All Time XIs – Through The Alphabet XIII

Today’s all time XIs cricket post is our 13th alphabetic progression, also features mathematics and photographs.

INTRODUCTION

My apologies for the fact that you will be seeing today’s all time XIs cricket post a little late – I have been to a restaurant for a family Sunday lunch, the first time I have been out to do something in four months. This is the 13th and final alphabetic progression post in this series (I have three more days to fill before I will have some actual test cricket to write about), starting from the letter E.

CHARLOTTE EDWARDS’ XI

  1. *Charlotte Edwards – right handed opening batter, occasional spin bowler, captain. An epoch or two ago I was watching a game between the England and Australia women’s teams, and England by and large were surrendering with precious little fight. The glorious exception was a girl in her mid teens who fought her way to a magnificent 74. Her name was Charlotte Marie Edwards, and she went on from that impressive beginning to become one of the all time greats of women’s cricket. She was also a fine captain, leading her side to world cup glory and an Ashes triumph in 2009.
  2. Graeme Fowler – left handed opening batter, occasional wicket keeper. He could never quite convince the England selectors of his merits, although his last two test match appearances featured scores of 201 and 69. He scored twin centuries, aided by a runner in each innings (David Lloyd in the first and Ian Folley in the second) in one of the most extraordinary of all cricket matches, when Warwickshire posted 523-4 declared on the opening day and ended up losing by ten wickets!
  3. Harold Gimblett – right handed batter. He scored 123 in 79 minutes on his first class debut, winning the Lawrence Trophy for the fastest first class hundred of the season in the process, and went on to score more runs for Somerset than any other batter (Marcus Trescothick falling just short of matching him in the end). His 310 not out remains the highest first class score by a Somerset native, although Viv Richards and Justin Langer both produced bigger innings for the county. Like Marcus Tresocthick he suffered from mental health issues, and unlike Trescothick he was unable to come through them, and ended up becoming one of the depressingly long list of cricket suicides.
  4. Joe Hardstaff Jr – right handed batter. A man who averaged 44 in first class cricket, scored 169 not v Australia at The Oval in 1938 and 205 v India in 1946 at test level. His father played for Nottinghamshire and England as well, and like many other cricketers in that area and that era had worked down a mine before turning professional (Harold Larwood was another who worked in the mines before getting a professional cricket contract).
  5. Frank Iredale – right handed batter. He played 14 test matches for Australia, averaging 36, and that in the 1890s and early 1900s. He played a key role in the 1894 match at the SCG which England won after following on – on the first morning Tom Richardson reduced Australia to 21-3, before Iredale joined Giffen in the first of two big partnerships that dug Australia out of the hole.
  6. Roly Jenkins – right handed batter, leg spinner. A fine all rounder for Worcestershire, scoring over 10,000 first class runs and taking over 1,000 first class wickets in his career.
  7. +Kycia Knight – wicket keeper, left handed batter. One of a pair of twin sisters who are both regulars for the West Indies women (the other, Kyshona, bowls medium pace and bats in the lower order). She has never had the opportunity to play long form cricket, but she has a respectable record in limited overs cricket, and her batting would certainly be better suited to long form than it is to  limited overs.
  8. Brett Lee – right arm fast bowler, useful lower order batter. One of the quickest bowlers ever to play the game, though inconsistent and prone to injury. The 2005 Ashes saw him at his best, but his efforts were not enough to prevent England regaining the Ashes after Australia had won eight successive series (1989, 1990-1, 1993, 1994-5, 1997, 1998-9, 2001 and 2002-3) in cricket’s greatest rivalry.
  9. Muttiah Muralitharan – off spinner. 800 wickets in 133 test appearances. His 16 wickets at The Oval in 1998 were all the more remarkable because they were taken on a very flat pitch, and in a match that England had been less than enthusiastic about arranging, believing in spite of the 1996 World Cup that Sri Lanka were not good enough to oppose them.
  10. Sarfraz Nawaz – right arm fast medium bowler. He had his finest hour in Australia, when the home side had reached 305-3 in pursuit of a target of 388, and thanks to him were all out for 310. He took 7-1 in the space of 33 deliveries in that spell, finishing with 9-86 for the whole innings.
  11. Bill O’Reilly – leg spinner. Almost universally rated as the best bowler of the interwar years, and unhesitatingly named by Bradman (with whom he did not get on) as the best bowler he ever saw or faced. He took at least 25 wickets in each of four successive test series, a record for consistency that still stands.

This side has a strong top five, a genuine all rounder, a keeper and four quality bowlers. They will take a lot of beating.

