All Time XIs – Durham

Reaching the end of the beginning of my “All Time XIs” series with a whistle stop tour of Durham to complete the 18 first class counties.

INTRODUCTION

Welcome to the latest post in my “All Time XIs” series. This post marks the end of the beginning of the series, as it completes the set of 18 first class counties. Durham has posed difficulties caused by no other county for reasons I shall go into after introducing my XI. Tomorrow’s post, the first in the next stage of this series, will be very different indeed.

DURHAM ALL TIME XI

  1. Mark Stoneman – a reliable county pro who was exposed as being out of his depth at the highest level. He left Durham for Surrey, where he still plays.
  2. Keaton Jennings – unlike Stoneman he did manage to reach three figures at test level, but this achievement should not conceal the fact that he also was not good enough at the highest level. He, like Stoneman, headed for pastures new, in his case Lancashire.
  3. Michael Di Venuto – a rare example of me making a batter my overseas pick. He had an excellent domestic record without ever attracting the attention of the Australian selectors. As well as Durham he played for Derbyshire.
  4. Paul Collingwood – a man who made the absolute most of his talents, which as well as his gritty middle order batting included being a world class fielder and an occasionally useful medium paced bowler. He amassed 10 test centuries, with a highest of 206 at Adelaide in 2006 – a match the England ended up losing, in part because in his second innings Collingwood adopted too purely defensive an approach, meaning that Australia’s eventual chase contained no element of time pressure. Similarly his fighting innings at Cardiff in 2009 nearly led to disaster for the same reason – his passivity at the crease meant that England were still in arrears when he was ninth out leaving Anderson and Panesar to battle hard to secure the draw. Nevertheless, his record makes its own case on his behalf.
  5. +Phil Mustard – a good middle order batter and a fine wicket keeper.
  6. Ben Stokes attacking left handed bat and right arm fast bowler (like Stan Nichols, Essex), a genuine 22 carat gold all rounder. His highest score was 258 against South Africa, but his two most iconic innings were both played in 2019. In the World Cup final at Lord’s his 84 hauled England out of what had looked like an impossible situation to tie the match and take it to a super over in which he then batted along with Jos Buttler (Somerset and Lancashire). The super over was tied, leaving England ahead on boundary count and lifting the World Cup. Then, in the test match at Headingley later that year (I am currently listening to a replay of the commentary on that match as I type this) after England had been bowled out for 67 in the first innings and were set 359 in the second innings he delivered an extraordinary performance. England lost their ninth wicket at 283, bringing Jack Leach (Somerset) in to join Stokes with 76 needed, and it was then that Stokes turned a good innings into the stuff of legends. By the time the winning run was scored Leach was on 1 not out, Stokes 135 not out having scored all bar one of that last wicket partnership. A third extraordinary display from Stokes in the calendar year came in South Africa when Dominic Sibley (Warwickshire) was heading towards a maiden test century, and England needed to increase the tempo for a declaration. Leaving Sibley to go steadily on Stokes blasted 72 off 47 balls to attend to the matter of upping the run rate. South Africa staged a typically defiant rearguard action in the final innings of the game but not quite hold out and England won a well merited victory.
  7. Liam Trevaskis – one of two highly controversial picks which I shall explain in more detail in the next section of the post. His career has only just begun, but both his batting and his left arm spin hold out considerable promise for the future.
  8. Mark Wood – attacking lower order bat and right arm fast bowler. Wood, a slightly built chap of no more than average height, is quite capable of producing 150 kilometre per hour thunderbolts. He hails from the town of Ashington, and has emulated that town’s most famous former residents, Bobby and Jackie Charlton, by helping to win a world cup in his chosen sport. England always look more potent when he is part of the bowling attack, and although he and Jofra Archer (Sussex) have not yet both been fit and firing simultaneously I look forward to seeing and hearing it happen.
  9. *Danielle Hazell – off spinner and useful lower order bat. She, like Wood, has been part of a world cup winning combination. She is also as far as I am aware the only genuinely top class spinner her county has thus far produced, which is why I have selected her in this combination, the only female cricketer I have actually named in one of these XIs – though I have mentioned a couple of others (see Somerset and Nottinghamshire). After her playing days ended recently she has gone into coaching and is bidding fair to be a great success in that role as well (if Covid-19 does not number that tournament among its casualties she will be involved with the highly controversial Hundred – and while I make no secret of my, to put it politely, scepticism as to the virtues of this new creation I recognize that having a coaching role in it is a considerable feather in her cap). For more on possible roles for women playing alongside the men see this post from my ‘100 cricketers‘ series.
  10. Graham Onions – right arm fast medium, and at need an adhesive lower order batter. His accuracy will be an invaluable foil to the more spectacular bowlers who constitute the rest of the attack. Like Jennings he is now to be found in the Lancashire ranks, but it was as a Durham cricketer that he gained England recognition, and achieved most of his best bowling feats.
  11. Stephen Harmison – right arm fast bowler and attacking lower order bat. At his best (e.g when he took 7-12 against the West Indies in early 2004) he was as difficult a proposition as anyone. He was part of the 2005 Ashes winning attack – Justin Langer and Ricky Ponting had literal as well as metaphorical scars to show for their early encounters with him.

