Somerset’s Comeback Triumph

A look back at the first round of the county championship, especially Middlesex v Somerset, plus some photographs.

This post looks back at an extraordinary turnaround in one of the only three fixtures in the opening round of the County Championship to have a definite result (Gloucs beating Surrey and Hants beating Leics were the other two).

SOMERSET RECOVERY

Somerset won the toss and put Middlesex in (see here for more on the early stages of the match). At low water mark Somerset were 89-9 facing a Middlesex total of 313. Marchant de Lange and Jack Leach, nos 10 and 11 for Somerset added 83 for the final wicket to save the follow on (there would have been no sensible case for Middlesex declining to enforce it). When Middlesex were 87-2 at the end of the second day they still looked firm favourites, but great bowling efforts from Overton, Davey and Leach restricted Middlesex to 143 in their second innings, leaving Somerset 285 to win. Three wickets went fairly early, but then Tom Abell and George Bartlett shared a good partnership before Abell was dislodged for 84. Steven Davies and Craig Overton both fell cheaply, and the target was still over 100 away when Lewis Gregory walked in to join Bartlett. Gregory, who had picked up a five-for in the first Middlesex innings came to the party for the second time in the match, and he and Bartlett were still together when the winning run was scored, Bartlett 76 not out, Gregory 62 not out. Appropriately, it was Gregory who sealed the win. Leach’s total match figures of 4-61, going at less than two an over, were huge news for England, since unless they are prepared to go seriously radical and drop Sophie Ecclestone a line there is no other serious specialist spin option for the test team at present – Matt Parkinson, with 62 wickets at 25 each in FC cricket ranks second to Leach, having a similar bowling average but only about a fifth of the number of wickets. Gregory has Woakes (definitely) and Oliver Edward Robinson (probably) ahead of him in the England pecking order. Abell and Bartlett may also be on the radar, and the runs they made in uphill circumstances will count heavily in their favour. On the debit side the other two Toms, Banton and Lammonby failed to do anything of note this time round. Ethan Bamber of Middlesex may have out himself on the radar with a fine bowling performance.

Elsewhere the most significant news from an England perspective were scores of 74 for Burns, the opener whose place is under scrutiny after a tough winter, and 133 for Foakes, who should be first choice keeper, and who must have improved his stocks with that effort.

PLAYER LINKS

Here are links to the cricinfo profiles of the players mentioned above in an England context:

PHOTOGRAPHY

My usual sign off…

County Championship Action

A look at the county championship match between Middlesex and Somerset, an XI inspired by the Somerset top order and plenty of photographs.

This post looks at the county championship match between Somerset and Middlesex, with a bonus feature related to Somerset’s batting order. However I begin with…

OLD MAN DIES – BBC WILDLY OVERDOES THINGS

At 12:13PM yesterday an official announcement was made that Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, had died at the age of 99. The news was not much of a surprise since it was known that he had been ill, and his death can hardly be considered untimely at that age. Yet the BBC not only devoted all their TV channels and all their principal radio stations to talking about this and only this, they also commandeered every other aspect of their coverage for the same purpose, which meant that my plan to produce a blog post while listening to the cricket yesterday went by the board. I found a live stream on youtube, but that had to be watched, and could not simply be on in the background while I did other things. It may have been justifiable for both BBC1 and BBC2 to be devoted exclusively to this death, and for radio 1,2,3,4 and 5 to be devoted to it as well, though I would have considered even that to be overdoing it. However, to black out specialist content such as cricket commentaries, which one tunes into for one purpose and one purpose only was definitely overdoing it. The BBC is now back at more or less normal service after most of a day and night of blanket coverage of the death. It also seems inappropriate to be making so much of the death of a very old man by natural causes at a time when some 150,000 Brits have died before their time due to the Johnson government’s appalling mishandling of the coronavirus pandemic.

MIDDLESEX V SOMERSET

Somerset put Middlesex in, and a so-so bowling performance (only Lewis Gregory with 5-68 and Jack Leach with a superbly economical effort of 1-43 off 22 overs really bowled well) and some very poor fielding allowed the home side to reach 313 in their first innings, Sam Robson making the most of several slices of luck to rack up 165.

