The Smith XI

Inspired by Jamie Smith’s batting at Bristol in the last round of championship games I have selected a team comprised entirely of Smiths (he is twelfth person). Also includes some of my photographs.

This post was inspired by Jamie Smith’s double century for Surrey against Gloucestershire in the last round of county championship fixtures.

THE XI IN BATTING ORDER

For reasons that will become obvious I am including a twelfth person on this occasion.

  1. Graeme Smith (left handed opening batter) – the South African’s record confirms him as one of the finest openers of the modern era. He was also a candidate for the captaincy which I have awarded instead to his opening partner.
  2. *Mike Smith (MJK Smith, right handed opening batter, captain) – The Warwickshire stalwart averaged over 40 in FC cricket.
  3. Robin Smith (right handed batter) – An excellent player of fast bowling but had the gloss taken off his test record when he was found badly wanting against Shane Warne. Still even with the deleterious effect of Warne on his overall record he finished with a test average of 43.
  4. Steven Smith (right handed batter, occasional leg spinner) – The best test batter of the modern era, and possibly his country’s second best ever behind Donald Bradman.
  5. Collie Smith (right handed batter, occasional off spinner) – killed in a road accident at the age of 26 but he had already achieved plenty of note, including scoring 168 in a test innings and racking up a triple century in a Lancashire League game.
  6. Sydney Smith (left handed batter, left arm orthodox spinner) – West Indian born but primarily associated with Northamptonshire. He averaged 31 with the bat and 18 with the ball, figures that would probably equate to 46 and 27 on today’s more batting friendly surfaces. Three years after his arrival at Northamptonshire the county finished second in the championship, a position that they are yet to improve on 110 years later.
  7. +Ian Smith (right handed batter, wicket keeper) – A fine keeper and a good enough bat to have test centuries, including a top score of 173.
  8. ‘Big Jim’ Smith (CIJ Smith – right arm fast medium bowler, very aggressive right handed lower order batter) – still holds the record for the quickest 50 scored of genuine bowling, reaching the landmark in 11 minutes (overall innings 66 in 18 minutes). A good enough quick bowler to be selected for England at his peak.
  9. Peter Smith (leg spinner, attacking lower order batter) – his most famous performance came with the bat, for Essex against Derbyshire, when he came in at number 11 and proceeded to smash 163 out of a last wicket stand of 218. That innings helped him to achieve the season’s double of 1,000 runs and 100 wickets in first class matches for the first time in his career.
  10. Haydon Smith (right arm fast bowler, right handed tailender) – the Leicestershire quick will form a useful new ball pairing with ‘Big Jim’ in this team.
  11. ‘Razor’ Smith (off spinner, right handed tail ender) – over 1,000 FC wickets at 17.55 a piece. The Surrey and London County player completes a highly dangerous spin trio who all do different things with the ball (of the three Peter Smith the leg spinner is probably the least threatening, but even he took his FC wickets at 26.55 a piece.
  12. Jamie Smith (right handed batter, wicket keeper). The inspiration for this post. His double century at Bristol took his FC average north of 40, but he is not his county’s first choice keeper and I could not leave out Collie Smith to get him into the 11, so for the moment he is twelfthy for this team.

A LOOK AT THE XI

The team has a very strong top five, a genuine all rounder at six, an excellent keeper/ batter at seven, two useful hitters at eight and nine and only two out and out tailenders. The bowling his excellent variety, although it is short in the pace department. I would expect this team to give a good account of itself on most surfaces (only on a green seamer might they be in trouble).

HONOURABLE MENTIONS

Given the lack of pace bowling I will start with that department. Gloucestershire left armer Mike Smith did not have a good enough record to merit selection, though he was a good county bowler. Warwickshire all rounder Paul Smith, who bowled fast medium, could only have been accommodated had I left out one of Collie or Sydney Smith, and I did not feel that I could drop either to make way for him.

There were two wicket keeping candidates other than Ian Smith, both with Warwickshire connections – ‘Tiger’ Smith and Alan Smith.

