Archive for the ‘Wow’ Category

England the best (nearly)

August 2, 2011

There is a tendency among English (and to a certain extent British) sports commentators and supporters to consider national teams either complete rubbish or world class. I’ve written an analysis of the England soccer team at the 2010 World Cup, compared with major rivals which goes into this in some detail. Some time (Real Soon Now, hopefully) I’ll publish it as a page here.

But for now, I want to take issue with Derek Pringle, a former Test player for England, and presently a commentator for the Daily Telegraph. He writes about yesterday’s England win over world number one India:

It was a pounding, delivered with the swaggering elan of the two finest sides of the last 30 years: the West Indies under Clive Lloyd and Viv Richards; and Australia under Mark Taylor and Steve Waugh.
They are not yet as consistently ruthless as those teams but successive wins against India appears to have given them an appetite for world domination judging from the one-sided nature of the cricket here.

Now I would bet that any English reader of the quote is going to assume that I want to criticise the comparison with the great West Indian or Australian sides. But that isn’t my complaint. It’s that Andrew Strauss, the South African-born England captain has already matched or surpassed the standards set by the four great captains listed above.

Here’s the record:

Andrew Strauss (England): Captained 37 times, won 19 (51.4%), lost 5 (13.5%), drawn 13 (35.1%).

Clive Lloyd (West Indies): Captained 74 times, won 36 (48.6%), lost 12 (16.2%), drawn 26 (35.1%).
Viv Richards (West Indies): Captained 50 times, won 27 (54.0%), lost 8 (16.0%), drawn 15 (30.0%).
Mark Taylor (Australia): Captained 50 times, won 26 (52.0%), lost 13 (26.0%), drawn 11 (22.0%).
Steve Waugh (Australia): Captained 57 times, won 41 (71.9%), lost 9 (15.8%), drawn 7 (12.3%).

Now it is clear that Strauss can claim to be more successful than Lloyd, in a near dead heat with Richards and Taylor and behind Waugh. But consider the starting point. The West Indies under Lloyd and England under Strauss did not start from a position of undisputed world’s top test cricket teams. And Steve Waugh’s loss rate is worse than Strauss’ even though he started with the top team in the world.

The simple truth is this. A team coming up against Andrew Strauss’ England does not expect to win (his loss rate is the lowest of the five). Which is precisely what it was like to face those other great captains. I think it’s time to recognise this fact and enjoy it while it lasts.

As a result of the 319-runs win in the second test, taking a 2-0 lead in the four match series, England are on course to take over from India as the top test playing team in the International Cricket Council rankings. Already, Strauss’ team is guaranteed at least second place, leap-frogging South Africa.

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Thoughts on the Ashes

December 17, 2010

Thoughts about the Third Ashes Test. The quote below is a draft comment I decided was too long for Brian Micklethwait’s blog.

Hussey is the only really bright spot of Australia’s batting, with useful support from Haddin and now Johnson. Watson is doing well, the rest have been poor. Looking at the stats I see Clarke has an 80 and Ponting a 51 not out.

The problem is the 23 innings (so far) of less than 10 (46% of the total). By comparison England have 12 (36%). At the other end Australians have hit 50 or more 13 times (26%) to England’s 11 (33%), but the over 100 scores read 5 to Engalnd (15%) and 2 to Australia (4%).

I assumed that Johnson not playing between the tests was a sign of confusion by Australia’s selectors (there are plenty of other signs!) but there clearly was some thinking going on which has paid off.

My view is that Collingwood should have been dropped and both Bresnan and Tremlett lined up for England. Collingwood has taken 6 catches (and a couple of great ones), but scores of 4, 42 and 5 (average 17) with no wickets for 21 overs (he only averages one test wicket per 20 overs in his career) is not good enough for this series. If he’d got the 42 yesterday when England were collapsing I’d take a different view.

The Broad injury looks like being followed by Finn. Overbowling for long spells, because there are only four proper bowlers in the team. In the first two tests this was excusable: caution over going behind. Not now. And Collingwood does not seem suited to this pitch as a bowler.

Meanwhile Bell (worst score 52, he’s been running out of partners) is wasted at number six. Move him, Prior and Swann up the line and put the extra bowler in. Shorter spells might not take more wickets, but injured bowlers off the pitch certainly won’t. I can see Anderson break down soon after his 48 hour flights as he gets overbowled covering for Finn and the absent fifth bowler. A couple of 10-over spells on a hot day should do it. Bad planning.

Swann is occasionally getting whacked around. If there’s a turning pitch coming up England could pick both spinners, with left and right arm options available. I suspect Panesar might get Swann some more wickets. Clearly not this match (unless Australia’s dropping of Beer is an error), but perhaps the next two?

Overall, for all the talk, England have played like a team that think the Ashes are already won after day one of this test.
Final thought about Ponting. Dropping him for averaging only about 30 in the past two years is bizarre. I don’t think Mark Taylor was as good and he kept his place.

One thought niggles me. Whatever happened to the “Cricket Academy” the Australians had which was supposedly the source of greatness in the 1990s and early 2000s?

Smallville, China

January 3, 2010

A spectacular, if botched demolition in Liuzhou, caught my attention on several grounds. First the awesome image here of what was briefly a leaning tower to make that of Pisa look stable.

But two other thoughts occurred. First, this is no clearing of slums, or destruction of an ancient residential quarter. I’d guess the building being demolished was no more than 20-25 years old. I find this a telling incident in the development of China as a leading industrial country.

Destroying a recent structure to put up something more useful is not something one does when money is tight, or investment prospects are uncertain. It may be a case of Parkinson’s Law concerning new buildings, but I suspect not.