At 89-9 it looked like Somerset may well be headed for an innings defeat, but nos 10 and 11, Marchant de Lange and Jack Leach, put on 83, de Lange reaching a half century, to get Somerset to 172, just past the minimum needed to avoid the follow on, 164. Middlesex reached 87-2 by the close of day two, Craig Overton with both wickets, but a brilliant bowling performance today, with Overton getting a third wicket, Josh Davey taking 3-16 from 11 and Leach 3-18 from 11.2 overs saw Middlesex bowled out for 143, leaving Somerset needing 285 to win. Tom Lammonby fell early, but the other two Toms, Banton and Abell are going well, with Somerset 65-1, needing 220 more to win. This segues nicely on to my bonus feature…

THE TOMS XI

The fact that the top three in the Somerset order all answer to Tom got me thinking about an XI all of whom answered to Tom (nb I was very specific that this must be players who were actually referred to as Tom – Thomas or Tommy do not county – I am a Thomas and I dislike any diminutive form of my first name). Below is what I came up with:

  1. Tom Hayward – right handed opening batter, right arm medium paced bowler. He would be delighted to know that in this XI he will definitely by no higher than sixth choice as a bowler – he advised his great protege and fellow Cambridge native Jack Hobbs not let Surrey find out how good a bowler he was, because he felt that he himself was overworked by the county in that department. He was the second to reach 1,000 FC runs in an English season before June after WG Grace, and also second after WG to the career landmark of 100 first class hundreds. He was also a fine fielder.
  2. Tom Lammonby – left handed opening batter, left arm medium pacer. Two failures in the current match has reduced has record to 464 runs at 42.18 (was 459 at 51.00 going into it). That record includes three centuries. He is one the Somerset trio, two of whom I have named in this XI (Banton, who has just gone to make it 79-2, 206 still needed, is the one to miss out).
  3. Tom Abell – right handed batter, right arm medium pacer. The second of the two current Somerset Toms in this XI. He currently averages 32 in FC cricket, but is clearly on an upward trajectory, and an England career would not surprise many. Hayward shared many large partnerships with Bobby Abel – maybe he would also go well with an Abell!
  4. *Tom Graveney – right handed batter, occasional leg spinner, captain. The best batting record of any Tom, and the second most prolific batter to have played all his FC cricket after WWII. In 1966 he was part of a record breaking revival – West Indies had scored 268 and reduced England to 166-7, but Graveney (165), Murray (112 from no 9) and Higgs and Snow with a fifty a piece boosted England to 527 – 361 for the last three wickets! Unsurprisingly the West Indies were knocked sideways by this and went down to an innings defeat.
  5. Tom Killick – right handed batter. He averaged just above 40 through a 92 match first class career. This included 15 centuries and a career best score of 206.
  6. +Tom Blundell – right handed batter, wicket keeper, occasional off spinner. The Kiwi has a test average of 38 including two centuries, slightly better than his FC average of 36.
  7. Tom Emmett – left arm fast bowler, left handed lower middle order batter. Though it is principally his bowling for which he is selected, he was good enough with the willow to record a first class century when such scores were far from being commonplace. He was one of five ‘tykes’ to feature in the first ever test match in 1877.
  8. Tom Cartwright – right arm medium pace bowler, right handed lower order batter. Again picked for his bowling, but again far from valueless with the bat. He played a role in South Africa’s isolation from international cricket – he was named in the original England tour party, and withdrew citing injury but in truth because he did not want to tour in such circumstances. D’Oliveira, who should have been a shoo-in for the original squad anyway was named in his place, and when Balthazar Johannes Vorster then announced that D’Oliveira would not be accepted the tour was cancelled. This same Vorster a couple of years later gave vent to some particularly crass racism during a one to one meeting with Don Bradman which prompted the latter to pull the plug on South Africa.
  9. Tom Wills – right arm fast bowler/ right arm slow bowler. 130 FC wickets at less than 10 a piece. He was a hugely important figure in Australian sporting history, with his involvement in the 1868 Aboriginal tour of England and his role as the pioneer of Australian Rules Football, which he conceived as something for Aussie cricketers to do in their off season.
  10. Tom Goddard – right arm off spinner. He started his long career as a quick bowler and even took a hat trick using that method, but his overall returns were underwhelming, and Gloucestershire’s veteran left arm spinner Charlie Parker noted his big hands and suggested he turn his attention to spinning the ball. Goddard spent three years turning himself into an off spinner and gained his reward in the form of a long career which saw him become the fifth most prolific bowler in FC history with 2,979 scalps at less than 20 a piece. He achieved five more first class hat tricks as an off spinner, putting him joint second (alongside Parker who also achieved the feat six times) in this category, one behind Doug Wright who achieved seven first class hat tricks. As late as 1948 when he was not far short of 50 an England recall was a possibility, scotched by Arthur Morris who accepted responsibility for knocking him out of contention when Australia played Gloucestershire and doing just that, racking up 290 in five hours.
  11. Tom Richardson – right arm fast bowler. He took his 1,000th first class wicket in his 134th match at that level and his 2,000th in his 327th match at that level, both of which remain records for reaching those milestones. In the calendar years 1894, 1895, 1896 and 1897 combined he took 1,005 wickets. Neville Cardus, who named him one of the ‘Six Giants of the Wisden Century’ in a 1963 essay, recounted an incident from a match against Lancashire in brutal heat, when Richardson, deep into one of his customary marathon spells chased a ball all the way to the boundary off his own bowling.

