Early Thoughts on The Hundred

A look at cricket’s newest format, The Hundred and some photographs.

It has been a while since I last posted here, and it is time to rectify that omission. The new cricket competition, The Hundred got underway on Thursday evening, and I now offer my early thoughts on it.

ABOUT THE HUNDRED

The Hundred differs from other formats of cricket in the following ways:

  • No overs – there are blocks of five balls, a bowler may bowl either five balls or 10 balls at a stretch depending on the captain’s decision, and the players change ends every 10 balls. The total innings duration is 100 balls per side, hence the name. Commentator Dan Norcross made an intriguing Paris Metro based suggestion for naming these blocks – tickets on that transport are purchasable in blocks of five or ten and the word for such a block is ‘carnet’, pronounced ‘Car-nay’.
  • Each bowler may bowl up to 20 balls in the course of the innings.
  • The fielding captain is permitted to take one strategic time out lasting two and a half minutes at any time after the first 25 balls.
  • The first 25 balls are a Power Play in which only two fielders may be placed more than 30 yards from the bat, while for the rest of the innings five may be placed deep
  • If the fielding side have not started the last set of five balls by a certain preset tine they are punished by being required to bring one extra fielder in close.

PROS AND CONS

Many readers will be aware that when it was first mooted I was strongly opposed to The Hundred. I still think that it is cluttering up an already overcrowded calendar, and still have concerns about the absolute marginalization of the county championship, and I also feel that some of those pushing this competition have been unnecessarily antagonistic towards existing fans in their search for new ones. However, it is here to stay, it is very enjoyable. Also, it has undoubtedly been a huge boon for women’s cricket, with the women’s games an integral part of the tournament rather than a sideshow. On Saturday over 21,000 spectators watched the two women’s games, being respectively the largest and second largest ever audiences for a women’s domestic game in this country.

SOME OF THE MATCHES

The highest score of the competition to date came from Jemimah Rodrigues, who with the top order crumbling around her so that the score at one point was 19-4 chasing 131 to win scored 94 not out off 42 balls to carry her side to victory. Alice Capsey, the youngest player involved in the tournament, lit up Lord’s on Saturday morning with a glorious 59 off 41 balls. Yesterday at Manchester saw a bowling dominated day – in the women’s match Birmngham Phoenix tallied 113 batting first, which proved enough to win by 20 runs. Then in the men’s match Phoenix became the first side to be bowled out inside 100 balls, managing a measly 87 off 86 balls. Matt Parkinson for the home side, the Manchester Originals, took 4-9 from 19 balls, finishing the innings by taking three in four balls including as good a ball as a bowler of his type can produce – pitched on leg stump it tilted the middle stump backwards. Just to ensure that the total would never trouble the Originals Phil Salt gave the reply a flying start with 22 off 11 balls, as half the required runs were knocked off in the 25 ball Power Play. Thereafter there was no way for Phoenix to apply any pressure, although Benny Howell, a crafty medium pacer, bowled well for them.

YOUNGSTERS TO THE FORE

At the same time as the new competition is going on, so is the Royal London Cup 50 overs per side competition. With so many first choice players not available to them the counties have had no option but to select quite a number of youngsters. Yesterday’s match between Yorkshire and Leicestershire saw Harry Duke at the age of 19 rack up his first professional century, helping his side to a convincing victory.

PHOTOGRAPHS

My usual sign off…

England’s New ODI Squad

My thoughts on the new ODI squad that England have had to select, and some photographs.

The original England ODI squad for the upcoming series against Pakistan has had to go into self isolation due to seven positive covid-19 tests among their number. A new squad, to be captained by Ben Stokes, who was originally being eased back from injury and had therefore not been called up. In this post I look at the new squad, and provide some thoughts on it. This is the worst disruption faced by England cricket in my lifetime, beating even that caused by the rebel tours of Apartheid South Africa in 1982 and 1989, and overall the ECB have handled it well.

THE NEW SQUAD

The 18 names in the new squad are as follows (courtesy of the ECB website):

Ben Stokes (Durham, captain)
Jake Ball (Nottinghamshire)
Danny Briggs (Warwickshire)
Brydon Carse (Durham)
Zak Crawley (Kent)
Ben Duckett (Nottinghamshire)
Lewis Gregory (Somerset)
Tom Helm (Middlesex)
Will Jacks (Surrey)
Dan Lawrence (Essex)
Saqib Mahmood (Lancashire)
Dawid Malan (Yorkshire)
Craig Overton (Somerset)
Matt Parkinson (Lancashire)
David Payne (Gloucestershire)
Phil Salt (Sussex)
John Simpson (Middlesex)
James Vince (Hampshire)

Most of these names are fairly uncontroversial in the circumstances. The strangest selection among the 18 is John Simpson, a good cricketer but not my idea of international quality. I am also mistrustful of James Vince, whose England record is not impressive. Brydon Carse is a hugely exciting selection – he is in the same pace bracket as his county colleague Mark Wood and can handle a bat. Danny Briggs has a good limited overs record but I would preferred to see Dan Moriarty capped.