The second is that this story is a reminder that outside the tourist destinations and familiar names of Beijing, Shanghai, Hong Kong, perhaps Nanjing and Guangzhou, there is a huge country. Here’s a list of Chinese cities with a population estimated at over 2.5 million inhabitants:

[taken from Wing Chan “Misconceptions and Complexities in the Study of China’s Cities: Definitions, Statistics, and Implications,” July/August 2007 issue of Eurasian Geography and Economics, which was cited here.

Shanghai 13.46 million
Beijing 9.88 million
Guangzhou 7.55 million
Wuhan 6.79 million
Tianjin 6.76 million
Shenzhen 6.48 million
Chongqing 6.17 million
Shenyang 4.6 million
Chengdu 3.96 million
Dongguan 3.87 million
Xi’an 3.76 million
Nanjing 3.51 million
Harbin 3.46 million
Dalian 2.87 million
Changchun 2.75 million
Qingdao 2.72 million
Kunming 2.64 million
Jinan 2.64 million
Taiyuan 2.54 million
Zhengzhou 2.5 million

To put this in context, here’s the equivalent table for the European Union [adapted from national data here].

London 7.56 million
Berlin 3.43 million
Madrid 3.21 million
Rome 2.73 million
Paris 2.20 million

Anyone wondering how long China will pretend to pay lip service to Western political correctness may do well to ponder where current demographic and economic trends are taking us.

Headline news

December 28, 2009

I hope these story headlines from the BBC are NOT related news:

OTHER TOP STORIES
Labour MP dies after heart attack
Pope on first visit since assault
Six held on suspicion of murder
Cameron urges ‘good clean fight’
High-speed rail report expected
‘Simple’ anti-theft ads launched

The possibility that HH Pope Benedict XVI might have assaulted a Labour MP (who died of a heart attack), with six accomplices (including David Cameron) because simple anti-theft advertisements are launched to prevent the stealing of high-speed trains, would be disturbing, to say the least.

Quote of the day

September 28, 2009

I suppose if one can bury bad news, one can also, conversely, unearth amazing news. Truly, this middanġeard is full of marvels, even now.

Fugitive Ink

The only person I know who would include middanġeard and charmingly forget to include the translation in a blog post. 🙂

Bad boy?!

September 12, 2009

What to make of this from Compare Friends on Facebook?

Changes in your ranks:

#12 most attractive (gained 1 place)
#13 nicest smelling (gained 1 place)
#16 person with the best sense of humor (gained 1 place)
#18 best mannered (lost 1 place)
#19 best catch (gained 1 place)

Moral: ditch the holding doors for ladies, use nicer deodorant, tell better jokes.

We can all be Iranians now

June 16, 2009

Fascinating how the mobilizing power of social media is being used to confront the Iranian government.

Meanwhile, in a sort of digital twist on that famous scene in The Thomas Crowne Affair, a new viral campaign is going around Twitter: Users from around the world are resetting the location data in their profiles to Tehran, the capital of Iran, in order to confuse Iranian authorities who may be attempting to use the microblogging tool to track down opposition activity.

The case for wind farms #2: bird-choppers kill bats too!

June 15, 2009

Until now, I thought the only arguments in favour of wind farms was that they provide entertainment in the form of eagles being sucked into the propeller blades and turned into fast food for rats and foxes.

After all, they disfigure the countryside, they consume vast quantities of concrete. Does anyone know the carbon footprint of building a wind farm -including the trucks carrying the pieces and what BP executives spend their related bonuses on?

They often don’t generate energy at all: “too little” or “too much wind” so a back up oil-fired power station has to be built nearby to “top up” supply. They also explode.

But I was wrong.

Not only do bird-choppers kill birds (reducing the threat of avian influenza) and make a dreadful racket, they could exterminate West Virginia’s bat population too!

I want a wind farm next door to me right now, call me a chiroptophobe if you wish.

The peacock HAS landed

November 15, 2008

Not premature anymore.

The Chandrayaan moon orbiter, launched from India just over three weeks ago, has dropped off a moon impact probe. It landed at 3:01pm GMT (8:31 India Standard Time) on Friday November 14 2008.

India still receives overseas aid for supposedly being a backward, poor country. I’ve no doubt that there are people living in poverty, but the evidence is pretty strong that the world’s largest democracy is doing more than OK.

Am I surprised that Indian scientists and engineers have delivered the Chandrayaan? Not one bit. I remember in about 1983, when I was still at school near the Science Museum, in London, there was the casing of an Indian rocket displayed on the outside of the building. I think it was actually a long-range ballistic missile.

I remember thinking that India must be capable of building space rockets and wondering when we’d see lots of countries with space programs.

I am surprised the Indian government has become sufficiently unsclerotic to allow a project of this kind to succeed. Unkind people have suggested the vulture, not the peacock, would be a more apt national bird for India. Today, such cynicism can be binned.

France certainly has the technology and will (if needed) to match India’s space program. The Ariane is essentially a French rocket with other people chipping in cash, as far as I can tell. I may be knocking the U.K., but I can’t imagine this country getting a vehicle to the Moon without U.S. or European money and know-how.

Meanwhile, the private sector is finally having a go too.

The Peacock Has Landed*

October 22, 2008

Anyone who remembers the Six Million Rupee Man sketch from Goodness Gracious Me, will understand why I wondered if this was a joke. In my defence, I hoped it was for real. It is.

India is now ahead of the U.K. in the space race. Ahead of Germany and France. Could be level with Japan.

*The peacock is the national bird of India. Alright, I’m premature. Sue me.