This team has a strong top five, a keeper batter at six, two bowlers who can bat at seven and eight and three excellent specialist bowlers. Although there is only one genuine spinner the attack has plenty of variety. The chief misses due to the tightness of my restrictions were Tommy Andrews, an Aussie batter who was also an outstanding cover fielder and Thomas Godfrey Evans, one of the greatest of all keepers, who was always known by his middle name Godfrey. Please feel free to use the comments to identify any Toms you think I have treated harshly by not including them.

PHOTOGRAPHS

My usual sign off…

County Championship Under Way

A brief look back at the opening day of the county cricket season and some photographs.

Today saw the first day of play in the county championship and the weather thankfully did not pay a huge part in the action.

A TENSE DAY AT LORD’S

I opted to follow the action in Middlesex v Somerset at Lord’s. Somerset won the toss and decided to bowl. A combination of ordinary fielding (at least four chances went begging) and Sam Robson who cashed in on some of the former to rack up 165 gave the opening day honours to Middlesex, but not by much. The close of play score was 293-8, Lewis Gregory taking four wickets, while Jack Leach did an excellent job as a spinner on day one in England, keeping things very tight (he bowled 22 overs and had 1-43 to his name).

Elsewhere there was some vintage stat padding by James Vince at the expense of Leicestershire, Oliver Graham Robinson the Kent wicket keeper scored a fifty and Oliver Edward Robinson the Sussex fast medium bowler and useful lower order batter did likewise.

PHOTOGRAPHS

My usual sign off…

County Championship 2021

Preparing for the upcoming county championship season – starts tomorrow folks. Also as usual, plenty of photographs.

A new County Championship cricket season gets underway tomorrow. This post looks ahead to that, with a couple of things.

HOW TO FOLLOW THE COUNTY CHAMPIONSHIP

If you are not able to get to the grounds that does not stop you from following what is going on. The BBC will be providing radio commentaries on all county fixtures. Simply open up a web browser, go to www.bbc.co.uk/cricket, click on the ‘live commentaries’ button and select the match you want to tune into. If weather intervenes or other factors suggest a change of match this is easily accomplished. An additional resource for getting extra detail about the game you are following is www.cricinfo.com, which also has excellent player profiles and statistical info. My initial focus tomorrow will be on Middlesex v Somerset, as the latter seek to win the title for the first time, 130 years after first taking part in the competition.

AN ALL TIME XI OF COUNTY STALWARTS – NO TEST CAPS

This XI, in anticipation of tomorrow is composed of players who never got an international call up. All must have played after the start of test cricket but never have been picked at international level.

