Miscellany

London Underground at 160 years old and a couple of cricket bits, plus some photographs.

I have a number of things to post about, and will cover them in order.

LONDON UNDERGROUND 160

On January the 10th 2023 London Underground, the oldest underground railway system in the world, turned 160. From a modest seven stations when what was then called the Metropolitan Railway opened (this section of track is now part of the Hammersmith & City and Circle lines, but only Great Portland Street to Farringdon feature today’s Metropolitan line (the Metropolitan line platforms at Baker Street, two terminal platforms and two through platforms are later additions after the network began to expand, while platforms 5-6 have been restored to look as close to the 1863 originals as feasible) the system has grown to almost 300 stations and over 250 miles of track. After the initial opening, the biggest development was the development of electric locomotives, which enabled the opening of lines running further below ground and built with less surface level disruption, making use of the blue clay on which London sits and the Greathead Shield. The first deep level tube line, the City & South London Railway, now part of the Northern line, opened in 1890.

Big Bash League

Yesterday (I missed today’s game because of an important meeting) Brisbane Heat took on Perth Scorchers. Heat looked set for a formidable total when they reached the halfway stage of their innings at 80-2, but a disastrous third quarter of the innings, including a Power Surge that they took at a sensible time but failed miserably to cash in on yielded 25-2, and even with a decent final quarter of their innings they mustered 155 from their 20 overs, respectable but not the truly formidable score that looked on at halfway. Scorchers began poorly in response, managing only 25-2 in the opening four overs, but Heat then blundered, entrusting the fifth over to part time leggie Marnus Labuschagne. No fewer than 20 runs were plundered from that over. Even so, at the halfway stage of the chase Scorchers were still fractionally behind the rate, being 75-2, needing 81 off the last ten. It was the third quarter of the Scorcher’s allocation that killed the game – where Heat had scored 25-2 from overs 11-15, Scorchers, who also took their Power Surge in this period, and in their case made excellent use of it, scored 60-0 from overs 11-15. The winning hit was a six, off the second ball of the 17th over, with the third wicket pair still together. Scorchers top the table, with a game in hand on their closest challengers as well, while Heat are currently stone last, though they have a game in hand on the team immediately above them.

AUSTRALIA CANCEL TOUR OF AFGHANISTAN

Australia were due to tour Afghanistan but have cancelled that tour in protest at the activities of the Taliban. This has caused considerable controversy, but I, old enough to remember South Africa’s isolation (caused by racial rather than sexual discrimination, though I suspect the likes of Balthazar Johannes Vorster were as misogynist as they were racist) am entirely in favour of the move (please note that individual South Africans were allowed to play in domestic competitions around the world, they were just not allowed to compete under the banner of South Africa) and hope that other countries will stand up to be counted.

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My usual sign off…

Heat’s Horror Day

A look at today#s BBL game, and how Brisbane Heat got absolutely blown apart by the team who came into today bottom of the table.

Today in the Big Bash League Brisbane Heat took on Sydney Thunder, with both sides desperate for a win.

THE HEAT INNINGS

Jimmy Peirson won the toss for Brisbane Heat and decided that they would bat first. This was the first and only thing that went right for them all match.

After six overs they were limping at 26-3. Peirson joined Munro for a rebuilding act at that point, and the pair were still together at the end of the 14th over, and the scoring rate was still below six an over. Time for the Power Surge you would think, but Peirson bottled taking it. A few balls into the 15th over Peirson was out and the chance of taking the Surge with two well set batters together had gone. In the end Peirson’s cowardice resulted in Heat’s Power Surge being the last two overs of their innings, with six wickets down. Unsurprisingly in those circumstances they did little with it, and ended with a final total of 121-6. In a T20, even on a pitch that is not particularly batter friendly that kind of score should never be enough…

