2013 Ashes best and fairest: The Dar comes to Lords

It’s official. The series scoreline tells me that The Dar has now taken over as the most interesting aspect of the 2013 Ashes.

Even after our boys were pipped at the post by 347 runs in a Lords thriller, it was the adored medal with its footy parentage that was on everyone’s lips as it raced up global popularity charts like a bullet.

For the entirety of the match, the home of cricket buzzed with the sound of exquisite Darscussion, and even the fledgling award’s cut-through was recognised in hurriedly-established poll form.

In a wide ranging survey involving Steven Warner, where the opinions of himself and all his immediate brethren were represented, The Dar was ranked as more popular than Shane Watson, Mickey Arthur and all Australian batsmen, while fell just short of topping the likeability of Australian bowlers, Twitter and puppies.

As this series continues to degrade in to a one horse race, the new footy-centric yardstick for the best and fairest of kingdom vs convict is only going to continue on its Rudd-like rise, so get it on your raDar and make your late nights over the next four weeks worthwhile.

Plenty of Joes on offer after this memorable innings.

Plenty of Joes on offer after this memorable innings.

History was made at Lords when The Dar had its first multiple vote winner for BOG, and for those uninitiated, that’s ‘best on ground’ and not the efforts of the Australian top six.

5- Joe Root

Coming in to this Test, the babyfaced opener was identified by Clarke and his bowlers as the marshmallow halfback in a defensive line of hulking beasts. Root shafted this ideal with a maiden Test century coated in grit, thus showing he can effectively deal with a stream of bustling forwards being piloted in his direction, even though he looks like he belongs in the under-14s.

4- Ian Bell

A hairier and frecklier cricketing version of Gary Ablett Jr with his clutch contributions and leather poisoning. Once again, showed Australia how to correctly grip a cricket bat and expertly utilise it to score a lot of runs.

3- Graeme Swann

Business as usual recommenced for the wily veteran as he returned to opening up Australian resistance like they were the 1999 Western Suburbs Magpies. Ran amok in the first innings with five wickets before cashing in on a tired opposition defence in the second with another four cheap pies to add to the collection.

2- Ryan Harris

Not English, but nearly was, most probably due to coming off the bench in a booze-soaked lower grade match on a European Contiki tour in his teens. However, thanks to cricket’s pliable international eligibility rules being much like rugby league, he was able to make the wrong choice and commit to Australia, and showed his class for his homeland with a standout performance with the ball in the first innings.

1- Jonny Bairstow

Shared in an all-spotty-oranged first innings partnership of 141 with Bell that showered the hallowed Lords turf in Fanta and Skittles for the English. This contribution helped boost his team’s total to the elite air of 300+, a place many moons away from Australia’s reserve grade batting capabilities.

With two rounds gone, here’s the state of play in the race for The Dar.

8 – Ian Bell
5 – James Anderson
5 – Joe Root
3 – Graeme Swann
3 – Peter Siddle
2 – Ashton Agar
2 – Ryan Harris
1 – Jonny Bairstow
1 – Brad Haddin

For round one’s results, click here. 

Advertisements

Queensland kills Origin. Now please don’t kill your Daddy.

The autopsies have wrapped up. Wally Lewis has induced some sedatives. We’ve allowed enough time for a Mal Meninga piece about rodents and grime.

That means the emotional dust has officially settled on State of Origin 2013 and it’s time for the sensible wash-up from the straight-thinking public.

Canvassing y’all intelligent realists, I’m hearing the same thing.

All are in wistful agreement that the concept of Origin footy, so loved, so revered, so profitable, is now officially dead. And I decree said ‘y’all’ to be on the money.

Crime scene.

Crime scene.

Yep, it’s true. I don’t mean to make your kids cry, but the game’s lips have turned purple and the once-vibrant vascular organ of interstate rugby league in Australia has now stopped, never to pump midweek adrenaline through the veins of the eastern seaboard ever again.

After eight series of predictability, last Wednesday night will be remembered as when we started digging a hole in the plot, booking the church, calling up a priest and assembling a choir that could lip-sync Timomatic’s new single as well as sing ‘Amazing Grace’, because this thing was kaput.

‘Mate vs Mate’ is buried. Cremated. Pushing up sugar cane. Floating towards the floor of the Brisbane River with bricks tied to its feet. Pumped fulla’ fluff by an Ipswichian taxidermist and mounted on the wall inside the QRL offices like a prized antler.

Once again: Origin. DEAD. Gone and forgotten.

This ghastly judgment is a conclusive quantum leap much in the fashion of the wailing and downtrodden Queenslanders and their busted spirit of 2000, but it’s an accurate one.

