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…

England in Command in Galle

A look at day 1 of Sri Lanka v England in Galle, and a glimpse at the state of play in BBL10. Also some photographs.

Early this morning UK time the test series between Sri Lanka and England got underway. This post looks back at the first day.

ENGLAND DOMINATE DAY 1

Unsurprisingly given the current situation, with a global pandemic happening, neither side had had anything approaching proper preparation for a test match. Sri Lanka had had no cricket at all since taking a hammering in South Africa. England managed one day of an intra-squad fixture, which with both “sides” containing more than 11 players and arrangements being made that each would bat for at least 50 overs in the first innings had precious little resemblance to a real match – it was more in the nature of an extended net with umpires in position. This lack of preparation was shown in some less than stellar cricket.

Sri Lanka batted first, and mustered 135 all out, a poor score, especially given that almost all of their wickets were lost through bad batting rather than good bowling. There were a couple of freakish dismissals – Bess got one when a shot hit Jonathan Bairstow and Buttler caught the rebound, while Leach got a finger tip to a drive, deflecting it into the bowlers end stumps with Embuldeniya way out of his crease. Bess was also the beneficiary when a really succulent long hop was bashed straight into the hands of backward point. Stuart Broad was in the wickets early on, Jack Leach bowled nicely, and, by hook or by crook, Bess emerged from the fray with 5-30.

After that shocking display with the bat Sri Lanka needed things to happen for them with the ball. To that end they gave the new ball to left arm orthodox spinner Embuldeniya, a clever decision given that Sibley and Crawley would both prefer to begin against seam. It paid early dividends, as both openers perished with only 17 on the board. At that point skipper Root joined Bairstow, a choice at no3 which did not meet universal approval. They played beautifully, although Root was given out LBW fairly early on – he reviewed it, and the technology showed that the ball was going over the top of the stumps. By the close Root had reached 66 not out, Bairstow was on 47 not out, and England at 127-2 were in total control of the match.

Root has recently had problems turning starts into major innings, and he needs to dig in again early on tomorrow and make sure this effort does not go to waste. As for England as whole this is the most dominant opening day they have had since Trent Bridge 2015 when they rolled Australia for 60 and were comfortably into a first innings lead by the end of the day.

Those of us following proceedings by way of Test Match Special were treated during the lunch break to an interview with Justin Langer, coach of Australia. His attitude to the controversy over Steve Smith allegedly scuffing up a batter’s guard at the SCG showed a failure of understanding, and also a huge degree of petulance – it was basically an on-air tantrum. Smith’s actions may well have been as innocent as Langer insists, but what both Smith and Langer need to understand and are apparently unable or unwilling to is that a proven cheat will not be given the benefit of the doubt when such incidents occur.

RECENT BBL ACTION

The tenth running of the Big Bash League is still in full swing. Yesterday the two Sydney franchises locked horns in a top of the table clash. Thunder, batting first, began brilliantly, scoring 47-1 from their four overs of Power Play, but then had a disastrous second period of their innings, being 86-4 after 10 overs. They then slowed up in overs 11-15, declining to take the Power Surge in a bid to revitalize their innings, and found themselves 112-5 after 15. They left the Power Surge right to the end, finally taking it at the last moment they could, for the 19th and 20th overs. They did score 24 off this two overs, but they would probably have done that at the tail end of a T20 innings even without it being a Power Surge, so they effectively did not benefit from those two overs. They ended on 166-6 from 20, at a high scoring ground (the average innings score for a T20 at Manuka is 175). Ir rained during the interval, and a delayed start to the second innings led to a DLS recalculation. Sixers resumed needing 129 from 14 overs to win, and 67 off seven to claim the Bash Boost point, while they would have three overs of Power Play and one of Power Surge. They got off to a flier, secured the Bash Boost point with an over to spare, and maintained the momentum, winning in the end by five wickets, with eight balls to spare. That put them six points clear at the top of the group, and left Thunder just about catchable by the chasing pack.

Today, while I was focussed on the test match the Heat took on bottom of the table Renegades. Renegades mustered 149, which rarely wins a T20 these days. Heat made life a little more difficult for themselves than it should have been by surrendering three quick wickets as they entered the closing stages of the chase, but they won by five wickets in the 19th over. This moves Heat, who also took the Bash Boost point, into the fifth and last qualifying slot on 20 points. Renegades remain on nine points, 11 points short of the qualifying zone with only four games to play, and it is now only a matter of when, rather than if, their early exit from the tournament is officially sealed.