THE THUNDER INNINGS

…Sydney Thunder’s openers, Gilkes and Hales, immediately put Heat’s pathetic effort in to proper context. By the halfway stage of the innings they were 87-0, needing just 35 more to win. A brutal onslaught against Swepson in the 11th over reduced that target to 10 off nine overs, and three fours in four balls by Hales off Steketee in the next over completed a ten wicket win for Thunder with 50 balls to spare. Gilkes, Sydney Thunder’s keeper as well as one of their opening batters, was named Player of the Match, having scored 56* (34) to Hales’ 59* (36). Sydney Thunder won so comprehensively that Peirson bungling the timing of Brisbane Heat’s Power Surge probably did no more than increase the severity of the beating that Heat took, but nevertheless it was terrible captaincy by him. I personally thought he should have called it at the end of the 12th by when he and Munro had been together six overs, and not calling it at the end of the 13th or the end of the 14th, when the pair were still together was beyond stupid. It is hard to see how Heat pick themselves up from this blasting at the hands of the team who came into today bottom of the table, and it is hard to see how Peirson can be allowed to remain captain. Scorecard here.

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My usual sign off…

Strikers and Renegades lose unbeaten records in successive days

A look at developments in the Big Bash League, including yet another example of a Power Surge blunder.

Today Hobart Hurricanes beat Melbourne Renegades by eight runs, a result that means every team in the Big Bash League has won at least one match and suffered at least one defeat. However as I was only able to follow that game by way of cricinfo and therefore have only a fragmentary picture of it I shall say nothing further about it. Yesterday’s match, between Adelaide Strikers and Brisbane Heat, in which the former lost their own unbeaten record is a different matter, as there was radio commentary on that one.

THE BRISBANE HEAT INNINGS

Having won the toss and decided to bat Heat did not start well, but Sam Billings played a superb knock. They also took their two over Power Surge (see here for my thoughts on this) at a sensible time. They reached 166-7 in the end, with Billings scoring 79.

ANOTHER POWER SURGE MESS UP

Strikers were behind the rate right through the chase, but would probably have won had they taken any of three opportunities to claim the Power Surge with Colin de Grandhomme and Thomas Kelly at the crease. These opportunities would have been claiming the Surge for overs 13-14, 14-15 or 15-16. Failure to take it for the first was semi-defensible, the second failure was crazy and the third downright criminal. Strikers’ exceedingly experienced skipper Peter Siddle should have got a message out to the two batters instructing them to take the Power Surge once they had twice failed to do so. In the event Kelly fell in the 15th over, De Grandhomme in the 16th, with the Surge still unused, which left only lower order batters for the Strikers. Strikers never did get on terms with the required run rate, and it was only Siddle hitting the last ball of the match for six, with the result already settled, that kept the margin to six runs. Michael Neser bowled an excellent 19th over for the Heat, basically closing out the match for them, and finishing with 2-23 from his four overs. Mark Steketee took four wickets but was also expensive. However, batters usually get favoured when there is competition for the Player of the Match award, and so unsurprisingly it went to Billings for his knock. This was the third time in as many days that a team being over cautious about going for the Power Surge were punished by losing the match. In the situation the Strikers were in it was essential to take the Surge when De Grandhomme and Kelly were together. I would have preferred an out and out throw down of the gauntlet, taking it for overs 11 and 12 to the actual over-caution shown by the players. Only Peter Siddle, as experienced as he is, will know why when they weren’t claiming it for themselves he did not attempt to get a message out to the two batters telling them that they needed to do so.

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My usual sign off…

Power Surges

A look at the Big Bash League’s great innovation, the Power Surge and how best to use it, with a couple of classic examples of it being misused on successive days.

With the Big Bash League now in full swing this post is dedicated to that competition’s great innovation, the Power Surge (they had two others but have binned both the ‘supersub’ and the ‘Bash Boost Point’). I am writing it because yesterday and today I saw two classic examples of mistiming the Power Surge, whereas in the WBBL earlier this year the sides were nearly all excellent at judging when to go for it.

WHAT IS A POWER SURGE?

Most T20 innings around the world begin with six overs of ‘Power Play’, when only two fielders are allowed to be posted more than 30 yards from the bat and then have 14 overs of regular play when up to five fielders can be outside that 30 yard radius. The Power Surge variation, which I am a huge supporter of, has the innings start with four overs of Power Play, with the remaining two to be taken at the batting side’s discretion at any point after the end of the 10th over.

