel Porter; Joe Woods; Nadeem Saeed; Alex Cuffin; Jack Melllodew; Phil Booth; Dave McKeon; Max Cowell-Makin; Maz Iqbal; Joe Pennington; Brett Foy; Zahid Ali; Edward Fiddler; Laurie Brown; Andrew Taylor; Rizwan Ahmed; Mick Brown; Thomas Williams; Steven Moore; Martin Dietz; Matt Dawson; Elliot Barker; Konrad McDowell; Ashley Bolton; James Allsop; Darius Ainslie; Louis Rothwell;  Roy Thompson;  Callum Burke; Joel Graves; Ben Pye; Dean Burke; Justin Abotts; Paul Stuart; Oliver Vincent; Eliot Lythgow; Jonathan Miles; Gareth Ashburner; Adam Parker; Scott Richardson; Alex Weetman; Billy Smith, Craig Brown; Edward Sissons; Charlie Williams; Afsar Nagolia; Dinuk Hetharachchi; Richard Culpit; Sean Graves; Nick Milner; Oliver Austin; Daniel Entwhistle; Sam Tolley; and Chris Harty.

There should be a statue to these 89 men and boys because club cricketers all over the world owe them a debt of collective  gratitude.

They’ve shown bravery in the face of fire and, despite suffering great personal anguish, they’re more likely as not to come back for more.

The reason is that on Saturday all 89 got ducks for their respective Northern League and Palace Shield sides.

That’s right, not a single run between them. They couldn’t even manage a  scratchy single to third man or a lucky inside edge to fine leg.

That’s why I’m devoting this week’s ‘If The Cap Fits’ column to the unsung heroes of this world – the batsmen.
I’ve got this theory that cricket is stacked in favour of bowlers and on Sunday I decided to put it to the test.
How can it be right that bowlers can dish up a load of filthy long hops (EDITOR’S NOTE: Take a bow Jimmy Lee and Ian Oakes!) and stay on but batsmen make one little mistake and they’re taking the long walk back to the pavilion?

If this sounds like the ramblings of an embittered club batsmen you’d be right – but I’ve got the facts to prove it.
On Sunday night I trawled through all seven divisions of the Palace Shield League and the Northern League.
That’s 44 matches. Not every scorecard was available so the 89-strong list of shame that I compiled probably extends to three figures.That’s more people than could get on to a double decker bus!

They probably spent most of last week dreaming of a lazy cover drive or a nonchalent pull through midwicket.
They gave up their Saturday afternoons despite the fact the DIY or a children’s birthday party was calling.
And how did the game of a cricket reward their commitment and sacrifice?
I’ll tell you how. With a great big, fat, ugly duck.

How many of the 89 people above were greeted with ‘that was a waste of an afternoon’ when they informed their other half of their abject failure on Saturday night?

This sounds really sad but the 44 matches played on Saturday yielded 12,013 runs and 673 wickets. Put another way, each wicket contributed a paltry  average of 17.8 runs.

If the three founder members of the Not Out Club – Leyland’s Luis Reece and Brett Pelser and Hoghton’s Darren Eccles – had got their customary ‘red inkers’ then the average would have been higher but 17.8 is a pretty poor rate of return.

The Play Cricket website does nothing to lift the spirits of us long-suffering batsmen.
Under statistics it lists the number of career ducks next to 50s and hundreds,

Why? Does Fox Lane’s finest Andrew Makinson need to be reminded of that fact that his duck count  now stands at 23? Does Chorley’s Billy Smith – whose brother Tom plays for Lancashire – need to know that Saturday’s blob was the 18th of hisillustrious career?

Compare the way batsmen are treated compared to bowlers.
There should be a section in the bowling section entitled: ‘Wickets obtained with a pie; half tracker; or full bunger.’
If that was the case you’d have to double the column width for White Coppice’s Mo Essa.
I’ve never known someone get more dismissals with catches at long-off than the former Eccleston and Whittle left armer,

To balance things up I think all batsmen should be given their own ‘Get Out Of Jail’ card to be played when they’re first out. It sounds extreme but the 89 heroes above deserve nothing less.

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21 June 2011 Read 3001 times

It’s a bold statement but I’m coming off my long run today.

Anyone who watched England’s success in Australia in the winter will think I’m talking poppycock but let me present you with a few facts.
Outside of England – and occasionally Australia – nobody is watching Test cricket. On Monday, England’s three-match series with Sri Lanka ended in a tame draw at the Rose Bowl.

There’s no Premiership, World Cup or European Championship finals to hog the air time but cricket is being suffocated by its own greed.

When England bowled Sri Lanka out in a crazy session of cricket at Cardiff, it was watched by around 25 fans.
After accepting Sky’s bag of silver, English cricket is effectively touting its services to the highest bidder.
Terrestrial TV fans have been priced out of watching Ian Bell, Matt Prior and Jimmy Anderson.

Forget the ill-fated Stanford 20/20 tournament, here are some facts.

Sandwiched either side of the Lord’s Test, Sri Lanka played the first Test at Cardiff and the third at the Rose Bowl.
Counties can bid to a host a Test match.
That’s why the West Indies look like missing out on playing at Lord’s when they tour in 2012.
Old Trafford is being redeveloped this year but none of England’s 2011 Test matches are being played in the north of England.
I don’t know what case Headingley and Chester-le-Street put forward but the ECB are doing nothing to spread the post-Ashes euphoria to fans north of Nottingham and Birmingham.

And another thing. Look at the way we treat fans of Test cricket.
We charge them £60 a ticket and upwards but the players come off at the  first sight of a black cloud.
Twenty/20 cricket is now the tail that wags the dog.
Sri Lanka’s best two batsmen Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene warmed up for Test series for England by playing the slap and tickle of the IPL.
Until Sangakkara’s hundred on Monday, he and Jayawardene couldn’t buy a run. Everyone hails West Indian Kieron Pollard as a great player on the back of a few Twenty/20 performances but have you checked his statistics?
His average in one day internationals for the West Indies is 21. He’s scored three first-class hundreds.
I don’t blame Pollard for accepting the easy pay-days that are coming his way but don’t confuse his bank balance with ability. The best Test players are the best Twenty/20 performers.

Sachin Tendulkar and Jacques Kallis are brilliant batsmen in all forms of the game. When we look back on their careers, their records will stand up but Pollard’s won’t.

The sad thing is when I watch Test cricket on Sky from the West Indies, New Zealand and India, the stadiums are virtually empty.
Cricket nuts like me will always watch but what happens when the legion of Twenty/20 fans lose interest?

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