This team has a respectable top five one of whom is a good wicket keeper, a genuine X factor all rounder at six, two genuine speedsters and a high quality fast medium to back them up. It is unquestionably deficient in the spin department, with only Hazell’s off spin and the promise offered by Trevaskis’ left arm spin available.

DURHAM’S HISTORY

Durham was promoted to first class status only in 1992, and many did not think it a good move. In the early stages of their first class history Durham had a lot of veterans from other counties come in in an effort to stiffen them up. They opened a new ground at Chester-Le-Street with the stated ambition of staging test matches, something that they achieved for the first time in 2005. They did win two county championships, but their ambition proved larger than their wherewithal, and a few years ago they had to go to the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) for a bail out. The bail out came on harsh (possibly overly so) terms, with automatic relegation and a massive points deduction to start the following season. They are still trying to recover from this set back. Many fine cricketers hailed from this part of the world including Cecil Parkin (Lancashire), Tom Graveney (Gloucs and Worcestershire), Peter Willey (Leics and Northants) and Colin Milburn (Northants) among the cream of the crop, but save for pace bowlers and Paul Collingwood (with due respect to Messrs Stoneman, Jennings and Mustard) they have not as a first class county produced a great amount of talent. Even coming from someone as unconventional as me, the selection of Danielle Hazell is revealing as to how little they have produced in the way of spin bowling talent, as a in a different way is that of the youngster, Trevaskis.

OMISSIONS

Had Simon Brown, the first Durham player to be selected by England, been a yard or two quicker than he actually was then as a left arm pace bowler he would have been a shoo-in, but although I did consider selecting him in place of Onions his single experience of test cricket exposed both him, and the selectors who had picked him to play at that level – he managed one wicket in each innings, rarely looked remotely threatening and is a rare example of a ‘one cap wonder’ for whom I feel no sympathy. Melvyn Betts, who has a first class nine-for on his CV was a fine county bowler (he played for Warwickshire after starting with Durham) who gained no international recognition. Brydon Carse of the current team is on the fringes of the England set up, and James Weighell is building up an impressive record, though both his batting (average 24) and bowling (average 28) need some improvement before he can be rated really highly, and may yet get to play at a higher level. Had I been prepared to select a specialist fielder Gary Pratt, of whom Ricky Ponting will have fond memories, would have had a place. Also, I had to ignore the claims of a record breaker: wicket keeper Chris Scott perpetrated the drop that cost more runs than any other in first class history – he dropped Brian Lara (Warwickshire) when that worthy was on 18 and thereafter was a spectator while the Trinidadian went on to the world record 501 not out.

PHOTOGRAPHS

We have reached the end of our whistle stop tour (the world’s first passenger carrying railway line was the Stockton & Darlington, and one of the most famous of the early steam locos was Puffing Billy, which operated at Wylam Colliery, also in the North East) of Durham cricket, and so it remains only to provide my usual sign off…

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Cricket Hat Trick at Sports Personality of the Year

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

INTRODUCTION

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

SPORTS PERSONALITY OF THE YEAR

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

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

THE ORIGIN OF THE PHRASE HAT TRICK

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

VIDEO AND PHOTOGRAPHS

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

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

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A Descent From The Gutter To The Sewer

Some thoughts about a piece of particularly vile “journalistic” malice that was brought to my attention yesterday.

INTRODUCTION

The main body of this post is inspired by the recent behaviour of a publication with whose name I will not sully this site, which has been despicable even by their standards. I also have a special photo section at the end.

THE STOKES STORY

Britain’s most notorious rag recently descended from its customary residence in the gutter to the most stinking, foetid depths of the sewers with a hit piece raking up details from events that occurred over 30 years in the life of the Stokes family. Apart from raking up and old tragedy they were also according Ben Stokes himself inaccurate in various ways, which again is par for the course for this particular rag.

