All Time XIs – England

Today is international day in my ‘all-time XIs’ cricket series, and it is England in the spotlight. I also have a mini-section offering solidarity to #BlackLivesMatter.

INTRODUCTION

Today is a Monday, which means that it is international day in my ‘all time XIs’ cricket series. The international set up in the spotlight today is England.

ENGLAND IN MY TIME

  1. Alastair Cook – left handed opening batter. England’s all time leading scorer of test runs and test centuries.
  2. Alec Stewart – right handed opening batter. His average for England in this specific role (he played many roles in his long and distinguished career) was 45, excellent for his era. I have opted for him out of my available options because as a right hander of fundamentally attacking inclinations he complements Cook perfectly.
  3. *Michael Vaughan – right handed batter, occasional off spinner, captain. The captaincy did somewhat negatively affect his batting output, as it has done a lot of incumbents, but he was such a good captain that I am prepared to accept that.
  4. Joe Root – right handed batter, occasional off spinner. A magnificent batter, but wasted as captain, a role which is negatively affecting his output.
  5. David Gower – left handed batter. There were two choices for the left handed specialist middle order batter, Gower or Graham Thorpe, and I opted for Gower.
  6. Ben Stokes – left handed batter, right arm fast bowler. Ian Botham’s pomp occurred before I had got seriously into cricket, so I could not honestly include him in this XI, which left me two choices for the all-rounder, Flintoff or Stokes, and I regarded Stokes as the better option.
  7. +Matthew Prior – right handed batter, wicket keeper. This is a thorny one, which I shall be going into more detail on later on. Suffice to say for the present that this is not a selection I am entirely happy with.
  8. Graeme Swann – off spinner, useful lower order batter. The best spinner England have had in my lifetime (although the future in that department looks bright).
  9. Jofra Archer – right arm fast bowler. One of the most exciting talents I have ever seen.
  10. Steve Harmison – right arm fast bowler. Rated number one in the world at his absolute peak.
  11. James Anderson – right arm fast medium. England’s all time leading test wicket taker.

This team has a decent balance, although there is only one genuine spin option – until very recently England struggled in that department. The batting in strong, and Stokes’ bowling workload should be kept reasonably light with Harmison, Archer, Anderson and Swann also there.

HONOURABLE MENTIONS

I will split these into playing roles:

  • Opening batters – besides my actual choices there were three outstanding candidates for the positions, Marcus Trescothick, Andrew Strauss and Graham Gooch.
  • Nos 3-5 – the main candidates among those I did not pick were Graham Thorpe, Jonathan Trott, Ian Bell and Kevin Pietersen. I expect Ollie Pope to force his way in in the next few years.
  • The all-rounder – Flintoff was the only other serious candidate. I saw many ‘all rounders’ who were in truth not up to the job with either bat or ball.
  • The wicketkeeper – Ben Foakes should be England’s current keeper, and if he was he would have been in this team. Jack Russell was a fine keeper who was poorly treated by the selectors of his day. I also considered registering my unhappiness with the behaviour of the current England selectors over the keeping position by naming Sarah Taylor, a magnificent keeper for the England Women’s team.
  • Spinners – None of slow left armers Tufnell, Panesar, Giles or as yet Leach have a record to quite merit selection, nor does leg spinner Rashid. There are various young spinners who may feature in a few years time.
  • Fast bowlers. Mark Wood was in the mix and might have displaced Harmison. Simon Jones was another to merit consideration.

ENGLAND ALL TIME

  1. Jack Hobbs – right handed opening batter. Among the greatest ever to have played the game.
  2. Herbert Sutcliffe – right handed opening batter. Averaged 60.73 in test cricket, and 66.85 in the cauldron of The Ashes. Also formed the greatest opening partnership ever seen in test cricket with Hobbs (average stand 87).
  3. *WG Grace – right handed batter, right arm bowler of various types through his career, captain. His test average of 32.29 looks modest, but was achieved between 1880 and 1899, when batting averages were lower, and he was already 32 by the time he made his debut in the first test on English soil in 1880. His record as test captain was excellent – eight wins in 13 matches in that role, another reason for his selection. He usually opened, and I see value in having three recognized openers at the top of the order.
  4. Wally Hammond – right handed batter, occasional right arm medium fast bowler. 85 test matches, 7,249 runs at 58.45. Had he not returned to top level action after World War II, when into his forties, he would have had 6,883 test runs at 61.75.
  5. Denis Compton – right handed batter, occasional left arm wrist spinner. He averaged over 50 in test cricket in spite of losing six years of his prime to World War II.
  6. Ben Stokes – left handed batter, right arm fast bowler.
  7. Ian Botham – right handed batter, right arm fast medium bowler. For about the first five years of his career he was an authentic great, and he still had great moments after that for a few more years, although he went on long after his decline had become obvious. He completed the test career double of 1,000 runs and 100 wickets in 21 matches, 2,000 runs and 200 wickets in 42, maintaining the pace, and then slowed down, reaching the triple double in his 72nd test, while by the end of his career after another 30 matches he had over 5,000 runs, but was still short of 400 wickets.
  8. Billy Bates – off spinner, useful lower order batter. An eye injury ended his test career after just 15 matches, but 656 runs at 27.33 and 50 wickets at 16.42 were testament to his effectiveness. He was the first England bowler to take a test hat trick, in a match in which he took seven wickets in each innings and scored a 50.
  9. Fred Trueman – right arm fast bowler.
  10. Sydney Barnes – right arm fast medium bowler. 189 wickets in 27 test matches at 16.43 each. 77 of those wickets came in 13 matches in Australia.
  11. +Herbert Strudwick – wicket keeper. His career was disrupted by World War 1. 28 test matches between 1910 and 1926 saw him take 61 catches and execute 12 stumpings, while his 674 first class appearances saw him achieve 1,495 dismissals.

This team has a very strong top five, two magnificent all rounders at six and seven, a superb keeper and three excellent and varied bowlers. Although he would have share the new ball with Trueman, there is an argument for regarding Barnes, based on descriptions of his method as effectively a leg spinner, which is why I did not select a second front line spinner (Compton is also available as back up).

HONOURABLE MENTIONS

It is impossible to cover everyone who would have claims advanced on their behalf, but I shall mention some of the more obvious omissions:

  • Opening batters – I had positive reasons, based on their records, and their amazing success as an opening pair for going for Hobbs and Sutcliffe, and the only other England opener for whom I would consider breaking this pair up is Len Hutton, who was also an all-time great.
  • Nos 3-5 – Eddie Paynter (test average 59.23), Ken Barrington (58.67) and KS Duleepsinhji (58.52) had the highest averages of anyone I omitted, and Paynter in particular as a left handed batter was unfortunate. Peter May who averaged 46 batting in a difficult decade for run scoring (the 1950s) would also have his advocates. Frank Woolley, Patsy Hendren, Phil Mead and KS Rinjitsinhji all also had fine test records, while Colin Cowdrey’s longevity at the highest level was remarkable, and Ted Dexter would also have his advocates.
  • The all-rounders – Andrew Flintoff had a a few magnificent years (2004, 2005, first part of 2006) and had occasional moments either side of that golden period, but cannot displace Botham on any rational assessment. George Hirst, Trevor Bailey and Tony Greig all did good things for England over the years without having records to merit serious consideration.
  • Keepers – England have had some excellent ones, including the three contrasting Kent characters Ames, Evans and Knott, Bob Taylor and JT Murray.
  • Spinners – Jim Laker would have been the conventional selection as an off spinner, There have been a plethora of quality left arm spinners down the years: Johnny Briggs, Bobby Peel, Wilfred Rhodes, Colin Blythe, Roy Kilner, Hedley Verity, Johnny Wardle, Tony Lock and Phil Edmonds of the conventional type, plus the left arm slow-medium of Derek Underwood. Also three bowlers of that type who barely believable given their first class records have a single cap between them: George Dennett, Alonzo Drake and Charlie Parker. There have been fewer leg spinners with really good England records, but Tich Freeman, Ian Peebles and Doug Wright might all have their advocates.
  • Pace bowlers – too many of these to name. I am aware that I have not selected a left arm quick, and the best options in that department among those who got to play for England would be Fred Morley, Frank Foster or Bill Voce, while William Mycroft was at his peak just too early (he took his wickets at 12.09 each in first class cricket).

If naming another five players to make up a standard sized touring party I would choose Paynter and Woolley as reserve batters, Ames officially as reserve keeper, noting that he could also be played as a batter, and noting Woolley’s skill as an left arm orthodox spinner, Lohmann (right arm medium fast, 112 wickets at 10.75 in 18 test matches) and Underwood as my reserve bowlers.

LINKS AND PHOTOGRAPHS

This links section is to declare my solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement, and especially to support the activists who toppled the statue of slave trader Edward Colston in Bristol.

Had Covid-19 not caused a change of plan for them, soprano Charlotte Hoather and her fiancee, pianist George Todica would have been married this weekend. Instead they settled for giving a wonderful concert from their balcony, posted by Charlotte on her blog yesterday.

