Seriously Strange Selections

A look at the selections and the early stages of the third test match between England and the West Indies at Old Trafford.

INTRODUCTION

The third test match is under way at Old Trafford. If England win they regain the Wisden Trophy, any other result and the West Indies retain it. Future series between these sides will be contested for the Botham-Richards Trophy, named after two legends of the game and close friends, although Beefy’s record against the West Indies does not really justify his name being on this trophy.

ENGLAND

Ben Stokes is fit enough to play but will not be able to bowl, which led to England opting for five front line bowlers. Less defensibly given those circumstances they also opted to persevere with the inadequate Jos Buttler, who will bat at six and keep wicket. Zak Crawley misses out, meaning that England have gone in with Sibley, Burns, *Root, Stokes, Pope, Buttler, Woakes, Bess, Archer, Broad, Anderson. I think that to go with five bowlers they should have given the gloves to Pope, keeping Crawley in at no3 and dropping Buttler. I would also have preferred Curran over Woakes for the extra variation offered by his left arm.

THE WEST INDIES

Rahkeem Cornwall plays, certainly the heaviest top level cricketer since Warwick Armstrong, and possibly the heaviest since the mighty Alfred Mynn who was in his pomp in the 1840s. Surprisingly Alzarri Joseph rather than the obviously exhausted Shannon Gabriel was the player to miss out. It is no great surprise that West Indies have opted for extra batting strength in the circumstances.

THE PLAY SO FAR

The West Indies won the toss, an in spite of having picked the extra spinner in Cornwall and a weather forecast that suggests that only today of the first four days will be uninterrupted, both of which argue strongly for batting they have decided to bowl first, the selfsame decision that backfired badly on them on the second match of this series.

Dom Sibley was out early, for a duck. Burns and Root batted reasonably well together until Burns unaccountably given the circumstances took a sharp single and a direct hit ran Root out to make it 47-2. That brought Stokes to the crease far too early for comfort, although the West Indies had already had a warning that their choice of which fast bowler to leave out for Cornwall had been wrong when Gabriel limped from the field. With the score at 92 Stokes was bowled by Kemar Roach, the latter’s 199th test wicket (the last West Indian fast bowler to reach 200 was the legendary Curtly Ambrose), bringing Pope to the wicket. So far Pope is looking very impressive, and England need a big score from him. With Burns and Pope together, the biggest all Surrey partnership at test level stands to the credit of Ken Barrington and John Edrich who once shared a second wicket stand of 369 against New Zealand. Burns has just completed his 50, which he should regard as establishing base camp – the main ascent for him begins here.

THE OFF SPINNING RIVALRY

A curio of this match is that the West Indies have a player named Cornwall as their principal off spinner, and his opposite number for England, Dom Bess, was born in Devon. Which side of the Tamar will prevail?

LINKS AND PHOTOGRAPHS

We start with the solution to yesterday’s teaser:

Teaser

Powers of two have last digit 2,4,8,6 and then back to 2 and so on ad infinitum. 1,000 being a multiple of four 2^1000 thus has a final digit of 6, which in turn means that 2^1001 ends with a 2.

A video from Richard Murphy of Tax Research UK answering the ‘how are you going to pay for it?’ question:

Please watch the video in full – it is five and a half minutes.

Now for my usual sign off…

IMG_2226 (2)IMG_2226 (3)IMG_2227 (2)IMG_2228 (2)IMG_2229 (2)IMG_2230 (2)IMG_2230 (3)IMG_2231 (2)IMG_2231 (3)IMG_2232 (2)IMG_2232 (3)IMG_2233 (2)IMG_2234 (2)IMG_2234 (3)IMG_2236 (2)IMG_2236 (3)IMG_2237 (2)IMG_2238 (2)IMG_2239 (2)IMG_2239 (3)IMG_2239 (4)IMG_2240 (2)IMG_2240 (3)IMG_2240 (4)IMG_2240 (5)IMG_2241 (2)IMG_2241 (3)IMG_2241 (4)IMG_2242 (2)IMG_2242 (3)IMG_2243 (2)IMG_2244 (2)IMG_2245 (2)IMG_2246 (2)IMG_2247 (2)IMG_2248 (2)IMG_2248 (3)IMG_2249 (2)IMG_2250 (2)IMG_2250 (3)IMG_2251 (2)IMG_2252 (2)IMG_2253 (2)IMG_2253 (3)IMG_2253 (4)IMG_2254 (2)IMG_2254 (3)IMG_2255 (2)IMG_2255 (3)IMG_2256 (2)IMG_2256 (3)IMG_2257 (2)IMG_2257 (3)IMG_2258 (2)IMG_2259 (2)IMG_2260 (2)IMG_2261 (2)IMG_2262 (2)IMG_2263 (2)IMG_2264 (2)

England’s Triumph At Old Trafford

An account of the test match that finished yesterday evening with a victory for England, a look forward to the decider which starts on Friday, some links and some photographs.

INTRODUCTION

This post looks back at the test match that concluded yesterday evening in Manchester and forward to the one that starts at the same ground on Friday morning.

THE TALE OF THE TAPE

Thursday morning at Old Trafford was grey and rainy, and so play got underway late. England were deprived of Archer due to that player’s misconduct in between the Ageas Bowl and Old Trafford, had already decided to rest Wood and Anderson, while Crawley was correctly retained with Joe Denly losing his place, presumably permanently. Thus England’s line up read: Sibley, Burns, Crawley, *Root, Stokes, Pope, +Buttler, Woakes, Curran, Bess, Broad. This was a very strong batting line up, but there was no genuine pace in the bowling attack, with the possible exception of Stokes. The West Indies were unchanged.

Jason Holder won the toss for the West Indies and immediately made the first mistake of the match when he allowed himself to be influenced by the overhead conditions and chose to bowl first on a very flat looking pitch. At first things did not look too bad for the West Indies as Burns and Crawley fell cheaply, and even when Root was third out the score had only reached 81. At this point Ben Stokes got into the action, and was scarcely to be out of ti again for the rest of the match. Sibley was looking secure at one end, and now Stokes displayed considerable resolve and patience to stay with him. By the end of the first day the fourth wicket pair were still in occupation and the score was 207-3, and the decision to bowl first stood revealed as a ghastly howler on Holder’s part. On the second day Stokes and Sibley consolidated their position, with Sibley reaching his second test century just before lunch, and Stokes completing his tenth such score just afterwards. Finally, with the score at 341 Sibley fell for 120, having also completed a century of a much rarer kind – 100 balls left alone in the course of a single innings. GThe stand of 260 was the second highest ever for any wicket at Old Trafford, though some way short of England’s all time fourth wicket record stand, the 411 put on by Peter May and Colin Cowdrey versus the West Indies at Edgbaston in 1957. Pope fell cheaply, bringing Buttler to the crease at 352-5, and with an opportunity, undeserved in many opnions including mine, to cash in on tired bowlers. Ben Stokes was finally dislodged for 176, his second highest test score, with the score at 395, Woakes fell first ball which brought Curran to the crease. At 426 Buttler who had made a less than impressive (given the ultra favourable circumstances) 40 was caught off the bowling of Holder. One run later Curran was out. Dom Bess, in company with Stuart Broad, played a useful cameo reaching 31 not out before Root declared with the score at 469-9. John Campbell was out in the mini-session of batting the West Indies had before day 2 closed, Alzarri Joseph was sent in as nightwatchman and took them through to the close, at which point they were 32-1. Day three was washed out, a big dent to England’s hopes. In the middle of the fourth afternoon the West Indies were 235-4 and the draw was a strong favourite. Then that man Stokes intervened again, bowling a hostile spell in which he accounted for the obdurate Kraigg Brathwaite and destabilized the West Indies innings. Stuart Broad then bowled a magnificent spell with the second new ball before Woakes took a couple of late wickets, and the West Indies were all out for 287, giving England a lead of 182. With quick runs needed England sent in Buttler and Stokes. Buttler proceeded to be bowled for a third-ball duck, a dismissal which really should end his test career (he is a magnificent limited overs player but has never been anything special in long form cricket), which brought Zak Crawley to the wicket. Crawley made 11 before he too fell, and England closed the 4th day on 37-2, with Stokes and Root in occupation. England, as they had to in the circumstances, needing a win to keep both the Wisden trophy and their slender hopes of the World Test Championship alive, went on the all out attack on the final morning, blazing 91 off 11 overs before declaring at 129-3, with Stokes 78 not out and Pope 12 not out off seven balls. This left the West Indies needing 312 to win and with 85 overs to get them.

