England’s Prospects at Old Trafford

My thoughts on the changes to the England squad for the upcoming 4th Ashes Test and lots of photographs (do let me know of any you think calendar worthy!)

INTRODUCTION

England have made a couple of changes for the upcoming (and crucial) fourth Ashes test match at Old Trafford. This post looks at those changes and at England’s hopes, and optimistic as ever, discounts in the interests of simplicity the possibility of the Manchester weather emerging victorious.

SETTING THE SCENE

This is probably the most important Manchester test since the equivalent match in the 1902 series (when Australia won by 3 runs to clinch the Ashes). Again, a win for Australia would secure them the Ashes, since as holders a drawn series is enough for them, and that would be all England could do, while a win for England would leave them needing a draw at The Oval to secure the urn (as in 2005, when thanks to the second most significant 158 by a South African born England batter – Basil D-Oliveira’s 1968 effort being #1 in that category the necessary was achieved). In 1956 England needed a win at Manchester to secure the Ashes and Australia, thoroughly spooked by Jim Laker, failed to capitalize on the assistance of a number of weather interruptions, the final margin being an innings and 170 runs in England’s favour. In 1981 England were 2-1 to the good going into the penultimate match at Old Trafford, and won courtesy of Ian Botham’s second ton of the series. Finally, for the historical comparisons, in 1964 a draw was all Australia required from the equivalent match, being one up and holders, and on a pitch which needed white lines down the middle Bobby Simpson ensured that quite literally off his own bat, not being dislodged until the third morning of the match, for 311 in 762 minutes. Australia eventually declared at 656-8, England replying with 611 (Barrington 256, Dexter 174) and the few overs that remained before the draw could be officially confirmed were bowled by Barrington and Titmus with an old ball.

ENGLAND’S CHANGES

Jason Roy and Joe Denly have changed places in the batting order, Denly moving up to open and Roy dropping to no 4, while Craig Overton of Somerset replaces Chris Woakes. While I think switching Roy and Denly was the least England could do in the agttempt to address the problems at the top of their batting order I do not believe it goes far enough (readers of this blog will be aware of my own radical solution, first proposed a year ago when Cook as approaching retirement and Jennings’ inadequacy was all too obvious), and I feel that a no 3 has also to be located somewhere, as Joe Root is clearly not relishing the position. Overton for Woakes is uncontroversial, though I would have preferred another Somerset man, Lewis Gregory, to have got the nod. Denly has a low initial bar to clear – get England’s batting off to a better start than they have been managing of late – a three-legged elephant would probably have a chance of clearing a bar that low. Having made their calls, England need to back their judgement, and if they win the toss they should choose to bat first and hope to score enough to put Australia under pressure. If the Denly-Roy switch works out (and it can hardly turn out worse than the previous arrangement!), then a big total is a genuine possibility. As England have been discovering lately it is hard if you are starting each innings effectively already two wickets down. If England win they will go to The Oval as favourites, a draw still leaves them with a chance (look up 1926, 1930, 1934 and 1953 for examples of an Ashes deciding victory happening at The Oval) but defeat means curtains. However, even a defeat might be used to benefit England in the long term – with the Ashes gone it would be an opportunity/ necessity for England to experiment (I would expect a second front line spinner to be named in the squad for that match regardless of the result of the upcoming one, because pitches in South London so often offer turn).

PHOTOGRAPHS

My usual sign off…

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This azure damselfly seems an appropriate picture to use to point out that I am thinking about pictures for use in the aspi.blog 2020 wall calendar – I have a few ideas already, and would welcome suggestions from readers.

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A red dragon fly in flight.

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A two for on damselflies! (five pics to choose from)

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Not often in easy view – a water vole seen near the centre of King’s Lynn today.

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How My Second Set of Predictions Fared

A look at the conclusions of yesterday’s Royal London Cup matches and an analysis of my predictions at the half way stages.

INTRODUCTION

Yesterday, when all the day fixtures in the Royal London Cup had reached their half-way stage I covered what was happening and made predictions for each result. Today I complete the story be revealing the results and mentioning noteworthy efforts from the second half of each game. 