  1. John Langridge – right handed opening batter. 574 First class matches, 34,378 runs at 37.44, 76 centuries, and never an England call up. He did grace the test arena eventually, as an umpire.
  2. Alan Jones – left handed opening batter. The Welshman played 645 first class matches, scoring 36,049 runs at 32.89, with 54 centuries. He was selected for the England v Rest of the World series which was arranged to replace the South African series that was cancelled for political reasons, but those games were ruled unofficial as they were not country vs country (though Shane Warne has wickets taken in matches that were not country vs country in his official test record). He has the unwelcome distinction of scoring more first class runs than anyone else who never played test cricket.
  3. *Percy Perrin – the Essex amateur right handed batter was another who played a vast amount of first class cricket. 538 matches in his case, yielding 29,709 runs at 35.92, with 66 centuries. It is symptomatic of his luck that he holds the record score in first class cricket for someone who finished on the losing side – 343 not out v Derbyshire at Chesterfield in 1904. The scores in that match were Essex 597 and 97, Derbyshire 548 and 149-1, with Charles Ollivierre scoring 229 and 92 not out for Derbyshire. Perrin in that Essex first innings hit 68 fours, a boundary count beaten only once in an FC innings, Brian Lara’s 501 not out for Warwickshire against Durham containing 62 fours and 10 sixes. He became an England selector and served briefly as chairman of selectors.
  4. James Hildreth – right handed batter, occasional right arm medium fast bowler. The Somerset middle order man has scored 17,202 first class runs at an average of 42 and has got no closer to test cricket than taking the field as substitute during the 2005 Ashes.
  5. Tony Cottey – right handed batter, occasional off spinner. The diminutive (officially 5’4″) Glamorgan and Sussex middle order man scored almost 15,000 runs at and average of 36 in his first class career. For much of his playing career England were not exactly known for the robustness of their middle order, making his continual omission all the more baffling. I saw him live in a game at Swansea when he made a century on the first day after Glamorgan had been in some trouble. That effort looked impressive then, and even more impressive a day later when Andy Hayhurst of Somerset had snailed his way to 96 in six hours on a pitch playing beautifully.
  6. Darren Stevens – right handed batter, right arm medium fast bowler. Every team needs an all rounder, and the Leicestershire/ Kent man fits the bill very nicely. Now 45, and still playing, his current record stands at 308 matches played, 15,710 runs at 34.75, 546 wickets at 24.67.
  7. +Colin Metson – wicket keeper, right handed batter. I was spoilt for choice here – at least three other keepers who never gained international recognition, Fred Huish of Kent, David Hunter of Yorkshire and Wally Luckes of Somerset would have done just as well. I saw Metson in action, and so know just how good he was. I also saw some the guys selected for England during his playing days and how inadequate they were.
  8. Charles Kortright – right arm fast bowler, right handed batter. The fastest bowler of his generation, but never selected for England. Bobby Abel, the Surrey stalwart once said after having made his lack of relish for facing the Essex quick a trifle too obvious “I am the father of six children and there are plenty of other bowlers besides Mr Kortright who I can score runs off.” In 170 first class appearances Kortright took 489 wickets at 21.20, with best innings figures of 8-57.
  9. Don Shepherd – right arm medium/ right handed batter. A specialist bowler of off cutters, Shepherd played 668 first class matches, taking 2,218 wickets at 21.32 at that level. This give Glamorgan the double distinction of being home to the person who took more FC wickets than any other non-test bowler and the person who scored more runs than any other non-test batter.
  10. George Dennett – left arm orthodox spin, left handed batter. 401 matches, 2,151 wickets at 19.82 a piece, and no England call up. The presence during his playing years of such luminaries as Wilfred Rhodes, Colin Blythe, Frank Woolley and Roy Kilner goes some way to explaining this, but it does seem strange that he should have been utterly overlooked.
  11. William Mycroft – left arm fast, right handed batter. It is true that his 1841 birth date means that he was past his prime by the time the first test match was played in March 1877, and would have been old indeed for a quick biowler to make a debut , at 39, by the time the first test on English soil was contested in 1880, but nevertheless his outstanding career record (138 first class matches, 863 wickets at 12.09 each) makes it seem strange that he was entirely ignored, especially since he actually kept going until 1885, which means that there were five matches in England and several Aussie tours for which he might have been selected.

This team has a solid top five, an all rounder, a keeper and a stellar bowling attack – I can think of many actual test sides who would start second favourites against this assemblage. For quick reference here it is in batting order:

John Langridge (RHB)
Alan Jones (LHB)
*Percy Perrin (RHB, captain)
James Hildreth (RHB, occ RMF)
Tony Cottey (RHB, occ OS)
Darren Stevens (RHB, RMF)
+Colin Metson (WK, RHB)
Charles Kortright (RF, RHB)
Don Shepherd (RM, RHB)
George Dennett (SLA, LHB)
William Mycroft (LF, RHB)

HONOURABLE MENTIONS

I have already mentioned several alternative keepers, and I invite others to come up with honourable mentions of their own in the comments, but two definitely need to be covered here: Edgar Oldroyd, a regular no3, scored about 15,000 runs at 36, and was unlucky to miss out, as he was unlucky to miss out on the test match call up in life. His grand-daughter Eleanor is now a very well known sports broadcaster. Ernie Robson, a middle order batter and medium paced outswing bowler for Somerset could have had the slot I fave to Stevens but the latter has a much better batting record, and there bowling averages are similar. If James Anderson is reading this he might care to note that Jack Hobbs rated Robson one of the most difficult bowlers he ever faced and that Robson was still taking wickets with his outswingers at the age of 53!

