Leach and Why Woakes Must Play in Third India v England Test Match

This post looks at selections for the upcoming day-night test, explaining the reasons for concluding that if one specialist spinner backed by Root/Lawrence is enough then Chris Woakes must play.

The third test match of the India versus England series, which takes place in Ahmedabad, beginning in five days, is a day-nighter. This post looks at the implications of that for England’s bowling selections.

THE FRONT LINE SPINNER(S)

Dominic Bess has been struggling for form and is in any case out of favour with the selectors. Having just dropped him for the game which was taking place on a pitch guaranteed to turn from day 1, session 1 it would make little sense to play him as lone specialist spinner in this match (especially given that two part time bowlers must likely to be used a spin fill-in options, Joe Root and Dan Lawrence bowl off spin in any case). Also, there are very strong positive reasons for sticking with Jack Leach in any case. He has been bowling well and taking wickets, and now has 56 in 14 test appearances, an average of four per game. He is still paying just over 30 (30.37) per wicket, but that average is coming down. The significance of that wickets per game ratio is simply this: most test sides, unless unusually blessed with all rounders do not have more than five genuinely front line bowling options, and 20/5 = 4, so a bowler taking four wickets per match is doing their part in that regard. Also, as I mentioned in my last post, England have a tour to Australia coming up at the end of the year, and having a left arm bowler of slow to medium pace there is a virtual necessity. Thus, Bess can only really be considered if it looks like two specialist spinners are required, which seems unlikely for a day-night game.

THE PACE ATTACK

James Anderson, a no11 batter, is virtually inked in. Having rested him from the second match to keep him fresh for the day-nighter it would be utterly nonsensical to then decide not to pick him. Most would want a bowler of express pace in the attack, which means one out of Stone, Archer or Wood, none of whom rate particularly high with the bat, though Archer’s first class record suggests an ability he has yet to display in tests. That leaves one primarily bowling slot vacant, with the choice, assuming conditions don’t warrant Bess, between Stuart Broad, a second of the speed trio or Chris Woakes. Other than Woakes the only pace bowling option with any sort of batting pedigree is Broad, and he has done little in that department recently, and his bowling in the last match was underwhelming. The choice then, assuming one specialist spinner is the way to go, is between a diplodcus like tail of Broad, Stone, Leach, Anderson or some such permutation, or selecting Woakes for the match in which he is in any case most likely to do well out of any this winter.

England don’t want a tail like this beast had!

In view of his impressive efforts on a surface that offered him zilch I prefer for Stone to get an opportunity in more favourable conditions over Archer or Wood, so my 8,9,10,11 is Woakes, Stone, Leach, Anderson.

THE REST OF THE ORDER

For the sake of completeness here is the rest of my England batting order for the third test: Sibley keeps his spot at the top of the order, while with the chance of having to face spin right at the start being less at Ahmedabad than it was in Chennai the fit again Crawley comes in for the struggling Burns. Stokes moves up to three, as he probably won’t have a huge bowling workload, and as a short term fix for this tour having an engine room of Stokes at three and Root at four rather than the usual Root at four and Stokes at five seems to have a decent chance of working. Root we have just covered, and Lawrence after his struggles at no3 moves down to no5, while Pope retains his slot, and Foakes is now unbudgeable as keeper, and rightly so. The full XI, based on the supposition that one specialist spinner is enough is thus: Sibley, Crawley, Stokes, *Root, Lawrence, Pope, +Foakes, Woakes, Stone, Leach, Anderson.

PHOTOGRAPHS

My usual sign off…

India Complete Convincing Victory In Chennai

A look back at the second test in Chennai, with complete player ratings. a look forward to the third test and beyond and some pictures.

Although today’s play was not especially long this post will be because I there are a couple of extra features related to this match and also because owing to the fact that I wish to mark tomorrow being IPL auction day by doing something entirely non-cricket related on here I am going to make a provisional selection for England for the third test match, the day-nighter in Ahmedabad.