YESTERDAY’S ROYAL LONDON CUP MATCHES

This is how it all unfolded:

  • Derbyshire v NorthamptonshireDerbyshire 268-6, Northamptonshire 215 (43.5 overs), Derbyshire won by 53 runs
    I backed Derbyshire to win this one because of the fightback they had made in the latter stages of their innings. This one was more one sided even than the margin suggests. At one point Northants were 112-8 before a lower order fightback gave them a hint of respectability. There were four wickets for young medium pacer Alex Hughes, three for Van Beek and two for Rampaul. Luke Procter scored an unbeaten 50, but no other Northants batter merits a mention.
  • Warwickshire v YorkshireWarwickshire 270-8 Yorkshire 270-9 TIED!!
    I got this one wrong, expecting Yorkshire to chase them down. At 112-6 it looked a certain win for Warwickshire, but Jonny Tattersall (79) and Tim Bresnan (89) staged a revival that very nearly won it for Yorkshire. England all-rounder Chris Woakes took 3-47 and the hugely promising teenager Henry Brookes took 3-50. Kiwi veteran Jeetan Patel was the most economical with 2-41.
  • Durham vLeicestershire  – Leicestershire 233-9, Durham 234-4 (45.3 overs) Durham won by six wickets
    This was an easy call after that poor Leicestershire innings, and an easy win for Durham in the end. Cameron Bancroft scored 118 not out, and received support from various of the Durham order. Dieter Klein and Gavin Griffiths each had a couple of wickets.
  • Hampshire v GlamorganGlamorgan 292-9 Hampshire 293-3 (41.5overs) Hampshire won by seven wickets.
    I had this down as a Glamorgan win. In the event Hampshire made it look very easy indeed, and Glamorgan’s future in this competition, even after just two matches looks bleak – they failed horrendously to chase in their first game and failed just as epically to defend in this one. Tom Alsop, a 23 year-old wicketkeeper batter opened the Hampshire innings and was 130 not out off 115 baals when they completed the win. Former England man James Vince scored 95 off 78 balls to put Hampshire in complete control of the chase. I will draw a veil over the Glamorgan bowling figures.
  • Nottinghamshire v Lancashire Nottinghamshire 417-7, Lancashire 406-9 Nottinghamshire won by 11 runs
    I called this one correctly. Lancashire made a tremendous effort, and until the dismissal of their captain Dane Vilas (166 off 100 balls) an extraordinary victory appeared to be on the cards. In the end that Nottinghamshire total was just enough. Steven Croft scored 110 off 82 balls. James Pattinson with 5-61 off his 10 overs was the star of the bowlers – if he had gone at the same rate as his colleagues Lancashire would have got home with time to spare (approximately an over and a half if you care to do the calculation).
  • Somerset v Kent Somerset 358-9, Kent 94 (27 overs) – Somerset won by 264 runs
    With that total on the board I called this one in Somerset’s favour, but even I was surprised by the margin of victory. AfterS had piled up their huge total Kent needed a good start to stay in the contest. Unfortunately for them they got the reverse, as Craig Overton followed his 66 by taking three early wickets (he would add two more before the end, finishing with 5-18) and Kent were reeling at 25-4. Thereafter Kent tried to salvage a hint of respectability and failed. The margin was a record for one first class county over another in limited overs cricket (various previous limited overs competitions featured minor county sides, so the distinction is needed). A detailed analysis of this match can be found here
  • Essex v Middlesex Middlessex 366-8, Essex 328 (49.2 overs) Middlesex won by 38 runs
    Again a big enough total to predict the final outcome with some confidence, but Essex put up a fine fight. Varun Chopra made 127 off 127 balls and Tom Westley 77 off 59 balls. For Middlesex Nathan Sowter, a 26 year-old legspinner with little previous experience of top level cricket took 6-62 from 9.2 overs

I called five of these matches correctly and two wrongly, making my overall record of predictions in this competition now eight right and four wrong. As with the first round there was a “day/night” match which was not far enough advanced for me to make a prediction on at the time:

