The County Championship and England

A look at the County Championship and the England situation in the light of two recent developments, plus some photographs.

Another round of County Championship fixtures concluded yesterday, and there was mixed news, some of which impacts on the England side. Yesterday was also a big day for this blog, courtesy of this post – do read it if you haven’t already.

COUNTY HIGHLIGHTS

Overall the weather won the last round of fixtures quite convincingly. However, Middlesex’s incompetence with the bat (a gritty first innings 50 by Gubbins apart) enabled Hampshire to win by seven wickets with over a day to spare in that one. In the other match in that group barely one eighth of the total scheduled playing time was actually usable, Surrey reaching 206-4 v Somerset before the weather made it’s final intervention. Essex played splendidly to account for Derbyshire, making up for huge rain delays by racking up 412-3 declared from 76 overs, Dan Lawrence with 150, and then bowling Derbyshire out twice, with Harmer taking 12 wickets in the game, including a career best 9-80 in the first innings. In the other game in that group Durham thrashed Worcestershire, temporarily going top of the group, although two of the teams in hottest pursuit of them have a game in hand. Derbyshire are now 26 points adrift at the bottom, more than a maximum points win, with just four games to play. Sussex v Kent ended in a tame draw when Kent declined to set Sussex a run chase on the final afternoon even though a draw could do them no good whatsoever. In that Kent second innings Leaning scored a ton, while Crawley and Oliver Graham Robinson each made scores of 85. The other match in that group was also drawn, Carlson steering Glamorgan away from potential danger with an unbeaten 88 in their second innings.

THE ENGLAND ANGLE

The ECB have let it be known that players who were involved in the IPL are unlikely to feature in their squad for the NZ test series which will be announced on Wednesday. Also Jofra Archer is out of that series because his elbow flared up during the Kent second innings, restricting him to just five overs. My opinion on this latter is that England now need to handle Archer with great care – they can probably do well without him in English conditions, so the focus should be on ensuring that he will be fit to travel down under for The Ashes. Also uncertain is Dominic Sibley, recovering from injury. The ECB have said they will announce 16 names, so I present my own options, a front 14 and two back up names:

  1. Dominic Sibley – right handed opening batter. If he is fit he plays and on that basis he should be in the list.
  2. Rory Burns – left handed opening batter. he has a bit to prove, but a strong start to the domestic season with Surrey suggests that he deserves continued selection.
  3. Zak Crawley – right handed top order batter. He has some recent good form, and talk of dropping him is premature to say the least.
  4. *Joe Root – right handed batter, captain, occasional off spinner. England need their skipper and they need him batting in his preferred position at no4.
  5. Ollie Pope – right handed batter, occasional wicket keeper. In the pink of form for Surrey, he has to play.
  6. +Ben Foakes – right handed batter, wicket keeper.
  7. Three possibilities for this position depending on one’s attitude: Ryan Higgins, right handed batter, right arm medium pace, would be the genuine all rounder if one wants five front line bowling options available. Matt Critchley is having a great season with the bat for Derbyshire and bowls occasional leg spin which might be good for a few overs in a test match. Finally, the cautious option is to accept having only four genuine bowling options and play Dan Lawrence, in great form with the bat, in this position.
  8. Two possibilities here: Oliver Edward Robinson, right arm fast medium and a decent lower order batter is possibly favourite for the position, but Craig Overton, also a right arm fast medium bowler and probably a better bat than Robinson will also have his advocates.
  9. Olly Stone – right arm fast bowler, right handed lower order batter. With Archer unavailable, Stone who has been bowling well for Warwickshire is my choice for the out and out speedster role.
  10. Jack Leach – left arm orthodox spinner, left handed batter. With due respect to Parkinson, Carson and Virdi who have all done good things with the ball for their counties recently ‘the nut’ still has to be first choice spinner for England.
  11. James Anderson – right arm fast medium, left handed tail end batter. The experienced leader of the attack who will be expected to take the younger pace bowlers under his wing and pass on tips of the trade to them.

The above if you have followed carefully comprises 14 names, so we need two more. One of those has to be a top order batter, and for me although others will have their advocates the fact that James Bracey could also don the gauntlets if needed gives him the nod. My 16th name to complete my own squad given the circumstances, is Matt Parkinson, the Lancashire leg spinner, as acknowledged second choice spinner.

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 XI For 2nd Test

A very brief post setting out my England XI for the second test of the India v England series in the light of the news that Jofra Archer will not be involved due to a niggle.

Jofra Archer will miss the second test due to a niggle, so ideas about the England XI for that match need rejigging. What follows is my effort.

THE XI IN BATTING ORDER

  1. Dominic Sibley – his long innings at the start of the first match was crucial to England’s eventual success, and they will probably need more of the same from him.
  2. Rory Burns – his dismissal in the first innings was reprehensible, but up to that point he had batted decently, and this is no time for desperate replacements.
  3. Dan Lawrence – two failures in the first match, but with Crawley still not available it makes no sense to give this slot to yet another newcomer.
  4. *Joe Root – the most indisputable of all selections at this time.
  5. Ben Stokes – had a fine first match, and England will need him to produce something in this one as well.
  6. Ollie Pope – A quiet first match back from injury for the youngster, but he deserves to hold his place.
  7. +Ben Foakes – with Buttler heading home for a rest this one is unarguable.
  8. Dominic Bess – He is taking wickets, whatever you think about the manner of some of the dismissals, and exhibit A in the case against an Ali for Bess swap goes by the name of Washington Sundar, selected precisely because he could do it with the bat, did do it with the bat, but was ineffective with the ball. While a case could be made for promoting Virdi or Parkinson from the reserves I am not sure that the middle of an away series against India is a good time to blood a youngster.
  9. Stuart Broad – there was already a strong case for resting Anderson with a view to the day-night match coming up, and Archer’s injury strengthens it.
  10. Olly Stone – the replacement for Jofra Archer. The other options, Sam Curran and Chris Woakes both handle a bat better, but are unlikely to pose any threat with the ball on a Chennai pitch, so I opt to retain some genuine out and out pace in my attack.
  11. Jack Leach – in my view his claim on the no1 spinners spot is currently indisputable, and the way he bounced back from being savaged by Pant in the first innings of the first match speaks volumes for his character.

