The Boxing Day test match at Melbourne has limped into its final day, with India needing two more wickets for a convincing and thoroughly deserved victory. India claimed an extra half hour to try to finish things today but were unable to do so.
INDIA SECOND INNINGS – 54-5 OVERNIGHT TO 106-8D
Patrick Cummins emulated Jasprit Bumrahby picking up career best test bowlinjg figures in this match (6-27 in his case). India’s declaration left Australia needing 399 to win…
AUSTRALIA SECOND INNINGS 258-8
Australia’s main batting performed like a squad of “Wattos“ – most of them got some sort of start but none went on to a significant score. Then that man Cummins showed that his abilities are not entirely restricted to bowling – he is not a genuine allrounder but his batting is definitely a cut above that of the out and out tailender – he finished the day on 61 not out, the only Aussie fifty of the match. Nathan Lyon at number ten held out for over an hour, which should have had some his supposed betters squirming as well.
Bumrah added two wickets to his first innings six, equalling a record match aggregate for an Indian paceman in Australia (Kapil Devtwice took eight in a game there andAjit Agarkar achieved the feat once). Ravindra Jadeja picked up three wickets with his left arm spin and Ishant Sharma and Mohammed Shami also struck.
India deserve to be on the brink of victory, and Cummins’ late defiance will end up enhancing the entertainment value of the match but not affecting its result.
SOME THOUGHTS ABOUT THE UPCOMING ASHES SERIES
This English season the Aussies come calling to resume the oldest grudge match in international sport. Based on their unconvincing efforts against India at home and England’s triumph in Sri Lanka I make the home side heavy favourites, probably to win with a very comfortable margin of superiority.
Looking at the match at the MCG prompted some thoughts about England’s bowling options for this series, and I have arrived at the following:
England need at least one bowler who can produce vicious pace in their squad – which means that the Norfolk born Olly Stonegets the nod from me.
James Anderson, who in the veteran stage of his career no longer has the pace but has ringcraft in spades is of course a guaranteed selection.
At least one other specialist pace bowler will be required to support the first two.
After their triumphs in Sri Lanka it is hard to look beyondRashidand Leachfor the front-line spin bowling roles at present.
If his head is in the right place Ben Stokes could be useful as back up bowler but should not be considered for a front-line bowling slot.
I am largely happy with the front-line batting for England, with Ben Foakes having made the keepers role his own and Bairstownow surely ensconced as no 3. I am not entirely happy about the continuing presence of Jennings but he did make runs in Sri Lanka and the Sutcliffe Super Radical Solution (Tammy Beaumont to be given her chance among the men) is not going be adopted any time soon.
As against this Australia are short of both form and confidence, and with the honourable exception of Usman Khawaja have no front-line batsman who is currently scoring with any consistency.
Thomas’s predicted Ashes outcome: England 4 Australia 1 (I do not believe that these Aussies are sufficiently bad as to be left winless but England look better in all departments).
Finally for those who have reached the end of this post here are some pictures from my “Cabinet of Curiosities”:
Accounts of a meal out last night and of the state of play at the MCG (very satisfying for a Pom, who by default supports Australia’s opponents!).
This post deals with two unrelated events – last night’s supper at The Market Bistro in King’s Lynn (another staging post in my convalescence from cancer – coping with an evening out in public, which for an autistic person can be a challenge even at the best of times) and the amazing happenings overnight UK time at the Melbourne Cricket Ground. I have some pictures as well.
SUPPER AT THE MARKET BISTRO
I intended to eat a full meal and have the one alcoholic drink I can allow myself at present. My father arrived to give me a lift there as planned at about 6:30. Then he went to collect my sister from West Lynn where she was staying, a taxi firm having her down.
The food was excellent – I ate an amuse bouche but declined the bread and butter as I had ordered two courses to which I intended to do full justice (and succeeded). My starter was a duck terrine covered by a potato cage and missing (at my specific request) the egg that should have been part of it. It was delicious, though an incongruously small portion to be served in the middle of a monster sized plate. For the main I opted for pork belly accompanied by smoked beetroot, various salad type vegetables and game chips. It was excellent in every respect, and judging from the fact that every plate at the table was clean by the time we finished so was everyone else’s. I washed the meal down with a beer that was brewed in Wisbech and was absolutely delicious (and at 5% alcohol not fiendishly strong – I rejected a couple of other options as being too strong in the circumstances).