Broad bowled superbly with the new ball, and the West Indies rapidly plunged to 37-4. Blackwood and Brooks then put on exactly 100 together before that man Stokes broke the partnership, dismissing Blackwood for 55. Woakes then cleaned up Dowrich for a duck, bringing skipper Holder in to join Brooks. Holder and Brooks took the score to 161 before Curran pinned Brooks LBW, which went to review where it came up as umpires call, the third time a West Indian had suffered that fate in the innings. Holder and Roach offered some resistance before Bess made the crucial breakthrough, bowling Holder for 35, to make at 183-8, and leave three tailenders tasked with holding out for more than 20 overs to save the game. Alzarri Joseph scored nine, was then caught by Bess of the bowling of Stokes to make it 192-9. I had an evening engagement and was not able to catch the fall of the final wicket, that of Kemar Roach, caught by Pope off the bowling of Bess. England took that wicket just after umpire Richard Illingworth had signalled the start of the last 15 overs of the game and had won by 113 runs, meaning that the third match of this series will be a ‘winner takes all’ battle.

STOKES THE COLOSSUS

Stokes’ performance in this match saw him displace Jason Holder at the top of the test match all rounders rankings, and it also saw him rise to no3 in the world batting rankings behind Virat Kohli and ‘sandpaper’ Steve Smith. Stokes’ participation in this match was as follows: 176 off 356 balls spread over 487 minutes at the crease in the first innings, 1-29 off 13 overs in the second, with that wicket coming in the spell that destabilized the West Indies innings, 78 not out off 57 balls to set up the declaration in the third innings and 14.4 overs for figures of 2-30 (he was unable to complete his final over, the last two balls of it being bowled by Joe Root). At Lord’s in 1952 Mulvantrai Himmatlal ‘Vinoo’ Mankad scored 72 in the first innings, bowled a marathon stint of 73 overs in the England reply, scored 184 in the third innings and bowled a further 24 overs in the second England innings, this all round effort all coming to nought as his side were beaten anyway. In first class cricket there are George Hirst’s spectacular dominance over Somerset in 1906 – 111, 117 not out, six first innings wicket and five second innings wickets, George Giffen’s 271 not out, 7-70 and 9-98 for South Australia versus Victoria, while in 1874 WG Grace had a spell of sustained brilliance in which he combined centuries with ten wicket match hauls five times in the space of six matches. At club level there is the feat of Dr M E Pavri, an Indian all rounder who apparently bowled at a lively pace (he toured England in the 1880s, long before his country were promoted to test status, and there is a story of him sending a stump nine yards backwards in a match at Norwich), and who decided on one occasion that teammates were unnecessary, taking on an XI all on his own. In that game he batted first, scored 52 not out before deciding that he had enough runs to serve his purposes, and then without fielders to aid him dismissed the opposing XI for 38 to win the match.

ENGLAND PLAYER RATINGS

  1. Dom Sibley – 9 – a magnificent display of concentration in his only innings, though he was reprieved when Jason Holder dropped a fairly regulation chance, so it was not an absolutely blemish free effort.
  2. Rory Burns – 3 – a failure with the bat, nothing notably good or bad in the field.
  3. Zak Crawley 4a first baller in the first innings, and also failed in the second innings thrash for runs, managing 11 off 15 balls, which does at least represent a half decent scoring rate.
  4. *Joe Root – 6 – two scores in the twenties, though in the second innings he was good foil to Stokes while the latter was lashing out. He was possibly a little conservative in the matter of the second innings declaration, but overall he captained well.
  5. Ben Stokes – 10 – he batted England into a commanding position with his first innings effort, his bowling intervention in the first West Indies innings was crucial in reopening the possibility of an England win, his second innings batting effort in altogether different circumstances was precisely what the team needed, and he again made the crucial breakthrough in the final innings when he broke the Brooks/Blackwood partnership. I reckon even Craig Revel-Horwood would have rated this performance a 10.
  6. Ollie Pope – 5 – failed in the first innings, 12 not out off 7 balls in the second to help England to the declaration and he performed the last action of the game, taking the catch that dismissed Kemar Roach.
  7. +Jos Buttler3 – his first innings 40 was unimpressive given the circumstances, he responded to being given the opportunity to open the innings and bat in his best T20 fashion with a third ball duck, and although he held on to three catches in the match this must be the end of the road for Buttler the test cricketer.
  8. Chris Woakes6.5 – failed with the bat in his only innings, but bowled well in both innings, reminding everyone that he is always difficult to play in English conditions.
  9. Sam Curran – 6 – only 17 with the bat, but bowled quite well. It was with his dismissal of Brooks in the second innings to make it 161-7 that moved victory from possible to probable.
  10. Dom Bess – 6.5 – his 31 not out in the first innings was a useful knock, he was economical though not penetrative in the first West Indies innings, and it was his delivery to bowl Jason Holder that effectively sealed the destiny of this match, while he completed a trio of late interventions by then catching Alzarri Joseph and finally picking up the wicket of Roach to complete the victory.
  11. Stuart Broad – 8.5 – he bowled a magnificent spell with the second new ball in the West Indies first innings to ensure that England would have a substantial advantage and bowled another fine spell with the new ball in the West Indies second innings which left them in tatters at 37-4.

LOOKING FORWARD TO FRIDAY

It is possible that England will want to play two spinners in the decider, and they could also maintain their rotation policy with Broad and Anderson, although I suspect that even in King’s Lynn I will not need the assistance of a radio to hear Mr Broad’s response should be told that he is being rested for the decider, and there is also the question of whether to play Archer in the decider. Of the three specialist batters who failed in this match two, Burns and Pope already have test hundreds, and it seems likely that the third, Crawley, will be joining them sooner rather than later, so I am not unduly worried about them. Buttler, just to re-emphasize the point has to go. Thus I offer up three potential line ups, two of which have permutations:

Potential Line ups

The first line up brings in Archer for his extra pace but sticks to one spinner and a choice between Broad and Anderson. The second line up accommodates two spinners but runs the risk of having Stokes as third seamer. The third line up is gamblers line up, entails Pope as keeper, a job he has done in test cricket, and five regular bowlers, with Stokes as back up. If England do decide to go with two spinners that would be my preferred option, although the second line up does at least have variety going for it – right arm fast (Archer), left arm medium fast (Curran), off spin and left arm orthodox spin plus x-factor Stokes. England need a win to regain the Wisden trophy and retain an interest in the World Test Championship, while the West Indies have not won a series in England since 1988, and so although a draw would see them retain the Wisden trophy it would not be a great result for them. So far this has been a splendid series, with England bouncing back well after the loss in Southampton.

TYING THINGS TOGETHER

The full scorecard for this fine match can be viewed here, courtesy of cricinfo. My other posts about this match are:

For a different view, here is the fulltoss blog’s account.