PHOTOGRAPHS

Scorchers Through to #BBL10 Final and England’s No3

An account of the ‘Challenger’ match between Scorchers and Heat, a note on the England no three situation, a link to an important petition and some photographs.

While the main part of this post deals with today’s ‘Challenger’ match, the penultimate game of BBL10, I will also be touching on the question on England’s no 3 with Crawley injured.

SCORCHERS OUTCLASS HEAT

A quiet opening over from which four runs accrued gave no hint of the fireworks that were to follow. The second over bowled by Mark Steketee went for 13 and Scorchers were properly off and running. Bartlett bowled the third, and his second, saving him from what have been a sixth ‘supersubbing’ of the tournament and at the end of it Scorchers were 23-0. 10 came off the fourth over and Scorchers at 33-0 were going reasonably. They moved into higher gear immediately thereafter, cashing in on Bartlett being given a third successive over by taking 14 from it, and then adding another 14 of the leg spin of Swepson in the next over. Heat’s second leg spinner, Labuschagne, was lucky to escape with his first over going for only nine. By the halfway point Scorchers were 108-0 and looking at a monster total. They did not claim the Power Surge immediately, while the expected ‘supersub’ by the Heat bringing Morkel on for Steketee did happen. With Livingstone falling in the 12th for a magnificent 77 off 39 balls Scorchers endured their only quiet spell, overs 11-14 yielding them 19 for the loss of that wicket. At that point, with Bancroft set and Mitch Marsh starting to go well they took the Power Surge, and they took 22 off the first over thereof, and then 11 more off the second to be 160-1 after 16. They maintained the momentum thereafter and were 189-1 off 18.1 overs when the rain came down.

The interruption lasted long enough to terminate the Scorchers innings and eat into the number of overs available for the Heat to chase in. The resumption came with Heat facing a DLS adjusted target of 200 off 18 overs, four overs of Power Play at the start, but controversially only one over of Power Surge later on. Scorchers used both their Power Surge overs, and did so with devastating effect as shown above, and if after 18.1 overs they had failed to do so there would be no real cause for compensating them for their own stupidity in delaying the surge so long. 200 off 18 overs was a fair enough target given that Scorchers had they had their full 20 would have been somewhere in the region of 215-220 or approximately 11 an over, precisely the task facing Heat, but I do feel that Heat should have had two overs of Surge and not one. I do not for one instant believe that this slightly harsh treatment of Heat affected the result in any way.

Heat made a bright start, scoring 32 off the first three overs, to be not a million miles behind the rate. Disaster struck in the next over however, when openers Denly and Lynn fell in successive balls – Denly caught off a skyer during which the batters crossed and Lynn bowled by the next ball, to end the Power Play at 37-2, with Labuschagne and Heazlett together. Heazlett was unable to even threaten to repeat his ‘Sambulance rescue’ act from Heat’s previous match, and at the halfway point Heat were 66-4, needing 134 off nine at 14.89 per over to win. In a last desperate gamble they claimed the Power Surge hoping to revive their innings, but they could only take nine off their single over of Surge and at 75-4 after ten needed 125 off eight overs to win. By the end of the 12th over they were six wickets down and all but out. A flourish in the next period saw them boost the score to 121-7 after 15, but 79 off three overs is not something that one can expect be achieved, especially by lower order batters. In the end Heat just brought up the 150 with a boundary off the last ball of the match, finishing on 150-9, fully 50 short of the target. Scorchers will thus face Sixers in Saturday’s final, and one hopes there will not be another AJ Tye deliberate wide to end that one.

My only mild criticism of Scorchers today is that they should have taken the Power Surge immediately at 108-0 after ten, rather than enduring that brief quiet patch in overs 11-14, but their timing of the taking of the Surge was by no means foolish, and they did make brilliant use of those two overs of fielding restrictions. Heat did well to get as far as they did after a very poor start in the tournament, and Scorchers also made a slow start, although not as much as Heat, and are in their best form at the right time. Sixers have been superb throughout the tournament and will start the final, at the iconic SCG on Saturday, as favourites. In the end, the bizarre and byzantine qualification system and knock out stage has seen justice done with the two best sides locking horns in the final.

ENGLAND’S NUMBER THREE

England’s intention to revert to their preferred top three of Sibley, Burns and Crawley has been thwarted by an injury to Crawley. My understanding is that Crawley will definitely miss the first two tests, and that his place at no3 will be taken by Dan Lawrence. I approve of this – the other options available to England have even less appeal: Have Pope, returning from injury and with no experience of batting near the top of an order, bat at three, move the skipper up one slot from no4 when he has historically never performed at his best in the no3 slot and is enjoying a bonanza at no4, Stokes at no3, which would be a huge ask for an all rounder, or play Buttler as a specialist batter at no3, which is perhaps the least bad of the alternatives. England are definitely underdogs in this series and will need plenty to go right to have any chance, but if Sibley and Burns can see off the new ball, Lawrence manages something at no3 and at least one of the engine room pair of Root and Stokes can go seriously big they could have a chance.

LINK AND PHOTOGRAPHS

Just before my photographs, I have a petition to share with you calling for key workers to be given a pay rise. There is a screenshot below and I urge you to sign and share it by clicking here.

