Consolation Victory for NZ Women

A brief look back at last night’s ODI between NZ Women and England Women, plus a look at my chosen England XI for the first IND v ENG T20I and some photographs.

This post is a two parter, first looking back at last night’s game and then looking at selections for the T20 leg of England’s tour of India.

NZW V ENGW

With the series safely won (note to the England Men’s team – this is how you do it) England rested veteran pace bowler Katherine Brunt ahead of the upcoming T20 series. Heather Knight won the toss and chose to bat. Tammy Beaumont came up trumps (88 not out) and so did Knight herself (60), but no one else was able to anything significant, and England were held to 220, with every New Zealand bowler doing well. Amelia Kerr with 4-42 had the best figures.

New Zealand lost two early wickets, and were still 170 short win Sophie Devine was third out, but Amy Satterthwaite was already playing brilliantly and Amelia Kerr now joined her, and try as they might England could do nothing as New Zealand reached the target with this pair still together, Satterthwaite 119 not out and Kerr 72 not out.

ENGLAND XI FOR THE 1ST 20

There is a ‘choose your England XI for the first T20’ up on wisden.com, which is fun to play. The XI I chose attracted some comment on twitter, mainly positive, and I am now going to go into more detail here. Below is my XI:

https://wisden.com/mysquad/team-selector-pick-your-england-t20i-xi-to-face-india/c92da4c_202102271627

There were five players available to be picked who I did not select: Liam Livingstone, Sam Billings, Tom Curran, Reece Topley and Mark Wood. I regarded the top four as must picks, given their records, considered Stokes as a necessity since very few good T20 sides don’t have a front line bowler who bats in the top half of the order, and Morgan is the current captain and it would be huge shout to replace him and name a new captain. Sam Curran has genuine all round skills, as does Moeen Ali with the only member of this XI to have no sort of batting pedigree at international level being Jofra Archer at no11. The five players picked mainly on account of their bowling skills re respectively left arm fast medium, off spin, leg spin, right arm fast medium with lots of variation and right arm fast, an excellent range of bowling, with Stokes, right arm fast medium, there as a sixth genuine option. This latter is an insurance policy against someone having a horror day with the ball. My second choice line up from the players available would be to have the two Bs, Bairstow and Buttler open the batting, Malan at three, Livingstone (who can also bowl spin, though he is not a front line option in this department) at four, and nos 5-11 unchanged.

PHOTOGRAPHS

My usual sign off, bolstered by some full moon shots from Friday evening…

England Women Secure Series Victory With A Game To Spare In New Zealand

A brief look at events in New Zealand where one England cricket team is doing well, and a revisit to my radical suggestion for sorting the men’s teams problems with finding good enough spinners.

This post looks briefly at goings on in New Zealand, and then explores a favourite theme of mine. First of all however, a brief…

NEWSFLASH

At 10:55 this morning I received my first Covid-19 jab. I barely felt the needle go into my arm and have as yet experienced no serious side effects. The second jab will be a minimum of four weeks from now and could be as much as 12 weeks. Contrary to what pro-government propaganda sources would have you believe my situation does not count in any sane view as ‘vaccinated’ – I have begun the process of getting vaccinated, but until I have had the second jab I am not actually vaccinated. Also, the government deserves very little credit for the vaccination program – the hard yards are being done by NHS workers, and the extent of government involvement for me was sending me a link I could not use, and a very inefficient helpline system which when I finally got through advised me to contact my surgery, who duly booked me a slot. The government have bungled all along the line, and their lockdown easing plans seem set to continue that trend, going too far too early.

ENGLAND WOMEN GO 2-0 UP WITH ONE TO PLAY IN NZ

A disciplined all round bowling performance, highlighted by Nat Sciver’s 3-26 from nine overs restricted NZ to 192 off 49.5 overs. Tammy Beaumont played the anchor role in the chase, finishing unbeaten on 72, while Sciver completed a fine day’s work by scoring a rapid 63, and keeper Amy Jones completed the job with an equally rapid unbeaten 46. England had seven wickets and 12.2 overs in the bank when they reached the target. Sophie Ecclestone failed to add to her haul of international wickets but did only go for 33 from her 10 overs, an economy rate bettered only by Sciver. Katherine Brunt and leg spinner Sarah Glenn each picked up two wickets and Kate Cross had one, while there were two run outs. Full scorecard here.

The men are struggling in India, but the women are going well, which leads me on to my theme…

ENGLAND MEN’S
SPIN PROBLEMS

In yesterday’s post I argued for the promotion of Parkinson and Virdi from the reserves to the full squad for the final test match, advocating a spin trio of Leach, Virdi and Parkinson. England do not have many other male spinners whose records inspire much confidence. Thus, I suggest that England offer Ecclestone the opportunity to play alongside the men. For those wondering about the women, in addition to Glenn who I have already mentioned here is a sextet of decent spin options available to the women: Linsey Smith, Kirstie Gordon, Sophia Dunkley, Alex Hartley, Helen Fenby and Danielle Gregory. If she bowls well in a few men’s county games, then given her 100+ international wickets she could be fast tracked into the England men’s team and possibly be part of the Ashes campaign at the end of this year.