Surrey v Sussex Surrey 274-9, Sussex 278-8 (48.1 overs)
This was a humdinger of a match. Surrey’s problem in their innings was that no-one went to a really big score – Foakes led the way with 64 and Will Jacks managed 56, while Mir Hamza rook 4-43. Tom Curran (3-37 from 10) and Gareth Batty (2-39 from 10) bowled excellently for Surrey, Morne Morkel and Rikki Clarke were respectable, but the fifth set of 10 overs let Surrey down, as Plunkett (6 overs, 1-57) and Jacks (4 overs for 26) both bowled very poorly. Sussex’s matchwinner was David Wiese (92 not out), while Luke Wright scored 69.

The first set of fixtures provided a lot of very one-sided games, but no one could complain about the fare on offer this time round – fine cricket featured in most if not all of the matches and several were very close, including the incredible tie between Yorkshire and Warwickshire.

PHOTOGRAPHS

My usual sign off…

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England Versus India

An account of the first three matches of the test series between England and India plus some photographs

INTRODUCTION

I have not written about the goings on in the current England versus India Test series as yet, because I have been busy writing about other stuff. This post repairs the omission.

MATCH 1 AT EDGBASTON

This was a nail-biter of a game, with fortunes swinging constantly as it progressed. When India were 115-6 in response to England’s 287 it looked like the home side were firmly in the driving seat, but Virat Kohli marshalled the lower order to such purpose that India trailed by only 13 on first innings. When England then slumped to 87-7 in their second innings it looked settled in India’s favour, but Sam Curran played a fine innings to give England a target of 194 to defend. England took wickets consistently, but not until Kohli was finally dislodged by a Ben Stokes yorker that trapped him plumb in front to make it 141-7, leaving nos 8, 9, 10 and 11 needing to cobble together a further 53 did the home side actually look favourites. They managed only 20 of those runs, and England were one up in the series. Curran was deservedly named player of the match (Kohli’s contribution of 149 and 51 was not enough to save his side from defeat, so it would have been wrong for him have got the award).

SECOND TEST MATCH AT LORD’S

India batted first in very difficult conditions. Nevertheless, and magnificently as England’s seamers bowled in conditions made to measure for them, a tally of 107 all out looked pretty definitively inadequate. When England were 131-5 themselves it looked less so, but a monster partnership between Bairstow and Woakes (in in place of the unavailable Stokes) effectively settled the outcome of the match. Woakes completed his maiden test century, being 137 not out when England declared, while Bairstow missed adding to his own tally of such scores by a mere four. India collapsed again (130 all out this time) and England were 2-0 up in the series. Anderson became the first bowler to take 100 test wickets at Lord’s in the course of this game, and only the second ever to 100 at a single venue anywhere (the first, Muttiah Muralitharan, did so at no fewer than three different venues). Woakes’ century meant that joined the select list of cricketers to feature on batting and bowling honours boards at Lord’s (Ian Botham is there, and among overseas cricketers Keith Miller is the sole person on both boards). 

THE THIRD TEST AT TRENT BRIDGE

Before this match got underway England perpetrated a blunder, setting the scene for four and little bit days in which such things would become routine, by dropping Sam Curran after two matches in which he performed excellently to make way for Ben Stokes, now cleared of all criminal charges, to return to the squad. I personally would not have selected Stokes at all, but even had a gun at the head proposition forced me to do so nothing would have induced to me to drop Curran (yeah, pull that trigger if dropping Curran is the price to pay for you not doing so!). 

Perhaps feeling after the first two matches that they could bowl India out on anything England put them in after winning the toss. India tallied 329, helped by some butter-fingered English fielding. The match was won and lost in the space of an hour and a half on day two when England being 54-0 in reply to 329 became England 128-9 in reply to 329. Buttler and Anderson got the final England first innings total up to 161. In their second innings India reached 352-7 before declaring leaving England two days and a mini-session to negotiate or 521 to score. Kohli had his second century of the series, having misssed out by three in the first innings. Cook and Jennings did the first part of their mammoth task, getting England to the close without losing a wicket. Both then fell early on day four, and two more quick wickets followed, at which point Buttler and Stokes joined forces. Their partnership at least showed some belated fight, and Buttler completed his maiden test hundred, while Stokes batted for a long time in largely defensive manner. Another clatter of wickets followed the breaking of the partnership and it was only some bloody-mindedness on the part of Rashid and Anderson (who had earlier in the game become only the second bowler to record 100 wickets in test matches against India, behind Muralitharan) took the game into a fifth day.