WHEN SHOULD THE POWER SURGE BE TAKEN?

There are a range of good answers depending on exact circumstances but the key thing to remember is that a successful Power Surge is not just about how many runs you score from those overs, it is about how many more runs you score from those overs than you would have done in regular play. Therefore using it in the ‘death overs’, when you would be scoring very fast anyway is not making full use of it. Ideally you would want both batters to have faced at least a few balls by calling for the Power Surge but if by the end of the 15th over you have not found a really suitable time to take it then take it for overs 16-17 irrespective of anything else, as a launchpad into the death overs.

POWER SURGE FAIL 1: JIMMY PEIRSON (BRISBANE HEAT)

Brisbane Heat made an awful start to yesterday’s match against Melbourne Renegades, losing three early wickets. However at the end of the 10th over, the fourth wicket partnership was still going, and this represented the golden opportunity to take the Power Surge with two set batters there to make use of it. Both batters fell in the 11th over, meaning a spot of retrenchment was needed. At the end of the 14th over the sixth wicket stand was still going, both batters had faced a reasonable number of balls, and this represented what will call the silver opportunity to take the Power Surge – both batters in to an extent, and enough overs left for the Surge to act as a good launch pad. Peirson neglected to call for it, and the partnership was broken in the 15th over. Peirson dithered and delayed over the Power Surge, and only took it when obliged to for the last two overs of the innings. Those two overs did yield a respectable number of runs, but not in my opinion any more than overs 19 and 20 would with regular field placements. Heat finished with 137-8. This looked a good total when Renegades were 9-4 in response, but Andre Russell and Akeal Hosein played excellent innings, while Finch anchored the innings at the other end. Renegades timed their Power Surge better than Heat, and Finch after playing second fiddle to Russell and Hosein stepped up at the death to see his side to a deserved victory.

POWER SURGE FAIL 2: MATT WADE (HURRICANES)

Today’s match (Sydney Sixers v Hobart Hurricanes) was complicated by a long rain delay, which reduced it to a 14 overs per side contest, and reduced the Power Play and Power Surge allocations to three and one overs respectively. Sixers won the toss, batted first, and although they missed a golden opportunity, when both openers were still there at the end of the seventh over, they did take a silver opportunity, taking it for the 11th over of their innings. They finished with 137-6 from their 14 overs. Hurricanes dropped behind the rate from the start of their innings, but were incredibly reluctant to use their Surge over. Eventually, they claimed it for the 13th over, but by then they needed 45 off two overs, and although Asif Ali made good use of that Surge Over, 21 were still needed off the final over. When an excellent boundary catch by Jordan Silk put a stop to Ali’s antics early in the final over the writing was on the wall, and only a six off the last ball of the match with it already lost restricted the final margin to six runs. Again the criticism of the Hurricanes approach is that Ali could easily have gone crazy in the penultimate over of the match against regular field placings, and had they taken the Power Surge earlier they may have been in a position when a big penultimate over would actually have put them in charge.

AN ALL TIME FRANCHISE XI

Since I am writing about franchise cricket, which I don’t do all that often I end with a challenge and an example answer: Using your own country as the home country and IPL overseas player rules (i.e. up to four in an XI) name your franchise XI made up exclusively of players from before the franchise era.

Thomas’ sample answer:

Home Country: England

XI in batting order:

  1. G St A Sobers (West Indies, left handed batter, left arm bowler of every type known to cricket, gun fielder)
  2. G L Jessop (Right handed batter, right arm fast bowler, gun fielder)
  3. F E Woolley (Left handed batter, left arm orthodox spinner, excellent close fielder).
  4. D C S Compton (Right handed batter, left arm wrist spinner)
  5. *K R Miller (Australia, right handed batter, right arm fast bowler, gun fielder, captain)
  6. +L E G Ames (right handed batter, keeper)
  7. G H Hirst (right handed batter, left arm fast medium bowler, gun fielder)
  8. J B King (United States, right arm fast bowler, right handed batter)
  9. J C Laker (off spinner, right handed batter)
  10. A Shaw (right arm slow/medium bowler, right handed batter)
  11. C V Grimmett (Australia, leg spinner, right handed batter)

Feel free to comment with your own XIs.

