A farewell to 2020 (don’t let the door hit your bum on the way out), an account of the last cricket match of 2020 and a new year’s message to my readers.
The end of 2020 is now less than ten hours distant (in UK, some of you are already into 2021, and have been able to celebrate New Year’s Eve – well done NZ), and it will be a great relief to see it out, though 2021 offers little sign of immediate improvement for us Brits (although those north of Hadrian’s Wall might do themselves a favour by going for a UDI). A stark indication of quite how badly Johnson and his cronies are letting the country down: yesterday 981 people in Britain died due to Covid-19, while across the Irish sea just nine suffered the same fate.
As a cricket fan, 2020 has been a fine year since the resumption of cricket in the summer (my congratulations to the West Indies, both men’s and women’s teams for making the journey and ensuring the home summer saw some international cricket – as soon as a visit from this island becomes an asset rather than a liability those tours should be reciprocated. I am going to devote most of the rest of this post to covering the last top level cricket match of 2020.
ADELAIDE STRIKERS V PERTH SCORCHERS
This BBL match featured one team doing less well than expected or hoped (Strikers) and a team doing appallingly (Scorchers). Strikers batted first, and every time they seemed be getting going a wicket fell. Finch batted well but could find no serious support. Then, down to him and Rashid Khan (best known for being the no1 rated T20 bowler on the planet but also a more than useful lower order batter whose approach is ideally suited to short form cricket), he was overly timid about claiming the Power Surge, and Rashid fell with it still unclaimed. At the end of their innings the Strikers had 146-9, a total that should not pose the chasing side much of a problem, but Scorchers as mentioned earlier were winless.
Scorchers started the chase well, with Jason Roy doing most of the scoring. However when both openers, Roy for 49 and Livingstone for an unconvincing 8, fell in the same over one had to wonder if the Scorchers were about to suffer another case of the collywobbles. Although a third wicket fell just before halfway, a boundary of the final ball of the tenth over secured Scorchers the Bash Boost point. Some would say that they also delayed claiming the Power Surge longer than they ought, but at least they managed to take it with two set batters at the crease, and by the time it ended the chase had been reduced to 14 off four overs, which would take a lot of messing up.
The 17th over of the innings was Peter Siddle’s third and he made a good fist of it, meaning that the target was still 10 going into the 18th. Successive fours off the third and fourth balls of that over completed the job, giving Scorchers a win by seven wickets and all four points. It was a satisfying end for me on two counts: 1) I had predicted at the start of the 17th that Siddle would not get to bowl his 4th because the game would end before he could and 2) much more importantly it meant that the Strikers were properly punished for mucking up over the Power Surge.
The more I follow of this year’s Big Bash the more I think that it must be better to go for the Power Surge too early rather than too late, which is why I cannot wholly endorse Scorchers waiting until the end of the 15th to go for it, but unquestionably they approached it miles better than the Strikers.
If the Scorchers could contrive to use this hugely impressive victory as a springboard back into the tournament it would represent a comeback to send Lazarus green with envy on their part.
Just before my usual sign off, which on this occasion includes a video, I have a few final words of 2020 for my readers: thank you all, and here’s to a better 2021
A look back at the recent Australia v India test match, and at today’s amazing BBL game between Hobart Hurricanes and Brisbane Heat, plus some thoughts on the BBL’s innovations for this year.
No, on this occasion my title does not refer to Mohammad Irfan and Poonam Yadav, though in another context it could! Instead I refer to the longest and shortest formats of top level cricket – 5-day test cricket and T20.
INDIA MAKE IT 1-1 WITH VICTORY AT MELBOURNE
India had lost the first match of the series at Adelaide after being bowled out for 36 in their second innings (see this post for more on that game), and Kohli had departed from the squad to be present at the birth of his child. Australia batted first, and with Bumrah and Ashwin featuring prominently, were dismissed for 195, no one managing to reach 50. India responded with a determined batting effort led by stand-in skipper Rahane who redeemed himself for running out Kohli in Adelaide by reaching a gritty century, while Ravindra Jadeja, one of the finest of contemporary all-rounders and a brilliant fielder to boot, contributed 62 to the cause, and India built a first innings lead of 131. At one point it looked like they might not have to bat again, but young Cameron Green and Pat Cummins resisted stoutly to take Australia into credit and the game into a fourth day. Green and Cummins continued their partnership on the fourth morning, but once they were separated resistance was limited. For the second time in the match no Aussie managed a fifty, but they did just reach 200 before Hazlewood shouldered arms to a straight one and was bowled to end the innings. Low totals have sometimes been defended, but very rarely as low as 70, and India lost only two wickets in reaching their goal.
Steve Smith failed twice, Labuschagne managed some resistance in the first innings but not a substantial score, and Cameron Green’s promise aside there do not appear to many sources of runs for Australia at the moment, and bowlers, even such fine ones as Australia possess, cannot win matches if they don’t have anything to defend. David Warner returns for the next match at the SCG, with presumably the shockingly out of form and lacking in confidence Joe Burns dropping out. Also waiting in the wings, though currently not fully fit for action, is Will Pucovski who has produced some Ponsfordesque scores for Victoria. Travis Head in the Aussie middle order has what appears to be a respectable batting average, but what his average does not show is the fact that he has a severe case of ‘Watsonitis’ – he scores runs, but never seems able to turn a good start into a really major innings.
India meanwhile are strengthened by the return from injury of Rohit Sharma, who will presumably resume his opening berth alongside Agarwal.
This section is provoked by today’s astonishing game between Hobart Hurricanes and Brisbane Heat (the Hurricanes were nominally the home team, even though the match was taking place at the Gabba!)