By the time I drained the last of the beer it was just after 8:30PM and I was feeling the need for home. My father gave me a lift back, and that was the end of my activity for the day.
INDIA TAKE CONTROL AT THE MCG
Over the first two days play in the Boxing Day test match at the MCG it looked like a repeat of last year’s Ashes match at the same ground with the drop-in pitch (in spite of retaining its name the MCG is preimarily an Aussie Rules venue these days) apparently lacking any pace or life. Bowlers could not get wickets and the lack of pace meant that batsmen were scoring slowly. Going into day three the scoreboard read India 443-7D, Australia 8-0.
Suddenly things started to happen. First Jasprit Bumrah bowled magnificently to record a test best 6-33 as Australia were rock ‘n’ rolled for 151. India then decided that a lead of 292 was not quite sufficient to go for the innings win and batted a second time. Patrick Cummins proceeded to knock the top of that second innings, backed up by some nasty stuff from Josh Hazlewood (both bowlers regularly propel the ball at over 145 kilometres per hour), and India closed the day at 54-5 in their second innings, a lead of 346, and almost certainly given the difficulties of chasing big runs in the final innings a victory awaiting. Nonetheless I think Kohli was wrong not to enforce the follow on – I would have much preferred to see him go for the quick kill. In the context of test cricket I would decline to enforce the follow on only if one up in the final match of a series, which this is not. Out of some 2,500 test matches a mere three have been won by teams who were made to follow on – England did it aided by the weather at Sydney in 1894, England did it again at Headingley in 1981 when Ian Botham famously “gave it some humpty” and Bob Willis then bowled like a man possessed to take 8-43 and then there was the Kolkata match when Laxman made 281, Dravid 180, India declared their second innings at 657-7 and dismissed a demoralised Australia for 212 to win by 171 runs (yes folks, the only test team ever to have lost a test match after enforcing the follow on are the Aussies, victims on the only three occasions such a comeback happened).
A brief account of my Christmas period and how I managed to enjoy it in spite of limitations imposed by current state of health.
In this post I will tell the story of my activities since Monday, and the continuing tale of rhe improvement in my state of health and happiness. There are plenty of accompanying pictures.
MONDAY – MAINLY ADDENBROOKES
Unlike the previous Monday this day although still fairly long went basically smoothly, with my treatments running exactly as planned. I was by this stage sufficiently improved to walk around the main hospital building rather than using a wheelchair. In preparation for the day I had selected three books from my shelves, and this proved a wise choice as I read all three while at the hospital.
I took some photos of some of the artwork on display at Addenbrookes as well…
CHRISTMAS DAY – COLUMBIA WAY AND NELSON STREET
I was not entirely sure how I would cope with Christmas Day itself. My sister arrived at my home to pick me up at about 10AM, dropped me at Nelson Street where my aunt lives and the went to wash, change and wake up my nephew (the latter being by some way the hardest task!). A cup of coffee taken in the kitchen was a good start. Managing the stairs to use the toilet (had this proved beyond me there was a downstairs flat we could have accessed) was also good news.
Lunch was excellent, and in accordance with the advice of Research Nurse Rebecca Bradley I consumed limited quantities of alcohol (one small glass of fizz and another of white wine).
After lunch we opened the presents, which went very well. The last present was unwrapped just before 4PM. At this point I decided to call it a day and get my lift home. I walked to Boal Quay car park where the car was waiting.
Here are some pictures from the first part of Christmas Day…
One of my presents (I had already had a lot of stuff in advance, so most of the stuff I got on the day was small) was a stamp album with a few “Hagner” style pages. I devoted a little time to displaying some of the stamps that John from Musical Keys had given me while I was in hospital, and also to selecting some postcards to go in a little display album I had for them. I have yet to photograph the postcards, but here are some stamp pictures…
I took one more picture, of my largest railway map, spread out on the carpet:
My Boxing Day began on Australian time as I wanted to listen to the test match from the MCG. For a Pom it was a very satisfying listen as India finished day 1 strongly placed on 215-2 with Pujara and Kohli going well together. So far today is going quite well – the district nurse was happy with my temperature and blood pressure readings (the latter at 118/69 were about as good as they have been anytime in the last two months) and I although tired I am not experiencing any sort of adverse reaction to yesterday.