PHOTOGRAPHS

My usual sign off…

England Ignominiously Defeated In Two Days

This post is my account of how one of the most farcical test matches I can recall (with approximately 35 years of being an avid cricket fan behind me) reached its conclusion. A brief disclaimer: England were outclassed in this match, and the pitch did not influence the result – England won the toss, batted (correct thing to do) and still took a hammering, but a surface on which when it is a bare day and a half old Joe Root secures innings bowling figures of 5-8 is NOT a suitable surface for test cricket.

THE CRASH OF WICKETS

Virat Kohli’s dismissal near the end of the first day (see here for an account of that day) saw India 99-3 overnight. Leach struck twice fairly early to make it 117-5, and at that point, more or less coinciding with me putting out a tweet to the effect that he should do so, Joe Root came on for a bowl himself. He picked up the wicket of Rishabh Pant pretty much instantly, and that opened the trap door, as India slid to 145 all out, an advantage of 33, with Root having 5-8 from 6.3 overs. Leach had four wickets, taking his test bowling average below 30, where it stayed (it is actually precisely 29.50 – 60 wickets for 1,770 runs in 15 test matches). Could England bat respectably and give themselves some sort of chance of a win? Could they blazes. Zak Crawley, the first innings batting hero was out to the first ball of the innings, putting Axar Patel on a hat trick, and he nearly had it too, as Bairstow was adjudged LBW, but the TV replay showed a faint nick and the third umpire overturned it. The reprieve lasted one ball as Bairstow was promptly bowled through a ‘gap’ between bad and pad that a bus would have had a decent chance of navigating. This meant that Bairstow’s contribution to the occasion amounted to 11 balls faced, no runs scored, two horrible dismissals and a burned review in the first innings. Root and Sibley seemed to be righting things for a time, but then Sibley played a very un-Sibley like shot to surrender his wicket, and it rapidly became a procession, with England’s resistance levels down in the pico-ohms. The innings limped to 81 all out, leaving India needing just 49. Axar Patel had five wickets to follow his six in the first innings, a superb double, and achieving the rare feat of outdoing R Ashwin whose own haul saw him become the second quickest ever to 400 wickets, in his 77th test. With no other options on that surface Leach and Root took the new ball, but the target was just not enough for any pressure to be created and Rohit Sharma and Shubman Gill cantered home to a ten wicket victory.

PLAYER RATINGS

I have done these in info-graphic form:

SELECTION ISSUES

There have been various complications with this tour, but to put it bluntly England’s approach to selection has been abysmal. They snookered themselves for this match by naming a group of 17 from whom the final XI would come that effectively given their obvious lack of trust in Bess meant they would be playing only one specialist spinner. Then, rather than shoring up the batting with Woakes at eight they picked three specialist quicker bowlers, Archer, Broad and Anderson, one of whom has no experience of bowling in India and one of whom pays the proverbial king’s ransom for his Indian wickets, giving themselves a tail to rival that of a diplodocus. Ben Foakes was twice left high and dry with this tail, spoiling his chances of doing anything significant with the bat. My suggestion for this match is that England look to the future, with WTC qualification hopes up in smoke, and promote both Parkinson and Virdi from the reserves. I name Woakes as no8 to guard against Foakes being left high and dry with the tail again, not really expecting either him or Stokes to feature with the ball. Thus, with the obligatory dropping of Bairstow (and, surely to goodness, the end of any nonsense about him featuring in any further test squads) and deciding that Lawrence will probably not be an improvement on Pope I arrive at the team in the infographic below:

PETITION AND PHOTOGRAPHS

There is a petition calling for the creation of a direct rail link between King’s Lynn and Norwich on 38 Degrees, and given the state of Norfolk’s transport infrastructure and resultant traffic overload on Norfolk’s roads I can only consider this an excellent idea, so please sign and share it by clicking here (screenshot below as a segue into my usual sign off).


Cricket and Controversy: Day 1 in Ahmedabad

An account of day 1 in Ahmedabad and some related matters. Plus a few photographs.

This post looks at day 1 of the day-night match in Ahmedabad and at certain issues relating to that day’s play. As a disclaimer before moving into the main meat of the post I wish to make it clear that I India are in the driving seat firstly and mainly because they have played far superior cricket. That does not mean that certain complaints about luck, the pitch and some of the umpiring are invalid.