Hurricanes batted first, and after 10 overs were 65-3 with Malan going well and Ingram newly arrived at the other end. Malan fell not long after, bringing Colin Ingram and Tim David together. They shared a good partnership, but Hurricanes failed to take advantage of the opportunity to claim the Power Surge with two destructive hitters together at the crease. After 18 overs they were 140-6, and had to take the Power Surge. Mujeeb Ur Rahman, on of three Afghan spinners (Rashid Khan, leg spin, and Zahir Khan, left arm wrist spin, being the others) to have BBL contracts bowled the 19th, and it was a quite superb over, not only going for only one run, but also yielding three wickets, giving Mujeeb 5-15 from his four overs. The 20th over was better for the Hurricanes, although they only lasted four balls of it, that was enough to boost their total by nine. That gave them precisely 150 to defend, a fairly modest total by BBL standards.
However, the Hurricanes were as brilliant at the start of their bowling innings as they had been poor in the second half of their batting innings, and the Heat were 8-3 early on and looking in some trouble. Then Max Bryant and Lewis Gregory shared an excellent partnership and seemed to have at least secured their side the Bash Boost bonus point for being ahead after 10 overs. Bryant was out to the penultimate ball of the ninth, making it 60-4, six need for the Bash Boost point. However, a combination of good bowling and tentative batting saw them just miss out. Gregory’s dismissal in the 11th over made it 66-5, and brought Bazley into join Peirson. They were still together at the end of the 14th, at which point Heat took the Power Surge. Overall these two overs were good for the Heat, the loss of Peirson not withstanding, and Heat needed 31 from 24 balls for the win. With Bazley going well and Steketee connecting with a couple of decent blows that came down to 15 off 12 balls. The 19th started with two dots, but then Bazley hit a six to reduce the task to nine off nine balls. The over ended with Heat needing seven to win. That came down to four off two balls with Steketee on strike. Steketee got two off the penultimate ball, and that meant two needed off one ball, or one to take it to a Super Over. Steketee went for the tying run off that final ball, but it was judged that although his bat was over the line before the bails were dislodged it was also in the air, and he was given run out, to make it 149-8 and victory for the Hurricanes by one run.
It was a magnificent game, but I would have preferred the Heat to win so that the Hurricanes got properly punished for mishandling the second half of their batting innings.
ON #BBL10’S INNOVATIONS
There have been three innovations to this year’s BBL, two which had their own impact on today’s game. They are: the Bash Boost point for the team who are ahead at the ten over mark, the Power Surge (instead of six overs of power play restrictions at the start of the innings there are four, with two more to be claimed at any time after the tenth over by the batting side) and the ‘x-factor sub’, whereby after 10 overs of the first innings a player who has a) not batted and b) bowled no more than one over can be replaced by a designated ‘x-factor’ sub.
I am a huge fan of the Bash Boost point, it has created points of interest in games which would otherwise have been dead, and today it was very closely fought.
I like the concept of the Power Surge, but it requires flexibility of thought, and not many sides have thus far shown that. I would say that all things being equal the ideal time to take it would be at the end of the 15th, using it as a launch pad for the final quarter of the innings. One might go earlier in two situations: the openers are still together after 10 overs and you want to use the Power Surge to launch you towards a really huge total, and also if you have lost a few wickets, your innings needs a shot in the arm and/or you want to ensure that you have two decent batters to use the Power Surge. I can see no case for delaying it right to the end, and I think the Hurricanes stuffed up big time, for all that it did not end up costing them, in their own innings – they should have taken the Power Surge while Ingram, who could really have cashed in on it was still there.
As for the ‘x-factor sub’, that belongs in the circular file. I fully understand the need for ‘concussion protocol subs’, but basically I remain convinced that teams should finish the match containing the same players who started it.
A final recommendation for the BBL: for goodness sake use the DRS – unlike football with the disastrous VAR we actually have a method of using technology to help with decisions that usually works, and it should be automatic to use it.
An XI with East Anglian connections in honour of John Edrich.
As I write this the Melbourne Stars are closing in on victory over the Sydney Sixers, while India enjoyed a good opening day at the MCG, dismissing Australia for 195 and reaching 36-1 in response, Shubman Gill impressing on debut with 28 not out overnight. Most of the players in the XI I present are Norfolk born, as John Edrich was, although there is one Cambridge born player and two brothers (out of three who had first class experience) who were born in Suffolk, while the captain was born in Yorkshire but played for Cambridgeshire after falling out with his native county.
EAST ANGLIAN XI
John Edrich – left handed opening batter. Almost 40,000 first class runs at an average of 45, 103 first class hundreds, a test triple century (a knock that included 52 fours and five sixes) and the highest individual score in the first ever ODI back in 1971.
Jack Hobbs – right handed opening batter, occasional medium pacer, brilliant cover fielder. The Master – 61,237 first class runs including 197 centuries. 3,636 runs including 12 centuries in Ashes matches. Born in Cambridge.
Bill Edrich – right handed batter, right arm fast medium bowler. Older cousin of John Edrich and one of four brothers who all turned out at first class level. He lost six of his prime cricketing years to World War Two, in which he distinguished himself as a flying ace but still amassed 85 first class centuries.
Fuller Pilch – right handed batter, rated by contemporary observers as the best of his era (the 1830s and 40s). Also sufferer of a bizarre dismissal for the Players against the Gentlemen in 1837 – the line in the scorebook reads “hat knocked on wicket”. The Players won a very low scoring match by an innings.
Peter Parfitt – right handed batter, brilliant fielder, occasional off spinner. He once took four catches in a test innings, against Australia in 1972.
Michael Falcon – right handed batter, right arm fast medium bowler. His averages are just the right way round.
+Eric Edrich – right handed batter, wicket keeper. 53 dismissals in 38 first class appearances.
*Johnny Wardle – left arm orthodox spinner, left arm wrist spinner, useful lower order batter. Born in Ardsley, just outside Barnsley in South Yorkshire. After a distinguished career for his native county and for England (102 test wickets at 20.39) he fell out with the Yorkshire authorities and ultimately played minor counties cricket for Cambridgeshire (Yorkshire in their vindictiveness ensured that no other first class county would touch him). His claim on a place is somewhat tenuous but I needed a quality spin bowler somewhere in the side, so I decided to stretch a point and include him.
Desmond Rought-Rought – right arm fast medium bowler, took his first class wickets at 28 a piece. Born at Brandon in Suffolk.
