England’s Test Tours

A look at England’s tests in 2021 and forward to the future. Also a very important petition and a related post on Tax Research UK and some deserved mentions of successes by Women’s cricket teams.

This post looks back at the six test matches England have played in India and Sri Lanka and forward to the future.

THE STORY IN BRIEF

England won both matches in Sri Lanka against a side with a very unthreatening bowling attack, although there were warning signs in the form of Embuldeniya, a left arm orthodox spinner who caused England such problems as they experienced on that tour. In India England started with a victory in the first match, but then lost three in a row as their problems against spin on turning pitches were cruelly exposed. English cricket officialdom has a phobia of turning tracks, as shown by the punishment recently inflicted on Somerset. This combined with the fact that a large proportion of English first class cricket is confined to the margins of the season means that there are not many really good spinners in the game and that in consequence the batters rarely face much if any spin. Anyone shown Axar Patel’s figures in this series and not told who had recorded them would be forgiven for thinking it was Hedley Verity or Derek Underwood operating on rain affected pitches. There were other causes of problems besides this…

ROTATION POLICY AND POOR SELECTIONS

Some element of rotation was going to be necessary due to the circumstances in which these test matches were being played, but I think England took things too far in that regard, and the side became unsettled as a result. In particular the handling of the Moeen Ali/ Dom Bess situation was shocking. England had planned to play Moeen Ali for both Sri Lankan matches and the first two matches in India before resting him prior to the limited overs element of the Indian tour. Had that plan been operable it might have made sense, though Moeen Ali’s test record is unconvincing to put mildly. As it was he caught Covid and by the time he had recovered and quarantined himself for the required period the only match he would be available for was the second of the Indian series. Bess had not bowled especially well but had been picking up wickets, and the logical thing to do in the changed circumstances was send Moeen home earlier than intended and play Bess straight through or promote one of Parkinson or Virdi from the reserves. Moeen Ali was rushed into the XI for that one match, and on brute figures had a decent game, capturing eight wickets and scoring 49 runs. The problem was that most of the good things he did came after he had virtually bowled England out of contention by conceding 94 runs from his first 20 overs on a pitch that was offering assistance to spinners from the start of the game. In selecting Moeen Ali England had directed some harsh words in Bess’ direction (doubtless some even harsher ones in private than the ones we heard about), and then after the game they tried to persuade Moeen Ali to stay on, abandoning his plans to visit his family in England, and allowed this to become public knowledge. Then, still reluctant to promote Parkinson or Virdi, and unwilling to risk Bess, they went into the third match of the series with three specialist quicks plus Stokes and only Leach as a front line spinner. Inexplicably Chris Woakes was also entirely ignored, though with the party the entire time, and he was sent home after the third test. England then had a massive knee jerk reaction to the humiliating defeat they suffered in that third match and brought Bess back, and also brought Lawrence in to strengthen the batting, going into the game with three specialist bowlers plus Stokes. Lawrence had a fine match, showing fight in both innings to amass 46 and 50, but apart from Stokes (55 in the first innings, four wickets), and Anderson, who was his usual self and therefore always formidable, and with a nod to the ever reliable Leach who toiled hard with the ball, basically no one else did. Bairstow, a flawed selection, as I pointed out in December when rumours of a test recall for him first surfaced, needed a bit of luck to make 28 in the first innings and gave his wicket away first ball in the second to one of the softest dismissals in test history. The other problem besides basic disruption and his own inadequate performances with the selection of Bairstow was that he pretty much replaced Burns, which forced Crawley up to open, when the latter has done his best test work from no3.

One or other of Parkinson or Virdi, with a preference for the former, since as a leg spinner he brings something new to the team, should have been promoted from the reserves to partner Leach, rather than the obviously untrusted Bess being recalled. The treatment of Olly Stone, who bowled well in the second match on a surface that did not suit him in the slightest and was thereafter resolutely ignored is also hard to fathom.

LOOKING TO THE FUTURE

In terms of the batting two things have happened this tour that are of any significance: Lawrence has surely moved ahead of Pope, who seems to have regressed from the good start he made to his test career, in the pecking order, and Bairstow must finally have blown one opportunity too many for even this England management to recall him to the test ranks, though he remains an integral part of the white ball set up. Leach is now established as first choice spinner, and given the unlikeliness of any English test pitch warranting the selection of two specialist spinners (I would put such a pitch being prepared in England rather below a meteorite strike in the betting stakes), and the fact that the next tour is Australia where English off spinners have not fared well (see here for some detail on the spin options in England’s successful Ashes tour parties) I am looking at Leach as sole spinner for the home summer, and Leach and Parkinson as spinners for Australia (unless England go the radical route of inviting Sophie Ecclestone to plat alongside the men). Virdi may well merit an England call up as well, but probably not for Australia. Bess needs to have at least one seriously good season for his new county, Yorkshire, before his credentials can even be considered again, so should not be a factor in England terms before the 2022 home season at the earliest.