Finally it is time for my usual sign off…

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This picture, and the next five after it are of a little bird that I spotted for the first time yesterday and captured on camera. My bird book does not offer a conclusive answer, so I post it here to invite comment.

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England
The teams in tabulated form.

All Time XIs – The Left Handed Ashes

Today’s twist on the ‘all time XI’ theme hands the stage over to the ‘southpaws’, while there is a solution to yesterday’s mathematical teaser and a first audition for some of the potential stars of the aspi.blog 2021 wall calendar.

INTRODUCTION

Welcome to my latest twist on the all-time XI cricket theme. Today we set up an all left handed Ashes contest.

THE BRIEF

I followed two rules in my selection of these teams: obviously I was only pick players of quality, and I required that their main speciality be performed left handed. After I have introduced the teams I will explain a number of cases where this latter requirement made itself felt. Some of my selected bowlers did bat right handed, but in none of the cases concerned would the player have been selected purely as a batter. The Times, then the UK’s official ‘paper of record’ rather than the Murdoch rag we know it as today, carried an article calling for the elimination of left handers from top level cricket in the 1920s, and it is only very recently that left handed batters stopped being regarded as exotic and an exception to the rule.

ENGLAND LEFT HANDED XI

  1. Andrew Strauss – left handed opening batter. Centuries at the first time of asking against three different countries, and only a dreadful call by Nasser Hussain prevented him from scoring twin tons on test debut. He won the Compton-Miller trophy in the 2009 Ashes, his 161 in the Lord’s match of that series setting England up for their first triumph over Australia there since 1934.
  2. Alastair Cook – left handed opening batter. England’s all time leading scorer of test runs and test hundreds. See ‘The Away Ashes‘, ‘Essex‘ and ‘Functional Left Handers v Elegant Right Handers‘ earlier in this series for more on him.
  3. *Frank Woolley – left handed batter, left arm orthodox spinner, excellent close fielder. He has featured regularly through this series, making his first appearance when Kent were under the microscope. I have named in as captain, a role he never actually held, in spite of the presence of three actual captains in the ranks – I have reservations about the captaincy of Strauss, Cook and Gower and believe that Woolley would have been good at the job.
  4. Eddie Paynter – left handed batter. The little chap from Oswaldtwistle, Lancashire had the highest average of any England left hander to have played enough matches to qualify – 59.23 per innings. He scored test double centuries against Australia and South Africa.
  5. David Gower – left handed batter. He averaged 44.25 from 117 test appearances. He scored two test double centuries, both at Edgbaston. His maiden Ashes century came at Perth in 1978, while Boycott was at the other end en route to a 77 that included an all run four but no boundaries. In his last visit to Australia he played an innings of 123 that Don Bradman rated as one of five best innings he ever saw played in that country. His first appearance in this series of posts came when I looked at Leicestershire.
  6. Maurice Leyland – left handed batter, left arm wrist spinner. England’s Ashes record partnership for any wicket is the 382 he and Len Hutton put on together at The Oval in 1938. Cricinfo describes his bowling as slow left arm orthodox, but Bill Bowes who was a Yorkshire and England team mate of his stated in the chapter on Jardine that he contributed to “Cricket: The Great Captains” that Leyland bowled ‘chinamen’ and I will go with the primary source, in this case Bowes.
  7. +Jack Russell – left handed batter, wicket keeper. He appeared in the second post in this series, when Gloucestershire were the subject.
  8. Hedley Verity – left arm orthodox spinner, right handed lower order batter. 1956 first class wickets at 14.90. His test average was 24 per wicket, due to the presence in opposition ranks of Don Bradman. Bradman himself held Verity in considerable esteem.
  9. Bill Voce – left arm fast medium bowler, right handed lower order batter. Larwood’s sidekick on the 1932-3 Ashes tour, he also made the 1936-7 trip, and a third visit down under in 1946-7 by when he was past his best.
  10. Derek Underwood – left arm slow medium bowler, right handed lower order batter. No bowler of below medium pace has more test wickets for England than his 297. His main weapon was cut rather than conventional spin, and his chief variation was a ball fired through at genuine speed (he started as a fast bowler before slowing down). On batting friendly pitches he was accurate enough to avoid being collared, and on a surface that he could exploit he earned his nickname ‘Deadly’ with some astonishing sets of figures, including a 7-11 at Folkestone as late as 1986, at the age of 42.
  11. Nobby Clark – left arm fast, left handed genuine no11. There were two other options for my left arm out and out speedster, Fred Morley of Nottinghamshire and William Mycroft of Derbyshire, but the last named never got to play test cricket, and Morley only when he was past his absolute best. Thus the Northamptonshire man gets the nod.

This team has an excellent top six, a great keeper and four varied specialist bowlers. The bowling, with Clark and Voce to share the new ball and various types of craft and guile from Underwood, Verity, Woolley and Leyland also looks impressive.

RULED OUT

Ben Stokes bats left handed, but his right arm fast bowling cannot be dismissed as a secondary part of his game, since he would not be selected without it. The ‘Kirkheaton twins’, George Hirst and Wilfred Rhodes both batted right handed, and as with Stokes’ bowling their contributions in this department cannot be dismissed. Similarly Frank Foster, a fine left arm quick for Warwickshire and England, batted right handed, and since his career highlights include a triple century he too had to be ruled out. Stan Nichols of Essex, like Stokes, batted left handed, but his right arm fast bowling was a huge factor in his selection for both county and country. While sharp eyed observers will have noted that Verity, Voce and Underwood all scored first class centuries none were ever selected specifically for their batting.

AUSTRALIA LEFT HANDED XI

  1. Matthew Hayden – left handed opening batter.
  2. Arthur Morris – left handed opening batter. See the ‘Arthurians vs the Bills‘ ost for more detail about him.
  3. Joe Darling – left handed batter. His first major innings came at school. When he was selected to play for Prince Alfred College in their annual grudge match against St Peter’s College he lashed 252 not out, which remains the highest individual score in the history of the fixture. During the 1897-8 Ashes he became the first batter ever to hit three centuries in the same series. He was also the first the reach a test century by hitting a six, which in his day meant sending the ball clean out of the ground.
  4. Neil Harvey – left handed batter, brilliant fielder. 6,149 test runs at 48 an innings, including 19 centuries.
  5. *Allan Border – left handed batter, captain. Border took of the captaincy of an Australian side that had forgotten how to win,and by the time he passed the job on to Mark Taylor the side he was leaving were established at the top of the game. He scored over 11,000 test runs at 50.56. Losing the 1986-7 Ashes to an England who had played 11 test matches without victory since The Oval in 1985 was a bitter pill for Border, but in 1989 he finally captained his team to an Ashes victory, a feat he then repeated twice before retiring.
  6. +Adam Gilchrist – left handed batter, wicket keeper. He preferred no 7, but I have put him at six for reasons that will soon become clear. See my T20 post for more on him.
  7. Alan Davidson – left handed batter, left arm fast medium. The all rounder of the side (see yesterday’s post).
  8. Mitchell Johnson – left arm fast, left handed lower middle order bat. See my Australia post for more on him.
  9. Jack Ferris – left arm medium fast. Regular partner of Charles ‘Terror’ Turner. He also featured in my ‘Cricketing United Nations‘ post.
  10. Chuck Fleetwood-Smith – left arm wrist spinner. A brilliant but erratic bowler, sadly best known for his 1-298 on Bosser Martin’s 1938 Oval featherbed. Australia went into that match with an ill equipped and poorly balanced bowling attack – the only genuine pace bowler in the party, Ernie McCormick, was having terrible trouble with no balls and did not play in the game, neither did Frank Ward, bizarrely selected for the tour in preference to Clarrie Grimmett. Mervyn Waite, allegedly played for his bowling skills, did take his only test wicket in that match, but his new ball partner for the game was Stan McCabe, a brilliant batter but nobody’s idea of a test match opening bowler. The truth about a bowler of the Fleetwood-Smith type is that to play them you need five frontline bowlers available to you so that you have an out if things don’t go to plan.
  11. Bert Ironmonger – left arm orthodox spinner. The second oldest ever to play test cricket, being 51 years old when he took his final bow at that level. He featured in my ‘Workers’ post.

This team has a superb front five, the best batter-keeper Australia have ever had and a well varied line up of bowlers, with likely new ball pair Johnson and Davidson having medium paced back up from Ferris, finger spin from Ironmonger and wrist spine from Fleetwood-Smith. Border might also take a turn at the bowling crease with his variety of left arm spin.

RULED OUT

The biggest rule out was Jack Gregory, a splendid all rounder in the early 1920s, who batted left handed, but bowled right arm fast (and he would never have been picked as a specialist batter). Charles Macartney, ‘the governor general’, did win a test match with his left arm tweakers, but it was his batting that got him selected and he did that with his right hand.