A LINK AND SOME PHOTOGRAPHS

Before getting to my usual sign off, therunoutblog, which I heartily recommend, has an impassioned piece up titled “Womens Cricket; on the rise” which I urge you to read. Now for those photographs…

Selecting An All Time Test XI

I take on the near impossible task of selecting an all time test XI. Also some more photographs for you.

Let me start by saying that this task, suggested on twitter by Adam Sutherland, is the sort of thing Alexa might come up with if asked for an example of an insoluble problem. The embarrassment of riches at one’s disposal is such that I would expect no two people to arrive at the same answer. Nevertheless it is fun to do, and I am going to offer my answer. Feel free to list your alternatives, or if you dare, a completely different XI of your own to take on mine in a five match series in the comments.

THE TEAM

There are lots of candidates for an opening pair. In my case I resolve the issue by selecting an opening pair who were the best in test history and who I therefore pick as a package: Jack Hobbs and Herbert Sutcliffe, with their average partnership of 87.81 at that level.

Number three, with all due respect to such masterly practitioners as Rahul Dravid and Ricky Ponting is one of the two nailed on certainties for a place in this XI: the one and only Donald Bradman, who I also name as captain of the side. An average of over 30 runs an innings more than any of the competition does not allow for argument.

Number four has many contenders, but having named three right handers I wanted a left hander, and the best record among such batters is held by Graeme Pollock, with an average of 60.97 (Brian Charles Lara is the other contender, but too many of his really big scores came in either defeats or draws).

Number five goes to Sachin Tendulkar. Again there were many possibilities, but I accept the word of Don Bradman, who recognized something of himself in the way Tendulkar batted (a resemblance also acknowledged by Lady Bradman when consulted), and there can be no higher praise.

Now we need an all-rounder, and this is the other utterly undisputable slot other than no3: the most complete cricketer there has ever been, Garfield St Aubrun Sobers. He scored 8,032 test runs at 57.78, took 235 wickets, bowling virtually every type of delivery known to left arm bowlers (he was originally selected as a left arm orthodox spinner, batting no9) and he was also one of the greatest fielders the game ever saw.

For the wicket keeper, although I do not normally approve of compromising at all on keeping skills I rate Adam Gilchrist’s batting at no seven so highly that I am selecting him for the role.

For my remaining bowlers I go for Wasim Akram at no8, left arm fast and capable of generating prodigious swing. No9 is Malcolm Marshall, for me the greatest fast bowler of the golden age of West Indies fast bowling. No10 is Sydney Barnes, 189 wickets in just 27 tests (seven per game) at 16.43 a piece. I round out the order with the off spinner Muttiah Muralitharan.

Thus in batting order we have:

JB Hobbs
H Sutcliffe
*DG Bradman
RG Pollock
SR Tendulkar
G St A Sobers
+AC Gilchrist
Wasim Akram
MD Marshall
SF Barnes
M Muralitharan

Barnes’ principle weapon was a leg break at fast medium pace, so I felt that the off spinner Muralitharan as opposed to a leg spinner (Warne, O’Reilly, Grimmett and Kumble being the principle contenders) gave the attack more variation. Wasim Akram’s place as left arm paceman could have gone to Alan Davidson or Mitchell Johnson without appreciably weakening the side, and there are a plethora of right arm quicks for whom cogent cases could be made. Barnes’ extraordinary record made him the third clearest selection in the entire XI.

PHOTOGRAPHS

Just before my usual sign off, a link to the piece I produced OTD last year as part of my ‘all time XIs’ series: Leicestershire. Now for those photos…

All Time XIs – Somerset

Originally posted on aspiblog:
INTRODUCTION Welcome to the latest installment in my “All Time XIs” series. Today we are looking at Somerset. In the course of our journey we will meet heroes of the past, stars of the present, a couple of hopes for the future and the man who when I get round to…

When I created this post OTD last year Bess was riding high and having felt it necessary to exclude Leach I hoped he would continue to go well and justify my faith in him. Not helped by some mismanagement over the winter he has gone backwards since then, and I would remove him from the XI and replace him with Brian Langford, who took 1410 wickets at 24.79 in 510 first class appearances. Thus the revised XI is Trescothick, Gimblett, Palairet, Hildreth, Braund, *Woods, Botham, Garner, Langford, White, +Luckes. I also have some new photos to show…

aspiblog

INTRODUCTION

Welcome to the latest installment in my “All Time XIs” series. Today we are looking at Somerset. In the course of our journey we will meet heroes of the past, stars of the present, a couple of hopes for the future and the man who when I get round to creating it will be captain of the “What Might Have Been XI”.