Unless someone has a string of superb performances at the top of a county order to start the season I do not see much point introducing another newcomer to the batting order – chronically ill equipped though they were to handle India’s spinners these batters are by and large the best available to England at present. I might consider Buttler as a specialist batter, but he has been so indulged by the England management in recent times that I refuse to officially nominate him for one of my teams. In view of the fact that Anderson and Broad need to be rotated to some degree, and that I prefer not to have four out and out tailenders in the team my XI for the first test of the home season if nothing significant changes mean time would thus be something like: Sibley, Burns, Crawley, *Root, Stokes, Lawrence, +Foakes, Woakes, Stone, Leach, Anderson. Archer or Wood if fit and firing could replace Stone, though I would like to see the latter given a proper chance, and similarly Broad may play instead of Anderson if conditions seem likely to favour him. Woakes in England is a formidable all round cricketer, and as indicated earlier in this piece he may well have proved useful at times in India had he been given the chance.

Among those who may force their way into contention in the not too distant future are Tom Abell and Tom Lammonby of Somerset, Sam Hain of Warwickshire, Liam Livingstone of Lancashire and Haseeb Hameed of Nottinghamshire. Ben Coad may claim a bowling slot (he pays about 20 per wicket in FC cricket, but England have plenty of pace bowling options). Jordan Cox is an outside chance if he can prove the double century he scored against Sussex last season was not just a one off. Lewis Goldsworthy, a left arm orthodox spin bowling all rounder, may make some sort of mark for Somerset with Leach on England duty. He has yet to play first class cricket but impressed at the Under 19 World Cup last year and has a decent record in the handful of T20s he has played for Somerset. It is also possible that Liam Patterson-White (bowling average 21.00 from five FC games) and Dan Moriarty (17 wickets at just under 21 each from two first class games) will prove that their currently impressive bowling averages are not freaks.

LINKS AND PHOTOGRAPHS

My first link is to a petition calling on the government to award NHS nurses a 12.5% pay rise. To sign this you have to be a UK citizen or resident. If you are please do so. A screenshot is below:

My second link is related to the above, being to a blog post by Richard Murphy of Tax Research UK that started life as a twitter thread, in which he takes Johnson to task for his derisory 1% offer. The start of what is a longish piece is shown below:

Finally congratulations to the England Women’s team who completed a clean sweep of the T20Is in New Zealand to go with their earlier triumph in the ODI series. Katherine Brunt was Player of the Match, while Tammy Beaumont, as in the ODI leg of the tour, was named Player of the Series. Also, South Africa Women won the first ODI of their series in India, with Laura Wolvaardt making a fine 80. Now it is time for my usual sign off…

India Zindabad! (Again)

An acknowledgement of a great performance by India and some magnificent bowling by R Ashwin and Axar Patel, with an honourable mention for ‘Daniel in the lions den’ Lawrence.

This is the second time I have used India Zindabad! as a title (see here). The first referred to a series win in Australia sealed in extraordinary circumstances at the Gabba. This one refers to events at Ahmedabad, which have just concluded with a masterful bowling display by Axar Patel and R Ashwin.

DAY TWO

I covered the events of day one here, so I now resume with coverage of day two. England bossed the opening session, and did likewise for most of the second, at one point having India 148-6, still 57 behind, when Washington Sundar joined Rishabh Pant. England then paid for a team selection that had left them short of bowlers, with Stokes and Anderson both exhausted and Bess unable to provide any control. Pant completed a magnificent century and then fell immediately after, but then Axar Patel joined Sundar, and they were still together at the close, with India 294-7, 89 runs to the good.

THE CONCLUSION TO THE INDIAN INNINGS

Day three began as day two had ended, with India making merry, and it looked for a good while like Sundar would be joining Pant in the centurions club. The breakthrough finally came after 90 minutes, when Axar Patel was run out for 43. Ishant Sharma was then trapped LBW by the persevering Stokes, and then Mohammad Siraj took evasive action in anticipation of a bouncer and was bowled by the full length ball that Stokes actually produced. That gave Stokes four wickets for the innings, with Anderson taking three and Leach two.