The omission of Sam Hain who averages almost 60 and has a strike rate of 86 in List A cricket almost defies understanding. I would have liked to see a call up for the veteran Darren Stevens. Also the ECB would do themselves a favour if they actually fronted up and said in as many words that they will not pick Alex Hales – the announcement of this squad makes it clear what their actual attitude is and it is just silly to keep pretending that the door has not been shut on an England recall for him.

PICKING AN XI

This XI will almost certainly not happen, but this is the way I would from the selected squad:

My opening pair would be Will Jacks and Phil Salt, with the latter keeping wicket, while the former’s off spin may well enter the equation. At number three I would have Dawid Malan, batting in his best position. Dan Lawrence, needed on ground of prior international experience would bat four. Skipper Stokes gets the no5 slot. In view of the make up of the squad I would play Gregory at six, Carse at seven and Craig Overton at eight (all three can bat very effectively), David Payne whose left arm pace offers a variation would be at nine, with Mahmood and Parkinson rounding out the order.

England are by no means out of this series even after having to select a completely new squad just before it starts.

PHOTOGRAPHS

My usual sign off:

Two Great Test Matches

A look back at two great cricketing occasions – the women’s test between England and India and the World Test Championship final between India and New Zealand.

Now that I have finished my series about my Scottish holiday (all posts therein can be accessed from here) it is time to tackle other things. In this post I look back two great cricket matches which overlapped (poor organization there). I start with:

ENGLAND WOMEN V
INDIA WOMEN

This test match, the first women’s test match in two years and the first involving India Women for seven years was played between the 16th and 19th of June at Bristol. Not only do the women play very little test cricket, their domestic structure does not include long form cricket.

England were 269-6 at the close of the first day, having at one point been 230-2. Heather Knight, the captain, scored 95, Tammy Beaumont 66 and Nat Sciver 42. In occupation overnight were debutant Sophia Dunkley and veteran Katherine Brunt. Brunt fell early on the second morning to make ti 270-7 but Dunkley found excellent partners in Sophie Ecclestone who helped the eighth wicket to add 56 and then Anya Shrubsole who scored a blazing 47 as a further 70 accrued for the ninth wicket. At Shrubsole’s dismissal the score was 396-9 and Knight declared, leaving Dunkley with a debut innings of 74 not out to look back on. Sneh Rana, an off spinner, had 4-131 from 39.2 overs for India.

Smriti Mandhana and Shafali Verma gave the Indian first innings a magnificent start, putting on 167 before Verma, at the age 17, was out for 96 just missing a debut century. Some good bowling by England in the closing stages of the second day and an odd decision by skipper Mithali Raj to send in a nightwatcher with quite a lot of time left in the day (both the nightwatcher, Shikha Pandey, and Raj herself, obliged to go in anyway, fell in the closing stages) put India in trouble, a situation that got rapidly worse at the start of day three as more quick wickets fell. At one stage the score read 197-8, meaning that eight wickets had fallen for 30 runs. The ninth wicket provided some resistance and forced the taking of the second new ball. It took an absolute beauty from Katherine Brunt to break the stand, and no11 Jhulan Goswami got another good ball, this time from Anya Shrubsole, to end the innings at 231, meaning that, this being a four match, England were able to enforce the follow-on, which they quite correctly did. Ecclestone had taken 4-88 with her left arm spin.

Mandhana fell cheaply at the start of the Indian second innings, but Deepti Sharma, an off spinning all rounder who had batted well in the first Indian innings (she it was who orchestrated the tail end resistance), was promoted to no3 second time round, and by the end of day three she and Verma were still in occupation, with the score 83-1. After 16 runs had been added on the third morning Verma’s wonderful debut finally ended as she fell for 63, giving her 159 runs in the match. Just before lunch Deepti Sharma after the longest innings of her life finally fell for 54, making it 171-3, and the innings defeat avoided. The question now was could India hold out long enough to prevent England from being able to chase the runs down. Punam Raut dropped anchor at one end, but at the other Mithali Raj, Harmanpreet Kaur and Pooja Vastrakar all came and went fairly cheaply, with Raut being dismissed in between Kaur and Vastrakar. When Vastrakar fell India were 199-7, still only 34 to the good. Shikha Pandey joined Sneh Rana, and they put on 41, but even at that stage England seemed likely to win. However, Taniya Bhatia, the Indian wicket keeper, now joined Rana and they staunchly resisted everything England could produce. Rana was on 80 not out and might have had half an eye on a century and Bhatia 44 not out and definitely eyeing up a fifty, with the stand worth an unbeaten 104, only three short of the all time ninth wicket record in women’s test cricket when the umpires intervened, deciding it was too dark to continue (given how few overs were left, the draw had long since been certain). Ecclestone had again taken four wickets, although she also took some punishment as she tired in the closing stages, finishing with 4-118 this time. Shafali Verma’s two great innings on debut earned her player of the match, although Sneh Rana, and on the England side Knight (95 and wickets in both innings as well as being captain) and Ecclestone might also have been considered.

Both sides played well, and India showed tremendous fighting spirit to secure the draw the way they did at the end. A full scorecard can be viewed here.

WTC FINAL: NZ V IND

The inaugural World Test Championship had ended with India and New Zealand at the top, so these two teams convened at Southampton for the final. Six days were allotted, although the sixth would only come into play if weather interruptions necessitated it. In the end such was the weather between 18 and 23 June that even a sixth day was only just sufficient.

