All Time XIs -The Underappreciated Ashes

My latest variation on the ‘all time XIs’ theme – enjoy!

INTRODUCTION

Welcome to another variation on the ‘All Time XIs’ theme. Today I create two teams to do battle for the little urn, but with a twist. The players featured today are players of whom more should have been seen. There is one player of the 22 who did not get to play test cricket, but I believe I can justify his inclusion. At the other end of the scale is a player who eventually played 79 times at the highest level, but who had to wait a long time for the call to come. We start with…

ENGLAND’S UNDERAPPRECIATED XI

  1. Jack Robertson – the stylish Middlesex opener was selected for 11 test matches, all between 1947 and 1952, and he scored 881 runs in those games, at and average of 46.36, with a highest score of 133. He missed the 1950-1 Ashes, when until Reg Simpson scored 156 not out in the final match only Hutton had contributed serious runs from the top of the order.
  2. Cyril Walters – another stylist, the Glamorgan and Worcestershire opener was selected for 11 test matches between 1933 and 1939, in which he scored 784 runs at 52.26, including one century and seven fifties.
  3. David Steele – ‘The Bank Clerk Who Went to War’ – the gritty Northamptonshire, Leicestershire and Derbyshire man played eight tests in 1975 and 1976, against Australia and the West Indies, averaging 42.06 (672 runs in 16 innings, no not outs).
  4. Clive Radley – the Hertford born Middlesex middle order man of the 1970s who like Steele only got to play eight times at the highest level. He scored 481 runs at 48.10 with a highest of 158, and another century versus Pakistan.
  5. Eddie Paynter – the Lancashire left hander’s record reads: 20 test matches, 31 innings, 1,540 runs at 59.23, 591 of them at 84.43 in Ashes matches. Among those who have played 20 or more games for England only Yorkshire’s Herbert Sutcliffe (60.73) has recorded a higher test average.
  6. +Ben Foakes – the Surrey man is the best current English wicket keeper, any doubt about that status being removed by the retirement of the marvellous Sarah Taylor. The measly five test matches he has thus far been given have yielded him 332 runs at 41.50 including a century and also 10 catches and two stumpings. I hope that the selectors will see sense and render him ineligible for selection in future sides of this nature. For the moment, he holds this position as he keeps wicket – summa cum laudae.
  7. Harold Larwood – The Notts express who was the star of the 1932-3 Ashes, and never picked again after that series through a combination of Aussie whinging and appalling behaviour by the English powers that be. Number 7 may look high in the order for him, but he did score 98 in his last test innings and made many useful contributions for Nottinghamshire with the bat.
  8. Frank Tyson – The Northanptonshire super fast man 76 wickets at 18.56 in his 18 test matches. He like Larwood was the hero of an Ashes triumph down under – in 1954-5. Many years after his prime he played in a charity game in which he bowled at Keith Fletcher (Essex), then an England regular, and he produced a delivery that Fletcher reckoned to be the quickest he faced that season.
  9. *Johnny Wardle – 28 test matches, 102 wickets at 20.39 with his left arm spin (he could bowl both orthodox and wrist spin). The Yorkshireman was often passed over in favour of Tony Lock, which rankled in “God’s own county”, especially since Lock’s action in the period in question was rarely as far above suspicion as Caesar’s wife. He fell out with Yorkshire over their appointment of 40 year old amateur Ronnie Burnet as skipper in 1958, and Yorkshire vindictively warned other counties against signing him, which effectively terminated his chances of further international recognition as well. I have done what Yorkshire would not in 1958 and named as captain of this team.
  10. Sydney Barnes – 27 tests, 189 wickets at 16.43, 77 of them in 13 matches down under. He played in under half of the matches contested by England between his first and last appearances, which irrespective of the fact that he was an awkward blighter (if he were to dispute this assessment it would only be as a matter of principle) and chose to play most of his cricket in the leagues rather than in the county championship is simply absurd. Also, there were various times when people considered him a possible post World War 1, including as late as 1930 when some people believed he was the man to take on Bradman who was running riot (2,960 runs at 98,66 for the tour, 974 of them at 139.14 in the test matches). West Indian legend Learie Constantine who faced Barnes for Nelson vs Rawtenstall in the Lancashire League when Barnes was 59 years old said after that match (in which he made 90) “if you wanted to score off Barnes you had to score off good bowling”.
  11. Charles ‘Father’ Marriott – (Lancs and Kent) A ‘one cap wonder’. He was selected in the final match of the 1933 series against the West Indies, took 11-96 in the match and that was his international career. He was known to be a liability except when actually bowling (his 711 first class wickets comfortably beating the 574 runs he scored at that level).