ENGLAND 2ND INNINGS: DANIEL IN THE LIONS DEN

The reason for the biblical allusion in the heading of this section will become apparent as the story of England’s second innings unfolds. Zak Crawley was first to go, falling to Ashwin for five, before Bairstow played his first ball straight into the hands of a fielder to end his test career with a golden duck (there can be no way back for him in this format, though he will still be a white ball regular for some time). Sibley was then bowled by Axar Patel to make it 20-3, with Root already looking comfortable. Stokes was sent in at no5 in spite of not having much rest from his bowling endeavours, and he accrued two runs before playing a ball from Patel into the hands of Kohli to make it 30-4. Pope made a decent beginning but was then stumped by Pant off Patel for 15 to make it 65-5, which brought Daniel Lawrence to the crease to join Root. Almost immediately Ashwin trapped Root LBW, which he reviewed out of sheer desperation, but it was never going to be overturned. That was 65-6, and Ben Foakes came out to join Lawrence. Foakes resisted stoutly for a time, lasting 46 balls and 61 minutes for 13 and the partnership between him and Lawrence yielded 44 runs. Bess managed two before Pant took a catch off Axar Patel to account for him and make it 111-8. Jack Leach resisted stubbornly as Lawrence moved towards a 50, and a further four after that would have given him an aggregate of 100 for the match. Just after Lawrence had reached his first milestone Leach edged Ashwin to Rahane and it was 134-9, which brought Anderson to the crease. Anderson got a single, and Lawrence had a big swing at Ashwin and was bowled to end proceedings with England 135 all out and India winning by an innings and 25 runs. Daniel Lawrence had scored 50 out of 70 runs scored while he was at the wicket, off 95 balls and in 112 minutes. R Ashwin had just pipped Axar Patel to the bowling honours, with 5-47 from 22.5 overs to the left armer’s 5-48 from 24 overs. In the series Ashwin had 31 wickets and Patel 28, a combined tally of 59, with Axar Patel not playing the first match, while England’s bowlers between them had accounted for 58 wickets in the series. The pitches for the second and third matches both attracted adverse comment, some of which was merited, but this match was played on an excellent cricket pitch that brought everybody into the game, and England quite simply and abysmally failed to find any sort of counter to two excellent spin bowlers who bowled very few loose deliveries. Ravindra Jadeja is due back fron injury in the not too distant future, and slotting him into the team will give India the right kind of dilemma (I would say that Rahane who has neither current form nor an outstanding past record in his favour and Sundar are the two most vulnerable current team members).

I conclude this post by congratulating India on a magnificent performance. New Zealand will have a tough battle on their hands in the World Test Championship final, though that will be in England. An analysis of England’s two tours in the early part of 2021 is a subject for a separate post, which will be coming either today or tomorrow. A full scorecard for this match can be seen here. Pant’s ton and immaculate keeping have deservedly earned him Player of the Match, while Ashwin’s outstanding all round effort has equally deservedly seen him named Player of the Series.

PHOTOGRAPHS

My usual sign off…

India’s Day In Ahmedabad

A look at the events in day 1 of the fourth and final test of the India v England series.

The fourth and final test of the India v England series started at 4:00AM this morning UK time, at Ahmedabad. This post looks at a day that may very well have booked India their place at Lord’s for the World Test Championship Final.

THE PRELIMINARIES

England sprang a major surprise by naming what amounted to eight batters and three bowlers: Sibley, Crawley, Bairstow, *Root, Stokes, Pope, Lawrence, +Foakes, Bess, Leach and Anderson. I do not believe that Bairstow has a place in test squad, let alone the XI, and relying on three frontline bowlers plus bits and pieces is a massive gamble. Australia tried this strategy at The Oval in 1938 and were on the wrong end of what remains the worst defeat in test history, the margin an innings and 579 runs (England 903-7 declared, Australia 201 and 123, with two batters, Fingleton and Bradman injured during the long England innings and unable to bat). India meanwhile made only one change, Mohammad Siraj coming in for Jasprit Bumrah. England had selected themselves a team that meant they virtually had to win the toss to have a chance. They did so and chose, correctly, to bat first…

THE PLAY

It is never the case that winning the toss means winning the match – you have to make the right decision which England did, and you have to play good cricket, and that is where England slipped up. There was early life for the pacers, but it was the arrival in the attack of Axar Patel, left arm orthodox spin, which started England on their downward spiral. Sibley, obviously spooked by events of the previous two tests, was so anxious to cover possible turn that he was not in the right position to play one that went straight on, and his stumps were rattled. Crawley having hit one four early in an over attacked again a couple of balls later and holed out on this latter occasion. Root got a good ball from Siraj and was trapped LBW and that was 30-3. For a time Bairstow and Stokes went well, but then Bairstow got in a mess against Siraj and was LBW for 28 (he had enjoyed some good fortune along the way too, including a boundary from a shot that had there been a second slip would have been catching practice for them). Pope dug in in support of Stokes, but just after completing a fine 50 Stokes lost a bit of concentration and allowed a ball from Sundar to cannon into his pads. Lawrence then joined Pope and they seemed to be recovering things once again before Pope was unluckily dismissed when he played a ball into his pad from whence it looped up to forward short leg. Foakes was out cheaply. Then, just as a 50 seemed on for him, Lawrence departed for 46, and almost immediately Bess followed to make it 189-9. Leach and Anderson at least saved England the embarrassment of a sixth successive sub-200 total, pushing the score up to 205 before the end came. Patel, who currently has the best bowling average of anyone to take over 20 test wickets (he is on about 10.5 per wicket, with Lohmann, a 19th century great who took 112 wickets in 18 test matches, on 10.75), had 4-68, while there were three scalps for Ashwin and two for Siraj.