The first day was entirely washed out, and on day two New Zealand decided to go in without any spin options, picking three specialist pacers in Boult, Wagner and Southee plus a fast bowling all rounder in Jamieson and also at no7 Colin de Grandhomme who bowls medium pace. When they won the toss it was almost inevitable that they would choose to bowl with that team, and they duly did so. The truncated second day ended with India 146-3 and seemingly somewhat ahead of the game. New Zealand bowled fantastically on the third morning to reduce India to 217 all out, and by the close of the third day they were 101-2 in response, the second wicket having fallen just before the close. The fourth day, like the first, saw no play at all. Fortunately the fifth day dawned bright and clear. When NZ were 135-5, India looked to have wrested the initiative back, but the last five kiwi wickets put on a further 114 to give them a first innings lead of 32. India batted poorly in their second innings, with a number of poor dismissals. Rishabh Pant top scored with 41, as they managed a mere 170, leaving NZ just 139 to win. R Ashwin accounted for both openers with his off spin but there was to be no further success for India as Kane Williamson and Ross Taylor saw their side home, with Williamson racking up only the second individual 50+ score of the match in the process, giving him a match aggregate of 101 for once out (49 and 52 not out, the second and third highest scores of the match behind Devon Conway’s first innings 54). Kyle Jamieson with match figures of 7-61 from 46 overs, the most economical by a pace bowler in a test in England since Joel Garner in 1980, and a crucial 20 in his only innings was named Player of the Match. New Zealand thoroughly deserved their victory. While all of the kiwis bowled well, Ishant Sharma and Jasprit Bumrah were both below their best for India, Ashwin was not helped by the conditions, though he put in a fine effort and Jadeja as a bowler was a virtual passenger on that pitch and in those conditions.

I like the concept of the WTC but I think the following changes are necessary for it to work:

  1. Every team to play the same number of matches in each cycle.
  2. All series to count towards the WTC (immediately before the final England and New Zealand played a non-WTC series, which New Zealand won and won well).
  3. All 12 test playing nations to be involved.

PHOTOGRAPHS

My usual sign off…

England’s Number Three Slot

A look at the England number three position where for once there are a number of good options, the reverse of the usual situation through my time following the team.

In this post I deal with a topic well known to all who have followed the England men’s cricket team for any length of time: who will bat at number three going forward? However, this is time the question is apposite for the reverse of the usual reason.

ENGLAND’S NUMBER THREE

The number three position has traditionally been a very tough one for England to fill. In the 1960s it was usually either Dexter at three and Barrington at four or vice versa, but since then it has been an almost continual problem. David Steele did well there in 1975-6, Chris Tavare did what was asked of him in the early 1980s – namely give the order something in the way of backbone, David Gower had one superb series there against Australia in 1985, Michael Vaughan made the position his own in the early 2000s, and a decade later Jonathan Trott was as good a number three as England have had in my lifetime. More recently we have seen Joe Denly there playing a holding role to ensure that the opposition bowlers were not instantly into England’s middle order, and this winter in India with Burns recently returned from a layoff we saw Jonathan Bairstow batting there and failing horribly. Suddenly however there appear to be a wealth of options.

NUMBER THREE PRESENT AND FUTURE

The current incumbent is Zak Crawley, who will bat there against New Zealand behind the opening pair of Burns and Sibley. Crawley scored 267 from no three against Pakistan last summer, but has done little since with Lasith Embuldeniya having his number in the Sri Lanka series, and save for one fifty India giving him a thoroughly miserable time. If Crawley does not produce significant runs against NZ then his place is definitely in jeopardy. There are at least three players who are in the running for his slot by dint of batting superbly there for their counties:

  • Tom Abell: The Somerset captain was placed at number three with two other Toms, Banton and Lammonby, opening at the start of this season. Banton has already been dropped from opening though did subsequently feature as keeper in one match. Lammonby has played one decent innings this season, and his strong start in first class cricket (459 runs at 51.00 in his first six matches) has been badly tarnished. He is young enough to bounce back, but currently an England call up looks a long way away. Abell at number three, and often with the innings beginning to disintegrate around him has scored over 500 runs this season at an average of better than 60 and is looking every inch an England number three in waiting.
  • James Bracey: The Gloucestershire batter and occasional wicket keeper was on the fringes of the England squad last season, spending a lot of time in bio-secure bubbles as a reserve. He has continued to impress from number three this season and has been named in the squad for the New Zealand series.
  • Nick Gubbins: The gritty Middlesex batter has had a superb season batting at three, and his masterly 124 on the final day of the last match against Surrey turned a situation in which Middlesex were hoping to avoid defeat and fearing the worst into one in which Middlesex had a definite sniff of victory before the rain made its final intervention, rendering the chase just too steep.

Of the three named, Abell and Bracey (already in the squad) are both in with a strong chance of being selected. Gubbins is an outside shot, but there seems little doubt that given the opportunity he could do a solid job for England.

SOLUTION TO A TEASER

In my last post I included the following teaser, adapted from brilliant.org:

This post looks at such play as there has been in the latest round of championship fixtures, which have been heavily affected by the weather – there have been bands of rain sweeping across Britain, coming in from the west although by some freak my corner of northwest Norfolk has largely escaped, with only Friday being really wet.

