The cover ring – 25th March

And now… the news. Sam’s going to write a preview of the Sri Lanka – England Test match starting tomorrow a little later, but here’s what else has been going on in the world of cricket since the last update:

Windies giving Australia a run for their money – After years of being the running joke on the international circuit, it’s great to see the West Indies once again showing the signs of becoming a force in international cricket. Ever since Walsh and Ambrose retired, they’ve been in the doldrums somewhat. There are real indications they are capable of competing with the best once more – their fielding is sharp and athletic, their bowling more incisive and their batting more robust. Admittedly this Australian side is in full-on rebuilding mode, but it still takes a certain amount of skill to roll them over. If they can sort out their administration and internal squabbles, we could see sustained improvement. It’s also fantastic to see crowds in the West Indies up in this ODI series. It had long been feared that basketball was stealing fans away from WI cricket, but on the basis of the last few matches, support for the team is still strong. Let’s hope we see such crowds in the Test series. Staying in the West Indies…

Sunil Narine’s star on the rise – High quality spin bowling has become something of a lost art in the Caribbean. Where once the Windies had the likes of Sonny Ramadhin, Lance Gibbs and Alf Valentine, the combination of the successful pace-orientated attacks of the 70s, 80s and 90s and the increased preparation of pitches which assist fast bowlers as a result have meant that spinners have become little more than support staff to their faster counterparts in recent years. However, in Sunil Narine, WI appear to have found a future star. Not dissimilar to Ajantha Mendis in style (albeit a bit slower), with legspinners, offbreaks, faster balls, slower balls and arm balls, Narine has so far bamboozled Caribbean batsmen and, more recently, Australian ones. He got a $700,000 IPL contract on the back of his performance in last year’s Champion’s League and is definitely one to keep an eye on. However, it looks as though he won’t be playing in the forthcoming Test series owing to his IPL obligations, which I’m not going to think about too much for fear of exploding with rage.

Hashim Amla jeopardises future children – While batting in the third Test against New Zealand, the bearded wonder inside edged a ball into what can only be described as his dangly bits which, although thankfully dampened by the cricketer’s most important piece of protective equipment, nevertheless caused substantial discomfort. After subsequently getting out for 63, Amla went to hospital with what was described as a ‘blunt trauma’ injury (not words you ever want to hear quoted in relation to the downstairs region) and underwent exploratory surgery, staying overnight in hospital. Virtually every cricketer who has had a variation on this type of injury (albeit unlikely one requiring surgery) will thoroughly sympathise. You wouldn’t wish it on your worst enemy.

Bangladesh nearly not rubbish – It appeared to be a Hollywood ending to the Asia Cup – after an absorbing tournament which saw Sri Lanka sneakily preventing India from reaching the final and Bangladesh convincingly beating Sri Lanka and india, The Tigers entered the last over of the final on home turf needing 9 to win. It came down to 4 off 2, but unfortunately Abdur Razzak played on and asking your number 10 to hit a 4 first ball is a bit of a stretch, meaning they lost by 2 runs. There is a distinct whiff of sour grapes now that Bangladesh have asked for an investigation into two players running into each other, but the bottom line is they couldn’t seal the deal. A ‘so there’ victory over their subcontinental neighbours would have gone a long way to announcing their true arrival on the international stage after a very long time of being lumped in the same category as Zimbabwe and Kenya, but looks like it’ll have to wait.

Ireland and Afghanistan qualify for World T20 -Well done them.

Mohammad Amir back in the headlines – The question of Amir’s ban once again was in the news this week after Mike Atherton interviewed and wrote a long piece in The Times on the young Pakistani. He is still being encouraged to appeal his ban. My feelings on this are pretty clear but are not necessarily ones that everyone would agree with. Nobody denies that Amir was in the wrong; he has gone to jail for his crime and he has been rightly banned for his actions. However, in my view, all this stuff which keeps bouncing around in the press about his upbringing shouldn’t elicit too much sympathy – he must learn, the hard way if necessary, that actions have consequences. Let’s not forget that the man cheated, plain and simple. He’s already fallen foul of his ban a couple of times, turning out in club cricket and the like. If I were him (and I’m not), I would keep my head down for the next four years, accept the ban with some sort of dignity, and make a comeback aged 24, rather than over-egging his pudding in the press spotlight as he is at the moment. He should count himself lucky that his career, unlike Butt’s and Asif’s, hasn’t been totally ruined. I do have sympathy, of course, but to let him off the hook so easily would not set the right example to any other cricketers weighing up the risks involved in cheating.

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