THE CONTEST

Unlike in rather too many real life Ashes series both sides look strong and well balanced. However, I think that England just have the edge – especially if they win the toss and bat first (which is the decision that Woolley would be likely to make – read his thoughts on this in the relevant section of “King of Games”), since Underwood, Verity and Woolley on a wearing pitch would be a well nigh unplayable combination.

ANSWER TO YESTERDAY’S TEASER

I included this from brilliant.org in yesterday’s post:

The question was which is the smallest fish. The answer is Thursday’s fish is the smallest. Clue 1 tells us that Saturday’s fish is the average size of the two previous day’s fishes, clue two that Thursday’s fish was smaller than Wednesday’s. Clue three tells that Saturday is the smallest fish to be larger than Wednesday’s. Clue four tells us that Sunday’s fish is between Friday’s and Saturday’s in size. All of this when fully reasoned out tells that the actual ranking order of fish from biggest downward is Friday, Sunday, Saturday, Wednesday, Thursday, so the smallest fish is Thursday’s.

PHOTOGRAPHS

I have introduced today’s XI, answered yesterday’s teasers, so now it is time for my usual sign off, with a twist. I have only a very few new photos ready to use, so before I display them I am going to share the photos that I am currently considering for inclusion in the aspi.blog 2021 wall calendar (a tradition that will be entering its fifth year).

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This water vole poking its head of its hole is a definite – taken in October 2019
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One of these three hedgehog pics, again from later 2019 will be there as well.

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One of these five brimstone bitterfly pics will probably feature.

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This is one of the starling possibilities.
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One of these three shieldbug pics is a possibility

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I like this one.
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One of these two goldfinch pics will be there.

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these four starlings mar get in…
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…as may one of these last two pics but not both.

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I await your views on these and other possible calendar pictures with interest, and finish with these…

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The fuchsia is really flourishing.
Left Handed Ashes
The teams in tabulated form.

All Time XIs – The Away Ashes

Today’s variation on the all-time XI theme is a paradoxical one – it features two teams of players whose finest hours occurred in enemy territory.

INTRODUCTION

Welcome to the latest installment in my ‘all time XIs‘ series. Today we look at players who enjoyed their finest hours when doing battle in enemy territory, with The Away Ashes. Before getting to the main body of this post however, there is a matter to be attended to, in my usual ‘reverse tabloid’ style so that it cannot be missed:

CORRECTION/ APOLOGY

In yesterday’s South Africa post I failed to mention Dale Steyn when looking at players from my lifetime. I still stick to my chosen pair of specialist speedsters Kagiso Rabada and Allan Donald, but I should have included Steyn in the honourable mentions as a candidate for one of those spots. My apologies to Mr Steyn for the oversight.

THE AWAY ASHES – ENGLAND

Just before I start going through the players, a quick warning about an easy trap that people might fall into: that these players greatest achievements came away from home does not imply that they were not also successful at home – the majority of my choices had their successes at home as well.

  1. Herbert Sutcliffe – right handed opening batter. The Yorkshireman scored 734 runs at 81.67 with four centuries in the 1924-5 series, which his side still lost 4-1. At the time both the runs aggregate and the century tally were records for a single series. In 1928-9 he played the single most crucial innings of the series when his 135, begun on a vicious sticky, underpinned England’s successful chase of 332 which put them into an invulnerable 3-0 with two matches to play lead. In 1932-3 he was joint leading run scorer of the series, with 440 at 55.00, something of an underachievement by his own stellar standards in Ashes cricket (overall average 66.85) as England ran out out 4-1 winners. That was third and last trip down under meaning that even after that 1924-5 series England had won nine and lost six in Australia with him in the side (1-4, 4-1, 4-1). His home Ashes highlights included a match and Ashes winning 161 at The Oval in 1926, and the same score at the same ground in a different outcome four years later.
  2. Alastair Cook – left handed opening batter. A career that spanned 12 years, saw him score over 12,000 test runs and set an all time record for consecutive test match appearances naturally included many highlights. However, one particular achievement shone out more brightly than anything else he did over the period: his 766 runs at 127.67 in the 2010-11 Ashes as England won down under for the first time in 24 years. In total in that series he spent just over 36 hours at the crease, 15 of them in his two innings at The Gabba, when his second innings 235 not out prevented England from going 1-0 down. His 148 at Adelaide, alongside Pietersen’s test best 227 enabled England to fully capitalise on a fantastic start to that match – Australia, having won the toss and batted lost their first three wickets on the opening day for two runs, two to slip catches off Anderson and a run out. In the final game at Sydney, with England 2-1 up he batted 488 minutes scoring 189, setting England up for a monster total after which Australia’s batting folded to give England a 3-1 series victory. At Melbourne in 2017 on a strip devoid of any hint of life he produced his final major Ashes knock, 244 not out, the highest ever Ashes score by someone carrying their bat through a completed innings.
  3. Douglas Jardine – right handed batter. He made two tours of Australia, in 1928-9 and 1932-3, and England won both series 4-1, the second under his captaincy. In the fourth match of the 1928-9 series at Adelaide he made his highest Ashes score, 98, sharing a third wicket stand of 262 with Hammond (177 not out), which put England in total control of the match. Though he did not manage any really major scores as captain in the 1932-3 series he did on some occasions soak up considerable amounts of time, putting more miles into the legs of the Aussie bowlers.
  4. Walter Hammond – right handed batter, occasional medium pacer, expert slip fielder. In his first Ashes series, in 1928-9, he announced his presence in cricket’s oldest international rivalry by scoring 905 runs at 113.125, including the first ever incidence of successive test double centuries, 251 at Sydney in the second game and then 200 not out in the first innings of the third match at Melbourne, before then hitting 119 and 177 not out in the fourth match at Adelaide. In 1932-3 he was joint top scorer for the series with 440 runs at 55.00, including the first half a record sequence – in the final match he hit 101 and 75 not out, and then in New Zealand he thumped 227 and 336 not out, the only four innings test sequence to top 700 runs. In 1936-37 he scored 231 not out in the second match of the series, but was overshadowed by Bradman for the rest of the series. He unwisely agreed to skipper England in a ‘goodwill’ tour of Australia in 1946-7, by when he was 43 years old and unable to summon up former glories, averaging only 21 in the series. Of his three home Ashes series 1930 and 1934 were both failures, while 1938 was a success.
  5. *Percy Chapman – left handed batter, occasional slow bowler, superlative close fielder, captain. Chapman was asked to captain England at The Oval in 1926 after the first four matches of the series had been drawn and the selectors had concluded that Arthur Carr was not the man for the job. He led them to victory and The Ashes. In 1928-9 he was made captain of the tour party and led England to a 4-1 triumph. His own batting contributions were minimal, but his captaincy attracted universal praise. He was a casualty of Bradman’s explosive vengeance in 1930, dropped from the captaincy after Lord’s that year, where the Don scored 254 (ended by Chapman holding a near miraculous catch – Bradman was to confirm that the ball had gone precisely where he intended to hit it and that he had not believed the catch was possible) in a total of 729-6 declared, and even though Chapman hit a defiant 121 in England’s second innings they went down by seven wickets.
  6. Bernard Bosanquet – right handed batter, leg spinner. The pioneer of the googly took his new weapon with him to Australia as part of Warner’s 1903-4 Ashes party, and played a major role in the winning of that series, including taking his best ever test figures of 8-107 in an innings.
  7. +Jack Richards – wicket keeper, right handed batter. Kept on the 1986-7 tour, when England won the series down under, scored 133 at Perth in second test thereof.
  8. Harold Larwood – right arm fast bowler, useful lower order batter. Two ashes tours, 1928-9 and 1932-3, and two 4-1 series wins in Australia, in the second of which he was the undoubted star.
  9. Farmer White – left arm orthodox spinner. His accuracy and stamina were vital to England’s 1928-9 triumph – he bowled 542 overs in the five matches of that series. In the Adelaide match of that series his total figures across the two innings were 124.5 overs, 37 maidens, 256 runs, 13 wickets.
  10. Frank Tyson – right arm fast bowler. If fast bowlers ever came quicker than the 1932-3 version of Larwood, then the 1954-5 version of Tyson was one of the few to do so. England lost the first match of that series at The Gabba by an innings and plenty, Tyson taking 1-160. However, he also listened to and acted on some shrewd advice from former fast bowler Alf Gover, shortened his overly long run considerably to conserve on energy in the Australian heat, and in matches 2,3 and 4 of that series was simply too hot for the Aussies to handle, being the key ingredient in a turnaround that saw 0-1 and likely loss of the urn become 3-1 and retention of the urn.
  11. Sydney Barnes – right arm fast medium. Archie MacLaren selected Barnes for the 1901-2 tour of Australia after a being impressed by him in the nets. Barnes won the first match of that series for his side, bagged another five for in the second, but was then rendered hors de combat by injury, an Australia ran out 4-1 winners. Barnes missed the 1903-4 series which England won. The 1907-8 tour party was poorly chosen and lost badly, but Barnes played a key role in the one test that England won in that series – his 38 not out in the final innings guided England home when they needed 73 from their last two wickets. His greatest Ashes moments came in the 1911-12 tour, when England won 4-1, and he took 34 wickets, backed him left arm pace bowler Frank Foster with 32, while the batting was dominated the opening pair of Jack Hobbs and Wilfred Rhodes. In all Barnes took 77 wickets in 13 test matches in Australia, as compared to 29 wickets in home Ashes matches.

This team has a magnificent looking opening pair, two good and one great batter in the 3-5 slots, an all rounder, a keeper who can bat and four splendid bowlers. The bowling has blitz men Larwood and Tyson, the extraordinary Barnes, and two contrasting spin options in White and Bosanquet, plus Hammond as a possible sixth bowler.

THE AWAY ASHES: AUSTRALIA

  1. Mark Taylor – left handed opening batter, fine slip fielder. Taylor had a fine record at the top of the Aussie order, was the second in a sequence of long serving Aussie captains after Border, and probably ranked third of the four (Steve Waugh and Ricky Ponting followed Taylor) as a captain – my own reckoning makes the four skippers who spanned the ‘green and golden age’ rank as follows as captains: Border (unarguable – he taught an Australia who had forgotten the art exactly how to win and guided them from also-rans to top dogs), Waugh (who made a dominant side even better), Taylor (who consolidated Border’s work and kept Australia at the top) and Ponting (who inherited the captaincy of a team of champions and left a collection of ‘also rans’ for his successor). His greatest moments as a batter were in England in 1989 when he cashed in on the organization of what turned out to be the last of the rebel tours and general selectorial incompetence by the English to score 839 runs in the series, a record for any Aussie not named Bradman. Eight years later England was the scene of a display of massive character from Taylor, who was going through a run of dreadful form with the bat ans was under fire from his detractors. Australia were rolled in the first innings of the series at Edgbaston for 118, and had looked like not even managing 100 for large parts of the innings, and England spearheaded by Hussain with a double hundred and Thorpe with a century built a huge lead. Taylor opened the Australian second innings knowing that a second failure in the match could easily see the axe descend on him, and proceeded to chisel out a determined century, which could not save the match for his side, but did save his career. Australia bounced back to win the series, although England gained another victory in the final match at The Oval.
  2. Bill Ponsford – right handed opening batter. In 1934 the chunky opener achieved the rare feat of finishing with a better series batting average than Don Bradman. Ponsford averaged 94.83 for that series, while Bradman had to settle for a figure of 94.75. In the fourth match of the series at Leeds he scored 181, sharing a 4th wicket partnership of 388 with Bradman (304). Then, at The Oval in a match played to a finish because the series was not settled, as was tradition in England at the time (all test matches in Australia were played to a finish back then), he scored 266 in the first innings, sharing a second wicket stand of 451 with Bradman (244). Australia won the test match by 562 runs and regained the Ashes, the victory coming, as it had four years previously, on skipper Woodfull’s birthday. Ponsford retired from the game at the end of that series, the only player to date to score hundreds in his first two tests and hundreds in his last two tests.
  3. *Don Bradman – right handed batter. He played in four of the five tests of the 1928-9 Ashes, scoring one century for a badly beaten side. In 1930 he came to England, with a number of critics predicting that he would fail there. He reached his thousand first class runs for the season before May was done, the first non-English player to do so (and he would repeat the feat in 1938, the only player to achieve it twice), and he began his test performances comparatively quietly, with 131 in the second innings of the first match at Trent Bridge, when Australia were beaten. In the second at Lord’s he hit 254 in the first innings, and was one of the three Aussies dismissed in the second as they chased down 76. At Headingley in the third match he hit 334, 309 of them on the first day. After a quiet match in Manchester it was time for the final match of the series at The Oval, where in the tour match v Surrey he had scored 252 not out in a tally of 379-5 in a rain ruined affair. He racked up 232 this time round in a score of 695 as Australia won by a huge margin. In all in that series Bradman played eight innings, one of them a not out, and amassed 974 runs at 139.14. In 1934 he averaged 94.75, and in 1938 it was over a hundred again, helped by unbeaten centuries is the Trent Bridge runfest that opened the series (seven individual centuries and over 1,500 runs for less than 30 wickets in the game) and in the low scoring game at Headingley that saw Australia retain the Ashes. In 1948 he was outscored by opener Arthur Morris, but helped by 173 not out at his favourite Headingley he had a higher average for the series.
  4. Billy Murdoch – right handed batter, sometimes wicket keeper. Twice in his test career he scored over 150, 153 not out at The Oval in 1880 in an ultimately losing cause (England after largely dominating the game had an attack of collywobbles in the final innings, contriving to surrender five wickets while chasing down 57) and 211 in a drawn game at the same ground four years later, the first double century in test cricket, and the second in the sequence of record individual scores at that level that in full reads: 165 by Bannerman at Melbourne in 1877, 211 by Murdoch at The Oval in 1884, 287 by Foster at Sydney in 1903-4, 325 by Sandham at Kingston in 1930, 334 by Bradman at Headingley in 1930, 336 not out by Hammond at Christchurch in 1933, 364 by Hutton at The Oval in 1938, 365 not out by Sobers at Kinsgton in 1957, 375 by Lara at Antigua in 1994, 380 by Hayden at Perth in 2000 and 400 not out by Lara at Antigua in 2004.
  5. Charlie Macartney – right handed batter, left arm orthodox spinner. Macartney started his career as a blocker and ended it as one of the most highly regarded stroke makers of all time. In 1926 he became the first ever to score centuries in three successive test matches, although the weather saw it that all ended in draws.
  6. Harry Graham – right handed batter. He scored a century on test debut at Lord’s in 1893.
  7. +Graham Manou – wicket keeper, right handed batter. A rare Aussie ‘one cap wonder’, that appearance coming in England in 2009.
  8. Shane Warne – leg spinner, right handed lower order batter. Only one person has ever captured 100 test wickets in a country other than their own: Shane Keith Warne, who reached the landmark in England in 2005, in the course of the only Ashes series in which he finished on the losing side. He announced his presence in Ashes contests with the ‘Gatting ball’ at Old Trafford in 1993, his first delivery in an Ashes match, which drifted in the air to land well wide of leg stump and then spun back so sharply that it brushed the outside of the off stump just enough to dislodge the bail, to the stupefaction of the batter. Robin Smith who since making his own debut four years earlier had built a hugely impressive record was made to look a novice in that series, and Alec Stewart, deployed in the middle order in that series, fine player of fast bowlers that he was, never looked anything close to comfortable against Warne either. Even in the 2005 triumph Warne retained full mastery over the England batting, collecting 40 wickets in the series.
  9. Bob Massie – right arm fast medium bowler. Australia, captained by Ian Chappell, brought a largely young and unknown side to England in 1972. The first match was lost to Ashes holders England, and then the sides reconvened at Lord’s. Massie took 8-84 in England’s first innings 272, a sensational debut effort. Australia, with a century from Greg Chappell to help them led by 36, and skipper Ian Chappell gathered his team together and said he wanted a wicket before that deficit was knocked off, well rather as with Bill Bowes and his leg side field for Vic Richardson in 1932, ‘Chapelli’ did not get one, he got five! England recovered somewhat from that catastrophic beginning to their second innings, but only enough to reach 116, Massie 8-53 to give him 16-137 on debut. A victory target of 81 did not unduly trouble Australia, opener Keith Stackpole taking the opportunity to record an unbeaten half century. That was over half of Massie’s tally of test wickets. In the end England retained the Ashes, courtesy of a victory at Headingley, although Australia levelled the series by winning the final game at The Oval, both Chappells notching first innings centuries.
  10. Charles Turner – right arm medium fast bowler. A rare example of an Aussie great who never won an Ashes series – it was his misfortune to be in his prime at a time when his only reliable bowling support came from Jack Ferris, and Australia were riven by dissension. During one of his tours (1886, I think), there was an occasion when the train carriage in which the Aussie team had been travelling was marked by blood spatters! Nevertheless, he was an even more difficult proposition in England than back at home.
  11. Terry Alderman – right arm medium fast bowler. Meet the man who should have been the first bowler to 100 test wickets in a country other than this own (although a case could actually be made on Barnes’ behalf, since had been picked for the 1903-4 tour he would surely have done it in Australia). Terence Michael Alderman took an Australian ashes series record 42 wickets in a losing cause in the 1981 series. Eight years later he took 41 in a winning cause (both these series were of six matches, whereas the England ashes record, Laker’s 46 in 1956 came in a five match series), to bring his tally in England to 83 in 12 matches. Terry Alderman should have been part of the 1985 tour party as well, but he foolishly went on a rebel tour to apartheid South Africa instead, which netted him a three year ban from international cricket. The 1989 haul included a sequence of four successive innings in which he trapped opener Graham Gooch LBW, with the Essex man’s highest score in that little patch of torment being 13. Alderman may actually have contributed to the 1985 Ashes as well, since he was for a time a Kent team mate of Richard Ellison, who as a bowler of a similar type probably benefitted from the presence of an international practitioner. In the last two matches of that series Ellison captured 17 wickets, including the prize scalp of Border in three of the four innings.

This team has a decent top six, a splendid keeper, and four excellent and varied specialist bowlers (and Macartney had a 10 wicket haul in a test match with his left arm spin as well).

THE CONTEST

This looks an absolute ripper of a contest. Perhaps the trick would be to stage it on neutral territory, though not India, as that would spike Warne’s guns, so that both sides could treat as an away contest and thereby bring the best out of themselves.

ANSWER TO YESTERDAY’S PROBLEM

Yesterday’s post included the following teaser:

Brilliant

The available answers were 9, 15, 21 and 27.

The correct answer is nine, the speed of ball nine after collision being 511 m/s.

A LINK AND PHOTOGRAPHS

The scene has been set for the ‘Away Ashes’, with our players introduced and explained, yesterday’s teaser has been answered, but just before signing off there are some links to share, from the Guardian, where actor Rory Kinnear has a tribute to his sister who has just died of covid-19, in which he takes the “died with it, not of it” brigade sternly to task. Please read and share. A site which I discovered today, doodlemaths, has a number of posts about “Mathematicians who changed the world“, the example which drew me in, and which I offer as an introduction being about Florence Nightingale. Now it is finally time for my usual sign off…

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Goldfinch (two pics)

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Four starlings all perfectly positioned for the camera at one time.

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A double-page spread illustration in Dava Sobel’s “Planets”

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Away Ashes
The teams, in tabulated form with abridged comments.

All Time XIs – Essex

Continuing with the all-time XIs, today is the turn of Essex.

INTRODUCTION

Welcome to the latest post in my All Time XIs series. Today we are dealing with Essex.

ALL TIME ESSEX XI

  1. Graham Gooch – A huge run scorer over a very long period. In 1985 he made 196 at The Oval to ensure that England would regain The Ashes. In 1986 he made centuries against both India and New Zealand. In 1988 he scored 459 runs in a series against the West Indies that they won by four matches to nil (the series opener was drawn due to the weather), in 1990 he scored over 1,000 test runs in the home summer, the first (and to date) only time that such has ever been achieved, including 752 runs in a three match series v India (333 and 123 in the opener at Lords, 121 and 2 in the second and 88 and 85 in the third). In 1991 at Headingley he scored 154 not out against the West Indies in a team total of 252.
  2. Alastair Cook – England’s all time leading test run scorer by some margin, the left handed opener’s greatest series was against the Aussies in their own backyard, in 2010-11 when he helped England to a 3-1 series triumph (a scoreline that frankly flattered the Aussies) with 766 runs at 127.66. After digging England out of some trouble at Brisbane with 235 not out he scored 148 in the win at Adelaide, contributed a half century at Melbourne after Australia had been rolled for 98 in their first innings and finally at Sydney responding to a modest Aussie total he batted for over eight hours scoring 189 to set England up for another innings victory, a unique third in an Ashes series.
  3. Percy Perrin – a big run scorer at a time when Essex as a whole were not the strongest of sides. He hit 68 fours in making 343 not out, a boundary count rivalled only Brian Lara who hit 62 fours and 10 sixes in his 501 not out, against Derbyshire at Chesterfield in 1904. Unfortunately for Perrin, this innings was ultimately unavailing as Derbyshire ended up winning by nine wickets (Essex 597 and 97, Derbyshire 548 and 149-1).
  4. *Keith Fletcher – the man who captained Essex to their first county championship in 1979, and until Gooch overhauled him Essex’s leading first class run scorer.
  5. Nasser Hussain – a big run scorer through the 1990s, also the captain who initiated England’s climb back from bottom of the world test rankings, where they found themselves in 1999 after losing a home series against New Zealand in the immediate aftermath of a humiliating exit from a home world cup (in those days there was less separation between red and white ball cricket). Like many of his era he was mishandled at test level in the early stages of his career, which had an adverse effect on his overall career figures.
  6. Stan Nichols – an attacking left hand bat and right-arm fast bowler (does that remind you of any all-rounders of more recent vintage? hint – think Durham in county terms) whose first class career brought him over 17,000 runs and 1,800 wickets.
  7. +James Foster – a useful middle order batter and one of the finest wicket keepers ever to play the game.
  8. Peter Smith – a legspinner and a lower order batter who once scored 163 coming at no 11 (he and Frank Vigar, a rather more sedate type of player put on 218 for the tenth wicket, turning 199-9 into 417 all out).
  9. Simon Harmer – a South African born off spinner who played five test matches for his native land before deciding that English cricket offered brighter prospects he has been a key part of Essex’s recent successes, not just with his wickets, but also with some useful lower order runs at vital times.
  10. Charles Kortright – one of those whose name gets mentioned in discussions about just who was the quickest bowler ever. He produced what today would be described as an ‘epic burn’ when he cleaned up W G Grace, a notoriously reluctant leaver of the crease, with a snorter of a ball, saw that worthy look at the wreckage and head, face like thunder, towards the pavilion and chimed in with “You’re not going already are you Doctor? There’ s still one stump standing”.
  11. Walter Mead – a crafty medium pacer who still holds the record match figures for an Essex bowler – 17 wickets in a tour match against The Australians in 1893.

The decision that was most difficult in selecting this XI was who to have at no 6. As well as Nichols, Johnny Douglas and Trevor Bailey, both England regulars in their day had very obvious claims, but I went for Nichols both because of his left handed batting and his more aggressive approach in that department. Bowling wise this team has the pace of Kortright and Nichols, medium pace from Mead, off spin from Harmer, leg spin from Smith, with Gooch as a sixth option, while there are five top of the range batters, an all-rounder, a keeper-batter plus the possibility of runs from Smith, Harmer and Kortright.

PHOTOGRAPHS

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100 Cricketers – Gower, Cook and Pietersen

INTRODUCTION

I launched this series with an introduction a while back and devoted a stand-alone post to Tammy Beaumont. Now after a some delays I continue with the remaining specialist batters from my first XI. I will deal with them in chronological order, starting with…

DAVID GOWER

I saw the last day of test cricket in the English season of 1990 live at The Oval. England were battling to save the game and thereby secure a series win, and the not out batsmen overnight were Mike Atherton and David Gower. Atherton did not last long that morning, but Gower batted magnificently through the day, finishing on 157 not out. John Morris kept him company for a good while but failed to reveal the stroke play that had earned him what was to a brief chance at international level. Allan Lamb then made a half century to ensure that no embarrassments could happen. Robin Smith had time to play one cut shot before the end. However, all of these players, and indeed the Indian bowling attack, were merely supporting cast for a day that belonged to Gower. 

There would be only two more years of Gower at international level before he was passed over for a tour of India (an unqualified disaster for England, although Graeme Hick and Chris Lewis each had moments in the sun during that series) and announced his international retirement. 

In the course of his test career David Gower scored over 8,000 runs at an average of  44, and he scored them in all circumstances and against all opponents. At Perth in 1978 while Geoffrey Boycott was taking 454 minutes to score 77 (one all-run four, but no boundary hits) Gower scored his maiden Ashes century. At Edgbaston in 1979 he took 200 not out off India. At Jamaica in 1981 he secured a draw for England by defying possibly the most fearsome pace quartet ever seen in cricket history (Garner, Croft, Marshall, Holding) for eight hours and an undefeated 154 – England would wait seven more years and ten straight defeats before they next shared the honours with the West Indies. In the 1985 Ashes he made three scores in excess of 150, two of which contributed to innings victories by England. Even in the 1990-1 Ashes down under, when England were crushed by an Australian side that knew itself to be the best in the world he made two centuries in the series.

A David Gower innings would stick in the memory. It never looked like he had really hit a ball until you saw it speeding to the boundary. It was precisley because he was so very good that his dismissals often looked absolutely terrible – how could such a player produce a shot like that?

KEVIN PIETERSEN

Fast forward 15 years to 2005 but stay at The Oval, and again a final day of the test match season started with England needing to secure a draw to win the series. This was an Ashes series, and since 1989 when a combination of injuries and a rebel tour to Apartheid South Africa saw England surrender the Ashes (only the weather prevented Australia from making history by winning all six matches in a six match series) the urn had been firmly in Australian possession. Kevin Pietersen (three fifties but as yet no century in his debut series) was dropped early in this innings by Shane Warne (who had a magnificent series overall), but England were definitely struggling at lunch time. 

Post lunch Pietersen decided that attack was the only form of defence and went after the bowlingn to spectacular effect. Paul Collingwood for an hour and Ashley Giles for two and a half hours played crucial supporting roles. By the time Pietersen was out for 158 England were well and truly safe.

Pietersen went on to play many more fine innings for England, although his career eventually ended in somewhat controversial circumstances, but if he had never scored another run after that day in 2005 he would have done enough to ensure imperishable fame. No one who witnessed that innings will ever forget it.

ALASTAIR COOK

England’s all-time leading run scorer, whose career started with a fifty and century against India in 2006 and ended in the same fashion 12 years later. In between times it included the most successful visit to Australia by anyone named Cook since Captain James of that ilk was in his prime. Having saved the first match at Brisbane with 235 not out he then contributed 148 at Adelaide, Pietersen making 227 and finally ensured that England would win the series by scoring 189 at Sydney. In total the series brought him 766 runs, second only for an English batter in Australia to Hammond’s 905 in the 1928-9 series.

As well as making big runs all the way through his career Cook also managed to be fit and available every time England needed him, a remarkable feat of longevity and endurance when so much cricket is being played. 

LOOKING AHEAD

Having covered the specialist batters from my first XI I will next be considering the all-rounders, including the wicketkeeper.

Cook Signing Off In Style As England Close In On 4-1 Series Victory

A ‘farewell to Alastair Cook’ post, with some suggestions for the future.

INTRODUCTION

As well as this current match I will be looking to the future (and inevitably back to the past). 

ENGLAND IN COMPLETE COMMAND

Alastair Cook has ensured that tomorrow’s sports pages will feature one story and one story only by reaching a century in his final test innings (it is not quite a duplication of Greg Chappell’s ‘full circle’ act of scoring centuries in his first and last test innings, because Cook reached his maiden ton in the second innings of his debut match, but it is a unique bookending double for Cook because he scored a fiftty and a century on debut and has now done the same in his final test match. The hundred was brought up courtesy of Jasprit Bumrah’s KP impression – shying wildly at the stumps with no chance of a run out even if he had hit and seeing the ball race away for four overthrows, allowing Cook the rare distinction of completing his hundred with a five. Cook has just gone for 147. His aggregate of 218 in his final match is not a record – that belongs to Andy Sandham who at the age of 39 scored 325 and 50 against the West Indies at Sabina Park (in a match that was abandoned as a draw after two days were washed out and England then had to catch the boat home). For the home series against Australia England reverted to the regular opening combo of Hobbs and Sutcliffe, and as fortune would have it Sandham never played again, while second in that roll of honour is Bill Ponsford who scored 266 and 23 the Oval in 1934, helping Australia to clinch the Ashes with victory by 562 runs. Among the welter of records generated by this final innings Cook is now established as the most prolific test match left hander of all time, having moved ahead of Kumar Sanggakkara. Cook finishes with 12472 runs at 45.35 and having occupied the crease in test match cricket for just over 621 hours in the course of his career (103.5 days play = batting for the equivalent of just over 20 of his 161 test matches). 

The fairytale script for the rest of this match has Anderson moving ahead of McGrath to become the leading wicket taking seamer in test cricket history, preferably with the history making wicket being that of Virat Kohli. Given the size of England’s lead and the amount of time left in the game the victory is pretty much nailed on.

THE FUTURE

Thanks to their policy of sticking with Jennings long past his sell by date England now need two new openers. I see the following options for England now:

  1. The cowardly (and in my view indefensible) option of sticking with Jennings and recalling Stoneman so that they have an opening pair who have both played test cricket.
  2. The “safe” option of going with one of Stoneman/ Jennings and presumably one out of Rory Burns or Nick Gubbins
  3. Go for a complete fresh start with Burns and Gubbins both debuting at the top of the order. Preferable in my view to either 1 or 2 but hardly ideal.
  4. The left-field option that I have mentioned in previous posts (here for example) of giving Tammy Beaumont who has been scoring bucketloads in international cricket the opportunity to play alongisde the men and giving the other opening slot to either Burns or Gubbins. 

Option 1 if taken would see me breathing fire, option 2 would be disappointing but unsurprising, I would applaud the taking of option 3, while I recognize that there is basically zero chance of option 4 being taken I would love to see it happen. 

Apart from the retired Cook and the (I hope) dropped Jennings I would include the other nine from this match,  Ollie Pope, Chris Woakes and Mark Wood in the touring party to Sri Lanka, add in Bess as an extra spinning option (likely to be needed in that part of the world), certainly give consideration to further beefing up the spin department with Amar Virdi, and pick top order batters Beaumont, Burns and Gubbins envisaging the first two as regular openers and Gubbins as back-up in case of injury. Certainly three genuine openers are needed, and as far as I am concerned if either Stoneman or Jennings feature the selectors will have failed in their duty. England have seven matches to develop a settled side before the Aussies come calling next year, and need to use them properly – and picking two openers who are proven failures at the highest level would not be doing that.

BACK TO THE PRESENT

While I have been writing this England have reached tea with their lead already past 400. The final session should go as follows: cram on as many runs as possible in 1st hour after tea and then declare if not all out, and then get stuck into India hoping to knock the top off their second innings before the close. Being greedy, and tomorrow being a work day, I hope Anderson gets his three to move ahead of McGrath tonight, as if he doesn’t I will almost certainly miss that historic moment. 

If, as now seems likely, England win this series 4-1 will they have deserved it? Absolutely – yes India had good chances at times of four of the five matches in this series but save at Trent Bridge they could not close things out. In match 1 England were 87-7 in their second innings, only 100 to the good, but the last three wickets more than doubled their score to set a target that India could (and ultimately did) get in trouble chasing, in the second game England dominated from start to finish, while in the third India did likewise, in the fourth England were 86-6 in the first innings and recovered to reach 246, and in this match England were 181-7 and then 214-8 in the first innings before India let things slip to such an extent that England tallied 332 in the end, and since that late order revival they have been in control (although India’s tail staged a minor wag of their own to restrict the first innings advantage to a mere 40).

PHOTOGRAPHS

Here are a few photographs to finish with:

Emu picture
The latest addition to my aunt’s collection of pictures – a very good representation of an Emu
Signature
The artists signature
Oxburgh Hall jigsaw
A high quality jigsaw of Oxburgh Hall, which I photographed before I had to disassemble it and replace in its box as we needed all the space on that table clear (it was Sunday supper at my aunt’s house and there were five of us there).
ceremony, KL war memorial
A ceremony taking place at the main King’s Lynn war memorial.
antique bike
An antique bike outside a shop on Tower Street.

Ashes Composite XI

My composite Ashes XI with reasoning and justification. Also some photographs.

INTRODUCTION

A common feature of final days of series is the selection of a composite XI based on performances in said series. This is my effort for the current Ashes series. I am going to name my team in batting order first and then explain/amplify/justify these selections.

THE TEAM

My team in batting order (England player names in dark blue, Aus in green):

  1. Alastair Cook
  2. David Warner
  3. Dawid Malan
  4. Steven Smith (Captain)
  5. Shaun Marsh
  6. Jonny Bairstow (Wicketkeeper)
  7. Mitchell Marsh
  8. Mitchell Starc
  9. Pat Cummins
  10. Nathan Lyon
  11. Jimmy Anderson

MY REASONING

The openers need no justification – the only major contribution from an opener not named Warner in the series was Cook’s monumental innings at the MCG. Number three is a thorny one. James Vince has demonstrated clearly that he does not belong there, and his huge score here at the SCG notwithstanding I remain skeptical about Usman Khawaja, hence my decision to promote England’s leading run scorer in the series to a position he occupies for his county. Number four, and with it the captaincy was the easiest selection of the whole lot. Shaun Marsh has not put a foot wrong since being called up to replace the inadequate Handscomb at number 5, and I regarded him as a must pick. Jonny Bairstow and Tim Paine have both had good series with the gloves, but I have opted for Bairstow as definitely the superior batsman. Mitchell Marsh has had a magnificent series, and was an absolute shoe-in at number 7, especially as Moeen Ali has had a terrible series – he has batted poorly in every match and his bowling average reads like a Bradman batting average. Of the specialist bowlers I have picked those at number 8,9 and 10 in the batting order are absolute stand outs. Number 11 was tricky, since Anderson with virtually no support has had a good series, and the better supported Hazlewood as also had a fine series. Accepting that even were it possible vivisection is not permissible (though ‘Anderwood’ is only one letter removed from a former test great!) I have opted for Anderson as I rate his the greater achievement. 

FINAL THOUGHTS

Looking at the makeup of the team (and accepting that Hazlewood for Anderson and Khawaja for Malan would both be valid changes), Australian picks predominate in both batting and bowling, though it is especially the bowling, which in my team comes out at 4-1 (including all-rounder Mitchell Marsh) to Australia and is reality more like 4.3-0.7 (rating my selection of Anderson over Hazlewood as a 70:30 pick) which has split the sides. England have collected barely more than half of the 100 wickets that were available to them at the start of the series, whereas Australia assuming that they take the six England wickets that remain in this match will have managed 90, failing to take 20 opposition wickets only on the MCG pitch. 

PHOTOGRAPHS

I always like to include a few photographs in my blog posts, so I end with these recently taken pictures:

FW
The first five pictures were taken while walking to the Scout Hut on Beulah Street for Musical Keys yesterday.

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These last four pictures were taken in Fakenham on Thursday.

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MCG, Photographs and Solutions

Some thoughts on the recent test match at the Melbourne Cricket Ground, solutions to my lest set of puzzles and some photographs.