THE EARLY GAME

Hampshire v Leciestershire was supposed to run from Wednesday to Saturday. In fact only a tiny amount of cricket was possible. Hampshire scored 233 in the first innings, bowled Leicestershire out for 84, and forfeited their second innings, leaving Leicestershire 22 overs to score 150 to win. Leicestershire made no serious effort to take on this chase on the game was drawn.

AROUND THE GROUNDS

A number of games have been so badly hammered by the weather that there is no real chance of a result. Kent v Glamorgan and Northamptonshire v Lancashire have already been confirmed as draws, though the former saw an amazing performance from Darren Stevens. Kent at low water mark were 93-7 in their first innings, but ended up tallying 307. Stevens, at the age of 45 scored 190, with 15 sixes and 15 fours. He shared a ninth wicket stand of 166 with Miguel Cummins, whose share of that partnership was one not out. Stevens then added the wicket of Marnus Labuschagne to his share of the spoils. Nottinghamshire v Worcestershire, Durham v Derbyshire and Essex v Warwickshire are all headed the same way, and it will take miracles for any of those games to yield definite results. Gloucestershire v Somerset is likely to be a draw as well, but the way Gloucestershire are collapsing means that it is not dead yet – Somerset scored 300-8 declared, with Tom Abell scoring his first century of the season (overall he now has over 500 runs at an average of more than 60 for the season), and Gloucestershire are 27-6 in reply. That leaves the London derby, in which the Surrey openers, Burns and Stoneman have been utterly dominant – they put on 135 in each innings, equalling the highest ever identical opening stands in FC history, a record set in 1979 by Kepler Wessels and John Barclay of Sussex. Surrey declared just before lunch today at 259-2, setting Middlesex 290 (full scores, Surrey 190 and 259-2 dec, Middlesex 160 and 28-1). Burns completed his first century of the season.

A POTENTIAL ENGLAND NO3

Somerset started this season with a plan for their top order – three guys all answering to Tom, Lammonby, Banton and Abell at 1,2 and 3. Banton has already fallen by the wayside, his career as a first class opener over almost before it began. Lammonby has managed one good score all season, and his dismissal in the game currently in progress, run out going for one that was never there, was the product of a scrambled mind. The one to prosper has been Tom Abell who is handling batting at no3 like one born to perform that task. Crawley remains the man in possession for England, but if he does not score runs against NZ then England may decide that change is needed, and Abell would surely be the logical person to turn to in that case: he is just entering the prime years of a cricketer’s career, he is batting superbly at no3 and several of his best scores have come in very testing situations, all of which give him the appearance of a test no3 in waiting.

A MATHEMATICAL TEASER

This problem comes from brilliant.org, but I have added a bonus element as well as slightly tweaking the setting:

A brief note on ‘concatenation’: in a mathematical context it is represented by an equals sign flipped through 90 degrees and it means that the two digits between which it appears are joined to form a single number.

Additional ‘bonus’ question: Once you have worked out the answer to the main problem, if one of the two sums cannot be solved under the given conditions what extra operations would need to be permitted to make it solvable? Full explanation in my next blog post.

The first part is quite easy: problem A is resolved simply by using the concatenation symbol to turn the 1 and 2 into 12 and adding the three to get 15. Problem B cannot be resolved (the biggest number you can get without concatenation is 7 (3 x 2 +1 = 6+1 = 7) and the only numbers you can generate by concatenating are 321 (all numbers used, obviously hopeless), 32 which leaves with with one which enables you to finish with either 31, 32 or 33 and 21, which leaves the three, which appears at the beginning. The only integers you can generate with the three and the 21 this way round are 24 or -18.

For the second part you need to allow a minimum of three more operators: square roots and floor or ceiling functions (you only need the latter, but the two operations come as a package). The floor and ceiling functions are respectively the nearest integer below an actual answer and the nearest integer above an actual answer. With these you can concatenate the two and the one to form 21, the square root of 21 is approximately 4.58, the ceiling function of which is 5, and you have the three unused to multiply and make 15.

PHOTOGRAPHS

My usual sign off…

County Championship Washouts

This post looks at such play as there has been in the latest round of championship fixtures, which have been heavily affected by the weather – there have been bands of rain sweeping across Britain, coming in from the west although by some freak my corner of northwest Norfolk has largely escaped, with only Friday being really wet.

THE EARLY GAME

Hampshire v Leciestershire was supposed to run from Wednesday to Saturday. In fact only a tiny amount of cricket was possible. Hampshire scored 233 in the first innings, bowled Leicestershire out for 84, and forfeited their second innings, leaving Leicestershire 22 overs to score 150 to win. Leicestershire made no serious effort to take on this chase on the game was drawn.