Some thoughts on the current test match, some mathematics, some climate change themed links and some photographs from an upcoming militgaria auction.
Although my first and main focus in on the current test match between England and India I also have my usual assortment of other goodies.
SWITCHBACK RIDE AT THE OVAL
When England were 120-1 at one point yesterday it looked like they were making a solid if slow start. India then took control of the game, England finishing the day 198-7, with Jos Buttler looking to marshal the tail in a recovery act (the first time this millennium that an uninterrupted test match day in England has yielded less than 200 runs). When Rashid was out fairly early this morning to make it 214-8 the question was whether the Broad and Anderson could last long enough to see England to 250. Thanks to some crazy Indian tactics the final England wicket did not fall until the total had reached 332, Buttler top scorer with 87 and Broad a useful 38. Buttler was last out when it finally occurred to India that it might not be a good idea to allow him singles at will and set a field that necessitated improvisation if he wanted to farm the strike.
The “tactic” of concentrating all one’s efforts on the tailender and declining to make any effort to pressurise the senior batter is not one I have ever approved of, and today saw one of it’s many ignominious failures.
Having failed yet again Jennings now surely has one innings left to save his test career. There are seven test matches for England, six overseas and one at home against recently elevated Ireland before the Aussies come calling, and it is those matches which can be used to bed in a new opening pair (it would be a major ask for an opener to make their debut against them) – and I do not see Jennings being one half of that pair. As I was writing this paragraph Stuart Broad picked up the first Indian wicket. Those who read my previous postknow that I have my own highly unorthodox solution to the problem of who the new opening pair should be (the driver of the bus I travelled home from work on yesterday, who is a follower of this blog, commented approvingly on the controversial element of this, so I am not alone).
If, as now seems to be one of two live possibilties (a draw and overall 3-1 being the other) England end this series with the scoreline 4-1 in their favour India will have chucked this match in the first part of day 2. Virat Kohli is a great player but on all available evidence he has precisely no aptitude for captaincy. In thirty years of being an avid cricket follower I cannot recall a finer demonstration of how not to polish off an innings.
First up solutions to the problems I set on Wednesday (all problems in this section come by way of brilliant.org):
WHICH STAR IS CLOSER?
First the answer:
The blue star has changed relative position more than the red, hence it must be closer, while all the other stars are so far distant that they have not changed relative position.
Here is Brian Moehring’s solution:
Here is another problem:
Three closely related pieces here.
Richard Murphy brings news of a campaign victory – the BBC has admitted to getting its coverage of climate change wrong and has warned people that it is not necessary to give airtime to climate change deniers for the sake of balance. Here is the end of Murphy’s pieceon this: Of course I am pleased.
These pictures all come from our militaria sale that will be happening on September 19th. Disclaimer: one of the items pictured is a relic from one of history’s vilest regimes – I show it because it is a remarkable specimen which has already attracted large amounts of interest.
Congratulations to England on their series win, a farewell to Alastair Cook who has announced his impending retirement from international cricket, some maths problems and solutions and some photographs.
This is going to be a long post because there is a massive story to cover concerning the cricket in addition to the match itself. I will also be including some mathematical problems and solutions and of course some of my own photographs.
ENGLAND WIN A THRILLER TO TAKE THE SERIES 3-1 WITH A MATCH TO GO
On Thursday when England stumbled to 86-6 after winning the toss and batting I was not expecting to be writing a piece of this nature. England failed to polish off the Indian first innings when they had a chance of a lead. When Stokes stuffed skipper Root (run out 48) it was 122-5 and England led by only 97. Then came another lower order fightback, and with Curran adding 46 to his first innings 78 England set India 245 to win. The match was settled while I was at the Mencap Beach Hut, Old Hunstanton on an NAS West Norfolk day out. As usual the key wicket was that of Kohli, and once he had gone India never got back into contention, Moeen Ali adding four wickets to the five he took in the first dig (he is very much a bowler who likes being at home – 91 wickets at 31 in England, 51 at 52 abroad) to help settle things. In neither innings did England’s top order deliver sufficiently (a recurring problem). Aside from Root’s 48 from his preferred no 4 slot in the second innings, the highest score from an England player in the top four was Jennings’ second innings 36. I am now going to through England player by player.