SOMERSET ALL TIME XI

  1. Marcus Trescothick – left handed opener who scored stacks of runs in his long and distinguished career. He was selected for England against the West Indies in 2000, showed masses of character in surviving an early onslaught from the veteran pacers Ambrose and Walsh, going on to score 66 on debut. That same winter facing the very different challenges posed by a dry pitch and some crafty spinners in Sri Lanka he made his maiden test hundred. Runs continued to…

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Five To Follow In The 2021 English Cricket Season

A look at five players to follow for the upcoming season, with mentions for a few others as well, and of course some photographs.

With various pre-season friendlies in full swing around the country I look at some of the youngsters who I hope will feature prominently in the season to come. The five I focus on are as it happens an opening batter, two spin bowling all rounders and two specialist spinners. I then mention a few others who were near misses for various reasons. I also have some photographs to share, a regular feature of this blog, and I take this opportunity of welcoming new followers – my thanks to you all for deciding to follow me on this blog.

FIVE TO FOLLOW FOR THE SEASON

  1. Tom Lammonby – Somerset, left handed opening batter, occasional left arm medium-fast bowler. Six first class matches, 459 runs at 51.00 including three centuries, total career bowling figures 2-38. The young opener has made a superb start to his first class career, and England’s current top order looks a trifle shaky at present, with Rory Burns probably the most vulnerable of the top three. In view of his paucity of appearances to date and the fact that England have an away series in Australia this winter, which would be a tough assignment to give a young opener as an introduction to international cricket it is more likely that a good full season in 2021 to prove that his fine start is not a freak would lead to elevation for the 2022 home season than that he will break into international cricket this season, but I will very surprised if he does not grace the test arena in the not too distant future.
  2. Luke Hollman – Middlesex, left handed batter, leg spin bowler. So far all seven of his first team appearances have been in T20s, and he has scored 139 runs at 34.75, and with a strike rate of 139.00 and taking nine wickets at 18.11 with an economy rate of 6.79. I hope that he will feature in some longer form cricket this season as well as continuing his development in limited overs cricket. England are short of good spin bowling options, and a spinner who can bat would be especially useful. Even if he ends up specializing in limited overs cricket Adil Rashid cannot go on for ever, and there are few obvious replacements.
  3. Lewis Goldsworthy – Somerset, left arm orthodox spin bowler, right handed batter. A bowling all rounder who enjoyed some success in the last under 19 cricket world cup, the youngster’s senior cricket has thus far been limited to three T20s, in which he has scored 38 not out off 29 balls in the only innings he played and taken five wickets at 17.20 each with an economy rate of 7.81. I hope that with Leach likely to be with England for most of the season he will get the chance to play a whole season of first team cricket in all formats.
  4. Liam Patterson-White – Nottinghamshire, left arm orthodox spinner, left handed batter. The youngster has played five first class matches, capturing 20 wickets at 21.00, including a best of 5-73 and scoring 91 runs at 15.16, including a best score of 58 not out. A full season of first team cricket would go some way to showing whether those good early figures are a true representation of his abilities or not. The fact the he can handle a bat may well count in his favour if he keeps taking wickets.
  5. Daniel Moriarty – Surrey, left arm orthodox spin, left handed batter. Just two matches for the Reigate born youngster. His two first class appearances to date have yielded 17 wickets at 20.11, while his 13 T20s hav yielded him 17 wickets at 18.91 with an economy rate of 6.91. Again, this is a case of waiting to see what he can do over the course of a whole season.

OTHER PROSPECTS

I concentrated for my five to follow on newcomers and on players who either bowl spin or open the batting. In this section I mention briefly an opener who has played for England before and seems to be coming back to his best after a couple of years in the wilderness, two young seamers whose upward progress is limited by England’s riches in that department and another young spinner who would only enter the reckoning if the England selectors were prepared to seriously radical.