PHOTOGRAPHS

My usual sign off…

England’s Victory

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

INTRODUCTION

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

FROM THE JAWS OF DEFEAT

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

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

ENGLAND PLAYER RATINGS

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

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

THE REST OF THE SERIES

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

THE BOB WILLIS TROPHY

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

SOLUTION AND NEW TEASER

I posed this problem from brilliant in my last post:

Venn Rectangles

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

PM

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

Pinwheel

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

PHOTOGRAPHS

My usual sign off…

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

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Looking Ahead To Friday

Some speculations about possible inclusions for the third test, an all-time XI created around one of the possibles for the West Indies, the solution to yesterday’s teaser and a bumper collection of photographs.

INTRODUCTION

This post looks at the options for each time ahead of the deciding test match between England and the West Indies on Friday. There is a match taking place at The Oval tonight which may be interesting, and will be viewable courtesy of Surrey County Cricket Club’s livestream.

ENGLAND

I think the current top six can and should be retained, so I shall nothing further about them. Buttler has to go, and the question of his replacement is tied up with the question of how England should line up bowler wise. Here the problem is condensing the choices into at most five, and possibly only four. It would be rough on Jimmy Anderson not to play at his home ground, but equally Stuart Broad bowled two magnificent spells in the game just concluded and would not react well to being rested for the decider. Curran’s left arm and Archer’s extreme pace now that he can be selected again give them edges, as does the former’s batting. Woakes had a solid game with the ball in the match just concluded, and he also has batting skill on his side. Bess remains first choice spinner and the question is whether Jack Leach should also be selected. Going the two spinners route would require the selection of five players who are predominantly bowlers, and I feel that at least one of Curran or Woakes would have to be picked in this circumstance, as Bess at 7, Archer at 8, Leach at 9, Broad at 10 and Anderson at 11 leaves the lower order looking very fragile. A bowling foursome, if Leach is not to be picked should be Bess, Archer, Broad, Anderson, with Ben Foakes getting the gloves and batting at seven. For the two spinner route Pope gets the gloves, and the remainder of the order goes either Woakes, Curran, Bess, Archer, Leach or if you are prepared to gamble a bit more Curran, Bess, Archer, Leach, Broad I am going to plump for two spinners and a bit of a gamble on the batting and suggest as the final XI: Sibley, Burns, Crawley, *Root, Stokes, +Pope, Curran, Bess, Archer, Leach, Broad.

WEST INDIES

The West Indies’ big question is whether to pick Rahkeem Cornwall, and if so how they will fit him in. This depends on whether they are want extra batting strength to maximize their chances of retaining the Wisden Trophy, which they do by avoiding defeat, or whether they are determined to go all out to attempt to become the first West Indies side to win a series in England since 1988. The cautious approach entails bring Cornwall in for Shannon Gabriel, have him bat at nine below Holder, so that West Indies have only two outright tailenders, Joseph and Roach. The more aggressive approach is to drop a batter, presumably Shai Hope who has done precious little since scoring those twin tons at Headingley in 2017, and have a 7,8,9,10,11 of Holder, Cornwall, Joseph, Roach, Gabriel. To me the latter approach has far more appeal, and a side of Campbell, Brathwaite, Brooks, Blackwood, Chase, +Dowrich, Holder, Cornwall, Joseph, Roach, Gabriel thus eventuates. Cornwall is best known for being the heaviest international cricketer since Warwick Armstrong in 1921, so, in the spirit of my lockdown series of All Time XIs, we move on to…