ENGLAND PAY FOR OVERLONG TAIL

England’s selection for this match showed four changes from the second test of the series in Chennai, with Crawley, Bairstow, Archer and Anderson replacing Burns, Lawrence, Ali and Stone. This resulted in an XI of: Sibley, Crawley, Bairstow, *Root, Stokes, Pope, Foakes, Archer, Leach, Broad and Anderson. My own pre-match feelings were that this was a high risk selection, with such a long tail, and with the selection of three specialist pace bowlers. Ali was not available for selection, and it was always unlikely that Bess would be recalled, which with the refusal to promote either of Parkinson or Virdi from the reserves dictated that only one spinner would play. I would have retained Burns and Lawrence, moving Lawrence back down the order and away from no3, would from the 17 England had named in advance have gone with Woakes at eight, would have retained Stone after his good performance in the second test, and Leach and Anderson were virtually mandatory picks in the circumstances. India opted to strengthen their batting, bringing Washington Sundar in for Kuldeep Yadav and relying on Jasprit Bumrah and Ishant Sharma for the pace bowling, with Axar Patel and R Ashwin to bowl spin, and the latter, coming off a century in Chennai quite possibly to bat at number nine. The first news other than the selections was the toss, which England won and chose to bat.

Sibley got a good one and fell without scoring. Crawley was playing nicely, but Bairstow could not pierce the field, and the very first delivery by a spinner, Axar Patel in this case, pinned him LBW for 0, and Bairstow then burned a review, a call by him that was bad enough to warrant the label ‘Watsonian’ in honour of a certain Aussie batter of the not too distant past. For a time Root and Crawley went reasonably well, but then both got out with lunch approaching, and England were 80-4, 53 of them off the bat of Crawley. Immediately after lunch things got worse for England as Pope was dismissed to make it 81-5, and then Stokes fell cheaply as well, leaving Foakes to bat with the tail. It was 98-8 at low water mark, but Foakes, Broad and Anderson inched the score up to 112, off 48.4 overs, before Foakes was last out. Axar Patel had bowled 21.4 overs and had 6-38, following up his five in the final innings at Chennai. R Ashwin had three and also bowled superbly. England were psyched by the fact that there was turn on day 1, and a number of their wickets fell to balls which actually went straight on. Save for Crawley no England batter even managed 20.

INDIA’S RESPONSE

England did not bowl badly, although they did not have the right attack for this pitch, and they were unlucky on several occasions, and there were also two very poor pieces of work by the third umpire. First Shubman Gill edged Broad to Stokes and it was given out on field but then referred upstairs, and the third umpire overturned it very quickly indeed without due care and attention – he may have got it right but if so it was by luck not judgement, and in a test match that is not acceptable. The second incident of poor third umpiring saw Rohit Sharma reprieved for the third time in as many innings, all being controversial. Foakes executed a stumping of Leach, with to all appearances Rohit Sharma’s foot behind the crease but in the air, and it was sent upstairs and again after looking at one replay for a very short period the third umpire overturned it. I am absolutely certain that this one was a wrong call, and the failure to follow protocol even if the call by some chance had been right was unacceptable. In the event Gill’s did not cost much, as he got out not long after to Jofra Archer, being caught by Crawley, too far off the ground for even this third umpire to think of intervening. Leach got Pujara, an LBW that was so plumb that it was not sent upstairs, and just before the close Kohli who had two escapes, first when Pope just failed to pull off what would have been a miracle catch and then when the same player missed a more straightforward effort off a less than impressed Anderson, was bowled by Leach. Rohit Sharma however was still there on 57 not out, with India 99-3, a mere 13 short of matching England’s first innings. Leach currently has 2-27 from 10 overs, meaning that the combined figures of the left arm orthodox spinners on day one of a test match are 8-65 from 31.4 overs. Two days before the start of play this pitch had a respectable covering of grass, but by the day before every last blade of grass had been shaved off, and with nothing to bind it it is already breaking up, and never mind day 5, I would definitely not bet on there being a day 4 and would make it no more than even money that there will be a day 3.

WHERE NOW FOR ENGLAND?