AROUND THE GROUNDS

A number of games have been so badly hammered by the weather that there is no real chance of a result. Kent v Glamorgan and Northamptonshire v Lancashire have already been confirmed as draws, though the former saw an amazing performance from Darren Stevens. Kent at low water mark were 93-7 in their first innings, but ended up tallying 307. Stevens, at the age of 45 scored 190, with 15 sixes and 15 fours. He shared a ninth wicket stand of 166 with Miguel Cummins, whose share of that partnership was one not out. Stevens then added the wicket of Marnus Labuschagne to his share of the spoils. Nottinghamshire v Worcestershire, Durham v Derbyshire and Essex v Warwickshire are all headed the same way, and it will take miracles for any of those games to yield definite results. Gloucestershire v Somerset is likely to be a draw as well, but the way Gloucestershire are collapsing means that it is not dead yet – Somerset scored 300-8 declared, with Tom Abell scoring his first century of the season (overall he now has over 500 runs at an average of more than 60 for the season), and Gloucestershire are 27-6 in reply. That leaves the London derby, in which the Surrey openers, Burns and Stoneman have been utterly dominant – they put on 135 in each innings, equalling the highest ever identical opening stands in FC history, a record set in 1979 by Kepler Wessels and John Barclay of Sussex. Surrey declared just before lunch today at 259-2, setting Middlesex 290 (full scores, Surrey 190 and 259-2 dec, Middlesex 160 and 28-1). Burns completed his first century of the season.

A POTENTIAL ENGLAND NO3

Somerset started this season with a plan for their top order – three guys all answering to Tom, Lammonby, Banton and Abell at 1,2 and 3. Banton has already fallen by the wayside, his career as a first class opener over almost before it began. Lammonby has managed one good score all season, and his dismissal in the game currently in progress, run out going for one that was never there, was the product of a scrambled mind. The one to prosper has been Tom Abell who is handling batting at no3 like one born to perform that task. Crawley remains the man in possession for England, but if he does not score runs against NZ then England may decide that change is needed, and Abell would surely be the logical person to turn to in that case: he is just entering the prime years of a cricketer’s career, he is batting superbly at no3 and several of his best scores have come in very testing situations, all of which give him the appearance of a test no3 in waiting.

A MATHEMATICAL TEASER

This problem comes from brilliant.org, but I have added a bonus element as well as slightly tweaking the setting:

A brief note on ‘concatenation’: in a mathematical context it is represented by an equals sign flipped through 90 degrees and it means that the two digits between which it appears are joined to form a single number.

Additional ‘bonus’ question: Once you have worked out the answer to the main problem, if one of the two sums cannot be solved under the given conditions what extra operations would need to be permitted to make it solvable? Full explanation in my next blog post.

PHOTOGRAPHS

My usual sign off…

Nottinghamshire v Worcestershire has progressed while I have been preparing to put this post up – Worcs, all out for 80 in the first innings are 106-4 in their second, still 214 away from avoiding an innings defeat, and suddenly definitely looking at defeat.

Thoughts On England Squad to Face New Zealand

A look at the England squad for the New Zealand series and possible XIs from it.

This post is mainly devoted to looking at England’s squad to face New Zealand in the upcoming test series, but I have one thing to do first:

LYNN NEWS CHARITY
OF THE YEAR 2021

The votes for this have been counted and the result is in, and NAS West Norfolk, of which I am branch secretary are the winners!

THE ENGLAND SQUAD

Here, courtesy of cricinfo.com (read their article by clicking here) is the squad:

Story Image

The above contains few surprises and little in the way of controversy. England have left themselves with no genuine all rounder (Craig Overton comes closest, but although he is an effective lower middle order batter for his county I do not see him as a serious contender for a slot above no8 in an England batting order) and with only one spin option, Jack Leach. I am not surprised that they did not feel the need to name two specialist spinners, but would have liked to see Critchley included as a possibility for a no7 batter/ fill in bowler role. In view of the decision to not call on anyone who had played IPL the lack of a genuine all rounder is not surprising, but there could have been little harm in considering the merits of Ryan Higgins. It is now time to look at…

CHOOSING AN XI

There are three basic variations here: gamble on a slightly substandard batting line up to ensure the presence of five genuine bowling options (Overton bats seven), rely on four bowling options including Leach, or, a different form of gamble to our first option, rely on four seamers as the only bowling options. The XIs could look as follows:

  1. The five bowler combo: Sibley, Burns, Crawley, *Root, Pope, +Foakes, Overton, Robinson, Stone, Leach, Anderson.
  2. A balanced bowling quartet: Sibley, Burns, Crawley, *Root, Pope, +Foakes, Lawrence, Robinson, Stone, Leach, Anderson
  3. An all seam bowling quartet aiming at maximising batting strength: Sibley, Burns, Crawley, *Root, Pope, +Foakes, Lawrence, Overton, Robinson, Stone, Anderson…
    3a) An all seam bowling quartet: Sibley, Burns, Crawley, *Root, Pope, +Foakes, Lawrence, Robinson, Stone, Broad, Anderson…
    3b) An all seam bowling quartet including two genuine speedsters: Sibley, Burns, Crawley, *Root, Pope, +Foakes, Lawrence, Overton, Stone, Wood, Anderson.

Myself given that even without ace left armer Trent Boult being available for them NZ will feature a formidable bowling unit I consider playing Overton at seven to be very high risk and would not recommend it. I am also not entirely comfortable with an all seam attack (if the proverbial gun to the head proposition forced to me to go this route I would opt for combination 3b above, with Robinson maybe playing ahead of Overton), so my first choice combo would be no2. Please note that in the 7/4 combos I have Foakes at six and Lawrence at seven because I want someone between Foakes and the bowlers and because I believe Lawrence is better suited to producing the kind of controlled aggression often needed when batting with the tail.