THE LAST KNOCKINGS
OF THE MATCH

England resumed on 53-3, needing a purely nominal 429 to win on a surface playing serious tricks. The first to fall was Dan Lawrence who showed considerable pluck yesterday, but today charged at Ashwin’s first delivery of the morning and was stumped by half a metre or thereabouts. Stokes, who might have stopped the rot, failed, and it rapidly became a procession. When Stone was dismissed, ninth to go, it looked like England were going to fail as a team to match the opposition’s highest individual score in either innings. Moeen Ali and Stuart Broad provided some late fireworks and just spared England that indignity, raising the total to 164, before Ali, with the quickest test 50 of all time in his sights, was caught to end the brief final flurry. The margin was 317 runs, India’s biggest ever win by a runs margin over England, beating the 279 run margin at Headingley in 1986. Axar Patel on his test debut snared five victims in this second innings, while R Ashwin completed a memorable trio of innings by accounting for three, following his five first innings scalps and second innings hundred. Had England won the toss and batted, it is possible that without 300 already being on the board against them they would have scored 230in the first innings rather than their actual 130, but they would never have won on this surface. It is not so much that India bat better on such surfaces, though they do, the much more pronounced difference is that they bowl hugely much better on them. Only Jack Leach hinted at the control needed on such pitches – India were allowed to score at four an over in their two innings, whereas India, knowing that there was assistance for them went for only two and a half per over. Still, England would have accepted a series scoreline of 1-1 going into the day-nighter when this series started. England played poorly, India superbly, and England must pick themselves up from this, and fortunately have a week in which to do so. Full scorecard here.

ASHWIN’S ACHIEVEMENT

In combining a century with a haul of eight wickets in the game Ashwin underlined his status as one of the game’s greatest players. Imran Khan (6-98, 117 not out, 5-82 v India at Faisalabad in 1982), Ian Botham had three such matches, against New Zealand at Christchurch when his maiden test hundred combined with eight wickets and a couple of catches, against Pakistan at Lord’s when a score of 108 was backed with ground record innings figures of 8-34 and at what is now Mumbai in 1980 when his figures were 6-58, 114 not out, 7-48. George Giffen had a first innings 161 and two four wicket hauls in an ultimately losing cause at Sydney in 1894 (Australia 586, England 325 and 437, Australia 166, England won by 10 runs). Alan Davidson’s effort across the four innings of the first ever tied test at Brisbane in 1960 deserves a mention as well: 5-135 (WI 453 all out), 44 (Aus 505 all out), 6-87 (WI 284 all out), 80 (Aus 232 all out). In first class cricket George Hirst stands alone with a remarkable quadruple feat of centuries in each of his team’s innings and five wicket hauls in each of the opposition innings, achieved at for Yorkshire against Somerset in 1906. Finally, a nod to Enid Bakewell, who in 1979, at the age of 39, scored a century and had a ten wicket match haul for England Women against the West Indies Women. After 76 test matches Ashwin’s record reads 2,626 runs at 28.23, 394 wickets at 25.20. Better than five wickets per match, at an eminently respectable average, and he also averages 28 with the bat. For comparison in 61 matches, likely to be his final test tally, Moeen Ali who was Ashwin’s England counterpart in this game, has 2,831 runs at 28.88, fractionally better than Ashwin, and 189 wickets at 36.24, fully eleven runs per wicket worse than Ashwin and not much more than half as many wickets per match.

PLAYER OF THE MATCH

The achievement that I just devoted the above section to earned Ashwin player of the match, a decision which might appear unarguable, but nevertheless, though this is a minor kvetch, I am not entirely happy with it. For me the Player of the Match should go to the player who has done most to influence the result, and I would have said that Rohit Sharma with his majestic innings on the opening day, which was incredible at the time and has only looked better as the game progressed was that person. It would have been hard on Ashwin not to have got the award in front of his home crowd, and I would have been happiest with a shared award between the two top performers in the game, while I have to say that if forced to give the award to a single individual I would have plumped for Rohit Sharma.

PLAYER RATINGS

I will start with England, and my ratings are as follows:

Dominic Sibley: 4. The normally adhesive opener failed in both innings this time.