The reason Origin is cactus is this.

The Blues, despite recently producing performances that came within autograph-requesting distance of their demigod opponents, will never win another series. And that’s a fact.

NSW’s fascist mayorship of Loserville was confirmed with stark certainty at ANZ Stadium that Wednesday night.

With the majority of possession and field position, the weight of the whistle and a naked and greased-up crowd firmly behind them, they still managed to regally muff their shot at breaking the chokehold.

A better opportunity to break the trend you shall never come across.

In the aftermath, amateur CPR from hopeful players and apologists wasn’t enough to mask the embarrassing writing on the wall.

The great state of New South Wales totally stinks at footy and Queensland are untouchably tops, and it doesn’t look like changing anytime soon.

In a concept that relies heavily on its only two partaking teams both having a decent shout at the winning champers, it’s a poisonous circumstance that has proved ultimately fatal.

So with the final breath sucked by a great servant of the game of rugby league, its time to do what a wealthy yet emotionally unfulfilled trophy wife-turned-widow would do, and that’s pick through the remaining assets.

International league is in the nursing home, so all that’s left that divides us is the all-powerful National Rugby League.

Now moreso than ever, this must be respected and cherished for what it is: an awesome competition thanks to the brilliance of NSW.

Let’s be honest. Us Southerners, with our greater business acumen, superior infrastructure and better stuff, started this excellent product over a hundred years ago and nurtured it to today’s giddy heights. To be honest, it really should be called the N(SW)RL.

Without the totally transparent and faction-free NSWRL, the original and the greatest league administration, there would be no sparkle-spewing NRL that we see today, and there certainly wouldn’t be anything interesting coming out of Queensland.

Who gave the Broncos a shot and saved your state capital from becoming a shanty town?

Who had the patience of mind and fatness of wallet to nurture the feeble Cowboys?

Who was gullible enough to believe the fiscal assurances of Michael Searle?

The N(SW)RL, that’s who.

So to the clubs, players, coaches and fans from across the Tweed, also now known as ‘murderers’, you should do yourselves a favour and remember this.

Before you go killing any more forms of the game with your barbaric greed for success, remember who your Daddy is.

All that’s left in the game was given to you by generosity of the original ‘rugby league headquarters’ in Phillip Street, Sydney.

Don’t try to kill the hand of the rat that feeds you.

The 2013 Ashes best and fairest award: “The Dar”

The gut-churning drama of Trent Bridge proved again that the Ashes concept rolls on unabated as the perpetual pressure-cooker of sporting rivalries. It is the contest that truly has it all.

However, for all of the grand old girl’s commonplace controversy, tension and hysteria, there is one thing lacking other than decent umpiring, and that’s a time-honoured footy-style best and fairest award for the most consistent individual of the series.

Test cricket still lives in the bad old days of disrespecting overkill for these types of things.

The contemporary Demetriou touch for ceremony has not been embraced, and exhausted players who have thoroughly streaked their opponents deserve better.

They want to be ranked by a ballot system. They also want a boozy ceremony with WAGS too, if it can be arranged.

How have those crusty highfalutin sods who sit high up in the Lords offices, sipping Earl Grey and cogitating over Tweed, managed to overlook this for so long? How can they tie their Windsor knots knowing the cream of cricket’s oldest contest isn’t being officially recognised in polling form? How have they let the opportunity slip to generate extra interest amongst the public as well as create another betting market for shady bookmakers?

It’s always had me perplexed, and especially moreso after the events of the first Test.

If there was ever a time that cricket showed robust parallels to contact sports, then it was in all of the rip-snorting glory of the events at Trent Bridge.

Two sets of blokes steadfastly locked in a bruising and exhilarating fracas gorged with gruelling tests of character, and without a shoulder charge in sight.

Recognising this opportunity to fill a gap in the Ashes canvas, plus the possibility of landing a bulging commercial deal, I’ve taken the initiative by striking an eye-catching winner’s medal to be presented at series end to the highest vote-getter.

The award shall simply be known as “The Dar” in honour of the notorious head-shaking Aleem.

With his ability to influence a game, yet struggling to operate at his best and fairest, the name chose itself based on suitability and irony.

Watch now as players consider resorting to cheating to lock up this piece of coveted hardware.

The voting system will be on a 5-4-3-2-1 basis and determined by a select one-man expert panel consisting of a specially convened DRS system. Scientists and robot enthusiasts ensure me that it is emotionally-devoid and bias-free provided it has no financial interest in the match it judges.

Gentleman Jim makes history as the first man to be awarded 5 votes in Dar history.

