The 2013 Ashes best and fairest: The Dar is alight with Kerro

There’s nothing like playing a dead rubber on a flat track against an experimental bowling attack to permanently solve all of your batting woes.

That’s what we got in the fifth Test, and whaddya know?

Voila! Problem solved.

We Aussie stress-headed fingernail-chewers can now finally begin some chillin’.

After turning the corner in treacherous conditions at The Oval in a match where the horses had already bolted with the Urn, our mighty batsmen are on the cusp of returning to dishing out some dominance with the stick just like the good old days.

This rebirth was thanks mainly to Shane Watson, our very own hibernating Mr Reliable, who bought himself another condition-free Australian summer at the top table with his cracking 176, a knock powered by hard graft, steely concentration and Simon Kerrigan, and timed perfectly to see off the selection axeman.

Kerrigan and Dar. Obvious tension.

Kerrigan and Dar. Obvious tension.

However, it was the new spinner who caused a splash as big as England’s post-match pee party by making a play at The Dar naming rights with his memorable first innings display.

As the debutant prune-chucker displayed great versatility with an unpredictable buffet of long hops, straight-breakers and full tosses, it was The Kerro that began to seriously trend for best and fairest naming honours whilst The Dar found itself under serious review.

Considering his debutant status, it was a controversial claim by the scattered Kerrigan, and it raised tensions amongst the players which peaked with Michael Clarke and Kevin Pietersen’s fiery on-field discussion over which iconic handle should appear on the Microsoft Word document given to the winner.

However, we were left in no uncertainty by matches end, and the confirmation was delivered unequivocally in true Aleem style.

The Elvis-coiffed umpire emphatically confirmed his name was the one to be emblazoned on the prize on a thrilling final day, standing out from the sensational ebb and flow of a furious climax to have the final say by seeing the light and calling early beers just as a result loomed.

Right there, the challenger was slayed, and the prize engraved.

So with the series over, the champagne popped and the English bladders empty, we know that Ian Bell is now no longer mouse, but now man, certifying his graduation from cricket puberty by flowering the chest hairs of a bona fide world class strokemaker.

Watson killed a Kerro and was rewarded with Dar.

Watson killed a Kerro and was rewarded with Dar.

Congratulations Mr Bell, you are a thoroughly deserving winner of the inaugural Dar for the Ashes best and fairest of 2013. May the wine flow free in victory, and your celebratory party be entirely free of any traces of KP.

However, for the rest of the other losers, here’s the final votes from The Oval that shaped the lower placings:

5 – Shane Watson

Call the cops. The big man is back, and he’s been charged with first degree murder of a career on day one.

With this high five of Dar, I’m adamant it will catapult his form back to the unreasonably lofty standards we set for him, sewing up the number three position and healing all perceived rifts in the camp from Michael Clarke to James Sutherland, at least until his calf starts hurting again.

4 – Steve Smith

Time to start placing undue pressure on this young buck’s fledgling Test career.

Not even in the original touring party, he was selected at the last moment so there was an even amount of numbers for Uno games, and now he’s going to be one of the first picked for the return Ashes in Australia. His debut hundred was classic Smith; edgy yet composed and at times, somewhat offensive on the optic nerve.

3 – Kevin Pietersen

You know a bloke is disgracefully competitive when he starts an argument over a popularity contest.

In the English dressing rooms, Pietersen is as well-regarded as a Creed album, yet he is still comfortable in his own skin as a bit of a narcissistic arse. He knows that his teammates quiver every time he picks up his mobile phone, concerned that reams of inside intel could be on it’s way to the opposition captain, and he’s totally cool with that.

The reason for this is because he’s just bloody good at cricket, and he proved his net worth again by his near-miraculous burgling of victory in the shadows of the fifth day.

2 – Jonathon Trott

We’ve all been shaking our heads like disappointed dads towards the balding South African in this series.

Expecting more of his scintillating blandness after recent Ashes series littered with his long and excruciating stays at the crease, we’ve remained awake for longer than expected due to him enduring a run of good starts spoiled by a lack of capitalising.

59 and 40 in this match continued his agonising bout of premature embarkation, but a pair of Dar credits may be the proverbial nasal spray that helps him forget his shortcomings.

