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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A Meal Out and Cricket

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!).

INTRODUCTION

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).

PICTURES

Here are the promised pictures:

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All bar one of these pictures are postcards in an album. Although this Beck mpa is faded I still felt it belonged at the front.

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Ending the selection for the album with one about progress.
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A Thatcher themed £50 note (defo not legal tender!)