Some thoughts on The Royal London Cup and England v Australia, and plenty of photographs.
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.
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:
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 Bumrahby 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 Devtwice took eight in a game there andAjit 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 Stonegets 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 beyondRashidand Leachfor 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 Bairstownow 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).
Finally for those who have reached the end of this post here are some pictures from my “Cabinet of Curiosities”:
Accounts of a meal out last night and of the state of play at the MCG (very satisfying for a Pom, who by default supports Australia’s opponents!).
This post deals with two unrelated events – last night’s supper at The Market Bistro in King’s Lynn (another staging post in my convalescence from cancer – coping with an evening out in public, which for an autistic person can be a challenge even at the best of times) and the amazing happenings overnight UK time at the Melbourne Cricket Ground. I have some pictures as well.
SUPPER AT THE MARKET BISTRO
I intended to eat a full meal and have the one alcoholic drink I can allow myself at present. My father arrived to give me a lift there as planned at about 6:30. Then he went to collect my sister from West Lynn where she was staying, a taxi firm having her down.
The food was excellent – I ate an amuse bouche but declined the bread and butter as I had ordered two courses to which I intended to do full justice (and succeeded). My starter was a duck terrine covered by a potato cage and missing (at my specific request) the egg that should have been part of it. It was delicious, though an incongruously small portion to be served in the middle of a monster sized plate. For the main I opted for pork belly accompanied by smoked beetroot, various salad type vegetables and game chips. It was excellent in every respect, and judging from the fact that every plate at the table was clean by the time we finished so was everyone else’s. I washed the meal down with a beer that was brewed in Wisbech and was absolutely delicious (and at 5% alcohol not fiendishly strong – I rejected a couple of other options as being too strong in the circumstances).
By the time I drained the last of the beer it was just after 8:30PM and I was feeling the need for home. My father gave me a lift back, and that was the end of my activity for the day.
INDIA TAKE CONTROL AT THE MCG
Over the first two days play in the Boxing Day test match at the MCG it looked like a repeat of last year’s Ashes match at the same ground with the drop-in pitch (in spite of retaining its name the MCG is preimarily an Aussie Rules venue these days) apparently lacking any pace or life. Bowlers could not get wickets and the lack of pace meant that batsmen were scoring slowly. Going into day three the scoreboard read India 443-7D, Australia 8-0.
Suddenly things started to happen. First Jasprit Bumrah bowled magnificently to record a test best 6-33 as Australia were rock ‘n’ rolled for 151. India then decided that a lead of 292 was not quite sufficient to go for the innings win and batted a second time. Patrick Cummins proceeded to knock the top of that second innings, backed up by some nasty stuff from Josh Hazlewood (both bowlers regularly propel the ball at over 145 kilometres per hour), and India closed the day at 54-5 in their second innings, a lead of 346, and almost certainly given the difficulties of chasing big runs in the final innings a victory awaiting. Nonetheless I think Kohli was wrong not to enforce the follow on – I would have much preferred to see him go for the quick kill. In the context of test cricket I would decline to enforce the follow on only if one up in the final match of a series, which this is not. Out of some 2,500 test matches a mere three have been won by teams who were made to follow on – England did it aided by the weather at Sydney in 1894, England did it again at Headingley in 1981 when Ian Botham famously “gave it some humpty” and Bob Willis then bowled like a man possessed to take 8-43 and then there was the Kolkata match when Laxman made 281, Dravid 180, India declared their second innings at 657-7 and dismissed a demoralised Australia for 212 to win by 171 runs (yes folks, the only test team ever to have lost a test match after enforcing the follow on are the Aussies, victims on the only three occasions such a comeback happened).
A brief account of my Christmas period and how I managed to enjoy it in spite of limitations imposed by current state of health.
In this post I will tell the story of my activities since Monday, and the continuing tale of rhe improvement in my state of health and happiness. There are plenty of accompanying pictures.
MONDAY – MAINLY ADDENBROOKES
Unlike the previous Monday this day although still fairly long went basically smoothly, with my treatments running exactly as planned. I was by this stage sufficiently improved to walk around the main hospital building rather than using a wheelchair. In preparation for the day I had selected three books from my shelves, and this proved a wise choice as I read all three while at the hospital.
