I am autistic myself, and also branch secretary of NAS West Norfolk. This entry is a very appropriate starting point because it was my diagnosis and the role I then had running a support group for Asperger East Anglia that led me to create this blog.
B IS FOR BOOKS
I have always loved books, and am a very voracious reader. In addition to my own collection I am a regular user of several of Norfolk’s libraries, and yes I do use them to borrow books.
C IS FOR CRICKET
I have been an enthusiastic follower of cricket for over 3o years (my attempts at playing the game foundered on a chronic lack of talent). The fact that my employers had an auction yesterday and have another on Saturday means that I am off work today, and therefore able to listen both installments of the Women’s T20 double header. Here is the feature image from Saturday’s upcoming auction:
D IS FOR DETECTIVE STORIES
This is an extension of my love of books as a whole. I regularly borrow large quantities of detective ficition from thbe libraries. Among my very favourites are Edward Marston’s Railway Detective stories.
E IS FOR EAST RUDHAM
The village in West Norfolk where I began to rebuild my life after mental health issues had nearly destroyed me. I lived there for just over five years and was a regular visitor until my parents recently moved to Cornwall.
F IS FOR FERRY
I have travelled on many ferries in my lifetime, but the one I particularly think of nowadays is the Lynn Ferry which has been running for over 800 years.
G IS FOR GREECE
I first visited Greece for a family holiday about 35 years ago and have been back mnay times. It remains a favourite holiday location. I have produced a number of posts about my most recent visit.
H IS FOR HISTORY
One of the many subjects I enjoy reading about. One of the reasons I enjoy going to Greece so much is the presence of so many historic sites.
I IS FOR IRRELIGIOUS
I have been a staunch atheist for my entire adult life. For those who take the approach that the Northern Ireland census form used to I am a “catholic atheist” – that being the specific religion that I rejected. To paraphrase Richard Dawkins most people are as atheist as me about almost every god who has ever been believed in – I just go one god further than they do.
J IS FOR JOURNEYS
I love travelling, and being a lifelong non-driver am able to make good use of almost all my journeys – if the route is not familiar to me I will be observing the scenery and taking photographs, and if it is it represents reading time.
K IS FOR KERNOW
Kernow is the Cornish name for Cornwall (this is the only entry in my A-Z that overlaps with The Cornish Maid’s), and although unlike the person who inspired this post I do not live there I have been there a number of times over the years and my parents have recently moved to that part of the world. It is a Cornish picture that appears on the reverse of my personal cards:
L IS FOR LONDON
I grew up in London, and still visit the place on occasion. Also, I run a London Transport themed website, www.londontu.be. I will be back in London during the latter part of next week, for Marxism 2018 which runs from Thursday to Sunday.
M IS FOR MATHEMATICS
Another lifelong interest, and something that I am very good at. Here is a frecnet problem from brilliant.orgthat took my fancy:
N IS FOR NATURE
Nature has always been very important to me, and I love being out and about in nature with my camera for company. My name is often to be found among those supporting campaigns to protect nature, and as a thoroughgoing internationalist I take pride in having been the first non-Swede to sign the online petition to save Trosa nature.
O IS FOR OVAL
Because of their shape many cricket grounds have Oval in their name. The two with which I am most familiar are The Oval, in South London not very far from where I grew up, and served by two stations, Oval and Vauxhall; and the Adelaide Oval, which owes its name to a transplanted Surreyite who suggested it because he wanted to be reminded of home. Of the innings I have seen live at the ground the most memorable at either of these two venues was played by David Gower in 1990. England could do no better than draw the game, which as it happened was enough to give them the series. Gower made 157 in that innings, and by the time he was out the draw had long since been secured.
P IS FOR PHOTOGRAPHY
This is a hobby of mine, and also something I do at work. Here are some recent pictures:
Q IS FOR QUIZ
With my eclectic interests and retentive memory I am pretty good at quizzes (unless they are overloaded with questions about pop music), and generally enjoy taking part.
R IS FOR RAILWAYS
Railways are one of my special interests. I have travelled on railways in many different countries and have also built up a decent collection of railwayana. I may add to my collection on Saturday.