Rory Burns: 3. It is hard to see him being retained much longer on present form.

Dan Lawrence: 4. He showed some fight in the evening session yesterday, but his dismissal at the start of today’s play brought his mark back down – it was very poor.

Joe Root: 5. Failed to deliver with the bat, but bowled respectably, although it is an indictment of his specialist colleagues that he found himself in action in that role before the end of day 1.

Ben Stokes: 4. It is a rare match in which the all rounder entirely fails to make an impact but this one was perilously close to being just such a game.

Ollie Pope: 4. Played half decently in the first innings in partnership with Foakes, but was part of the procession back to the pavilion on the final day.

Ben Foakes: 8. Confirmed his utter brilliance as a keeper and has surely established himself as England’s #1 in that department. He also top scored in England’s first innings, showing real determination. I would have scored him higher, but he was part of a badly defeated team. I will just point out among those who were open-mouthed with admiration at the brilliance of his keeping was Sarah Taylor, his only serious rival for the title of the most accomplished English keeper of the 21st century.

Moeen Ali: 5. Some of you will look at his figures for this match and think that this is being harsh. The sad truth is that seven of his eight wickets and all of his runs came with England pretty much condemned to defeat. His bowling on the first day, on a pitch that even then was offering turn, when his figures at one point read 1-94 from 20 overs was an utter disgrace, and at that point he was headed squarely for a rating of 1, but he did pick things up, far too late, and I have increased his rating to reflect that.

Olly Stone: 7. Fast bowlers were not major players in this game because of the pitch, but he bowled well, capturing four wickets in total, and has earned the right to play in conditions which will favour him more.

Jack Leach: 7. On the first day, when everyone else was going round the park he went for less than three an over, and at no time can he be said to have done a lot wrong.

Stuart Broad: 5. He was a little unfortunate not to get more reward for his efforts with the ball, but by his own titanic standards he was undoubtedly poor.

Now it is time for India:

Rohit Sharma: 9.5. His innings on the first day pretty much settled the outcome of the match.

Shubman Gill: 6. Not a great game for him, but a few flashes of skill.

Cheteshwar Pujara: 5. A rare ordinary match for him.

Virat Kohli: 7. A first innings duck, but he played beautifully in the second innings. On pure play he deserves more marks than I have given, but I have penalized him for some of his behaviour, which was less than exemplary.

Ajinkya Rahane: 7. Was Rohit Sharma’s best support in the first innings, failed in the second. Had some great moments as a slip fielder.

Rishabh Pant: 7. An entertaining 50 in the first dig and some good keeping on a pitch which caused problems for almost everyone.

Axar Patel: 8. A superb debut for the left arm spinner, highlighted by a five wicket haul in the final innings. Although Ravindra Jadeja will be available again in a few weeks time I expect plenty more good things from this man.

R Ashwin: 9.5: Failed with the bat in the first innings but was magnificent in the other three, producing a truly superb all round performance.

Kuldeep Yadav: 7. Bowled steadily, though overshadowed by his colleagues Ashwin and Patel.

Ishant Sharma: 5. A bit part player because of the pitch.

Mohammad Siraj: 7. Like Ishant reduced to the status of a bit part player, but I have upgraded his score on account of his magnificent celebration of his team mate Ashwin’s century.

I conclude this section with an infographic giving a brief version of the above:

THOUGHTS ON ENGLAND SQUAD FOR THIRD TEST

England have announced a squad of 17 from which the XI for the third test will be chosen. Moeen Ali is needed for the limited overs games, and not fancying what would otherwise be a full five months away from home, is returning for a short break before coming back out to India in time to quarantine before the limited overs leg of the tour starts. Thus, the squad, viewable on the ECB’s website is as shown below:

Rory Burns I think has to go, with Crawley fit again, and my choice for number three in these specific circumstances is Ben Stokes, who should not need to do a huge amount of bowling. I feel that having the engine room of Stokes and Root at three and four is something England need in this situation, and Root loses much of his effectiveness when made to bat at three, so I am prepared to promote Stokes to provide some experience near the top of the order. I believe Lawrence deserves a chance in a position in the middle of the order where he is more likely to succeed, and I am loath to discard Pope so soon after his return from injury, believing he will come good. Foakes is inked in as keeper. That leaves the bowlers, and for a day-night match I am prepared to chance having only one front line spinner in Leach, which means I either have to opt for Woakes or accept a tail of diplodocus proportions (see this article from the Natural History Museum, and the picture below, which comes from said article, for why I have chosen that analogy).