A N Cook – see next section
K K Jennings – a failure in the first innings, and in many ways a worse story in the second – an opener who gets as far as 36 should be settled in for the long haul. I believe that with the series safely won and the situation ripe for experimentation he should be dropped.
J E Root – the skipper dropped himself to no 4 in the second innings and it took a run out to get rid of him then.
J M Bairstow – he was sufficiently injured to prevent him from keeping but not apparently from batting, but if he is to play as a specialist batsman it should be at no 3.
B A Stokes – the new, responsible Stokes played well up to a point in this match but in the second innings he overdid the blocking to the point of handing the initiative to India. Also running out the skipper never looks great (save perhaps at Christchurch in 1978 when Botham, allegedly acting on instructions from vice captain Willis to do whatever was needed to up the run rate, stitched up skipper Boycott).
J C Buttler – one of only two England batsmen to have topped the 250 run mark thus far in the series (the other being the wunderkind Curran) and competent behind the stumps.
M M Ali – a useful batting effort after England’s disastrous start on day 1 and two good bowling performances. His mid-match promotion to number three (where he did recently hid a double century for Worcestershire v Yorkshire) shows how desperate England are to find a way for Root to bat at four.
S M Curran – about the only thing the youngster hasn’t done in this series is walk on water! He is establishing himself as a star player.
A U Rashid – a poor match with both bat and ball, but he is too good not be firing again soon.
S C J Broad – a solid match for the veteran new ball bowler. He has now drawn level with Sir Richard Hadlee in the all-time test wicket takers list.
J M Anderson – a quiet match for one of the all-time great swing bowlers, but even though he did not take many wickets he continued to command respect.
I will end the cricket part of this post by naming my team for The Oval.
FAREWELL ALASTAIR COOK
Alastair Cook, after 160 test matches, the last 158 in sequence (the longest unbroken run of appearances in test history, and not likely to be challenged any time soon) has announced that the last match of this series, at The Oval, will be his international swansong. This marks the end of an epoch not just for England but for test cricket – in many ways Cook is the last true test match batsman, having made his debut before T20 was a really major thing and unlike many who get seduced by the bright lights and big money at tournaments such as the IPL he abandoned short form cricket to concentrate on his test match career. His achievements in test cricket placve him firmly among the greats of the game, and I think he has timed his announcement exactly right, bowing out on his own terms (which he had more than earned the right to do) and before too many people began to ask just why he continued to be picked.
On the 2010-11 Ashes tour Alastair Cook had to most successful visit to that part of the world by anyone named Cook since Captain James called by in 1770, and the most successful by an England batsman since Hammond in 1928-9. He played three monumental innings in that series, a match saving 235 not out at the Gabba (also sometimes referred to as the ‘Gabbatoir’ on account of what often happens to visiting sides there), his 148 at Adelaide that set the stage for the Pietersen innings that put Australia right out of that game and the 189 at Sydney in the final game that ensured that the final scoreline for the series would reflect England’s dominance (a 2-2 draw would have been an utter travesty, and even 2-1 to England after a drawn final match would have looked better than Australia deserved).
I have no doubt that there will be occasions in the near future when England find themselves wishing for Cook’s cool head and fighting qualities. It will be hard to get used to an England order without the name Cook at the top of it.
From this huge cricket fan and devotee of test cricket the message is “Well done Alastair, and thanks for some fabulous memories, especially of the Aussies being humbled in their own backyards”.
An account of the first three matches of the test series between England and India plus some photographs
I have not written about the goings on in the current England versus India Test series as yet, because I have been busy writing about other stuff. This post repairs the omission.
MATCH 1 AT EDGBASTON
This was a nail-biter of a game, with fortunes swinging constantly as it progressed. When India were 115-6 in response to England’s 287 it looked like the home side were firmly in the driving seat, but Virat Kohli marshalled the lower order to such purpose that India trailed by only 13 on first innings. When England then slumped to 87-7 in their second innings it looked settled in India’s favour, but Sam Curran played a fine innings to give England a target of 194 to defend. England took wickets consistently, but not until Kohli was finally dislodged by a Ben Stokes yorker that trapped him plumb in front to make it 141-7, leaving nos 8, 9, 10 and 11 needing to cobble together a further 53 did the home side actually look favourites. They managed only 20 of those runs, and England were one up in the series. Curran was deservedly named player of the match (Kohli’s contribution of 149 and 51 was not enough to save his side from defeat, so it would have been wrong for him have got the award).
SECOND TEST MATCH AT LORD’S
India batted first in very difficult conditions. Nevertheless, and magnificently as England’s seamers bowled in conditions made to measure for them, a tally of 107 all out looked pretty definitively inadequate. When England were 131-5 themselves it looked less so, but a monster partnership between Bairstow and Woakes (in in place of the unavailable Stokes) effectively settled the outcome of the match. Woakes completed his maiden test century, being 137 not out when England declared, while Bairstow missed adding to his own tally of such scores by a mere four. India collapsed again (130 all out this time) and England were 2-0 up in the series. Anderson became the first bowler to take 100 test wickets at Lord’s in the course of this game, and only the second ever to 100 at a single venue anywhere (the first, Muttiah Muralitharan, did so at no fewer than three different venues). Woakes’ century meant that joined the select list of cricketers to feature on batting and bowling honours boards at Lord’s (Ian Botham is there, and among overseas cricketers Keith Miller is the sole person on both boards).
THE THIRD TEST AT TRENT BRIDGE
Before this match got underway England perpetrated a blunder, setting the scene for four and little bit days in which such things would become routine, by dropping Sam Curran after two matches in which he performed excellently to make way for Ben Stokes, now cleared of all criminal charges, to return to the squad. I personally would not have selected Stokes at all, but even had a gun at the head proposition forced me to do so nothing would have induced to me to drop Curran (yeah, pull that trigger if dropping Curran is the price to pay for you not doing so!).
Perhaps feeling after the first two matches that they could bowl India out on anything England put them in after winning the toss. India tallied 329, helped by some butter-fingered English fielding. The match was won and lost in the space of an hour and a half on day two when England being 54-0 in reply to 329 became England 128-9 in reply to 329. Buttler and Anderson got the final England first innings total up to 161. In their second innings India reached 352-7 before declaring leaving England two days and a mini-session to negotiate or 521 to score. Kohli had his second century of the series, having misssed out by three in the first innings. Cook and Jennings did the first part of their mammoth task, getting England to the close without losing a wicket. Both then fell early on day four, and two more quick wickets followed, at which point Buttler and Stokes joined forces. Their partnership at least showed some belated fight, and Buttler completed his maiden test hundred, while Stokes batted for a long time in largely defensive manner. Another clatter of wickets followed the breaking of the partnership and it was only some bloody-mindedness on the part of Rashid and Anderson (who had earlier in the game become only the second bowler to record 100 wickets in test matches against India, behind Muralitharan) took the game into a fifth day.
Somewhat bizarrely the Trent Bridge authorities decided to charge £10 for admission on a day that could have lasted for one ball (actually it managed to last for 17, meaning that anyone who paid to get in did so a rate of just under 59p per delivery). At the MCG in 1982, when again the final day could have lasted one ball, but there was also an outside chance of a home victory (37 needed with one wicket left BUT at the crease with no 11 Jeff Thomson was a certain Allan Robert Border) the authorities there did not charge admission. On that earlier occasion those who took advantage of the freebie got 85 minutes of gut-wrenching tension and one of the closest finishes of all time (England won by three runs after Thomson nicked one from Botham that would have had the umpire spreading his arms had the no11 simply ignored it, Tavare palmed the ball upwards and Geoff Miller took the rebound. Here, with in excess of 200 required and nos9 and 11 together at the crease there could only be one result (the largest number of runs that a last wicket pair have ever knocked off to win a first-class match is 76 way back in the fifties). Thus England were well beaten and lead the series 2-1.
England’s top four is their major current problem area. At Trent Bridge those positions were filled by:
England’s all-time leading test run scorer but also someone who has not had a decent score since the Melbourne featherbed in December.
Someone who is clearly out of his depth at this level (Jennings)
One of the three best batsmen currently eligible for test cricket (Root – Kohli and kiwi Kane Williamson are the other two) to be found anywhere in the world.
A fine young batsman who at this stage of his career is not a test match number four.
The above situation, India managing a decent first innings total and the fact that Root for once had a poor game put a lot of pressure on the middle order, and Buttler and Stokes kin the second inninsg apart, they folded under it.
My suggested squad for the fourth test is: A N Cook, R J Burns (someone with a magnificent record as an opening batsman who is probably ready for elevation to the test match ranks), B A Stokes, J E Root*, O Pope (I did not say that he is not a test match batsman, and I believe that he can be, and should be persevered with, just not as high as number four, a position he never occupies even for his county), J C Buttler+, C Woakes, S Curran, A Rashid, S C J Broad, J M Anderson. If two spinners are warranted then Bess comes in for Broad, with Curran sharing the new ball with Anderson (the latter being a change I might make anyway, having Broad as third seamer). When recovered from his injury Bairstow comes in to the squad, probably replacing Stokes at no 3, just possibly coming as opener, bringing down the curtain on Cook’s illustrious career. Some of these suggestions, especially even considering dropping Cook might be seen in certain quarters as heretical.
I still just about make England favourites for the series (after all, they are still ahead), but they need to respond better to opponents making decent totals – this not the first time in recent years that they have folded in response to a respectable but not massive total – it happened twice against South Africa last year.
For you hardy souls who have made it to the end of this post, here are some of my photos:
An account of England’s final triumph in the ODI series.
At just after 11AM UK time England sealed victory in the final ODI in Perth and with it a 4-1 series win. This post looks back at the match and the series.
DEFENDING MODEST TOTALS
Australia had gained a consolation win in the fourth match of the series in Adelaide (though they nearly contrived to lose a match that they had commenced by reducing England to 8-5). Thus, dead-rubber though it was this match had a bit of extra significance as another win for the Aussies would give them the undeserved respectability of a 3-2 scoreline. Also, it marked an international debut for the new ground in Perth, which replaces the WACA.
Put in to bat once again, England had a number of useful contributions with no one going on to play a really major innings, which was reflected in a final tally 259. Australia fared well in response for a time, but England bowled well, and after Stoinis (87) was dismissed nobody was able to take command for Australia. At 203-8 with Paine and the tail to score the runs it looked like England were home. Australia fought hard, but a four and then a six late in his innings not withstanding Paine simply could not score quick enough, and when Curran rattled his stumps with a yorker Australia were still 12 runs adrift. Curran, elder son of former Zimbabwe international Kevin Curran (the younger, Sam, is also widely tipped to play for England in the not too distant future), had bowled splendidly and this final wicket gave him figures of 5-35, beating the 5-46 taken by Andrew Tye in the England innings.
I was also glad that the final wicket to fall was that of Paine rather than Hazlewood because Paine’s innings here was the second time in three matches (after his 31 not out off 35 in Sydney) that he had played what appears to have been a useful innings but because of the slow rate at which he scored it was actually better for his batting average than it was for his team’s chances.
THE SERIES AS A WHOLE
England were even more dominant in this series than the 4-1 scoreline suggests. The evidence of Perth is that Australia’s wobble at Adelaide when chasing a total that was simply too low to pose a real threat was no coincidence, and that a tally of 250 in that match would have been ample for England to win. England won both the games in which they chased at the proverbial canter and were never seriously threatened when defending 300 in Sydney (OK, it was not until a mere three deliveries remained that Australia were so far adrift as to need no-balls from England to give them a chance, but the result of that match, in spite of Stoinis’ efforts in the later stages, was obvious from a long way out). The final match was certainly close, and there were times when Australia seemed favourites, but in the closing stages it never really felt like getting away from England.
A SIDELIGHT – INDIA IN SOUTH AFRICA
I congratulate the current Indian Test Match team on pulling off their victory in Johannesburg. The pitch and conditions were exactly the sort in which Indian sides of the past would have crumbled to an ignominious defeat (it was a green ‘un and the ball was getting up to all sorts of mischief for the quicker bowlers – if messrs Starc, Hazlewood and Cummins got a go on a pitch like that New Zealand’s 26 all out in 1954 would be under threat as the all-time lowest ever test match team total!). Commiserations to Dean Elgar who ground his way to an undefeated 86 in the final innings while his team mates surrendered to Bhuvanesh Kumar, Mohammed Shami and Ishant Sharma. The final calamity reads like something from 1990s England at their worst – SA subsiding from 124-1 to 177 all out.