Rodney Rought-Rought – fast medium bowler, cannot ascertain which arm he used – am hoping it is left for the sake of variety. Brother of Desmond and also born at Brandon.
Olly Stone – right arm fast bowler. In this side, with the two Rought-Roughts, Falcon and Edrich able to bowl seam there would no excuse for using him in other than short spells at top pace.
ANALYSING THE XI
This team has a solid batting line up, one bowler of genuine pace, various fast-medium bowlers and one of the finest spinners of them all. It would give a good account of itself in most conditions. The Sydney Sixers somehow turned their game against the Melbourne Stars around and won by one wicket with one ball to spare, taking all four points.
Since there will be no cricket, or any other sport come to that, for a while I am going to fill the void by playing selector for a few all-time squads. Since I grew up in south London I will start with Surrey.
MY SURREY XI EXPLAINED
Jack Hobbs – more first class runs and more first class hundreds than anyone else, also still has the England record for Ashes runs – 3,636 of them, including another record, 12 centuries in those matches. He was also a more than handy bowler of medium pace and a brilliant fielder at cover point. His claim to an opening slot is unanswerable.
John Edrich – the left hander was one of three strong contenders for this slot, and both of the other two, Andrew Sandhamand Tom Hayward, actually did open the innings with Hobbs, but although I see the value of…
An account of two and a half extraordinary days of cricket at Adelaide.
The first test between Australia and India in the latest series for the Border-Gavaskar Trophy has ended after only half the allotted time, with Australia winning by eight wickets. Two and a half days proved ample time for some extraordinary happenings as we shall see…
This match was a day-nighter which made it slightly easier to follow from the UK (the BBC have rights to Australian radio broadcasts for three years, so there was live commentary on 5 Live Sports Extra) – just a very early morning start as opposed an all-nighter. Both sides had questions over their opening pairs due to injuries. For India Prithvi Shaw got the nod to open with Mayank Agarwal, while with both Warner and heir apparent Pucovski hors de combat for Australia they opted for Matthew Wade, who had never previously opened a first class innings, never mind a test one to partner Joe Burns. The other question was over India’s choice of keeper, and they opted for the superior keeper, Wriddhiman Saha rather than deepening their batting by selecting Rishabh Pant.
India won the toss and chose to bat. The second ball of the game exposed a gap between Shaw’s bat and pad through which an HGV could have been driven, leading to the ‘death rattle’ and India were 0-1. Agarwal also fell cheaply, before Chesteshwar Pujara and Virat Kohli stabilized things. Pujara batted well up to a point, but did not do quite enough to keep the scoreboard ticking. Ajinkya Rahane now joined Kohli and for a time all was rosy for India, as the pairing prospered. The falling sweep twitter account piped up to mention that Rahane had never been run out in a test innings, to which I could not resist responding with a question as to whether that related to good running or an ability to ensure that his partners lost their wickets when mix-ups occurred. A few moments after this exchange Rahane proceeded to stitch his skipper up, and India were four down. Rahane himself followed not long after, and Hanuma Vihari also fell cheaply, bringing R Ashwin into join the keeper Saha. None of the remaining members of the batting order, Umesh Yadav, Jasprit Bumrah and Mohammad Shami could lay claim to any real batting skill, although Bumrah had just notched his maiden first class 50 in a warm-up game against Australia A. Saha and Ashwin made it to the close with the score at 233-6.
The second day began with a flurry of wickets, as India were quickly rounded up for a total of 244. Australia made this total look quite respectable, and it was only a fighting 73 not out from captain/ wicket keeper Tim Paine that kept their deficit to 53. India missed a cartload of chances as well – officially five catches went down, and there was more than one incident of an edge falling short of a fielder who had positioned themselves too deep to make the catch. Among thos reprieved was Paine himself on 25.
India began their second innings 25 minutes before the cut-off time at which stumps had to be drawn, which I thought represented a case for promoting Pujara to open in place of the clearly vulnerable Shaw (check my twitter account and you will see that I posted to this effect at the time). India felt otherwise and in to bat trooped Shaw and Agarwal. This time Shaw did get off the mark, but with four to his name he was bowled in pretty much identical fashion to the first innings, the ball going through a veritable chasm between bat and pad to hit the stumps. Bumrah was then sent in as nightwatchman, and managed to see things through to the close at 9-1.
For some reason known only to themselves the BBC were not joining the broadcast of the third day’s play until 40 minutes after the start, so I missed the beginning of the end, the commentary being joined just as Kohli was dismissed to make it 19-6. I heard commentary on the dismissals that I had missed, as playbacks were presented during the coverage of what remained, and I heard the end of the Indian innings and the entire Australia chase. Agarwal and Bumrah took the score to 15 before Bumrah was out, the first of four successive wickets, the others being Agarwal, Pujara and Rahane to fall with the score at 15. Saha and Ashwin fell in successive balls as well, and that was 26-8. At 31 Vihari, the last recognized batter was ninth out, and five runs later Shami was struck on the arm and retired hurt, leaving the Indian 2nd innings all over for just 36, their lowest ever test score (previously 42 versus England). Australia thus required 90 to win. Burns and Wade batted well, before Wade was run out with Australia 20 short of the target. Labuschage holed out with eight still needed. The end came with Joe Burns hitting a six that also took him to a half century.
His 73 not out, captaincy and excellent wicket keeping, including a fistful of catches in that second Indian innings earned Paine the man of the match award.
THE INDIAN 2ND INNINGS
Normally when a team is out very cheaply there is at least some culpability on the part of the batters. When England sank for 46 to lose a match they had been ahead in at Trinidad in 1994 the rout began with Atherton padding up to the first ball and being plumb LBW, Ramprakash falling in the same over, also to a dismissal that suggested a player and a team in a funk. Here, apart from Shaw at the end of day two, the wickets all seem to have fallen to magnificent bowling, Cummins (four wickets, including his 150th in test cricket) and Hazlewood (five, at one stage 5-3, 5-8 by the end of the innings, including his 200th test wicket) bowling a perfect line and length and benefitting from some good fortune which both thoroughly deserved, as they found numerous edges and each edge was pouched, mostly by the keeper, some by other fielders. 36 all out in a test is a shocker, but here any honest observer has to credit the bowling, not blame the batting.