The ultimate in long tailed creatures.

In the circumstances, with Broad not at his best, Anderson mandatory after being rested for this game, rather than gamble on an 8,9,10,11 of Archer, Stone, Leach, Anderson or Wood, Stone, Leach, Anderson (for reasons already outlined I am not in favour of discarding Stone) I go for Woakes as third seamer, giving the XI shown in the infographic below:

LOOKING FURTHER AHEAD

It is relatively unlikely that any English test pitch will warrant the selection of two specialist spinners, and the next tour is Australia, never the happiest hunting ground for English off spinners (In my lifetime only John Emburey on two tours when Australia were fielding weakened sides due first to Kerry Packer and WSC and then to Ali Bacher’s activities arranging for cricketers to make ‘rebel tours’ of apartheid South Africa has had really successful series as an English off spinner in Australia, and the past save for the very earliest days of test cricket tells a similar story), so I would consider Leach the first choice spinner and groom the leg spinner Parkinson as understudy, taking him on the Ashes trip as official second spinner. At the moment after a mere six first class appearances an elevation of Tom Lammonby to international ranks would seem a huge gamble, but if he has another good season for Somerset he too could be picked for the Ashes tour as an opening batter.

LINKS AND PHOTOGRAPHS

Having mentioned the Natural History museum I cannot resist offering a couple of links relating to that museum’s location, South Kensington:

  1. The aspi.blog piece on South Kensington.
  2. The londontu.be piece on South Kensington.

Now, it is finally time for my usual sign off (well done all of you who make to this point!):

England’s Victory

Looking at the turnaround in the test match at Old Trafford, plus a few other bits.

INTRODUCTION

The main focus of this post is the opening test match against Pakistan at Old Trafford, with a brief glimpse at the second round of fixtures in the Bob Willis Trophy as well.

FROM THE JAWS OF DEFEAT

England’s fightback in this match began on Friday evening, when they reduced Pakistan’s second innings to 137-8. Although it did not take very long yesterday morning for the last two wickets to fall, 32 runs were accrued from the 3.2 overs for which Pakistan batted. This left England needing 277 to win, and at first, as wickets fell steadily it looked very unlikely. When Pope got out out to a brutal ball to make it 117-5 it seemed a matter of when, not if. At that point Chris Woakes with seven single figure scores in his last eight test knocks came in to join Jos Buttler who had had a stinker of a match up to that point. Both players played their shots, recognizing that taking the attack back to Pakistan was the only chance. As the partnership developed Pakistan became a little ragged, although nerves also kicked in for the England pair and progress slowed. Buttler fell for 75 with just over 30 still required, and England sent in Stuart Broad, known as a quick scorer, with the aim of making sure that the second new ball was not a serious factor. The ploy worked, and by the time the new ball became available the target had been reduced to 13. In desperation Pakistan put on a fast bowler at one end but kept Yasir Shah going at the other. Broad was out with England a boundary away from victory and Bess survived the remainder of the over. Woakes edged the first ball of the next over through the slip region for four and England were home by three wickets. Woakes had scored 84 not out, going with 19 in the first innings and total match figures of 4-54. In view of the result there was no other candidate for Man of the Match.

There has only been one occasion when an England no7 has scored more in a 4th innings run chase – at The Oval in 1902 when Gilbert Jessop came in with the team 48-5 in pursuit of a target of 263 and blasted 104 in 77 minutes. Woakes’ performance was more reminiscent of George Hirst’s effort in that match – five wickets with the ball and scores of 43 and 58 not out.

ENGLAND PLAYER RATINGS

  1. Rory Burns – 4 – the opener failed twice in this match.
  2. Dominic Sibley – 6 – one long innings and one failure with the bat, also a superb unassisted run out in the field,
  3. Joe Root – 6 – not many runs for the skipper, but he led the side well, and his promotion of Broad to cater for the specific circumstances of the second innings was an excellent decision.
  4. Ben Stokes – 6 – failed with the bat, but although not fully fit to bowl took a hand at the bowling crease in England’s hour of need and bagged a wicket.
  5. Ollie Pope – 7 – a magnificent knock in the first innings, when it looked like he was facing a different set of bowlers to everyone else, and the delivery that got him was all but unplayable. Also played a few decent shots in the second dig before fetching another ‘jaffa’.
  6. Jos Buttler – 4 – a horror show behind the stumps, including missing a chance to see the back of Shan Masood for 45 (he went on to 156) and several other howlers, a gritty first innings batting effort, and a fine effort in the second innings, but still even after that knock in overall deficit for the match.
  7. Chris Woakes – 9 – a magnificent match for the under-rated all rounder. He is now indispensable in England (in some other parts of the world where the combination of the Kookaburra ball and the different atmospheric conditions effectively eliminates swing he is a lot less of a player) and his Man of the Match award was thoroughly deserved.
  8. Dominic Bess – 5 – bad wicket keeping caused him to miss out on several wickets, but in the second innings with the ball definitely turning he should have done better than he did.
  9. Jofra Archer – 5 – an ordinary game for the express bowler.
  10. Stuart Broad – 7 – bowled reasonably, played two splendid cameo innings.
  11. James Anderson – 5 – the veteran was unimpressive by his own standards, though respectable by anyone else’s.

These ratings mostly look low for players in a winning side and that is for a good reason – Pakistan bossed this game through its first two innings, and England were fortunate to emerge victorious.

THE REST OF THE SERIES

News has just emerged that Stokes is heading to New Zealand for family reasons and will not play in the remaining matches of the series. Buttler cannot continue as keeper, the question being whether you think he can justify being picked purely as a batter. I personally do not and would leave him out. My chosen line-up from those available would be Burns, Sibley, Crawley, *Root, Pope, +Foakes, Woakes, Bess, Robinson, Archer, Broad. Anderson I think needs to be rested, and I opt for Robinson as his replacement. If Buttler’s selection is non-negotiable he gets the nod at six as a specialist batter, and Robinson misses out. Bess needs a good match sooner rather than later but I would not want to be without a front line spin option.

THE BOB WILLIS TROPHY

The second round of matches in this competition are well underway. Worcestershire scored 455-8 against Glamorgan, who are 27-0 in reply. Yorkshire managed 264 in their first innings and Notts are 140-4 in reply. Northants v Somerset has seen some extraordinary happenings – Somerset made 166 in the first innings, Northants were then bowled out for 67, and Somerset were at one point 54-6 in their second innings before recovering to reach 222, Northants are 5-0 in their second innings. Middlesex made 252 against Hampshire, who are 129-3 in reply. Leicestershire managed 199 against Derbyshire who are 235-3 in response. Sussex made 332 against Kent who are 131-1 in response. Gloucestershire scored 210 all out v Warwickshire who are 73-3 in reply. Durham were all out for 180 against Lancashire, who are 138-4 in response. Finally, Essex scored 262 in their first innings, and Surrey are 81-4 in response.

SOLUTION AND NEW TEASER

I posed this problem from brilliant in my last post:

Venn Rectangles

The answer is 216, as shown in this published solution by Pall Marton:

PM

Here is another teaser, this one tangentially connected with sudoku:

Pinwheel

This one is not as hard as the five dagger rating suggests, but it is quite challenging. Solution in my next post.

PHOTOGRAPHS

My usual sign off…

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IMG_2662 (2)
Damselflies have been out in force, as these remaining pictures show. They are tricky in two ways – actually capturing them on camera, and editing the shots to best effect.

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England Win The Wisden Trophy

England’s victory at Old Trafford, player ratings and photographs from my collection.