Off spinner Neil Smith, for all that he was briefly an England cricketer, was not of the same calibre as the spinners I have selected. Had Sydney Smith not had an ironclad case for inclusion as an all rounder I might have included a female in the shape of left arm spinner Linsey Smith.

Chris Smith might have had the opening slot I awarded to MJK. David Smith (Surrey, Worcs, Sussex, picked for the 1986 tour of the Caribbean) was a good county player but not (in spite of the fact that he attended a previous incarnation of my own secondary school) good enough to qualify for selection.

Finally, I deliberately did not pick the guy known in his Cambridge days as ‘Smith’ – KS Duleepsinhji, because I would have considered it hypocritical to avail myself of this “cheat code” given my own condemnation of the conduct of a certain county at which a senior overseas pro was referred to as ‘Steve’ by folk who weren’t prepared to pronounce his real name.

PHOTOGRAPHS

My usual sign off…

Channel Islands 3: A Day on Guernsey

An account of a full day on Guernsey as part of my series on my recent holiday.

Welcome to the latest post in this series about my recent holiday (I am now back in Lynn, so these posts will be coming less sporadically). This post covers the one full day we spent on Guernsey en route to Alderney.

A FRENCH RESTAURANT

On the Saturday evening, having established ourselves at St Georges Guest House, roughly a kilometre from the centre of St Peter Port, we went out to find a restaurant to eat at. We settled on a French establishment, and the food and drink were both excellent.

Castle Cornet

The following morning we walked out to Castle Cornet, purchasing food at an M&S Food Hall on the way. We ate near a lighthouse, which I subsequently walked out to – it was very windy around the lighthouse but worth it for the views.

THE GUERNSEY MUSEUM

There was a wildlife photography exhibition at the Guernsey Museum as well as some stuff on the history of the island.

Championship Performances of Promise

A look at some of the more important success stories from this round of county championship games and a bumper crop of photographs.

As this round of county championship matches heads towards its conclusion (three are already settled – congratulations to Essex, Gloucestershire and Hampshire on their wins) I highlight several performances of potential interest to England.

While Ollie Pope dominated Surrey’s massive total against Leicestershire with his 245 there were also useful runs for Jamie Smith (119) and far more significantly for Ben Foakes (87), who should feature as England’s test wicket keeper.

For Leicestershire, Hassan Azad, mentioned as a candidate for an opening berth (Burns remains under some scrutiny after his winter, and Sibley is injured and may not be fit for the first test, while Lammonby is struggling horrendously after a fine start to his FC career) made a century in the first innings and is well on the way to doubling up. As things stand at the moment he is averaging 44.84 in FC cricket, while playing his 31st match at that level.

In the west country derby Ryan Higgins had a fine match, and with there being a possible vacancy for an all rounder with Stokes injured and Woakes playing in the IPL that could prove significant. Of more definite significance is the performance of James Bracey – a century and an 82 not out in the second innings. He has been part of the England set up but has yet to play a test match.

Finally, Matt Parkinson for Lancashire has produced a good bowling performance. He took 3-49 in the first innings, including a pretty good impression of the ‘Gatting ball’ and already has 2-23 in the second as Lancashire press for victory (Northamptonshire can do no better than a draw from here). His five wickets in this match have taken his bowling average in FC cricket below 25 (currently 67 wickets at 24.42). He remains #2 to Leach among current England spinners, although he is now paying less per wicket than Leach in FC cricket, because Leach has over 300 wickets to his credit at FC level and is faring respectably at test level, but he may well be earning himself a trip to Australia as an accredited member of the party rather than a ‘reserve’ as was over the winter just gone.

Oliver Edward Robinson of Sussex, definitely a candidate for elevation, has just recorded innings figures of 9-78, giving him 13-128 in the match. If England want five bowling options, Higgins at seven, Robinson at eight, one out and out speedster, Leach and one of Broad/ Anderson could work well, Higgins and Robinson have decent batting credentials.

PHOTOGRAPHS

I have lots of photographs to share with you…

All Time XIs – Somerset

Originally posted on aspiblog:
INTRODUCTION Welcome to the latest installment in my “All Time XIs” series. Today we are looking at Somerset. In the course of our journey we will meet heroes of the past, stars of the present, a couple of hopes for the future and the man who when I get round to…

When I created this post OTD last year Bess was riding high and having felt it necessary to exclude Leach I hoped he would continue to go well and justify my faith in him. Not helped by some mismanagement over the winter he has gone backwards since then, and I would remove him from the XI and replace him with Brian Langford, who took 1410 wickets at 24.79 in 510 first class appearances. Thus the revised XI is Trescothick, Gimblett, Palairet, Hildreth, Braund, *Woods, Botham, Garner, Langford, White, +Luckes. I also have some new photos to show…

aspiblog

INTRODUCTION

Welcome to the latest installment in my “All Time XIs” series. Today we are looking at Somerset. In the course of our journey we will meet heroes of the past, stars of the present, a couple of hopes for the future and the man who when I get round to creating it will be captain of the “What Might Have Been XI”.

SOMERSET ALL TIME XI

  1. Marcus Trescothick – left handed opener who scored stacks of runs in his long and distinguished career. He was selected for England against the West Indies in 2000, showed masses of character in surviving an early onslaught from the veteran pacers Ambrose and Walsh, going on to score 66 on debut. That same winter facing the very different challenges posed by a dry pitch and some crafty spinners in Sri Lanka he made his maiden test hundred. Runs continued to…

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Brathwaite Ends Lean Spell

A look at developments in #WIvSL, some remarkable footage of a volcanic eruption (courtesy of Science girl on twitter), and my latest photographs.

In this post I look at developments in the game between West Indies and Sri Lanka that is just into its second day.

DAY 1: KRAIGG BRATHWAITE DEFIES SRI LANKA

With the West Indies batting first and looking to improve on the draw they recorded in the first game of the series Sri Lanka bowled very well. Veteran seamer Suranga Lakmal was particularly effective, bowling full and just a fraction wide (even in limited overs cricket the umpires would not have been calling wides – he was targetting the area that bowlers like to call ‘fourth stump’) to take three of the first four wickets. For much of the day it seemed that Brathwaite would simply not find anyone to bat well enough with him for the Windies to post a decent total, but then Rahkeem Cornwall, the off spinner who has a decent first class record as lower order batter, set about proving that his maiden test fifty, recorded in the previous match, was no fluke. By the close West Indies had got to 287-7, Brathwaite 99 not out, Cornwall 43 not out.

DAY TWO – LANDMARKS SECURED EARLY

It took one ball of the second day, which is just under way, for Brathwaite to complete his ton with a single, and Cornwall has subsequently got to 50. After three overs of the second day the West Indies are 299-7, Brathwaite 101 not out, Cornwall 53 not out. Lakmal is bowling at one end and left armer Vishwa Fernando at the other, and Cornwall has just brought up the 300 with a two off the latter, taking himself to 55.

LIVE FOOTAGE OF A VOLCANO

Someone who posts on twitter under the name Science Girl has posted some extraordinary footage from Iceland, where volcanic eruptions have been happening lately. You can visit the tweet by clicking here, and the video is embedded below:

PHOTOGRAPHS

My usual sign off, with as evidence of changing seasons (the sun came out today and it has been genuinely warm here in Norfolk) my first butterfly sightings of 2021 – nothing very exotic, just some tortoiseshells.

As I publish the West Indies have still not lost any further wickets, the score being 302-7 after 92 overs.

Looking Ahead to India v England

I look at England’s options ahead of the series in India which gets underway on Friday, with a particular focus on spin.

Before I get into the main meat of this post, a note on the coverage of this series: radio commentary is in the hands of talksport2, which means a less good commentary team than if TMS had the rights, while TMS will be running what they call a ‘cricket social’, which does not work anything like as well as commentary, and for TV fans the big news is that UK broadcasting rights have gone to Channel Four, the first time since 2005 that a terrestrial broadcaster has had such rights in this country. Radio coverage (the way I will be following the action) begins at 3:45AM on Friday our time, with the first ball scheduled to bowled at 4:00AM.

INS AND OUTS

Rory Burns is back from paternity leave, Ben Stokes and Jofra Archer are both available after missing the Sri Lanka tour, and the spin situation remains in flux. Burns will open with Sibley, with Crawley reverting to the number three slot from which he hit 267 against Pakistan not so long ago. Root will be at four. England seem to be being absolutely rigid in their rotation policy re Anderson and Broad, so his heroics in the second match in Galle notwithstanding Anderson is likely to be on the sidelines for this match. The most likely top six given continuing uncertainty over Pope’s shoulder, although he is with the tour party, would seem to be: Sibley, Burns, Crawley, Root, Stokes, Lawrence. Foakes is finally going to get another chance with the gloves, although probably not until match 2, with Buttler available this time, and that leaves the bowling to sort out. England will probably select two spinners given that the pitch at Chepauk Stadium, Chennai will take spin late in the game, which almost certainly means that Archer will be paired with Broad to take the new ball, though I would personally retain Anderson rather than be quite so dogmatic about the rotation policy with the veterans. This leaves the spinners to sort out.

ENGLAND’S SPINNING WOES

Current incumbents Jack Leach and Dominic Bess each had their good moments in Sri Lanka but each also looked innocuous at times, and Bess in particular struggled to keep things tight enough when nothing was happening as he bowled too many loose balls. Amar Virdi and Matt Parkinson are in India, officially as reserves, and also in India is Moeen Ali, a man in his middle thirties whose record (60 test matches, batting average 29, bowling average 37) is that of someone who is not up to the task in either department. There have been rumblings about a test recall for him, including an article published on the usually sensible Full Toss blog making what was supposed to be the case for his recall. Whatever the right answer to England’s spinning woes is it is not selecting an ageing mediocrity such as Moeen Ali. I expect that the selectors will persevere with Leach and Bess, but myself, for all that it makes the England lower order look a bit shaky I would be inclined to promote Parkinson (leg spin, FC average 25.22) from the reserves to partner Leach, with off spin if it is deemed necessary being bowled by either Lawrence or Root (skipper, please not the order in which I have listed these two options!). In the longer haul, rather than looking backwards to Moeen Ali, England need to look forwards, and in addition to Parkinson I suggest that Virdi, Liam Patterson-White and Daniel Moriarty as being worthy of attention, with Simon Harmer, now eligible for England, being considered as a stop gap solution so long as he accepts coaching younger spinners as part of his England duties. I might also consider whether Sophie Ecclestone’s left arm spin could prove as effective among the men as it has in the women’s game. Looking to the future, left arm spinning all rounder Lewis Goldsworthy will be worth keeping an eye on. Finally, England might not struggle so much to find spinners if counties who produced turning pitches did not find themselves the subject of sanctions from the ECB.

TWO ENGLAND XIS

I offer in infographic form two XIs for the match starting on Friday, the one I think we will actually see, and the one I would pick from those available:

PHOTOGRAPHS

Just a few pics today:

Italian Holiday – Setting The Scene

Starting a new series about the holiday I have recently returned from, and also using the new editor for the first time (please comment on how you think my efforts have worked out).

It is a while since I last posted, and I am using the new wordpress editor for the first time. I am also starting a new series, having just been to Italy for a family holiday arranged to celebrate my parents golden wedding anniversary. This post will set the scene for an account of the whole holiday.

THE ARRANGEMENTS

Due to Covid-19 and associated restrictions we did not know until very close to the planned departure time whether the trip could go ahead. With the holiday due to span 2-11 September inclusive (10th being the actual day), it was only on August 24th that we knew for certain that it was going ahead. I had to abandon a plan to travel to Italy by train as that would have meant passing through France which was clearly not on in the circumstances. Thus I found myself booked on a flight due to leave Heathrow late on the morning of September 3rd, and with a night to spend at one of the hotels serving the airport. I would be arriving back late on September 11th.

KING’S LYNN – HEATHROW

All went smoothly with final preparations and I was able catch the 11:44 from King’s Lynn to London King’s Cross. I had a bit of a wait at King’s Cross for a Piccadilly line train to Heathrow, but no serious issues. I managed to locate one of the places from which the Hoppa bus to the hotel could be caught, and my parents arrived at the same location while I was waiting for the right bus to arrive. Checking in at the hotel involved a degree of confusion, but eventually we were all settled in our rooms for the night.

THE FLIGHT

We arrived at the airport in very good time for our flights, check in was accomplished with little fuss, and although there was a delay going through security, as my carry on bag was selected for a search, we were still had plenty of time. We had an excellent breakfast at the airport. The flight ran to time and we got through Fiumicino Airport with little trouble, and met up with the driver who was taking us to our accommodation in Rome where we were staying for four nights before moving on to Tivoli for another four nights including the main event.

SETTLING INTO ROME

We were dropped close to the flat we were staying in, and had to find various keys to get in, which we managed OK. After offloading our bags and changing into clothing more suitable for Italy we did some exploring of our environs.

The last picture above is a shot of the Castel Sant’Angelo, which was very close to where we were staying in Rome. I end this post with a video showing the waterfall that was the chief landmark viewable from the villa we stayed in for the second. I hope that this, my first post using the new editor has worked well for all of you.

Cricket and Weather

Cricket and how to deal withe time being lost to the weather.

INTRODUCTION

The match at the Ageas bowl between England and Pakistan has been hammered by a combination of bad weather and excessive caution on the part of the umpires, and not a single one out of nine Bob Willis Trophy matches has escaped unscathed either. This post looks at the various matches and looks at reducing the toll poor weather takes of cricket.

THE TEST MATCH

The situation at the Ageas bowl is that the equivalent of over two whole days have been lost to the weather, and the teams are currently in their hotel sheltering from what is apparently quite heavy rain. In the play that has been possible Pakistan have amassed 236 in their first innings, with Mohammad Rizwan playing a fine innings, and Stuart Broad continuing his excellent summer with the ball. England in response are 7-1, with Burns out for a duck, and a little lucky to have lasted as long as he did, since his second ball was edged just short of the slip fielder before his fourth was caught in that region. Probably the only chance of a positive result in that game is if the teams broker a deal whereby England declare, Pakistan forfeit their second innings and England have a go at a target of 230, while Pakistan try to take 10 wickets.

THE BOB WILLIS TROPHY

  • Leeds has seen 79 overs in a day and a half, and Yorkshire are 288-4 against Derbyshire.
  • Birmingham has seen more play than most places, and Warwickshire were dismissed for 121 in the first innings, while Somerset are 134-5 off 45.2 overs in response.
  • At Hove there have been 61 overs of play and Sussex are 155-6 against Essex.
  • At Northampton Worcestershire made 219 in their first innings and Northamptonshire are 60-3 in response.
  • At Trent Bridge there have been 71.2 overs and Nottinghamshire are 268-2 against Lancashire.
  • The St Lawrence Ground at Canterbury has seen 46 overs so far, and Middlesex are 94-4 against Kent.
  • At the Arundel Castle Ground which Hampshire are using as a home venue since the Ageas Bowl is required for other purposes they have already given up on play for today, which means that two days have seen exactly 40 overs, off which Surrey have reached 130-8.
  • In the game I am currently listening to at Sophia Gardens, Cardiff, Glamorgan are 68-4 off 40 overs against Gloucestershire.
  • Finally, at Grace Road there have been 72.2 overs thus far and Glamorgan are 224-4.

REDUCING LOSSES TO THE WEATHER

Firstly, abolish stoppages for the light altogether – play all matches using pink balls, so that the floodlights can be allowed to take complete control if necessary. Rain is harder to deal with, but I have an idea to float. It should be possible to construct a strong, lightweight but entirely waterproof canopy which could be attached to the tops of the floodlight pylons, enabling matches to be continued even if it is raining. It is just possible that an almighty miscue could send a ball pretty much vertically upwards (there was a shot that Ian Botham played off Terry Alderman at Old Trafford in 1981 that might have done this – Mike Whitney made a gallant effort to get underneath it to take the catch but could not quite do so) and cause it to hit the canopy, but I am sure that that could be dealt with.