One crumb of comfort for India: immediately after the 46 all out I referred to earlier, and which I regard as a worse collapse, for all that England then scraped up 10 more runs than India managed this time, England travelled to Barbados where the West Indies had not been beaten in 59 years, and proceeded to win comfortably, Alec Stewart notching a century in each innings.
LOOKING TO THE FUTURE
Obviously India have a mountain climb, and the fact that Kohli is leaving to be with his wife as she gives birth and Shami is in jeopardy due to his injury today makes it even steeper, but they must not give up. The next game is at the MCG, where they won comfortably last time they were in Australia, and Bumrah in particular will have fond memories of that match. At the start of the 1902 Ashes Australia were bowled out for 36 in a single innings, albeit then being saved by the weather, and rebounded to win the series 2-1, with England’s lone victory coming in the final match at The Oval. I await the match in Melbourne with great interest, having enjoyed this one very much.
I will start with the winning team:
Matthew Wade – given a job to do that he had never previously done he can be proud of his contribution to a low scoring match. 6/10 Joe Burns – many were questioning his presence in this team, and his first innings effort was far from encouraging. He also struggled in the first part of his second innings, but in the end emerged with flying colours. 7/10 Marnus Labuschagne – a gritty effort in the first innings when the rest of the Aussie front line batters all fell cheaply, and he fell in the second innings when trying to speed Australia over the winning line. 7/10 Steve Smith – R Ashwin demonstrated in the first innings that the least elegant but most effective batter in the game can be dismissed cheaply, and he did not the opportunity to make a noteworthy contribution to the 2nd innings. 3/10 Travis Head – an anonymous match for him. He failed in his only batting innings. 2/10 Cameron Green – a hugely exciting young all rounder of whom I expect to be hearing much more. He did enough in this game to demonstrate that he belongs at the highest level. 5/10 Tim Paine – a gritty innings, some fine keeping and good captaincy (although his use of the DRS still needs plenty of work). His player of the match award was well merited. 9/10 Pat Cummins – the right arm quick demonstrated why he is currently ranked the no1 test bowler in the world, bowling very well in the first Indian innings and magnificently in the second. 9/10 Mitchell Starc – good with the ball in the first innings, not much needed in the second. 7/10 Josh Hazlewood – a superb bowling effort in the second innings in tandem with Pat Cummins, and adequate in the first innings. 8/10 Nathan Lyon – the off spinner was out bowled by his rival Ashwin, but in a match where the quicks were more prominent he was far from failing. 7/10
Now we turn the Indians:
Mayant Agarwal: not a match the established opener will look back on with any pride. 4/10 Prithvi Shaw: a nightmare for the youngster who has a magnificent record in Indian domestic cricket but is not yet established as a test player. I cannot see him continuing as an opener – it is an early wicket every time for the Aussies if he does, but he may have a role in this series nonetheless as there will be a vacancy at no4, where he will be less exposed. 1/10 Cheteshwar Pujara: he did a solid job in the first innings, although he should have done more to keep the scoreboard ticking. Failed in the second innings. 4/10 Virat Kohli: before being stitched up by Rahane in the first innings he looked nailed on for a century. 7/10 Ajinkya Rahane: played well in the first innings, but a lot of the good he did for his side with his personal score was negated by his role in Kohli’s dismissal and his own subsequent dismissal shortly afterwards. Including the run out of Kohli the last 16 Indian wickets plus Shami retired hurt raised just 89 between them. 3/10 Hanuma Vihari: two failures for the youngster. 2/10 Wriddhiman Saha: kept superbly as usual, and looked to have done a valuable job with the bat in the closing stages of the opening day. 4/10 R Ashwin: good work with the bat near the end of the first day, but dismissed right at the start of the second when a decent morning’s batting could have put India out of reach in the match. Bowled beautifully in the Australian first innings and was rewarded with four wickets. 7/10 Umesh Yadav: bowled respectably in the first Australian innings. 5/10 Jasprit Bumrah: bowled impressively and commanded respect from all the Aussies. It must be said that there was little evidence of his much vaunted improvement with the bat and using him as nightwatchman was probably a mistake (if India were going to protect any of their major batters it should have been Shaw, which they could have done by promoting Pujara one place). Still, he did little noticeably wrong, and did manage the nightwatchman’s first task of surviving to the close of play. 6/10
Looking at the players India have available for the second match I would suggest that they select Shubman Gill to open with Agarwal and fill the temporarily vacant no4 slot by moving Shaw down from his current opening berth.
If you wish to see a scorecard and some more recognized views about this match, click here.
A look at the innovations featured in the tenth edition of the Big Bash League and a visit to all-time XI territory, with place names the link on this occasion.
A two-parter today, first looking at the innovations featured in this year’s Big Bash League and then, inspired by something I noticed during commentary on today’s weather hit game a revisit to all-time XI territory.
The current version of the Big Bash League, the tenth running of said tournament, features three innovations, and I shall touch on each in turn:
Power Surge: instead of a straight six overs of power play and then 14 of standard fielding restrictions there are now four overs of power play, and then a Power Surge of two overs, to be claimed at any time after 10 overs at the behest of the batting side. This has been a really successful innovation, with a lot of thought going into to when to take it. Ideally you would want two set batters at the crease to maximize the potential gain, and also to be quite close to the end of the innings to use it as a kind of springboard into a big finish. I can see the possibility of claiming it for overs 11 and 12 if the openers are still together, on the understanding that a big hitter will be promoted to cash in on it if one of the openers falls. If that is not an option then if two batters are going well at the end of the 15th over, claiming it for overs 16 and 17 with a view to really making the final quarter of the innings pay would appeal. I do not share TMS Commentator Simon Mann’s view about taking it for the last two overs of the innings being a good notion.