Now it is time for my usual sign off…

A Late Injury for England

An injury to Zak Crawley forces a rejig of England’s batting line up, and in the face of continuing hype for a Moeen Ali recall I once again point out the flaws with that idea.

With the first India v England test match due to get underway in Chennai in 33 hours time news has come through of an injury to Zak Crawley. Better news is that Ollie Pope is definitely fit, while the ridiculous news is that Moeen Ali is till being hyped for a test comeback.

REJIGGING THE ENGLAND BATTING ORDER

With Pope returning and Crawley injured, Dan Lawrence who made a decent start to his international career in Sri Lanka will come into the side. For me he goes in at number three, while Pope makes his return at no6. Thus, the team I expect to see is now: Sibley, Burns, Lawrence, *Root, Stokes, Pope, +Buttler, Bess, Archer, Broad, Leach and the team I would personally pick from those in India is: the same top six, and then +Foakes, Archer, Leach, Anderson, Parkinson. I explained in yesterday’s post why I favour the elevation of Parkinson, but I will not be especially annoyed if Bess retains his place, and I would accept a dogged insistence on strict rotation policy for the veterans. I will be furious if Moeen gets selected. Such a move would be doubly flawed: his record shows him to not be worth a place with either bat or ball, and it is a retrograde step bringing back an oldster.

TWO SPINNERS NEEDED

There is more than a possibility that India will have three front line spinners in their ranks, with the most likely trio being R Ashwin (off spin), Kuldeep Yadav (left arm wrist spin) and Axar Patel (left arm orthodox spin), although Washington Sundar (off spin) is also in the reckoning. Thus, for England to go with only one front line spinner plus Moeen as back up would be foolish, especially given that Root or Lawrence could bowl off spin if such was definitely warranted. The presence of two part time off spinners among the batters is a further reason for favouring the Parkinson/ Leach combo, maximizing the variation available to England. Without Parkinson playing the nearest England have to a leg spin option is Sibley, with a princely tally of four first class wickets to his name.

If England are up for a real gamble, and want to suggest a potential career development path to Bess, they could select all three spinners (Bess alongside Leach and Parkinson) and have Bess come in at number seven – he has shown some skill with the bat and I suspect a move up the order, maybe not so dramatically as the legendary Wilfred Rhodes, is in his future. Moeen Ali does not have enough to offer as a bowler, and very much belongs to the past. At no seven, as third spinner, where I am suggesting Bess he would be less of a disaster, but if he is at no8 in a team aiming for a more conventional balance England will be in trouble – you can only win a test match if you can take 20 wickets. It is time for my ‘spinners’ infographic to get yet another run out:

PHOTOGRAPHS

My usual sign off…

The First Sri Lanka v England Test Match in Retrospect

A look back at the test match in Galle that finished early this morning. Includes player ratings and selection thoughts for the second match, a look ahead and some photographs.

This post looks back at the test match just concluded in Galle. Another such game reaches its denouement in Brisbane tonight, and if weather permits it should be a cracking finish.

ENGLAND GO 1-0
UP IN THE SERIES

Both teams arrived for this match not so much ‘underdone’ as ‘completely raw’, due to scheduling issues. Sri Lanka slumped to 135 on the first day, with Bess emerging with five wickets for a rather patchy bowling performance. Both England openers then fell cheaply, Sri Lanka’s decision to give the new ball to Embuldeniya with his left arm spin paying off in spades, but Root and Bairstow took England to the close, within sight of a first innings lead. Bairstow was out first thing on day 2, but Dan Lawrence on debut batted like a veteran, making 73, and providing Root with superb support. By the close England were 320-4 and seemingly headed for a monster lead. Buttler fell early on the third morning, triggering a collapse that saw England all out for 421, Root 228, a lead of 286 when at one stage 400+ seemed likely. Sri Lanka dug in and fought hard in their second innings, with both spinners, Bess and Leach, bowling better than they had first time around, Wood bowling quick when he was used, Curran sometimes making things happen and Broad bowling almost as economically as his Notts and England predecessor Alfred Shaw did in the early days of test cricket. Just before the end of the fourth day Sri Lanka were all out for 359 leaving England 74 to get.

The start of the England innings resembled a flashback sequence as the openers Sibley and Crawley both fell cheaply to Embuldeniya, who looks a real find for Sri Lanka. Then Bairstow made a greedy call for a run and succeeded in stitching up his skipper, and that was 14-3, and the possibility of a history making collapse loomed. In 1882, in the match that spawned The Ashes, England were set 85 in the fourth innings and ended up all out for 77, losing by seven runs. It seemed that present day England might be about to choke on an even smaller target. Dan Lawrence joined Bairstow, and they saw England through to the close at 38-3. The fifth day started on time, and with the same two spinners, Embuldeniya and Perera taking up where they had left off. In the event, 35 minutes play was sufficient for England to get home without further loss. The only alarm was a close LBW shout, turned down, and had Sri Lanka sent it upstairs they would have had a wicket. In the event it was Bairstow who made the winning hit, when it would have been more fitting for it to have been Lawrence.

Had Sri Lanka been able to completely dry up England’s scoring (in the great 1882 match Spofforth and Boyle at one point bowled 17 overs for one run) they may have induced serious panic, but England were always able to keep the scoreboard ticking, and in the end the margin was very comfortable.