This team has a splendid looking top five, a superb glove man well capable of batting at six, and five excellent and well varied bowlers, all of whom save Marriott are capable of making useful contributions with the bat (Barnes was a regular run scorer in the leagues where he generally plied his trade and played one clearly defined match winning innings in a test match, at Melbourne in 1907 when he came in with 73 needed and two wickets standing and was there on 38 not out when the winning run was scored. Now it is time to look at…

AUSTRALIA UNDERUSED XI

  1. Sidney George Barnes – 13 test matches, in which he averaged 63 with a highest score of 234 (at Sydney in the second match of the 1946-7 Ashes). A combination of World War II (six years of his prime gone), and run-ins with the authorities meant that he played ridiculously little for such a fine batter. I would want ‘Blowers‘ at the mic when Sydney Francis Barnes bowled to Sidney George Barnes – there would surely be some priceless commentary moments!
  2. Chris Rogers – averaged 42.87 in the 25 matches he played, having amassed over 15,000 first class runs before the call came. He hit his peak at just the wrong time, when Australia had a dominant side that they were understandably reluctant to change.
  3. Mike Hussey – what is a man who played 79 tests doing here? He had been playing first class cricket and amassing mountains of runs in that form of the game for over a decade before getting to don the baggy green (‘Mr Cricket’ eschewed the other classic Aussie insignia, the chip on the shoulder). Yes, 79 tests is a fine achievement, as his average in that form of the game, but it could so easily have been 159 test matches, and it is for that reason that I include him.
  4. Martin Love – his peak coincided with Australia’s most dominant period, with the result that his test record amounts to 233 runs at 46.60 with one century. At almost any other time, or in almost any other country he would be an automatic selection for most of his career.
  5. Adam Voges – although the one trough of his brief test career (he was in his mid 30s when it began) coincided with the 2015 Ashes he averaged 61.87 in his 20 matches, an output that cannot be ignored.
  6. *Albert Trott – all rounder and captain (also captain of the ‘what might have been XI’ when I come to present that). His test career was in two parts – for Australia in the 1894-5 Ashes, and then for England against South Africa in 1899. Between them they amounted to five matches in which he scored 228 runs at 38.00 and took 26 wickets at 15.00. It was also in 1899 that he achieved a thus far unrepeated feat – he struck a ball from fellow Aussie Monty Noble that cleared the Lord’s pavilion, hitting a chimney pot and dropping down the back of the building. He was a right arm spin bowler. His test debut in 1895 was remarkable – 38 and 72 not out with the bat and 8-43 in the second England innings.
  7. +Graham Manou – the most skilled glove man in Australia during his career, but Brad Haddin was generally preferred on ground of his belligerent batting. Manou played in only one test match, unusual for an Australian (there are about 70 English members of this club).
  8. Eddie Gilbert – right arm fast bowler and the most controversial of my 22 picks today. He never played test cricket, but in his brief domestic career he sometimes caused carnage, including inflicting on Don Bradman “the luckiest duck of my career”. He might have been selected during the 1932-3 Ashes had Australia adopted a ‘fight fire with fire’ approach. He was an aboriginal, which might explain his scurvy treatment by the Australian cricket powers that be – it would be until Jason Gillespie that a player of proven aboriginal ancestry would don the baggy green.
  9. Laurie Nash – another fast bowler who could have been used as part of the ‘fight fire with fire’ option in 1932-3. He claimed that he could have stopped ‘Bodyline’ in two overs given the chance. His two test caps yielded 10 wickets at 12.60. What might have happened at Australia taken the ‘fight fire with fire’ approach? My reckoning is that there would probably have been one absolute war zone of a test when both teams gave it both barrels, and then the method would have been abandoned, because the English professionals who could not afford to risk their livelihoods would have insisted on it.
  10. Stuart Clark – a tall fast-medium who took 94 wickets at 23.86 in his 24 test matches. Injury problems and a chap by the name of McGrath kept him from featuring more often than he did.
  11. Jack Iverson – mystery spinner (subject of Gideon Haigh’s book “Mystery Spinner”) whose test career amounted to the five matches of the 1950-1 Ashes series, in which he took 21 wickets at 15.23. Many reckoned that he would have been even deadlier in England (although he bowled wrist spin he was effectively a very accurate off spinner) – which creates an interesting counter-historical speculation. Had he gone to England in 1953 Australia may well have retained The Ashes, which would almost certainly have meant that the grumblers who had never liked the notion of a professional captaining England would have got their way and Hutton would have been replaced by an amateur, which would almost certainly have also meant no 1954-5 triumph with ‘Typhoon’ Tyson.

This team has a strong looking top five, a potentially match winning all rounder at six, a magnificent keeper at seven and four top quality bowlers.