Somewhat bizarrely the Trent Bridge authorities decided to charge £10 for admission on a day that could have lasted for one ball (actually it managed to last for 17, meaning that anyone who paid to get in did so a rate of just under 59p per delivery). At the MCG in 1982, when again the final day could have lasted one ball, but there was also an outside chance of a home victory (37 needed with one wicket left BUT at the crease with no 11 Jeff Thomson was a certain Allan Robert Border) the authorities there did not charge admission. On that earlier occasion those who took advantage of the freebie got 85 minutes of gut-wrenching tension and one of the closest finishes of all time (England won by three runs after Thomson nicked one from Botham that would have had the umpire spreading his arms had the no11 simply ignored it, Tavare palmed the ball upwards and Geoff Miller took the rebound. Here, with in excess of 200 required and nos9 and 11 together at the crease there could only be one result (the largest number of runs that a last wicket pair have ever knocked off to win a first-class match is 76 way back in the fifties). Thus England were well beaten and lead the series 2-1.

LOOKING AHEAD

England’s top four is their major current problem area. At Trent Bridge those positions were filled by:

  • England’s all-time leading test run scorer but also someone who has not had a decent score since the Melbourne featherbed in December.
  • Someone who is clearly out of his depth at this level (Jennings)
  • One of the three best batsmen currently eligible for test cricket (Root – Kohli and kiwi Kane Williamson are the other two) to be found anywhere in the world.
  • A fine young batsman who at this stage of his career is not a test match number four.

The above situation, India managing a decent first innings total and the fact that Root for once had a poor game put a lot of pressure on the middle order, and Buttler and Stokes kin the second inninsg apart, they folded under it.

My suggested squad for the fourth test is: A N Cook, R J Burns (someone with a magnificent record as an opening batsman who is probably ready for elevation to the test match ranks), B A Stokes, J E Root*, O Pope (I did not say that he is not a test match batsman, and I believe that he can be, and should be persevered with, just not as high as number four, a position he never occupies even for his county), J C Buttler+, C Woakes, S Curran, A Rashid, S C J Broad, J M Anderson. If two spinners are warranted then Bess comes in for Broad, with Curran sharing the new ball with Anderson (the latter being a change I might make anyway, having Broad as third seamer). When recovered from his injury Bairstow comes in to the squad, probably replacing Stokes at no 3, just possibly coming as opener, bringing down the curtain on Cook’s illustrious career. Some of these suggestions, especially even considering dropping Cook might be seen in certain quarters as heretical. 

I still just about make England favourites for the series (after all, they are still ahead), but they need to respond better to opponents making decent totals – this not the first time in recent years that they have folded in response to a respectable but not massive total – it happened twice against South Africa last year.

PHOTOGRAPHS

For you hardy souls who have made it to the end of this post, here are some of my photos:

White buiterfly with black spotsMoorhen and chick

Pride in the Park from afar II
The first of a number of shots here featuring the inaugural King’s Lynn and West Norfolk Pride – I found out about the event which took place a week ago too late to take part, as I already had other commitments, one of which I was on my way to honour when I took this.

Pride in the Park from afar IMoorhenMallard familySquirrelBaden Powellbirds and a churchWing spanCormorants and gullsWhite Butterfly

Muntjac II
I had to photograph this muntjac from long range – as soon as they spot a human they flee.

Red Admiral IIRed AdmiralBandstandPride in the parkPride flagGuildhall

England Seal ODI Series Victory

An account of the third ODI between Australia and England, and some of my own photographs.