PHOTOGRAPHS

My usual sign off…

The County Championship and England

A look at the County Championship and the England situation in the light of two recent developments, plus some photographs.

Another round of County Championship fixtures concluded yesterday, and there was mixed news, some of which impacts on the England side. Yesterday was also a big day for this blog, courtesy of this post – do read it if you haven’t already.

COUNTY HIGHLIGHTS

Overall the weather won the last round of fixtures quite convincingly. However, Middlesex’s incompetence with the bat (a gritty first innings 50 by Gubbins apart) enabled Hampshire to win by seven wickets with over a day to spare in that one. In the other match in that group barely one eighth of the total scheduled playing time was actually usable, Surrey reaching 206-4 v Somerset before the weather made it’s final intervention. Essex played splendidly to account for Derbyshire, making up for huge rain delays by racking up 412-3 declared from 76 overs, Dan Lawrence with 150, and then bowling Derbyshire out twice, with Harmer taking 12 wickets in the game, including a career best 9-80 in the first innings. In the other game in that group Durham thrashed Worcestershire, temporarily going top of the group, although two of the teams in hottest pursuit of them have a game in hand. Derbyshire are now 26 points adrift at the bottom, more than a maximum points win, with just four games to play. Sussex v Kent ended in a tame draw when Kent declined to set Sussex a run chase on the final afternoon even though a draw could do them no good whatsoever. In that Kent second innings Leaning scored a ton, while Crawley and Oliver Graham Robinson each made scores of 85. The other match in that group was also drawn, Carlson steering Glamorgan away from potential danger with an unbeaten 88 in their second innings.

THE ENGLAND ANGLE

The ECB have let it be known that players who were involved in the IPL are unlikely to feature in their squad for the NZ test series which will be announced on Wednesday. Also Jofra Archer is out of that series because his elbow flared up during the Kent second innings, restricting him to just five overs. My opinion on this latter is that England now need to handle Archer with great care – they can probably do well without him in English conditions, so the focus should be on ensuring that he will be fit to travel down under for The Ashes. Also uncertain is Dominic Sibley, recovering from injury. The ECB have said they will announce 16 names, so I present my own options, a front 14 and two back up names:

  1. Dominic Sibley – right handed opening batter. If he is fit he plays and on that basis he should be in the list.
  2. Rory Burns – left handed opening batter. he has a bit to prove, but a strong start to the domestic season with Surrey suggests that he deserves continued selection.
  3. Zak Crawley – right handed top order batter. He has some recent good form, and talk of dropping him is premature to say the least.
  4. *Joe Root – right handed batter, captain, occasional off spinner. England need their skipper and they need him batting in his preferred position at no4.
  5. Ollie Pope – right handed batter, occasional wicket keeper. In the pink of form for Surrey, he has to play.
  6. +Ben Foakes – right handed batter, wicket keeper.
  7. Three possibilities for this position depending on one’s attitude: Ryan Higgins, right handed batter, right arm medium pace, would be the genuine all rounder if one wants five front line bowling options available. Matt Critchley is having a great season with the bat for Derbyshire and bowls occasional leg spin which might be good for a few overs in a test match. Finally, the cautious option is to accept having only four genuine bowling options and play Dan Lawrence, in great form with the bat, in this position.
  8. Two possibilities here: Oliver Edward Robinson, right arm fast medium and a decent lower order batter is possibly favourite for the position, but Craig Overton, also a right arm fast medium bowler and probably a better bat than Robinson will also have his advocates.
  9. Olly Stone – right arm fast bowler, right handed lower order batter. With Archer unavailable, Stone who has been bowling well for Warwickshire is my choice for the out and out speedster role.
  10. Jack Leach – left arm orthodox spinner, left handed batter. With due respect to Parkinson, Carson and Virdi who have all done good things with the ball for their counties recently ‘the nut’ still has to be first choice spinner for England.
  11. James Anderson – right arm fast medium, left handed tail end batter. The experienced leader of the attack who will be expected to take the younger pace bowlers under his wing and pass on tips of the trade to them.

The above if you have followed carefully comprises 14 names, so we need two more. One of those has to be a top order batter, and for me although others will have their advocates the fact that James Bracey could also don the gauntlets if needed gives him the nod. My 16th name to complete my own squad given the circumstances, is Matt Parkinson, the Lancashire leg spinner, as acknowledged second choice spinner.

PHOTOGRAPHS

My usual sign off…

Action Underway In All Championship Fixtures

A look at the county championship, solution to yesterday’s mathematical teaser and plenty of photographs.

The game between Somerset and Surrey has just got underway after the first four sessions fell victim to the weather which means that all matches now have some play. This post scouts round the grounds to see what is going on.

AROUND THE GROUNDS

Essex v Derbyshire: Essex batting first are 138-1 after 34.5 overs (no play yesterday). Sir Alastair Cook is unbeaten on 58, while big Billy Stanlake has the one wicket to fall but has been expensive, going at almost five an over. Nick Browne, the man out, scored 59, and Westley is at the crease with Cook.