LIONEL TENNYSON’S XI

  1. Alviro Petersen – right handed opening batter. Averages 40 in first class cricket, though he has never been good enough to be an absolute regular for South Africa.
  2. Willie Quaife – right handed opening batter, occasional leg spinner. One of the most stubborn end enduring of all cricketers, playing on for Warwickshire until he was 56 years old.
  3. Richie Richardson – right handed batter. The second greatest batter ever to come from the island of Antigua behind Viv Richards. He was the last international batter to face up to opposition quick bowlers in a hat rather than a helmet (he favoured a maroon sun hat, rather than a cap). Perhaps his greatest test performance came at Perth, when 6’7″ Jo Angel decided that banging the ball in short was the way to go, and the stands in the region of midwicket took an absolute pounding, Richardson being far from averse to taking on the short stuff and also having faced quicker bowlers than Angel over the years.
  4. Ben Stokes – right handed batter, right arm fast bowler.
  5. *Lionel Tennyson – right handed batter, occasional fast bowler. He scored 63 and 36 batting virtually one handed in a test match (he had a broken left arm) in 1921. A year later he helped to engineer one of the greatest turnarounds in cricket history, when Hampshire came back from being rolled for 15 in their first innings to beat Warwickshire by 155 runs.
  6. George Ulyett – right handed batter, right arm fast bowler. It was his bowling that first got him noticed, but he would also open the batting for his country.
  7. +Ricardo Vasconcelos – left handed batter, wicket keeper. Born in South Africa, of Portuguese ancestry, and now essential to Northamptonshire, for whom at the age of 22 he has already been keeper, opening batter and captain. He averages 36 with the bat, and has made 48 dismissals in 33 first class matches.
  8. Arnold Warren – right arm fast bowler. He took five cheap wickets on his only test match appearance. For those wondering about him being as high as no 8, he did once share a partnership of 283 with a certain J Chapman, so he clearly could bat.
  9. Xara Jetly – off spinner.
  10. Waqar Younis – right arm fast bowler. One of the all time great fast bowlers, both for Pakistan and for first Surrey and then Glamorgan, who he bowled to a county championship, in county cricket.
  11. Zahir Khan – left arm wrist spinner. Z is a difficult letter to fill, and in view of the pace bowling resources I already had Dawlat Zadran was not going to add much. Therefore I slightly cheated by selecting another Afghan who has one name beginning with Z, Zahir Khan. He is only just starting his career at present but I expect big things from him before too long.

This team has some decent batting and lots of depth and variety in bowling. Younis, Warren, Ulyett, Stokes and the occasional stuff of Tennyson is a superb range of pace options, and Xara Jetly and Zahir Khan should be able to enough in the spin department.

THE CONTEST

This should be a good contest. Lionel Tennyson’s XI have a greater range of bowling options, but as against that Charlotte Edwards’ XI are probably a stronger batting side. I just about make Lionel Tennyson’s XI favourites.

SOLUTION TO YESTERDAY’S TEASER

I presented this problem from brilliant yesterday:

Triangles

This problem was set on brilliant as a multi-choice question, and it was a matter of seconds work to look at the available answers and conclude that 125 was right (the other three answers for the missing length all gave triangles with a shortest side of non-integer length, the sort of thing I notice pretty much without thinking). This was unfortunate because without the multi-choice answers it would have been a genuinely tough problem. Here is a published solution from someone who unlike me did not take advantage of the availability of a hack:

PHOTOGRAPHS

My usual sign off…

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All Time XIs – Mixed Chirality

Today’s ‘all time’ XI circket themed posts focusses on players who batted and bowled with different hands. Also contains a couple of links and some photographs.

INTRODUCTION

Welcome to today’s variation on an all-time XI cricket theme. As hinted at yesterday, today we look at players who bat and bowl with different hands.

THAT WORD CHIRALITY

I have borrowed this from the realm of chemistry. Here is an official definition – screenshot below:

Chirality

BATTED LEFT AND BOWLED RIGHT XI

  1. Matthew Hayden – left handed opening batter, very occasional right arm medium pace bowler. He averaged 50 with the bat in test cricket with the bat. He did bowl at that level as well, but never picked up a wicket.
  2. Alastair Cook – left handed opening batter, very occasional off spinner. Bizarrely has one of the most economical wicket taking averages of all in test cricket – his one visit to the bowling crease in his long career yielded him figures of 1-7, an average of 7.00. He scored nearly 12,500 runs at 45 as a batter, including a 50 and a century on debut against India, and the same double in his last match against the same opponents 12 years later.
  3. Brian Lara – left handed batter, very occasional leg spinner. Holds world record individual scores at both test and first class level.
  4. Graeme Pollock – left handed batter, very occasional leg spinner. Averaged 60.97 in his test career, before his country’s isolation brought the curtain down on it.
  5. Shivnarine Chanderpaul – left handed batter, occasional leg spinner. Possessor of one of the most unusual of all batting stances – and opponents have been given plentiful opportunities to study it at length. 
  6. *Ben Stokes – left handed batter, right arm fast bowler. The ultimate big occasion player. I have named as captain of this team, a role he is due to assume later this year on a temporary basis, while Joe Root is with his wife for the birth of their child.
  7. +Adam Gilchrist – left handed batter, wicket keeper, very occasional off spinner. He bowled two overs in all senior first team cricket across the formats, and they were classed as off spin.
  8. Richard Hadlee – right arm fast bowler, left handed lower middle order batter. Quite simply his country’s G.O.A.T.
  9. Bill O’Reilly – leg spinner, left handed lower order batter. One of the greatest of all bowlers, rated by Bradman as the best he ever saw or faced. His batting highlight was an unbeaten 30 in the third test of the 1930 Ashes, which prevented Australia from having to follow on, after his narrow failure to do the same at Lord’s had led to them suffering an innings defeat. Avoiding the follow on meant that Australia saved that match, and after a draw in the 4th match they won at The Oval to regain the Ashes.
  10. Curtly Ambrose – right arm fast bowler, left handed tail end batter. One of the greatest of all fast bowlers, taking his wickets at under 21 a piece in test cricket, the most economical rate of anyone to have taken 400 or more.
  11. James Anderson – right arm fast medium bowler, left handed tail end batter. England’s all time leading test wicket taker, currently on 584 and officially still counting.

This team has an excellent top five, the ultimate x factor all rounder, a keeper batter, and four excellent bowlers. There is only one genuine spin option, O’Reilly, but overall the bowling is pretty impressive.

THREE NEAR MISSES

Stuart Broad, right arm fast medium bowler and left handed lower order batter, came close, but I do not think one could seriously pick him ahead of Ambrose. Stan Nichols and Jack Gregory were both attacking left handed batters who regularly bowled right arm fast with the new ball, but they hardly challenge Stokes and Hadlee.

BATTED RIGHT AND BOWLED LEFT XI

  1. Wilfred Rhodes – right handed opening batter, left arm orthodox spinner. 39,807 first class runs, 4,187 first class wickets. In one of the many phases of his extraordinary career he was effectively a specialist batter, opening for England with Jack Hobbs, and being number two in the batting averages as well.
  2. Vinoo Mankad – right handed opening batter, left arm orthodox spinner. He once scored 184 and 72 either side of a five wicket haul. He amassed four double centuries in his test career, including what was then the Indian record of 231, when he and Pankaj Roy put on 413 for the first wicket.
  3. *Frank Worrell – right handed batter, left arm medium fast bowler, occasional left arm orthodox spinner, captain. Averaged 49.48 in test cricket, was the first black captain of the West Indies.
  4. Denis Compton – right handed batter, left arm wrist spinner. Averaged 50 in his test career, and fared respectably with his wrist spin, which he developed after a tour to Australia in which he noticed how many Aussies were good at more than one department. He chose left arm wrist spin because he was impressed by Chuck Fleetwood-Smith, a specialist bowler in that style.
  5. Charlie Macartney – right handed batter, left arm orthodox spinner. Averaged 41.78 with the bat, including three successive centuries in the 1926 Ashes. Also had a ten wicket match haul with his left arm spin.
  6. +Sarah Taylor – wicket keeper, right handed batter. I could not find a high class keeper who batted right handed and was an occasional left arm bowler, so I went for one who batted right handed and never bowled a ball in senior first team cricket (and who happens to be one of the two best English keepers I have ever seen in action).
  7. George Hirst – right handed batter, left arm fast medium bowler. One of the greatest of all all rounders. When he and Rhodes, known as the ‘Kirkheaton twins’ because they both hailed from that village, were in the prime there was a famous joke quiz question “who is the world’s best all rounder?” The only definitive answer to which was “he comes from Kirkheaton, bats right handed and bowls left, and beyond that we cannot go.” Hirst was always inclined to award Rhodes the palm, while Rhodes, cagier (he was after all the original author of the definitive Yorkshire phrase “we doan’t play it for foon, tha knows”), always refused to be drawn.
  8. Frank Foster – right handed batter, left arm fast medium bowler. He and Sydney Barnes (32 and 34 wickets respectively) were the bowling force behind arguably England’s greatest ever series performance in Australia, the 4-1 win in 1911-2 against a definitively full strength Aussie side, which held the Ashes going into that series. Foster was also a very fine batter, the first Warwickshire player to score a treble century, and captain of their first ever championship winning side.
  9. Hedley Verity – left arm orthodox spinner, right handed lower order batter. 1,956 first class wickets at 14.90, 144 of them at 24 in test cricket. Although definitely not a genuine all rounder he did have some useful batting performances to his credit, including stepping in as emergency opener for England and seeing through a dangerous period. He never managed the season double of 1,000 runs and 100 wickets, tallying just over 800 in his best batting season.
  10. Derek Underwood – left arm slow medium bowler, right handed tail end batter. A very economical bowler, rarely collared even on the flattest of pitches and a destroyer on a rain affected pitch (and also the match winner on the only documented fusarium affected pitch in test history, at Headingley in 1972). He did eventually register a first class ton, near the end of his long career, but there was never any serious chance of him being considered an all rounder.
  11. William Mycroft – left arm fast bowler, right handed tail end batter. He flourished just before test cricket was a thing, but 138 first class matches brought him 863 wickets at 12.09 each. 791 runs at 5.34 over the same period makes him not so much a rabbit in that department as a ferret (the one who comes after the rabbits).

This team has a respectable opening pair, an excellent 3,4 and 5, a superb keeper batter, two of the greatest of all all rounders, and three excellent specialist bowler. It commands the full range of left arm bowling from outright pace (Mycroft) through fast medium (Hirst and Foster), medium fast (Worrell), slow medium (Underwood) and spin (Verity, Rhodes, Mankad and Macartney bowling the orthodox variety, Compton wrist spin).

A NEAR MISS

Chuck Fleetwood-Smith, a left arm wrist spinner, came very close to selection, but I felt that with Compton in the side, Underwood’s slow-medium craft and guile offered me an extra variation.

THE CONTEST

The contest would be a good one. I think that the bowling options possessed by the batted right, bowled left brigade just give them the edge, but it is a very close call.

SPORTING AMBIDEXTERITY

The first Dr Grace, WG’s father, was a moderate cricketer, but noted for one peculiarity – although he insisted on batting right handed, he bowled and threw with his left. There are stories of Hanif Mohammad bowling with both hands at club level, and even snagging a wicket left handed. Neil Harvey, a great left handed batter, was right handed for everything other than cricket. I have yet to locate a cricketer who actually had bowling styles with each arm at first class level, but ambidexterity is positively encouraged these days, so it is probably just a matter of time. In other sports golfer Phil Mickelson plays left handed while being right handed everywhere other than the golf course. Snooker legend ‘Rocket’ Ronnie O’Sullivan regularly plays left handed shots in championship matches, and has apparently made entirely left handed century breaks in less exalted settings. Moving back to cricket, the sideways on stance used by almost all batters means that a right handed batter sees the ball mainly with their left eye, while a left handed batter sees it mainly with their right eye (this is why the Nawab of Pataudi junior, aka Mansur Ali Khan, could return to top level cricket after losing his right eye in an accident but Colin Milburn, another attacking right handed batter, could not do so after losing his left.

LINKS AND PHOTOGRAPHS

The statue of slave trader Robert Milligan has recently been removed from its plinth in West India dock in response to public pressure. Now there is a petition for its place to be taken by a memorial honouring writer and abolitionist Olaudah Equiano, which you can sign and share here.
Equiano

APF News Agency have produced this splendid infographic about Britain and the slave trade:

BST

Now it is time for my usual sign off…

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Radioactive clocks, from Dawkins’ “The Greatest Show on Earth”.
Mixed Chirality
The teams in tabulated form.

 

 

All Time XIs – The BS Clash

Today in ‘all time XI’ territory cricket and politics overlap as a team of players whose surnames begin with B take on a team of players whose surnames begin with S for the Johnson-Cummings trophy. Also a few extras.

INTRODUCTION

Welcome the latest in my series of variations on an ‘all-time XI‘ cricket theme. Today’s takes its inspiration from recent developments in British politics.

THE BRIEF

The Johnson-Cummings scandal now has more legs than a millipede, as both leading figures in it provided media appearances which managed to conflict with both the truth and each other. One government minister has already resigned in protest, and others may well follow. Today’s variation on an all-time XI theme therefore sees a team og players whose surnames begin with B pitted against a team of players whose surnames begin with S, combining to form BS, competing for the Johnson-Cummings Trophy.

THE B XI

  1. Sidney Barnes – right handed opening batter. A combination of World War II and conflicts with various authority figures limited his test career, but the few matches he did get to play yielded an average of 63.05 at that level. His most famous match was at Sydney in the second match of the 1946-7 Ashes when he and Don Bradman each scored 234, sharing a 5th wicket stand of 405.
  2. Bill Brown – right handed opening batter. Had a fine record at the highest level, with a test best of 206. He was briefly before his death the oldest living test cricketer.
  3. *Don Bradman – right handed batter, captain. The greatest batter the game ever saw.
  4. Ken Barrington – right handed batter, occasional leg spinner. Averaged 58.67 in test cricket. His first nine test centuries were all scored away from home, his first three figure test innings in England being the 256 he made at Old Trafford in 1964 to save that match for England after Bob Simpson, given a plumb pitch on which to take on the task of ensuring at least a draw to guarantee his side retention of the Ashes managed to do so quite literally off his own bat, making 311 in just over two full days at the crease.
  5. Basil Butcher – right handed batter. He averaged 43 in test cricket with a highest score at that level of 209. However, his greatest and most important test knock came at Lords in 1963, when his 133 with the West Indies otherwise doing very little with the bat in their second innings helped save the match for the visitors. A great spell of fast bowling by Wes Hall almost won it for the West Indies, but Colin Cowdrey came out to bat one handed when the ninth England wicket fell, and David Allen survived the last two balls with England needing six for victory.
  6. Ian Botham – right handed batter, right arm fast medium bowler, ace slipper. The designated all rounder in this side, although in truth the 6.7 and 8 slots could be moved around without difficulty.
  7. +Ben Brown – wicket keeper, right handed batter. The Sussex stumper has a first class batting average of 40 (he has never had the opportunity to play at the top level, and by now is too old for such to be a realistic prospect) and is a highly regarded keeper.
  8. Billy Bates – off spinner, right handed batter. He played 15 tests in the 1880s, averaging 27 with the bat and 16 with the ball. His greatest highlight came at Melbourne in 1882-3 (as part of Ivo Bligh’s mission to regain ‘The Ashes of English Cricket’, following the defeat at The Oval in 1882 and Regunald Shirley Brooks’ mock obituary in The Sporting Times) when he took 7-28 including the firt hat trick by an English bowler at test level, scored 55 and then took 7-74 to give England an innings win.
  9. Sydney Barnes – right arm fast medium bowler. The greatest there has ever been in this department, 189 wickets in just 27 test matches at 16.43 each.
  10. Bishan Bedi – left arm orthodox spinner. The former Indian skipper had a splendid test record and also did well for Northamptonshire as an overseas player.
  11. Jasprit Bumrah – right arm fast bowler. The best genuine quick bowler his country has ever produced (they have not been overstocked in that department down the years), a rare visiting fast bowler who managed to rattle the Aussies in their own backyard.

This team features a very strong top five, two bowling and one wicket keeping all rounder and three of the finest specialist bowlers you could wish to meet. With Bumrah and Barnes to share the new ball, Bedi and Bates to bowl spin and the ‘golden arm’ of Botham as fifth bowling option a good number of bowling bases are covered. It is true that with Barrington the best available the leg spin department is under stocked, but this side should be able to cope with that.

THE S XI

  1. Bert Sutcliffe – left handed opening batter. One of the greatest batting talents ever produced by New Zealand.
  2. Herbert Sutcliffe – right handed opening batter. Statistically England’s greatest ever opener, averaging 60.73 in test cricket, including 2,741 Ashes runs at 66.8S. The two great Sutcliffes complement each other nicely, Bert the New Zealander being left handed and attack minded, Herbert the Englishmen being more inclined to dig in for the long haul (although never neglectful of scoring opportunities).
  3. *Graeme Smith – left handed batter, captain. A third recognized opener just to make sure that the middle order are not exposed too early. He was a fine captain of his country, and his many batting feats included scores of 259 and 277 in successive matches against England.
  4. Steve Smith – right handed batter, occasional leg spinner. His current test batting average places him second to Bradman among those who have played at least 20 games on the all-time list.
  5. Garry Sobers – left handed batter, left arm bowler of every type known to cricket, ace fielder. The most complete cricketer there has ever been.
  6. Ben Stokes – left handed batter, right arm fast bowler. A clash of the all round titans as he goes head to head with Botham. In this team it is his batting that will count for more, his bowling being used in short sharp bursts.
  7. Greville Stevens – right handed batter, leg spinner. Averaged 29.56 with the bat and 26.84 with the ball in first class cricket.
  8. Amar Singh – right arm fast medium bowler. One of the greatest pace bowlers his country ever produced, capturing his wickets at 18.56 each in first class cricket, at a time when Indian cricket was chiefly known for tall scoring. He is at no 8 here because his batting record included first class centuries.
  9. Harbhajan Singh – Off spinner, occasionally useful lower order batter. His performance against the 2001 Australians when he took 32 wickets in a three match series was the highlight of his career.
  10. +Herbert Strudwick – wicket keeper. Born in Mitcham in 1880 (even today, though to a large extent swallowed by the sprawl of London, Mitcham is classed as Surrey – I grew up a few miles away from there in Tooting, which is very definitely southwest London), he made his Surrey debut in 1902, beginning an association with the county that would last in various guises for over six decades. His first class career, which lasted until 1927 (and he was keeper in the 1926 Ashes) saw him take 1,237 catches and execute 258 stumpings. His 28 test matches yielded 61 catches and 12 stumpings. The batting available to this team, and Strudwick’s brilliance as a keeper between them are enough to pick a specialist with the gloves in this XI.
  11. Brian Statham – right arm fast bowler. 252 test wickets at 24, his overall first class bowling average was a mere 18. He has an end named in his honour at the Old Trafford ground that he graced for so many seasons.

This team has a strong if not entirely aesthetically pleasing top four (remember, there are no style marks in cricket), the most complete player there has ever been at no 5, an x-factor all rounder at six, another genuine all rounder at seven, three bowlers and one of the greatest keepers ever to play the game. The bowling has all bases covered – there is outright pace from Statham and Stokes, fast-medium from Amar Singh, anything left handed that conditions call for courtesy of Sobers, Harbhajan Singh’s off spin and Stevens’ leg spin.

HONOURABLE MENTIONS

For the B XI Alec Bedser missed out as IMO SF Barnes would do the same job better, I considered Palwankar Baloo for the role I gave to Bishan Bedi, and Bernard Bosanquet would have dealt with the leg spin shortage. For the S XI the biggest miss is John Snow, but I rated Statham higher. If I wished to include an extra pace option and sacrifice the leg spinner then Franklyn Stephenson could come in for Greville Stevens. Finally, there would be some who would have given a batting slot to Guyanese stayer Ramnaresh Sarwan.

THE CONTEST FOR THE
JOHNSON-CUMMINGS TROPHY

Even though the ‘B’ XI has both Bradman and SF Barnes in its ranks, and they are well backed by quite a few other greats, I do not consider this to be a one-sided contest – the S XI have a quite awesome top five, a keeper in Strudwick who will miss nothing and some awesome bowling options. I cannot predict a winner.

A COUPLE MORE CUMMINGS STORIES

Having introduced the two teams who fill the BS brief and will compete for the ‘Cummings-Johnson Trophy’. I have a couple more bits for you. Fintan O’Toole has a piece in The Guardian comparing the arrogance of Cummings and Johnson with that of the Catholic Church in O’Toole’s native land and notes that the behaviour of the church cost it most of its influence in that country. The Tory Fibs twitter account has brought my attention the letter signed by leaders of six opposition parties (Labour being cunningly, forensically absent from the list). The letter is below:

Image

A MATHEMATICAL TEASER

Can you solve this little tester from brilliant.org:

Brilliant

Solution will appear in a later blog post.

LINKS AND PHOTOGRAPHS

Just before we come to the pictures I have a few more links to share:

Now it is time for my usual sign off:

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This goldfinch shot was blurry (due to the nature of the light I could not really see what I was doing – but was not remotely tempted to head off for a jaunt to a castle).
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This was a better shot, and I was able to extract from it…
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…this magnificent close up.
BS Clash
The teams in tabulated form.

All Time XIs – Teams of the Talents

My latest variation on the all-time XI theme.

INTRODUCTION

Welcome to today’s piece of whimsy on the theme of ‘all time XIs‘. I will set out the brief in full detail before launching into the main body of the post.

TEAMS OF THE TALENTS EXPLAINED

The two teams consist of one chosen from players who I have witnessed in action, and one chosen from players I have only read about but would dearly love to see in action. While class has most emphatically not been ignored my two principal criteria for creating these teams was to encompass the maximum breadth of skills within 11 players and that the teams should be jam packed with entertainment value. Of course no two cricket fans would arrive at similar conclusions following this brief – indeed I would probably not come up with the same set of teams twice. Please feel free to comment with your own views on my creations!

TEAM OF THE TALENTS – HISTORIC XI

  1. Victor Trumper – right handed opening bat. This is the man who at Old Trafford in 1902, with England’s primary aim as stated by skipper MacLaren being to ‘keep Victor quiet before lunch’ was 103 not out by lunch on that first morning, having absolutely splattered MacLaren’s carefully set fields. On another occasion against South Africa he taunted the Saffer skipper Percy Sherwell as follows: every time Sherwell rearranged his field Trumper would hit the next ball somewhere a fielder had just been moved away from! Later, when commiserated on over being made to look foolish while Trumper hit 214 not out Sherwell responded “don’t worry, we have seen batting today”.
  2. *WG Grace – right handed opening batter, right arm bowler of varying type. I could name no one else as captain of this team. He once said of his own approach to batting “I never liked defensive shots – you can only get three for them.”
  3. Frank Woolley – left handed batter, left arm orthodox spinner, brilliant close catcher. The “Pride of Kent” as Peebles subtitled his biography of Woolley. ‘Crusoe’ Robertson-Glasgow once wrote of Woolley that he was “Easy to watch, difficult to bowl to and impossible to write about” before going on to make a noble effort at doing the latter.
  4. Denis Compton – right handed batter, left arm wrist spinner. A running theme through his book “Playing for England” and demonstrated in practice by the way he played cricket is that cricket is a game and should be fun.
  5. Charles Townsend – right handed bat, right arm leg spinner. My choice from various options for the leg spinning all rounder – he was the second after WG to achieve the season double of 2,000 runs and 100 wickets in first class matches.
  6. Garry Sobers – left handed batter, left arm bowler of every type known to cricket, brilliant fielder. The most complete cricketer there has ever been and incapable of being other than highly entertaining.
  7. Gilbert Jessop – right handed batter, right arm fast bowler, brilliant fielder. The sort of cricketer for whom the phrase ‘worth the admission money on his own’ was invented, and a shoo-in for a team of this nature.
  8. +Jack Blackham – wicket keeper, right handed lower order bat. The game;s first great keeper.
  9. George Simpson-Hayward – right arm off spinner (under arm). 23 wickets at 18 in five test matches. The notion of him foxing international batters with his methods is irresistible to me.
  10. FR Spofforth – right arm fast bowler (later added considerable variations). The ‘Demon’ must have been seriously compelling to watch.
  11. Sydney Barnes – right arm fast medium bowler. My pick for the greatest bowler ever. A new ball pairing of him and Spofforth would test anyone.

This team features a splenid opening pair, a wonderfully entertaining and contrasting pair at 3 and 4, three genuine all rounders at 5,6 and 7, with Townsend and Jessop flanking the incomparable Sobers, a great wicket keeper who could bat, and a splendidly varied trio of specialist bowlers. The bowling also looks rich in depth and variety, with nine of XI recognized bowlers, commanding between them a minimum of 11 styles (eight plus Sobers’ three).

TEAM OF THE TALENTS MODERN XI

  1. Sanath Jayasuriya – left handed opening batter, left arm orthodox spinner. The Sri Lankan was the star of the 1996 ODI World Cup, but also did the business plenty of times at test level.
  2. Virender Sehwag – right handed opening batter, occasional off spinner. The only cricketer ever to have scored over 100 runs in each session of a day’s test cricket (nb Don Bradman at Headingley was 220 not out at tea, but only added 89 in the final session of that day).
  3. Brian Lara – left handed batter.
  4. Sachin Tendulkar – right handed batter, holder of a raft of records at test and ODI level.
  5. Viv Richards – right handed batter, occasional off spinner.
  6. Ben Stokes – left handed batter, right arm fast bowler.
  7. +Adam Gilchrist – left handed batter, wicket keeper.
  8. Wasim Akram – left arm fast bowler, left handed lower middler order batter.
  9. *Shane Warne – leg spinner, right handed lower order bat. I have chosen him as captain of this side. His arrival in the scene, commencing with the ‘Gatting ball’ at Old Trafford in 1993 was the trigger for an international revival of spin bowling.
  10. Malcolm Marshall – right arm fast bowler, right handed lower order batter.
  11. Muttiah Muralitharan – right arm off spinner. I watched transfixed as he destroyed England at The Oval in 1998, taking 16 wickets in the match either side of a huge Sri Lankan total. 