INTRODUCTION

Just after 11AM yesterday UK time England completed a victory over Australia in the third One Day International that also secured them the series victory with two matches remaining. This post tells the story of that victory

THE MATCH

Steve Smith won the toss for Australia and sent England in to bat, which given that England had won the first two matches batting second was a sensible decision. Moeen Ali’s dismissal to the first ball of the 39th over left England at 181-6, at which point Australia looked favourites, and Smith’s decision to send England in looked to be thoroughly vindicated. Jos Buttler and Chris Woakes then batted so well in the last 11.5 overs, the former reaching his 5th ODI hundred along the way, that England finished their 50 overs with 302-6.

Australia in response were then ahead on comparison for much of the way. In the closing stages Stoinis and Paine batted well up to a point but they were dropping further and further behind the rate. When Stoinis holed out at the death Australia needed 19 off three deliveries which meant that Woakes only had to avoid overstepping or slinging the thing wide – and he very comfortably achieved this, England’s final margin being 16 runs. Stoinis played a quality knock, but Tim Paine’s 31 not out off 35 balls was as clear an example of a match-losing innings as I can recall (though skipper Smith’s 45 off 66, which first put Australia behind the rate merits a dishonourable mention in this category). 

A CONTROVERSIAL DISMISSAL

Smith was given out caught by Buttler. The onfield umpires referred with a ‘soft decision’ of out, meaning that to give Smith not out the TV Replay Umpire needed to find incontrovertible evidence that it was not out. The mere fact that even with replays to help them people were not in agreement as to whether it was out or not says that the evidence was not incontrovertible, so the TV Replay Umpire was right to stick with the decision of out. Also, because of camera foreshortening TV replays are notoriously unreliable when it comes to assessing whether catches have carried (and I write this as a fan of technology overall). Finally, the way Smith was batting his dismissal benefitted Australia at least as much as it did England.

A TALE OF TWO 49th OVERS

England went into the 49th over of their innings on 264-6. Pat Cummins not only got smacked around (always likely at that stage of an innings), he also unforgivably bowled a wide, and then with the seventh delivery, which had been necessitated by the earlier misdemeanour, a no-ball. The eight delivery, necessitated by the no-ball, and a free hit for that reason, was walloped for four. The meant that the over cost 25 in total, and Cummins’ indiscipline accounted for eight of those 25 (1 for the original wide, 2 for the no-ball, one taken off the no-ball and the last four).

Australia went into their 49th over at 273-6, needing 30 to win. Mark Wood was disciplined enough to limit his over to the regulation six deliveries, and he managed one dot ball, conceded four singles and only one four – eight off the over – a good fairy offering that outcome at the start of the over would have found herself one-handed! The difference between Cummins’ over and Wood’s was 17 runs (25 minus 8), and England’s winning margin was 16.

PHOTOGRAPHS

La TraviataMoorhensMerulaIMerulaIIMerulaIIIscout hut roofCrescent moon 1Crescent moon 2Crescent moon 3Crtescent moon 4Moonlit North Lynn

 

Failing to Convert

A post provoked by an asinine comment I saw on cricinfo yesterday, dealing with the question of failure to convert in cricket.

INTRODUCTION

This post was provoked by something I saw yesterday morning on cricinfo’s online coverage of the second ODI between England and Australia (I was at work, so could not listen to the commentary, but having this tab open and peeking occasionally in between doing other stuff was manageable – I was constantly using the internet for work purposes anyhow). 

ENGLAND 2-0 UP IN SERIES

England won this match by four wickets, with plenty of time to spare. Joe Root was there at the end on 46 not out. In the first match he had been there at the end on 91 not out. This coincidence that both times he was just short of a personal landmark led to a character posting under the name Dave (knowing what I do of such types I am not prepared to say that this is actually their name) to post a comment about Joe Root failing to convert. My response to this display of asininity is as follows:

  1. Failing to convert implies regularly getting out before reaching important landmarks and Joe Root was undefeated in both innings.
  2. Individual landmarks are valuable, and generally to win one needs someone to go to and well beyond several such, but cricket is a team game, and on both occasions Root missed his landmarks through playing a support role to people who were going more fluently at the other end (Jason Roy in game one, and Jos Buttler and Chris Woakes in game two).
  3. Joe Root has proven frequently that he can go on to and well past significant personal landmarks.