INTRODUCTION

The Wisden Trophy is now England’s in perpetuity – future series between England and the West Indies will be played for the Richards – Botham Trophy. This post describes the concluding stages of the match.

THE BROAD/ WOAKES SHOW

After yesterday was washed out the question was whether there would be enough play today for England to complete the job. There were a couple of interruptions, but England took wickets regularly. Broad began today’s events by bagging his 500th test wicket, the seventh bowler to reach that landmark. His victim was Kraigg Brathwaite, who three years earlier had been James Anderson’s 500th test victim. Then Woakes bowled a marvellous spell in which he bagged five wickets, while Roston Chase was run out courtesy of a direct hit on the stumps by Dom Bess. Broad came back at the the end, and at 2:58PM he had Jermaine Blackwood edging to Jos Buttler for his tenth wicket of the match to go with his score of 62. The West Indies were all out for 129 and the final margin was 269 runs. Dominic Bess did not get a bowl in either innings such was the dominance of England’s pace bowlers.

COMMISERATIONS TO THE WEST INDIES

All true cricket fans should be deeply grateful to the West Indies for undertaking this tour given the circumstances, and they played superbly in the first match at the Ageas Bowl. They were badly beaten in both the games played at Manchester to end up losing the series. Jason Holder was guilty of two poor decisions after winning the toss in both games. Bowling first might have been justifiable the first time round although doing so is always a gamble (nb I specifically did not criticize England’s decision to bat first in the opener for this precise reason), but the second time round it was utterly inexcusable – not only did he know that doing so at the same ground had backfired a few days previously, he had also selected an extra spinner in the person Rahkeem Cornwall, certainly the heaviest top level cricketer since Warwick Armstrong and possibly since the mighty ‘Lion of Kent’, Alfred Mynn, star of the 1840s, and for the selection of the extra spinner to work you need to bowl last. The West Indies batters had a tendency to get caught on the crease rather than getting fully forward which meant that they suffered a lot of LBWs.

ENGLAND PLAYER RATINGS

  1. Rory Burns – 8.5 – 57 in the first innings, 90 in the second getting out playing aggressively, the dismissal the triggered the declaration.
  2. Dom Sibley – 6.5 – a blob in the first innings, but a 50 in the second, and he did show some attacking intent with England having an eye on a declaration.
  3. Joe Root – 7.5 – failed in the first innings, but a blistering 68 not out off 56 balls in the second propelled England to their declaration, and he handled the side well in the field.
  4. Ben Stokes – 5 – a quiet match for the talisman, scoring 20 in his only innings and not bowling due to a niggle.
  5. Ollie Pope – 8 – his first innings 91 was a magnificent innings, he took a splendid catch but was robbed of the credit for it because the bowler had overstepped.
  6. Jos Buttler – 5.5 – 67 in the first dig, when England needed runs from him. Struggled somewhat behind the sticks. His first innings score, while valuable in the context of this match should not save him – he has had so many chances that he was bound to make a decent contribution somewhere along the way.
  7. Chris Woakes – 7 – did little until the final day, but when he did get into the game did so in style with a five-for.
  8. Dom Bess – 6 – the off spinner was not called on to bowl, but he made a crucial contribution with the bat and fielded superbly, including a direct hit run out in the final innings.
  9. Jofra Archer – 6 – not the best match for the fast bowler, with only one wicket to show for his efforts, but he put in some hard yards.
  10. Stuart Broad – 10 – A blistering innings when England were far from secure having slipped from 258-4 to 280-8 in the first innings, 6-31 in the first West Indies innings and 4-36 in the second, the first three to open them right up, and fittingly the final wicket to fall. He also pouched a couple of catches, and as I said about Stokes in the previous match even Craig Revel-Horwood would rate this performance a 10.
  11. James Anderson – 7 – only two wickets in the match, both in the first innings for the veteran, but he bowled very well and played his part in this triumph.

PHOTOGRAPHS

My usual sign off…

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PS – Stuart Broad has been named Player of the Series, and just too late to save the West Indies the Manchester rain has returned (a bit like Adelaide 2010, when shortly after Australia were bowled out to give England an innings win the heavens opened).