Durham v Worcestershire: Durham scored 246 batting first and Worcestershire are 98-4 in response. Ben Raine has 2-11 and Chris Rushworth 2-38 for Durham and Tom Fell 40 not out for Worcs. Lees made 99 for Durham, with Brydon Carse second top scorer with 38 not out. Tongue claimed 5-39 for Worcs.

Sussex v Kent: Sussex are 177-4, already 32 ahead of Kent with six first innings wickets still standing. Tom Clark is 36 not out and Ben Brown 21 not out. Stiaan Van Zyl made 52. Darren Stevens who made his FC debut five years before Clark was even born, has 2-45 and Nathan Gilchrist 2-46.

Glamorgan v Yorkshire: Glamorgan are 96-7, play having started a day late due to the weather. Harry Brook, mainly a batter, has 3-15 with his medium pace, Steven Patterson 2-15 and Ben Coad and Jordan Thompson each have a wicket. David Lloyd made 31 and Billy Root 23. At the moment Michael Neser and Andrew Salter are batting for Glamorgan. Glamorgan’s other Aussie, Labuschagne, managed just 10. Glamorgan were 69-2 at one point before slumping to 82-7.

Middlesex v Hampshire: Middlesex are 163-9. This match saw one session of play yesterday and most of today’s scheduled play although there was an interruption for bad light. Gubbins made 51 for Middlesex, his fourth 50+ score of the season, while Blake Cullen scored 27. Kyle Abbott has 5-44 and Mohammad Abbas 3-42.

Somerset v Surrey: Surrey are 14-0 in the fifth over. There is no brother v brother element in this game as Craig Overton is not playing for Somerset. Leach is also rested, which means that Roelof van der Merwe is playing. Burns has 6 not out, Stoneman 7 not out. Gregory and Davey are bowling for Somerset, with De Lange first chance and Tom Abell possibly bowling ahead of van der Merwe in the circumstances. Craig Overton has been rested at the request of the ECB, which suggests that an England recall beckons for the Devonian giant.

#BBCCRICKET SELECTION GAME: PICK XI FOR 1ST TEST

The XI I picked is shown below (go here to try it yourself), and then I provide some supplementary notes:

You are given a list of options for each position, and some of the choices they provide are obviously flawed. My own selection is uncontroversial as regards the top seven – Woakes has to be an automatic pick in England, and absent Stokes who is recovering from injury, he is the only one fitted to play the role of genuine all rounder. I opted for Craig Overton at eight, because Oliver Edward Robinson was not available to be selected there, though Archer was. I could have picked Archer at eight and Robinson at nine and then explained that I would actually reverse their batting positions but decided to go for Overton instead and explain the situation in more detail. Overton is in magnificent form and I am not too worried about this personnel change. Archer bowled beautifully for Sussex yesterday and is clearly fit and firing, though Olly Stone could also be awarded that slot and the Durham duo of Mark Wood and Brydon Carse are also both possibles. Leach has to play if fit (if not Parkinson comes in), and I have gone for Anderson out of the veterans.

SOLUTION TO YESTERDAY’S MATHEMATICAL TEASER

Yesterday I presented the following:

The answer to the above is 18. I offer two of the published explanations, first a masterpiece of brevity from David Vreken:

David Vreken
May 11, 2021

By casting out the nines, (E+A+R)+(E+R+A)−(A+R+E)=A+R+E(E + A + R) + (E + R + A) – (A + R + E) = A + R + E(E+A+R)+(E+R+A)−(A+R+E)=A+R+E must be divisible by 999.

Out of the given options, only 181818 is divisible by 999, so A+R+E=18A + R + E = \boxed{18}A+R+E=18​.

For those who prefer a more thorough approach here is a complete explanation from Inesh Chattopadhyay:

PHOTOGRAPHS

Time for my usual sign off:

As I prepare to put this up, Surrey have moved on to 50-1, Stoneman back in the hutch, Burns in to the 20s, continuing his strong start to the season, and Amla just starting.

All Eyes On Durham

A look at such action as there has been in the county championship, a teaser, a few links and plenty of photographs.

There has not been much action in the county championship due to poor weather in various areas but I look at the little there has been.

GAMES NOT STARTED YET

Four of the six games have yet to see any action: Essex v Derbyshire, Yorkshire v Glamorgan, Middlesex v Hampshire and what should be the tie of the round, Somerset v Surrey.

Sussex v Kent did get underway but they have gone off for the light (inexcusable – find a ball of a colour that is easier to see under floodlights and keep playing). Kent are 74-3. Jofra Archer claimed two wickets in a fiery new ball burst and has subsequently bowled a second spell of four overs (his opening burst was also of four overs, suggesting that someone from England’s management has told Sussex to use him in short spells), while the third wicket, that of Jordan Cox, went to Oliver Edward Robinson who produced a corker of a ball that uprooted the youngster’s off stump. That brought Oliver Graham Robinson, the Kent keeper and middle order batter to the crease, but before there was time for a duel between the two almost homonymous cricketers the light intervened.

This means that the only game in progress is up at Chester-le-Street where Durham are 97-3 against Worcestershire. Bedingham, the South African born batter who has been scoring very heavily for Durham went for just 24 today, but Lees, the former Yorkshire left hander, is on 39 and Jack Burnham has 5. Charlie Morris has two wickets and Joe Leach one.