This team has an excellent top five, x factor players at six and seven and a suoerb quartet of front line bowlers. With Stokes and Jayasuriya also significant as bowlers this team has most bases covered bowling wise, although there is no left arm wrist spinner, and of course no under arm option.

THE CONTEST

The XI from my lifetime have a stronger batting line up, with Marshall listed at no10, but the historic XI have greater depth and variety in bowling. This contest would be a spectacular one, and I cannot call a winner.

PHOTOGRAPHS

This post was interrupted by illness, and I am still by no means well – we shall see whether I can manage another tomorrow or whether it has to be wait until Sunday, when I will come up with something. Now for my usual sign off…

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Teams of the talents
The teams in tabulated form.

All Time XIs – The Scribes Battle

Another variation on the ‘All Time XIs’ theme, this time featuring top cricketers who were or became top cricket writers. Where would your money be on the outcome of the battle for the ‘Cardus-Haigh’ Trophy?

INTRODUCTION

My latest variation on the ‘All Time XIs‘ theme looks at players who turned writer. Before introducing my chosen players I will explain my envisaged scenario to set the scene.

THE SCRIBES BATTLE – THE CONTEST FOR THE CARDUS – HAIGH TROPHY

My teams comprise people who made their names as high level players and who also wrote about the game. In each case I my cricket library contains at least one full book authored or co-authored by the chosen player. The Cardus – Haigh Trophy name honours two of my favourite cricket writers who did not play at a high level – Neville Cardus, a useful off spinner in club cricket, but never a first class cricketer, and Gideon Haigh, a rather less useful club off spinner. Thus, I have two teams to introduce, and I think I can guarantee that this would be a contest not to miss…

THE SCRIBES TEAMS

First up in our contest for the Cardus-Haigh Trophy I give you…

DOUGLAS JARDINE’S XI

  1. Jack Fingleton – opening batter and excellent writer. His author credits include “Brightly Fades The Don”, “Brown and Company” and “Four Chukkas to Australia” among others. His cricketing achievements included four successive test centuries.
  2. *Douglas Jardine – captain, and although not a regular opening bat, he did do the job at test level on occasions. His writing credit is for “In Quest Of The Ashes”, his own account of the 1932-3 tour of Australia when he was England captain. He was always adamantly of the opinion that runs could be scored against the method he devised, and when in 1933 the West Indies, via Manny Martindale and Learie Constantine, turned his own tactics on him he gave a convincing defence of his own case by scoring his one and only test century (127).
  3. Frank Woolley – left handed bat, left arm orthodox spinner, author of “King of Games”. He has already featured in my Kent all time XI and in my Record Setters XI.
  4. Walter Hammond – right handed bat, slip ace, occasional right arm fast medium and author of two highly entertaining books, “Cricket: My Destiny and “Cricket: My World”. Had he not made an ill-advised test comeback after World War II he would have finished with 6,883 test runs at 61.75, and had the highest average of any England batter to play 20 or more test matches. As it was he became the first to reach the landmark of 7,000 test runs and finished with 7,249 at 58.45.
  5. Denis Compton – right handed bat, left arm wrist spinner, author of “Playing for England” and “Compton on Cricketers”, co-author with Bill Edrich of “Cricket and All That”. He features in my Middlesex and Record Setters XIs.
  6. Ben Stokes – left handed bat, right arm fast bowler, author of “On Fire”. The X-factor all rounder features in my Durham All Time XI. There is no bespectacled left arm spinner for him to bat with in the closing stages this time.
  7. +Rodney Marsh – wicket keeper, left handed bat, author “The Inside Edge”.
  8. Alec Bedser – right arm fast medium, right handed bat, author of “Cricket Choice” and “Twin Ambitions”. He also features in my Surrey All Time XI.
  9. Bill O’Reilly – leg spinner, right handed bat, author of “Cricket Task Force” and “The Bradman Era”. 
  10. Brian Statham – right arm fast bowler, right handed bat, author of “Spell At The Top”. He features in my Lancashire All Time XI, and should be an excellent foil to…
  11. Bob Willis – right arm fast bowler, right handed bat, author “Captai n’s Diary: Australia 1982-3”, “Captain’s Diary: New Zealand 1983-4” and “Six Of The Best”. He features in my All Time Warwickshire XI.

This side has a solid looking opening pair, an excellent trio at 3,4 and 5, all of whom can also contribute with the ball, an x-factor all rounder at six, a brilliant keeper  and four splendid bowlers. It lacks an off spinner, but has every other base covered, and of course has a ruthless skipper at the helm. It is now time to meet their opponents…

IAN CHAPPELL’S XI

  1. Len Hutton – right handed opening bat, author of “Fifty Years In Cricket”. One hald of the opening pair in my Yorkshire All Time XI (with my namesake, Herbert Sutcliffe), and scorer of 6.971 test runs at 56.67.
  2. *Ian Chappell – right handed bat, captain, author of “Chapelli Laughs Again” and “Chapelli Has The Last Laugh”. He usually batted three rather than opening, but I have moved him up one, because as you will see I have a rather stronger claimant to the no3 slot in this XI.
  3. Don Bradman – right handed bat, author of among others “Farewell to Cricket”. Quite simply the greatest batter of all time, and here given an opportunity to match wits once more with the only opposition captain who could claim with any justification to have got the better of him.
  4. Tom Graveney – right handed bat, author of “The Ten Greatest Test Teams”. He features in my Gloucestershire All Time XI, and had I not named there I would have done so for Worcestershire, the other county he played for. The first half of a supremely elegant middle order duo, with…
  5. David Gower – left handed bat, author of “Anyone for Cricket” (jointly with Bob Taylor), “On The Rack”, and an autobiography. 8,231 runs in test cricket at 44.25, he would need to me on his mettle in this contest as Jardine would without doubt keep two gullies in place for him owing to his tendency to fish at balls outside off stump. However I reckon that he would relish the contest. He features in my Leicestershire All Time XI and later played for Hampshire.
  6. Monty Noble – right hand bat, right arm medium and/or off spin, author of “Gilligan’s Men”, an account of the 1924-5 Ashes tour.
  7. +Bob Taylor – wicket keeper, right handed bat and co-author with Gower of “Anyone For Cricket?”. He has previously featured in my Derbyshire All Time XI and in the Staffordshire Born piece.
  8. Richard Hadlee – right arm fast bowler, left handed bat, author of “Rhythm and Swing”. He featured in my Record Setters XI and got an honourable mention in the Nottinghamshire piece.
  9. Ashley Mallett – right arm off spinner, right handed bat, gully specialist fielder, author of “Victor Trumper: The Illustrated Biography”.
  10. John Snow – right arm fast bowler, right handed bat, author of “Cricket Rebel”. He features in my Sussex All Time XI. In 1970-1 he blitzed the Aussies who had Ian Chappell in their ranks (captain for the final match after the deposition of Bill Lawry) in their own backyard. This time ‘Chapelli’ would be captaining Snow.
  11. Ian Peebles – leg spinner, right handed bat, author of “Batters Castle”, “Spinners Yarn”, “Woolley: Pride of Kent” and “The Fight For The Ashes 1958-9”. He featured in my Non-Cricketing Birthplaces XI.

This team has an opening pair who should combine well, the greatest batter of them all at no3, a supremely elegant combo at 4 and 5, a tough all rounder at six, a superb wicket keeper and four excellent bowling options. The presence of Hadlee and Snow gives them means to counter a barrage should Willis, Statham and Stokes provide one, something that the 1932-3 Aussies deprived themselves of (had Fingleton, Chapelli’s grandfather Vic Richardson, or Bill O’Reilly been given HOa say I suspect that at least two out of Laurie Nash, Jack Scott, Eddie Gilbert and ‘Bull’ Alexander would have been picked as part of the Aussie attack, and Jardine would not have had such on overwhelming advantage in fast bowling firepower).

HOW THE CONTEST WOULD WORK AND MY PREDICTION FOR THE OUTCOME

I envisage 10 5-day matches, five in England at Edgbaston, Lord’s, Headingley, Trent Bridge and The Oval, and five in Australia at Brisbane, Adelaide, Perth, Melbourne and Sydney. If after 10 matches the score is level, I would have the teams reconvene for a timeless match to settle the issue, to played at a neutral venue (Cape Town, Kolkata or Bridgetown would all be possibilities). Should that match be tied, then tie splitting option one would be for the trophy to go the team that took most wickets over the 11 matches played, and if that does not split them, then, and only then, would we resort to ‘super overs’ to find a winner (hope you’re still fit by then Mr Stokes!). In addition the main trophy, there would of course be player of the match and player of the series awards, and a special “Grace-Murdoch” medal (named after two of the early Ashes ‘heroes’) along similar lines to the “Compton-Miller” medal.

The umpires would need to be chosen carefully, and the only match referee who would even have a chance of handling this would be Clive Lloyd.

Notwithstanding the presence of Bradman in Ian Chappell’s XI I make Douglas Jardine’s XI slight favourites – and more than slight favourites if it gets so close that all the tie-splitting procedures are needed – assuming Stokes is still fit only one of these sides could win a ‘super over’ contest!

LINKS AND PHOTOGRAPHS

The ‘Cardus-Haigh’ Trophy for the battle of the cricket scribes and the two XIs to compete for it have taken their bows, but before I apply my usual sign off I have a couple of links to share (the honourable mentions are just too numerous to even attempt):

  • The pinchhitter has again honoured me with a mention in today’s offering, which I highly recommend.
  • Van Badham has a piece in The Guardian (Cardus wrote for it in it’s great days as The Manchester Guardian, under the control of legendary owner-editor CP Scott) giving awards to all the worst responders to coronavirus (small but unsurprising spoiler, the overall grand champion currently resides at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue).
  • Finally, courtesy of brilliant.org, a little mathematical teaser (my current, personal record, problem solving streak there now runs to one day more than Dennis Lillee’s career tally of test wickets) – see screenshot and four available answers below. In my next post I will provide both my own (mathematical equivalent to Grace’s run out of Sammy Jones, as I freely admit) and a more authentic solution in my next post.
    Brilliant Challenge
    The four answers offered by the setter are 94, 96, 98 and 100. Over to you.

Now it is time for my usual sign off:

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A couple of illustrations photographed from Hammond’s “Cricket: My World”

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Scribes XIs
The XIs in tabulated form with abridged comments.

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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