1 – James Faulkner

It wasn’t a dreamy debut from the dogged Tasmanian, but the sum of it’s parts- a couple of cameos with the wood, a decent haul of poles and some skillful tempo-control on the last day- was enough to get him 99.96% of a solitary unit of Dar. And being tightarses, we weren’t prepared to round that up.

That’s why we were stoked when he gave the Poms a nice verbal frying on day four for their snoozy approach to the game, a show of fire that easily accounted for the required 0.04% to get him over the line for the vote.

Finally! The final standings of The Dar for the 2013 Ashes:

12 – Ian Bell

7 – Kevin Pietersen

6 – Chris Rogers

5 – James Anderson, Stuart Broad, Michael Clarke, Joe Root, Steve Smith, Shane Watson

4 – Ryan Harris

3 – Brad Haddin, Peter Siddle, Graeme Swann

2 – Ashton Agar, Jonathon Trott

1 – Jonny Bairstow, James Faulkner, Nathan Lyon

 

For this kinda rubbish and much, much more, you can follow me on Twitter: @eld2_0

Contracts: Killing the rights of NRL footballers

In an exclusive, Stand, Spray and Deliver can reveal that the Rugby League Players Association has identified contractual agreements between clubs and their players as the biggest threat to footballer’s rights in the modern era.

Whilst acknowledging that player burnout, pharmacological experimentation and wet balls are all definitely on the association’s radar as pertinent issues, it is tackling the piece of paper stacked with confusing words and loads of zeroes that is of greatest concern for improving the welfare and liberties of professional footballers.

After tension grew among players in the wake of a number of incidents involving clubs enforcing agreed conditions on their employees, a snap summit was held at the RLPA offices to determine a watertight strategy for any future situations that require a footballer to weasel their way out of personal responsibility.

Just a couple of honest battlers trying to get by in this crazy world.

Just a couple of honest battlers trying to get by in this crazy world.

At the core of these disputes has been the humble written agreement, a commonplace arrangement in professional sports that distressed officials now cite as a “restriction on an honest working gentleman’s ability to make a rather large crust wherever and however they so please.”

It is also widely believed amongst players that the compelling power of the contract had caused clubs to truly feel they have become bigger than the game, with one unnamed five-eighth stating “I’m sick of being a silent serf to the oppressive dictatorship that the board has become.

“Besides, I can barely write. That’s why my signature just looks like a smiley face on a set of boobies. So why should that really mean anything at the bottom of a piece of paper?”

In light of these concerns, the RLPA will be tabling a submission for proposed reform using specific examples from the recent imbroglios involving Blake Ferguson, Anthony Milford and Ben Barba and their respective ongoing battles with their paymasters and their ruthlessly slick legal eagles.

Another factor that will drive this lobby is the growing belief that players are slave-driven in the modern game under the advent of relentless coaching methods, where working up to 20-25 hours per week for minimal recompense has become the norm.

RLPA representatives also believe there is no flexibility from club hierarchies for unforseen issues such as personal and family matters, untenable working relationships with teammates or a lack of adequate nightclubs in the districts surrounding the football club.

As one distressed official put it: “Football squads are being treated like a chain gang, where players are worked tirelessly in unfashionable training garb and under the duress of nonsensical facial hair, with no avenue for recourse if a request to the board for another sponsor’s convertible is knocked back.

“All while the CEOs just stand by laughing as their bottom lines grow fat.”

“Young and impressionable footballers are being taken advantage of by clued-up fat cats from the top of town. These kids commit to a club, end up flogging themselves on a training track for days on end, sticking their heads between the steaming bums of teammates, trying to make out what Wayne Bennett is actually saying as he mumbles a game plan. It’s not an easy life.”

“However, they do it for the love of the game and their paymasters because they are good and decent men. But when it comes to making important decisions like being near their children, supporting family or listening to Anthony Mundine, they are given no say whatsoever.”

Although there seems to be a high level of panic from the players, the RLPA is anxious for the wider community to know that it is not seeking major upheaval, just for an amendment to what they currently perceive as the “one way street” for the club’s interests to be “transferred in to a fair and workable two way street, with one side of the street blocked, that being their side.”