Anderson got Gill in the first over of the reply, but that was the limit of England’s success for the day, Rohit Sharma and Cheteshwar Pujara reaching the close with their side 24-1, 181 adrift. England bowled far better than they had batted but remain well behind the eight ball. This was the best cricket pitch of the series by some way, with players of all types firmly in the game and although one should not generally make judgements until both sides have batted once the instinctive feeling, with few balls doing anything mischievous, is that England fell in the region of 100 short of a decent total. Axar Patel now has 22 wickets in five test innings.

I would say that the ordering of results by likelihood after this day of play is as follows: India Win – defo odds on, England win – substantial odds against but not absolutely out of the question, Tie – now only the third least likely of the four results, though as always long odds against, Draw – not happening.

PHOTOGRAPHS

My usual sign off…

England Women Dominate T20 Opener in New Zealand

England came into the T20 series having won the ODI series very impressively, and further boosted by the news that Tammy Beaumont’s magnificent series had seen her rise to the top of the Women’s ODI batting rankings.

A MAGNIFICENT TEAM BOWLING PERFORMANCE

England bowled first, and a magnificent bowling performance it was too. Brunt, Sciver, Ecclestone and Glenn each took two wickets, Mady Villiers 1. Glenn went for just 11 from her full four overs, Ecclestone 18 from the same, and Brunt who got the final scalp with the fourth ball of her final over had gone for just 13 as. Freya Davies bowled one over for three runs. Villiers had 1-16 from three overs. Only Sciver who conceded 28 was somewhat expensive. The fielding was of a standard to match the bowling. New Zealand were all out for 96, with only wicket keeper Katey Martin (36) having any real success with the bat.

AN EFFICIENT CHASE

Danni Wyatt who had had a thin time in the ODI series, Tammy Beaumont, Natalie Sciver and Amy Jones all made positive contributions, with only skipper Knight failing, as England made light work of the chase, winning by seven wickets with four overs to spare. Jones had earlier shown that she had learned a good deal from her time as Sarah Taylor’s understudy by pulling off a super smart stumping in the Kiwi innings. A full scorecard of the match can be viewed here, while a highlights package is available on the following link: https://www.ecb.co.uk/video/2051616/highlights-england-cruise-to-victory-in-series-opener-new-zealand-v-england-first-it20?tagNames=England-highlights&utm_source=TWITTER&utm_medium=englandcricket&utm_content=100001880092520%2B&utm_campaign=England+women+in+NZ

Tomorrow is an early start for serious cricket fans living in the UK as live coverage of the final test of the India v England series commences at 3:45AM, with an early opening of a cricinfo tab to check for advance news highly recommended. The below image shows my preparation:

With the additional precaution of moving my computer into the bedroom when I go to bed tonight so that I can follow the first session from in bed before properly getting up during the lunch break the alarm setting above gives me time to open up cricinfo, open up the talksport2 coverage and log on to twitter to check in with other die-hard fans and be ready for the day’s action.

PHOTOGRAPHS

My usual sign off…

England XI For Thursday

A suggested England XI for the fourth and final test of the current series, which starts on Thursday. Also a couple of important links and some photographs.

I suggested an England XI for the fourth and final test of the India v England series in my post about the end of the third match. Since then Chris Woakes has gone home, which eliminates one of my chosen XI and I have concluded that a couple of specialist pace bowlers are actually required. Therefore I am presenting a new XI here, with a couple of possible variations noted.

THE SERIES SCENARIO AND SELECTION POLICIES

With England’s hopes of winning the series and of qualifying for the World Test Championship both up in smoke and series levelling victory serving only to usher Australia into the WTC final I am thinking that a degree of experimentalism is called for. In my view, with Root able to bowl respectable off spin it is more valuable if the second specialist spinner can bowl leg spin, giving a new variation to the attack.

THE BATTING

Dan Lawrence struggled at number three and should not be asked to bat there again for some while. Jonathan Bairstow, 2021 vintage, does not belong in a test match squad, let alone first XI. Thus the question is whether one goes with a top three of Sibley, Burns and Crawley or whether one promotes Stokes in the hope that his experience stiffens the top part of the order. With this the last test of the series and a home summer followed by an Ashes series down under next up I opt in this case for the top three that is likeliest to feature there rather than promote Stokes. With Stokes not being promoted the nos four and five slots are spoken for – Root and Stokes. Pope deserves to stay on in the middle order, with apologies to Dan Lawrence who has had the rough end of the stick this tour, and Foakes will keep. I might consider trying Foakes at six and Pope at seven as Pope is more likely to able to score fast with the tail, but they definitely occupy those two slots in some order. Thus our 1,2,3,4,5,6,7 will be either Sibley, Burns, Crawley, *Root, Stokes, Pope +Foakes or Sibley, Burns, Crawley, *Root, Stokes, +Foakes, Pope.