I took some photos of some of the artwork on display at Addenbrookes as well…
CHRISTMAS DAY – COLUMBIA WAY AND NELSON STREET
I was not entirely sure how I would cope with Christmas Day itself. My sister arrived at my home to pick me up at about 10AM, dropped me at Nelson Street where my aunt lives and the went to wash, change and wake up my nephew (the latter being by some way the hardest task!). A cup of coffee taken in the kitchen was a good start. Managing the stairs to use the toilet (had this proved beyond me there was a downstairs flat we could have accessed) was also good news.
Lunch was excellent, and in accordance with the advice of Research Nurse Rebecca Bradley I consumed limited quantities of alcohol (one small glass of fizz and another of white wine).
After lunch we opened the presents, which went very well. The last present was unwrapped just before 4PM. At this point I decided to call it a day and get my lift home. I walked to Boal Quay car park where the car was waiting.
Here are some pictures from the first part of Christmas Day…
One of my presents (I had already had a lot of stuff in advance, so most of the stuff I got on the day was small) was a stamp album with a few “Hagner” style pages. I devoted a little time to displaying some of the stamps that John from Musical Keys had given me while I was in hospital, and also to selecting some postcards to go in a little display album I had for them. I have yet to photograph the postcards, but here are some stamp pictures…
I took one more picture, of my largest railway map, spread out on the carpet:
My Boxing Day began on Australian time as I wanted to listen to the test match from the MCG. For a Pom it was a very satisfying listen as India finished day 1 strongly placed on 215-2 with Pujara and Kohli going well together. So far today is going quite well – the district nurse was happy with my temperature and blood pressure readings (the latter at 118/69 were about as good as they have been anytime in the last two months) and I although tired I am not experiencing any sort of adverse reaction to yesterday.
Final thoughts on two test series and one major cricketing scandal. Also some photographs.
This post deals with the two test match series that have recently concluded and associated fallout. We start with…
SOUTH AFRICA 3 AUSTRALIA 1
Before getting into my account of the onfield happenings, it is time for an update on…
THE UNHOLY TRINITY
Cricket Australia have hit Steve Smith, Cameron Bancroft and David Warner with substantial playing bans, augmented in the case of Smith and Warner with bans on subsequently occupying leadership positions. The trio have a day left to appeal against these bans, and Smith and Bancroft have already said they will not do so (here and here). To my mind the fact that the other two have already accepted their bans leaves Warner with only two choices: accept the ban as they have, or announce his retirement from all forms of cricket with immediate effect (he is the oldest of the trio, and would probably find relaunching a professional career at the age of 33, as he would be when his ban expires, quite tough). It also leaves the Australian Cricketers Association with a lot of egg on their faces, since they have gone into bat on behalf of the trio, two of whom have now accepted the ban handed out by Cricket Australia.
In the final match of the series in which the scandal referred to above broke South Africa batted first and put up a daunting total of 488, (Markram 152, Bavuma 95 not out) before Australia replied with a modest 221. With a draw sufficient to secure their first home series win over the Aussies since readmission in 1992 South Africa declined to enforce the follow on. In the second South African innings Faf Du Plessis made a fluent century and Dean Elgar a limpetlike 81 in five and a half hours, and they batted until tea on the fourth day to ensure complete safety (there were injury worries about three of their frontline bowlers). Faced with a purely nominal fourth innings target of 612 Australia collapsed to be all out for 119. Vernon Philander emerged with figures of 6-21, while Morne Morkel finished his test career by claiming the final Australian wicket. South Africa’s winning margin of 492 runs was the biggest victory by a runs margin in a time limited test (the three bigger margins that have been recorded, 675 runs by England against Australia in 1928, 562 runs by Australia against England in 1934 and 520 runs by Australia against South Africa in 1911 were all in timeless matches, because all test matches in Australia were played to a finish between 1888 and 1946, and the Oval match in 1934 was settling the fate of the Ashes, and was played to a finish for that reason, as had happened in 1926 and 1930 and would happen again in 1938). More information about this match is available on cricinfo.
ENGLAND IN NEW ZEALAND
This was the second match of a two-match series and England needed to win it to square the series. A century by Jonny Bairstow helped England to a first innings total of 307. New Zealand slumped to 36-5 in response before a big stand between wicketkeeper B J Watling and the man with the coolest name in current international cricket, Colin De Grandhomme revived them. England eventually secured a first innings lead, but at 29 it was much smaller than they would have been anticipating. After Alastair Cook fished at one outside his off stump and was caught Mark Stoneman and James Vince, each batting to save a test career, took centre stage. Vince’s stylish 76 may have been sufficient to preserve his place or at least to give him a way back if he scores some big runs for Hampshire during the English season. Stoneman however (he is also a few years older than Vince, hence less time for potential comebacks) would appear to be finished as a test match batsman. His 60 was his fifth score of 50 or more in tests but also his highest, and he was nearly out a number times between reaching 50 and finally contriving to surrender his wicket for 60.
STONEMAN’S UNWANTED PLACE
IN THE RECORD BOOKS
Those noting that 60 would seem both to be a moderate career best for an opener and a moderate career best for someone with five scores of 50 or more give yourselves a bonus point. Mark Stoneman in point of fact now holds the record for the lowest career best for a batsman with five or more test fifties, the previous lowest in that category being 64 jointly held by:
Brett Lee, who was picked for his fast bowling, and was not particularly expected to score many runs.
Billy Bates, an all-rounder whose off-spin was more than capable of settling matches on its own, and who played in the 1880s when scoring was generally a lot lower due to the nature of the pitches. He was the first England bowler to take a test match hat trick (second ever, after Frederick Robert Spofforth), in a remarkable match performance which saw him take seven wickets in each Aussie innings, after scoring 55 in England’s 294 (a score which proved sufficient to win the match by an innings).
Root scored his seventh fifty plus test score this English winter, and for the seventh time this English winter failed to make it to the century mark. New Zealand were left 380 to chase to win the game.
Although there were moments when England looked like they could win the match, and New Zealand were never in serious contention, it must also be acknowledged that most of the wickets that fell in this final innings were given by the batsmen rather than being taken by the bowlers. Additionally several chances went begging (Stoneman further blotting his already soiled copybook by shelling two). Finally, taking the Auckland horror show into account, the overall series result is well justified – a drawn series would have seriously flattered England. Full detail on this match is available from cricinfo.
ENGLAND PLAYER BY PLAYER
A new home season is often a time for new blood (ideally if I was giving someone their test chance I would want to see them at that level for at least one home season and one overseas tour before assessing whether to persevere with them), so what of the players who played for England in this match?
Alastair Cook – he is finding it very difficult to get an innings going these days, but on the occasions when he manages it he scores seriously big. Also, he has done enough over the years to be allowed to leave the scene on his own terms.
Mark Stoneman – not good enough at this level. Five fifty plus scores but a highest of 60 points to serious temperament issues. I hope not to see him lining up against Pakistan at Lord’s.
James Vince – too many beautiful miniatures like his first innings 18 and as yet no full-sized masterpiece, though his 76 in the second innings, like his 83 at Brisbane suggests that he may yet come good at the highest level.
Joe Root – his failures to convert fifties to centuries of late are beginning to be a worry, but he has proved in the past that he can go on to really big scores.
Dawid Malan – has done enough to be retained. Given Root’s dislike of the position and Vince’s less than iron grip on his place in the side he may have to take on the njumber 3 slot.
Ben Stokes – has batted well this series but done very little bowling. His future is uncertain due to the pending court case against him.
Jonny Bairstow – has batted magnificently on both legs of the tour, and his keeping has been pretty well flawless. Another possibility for that no3 slot would be selecting another wicketkeeper and having Bairstow (who is good against the quick stuff) play as a specialist batsman in the no3 position.
Stuart Broad – bowled well in both innings of this match, and barring injury will continue to feature in the test team until he calls time on himself.
Mark Wood – his presence gives the seam element of England’s attack variation through his extra pace. Both he and Broad spent too much of this match testing out the centre portion of an unresponsive pitch.
Jack Leach – finally England select a genuine spinner, rather than a batsman who can roll an arm over. He bowled well in this match, though this was not a great pitch for him, and more should be seen of him.
James Anderson – he remains as good as ever. In this match he set a new record for the most overs delivered by a pace bowler in the course of a test career, going past Courtney Walsh. At times over the course of this English winter he has been not merely England’s spearhead, but most of the spear as well.
The likelihood is that Broad and Anderson will continue until 2019 so that they can take their final bows in a home Ashes series. Cook may also be thinking in those terms, and while no one would grudge him such a finish, a few more runs between now and then would be good. In the immediate term however England definitely need to find from somewhere the following.
A new opening batsman to replace Stoneman
Either a new wicketkeeper to take the gloves from Bairstow and enable him to play as a specialist no 3 or a new batsman to play at no 3 (or promote Malan and have the newbie at no 5). Dan Lawrence is an obvious candidate for a batting spot, and the early weeks of this season would be one heckuva time for some young batsmen to score heavily for their counties.