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Time for my usual sign off…

The Long and Short of Cricket

A look back at the recent Australia v India test match, and at today’s amazing BBL game between Hobart Hurricanes and Brisbane Heat, plus some thoughts on the BBL’s innovations for this year.

No, on this occasion my title does not refer to Mohammad Irfan and Poonam Yadav, though in another context it could! Instead I refer to the longest and shortest formats of top level cricket – 5-day test cricket and T20.

INDIA MAKE IT 1-1 WITH VICTORY AT MELBOURNE

India had lost the first match of the series at Adelaide after being bowled out for 36 in their second innings (see this post for more on that game), and Kohli had departed from the squad to be present at the birth of his child. Australia batted first, and with Bumrah and Ashwin featuring prominently, were dismissed for 195, no one managing to reach 50. India responded with a determined batting effort led by stand-in skipper Rahane who redeemed himself for running out Kohli in Adelaide by reaching a gritty century, while Ravindra Jadeja, one of the finest of contemporary all-rounders and a brilliant fielder to boot, contributed 62 to the cause, and India built a first innings lead of 131. At one point it looked like they might not have to bat again, but young Cameron Green and Pat Cummins resisted stoutly to take Australia into credit and the game into a fourth day. Green and Cummins continued their partnership on the fourth morning, but once they were separated resistance was limited. For the second time in the match no Aussie managed a fifty, but they did just reach 200 before Hazlewood shouldered arms to a straight one and was bowled to end the innings. Low totals have sometimes been defended, but very rarely as low as 70, and India lost only two wickets in reaching their goal.

Steve Smith failed twice, Labuschagne managed some resistance in the first innings but not a substantial score, and Cameron Green’s promise aside there do not appear to many sources of runs for Australia at the moment, and bowlers, even such fine ones as Australia possess, cannot win matches if they don’t have anything to defend. David Warner returns for the next match at the SCG, with presumably the shockingly out of form and lacking in confidence Joe Burns dropping out. Also waiting in the wings, though currently not fully fit for action, is Will Pucovski who has produced some Ponsfordesque scores for Victoria. Travis Head in the Aussie middle order has what appears to be a respectable batting average, but what his average does not show is the fact that he has a severe case of ‘Watsonitis’ – he scores runs, but never seems able to turn a good start into a really major innings.

India meanwhile are strengthened by the return from injury of Rohit Sharma, who will presumably resume his opening berth alongside Agarwal.

BBL THOUGHTS

This section is provoked by today’s astonishing game between Hobart Hurricanes and Brisbane Heat (the Hurricanes were nominally the home team, even though the match was taking place at the Gabba!)

Hurricanes batted first, and after 10 overs were 65-3 with Malan going well and Ingram newly arrived at the other end. Malan fell not long after, bringing Colin Ingram and Tim David together. They shared a good partnership, but Hurricanes failed to take advantage of the opportunity to claim the Power Surge with two destructive hitters together at the crease. After 18 overs they were 140-6, and had to take the Power Surge. Mujeeb Ur Rahman, on of three Afghan spinners (Rashid Khan, leg spin, and Zahir Khan, left arm wrist spin, being the others) to have BBL contracts bowled the 19th, and it was a quite superb over, not only going for only one run, but also yielding three wickets, giving Mujeeb 5-15 from his four overs. The 20th over was better for the Hurricanes, although they only lasted four balls of it, that was enough to boost their total by nine. That gave them precisely 150 to defend, a fairly modest total by BBL standards.