To end this section I quote a post from a few minutes after Dave’s which provides an indication of how good Root actually is in ODI chases:

Hypocaust: “Joe Root now has the 3rd highest average (87.06) in victorious ODI chases (min. 20 innings), behind Dhoni (102.72) and Kohli (93.64) and just ahead of Bevan (86.25).”

A PUZZLE

Here courtesy of brilliant is a puzzle:

LC

A SOLUTION

Here is the solution to the problem that I included in my post England One Day International Record:

solution

PHOTGRAPHS

As usual we end with some photographs:

 

Christmas Report On The England Men’s Cricket Team

Christmas report on the England men’s team, and some Muscovy duck pictures.

INTRODUCTION

While the England Women’s team have had a fabulous year, thoroughly deserving to win Team of the Year at the BBC Sports Personality of the Year awards (and had there been any justice Anya Shrubsole would have been Sports Personality of the Year) life has been tougher for the men. The confirmation in the early hours of Monday morning UK time that the Ashes had been lost (yes folks, I was listening to TMS right to the bitter end) lies behind this post (going up now through a combination of thinking before I wrote and work commitments yesterday). I end as usual with some of my own photographs.

THE FIRST THREE TEST MATCHES

Gritty fifties from Stoneman and Vince on the opening day notwithstanding Brisbane was a bad match for England. The ease with which Warner and Bancroft knocked off the 170 needed to win in the second innings, and the immovability of Aussie skipper Smith in their first innings were the most worrying sings.

Adelaide kicked off with Joe Root deciding to field first when he won the toss. An Australian tally of 442-8D in the course of the first day and a half made that decision look worse than it was (it was still poor, though not down there with Nasser Hussain at Brisbane 2002). England were then all out for 227, and as this was as a day-night test with the night session due to start it seemed mandatory to enforce the follow-on, but Steve Smith declined to do so. Australia stuttered under the lights to 50-4, and England’s best bowling effort of the series so far continued the following morning reducing Australia to 138 all out, leaving England 354 to get. England made a decent fist of things, and  at 170-3 it looked like they might just get them. Unfortunately both for England and for cricket as a whole (there are a lot of captains these days who almost automatically decline to enforce the follow-on, and had England chased down this target of 354 it might have made those people think) a wicket just before the close of day 4 and then a clatter the following morning put paid to that.

So it was on the Perth for the last Ashes game to be staged at the WACA (a new stadium just across the road will stage future Perth tests), a venue where England had only one once, way back in 1978. Precedents for a comeback from 0-2 down in a five match series are equally thin on the ground – the only successful example being Don Bradman’s 1936-7 Aussies (Bradman himself produced scores of 270, 212 and 169 in the third, fourth and fifth matches of that series, and also produced a tactical masterstroke in those days of uncovered pitches in that third test when faced with a terror track he sent in tail-enders O’Reilly and Fleetwood-Smith to miss everything until the close of that day – Bradman emerged the following day at 97-5 to join regular opener Jack Fingleton who had come at no 6, and with the pitch now eased they put on 346 for the sixth wicket to settle the issue), although 42 years earlier Australia had won the 3rd and 4th matches after being 0-2 down before England won the final game of that series. 

England batted first in Perth, and at 131-4 a familiar pattern seemed to be emerging, but then Dawid Malan and Jonny Bairstow got going, and both made hundreds. Malan went on to 140. Once their 237 run partnership was broken the rest of the innings subsided quickly, but 403 still seemed a respectable total. When Australia were 248-4 England still looked in with a shout, but by the end of day 3 Australia were 549-4, Smith having set a new career best and Mitchell Marsh in front of his home crowd turning his maiden test hundred into 181 not out. Smith and Marsh both fell quickly the following morning, and Starc was also out cheaply, but Tim Paine and Pat Cummins made useful contributions, and Australia declared at 662-9, leaving England four and a half sessions to survive for the draw. By the close of that fourth day Bairstow and Malan were together once more, with the only convincing batting effort up to then having come from Vince, who played very well for his 55 and was unlucky to get an absolute brute of a ball from Starc.