A MATHEMATICAL TEASER

This one from brilliant.org is not too difficult, though I am removing the multi-choice options, deeming them unneccessary. Solution/ explanation in my next post:

LINKS AND PHOTOGRAPHS

Three interesting links before my usual sign off:

This piece from the space academy details the discovery of the first planet to have been identified outside our galaxy. Click here to read the full piece.

Richard Murphy has put up a piece on his blog, Tax Research UK, about Green Recovery Bonds, as well as a link to a more detailed report on the same subject.

Now for those photographs:

Durham have moved on while I have been working on this post to 121-3, and Lees has reached 50, the 50th time in his FC career he has done as much, but he has only converted 17 of the previous 49 into 100s.

County Championship Round Six Preview

A look ahead to the county championship fixtures that start tomorrow and some of my most recent photographs.

In this post I look at the six county championship fixtures that will be starting tomorrow morning.

ESSEX V DERBYSHIRE

If this one has a definite the result the loser will be heavy favourite to finish bottom of the group – a win for Derbyshire would move them ahead of Essex with a game in hand on the latter, while a win for Essex would put them more than a maximum points victory ahead of Derbyshire meaning that the latter would stay last even if they won their game in hand. A draw would probably leave both teams looking at being in division three when the group stage ends. For Essex Dan Lawrence needs runs to keep himself in the England frame. For Derbyshire Matt Critchley will be looking to continue his excellent recent form with the bat – he is an outside prospect for England, who might bat him at number seven and hope that his part time leg spin will be good a few respectable overs at test level.

SUSSEX V KENT

Kent are in a dire need of a win, and Sussex are also having a less than stellar season, though a lot less bad than Kent. The big news is that Jofra Archer will be playing for Sussex. There is also a clash of (almost) homonymous players: Oliver Edward Robinson will share the new ball with Archer for Sussex, and keeping wicket and batting in the middle order for Kent will be Oliver Graham Robinson. Also look out for young off spinner Jack Carson, who has been a revelation so far this season.

GLAMORGAN V YORKSHIRE

Glamorgan have had one very impressive victory over Kent but otherwise things are not going too well for them. Yorkshire are duking it out with Lancashire for top spot in the group and with the red rose county not in action this round will want to take the opportunity to go clear at the top. Adam Lyth has been scoring a lot of runs for Yorkshire, although as so often the real trump card for the white rose is its bowling attack (see the 1900s side, the early to mid 1920s side, the 1930s side and the 1960s side, all legendary combinations, for examples of dominant Yorkshire bowling attacks).

MIDDLESEX V HAMPSHIRE

Middlesex have had one good result this season, the hammering they administered to London rivals Surrey, but have tended to pay a high price for having one bad session in a game. Hampshire won their first two matches of the season, but then Gloucestershire defied them to snatch a draw in game three, Surrey thrashed them out of sight in game four and Somerset gave them another hammering in game five. They will be hoping to cash in on Middlesex’s inconsistency to reignite their season – if they cannot do so a top two position in the group and with it progress to division one at the end of the group stage will be effectively gone.

DURHAM V WORCESTERSHIRE

Durham have been faring quite well this season, and a win here would put them well and truly in contention for a place in the top two in their group. Worcestershire are flattered by their current third place in the group – the extra points given for draws this season have helped them as they have drawn all five of their games to date, not looking terribly much like winning any of them. David Bedingham of Durham is in with an outside chance of reaching 1,000 first class runs for the season before the start of June. The strict feat of 1,000 first class runs in the month of May has been achieved three times, by WG Grace in 1895 (May 9th to May 30th), Walter Hammond in 1927 (May 7 to May 28, the final innings the of sequence 192 made out of 227 scored while he was at the crease, with five sixes and 27 fours) and Charles Hallows of Lancashire who got there by scoring 232 on the 30th and 31st of May (190* batting all through day one and the remaining 42 on the second morning). In addition to these Tom Hayward in 1900, Don Bradman in 1930 and 1938, Bill Edrich in 1938, Glenn Turner in 1973 and Graeme Hick in 1988 have all had 1,000 FC runs for the season before the start of June, but in each case with the assistance of runs in April, and it is this latter group that Bedingham is in the hunt to join.

SOMERSET V SURREY

This for me is the tie of the round. Both sides are in decent nick at the moment, and with Gloucestershire not in action this round Somerset will be especially determined to win and thus head the group. Tom Lammonby needs runs for Somerset, Tom Abell will be hoping to build on a strong start to the season, and Lewis Goldsworthy to continue the impressive start he has made to his first class career. Jack Leach, indisputably England’s first choice spinner at the moment, will be in action for Somerset as well, while Surrey will have Amar Virdi and possibly Dan Moriarty endeavouring to outdo the England incumbent. This match also features brother being pitted against brother: Craig Overton who has had a magnificent start to the season for Somerset, while Jamie Overton has been patchy thus far for Surrey. Also the Somerset keeper Steven Davies is a former Surrey player which lends things a little extra spice. Surrey have two England batters in their ranks, Rory Burns and Ollie Pope.

PHOTOGRAPHS

I am in the pleasant position of having more photographs than I can comfortably share in one post, so here is the first part of my latest collection: