An account of England’s defeat at Old Trafford, the loss of The Ashes and the subsequent failure of England’s selectors to take necessary action. Credit to Australia, who are worthy winners of both this match and The Ashes (and, almost certainly, the series as well).
There are two threads to this post – the first is the loss of the 4th test match at Old Trafford and with it The Ashes, and the second is the unsurprising but very disappointing decision of the England selectors to name an unchanged squad for the fifth test match.
HOW THE DEFEAT PANNED OUT
England were eventually dismissed with just fewer than 15 overs to be bowled for 197 to lose by 185 runs. Denly made a half-century that was firmly in the “too little, too late” category. Craig Overton, in the side for his bowling skills, produced a display that should have brought blushes to the cheeks of most his supposed betters in the order by holding out for almost three hours before the inevitable happened, and Jack Leach lasted almost an hour with him in the ninth wicket stand that was England’s last gesture of resistance. Broad, the man with more test match ducks than any other England cricketer, escaped adding to his tally by being left 0 not out when Overton finally fell to end proceedings. That Overton and Leach were able to resist for as long as they did on this final day was a damning indictment of England’s top order (Burns and Rootboth got beauties from Cumminson the 4th evening, and Roy was on the end of a good ‘un as well, although his choice of shot certainly contributed to his downfall) who save for Denly failed to provide anything that could be described as an innings of substance (and even he nearly holed out at deep midwicket during what was supposed to be a resistance act). At Edgbaston in the first match Australia were 122-8 on the first day before Smith and Siddle rescued them and they went on to dominate that match. At Lord’s England had marginally the better of a drawn game, and save only for those amazing closing stages England were behind all the way at Headingley, while this match was pretty much all Australia as well. Thus Australia deserved their win, and deserve to have retained the Ashes. A win at The Oval would make the series 3-1 to Australia, and that would be a fair reflection of how the two sides have played. Were England to somehow win at The Oval and level the series 2-2 even I as an Englishman would have to say that it would be a travesty of cricketing justice, but I cannot see that happening with this same group of players named again. The full scorecard for this match can be viewed here.
CONSISTENCY OR STUBBORNNESS FROM ED SMITH AND FRIENDS?
I certainly do not want a return to the scattergun approach of the 1990s when players were in and out of the side at the drop of a hat, but naming this same group of players when at least four (Denly, Roy, Buttler and Bairstow) have simply failed to produce to the required standard seems to me to be veering from consistency (a degree of which should be maintained) into stubbornness if not pigheadedness. The bowlers are not to blame for the debacle that this series has been, and I would not make many changes there (I went into detail about my squad for The Oval yesterday – please visit that post for a look), but the specialist batting and the wicketkeepers position need changing. I hope that the England selectors will start afresh when naming the winter tour parties. Then the new players can be given this winter and the next home season to prove themselves. With all due respect to the Somerset giant, that Craig Overton batted longer than anyone else in England’s second innings points up the problems that rout (67 all out) in the first innings at Headingley so devastatingly revealed. A slightly less scathing assessment of England at present can be found here. Although I will not reproduce any of the substance of yesterday’s post, here is the 13 I suggested for The Oval, just for purposes of comparison with the inertia of the England selectors:
Accounts of the final outcomes of yesterday’s Royal London Cup matches, including details of how my latest set of predictions worked out. Also features a couple of twitter finds and some of my photographs.
At the halfway stage of yesterday’s Royal London Cup fixtures, in accordance with what is now my custom I ventured a set of predictions as to the outcomes. Now I reveal how they fared.
THE OUTCOMES MATCH BY MATCH
Northamptonshire v Warwickshire – Northamptonshire 358-6, Warwickshire 164, Northamptonshire won by 194 runs.
I called this as a Northamptonshire win and was proven correct. The sheer size of the win was a bit of a surprise. Ed Pollock and Alex Thomson joint top-scored for Warwickshire with 36 a piece, while Blessing Muzurabani, Ben Sanderson and Jason Holdereach picked uo three wickets for Northamptonshire.
Glamorgan v Somerset – Somerset 261-9, Glamorgan 259, Somerset won by 2 runs. For the second time in a row Craig Overton followed useful late runs (crucial in this case) with early wickets. When Glamorgan were 41-6 it seemed to be all over, but then David Lloyd (84) and Graham Wagg (62) put on 152 to drag their side back into it. At 202-9 Somerset again looked like winners, but then Glamorgan rallied through their last pair, Lucas Carey and Dutchman Timm Van Der Gugten, who looked to have snatched the game for their side until Carey holed out for 39 to end things with Glamorgan two runs adrift. I had called this as a Somerset win, and I was just proven right. It was an absolute classic match, and credit to Glamorgan for their incredible fight back from 41-6, from where a margin of 200 looked likelier than the eventual two! Scottish medium pacer Josh Davey had a List A best 4-36, Overton (surely player of the match) had 3-51 to go with his priceless 41 not out and Dutchman Roelof Van Der Merwe had 2-36 from 5.1 overs, snaring the final wicket.
Kent v Sussex – Kent 298, Sussex 302-3 (40 overs) – Sussex won by seven wickets with 10 overs to spare.
I got this one wrong – I had called it as a Kent win. The match was won for Sussex by two men, north Wales born Philip Salt (137 not out off 106 balls, he now has 422 list A runs at 42.20 and a strike rate of 108.20 in that form of the game – clearly one to watch for the future, as he is only just 22) and Hastings born Harry Finch(89 off 68 balls, he now has 1,056 list A runs at 42.24 and a strike rate of 78.57 in that form, and is 24 years old). For Kent Matt Milnes took two wickets but also got carted – 73 off nine overs, while wily old Darren Stevens had 1-34 from eight overs.
Gloucestershire v Middlesex– Gloucestershire 283-7, Middlesex 287-4 from 42.2 overs, Middlesex won by six wickets with 7.4 overs to spare.
I called this one incorrectly, backing Gloucestershire to defend. When the Middlesex score was 103-4 this one was looking fairly good for me, but Steve Eskinazi(107 not out) and Nick Gubbins (98 not out) saw their side to what was in the end a very comfortable victory. Australian seamer Daniel Worrall took 2-30 from six overs, but no one else did anything of significance with the ball.
Yorkshire v Lancashire – Lancashire 311-6, Yorkshire 310 all out (50 overs exactly) Lancashire won by one run.
Having had a tie in their last game, Yorkshire lost this one by a single run, suffering two run outs at the end to settle it. Tom Kohler-Cadmorescored 97 off 113 balls, Gary Ballance 72 off 64, and Johnny Tattersall 49 off 29 to bring his side very close to the line before being run out. Saqib Mahmood took 3-76 and bowled the crucial final over, legspinner Matt Parkinson took 2-47 from his 10 (a key performance in so close and high scoring a match) and there was a wicket a piece for Graham Onions,Glen Maxwell and Liam Hurt (so new on the scene that his profile is very sketchy – his date of birth is not recorded, not what hand he bats with, nor what style of bowler he is, and given that he too was economical for such a high scooring game – 42 runs off eight overs, this could be the first sighting of future star). I had called this one as Yorkshire win, and a single run saved my bacon and extended my record of calling more correctly than wrongly to a third round of this competition.
Derbyshire v Nottinghamshire – Derbyshire 297-8, Nottinghamshire 299-4 (45.1 overs) Nottinghamshire won by six wickets with 4.5 overs to spare. I had expected Derbyshire to defend their 297-8, but in the end Nottinghamshire were comfortable winners. Ben Slatermade 83 off 100 balls, and then from 173-4 Tom Mooreshit 52 not out off 46 balls and skipper Steven Mullaney 68 not out off 47 balls to carry Nottinghamshire to victory. Alfie Gleadall, whose date of birth like that of Liam Hurt is shown as ‘unknown’, but who I can reveal to be left handed batter and right-arm medium fast bowler took 3-43 from seven overs, and no other Derbyshire bowler deserves to have their figures quoted.
Thus I was right with four of my predictions and wrong with three, making my overall tally thus far 12 right and seven wrong, a success rate of 63.16% (63.15789 to five decimal places, they key being that the third decimal is a 7, i..e 5 or greater, so we round up), and I have had more right than wrong on all three occasions I have done this so far, though this time that was only just the case.
My second offering comes from Election Maps UK and shows what our House of Commons would look like under PR:
I have two elections coming up, a local council election in which the four candidates are two Labour and two Tory, meaning that I will vote Labour. I do not yet know who all the candidates in the European election on May 22 are, but if there is a Green to vote for in that I will vote for them. In a general election under our current deeply flawed system, given the nature of my constituency I would have to vote Labour, as only Labour have anything approaching the support base needed to unseat the sitting Tory MP – whereas under PR I would be voting Green.