Bash Bonus Point – a bonus point is awarded to the team who score more from their first 10 overs, while three are awarded for the outright win. This has led to some interesting situations where teams knowing that overall victory is effectively out of the question go all out for being ahead after 10 overs in an effort to salvage something, as opposed to concentrating on surviving the full 20 overs so that their net run rate does not take a hammering. I consider this to be a success, although I could see a situation where a team gets knocked out due to this innovation, and fans would not be happy with that.
The ‘x-factor’ sub: players designated for this role before the game may be brought in (no more than one per side) after a maximum of ten overs of the first innings of the match. The substituted player must not have batted and may not have bowled more than one over (sensible caveats which prevent a specialist batter being used and then replaced by a specialist bowler, and vice versa). I have witnessed only two matches (via TMS commentaries) in which these players have been used, one of them today’s no-result. I have waited until I had actually seen the usage of such players before commenting on the innovation, but I have seen nothing to alter my initial thinking that if you actually pick your best XI at the start you should not need to make use of this option, and the fact that uptake of it has been very limited is itself a comment on the innovation. Thus I score these innovations at two out of three.
A PLACE NAMES XI
One of the players who featured in today’s match was Joel Paris, a left arm pace bowler, which started me thinking about players who have places in their names. I set myself rules that the place name must be the whole of on the player’s names, not part thereof, and that it must be spelt the same way (as you will see later this latter was germane). After I have been through the batting order I will explain some of those who missed out for one reason or another.
Sir Leonard Hutton – right handed opening batter, occasional leg spinner. Hutton is a place in Essex, on the edge of Shenfield.
Sidney George Barnes – right handed opening batter, occasional leg spinner. A combination of World War Two and the fact that he and the authorities did not always get on limited his test career to 13 matches, in which he recorded an average of 63. Barnes is near Putney, either southwest London or Surrey depending on who you consult.
Frank Woolley – left handed batter, left arm orthodox spinner, excellent close fielder. Woolley is a small village, almost precisely equidistant between Barnsley and Wakefield in Yorkshire.
Ken Barrington – right handed batter, occasional leg spinner. Upper and Lower Barrington are a matched pair of villages in Gloucestershire (Marcus Berkmann mentions them in one of his books about life in cricket’s lower reaches).
Victor York Richardson – right handed batter, fine fielder, occasional wicket keeper. A fine test batter in the 1920s and 30s, and grandfather of two others, Ian and Greg Chappell, his middle name gets him into this team.
*Warwick Armstrong – right handed batter, leg spinner, captain. I rated him the finer of the two regular test captains in this line up, and anyway I wanted Hutton free to concentrate on his batting. In the 1905 tour of England he scored over 2,000 runs and took over 100 wickets in first class matches.
+Jack Blackham – right handed batter, wicket keeper. He played in each of the first 17 test matches ever contested and is regarded as one of the greatest of all keepers. Blackham is a small village almost exactly equidistant between East Grinstead in Sussex and Tunbridge Wells in Kent.
Washington Sundar – off spinner, left handed lower order batter. The 21 year old Indian has been making a name for himself in T20, but he also has a more than adequate FC record, averaging 31.29 with the bat and 26.93 with the ball in that format.
Joel Paris – left arm fast medium bowler, left handed lower order batter. His first class averages are just the right way around – 23.38 with the bat and 23.25 with the ball.
Sydney Francis Barnes – right arm fast medium bowler, right handed lower order batter. In the case of Sidney Barnes the batter I had to use his surname as the place name, but this greatest of all bowlers qualifies twice over, since his first name Sydney is spelt the same way as Australia’s largest city.
Ian Peebles – leg spinner, right handed lower order batter. Peebles is due south of Edinburgh.
This team has a deep batting order, a very varied and strong bowling attack, and would definitely give a good account of itself. Now for some honourable mentions:
William Maldon Woodfull, a fine opening bat and captain for Victoria and Australia would qualify by virtue of his middle name, which is a place in Essex and also the place in Victoria where he was born. Anthony William Greig, an attacking middle order bat good enough to average 40 in test cricket and a decent bowler of both medium pace and off spin missed out by a single letter – the Cornish seaside village of Antony not having an H in its name. Rahkeem Cornwall might have replaced Washington Sundar without unduly weakening the team (he is also an off spinner and more than useful lower order batter). Had I allowed myself to reach back a few hundred years to a long antiquated spelling of a place near York, which is now always spelt Bootham, as it is pronounced, I could have accommodated Ian Terrence Botham – the single o spelling was once a thing. Arran Brindle, a batter for England women who has at least one century in men’s club cricket to her name, could have got in via her first name. Ian Peebles’ place in the XI could have gone to either of two other leg spinners, Richie Benaud, whose name derives from a village in France, but who I would have heading the commentary team, and Amanda-Jade Wellington. Finally, I was tempted to find a place for Mike Gatting who shares a surname with a legendary former UK constituency. The old Gatting constituency, disenfranchised in 1831, contained one grand house, and it happened on one occasion that the butler had a quarrel with the master of the house and stood against the master’s son (the master by this time considering himself to old to be a candidate). The master voted for his son over the butler and that was that.
Rory Burns is missing because his wife is about to give birth, and Stokes among those being rested. No issues with those two omissions. However, Jonathan Bairstow should be nowhere near selection for an England test squad, likewise Moeen Ali, who was never actually that great, and has not done anything in red ball cricket for some time. As I indicated in my previous post making my own picks I would also have left out the veterans Broad and Anderson as neither have great records in Sri Lanka and this tour should have been used to experiment. I would also have left out Dom Bess. James Bracey should be in the main squad, not listed as a reserve, ditto Matthew Parkinson and Amar Virdi.
On the plus side, Stone and Wood are both in the main squad, as is Daniel Lawrence. I am also glad to see that Ben Foakes is there, although whether he actually gets selected remains to be seen.
Three of the official reserves, Craig Overton, Ollie Robinson and Mason Crane should not have been picked, Overton and Robinson because their bowling methods are unsuited to Sri Lankan conditions, Crane because he is a proven failure at the highest level, and England needing to be looking forward not back.