S IS FOR SCOTLAND AND SWEDEN
These are two of my favourite countries to visit, both very scenic. I could find no way to split them so I have decided to honour both places.I have produced a number of posts about both Sweden and Scotland. Here are a couple of pics: A view from Strome Castle, Scotland
This river is in Northern Sweden.
T IS FOR T20
Yes – another cricket related entry. T20 (where each side bats for 20 overs) has been a great success since its introductiuon in 2003. However the new 100-balls per side competition is being too clever by half (and consigning the County Championship to the start and end of the season when conditions are least suitable for long form cricket).
U IS FOR UNIVERSE
I find it fascination reading theories about our universe, its possible origins and its possible place in a wider cosmos. I also find the history of how we moved from considering our planet to be at the centre of a fixed universe to recognising it as pale blue dot (hat tip to Carl Sagan who wrote a book of that title) in the immensity of the cosmos to be fascinating.
V IS FOR VARIETY
One of the things I enjoy about my current job is that there is plenty of variety there. I am firmly in the camp of those who say that variety is the spice of life.
WHY EVOLUTION IS TRUE
Jerry Coyne’s 2009 book with that title remains a firm favourite (along with his more recent Faith versus Fact), and it is also the title of a blogrun by Professor Coyne that I follow.
X IS FOR EXHORT
As I near the end of this post I exhort you to produce your own version – it is time consuming but fun. You have seen my version, and if you followed the opening link you have seen the version that inspired me to take on this challenge – now go and do likewise!
Y IS FOR YARBOROUGH
This is a bit of a cheat – it is my way of mentioning the game of Bridge which is a firm favourite of mine. A yarborough is a hand with no card higher than a nine and 4-3-3-3 distribution, and is named in honour of Lord Yarborough who had all bridge players at his house contribute a guinea to a kitty, while if someone had the misfortune to be dealt the hand that now bears his name they got 1,000 guineas (he was on to a winner – the actual odds against the hand coming up are 1827 to 1). I do not get to play very often but I am a pretty good player of the game.
Z IS FOR ZOOM
A zoom lens can be a real boon for a photographer (my current camera has a zoom capacity of up to 60X) – a little tip from experience is to not stretch the zoom lens right to its limits – leave a bit of space around whatever you are photographing (you can always crop it out during the editing process). This post was inspired by a Cornish blogger, so I end with a Cornish picture.
A post celebrating recent successes for the England men’s and women’s cricket teams.
The last few weeks have been magnificent for English cricketers of both sexes. Each side has been very dominant through a sequence of games, and each have set a team scoring record during the sequence of games.
The women warmed up with an ODI series against South Africa, losing the first match but winning matches 2 and 3 very comfortably, in each case with their efforts being spearheaded by centuries from Tammy Beaumont. Then they moved into a T20 tri-series featuring South Africa and New Zealand, the latter fresh from three straight 400-plus ODI tallies against Ireland, the last of which featured the first part of a ‘script rejection’ performance by Amelia Kerr – 232 not out with the bat, and then to settle things 5-17 with the ball. No author of a cricket themed novel would dare have a 17 year-old do that in an international match, but it happened in real life.
On Day 1 of the tri-series New Zealand opened proceedings by scoring 217 from their 20 overs against South Africa, which at the time was a new record in that form of the game, and won them the match comfortably. That record lasted until later that same evening when England took on South Africa, and with Beaumont scoring yet another century (getting there in a mere 47 balls) and Katherine Brunt responding to a promotion up the order by running up 42 not out off just 16 balls reached a total of 250-3. This proved way out of SA’s reach. On Saturday, the second set of games in the tri-series, England lost to South Africa but bounced back to beat New Zealand in the other match.