Sri Lanka can take great credit for fighting back hard enough to take the game into its fifth and final day after they performed so awfully on the first two days. For England the big pluses were Joe Root rediscovering how to go seriously big and Dan Lawrence playing so well on debut, while young Embuldeniya may yet develop into a worthy successor to Muralitharan and Herath. Sibley and Crawley need to improve their approach to spinners, otherwise every test skipper will be tossing the new ball straight to a spinner to get a couple of early scalps. If England’s spinners produce some of the stuff they did in this game when they come up against India they will get absolutely destroyed, but it was good to see both improve considerably as the match went on.

PLAYER RATINGS & STAY/GO

In this section I rate the performances of the England players and offer my opinions about who should stay and who should go.

  1. Dom Sibley – 2/10. Twice fell very cheaply to Embuldeniya and never looked comfortable in either innings. He stays – one bad match should not get someone the chop, but he does need to work on his handling of spin.
  2. Zak Crawley – 2/10. My comments about Sibley apply equally to him, although he has demonstrated that he can play spin well later in an innings, if he manages to get in against pace.
  3. Jonathan Bairstow – 6/10. A solid 47 in the first innings and after running the skipper out in the second he did well to see England home. I would not personally have recalled him to the test squad, but I see little point in dropping him at this juncture and having a newcomer at no3 for the second game of a two game series.
  4. Joe Root – 10/10. His mammoth 228 utterly dominated the England first innings, he also took several catches in the field, and handled his bowlers well as captain. He will need to demonstrate that his rediscovered ability to go seriously big works against the likes of India and Australia as well as against a very weak Sri Lanka, but he could not have done much more here.
  5. Dan Lawrence – 9/10. When a batter reaches 73 they should be able to complete the ton, and that is the sole reason the debutant does not get full marks. He played a fine first test innings, and showed great composure when England were rocking in the final innings. He definitely stays, and it looks like England have found a good one.
  6. Jos Buttler – 5/10. his first innings dismissal marked the start of a collapse, and he was not needed in the second innings. He kept competently other than missing a stumping in the second Sri Lankan innings. However, with spinners so much to the fore, both in Sri Lanka, and later on in India, as far as I am concerned he goes, as England need their best keeper, Foakes.
  7. Sam Curran -6/10. He made things happen with his bowling on a couple of occasions. For me he stays, but I have sympathy for those who would replace him with Woakes. I regard his left arm as a potentially valuable variation.
  8. Dom Bess – 6/10. Eight wickets in a match sounds like a great performance, but the truth is that most of his five first innings wickets were given rather than being taken, and that even in the second innings when he bowled better there were two many loose deliveries from him. He stays, but only because, on what I am expecting to be the ultimate in turners I go with three spinners, with him being in a bowl-off for the role of Leach’s spin partner with the third spinner – and starting that race from behind due to his patchy recent form.
  9. Jack Leach – 7/10. The left arm spinner was understandably rusty at first, but by the end he was bowling very well, and his five second innings wickets were just reward for a fine effort. He stays, his position as England’s #1 spinner confirmed by his performance here.
  10. Mark Wood – 7/10. Sensibly used by his skipper only in short bursts he was always quick, averaging around the 90mph mark, and in conditions that offered him nothing he did very little wrong. Nevertheless, I would leave him out to accommodate Parkinson who will be in a bowl-off with Bess for the second spinner’s slot.
  11. Stuart Broad – 8/10. The veteran took three wickets in the first innings, and although he went wicketless in the second, his extreme economy, reminiscent as I have said of Alfred Shaw, helped to create pressure, which created wickets for other bowlers. He stays, moving a rung up the batting order given the inclusion of Parkinson.

LOOKING AHEAD

England should make it 2-0 on Sri Lanka (the second game gets under way on Friday), but will need to improve to compete effectively with India, who have shown immense determination to take their series in Australia right down to the wire, and then at the back end of this year comes the toughest assignment of all for an England team – Australia in Australia. Lawrence looks a huge find, and with Pope due to return for the India series, Burns back in the reckoning before too long and Bracey waiting in the wings, concerns about Sibley and Crawley against spin notwithstanding the batting looks good. In conditions where out and out speed is of the essence Archer will soon be available as well as Wood, with Stone waiting in the wings. Seam and Swing are always England’s strongest suits, and with no sign of Anderson or Broad leaving, Woakes and Curran about, and Ollie Robinson in the wings that area remains strong. Spin remains a concern, although Leach is looking good, while in Australia I would expect Parkinson, the leg spinner, to fare better than Bess, for another reason I want him to get some test experience in before that tour starts. It is also possible that younger spinners such as Virdi, Moriarty and Patterson-White could be contenders. Finally, there remains the gamble which some would consider heretical of giving Sophie Ecclestone a bell and asking if she fancies having a go alongside the men.

PHOTOGRAPHS

My usual sign off, with the addition of an infographic about the ratings and stay/go section:

Galle and Brisbane

A look at the two test matches currently in progress, and at Joe Root’s status as an England batter.

There are two test matches in progress at the moment, with overlapping playing hours. This post looks at both.

GALLE: ENGLAND ON TOP

When bad light brought a slightly early end to day three in Galle (due to the old fort that adjoins the ground Galle stadium cannot have floodlights – the fort is a World Heritage Site, so my usual gripe re bad light and test matches does not apply here) Sri Lanka were beginning to offer resistance, but were coming from a very long way behind.

Day Two, also truncated by the weather, saw England establish complete control. Bairstow failed to add to his overnight 47, but debutant Dan Lawrence made a fine 73, Buttler was looking comfortable by the close, and Root had a blemish free 168 not out to his credit. England were 320-4 and looking at all sorts of history if things continued the same way.