THE BOWLING

With an eye to the future and also wishing to see something that has not yet been tried I conclude that both veterans should be rested for this one, and also that Archer who has been underwhelming in his outings so far should miss out, naming Wood (who bowled well in SL) and Stone (who bowled well in the second test of this series), opting for two out and out speedsters. Leach holds his place, and rather than Bess I recommend a promotion from the reserves for Parkinson. My 8,9,10,11 is therefore Wood, Stone, Leach, Parkinson. The full XI is encapsulated in the infographic below:

LINKS AND PHOTOGRAPHS

First up, courtesy of twitter (in this case Trisha Greenhalgh) here is an infographic about masks (link to original here):

Then, as a segue into my usual sign off, a petition calling for new law to protect nature, which you can sign and share from here (screenshot of petition text, from e-activist.com is below):

https://e-activist.com/page/75310/petition/1?ea.tracking.id=email&utm_source=&utm_medium=email&utm_term=&utm_content=2&utm_campaign=

Now, it is time for those photographs…

Consolation Victory for NZ Women

A brief look back at last night’s ODI between NZ Women and England Women, plus a look at my chosen England XI for the first IND v ENG T20I and some photographs.

This post is a two parter, first looking back at last night’s game and then looking at selections for the T20 leg of England’s tour of India.

NZW V ENGW

With the series safely won (note to the England Men’s team – this is how you do it) England rested veteran pace bowler Katherine Brunt ahead of the upcoming T20 series. Heather Knight won the toss and chose to bat. Tammy Beaumont came up trumps (88 not out) and so did Knight herself (60), but no one else was able to anything significant, and England were held to 220, with every New Zealand bowler doing well. Amelia Kerr with 4-42 had the best figures.

New Zealand lost two early wickets, and were still 170 short win Sophie Devine was third out, but Amy Satterthwaite was already playing brilliantly and Amelia Kerr now joined her, and try as they might England could do nothing as New Zealand reached the target with this pair still together, Satterthwaite 119 not out and Kerr 72 not out.

ENGLAND XI FOR THE 1ST 20

There is a ‘choose your England XI for the first T20’ up on wisden.com, which is fun to play. The XI I chose attracted some comment on twitter, mainly positive, and I am now going to go into more detail here. Below is my XI:

https://wisden.com/mysquad/team-selector-pick-your-england-t20i-xi-to-face-india/c92da4c_202102271627

There were five players available to be picked who I did not select: Liam Livingstone, Sam Billings, Tom Curran, Reece Topley and Mark Wood. I regarded the top four as must picks, given their records, considered Stokes as a necessity since very few good T20 sides don’t have a front line bowler who bats in the top half of the order, and Morgan is the current captain and it would be huge shout to replace him and name a new captain. Sam Curran has genuine all round skills, as does Moeen Ali with the only member of this XI to have no sort of batting pedigree at international level being Jofra Archer at no11. The five players picked mainly on account of their bowling skills re respectively left arm fast medium, off spin, leg spin, right arm fast medium with lots of variation and right arm fast, an excellent range of bowling, with Stokes, right arm fast medium, there as a sixth genuine option. This latter is an insurance policy against someone having a horror day with the ball. My second choice line up from the players available would be to have the two Bs, Bairstow and Buttler open the batting, Malan at three, Livingstone (who can also bowl spin, though he is not a front line option in this department) at four, and nos 5-11 unchanged.

PHOTOGRAPHS

My usual sign off, bolstered by some full moon shots from Friday evening…

England Women Secure Series Victory With A Game To Spare In New Zealand

A brief look at events in New Zealand where one England cricket team is doing well, and a revisit to my radical suggestion for sorting the men’s teams problems with finding good enough spinners.

This post looks briefly at goings on in New Zealand, and then explores a favourite theme of mine. First of all however, a brief…

NEWSFLASH

At 10:55 this morning I received my first Covid-19 jab. I barely felt the needle go into my arm and have as yet experienced no serious side effects. The second jab will be a minimum of four weeks from now and could be as much as 12 weeks. Contrary to what pro-government propaganda sources would have you believe my situation does not count in any sane view as ‘vaccinated’ – I have begun the process of getting vaccinated, but until I have had the second jab I am not actually vaccinated. Also, the government deserves very little credit for the vaccination program – the hard yards are being done by NHS workers, and the extent of government involvement for me was sending me a link I could not use, and a very inefficient helpline system which when I finally got through advised me to contact my surgery, who duly booked me a slot. The government have bungled all along the line, and their lockdown easing plans seem set to continue that trend, going too far too early.

