A look at the opening exchanges in the England v India test series which got under way at 11:00 today.
The five match test series between England and India is under way, the first match at Trent Bridge having started at 11:00AM. This post looks at early developments.
England’s plans were thrown into confusion when Ben Stokes announced that he would be taking a break from cricket for mental health related reasons. I do not know when or even whether Stokes will return to competitive action – he should take as much time as he needs. However, neither that nor an injury to Ollie Pope excuse England’s actual selection. They have gone hypernegative, selecting only four front line bowlers none of whom is a spinner and none of whom is an out and out speedster. The team they have chosen is Burns, Sibley, Crawley, *Root, Bairstow, Lawrence, +Buttler, S Curran, Robinson, Broad, Anderson. I would have selected Hameed in place of Crawley, with him and Sibley then being in a bat off for who keeps their place in the side when Tom Abell, the man best equipped to bat three for England in this format, is fit again. I would not have selected Bairstow at all, going with Buttler at six and five genuine bowling options. My preferred line up from those available would have been Burns, Sibley, Hameed, *Root, Lawrence, +Buttler, S Curran, Robinson, Wood, Leach, Anderson. I regard the non-selection of Leach as criminal. In 16 test matches he has taken 62 wickets at 29.98 – that is his bowling average is the right side of 30 (only just admittedly) and he takes 3.875 wickets per match, which is around the par mark – most sides have five serious bowling options and to win you need to take 20 wickets, and 20/5 = 4. When then add in leaving out the only genuine speedster available, Wood, you have an attack that has no depth (only four front line options), and very little variety (three right arm fast mediums, all over six feet in height, with the only serious variation Curran’s left arm fast medium – no variation in pace whatsoever).
The side England have named has “picked to avoid defeat” rather than “picked to win” written all over it in bold capitals.
Far fewer problems for the visitors although they somewhat surprisingly left out Ashwin, probably the best finger spinner in the world at the moment. They decided, again on ground of batting strength to rely on Jadeja as their sole spin option, with Thakur at eight and the three specialist quicks, Siraj, Bumrah and Shami at 9, 10 and 11. The alternative once they had decided on four seamers would have been take a chance an Ashwin at seven. While debatable this selection is not definitively wrong as some of England’s are.
THE PLAY SO FAR
England won the toss and chose to bat, the right thing to do on a sunny morning with clouds forecast for later in the match. They were off to a dreadful start when Burns fell in the first over. Sibley and Crawley held out for a while before Crawley was removed for 27. That brought Root to the crease and he and Sibley saw things through to lunch at 61-2. Sibley’s typically patient innings ended just after lunch, for 18,making the score 66-3. Root and Bairstow are still together at 73-3. Root is on 18, while Bairstow has reached two and has survived 15 balls which is quite impressive by his recent test standards. Bairstow has just scored a four off Bumrah to make it 77-3. Bumrah, Shami and Siraj have a wicket a piece.
My usual sign off – the butterflies are out in force at the moment…
As I publish this post England are on 82-3, Root on 23 and Bairstow on 6.
A look back at two great cricketing occasions – the women’s test between England and India and the World Test Championship final between India and New Zealand.
Now that I have finished my series about my Scottish holiday (all posts therein can be accessed from here) it is time to tackle other things. In this post I look back two great cricket matches which overlapped (poor organization there). I start with:
ENGLAND WOMEN V INDIA WOMEN
This test match, the first women’s test match in two years and the first involving India Women for seven years was played between the 16th and 19th of June at Bristol. Not only do the women play very little test cricket, their domestic structure does not include long form cricket.
England were 269-6 at the close of the first day, having at one point been 230-2. Heather Knight, the captain, scored 95, Tammy Beaumont 66 and Nat Sciver 42. In occupation overnight were debutant Sophia Dunkley and veteran Katherine Brunt. Brunt fell early on the second morning to make ti 270-7 but Dunkley found excellent partners in Sophie Ecclestone who helped the eighth wicket to add 56 and then Anya Shrubsole who scored a blazing 47 as a further 70 accrued for the ninth wicket. At Shrubsole’s dismissal the score was 396-9 and Knight declared, leaving Dunkley with a debut innings of 74 not out to look back on. Sneh Rana, an off spinner, had 4-131 from 39.2 overs for India.
Smriti Mandhana and Shafali Verma gave the Indian first innings a magnificent start, putting on 167 before Verma, at the age 17, was out for 96 just missing a debut century. Some good bowling by England in the closing stages of the second day and an odd decision by skipper Mithali Raj to send in a nightwatcher with quite a lot of time left in the day (both the nightwatcher, Shikha Pandey, and Raj herself, obliged to go in anyway, fell in the closing stages) put India in trouble, a situation that got rapidly worse at the start of day three as more quick wickets fell. At one stage the score read 197-8, meaning that eight wickets had fallen for 30 runs. The ninth wicket provided some resistance and forced the taking of the second new ball. It took an absolute beauty from Katherine Brunt to break the stand, and no11 Jhulan Goswami got another good ball, this time from Anya Shrubsole, to end the innings at 231, meaning that, this being a four match, England were able to enforce the follow-on, which they quite correctly did. Ecclestone had taken 4-88 with her left arm spin.