Day Three saw the remaining England wickets add just a further 101, Root being last out for a splendid 228. The only chance he offered in this innings was the one that was taken at deep midwicket to end it. Embuldeniya had every right to feel more than a little frustrated, a fine effort with the ball leaving him with figures of 3-176 while the much less impressive Perera had four wickets in the end. Root’s innings took his test aggregate past 8,000, in fewer innings than any England batter save Pietersen (KP 176, Root 178). It now stands at 8,059, meaning that he needs a further 56 to become the all-time leading test run scorer among Yorkshiremen. Inspired by the rapid fall of England’s last six wickets Sri Lanka then showed some fight with the bat, helped it must be said by an unimpressive bowling display from England. Bess could not get his length right, Leach was unlucky, there was little for the quicker bowlers, though Curran picked up a wicket when a rank long hop sailed straight to deep third man. Root tried a few overs but unaccountably Lawrence was not given a go. Mendis finally got off the mark after four successive ducks, a sequence known in the trade as an ‘Audi’, thereby avoiding the ‘Olympic’, but fell just before the close. Sri Lanka sent Embuldeniya in as nightwatchman, and the light closed in quick enough that he was still there at stumps. Scores so far: Sri Lanka 135 and 156-2, England 421, SL need 130 more to avoid the innings defeat.

England are of course heavy favourites, but that should not conceal the problems – Bess has been far too erratic, and if he bowls this kind of stuff in India he will be destroyed, other than Root and Lawrence there were no major batting contributions.

IS ROOT ENGLAND’S GREATEST EVER BATTER?

This question was raised on twitter today, in view of the milestone Root has just reached in test cricket and his great records in the other two formats. My own answer was that this question cannot be resolved because it is impossible to compare different eras, but Root is a magnificent all-format player who would have been a great in any era. I am now going to look, in chronological order, at some of those who might have been just as good had there been multiple formats in their day. I have restricted myself to players who experienced international cricket…

  • WG Grace – the man who virtually created modern batting. He successfully countered every type of bowling that existed in his day, could score rapidly when the occasion warrants (in 1895, less than two months shy of his 47th birthday, he scored 257 and 73 not out v Kent, the latter played against the clock to chase down a target, which was achieved successfully.
  • Jack Hobbs – The Master, capable of very attacking performances, especially in his younger days.
  • Herbert Sutcliffe – as he once famously told Plum Warner “ah luv a dogfight”, a claim borne out by his averages: 52.02 in first class cricket, 60.73 in test cricket, 66.85 in Ashes cricket. Although he is best known for long determined innings, like his seven-hour 161 which began on difficult pitch at The Oval in 1926, and his 135 at Melbourne two and a half years later, he could and did attack when the occasion demanded it. His 100th first class hundred was made with Yorkshire needing quick runs, and he hit eight sixes along the way.
  • Walter Hammond – averaged 58.45 at test level. His highest score was 336 not out against New Zealand, accrued in just 318 minutes. When he scored 1,000 first class runs in May 1927 the innings that completed the achievement came at the expense of Hampshire, and saw him score 192 out of 227 made while he was at the crease. He once started a day’s play v Lancashire by hitting Ted McDonald, then the best fast bowler in the world, for five successive boundaries, and according to Neville Cardus, a Lancastrian, it was only a fine bit of fielding by Jack Iddon that stopped it being six boundaries out of six for the over.
  • Denis Compton – averaged over 50 for England, reached 100 first class hundreds in 552 innings, a tally beaten only by Bradman (295), scored the quickest ever first class triple hundred, reaching the mark in 181 minutes at Benoni in 1948.
  • Peter May – the 1950s were a low and slow scoring decade, and yet Peter May averaged 46 in test cricket through that decade, and was noted for his stroke making.

INDIA FIGHTING HARD AT THE GABBA

India have had terrible problems with injuries during their tour of Australia. Among those on the sidelines for this match were both halves of India’s best new ball pairing, Bumrah and Shami, both of India’s two best test spinners, Ashwin and Jadeja, and others. Nevertheless, they are very far from being down and out at the Gabba. Australia won the toss and batted, scoring 359, with three wickets a piece for Natarajan, Thakur and Sundar, of whom only Thakur had previously played test cricket. India had reached 62-2 in reply before a storm hit Brisbane, bringing an end to play for day two. Rahane and Pujara are together at the crease, with Agarwal and Pant still to come, Sundar at seven capable of making a useful contribution and then the specialist bowlers. If India win it will be an incredible achievement, if they manage the draw and thereby retain the Border-Gavaskar trophy that will still be a mighty effort, and even if Australia ultimately prevail I for one will salute India for making such a fight of this series in the face of so many misfortunes.

PHOTOGRAPHS

I end with my usual sign off…

All Time XIs – Charles v Alec

Today’s all time XIs cricket post look towards the rebirth of test cricket by paying tribute to a pair of brothers who were involved in the birth of test cricket – Charles and Alec Bannerman.

INTRODUCTION

Today is the start of new month, and also the start of an England intra-squad warm up match at the Ageas bowl in preparation for the resumption of test cricket next week. This match is 14 vs 13, not 11 vs 11, so does not have first class status, but is significant because of what it portends and because there is a batting vacancy at no4, since Joe Root is attending the birth of his child and will then be quarantining for 14 days. Team Buttler have been put into bat by Team Stokes, and as I start this post are 119-1, with James Bracey making an early bid for the vacant batting slot having passed 50. I aim to keep my all time XIs cricket series going until the test match gets underway, when I will give that my full attention. Today’s post harks back to the early days of international cricket, inspired by my rereading John Lazanby’s “The Strangers Who Came Home”, a brilliantly crafted reconstruction of the 1878 tour of England. As a tribute to the contrasting Bannerman brothers I have pitted a team of 11 Alecs/ Alexes against 11 Charleses/Charlies/Charls.

