Monday, 4 November 2013

Warm Up Matches

So, England drew their first warm up match in Australia a couple of days ago. That was pretty much a given, but it occurs to me that not everyone will know that, or indeed understand any of what's going on with this cricket related stuff. Here then, is my guide to everything you need to look out for with cricket tour warm ups:

  • First, someone will complain that there aren't enough of them/are far too many of them. Because we don't go on six month tours on ships to foreign places anymore, there are far fewer games beyond the actual international ones. This is, according to some commentators, one of the reasons why our chaps have trouble with their first games of tours. Of course, that applies when they're at home, too. Others say that games against Derbyshire 2nd XI do nothing to prepare you for the realities of international cricket, and so should be dropped altogether. So we have one or two warm ups and please no one.
  • Opposition sides for warm ups will typically be depleted. The big overseas player generally doesn't want to play a friendly game he hasn't been contracted for. The older players in the club really don't want yet another game in the season. The Australian authorities might or might not have deliberately put on warm ups on the same days the sides concerned are playing other matches. The result is almost invariably an XI with plenty of faces in no one has ever heard of. Even their team mates.
  • It will not be First Class. First Class refers to the 'right' kind of cricket being played at the 'right' kind of level, according to the rules as they're set out. It matters because only First Class games count towards the averages of the players. Weirdness crops up with these friendlies because, although they feature plenty of top level cricketers (on at least one side), they often aren't played according to the rules. Extra players can find themselves substituted in for extra practise (cricket doesn't do substitutes). Teams can swap batting line ups between innings. Things like that. This can be unfortunate for some players. England played a warm up against Essex before the home Ashes series this summer. It started out as a first class game, during which a couple of young Essex bowlers, one on debut, did well. Then David Masters got injured (he opened the bowling for Essex, and was on paper their best bowler). The management asked that he be replaced to give the England boys better practise. Those debut first class wickets magically no longer counted.
  • Someone will be injured. It is a minor rule of these things that either someone on the touring team will be too injured or stiff from the flight to play ("But he'll be fine for the first Test!"), or players from the other team will get injured as the game grinds on, reducing the quality of the game, or one of the big names from the Test team will ping a muscle in a way that takes them out of the whole tour.
  • The bowl off. Touring teams take more players than they need, so that they have spares when people get hurt or forget what they're meant to be doing. There is probably nothing duller than being the second best spinner/wicket keeper on an England tour. Yet often, teams aren't quite sure what their starting XI is even when they hit the warm up games, so we have the institution of the bowl off. If there are three seam bowling spots available in the coach's master plan, and you've taken five seamers on tour, you don't play the three probable best in the warm up game. No, what you do is give the two you're certain about a few days off to relax/seize up, while the other three all play, knowing that whoever gets lucky with conditions/decisions is going to get the last spot. Occasionally, this is done with batsmen too, especially openers, but more generally with them, management works on the theory that they need 'time to bed down'.
  • The opposition will try to win, but if they can't, they will try to be frustrating. For years, English touring teams would lose to Australian state sides in the first warm up game. This is because the state sides took things more seriously than most people expected (even down to... gasp, picking their best side). They wanted to beat England. They wanted to inflict psychological damage before the first Test. At the very least, all the young players there wanted to make names for themselves at the expense of international players. Failing that, some host teams want to deprive the tourists of practise. So they'll prepare the flattest wicket they can and pile on five hundred. Thankfully, that seems to have died out a little.
  • Despite all that, it will be a draw. Well, what did you expect? First Class games are typically four days. Warm up games are three, and are played by teams preparing for five day cricket. There will be some mad, scrambling declarations, but honestly, no one expects these things to come to a real finish.

1 comment:

Wendy Tyler Ryan said...

Not a huge sports person at the best of times. I do, however, admire those who give their best in the face of humiliating defeat or at the risk of horrible injury. My hat is off to those who can make that kind of commitment.