This England party has been picked with eyes fixed firmly on the past. From the players listed in the main squad and the reserves I would pick as my starting XI for a match in Sri Lanka: Dom Sibley, Zak Crawley, James Bracey, *Joe Root, Daniel Lawrence, Chris Woakes, +Ben Foakes, Sam Curran, Mark Wood, Jack Leach and Matthew Parkinson. This combo is a little light on batting with Woakes and Foakes at six and seven, but absent Stokes it is the only way to accommodate a back up seam option while still playing two genuine front line spinners, and Sri Lanka tends to be a place where games are fairly high scoring, so I err on the side of having more bowling options, as that is where the principal difficulty is likely to be.
SPIN OPTIONS FOR ENGLAND
I have indicated that I would start with Leach and Parkinson, with Virdi as a back up spinner. Lewis Goldsworthy, an all rounder who bowls left arm spin, may well be worth a pick in the not too distant future, if he can build on his good showing for England U19s. Liam Patterson-White has made a promising start to his career at county level. Finally, there is the radical option I have touched on previously: give Sophie Ecclestone a chance to play alongside the men. The spin bowling cupboard is not massively well stocked at present, although a few youngsters besides those I have named have made appearances at county level, but even in its current state it does represent a reason for bringing back average performers (Moeen Ali at test level) or worse still proven expensive failures (Mason Crane).
Overall, while acknowledging that they faced difficulties due to various players not being available, I have to say that the selection of this touring party represents a clear failure on the part of the selectors. I award them 3 out of 10.
I don my selector’s hat to name my suggested tour party for the test tour of Sri Lanka in January. Also, as usual there are some photographs.
The dates for the England’s two test matches in Sri Lanka have been confirmed. The first test will take place from 14-18 January and the second from 22-26 January. In this post I name the tour party I would pick given the circumstances. This is not, repeat not, an attempt at prediction. Jofra Archer is confirmed as an absentee, and Jos Buttler is possibly also going to be rested, and I have made this my assumption. Ollie Pope is a doubt due to injury, and Stokes may choose to miss the tour for personal reasons. Here I have assumed that Pope is not available but that Stokes is, though I also explain who I would select as Stokes’ replacement and why. I have two supplementary sections after going through my chosen squad, one explaining the biggest of the unexplained omissions and a controversial footnote.
MY ENVISAGED STARTING XI
My thinking here is informed by several factors: Sri Lanka are currently not one of the strongest of international outfits which means that this could well be a good first tour for youngsters, classic English fast medium bowlers do not tend to fare all that well in Sri Lanka, and the spin options are somewhat limited for England. The scene set, here we go:
Dominic Sibley – right handed opening batter, very occasional leg spinner. There are question marks over his ability to handle spinners, and he could well have difficulty against Sri Lanka’s best current bowler, Dananjaya (bowling average 24.33) but his overall record since his elevation means that he warrants selection. I do not expect him to increase his meagre tally of four first class wickets on this tour.
Rory Burns – left handed batter, occasional wicket keeper. He is also happier against seam than spin, but like Sibley deserves his continued presence in the side.
Zak Crawley – right handed batter. The youngster has been a revelation since his elevation to international level, with his monumental 267 vs Pakistan an obvious highlight.
*Joe Root – captain, right handed batter, occasional off spinner. The skipper has been somewhat short of runs lately, but England will need his experience.
Ben Stokes – left handed batter, right arm fast bowler. The one member of this England squad one cannot even attempt to find a like for like replacement for. If he does pull out it will be a crippling blow for England even considering the less than stellar opposition.
Daniel Lawrence – right handed batter, occasional off spinner. He deserves his chance at the highest level, is known to play spin well, and his bowling is by no means negligible (I would certainly have him ahead of Root in the bowling pecking order). For more on my thinking here see my earlier post arguing against a test recall for Jonny Bairstow.
+Ben Foakes – right handed batter, wicket keeper. Since the retirement from top level cricket of Sarah Taylor his status as England’s finest contemporary keeper has been unchallenged, he had a splendid tour of Sri Lanka last time England were here, and he should be given another opportunity.
Sam Curran – left handed batter, left arm fast medium bowler. His left handedness increases the variety available to the bowling attack and he is also a more than useful lower/ middle order batter.
Mark Wood – right handed batter, right arm fast bowler. Archer is not available for this tour, and I want at least one bowler of serious pace in the side.
Jack Leach – left handed batter, left arm orthodox spinner. I think two genuine spinners are needed on Sri Lankan pitches, Bess has struggled of late, failing to build on his good tour of South Africa, and England are not massively spoilt for choice in this department.
Matthew Parkinson – right handed batter, leg spinner. Deserves a chance to establish himself at the highest level.
We now turn our attention to the reserves. This is a very short tour, but Covid-19 necessitates having plenty of cover available, so I name seven designated reserves, and mention a couple of others.
Liam Livingstone – right handed batter, occasional bowler of both off spin and leg spin. Primarily selected on the basis of his batting, but his bowling may well get some use as well.
James Bracey – right handed batter, wicket keeper. He is more batter than keeper, but he is good enough at the latter role to be designated official reserve keeper as cover for Foakes while also covering a batting slot.
Jordan Cox – right handed batter, occasional wicket keeper. A hugely promising youngster, having scored a double century for Kent against Sussex while still in his teens. I admit that in making this call I am influenced by the success that his county colleague Crawley has enjoyed since his own elevation.
Will Jacks – right handed batter, off spinner. He probably has more bowling pedigree than Moeen Ali did when he was first selected to bowl spin for England, although he is undoubtedly more batter than bowler. He is as close to an all rounder who bowls spin as England have at the moment.
Chris Woakes – right handed batter, right arm fast medium bowler. He is much better in England than he is overseas, but his all round skills would enable him to cover any vacancy save in the wicket keeping department without massively weakening the side.
Olly Stone – right handed batter, right arm fast bowler. Cover for Wood, and might replace Curran to give the attack extra pace, although that would give England a decidedly long tail.