ALEC XI

  1. Alec Bannerman – right handed opening batter. Australia’s first stonewaller. He never managed a test century, his best being 94, while his most famous was a 91 in seven and a half hours, which included a whole uninterrupted day in which he advanced his score by 67.
  2. Alec Stewart – right handed opening batter. A blocker is best accompanied by someone of more attacking inclination to avoid the innings becoming entirely bogged down, and Alec Stewart fits the bill perfectly. He scored more test runs in the 1990s than anyone else, in spite of being messed around by the selectors of the time, who often used him as a wicket keeper in an effort to strengthen the batting.
  3. Alex Lees – right handed batter. A third recognized opener, and one who as a teenager played an innings of 275 for his native Yorkshire. He did not quite go on to scale the heights that this innings suggested he was capable of, and subsequently moved from Yorkshire to Durham.
  4. Alex Blackwell – right handed batter. A former captain of the Aussie Women’s team, with a fine batting record. When the commentators picked a composite team at the end of the 2010-1 Ashes Jonathan Agnew named as the token Aussie in an otherwise all English line up.
  5. Alex Gidman – right handed batter, occasional right arm medium pacer. Over 11,000 first class runs at an average of 36 and never got the opportunity to play for England.
  6. +Alex Davies – right handed batter, wicket keeper. 171 dismissals effected in 75 first class matches and a batting average of 34.55 at that level. He is better known for his efforts in limited overs cricket, where his rapidity of scoring is especially useful, but he should not be typecast as a limited overs specialist.
  7. Alec O’Riordan – right handed batter, left arm fast medium bowler. He played a starring role in Ireland’s dramatic victory of the West Indies at Sion Mills in 1969 and was for a long time the best all rounder that country had produced.
  8. Alec Kennedy – right arm fast medium bowler, useful lower order batter. He played for Hampshire for the thick end of 30 years, pretty much carrying their bowling in that period, with support from Jack Newman and Stuart Boyes.
  9. Alec Bedser – right arm fast medium bowler. One of the greatest bowlers of his type ever to play the game. He was taught by the all rounder Alan Peach how to grip the ball if he wanted it to go straight through rather than swinging. When Bedser tried this himself he actually found that the ball spun from leg to off, and one of the deliveries he bowled in that fashion was described by Bradman as “the best ball ever to take my wicket.”
  10. Alex Tudor – right arm fast bowler. With Kennedy, Bedser and O’Riordan all steady types we definitely have space for an out and out speedster, and Tudor is that man. He is actually best known for a batting effort, on his test debut against New Zealand, when he was sent in as nightwatchman and was 99 not out when England completed their victory (Graham Thorpe, who came in with victory already pretty much certain, blitzed a succession of boundaries to finish it, the second time he may have been responsible for a batter finishing unbeaten in the 90s, after the incident where Atherton declared with Hick 98 not out, and it appeared that Thorpe had failed to pass on a message from the skipper). His career was subsequently blighted by injuries and he never did get to complete a century.
  11. *Alex Hartley – left arm orthodox spinner. We have been short of spin options so far, but fortunately we have a world cup winning spinner to round out the XI. She has subsequently lost her England place, and given how many talented young spinners there are now in England women’s cricket it is unlikely that she will regain it, but the world cup winner’s medal cannot be taken away from her.

This side has an excellent top six including a decent quality keeper, a genuine all rounder at seven and four varied bowlers. The side is short of spinners, with Hartley the only real option in that department, but O’Riordan’s left arm and Bedser’s one that spun from leg to off means that this is far from being a monotonous bowling attack. The fact that there are five front line bowlers allows for Tudor being used in short bursts at top pace.

NOT PICKED

Hampshire stalwart Alec Bowell just missed out. Alex Loudon with a batting average of 31 and a bowling average of 40 was the reverse of an all rounder, and although an off spinner would have been useful he had to be ignored. Alex Barnett, a left arm spinner, did not have a record to warrant displacing a world cup winner. Alex Hales is mainly a white ball player, and is also under a cloud because of his personal conduct.

CHARLES XI

  1. Charles Bannerman – right handed opening batter. Scored 165 in the first innings of the first test, in an all out tally of 245, still the biggest proportion of a test innings ever scored by one person. In 1878 he became the first Australian to score a century in England, having already done so in New Zealand, and he would later make it a quadruple by racking up a ton in Canada en route back to Australia.
  2. Charles Hallows – left handed opening batter. An excellent counterpoint to the all attacking right hander Bannerman, since he was more defensively inclined. He opened the batting for Lancashire in their greatest period in the 1920s, and in 1928 he became the third and last player to score 1,000 first class runs actually in the month of May (Bradman, twice, Edrich, Hayward, Hick and Glenn Turner each reached 1,000 first class runs in an English season before the start of June, but all benefitted from games played in April) exactly one year after Walter Hammond had equalled the 1895 achievement of WG Grace. At the start of May 30th 1928 Hallows was on 768 runs for the season, Lancashire won the toss and batted, and by the close Hallows had reached 190 not out. He got those 42 runs on the morning of May 31, and then a combination of exhaustion and relief caused him to snick one behind and he was out for 232, with his aggregate precisely 1,000 for the season. In all he scored 55 first class hundreds and averaged 40 with the bat in his first class career.
  3. Charles Burgess Fry – right handed batter. A third recognized opener. In amongst all the other extraordinary things he did in his life he amassed 94 first class centuries, and recorded a first class average of 50. When his career started no one had ever scored more than three successive first class hundreds, and in 1901 he broke that record and went on to make it six in succession before the sequence finally ended, a record which has been equalled by Bradman and Procter but never surpassed.
  4. Charles Macartney – right handed batter, left arm orthodox spinner. In 1926, at the age of 40, he scored centuries in each of three successive tests (to no avail for his side, as those games all finished in draws and England won the final match at The Oval to take the Ashes). Five years earlier he had hit Nottinghamshire for 345 in 232 minutes, the highest score by an Australian on tour of England.
  5. Charlie Townsend – right handed batter, leg spinner. In 1894 he became only the second player to score 2,000 first class runs and take 100 first class wickets in a season.
  6. *Charles Palmer – right handed batter, medium pace bowler/ off spinner, captain. One of his bowling stints gave him a shot at the record books – he had figures of 8-0, and he he stopped bowling at that point he would have been indelibly there. He kept going, and the spell was broken, and he ended up having to settle for a mere 8-7 (behind Laker 8-2, Shackleton 8-4, Peate 8-5 and level with George Lohmann who achieved his 8-7 in a test match)! He scored just over 17,000 first class runs at 31, and his 365 wickets cost 25 each.
  7. +Charles Wright – wicket keeper, right handed batter. He played in the late Victorian era, scoring almost 7,000 first class runs and making 235 dismissals of which 40 were stumpings.
  8. Charlie Turner – right arm medium fast bowler. Joint quickest ever to the career landmark of 100 test wickets, achieved in his 17th match. Only bowler ever to take 100 first class wickets in an Australian season.
  9. Charlie Parker – left arm orthodox spinner. The third leading first class wicket taker ever, with 3,278 scalps, and yet only one England appearance. At Leeds in 1926 he was in the 12 but left out on the morning of the match.
  10. Charl Willoughby – left arm fast medium bowler. An excellent record for Somerset in county cricket, and his left handedness is a useful variation.
  11. Charlie Shreck – right arm fast bowler. The 6’7″ Cornish born quick bowler took 577 first class wickets at 31.80, a respectable rather than outstanding record. His pace and height will be useful in this attack.