The men started the limited overs segment of their summer by losing to Scotland at The Grange, but then they commenced a five match series against Australia and were absolutely dominant through the first four matches, winning all comfortably and racking up 481-6 in the third match. The fifth match was a very different kettle of fish. Australia were all out for 205, a modest total that featured the most misjudged leave-alone in cricket history (perpetrated by Ashton Agar). England then collapsed to 114-8 and I was getting ready to point out that wins in dead rubbers don’t really count. However, Jos Buttler was still there, and now Adil Rashid provided some sensible support, and the pair put on 81 for the ninth wicket, turning the match into a nail-biter. Jake Ball, the England no 11 only scored 1 not out, but he survived 11 deliveries, while Buttler first completed an astonishing hundred (with a six that on sheer distance should probably have been a nine) and then sealed England’s one-wicket victory in this game and with it a 5-0 whitewash against the old enemy.
Tim Paine thus became the second Tasmanian born captain with a surname that begins with P to surrender a match in which the opponents had needed 92 with only two wickets left (look up Mohali 2010 for more details).
Buttler’s innings secured him both the player of the match and player of the series awards. Buttler was 110 not out in a score of 206-9, and the joint second biggest scores were 20 for Alex Hales and Adil Rashid, and he finished the series with 275 runs at a handy 137.50. In the course of this innings he passed 3,000 ODI runs. Unlike most of his previous big innings which have been all about putting opponents to the sword (his 3,000th ODI run came up off only just over 2,500 balls faced in this form of the game) this one involved getting his team out of trouble and probably rates as his finest for precisely that reason.
Both the men’s and women’s teams have benefitted from the fact that everyone has contributed somewhere along the line, but each also have had certain players who have been especially outstanding (see Buttler above), and I offer the following composite list of the best:
Moeen Ali: Watching the way the Aussies tackled his off-spin you might have thought they had been put in a time machine and taken back to 1956.
Jonny Bairstow: about the only thing he did wrong all the way through was get out in the game at The Grange when he was putting Scotland to the sword and would have had England firmly in control had he batted a few more overs. None of the Aussie bowlers, even the highly impressive Billy Stanlake, had any idea where to bowl at him.
Tammy Beaumont: the smallest player in physical stature in this list (5’3″ tall) she has been a metaphorical giant in these matches with three centuries from her position at the top of the order.
Katherine Brunt: In the first match she made 72 to give England something to defend. After her 42 not out in the 250-3 T20 game she followed up by picking up 2-18 from her four overs. Ignore talk of imminent retirement – so long as her body remains in one piece she will keep going.
Jos Buttler: The batsman-keeper did all that was asked of him in the first four matches of the series against Australia and when the going got tough in fifth match he got going and carried England to victory.
Alex Hales: started these matches as favourite to miss out once Stokes was available again but played several incredible innings, and I would now say that for all his all-round credentials Stokes has to be considered as far from certain to regain his place.
Adil Rashid: another of the ‘role-reversal’ aspects of this series was that on this occasion it was Aussie batsmen who looked like rabbits in headlights when facing an English leggie. In addition to his success with the ball he played that crucial little innings in the final match.
Jason Roy: the leading run scorer of the series with 304, including a ton which spearheaded the chase-down of 310 in the 4th game.
Anya Shrubsole: reliable as ever with the ball, and when really needed in the game against New Zealand on Saturday she delivered some quick runs.
Sarah Taylor: quite possibly the best wicketkeeper of either sex on the planet at present and she also scored some important runs.
Danielle Wyatt: opening with Beaumont in the 250-3 game she was quite magnificent, and she had other successes through the season.
Time now for some photographs, starting with a cricket themed one from James and Sons’ upcoming cigarette cardauction.
My empoloyers, James and Sons, have two auctions coming up in the next week. On Wednesday we are at Fakenham Racecourse for a general sale featuring a wide range of items, and on Saturday we are at The Maids Head Hotel, Norwich for an auction of old, rare cigarette cards. In tbe rest of this post I will give you a preview of both auctions.