Gentleman Jim makes history as the first man to be awarded 5 votes in Dar history.

Then at series end, the votes will be tallied and “The Dar” will be presented to the winner in a glossy ceremony hopefully convened via Skype, pending the payment of my internet bill.

Will the highest individual honour in Ashes cricket take off?

The bottom line is, whether or not it does, I’ll still be drinkin’.

Here are the top five best on ground from the first Test.

5 – James Anderson

Kicked a bag of 10 and was a constant menace in and around the centre square. Demonstrated once again that he is peerless when it comes to the knack of check-siding a ball both ways with exquisite accuracy. Darren Lehmann may need to assign the entire top six to tagging roles to choke his impact at Lords.

4 – Ian Bell

The diminutive Pom wrestled control of the contact zone as it reached its greatest temperatures on day three. Blended his steely concentration with some well-timed displays of immaculate biff, and by the end of his stint had directed his team in to strong field position.

3- Peter Siddle

Let his footy background shine through with another ferocious performance on the ball in the first innings. Attacked and dominated the middle corridor of the England lineup and skittled some big names to prevent a blowout first innings total.

2 – Ashton Agar

After bypassing the sub’s vest with a direct upgrade from the rookie list to a baggy green, showed the senior statesmen how to effectively muster the hit-ups with an unforgettable knock high on freedom and style. Thankfully, averted an awkward selection discussion for the next Test by contributing in his chosen role with a couple of poles in the second innings.

1 – Brad Haddin

Put his head over the ball when the game seemed lost and nearly consigned England to North Melbourne status by almost pulling an outlandish win out of the fire. Wins the final point from the rest of the those who went inside 50 and beyond thanks to the high stakes stage of the match in which he performed.

 

The Ashes survival plan for Australia’s batsmen: part two

Losing sleep over how our maligned batting unit will be allowed back in the country after the Ashes?

Salivating for totally bogus inside knowledge on their set KPIs for a post-series tick of approval?

Not comfortable with the tried and tested approval method of runs and runs and more runs?

If you answered ‘yes’ to any of the above three questions, then congratulations. You possess freakishly vigilant skills of concentration to have endured such a long-winded inquest.

Following on from yesterday, here is part two of Australia’s CPR procedures for its crew of afflicted Test batsmen as they approach a fierce examination from the best trundlers the Old Dart has to offer.

(Not to be used as a substitute for situations requiring genuine CPR.)

Cowan's tour diary: "Day 3. Need a shave and a wider bat."

Cowan’s tour diary: “Day 3. Need a shave and a wider bat.”

Ed Cowan

The prerequisites here are elementary. Get the hell out of the 30s. And do it more than once.

Cowan has overtaken Jennifer Aniston as the posterchild for misfortune in the middle ages, and unfortunately, its totally consumed him.

He cooks his meals in 30 minutes, regularly uses words containing more than 30 letters and loves rocking out to the objectionable bluster of Russell Crowe’s rock band while writing 30 word entries in his tour diary (available in all good book stores).

For him to live and breathe as an international cricketer beyond this tour, no measure is too extreme for Cowan to break his association with this haunting number. Changing the date on his birth certificate. Always training longer than half an hour. And if on the sauce, making sure it’s at an over-30s nightclub.

Phil Hughes

Perpetually oscillating between state and national pigeonholes, this Ashes series will see this battler on his 17th chance to succeed in the Baggy Green which is something like a reverse Khawaja. I can only put his frequent reselection down to a need to balance out the crooked levels of justice in the squad, or because ‘he’s been hitting them beautifully in the nets’ for five years.

In saying this, I am reliably assured by a talking Labrador on Twitter that after six retootlings of his technique, this is definitely Hughes’ last crack of the whip. So everybody chillax! It means we can all breathe easy for him, because the last throw of the dice always brings clarity of mind.

He doesn’t have to worry about washing Michael Clarke’s inners, doing extra throwdowns with Boof Lehmann or taking out his earring to find common blokey ground with Rod Marsh. He just needs to find a way to make Jimmy Anderson look pedestrian and pray that Graeme Swann contracts leprosy. That’s all.

Usman Khawaja

Let’s face it: it’s just not meant to be for this kid. He’s destined to remain dangling in the middle universe of being an everlasting specialist squad member, and really, shouldn’t he be used to it by now?

Khawaja should put himself first. It’s time to shelve ambition and realise his limitations.

Sure, busting your guts for Test caps is commendable, but if you can’t score one, then take the tip and go in to power save mode. You might as well pick up the lion’s share of the tour allowances and public sympathy by becoming a professional drinks steward in high-vis who nets on the side.

