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.

All Time XIs – Non-test Battle

Today’s all time XIscricket post, probably the penultimate in the series, gives the limelight to some of the best players not to have graced the test arena.

INTRODUCTION

Today’s installment in my ‘all time XIs’ cricket series is envisaged to be the penultimate one – I have already selected my teams for tomorrow, and on Thursday I shall be writing about the resumption of test cricket, with one full day and part of the second to provide me with material if all goes well (overlapping the finish of this series with the restart of test cricket is part waiting for developments in the test match and part insurance policy in case of rain. Today we have a team of players who flourished too early and/or in the wrong country to play test cricket and a team of players whose selectors overlooked them in spite of consistent success at first class level.

SYDNEY SMITH’S XI

  1. John Thewlis – right handed opening batter. He finished just before test cricket started. He scored the first first class century ever for Yorkshire, thereby inking himself indelibly into cricket’s history.
  2. Ephraim Lockwood – right handed opening batter. He was called up by Yorkshire in emergency as a teenager. When he walked out to open the innings with his uncle, the aforementioned Thewlis, he was jeered by spectators because he did not have the correct kit. They had plenty of time to amuse themselves at the expense of his sartorial inadequacy since he contributed 91 to an opening stand of 176. In August 1876 he was captaining Yorkshire against Gloucestershire at Clifton, with WG Grace coming off the back of 344 for MCC against Kent and 177 against Notts in his last two innings leading the home county. Grace won the toss, batted, and allegedly said in appreciation of the pitch “I shan;t get myself out today, you will have to get me”. He proceeded to make a chanceless triple century, his second in less than a week, driving the Yorkshire fielders and bowlers to the brink of mutiny. At one point Allen Hill flatly refused to bowl when asked to do by his captain.
  3. Mahadevan Sathasivam – right handed batter. He only got to play in 11 first class matches, spread over five years, and he averaged 41.83, several decades before his country, Sri Lanka, attained test status.
  4. Steve Tikolo – right handed batter. Kenya’s finest ever batter, he played in the 1996 world cup, being part of the historic win against the West Indies and also making 96 against Sri Lanka in a defeat. His first class average of 48 was much better than his limited overs record and suggests that he would have been well suited to test cricket.
  5. Ryan ten Doeschate – right handed batter, right arm medium fast bowler. The finest cricketer The Netherlands have ever had, he was a stalwart for Essex through most of the first two decades of the 21st century. His first class figures are excellent, his ODI record makes breathtaking reading, even allowing for the weakness of some of the opponents he faced in that format.
  6. *Sydney Smith – left handed batter, left arm orthodox spinner. A West Indian, he qualified by residence for Northamptonshire in 1909, did the double in his first season and went on to a distinguished first class career, averaging 31 with the bat and 18 with ball (approx equivalents on today’s flatter pitches, 46 and 27). Inspired by his presence Northamptonshire, promoted to first class status in 1905 and previously known only for taking hammerings, finished second in 1912, a position that 108 years on they have not improved on.
  7. +Fred Wyld – wicket keeper, right handed batter. A good enough batter to have a first class hundred to his name. His career ended just before test cricket in England started – he was part of the MCC side that played Australia in the game at Lord’s in 1878 that produced the lowest aggregate ever for a completed first class match – 105 runs for 31 wickets. In the second innings he and Flowers, also of Notts, shared a stand that accounted for 15 of MCC’s 19 all out.
  8. Bart King – right arm fast bowler. The greatest of all USian cricketers, but not quite great enough to propel them to test match status (it was talked about at one point). He had a credit balance between his batting and bowling averages, averaging 20 with the bat and 15 with the ball in first class cricket.
  9. Palwankar Baloo – left arm orthodox spinner. He took his first class wickets at 15 a piece, playing a decade or so before his country gained test status. As a low caste commoner he could not, unlike ‘Ranji’, ‘Duleep’ and the elder Nawab of Pataudi light out for England and establish himself there. Indeed caste prejudice delayed his selection for The Hindus in what was then the Bombay Quadrangular, and which later became the Bombay Pentangular and later still was abolished.
  10. Sandeep Lamichhane – leg spinner. The Nepali has made a big name for himself playing franchise and limited overs cricket, and I hope that he will eventually get to play regular first class cricket. There is little chance of him ever being a test player, because Nepal are not currently close to being strong enough as a whole to compete at that level, and such elevations need to managed carefully – Bangladesh and Zimbabwe both suffered from ill-timed promotions to the top table, as in a different way have Ireland, while Afghanistan’s promotion was properly managed.
  11. William Mycroft – left arm fast bowler. He was just too old to catch the start of test cricket, being born in 1841. He took 863 wickets in 138 first class appearances at 12.09.

This side has a strong top five, a genuine all rounder at six, a keeper who can bat and four excellent and well varied bowlers. Mycroft and King look an excellent new ball pairing, with ten Doeschate as support seamer if needed, and Lamichhane, Baloo and Smith to bowl spin.

CEC PEPPER’S XI

  1. John Langridge – right handed opening batter. He amassed 76 centuries in his long first class career, but was never once selected for England. He also pouched 788 catches in the field.
  2. Alan Jones – right handed opening batter. He was selected for England against the Rest of the World in the hastily arranged series of 1970 which took the place of the planned visit by South Africa, but that series was not accorded test status (although illogically certain later matches between Australia and non-national XIs have been given test status and contribute to, to give just one example, Shane Warne’s wicket tally. He scored more first class runs, 36,049 of them including 56 centuries, than anyone else who never to got to play test cricket.
  3. Percy Perrin – right handed batter. He amassed 66 first centuries, including a best of 343 not out, which at the time he compiled it was the fifth highest score ever in first class cricket. His driving off the front foot was so fierce that opposition teams would regularly have four fielders posted in the deep to reduce his scoring rate from such shots. Yet the England selectors ignored him completely. Ironically once his own career was done he became a selector himself, and was at one stage chairman of selectors.
  4. Jamie Siddons – right handed batter. His career began in the mid 1980s and ended at the start of the 21st century. In that period he scored just over 11,000 first class runs at an average of 45, a very impressive record, but not quite enough to secure him a baggy green.
  5. Tony Cottey – right handed batter, occasional off spinner. The 5’4″ Swansea native scored almost 15,000 first class runs at an average of 36. He also tended to produce when his side really needed it – he would be far more likely to make a hundred if he came in at 30-3 than from 300-3. However, England selectors have always seemed to have great difficulty comprehending what is going on to their west, and Cottey was a victim of this, somehow being entirely overlooked at a time when the England middle order was not generally noted for its solidity.
  6. Basil D’Oliveira – right handed batter, right arm medium fast bowler. He did get to play test cricket eventually, but his international career started for England when he was in his mid-thirties, instead of for his native land a decade earlier. His performances in the cricket he was allowed to play in his native land, and for the SACBOC XI, the only remotely representative South African side to be selected prior to the 1990s (there were no whites involved, but not because they were excluded – they chose not to participate) give a hint of what the world missed because of this. While I acknowledge, as I did yesterday, the misfortunes of those such as Graeme Pollock, whose careers were ended prematurely by their country’s isolation I am far more concerned for the likes of Krom Hendricks and others who were deprived of the opportunity to forge an international career purely because of the colour of their skin, and my selection of Basil D’Oliveira, a man who in spite of being well past his cricketing prime by the time he got to play test cricket averaged 40 at that level and took some important wickets (notably that of Barry Jarman at The Oval in 1968 in the game in which he scored 158 in the first innings, which opened up the tail for Derek Underwood) is an acknowledgement of their plight.
  7. *Cec Pepper – leg spinner, right handed batter. He averaged 29.64 with the bat and 29.35 with the ball in a 44 match first class career. He was also a highly regarded Lancashire League pro, having decided that he was not going to be selected for his native Australia. Once his playing days were finished he became an umpire.
  8. +Colin Metson – wicket keeper, right handed batter. An excellent keeper for many years, but England were always looking for a better batter to do the job. It was true that Metson was no great shakes with the willow, but he did score useful runs on occasion (and nearly all of his runs were useful – like Cottey he responded well to his side being in need).
  9. Don Shepherd – off spinner. He took more first class wickets than any other bowler who never played test cricket (2,218 at 21.32). It must be acknowledged that England had a wealth of good off spinners at the time, with Appleyard and Laker overlapping the early part of his career, Illingworth, Titmus, David Allen and John Mortimore being around during the latter part of his career, but nevertheless it does look odd that he never got picked at all.
  10. Eddie Gilbert – right arm fast bowler. Playing for Queensland against NSW he once produced a spell that included inflicting on Bradman what the great man himself described as “the luckiest duck I ever made.” NSW were dug out of trouble on that occasion by Stan McCabe who scored a double century. Bowling against Jardine in one of the minor matches of the 1932-3 Ashes tour he scored a hit on the England skipper’s hip which according to eyewitness Bill Bowes left a discoloured area the size of a soup plate. Had Australia decided to fight fire with fire, he along with ‘Bull’ Alexander, Laurie Nash and Jack Scott was one of the fast bowlers they might have turned to. As it happened Australia went for the moral high ground, and for firing of whingy cables to the MCC headquarters in London (nb the first complaining cable was sent when Australia were headed for heavy defeat in the third match of the series at Adelaide – no complaints after the opener in Sydney when McCabe made runs in an Aussie defeat, nor after the second at Melbourne when Bradman made a ton in an Aussie win, but only once it was obvious that England were taking a firm grip on the series did the complaining start). Eddie Gilbert may well have been a victim of prejudice – he was aboriginal, and the first player of acknowledged aboriginal descent to don the baggy green was Jason Gillespie in the 1990s.
  11. George Dennett – left arm orthodox spinner. 2,151 first class wickets at 19.82 for the Gloucestershire man, and never an England cap. When he was in his absolute prime in the years running up to world war 1, first Wilfred Rhodes and then Colin Blythe (2,503 first class wickets at 16) were the left arm spinners of choice for England, and with Woolley a regular pick for his batting and also a fine left arm spinner there was simply no vacancy for a second specialist in that role.

This side has a strong top six, a genuine all rounder at seven, a splendid keeper and three excellent specialist bowlers. The pace department is weak, but George Dennett regularly took the new ball for Gloucestershire, and Pepper as a Lancashire League pro must have done so on occasions as well. I might have strengthened the pace bowling department by including Tony Nicholson (879 wickets at 19.76 each for Yorkshire), but I wanted Pepper as captain, and felt that Dennett and Shepherd had irrefutable cases for selection and that I could not afford to drop a batter to accommodate Nicholson.

PHOTOGRAPHS

Time for my usual sign off…

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A damselfly of some description on a leaf

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you can just see the folded wings, pressed right against the long body in these two close ups.

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All Time XIs – Eras Clash

A post that looks at cricket history, a view on England’s first test selections, a mathematical teaser and some photographs.

INTRODUCTION

Welcome to today’s All Time XIs cricket post, in which we look at the history of English cricket. A team of cricketers who were all born before 1850 are pitted against an XI who were all born after 1850. Before getting into the main body of the post I start with:

THOUGHTS ON THE SELECTIONS FOR THE FIRST TEST MATCH

22 players have been retained by England at the ground, with 13 officially in the test squad and nine as back ups. Here courtesy of the pinchhitter is the full list:

Eng Squad

My thoughts on the above are: arguably neither Broad nor Anderson should be in the 13, and certainly Broad should not be there. Ollie Robinson should be in the 13 and if he is definitely fit so should Curran. Bracey and Lawrence should both be in the 13, as should Foakes, with Buttler not even meriting a place in the 22. I am relieved the Bess is confirmed as first choice spinner and that Moeen Ali has not even made the 22. I would have liked to see Parkinson in the 22 at least. I am personally not entirely convinced about Woakes. Buttler’s continuing presence in the test squad is a disgrace – he can barely even be described as a competent keeper and his red ball batting record is ordinary. Denly’s selection is a very poor call as well – he averages dead on 30 in test cricket, and Bracey and Lawrence provided the only two major innings of the warm up game and should both be ahead of him.

WG GRACE’S XI

  1. *WG Grace – right handed opening batter, right arm bowler of varying styles through his career, captain. He was born in 1848, the latest birth year of any member of this XI. He scored 54,896 first class runs and took 2,876 first class wickets. Over the course of his best decade, the 1870s, he averaged 49 with the bat, while the next best among regular players was 25, achieved by Richard Daft and his younger brother Fred.
  2. James Aylward – left handed opening batter. His 167 against All England in 1777, a mere eight years after the first record hundred of any type was scored is enough on its own to warrant his selection. He batted through two full days of play on that occasion, and his left handedness also helps make him a good complement for Grace.
  3. Billy Beldham – right handed batter. At a time when 20 was considered a decent score, and seriously big scores were a huge rarity he amassed three centuries in matches still recognized today as being first class.
  4. John Small – right handed batter. One of the greats of his day. He is credited with pioneering the policy of playing with a straight bat – before he showed what could be done with this method cross batted swiping was the order of the day.
  5. Vyell Walker – right handed batter, right arm underarm bowler. One of only two players (the other, WG Grace, is also in this XI) to have scored a century and taken all ten wickets in an innings of the same first class match. He was one of seven brothers who hailed from Southgate, and the ground there, which still occasioanlly hosts Middlesex games, is called the Walker Ground in their honour.
  6. Alfred Mynn – right handed batter, right arm fast bowler. The greatest all rounder the game saw prior to the emergence of WG Grace.
  7. +Ted Pooley – wicket keeper, right handed batter. A great keeper for Surrey, and would have kept for England in the inaugural test match but for an incident that saw him briefly confined in a New Zealand prison cell.
  8. William Clarke – right arm underarm bowler. He was rated as the best bowler of this type ever to play the game, averaging 300 wickets a season in all forms of cricket at his peak, including 476 in his most productive season. He was captain of the All England XI, a touring outfit that played matches against odds (opposition having more than 11 in their team) all round the country. His most significant contribution to cricket history came as a result of his marriage to the landlady of the Trent Bridge Inn. He enclosed some land behind the inn, turning it into a proper cricket ground, and 180 years on Trent Bridge is officially still a test venue, although it will not be hosting any games this season – internationals will be happening at the Ageas Bowl and Old Trafford only.
  9. William Lillywhite – right arm bowler. The greatest bowler of his era, and one of the pioneers of ’round arm’ bowling, the development between under arm and over arm in the game’s history. He was one half of the game’s first great bowling partnership, along with…
  10. James Broadbridge – right arm bowler. Like Lillywhite, who he regularly bowled in tandem with he was among the pioneers of ’round arm’, and with these two spearheading their bowling Sussex were able to take on the Rest of England on equal terms.
  11. William Mycroft – left arm fast bowler. 863 wickets in 138 first class games at 12.09 each. His best match performance came in 1876 by when he was 35 years of age, when he took 17-103 v Hampshire, only to see them sneak home by one wicket.

This side has a powerful top six, three of whom can be described as all rounders (Grace, Walker, Mynn), a great keeper and a magnificent and varied foursome of bowlers.

FRANK WOOLLEY’S XI

  1. Jack Hobbs – right handed batter, occasional medium paced bowler. 61,237 first class runs, including 197 centuries, both all time records. Scored his last test century at the age of 46, still the oldest ever to do so.
  2. Herbert Sutcliffe – right handed batter. Hobbs’ opening partner for England, an alliance that had the best average of any opening pair in test history, 87.
  3. *Frank Woolley – left handed batter, left arm orthodox spinner. The only player ever to achieve the career treble of 10,000 runs, 1,000 wickets and 1,000 catches in first class cricket, and indeed the only non-keeper to take 1,000 first class catches.
  4. Wally Hammond – right handed batter, right arm medium fast bowler. He lost eight seasons of his career, one to bureaucratic malice on the part of Lord Harris, one to a mystery illness picked up in the Caribbean and six to World War II and still scored over 50,000 first class runs with 167 centuries, including 7,249 runs and 22 centuries for England. Only two players have ever scored as many as 900 runs in a test series, Hammond with 905 at 113.125 being the first in the 1928-9 Ashes, a record that was overhauled 18 months later by Don Bradman. He is joint record holder for reaching 1,000 first class runs in a season in the shortest time period, doing it in 1927 between May 7 when he started and May 28, where WG Grace in 1895 had done it between May 9 and May 30.
  5. Denis Compton – right handed batter, left arm wrist spinner. He averaged 50 in test cricket, set a record first class season’s aggregate in 1947. In 1956 he was recalled for England at The Oval, having had a knee operation earlier in the season, and scored 94. He still holds the record score for England against Pakistan, with 278. He also holds the record for the quickest ever first class triple century, racking it up in 181 minutes v Benoni during the 1948-9 tour of South Africa. At Adelaide in the 1946-7 Ashes he and Arthur Morris entered the record books when each of them scored twin tons in a drawn match.
  6. Ben Stokes – left handed batter, right arm fast bowler. The man who will captain England when test cricket resumes in a few days time. Instrumental in England’s 2019 World Cup win, and also largely responsible for the win at Headingley later that season, plus having an outstanding series in South Africa. When the recent intra-squad warm up match at the Ageas Bowl was accepted as a draw he had been smashing the ball all over the place, but the dismissal of Moeen Ali, LBW to Bess, ended his team’s hopes of triumph, and Team Buttler apparently decided not to press for the wickets they needed to win.
  7. +Les Ames – right handed batter, wicket keeper. Over 100 first class hundreds with the bat, and over 1,000 first class dismissals with the gloves. Eight of his centuries came at test level, including 120 v Australia at Lord’s in 1934, which helped put England in position to win that match, their only victory over the old enemy at that venue in the entire 20th century.
  8. Billy Bates – off spinner, right handed batter. In his 15 match test career, ended prematurely by an eye injury, he averaged 27 with the bat and took 50 wickets at 16 each. His best match came at the MCG in the 1882-3 series, when he took seven wickets in each innings and contributed 55 to the only innings England had to play.
  9. Fred Trueman – right arm fast bowler. His record speaks for itself.
  10. Sydney Barnes – right arm fast medium bowler. 189 wickets in 27 test matches at 16.43 each.
  11. Derek Underwood – left arm slow medium bowler. 297 test wickets for the crafty Kent bowler.

This team has a strong batting line up, six front line bowling options (the four specialists plus Stokes and Woolley) and Hammond and Compton as back up bowlers. There is no right arm leg spin option, but Underwood, Woolley and Compton could all move the ball away from the right hander.

THE CONTEST

This has all the makings of a classic, and I will not even attempt to predict the outcome.

A MATHEMATICAL TEASER

This problem appeared on brilliant.org today, and should have been even better than it actually was (it was a fine one anyway):

Triangles

This was presented as multi-choice, with four possible answers, and as I will explain tomorrow that opened up an unorthodox route to a solution, so I am not making it multi-choice.

PHOTOGRAPHS

My usual sign off…

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Old v New
The teams in tabulated form.