LINKS AND PHOTOGRAPHS

I have a varied trio of links to share today:

And now it is time for my usual sign off…

IMG_2038 (2)IMG_2039 (2)IMG_2040 (2)IMG_2041 (2)IMG_2042 (2)IMG_2043 (2)IMG_2044 (2)IMG_2045 (2)IMG_2046 (2)IMG_2046 (3)IMG_2046 (4)IMG_2047 (2)IMG_2048 (2)IMG_2048 (3)IMG_2048 (4)IMG_2049 (2)IMG_2049 (3)IMG_2050 (2)IMG_2051 (2)IMG_2051 (3)IMG_2053 (2)IMG_2053 (3)IMG_2054 (2)IMG_2055 (2)IMG_2058 (2)IMG_2058 (3)IMG_2058 (4)IMG_2059 (2)IMG_2059 (3)IMG_2062 (2)IMG_2066 (2)IMG_2068 (2)IMG_2068 (3)IMG_2069 (2)IMG_2069 (3)IMG_2071 (2)IMG_2071 (3)IMG_2072 (2)IMG_2072 (3)IMG_2073 (2)IMG_2073 (3)IMG_2074 (2)IMG_2074 (3)IMG_2074 (4)IMG_2074 (5)IMG_2074 (6)IMG_2077 (2)IMG_2077 (3)

England Dominant At Old Trafford

A look at the extraordinary developments in the test match at Old Trafford, a suggestion of a tweak to DRS regulations and some photographs.

INTRODUCTION

The second test match between England and the West Indies at Old Trafford is now approaching its climax. In yesterday’s post I outlined various scenarios that could lead to an England victory (see also Saturday’s post), though I acknowledged that it seemed unlikely. Now I take the story on.

SECOND HALF OF DAY FOUR – ENGLAND KEEP THEIR HOPES ALIVE

When the West Indies were 235-4 the draw would have been the heavy favourite with the bookies, with time seemingly set to run out on England. A spell by Ben Stokes of 11 overs, in which 57 of the 66 deliveries he bowled were bouncers softened the West Indies up, and then Broad, Woakes and Curran used the second new ball with devastating effect, and suddenly the West Indies were all out for 287 and England led by 182. With quick runs for a declaration the order of the day Stokes and Buttler were sent in to open the England second innings. Buttler was castled for a duck, putting his test future in jeopardy, Zak Crawley came in at three, and was out for 12 with five overs remaining in the day. Root came in at four, and he and Stokes were still in possession at the close with England 37-2, 219 runs to the good. That left England needing to make things happen fast on the final day. 7

THE FINAL DAY SO FAR

England needed quick runs for a declaration, and many (including me) reckoned that they needed to score them in at maximum 11 overs, which would give them 85 at the West Indies, which crucially would allow the use of a second new ball to polish off the tail if required. Stokes was dropped early off an absolute sitter and the West Indies swallowed up some time by spectacularly burning off their three reviews on three of the most blatant not outs you could imagine. Ten overs into the day the England lead stood at 299, and a declaration would have made sense. However, England batted on for one more over, boosting their lead to 311 and giving themselves the anticipated 85 overs to bowl the West Indies out. Broad and Woakes bowled splendidly with the new ball, and the West Indies were three down by lunch, a wonderful morning for England. Since lunch Broad has added the wicket of Roston Chase, giving him three for the innings, while Woakes picked up the other, the wicket of Kraigg Brathwaite, the big sticker in this West Indies line up. The West Indies are now reeling at 42-4, needing a purely academic 270 more to win, while England need six wickets. So far this day has gone perfectly according to England’s script, and from a draw being clear favourite mid afternoon yesterday it is now looking very like at an England win.

AN ADDITION TO THE DRS

Having seen the West Indies burning up their three reviews in the field this morning clearly as a device to soak up time I now think that a coda to current DRS regulations is required. This would be a ‘vexatious review’, whereby if the TV replay umpire from the evidence they see deems it clearly spurious (e.g sending an LBW upstairs when the delivery in question has pitched about a foot wide of leg stump and was going even wider) the culprit does not just lose that review, they lose their teams entire allocation of reviews for the innings.

PHOTOGRAPHS

IMG_1975 (2)IMG_1976 (2)IMG_1977 (2)IMG_1982 (2)IMG_1984 (2)IMG_1988 (2)IMG_1989 (2)IMG_1993 (2)IMG_1994 (2)IMG_1995 (2)IMG_1996 (2)IMG_2016 (2)IMG_2016 (3)IMG_2017 (2)IMG_2018 (2)IMG_2019 (2)IMG_2020 (2)IMG_2021 (2)IMG_2022 (2)IMG_2023 (2)IMG_2024 (2)IMG_2025 (2)IMG_2025 (3)IMG_2027 (2)IMG_2028 (2)IMG_2030 (2)IMG_2031 (2)IMG_2037 (2)

England V Rain In Manchester

Bringing my coverage of the test match up to date, plus some photographs.

INTRODUCTION

Welcome to my latest update on developments at Old Trafford.

DAY 2 – ENGLAND ESTABLISH CONTROL

In yesterday’s post I covered the play up to England through Stokes and Sibley taking the score to 280-3. Sibley was out with the score of 341 and Pope did not last very long, but Stokes was still there and going well. At 395, with his own score on 176 Stokes attempted reverse sweep Roach and was bowled, Roach’s first wicket of the series after 71 overs. Chris Woakes was then out first ball, which prompted the revelation that Roach’s previous test wicket before these two had been a second in successive balls. Buttler reached 40 before he was eight out at 426, a decent innings, but not enough given that he was facing tired bowlers and really should have been able to punish them more severely. One run later Curran was out, bringing Broad in join Bess. These two displayed some sensible aggression, and boosted the score to 469 before England declared giving themselves a bowl in the last hour of the day.

Broad and Woakes took the new ball, before Curran and Bess came on right near the end of the day. Curran broke through, with an LBW against John Campbell. Alzarri Joseph came in as nightwatchman, and he too would have been out had Curran reviewed an LBW against him right at the end of the day. The West Indies were 32-1 at the close.

DAY THREE – RAIN

So far there has been no play on day three due to rain. The information from Manchester is that there may be time for a couple of hours play once the weather clears. The weather is due to be better tomorrow and Monday. Those two days will be extended to 98 overs, meaning that even if there is no cricket at all today there will be 196 overs left in the day. The biggest news of the day so far concerns Jofra Archer who has been hit with a fine and given a written warning for breaching bio-secure protocols but will be eligible for selection for the third match of this series.

LOOKING AHEAD

It is very unlikely that the West Indies will win this game, although thirty-odd years of following cricket have taught me never to rule anything out completely. England need 19 more wickets, and in view of today’s disruptions they will have to enforce the follow-on if the opportunity arises. Also, which probably offers WI their biggest hope, the fact that England need to win to have a chance of regaining the Wisden Trophy means that they need to go after any opportunity of winning even if it is very high risk – if as is not entirely impossible England find themselves needing 100 in the final innings off 10 overs they have to go all out to get them. Whether England manage to press home their advantage or not they have responded superbly to what happened at the Ageas Bowl, although it would be nice if they could produce their finest without needing a preliminary metaphorical kick up the backside.

 PHOTOGRAPHS

My usual sign off…

IMG_1873 (2)IMG_1874 (2)IMG_1880 (2)IMG_1881 (2)IMG_1883 (2)IMG_1884 (2)IMG_1890 (2)IMG_1892 (2)IMG_1893 (2)IMG_1894 (2)IMG_1896 (2)IMG_1897 (2)IMG_1898 (2)IMG_1898 (3)IMG_1899 (2)IMG_1900 (2)IMG_1901 (2)IMG_1902 (2)IMG_1905 (2)IMG_1906 (2)IMG_1907 (2)IMG_1908 (2)IMG_1909 (2)IMG_1909 (3)IMG_1911 (2)IMG_1912 (2)IMG_1912 (3)IMG_1913 (2)IMG_1917 (2)IMG_1918 (2)IMG_1919 (2)IMG_1920 (2)IMG_1921 (2)IMG_1922 (2)IMG_1925 (2)IMG_1926 (2)IMG_1926 (3)IMG_1926 (4)IMG_1927 (2)IMG_1927 (3)IMG_1929 (2)IMG_1929 (3)IMG_1930 (2)IMG_1931 (2)IMG_1932 (2)IMG_1933 (2)IMG_1933 (3)IMG_1934 (2)IMG_1934 (3)IMG_1935 (2)IMG_1935 (3)IMG_1936 (2)IMG_1938 (2)IMG_1938 (3)IMG_1939 (2)

 

Bowl First Backfiring on West Indies

An update on the test match, as England assume control through Sibley and Stokes.