Amar Virdi – right handed batter, off spinner. Specialist spin cover, chosen instead of Bess.
Ollie Pope – right handed batter, occasional keeper. Obviously he makes the trip if fit, in which case Lawrence reverts to being a reserve, he is the first of two conditional names here, the other being…
Lewis Gregory – right handed batter, right arm fast medium. Should he pull out Stokes cannot be replaced, and in view of the frequency of high scoring games in this part of the world I feel that bowling depth is more needed than batting depth, so the man who would take Stokes’ place in the event of him pulling out is someone who is more bowler than batter.
1100 TEST WICKETS OVERLOOKED?
I have mentioned elsewhere that Sri Lanka is not a happy hunting ground for fast medium bowlers, and that applies in spades to Stuart Broad, whose record there is quite frankly dreadful. James Anderson has a less bad record in Sri Lanka than Stuart Broad, but it is hardly one to shout about. I therefore feel that England can be best served by not selecting the two veterans, and instead giving younger bowlers a chance to flourish against one the less strong test match outfits. In the future England are due to tour India and Australia, and one would rather not have players making their first test match tour to either of those countries. Also, neither Leach nor Parkinson, my two envisaged spinners, are up to much with the bat, and while I do not subscribe to selecting bowlers based on their batting it has to be said that an 8,9,10, 11 of Broad, Leach, Anderson, Parkinson as it would presumably be looks very fragile.
A CONTROVERSIAL FINISH
I have noted that England are not hugely well equipped in the spin bowling department, and I think that recalling either Adil Rashid or Moeen Ali to the test squad would be a retrograde step, especially in view of the fact that this is a tour where youngsters should be getting a chance. One potential solution is someone who has a phenomenal record at both domestic and international level, just not in men’s cricket: Sophie Ecclestone. I have not named her in my envisaged tour party, but I could see her doing the job.
Time for my usual sign off – to see a photo at full size please click on it:
Three all-time England T20XIs selected with differing criteria in response to a twitter challenge from The Cricket Men, some photographs and a video.
This post is a response to a challenge thrown out on twitter yesterday by The Cricket Men. I have extended their brief, and rather than one XI will be naming three: one made up exclusively of T20 players, one which features two past greats who methods I believe would have been especially suited to T20, and one which is made up entirely of past greats.
CONVENTIONAL T20 XI
Kevin Pietersen – right handed batter, occasional off spinner. An explosive batter, just right for opening a T20 innings.
+Jos Buttler – right handed batter, wicket keeper. Possibly the finest limited overs batter England have ever had, and a shoo-in for this XI.
Dawid Malan – left handed batter, occasional left arm spinner. Officially the highest rated T20I batter ever, with 915 points following his amazing series against South Africa.
Jonny Bairstow – right handed batter, occasional wicket keeper. One of the most devastating of short form batters around. His 86 not out in the first match of the series against South Africa first kept England in the contest and then led them to victory.
Ben Stokes – left handed batter, right arm fast bowler. Explosive with the bat, and a golden arm with the ball, though probably seventh bowler in this combination.
Andrew Flintoff – right handed batter, right arm fast bowler. A must for this XI.
Sam Curran – left handed batter, left arm medium fast bowler. His stocks went through the roof in this year’s IPL, and his performances against South Africa confirmed his advancement.
Chris Woakes – right handed batter, right arm fast medium bowler. A big hitting batter and a crafty operator with the ball.
Adil Rashid – right handed batter, leg spinner. He is superb in this form of the game, economical with the ball even when he is not picking up wickets.
*Graeme Swann – right handed batter, off spinner. I preferred him to Moeen Ali for the second spinner’s role because he was a much better bowler, although not as good in his secondary role.
Jofra Archer – right handed batter, right arm fast bowler. With all due respect to Messrs Flintoff and Stokes, likely sixth and seventh bowlers in this combination, we need some genuine pace at our disposal, and for me Archer is the man to provide it
PAST GREATS INTO THE MIX
My second XI involves the addition of two blasts from the past who I consider would have been particularly effective in this format:
*Gilbert Jessop – right handed batter, right arm fast bowler. Jessop was the fastest scoring top line batter the game has ever seen, and bear in mind that for most of his career a ball had to go right out of the ground as opposed to just over the ropes to count six. He was also a highly skilled quick bowler who once bowled unchanged through a first class innings conceding just three runs (v Northants in 1907, in a total of 12 all out – George Dennett 8-9, Jessop 2-3). Finally, he was what is now termed a ‘gun’ fielder to the extent that most reckonings of his contribution in this department have him effectively coming to the crease already 30 not out. I have also named him as captain, a job he did for Gloucestershire for some years.
Derek Underwood – right handed batter, left arm slow medium bowler. He was famously miserly at the bowling crease, and his style of bowling, with taking the pace of the ball so often being desirable at T20, would seem well suited to this format.
BLASTS FROM THE PAST
My final selection comprises entirely players from the past:
*WG Grace – right handed batter, right arm bowler of varying types, excellent close catcher, captain. With his range of skills and forceful personality he just has to feature.
Frank Woolley – left handed batter, left arm orthodox spinner, brilliant fielder. His attacking brilliance with the bat makes him well suited to the no3 slot in this team and he would also be full value in the field.
Denis Compton – right handed batter, left arm wrist spinner. Capable of scoring all round the wicket.
+Les Ames – right handed batter, wicket keeper. In the 1930s the Walter Lawrence trophy, awarded to the scorer of the fastest first class hundred of the English season, was launched. In two of it’s first three seasons it went to Les Ames, the only recognized keeper ever to score 100 first class hundreds. He holds the record for career first class stumpings – 418 of them in total.
Percy Fender – right handed batter, leg spinner. The scorer of the fastest competitive first class century (35 minutes vs Northants, there have been a few instances of players getting to the mark quicker against bowlers deliberately feeding them runs to bring about a declaration), a brilliant fielder, and a regular wicket taker. Also, although no one could usurp the mighty WG for the captaincy, I acknowledge his skills in this area by naming him vice captain of the XI.
