A Bit of Everything

The conclusion of the county championship season 2019, a busy week and a photography prize.

INTRODUCTION

I will be covering a lot of ground in this post, hence the title. As well as stuff about this week I will be looking ahead a couple of days. Before moving on to the main body of the post I start with…

THE END OF THE ENGLISH CRICKET SEASON

The last round of County Championship fixtures was largely spoilt by the weather. Somerset managed to keep things interesting in the championship decider in spite of more than half the match being washed away. Having managed 203 themselves they bowled Essex out for 141 and forfeited their second innings (only a win would do for them, so they had to go all in) leaving Essex 63 to get in 65 minutes of playing time. Essex, with no incentive to go for the runs, played time out quietly, finishing on 48-1. Elsewhere Gloucestershire and Northamptonshire secured promotion to division one in a match in which less than one whole innings was played, Gloucestershire reaching 220-7 (having at one stage been 67-6). The experienced Graeme Van Buuren made 93, and 18 year old Ben Charlesworth was on 77 not out, having not ever looked like being dislodged – expect to see more of that name in the future. The decision to abandon the final day’s play without a ball being bowled may very well have denied him a maiden first class hundred.

Had the big match at Taunton been allowed to go the distance I suspect that Somerset would have won it and claimed their first County Championship, but as it is their wait for a title extends into its 129th year. Essex too would probably have preferred matters to be settled on the pitch rather than by the weather, as they will know that this title, their second County Championship in three seasons, will always have an asterisk against it in people’s minds due to the ruination of this final game. Somerset meanwhile will rue the way they collapsed to Kyle Abbott at Southampton in their penultimate match, which allowed Essex to move to the top of the table, leaving Somerset needing a win in the last game.

A BUSY FEW DAYS

Here is what I have been doing since I last posted here:

  • Tuesday – Yes I Can 2 at the Corn Exchange. I was there for the duration of this important event, and the NAS West Norfolk stand attracted plenty of interest.
  • Wednesday – Drop In Centre at the 7th Scout Hall, Portland Place. It was also on this day that the 2020 aspi.blog wall calendars arrived.
  • Thursday – physio session at Tapping House in the morning and CBT with Dr Daglish in the afternoon.

BIG NEWS

On Sunday I will be journeying to Norwich for the Disability Pride Photographic Exhibition, having just been notified by the organizers that one of my photos has won third prize – yes folks, I am now officially a prize winning photographer. I have not yet been told which the prize winning photograph was, but it was one of these:

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PHOTOGRAPHS

My usual sign off…

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Calendars set out for sale on Wednesday.

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Thoughts on The Test Squad for New Zealand

My thoughts on the England test squad for New Zealand, announced earlier today.

INTRODUCTION

This post looks at the test squad for New Zealand, announced not long ago. There are also of course a few photos.

THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE MIDDLE

The test squad for New Zealand is as follows (click here for the cricinfo article about it):

Joe Root (capt), Jofra Archer, Stuart Broad, Rory Burns, Jos Buttler, Zak Crawley, Sam Curran, Joe Denly, Jack Leach, Saqib Mahmood, Matthew Parkinson, Ollie Pope, Dominic Sibley, Ben Stokes, Chris Woakes

I see one definite negative in this squad – the continuing selection of Buttler, although at least he will not be playing as a specialist batter, he will be keeping, one questionable retention (Denly), several non-controversial picks (Root, Archer, Broad – Anderson is still unfit, Curran, Stokes and Woakes), and several interesting newcomers (Sibley, Crawley, Pope, Parkinson, Mahmood). After a quick thank goodness for the absence from the red ball squad of Messrs Bairstow and Roy (retention of either would have been a disgraceful abdication of responsibility) and a brief lament for the continuing non-selection of Ben Foakes (best wicketkeeper around and averages over 40 in the few tests he has been permitted to play) and Lewis Gregory, I will devote the rest of this post to the five new names in the squad.

ZAK CRAWLEY

Opens the batting for Kent, he has 1,908 runs at 31.80 and three first class hundreds. These figures do not really warrant elevation to the status of test opener, and I would have preferred someone else to be picked in his place.

SAQIB MAHMOOD

Pretty much a pure bowler (he averages 14 with the bat in first class cricket), the young Lancashire quick  has 42 wickets at 28.90 in first class cricket (less impressive in other words than most of the younger pace bowlers I mentioned in my last post but one), however I am less unimpressed by this pick than I am by that of Crawley.