INTRODUCTION

Unlike yesterday, today is bright and sunny, and it looks like being a full day’s play in Manchester. This post looks at events so far.

THE MATCH

When skipper Root was dismissed the score was 81-3, and the West Indies only needed a couple more wickets to be on top. Stokes then joined Sibley and they knuckled down to the job in hand. Sibley received a let off with 68 to his name, but he and Stokes held the fort through to the close of a truncated day with England 207-3 from 82 overs. Bizarrely, having declined to take the new ball when it fell due yesterday the West Indies then failed to take it first thing this morning, instead bowling 11 overs at England with the old ball, which allowed Stokes and Sibley to play themselves in. Sibley reached his hundred just before lunch, from the 312th ball he had received, while Stokes reached the interval on 99. Stokes completed his ton straight after the interval, his 10th test century, and the slowest to date, but exactly the innings England had needed. As I write this the West Indies have just burned off a review of an LBW, reducing them to one left. England are 278-3 and looking in control of the match. England will be looking to increase the scoring rate as the prospect of trouble recedes. Pope is in at the fall of the next wicket, and then Buttler, who really needs to take full advantage of the situation and the tired bowlers.

WEST INDIES WOES

The West Indies chose to bowl yesterday, paying too much attention to the grey skies and not enough to the very flat looking pitch. They have failed to distinguish themselves with the ball. Shannon Gabriel has been fortunate not to be called for wides, but has bowled at least three in the ‘Harmy’ bracket. Alzarri Joseph has a wicket but has hardly been stellar. Roach has bowled well but carried no huge threat. Holder has posed little threat. Roston Chase has two of the wickets but is being used as a part timer – he was given the last over before lunch having not been called on all morning. Stokes has just hit the second six of the match (both to his credit), as he looks to up the pace. It is hard to see any way back for the West Indies, especially given that Bess should enjoy bowling on this surface. Each morning so far has seen a dreadful decision by the West Indies – putting England in yesterday on an obvious flat pitch and not taking the new ball instantly this morning, and they are being made to pay a heavy price for both infractions.

LOOKING AHEAD

This is the third test match of the 21st century in which an England batter has needed over 300 balls to reach a century, the other two being scored by Mike Atherton and Nasser Hussain, and England won both those games. Additionally this is Sibley’s second test hundred, and England won the other game in which he reached three figures, with Stokes making a substantial contribution there as well. In 1956 at this ground England made 459 in the first innings with centuries for Peter Richardson and David Sheppard, and won the game by an innings and 170 runs, with an off spinner, Jim Laker, doing most of the damage with the ball. The 300 has just come up for England, with Sibley and Stokes still in possession, and Stokes having just moved ahead of Sibley.

PHOTOGRAPHS

My usual sign off:

IMG_1853 (2)IMG_1856 (2)IMG_1857 (2)IMG_1858 (2)IMG_1859 (2)IMG_1861 (2)IMG_1862 (2)IMG_1863 (2)IMG_1864 (2)IMG_1865 (2)IMG_1866 (2)IMG_1867 (2)IMG_1868 (2)IMG_1869 (2)IMG_1870 (2)IMG_1871 (2)IMG_1872 (2)

The England Captaincy

Some thoughts on the England test captaincy, a section on masks including an important link, and some photographs.

INTRODUCTION

With Joe Root due to return I am going to have a look at the question of the captaincy of the England men’s team ahead of Thursday’s second test.

GREAT BATTER, ORDINARY SKIPPER

Root is England’s leading batter at present, and his selection in that role is absolutely mandatory. However, the captaincy has somewhat adversely affected his batting returns, especially in the matter of converting fifties to hundreds, and he is hardly outstanding as a captain. So should be relieved of the captaincy?

STOKES’ FIRST OUTING NO TRIUMPH

Ben Stokes fared reasonably well as a player in his first outing as skipper, twice scoring 40+ with the bat and taking four cheap wickets in the first West Indies innings. However, he was less impressive as a skipper. His biggest blunder was over Bess in the second innings. Having chosen to bat first in the hope of Bess having a turning pitch to bowl on the final innings Stokes then shied at the last. Although Bess did turn the ball and created two definite wicket taking opportunities and other possibilities he was mysteriously given only ten overs, when he should have been kept going at one end while as many of the overs at the other as practicable were bowled by the blitzmen Archer and Wood. So Stokes is a possible, but certainly not a definite.

THE OTHERS

It is no secret that I think that neither Denly nor Buttler should be in the test side, and since with all due respect to the legendary Mike Brearley I cannot recommend selecting a specialist skipper in general that rules them out. Archer and Wood as out and out speedsters devote too much energy in the field to their craft and would therefore probably struggle as skipper. Anderson and Broad are apparently intended to play on a rotation basis, which rules them out, although Anderson could well handle the job decently. Sibley, Crawley, Pope and my choice as keeper, Foakes are all too new to international cricket to be serious candidates just yet, and the combination of keeping and captaincy is a tough one for anyone to handle. So, if you accept that he is the undisputed no1 spinner the only alternatives to Root and Stokes would appear to be Dom Bess and Rory Burns. If I was going to appoint a new captain, then I would follow my instincts regarding slow bowlers who can handle a bat and go for Bess, but I think that I would prefer to stay with Root for the home summer, and then maybe appoint Bess as captain for a winter tour if one happens.

SOME THOUGHTS ON MASKS

I am still seeing far too few people using protective masks when out and about. As someone who less than two years ago was in hospital and among other things receiving extra oxygen and who always wears a mask when going out (I have recently emerged from several months of shielding, but I continue to take great care) I can tell you which is the greater inconvenience. There are some minor difficulties associated with masks, and I know that not everyone can cope with them (being autistic I would be did I choose to claim it exempt from wearing one), but for most of us the difficulties associated with mask wearing (they don’t combine well with spectacles, a difficulty I freely acknowledge) are as nothing compared to being in hospital and receiving extra oxygen. So, for yourself and others, please wear a mask whenever you go out. Charlie Hancock has an excellent piece in Spyglass Magazine about the type of people who throw hissy fits about being asked to wear masks, titled “100 Years of Anti-Maskers“.

PHOTOGRAPHS

My usual sign off…

IMG_1723 (2)IMG_1724 (2)IMG_1725 (2)IMG_1726 (2)IMG_1727 (2)IMG_1728 (2)IMG_1729 (2)IMG_1730 (2)IMG_1731 (2)IMG_1732 (2)IMG_1733 (2)IMG_1734 (2)IMG_1735 (2)IMG_1738 (2)IMG_1739 (2)IMG_1740 (2)IMG_1741 (2)IMG_1742 (2)IMG_1743 (2)IMG_1744 (2)IMG_1745 (2)IMG_1746 (2)IMG_1747 (2)IMG_1748 (2)IMG_1749 (2)IMG_1750 (2)IMG_1751 (2)IMG_1751 (3)IMG_1752 (2)IMG_1753 (2)IMG_1754 (2)IMG_1755 (2)IMG_1759 (2)IMG_1760 (2)IMG_1761 (2)

Test Cricket Back With A Bang

My thoughts on the test match at the Ageas bowl, plus some photographs.

INTRODUCTION

When a match is the first for some months would what be your requests – mine would be:

  1. An interesting match, for preference going right to the wire.
  2. Some good individual performances to talk about.

This match gave us both of the above – it was not until the final session of the final day that it became clear which way it would ultimately go, and Jason Holder, Shannon Gabriel and Jermaine Blackwood for the West Indies, Zak Crawley and Jofra Archer for England produced unforgettable performances. The TMS commentary team did a splendid job in circumstances that must have been tougher than they ever let on, with Carlos Brathwaite a worthy addition as expert summariser, and everyone else close to their best.