THOUGHTS ON HOW THIS ASHES CONTEST MIGHT GO

Barring an emerald coloured pitch and/or heavy cloud cover that you are prepared to bet on remaining in place for long enough to cash in on the toss winner would be heavily advised to bat first and get their runs on the board (trying to score runs against Trott and Iverson in the fourth innings does not look like fun, and this is even more the case vis a vis Wardle, Barnes and Marriott). I reckon that Larwood and Tyson are a quicker pair (thought not by much) than Gilbert and Nash. Where England definitely shade it is that irrespective of conditions Barnes is likely to more dangerous than Clark. I would expect it to be close – in a five match, play to a finish series I would back England to win 3-2, while I would expect England’s margin to look a little more comfortable with draws in the equation because I reckon Steele and Radley could each be counted on for at least one match saving rearguard action,  while ‘Mr Cricket’ would probably probably save one game for the Aussies, so factoring in draws I make it 2-0 to England. Glenn McGrath would probably utter his reflex “5-0 to Australia’ line!

Given the characters on show we need some good officials in charge. I am going for Bucknor and Dar as on field umpires, Venkataraghavan as TV Replay umpire and Clive Lloyd as match referee. For commentators I have already indicated that ‘Blowers’ has a role to play, and as his colleagues I choose Jim Maxwell (Australia) and Alison Mitchell (who has a foot in both camps) – sorry ‘Aggers‘, no gig for you this series. For expert summarisers I have no strong preferences other than that Boycott is absolutely banned.

A TWITTER THREAD AND PHOTOS

I have set the stage for my Ashes series between two teams of often overlooked players, but there remains one more thing to do before my usual sign off – I have an important twitter thread about Coronavirus to share with you, from Lainey Doyle, please click on screenshot to view the whole thread:

Lainey TT

We end with the usual photographic flourish:

Neglected Ashes
The contending XIs in tabulated form.

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Sitting out in my bit of garden is providing plenty of opportunities for camera work (all bar two of the remaining pics in this post were taken while sitting outside, which I was also doing for most of the time spent typing this post).

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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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England Players And Selectors Both Fail

An account of England’s defeat at Old Trafford, the loss of The Ashes and the subsequent failure of England’s selectors to take necessary action. Credit to Australia, who are worthy winners of both this match and The Ashes (and, almost certainly, the series as well).

INTRODUCTION

There are two threads to this post – the first is the loss of the 4th test match at Old Trafford and with it The Ashes, and the second is the unsurprising but very disappointing decision of the England selectors to name an unchanged squad for the fifth test match.

HOW THE DEFEAT PANNED OUT

England were eventually dismissed with just fewer than 15 overs to be bowled for 197 to lose by 185 runs. Denly made a half-century that was firmly in the “too little, too late” category. Craig Overton, in the side for his bowling skills, produced a display that should have brought blushes to the cheeks of most his supposed betters in the order by holding out for almost three hours before the inevitable happened, and Jack Leach lasted almost an hour with him in the ninth wicket stand that was England’s last gesture of resistance. Broad, the man with more test match ducks than any other England cricketer, escaped adding to his tally by being left 0 not out when Overton finally fell to end proceedings. That Overton and Leach were able to resist for as long as they did on this final day was a damning indictment of England’s top order (Burns and Root both got beauties from Cummins on the 4th evening, and Roy was on the end of a good ‘un as well, although his choice of shot certainly contributed to his downfall) who save for Denly failed to provide anything that could be described as an innings of substance (and even he nearly holed out at deep midwicket during what was supposed to be a resistance act). At Edgbaston in the first match Australia were 122-8 on the first day before Smith and Siddle rescued them and they went on to dominate that match. At Lord’s England had marginally the better of a drawn game, and save only for those amazing closing stages England were behind all the way at Headingley, while this match was pretty much all Australia as well. Thus Australia deserved their win, and deserve to have retained the Ashes. A win at The Oval would make the series 3-1 to Australia, and that would be a fair reflection of how the two sides have played. Were England to somehow win at The Oval and level the series 2-2 even I as an Englishman would have to say that it would be a travesty of cricketing justice, but I cannot see that happening with this same group of players named again. The full scorecard for this match can be viewed here.

CONSISTENCY OR STUBBORNNESS FROM ED SMITH AND FRIENDS?

I certainly do not want a return to the scattergun approach of the 1990s when players were in and out of the side at the drop of a hat, but naming this same group of players when at least four (Denly, Roy, Buttler and Bairstow) have simply failed to produce to the required standard seems to me to be veering from consistency (a degree of which should be maintained) into stubbornness if not pigheadedness. The bowlers are not to blame for the debacle that this series has been, and I would not make many changes there (I went into detail about my squad for The Oval yesterday – please visit that post for a look), but the specialist batting and the wicketkeepers position need changing. I hope that the England selectors will start afresh when naming the winter tour parties. Then the new players can be given this winter and the next home season to prove themselves. With all due respect to the Somerset giant, that Craig Overton batted longer than anyone else in England’s second innings points up the problems that rout (67 all out) in the first innings at Headingley so devastatingly revealed. A slightly less scathing assessment of England at present can be found here. Although I will not reproduce any of the substance of yesterday’s post, here is the 13 I suggested for The Oval, just for purposes of comparison with the inertia of the England selectors:

  1. Rory Burns
  2. Tammy Beaumont
  3. Dominic Sibley
  4. *Joe Root
  5. +Ben Foakes
  6. Ben Stokes
  7. Lewis Gregory
  8. Jofra Archer
  9. Stuart Broad
  10. Jack Leach
  11. Helen Fenby
  12. Ollie Pope
  13. Craig Overton

PHOTOGRAPHS

My usual sign off…

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Three rare shots – a cormorant in the Gaywood river (the Great Ouse is home to many cormorants, but I have never previously seen one in the Gaywood).