To keep his face around the place, he only has to concentrate on displaying blade-edge precision in two roles. Firstly, with an exact amount of scoring in tour matches that guarantees retention but not promotion, and secondly, by always ensuring his cordial mix is a delight to a modern cricketer’s tastebuds.

 

I’m on Twitter and it’s not real flash, but it least it’s never longer than 140 characters. Follow me here. 

The Ashes survival plan for Australia’s batsmen: part one

Forget your feelgood stories about Boof and Fawad.

And don’t try to sell me the cheap stock of cruisey County beatings.

Australia ain’t coming back from England with the urn. They’ll be returning with a red arse, and we all know it.

Upon the team’s homecoming, we of the discerning public will be looking to whip those already-tender cheeks ourselves, and predictions are the bulk of the cane’s workload will be saved for the supple behinds of the batsmen.

Nobody besides Michael Clarke is a fait accompli selection based on record and reputation.

This means one thing: to the grubby yet greater-skilled English carnies, the rest of our trembling stick-wielders are sitting ducks who are all within two bad knocks of tasting the axe.

So what can these dead men walking do to keep their positions?

Over a two-part series of unreasonable determinations, I attempt to find the minimum pass mark for our batsmen to ensure the extended Ashes oxygen of  the Australian summer’s return series.

Chris Rogers

He’s a Fanta-cap in goggles, old enough to remember Tab Cola and possessing stuff-all authority in the locker room. Amongst this superficial supporter base and a playing group in a state of flux, he’s starting from a long way back.

With no medicine to reverse the aging process, the only chance of Rogers surviving lies in the Mike Hussey blueprint.

He’s got the required bulk of first class runs behind him, so now it’s down to whether he can stake a claim for the vacant status of ‘respected and grey-flecked elder statesman’ amongst the daycare nursery that is the current team environment.

This rise to reliable old cheese could be achieved in various ways. He can quietly lead the way with crucial runs in the middle, he can display a strong example at training through good discipline or alternatively, he can set a pace in post-stumps boat races that even Boonie would find unassailable.

Shane Watson

Once an irreplaceable resource, this bloke has plummeted to being nothing more than a naughty boy who troubles team harmony more often than the scorer. He needs some serious magic this series or he could find himself banished to the billions of dollars of the T20 mercenary scrapheap, or worst still, punished with the Test captaincy.

Watson and Rogers discuss blonding techniques.

Watson and Rogers discuss blonding techniques.

However, in early tour doings it’s been all Wattotastic again, meaning he’s in the box seat to return to that cushy place contractually reserved for him in the cockles of the selector’s hearts.

With the courteous and rational managerial style of Mickey Arthur finally in the rear-view mirror and the opener’s position his again, I fully expect him to be in the right frame of mind to produce what’s required on this tour to hold his spot, and that’s six solid weeks of bootlicking Michael Clarke.

David Warner

The one-time platinum project player of Australian cricket has shed many a layer of gloss after a couple of imbecilic offshore incidents.

Were his cricketing bearings lingering way too long in Delhi-mode, where attending a private party to consume 25 samosas and a six-pack passes as a legitimate post-match warm down? Or was he deeply affected by the boredom of the Champions Trophy like the rest of us?

Regardless of what feeble excuse applies, Warner is starting to return to a good place after undergoing an intensive rehabilitation program that has reminded him to belt Dukes, not beards.

Should he manage to keep his thumbs and knuckles out of trouble- whether it be from a Messers Finn and Broad bouncer barrage, the chin of an underdeveloped man or an iPhone- there’s a chance he’ll be back in his undeserving role of potential future captain by series end.

Steve Smith

Before his shock selection on the last Test tour to India, this bloke was seen sitting on the Kurnell sand dunes doing his best impression of ‘The Thinker’ as he contemplated the crossroads that his choppy career had come to.

As he endlessly mulled over whether he was a batsman who bowled or a bowler who batted, our shrewd selectors at the time identified him as a man possessing the courageous conviction and single-minded self-belief that belongs in the Test arena. And that’s why they’re on the big bucks.

It’s fair to say that Smith won’t be filling the English creams with mud of terror, but he can make opposition complacency his best friend with an unlikely ambush.

There’s not an ounce of pressure on the young lad, so he should play his natural game provided it doesn’t involve snicking the rock to the ‘keeper before he’s reached double figures and/or Americanised glove-taps.

Has a great chance of saving his position provided the ball doesn’t swing for the duration of the series.

Tomorrow: Medication plans for Ed Cowan, Phil Hughes and Usman Khawaja. 

Warming the Pine

Sport for those with comfortable couches.