ENGLAND BEGIN BADLY

England having opted for a starting XI of Burns, Sibley, Denly, Crawley, *Stokes, Pope, +Buttler, Bess, Archer, Wood and Anderson won the toss and batted. Many hav criticized this decision by Stokes, but for me the problem was not the decision but England’s poor response to it. Virtually every batter got some sort of start (Denly, out for 9, and Pope, 12 were the exceptions), but no one produced a major innings. Stokes top scored with 43, which needed a lot of luck (two clear dropped chances and other iffy moments), while Buttler made 35 before becoming one of many to give his wicket away rather than forcing the bowlers to take it. It was only a spirited innings from Bess, whose 31 showed up his supposed betters, that even got England to 200. Holder, with 6-42 including opposing skipper Stokes, and Gabriel who took the other four wickets both bowled outstandingly, but were also helped by some ordinary batting.

WEST INDIES ESTABLISH A USEFUL LEAD

Kraigg Brathwaite (no relation of Carlos, although both hail from Barbados, that mass producer of cricketing talent) scored a gritty 65, and there were useful runs all down the order from the West Indies. At their high water mark they were 267-5, 63 ahead and threatening a monster lead, but England pegged away, and in the end got them out for 318, an advantage of 114. Stokes got his opposite number Holder, as well as three other scalps, Anderson was his usual self, always formidable, and Bess bowled economically and nabbed a couple of wickets. The two speedsters, Wood and Archer, were both below par, both bowling far too much short stuff on a pitch that required the ball to pitched up.

ENGLAND FIGHT BACK

Burns and Sibley dug in well at the start of the second England innings, but Burns having seemingly laid a solid foundation for a big score got himself out, aiming to crash a long hop through the off side, and edging to deep point. Denly then joined Sibley who moved into the forties, before he too self destructed. That brought Zak Crawley to the crease, with him and Denly seemingly playing for one place, with skipper Root due to return for the second match. Denly, whose first innings failure had seen has test average drop into the twenties (it had stood at precisely 30), got to 29 while Crawley was starting to play nicely. Then Denly played to shot that cost him his wicket and with it surely his international career. Joe Denly, at the age of 34 hardly describable as ‘up and coming’ now has 818 test runs at 29.21 and has not managed a ton. Stokes joined Crawley and we were now treated to the best English batting of the match, as these two raised the score to 249 before Stokes fell having added 46 to his first innings 43. That triggered a clatter of wickets, among them Crawley for a new test best of 76. He has now played eight test innings in five matches, has 250 runs at 31.25 with two half centuries, and at 22 years of age is very much in the ‘up and coming’ category – he is definitely upwardly mobile. He deserves especial credit, because before this match he had never batted at no4 in first class cricket, let alone a test match, but was moved down one place from his regular test berth to accommodate Denly. The most gruesome dismissal from a substantial field was that suffered by Buttler, with only nine to his credit and the ship needing to be steadied. He is barely even a competent keeper, and 44 runs the match plus being the chief cause of his own dismissal in both innings cannot be described as making oneself worth a place as a batter. From 279-8 England staged a mini revival, ultimately reaching 313 on the final morning, a lead of 199.

THE WEST INDIES CHASE

Anderson and Archer took the new ball, and they bowled magnificently, to put the West Indies on the ropes at 27-3 with opener John Campbell having suffered a foot injury. Jermaine Blackwood, in company with first Roston Chase and then keeper Shane Dowrich and finally skipper Holder pulled the innings round. By the time Blackwood was out for a superbly crafted 95 the score was 189-6 and the opener Campbell was ready to return. Had England got through him, then with only Alzarri Joseph, Kemar Roach and Shannon Gabriel to come there would still have been a chance of victory, but he held out in partnership with Holder to see his side to a deserved victory. Seeing a winning score of 200-6 and an opener on 8 not out might suggest a Richard Barlow or William Scotton at work to someone who was not familiar with the circumstances.

PLAYER OF THE MATCH

Shannon Gabriel, the West Indies fast bowler, was named player of the match, for his haul of nine wickets over the two innings, a lionhearted effort. I do not especially quarrel with this, but Jermaine Blackwood’s innings, begun with his side reeling and ending with it in sight of victory also deserved consideration, as did Holder’s all round contribution (he averages 33 with the bat in test cricket and 26 with the ball, making him worth his place purely as a bowler, and a very handy player to have coming at no8).

WELL DONE ALL ROUND

The  West Indies played superbly and deserved to win. England played reasonably well, but need to do better in terms of turning starts into serious scores – Crawley’s 76 was the only major innings played by an England batter in this match. I was also impressed by the commentary, although I would prefer it if ‘natural sound’ was the default option rather than having to switch to it as soon as it becomes available – I do not like the fake background noise in the standard version. The pitch at the Ageas bowl was a good one, although the hoped for spin never materialized. The teams now move to another bio-secure venue, Old Trafford, which like the Ageas bowl has its own hotel and go again on Thursday.

WHITHER ENGLAND?

Most of the team will retain their places, and deserve to. Broad may come in, especially if the plan to rotate him and Anderson is adhered to. Denly must go, permanently (to drop Crawley to make way for Root would be a shocking decision, and England need Root’s batting, even if they decide Stokes can retain the captaincy), and at 34 there ought not to be a way back for him. Buttler needs to go, and again his test career should be over, although he is a vital component of the white ball teams, I would prefer to see Foakes get an extended run, but could live with Bracey getting the nod as keeper (he like Buttler is principally a batter, but he has recent runs in the bank, and has done some work on his keeping). My own XI for Thursday would be Sibley, Burns, Crawley, *Root, Stokes, Pope, +Foakes, Bess, Archer, Wood and one of Anderson or Broad.

ENGLAND PLAYER RATINGS (OUT OF 10)

  1. Dominic Sibley – 5.5 – twice batted reasonably only to get out when well set.
  2. Rory Burns – 5 – fared less well than Sibley, but again he was not all bad.
  3. Joe Denly – 2 – arguably he is lucky even to get this many, his first innings was awful, his second better, but getting out the way he did with 29 to his name is unforgivable.
  4. Zak Crawley – 8.5 – batted in a position he has never even occupied in first class cricket (Denly should have been the one moved down, not him), and produced the best England innings of the match even so, a splendid 76 in the second innings. I expect to see centuries from him before too long.
  5. Ben Stokes – 8 – the only things he really did wrong were to get out twice when going well (43 and 46). His four cheap first innings wickets were badly needed.
  6. Ollie Pope – 3.5 – his first innings was a miniature gem, but there is a limit to the amount of praise a specialist batter can be given for making 12, and his second effort produced the same modest score and was less impressive.
  7. Jos Buttler – 2 – two self inflicted dismissals for a combined total of 44 runs, and the costliest England mistake of the entire match when he dropped a chance on the final day – had he taken it England would have been firmly back in control of proceedings.
  8. Dominic Bess – 6 – a spirited batting effort when it was much needed in the first innings, and bowled well on a surface that offered less turn than expected. He was a little unfortunate in the second dig, with a couple of very close LBWs going against him.
  9. Jofra Archer – 7.5 – batted reasonably in both innings, bowled poorly in the first but produced an electrifying opening burst in the second that put England in a winning position that they were unable to press home.
  10. Mark Wood – 5.5 – persistent short stuff in his first innings bowling effort, when the wicket of a tail ender flattered him. He bowled better second time around, but was not a match for Archer.
  11. James Anderson – 7 – he commanded respect in both innings, and if not quite the Anderson of old, he has little with which to reproach himself.