This team has a strong top six, a keeper and four varied bowlers. Willoughby, Shreck and Turner are a fine pace attack, while Parker, Townsend and the more occasional stuff of Palmer offer plenty of spin.

MISSING

Charlie Barnett had a fair claim on opening slot, but I felt that with the attacking Bannerman claiming one slot someone steadier was required. Similarly, given the overload of available openers of quality I could not find a place for Charlotte Edwards. Charlie McGahey who played for Essex in the early 20th century had a good record as a middle order batter, but he did not the bowling of Townsend or the combined bowling and captaincy of Palmer. Australian keeper Charles Walker might have had the gloves instead of Wright. Charl Langeveldt had a decent record as a right arm medium fast bowler, but Willoughby’s left handedness worked in his favour. Charles Dagnall, now well known as a commentator, did not have a particularly special record as a medium fast bowler for Leicestershire and Warwickshire, and so although his name is well known I could not pick him.

THE CONTEST

We have two well balanced sides here, although the Charles XI has the better balanced bowling unit, and a more powerful engine room to its batting (Hallows, Fry, Macartney), though the Alec XI bats deeper with Bedser at nine and Tudor at 10.

LOOKING AHEAD

Buttler’s XI are currently going very well, with Bracey now in the 80s and Dan Lawrence having made a rapid start being on 32 off 38 balls (he would be my pick for the no4 slot vacated by Root, so I am especially pleased to see that he is going well. The plan for this series, as mentioned earlier, is to keep it going until the test match gets underway. I am also going to float a speculative kite: there is enough material in this series of blog posts to fill a book if people would be interested in reading it. Bracey has just gone, c Foakes b J Overton 85,  to make it 196-3.

PHOTOGRAPHS

My usual sign off…

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The Royal London Cup Half Way Predictions IV

Predictions at the half way stage of todays Royal London Cup matches, some links and plenty of my photographs.

INTRODUCTION

There are four matches taking place in the Royal London Cup today, which means that even if all of my predictions turn out incorrect I will still have more right than wrong at the end of it, as I am currently on 12 out of 19.

THE ROYAL LONDON CUP TODAY

This is what is happening so far…

  • Surrey v Essex Surrey 278-8 50 overs
    At 220-3 in the 42nd over Surrey would have been entertaining hopes of getting close to 300. At 241-8 Essex would have been hoping to restrict Surrey to no more than 260. In the end the difference was almost exactly split, thanks to some late hitting from Jason Roy who had suffered a back spasm earlier in the day. Ben Foakes top scored for Surrey with 82. Sam Cook took 3-37 from eight overs, Dan Lawrence bowled his full allocation of 10 and took 2-52 – Surrey will be hoping for something similar from their nearest equjivalent, Will Jacks. I predict that Surrey will defend this total.
  • Hampshire v MiddlesexHampshire 301-9 from 50 overs
    Until the last over Middlesex were faring quite well in this one, buit topping 300 is big psychological boost for Hampshire, albeit that 300 is not the mountainous total it once was in this form of the game. A South African, Aidan Markram, top scored with 88 and a renegade South African, Rilee Rossouw made 64. Tom Helm, right-arm medium fast took five wickets but was made to pay for them (71 in nine overs). I expect Hampshire, with their bowling spearheaded by another renegade South African, Kyle Abbott, to defend this one.
  • Gloucestershire v Kent Kent 282-8 from 50 overs
    The early stages of the Kent innings saw Zak Crawley make 85 and Joe Denly 56. At the end Harare born wicketkeeper Adam Rouse hit 45 not out off 28 balls to boost the total. Benny Howell took 2-39 from his 10 overs, 28 year old right-arm fast medium bowler David Payne had 2-45 and slow left-armer Tom Smith had 2-47 from seven overs. I expect Gloucestershire to chase these down – Kent look to me like they are a trifle short of bowling options (they will almost certainly need Denly to bowl his full ten overs).
  • Warwickshire v Nottinghamshire Nottinghamshire 301-9 from 50 overs
    A decent total for Nottinghamshire, Ben Slater making exactly 100, skipper Mullaney 40 and Luke Fletcher and James Pattinson 33 and 32 at the end. Jeetan Patel collected 5-45, George Panayi, a 21 year old right arm fast medium bowler took 2-44. Henry Brookes had an off day today, finishing with 1-78 fron nine overs. I expect Nottinghamshire to defend this total. 