THE PLUS SIZED XI

  1. *WG Grace – right handed opening batter, right arm bowler of varying types through his career, captain. As a youngster he was a champion sprinter and hurdler as well as a quality cricketer but in later years his weight mushroomed, reaching somewhere in the region of 20 stone near the end of his career. In 1895, less than two months short of his 47th birthday, he scored 1,000 first class runs in the first three weeks of his season (May 9th – 30th), including his 100th first class hundred (no 2 on the list of century makers at the time being Arthur Shrewsbury on 41).
  2. Colin Milburn – right handed opening batter. His career was ended prematurely by the car accident that cost him his left eye, but his record up to that point was very impressive.
  3. Mike Gatting – right handed batter, occasional right arm medium pace bowler.
  4. Mark Cosgrove – left handed batter, occasional right arm medium pace bowler. Australia were never keen on selecting him because of his bulk, but he scored plenty of runs in first class cricket.
  5. Inzamam-ul-Haq – right handed batter. He was once dubbed ‘Aloo’, which translates as ‘Potato’ on account of his shape. He had a long test career in which he averaged 49 with the bat.
  6. Warwick Armstrong – right handed batter, leg spinner. At the end of his test career he weighed in at 22 stone, and yet in those last two years he did as much batting as Steve Waugh in a comparable period and bowled as many overs of leg spin as Shane Warne in a comparable period. He was nicknamed ‘Big Ship’, and there is a book about him by Gideon Haigh titled “Big Ship”.
  7. Alfred Mynn – right handed batter, right arm fast bowler. ‘The Lion of Kent’ weighed in at 18 stone in his pomp, and later grew even heavier, allegedly weighing in at 24 stone by the end of his career.
  8. Rahkeem Cornwall – off spinner, useful right handed lower order batter. His averages are just the right way round at first class level – 23.75 with the bat and 23.57 with the ball. He is taller than Armstrong was by a couple of inches and weighs about the same.
  9. Jim Smith – right arm fast medium bowler, ultra-aggressive right handed lower order batter. 6’4″ tall and weighing in at 17 stone. He once clubbed a 50 in just 11 minutes off genuine bowling – not declaration stuff. He was born in Wiltshire, and under the rules of the day had to qualify by residence for a first class county, in his case Middlesex. He took 172 first class wickets in his first full season, finishing sixth in the national bowling averages, and helped by the fact that with Lord’s as his home ground he was enjoying success in front of the right people he was selected for that winter’s tour. Unfortunately for fans of big hitting he and Arthur Wellard of Somerset were only once selected in the same England team.
  10. Joel Garner – right arm fast bowler. 6’8″ tall and broad and solid in proportion to that great height. He is perhaps here under slightly false pretenses since he did not noticeably carry extra weight, but he was certainly a big unit.
  11. +Mordecai Sherwin – wicket keeper. Given the nature of the job it is no great surprise that plus sized wicket keepers are something of a rarity. However, this guy weighed 17 stone and was still able to pull off 836 dismissals in 328 first class appearances (611 catches and 225 stumpings).

This side has a strong top five (Gatting, with a test average of 35.55, is probably the least impressive of the quintet as a batter), two genuine all rounders in Armstrong and Mynn, a trio of fine bowlers, two of whom can bat a bit and an excellent keeper. The bowling attack, with Garner, Smith and Mynn to bowl pace, Armstrong, Cornwall and Grace purveying slower stuff and Gatting and Cosgrove available as seventh and eighth bowlers is strong and varied, although there is no left armer. Thus, even given the selection criteria, this is a team that would take some beating.

HXI

SOLUTION TO YESTERDAY’S TEASER

I offered up this from brilliant yesterday:

Here is Liam Robertson’s solution:

Sol

PHOTOGRAPHS

My usual sign off…

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Can England Still Win The Test Match?

My thoughts on the current test match and possible scenarios for what remains of it, plus a couple of bonus links and some photographs.

INTRODUCTION

The lunch interval on day4 of the second test match at Old Trafford is nearing its end, so what are the propsects?

THE STORY SO FAR

Yesterday was entirely lost to the weather, meaning that the West Indies started today 32-1 in reply to England’s 469-9 declared. The morning session has been much better for them than for England, with only nightwatchman Alzarri Joseph dismissed, a wicket for Dom Bess. Kraigg Brathwaite and Shai Hope are currently together with the score 118-2. Can England win this match and keep the Wisden Trophy alive?

POTENTIAL WINNING SCENARIOS

I see three potential winning scenarios, each of which has two subvariations. They are as follows:

1. England bowl the West Indies out for 269 or less, which is still possible although the likelihood is receding. Then either a)England enforce follow-on, bowl West Indies out cheaply and win by an innings margin, b)England enforce follow on, bowl West Indies out and have a small run chase in the final innings c)if England really are determined to give their bowlers a short rest between bowling stints they bat for 10 or 15 overs taking an ‘all guns blazing approach’ and then get the West Indies in again and bowl them out to win by a runs margin.

2. England bowl the West Indies out for 270-319, definitely a possibility. Then either a)England forfeit their second innings in and all or nothing gamble on victory and bowl the West Indies out to win the match.
b)England go in again taking the ‘all guns blazing’ approach and declare giving the West Indies a tough but achievable chase (they need to dangle a carrot otherwise the West Indies simply shut up shop and secure the Wisden Trophy) and manage to bowl the West Indies out a second time.

3. England bowl the West Indies for a total in excess of 320, but still with a useful lead for England, and England go all out for quick runs, either being bowled out or declaring to set the West Indies a tough but achievable target, and bowl the West Indies out.

IF ENGLAND HAVE TO BAT AGAIN

If it is for a very straightforward run chase with no major acceleration needed then no change is needed to the batting order. In any other scenario (i.e. runs needed at speed) I would hold Sibley, Burns and Craw;ey back for emergencies and send Stokes and Buttler into open with instructions to treat it as a T20 innings, with Pope coming at three, Woakes four, Curran five, Bess six, Root 7, and only if all of these are out cheaply enough for England to be in danger of defeat turn to the regular nos 1-3 to shut up shop. In a quick runs for a declaration scenario where I thought a couple more overs batting would be beneficial I would even take this further should the situation arise and promote Broad to have a swing. I would also say that although I have allowed for the possibility of not enforcing the follow-on I reckon that England should do so unless they can boost thei lead by enough quickly enough to get the West Indies in again by tomorrow morning at the latest.

LOOKING AHEAD TO THE THIRD MATCH

I am reckoning that Anderson and Wood will return, Archer will be considered but may not play. Also, in view of the turn that Bess is extracting I would consider picking Parkinson and gambling on two specialist pacers plus Stokes to handle that side of things. As I write this Sam Curran has just claimed the third West Indies wicket to make it 123-3, and he has two of them. A possible ‘gamblers pick’ for the third test would be give Pope the gauntlets and keep him at no6, and then five regular bowlers, Curran, Bess, Archer, Wood and Anderson, or the two-spinner ‘gamblers pick’ which is similar except Parkinson replaces Wood, meaning a one place promotion for Anderson (Parkinson is a genuine no11). England have played well this match, and I suspect that if they do manage to win it they will take the series. An England win to level the series would be good for cricket, creating a winner-takes-all scenario for the final game. So to, though it is a remote possibility, would a win for the West Indies, giving them their first series win in England since 1988, albeit in a different way. A drawn match has little to commend it, since the West Indies would then be thinking very much in terms of avoiding defeat in the final match and thereby winning the series (a draw when 0-2 down could not benefit England, whereas a win would at least salvage some pride).

LINKS AND PHOTOGRAPHS

Two related pieces here:

  1. Molly Scott Cato, professor of economics and one of the leading lights of the Green Party, has a piece at theecologist.org titled “If Humanity Counted“.
  2. Richard Murphy of Tax Research UK has set out some brief thoughts on Modern Monetary Theory – the first three are screenshotted below.
    MMT Thread

Now it is time for my usual sign off…

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Bowl First Backfiring on West Indies

An update on the test match, as England assume control through Sibley and Stokes.

INTRODUCTION

Unlike yesterday, today is bright and sunny, and it looks like being a full day’s play in Manchester. This post looks at events so far.

THE MATCH

When skipper Root was dismissed the score was 81-3, and the West Indies only needed a couple more wickets to be on top. Stokes then joined Sibley and they knuckled down to the job in hand. Sibley received a let off with 68 to his name, but he and Stokes held the fort through to the close of a truncated day with England 207-3 from 82 overs. Bizarrely, having declined to take the new ball when it fell due yesterday the West Indies then failed to take it first thing this morning, instead bowling 11 overs at England with the old ball, which allowed Stokes and Sibley to play themselves in. Sibley reached his hundred just before lunch, from the 312th ball he had received, while Stokes reached the interval on 99. Stokes completed his ton straight after the interval, his 10th test century, and the slowest to date, but exactly the innings England had needed. As I write this the West Indies have just burned off a review of an LBW, reducing them to one left. England are 278-3 and looking in control of the match. England will be looking to increase the scoring rate as the prospect of trouble recedes. Pope is in at the fall of the next wicket, and then Buttler, who really needs to take full advantage of the situation and the tired bowlers.

WEST INDIES WOES

The West Indies chose to bowl yesterday, paying too much attention to the grey skies and not enough to the very flat looking pitch. They have failed to distinguish themselves with the ball. Shannon Gabriel has been fortunate not to be called for wides, but has bowled at least three in the ‘Harmy’ bracket. Alzarri Joseph has a wicket but has hardly been stellar. Roach has bowled well but carried no huge threat. Holder has posed little threat. Roston Chase has two of the wickets but is being used as a part timer – he was given the last over before lunch having not been called on all morning. Stokes has just hit the second six of the match (both to his credit), as he looks to up the pace. It is hard to see any way back for the West Indies, especially given that Bess should enjoy bowling on this surface. Each morning so far has seen a dreadful decision by the West Indies – putting England in yesterday on an obvious flat pitch and not taking the new ball instantly this morning, and they are being made to pay a heavy price for both infractions.

LOOKING AHEAD

This is the third test match of the 21st century in which an England batter has needed over 300 balls to reach a century, the other two being scored by Mike Atherton and Nasser Hussain, and England won both those games. Additionally this is Sibley’s second test hundred, and England won the other game in which he reached three figures, with Stokes making a substantial contribution there as well. In 1956 at this ground England made 459 in the first innings with centuries for Peter Richardson and David Sheppard, and won the game by an innings and 170 runs, with an off spinner, Jim Laker, doing most of the damage with the ball. The 300 has just come up for England, with Sibley and Stokes still in possession, and Stokes having just moved ahead of Sibley.

PHOTOGRAPHS

My usual sign off:

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Manchester Musings

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

INTRODUCTION

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

THE SELECTIONS

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

THE EARLY EXCHANGES

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

LOOKING AHEAD

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

PHOTOGRAPHS

My usual sign off…

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My England XI For The Second Test Match

My England XI for the test match that starts tomorrow – the team that should be selected though probably will not. Plus some photographs.

INTRODUCTION

I have not yet seen the official XI for the test match that starts tomorrow, and I do not expect it to be the same as mine  – I will outline the possible differences later.

THE XI VIA THE BBC WEBSITE

The BBC have an interactive piece on the cricket section of their website which you can use to pick your England team for this test match. I have done so and mine is:

XI

MORE ON MY XI

  1. Rory Burns – currently averaging 33 in his test career to date but seemingly upwardly mobile in that regard and deserves a few more games yet.
  2. Dom Sibley – his performances in South Africa were highly encouraging, and his second innings at the Ageas bowl was a solid effort, although the manner of his dismissal when in the 40s was disappointing.
  3. Zak Crawley – at the age of 22 he is very much in the ‘up and coming’ bracket, and his second innings 76 at the Ageas bowl was the best batting effort for England in the match, both in quantity and quality.
  4. *Joe Root – England need his batting, and while his captaincy is less impressive there are few appealing alternatives (see yesterday’s post). No4 is his preferred slot, Crawley likes to be high in the order (he opens for Kent), so I position them this way round.
  5. Ben Stokes – He is very much England’s x-factor player, and while his captaincy was less than impressive at the Ageas bowl he had a fine all round game as a player
  6. Ollie Pope – his emergence at test level was one of the highlights of the series in South Africa, his first class batting record is truly outstanding and while he may eventually bat higher in the order it should not be forced.
  7. +Ben Foakes – the best keeper in England at present, and he averages over 40 with the bat in the five test matches he has been allowed to play. Buttler in the long form of the game is no more than an ordinary batter and a substandard keeper – his miss at the Ageas bowl on the final day was the costliest England blunder of the match. Buttler has played 107 first class matches and averages precisely 32 with the bat, and has taken 213 catches and executed two stumpings. Foakes has played 109 first class matches, averages 38.01, and has taken 225 catches and made 23 stumpings. The likelihood therefore is that Foakes would actually score more runs than Buttler, but even if this proved not to be the case his superior keeping  would save more runs than under-performing with the bat could cost.
  8. Dom Bess – the offspinner had a good game at the Ageas bowl, including a spirited effort with the bat in the first innings and should hold his place.
  9. Jofra Archer – he had a poor time with the ball in the first innings, but bowled electrifyingly in the second.
  10. Mark Wood – not a good match for him at the Ageas bowl, but it was chiefly the batting that let England down there, and I hate seeing bowlers thrown under the bus when the batters are more blameworthy, plus as long time advocate of England going with two out and out speedsters I do not want to see the experiment abandoned after one game.
  11. James Anderson – he was bang on the money at the Ageas bowl and when fit is without doubt England’s most reliable performer with the ball. Additionally this match is taking place at his home ground of Old Trafford, and I think he deserves the chance to play there if he is fit enough to do so.

ALTERNATIVES AND CLOSE RESERVES

I fear that England will continue with their indefensible policy of selecting Buttler as keeper. I sincerely hope that it is the end of the road for Denly, but I cannot even be certain of that. I could accept Broad being selected, especially as England have indicated that they are thinking in terms of rotating him and Anderson, but I remind of you of my earlier comments about bowlers being thrown under the bus when it is batters who are really blameworthy. I do not consider that an English surface is likely to demand two specialist spinners, but if it does I have Parkinson ahead of Leach in my personal pecking order. Finally rather than any reprieve for Buttler or Denly I would have Bracey down as cover for any batter in the top three and the wicket keeper and Lawrence earmarked should one nos 4-6 be unavailable at short notice. Denly was selected as a stopgap no3 until that gap could be filled properly, and in Crawley it looks like England have found the person to fill it long term.

PHOTOGRAPHS

My usual sign off…

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The England Captaincy

Some thoughts on the England test captaincy, a section on masks including an important link, and some photographs.

INTRODUCTION

With Joe Root due to return I am going to have a look at the question of the captaincy of the England men’s team ahead of Thursday’s second test.

GREAT BATTER, ORDINARY SKIPPER

Root is England’s leading batter at present, and his selection in that role is absolutely mandatory. However, the captaincy has somewhat adversely affected his batting returns, especially in the matter of converting fifties to hundreds, and he is hardly outstanding as a captain. So should be relieved of the captaincy?

STOKES’ FIRST OUTING NO TRIUMPH

Ben Stokes fared reasonably well as a player in his first outing as skipper, twice scoring 40+ with the bat and taking four cheap wickets in the first West Indies innings. However, he was less impressive as a skipper. His biggest blunder was over Bess in the second innings. Having chosen to bat first in the hope of Bess having a turning pitch to bowl on the final innings Stokes then shied at the last. Although Bess did turn the ball and created two definite wicket taking opportunities and other possibilities he was mysteriously given only ten overs, when he should have been kept going at one end while as many of the overs at the other as practicable were bowled by the blitzmen Archer and Wood. So Stokes is a possible, but certainly not a definite.

THE OTHERS

It is no secret that I think that neither Denly nor Buttler should be in the test side, and since with all due respect to the legendary Mike Brearley I cannot recommend selecting a specialist skipper in general that rules them out. Archer and Wood as out and out speedsters devote too much energy in the field to their craft and would therefore probably struggle as skipper. Anderson and Broad are apparently intended to play on a rotation basis, which rules them out, although Anderson could well handle the job decently. Sibley, Crawley, Pope and my choice as keeper, Foakes are all too new to international cricket to be serious candidates just yet, and the combination of keeping and captaincy is a tough one for anyone to handle. So, if you accept that he is the undisputed no1 spinner the only alternatives to Root and Stokes would appear to be Dom Bess and Rory Burns. If I was going to appoint a new captain, then I would follow my instincts regarding slow bowlers who can handle a bat and go for Bess, but I think that I would prefer to stay with Root for the home summer, and then maybe appoint Bess as captain for a winter tour if one happens.

SOME THOUGHTS ON MASKS

I am still seeing far too few people using protective masks when out and about. As someone who less than two years ago was in hospital and among other things receiving extra oxygen and who always wears a mask when going out (I have recently emerged from several months of shielding, but I continue to take great care) I can tell you which is the greater inconvenience. There are some minor difficulties associated with masks, and I know that not everyone can cope with them (being autistic I would be did I choose to claim it exempt from wearing one), but for most of us the difficulties associated with mask wearing (they don’t combine well with spectacles, a difficulty I freely acknowledge) are as nothing compared to being in hospital and receiving extra oxygen. So, for yourself and others, please wear a mask whenever you go out. Charlie Hancock has an excellent piece in Spyglass Magazine about the type of people who throw hissy fits about being asked to wear masks, titled “100 Years of Anti-Maskers“.

PHOTOGRAPHS

My usual sign off…

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