Bowling back-up for Anderson and Broad (Wood is good, but injury-prone, and none of the other pace options England have tried this winter have been remotely impressive).
A second genuine spinner or spin bowling all-rounder to back up Jack Leach (Moeen Ali’s form and confidence both appear to be thoroughly shattered).
England also need to learn a lesson they should have learned decades ago: taking a phalanx of guys who bowl right-arm just above medium pace overseas does not work – such bowlers are only dangerous if the ball moves in the air for them.
Finally, for those of you whobhave made it to the end of this post, some of my photographs:
Some cricket stuff, including a view on the ball-tampering in South Africa.
A lot has been happening in the cricket world over the last few days, and I am using this post to write about some of those things. There are a lot of links in this post – anything in bold and underlined will be a link.
SCANDAL IN SOUTH AFRICA
South Africa are handily placed to inflict a heavy defeat on Australia, but the actual state of that match has been completely overshadowed by a scandal that has broken while it is in progress. Cameron Bancroft was caught live on camera tampering with the ball, and it has subsequently emerged that his action was the on-field element of a plan concocted by the so-called ‘Leadership Group’ of the Australian team. Already Steven Smith and David Warner have been stood down from their roles for the rest of the match (other members of the Leadership Group remain to identified, since as part of press conference performance of breath taking arrogance, which also included refusing point-blank to resign as captain, Mr Smith declined to put names to the Leadership Group, but the vice-captain cannot be protected even by that).
As a preface to this section I am going to stay straight out that fines do not come into the equation – the use of fines in other, less serious situations has demonstrated that players are not bothered by fines (unsurprising, since the fines relate only to match fees, which form only a small part of the incomes of top players). I will now list my thoughts on punishments for those involved:
Cameron Bancroft, perpetrator: permanent ban from all forms of professional cricket.
Stephen Smith, Australian Captain: At minimum a ban from all forms of professional cricket until the end of the Australian season of 2021-22, which would cost him a world cup and an ashes series on home soil. He is instigator-in-chief of this incident, and in picking the youngest and most vulnerable member of the squad as his cat’s paw he has taken the same approach to his variety of misconduct as Hansie Cronje did to his when he roped in Herschelle Gibbs and Henry Williams. Thus I would not actually quarrel with him copping the same punishment as Bancroft, and have suggested my alternative slightly lesser punishment as part of a sliding scale…
David Warner, Australian vice-captain (and other members of the Leadership Group when identified): At minimum a ban from all forms of professional cricket until the end of the 2019 English season (thereby costing those involved a world cup appearance).
These suggested punishments are intentionally draconian because I believe cricket needs to send out an unmistakable message about this.
I hope that sometime later today the first three lines in the Australian second innings scorecard will read:
C Bancroft…B Rabada 0
D Warner… B Rabada 0
S Smith… B Rabada 0
At the end of the fourth day’s play in the first test match between England and New Zealand there is an outside chance of England escaping defeat. An hour and a half into day 1 it did not look like this match was making it anywhere near day 4, let alone going into the day 5. In that time England had been dismissed for 58, and for much of that period it had looked like being much worse. At 23-8 England were in serious danger of being all out for the lowest total in test history (26 by New Zealand against England, also in Auckland, in 1955). At 27-9 there would probably have been people putting money on England failing to match their own previous record low (45 all out in 1887). Craig Overton then connected with some lusty blows, reaching 33 not out before James Anderson finally succumbed. Overton’s innings was the second highest proportion of an all-out total scored by a number nine in test history, Asif Iqbal‘s 146 in all out tally of 255 for Pakistan v England being the record holder (Asif came in at 53-7, lost his senior partner at 65 and then found such good support from leg-spinner Intikhab Alam that they put on 190 together, Intikhab finishing with 51). While crediting the fine bowling performances of Tim Southee and in particular Trent Boult (a.k.a The Conductor – his colleague Neil Wagner – ‘The Composer‘ did not even get a bowl) the people most responsible for this dire score were the England batsmen, most of whom contributed to their own downfall (it is a toss-up in my mind between Bairstow, pushing back a return catch to make it 18-6 or Alimissing a straight full-toss and being castled to make it 23-8 for the worst culprit).