Thus my predictions, with varying degrees of confidence, are: Surrey, Hampshire, Gloucestershire and Nottinghamshire.

PHYSIO SESSION AT TAPPING HOUSE

Today I attended my second full physio session at The Norfolk Hospice, Tapping House. The exercises I did today as part of my recovery from cancer include a stair exercise, an arm exercise involving weights, three minutes on the treadmill, a set of arm exercises involving a punching action and three minutes on the bicycle simulator (I was particularly pleased with this one, since I managed to average 26kph, or approx 16mph over the three minutes). While there I also augmented my photo collection:

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LINKS AND PICTURES

First three related pieces. Richard Murphy has added two more to his Taxes To Save the Environment (Taste):

  1. A Carbon Usage Tax
  2. A Land Value Tax With A Woodland Twist

There is also a piece on devonlive, which I was found by way of twitter headlined “Shock and anger as entire Devon woodland is chopped down“. The piece makes clear that not only had planning permission for this atrocity not been granted, the arrogant and unscrupulous developer had not even bothered to seek it. My own opinion is this developer should be punished by both a hefty fine upfront and by being made to replant the woodland at his own expense. My hope would be the combined expense of these two would put him in serious financial difficulties to teach him a lesson.

This is the woodland area at the end of Seymour Drive

Now for my usual sign off…

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I think the tiny bird featured in this picture and the next is a house sparrow – but I have not yet got a picture of it from a really good angle so I cannot be absolutely certain.

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England Selectors’ Ostrich Impression and Other Stuff

Some thoughts on the (in)action of the England selectors this week, some mathematical teasers and a few pictures.

INTRODUCTION

A couple of days ago I wrote about England’s series win over India and presented some problems and solutions. This post is on similar lines, dealing with the actual behaviour of the England selectors and my thoughts thereon.

AN OPPORTUNITY SQUANDERED

England, with the series already in the bag, had a diamond-encrusted golden opportunity to experiment with options to fill gaping holes in their top order. Cook’s announcement of his impending retirement from international cricket should have acted as an extra spur. Instead of which we see very little in the way of forward planning or of experimentation of any sort. Even with the certain knowledge that a new opener will have to come in to replace Cook the selectors persevere with the proven failure Jennings.

Three individuals who can feel more aggrieved than most by this behaviour are Rory Burns (another 90 against Essex yesterday after the latter won the toss and chose to bowl first), Dan Lawrence and Liam Livingstone

In view of Cook’s impending retirement I would have recognized openers at 1,2 and 3 (not a bad approach in test cricket anyway), with a view to the two other openers than forming a partnership in future matches. This is why in the previous post I mentioned Tammy Beaumont, a recognized opener who has been scoring stacks of runs recently. Batting is at least as much about timing and placement as it is about brute power, and that is why I believe (unlike in the case of fast bowling) a woman could mix it with the men even at the highest level, similarly with slow bowling and possibly wicket-keeping (for my money the best user of the gauntlets in world cricket across the board at the moment is Sarah Taylor). A number of the all-time greats of test match batting have been of diminutive stature (Bradman, Gavaskar, Tendulkar, Sehwag, Hanif Mohammad and several of the finest Sri Lankans spring to mind instantly). I am well aware that this super-radical option will not happen, but the alternatives that that leaves with are:

  1. Two brand new openers, neither of whom have any experience of international cricket.
  2. One new opener and one opener who has shown already that they are not actually good enough (Jennings)
  3. Two openers who gave failed to prove themselves (presumably Jennings and a recalled Stoneman). 

Of those three options, none of which massively appeal, my choice would number 1, which might end up working out well, and then the question is who to choose to open alongside Burns (whose case for selection is undisputable in the circumstances). 

Having taken the “ostrich option” re their top order difficulties the only outcome from this game that could be acceptable is not merely a win to make it 4-1 for the series but a win by a massive margin. The timidity of the England selectors means that at least one and possibly two England openers will be starting their careers on overseas tours, with their first home test series being against those well known softies, the Aussies.

PROBLEMS AND SOLUTIONS

I will start as usual with answers and solutions to the previous problems (all from brilliant.org) before offering up some new problems.

WHAT IS THE AREA OF THE QUADRILATERAL

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First the answer:

quad answer

The hackers solution is that there are only two really serious possibilites since the shape is a square, namely 67 (giving an area of 289 = sides 17 units long) and 102 (giving an area of 324 = sides 18 units long), and since the question gave one three tries just enter those values for the first two tries (if your first entry does not come up right). Here, courtesy of Jeremy Galvagni is an elegant genuine solution:

quadsol

THE .99 STORE

First the answer:

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The figure in front of the .99 part of the price can vary, so all we need to know is how many .99s add up to answer ending in .89, and the answer is 11 (11 x 99 = 1,089, so 11 x 0.99 = 10.89), and the next number of items after 11 that would give us an answer ending in .89 is 111, the lowest price total for which would be $109.89. Thus Marie purchased 11 items.

NEW PROBLEMS

First an astronomy themed problem:

astroproblem

Now a question that has got almost three-quarters of those who tackled in on brilliant, but is not actually difficult:

Bullets

PHOTOGRAPHS

Swimming MoorhenMoorhen on branchTwo MoorhensMoorhensMagpie