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Ashes Gone -What Should England Do Now?

Conceding the fourth test, and with it The Ashes, this post looks ahead to the fifth test at The Oval, with various changes to the England squad suggested. There are also lots of my photographs.

INTRODUCTION

England’s defeat at Old Trafford has yet to be officially confirmed, but barring serious rain it seems inevitable, and that will mean that Australia have retained The Ashes. Even if England somehow escape with a draw (which would be undeserved) they would need to win at The Oval and that looks unlikely given Australia’s overall superiority thus far in the series (save for a few sessions at Lord’s and the amazing final stages of Headingley Australia have been bossing things all through this series). Based on three matches and four days of the fourth cricketing justice demands that Australia retain The Ashes. Thus this post looks at the future and suggests changes for the fifth test based on The Ashes being already gone, though I would still recommend that they make these changes regardless. Having started this post just before play begins on day five there is a question of which will be completed first – this post or Australia’s victory – and my lack of confidence in England’s remaining batting is such that am not betting on which happens first!

THE STORY OF DAYS 1-4

Australia racked up 497-8 declared in their first innings, Steve Smith helping himself to a double century, his third in test cricket, all of them at England’s expense (only Don Bradman, with no fewer than eight, has scored more against England). England just avoided the follow-on, Burns and Root playing substantial innings – the former in the process becoming the first opener not named Cook to score three fifties for England in a series since the retirement of Andrew Strauss. Then Australia went out for quick runs, and got enough to declare yesterday evening, setting England just over 380 to win, Smith by his standards failing, managing a measly 82 (nb – I have had plenty to say regarding his personal conduct, but I have never criticised his batting.). Then Burns and Root fell in successive deliveries in the first over of England’s 2nd innings. Denly and Roy saw things through to the close, but barring more heroics from Stokes, it has hard to see England batting out today.

ENGLAND’S PROBLEMS

Burns’ successes have resolved one of England’s top order problems, but still required there are a)another opener who can do it against the red ball and b) someone who is comfortable at no 3 against the red ball. Additionally I think that Buttler (his first innings effort here notwithstanding) and Bairstow both need replacing, with a genuine frontline batter and a wicketkeeper-batter respectively). The bowling is in a much better state, but at The Oval a second spinner is likely to be needed alongside Leach, and somehow they have to find out a way of getting Smith out.

SORTING THE BATTING

I do not believe that either Roy or Denly belong in a test XI, and even big scores for both of them today will be too little too late as far as I am concerned. I have been arguing in posts since August 31st 2018 for Tammy Beaumont to be given her chance alongside the men, and I stick to that line. At no 3 I opt for a third regular opener, Dominic Sibley, and then Root back where he really belongs at no 4. As wicketkeeper and no 5 I select Ben Foakes, with Ben Stokes rounding out the top six. I then go for all-rounder Lewis Gregory at seven, Jofra Archer at eight, Stuart Broad at nine, Jack Leach at ten, and at 11 my second spinner, to whom I dedicate the next subsection of this post…

HELEN FENBY – THE MYSTERY OPTION

I was alerted to this possibility in a match in which she took four cheap wickets and also surprised all the commentators with her action – if it is a new one on them then perhaps it will be a new one on Steve Smith (all orthodox selections seem to have drawn a blank, so let’s try an unorthodox one). While this would be envisaged XI I would also have in reserve in case conditions warrant it 1) an extra batter, in this case Ollie Pope of Surrey, and 2) a reserve pace bowler, Craig Overton. Thus, my full squad for The Oval would be (all names in hyperlink form):

  1. Rory Burns
  2. Tammy Beaumont
  3. Dominic Sibley
  4. *Joe Root
  5. +Ben Foakes
  6. Ben Stokes
  7. Lewis Gregory
  8. Jofra Archer
  9. Stuart Broad
  10. Jack Leach
  11. Helen Fenby
  12. Ollie Pope
  13. Craig Overton

FURTHER SUGGESTIONS TO COMPLETE A TEST TOUR PARTY

I want another three players to complete a test touring party, and I reckon that they should be a batter, a pace bowler and a spinner. My three choices for these roles are George Bartlett of Somerset (a look to the future, with a youngster who is better suited in both style and temperament to playing long innings against the red ball than to biffing the white one around – his county colleague Abell and Joe Clarke of Nottinghamshire both also merit consideration), Anderson if he is fit, and if not whoever out of Mark Wood and Olly Stone is fit and Dominic Bess (since I have a left arm spinner and leg spinner in my squad I opt for the off spinner Bess in preference to leg spinner Matt Parkinson).