  1. Haseeb Hameed – Nottinghamshire, right handed opening batter. A brilliant start to his test career (averaging 43 after three matches) before an injury forced him out of the side. There followed two lean seasons for Lancashire, and then a move to Nottinghamshire. Last year at his new county things picked up for him, though his career FC average remains a modest 31. Nevertheless, the fact that he has a proven test match temperament and some success at that level means that another good season this year could well get him back in the reckoning.
  2. Ben Coad – Yorkshire, right arm fast medium bowler. 38 first class matches, 157 wickets at 19.93. The trouble is that with the veterans Broad and Anderson, three genuine speedsters in Archer, Stone and Wood, the all round talents of Chris Woakes and the x-factor brilliance of Ben Stokes there are not many vacancies for seam bowlers even if they have great records.
  3. Oliver Edward Robinson – Sussex, right arm fast medium bowler, useful lower order right handed batter. 58 first class matches, 250 wickets at 21.78, batting average 20.84 with one century and five fifties. Again, a victim of England’s strength in the seam bowling department, but he is possibly good enough with the bat to be at eight with either two speedsters and Leach or one speedster, Leach and one of Anderson or Broad rounding out the order. He would probably do a fine job for England, as he has for Sussex.
  4. Sophie Ecclestone – left arm orthodox spin bowler. In all formats of women’s international cricket she has 106 wickets for 2057 runs, an average of 19.41 per wicket, and she is still only 21 years old. Given this extraordinary record and England men’s dearth of spin options at present there are those of us would like to see her given the opportunity to show what she can do in the men’s game.

Please feel free to use the comments to mention other players who are on your personal radar or to take issue with my own suggestions.

PHOTOGRAPHS

My usual sign off, starting with the lighting up of the Corn Exchange yesterday evening (they also lit up the town hall in the same pink and purple)…

April 2

An autistic perspective on April the Second, with some important links.

This post is mainly geared to sharing, since I have made some good connections today, but I am also going to say a bit about today and what it should really be about.

APRIL THE SECOND

Today is offically dubbed ‘World Autism Awareness Day’, a designation that for reasons I explained two days ago I find difficult to accept. I will be in town for the turning on of special lights tonight, but they will be in the colours of the National Autistic Society, and as branch secretary of NAS West Norfolk I can fully accept that – had the lights going on been blue I would have refused to have anything to do with the event as a matter of principle.

Autistic people should be accepted for who they are. Regrets about who/what they are not have no place in acceptable discourse about autism, neither should attempts to change important parts of who we are. If an autistic person stims, let them do so. If an autistic person has special interests allow them to pursue those interests, do not try to wean them away from those interests.

The narrative has to move forward – at barest minimum Autism Acceptance is mandatory, and as I have said before Autistic Pride is not inappropriate either. Take note of the ‘spectrum infinity’ device that heads this blog, and of the different version I use for my equivalent of business cards.

SOME SHARES FROM TODAY

I start this section with a thank you to Phoebe MD, who has once again opened up her blog for others to promote their own blogs – do take the opportunity thus offered by clicking here.

My own interaction with the above blog has already brought to my attention a lovely post which is part of my reason for creating this post:

Yuvi MK, who runs the artwarlock blog, has produced a post in which she displays World Autism Awareness Day Doodle Cards, which you can read by clicking here – and I urge you to do so.

My other autism related share for today comes from the wonderful neurodivergent rebel, who should need no introduction to readers of this blog. She takes the subject of Autism Awareness Month head on and explains just why autistic people are so averse to ‘lighting up blue’. Please read the piece by clicking here.

Finally for this section, I am focussing on one of my own special interests: cricket. This time last year, with the first coronavirus lock down in full force and no knowing when there would next be live cricket is creating a series of ‘all time XIs‘ posts, which started with one for each of the 18 first class counties. On April 2 last year my subject was Kent – click here to read in full. In retrospect I would make one change to my chosen XI – Underwood in for Blythe, because Underwood’s bowling method would lend extra variety to the attack – Blythe, like Woolley was a very orthodox left arm spinner.

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My usual sign off…

Possible England Bowling Attacks For Australia

A look ahead to Ashes, focussing especially on the bowling.

This piece was prompted by a little discussion on twitter this morning about this subject. Somebody who tweets as The Slog Sweeper was advocating the selection of five specialist bowlers, Archer, Stone, Wood, Leach and Anderson, all of whom I firmly believe should be in that tour party if fit, in the team at one the same time. I can understand the logic, but it seems to me to be too high risk, with virtually no runs coming from the second half of the innings. I am going to look at possible combinations for that series in more detail here.

THE ROLE OF THE SPINNER

Jack Leach is established as England’s no1 test spinner. Given that English off spinners have generally fared poorly in Australia and the paucity of options with even respectable first class records the only remotely likely choice for the role of second spinner would be Matt Parkinson (FC bowling average 25). Back for Leach in the role of left arm orthodox spinner is hard to find at present, unless Sophie Ecclestone gets offered her chance to try her stuff alongside the men. I have examined the role of left arm slow to medium paced bowlers in successful Ashes campaigns down under elsewhere on this blog. The only regular test venue in Australia that is remotely likely to warrant the selection of two specialist spinners is Sydney. It could well be the case that no spinner is selected in Perth, and at the other three venues Leach will be the chosen spinner.