Unconfirmed reports say that the recommendations in the RLPA submission include a request to have legally-binding contracts be renamed as “that piece of paper that Khoder Nasser made me scribble on with crayon”, and that the contents held within are deemed void upon any unforseen or unplanned change in a player’s personal circumstances or tastes.

The report containing the recommendations will be handed over to David Smith in a ceremony hosted by Gorden Tallis and Benji Marshall, a gathering that will double as the opening of the new RLPA-funded playing arena named the Compassionate Ground.

The Sydney Swans and their big problem

It’s just like Mother used to always say.

“No matter who you are, everybody has got their own problems.”

And it isn’t any different in the wonderful world of footy.

In the AFL, there is a spectrum of the various issues experienced in the game, with clubs dotted across the range from the trivial to the crippling.

At one end, there’s doggone organisations such as Essendon, a club who are up to their eyeballs in the controversial poop that comes with being caught out systematically puncturing your playing group like a sewing machine, or the Demons, who are cemented in the zone when it comes to simply producing good laughs, and even the unfortunate Brisbane Lions, who have recently hemorrhaged cred because of a board enjoying the sort of popularity reserved for varicose veins.

These are the footy workplaces that have tent villages of unwashed scribes occupying their front driveways 11 months of the year. They are in dire need of a dollar and a hug, or in the case of the Bombers, a magical erasing of the stubborn personality traits of Andrew Demetriou and/or a legal miracle.

Then as you journey to the other end of the scale, you’ll pass through rainbows, fairy floss and unicorns on your way to the places with your more light and breezy kinda troubles, and there you will find a squeaky clean joint like the Sydney Swans.

Their bugbears aren’t to do with off-site jabbing or novice management units, but with more pleasant, legal and non-wearing problems such as finding room for their burgeoning forest of tall timber.

John Longmire’s stocks of elite pine are overflowing like a bogan’s radiator, and someone of lofty repute will eventually miss out when the cracking whips of September come around.

Had you foretold this problem in the pre-season, you would’ve been forgiven for pointing the finger of blame in the direction of the decision to purchase Kurt Tippett.

However, while Sydney’s clandestine negotiating and parting with top cap dollars for the Adelaide power-forward seemed like the spoilt kid wanting a third Nintendo, he may not be the target for blame.

The man who has scrambled the rotation of lankies could very well be Jesse White.

After being the unwanted carrot dangled to the Crows in the off-season, he’s morphed from an easily criticised backfiller in to a powerful and industrious tall option, and in the process kick-started a red and white version of top heavy musical chairs.

White’s materialisation in to a highly serviceable AFL big man was not expected by all and surely not factored in to Longmire’s blueprint for the 2013 premiership defence, especially after only playing three games in 2012.

White: no longer on-the-nose.

White: no longer on-the-nose.

In the past, the big guy was talked-up as a future target-man for the Swans but never really grasped his opportunities, something considered a rather large sin amongst the cutthroat mentality of AFL’s community of supporters and analysts, as well as being worthy of being Longmire’s worm on the hook when it came time to ‘talk Tippo.’

But now is he not only doing an admirable job as a Mr Fix-it, he’s making it impossible to be ignored at selection time due to some sterling returns.

So where does that leave the rest of the big men?

Mike Pyke’s exponential progress, as well as his regular serves of humble pie to the Melbourne media, mean he is closed to being the top-ranked choice each week. Shane Mumford is the heartbeat of the ruck and one of the best going around the AFL when he’s up and about. Tippett is still unfurling nine weeks of pent-up energy and frankly, he’s paid too much coin to be passed over.

And what about Sam Reid and Adam Goodes, both tracking to return just in time for finals?

Reid is the raw-boned project player who was finding form just before he was struck down with injury, and there is Goodes, who put simply, is just Goodes.

And imagine if Lewis Roberts-Thomson was to resurrect his 2013 with enough time to make a belated tilt for selection?

Even allowing for the unorthodox balance of four big men in the Swans 22, that means someone such as a club captain, a premiership player or a high-profile recruit will be left standing when the music stops, headed for the anti-climax of a post-season in the magoos.

Tippett: rich.

Tippett: rich.