PHOTOGRAPHS

My usual sign off…

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A bit like too many of England’s recent batting efforts – a variety of ducks (the big one with the red face is a Muscovy duck).

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PS – contrary to the mischievous comparison made in the introduction to this post England have not lost a wicket thus far today.

England Fold Like A Pack Of Cards

An account of England’s surrender in the first test match and a suggested 13 for the second test match.

INTRODUCTION

This post deals with the first Ashes Test of 2019 which ended yesterday in defeat for the home team by a thumping 251 runs. I did not actually get to follow any cricket yesterday as a hospital appointment intervened, and by the time I was home England’s humiliation was complete. However, I did follow most of the first four days, and I have followed enough cricket over the years to have a fairly good picture of yesterday’s events in my mind. An official match report can be viewed here.

PICKING UP FROM MY PREVIOUS POST

At the end of day three Australia led by 34 with seven second innings wickets standing. It was day four which killed England’s chances stone dead and illustrated all too vividly the utter folly of regarding Moeen Ali as a test match spinner, let alone as being good enough to be sole spinner.  On a pitch which was turning he went at four an over (seriously expensive even in 21st century test cricket) and only picked up two wickets, both long after England’s hopes had been dashed. Both Joe Root and Joe Denly were called on to bowl their part-time stuff as Australia forged ahead, a king-size indictment of Moeen Ali. and of the original selection of just one front line spinner.

Steve Smith, for all that can be (and has been) said against his personal conduct is without much question the best current test match batter in the world, so his second century of the match deserves full credit, but Matt Wade, who started his cricketing life as a wicketkeeper, also racked up a ton, and there were further runs all down the order, until Australia declared at 487-9 leaving England a purely nominal 395 to chase in just over a day.

England reached 13-0 by the close of day four. The aim on day five was preservation of wickets, with an outside possibility of having a dart after tea if the situation warranted it (I was envisaging for this scenario a tea score of maybe 200-2 and then sending in Buttler and Stokes to have an almighty bash, with the option of falling back on defence if that tactic backfired). In the event England failed even to begin to make a contest of it, and in a final indictment of Moeen’s earlier toothlessness Australia’s own sole spinner Nathan Lyon demonstrated that a genuine spinner could use that pitch, taking 6-49 (the other four wickets went the way of fast bowler Pat Cummins, the quickest on either side in the match).

CHANGES FOR THE SECOND TEST MATCH

England need to make big changes for the second test. I reproduce below my own squad of 13 for the second test, with the additional note that I just been listening to my controversial choice as opener score a superb half-century and an invitation to view an alternative set of selections here.

  1. Burns
  2. Beaumont
  3. *Root
  4. Roy
  5. +Foakes
  6. Stokes
  7. Lewis Gregory (with Anderson likely gone for the series it is surely time for this move)
  8. Chris Woakes
  9. Jofra Archer
  10. Jack Leach
  11. Olly Stone
  12. Sam Curran (could play in place of Gregory, Woakes or Archer)
  13. Matthew Parkinson (with all respect to Bess I gamble on the legspinner as second specialist spin option, in the knowledge that the skipper can bowl passable off-breaks if needed)

Given England’s current desperation in that regard I end with two tongue-in-cheek suggestions for finding a way to dislodge Steve Smith:

  1. Set 7-2 onside fields for Archer and Stone and absolutely pepper him with short stuff in the hope of unsettling him (the Jardinian approach)
  2. When you know he will be at the non-striker’s end at the start of over toss the ball to someone like Rory Burns, with advice to keep an eye on where he is and in his desire to get to the striker’s end he creates the opportunity for a bowler’s end run out (absolute desperation).

LINKS AND PICTURES

I have a few links to share before we come to the photographs:

Now for my usual sign off…

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This is a local Norfolk brewed Porter (from Sunday’s supper at Golding’s)
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An interesting tower near Ely
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Ely Cathedral from just outside the town.
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Various shots of Ely Cathedral taken while we made a flying visit to the town on the way back from my hospital appointment.

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The focal point of our visit – an excellent independent bookshop.

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The next three shots show that is not just insects, ducklings and moorhen chicks who sometimes use lily pads as a resting place.

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The last five pics show ‘mama duck’ with her now almost fledged brood of six youngsters.

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England Ahead On Points In 1st Ashes Test

Some thoughts on the Ashes match in progress at Edgbaston, suggestions for Lord’s and plenty of my photographs.