However, the Hurricanes were as brilliant at the start of their bowling innings as they had been poor in the second half of their batting innings, and the Heat were 8-3 early on and looking in some trouble. Then Max Bryant and Lewis Gregory shared an excellent partnership and seemed to have at least secured their side the Bash Boost bonus point for being ahead after 10 overs. Bryant was out to the penultimate ball of the ninth, making it 60-4, six need for the Bash Boost point. However, a combination of good bowling and tentative batting saw them just miss out. Gregory’s dismissal in the 11th over made it 66-5, and brought Bazley into join Peirson. They were still together at the end of the 14th, at which point Heat took the Power Surge. Overall these two overs were good for the Heat, the loss of Peirson not withstanding, and Heat needed 31 from 24 balls for the win. With Bazley going well and Steketee connecting with a couple of decent blows that came down to 15 off 12 balls. The 19th started with two dots, but then Bazley hit a six to reduce the task to nine off nine balls. The over ended with Heat needing seven to win. That came down to four off two balls with Steketee on strike. Steketee got two off the penultimate ball, and that meant two needed off one ball, or one to take it to a Super Over. Steketee went for the tying run off that final ball, but it was judged that although his bat was over the line before the bails were dislodged it was also in the air, and he was given run out, to make it 149-8 and victory for the Hurricanes by one run.

It was a magnificent game, but I would have preferred the Heat to win so that the Hurricanes got properly punished for mishandling the second half of their batting innings.

ON #BBL10’S INNOVATIONS

There have been three innovations to this year’s BBL, two which had their own impact on today’s game. They are: the Bash Boost point for the team who are ahead at the ten over mark, the Power Surge (instead of six overs of power play restrictions at the start of the innings there are four, with two more to be claimed at any time after the tenth over by the batting side) and the ‘x-factor sub’, whereby after 10 overs of the first innings a player who has a) not batted and b) bowled no more than one over can be replaced by a designated ‘x-factor’ sub.

I am a huge fan of the Bash Boost point, it has created points of interest in games which would otherwise have been dead, and today it was very closely fought.

I like the concept of the Power Surge, but it requires flexibility of thought, and not many sides have thus far shown that. I would say that all things being equal the ideal time to take it would be at the end of the 15th, using it as a launch pad for the final quarter of the innings. One might go earlier in two situations: the openers are still together after 10 overs and you want to use the Power Surge to launch you towards a really huge total, and also if you have lost a few wickets, your innings needs a shot in the arm and/or you want to ensure that you have two decent batters to use the Power Surge. I can see no case for delaying it right to the end, and I think the Hurricanes stuffed up big time, for all that it did not end up costing them, in their own innings – they should have taken the Power Surge while Ingram, who could really have cashed in on it was still there.

As for the ‘x-factor sub’, that belongs in the circular file. I fully understand the need for ‘concussion protocol subs’, but basically I remain convinced that teams should finish the match containing the same players who started it.

A final recommendation for the BBL: for goodness sake use the DRS – unlike football with the disastrous VAR we actually have a method of using technology to help with decisions that usually works, and it should be automatic to use it.

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My usual sign off…

Brisbane Heat Retain WBBL

A brief account of the WBBL final which took place early this morning UK time.

INTRODUCTION

This post looks at the final of the Women’s Big Bash League, which took place in the early hours of this morning UK time.

A SPLENDID FINAL

Sophie Devine had had a dream season for the Adelaide Strikers but had a personal nightmare in the final. The Kiwi fell for just five, before her compatriot Suzie Bates and Tahlia McGrath righted things with a good second wicket stand. Both were out close together and Bridget Patterson and Kayleigh Mack both went cheaply, but AmandaJade Wellington whose previous competition best score was 23 made a splendid 55 off 33 balls to give the strikers a final total of 161-7 from their 20 overs. Maddy Green managed only 11 for Heat in the reply, but then SammyJo Johnson blasted 27 off just 11 balls (including four sixes off Sophie Devine) to put Heat well ahead of the rate. Jess Jonassen made 33 off 28, and Laura Harris was unbeaten on 19, in partnership with player of the final Beth Mooney who anchored the innings with an unbeaten 56, Heat having 11 balls to spare (and six wickets, including Kiwi all-rounder Amelia Kerr, due to come in next) when they completed the chase. To win a big tournament is a fine achievement, but to do so twice running is particularly impressive because on the second occasion everyone else knows that you are the team to beat. Sophie Devine was player of the tournament, but in the final she could only produce five and figures of 1-46 from three overs. It was a highly enjoyable final, but ultimately Brisbane Heat were simply too good for Adelaide Strikers.

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My usual sign off…

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