The cigarette cards are the first part of a huge collection submitted to us by former Lord Mayor of London Sir Brian Jenkins (he has already expressed his appreciation of this catalogue). Here, as a link to the official catalogue listing on the-saleroom.com is a picture of the front cover of our printed catalogue:
It was my employer who selected the 1896 cricketers set to feature on the front cover, and me who chose the particular cricketers to feature (and, of course, took the photograph). Although W G Grace turned 48 during the course of the 1896 season he still also scored over 2,000 first class runs in it (in 1895 he had set two new records, completing his 100th first class hundred, the first to so, and also scoring 1,000 first class runs in the month of May (starting his season on the 9th and reaching his 1,000 21 days later) including 301 against Sussex. K S Ranjitsinhji deprived the old master of a record he had held since 1871 by racking up 2,780 first class runs in the season beating WGs old tally of 2,739. He also made an extraordinary test debut. On day 2 after Australia had racked up a big score he contributed 62 to England’s first innings, and then in the follow-on he reached 41 not out by the close. Then, having totalled over 100 runs on his first day as a test match batsman he added another 100 before lunch on his second, taking his overnight 41 to 154 not out. In spite of these heroics Australia needed only 125 to win, although a lion-hearted spell of fast bowling from Tom Richardson (6-76) ensured that they had to work for them, the eventual margin being three wickets.
Here a few photographic highlights:
LOTS 2412 AND 2413
These are the two really old sets of cricketers, one of which is valued very highly, the other somewhat less so.
Some cricket related thoughts, photographs and solutions to my most recent set of problems.
I have a couple of cricket related things to share, a few photographs, and solutions to the puzzles I set in the post “Cricket, Photographs and Puzzles”.
The third round of Championship matches were scheduled to start yesterday, but most did not get underway due to the weather, and those that did get underway were heavily affected by the weather. I have two other things to mention in this section:
WORLD CUP 2019 SCHEDULE
The schedule for the 2019 World Cup is now available to the public (see here for full details). The tournament is as usual spread out over far too long (starting at the end of May but not finishing until mid July) because the organisers will not stand up to the TV people and schedule multiple matches for the same day. In 2015 I put up a post demonstrating how a 16-team tournament could be scheduled to last no more than three and a half weeks, and I reproduce the text from that post below:
THE SUTCLIFFE FORMULA FOR ORGANISING A CRICKET WORLD CUP
There has been much talk at the Cricket World Cup about how the tournament should be formatted, especially given that there are those who would reduce it to a ten team tournament (so utterly harebrained a notion that I do no more than mention it). Several of the associate nations at this world cup have given good accounts of themselves, with Ireland having a strong chance of progressing to the quarter finals.
My formula for a Cricket World Cup would be as follows:
16 teams to play in the tournament. Stage one would involve two groups of eight teams, the top four from each group progressing. Each group would play its matches in sets of four (hence two groups of eight), making seven rounds of matches for each group, to played on alternate days (i.e. this stage would span two weeks, with each side having a day off between matches.
After the group stage would be a three day break before the quarter-finals, which would be played all on one day. After a two day break the semi–finals would take place. Then following another two day break the final would take place. This would mean that the tournament would be played in a period of three and a half weeks (a sensible length for a global tournament).
As for the TV people: If they don’t like it they can lump it.
A SUGGESTED ENGLAND TEAM FOR 1ST TEST MATCH
The early stages of this cricket season have been less than satisfactory, but I have some thoughts about an England team for the first test match nonetheless. In batting order:
H Hameed – Mark Stoneman has had ten test matches without producing a serious score, and the fact that he has reached 50 five times but not gone beyond 60 is enough for me to call time on him. Hameed is restored to full fitness (it was injury that ciost him his place after an encouraging start to his test career) and should be given another chance.
J Bairstow, playing as a specialist batsman (he is plenty good enough to do so).
J Root (Captain)
D Malan – one of the few England test batsmen to be able to claim a successful tour of Australia and New Zealand.
M Burgess (wk) – a fine wicketkeeper, and in what is currently a very exclusive club of batsmen who have produced two major scores this season.
S Curran – a left-arm pace bowler who has been knocking on the door. The fact that he bowls with his left-arm will lend variation to the seam attack.
J Leach – finally given a chance in the last test of the New Zealand leg of the tour, he bowled well and must surely be persevered with.
D Bess– stranger things have happened than an English pitch in May warranting the selection of two spinners, so Bess gets the nod as 12th man. Incidentally, controversial as it would be, the person who would have miss out were I going the two spinners route is Broad, going for a new-ball combo of Curran and Anderson.