INTRODUCTION

The first match of the five-test Men’s Ashes series is under way at Edgbaston, now into the third day. This post looks at what has been going on to date.

THE PRELIMINARIES

Australia somewhat surprisingly included Peter Siddle in their team, but there were no other surprises from them. England did not particularly surprise with their choices but there were several question marks in their XI:

  1. Jason Roy opening is a questionable choice in Test cricket – in his debut match against Ireland he failed in the 1st innings and made runs from no 3 in the 2nd innings.
  2. Joe Denly at no 4 – this is a 32 year old who had not featured in an England test XI before the back end of last year.
  3. Moeen Ali as sole spinner – NO WAY: if they were going with only one spinner Jack Leach should have been the choice, especially after his performance at Lord’s last week. The pitch is now looking very much like a two-spinner surface, in which case the choice should either have been the safe Leach and Bess double act or a look to the future in the form of Lancashire’s Matthew Parkinson (although this latter would have meant Leach at no 9, and Anderson getting a promotion to no 10)
  4. Broad and Anderson are both getting on a bit, and the latter named has been injured recently – to select both was foolhardy (it is no secret to readers of this blog that Stuart Broad would not be in my starting XI in test cricket these days).

England started superbly, reducing Australia to 122-8 in their first innings, at which point Siddle joined Steve Smith. The last two Australia wickets added 162, with Smith going on to 144. At that point, with England’s top order an unknown quantity things did not look good. However Rory Burns became the first England opener since Alastair Cook at Melbourne in 2017 (on a pitch that warranted white lines being painted down the  middle of it) to bat through an entire uninterrupted test match day, and was well supported by Root, Denly and Stokes. Australia started today well, taking four fairly quick wickets, but then Woakes and Broad shared a stubborn ninth wicket stand, giving Eng;and a first innings lead of 90. Anderson, who managed only four overs in the first innings before leaving the field injured batted briefly, and may bowl a few overs with the new ball, but it seems likely given the injury he has sustained that his Ashes series is effectively over. England therefore will be relying largely on Woakes, Broad, Stokes and Ali to prevent an Australian revival (if the ball continues to show signs of turn they may also use Denly’s leg spin, which would be a huge indictment of the original selection). Update – England have just emerged for the start of the second Aussie innings and Sam Curran is on the field for James Anderson.

Whether England win this one or not changes need to be made for the second test match. Anderson clearly will not figure, so a new ball bowler is needed. Ali is not good enough as a bowler to be the first choice spinner in a test XI and should be replaced, with Leach being first choice spinner and either Bess or Parkinson 2nd. Bairstow has been failing with the bat at test level of late, and I would replace him as wicketkeeper with Ben Foakes. I approve of Joe Root batting no 3, and would drop Roy to no 4, where has stroke making could be seen to better advantage. I have mentioned my controversial choice to open alongside Burns many times before, and though Burns has produced the major innings needed to confirm his place I stick to my thinking from the back end of last season onwards. Therefore my 13 for Lord’s would be:

  1. Burns
  2. Beaumont
  3. *Root
  4. Roy
  5. +Foakes
  6. Stokes
  7. Lewis Gregory (with Anderson likely gone for the series it is surely time for this move)
  8. Chris Woakes
  9. Jofra Archer
  10. Jack Leach
  11. Olly Stone
  12. Sam Curran (could play in place of Gregory, Woakes or Archer)
  13. Matthew Parkinson (with all respect to Bess I gamble on the legspinner as second specialist spin option, in the knowledge that the skipper can bowl passable off-breaks if needed)

David Warner (most infamous of the ‘sandpaper trio’) has been dismissed by Stuart Broad while I write this, giving that worthy his 450th test match scalp.

PHOTOGRAPHS

My usual sign off…

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King’s Lynn has lost a lot of railway connections over the years.

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A large white.

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An azure damselfly in flight (three pics, all frok the same original)

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A variety of “painted lady” I think

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Four shots of a “peacock butterfly

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A couple of shots of nearly fledged young ducks.

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World Cup Final Stages Approaching

A look at the permutations for the semi-finals of the Men’s Cricket World Cup (nb the inaugural Women’s Cricket World Cup took place in 1973, two years before the men got started), plus a shed,load of photographs.

INTRODUCTION

The 2019 cricket men’s world cup semi-finals are all but sorted now. This post examines the possible permutations.

FAREWELLS

Afghanistan, The West Indies, Sri Lanka, South Africa, Bangladesh and Pakistan are heading home after the group stage unless Pakistan can beat Bangladesh by 320 runs or thereabouts (due to the workings of “net run rates” Pakistan cannot go through if Bangladesh bat first).

LOOKING FORWARD TO THE SEMIS

Barring an astonishing miracle result for Pakistan against Bangladesh the semi finals will be Australia v New Zealand and England v India. Three of these four teams definitely deserve to be there, while New Zealand are somewhat fortunate, and arrive in the semi-finals on a serious downturn having been thumped in their last two games, one by England.