FINAL THOUGHTS AND PHOTOGRAPHS

Although the outcome of this match remained uncertain until deep in the final day it was in truth lost in it’s early stages when England were only able to reach 200 courtesy of Dom Bess’ late innings. Providing England notice the kick up the rear that this result amounts to it could actually benefit them, since a win would have allowed a papering over of cracks, whereas defeat does not come with such a luxury. I like the presence of two out and out speedsters for all that neither had great match here (Archer produced one magnificent spell, and some good bowling later on the fifth day as well) and hope that England will persist with that aspect of things. Now it is time for my usual sign off…

IMG_1678 (2)IMG_1679 (2)IMG_1680 (2)IMG_1682 (2)IMG_1687 (2)IMG_1688 (2)IMG_1689 (2)IMG_1691 (2)IMG_1693 (2)IMG_1694 (2)IMG_1696 (2)IMG_1698 (2)IMG_1699 (2)IMG_1700 (2)IMG_1701 (2)IMG_1702 (2)IMG_1703 (2)IMG_1704 (2)IMG_1705 (2)IMG_1706 (2)IMG_1707 (2)IMG_1708 (2)IMG_1709 (2)IMG_1710 (2)IMG_1711 (2)IMG_1712 (2)IMG_1713 (2)IMG_1714 (2)IMG_1715 (2)IMG_1716 (2)IMG_1719 (2)IMG_1720 (2)IMG_1721 (2)IMG_1721 (3)IMG_1722 (2)

England Struggling At The Ageas Bowl

Continuing thoughts on post-Covid test cricket, as being showcased at the Ageas bowl.

INTRODUCTION

The weather in the vicinity of Southampton is better today, and it seems that we will get a full day’s play today. This post looks at the goings on since this time yesterday.

DAY 2

Yesterday’s post finished with England having just lost a sixth wicket, ending a stand between Buttler and Stokes. Wickets 7,8 and 9 followed swiftly, but then some sensible aggression from Bess, with the support of Anderson, saw England pass 200, Bess becoming one of only three England batters to reach 30 in the innings (Stokes 43, with the assistance of a lot of luck, and Buttler 35. England tallied 204, and the West Indies reached 57-1 off the 19.3 overs of their innings that were possible before the light intervened (more of this later). England did not start today well, and a running theme was continued when an LBW was overturned on review (on this occasion because the bowler had overstepped, and the delivery was therefore a no-ball), the sixth time such a decision had been overturned to date, and all six have been given against the West Indies by on-field umpires Illingworth and Kettleborough. Shai Hope became the second player out in the West Indies innings, caught by Stokes off Bess, who has had the best game of any England player to date. Then Stokes struck with an LBW, which was yet again sent upstairs, but on this occasion came back as ‘umpires call’, meaning that the on-field decision, and Kraigg Brathwaite was out for 65, comfortably the highest score of the match to date. Shamarh Brooks and Roston Chase stayed in till lunch, and in the few minutes since the resumption have not been separated as yet, with the West Indies now 159-3. Now on to some thoughts about a few specific issues…

WHAT ENGLAND NEED FROM HERE

First England need to bowl better (and the quick bowlers need to bowl to a fuller length than they have been on this surface – Holder was successful for the Windies by pitching it up) and dismiss the West Indies before they build a really huge lead. Get the West Indies out for 250, which is definitely possible, and England will be in the contest, and even if they reach 300 that is not an impossible deficit to overcome, especially given the dryness of the pitch, which suggests that there will be genuine assistance for Bess in the 4th innings if the game goes that far. Then England need to bat well second time around. Denly and Crawley in particular need runs with Root due to return for the second match and Bracey and Lawrence knocking on the door (I would have given Lawrence the no4 slot and dropped Denly in any case). If England can set the West Indies even as much as 200 in the fourth innings that might easily be enough.

HOME UMPIRES

This move has been necessitated by the pandemic, but at the moment, for all their strong position the West Indies have a legitimate grievance in this matter – a succession of decisions by the on-field umpires have gone against them, and while all bar one have subsequently been overturned. The one that was not overturned was close, and would also have stood had it been given the other way.

WEATHER, LIGHT AND STARTING TIMES

Not much can be done about rain, but time has also been lost in this match to bad light, which I regard as inexcusable. Natty over at Sillypoint has suggested that pink balls should be used at test matches so that the overs can be bowled even if the floodlights are the only source of light at the ground, which has a lot going for it. The alternative is to keep the red balls for general use, but also have a stock of pink or white balls at the ground, and if the floodlights are the only available light delay play only for as long as it takes to swap the red ball for a pink or white one in similar condition. What is not acceptable is a continuation of the current system, where huge chunks of playing time are needlessly lost due to a desire to stick with red balls at all times. Finally, the Ageas Bowl was chosen as host venue for this series because there is a hotel that is structurally part of the ground, there are no spectators allowed for the obvious reasons, so no one has any commuting to do to get to the ground. Therefore, why the continuing insistence on 11AM starts – today has been bright and sunny down there from the start apparently, so why could play not have got underway at 10AM to make up for some of the lost time?

ENGLAND PLAYER BY PLAYER

  1. Dominic Sibley – a failure this time, but he has done enough in his career to date not to be dropped.
  2. Rory Burns – again not a good first innings for him, but he is established in the side and should be retained.
  3. Joe Denly – his first innings failure took his test average below 30, and at the age of 34, he is surely only one more failure from the exit door.
  4. Zak Crawley – failed in the first innings, but worth persevering with, although he too needs a big score before too long.
  5. Ben Stokes – he rode his luck to make 43 with the bat, his bowling has not been great thus far, but you never know when he will come up with something, and although I expect Root to resume the captaincy there is no way Stokes is losing his place as a player.
  6. Ollie Pope – before getting out he looked several classes above anyone else in the line up, and there are surely big scores to come from him.
  7. Jos Buttler – I do not consider 35 an outstanding score and think that he must be running out of chances.
  8. Dom Bess – the only England player whose stocks have gone up in this match, a spirited innings in his secondary discipline and has bowled nicely so far.
  9. Jofra Archer – quick as ever but has bowled too short thus far and been consequently expensive and relatively unthreatening.
  10. Mark Wood – see my comment re Archer.
  11. James Anderson – the usual Anderson, accurate, always commanding respect. It would seem that the plan is for him and Broad to alternate through this summer, an idea I endorse. Broad it would appear has had an on air (TV) ‘toys out of the pram’ moment over his non-selection for this game, but the way he bowled in the warm up match, lacking pace, and largely too wide to pose any great threat he should have no complaints over missing out.

As far as I am concerned, any score that does contain three figures in the second innings should spell the end of Denly, as Root returns. Crawley may retain his spot, but one or other of Lawrence or Bracey could claim that. Buttler should lose his place (but probably won’t, so wilfully blind are the selectors to his faults in long-form cricket) for Foakes. Anderson and Broad will likely rotate as explained, and Robinson, Curran and Mahmood are all possibles for pace bowling slots. Bess’s performance here has underlined his role as first choice spinner, and if at any point there is a surface warranting two specialist spinners the leg spinner Parkinson should be the other. While I have been typing this Anderson has dismissed Brooks, caught by Buttler. This was the subject of yet another review, a terrible call by Brooks since the nick was blatantly obvious. I suspect that Brooks was influenced by the fact that the on-field umpires have been having such a poor game and found it hard to believe that they had actually got one right.

PHOTOGRAPHS

I congratulate the West Indies, and especially Holder and Gabriel, on their play in this match thus far, hope England can pick things up a bit and make this closer than it currently looks like being. I am delighted that cricket has returned, and have greatly enjoyed the TMS commentary on this game. Now it is time for my usual sign off…

IMG_1550 (2)IMG_1551 (2)IMG_1552 (2)IMG_1553 (2)IMG_1555 (2)IMG_1556 (2)IMG_1557 (2)IMG_1558 (2)IMG_1559 (2)IMG_1560 (2)IMG_1561 (2)IMG_1561 (3)IMG_1561 (4)

Dominic Bess has just nabbed a second wicket to make the West Indies 186-5 – Blackwood gone cheaply. Keeper Dowrich and skipper Holder are both useful batters, but after them are three tail enders.

The Resumption of Test Cricket

The resumption of test cricket is our main theme today, and there are as usual some photographs.

INTRODUCTION

Test cricket has returned, club cricket restarts in this country on Saturday, and the domestic first class game restarts on August 1st. This means that the ‘all time XI’ series with which I have been filling the gap has performed its task (see yesterday’s sign off post). This post is the first of the new era on this blog.