ENGLAND WOMEN GO 2-0 UP WITH ONE TO PLAY IN NZ

A disciplined all round bowling performance, highlighted by Nat Sciver’s 3-26 from nine overs restricted NZ to 192 off 49.5 overs. Tammy Beaumont played the anchor role in the chase, finishing unbeaten on 72, while Sciver completed a fine day’s work by scoring a rapid 63, and keeper Amy Jones completed the job with an equally rapid unbeaten 46. England had seven wickets and 12.2 overs in the bank when they reached the target. Sophie Ecclestone failed to add to her haul of international wickets but did only go for 33 from her 10 overs, an economy rate bettered only by Sciver. Katherine Brunt and leg spinner Sarah Glenn each picked up two wickets and Kate Cross had one, while there were two run outs. Full scorecard here.

The men are struggling in India, but the women are going well, which leads me on to my theme…

ENGLAND MEN’S
SPIN PROBLEMS

In yesterday’s post I argued for the promotion of Parkinson and Virdi from the reserves to the full squad for the final test match, advocating a spin trio of Leach, Virdi and Parkinson. England do not have many other male spinners whose records inspire much confidence. Thus, I suggest that England offer Ecclestone the opportunity to play alongside the men. For those wondering about the women, in addition to Glenn who I have already mentioned here is a sextet of decent spin options available to the women: Linsey Smith, Kirstie Gordon, Sophia Dunkley, Alex Hartley, Helen Fenby and Danielle Gregory. If she bowls well in a few men’s county games, then given her 100+ international wickets she could be fast tracked into the England men’s team and possibly be part of the Ashes campaign at the end of this year.

PHOTOGRAPHS

My usual sign off…

England Ignominiously Defeated In Two Days

This post is my account of how one of the most farcical test matches I can recall (with approximately 35 years of being an avid cricket fan behind me) reached its conclusion. A brief disclaimer: England were outclassed in this match, and the pitch did not influence the result – England won the toss, batted (correct thing to do) and still took a hammering, but a surface on which when it is a bare day and a half old Joe Root secures innings bowling figures of 5-8 is NOT a suitable surface for test cricket.

THE CRASH OF WICKETS

Virat Kohli’s dismissal near the end of the first day (see here for an account of that day) saw India 99-3 overnight. Leach struck twice fairly early to make it 117-5, and at that point, more or less coinciding with me putting out a tweet to the effect that he should do so, Joe Root came on for a bowl himself. He picked up the wicket of Rishabh Pant pretty much instantly, and that opened the trap door, as India slid to 145 all out, an advantage of 33, with Root having 5-8 from 6.3 overs. Leach had four wickets, taking his test bowling average below 30, where it stayed (it is actually precisely 29.50 – 60 wickets for 1,770 runs in 15 test matches). Could England bat respectably and give themselves some sort of chance of a win? Could they blazes. Zak Crawley, the first innings batting hero was out to the first ball of the innings, putting Axar Patel on a hat trick, and he nearly had it too, as Bairstow was adjudged LBW, but the TV replay showed a faint nick and the third umpire overturned it. The reprieve lasted one ball as Bairstow was promptly bowled through a ‘gap’ between bad and pad that a bus would have had a decent chance of navigating. This meant that Bairstow’s contribution to the occasion amounted to 11 balls faced, no runs scored, two horrible dismissals and a burned review in the first innings. Root and Sibley seemed to be righting things for a time, but then Sibley played a very un-Sibley like shot to surrender his wicket, and it rapidly became a procession, with England’s resistance levels down in the pico-ohms. The innings limped to 81 all out, leaving India needing just 49. Axar Patel had five wickets to follow his six in the first innings, a superb double, and achieving the rare feat of outdoing R Ashwin whose own haul saw him become the second quickest ever to 400 wickets, in his 77th test. With no other options on that surface Leach and Root took the new ball, but the target was just not enough for any pressure to be created and Rohit Sharma and Shubman Gill cantered home to a ten wicket victory.

PLAYER RATINGS

I have done these in info-graphic form:

SELECTION ISSUES

There have been various complications with this tour, but to put it bluntly England’s approach to selection has been abysmal. They snookered themselves for this match by naming a group of 17 from whom the final XI would come that effectively given their obvious lack of trust in Bess meant they would be playing only one specialist spinner. Then, rather than shoring up the batting with Woakes at eight they picked three specialist quicker bowlers, Archer, Broad and Anderson, one of whom has no experience of bowling in India and one of whom pays the proverbial king’s ransom for his Indian wickets, giving themselves a tail to rival that of a diplodocus. Ben Foakes was twice left high and dry with this tail, spoiling his chances of doing anything significant with the bat. My suggestion for this match is that England look to the future, with WTC qualification hopes up in smoke, and promote both Parkinson and Virdi from the reserves. I name Woakes as no8 to guard against Foakes being left high and dry with the tail again, not really expecting either him or Stokes to feature with the ball. Thus, with the obligatory dropping of Bairstow (and, surely to goodness, the end of any nonsense about him featuring in any further test squads) and deciding that Lawrence will probably not be an improvement on Pope I arrive at the team in the infographic below:

PETITION AND PHOTOGRAPHS

There is a petition calling for the creation of a direct rail link between King’s Lynn and Norwich on 38 Degrees, and given the state of Norfolk’s transport infrastructure and resultant traffic overload on Norfolk’s roads I can only consider this an excellent idea, so please sign and share it by clicking here (screenshot below as a segue into my usual sign off).