Of the three players who went into the Ashes tour as England players and who do not feature above James Vince may yet redeem himself by producing some huge scores for Hampshire, while Stoneman and Ali are as far as I am concerned firmly in the category of ex-England players.
We now change focus, and I am marking this with some photographs. There will be more after I have presented solutions to the problems I left you to tackle.
All of these problems were taken from brilliant. The first was:
First the answer:
Now here is Marvin Kalngan’s published solution:
SOLUTION 2: CLEAR ICE
Here is the problem:
And the answer:
SOLUTION 3: POLYOMINO
I solved this one the lazy way – I noted that shape B very easily forms a rectangle, and after visualising various assemblages of shape A and noting that none were rectangular I opted for B only given that this is a Basic level problem. Stefan van der Waal published this solution:
SOLUTION 4: CONVERGENCE
Since the sequence involves numbers between 0 and 1 being multiplied together, and such numbers multiply to produce smaller numbers, the series actually converges on 0.
SOLUTION 5: CUBE
I solved this as follows:
1)Because you are specifically allowed to rotate the cube you can see every individual block that appears on the outside… 2)This means that the only blocks that can you cannot see are those wholly inside the cube…
3)…Which since the surface layer is 1 block thick, and occurs twice in each direction amounts to a 4 x 4 x 4 cube… 4)…Therefore 64 blocks are invisible, which means that (216-64) = 152 blocks are visible.
To end this section here is Aaa-Laura Gao Gao’s solution:
Some thoughts about the early stages of the English Cricket Season, some photographs and some puzzles.
The second round of County Championship matches in season 2018 are now on their second day. Additionally the fact that here in England we seem to have skipped spring, going dorectly from a long, unpleasant winter into summer means I have a particularly fine selection of photographs for you, and there will be puzzles.
THE COUNTY CHAMPIONSHIP
Scoring is low everywhere. At Chester-le-Street it is looking a first innings tally of 169 will be sufficient for Kent to record an innings victory (Durham, shot out for 91 yesterday morning are 39-7 in their second innings, needing their last three wickets to double that paltry tally just to avoid the innings defeat). Essex and Lancashire are already into their third innings as well, Essex having scraped together 150 first up and Lancashire replying with 144. Essex are 39-0 in their second innings. Somerset, having actually claimed a batting bonus point by reaching 202 are poised for a handy first innings lead, Worcestershire being 153-8 in response. Surrey also topped 200 – making 211, and Hampshire are 79-6 in response. Yorkshire made 256 in their first innings, and Nottinghamshire are 110-6 in response. Derbyshire made 265, and Middlesex have also reached three figures, being 101-5 in response. Gloucestershire are 47-0 in response to Glamorgan’s 236. Northamptonshire were all out for 147 and Warwickshire are about to overhaul them, with wickets in hand. Finally, Sussex batting first are a comparatively monumental 304-7 (three batting bonus points, although they will not get a fourth as they have had 108.3 overs, and bonus points are only awarded in the first 110 overs of a team’s first innngs) against Leicestershire.
Every match is in progress, which beats last week, when Yorkshire failed to produce a playing surface on which the game could be played, resulting in their match against Essex being abandoned without a ball being bowled.
The low scoring is a major problem – the batters will gave little confidence since they are not making runs, and as soon as they face conditions in which the ball does not get up to mischief most of the wicket-taking bowlers will revert to being their workaday selves (we saw, unforgettably for all the wrong reasons, over the winter how seamers who bowl accurately but not especially fast are cannon fodder for international class batsmen on good pitches).
From the point of view of England possibles these two rounds of championship matches have been largely valueless – the 75 from James Vince on the opening day was the usual Vince fare – excellent while it lasted, but did not last long enough to be satisfactory and given the conditions no bowling figures can be taken with anything other than a substantial helping of salt.
PHOTOGRAPHS 1: AN ASPI.BLOG FIRST
The Muscovy ducks first saw a few months back are still in residence, and they have been joined by an unusual visitor, the second largest bird species I have seen in King’s Lynn – Canada Geese.
