Daniel Norcross

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Blog Posts by Daniel Norcross

  • Ashes Day 2: I Knew I’d Regret It

    I knew I'd regret it. My defence is that I was egged on by Manny. He is so convincing, you see.

     

    "We're a better team, Dan. Australia are shot. Hopeless. Mentally weak. Selectors don't know what they're doing. We will win at least 3-0."

     

    Hendo chimed in with a moan about how winning so easily just wasn't fun anymore.

     

    I could sense the hubris, but, like a 17 year old getaway driver eager to help out his older brother's criminal friends, I got dragged into their web of irresponsibility.

     

    Do not mess with the cricket Gods. They all support Australia.

     

    For once, the day began gently. England's openers milked the "good German" Hilfenhaus and the bustling but wayward Harris for 5 an over, and a morale sapping miss at slip by Watson seemed only to compound Aussie despair.

     

    Indeed the absence of Johnson from the opening overs of the day confirmed that Ponting had no faith in his one-time spearhead.

     

    But what followed was a spell of such spectacular accuracy, venom and startling

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  • Tremlett Takes England To The Brink. And It’s Only Day One

    This is all becoming rather surreal.

     

    Sure, the Aussies, we were told, were in disarray. Selection issues bedevilled the camp. Bowlers couldn't buy a wicket and batsmen, bar Hussey and Haddin, were clueless against England's steady attack.

     

    But all Aussie sides fight back eventually, and where better to do it than the bouncy fortress of Perth?

     

    When Strauss unusually inserted the opposition on winning the toss, all was set fair for England's players, press and supporters to get a fair dinkum comeuppance.

     

    To add to the sense of impending doom, Test Match Sofa towers was empty. Our producer had set his alarm for 12:45 instead of 00:45, and four hapless middle aged men, starved of sleep and confused by modern technology were scrabbling around pressing buttons at random.

     

    Somehow we managed to get on air in time for the first ball, and by the end of the second over we were wide awake.

     

    Tremlett, coming in for the injured Broad, had produced a deliciously swinging full ball that Phil

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  • Australia drowning in a sea of choice after epic thrashing

    Looking back at my daily reports over this series I am ashamed at my lack of faith.

     

    As I try desperately to bring myself back down to earth in the wake of England's most punishing drubbing of an Aussie side since 1985, and actually, in the sheer style and relentless dominance of it over the full five days, since The Oval in 1938, I wonder how I could ever have doubted the inevitable victory.

     

    All the talk in the morning was of impending rain and whether or not to take the new ball. Hussey, North and Haddin realistically stood between England and the finishing line.

     

    As usual there was tension. First North was agonizingly close to being given out on referral, and later that over Prior dropped a pretty good chance off Hussey.

     

    You don't want to be dropping Hussey in this series, and with rain now promised for an hour after lunch, the very real prospect of Australia escaping with the most undeserved draw since England at Cardiff homed into view.

     

    But we'd all reckoned without the

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  • “It’s In The Lap Of The Rain Gods Now”

    Well, be careful what you wish for. I wanted an Aussie fightback to validate England's excellent performance so far, and I got it. Coupled with the distinct possibility of significant rain, it has given the hosts more than a glimmer of hope of saving a test match they have no right to salvage.

     

    All talk on the Sofa at the start of play was around the timing of Strauss' declaration. I favoured putting the Aussies straight in to capitalize on any morning moisture and the prospect of the 2nd new ball late in the day. Manny preferred an hour's thrashing about to ensure England wouldn't need to bat again.

     

    In the end, Strauss opted for the worst of both worlds by using up 41 minutes to score an additional 69 runs.

     

    It was a thoroughly entertaining 41 minutes and gave us the opportunity properly to say goodbye to Xavier Doherty. Pieterson managed to surpass his previous highest test score and then promptly got out for 227 playing an insane slog to a wide ball that popped out of the

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  • “Aussies Praying For Rain? My World’s Turned Upside Down”

    I'm no stranger to abject displays of ineptitude. I've followed English cricket with a passion and intensity that has been only occasionally rewarded since the rain free summer of 1976.

     

    I've spent days at the Oval watching Wasim and Waqar rip through a generation of new Bothams (Pringle, Capel, Ian Greig). I've sat through Javed Miandad batting for weeks against Foster, Nick Cook and a slew of bit part 4 test wonders.

     

    I've experienced the humiliation of losing to a mediocre New Zealand team. Of propping up the ICC test rankings. Of picking four captains in an English summer. Of Tim Curtis, Martin McCague and Alan Mulally.

     

    So I feel particularly well qualified to pronounce judgement on this current Australian side.

     

    Much like those mediocre English teams of the past, it contains a smattering of high quality players. Ponting, Hussey, Haddin and Watson are fine test match performers. But they carry the hangdog countenance of tortured men.