Several things are needed to deal with so called “newspapers” which behave in this fashion:

  1. Leveson 2 needs to adopted in full as a start,
  2. IPSO, a toothless paper tiger of an organization, needs to be abolished, and all publications and websites which describe themselves as being about news should be required to sign up to IMPRESS, giving them one month in which to have achieved this or else be closed down.
  3. A serious code of practice, with serious penalties up to an including a permanent ban from publication needs to be introduced and enforced (I am not a fan of making legislation retroactive, although that would certainly eliminate from the scene both the publication that inspired this piece and at least one other so called ‘newspaper’.

The kind of malice masquerading as “journalism” that this filthy rag perpetrated at the expense of the Stokes family can only be dealt with properly if seriously harsh measures are available to punish such wrongdoers (Stokes may well win a fairly hefty amount in damages but this will bother neither the hacks involved nor the owner of their publication, as it will not be sufficient to hurt them). Also, because there are no specifications about corrections and apologies (which should be required to be given at least as much prominence as the original story), even in the unlikely event of IPSO bestirring itself do anything in that regard you can be sure that any correction will be buried deep in an anonymous middle page in tiny type.

I also think that the ECB and Test Match Special should be taking action – the latter should make it clear to everyone who works for the rag in question that they are now persona non gratae at all English cricket grounds, while Test Match Special should exclude anyone from the rag from any of their media panels and from appearing as part of the commentary team.

CALENDAR SELECTIONS

I have picked out the pictures from which the final selection for my 2020 wall calendar will be made, and I present them here:

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The Headingley Heist

My own thoughts about the amazing “Headingley Heist” and the remainder of the Ashes series, plus links and of course photographs.

INTRODUCTION

This post features my thoughts on the incredible test match that has just finished at Headingley. I also have a couple of other things to share at the end of this post.

A LATE TWIST

England looked to have destroyed their Ashes chances when they slumped to 67 all out after having dismissed Australia for 179. Australia reached 246 all out in their second dig, with Labuschagne once again their top scorer. This meant that England needed 359 to win, which if achieved would be the highest total they had ever scored to win a test match, beating the 332-7 at Melbourne in 1928-9 (Herbert Sutcliffe 135, Jack Hobbs 49, and a crucial piece of advice to promote Jardine if he or Sutcliffe got out that evening – he did and Jardine, with the pitch still difficult, chiselled out a crucial 33) that secured that series for England. Roy failed again as opener, underlining his unsuitability for that position in red ball cricket. Burns was also our fairly early, but Root and Denly batted well for a time, before with the close of play for the day approaching Denly who had reached 50 surrendered his wicket. That brought Stokes to the crease, and he and Root were still there at the close. Root was out early on the 4th morning for 75, and although Bairstow batted well, Buttler, Woakes, Archer and Broad were all out fairly cheaply. England were 286-9 when Jack Leach walked out to join Stokes and the game looked well and truly up, though England had made a fight of it. Then Stokes, who had spent a long time digging himself in before beginning to score freely, started to really lash out, one over from Hazlewood being clonked for 19 including two huge sixes. As England got closer and closer Australia started to panic, and first skipper Paine burned their last review on an L.B.W appeal when the ball was obviously missing leg very comfortably, then Lyon failed to hold a return when had he done so Leach would have been run out by a country mile. Then an L.B.W appeal was turned down, and had Australia had a review left sending it upstairs would have won them the match at the last gasp. Leach got off the mark with the most important single he will ever score, off Cummins, which brought the scores level and put Stokes back on strike. Cummins bowled to Stokes….
and Stokes creamed it for four, and England had pulled off a truly spectacular heist, and Ashes 2019 was back on with a vengeance.

Here are some extra follow-up links:

  • The full scorecard of this truly extraordinary match.
  • Video highlights of those amazing final stages.
  • Some of the social media comment on Stokes’ innings.
  • On a lighter note, the Beard Liberation Front have given Ben Stokes a free pass to the final shortlist for “Beard of the Year” – surely given his Christchurch birthplace and that country’s attitudes towards its larger neighbour he is also nailed on for “New Zealander of the Year 2019”?!

DON’T USE YESTERDAY TO PAPER OVER THE CRACKS (OR CHASMS?!)