Cricket and Controversy: Day 1 in Ahmedabad

An account of day 1 in Ahmedabad and some related matters. Plus a few photographs.

This post looks at day 1 of the day-night match in Ahmedabad and at certain issues relating to that day’s play. As a disclaimer before moving into the main meat of the post I wish to make it clear that I India are in the driving seat firstly and mainly because they have played far superior cricket. That does not mean that certain complaints about luck, the pitch and some of the umpiring are invalid.

ENGLAND PAY FOR OVERLONG TAIL

England’s selection for this match showed four changes from the second test of the series in Chennai, with Crawley, Bairstow, Archer and Anderson replacing Burns, Lawrence, Ali and Stone. This resulted in an XI of: Sibley, Crawley, Bairstow, *Root, Stokes, Pope, Foakes, Archer, Leach, Broad and Anderson. My own pre-match feelings were that this was a high risk selection, with such a long tail, and with the selection of three specialist pace bowlers. Ali was not available for selection, and it was always unlikely that Bess would be recalled, which with the refusal to promote either of Parkinson or Virdi from the reserves dictated that only one spinner would play. I would have retained Burns and Lawrence, moving Lawrence back down the order and away from no3, would from the 17 England had named in advance have gone with Woakes at eight, would have retained Stone after his good performance in the second test, and Leach and Anderson were virtually mandatory picks in the circumstances. India opted to strengthen their batting, bringing Washington Sundar in for Kuldeep Yadav and relying on Jasprit Bumrah and Ishant Sharma for the pace bowling, with Axar Patel and R Ashwin to bowl spin, and the latter, coming off a century in Chennai quite possibly to bat at number nine. The first news other than the selections was the toss, which England won and chose to bat.

Sibley got a good one and fell without scoring. Crawley was playing nicely, but Bairstow could not pierce the field, and the very first delivery by a spinner, Axar Patel in this case, pinned him LBW for 0, and Bairstow then burned a review, a call by him that was bad enough to warrant the label ‘Watsonian’ in honour of a certain Aussie batter of the not too distant past. For a time Root and Crawley went reasonably well, but then both got out with lunch approaching, and England were 80-4, 53 of them off the bat of Crawley. Immediately after lunch things got worse for England as Pope was dismissed to make it 81-5, and then Stokes fell cheaply as well, leaving Foakes to bat with the tail. It was 98-8 at low water mark, but Foakes, Broad and Anderson inched the score up to 112, off 48.4 overs, before Foakes was last out. Axar Patel had bowled 21.4 overs and had 6-38, following up his five in the final innings at Chennai. R Ashwin had three and also bowled superbly. England were psyched by the fact that there was turn on day 1, and a number of their wickets fell to balls which actually went straight on. Save for Crawley no England batter even managed 20.

INDIA’S RESPONSE

England did not bowl badly, although they did not have the right attack for this pitch, and they were unlucky on several occasions, and there were also two very poor pieces of work by the third umpire. First Shubman Gill edged Broad to Stokes and it was given out on field but then referred upstairs, and the third umpire overturned it very quickly indeed without due care and attention – he may have got it right but if so it was by luck not judgement, and in a test match that is not acceptable. The second incident of poor third umpiring saw Rohit Sharma reprieved for the third time in as many innings, all being controversial. Foakes executed a stumping of Leach, with to all appearances Rohit Sharma’s foot behind the crease but in the air, and it was sent upstairs and again after looking at one replay for a very short period the third umpire overturned it. I am absolutely certain that this one was a wrong call, and the failure to follow protocol even if the call by some chance had been right was unacceptable. In the event Gill’s did not cost much, as he got out not long after to Jofra Archer, being caught by Crawley, too far off the ground for even this third umpire to think of intervening. Leach got Pujara, an LBW that was so plumb that it was not sent upstairs, and just before the close Kohli who had two escapes, first when Pope just failed to pull off what would have been a miracle catch and then when the same player missed a more straightforward effort off a less than impressed Anderson, was bowled by Leach. Rohit Sharma however was still there on 57 not out, with India 99-3, a mere 13 short of matching England’s first innings. Leach currently has 2-27 from 10 overs, meaning that the combined figures of the left arm orthodox spinners on day one of a test match are 8-65 from 31.4 overs. Two days before the start of play this pitch had a respectable covering of grass, but by the day before every last blade of grass had been shaved off, and with nothing to bind it it is already breaking up, and never mind day 5, I would definitely not bet on there being a day 4 and would make it no more than even money that there will be a day 3.

WHERE NOW FOR ENGLAND?