With this test match, and with it, England’s hopes of making the World Test Championship final, effectively gone already, barring miracles, I would go experimental for the third test, promoting Virdi and Parkinson from the reserves with a view to selecting at least one and possibly both, I would rest the veterans Anderson and Broad, probably selecting Woakes and Stone as my new ball pairing if I even picked two front line pacers. Out would go Bairstow, who as regular readers of this blog know would not have been in my tour party anyway, and I would move Stokes up to three, bringing Lawrence back in the middle order. A drawn series, especially when it ushers Australia into the final of the WTC, is less appealing than looking to the future even at the risk of sustaining another defeat. England have mishandled several things in this series, but most egregious has been the Bess/ Moeen Ali situation, where because of Covid (he actually had the disease) and his need to return home to see his family between the test and limited overs legs of the tour Ali was available for just one match, and England were so eager to play this 33 year old who averages 29 with the bat and 36 with the ball that they dropped Bess in a rather insensitive fashion. Even worse, they then allowed it to become public knowledge that they had begged Moeen to change his plans and stay on for the remainder of the series. This left them either to pick Bess with his head not in the right place or, having announced 17 names from which the XI for this match would be selected, to go in with only one specialist spinner. They took the latter option, and we were treated to the sight of four bowlers of above medium pace bowling on a spinning track, as Root was not willing to swallow his pride and acknowledge that England’s chosen bowling attack was unfit for purpose by bringing himself on.

Looking further ahead, to the home season and beyond there are several things that need addressing:

  • The County Championship cannot keep being shoe horned into the worst times of the season for spinners.
  • Counties who dare to produce turning surfaces should not be punished, but rather applauded for offering a wider variety of surfaces for cricket to be played on.
  • England need to find new spinners. Other than Leach and the out of favour Bess only Parkinson and Virdi among the men are remotely close to having records that would justify elevation, which is why I recommend what I am now going to call the ‘Ecclestone Experiment’ – just see what Sophie Ecclestone, with 101 wickets at 25.90 in international cricket at the age of 21 can do playing among the men.
  • England also need to improve their batting against spin. Elizabeth Ammon, who tweets as legsidelizzy, has pointed out that England had a spin bowling camp in Sri Lanka, but no ‘batting against spin bowling camp’, and that that needs to change.

PHOTOGRAPHS

Just a few photographs today…

England – Third Test And Going Forward

Looking at a possible England line up for the test match that gets underway tomorrow and a radical solution to their current paucity of spin bowling options. Plus some photographs.

This is my preview post for the third test match of the India v England series which starts tomorrow morning UK time. I also take the time to salute another fine performance by England’s women and, prompted by a comment on twitter from The Cricket Men, to revisit one of my more radical solutions to England’s spinning problems.

ENGLAND XI FOR TOMORROW

Crawley has been declared fit to play, and it seems Burns and Pope are going to be given chances to score runs, though both must be running out of road. This virtually sets the top six as Sibley, Burns, Crawley, *Root, Stokes, Pope, and Foakes is also inked in as keeper, which leaves the bottom four to be decided. Some are making much of the fact that the pitch which previously had some grass on it has been shaved today, but for me, especially with the selectors having ruled out promotions for Parkinson or Virdi, I still see no reason to select Bess, and although I can understand why people want to see Archer I prefer to give Stone a chance in less unfavourable conditions after his fine efforts in the second test match. Thus, with Anderson a mandatory selection for a pink ball test and some justifiable concern over the lower order, I pick Woakes rather than Broad for the no8 slot, thus arriving at Sibley, Burns, Crawley, *Root, Stokes, Pope, +Foakes, Woakes, Stone, Leach, Anderson.

ENGLAND’S SPIN ISSUE

Overnight England’s women played an ODI in New Zealand, and won by eight wickets. They restricted the hosts to 178, Sophie Ecclestone with her left arm spin collecting 2-36 from a full allocation of ten overs. Tammy Beaumont (71) and Heather Knight (67 not out) then ensured that this wonderful bowling effort would not go to waste. Ecclestone now has 101 wickets in all forms of international cricket, at 25.90 a piece, and she is still only 21 years old. Other than Leach and Bess, the latter of whom is currently under a cloud the number of male English spinners who have played at least 10 first class matches (basic filter against freak happenings), are still active at that level and pay less than 30 a piece for their wickets totals precisely two: Matt Parkinson (62 wickets at 25) and Amar Virdi (91 wickets at 28). Thus, encouraged by some comments I have seen today (see intro), I am once again going to suggest that Ecclestone deserves to be given a chance to show what she can do playing alongside the men and should be part of England’s elite spin group going forward. For the Ashes tour at the end of the year she could be one of three specialist spinners to travel alongside Leach and Parkinson (unless Bess at his new base of Headingley has a splendid season I cannot see him as a member of that tour party, especially given how poorly English off spinners have generally fared in Oz – see here).

A radical solution to the spin woes of England’s men’s team?

PHOTOGRAPHS

My usual sign off…

An XI Of Players Whom Age Did Not Wither

A team of players who performed great deeds when in the veteran stages of their careers.

This post, which revisits all-time XIs territory was inspired by a discussion on radio 5 live about people delivering as veterans. Here therefore is a team composed entirely of players who enjoyed great success during their veteran years.