It’s going to be an uncomfortable conversation for Longmire and his brains trust to endure, but compared to the predicament of clubs at the other end of the issues spectrum, I’m sure he won’t be complaining.

The 2013 Ashes best and fairest: Bell’s Darham

Besides recently mastering the art of being persistently irritating on a cricket field, what else do Ian Bell and Tony Hill have in common?

In this Ashes series, they have both shown the ability to clear an area of people like a supremely-brewed bowel explosion.

Firstly, there’s Old Man Hill, who showed off by flushing a playing arena clean of its participants with a cerebral infraction on an LBW shout that was fisting middle.

Seeing the players flee the scene of the crime upon the realisation they were under the watch of some alzheimer-ish umpiring was sad. Seeing the Kiwi umpire embarrassingly on his Pat Malone on the Durham track with one finger in the air like a lonely garlic-appreciating disco dancer was even worse.

Broad taking one of his million wickets, thankfully at 3am EST.

Broad taking one of his million wickets, thankfully at 3am EST.

In a sunnier example, there’s the much more useful Bell and his shame-free triggering of an evacuation.

The toast of the Pom middle order is the envy of all aspiring fire drills after emptying the captivated gallery of Ashes 2013 Dar tragics due to lack of interest. He’s already wrapped up the inaugural best and fairest award with one Test to play, breaking the previous record of N/A set by TBA.

Barring any sprung biochemical meetings with James Hird beforehand, Bell is the undisputed belle of the ball, meaning the remaining events of this scintillating series have been rendered totally academic. The people who have hung off every millisecond of meloDarma have now scarpered to look elsewhere for entertainment, most likely to more dreary activities such as nude snooker or time with family.

Nevertheless, the Brownlow of cricket will roll on unfettered to The Oval for the fifth Test, and the Dar administration and it’s associates are supercharged with excitement, both naturally and contractually. This dead rubber has been lined with silicone tape and is ready to determine some of the lower place glory in the vote count, as well as keep Tony Hill company.

Here’s Durham’s champions.

5 – Stuart Broad

The pouting prefect will be chuffed with his 11 wicket haul, not because it catapulted his team to outright Ashes victory, but because it will help dilute the memory of that splendid back-cut he played in the first Test that came so sweetly out of the middle that he didn’t feel it. Australia was totally comfortable with being fast asleep when his devastating wicket-burst occurred yesterday morning.

4 – Ian Bell

Get me a time machine so I can go back to the mid-noughties and remember the good old days when this bloke was about as much use as a stripper in the Vatican. Let his blossoming from snicking bullfrog-to-elegant prince be a reminder to all Australians of the demeaning power that Warney’s childish sledges harnessed back in his playing days.

3 – Chris Rogers

There’s so many similarities between the coming-of-ages of Australia’s opener and Bell. Both written off, disrespected, considered utterly unintimidating and an easy target for some yap in the field, and now both flexing their sun-spotted cannons as Test cricketers. Shame about the 14 year difference in age.

He only scored two votes, but gets a photo for challenging Siddle in the ticker stakes.

Harris only scored two votes, but gets a photo for challenging Siddle in the ticker stakes.

2 – Ryan Harris

What’s the first thing you think when you see a bloke who appears completely buggered after bowling two overs, yet is still steaming in with the same standards of ferocity at the end of a sweaty day’s play? In the current sporting climes, you would be forgiven for saying ‘AOD and a friend’s energy drink’, but luckily Harris debunks that angle by being regularly injured.

1 – Nathan Lyon

Beats out a pack of chasing half-century makers because I didn’t have a hat to draw their names out of, and also just because he’s a good bloke with no tatts. Knocking over Kevin Pietersen twice in a match by challenging him to a joust in flight and beating him must elevate the balding twirler to two rungs below Prime Minister. Is it too late to get his name on the ballot for the upcoming election?

After four Tests, six Australian batting implosions and countless umpiring gaffes, here’s the food chain for The Dar.