MATTHEW PARKINSON

A ‘ferret’ (he comes after the rabbits) with the bat – average 5.37 in that department – the young Lancashire legspinner has 60 first class wickets at 25.20 in his fledgling career. It is unlikely that a New Zealand pitch will warrant the selection of both him and Leach, but they should combine well together should that situation arise. I welcome this selection.

OLLIE POPE

The Surrey batter averages 57.55 in first-class cricket. His first exposure to test cricket last summer did not go well, because he was thrust higher up the order than he regularly batted for his county, but he is a much better cricketer now. He is that rarity among contemporary English batters, someone who is happy playing a long innings against the red ball. England’s middle order should benefit hugely from his presence.

DOMINIC SIBLEY

He has had a huge season for Warwickshire, which has seen his first class average move north of 40 (it currently stands at 41.55), and given England’s woes at the top of the order a failure to select him would have been an utter disgrace. His recent performance against Nottinghamshire when he scored 215 not out in the first innings and then 109 in the successful second innings run chase put him in rare company. Like Pope he is genuinely comfortable digging in for a long haul against the red ball, and alongside the now established Burns he should form the solidest English test opening pair since Strauss and Cook were in their prime nearly a decade ago.

Overall I consider this a respectable effort by the selectors and award them 7/10 for it.

PHOTOGRAPHS

My usual sign off…

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Championship Decider Features Five Frontline Spinners

A look at the early stages of the ‘winner takes all’ match between Somerset and Essex for the County Championship.

INTRODUCTION

One of the greatest of all English cricket seasons is drawing to a close, with the last fixtures thereof, the last round of County Championship games having got underway at 10:30AM today. The big game is at Taunton, where Somerset take on Essex in a “winner takes all” clash for the title. A draw would be enough for Essex as they currently head the table, having deposed Somerset from that position in the last round of games. This post looks at what is in store of the next four days.

AN EXPECTED BATTLE OF THE SPINNERS

Needing to win, Somerset had to prepare a ‘result’ pitch, and with two international quality spinners to call on it was thus no surprise, even with Simon Harmer in the ranks of the opposition that a ‘Bunsen’* was prepared. The nature of this pitch is illustrated by the fact that Somerset have included a third front line spinner, South African Roelof Van Der Merwe, in addition to Leach and Bess, while Essex have selected Aron Niijar, a slow left armer who pays 42 a piece for his first class scalps in addition to Harmer, while Tom Westley, mainly a batter, may get a go with his spinners as well. Somerset have won the toss and are batting, and have made a poor start, with Sam Cook bagging two wickets with new ball (a rather better known Cook will be opening the batting for Essex when the time comes). 

My own view is that in the situation, and given their bowling strengths, Somerset had to prepare a pitch of this nature and rely on getting the better of the battle of the spinners. Somerset’s pace bowling is in the hands of Lewis Gregory and Craig Overton, while Essex have Jamie Porter opening the bowling with Cook. Somerset have Tom Abell to provide seam bowling back up if needed, while Essex may turn to Ryan ten Doeschate and/or Ravi Bopara for help in that department. It would only be fitting for this season which has seen that World Cup Final, two last-ball finishes on T20 finals day and various other remarkable finishes to conclude with one final battle going right to the wire, and I hope that is what happens. James Hildreth’s bat is starting to sound quite sweet for Somerset, and Abell at the other end has played a number of gritty innings this season, and the could use another today.

This would be Somerset’s first County Championship, whereas Essex have won quite a few over the years, so as an inveterate underdog supporter I am rooting for Somerset. Whichever team wins this will be winning their second trophy of the season, Somerset having won the 50 over competition (the last occasion on which that will truly be a first team contest, due to The Hundred starting next season), while Essex won the T20 trophy on Saturday.

*’Bunsen’ is a piece of rhyming slang – Bunsen burner = turner.

PHOTOGRAPHS

My usual sign off…

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Thoughts for New Zealand and a Calendar Preview.

A few thoughts about the upcoming tour of New Zealand and a preview of the 2020 aspi.blog Wall Calendar.

INTRODUCTION

The England squad for New Zealand is due to be named soon, and I have some suggestions here. I also use this post to offer aspi.blog readers a sneak preview of the aspi.blog 2020 wall calendar, currently in production and due to arrive with me early next week.