BALANCING ATTACKS TO SUIT LOCAL CONDITIONS

At the Gabba for the series opener the right bowling attack would feature two out and out speedsters, Leach and Anderson. At Adelaide, where pitches are often favourable for batting there might be a case for slightly weakening the batting order in an effort to get 20 wickets and playing Woakes at seven, two of the speedsters, Leach and either Broad or Anderson depending on form and fitness. At Perth I might well gamble on all three out and out speedsters and a toss up between Leach and Broad for the fourth specialist bowler. The MCG is the one Aussie ground where I would be happy without two out and out speedsters and would pick whichever of the three is bowling best, both veterans and Leach, or possibly Woakes in place of one of the veterans. At the SCG I am either going two out and out speedster and two spinners (Parkinson coming in) or possibly two out and out speedsters, Anderson and Leach.

POSSIBLE XI FOR THE GABBA

The questions if any are over the top of the order. However, unless either:

a) Haseeb Hameed, with a test average before injury interrupted his career of 43, has an epic season and positively demands selection or

b)One of the younger openers hits their straps in the early part of the county season and establishes themselves at international level during the summer

I think that it will be a case of hoping that the existing top order can function well down under – it would be a huge ask of an opener to make their international debut in an away Ashes series. Thus my Gabba XI in batting order reads as follows:

  1. Dom Sibley
  2. Rory Burns
  3. Zak Crawley
  4. *Joe Root
  5. Ben Stokes
  6. Dan Lawrence
  7. +Ben Foakes
  8. Mark Wood/ Jofra Archer (dependent on form and fitness)
  9. Olly Stone
  10. Jack Leach
  11. James Anderson

With two out and out speedsters, the skill and experience of Anderson, Leach and Stokes in the x-factor role I have considerable confidence in this side taking 20 wickets, and while the batting order would not be the deepest England have ever fielded it should be capable of producing enough runs.

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My usual sign off…

Autistic Pride Month

Preparing for April, a.k.a Autism Awareness Month with a post that highlights the problems with the ‘awareness narrative’, suggests some improvements and provides links to a couple of other good autism themed posts.

April is upon us, and to the non-autistic world April is Autism Awareness Month. In this post I look at some problems with the ‘autism awareness’ narrative and put forward an alternative viewpoint. After my own bit I will share a couple of important related links.

THE PROBLEMS WITH AUTISM AWARENESS

At its most innocuous the ‘awareness’ narrative is simply laughably inadequate for the purpose. People being aware of autism, its challenges and its benefits (yes, the latter do exist) is at most a start. At its worst, as exemplified by a USian organization that is still allowed to call itself an ‘autism charity’ but is in truth an anti-autistic hate group (I will not sully these pages with the name of said organization, suffice it to say that if you see anything with featuring a blue puzzle piece avoid it like the plague) it is deeply destructive, contributing to the ‘othering’ of autistic people.

AUTISM ACCEPTANCE –
THE ABSOLUTE MINIMUM

Autism acceptance means accepting autistic people as people, allowing us to be ourselves and express our talents and individuality in our own ways, not seeking to make us fit. Not only is forcing square pegs into round holes counter productive, you are highly likely to break the pegs in the process. If I write any further autism specific posts in the course of this next month I will not again mention ‘autism awareness’ – I have done so here only to highlight its inadequacies, I will be starting from a baseline of Autism Acceptance.

AUTISM APPRECIATION/ AUTISTIC PRIDE

Many of my greatest strengths come directly from being autistic, and actually what we need to see a lot more of is the talents and strengths of autistic people being appreciated. Part of that appreciation is acknowledging that we do have the talents and skills we possess in spite of being autistic, in many cases we have those skills and talents precisely because we are autistic. Look out when reading about autism for stuff written by autistic people, – there are plenty of us writing about autism and wanting to be found. Enjoy your April as much as you are able to.

TWO IMPORTANT LINKS

Kerry Anne Mendoza of The Canary has recently been diagnosed as autistic, and has produced her own piece tackling this subject, which you can read by clicking here.

Christa Holmans, aka Neurodivergent Rebel has produced an excellent piece titled “Rethinking the Way We Describe Autistic People From Problems to Possibilities“, which I highly recommend to you.

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My usual sign off…