George Hirst – right handed batter, left arm fast medium bowler. One of the greatest all rounders ever to play the game, and his attacking approach would be well suited to short form cricket. Like Jessop he was what we now call a ‘gun’ fielder, in his case usually patrolling mid off.
Billy Bates – right handed batter, off spinner. He had a remarkable record, including a 55 and two seven-fors in the same test match, at Melbourne in 1883. Playing for the Players against the Gentlemen in 1881 he had a spell of 17 overs for eight runs (so much for those carefree, all-attacking amateurs!), so he could certainly keep it tight.
Bill Lockwood – right handed batter, right arm fast bowler. Variation of pace was mentioned in the context of certain earlier bowlers, notably Alfred Shaw and the Australia FR Spofforth, but the first bowler about whom the phrase ‘slower ball’ was regularly used was this man, and his version appears to have been the deadliest to see the light of day until Franklyn Stephenson came on the scene almost a century later. Given the role the slower balls play in the armoury of T20 bowlers I suggest that one of the great early masters of the craft has to be included.
William Mycroft – right handed batter, left arm fast bowler. His extraordinary record (863 wickets in 138 first matches at 12.09 apiece), the fact that he could move the ball as well as propel it at great pace and his the fact that he bowled left handed all militate in his favour.
BRIEF ANALYSES OF THE XIS
My pure T20 squad has good batting depth, with everyone in it having some degree of skill with the bat, and seven genuine bowling options. It is well equipped to handle every challenge and would give a good account of itself.
The second squad has even greater bowling depth, and although it features one genuine tailender in Underwood the bowling depth is awesome.
My final offering, the blasts from the past combination, is simply awesome, with recognized batting talent all the way down to Lockwood at no9, and so much depth and variety in the bowling that Compton, by no means poor in that department, would probably be 10th choice bowler on most surfaces.
A FEW OF THE MISSING
These names all relate to the blasts from the past. Alfred Shaw, the man who bowled more first class overs than he conceded runs, was one I would have loved to include, while two fast medium bowlers who hit the ball miles when they batted, Jim Smith of Middlesex and Arthur Wellard of Somerset also commanded attention but could not quite get in. Cecil Parkin of Lancashire, with his penchant for bowling six different types of delivery per over, would have been good in T20, and I nearly selected him ahead of Bates. The great SF Barnes would have been formidable at any form of the game but I think he would have found being limited to four overs per innings insupportable, so he missed out. Some of you will doubtless have your own ideas, and I hope you will post them in the comments.
A very contrasting set of photographs, featuring yesterday’s snow and today’s far more benign weather.
To finish, here is a video of the snow falling yesterday (a rare happening in King’s Lynn):
A look back at the recently concluded T20I series between South Africa and England, a petition, a link and some photographs.
The T20I series between England and South Africa ended last night, and what an ending it was! This post looks back at that series.
MATCH 1: BEURAN HENDRICKS’ HORROR SHOW
South Africa bossed this match for most of its duration, but in the 17th over of the innings Beuran Hendricks lost his bearings completely and in so doing lost South Africa the match. England had needed 51 off the last 24 balls to win, but by the time Hendricks had reached the end of his over, taking nine deliveries instead of the regulation six to do so, that had become 23 of 18, and England were suddenly in full control, and duly completed their victory with four balls and five wickets to spare.
MATCH 2: NGIDI’S PYRRHIC VICTORY OVER MALAN
Once again England were behind for large parts of this match, and with three overs to go in the chase they needed 28, which looked a tough proposition on a slow pitch. Ngidi;s final over was the 18th over of the chase, and although he dismissed Malan with the fifth ball of it the previous four had been dispatched for 14. The dismissal was immediately followed by a wide and then two off the extra delivery necessitated by the infraction, which reduced the target to 11 off 12 balls. South Africa opted for Nortje rather than Rabada to bowl the 19th, and by the end of it England needed just three to win, and gamely though he tried not even Rabada could prevent that.
MATCH 3: THE MALAN MASTERCLASS
South Africa won the toss and batted. After 10 overs they were 66-3, by the end of the 15th this had improved to 107-3, and then Rassie van der Dussen and Faf du Plessis went crazy in the last five overs, plundering no fewer than 84 further runs to finish on 191-3, a daunting looking total.
Roy made 16 before holing out, which brought Dawid Malan, the world no1 ranked T20I batter, in to join Buttler. Malan hit 10 off his first two balls, and simply kept on going. Buttler supported him well, and by the end of the 10th over England were 85-1, needing 107 in the remaining 10 to complete a 3-0 sweep. By the end of the 15th, such was the onslaught they now launched, this target had been reduced to 29 in the final five overs, and in the 18th over Malan hit his fifth six to move to 94 and put England within six of the target. The next delivery was a wide, and then Malan hit a four to level the scores. Off the fourth legal delivery of the over Malan took the match and series winning single, finishing unbeaten on 99 off 47 balls. This victory took England to the top of T20I rankings, and Malan’s innings saw him become the first T20I batter to have a rating of over 900 points – 915 to be exact. In his 19th T20I it was tenth score of 50 or more, and his average in the form of the game now stands at 53. Before this match began, for all his ranking, there were those still questioning whether Malan was worth his place in the team. He provided the most emphatic of affirmative answers to that one, and I trust we will hear no more of such nonsense.
The first two matches of this series were closely fought, with the result in doubt until quite close to the end, but this was every bit as much of a shellacking as a margin of nine wickets with 14 balls to spare suggests. Less than eight hours after this game finished Australia set out to make at a 3-0 sweep of an ODI series against India, and failed to deliver, going down by 13 runs, the hitherto dominant Steve Smith (rapid centuries in both the first two matches) contributing just seven.
Richard Murphy of Tax Research UK has put up a post titled MMT: a primer, which I heartily recommend you to read. If you want to explore the subject in greater detail, as I hope, then as well as Richard’s blog I recommend that you get hold of a copy of Stephanie Kelton’s “The Deficit Myth”.