THE VETERANS XI

  1. Warren Bardsley – left handed opening batter. At the age of 42 he carried his bat through Australia’s first innings at Lord’s in 1926, still the oldest to achieve that feat at test level. His previous test centuries, twin tons at The Oval, had come 17 years previously, a record lapse between test centuries.
  2. Jack Hobbs – right handed opening batter. The Master was 46 when he scored the last of his test centuries, at Melbourne during the 1928-9 Ashes, still the oldest ever to reach three figures at that level (at first class level the palm goes to Billy Quaife of Warwickshire who signed off with a ton in his last first class knock at the age of 56 and 4 months).
  3. Charlie Macartney – right handed batter, left arm orthodox spinner. At the age of 40, in the second, third and fourth matches of the 1926 Ashes he peeled of centuries, including reaching one during the morning session of the first day after a wicket had fallen to the first ball of the match at Headingley.
  4. *Misbah-ul-Haq – right handed batter, captain. More test centuries after the age of 40 than anyone else. One of those centuries as a veteran was the quickest in terms of balls faced in test history.
  5. Michael Hussey – left handed batter. He had to wait until he was into his 30s for a test call up, and made full use of it when it finally came. In the 2010-11 Ashes he performed a series-long ‘Casabianca on the burning deck’ act, not quite enough to save his side, but mightily impressive for a veteran.
  6. Imran Khan – right handed batter, right arm fast bowler. One of the greatest of all all rounders he came out of retirement to lead his country to World Cup glory in 1992. He was the other possible captain, had I not awarded that distinction to Misbah-ul-Haq.
  7. Richard Hadlee – right arm fast bowler, left handed batter. He just seemed to get better as his career went on. He is to date the only person to have played test cricket after being knighted for cricket reasons (the Hon Sir FS Jackson’s knighthood was bestowed for other reasons, while Sir TC O’Brien was a baronet with the honorific inherited). This team’s number 10 may well join him in this club if he does not consider our honours system irretrievably tainted by some of the recent beneficiaries.
  8. +Bob Taylor – wicket keeper, right handed batter. After spending many years as Alan Knott’s understudy at test level it was in the veteran stage of his career that he became officially England’s first choice keeper. He turned 40 during the Headingley test of 1981, and his career still had three years to run at the top level.
  9. Sydney Francis Barnes – right arm fast medium bowler, right handed lower order batter. His greatest test moments were the 1911-2 Ashes (34 wickets, at the age of 38), the 1912 triangular tournament and the 1913-4 tour of South Africa, when at the age of 41 he took 49 wickets in the first four test matches before a quarrel over Ts and Cs led to him missing the final match. He paid just over 10 runs a piece for those last 49 wickets, ending his career with 189 wickets in 27 matches at the highest level, seven per game, which is far more than anyone else to have played a double figure number of test matches (Lohmann, just over six, with 112 wickets in 18 tests is number two on that list). These wickets cost him just 16.43 a piece, and although he played no first class cricket after World War 1, he had professional contracts in various leagues right up to the outbreak of World War 2, meaning that for 44 years of his adult life there was someone willing to pay him to play cricket.
  10. James Anderson – right arm fast medium bowler, left handed lower order batter. He has taken more wickets in tests since turning 30 than anyone else in the game’s history, and his wickets in 2021 are currently costing him just 10 a piece.
  11. Clarrie Grimmett – leg spinner, right handed lower order batter. The Dunedin born leggie had not only to move countries, but then cross two state boundaries to find regular first class cricket. As a result, he was already 33 when called up for his first test match. Even starting that late he took 216 wickets in 37 test appearances, and although he was then 46, many, including his old friend and bowling partner Bill O’Reilly, would have taken to him to England for the 1938 Ashes.

This team has a left/right handed opening combination, three excellent batters one of whom is a left hander in the next three slots, a genuine all rounder at six, a bowling all rounder at seven, one of the greatest of all keepers and three ace bowlers to round out the XI. The bowling is awesome, with Hadlee, Khan and Anderson a formidable pace trio, Barnes the greatest of all bowlers, and two front line spinners in Grimmett and Macartney.

PHOTOGRAPS

My usual sign off, with the addition of an infographic:

The Last Two Matches Of #INDvENG

A speculative little post looking beyond the day-night test to the scenarios that could arise for the fourth match of the series.

This post looks at the last two test of the series and at the implications for the World Test Championship.

THE DAY-NIGHT GAME

I have already outlined my thinking about the team England should have for the this match (see here and here): Sibley, Crawley, Stokes, *Root, Lawrence, Pope, +Foakes, Woakes, Stone, Leach, Anderson.

What happens for the fourth game is heavily dependent on the result of day-nighter. If England win and go 2-1 up in the series they still need to win to qualify for the final of the World Test Championship (badly compromised, but still a global final), as a 2-1 to England or 2-2 series outcome still lets the Aussies in. Any series win for India will see them qualify, so if they win the day-nighter I expect them to go highly conservative for the final match.

For England, a gamble will be warranted one way or the other, but the question is as to the nature of the gamble: If 2-1 up, so that a win and only a win will get them into the final of the WTC then it will be a high stakes gamble increasing the risk of defeat in a bid to maximize the chance of victory, while if 1-2 down it will be a case of using this match to experiment on the grounds that with England out of the WTC running the result no longer matters much.

SCENARIO 1: ENGLAND GOING FOR SERIES WIN

For a day game in India as opposed to a day-nighter I expect two specialist spinners to be required, and given the way Bess has been treated I don’t see him as a likely option, so for me it is time to promote Parkinson from the reserves, and gamble all on a Diplodocus-like tail of Broad, Leach, Anderson, Parkinson, playing both veterans in a match that has assumed such status, using his leg spin to add a bowling variation, with Root/ Lawrence able to bowl off spin should that be required. This to borrow a metaphor from the world of casinos is going all-in, and would I believe be called for in these specific circumstances.

SCENARIO TWO: INDIA GOING FOR SERIES WIN

Here, with England down, I do not play either Broad or Anderson, and I also rest (being very careful to make unmistakably clear that is resting and not dropping) Jack Leach. In this situation I would promote both Parkinson and Virdi from the reserves, and probably go with two out and out speedsters, risking a last four of something like Archer, Stone, Virdi, Parkinson. With victory serving only to usher Australia into the WTC Final I opt to experiment, and may even gamble on Foakes at six with Woakes playing at seven so I have five genuine front line bowling options. I am hoping that someone chooses this as a moment to make a name for themselves, looking to the future.

PHOTOGRAPHS

My usual sign off…

Leach and Why Woakes Must Play in Third India v England Test Match

This post looks at selections for the upcoming day-night test, explaining the reasons for concluding that if one specialist spinner backed by Root/Lawrence is enough then Chris Woakes must play.

The third test match of the India versus England series, which takes place in Ahmedabad, beginning in five days, is a day-nighter. This post looks at the implications of that for England’s bowling selections.

THE FRONT LINE SPINNER(S)

Dominic Bess has been struggling for form and is in any case out of favour with the selectors. Having just dropped him for the game which was taking place on a pitch guaranteed to turn from day 1, session 1 it would make little sense to play him as lone specialist spinner in this match (especially given that two part time bowlers must likely to be used a spin fill-in options, Joe Root and Dan Lawrence bowl off spin in any case). Also, there are very strong positive reasons for sticking with Jack Leach in any case. He has been bowling well and taking wickets, and now has 56 in 14 test appearances, an average of four per game. He is still paying just over 30 (30.37) per wicket, but that average is coming down. The significance of that wickets per game ratio is simply this: most test sides, unless unusually blessed with all rounders do not have more than five genuinely front line bowling options, and 20/5 = 4, so a bowler taking four wickets per match is doing their part in that regard. Also, as I mentioned in my last post, England have a tour to Australia coming up at the end of the year, and having a left arm bowler of slow to medium pace there is a virtual necessity. Thus, Bess can only really be considered if it looks like two specialist spinners are required, which seems unlikely for a day-night game.

THE PACE ATTACK

James Anderson, a no11 batter, is virtually inked in. Having rested him from the second match to keep him fresh for the day-nighter it would be utterly nonsensical to then decide not to pick him. Most would want a bowler of express pace in the attack, which means one out of Stone, Archer or Wood, none of whom rate particularly high with the bat, though Archer’s first class record suggests an ability he has yet to display in tests. That leaves one primarily bowling slot vacant, with the choice, assuming conditions don’t warrant Bess, between Stuart Broad, a second of the speed trio or Chris Woakes. Other than Woakes the only pace bowling option with any sort of batting pedigree is Broad, and he has done little in that department recently, and his bowling in the last match was underwhelming. The choice then, assuming one specialist spinner is the way to go, is between a diplodcus like tail of Broad, Stone, Leach, Anderson or some such permutation, or selecting Woakes for the match in which he is in any case most likely to do well out of any this winter.

England don’t want a tail like this beast had!

In view of his impressive efforts on a surface that offered him zilch I prefer for Stone to get an opportunity in more favourable conditions over Archer or Wood, so my 8,9,10,11 is Woakes, Stone, Leach, Anderson.

THE REST OF THE ORDER

For the sake of completeness here is the rest of my England batting order for the third test: Sibley keeps his spot at the top of the order, while with the chance of having to face spin right at the start being less at Ahmedabad than it was in Chennai the fit again Crawley comes in for the struggling Burns. Stokes moves up to three, as he probably won’t have a huge bowling workload, and as a short term fix for this tour having an engine room of Stokes at three and Root at four rather than the usual Root at four and Stokes at five seems to have a decent chance of working. Root we have just covered, and Lawrence after his struggles at no3 moves down to no5, while Pope retains his slot, and Foakes is now unbudgeable as keeper, and rightly so. The full XI, based on the supposition that one specialist spinner is enough is thus: Sibley, Crawley, Stokes, *Root, Lawrence, Pope, +Foakes, Woakes, Stone, Leach, Anderson.

PHOTOGRAPHS

My usual sign off…

Looking Ahead To The Ashes: Spinners

A look ahead to the Ashes tour that will end a very hectic year for England, with a particular focus on the spin bowling aspect. Also some photographs.

At the end of this year, after two more tests in India plus a busy home summer, England head to Australia for what Huw Turbervill in a book of that name called “The Toughest Tour” – an away Ashes series. With nothing else of significance happening in the cricket world today I am going to look ahead to that tour, and in what will be a long piece show what England should do spinners wise.

THE IMPORTANCE OF LEFT ARM SLOW TO MEDIUM PACED BOWLERS

Only once in all of England’s successful tours has the party not included a left arm bowler in the slow to medium pace bracket, the very first ever in 1882-3. In 1884-5 and 1887-8 and again in 1894-5 two left arm orthodox spinners in Bobby Peel and Johnny Briggs were present and both were test regulars during those tours. In 1903-4 Wilfred Rhodes, another left arm orthodox spinner, was a key performer, including a 15 wicket match haul at Melbourne (with eight catches dropped off him into the bargain!) In 1911-2 the bowling was largely dominated by Frank Foster and Syd Barnes, but Frank Woolley, an all rounder whose bowling stock-in-trade was left arm orthodox spin was far from insignificant. In 1928-9, JC ‘Farmer’ White, a left arm orthodox spinner was crucial to England’s success, bowling huge numbers of overs (130 across the two innings of the Adelaide match alone), going at around two an over and taking a good haul of wickets. In 1932-3, although Harold Larwood was the dominant bowling force, Hedley Verity, a left arm orthodox spinner played in four of the five test matches and skipper Jardine was at pains in his own book about that tour, “In Quest of The Ashes” to emphasize his importance to England. In 1954-5 Tyson and Statham were the dominant bowlers, but Johnny Wardle a left arm spinner who could bowl either orthodox or wrist spin (although Hutton’s conservatism as captain meant he was largely confined to the former on that tour) took 10 wickets at 22.9 a piece in a support role. In 1970-1 John Snow was England’s key bowler, but Derek Underwood bowling left arm slow-medium with cut rather than spin as his principle weapon was an important part of the supporting cast. In 1978-9 Philippe-Henri Edmonds, left arm orthodox spin, had a bust up with skipper Brearley and did not play any test matches, with the spinning roles entrusted for those games to Emburey and Miller. In 1986-7 Edmonds was there again in partnership with Emburey and was very important to England’s success, snagging the prize scalp of Border five times in the series. In 2010-11 England used off spinner Graeme Swann in a holding role, in which he took 15 wickets at 39 a piece, but only went for 2.5 an over, while left arm orthodox spinner Monty Panesar was kept on the sidelines, although he was part of the tour party. England have not won down under since that tour.

In 1946-7 England lacked a test class left arm slow to medium bowler, and at one point in that series Bill Voce, left arm fast medium, was asked to attempt orthodox spin as England were getting desperate – scoreline Aus 3, Eng 1, 1 high scoring draw (Morris for Aus and Compton for Eng notching a brace of centuries a piece in that one at Adelaide). In 1962-3 three off spinners were selected in the tour party and no one else who could bowl high class spin (Barrington’s leg breaks would have been the next highest ranking spin option), and England drew the series, not enough to get the Ashes back. In 1982-3 once again three off spinners carried the slow bowling burden – Marks, Miller and Hemmings, with only Hemmings selected purely on the basis of his bowling, and ironically he would produce the highest individual score any of the three managed in the series – 95 in the final match at Sydney as nightwatchman, and England lost the series after having won three successive Ashes contests, and they were to win the next two after it as well.

Thus, there have been only three occasions on which England have won down under without a left arm slow to medium pace bowler playing for them in at least some test matches, and only once, in 1882-3 when they have done so without such a bowler in the party.

Therefore, a bowler of that type can be considered necessary. Jack Leach, left arm orthodox spin, now has 56 wickets from 14 test matches at an average of 30.37, and is obviously improving, so he has to be first pick for a spinner’s berth in the tour party assuming he is fit to play. There are few obvious like for like substitutes for him, but Liam Patterson-White if he plays a full season and does well (at the moment after five first class games he has a bowling average at that level of 21.00) could well be a strong candidate, and Lewis Goldsworthy, a left arm orthodox spinner who can also bat, has had a good Under 19 World Cup and has fared well in the few senior games (all T20s) that he has been given. I hope he gets a full season this summer, and maybe if he performs brilliantly he will merit a place in the tour party. The person with the best first class average among English spinners who have played more than a handful of matches at that level is leg spinner Matt Parkinson, and I would think he should travel as designated second spinner, although only Sydney and Adelaide of Australian venues are remotely likely to produce surfaces justifying the selection of two specialist spinners.

1932-3: A TEMPLATE FOR SUCCESS IN THE 21ST C.

In 1932-3 England travelled with a battery of pace bowlers, two specialist spinners (Verity, left arm orthodox, and Tommy Mitchell, leg spin). They won the series 4-1, with Verity playing in four of the matches (nos 1,3,4 and 5). Mitchell was a less significant figure but what he was asked to do he did well. Incidentally, the one match Verity was not selected for demonstrates that Australia were not the innocent victims they like the world to believe that they were in that series: the pitch for the state game (yes, young folk, back in the day touring teams played matches against local first class sides as well as international fixtures) at Melbourne had been super fast, so when the second test was played there Jardine left Verity out to play a full battery of pace bowlers, Bill Bowes coming in for the only time of the series. On the first morning a delivery from Harold Larwood broke through the rolled top surface of the pitch and raised a puff of dust. By the fourth innings the pitch was turning square and Ironmonger (left arm orthodox spin) and O’Reilly (leg spin) were basically unplayable.

A standard England attack in Australia with their current resources could feature two out of Archer, Stone and Wood, one of Anderson and Broad, and Leach as the spin option, with Woakes also in the equation if one wants to avoid an overly long tail. In the unlikely event of a pitch requiring two specialist spinners Parkinson would come in for one of the quicker bowlers.

I will be keeping an eye out over the coming home season for Lewis Goldsworthy and Liam Patterson-White among others to see if they can genuinely force their way into the equation, but at the moment it is hard to see anyone other than Leach as first choice spinner in Australia, with Parkinson designated second spinner. I will make on cautionary remark in the context of Goldsworthy, and also the young opener Tom Lammonby who may well be in the reckoning if he has a second straight good season: if you are going to select people so early in their careers for international tours they will need careful management – Brian Close was selected for the 1950-1 Ashes tour when not much more than a boy and badly mishandled on that tour, setting his career back years.

A LINK AND PHOTOGRAPHS

My attention was drawn earlier today to calls being made on the government to support Eurostar, the most climate friendly means of travelling between this country and continental Europe. You can sign and share by clicking here, and below is the infographic that accompanies the text on wearepossible:

Now for my usual sign off. I had to put in a prescription request, and used the longer, parkland route home, as it being half term the schools were closed.

Accepting Extra Walking 2: London and Elsewhere

A second ‘accepting extra walking’ post, this time looking at two very different areas.

As promised yesterday, I am doing a non-cricket post today, resuming my ‘accepting extra walking series‘. For this post, and any others along these line that I produce I will start with a London based example and then move on to something from another period of my life.

LONDON: VISITING THE SOUTH BANK CENTRE

There are many attractions in the South Bank Centre. In my case, with my love of classical music, I was usually going there for a concert either in the Queen Elizabeth Hall or the Purcell Room. From the then family home in southwest London I could take the Northern line to Waterloo or go to Streatham and take a train to Blackfriars (District and Circle as well as various mainline railways) and walk along the Thames from there, a slightly longer but more scenic route than the one from Waterloo. This walking route also takes in Southwark Station (Jubilee). Also, approaching from north of the river one could use Charing Cross (Northern, Bakerloo, mainline railways), from which one could exit direct on to a footbridge across the Thames, and if one was on the Piccadilly line this walk could be extended be getting off at Covent Garden, a short walk away from Charing Cross. Here are some pictures:

BARNSLEY TO WOMBWELL

This one comes from my university days. Barnsley had a leisure centre called the Metrodome, but if you actually wanted to swim rather than just splash around Wombwell Baths was a superior option. The basic journey from Barnsley to Wombwell is one stop by rail with a walk at both ends, but I did sometimes walk all the way there and get the train back. From where I was living at the time, on a side road off Doncaster Road the straight walking route was down to Stairfoot, turn right, and keep walking until you reach Wombwell, which does take quite a while. One little bit of cricket content: one of the roads one passes when walking this way is Roy Kilner Road, named in honour of the Yorkshire and England all rounder of the 1920s who died near the end of that decade from an illness contracted while coaching in India. He only played a few test matches, but his first class record (LHB, SLA) saw him amass over 14,000 runs at an average of 30.58 and take 1,003 wickets at 18.45 a piece. He was born in Wombwell, hence having a road there named in his honour, and died in Kendray, also near Barnsley.

PHOTOGRAPHS

My usual sign off…