12 – Ian Bell

6 – Chris Rogers

5 – James Anderson
Stuart Broad
Michael Clarke
Joe Root

4 – Ryan Harris
Kevin Pietersen

3 – Brad Haddin
Peter Siddle
Graeme Swann

2 – Ashton Agar

1 – Jonny Bairstow
Nathan Lyon
Steve Smith

The 2013 Ashes best and fairest: Mancunian Dar

The Ashes roadshow- a convoy carrying the best of Pom and Aussie cricket with an additional trailer for Kevin Pietersen’s ego- has now rumbled through Old Trafford, on the way creating unprecedented interest that even had Wayne Rooney reconsidering his request to relocate.

As per expectations, the third Test had the good citizens of Manchester on an uncontrollable five day fizz.

They flocked in grand numbers, parting with considerable quid to spend their days booing David Warner and his evil moustakka, with the hope of catching a spot of cricket in between.

For the duration of the clash, the Pimms-drenched outer was abuzz with topical cricketing curiosities.

Could England retain the Urn quick-stix just three games in to the series? Could Australia occupy the crease for longer than the recommended microwaving time of a chicken hero? And of course, which particular ambitious participant would be making the steamiest bedroom eyes at The Dar?

The first award for outstanding achievement in the field of individual excellence in Ashes cricket, inspired by it’s Australian footballing cousins, obtusely inflated in importance by yours truly and unfortunately named, has charmed the public like a Gallagher brother on a bender.

And in a town known for its volatile footballers and violent family music acts, it seems apt that those wielding the bashing implements dominated the best and fairest charts over the five days in Manchester.

Clarke was back in his rightful place at Old Trafford: carrying the team.

Clarke was back in his rightful place at Old Trafford: carrying the team.

Alas, Australia’s reconciliation with their old friend willow, along with a series of moral victories, was unfortunately not enough to avoid yet another sad Urn sayonara, but it did buy them large scale Dar domination in the wash-up.

This is the pick of the bunch from the drawn third Test.

5 – Michael Clarke

Gritted the teeth and bare-knuckled his way through a scratchy start to post an eight-hour beauty, ultimately putting his team firmly in pole position while furthering the gap in popularity between him and his nemesis Shane Watson.

One tip for the skipper though; next time David Warner wants a review, pretend like you are speaking to Marais Erasmus.

4 – Kevin Pietersen

Was back to his destructive best in the first innings, balancing grit with glitz to save his team’s bacon.

In the aftermath of day three, the Old Dart was back to being all KP-cuddly again as evidenced in the glowing feedback from some of his biggest fans, one of the more notable being this email from a ‘Smitten Kev’ in Surrey:

“Wow, some of that strokeplay by me- sorry, him- was the greatest in the game’s history. And a very handsome and humble man to boot. Outstanding cricketer? Don’t stop there, he’s an outstanding human being. To be honest, he really deserves the captaincy.”

3 – Chris Rogers

Who was that flashy bloke who plundered an entertaining 84 in the first innings? The one who gave Jimmy Anderson some classy tap and made him look schoolboy grade? And went at nearly a run a ball?

If I didn't know better, I'd swear KP is trying to pash himself. And he is.

If I didn’t know better, I’d swear KP is trying to pash himself. And he is.

It couldn’t have been Rogers, as he is usually stodge personified, but we’ll give him the votes anyway because we couldn’t get hold of the gawky bloke wearing the 1993 armguard who claimed to be him on day one.

2 – Brad Haddin

Put himself on the provisional ballot for Dar-time in the early stages with a free-flowing 65 that added cream to the first innings, a vintage display that included six boundaries and a showcase of all of his dapper demolition man qualities.

The evergreen custodian then completed his demand for inclusion in the top five with seven dismissals behind the pegs including an acrobatic leg-sider to see off Alastair Cook.

1 – Steve Smith

It’s hard to believe, but this sulfur-crested dynamo is fast becoming one of the more sturdier pillars of the Aussie batting lineup after another encouraging return of 89.

Some starry-eyed followers are going out on a limb, stating this could be the embryonic stages of our next Test captain. To those people, I implore you to ease up. He needs to refuse a request for homework and threaten to quit before the selectors offer him that kind of regal role.

After three Tests, there’s a chasing pack nibbling on the heels of the leading hamster.