It rained overnight, and the covers at the WACA proved inadequate, leaving a wet patch on a good length at one end, which delayed the start of the fifth day’s play. Root argued for an abandonment, while Smith of course tried to hasten the start of play. I fully understand why Root tried to get play abandoned, but actually I am glad he failed in the attempt – to keep a series alive in that fashion would have been deeply unsatisfactory. At Headingley in 1975 a delicately poised final day (Australia 220-3 needing 445 to win, and Rick McCosker five away from what would have been a maiden test hundred) was abandoned after protesters sabotaged the pitch (“George Davis is innocent” – according to Peter Chappell, namesake of two members of that Australian team, but not according to the courts, or his future record – released from that sentence for armed robbery, he was soon back inside for another armed robbery to which he pleaded guilty). 

Once the game finally commenced it was soon obvious which way the wind was blowing, and for the third time in the space of a year (following two occasions against India last winter) England had managed to lose by an innings margin after tallying 400 first up.

ENGLAND PLAYER BY PLAYER

Alastair Cook: 150 tests, the last 148 of them in sequence – remarkable longevity. At the moment he is having a rough trot, and when Cook is having a rough trot (as he did in the early part of 2010) it is often hard to imagine where his next run is coming from.

Mark Stoneman: some gritty performances thus far, but he needs to start turning those fifties in to hundreds some time soon.

James Vince: to put it mildly a controversial choice for the crucial number three slot, and notwitshstanding two fine innings so far, one in Brisbane and one in Perth, he has not yet done enough to convince – see my closing comment about Stoneman.

Joe Root: would seem to be the latest in a long line of England players to suffer captaincy-itis, not only he is failing to make runs, he is getting out in un-Rootlike ways. England need his batting to be at its best, so perhaps someone else should be made captain (see later for my controversial suggestion).

Dawid Malan: his 140 at Perth and fighting effort in the second innings as well confirms his arrival as a test batsman of quality. Also, while it never looked threatening his part time leg spin was at least economical.

Jonny Bairstow: other than his first innings performance at Perth not thus far a great series for the wicketkeeper-batsman.

Moeen Ali: Fulfils a useful all-round role, although England offspinners have rarely been successful in Australia (the chief exceptions being Laker in 1958-9, Titmus in 1962-3 and Emburey in 1986-7). Also, if England do decide that Root needs to be replaced as captain to enable him to concentrate solely on what he does best – his batting – then Moeen would be my choice for the job.

Chris Woakes: Save for his bowling in the second innings at Adelaide he has not looked very threatening in this series. That game was also the scene of his only significant batting effort of the series so far. Right-arm medium fast when the ball is not deviating (and it generally doesn’t in Australia) simply will not trouble good batsmen.

Craig Overton: Looks like he belongs at this level, but my comments about Woakes’ style of bowling in Australian conditions also apply to him.

Stuart Broad: A nightmare series for him, not because he has bowled especially badly, though he has consistently been pitching it too short, but because he has looked completely unthreatening and has bowling figures that reflect that.

Jimmy Anderson: continues to climb the wicket taking charts. His 12 wickets at 25 apiece in this series, while all his colleagues have been taking drubbings is a remarkable effort in the face of adversity. I fully expect that in the early stages at Melbourne he will move ahead of Courtney Walsh in the wicket takers list (current Anderson 518, Walsh 519), leaving only Glenn McGrath among the quick bowlers ahead of him. He has bowled beautifully this series but with Broad off the boil his ‘support’ has simply not been up to standard. 

THE REST OF THE SERIES

Before I get into this section let me clear that I do not believe for an instant that had the likes of Ben Stokes, Mark Wood and Toby Roland-Jones been available England would be doing a whole lot better. Certainly to be deprived of the services of three such excellent cricketers simultaneously is unfortunate but England are 3-0 down because they have been outclassed throughout this series (only in Adelaide to England ever look close to making a game of it – the Malan-Bairstow partnership in the first innings at Perth was the only other major period in the series to date in which England had the whip hand).