SEMI FINAL 1: AUSTRALIA V NEW ZEALAND

Australia will be heavy favourites for this one, having played well throughout, while New Zealand have been poor in their last two games. Although I would love to see New Zealand deliver a sucker punch to the Aussies I cannot see it happening, therefore my prediction for this one is that Australia will win and go through to the final.

SEMI FINAL 2: ENGLAND V INDIA

Having put themselves under pressure by indifferent early from England have hit top gear just in time, despatching India and New Zealand in their last two games, both by comfortable margins. India had already secured their place in the semifinals by the time they came up against England. In view of the record of chasing sides in this competition so far I reckon that whoever wins the toss must opt to bat first and get their runs on the board. If England win that toss and make the right decision I reckon that they will win, just as they did in the group game between the two sides. If India bat first they will be favourites but I will not rule out England completely even then. Overall prediction: England, but I would not put money on it.

POTENTIAL FINALS

  • Australia v England – This will depend heavily on the toss – if England get their runs on the board they will be favourites, likewise Australia. I think England would be marginally less likely to lose chasing than Australia, so by the thickness of a cigarette paper I make them favourites if this final materialises.
  • Australia v India – Again this will come down to the toss – assuming they make the correct decision whoever wins it collects the cup.
  • New Zealand v England – New Zealand would be cock-a-whoop at beating Australia but may also be unable having achieved that to summon up the resolve for one last effort, and based on the group game between the two I would make England firm favourites for this one.
  • New Zealand v India – India would be favourites for this one for the same reasons as England in the one above.

Of these potential finals I would most like it to be New Zealand v England, with England b Australia 2nd choice and New Zealand v India third choice. A win for either New Zealand or England would be a first in the men’s world cup, while for India it would be their third triumph and for Australia their sixth. A final thought: If the miracle happens in the Pakistan v Bangladesh game then I believe that sheer relief at managing to qualify will be enough to propel Pakistan to victory – in that circumstance they would be alone among the four semi-finalists in having no pressure on them.

PHOTOGRAPHS

My usual sign-off…

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Gettring really good pictures of these butterflies is a challenge – this one is porbably my best yet.

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A female pheasant views the world from atop a car at The Norfolk Hospice, Tapping House.

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The weights we use for some of our exercises during therapy sessions at Tapping House.
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Raffe prizes at Tapping House
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I bought a ticket to support the cause, and this would be my first choice prize should the opportunity arise.

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World Cup Hotting Up

Some more thoughts about the 2019 cricket world cup/

INTRODUCTION

Bangladesh and Afghanistan are in action today in the cricket world cup, and following several interesting results and very tight games over the last few days there is more riding on this game than would have been expected.

THE PERMUTATIONS

Afghanistan are definitely not going to qualify for the next stage, since they are without a win so far, but a win for them would make their presence at the world cup harder to argue with (I firmly believe that they should be here, and that the tournament should have involved more teams in any case – see here). If Bangladesh win they will give themselves a serious chance of qualifying for the next stage, which in turn would give tomorrow’s match between international cricket’s two oldest foes – England and Australia – even more of a needle match than it already would be.

Bangladesh were put in and made 262-8 from their 50 overs, a gettable total, but Afghanistan are not the best chasers – they muffed a chase of barely 200 against Sri Lanka earlier in the tournament. I am not sure whether an outsider making the last four or the lowest ranked team in the tournament recording a win means more, but either situation has plenty going for it. Whichever happens it can be said to be one in the eye for the myopic ones who openly resent the presence of lesser ranking teams (there are still a few of these around sadly). Yesterday there was a fine finish to New Zealand v West Indies, when a magnificent innings by Carlos Brathwaite nearly pulled the game out of the fire for the Windies.

After some poor weather threatened to spoil it this world cup is now shaping up very well. I continue to maintain that more teams should be involved – these tournaments should be used to grow the game, and a tournament with “world” in its title should be truly global (as for an American-only championship being called “The World Series”, that is just beneath contempt).

PICTURES

My usual sign off, this time in several parts…

NEW PURCHASES

James and Sons recently held an auction at which I won three lots…

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Lot 293 (two pics)

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Lot 416 (four images)

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Lot 446

HUNSTANTON BEACH HUT

NAS West Norfolk hired the Mencap beach hut at Hunstanton for the day, and I was given a lift (thank you Rick and Emma)…

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BEES AND BUTTERFLIES

I have lavender growing outside my front window, and that attracts these creatures in numbers (I think judging by size and appearance that butterflies are Large Tortoiseshells)…

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This is a jay – bringing the number of species of corvids I have seen outside my bungalow to four – rooks, jackdaws and magpies as well.