With this test match, and with it, England’s hopes of making the World Test Championship final, effectively gone already, barring miracles, I would go experimental for the third test, promoting Virdi and Parkinson from the reserves with a view to selecting at least one and possibly both, I would rest the veterans Anderson and Broad, probably selecting Woakes and Stone as my new ball pairing if I even picked two front line pacers. Out would go Bairstow, who as regular readers of this blog know would not have been in my tour party anyway, and I would move Stokes up to three, bringing Lawrence back in the middle order. A drawn series, especially when it ushers Australia into the final of the WTC, is less appealing than looking to the future even at the risk of sustaining another defeat. England have mishandled several things in this series, but most egregious has been the Bess/ Moeen Ali situation, where because of Covid (he actually had the disease) and his need to return home to see his family between the test and limited overs legs of the tour Ali was available for just one match, and England were so eager to play this 33 year old who averages 29 with the bat and 36 with the ball that they dropped Bess in a rather insensitive fashion. Even worse, they then allowed it to become public knowledge that they had begged Moeen to change his plans and stay on for the remainder of the series. This left them either to pick Bess with his head not in the right place or, having announced 17 names from which the XI for this match would be selected, to go in with only one specialist spinner. They took the latter option, and we were treated to the sight of four bowlers of above medium pace bowling on a spinning track, as Root was not willing to swallow his pride and acknowledge that England’s chosen bowling attack was unfit for purpose by bringing himself on.

Looking further ahead, to the home season and beyond there are several things that need addressing:

  • The County Championship cannot keep being shoe horned into the worst times of the season for spinners.
  • Counties who dare to produce turning surfaces should not be punished, but rather applauded for offering a wider variety of surfaces for cricket to be played on.
  • England need to find new spinners. Other than Leach and the out of favour Bess only Parkinson and Virdi among the men are remotely close to having records that would justify elevation, which is why I recommend what I am now going to call the ‘Ecclestone Experiment’ – just see what Sophie Ecclestone, with 101 wickets at 25.90 in international cricket at the age of 21 can do playing among the men.
  • England also need to improve their batting against spin. Elizabeth Ammon, who tweets as legsidelizzy, has pointed out that England had a spin bowling camp in Sri Lanka, but no ‘batting against spin bowling camp’, and that that needs to change.

PHOTOGRAPHS

Just a few photographs today…

England – Third Test And Going Forward

Looking at a possible England line up for the test match that gets underway tomorrow and a radical solution to their current paucity of spin bowling options. Plus some photographs.

This is my preview post for the third test match of the India v England series which starts tomorrow morning UK time. I also take the time to salute another fine performance by England’s women and, prompted by a comment on twitter from The Cricket Men, to revisit one of my more radical solutions to England’s spinning problems.

ENGLAND XI FOR TOMORROW

Crawley has been declared fit to play, and it seems Burns and Pope are going to be given chances to score runs, though both must be running out of road. This virtually sets the top six as Sibley, Burns, Crawley, *Root, Stokes, Pope, and Foakes is also inked in as keeper, which leaves the bottom four to be decided. Some are making much of the fact that the pitch which previously had some grass on it has been shaved today, but for me, especially with the selectors having ruled out promotions for Parkinson or Virdi, I still see no reason to select Bess, and although I can understand why people want to see Archer I prefer to give Stone a chance in less unfavourable conditions after his fine efforts in the second test match. Thus, with Anderson a mandatory selection for a pink ball test and some justifiable concern over the lower order, I pick Woakes rather than Broad for the no8 slot, thus arriving at Sibley, Burns, Crawley, *Root, Stokes, Pope, +Foakes, Woakes, Stone, Leach, Anderson.

ENGLAND’S SPIN ISSUE

Overnight England’s women played an ODI in New Zealand, and won by eight wickets. They restricted the hosts to 178, Sophie Ecclestone with her left arm spin collecting 2-36 from a full allocation of ten overs. Tammy Beaumont (71) and Heather Knight (67 not out) then ensured that this wonderful bowling effort would not go to waste. Ecclestone now has 101 wickets in all forms of international cricket, at 25.90 a piece, and she is still only 21 years old. Other than Leach and Bess, the latter of whom is currently under a cloud the number of male English spinners who have played at least 10 first class matches (basic filter against freak happenings), are still active at that level and pay less than 30 a piece for their wickets totals precisely two: Matt Parkinson (62 wickets at 25) and Amar Virdi (91 wickets at 28). Thus, encouraged by some comments I have seen today (see intro), I am once again going to suggest that Ecclestone deserves to be given a chance to show what she can do playing alongside the men and should be part of England’s elite spin group going forward. For the Ashes tour at the end of the year she could be one of three specialist spinners to travel alongside Leach and Parkinson (unless Bess at his new base of Headingley has a splendid season I cannot see him as a member of that tour party, especially given how poorly English off spinners have generally fared in Oz – see here).

A radical solution to the spin woes of England’s men’s team?

PHOTOGRAPHS

My usual sign off…