 

England Dominant At Old Trafford

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

INTRODUCTION

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

SECOND HALF OF DAY FOUR – ENGLAND KEEP THEIR HOPES ALIVE

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

THE FINAL DAY SO FAR

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

AN ADDITION TO THE DRS

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

PHOTOGRAPHS

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Manchester Musings

Some thoughts on the early stages of the second test match between England and the West Indies.

INTRODUCTION

The second test match between England and the West Indies at Old Trafford, Manchester is underway, and already curious things are happening.

THE SELECTIONS

England had decided to rest Anderson and Wood for this game (both have had injury problems of late, and were unlikely to stand up to three matches in quick succession, so resting them for the middle match made sense. What did not make sense was Jofra Archer deciding to visit his home in Brighton (south east of Southampton) before heading to Manchester (north west of Southampton), thereby breaking the bio-secure protocols that everyone else involved manage to stick to (btw Anderson’s family home is only a few miles down the road from Old Trafford, and he did not succumb to temptation) and rendering himself ineligible for the match. With Oli Stone also not fully fit that meant that England had no out and out speedster available to them. They therefore opted for Curran’s left arm to give them some variation in the seam department and Woakes rather than a debut for Oliver Edward Robinson. They correctly gave Crawley the no3 slot, dropping Denly. They wrongly, indeed inexcusably, but unsurprisingly persisted with Buttler as keeper and no7, so the full 11 reads: Sibley, Burns, Crawley, *Root, Stokes, Pope, +Buttler, Woakes, Curran, Bess and Broad. Curran’s left arm provides some variation, and he may create some useful rough for Dom Bess to exploit. However, the only possibility of providing some genuine pace will be if Stokes is used in short spells in which he goes all out for speed – no one else in this side is capable of producing anything describable as genuinely fast. The West Indies are unchanged, which means that off spinner Rahkeem Cornwall, probably the heaviest international cricketer since Warwick Armstrong captained Australia in 1921 while weighing in at 22 stone, misses out.

THE EARLY EXCHANGES

Some traditional Manchester weather meant a delayed start, and the toss took place at noon, with a one hour session scheduled for 12:30-1:30, afternoon 2:10-4:25, evening 4:45 – 7:00, with half an hour overlap allowed, so a potential 7:30 finish. The West Indies one the toss and put England in. Burns and Sibley saw off the quicker bowlers, but then Burns fell to the off spin of Roston Chase on the stroke of lunch, and Crawley fell to Chase’s next delivery, immediately after the interval. Sibley and Root are now together, doing their best to stabilize things. England need to bat well, but on a pitch which is already looking like it could break up a first innings tally of 300 would put them in the box seat. Two wickets down this early is not good news for England, bit if they were going to lose two fairly early wickets losing them to Roston Chase is less bad than the alternatives, given that Bess is likely to enjoy this pitch even more, and that England are short of serious pace in this game (btw Robinson would not have helped in that regard – he specializes in moving the ball around a bit at just above medium pace, a method that has brought him 236 first class wickets at 22 a piece but which is not likely to have test batters quaking in their boots).

LOOKING AHEAD

England are probably second favourites for this match given the effect that the combination of their selection policy and Archer’s misdemeanour has had on them, but it does look like the West Indies misread the pitch and would have done better to bat first. If the West Indies do win this game they win the series, the first time they will have done that in England since 1988 (the 1991 and 1995 series were both drawn 2-2, England won the 2000 series and have been dominant in these contests since then), if England prevail it will be 1-1 and all will come down to the decider at this same ground. My own feeling is that for the West Indies to win the series and retain the Wisden trophy (they won the last series in the Caribbean) they need to win this match  – a draw would also secure them the Wisden Trophy as the series could not then finish worse for them than 1-1, but if England win I think the West Indies will find it tough to pick themselves up for the final game. For the moment, Sibley and Root remain in possession, and although they are not scoring quickly they are looking quite secure.

PHOTOGRAPHS

My usual sign off…

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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.

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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

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