A combination of a lot of rain on days two and three, and the fact that while never looking very threatening England contrived to bowl less dreadfully than they had batted plus a second-innings batting effort that finally showed a hint of backbone is how this match is going into a fifth day. The New Zealand innings featured centuries from KaneWilliamson (his 18th in test cricket moving him past MartinCrowe and Ross Taylor to the top of the Kiwi pile in this department) and HenryNicholls (a.k.a ‘Harvey‘ – hat-tip to Graeme Swann for that one). England are currently 132-3, needing a further 237 to clear the deficit. Alastair Cook failed again, while MarkStoneman’s55 was his fourth test fifty, but his highest score remains 56, and I suspect that barring a mammoth score there the second and final match of this series in Christchurch will be his last for England, Joe Root also scored a fifty but fell to the last ball of the day. England will need a major contribution from Dawid Malan, not out overnight and from at least one out of BenStokes, Jonny Bairstow or Moeen Ali to get out of this one.
England’s men may not be faring too well at present, but the women are having a splendid time. Having started the tri-series (England, India, Australia) by beating Australia (after a disciplined bowling performance left them only 150 to get in their 20 overs, splendid batting performances by Natalie Sciverand Tammy Beaumont carried England to a very comfortable win) England followed up with a record breaking chase against India. India made 198-4 in their 20 overs (Jenny Gunn made history by playing in this game – she is the first player of either sex to appear in 100 T20 internationals), with Smriti Mandhana scoring 76 off 40 balls. England cruised home with 7 wickets and 8 balls to spare, largely due to Danielle Wyatt(124 off 64 balls, becoming only the second woman ever to score two T20 international centuries).
Regular visitors to this site will know that I always include some of my own photographs in my blog posts:
An account of England’s final triumph in the ODI series.
At just after 11AM UK time England sealed victory in the final ODI in Perth and with it a 4-1 series win. This post looks back at the match and the series.
DEFENDING MODEST TOTALS
Australia had gained a consolation win in the fourth match of the series in Adelaide (though they nearly contrived to lose a match that they had commenced by reducing England to 8-5). Thus, dead-rubber though it was this match had a bit of extra significance as another win for the Aussies would give them the undeserved respectability of a 3-2 scoreline. Also, it marked an international debut for the new ground in Perth, which replaces the WACA.
Put in to bat once again, England had a number of useful contributions with no one going on to play a really major innings, which was reflected in a final tally 259. Australia fared well in response for a time, but England bowled well, and after Stoinis (87) was dismissed nobody was able to take command for Australia. At 203-8 with Paine and the tail to score the runs it looked like England were home. Australia fought hard, but a four and then a six late in his innings not withstanding Paine simply could not score quick enough, and when Curran rattled his stumps with a yorker Australia were still 12 runs adrift. Curran, elder son of former Zimbabwe international Kevin Curran (the younger, Sam, is also widely tipped to play for England in the not too distant future), had bowled splendidly and this final wicket gave him figures of 5-35, beating the 5-46 taken by Andrew Tye in the England innings.
I was also glad that the final wicket to fall was that of Paine rather than Hazlewood because Paine’s innings here was the second time in three matches (after his 31 not out off 35 in Sydney) that he had played what appears to have been a useful innings but because of the slow rate at which he scored it was actually better for his batting average than it was for his team’s chances.
THE SERIES AS A WHOLE
England were even more dominant in this series than the 4-1 scoreline suggests. The evidence of Perth is that Australia’s wobble at Adelaide when chasing a total that was simply too low to pose a real threat was no coincidence, and that a tally of 250 in that match would have been ample for England to win. England won both the games in which they chased at the proverbial canter and were never seriously threatened when defending 300 in Sydney (OK, it was not until a mere three deliveries remained that Australia were so far adrift as to need no-balls from England to give them a chance, but the result of that match, in spite of Stoinis’ efforts in the later stages, was obvious from a long way out). The final match was certainly close, and there were times when Australia seemed favourites, but in the closing stages it never really felt like getting away from England.
A SIDELIGHT – INDIA IN SOUTH AFRICA
I congratulate the current Indian Test Match team on pulling off their victory in Johannesburg. The pitch and conditions were exactly the sort in which Indian sides of the past would have crumbled to an ignominious defeat (it was a green ‘un and the ball was getting up to all sorts of mischief for the quicker bowlers – if messrs Starc, Hazlewood and Cummins got a go on a pitch like that New Zealand’s 26 all out in 1954 would be under threat as the all-time lowest ever test match team total!). Commiserations to Dean Elgar who ground his way to an undefeated 86 in the final innings while his team mates surrendered to Bhuvanesh Kumar, Mohammed Shami and Ishant Sharma. The final calamity reads like something from 1990s England at their worst – SA subsiding from 124-1 to 177 all out.