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The Last Domestic 50 Over Final At Lord’s

Some thoughts on The Royal London Cup and England v Australia, and plenty of photographs.

INTRODUCTION

Somerset are heading for a comfortable win over Hampshire in the final of the Royal London Cup – the only question being whether they will complete the job before I finish this post or not. Meanwhile at the Ageas bowl England are trying to beat Australia in a World Cup warm up match (the tournament proper begins on Thursday.

A CRICKETING WATERSHED

This final is a ‘last’ in two different ways. It is the last to take place at Lord’s, and it is the last domestic 50 over final to involve anything approaching full strength sides, because next year this tournament will be taking place at the same time as “The Hundred”, a new competition in which sides will contest matches of 100 balls per innings, and the best players will all be involved in that competition. Fortunately, although Somerset have been definitely the better side it has been a decent match. Hampshire were 180-8 at one point in their innings, but boosted that to 244-8 so that at least Somerset had some work to do. 56 from Northeast and 55 not out from Fuller (this latter contributg to the final fling mentioned above) were the top scores for Hampshire. Jamie Overton took 3-48, Josh Davey 2-28 from eight overs and remarkably Tom Abell, mainly a batter, had 2-19 from five. 69 from young wicketkeeper/batter Tom Banton at the top of the Somerset innings is the highest score of the day so far, Azhar Ali the other opener made 45, and James Hildreth is currently 45 not out, batting now in the company of youngster George Bartlett.

England are very much in the game against Australia, in spite of the fact that Australia were allowed to play a team of 12.

PHOTOGRAPHS

First, a new find for me – a couple of tiny little birds I spotted while out on a short walk earlier today and which (with help from Lynda Keen on twitter as well as my bird book) I have been able to identify as goldfinches:

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Here are my remaining photographs:

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India on Brink of Victory at MCG

INTRODUCTION

The Boxing Day test match at Melbourne has limped into its final day, with India needing two more wickets for a convincing and thoroughly deserved victory. India claimed an extra half hour to try to finish things today but were unable to do so.

INDIA SECOND INNINGS – 54-5 OVERNIGHT TO 106-8D

Patrick Cummins emulated Jasprit Bumrah by picking up career best test bowlinjg figures in this match (6-27 in his case). India’s declaration left Australia needing 399 to win…

AUSTRALIA SECOND INNINGS 258-8

Australia’s main batting performed like a squad of Wattos – most of them got some sort of start but none went on to a significant score. Then that man Cummins showed that his abilities are not entirely restricted to bowling – he is not a genuine allrounder but his batting is definitely a cut above that of the out and out tailender – he finished the day on 61 not out, the only Aussie fifty of the match. Nathan Lyon at number ten held out for over an hour, which should have had some his supposed betters squirming as well.

Bumrah added two wickets to his first innings six, equalling a record match aggregate for an Indian paceman in Australia (Kapil Dev twice took eight in a game there and Ajit Agarkar achieved the feat once). Ravindra Jadeja picked up three wickets with his left arm spin and Ishant Sharma and Mohammed Shami also struck.

India deserve to be on the brink of victory, and Cummins’ late defiance will end up enhancing the entertainment value of the match but not affecting its result. 

SOME THOUGHTS ABOUT THE UPCOMING ASHES SERIES

This English season the Aussies come calling to resume the oldest grudge match in international sport. Based on their unconvincing efforts against India at home and England’s triumph in Sri Lanka I make the home side heavy favourites, probably to win with a very comfortable margin of superiority.

Looking at the match at the MCG prompted some thoughts about England’s bowling options for this series, and I have arrived at the following:

  • England need at least one bowler who can produce vicious pace in their squad – which means that the Norfolk born Olly Stone gets the nod from me. 
  • James Anderson, who in the veteran stage of his career no longer has the pace but has ringcraft in spades is of course a guaranteed selection.
  • At least one other specialist pace bowler will be required to support the first two.
  • After their triumphs in Sri Lanka it is hard to look beyond Rashid and Leach for the front-line spin bowling roles at present.
  • If his head is in the right place Ben Stokes could be useful as back up bowler but should not be considered for a front-line bowling slot.
  • I am largely happy with the front-line batting for England, with Ben Foakes having made the keepers role his own and Bairstow now surely ensconced as no 3. I am not entirely happy about the continuing presence of Jennings but he did make runs in Sri Lanka and the Sutcliffe Super Radical Solution (Tammy Beaumont to be given her chance among the men) is not going be adopted any time soon.

As against this Australia are short of both form and confidence, and with the honourable exception of Usman Khawaja have no front-line batsman who is currently scoring with any consistency.

Thomas’s predicted Ashes outcome: England 4 Australia 1 (I do not believe that these Aussies are sufficiently bad as to be left winless but England look better in all departments).

PHOTOGRAPHS

Finally for those who have reached the end of this post here are some pictures from my “Cabinet of Curiosities”:

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