PHOTOGRAPHS

My usual sign off…

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The Start Of The Bob Willis Trophy

A first post on the Bob Willis Trophy, a bit of mathematics and some photographs.

INTRODUCTION

This post looks at the start of the competition that has been devised to replace the county championship in this pandemic hit season, play in which got underway at 11AM this morning. The second ODI between England and Ireland gets underway at the Ageas Bowl shortly.

HONOURING A LEGEND

Bob Willis, the former fast bowler who was only the second England bowler to take as many as 300 test wickets, following in the footsteps of Fred Trueman, died on December 4th 2019. When it became apparent a normal county championship would be impossible to stage it was only natural that his name should be attached to the replacement competition. Willis’ finest hour came at Headingley in 1981. He he taken no wickets in either innings, when with Australia 56-1 in their second innings needing only a further 74 for victory he was given one last chance to save his test career. Just under an hour later Australia were 75-8 and Willis had taken six wickets in as many overs (the other, the adhesive Border, had fallen to Chris Old). Dennis Lillee and Ray Bright launched a counter attack that yielded 35 runs in four overs before Lillee mistimed a drive and Gatting ran in, dived and held the catch. Alderman was dropped twice of Botham, but the first ball of Willis’ 16th over of the innings and tenth off the reel uprooted Bright’s middle stump to give England victory by 18 runs, with Willis having figures of 8-43. Willis would play on another three years, captaining the side for a period.

AN EXPERIMENT BORN OF NECESSITY

The 18 First Class counties have been split into three regions, South, Central and North. Each region will be play five rounds of matches, so that each side plays each other side in their region twice. At the end of this the two teams with the most points will play a final at Lord’s, which will be contested over five days instead of the regular four for a county fixture. Certain other changes have been made to the normal format of county games: the number of points for a draw has been increased from five to eight so that teams who suffer a lot of adverse weather will not too badly affected, a new ball will only be available at 90 overs rather than 80, the first innings for each county cannot last beyond 120 overs, and the minimum lead to be able to enforce the follow-on will be 200 rather than 150 runs. One beneficial side effect of these arrangements should be that spinners come into the game more than at present (Surrey and Middlesex, whose game I have listened to some of, are each playing two spinners, in Surrey’s case first class debutant Daniel Moriarty and England hopeful Amar Virdi, who would be the most obvious replacement for Dom Bess in the off spinner;s role). England is somewhat overburdened with bowlers who move the ball around a bit at medium pace or fractionally above and short of both genuine pace and spin. Surrey and Warwickshire were going to be experimenting with letting in spectators, but that has been prevented by the fact that Covid-19 cases are spiking upward making caution once more the order of the day.

A MEASURE OF MATHEMATICS

I have solutions to provide to the two problems I posed in my previous post, and I also have a new problem to set. My first was this one:

This was a bit of trick question. The answer is the both final shapes have the same number of faces (14 as it happens). Here is a published solution from Mahdi Raza:

FaceOff Sol

The second problem I posed was this one:

SNN

The fact that the result is not allowed to be negative at any stage means that only five square numbers need be considered as possible plays for Mei – 1, 4, 9, 16 and 25. 25 + 9 = 34, which means that if either of these numbers is chosen Yuri is left with a square number and reaches 0 at the first attempt, which leaves 1, 4 and 16 as options. 

Case 1: Mei plays 16. This reduces the number to 18. Yuri’s choices are now 1, 4, 9 or 16, of which 9 is instantly ruled out since it gives the game to Mei. However a choice of 16 by Yuri reduces the number to 2. Mei’s next move is forced 0 she subtracts 1, leaving 1 remaining and a win for Yuri as he also subtracts 1.