8 – Ian Bell

5 – James Anderson
Michael Clarke
Joe Root

4 – Kevin Pietersen

3 – Brad Haddin
Chris Rogers
Graeme Swann
Peter Siddle

2 – Ashton Agar
Ryan Harris

1 – Jonny Bairstow
Steve Smith

Here’s the first Test votes here, and the second Test votes here. And you can follow me on Twitter here. 

 

Phil Hughes in-Sinc with Mathew’s rhyme

Australian cricket has their own version of the Hokey Pokey. Sing it with me.

You put your Phil Hughes in, you take your Phil Hughes out. And repeat.

Let’s face it. It’s a ditty we all know too well. We don’t need the lyric sheet. It’s had more plays than The Eagles on tradie’s radio. It’s a torturous hook of Gaga proportions that we’ve had on loop in our heads for years.

At this point in time, the oscillating Hughes sits on the outside of the circle of Australia’s first XI, patiently waiting and praying for the first line of the song to come around again.

Hughes takes a relieving wizz after a gruelling 15-ball stay at the crease.

Hughes takes a relieving wizz after a gruelling 15-ball stay at the crease.

But is this position on the exterior now what it’s all about?

After the familiar story of a gallant fight back in to the team, clawing past the haters and wading through the piles of free advice, once again he’s touched the summit and immediately headed back south after failing to secure a foothold.

Naysaying of his ability to handle the wiles of international standard bowling have now reached a deafening and unpleasant crescendo.

This is the fifth occasion that Hughes has been given the ‘don’t call us, we’ll call you’ break-up from those conducting the tunes on the national selection panel. Two of these separations have been because he was seat-filling and the incumbent arse had returned, which happens, yet the other three times have been because he’s been embarrassingly exposed under international cricket’s merciless microscope.

The post-it note with his phone number on it must be perilously close to going ‘accidentally’ through the selection panel’s washing machine. Was his two innings at Lord’s the fade out of the Hokey Pokey for good?

For a couple of reasons, the answer most probably is no.

Hughes’ contact details should remain free from the wash cycle because of the lack of other attractive business cards in Australian cricket, and because lessons are slowly sinking in from a lint filter that is already chockers with failures anyway.

While ever Hughes continues to boot-fill on the short square boundaries of Adelaide Oval, and while ever the pack of state batsmen he leads remains lean and unthreatening, his experience and fighting qualities will keep him at the forefront of selector’s minds.

In saying this, repeated letdowns in the Baggy Green will come at a price.

Remaining defiantly in the region for choice know as ‘thereabouts’ is one thing, it’s the size of the pass mark for a return for the diminutive Macksvillian that has stretched further with each breach of trust at international level.

Longer bursts of run-making will be required to convince a bunch of selectors who cower whenever his name shows next to a big score on the news. Once/twice/three times/etc bitten, very shy.

Sinclair getting a frame sized for some rare memorabilia.

Sinclair getting a frame sized for some rare memorabilia.

Hughes’ journey is taking on parallels to another domestic god-to-international peasant from across the ditch.

Mathew Sinclair amassed 13717 first class runs at an average of 48.64 over an 18 year career of domestic bullying in New Zealand. Obviously, his talents were spotted early and he was shotgunned in to the national team where he scored two double-tons in his first twelve Tests, with one of those on debut.

Naturally, expectations were immediately inflated from the get-go. Unfortunately, his failure to live up to these became his legacy. Sound familiar?

Sinclair became legendary at knocking on the selectors door like a dosed-up drummer playing an extended solo, yet was never able to cement his chance when presented, give or take a pinch or two of politics. He was ingloriously discarded from the Black Caps four times in his career yet remained one of the Dons inside the Shaky Isles until he retired this year.

And in a cruel twist, the poor fella has had to put his hand out for the dole, a predicament where doorknocking is nowhere near as glamorous.

Is Hughes on track to become Australia’s version of Sinclair?

With a multitude of T20 competitions smiling with their golden grills across the globe, it’s hard to see the plucky leftie suffering the same fate of needing the fortnightly handout of Newstart Allowance. Paying the rent and getting a feed shouldn’t be an issue.

But in cricketing terms, will his international tale mirror Sinclair’s, a frightening figure to the bowlers within his own borders but a quivering mouse on the bigger stage?

 

 

Warming the Pine

Sport for those with comfortable couches.