All You Need to Know

As the Twenty20 games come thick and fast in England it's hard to keep up with who's doing what to whom. In fact, you soon give up trying.

But certain things catch the eye. Hampshire's James Vince is just 20, and the main thing everyone knows about him is that his batting style is reminiscent of Michael Vaughan.

This is true, but there's a bit more to him than that. While James Taylor, slightly older, and Ben Stokes, a little younger, have taken the majority of the attention this season, Vince has been jogging along quietly in the background.

There are no guarantees, but Vince's back foot offside play during his innings of 52 against Essex at Chelmsford last week told you all you needed to know.

He will go far.

Old Certainties

In case anyone had failed to notice, many of the old certainties of cricket have gone for good these past few years. At one time, at this stage of the year, English cricket was all there was. And that meant a timelessly unchanging calendar in which there were five or six Tests a summer and the one at Lord's was always second. Tests abroad were only played in the winter months.

Now, though, things are different. Tests and ODIs are played all over the globe all the time. Twenty20 tournaments come thick and fast. The impression you're often left with is of a game that's trying to eat itself.

But one of the good things about this is that if you've got time on your hands on a June evening you can watch an innings like the one Rahul Dravid played in Kingston a few days ago. As usual, Siddhartha Vaidyanathan's masterly piece captures the essence of an innings which was dripping with resonances.

As Siddhartha says, the innings carried echoes of some of Dravid's greatest days, the most resounding being the twin top-scores of 81 and 68 which took India to a victory of similar proportions on their previous visit to Sabina Park in 2006. Last week's innings was classic Dravid: watchful, technically assured, patient to the point of cliché, but never pedantic in the manner of a Boycott or Kallis. A chance to score - as when one of the seamers drifted towards leg stump - was rarely missed and the runs were collected with the type of counter-intuitive flourish familiar to all who have been watching Dravid for years.

For a long time now there's been a feeling - expressed here more than once - that the age-related decline of India's greatest contemporary batsmen was inevitable, and, of course, one day it will happen. But there is no sign that it is happening yet.

Dravid and Tendulkar, both 38, and Laxman, 36, await England next month. As in all of life, there are few certainties, but one thing here is certain: England's bowlers, so inconsistent and profligate against Sri Lanka, will need to up their game.


Natural Selection

Simon Katich isn't the first player to find his career slipping away in the aftermath of an injury, or at the age of thirty-five, and he won't be the last. But what made the formal acknowledgement that his time in the Australian team was up so much more interesting was the manner in which he gave vent to his feelings in a way which so many players never give themselves the satisfaction of doing.

Katich laid things on the line in a measured, cutting way. Full of barbs, but never emotional, the feeling was that he was only saying what many another player was thinking. Stuart Clark, for one, and surely Nathan Hauritz too.

Selecting cricket teams at international level is a difficult and thankless job. Everyone thinks that they can do it better than you and you will rarely be congratulated when you get things right, only castigated when you get them wrong.

England's slightly uneasy performance at Lord's - frequently erratic bowling and a conservative declaration - showed that they're far from the finished article, but, as the current jargon goes, they're in a much 'better place' than Australia. One of the main reasons for that is consistent, loyal selection.

Whatever the merits of the dropping of Katich, Australia's selectors have been struggling for a while now. As I wrote in late December, just after the Melbourne Test:

'There are deluded people who think that Steve Smith is a Test match number six batsman, or that Ryan Harris is a number eight, or that Xavier Doherty and Michael Beer are better cricketers than Nathan Hauritz. This was a team which used to set the standards for the whole world. At times these past few weeks they have been a shambles'.

Katich has gone, but Hussey and Ponting, both older, fight on. With little in the way of really outstanding talent coming through, Australia have much to do to get anywhere near their previous pre-eminence.

We, and Simon Katich, will be watching them closely over the next year.


Throwing the Bat

As someone who started throwing bats long before Matthew Prior was born* and who has also been known to utter the occasional audible oath after being dismissed, I can claim, to some small extent, to know how he felt yesterday.

However, since, depending on which of the equally ludicrous ECB press releases you might choose to believe, he either threw his gloves across the dressing room or 'placed' his bat on a bench, following which it mysteriously smashed the window, I'd advise him just to give his bat a good chuck next time, while making sure no team-mates or windows are within harm's way.

Of course, I don't believe the press releases and know full well that's probably what he did anyway, only without thinking about the possible consequences. Which is really not very sensible, both because someone could have got hurt and because it detracts from his batting in the first innings, which was, once again, pugilistic, stylish and deeply effective.

We want, and need, to see more.

* Any members of my school under-12 team who happen to be reading might remember having to duck as my gloves and bat flew in their direction after my debut golden duck, batting at three, on the playing fields of Beverley School, New Malden, Surrey, in 1978.

I know now that I shouldn't have done it, but it sure felt good at the time...

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