What the Butler Saw – I don’t like cricket…I love it!

In comparison to last week’s SportBeat festival round up, this edition of What The Butler Saw will be shorter and potentially sweeter. I am half still on the post festival downer half melting away quicker than ice cream in the Sahara.

The main items slowly creeping over the horizon in this Butler’s view are cricket, the heat, the opening of the transfer window as well as the exciting prospect of the beginning of pre-season ahead of what will be a defining season in all divisions; from how Manchester United will cope without Sir Alex Ferguson all the way down to whether or not Cheltenham Town, Forest Green Rovers or Gloucester City can gain promotion from their respective leagues.

But lets start with the two things getting me all hot and sweaty this week. The summer weather that people seemed to be shocked by, despite the fact it’s July, in Britain and we have had the coldest spat of weather in history lately meaning it was due. But no, the hot weather seems to be as unlucky in people’s minds as the World Number 2 winning a major Tennis title. However, I won’t be pedantic and ignorant by lecturing you good people about the state of the weather because you have windows and eyes to be able to see for yourself.
So moving swiftly on. Cricket, the gentleman’s game, a game that people I know have described as “boring” or “hitting a ball with a stick and running.” To that I say watch the cricket for yourself, live. Whatever style of sports you are entertained by cricket is one of the main sports I know that cater for different people’s levels of concentration.

Take my dad for example, a man who doesn’t care for sport generally. He can watch tennis and has been known to have dislocated his shoulder playing the vigorous sport of badminton, the closer the Ashes has got the more he seems to be interested in cricket. Culminating in him watching more cricket over a 48 hour period than he probably had done over a 48 year period. Not only has he watched two and half days worth of the Ashes but he came on a “Butler Boys” trip down to a sunny Southampton for the Friends Life T20 encounter between Hampshire and Sussex on Friday night. I have known my dad to enjoy the appeal of the shorter T20 format. In my mind he is the ideal person to be targeting for an audience. He said to me yesterday when he was telling my mum about the night out “I was surprised at how many women and children were at cricket. It has always been a male watched sport.” I think that means he had fun. I know I did.

I was astounded at the ending of the game, only chasing a modest 118, Hampshire required 2 from the last 2 balls to win and remain unbeaten in this years tournament. The experienced Scott Styris was bowling the last over, strangely the only over he bowled in the innings. His line was tight, but Hampshire captain Dimitri Mascarenhas managed to work the ball away on the onside. A possible two was on but with two of the older members of the Hampshire squad at the crease, the single was taken. Meaning Hampshire couldn’t lose and had all to gain. The final ball however was a bemusing one. With every man in the circle saving the single, one of the most experienced bowlers in the T20 tournament ran in and bowled a high gift of a ball, just asking Neil McKenzie to find a gap. He didn’t disappoint, the ball flew off the bat and raced away not just for one but for four. What was meant to be an easy win was made harder, but realistically after Sussex posted a score that didn’t even hit a run a ball there was only ever one winner. The Royals go marching on!

In regards to the Ashes, I have a series of thoughts but one is that one test will not define England’s or Australia’s squads. But after the talking points surfaced over the five days of Finn over Bresnan, 19 year old’s keeping Australia in it, all the way to DRS and whether Broad should have walked I can sum it up easily and quickly.

Bresnan is a better option on a dryer surface than Finn as Finn only bowls well with the new ball and realistically unless Broad gets injured again like this test he won’t get his hands on it before Anderson or Broad. But I can still understand why Finn is being kept in, another sub-standard performance however will surely see Tim Bresnan getting a go.

Ashton Agar’s performance with the bat is hard to really judge in terms of how he will cope in the future years. It is possible to fluke an innings like his, however I am not for one minute claiming it was a fluke of an innings, he played some quality cricket shots on his way to 98. With time we will see whether he is a viable candidate for being called “The Real Deal” or whether he is a one hit wonder. My thoughts are, he is a bowler and his bowling performance never put me at any sort of unease in regards to him tearing through England like many spinners have done over the years. Time will tell.

I’m a big fan of DRS, I think it brings cricket into the 21st century and proves just how hard it is to even be an umpire in test cricket. However, even with DRS wrong decisions can be made. The First test highlighted that, as both right and wrong decisions were made by the powers at be using the DRS. One thing I noticed and I’m sure everyone noticed is how easily and stupidly Australia threw away reviews. They wasted the majority of their reviews on ridiculous events. Shane Watson being a prime example, he gets hit square in line with middle stump and as a man who is notorious for getting out LBW he should have a better perspective on where his leg is in regards to the stumps. He knows full well he hasn’t hit the ball and reviews straight away before consulting his partner Chris Rogers. A decision Australia could have benefited from having later on was in my opinion disregarded like an empty can of drink or crisp packet.

And as an Englishman I have the stand point of “would the Australian’s have walked? Probably not.” In reality, people would like to think Broad should have walked but in terms of professionalism Kevin Pietersen summed it up best for me by saying “batsmen have the right to wait for the umpire’s call.” Australia and Michael Clarke handled the whole situation quite well, they stopped Broad from getting it from everyone who had seen the event by saying they didn’t blame him for not walking, but feel that it was simply umpire Aleem Dar had just missed one. Mistakes happen, everyone is human and I think Dar is one of the best umpire’s in the game but he simply missed a major call.

Away from cricket and it’s starting to feel like when the calendar ticks over to the 1st of December. You know that in a matter of weeks Christmas is coming. However, in this case it is now approximately a month till the football season begins. This means two things, the start of pre-season and the opening of the transfer window. Both exciting but for different reasons.

Lets talk transfers. And one thing that I enjoy reading is the never ending list of players Manchester City will supposedly be buying with their endless amounts of cash. A list that suggest every player will be playing their football at the Etihad next season. At this time I would like to neither confirm or deny rumours that I have been approached to replace Carlos Tevez as City’s overpaid substitute for next season. On a serious note though, Manchester City will buy players to try and regain the title, as will every team who are vying to take the Premier League crown from Manchester United. It happens and you have to accept that.
One team’s whose transfer rumours interest me are that of Arsenal’s. I have always had an eye on Arsenal due to my little brother being a supporter. The 8 year wait for a trophy has to end sometime, right? For me, they are a good 4 or 5 world class players and a concrete spine away from challenging for the Premier or Champions Leagues. But an FA or League cup this season as well as their ever present ability to finish in the top 4 should keep the doubters quiet and keep Arsene Wenger in the job for another year.

Over the coming weeks the majority of what the Butler sees will be more and more transfer news as well as taking a look at some of the sides who will be fighting at both ends of the table. Then I shall assess each league from the Premier League all the way to Gloucester City in the Conference North and giving my opinions or who will go up/down and sides who should be watched in respective leagues. Keep an eye on my Twitter for that.

To conclude this edition of What the Butler saw I am excited for the start of Gloucester City’s pre-season tonight away at Longlevens. Tickets are £2 and kick off is at 7:15pm at the Saw Mills Ground in Barnwood. Updates and reaction can be found on the Severn Sport website.

Finally, don’t miss the first commentary for this season which will be of the Cheltenham Town vs Gloucester City friendly on Saturday 20th July. A match, I unfortunately can’t get to but if you are like me you can listen to Penno and Yatesey from Whaddon Road…and it will be LIVE!

Ryan Butler