THE ALL TIME XIS IN RETROSPECT

The series began with an 18 post whistle stop tour of the first class counties, and then as I realized that there was going to be a major wait before I had any real cricket to concentrate on it developed into a wide-ranging series covering national set ups, various esoteric themed XIs and variations on these themes. When it was confirmed that this test series between England and the West Indies would be happening I had my logical point at which to bring the series to a close. Most of the players I selected in my XIs were players I had already heard of, but just occasionally, when I was one or two names short of an XI I used cricinfo.com not merely to check on records but to find players to fill the XI.

THE TEST MATCH – DAY 1

There was some stuff about Black Lives Matter and racism in cricket – Ebony Rainford-Brent and Michael Holding, two black former players, were especially impressive on Sky (video footage of this was made available after the event by Sky themselves). Unfortunately the weather failed to oblige, and very little actual play was possible.

There are no spectators at the ground, all part of keeping it bio-secure, which means that there is no natural crowd noise. Test Match Special have prerecorded background noise as a default setting – it sounds like a low hum in the background – but one can also access a version without the fake crowd noise, which I greatly prefer. England were 35-1 at the end of the first day, with Burns one runs away from his 1,000 career runs in test cricket.

Play was officially called off just before 6PM, due to bad light (given the presence of floodlights why do they not have a selection of white balls available, so that play can continue under the lights even if it is dark – there are no spectators to get home, and the Ageas bowl was chosen as a venue precisely because there is a hotel there for the players to use, so they have no travelling to do?).

DAY 2 SO FAR

The weather has been better, and play got under way at 11AM sharp (again, why not an early start to make up for lost time?) The West Indies, relying on four pace bowlers, Kemar Roach, Alzarri Joseph, Shannon Gabriel and the captain Jason Holder (if they decide they need spin it will be bowled by Roston Chase – Rahkeem Cornwall is not involved in this match) bowled very well. England did not bat especially well, and Denly, Burns, Crawley and Pope all fell before lunch, which was reached with England 106-5 from 42 overs. Gabriel was especially impressive, accounting for all of England’s top three, Burns, Sibley and Denly, and the giant Holder took the other two wickets. Since lunch Stokes and Buttler have batted reasonably well, although Stokes has benefitted from two dropped chances so far, one either side of lunch, and England are currently 127-5 off 48 overs. England’s remaining batters are Bess, Wood, Archer and Anderson (at least I presume they will come in in that order). I would not have selected Denly,  preferring to give Lawrence a debut and keep Crawley at three. I would also have selected Foakes in preference to Buttler, and the latter could do with producing a serious score in red ball cricket. I am pleased that both the out and out speedsters, Wood and Archer are in the side. On this surface, which does appear to be decidedly bowler friendly England are not in quite as desperate trouble as the score might seem to indicate – if they can conjure another 100 they will have a defensible looking total (and Bess has a test 50, Wood has made useful runs at test level and Archer is supposedly capable of batting, so it does not quite all rest on Stokes and Buttler – though one of them will need to bat through from here). I also note that four of the five England wickets have fallen to good bowling rather than poor batting (Pope, who had looked in impressive touch, will not want to see his dismissal again but none of the others have too much with which to reproach themselves). In summary of the play so far: well bowled the West Indies. I do not think England made the wrong decision in opting to bat first: if you choose to bowl you need quick wickets to justify that decision, which puts extra pressure on the bowlers, and it is quite possible that by the final innings the pitch will be assisting Bess as much as it helps the quicker bowlers.

HOME COUNTRY UMPIRES

Another change wrought by the pandemic is that umpires can no longer safely be jetted in from round the world, so we have home country umpires back in charge. The two guys in the middle, Richard Kettleborough and Richard Illingworth, have not so far had the best of times – two LBWs which were quickly given ‘not out’ in the middle were reviewed by the West Indies and overturned pretty smartly by the TV replay umpire Michael Gough. On the plus side this has shown that with DRS in place and being used wisely (are you reading this, Mr Paine?) that giving ‘home’ decisions is no longer so much of an issue as it was when third country umpires were introduced, because they just get overturned. While I have been typing this England have passed the 150 with no further wickets down, although Stokes is still somewhat riding his luck.

PHOTOGRAPHS

My usual sign off…

IMG_1534 (2)IMG_1536 (2)IMG_1537 (2)IMG_1538 (2)IMG_1539 (2)IMG_1541 (2)IMG_1542 (2)IMG_1543 (2)IMG_1544 (2)IMG_1545 (2)IMG_1546 (2)IMG_1546 (3)IMG_1547 (2)IMG_1547 (3)IMG_1548 (2)IMG_1548 (3)IMG_1549 (2)

PS – just as I finalize this before publication Stokes’ luck has run out – he has gone for 43 and England are 154-6. Dom Bess has come in at no8 as expected.

All Time XIs – The Janus Contest

Today’s all time XI cricket post faces Janus-like in two directions simultaneously, towards the past and the future of this great game.

INTRODUCTION

Welcome to the final post in this All Time XIs cricket series – as I start typing it the test match at the Ageas bowl is about to get underway following weather delays. England have won the toss and chosen to bat, in view the correct decision grey skies notwithstanding. This post takes its name from the Roman god Janus because it faces two ways – a look at cricket’s past in the form of a team selected for a combination of entertainment value and class, and a look to the future with a team largely comprising up and coming players, with the topical exception of the captain.

TS ENTERTAINMENT XI

  1. *WG Grace – right handed opening batter, right arm bowler of varying types through his career. ‘The Doctor’ just had to be the captain of this side, with his outstanding approach and his attack minded approach. One quote “I never like defensive strokes – you can only get three for them.” Against Kent in the match after becoming the first to 100 first class centuries he made 257 as Gloucestershire replied to Kent’s 470 with 443 of their own. Kent then slumped to 78 all out in their second innings, and Gloucs needed 106 in an hour and a quarter to win, and Grace was on 73 not out when they got there just in time, having been on the field fior the entire match, and with his 47th birthday less than two months away.
  2. Victor Trumper – right handed opening batter. At Old Trafford in 1902 he scored a century in the morning session of day 1. In a wet season he amassed 2,570 first class runs for the touring Australians, including 11 centuries.
  3. Frank Woolley – left handed batter, left arm orthodox spinner, excellent close fielder. The only non-keeper to take 1,000 first class catches. At Lord’s in 1921 in the face of Gregory and McDonald against whom his colleagues could offer no resistance he scored 95 and 93. His highest first class score, 305 not out in a tour match on the 1911-2 trip to Australia, came from number three.
  4. Charles Macartney – right handed batter, left arm orthodox spinner. He scored centuries in the second, third and fourth matches of the 1926 Ashes, the second of the three, at Leeds coming before lunch on day 1. In 1921 he scored 345 in 232 minutes against Nottinghamshire, reaching 300 in 198 minutes.
  5. Garry Sobers – left handed batter, left arm bowler of every type known to cricket, brilliant fielder. The most complete player ever to play the game, and the most automatic of selections for a team of this nature.
  6. +Les Ames – right handed batter, wicket keeper. Twice winner of the Lawrence Trophy for the fastest first class hundred of the season, three times he achieved the keeper’s season double of 1,000 runs and 100 dismissals (only John Murray of Middlesex, who did so once, achieved the feat in all the rest of cricket history). He executed 418 first class stumpings, an all time record.
  7. Gilbert Jessop – right handed batter, right arm fast bowler, brilliant fielder. The ultimate in x-factor players. 53 first class centuries and only once did he bat for over three hours in a single innings.
  8. Billy Bates – off spinner, right handed batter. 16 test matches, 50 wickets at 16 each and a batting average of 27. He was the first England bowler to take a test hat trick, as part of a match performance in which he took 14 wickets and scored 55 in England’s only innings.
  9. Frank Tyson – right arm fast bowler. The ‘Typhoon’, producer of possibly the fastest bowling ever seen, during the 1954-5 Ashes tour when he bowled England to victory after they had been stuffed in the opener at the Gabba (that series remains the last Ashes series down under won by a side who lost at the Gabba).
  10. Sydney Barnes – right arm fast medium bowler. Probably the greatest bowler ever seen. His signature weapon, ‘the Barnes ball’ was a leg break at fast medium pace, the nearest subsequent approach to which was Alec Bedser’s speciality. Incidentally it was from this no10 slot that he played his most important innings, the 38 not out that saw England to victory at the MCG in 1907, when they lost their eight wicket still 73 adrift, and their ninth still needing 39. Arthur Fielder of Kent was the no11 who assisted Barnes in that final partnership. In Barnes’ last test series, when he took 49 South African wickets in four matches before missing the fifth after a dispute, he took 17-159 in the match at Port Elizabeth, not a venue generally regarded fondly by bowlers.
  11. William Mycroft – left arm fast bowler. 138 first class matches, 863 wickets at 12.09, including a 17 wicket haul in a losing cause against Hampshire in 1876 (the crucial innings was played by one Reginald Hargreaves, who later married Alice Pleasance Liddell, aka the Alice of “Alice in Wonderland”). He may have inspired the name of Mycroft Holmes (Doyle was fine cricketer as well as being a fanatical follower of the game, and Mycroft and brother Thomas played for Derbyshire as fast bowler and keeper, while Frank Shacklock and Mordecai Sherwin, from whose surnames one can get Sherlock played the same roles for Nottinghamshire), and in this XI he has a team mate with the middle name Holmes (Frank Holmes Tyson).