INTRODUCTION

This is a two part post – first of all a bit about the test match that finally ended in a draw at about 6AM UK time, and then the companion to piece to “Puzzles and Pictures“, answering the puzzles posed there. 

5-0 AVERTED

England had the better of Australia in the fourth test match of this Ashes series, but neither team stood a chance against the real winner of this drab affair – the MCG pitch which offered no assistance to any kind of bowler and was also so slow that batsmen could not play their strokes. Alastair Cook ended his poor run of form emphatically, with an innings demonstrating once again his astonishing powers of concentration. Australia without Mitchell Starc and on a pitch that was utterly lifeless looked an ordinary bowling unit.

At lunch on day 1 Australia were 102-0 with Warner going well and Bancroft surviving, but that was the only session of the game that Australia unequivocally won. Although wickets were in short supply on that opening day Australia reached the close at 244-3 – a definite failure to build on that fast start. The second day belonged to England – Australia were all out 327, losing their last five wickets for 13 runs and England in response reached 192-2, Cook 104 not out, Root 49 not out. The third day was also England’s – 491-9 at the end of it, with Cook 244 not out. On the fourth day rain intervened. Anderson lost his wicket to the first ball of the day, giving Alastair Cook yet another place in the record books – highest score by anyone carrying their bat through a complete test innngs, beating Glenn Turner’s 223 not out v West Indies. Bancroft and Khawaja were both out fairly cheaply, but when the rain finally halted proceedings for the day Australia were 103-2 with Warner and Smith in occupation. On the final day Warner fell 14 short of his second hundred of the game. Smith did reach his own hundred, after seven and a quarter hours, and then declared which officially ended the game as there was no time left for England to chase to 100 they would have needed to win. 

The Melbourne Cricket Ground has a huge seating capacity, and the Boxing Day test is for that reason the best attended of all test matches. In particular, the Boxing Day Ashes test is habitually hugely attended. Because of the failure to produce a proper pitch the biggest crowds test cricket ever sees got a game that was not worthy of the occasion, and that is not acceptable. The MCG need to sort this out – on proper pitches test cricket can be the most fascinating of the three forms of the game, but on lifeless rubbish such as the MCG groundsman produced for this match it is a poor spectacle. The ICC (cricket’s global governing body) should come down on the MCG like the proverbial ton of bricks.

Alastair Cook’s epic innings deservedly gained him the player of the match award. A full scorecard and links to further detail about this match can be found on cricinfo. The final match of this series is in Sydney, starting on January 4th, and I sincerely hope that they produce a better pitch (they cannot produce a worse one – such a thing does not exist).

PHOTOGRAPHIC INTERLUDE

As we switch focus the the puzzles I presented a couple of days ago, here are some bird pictures from yesterday:

RookLapwing Ilapwing and waderFlying gullsMH1MH2MH3white duckblackbirdsMH4

PUZZLE 1: LOGIC

jester

As I said when I set it, this one is very straightforward. The key is that person B has said “I am the Knave”. The Knight cannot say this as it would be a lie, and the Knave cannot say it as it would be true, so the only person who can say “I am the Knave” is the Jester. Therefore the Jester is person B (note that both Knight and Knave can say “I am not the Knave”, so we cannot say which of A and C is which).

PHOTOGRAPHS – THE GREAT OUSE

Great OuseGreat Ouse 2

PUZZLE 2: AREA CHALLENGE

area test

The red sgements in the four corners of the shape are each half the size of the red segments along the sides of the shape, which in turn are each half the size of the blue shapes in the middle of the pattern. Thus counting the smallest segments as 1 there are (4 x 1) + (8 x 2) red segments = 20 red segments. Each blue shape in the middle comprises four segments and the are four of them = 16 blue segments. Thus the ratio of red area to blue is 20:16 = 5:4

PHOTOGRAPHS: THE WALKS

The Walks was still flooded yesterday, although less than it had been when I took my last set of pictures there two days previously.

TW1TW2TW3TW4TW5TW6TW7TW8TW9TW10TW11

PUZZLE 3: EVEN AND ODD

Odd and Even

Instinct suggests that the answer should be no, but this is one of those occasions when one should mistrust one’s instinct. To demonstrate a solution (one of many along these lines), I choose as my three even numbers 6, 8 and 4 in that order. Six divided by eight is 0.75, and 0.75 x 4 = 3 = an odd number.

PHOTOGRAPHS: MUSCOVY DUCKS 1

The Muscovy duck that I had seen in The Walks recently was not there yesterday, so I finished my walk by heading towards the place where I had first seen the species. I waqs rewarded when just on across Littleport Street from that location I saw the entire flock. Here are some of the pictures.

white muscovygrey patched muscovyBlack and white muscovyFive muscoviesFive muscovies IIthree muscoviesdark muscovyblack and borwn bodied muscoviesblack muscovyfour muscoviesblakc muscovy IIMuscovies and gullsthree dark muscovieslight muscovieslight muscovybrown muscovybrown muscovy IIMuscovy and mallardsmottled muscovymainly white muscovyside by side

PUZZLE 4: DIVISIBILITY

divisability

And here is my own solution posted on brilliant:

Thomas Sutcliffe 
Dec 26, 2017
 Upvote0

We have to use the numbers 1,2,3,4 and 5 to make a five digit number. The first requirement is that the first three digits form a number dvisible by four, which can only be achieved from these numbers by using 124 (= 31 x 4), then digits 2,3 and 4 must form a number divisible by five, so the fourth digit has to be 5 as numbers divisible by five end either in five ior zero and zero is not available to us. That leaves us the fifth digit to fill, and the only number we have not used is 3, hence the number is 12,453, and back checking using the last limitation, that the final three digits be divisible by three confirms this (453 = 151 x 3).

PHOTOGRAPHS – OTHERS

These were taken near the end of my walk:

Corn ExchangeMoon IMoon IIMoon III

PUZZLE 5: INVESTMENT EXPERT

Investment

The minimum starting amount he needs to ensure that it stays growing on these terms is $4. On my subsidiary question, although this starting point only yields a fortune of two billion and four dollars after one billiSuch is the power of exponential growth that if you increase this starting amount by even a small amount it will suffice. According to Denis Husudvac on brillaint even a stgarting point $4.01 will be enough.

PHOTOGRAPHS: MUSCOVY DUCKS 2

dark muscovy IIdark muscovy IIImottled muscovy IIGrey muscovyGrey muscovy IIImuscovy and mallard drakemuscovies and mallardsMottled muscovy IVMuscovy Headfour muscovies IIbrown muscovy IIImottled muscovy Vblack muscovy IIImuscovy head IItwo muscoviesbrown muscovy Vtwo brown muscoviesblack muscovy IVIn convoymuscovy ducklight muscovy II

 

Christmas Report On The England Men’s Cricket Team

Christmas report on the England men’s team, and some Muscovy duck pictures.

INTRODUCTION

While the England Women’s team have had a fabulous year, thoroughly deserving to win Team of the Year at the BBC Sports Personality of the Year awards (and had there been any justice Anya Shrubsole would have been Sports Personality of the Year) life has been tougher for the men. The confirmation in the early hours of Monday morning UK time that the Ashes had been lost (yes folks, I was listening to TMS right to the bitter end) lies behind this post (going up now through a combination of thinking before I wrote and work commitments yesterday). I end as usual with some of my own photographs.

THE FIRST THREE TEST MATCHES

Gritty fifties from Stoneman and Vince on the opening day notwithstanding Brisbane was a bad match for England. The ease with which Warner and Bancroft knocked off the 170 needed to win in the second innings, and the immovability of Aussie skipper Smith in their first innings were the most worrying sings.

Adelaide kicked off with Joe Root deciding to field first when he won the toss. An Australian tally of 442-8D in the course of the first day and a half made that decision look worse than it was (it was still poor, though not down there with Nasser Hussain at Brisbane 2002). England were then all out for 227, and as this was as a day-night test with the night session due to start it seemed mandatory to enforce the follow-on, but Steve Smith declined to do so. Australia stuttered under the lights to 50-4, and England’s best bowling effort of the series so far continued the following morning reducing Australia to 138 all out, leaving England 354 to get. England made a decent fist of things, and  at 170-3 it looked like they might just get them. Unfortunately both for England and for cricket as a whole (there are a lot of captains these days who almost automatically decline to enforce the follow-on, and had England chased down this target of 354 it might have made those people think) a wicket just before the close of day 4 and then a clatter the following morning put paid to that.

So it was on the Perth for the last Ashes game to be staged at the WACA (a new stadium just across the road will stage future Perth tests), a venue where England had only one once, way back in 1978. Precedents for a comeback from 0-2 down in a five match series are equally thin on the ground – the only successful example being Don Bradman’s 1936-7 Aussies (Bradman himself produced scores of 270, 212 and 169 in the third, fourth and fifth matches of that series, and also produced a tactical masterstroke in those days of uncovered pitches in that third test when faced with a terror track he sent in tail-enders O’Reilly and Fleetwood-Smith to miss everything until the close of that day – Bradman emerged the following day at 97-5 to join regular opener Jack Fingleton who had come at no 6, and with the pitch now eased they put on 346 for the sixth wicket to settle the issue), although 42 years earlier Australia had won the 3rd and 4th matches after being 0-2 down before England won the final game of that series. 