Case 2: Mei plays 4. This reduces the number to 30. All Yuri now has to do is play 25, reducing the number to 5, and whether Mei subtracts 1 or 4 she leaves a square number which Yuri thus reduces to 0 winning the game.

Case 3: Mei plays 1 which reduces the number to 33. If Yuri plays 25 that reduces the number to 8. Mei has a choice between 1 and 4, and 4 reduces the total to 4 an a win for Yuri, so she has to play 1. If Yuri now plays 4 then Mei plays 1 and Yuri has to do likewise, giving the game to Mei. Thus Yuri plays 1 reducing the number to 6, and Mei can then win the game by playing 4 and making the number 2 with Yuri to play. Thus Yuri cannot play 25 as his first response. If he plays 16 that reduces the number to 17, from which Mei cannot play 1 as that gives Yuri the game. If she plays four that reduces the number to 13, and Yuri’s forced moved of 1 reduces the number to 12, from which Mei cannot play one or nine as they immediately allow winning moves for Yuri. So she plays four, making the number now eight, and Yuri counters with a one which makes the number seven, and whether Mei plays one or four Yuri is in control because his own next move makes the number two. If she plays a nine instantly from 17 that reduces the number to eight and again Yuri is in control. Similarly 16 hands the game straight to Yuri. Thus whatever number Mei starts with Yuri has a winning response. THus, if both players play optimally Mei cannot win.

The new problem involves fractal geometry:

 

There are five answers for you to choose from:

a)

Solution in my next post.

PHOTOGRAPHS

My usual sign off:

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England Struggling At The Ageas Bowl

Continuing thoughts on post-Covid test cricket, as being showcased at the Ageas bowl.

INTRODUCTION

The weather in the vicinity of Southampton is better today, and it seems that we will get a full day’s play today. This post looks at the goings on since this time yesterday.

DAY 2

Yesterday’s post finished with England having just lost a sixth wicket, ending a stand between Buttler and Stokes. Wickets 7,8 and 9 followed swiftly, but then some sensible aggression from Bess, with the support of Anderson, saw England pass 200, Bess becoming one of only three England batters to reach 30 in the innings (Stokes 43, with the assistance of a lot of luck, and Buttler 35. England tallied 204, and the West Indies reached 57-1 off the 19.3 overs of their innings that were possible before the light intervened (more of this later). England did not start today well, and a running theme was continued when an LBW was overturned on review (on this occasion because the bowler had overstepped, and the delivery was therefore a no-ball), the sixth time such a decision had been overturned to date, and all six have been given against the West Indies by on-field umpires Illingworth and Kettleborough. Shai Hope became the second player out in the West Indies innings, caught by Stokes off Bess, who has had the best game of any England player to date. Then Stokes struck with an LBW, which was yet again sent upstairs, but on this occasion came back as ‘umpires call’, meaning that the on-field decision, and Kraigg Brathwaite was out for 65, comfortably the highest score of the match to date. Shamarh Brooks and Roston Chase stayed in till lunch, and in the few minutes since the resumption have not been separated as yet, with the West Indies now 159-3. Now on to some thoughts about a few specific issues…

WHAT ENGLAND NEED FROM HERE

First England need to bowl better (and the quick bowlers need to bowl to a fuller length than they have been on this surface – Holder was successful for the Windies by pitching it up) and dismiss the West Indies before they build a really huge lead. Get the West Indies out for 250, which is definitely possible, and England will be in the contest, and even if they reach 300 that is not an impossible deficit to overcome, especially given the dryness of the pitch, which suggests that there will be genuine assistance for Bess in the 4th innings if the game goes that far. Then England need to bat well second time around. Denly and Crawley in particular need runs with Root due to return for the second match and Bracey and Lawrence knocking on the door (I would have given Lawrence the no4 slot and dropped Denly in any case). If England can set the West Indies even as much as 200 in the fourth innings that might easily be enough.