England pulled this one out of the fire, but their batting was badly exposed in the first innings, and they benefitted from more than a little good fortune in the closing stages. England made an escape to send Harry Houdini green with envy, and it is highly likely that the next match decides the fate of the Ashes – if Australia win it they have retained them, and if England win it they will go to The Oval 2-1 up, and those of us who remember 2005 and 2009 know what happens when England reach The Oval still in control of their own destiny. Thus, although yesterday’s events made a nonsense of the title of my previous post I hold firm to the arguments made therein (half-decent batting efforts from Denly and Bairstow not being sufficient to change my mind on that score). My reasoning and selected squad for the next test match are reproduced below:

  1. An opening batter alongside Burns (Roy is not suited to this role in red ball cricket, though he may be able to handle no 3 if the openers see off the new ball). Absent anyone who has made a really commanding case I once again suggest the radical solution of dropping Tammy Beaumont a line and seeing if she is up for having a go alongside the men (I first suggested this about a year ago).
  2. Roy or Stokes (if you fancy a calculated gamble) at no 3, to enable…
  3. Root to revert to no 4 where he really belongs.
  4. Ollie Pope in at no 5 to stiffen up the middle order (he is fresh off the back of a double century, and has a first class average of almost 60).
  5. Stokes down a place to no 6 if you don’t put him at no 3, otherwise Ben Foakes to bat here as keeper
  6. If Stokes is at no 6, then Foakes bats 7, otherwise Roy (if deep batting is needed) or Lewis Gregory (if you want five genuine bowlers possibly with Stokes as 6th).
  7. No change needed at nos 8-11 – the bowlers acquitted themselves well, though Sam Curran has to be considered, and a second spinner (for my money either Matthew Parkinson or Helen Fenby depending on how radical you are prepared to be) should be in the squad.

Thus my 13 for the 4th match would be: Burns, Beaumont, Stokes, *Root, Pope, +Foakes, Roy, Woakes, Archer, Broad, Leach, Gregory, Fenby, with the first 11 names listed likely to play unless conditions warrant Gregory for Roy or Fenby for Roy if two spinners are warranted. As for Denly, he has had too many nearly innings, most of them given away by ill-judged shots and has to go. Australia’s new opener Harris has just fallen to Jack Leach making Australia 36-2. Eight more wickets and then some much better batting now the requirement.

I add a little coda to the above – if Anderson is fit he should of course play.

For the moment: game on – oh, and Aussies you really need to brush up on DRS, you messed up big time in that department.

LINKS AND PHOTOGRAPHS

Two links for you first:

  1. A reminder about the petition to ban driven grouse shooting, which is now about 4/5ths of the way to 100,000 signatures.
  2. The results of a large survey about Autism – they make interesting, and for some of you, challenging reading.

Now for my usual sign off…

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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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The Greatest World Cup Final Ever

An autistic cancer survivor’s eye (and ear) view of yesterday’s World Cup Final at Lord’s.

INTRODUCTION

First a little bit of background about the occasion from my point of view. On Friday I went in to hospital for a procedure known as a “Radical Inguinal Orchidectomy” as the latest stage in the treatment of the cancer that less than a year ago threatened to kill me. The operation was performed under general anaesthetic, and I was kept in hospital overnight, and only discharged on the Saturday once I had demonstrated my capacity to walk unaided. Thus yesterday, the day of the Mens Cricket Cup World Final, was my first full day out of hospital after the operation.