Mandhana fell cheaply at the start of the Indian second innings, but Deepti Sharma, an off spinning all rounder who had batted well in the first Indian innings (she it was who orchestrated the tail end resistance), was promoted to no3 second time round, and by the end of day three she and Verma were still in occupation, with the score 83-1. After 16 runs had been added on the third morning Verma’s wonderful debut finally ended as she fell for 63, giving her 159 runs in the match. Just before lunch Deepti Sharma after the longest innings of her life finally fell for 54, making it 171-3, and the innings defeat avoided. The question now was could India hold out long enough to prevent England from being able to chase the runs down. Punam Raut dropped anchor at one end, but at the other Mithali Raj, Harmanpreet Kaur and Pooja Vastrakar all came and went fairly cheaply, with Raut being dismissed in between Kaur and Vastrakar. When Vastrakar fell India were 199-7, still only 34 to the good. Shikha Pandey joined Sneh Rana, and they put on 41, but even at that stage England seemed likely to win. However, Taniya Bhatia, the Indian wicket keeper, now joined Rana and they staunchly resisted everything England could produce. Rana was on 80 not out and might have had half an eye on a century and Bhatia 44 not out and definitely eyeing up a fifty, with the stand worth an unbeaten 104, only three short of the all time ninth wicket record in women’s test cricket when the umpires intervened, deciding it was too dark to continue (given how few overs were left, the draw had long since been certain). Ecclestone had again taken four wickets, although she also took some punishment as she tired in the closing stages, finishing with 4-118 this time. Shafali Verma’s two great innings on debut earned her player of the match, although Sneh Rana, and on the England side Knight (95 and wickets in both innings as well as being captain) and Ecclestone might also have been considered.
Both sides played well, and India showed tremendous fighting spirit to secure the draw the way they did at the end. A full scorecard can be viewed here.
WTC FINAL: NZ V IND
The inaugural World Test Championship had ended with India and New Zealand at the top, so these two teams convened at Southampton for the final. Six days were allotted, although the sixth would only come into play if weather interruptions necessitated it. In the end such was the weather between 18 and 23 June that even a sixth day was only just sufficient.
The first day was entirely washed out, and on day two New Zealand decided to go in without any spin options, picking three specialist pacers in Boult, Wagner and Southee plus a fast bowling all rounder in Jamieson and also at no7 Colin de Grandhomme who bowls medium pace. When they won the toss it was almost inevitable that they would choose to bowl with that team, and they duly did so. The truncated second day ended with India 146-3 and seemingly somewhat ahead of the game. New Zealand bowled fantastically on the third morning to reduce India to 217 all out, and by the close of the third day they were 101-2 in response, the second wicket having fallen just before the close. The fourth day, like the first, saw no play at all. Fortunately the fifth day dawned bright and clear. When NZ were 135-5, India looked to have wrested the initiative back, but the last five kiwi wickets put on a further 114 to give them a first innings lead of 32. India batted poorly in their second innings, with a number of poor dismissals. Rishabh Pant top scored with 41, as they managed a mere 170, leaving NZ just 139 to win. R Ashwin accounted for both openers with his off spin but there was to be no further success for India as Kane Williamson and Ross Taylor saw their side home, with Williamson racking up only the second individual 50+ score of the match in the process, giving him a match aggregate of 101 for once out (49 and 52 not out, the second and third highest scores of the match behind Devon Conway’s first innings 54). Kyle Jamieson with match figures of 7-61 from 46 overs, the most economical by a pace bowler in a test in England since Joel Garner in 1980, and a crucial 20 in his only innings was named Player of the Match. New Zealand thoroughly deserved their victory. While all of the kiwis bowled well, Ishant Sharma and Jasprit Bumrah were both below their best for India, Ashwin was not helped by the conditions, though he put in a fine effort and Jadeja as a bowler was a virtual passenger on that pitch and in those conditions.
I like the concept of the WTC but I think the following changes are necessary for it to work:
Every team to play the same number of matches in each cycle.
All series to count towards the WTC (immediately before the final England and New Zealand played a non-WTC series, which New Zealand won and won well).
Today has seen confirmation that the final of the World Test Championship will take place at The Ageas Bowl, and this is my response to that news.
Today saw confirmation that the first final of the World Test Championship, between India and New Zealand will take place at the Ageas Bowl, near Southampton. The match is scheduled for 18-22 June. The question had been whether it could be staged at Lord’s or not.
THE PROS AND CONS
From a purely cricketing point of view the Ageas Bowl is a superior venue to Lord’s – it will produce a good pitch on which cricketer’s of all types will be able to get into the game, whereas it would only take one overcast day at Lord’s for the match to settled in favour of whoever was bowling at the time, and spinners would find little assistance at any stage of proceedings.