HOME UMPIRES

This move has been necessitated by the pandemic, but at the moment, for all their strong position the West Indies have a legitimate grievance in this matter – a succession of decisions by the on-field umpires have gone against them, and while all bar one have subsequently been overturned. The one that was not overturned was close, and would also have stood had it been given the other way.

WEATHER, LIGHT AND STARTING TIMES

Not much can be done about rain, but time has also been lost in this match to bad light, which I regard as inexcusable. Natty over at Sillypoint has suggested that pink balls should be used at test matches so that the overs can be bowled even if the floodlights are the only source of light at the ground, which has a lot going for it. The alternative is to keep the red balls for general use, but also have a stock of pink or white balls at the ground, and if the floodlights are the only available light delay play only for as long as it takes to swap the red ball for a pink or white one in similar condition. What is not acceptable is a continuation of the current system, where huge chunks of playing time are needlessly lost due to a desire to stick with red balls at all times. Finally, the Ageas Bowl was chosen as host venue for this series because there is a hotel that is structurally part of the ground, there are no spectators allowed for the obvious reasons, so no one has any commuting to do to get to the ground. Therefore, why the continuing insistence on 11AM starts – today has been bright and sunny down there from the start apparently, so why could play not have got underway at 10AM to make up for some of the lost time?

ENGLAND PLAYER BY PLAYER

  1. Dominic Sibley – a failure this time, but he has done enough in his career to date not to be dropped.
  2. Rory Burns – again not a good first innings for him, but he is established in the side and should be retained.
  3. Joe Denly – his first innings failure took his test average below 30, and at the age of 34, he is surely only one more failure from the exit door.
  4. Zak Crawley – failed in the first innings, but worth persevering with, although he too needs a big score before too long.
  5. Ben Stokes – he rode his luck to make 43 with the bat, his bowling has not been great thus far, but you never know when he will come up with something, and although I expect Root to resume the captaincy there is no way Stokes is losing his place as a player.
  6. Ollie Pope – before getting out he looked several classes above anyone else in the line up, and there are surely big scores to come from him.
  7. Jos Buttler – I do not consider 35 an outstanding score and think that he must be running out of chances.
  8. Dom Bess – the only England player whose stocks have gone up in this match, a spirited innings in his secondary discipline and has bowled nicely so far.
  9. Jofra Archer – quick as ever but has bowled too short thus far and been consequently expensive and relatively unthreatening.
  10. Mark Wood – see my comment re Archer.
  11. James Anderson – the usual Anderson, accurate, always commanding respect. It would seem that the plan is for him and Broad to alternate through this summer, an idea I endorse. Broad it would appear has had an on air (TV) ‘toys out of the pram’ moment over his non-selection for this game, but the way he bowled in the warm up match, lacking pace, and largely too wide to pose any great threat he should have no complaints over missing out.

As far as I am concerned, any score that does contain three figures in the second innings should spell the end of Denly, as Root returns. Crawley may retain his spot, but one or other of Lawrence or Bracey could claim that. Buttler should lose his place (but probably won’t, so wilfully blind are the selectors to his faults in long-form cricket) for Foakes. Anderson and Broad will likely rotate as explained, and Robinson, Curran and Mahmood are all possibles for pace bowling slots. Bess’s performance here has underlined his role as first choice spinner, and if at any point there is a surface warranting two specialist spinners the leg spinner Parkinson should be the other. While I have been typing this Anderson has dismissed Brooks, caught by Buttler. This was the subject of yet another review, a terrible call by Brooks since the nick was blatantly obvious. I suspect that Brooks was influenced by the fact that the on-field umpires have been having such a poor game and found it hard to believe that they had actually got one right.

PHOTOGRAPHS

I congratulate the West Indies, and especially Holder and Gabriel, on their play in this match thus far, hope England can pick things up a bit and make this closer than it currently looks like being. I am delighted that cricket has returned, and have greatly enjoyed the TMS commentary on this game. Now it is time for my usual sign off…

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Dominic Bess has just nabbed a second wicket to make the West Indies 186-5 – Blackwood gone cheaply. Keeper Dowrich and skipper Holder are both useful batters, but after them are three tail enders.