England batted first in Perth, and at 131-4 a familiar pattern seemed to be emerging, but then Dawid Malan and Jonny Bairstow got going, and both made hundreds. Malan went on to 140. Once their 237 run partnership was broken the rest of the innings subsided quickly, but 403 still seemed a respectable total. When Australia were 248-4 England still looked in with a shout, but by the end of day 3 Australia were 549-4, Smith having set a new career best and Mitchell Marsh in front of his home crowd turning his maiden test hundred into 181 not out. Smith and Marsh both fell quickly the following morning, and Starc was also out cheaply, but Tim Paine and Pat Cummins made useful contributions, and Australia declared at 662-9, leaving England four and a half sessions to survive for the draw. By the close of that fourth day Bairstow and Malan were together once more, with the only convincing batting effort up to then having come from Vince, who played very well for his 55 and was unlucky to get an absolute brute of a ball from Starc.

It rained overnight, and the covers at the WACA proved inadequate, leaving a wet patch on a good length at one end, which delayed the start of the fifth day’s play. Root argued for an abandonment, while Smith of course tried to hasten the start of play. I fully understand why Root tried to get play abandoned, but actually I am glad he failed in the attempt – to keep a series alive in that fashion would have been deeply unsatisfactory. At Headingley in 1975 a delicately poised final day (Australia 220-3 needing 445 to win, and Rick McCosker five away from what would have been a maiden test hundred) was abandoned after protesters sabotaged the pitch (“George Davis is innocent” – according to Peter Chappell, namesake of two members of that Australian team, but not according to the courts, or his future record – released from that sentence for armed robbery, he was soon back inside for another armed robbery to which he pleaded guilty). 

Once the game finally commenced it was soon obvious which way the wind was blowing, and for the third time in the space of a year (following two occasions against India last winter) England had managed to lose by an innings margin after tallying 400 first up.

ENGLAND PLAYER BY PLAYER

Alastair Cook: 150 tests, the last 148 of them in sequence – remarkable longevity. At the moment he is having a rough trot, and when Cook is having a rough trot (as he did in the early part of 2010) it is often hard to imagine where his next run is coming from.

Mark Stoneman: some gritty performances thus far, but he needs to start turning those fifties in to hundreds some time soon.

James Vince: to put it mildly a controversial choice for the crucial number three slot, and notwitshstanding two fine innings so far, one in Brisbane and one in Perth, he has not yet done enough to convince – see my closing comment about Stoneman.

Joe Root: would seem to be the latest in a long line of England players to suffer captaincy-itis, not only he is failing to make runs, he is getting out in un-Rootlike ways. England need his batting to be at its best, so perhaps someone else should be made captain (see later for my controversial suggestion).

Dawid Malan: his 140 at Perth and fighting effort in the second innings as well confirms his arrival as a test batsman of quality. Also, while it never looked threatening his part time leg spin was at least economical.

Jonny Bairstow: other than his first innings performance at Perth not thus far a great series for the wicketkeeper-batsman.

Moeen Ali: Fulfils a useful all-round role, although England offspinners have rarely been successful in Australia (the chief exceptions being Laker in 1958-9, Titmus in 1962-3 and Emburey in 1986-7). Also, if England do decide that Root needs to be replaced as captain to enable him to concentrate solely on what he does best – his batting – then Moeen would be my choice for the job.

Chris Woakes: Save for his bowling in the second innings at Adelaide he has not looked very threatening in this series. That game was also the scene of his only significant batting effort of the series so far. Right-arm medium fast when the ball is not deviating (and it generally doesn’t in Australia) simply will not trouble good batsmen.

Craig Overton: Looks like he belongs at this level, but my comments about Woakes’ style of bowling in Australian conditions also apply to him.

Stuart Broad: A nightmare series for him, not because he has bowled especially badly, though he has consistently been pitching it too short, but because he has looked completely unthreatening and has bowling figures that reflect that.

Jimmy Anderson: continues to climb the wicket taking charts. His 12 wickets at 25 apiece in this series, while all his colleagues have been taking drubbings is a remarkable effort in the face of adversity. I fully expect that in the early stages at Melbourne he will move ahead of Courtney Walsh in the wicket takers list (current Anderson 518, Walsh 519), leaving only Glenn McGrath among the quick bowlers ahead of him. He has bowled beautifully this series but with Broad off the boil his ‘support’ has simply not been up to standard. 

THE REST OF THE SERIES

Before I get into this section let me clear that I do not believe for an instant that had the likes of Ben Stokes, Mark Wood and Toby Roland-Jones been available England would be doing a whole lot better. Certainly to be deprived of the services of three such excellent cricketers simultaneously is unfortunate but England are 3-0 down because they have been outclassed throughout this series (only in Adelaide to England ever look close to making a game of it – the Malan-Bairstow partnership in the first innings at Perth was the only other major period in the series to date in which England had the whip hand).

The good news for England is that their records at Melbourne and Sydney are better tahn their records elsewhere in Australia. While the batsmen need to score more runs, it is the bowlers who (Anderson apart) really need to pick things up – England have not yet taken 20 wickets in a match in this series, and at Perth they failed to even take 10. 

I think England can pick themselves up and win at least one of the two remaining matches. In many ways it would be an injustice to Australia were England to win both and make it look respectable at 3-2 – this England side does not deserve better than 4-1 (though I also think it does not deserve worse – it is not as shambolic as Flintoff’s 2006-7 squad who really did deserve to be on the wrong end of a 5-0,  as in the end they were. 

The take home message of the three matches played so far is one that England should already have learned a long time ago – a bowling ‘attack’ of four right-arm medium-fast bowlers and an offspinner will not cut the mustard in Oz. 

PHOTOGRAPHS

A little while back I reported sighting some birds which turned out to be Muscovy ducks (Cairina moschata). Well, I have seen another (this time a single bird), this time in The Walks. 

Cairina Moschata 1
The first four pictures were taken on Monday afternoon.

Cairina Moschata 2Cairina Moschata 3Cairina Moschata 4

CmI
These are all from today – six pictures of the whole bird…

CmIICmIIICmIVCmVCm VI

Cmsideprofile
…two pictures of the profile view of its head.

Cmprofile

Cmheadfronton
…a front-on pic…
Cmtailfeathers
…and a pic of the tail feathers.

 

Ashes Selections

On Ashes selections…

INTRODUCTION

The cricket section of the BBC website gives you a chance to pick your XI for the opening ashes match this winter. It is not a free selection – they give you a pool of names to pick from, which is why I am producing this post.

MY SELECTION ON THE BBC WEBSITE

Restricted by the BBC website I selected the following XI:

Cook, Stoneman, Joe Clarke, Root, Liam Livingstone, Stokes, Bairstow, Moeen Ali, Roland-Jones, Anderson, Leach – yes I overlooked Stuart Broad, but I was being deliberately controversial…

VARIOUS POSSIBLE XIs

In actual fact, depending on conditions my selections could vary considerably. England spinners have rarely enjoyed themselves at Brisbane, so in practice I would probably not select two spinners for that particular match, while at Perth I might even consider leaving out Moeen Ali. At Adelaide, where the pitch tends to be exceedingly batsman friendly I would want more bowling options, and if the pitch was obviously going to favour spin then Moeen might even be third spinner in the XI. Thus here are some possible XIs, unerestricted by the BBC website’s preselections:

Normal conditions: Cook, Stoneman, Westley, Root (C), Dan Lawrence, Stokes, Bairstow (WK), Moeen Ali, Roland-Jones, Broad, Anderson.

Fast bowlers’ paradise (Perth would be a possible): Cook, Stoneman, Westley, Root (C), Lawrence, Stokes, Bairstow, (WK), Woakes, Roland-Jones, Broad, Anderson.

On a ‘bunsen’ (rhyming slang, bunsen burner = turner) – unlikely in Oz but you never know: Cook, Stoneman, Westley, Root (C), Lawrence, Stokes, Bairstow (WK), Moeen Ali, Dominic Bess, Jack Leach, Anderson (this is a colossal gamble, relying on Anderson and Stokes to do all the fast bowling between them, a more cautious approach still catering for lots of spin would see Broad retain his place and Ali and Bess or Bess and Leach have the spin bowling roles).

For the batsman’s paradise (e.g Adelaide, or the Bellerive Oval, Hobart): Cook, Stoneman, Root (C), Lawrence, Stokes, Moeen Ali, Bairstow (WK), Roland-Jones, Bess, Broad, Anderson (note that to play the extra bowler I move Ali up two places, keeping Bairstow at 7 – there is a reason why Gilchrist never moved up from number 7 in Australia’s great days).