SQUAD FOR NEW ZEALAND

It is unlikely that any surface in New Zealand will warrant the selection of two front line spinners, so for this tour I am selecting fewer spinners than I normally would. Seam and swing tend to be important in NZ just as they are in this country, so I do not regard a second out and out super quick alongside Archer, who should be used in short bursts. Finally, I do not think that even if both are fully fit England should be thinking of using Broad and Anderson in the same squad, so only one of those makes the trip. Batting wise I think the experiment of picking white ball specialists to play test cricket has been tried and found seriously wanting. I have argued for some time that Tammy Beaumont deserves her chance alongside the men and I continue to believe that this experiment is warranted, however uncertainty over Stokes’ ability to function as a full-time bowler in test cricket at present leads me to temporarily shelve that idea. Dominic Sibley has made an iron-clad case for selection as a test match opener, and Rory Burns has done sufficient to hang on to his own place, which leaves Ben Stokes my envisaged no 3, Root back at 4 where he scores much more heavily than at 3, Ollie Pope in at 5, Ben Foakes wicketkeeper at six, Lewis Gregory coming at seven (there could be few better places for a seam bowling all-rounder to begin a test career than New Zealand), Sam Curran at 8, Jofra Archer at 9, Jack Leach at 10 and Stuart Broad at 11 (unless Anderson is fully fit, in which he case he replaces Broad). My reserves would be a top order batter (Beaumont – see above), a middle order batter, possibly Dan Lawrence of Essex who has played at least one major innings recently or if you want someone grittier Somerset’s Tom Abell, an out and out fast bowler (Stone or Wood depending on fitness) and a second spinner (Matt Parkinson would be my choice, his lack of skill with the bat not being a serious issue since I am not expecting him and Leach to figure in the same XI). Note that with both Burns and Pope having some experience of the role a reserve wicketkeeper is not needed.

On the radar for the future I would have Josh Bohannon, the young Lancashire batter, if more spinners are required offspinners Bess and Virdi are immediately in the equation and Patterson-White of Nottinghamshire (who have collectively been utterly dreadful this season, making his small success all the more impressive) may develop into a replacement for Jack Leach when the time comes. In the seam bowling department Ollie Robinson and Jamie Porter will warrant consideration, and the emerging fast bowling talent of Worcestershire’s Josh Tongue should also see him being talked about in the right places. Finally, opener Zak Crawley has attracted favourable notices at times, but at the moment he needs to increase the number of major innings on his CV before really meriting consideration as a test opener.

THE 2020 WALL CALENDAR PREVIEW

13 pics here, the front cover and one for each month:

A Descent From The Gutter To The Sewer

Some thoughts about a piece of particularly vile “journalistic” malice that was brought to my attention yesterday.

INTRODUCTION

The main body of this post is inspired by the recent behaviour of a publication with whose name I will not sully this site, which has been despicable even by their standards. I also have a special photo section at the end.

THE STOKES STORY

Britain’s most notorious rag recently descended from its customary residence in the gutter to the most stinking, foetid depths of the sewers with a hit piece raking up details from events that occurred over 30 years in the life of the Stokes family. Apart from raking up and old tragedy they were also according Ben Stokes himself inaccurate in various ways, which again is par for the course for this particular rag.

Several things are needed to deal with so called “newspapers” which behave in this fashion:

  1. Leveson 2 needs to adopted in full as a start,
  2. IPSO, a toothless paper tiger of an organization, needs to be abolished, and all publications and websites which describe themselves as being about news should be required to sign up to IMPRESS, giving them one month in which to have achieved this or else be closed down.
  3. A serious code of practice, with serious penalties up to an including a permanent ban from publication needs to be introduced and enforced (I am not a fan of making legislation retroactive, although that would certainly eliminate from the scene both the publication that inspired this piece and at least one other so called ‘newspaper’.

The kind of malice masquerading as “journalism” that this filthy rag perpetrated at the expense of the Stokes family can only be dealt with properly if seriously harsh measures are available to punish such wrongdoers (Stokes may well win a fairly hefty amount in damages but this will bother neither the hacks involved nor the owner of their publication, as it will not be sufficient to hurt them). Also, because there are no specifications about corrections and apologies (which should be required to be given at least as much prominence as the original story), even in the unlikely event of IPSO bestirring itself do anything in that regard you can be sure that any correction will be buried deep in an anonymous middle page in tiny type.