Accounts of goings on in today’s Royal London Cup matches including predictiuons, a few links and some photographs.
All seven of today’s Royal London Cup matches have reached the half way stage, and as with first two rounds (see here and here) I will be venturing predictions as to the eventual outcomes of the matches and mentioning noteworthy performances.
THE ROYAL LONDON CUP MATCHES 21/4
Here we go…
Northamptonshire v Warwickshire – Northamptonshire 358-9 from 50 overs
A big total for Northamptonshire, and one that I would expect them to defend. Nobody made a really big score for Northants, but Keogh (69 off 87), Rossington (68 off 58), Holder (60 not out off 31), Wakely(50 off 50) and Levi(48 off 37) all contributed. Henry Brookes continued his good start to the season with another three wickets, albeit at a considerable cost (3-80 off 10), while Jeetan Patel was the most economical bowler with 2-55 off 10.
Glamorgan v Somerset– Somerset 261-9 from 50 overs
The Somerset total is by means huge, but it represents a recovery from 178-8 at low water mark, and Glamorgan made a horrible hash of each of their first two games after seemingly being in contention at the halfway point, so I am confidently predicting a Somerset win. Veteran James Hildreth top scored with 67, while Craig Overton spearheaded the recover with 41 not out off 46 balls at the end. De Langeand Labuschagne each took three wickets for Glamorgan.
Kent v Sussex – Kent 298 all out 49.4 overs
An intriguing one. Aussie Matt Renshawscored 109 for Kent, while Ollie Robinson was second top scorer wirh 46 and both openers made 30, and there was a late 32 from Harry Podmore which could prove crucial. Left arm quick George Gartontook 3-42 from 8 overs and the two spinners Briggs (SLA, like his legendary namesake of yesteryear Johnny) and Will Beer (legbreak) each picked up a couple of wickets. I will predict Kent to defend this one.
Leicestershire v Worcestershire – Leciestershire 377-4 from 50 overs
A very fine score by Leicestershire, and I fully expect them to defend it – Lancashire’s effort the other day notwithstanding totals this large are rarely chased down even nowadays. Ackermanmade 152 not out off 143 balls for Leicestershire, wicketkeeper Lewis Hill scored 118 off 62 balls and Harry Dearden 91 off 92 balls at the top of the order. Charlie Morrisand Josh Tongue each took two wickets, apart from which it is best to draw a veil over the Worcestershire bowling figures.
Middlesex v Gloucestershire – Gloucestershire 283-7 from 50 overs
A decent total for Gloucestershire, but these days by no means a certainty for them to defend. Nonetheless I predict that the county of my birth will get the better of the Londoners, although this is the call I am least confident of. James Bracey madce 83 and Benny Howell 55. Toby Roland-Jones who has played with some success for England took two wickets as did Ireland star Tim Murtagh.
Yorkshire v Lancashire – Lancashire 311-7 from 50 overs A good total for Lancashire, and given the success of teams batting first so far this season it will probably be enough for them in this roses clash. Steven Croft top scored with 97 off 117 balls, Rob Jones made 65 off 51 balls and Josh Bohannonscored 55 not out off 32 at the end. David Willey took 2-51 from his 10 overs.
Derbyshire v Nottinghamshire – Derbyshire 297-8 from 50 overs
A decent looking total from Derbyshire, but given the score that Nottinghamshire produced last time out I am backing them to chase it down. Billy Godleman scored 116 off 148 balls to anchor the Derbyshire effort, Luis Reece hit 88 off 82 balls, Wayne Madsen scored 38 off 28 balls, and there were no other significant contributions. Luke Fletcher took 5-56 and Jake Ball2-55.
Thus my predictions are: Northamptonshire, Somerset, Kent, Leicestershire, Gloucestershire, Lancashire and Nottinghamshire. I am listening to the commentary on the match between Glamorgan and Somerset, and Glamorgan have responded to the challenge of chasing 262 for victory by slumping to 31-5 in tne ninth over. Four of the five batters dismissed in this pathetic reply were punished for playing straight balls with pad rather than bat. Overton and Scottish medium pacer Josh Davey have been doing the damage.
Christmas report on the England men’s team, and some Muscovy duck pictures.
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.
A little while back I reported sighting some birds which turned out to be Muscovyducks (Cairina moschata). Well, I have seen another (this time a single bird), this time in The Walks.