PUZZLE 1: MATCHSTICKS
My first offering from brilliant(the source of all of today’s puzzles – note also that all can be solved without even using pen and paper, never mind mechanical assistance – I did) is an exercise in visualization:
PHOTOGRAPHS 2: MUNTJAC
This muntjac was nibbling the grass on the playing field of the Lynn Academy, and I was taking pictures through a screen of plants:
PUZZLE 2: CLEAR ICE
PHOTOGRAPHS 3: SQUIRREL
I got two shots of this squirrel, one om the ground, and one as it swarmed up a tree trunk:
PUZZLE 3: POLYOMINO
Another exercise in visualization (my own success with this one enabled me to celebrate what I call my brilliant.org Pi Day – 314 successive days on which I had solved at least one of their problems!):
PHOTOGRAPHS 4: SMALLER BIRDS
PUZZLE 4: CONVERGENCE
PHOTOGRAPHS 5: BUTTERFLIES
PUZZLE 5: CUBE
My own method for solving this one once again involved visualization, although other methods were also used.
In view of some of the moans that appeared on brilliant in relation to this problem please note the crucial words “by rotating” in the question – they are absolutely key.
PHOTOGRAPHS 6: THE REST
While I have been completing this post Durham have succeeded in making Kent bat again, though it is still massive odds against that game even making it onto the third of the scheduled four days.
The first round of County Championship matches in season 2018 is drawing to a conclusion. Where there has been action (Yorkshire’s failure to get their ground into playable condition caused their game against Essex to be abandoned without a ball being bowled). I also have some photos to share, and will provide answers to the last problems I posed.
RAIN, WICKETS AND THE ODD RUN
A lot of drawn games have resulted due to poor weather before and during the matches. However, those matches which have had definite results have been absolute crackers. Only one game remains in progress – Sussex against Warwickshire, with the former’s David Wiese having scored the only century of this first round of fixtures (and off a mere 94 balls, helped along by 14 fours and three sixes). Sussex are building are useful lead, but it will take something spectacular in what is left of the match for anything other than a draw to eventuate. Gloucestershire beat Kent in a very low scoring affair (the largest team total in any of the four innings was only just over 150). Middlesex also won their match in short order, completing the job early on yesterday. Two other matches had definite results:
HAMPSHIRE V WORCESTERSHIRE
Worcestershire generally have a lot of away games scheduled for early in the season to give the New Road ground an apportunity to recover from its winter inundation (it is very close to the river Severn, so this is pretty much an annual event), and this year is no exception. Their match against Hampshire at Southampton (I refuse on principle to refer directly to grounds that are named after a sponsor) saw many twists and turns, but Hampshire were pretty well always ahead of the game. James Vince’s spirited 75 on the opening day was a fine effort, but yet again he failed to turn a good start into a really significant score. All-rounder Gareth Berg matched Vince’s score. Worcestershire fought back from a dreadful start in their own first innings to top the 200 mark, but they still conceded a deficit of 79, and Hampshire then scored 244 in their second innings to leave Worcestershire needing 324 to win. Worcetserhsire were so far short of threatening this target that it took a defiant last wicket partnership to get the final margin below 200 runs.
LANCASHIRE V NOTTINGHAMSHIRE
Lancashire were all out for 158 in their first innings, Nottinghamshire responded with 222, and overnight Lancashire were 58-2. Harry Gurney and Jake Ball (Left-arm Fast and right-arm Fast Medium respectively) bowled magnificently this morning, and Lancashire’s last eight wickets scraped together a measly 15, which meant Nottinghamshire needed just 10 to win. Nottinghamshire themselves managed to lose four wickets while chasing down this target, making the score for the day 25-12.
These are all from this morning:
I posed these problems on Friday, in a post titled “Solutions (And New Problems)“
Deck of Cards:
This is a multi-choice question, the possible answers being:
a) Less than 50% b) More than 50% c) Exactly 50% This problem generated a huge amount of controversy among solvers on brilliant (many of those who opted for exactly 50% being unable to accept that they were wrong and arguing over it). The answer is “less than 50%” – whatever colour the top card in the pack is there remain 51 cards of which 25 are the same colour as the top card and 26 are the other colour. Hence the probability of the bottom card being the same colour is the top card is 25/51, which is just less than 50%. The more cards the deck contains the closer to 50% the probability gets, but it never reaches 50%.