I also think that the ECB and Test Match Special should be taking action – the latter should make it clear to everyone who works for the rag in question that they are now persona non gratae at all English cricket grounds, while Test Match Special should exclude anyone from the rag from any of their media panels and from appearing as part of the commentary team.

CALENDAR SELECTIONS

I have picked out the pictures from which the final selection for my 2020 wall calendar will be made, and I present them here:

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Heritage Open Day and Post Ashes

An account of Heritage Open Day, details of some events involving my role as branch secretary of NAS West Norfolk, and a look back at The Ashes,

INTRODUCTION

This post looks back at the Ashes and Heritage Open Day, and forward to some other events. I have plenty of photos to share as usual (calendar will be finalized later this week). I start with…

HERITAGE OPEN DAY

I was due to steward at Lath Mansion from 2PM to 4PM, and was well aware that I would not be able to keep going for the whole six hours of Heritage Open Day, so I decided to have an early lunch at home and then head for the town, aiming to have an hour in town before my stewarding stint began. Thus I arrived at the Tuesday Market Place at about 12:40, picked up a brochure for the event and proceeded from there.

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This is the place where I stewarded.

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I took time to look at two of the oldest cars the classic car display first of all…

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I decided that the only places I would visit prior to heading to Lath Mansion were the Norman house which these days houses a firm of solicitors and the Ouse Amateur Sailing Club, at the latter of which I consumed a pint of Ghost Ship. I then headed by way of The Lower Purfleet, the river front and St Margaret’s Lane to Nelson Street, and familiarized myself with Lath Mansion before starting my stewarding stint. Stewarding done it was time to head home. I am looking forward to be being involved again next year.

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Lath Mansion starts here picture wise.

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Not quite Faberge (!), but an ornamental egg.

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A very old style bus.

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THE ASHES – THE MOST UNDESERVED 2-2 SCORELINE IN HISTORY

I got back from Heritage Open Day just in time to listen to the last knockings of the fifth Ashes test match at The Oval. Jack Leach finished with 4-49, while Broad had 4-62 as Eng;and completed victory by 135 runs. Leach has surely ended any argument about who is first choice spinner for England in red ball cricket – Matt Parkinson, Dominic Bess and Amar Virdi would all merit consideration should England opt for two front line spinners, while Liam Patterson-White of Nottinghamshire warrants consideration for the future (in a few years time he may well be ready to step in Jack Leach’s shoes, although at present there is of course no vacancy for a slow left armer). Sam Curran, whose left handedness gives the pace attack an extra element of variation was also a big plus, and Archer’s man of the match winning first innings bowling confirmed his stellar status. The batting remains problematic, with Denly seemingly able only to score runs in the second innings, Bairstow unable to buy a run against the red ball and Buttler not doing enough to warrant a place as a specialist batter. The only reason England’s lack of a decent opening pair was not even more cruelly exposed than it was in this series is that Australia fared even worse in that department, with Warner setting a new record low aggregate for an opener who has played 10 innings in a test series (surely that means a final “good riddance” from test cricket for him). At a minimum Sibley needs to be brought into the top three, enabling Root to go back to four, Pope to come in for Buttler and Foakes to get the gloves in place of Bairstow (his batting has always been much more of a selling point than his keeping, so consistent failure in that department should not be tolerated).

In truth England were thrashed at Edgbaston, outplayed for most of Headingley and thrashed at Old Trafford, while having just the better of Lord’s and managing to beat an Australia who basically did not turn up at The Oval. In terms of the next Ashes series, in 2021-2, whoever is England captain for that will need to achieve something last achieved by Ray Illingworth in 1970-1 (Brearley in 1978-9, Gatting in 1986-7 and Strauss in 2010-11 were all retaining, not regaining, the Ashes), and only achieved prior to that by Stoddart (1894-5), Warner (1903-4), Douglas (with some important advice from a sick Warner, 1911-2) and Jardine (1932-3). One can only hope that whatever he might say in public Ed Smith does not con himself into believing that England actually merited the 2-2 scoreline – they certainly did not. Propagandizing may be acceptable, buying into one’s own propaganda is invariably disastrous.

UPCOMING EVENTS

The “Yes I Can” event takes place at The Corn Exchange on Tuesday. Following the success of their Autism Friendly Youth Group, the library will be holding an Autism Friendly Adult’s Group, with the first session 5PM to 6:45PM on September 30th, and sessions being twice monthly, on a Monday near the end of the month and on a mid month Wednesday. NAS West Norfolk will be continuing to run a ‘drop in’ group at the Scout Hall on Portland Place every Wednesday.

Adult Social Group
An Infographic I created about the new adult social group at the Library
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My lanyard.

Yes I Can

PHOTOGRAPHS

My usual sign off…

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Not quite the last butterfly of the year (I have a red admiral on my camera from today), but this comma cannot be far short.

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England Poised For Pyrrhic Victory At The Oval

A view of where things stand in fifth Ashes test at The Oval, and what the likely result means for England, plus a photo section that invites reader involvement – one of these pictures will be in the 2020 wall calendar.

INTRODUCTION

England seem likely to make the 2019 Ashes series a 2-2 draw either later today or some time tomorrow, after a good second innings batting performance secured their control of a game in which Australia by dreadful batting ceded the initiative to England on Friday. This post, written as I prepare myself for Heritage Open Day, looks at what is going on there and examines the merits and demerits of what the likely result of this match means for England. However, before I get into the main body of this post there is a small matter of business to attend to…

A CORRECTION TO MY PREVIOUS POST

On previous occasions when such has been necessary I have made it clear that it is policy on this blog not to do the equivalent of burying corrections in six point type in the middle of page 27. Therefore I am giving due prominence to a mistake I made in regard to this year’s County Championship. Somerset are indeed comfortably ahead of Essex at the top with no one else having a chance of taking the title, but I said in my previous post that they had a game in hand. This was an error – I misread the presentation of the table on cricinfo as saying that the game Essex were playing, which was still in progress, was their 13th, because their games played appeared as 12* which I took to mean that they had already played 12. In actuality the game in progress was their 12th, and I take this opportunity to correct the error. What this means is if Somerset and Essex both win their next games, Somerset will need a draw in their final match, which is a showdown against Essex to secure the title, if Somerset win and Essex don’t then Somerset will effectively be over the line with a game to spare, while victory for Essex and any other result for Somerset would make the final game a true “winner takes all” affair.

A POTENTIAL PYRRHIC VICTORY

The phrase “Pyrrhic victory” comes from king Pyrrhus of Epirus who won a battle against the then fledgling Roman empire but said when congratulated on his victory “I cannot afford another such victory”. Not many years later Epirus became a province of Rome. Why do I describe the victory that England are approaching in the fifth Ashes test as Pyrrhic?

  1. The Ashes are still Australia’s, so it changes nothing in that regard, while
  2. By giving a 2-2 series scoreline it creates an excuse for inaction on the part of the selectors that would not be there had the final scoreline been the 3-1 to Australia that cricketing justice demands, so on that ground it is a classic case of a victory that is at least potentially damaging to the victor’s long term hopes
  3. Several players who should probably be facing the axe have produced performances that may just save them (Buttler with two decent innings in the game, and Denly with a second innings 94 – such is the proportion of his runs that have now come in second innings efforts that he is turning into a batting equivalent of Andy Caddick, only less good, to name but two). 

Thus in many ways it would actually be better for England if Australia pulled off the mammoth second innings run chase that will be facing them. There were three unequivocal pluses for England in the first three days of this game – Burns‘ first innings 47, Archer’s second haul of six wickets in a test innings and Sam Curran’s wickets (although he does not have the pace to pose much of a threat when the ball is going through straight – without lateral movement he is a blunt sword). Australia have not been at the races in the three days we have had thus far, but I acquit them of trying to lull England into a false sense of security because I am well aware that no Aussie team would ever willingly accept defeat at England’s hands – it is just happens to be the case that a poor performance here may end up helping them in the long term, depending on exactly how ostrich-like Ed Smith and co turn out to be.

Given the size of the total Australia will be facing, and the only remotely likely way they will get anywhere near chasing to down, just for the record Steve Smith needs 224 to bring his series aggregate to 975 and claim one of Don Bradmans records for himself.

PHOTOGRAPHS

A variation of my usual sign off. I am presenting various pictures of a full moon from a couple of days ago, one of which will feature in my 2020 wall calendar. Please use the comments to nominate your choice…

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