This team has an excellent top six, the ultimate in x-factor no 7s and four very fine and varied bowlers. Tyson, Barnes, Mycroft, Bates, Woolley, Sobers, Grace, Jessop and Macartney provide a wealth of bowling options. Do you open with Mycroft and Barnes and have Tyson come on first change, do you open with Tyson and Barnes and bring Mycroft on first change, or do you attempt to persuade Barnes to accept coming on first change so that you can open up with Tyson and Mycroft?

HONOURABLE MENTIONS AND SEGUE

Of course I have a stack load of regrets about players I could not accommodate, and many of you will have ideas of your own, but my principal regrets are:

  • Could not find a place for Denis Compton’s batting and left arm wrist spin bowling.
  • No place for Keith Miller.
  • Tyson was one of three choices for that slot – Harold Larwood, who also terrorized the Aussies in their own backyard and Charles Kortright of Essex were both in my thoughts.
  • Bill O’Reilly, Doug Wright, Derek Underwood, Bhagwath Chandrasekhar and Jack Iverson were all highly individualistic bowlers I would have loved to be able to accommodate.

Having attended to the past it is now time for…

TS FUTURE STARS XI

  1. Prithvi Shaw – right handed opening batter. Has a remarkable record for someone so young, and will surely be a superstar before too many more years have passed. India would not want to break up the Sharma/ Agarwal opening pair an earlier than necessary, but perhaps they could accommodate Shaw by playing him at 3, with Kohli at four.
  2. Dominic Sibley – right handed opening batter. His South African tour pretty much established him in the England side, especially his first test century. The restart of test cricket has not been good for him – in the brief passages of play that the weather has allowed he has been dismissed for a duck, but he will be back scoring runs again before long.
  3. Shreyas Iyer – right handed batter. He has a magnificent record in all forms of cricket that he has played, and that will surely continue when he gets his chance at test level.
  4. Daniel Lawrence – right handed batter, occasional off spinner. He played at no 4 in last week’s warm up game at The Ageas Bowl and made 58 in the first innings, and was then not called on to bat in the second. He was then left out of the test squad, with Denly being chosen for the batting spot vacated by Joe Root being on paternity leave. His time will surely come soon.
  5. James Bracey – left handed batter, occasional wicket keeper. He made 85 in that warm up game at the Ageas Bowl, and again was overlooked for the test match. He has done some work on his wicket keeping, but regards himself primarily as a batter, and that is the role I see him playing for England when he gets the call up.
  6. *Ben Stokes – left handed batter, right arm fast bowler, captain. The one member of this side who is indisputably established at the very highest level, and in a nod to what is happening at the Ageas Bowl I have named as captain.
  7. +Ben Foakes – wicket keeper, right handed batter. England’s best (and worst treated) current wicket keeper. Among 21st century keepers his only rival with the gloves is the now retired Sarah Taylor, and he averages over 40 for those few tests he has been selected for. Bairstow is no longer able to perform in red ball cricket, and Buttler is barely even a competent keeper, and has never had a good red ball batting record, and yet it is this latter named individual who is currently taking the place behind the stumps that should be Foakes’. Stokes is an established test cricket, while Foakes should be but is not yet.
  8. Lewis Goldsworthy – left arm orthodox spinner, right handed batter. He had a good under-19 world cup, and I expect to see him notable first class performances from him before too much longer. He may yet develop into a genuine all rounder, but at the moment he is definitely more bowler than batter, hence his positioning at no eight in this order.
  9. Rashid Khan – leg spinner, useful lower order batter. Four test matches have yielded him 23 wickets at 21.08, a magnificent start at that level, and he has a phenomenal record in limited overs cricket. He has also already racked up a test 50 with his lower order batting. I look forward to seeing him establish himself as one of the greats of the game.
  10. Oliver Edward Robinson – right arm medium fast bowler, useful lower order batter. I use his full name because there is a young wicket keeper from Kent, Oliver Graham Robinson, who is on the fringes of the England set up. He takes his wickets at 22 each in first class cricket, and bowled well in the warm up match at the Ageas Bowl. Whether he has sufficient pace to trouble top level batters remains to be seen, but he should get his opportunity before too long. Yes, one has to pick for the present, but the future should also be considered, and England are due to go to Australia for their 2021-2 season, by when James Anderson will be 39 years of age, probably too old to spearhead the attack out there (the last England new ball bowler to succeed out there at that sort of age was Syd Barnes on the 1911-2 tour).
  11. Jasprit Bumrah – right arm fast bowler. He has played 14 test matches, the second most of anyone in this side, in which he has taken 68 wickets at 20, including shaking the Aussies up in their own backyard in the 2018-9 Border – Gavaskar Trophy. I hope to hear more of him in the not too distant future – talents of this type can only be good for the game.

This team has a fine top five, the x-factor player of the current era at six, the best current keeper and a beautifully balanced selection of bowlers. Bumrah, Robinson and Stokes look a fine pace trio, and Goldsworthy and Khan should combine well as spin twins.

HONOURABLE MENTIONS

Pakistan left arm quick Shaheen Shah Afridi has made an impressive start to his career, and would be my first reserve quick should one or other of Bumrah or Robinson be unavailable. Hamidullah Qadri was the other English success story of the u-19 world cup, although at the moment he would have to be considered as at best third in the senior off spinning queue behind Bess and Virdi, though in red ball cricket he is certainly ahead of Ali in my pecking order. Finally, a suggestion of a type that might be regarded as akin to heresy in certain quarters, all rounder Amelia Kerr has had success with both bat and leg spin for the New Zealand Women, is still only 18, and the Kiwis do not have a long queue of spin bowling options – will they take a chance on giving a female the opportunity to play alongside the men?

PHOTOGRAPHS

My usual sign off…

IMG_1506 (2)IMG_1507 (2)IMG_1508 (2)IMG_1509 (2)IMG_1510 (2)IMG_1511 (2)IMG_1512 (2)IMG_1513 (2)IMG_1514 (2)IMG_1515 (2)IMG_1515 (3)IMG_1516 (2)IMG_1516 (3)IMG_1517 (2)IMG_1517 (3)IMG_1518 (2)IMG_1519 (2)IMG_1523 (2)IMG_1525 (2)IMG_1526 (2)IMG_1527 (2)IMG_1528 (2)IMG_1529 (2)IMG_1530 (2)IMG_1531 (2)IMG_1532 (2)IMG_1533 (2)Janus