This one caused such confusion to solvers om brilliant that over half of them got it wrong. The answer is A, since the groyne acts as a block against waves approaching it from the right as you look at it, and therefore the reduced speed of those waves causes sediment to deposited on that side of the groyne.
Final thoughts on two test series and one major cricketing scandal. Also some photographs.
This post deals with the two test match series that have recently concluded and associated fallout. We start with…
SOUTH AFRICA 3 AUSTRALIA 1
Before getting into my account of the onfield happenings, it is time for an update on…
THE UNHOLY TRINITY
Cricket Australia have hit Steve Smith, Cameron Bancroft and David Warner with substantial playing bans, augmented in the case of Smith and Warner with bans on subsequently occupying leadership positions. The trio have a day left to appeal against these bans, and Smith and Bancroft have already said they will not do so (here and here). To my mind the fact that the other two have already accepted their bans leaves Warner with only two choices: accept the ban as they have, or announce his retirement from all forms of cricket with immediate effect (he is the oldest of the trio, and would probably find relaunching a professional career at the age of 33, as he would be when his ban expires, quite tough). It also leaves the Australian Cricketers Association with a lot of egg on their faces, since they have gone into bat on behalf of the trio, two of whom have now accepted the ban handed out by Cricket Australia.
In the final match of the series in which the scandal referred to above broke South Africa batted first and put up a daunting total of 488, (Markram 152, Bavuma 95 not out) before Australia replied with a modest 221. With a draw sufficient to secure their first home series win over the Aussies since readmission in 1992 South Africa declined to enforce the follow on. In the second South African innings Faf Du Plessis made a fluent century and Dean Elgar a limpetlike 81 in five and a half hours, and they batted until tea on the fourth day to ensure complete safety (there were injury worries about three of their frontline bowlers). Faced with a purely nominal fourth innings target of 612 Australia collapsed to be all out for 119. Vernon Philander emerged with figures of 6-21, while Morne Morkel finished his test career by claiming the final Australian wicket. South Africa’s winning margin of 492 runs was the biggest victory by a runs margin in a time limited test (the three bigger margins that have been recorded, 675 runs by England against Australia in 1928, 562 runs by Australia against England in 1934 and 520 runs by Australia against South Africa in 1911 were all in timeless matches, because all test matches in Australia were played to a finish between 1888 and 1946, and the Oval match in 1934 was settling the fate of the Ashes, and was played to a finish for that reason, as had happened in 1926 and 1930 and would happen again in 1938). More information about this match is available on cricinfo.
ENGLAND IN NEW ZEALAND
This was the second match of a two-match series and England needed to win it to square the series. A century by Jonny Bairstow helped England to a first innings total of 307. New Zealand slumped to 36-5 in response before a big stand between wicketkeeper B J Watling and the man with the coolest name in current international cricket, Colin De Grandhomme revived them. England eventually secured a first innings lead, but at 29 it was much smaller than they would have been anticipating. After Alastair Cook fished at one outside his off stump and was caught Mark Stoneman and James Vince, each batting to save a test career, took centre stage. Vince’s stylish 76 may have been sufficient to preserve his place or at least to give him a way back if he scores some big runs for Hampshire during the English season. Stoneman however (he is also a few years older than Vince, hence less time for potential comebacks) would appear to be finished as a test match batsman. His 60 was his fifth score of 50 or more in tests but also his highest, and he was nearly out a number times between reaching 50 and finally contriving to surrender his wicket for 60.
STONEMAN’S UNWANTED PLACE
IN THE RECORD BOOKS
Those noting that 60 would seem both to be a moderate career best for an opener and a moderate career best for someone with five scores of 50 or more give yourselves a bonus point. Mark Stoneman in point of fact now holds the record for the lowest career best for a batsman with five or more test fifties, the previous lowest in that category being 64 jointly held by:
Brett Lee, who was picked for his fast bowling, and was not particularly expected to score many runs.