     

    No matter how good a player you are, if

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  • I almost feel sorry for Ponting’s pop gun attack

    What's wrong with me? Is it the punishing sleeplessness? The workmen drilling holes in my ceiling as I retire to bed in the late morning? Or am I irredeemably English?

     

    We're only two days into a grotesque mismatch with England pummeling the latest desperate collection of substandard trundlers masquerading as an Australian bowling "attack" to all parts of the Adelaide Oval, and I'm yearning for an Aussie fightback.

     

    The sheer epic hopelessness of Australia's tactics, catching and outfielding combined with the toothlessness of Siddle, Bollinger, Watson and Doherty threatens to undermine England's achievements in this series so far.

     

    Of course it is perfectly possible that with a new ball in the morning the hosts could run through the top order, bat for two days and go to Perth with the series level. But not even the spectre of the last Ashes game played here four years ago holds any terrors.

     

    The day had started brightly for the Aussies as Strauss continued to employ a tactic

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  • Pass Me The Lexicon. I’ve Run Out Of Words

    To paraphrase the opening scene of The Spy Who Loved Me, "Oh Jimmy, words cannot describe how I feel about you." Well, let me expand my vocabulary. 

     

    The Greatest Day In English Cricket (possibly, depending on how they bat tomorrow) began for me in a freezing car being driven from a balloon debate at Lord's where England's finest cricket captain, Mike Brearley, had been roundly and unjustly trounced.

     

    The omens were therefore not great, but our producer Tom managed to shriek down the phone that Katich had been run out. He rang back 45 seconds later to inform me that Anderson had done for Ponting first ball and we hadn't finished the first over of the match. 

     

    I arrived at the studio just in time to see what I thought was a replay but turned out to be Clarke snaffled at slip. Australia 2-3 and the loss of the toss was starting to look like a blessing in disguise. 

     

    Of course once I'd got myself settled I was treated to the sight of a very fluent Watson and a very rugged Hussey

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  • Cunning Aussie ineptitude ploy embarasses Strauss into declaring

    Seventy-eight years ago an Australian captain by the name of Bill Woodfull, peeved at the ruthless tactics of his English counterpart Douglas Jardine, complained bitterly that "only one team out there is playing cricket.” I wouldn't be surprised if Andrew Strauss echoed that sentiment to Ricky Ponting today after the Aussies virtually downed tools in the field.

     

    I know it's hard to get up for the contest sometimes. But sulkily chucking down a barrage of half volleys, wides and long hops whilst your fielders spill the balls that had been so carefully directed to them at catchable height is all rather juvenile.

     

    Then again, maybe they were trying but just aren't any good.

     

    At the start of play all the talk was of declarations. All right thinking human beings assumed Strauss would grind his hosts into the dust (albeit the rather lush green dust at the Gabba).

     

    With the second test starting in four days, and the pitch flatter than anything seen on the Indian sub-continent, there seemed

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  • “I’ll gloat now while I get the chance”

    Praise be. Let freedom ring. Let loose the heavenly choirs of seraphs and cherubs and  peel church bells across the frozen pastures of England. The Ashes has begun and it’s only day four of the 1st test.

     

    Regular readers will know that the Test Match Sofa team was somewhat demoralized after yesterday’s unholy hammering from Hussey and Haddin.

     

    Indeed, Hendo, our most measured commentator, fixed me with a hangdog, exhausted and sunken eyed stare as I got into his car at 11 p.m. to be driven to our studio. "It'll be all over today. There isn’t a single player in the England team who can bat for a whole day. Why is that, Dan? WHY? We haven’t got a prayer".

     

    Oh he of little faith (though I must confess I agreed with him). For it says in the book of The Sofa, chapter 12 verse 9 "And so it shalt pass that on the Sabbath day an hairy choirboy and slack-jawed skipper will first steady the good ship England, leading her to the crystal clear waters of lunch time tranquility, smoting her

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  • Just make Hussey and Haddin stop

    Test cricket is my passion. Five days of cut and thrust. It can be almost tantric with the ecstasy of climactic resolution just out of reach until the final run is scored or wicket taken. Remember that Mohali test? There is nothing better in this world or any other.

     

    But the flip side is that five days of slow, agonizing humiliation inflicts the kind of torture that I'm sure is outlawed by the Geneva Convention. 

     

    Eke that torture out through another sleepless night, throw in some summary injustice from the best umpire in the world and it doesn't take long before you want to scream "OK. I'll say anything you want. I'll donate a fifth of all my future earnings to the Australian Soap Actors' Benevolent Fund. Just make Hussey stop." 

     

    When you get hammered by Indians, they at least have the good grace to use as their agents of terror the charming lunacy of Sehwag, the likable disposition of Dravid, the genius of Tendulkar or the velvety smoothness of Laxman.

     

    Getting crushed by Haddin

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