The good news for England is that their records at Melbourne and Sydney are better tahn their records elsewhere in Australia. While the batsmen need to score more runs, it is the bowlers who (Anderson apart) really need to pick things up – England have not yet taken 20 wickets in a match in this series, and at Perth they failed to even take 10. 

I think England can pick themselves up and win at least one of the two remaining matches. In many ways it would be an injustice to Australia were England to win both and make it look respectable at 3-2 – this England side does not deserve better than 4-1 (though I also think it does not deserve worse – it is not as shambolic as Flintoff’s 2006-7 squad who really did deserve to be on the wrong end of a 5-0,  as in the end they were. 

The take home message of the three matches played so far is one that England should already have learned a long time ago – a bowling ‘attack’ of four right-arm medium-fast bowlers and an offspinner will not cut the mustard in Oz. 

PHOTOGRAPHS

A little while back I reported sighting some birds which turned out to be Muscovy ducks (Cairina moschata). Well, I have seen another (this time a single bird), this time in The Walks. 

Cairina Moschata 1
The first four pictures were taken on Monday afternoon.

Cairina Moschata 2Cairina Moschata 3Cairina Moschata 4

CmI
These are all from today – six pictures of the whole bird…

CmIICmIIICmIVCmVCm VI

Cmsideprofile
…two pictures of the profile view of its head.

Cmprofile

Cmheadfronton
…a front-on pic…
Cmtailfeathers
…and a pic of the tail feathers.

 

Ashes Selections

On Ashes selections…

INTRODUCTION

The cricket section of the BBC website gives you a chance to pick your XI for the opening ashes match this winter. It is not a free selection – they give you a pool of names to pick from, which is why I am producing this post.

MY SELECTION ON THE BBC WEBSITE

Restricted by the BBC website I selected the following XI:

Cook, Stoneman, Joe Clarke, Root, Liam Livingstone, Stokes, Bairstow, Moeen Ali, Roland-Jones, Anderson, Leach – yes I overlooked Stuart Broad, but I was being deliberately controversial…

VARIOUS POSSIBLE XIs

In actual fact, depending on conditions my selections could vary considerably. England spinners have rarely enjoyed themselves at Brisbane, so in practice I would probably not select two spinners for that particular match, while at Perth I might even consider leaving out Moeen Ali. At Adelaide, where the pitch tends to be exceedingly batsman friendly I would want more bowling options, and if the pitch was obviously going to favour spin then Moeen might even be third spinner in the XI. Thus here are some possible XIs, unerestricted by the BBC website’s preselections:

Normal conditions: Cook, Stoneman, Westley, Root (C), Dan Lawrence, Stokes, Bairstow (WK), Moeen Ali, Roland-Jones, Broad, Anderson.

Fast bowlers’ paradise (Perth would be a possible): Cook, Stoneman, Westley, Root (C), Lawrence, Stokes, Bairstow, (WK), Woakes, Roland-Jones, Broad, Anderson.

On a ‘bunsen’ (rhyming slang, bunsen burner = turner) – unlikely in Oz but you never know: Cook, Stoneman, Westley, Root (C), Lawrence, Stokes, Bairstow (WK), Moeen Ali, Dominic Bess, Jack Leach, Anderson (this is a colossal gamble, relying on Anderson and Stokes to do all the fast bowling between them, a more cautious approach still catering for lots of spin would see Broad retain his place and Ali and Bess or Bess and Leach have the spin bowling roles).

For the batsman’s paradise (e.g Adelaide, or the Bellerive Oval, Hobart): Cook, Stoneman, Root (C), Lawrence, Stokes, Moeen Ali, Bairstow (WK), Roland-Jones, Bess, Broad, Anderson (note that to play the extra bowler I move Ali up two places, keeping Bairstow at 7 – there is a reason why Gilchrist never moved up from number 7 in Australia’s great days).