Billy Bates, an all-rounder whose off-spin was more than capable of settling matches on its own, and who played in the 1880s when scoring was generally a lot lower due to the nature of the pitches. He was the first England bowler to take a test match hat trick (second ever, after Frederick Robert Spofforth), in a remarkable match performance which saw him take seven wickets in each Aussie innings, after scoring 55 in England’s 294 (a score which proved sufficient to win the match by an innings).
Root scored his seventh fifty plus test score this English winter, and for the seventh time this English winter failed to make it to the century mark. New Zealand were left 380 to chase to win the game.
Although there were moments when England looked like they could win the match, and New Zealand were never in serious contention, it must also be acknowledged that most of the wickets that fell in this final innings were given by the batsmen rather than being taken by the bowlers. Additionally several chances went begging (Stoneman further blotting his already soiled copybook by shelling two). Finally, taking the Auckland horror show into account, the overall series result is well justified – a drawn series would have seriously flattered England. Full detail on this match is available from cricinfo.
ENGLAND PLAYER BY PLAYER
A new home season is often a time for new blood (ideally if I was giving someone their test chance I would want to see them at that level for at least one home season and one overseas tour before assessing whether to persevere with them), so what of the players who played for England in this match?
Alastair Cook – he is finding it very difficult to get an innings going these days, but on the occasions when he manages it he scores seriously big. Also, he has done enough over the years to be allowed to leave the scene on his own terms.
Mark Stoneman – not good enough at this level. Five fifty plus scores but a highest of 60 points to serious temperament issues. I hope not to see him lining up against Pakistan at Lord’s.
James Vince – too many beautiful miniatures like his first innings 18 and as yet no full-sized masterpiece, though his 76 in the second innings, like his 83 at Brisbane suggests that he may yet come good at the highest level.
Joe Root – his failures to convert fifties to centuries of late are beginning to be a worry, but he has proved in the past that he can go on to really big scores.
Dawid Malan – has done enough to be retained. Given Root’s dislike of the position and Vince’s less than iron grip on his place in the side he may have to take on the njumber 3 slot.
Ben Stokes – has batted well this series but done very little bowling. His future is uncertain due to the pending court case against him.
Jonny Bairstow – has batted magnificently on both legs of the tour, and his keeping has been pretty well flawless. Another possibility for that no3 slot would be selecting another wicketkeeper and having Bairstow (who is good against the quick stuff) play as a specialist batsman in the no3 position.
Stuart Broad – bowled well in both innings of this match, and barring injury will continue to feature in the test team until he calls time on himself.
Mark Wood – his presence gives the seam element of England’s attack variation through his extra pace. Both he and Broad spent too much of this match testing out the centre portion of an unresponsive pitch.
Jack Leach – finally England select a genuine spinner, rather than a batsman who can roll an arm over. He bowled well in this match, though this was not a great pitch for him, and more should be seen of him.
James Anderson – he remains as good as ever. In this match he set a new record for the most overs delivered by a pace bowler in the course of a test career, going past Courtney Walsh. At times over the course of this English winter he has been not merely England’s spearhead, but most of the spear as well.
The likelihood is that Broad and Anderson will continue until 2019 so that they can take their final bows in a home Ashes series. Cook may also be thinking in those terms, and while no one would grudge him such a finish, a few more runs between now and then would be good. In the immediate term however England definitely need to find from somewhere the following.
A new opening batsman to replace Stoneman
Either a new wicketkeeper to take the gloves from Bairstow and enable him to play as a specialist no 3 or a new batsman to play at no 3 (or promote Malan and have the newbie at no 5). Dan Lawrence is an obvious candidate for a batting spot, and the early weeks of this season would be one heckuva time for some young batsmen to score heavily for their counties.
Bowling back-up for Anderson and Broad (Wood is good, but injury-prone, and none of the other pace options England have tried this winter have been remotely impressive).
A second genuine spinner or spin bowling all-rounder to back up Jack Leach (Moeen Ali’s form and confidence both appear to be thoroughly shattered).
England also need to learn a lesson they should have learned decades ago: taking a phalanx of guys who bowl right-arm just above medium pace overseas does not work – such bowlers are only dangerous if the ball moves in the air for them.
Finally, for those of you whobhave made it to the end of this post, some of my photographs: