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.

Brief Update

A quick update about my situation vis a vis coronavirus.

INTRODUCTION

In view of the the coronavirus situation I thought I would let all of you know about what is happening with me.

WHERE I AM AT

With my lungs probably still damaged from the cancer that nearly killed me less than a year an a half ago and my immune system almost certainly still compromised from the chemo used to treat that cancer I am in an at risk group. Therefore my external activities for the foreseeable future will be kept to a minimum – I hope to still visit the two libraries that are within walking distance of me, and for the moment I intend to keep on doing my own food shopping, although I have a backup plan in place should even these excursions have to stop. I have already put my plans to return to work on hold, and my employer has indicated that he will try to arrange for me to do some imaging from home while I cannot risk travel by public transport. I am at the moment quite well, and definitely do not have a fever – I have been taking my temperature daily for several weeks now and it it is consistently reading in the 36 degrees range. My life is never exactly a dizzy whirl of social activities in any case, so such a minimalist approach as I am having to take is probably less of a hardship to me than it would be to many. Good luck to all of you finding ways to cope in these difficult times, and I will try to find more things to blog about in the coming period. Here are a few recent pictures to finish:

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Not Weird, Just Limited Edition: Inside the Autistic Mind – Book Review

My review of Not Weird, Just Limited Edition: Inside the Autistic Mind. I urge you to all to buy copies of this fabulous little book.

INTRODUCTION

You may remember that a couple of posts ago on here I mentioned a new book about Autism titled “Not Weird, Just Limited Edition: Inside the Autistic Mind”. Well the copy of that book that I ordered arrived yesterday, and now it is time for a quick review.

A LITTLE GEM OF A BOOK

The book, written by Faye Flint, who was diagnosed as autistic only at the age of 27 (regular readers of this blog will recall that I was 31 when I got my own diagnosis, so this is a situation that is more than a little familiar to me). It is 108 pages long, with the text very generously spaced. Each page is a separate event, recording a particular thought or train of thought, and each is beautifully clear, and for obvious reasons many are instantly recognizable to me. If you are autistic yourself, or know/ are related to someone autistic, or even just have an interest in autism this book, written as it is by someone who is actually autistic is an absolute must read. I am going to share some of my personal favourites (I have selected six out of 108 pages to quote – and the quotes will be indented and italicised to set them apart from my own writing:

First, page 31:

I was a child with Asperger’s.
I will remain an adult with Asperger’s.

Page 45:

No, I won’t ‘grow out’ of my Asperger’s.
Asperger’s is who I am.
But I have lived with myself for 30 years.
I have learned how to manage myself.
To be able to fit into society more appropriately.

Page 49 (I am bolding as well as italicising this one for reasons that should become obvious):

“But you don;t seem like my friend’s son who is autistic?”
Ahh, well maybe that’s because…
I am a grown autistic woman,
Not a 7 year old autistic child.
Yes, there really is a difference.

Page 64:

No, my Asperger’s cannot be cured.
Nor would I want it to be.
This took me a long time after such a late diagnosis.
However,
It has made me, me.
And I kind of like me.
In fact,
Many people say my ‘differences’ are what they love most!

Page 69 (another one that I chosen to bold as well as italicise)

Just ask.
If you want to know about the spectrum,
Ask someone who is on it!
We aren’t offended.
If anything,
It makes us happy that you care enough to want to learn.
There is nobody better to ask,
Than someone who goes through it,
Every.
Single.
Day.

Finally, page 81:

I promise I am listening to you.
But my brain has 2,644 other tabs open right now.
It is very distracting.

The book is available in paperback or on kindle (click here to order).

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The front cover

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The back cover.

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Cricket Hat Trick at Sports Personality of the Year

A cricket hat trick at the BBC Sports Personality of the Year awards, the origin of the phrase hat trick and some photographs,

INTRODUCTION

This post looks at a great night for cricket, and also at the origins of the term hat trick and some of the more notable examples. There are also of course some of my photographs at the end.

SPORTS PERSONALITY OF THE YEAR

First the ‘team of the year’ award went to England’s world-cup winning cricket team (only if the rugby team had beaten South Africa in the final of their tournament would this even have been a contest), then the ‘moment of the year’ went to Jos Buttler’s run out of Martin Guptill that sealed that victory, again not really a contest. Finally the Sports Personality of the Year went to Ben Stokes (with great respect to Dina Asher-Smith and Katarina Johnson-Thomson who had strong cases – sorry Lewis Hamilton, being at the wheel of the best car out there does not give you a case). Ben Stokes is the fifth cricketer to be thus honoured after off-spinner Jim Laker (1956, 46 wickets at less than 10 a piece in an Ashes winning series, plus an all-ten – 10-88 from 46 overs in the first innings for Surrey against Australia), white-haired grafter David Steele (1975, brought in at the behest of new captain Tony Greig to stiffen the top order and responded with 365 runs in three test matches), Ian Botham (1981 – Botham’s Ashes) and Andrew Flintoff (2005, Ashes superhero).

So that is the story of cricket’s hat trick at SPOTY 2019, which leads on to….

THE ORIGIN OF THE PHRASE HAT TRICK

In the early 1850s Heathfield Harman Stephenson (Surrey) travelled north with the All England XI (one of a number of travelling elevens that existed at that time and for some years after, a development that could have radically altered the way in which cricket was organized had the MCC not taken urgent action to get the biggest draw in the game, W G Grace, on side – his membership was proposed the Treasurer of the club and seconded by the Secretary, so desperate were they) to play a match at the Hyde Park ground in Sheffield. During that match he dismissed three of the opposition with successive deliveries (not the first to do so in a big match – Nottingham tearaway Sam Redgate had accounted for Fuller Pilch, Alfred Mynn and James Stearman in successive balls in 1840) and this feat so impressed the locals that someone passed a hat round to collect money to present to Stephenson, and hat and contents were both given to the player, and the phrase hat trick was born. It has subsequently come to be used in other sports for notable achievements involving the number three, but it is in origin a pure cricket phrase.

VIDEO AND PHOTOGRAPHS

Before the photographs, here is the moment that secured cricket’s hat trick of awards at SPOTY:

Just before my usual sign off, a shout out to Sarah Glenn, who after taking 2-38 on debut and 2-37 in her second match for England then starred in the weather ruined final gamed of that series by collecting 4-18, which means that three matches into her ODI career she has total figures of 8-93, for an average of 11.625 per wicket.

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Final Ashes Test Sees Familiar Scenario

Looking at the state of play in the final Ashes test match and in the closing stages of the County Championships, a couple of dates for the diary and some photographs.

INTRODUCTION

The final test of this year’s Ashes series has no bearing on the destination of the urn – Australia have already ensured possession of that with their victory at Manchester. However, an England win would tie the series (previous examples of such include 1962-3, 1965-6 and 1972). This post looks at that, and at the closing stages of the County Championship.

THE TEST MATCH

Australia won the toss and put England in to bat. England were somewhat fortunate to reach a semi-respectable 294, Root being dropped three times en route to 54, while Buttler with 70 produced his only major score of the series, and Leach again showed his ability to hang around, lasting 80 minutes (43 balls) for 21. However, in addition to Root’s good fortune Denly, Stokes, Bairstow, and all-rounder Sam Curran, in for Jason Roy, all scored between 14 and 22, and in all cases were culpable in their own downfall. Denly and Burns put on 27 together for the first wicket, the biggest opening stand by either side in the series to date. Archer dealt swiftly with both Australian openers, Labuschagne and Smith have had a good partnership, but Labuschagne has just gone for 48, LBW to that man Archer, adding to this match’s substantial tally of ‘nearly but not quite’ innings and the even more substantial match tally of innings ended by batter error.

I have to say that I am a bit worried about how this match is going, because a 2-2 series draw would give the England selectors something to hide behind and excuse inaction, whereas a 3-1 beating would surely compel action. For similar reasons I take scant comfort in Buttler’s 70, which may simply have bought him an extension to a test career that has yielded inadequate returns for a specialist batter. I hope Anderson can regain fitness because the young speedster Archer and the wily veteran swing merchant Anderson in partnership is an enticing prospect.

SOMERSET SOON TO CELEBRATE

Somerset are poised to win their first County Championship, having ruthlessly disposed of Yorkshire, while the best their only rivals, Essex, can hope for in this round is to avoid defeat at the hands of Warwickshire. Tom Abell produced a gritty performance in the Somerset second innings, when Yorkshire might have stayed in contention had they taken quick wickets, and with more aggressive efforts by Tom Banton, George Bartlett and Lewis Gregory to back him up Somerset ended up with a huge lead, and a dispirited Yorkshire collapsed for the second time in the match. Warwickshire put up 517 (23 year old Matthew Lamb 173) against Essex, who could only respond with 324, and made to follow on, 101-1 so far at the second attempt. Somerset have 205 points with two games to go, and Essex, playing their penultimate game, and with no chance of the 16 for a win are currently on 192 points, which if they avoid defeat will become 197. Thus at worst Somerset will be in a position from which one more win in their last two games will guarantee them the title, as would two draws, while even a draw and a defeat would leave them heavy favourites. Other than Somerset the only teams not to have won a county championship are Northamptonshire and Gloucestershire (who were twice named Champion County in the 1870s, before the competition was out on an official footing in 1890). In the second division Lancashire disposed of Derbyshire in a match made notable by Josh Bohannon, whose previous highest score in a fledgling career was 98 not out, but who this time round scored 174, batting at no 3 and coming in after the fall of an early wicket. One big hundred does not make an England test player, but if he continues to score heavily from near the top of the order the selectors would have to take note (this innings gives him a record of 660 first class runs at 47.14).

Matthew Wade has just fallen to Sam Curran to make it 118-4 in the test match. Mitchell Marsh, whose medium pace somehow accounted for five England wickets, is now at the crease.

PHOTOGRAPHS

I have two major events coming up – Sunday is Heritage Open Day, and I will be stewarding at Lath Mansion, Nelson Street from 2PM to 4PM. A week on Tuesday is the second “Yes We Can” day at the Corn Exchange, and I will be helping to run the NAS West Norfolk stall.

Yes I Can
NAS West Norfolk branch chair Karan McKerrow posted this graphic on facebook this morning.

Now for my usual sign off…

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Railway art at Stuart House…

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…where I was for a cheque presentation in connection with the King’s Lynn Beer Festival, where the charity to benefit was my own NAS West Norfolk.

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Preparing for the press photographs to be taken.

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NAS West Norfolk will be running regular drop in sessions at this scout hall on Portland Place, South Lynn

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The main room (but there are several other substantial rooms in this place)

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A peculiar bug with a stirped carapace.

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