THE MATCH ITSELF

New Zealand had beaten India through a splendid display of controlled seam and swing bowling to qualify for the final while England had disposed of arch-rivals Australia with satisfying ease to book their place in the final. Everything seemed to point to an England win, but New Zealand had dealt very well with theoretically far superior opposition in the semi-final. As it was on free-to-air TV (the first time any cricket match in England has been thus broadcast since 2005) I was initially picked up by my father and taken over to my aunt’s house to watch the match. England bowled well to restrict New Zealand to 241. New Zealand however learned well from the England bowlers and England were soon behind the required rate. I missed a tiny bit of the England innings when I was taken home, being by then thoroughly exhausted. Back in my own home I listened to the astonishing climax and followed the ball-by-ball updates on cricinfo. The possessor of the coolest name in international cricket, Colin de Grandhomme, bowled the most economical allocation of 10 overs by anyone in the entire tournament (1-25), but Jos Buttler and Ben Stokes kept cool heads and kept England just about in contention deep into the final overs. When the final over began England needed 16 to win, and they got 15 of them to tie (aided by a very fortunate four overthrows which gave them six instead of two on one of the deliveries), which meant a “super over’. Ben Stokes and Jos Buttler took centre stage once more, while after a long delay Trent Boult accepted responsibility for bowling the over for New Zealand. England made 15 runs of the over. 24-year old Jofra Archer accepted responsibility for bowling the final over, while New Zealand sent out Jimmy Neesham and Martin Guptill. Archer’s first delivery was somewhat harshly called a wide, and then Neesham blasted a six, at which point it looked all over for England, but Archer responded and eventually it came to two needed of one ball, with Guptill on strike for the first time. Guptill hit it out into the deep, where Jason Roy fielded, and arrowed in a superb throw to Jos Buttler who whipped the bails off to run out Guptill, who was obliged by circumstances to go all out for the second. Thus the super-over contest had also ended in a tie. The next method of dividing the two teams if the super over did not work was on boundaries hit, and on that criterion England were ahead and so finally, after three previous losing finals (1979, 1987-8 and 1991-2) England’s men had won a cricket world cup. The Women’s cricket world cup is also held by England courtesy of a wonderful piece of bowling by Anya Shrubsole at Lord’s two years ago. This is the first time any country other than Australia have held both men’s and women’s world cups simultaneously. A low scoring day provided just about the most thrilling contest ever seen in any sport, with England taking the spoils by the narrowest possible margin – the cricket equivalent of winning by a Planck Length!

This match is ‘Exhibit A’ in the argument against anyone who dares claim that cricket is boring. Cricket has produced plenty of extraordinary games before in its long history – Warwickshire v Hampshire in 1922, when Hampshire recovered from bowled out for 15 in their first dig to win by 155 runs, Headingley 1981, when Ian Botham, with assistance from Graham Dilley, Chris Old and Bob Willis gave England something to defend when they seemed down and out, and Willis than saved his international career by taking 8-43 to win it for England being just two that spring to mind. Also, the 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 5th test matches of the 2005 Ashes series were all classics in their different ways.

This match on its own would probably be sufficient to call this the greatest world cup ever, but there were plenty of other good matches along the way.

Ben Stokes with his Herculean efforts in this match redeemed himself completely for a somewhat chequered past. Also, he has shown a consistency here that has previously eluded him – his 84 was his fourth 80-plus of the tournament and he also scored a 79. One way of accommodating him in the test side, which needs to be thought about would to gamble a little by having Ben Foakes at five, followed by Stokes, Gregory, Bess, Archer, Leach and Anderson, meaning that Stokes would be fourth seamer, backing up the main attack of Archer, Anderson, Gregory and the spinners.

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My usual sign-off…

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England’s Impressive Start To ODI Series

An account of the 1st ODI between England and the West Indies.

INTRODUCTION

After a test match series most of which is best forgotten England last night started the ODI series against the West Indies in emphatic style. I followed the action on cricinfo, since there was no live commentary.

A RUN FEAST

Chris Gayle, playing his last international series at the age of 39, clubbed a spectacular century for the West Indies. The problem was that although he was smashing sixes like the Gayle of old he was no longer able to run at any sort of speed, and as a result his overall scoring rate was not actually that quick by modern standards as there were too many scoreless deliveries there.

The early lead in England’s response to the West Indies 360 was taken by Jason Roy who pretty much matched Gayle for freedom of stroke play and was also able to run properly, with the result that his strike rate was colossally impressive. Joe Root and Eoin Morgan then took over once he was out, and just before the end Root reached the third inidvidual hundred of the day, while Ben Stokes made an unbeaten 20 at the end to ensure that there would be no final wobble. Root was out at the death, caught of a dreadful full toss that was only just a legal delivery, but England’s margin was six wickets, with eight balls to spare, and at no point during the England innings did the West Indies look other than second favourites.

Although Gayle had a higher score the player of the match award went quite rightly to Jason Roy whose innings put England firmly in the driving seat, a position they never subsequently relinquished. In a match in which 724 runs were scored in 98.4 overs Ben Stokes’ bowling figures (3-37 from 8 overs) were noteworthy. Chris Gayle’s 135 came off 129 balls, so just above 100 runs per 100 balls, while Jason Roy’s 123 occupied just 85 balls – a strike rate of over 140 runs per 100 balls. A full scorecard can be viewed here.

In the early hours of tomorrow morning UK time, the England women take on India in an ODI, while the second match of the series in the West Indies gets underway later the same day.

PHOTOGRAPHS