Of course, from a historical and emotional point of view Lord’s, the home of cricket, would have been far superior to the Ageas Bowl.
However, heretical as it will seem to many devoted cricket followers, I would never have had Lord’s in the equation, for all its history and status as a ground – had I been going for a London venue, for which I can see the logic, I would have preferred The Oval, a ground with a grand history in it’s own right, and far more likely to provide a really good match than Lord’s.
As it is, I expect a cracking game between these two sides.
WHY THE AGEAS BOWL?
The Ageas Bowl is one of two grounds in England, the other being Old Trafford, to have hotel built into it, meaning that if the health situation warrants it can easily be turned into a bio-secure bubble, as it was last summer. For all the Prime Minister’s optimism regarding the health situation and his so called ‘road map out of lockdown’, Chris Whitty has been sounding a much more cautious note, and I for one trust him more than I do Johnson. So it seems do the cricketing powers that be who came to this decision.
To put it mildly my expectation is that ordinary spectators will not have to worry about getting there in any case, although it is possible that they will be allowed. The Ageas bowl has a reputation for not being accessible, and there is some justice in that. I did a bit of research based on a hypothetical journey from my home in North Lynn to the Ageas bowl and it went as follows:
Use of google maps revealed that the nearest train station to the ground is Southampton Airport Parkway.
If one can be at that station by 9:27AM there is a bus that runs to the ground and would arrive at 9:45AM. Otherwise, one either has a seriously long walk (over an hour, and not terribly pleasant either by the look of it), or one has to fork out for a taxi on top of other expenses (this is a station serving an airport, so taxis will be available, but doubtless at a premium price).
To arrive at Southampton Airport Parkway at 9:27 I would have to be on the 5:39 train out of Lynn, which means leaving my bungalow by 5:15 at the latest, I would then have to change at King’s Cross to the Victoria line, board a mainline train at Victoria and change at Clapham Junction to the train that calls at Southampton Airport Parkway. If and only if all of these connections worked as they are supposed to I would arrive at Southampton Airport Parkway at 9:13, giving me 14 minutes to be aboard the bus. With four stages at which things could go wrong this hypothetical journey would be a colossal (and doubtless expensive) gamble.
NB it is notoriously difficult to get from Southampton town centre itself to the ground, so at least to that extent my methodology, anchoring to Southampton Airport Parkway, is sound.
HOW THE MATCH SHOULD BE APPROACHED
This is a one-off match, with no ‘rest of the series’ or ‘league table position’ to be thought about, so both sides should look askance at the very idea of a draw and should be eager to force a definite result. I would personally favour allowing extra days, or even making this officially the 100th timeless test ever to be played, and the first such since WWII, in order that we do have a definite winner. In the Centenary Test Match of 1977 Mike Brearley ordered his side to keep going for an unlikely final innings target of 463, even though a defeat was the likely outcome of so doing, and stuck to that intent even going into the final session with 110 needed and only five wickets standing. England ultimately lost by 45 runs, the same result and margin as the inaugural test match 100 years earlier, but Brearley was right to scorn the draw in a one-off match. Brearley talks about the match in “The Art of Captaincy”, while Greg Chappell (Aussie skipper in the match in question) covers it in some detail in “The 100th Summer”.
This is my account of the second day of the test match in Chennai, though I start by congratulation Sixers on their triumph in the Big Bash League – they won very comfortably over Scorchers in the final, with Vince scoring 95. About the only thing they could have done better was to have given the final over to Vince with occasional medium pace, in view of the fact that they had 30 to defend and AJ Tye was one of the batters in for the Scorchers.
ENGLAND IN CONTROL
England started the day on 263-3, Root 128 not out and Stokes coming in as the new batter after the loss of Sibley. Stokes and Root were still in occupation at lunch and the score had moved past 350, with Stokes starting to score rapidly. Stokes fell for 82 to make it 387-4, Pope was in next and contributed 34, his dismissal making it 473-5. Four runs after that Root finally fell for a magnificent 218, the highest score ever by a visiting batter at this venue, beating the 210 Dean Jones made in the first innings of the second ever tied test in 1986. Two of the other three doubles by overseas batters at this ground came in a single innings during the 1984-5 tour when Gatting and Fowler scored 207 and 201. Buttler was never at his most convincing, and he and Archer fell in successive balls to Ishant Sharma making it 525-8, with Leach walking out to join his Somerset colleague Bess. A ninth wicket should have fallen when Bess hit one straight to Rohit Sharma, but India’s opener was obviously already thinking about batting and dropped an absolute dolly of a catch. By the close England had reached 555-8, with Bess unbeaten on 28, and Leach on 6, which included a straight driven four. Ominously for India after almost two whole days of looking like an absolute road the pitch started offering turn and bounce just before the end of day two, something that Bess and Leach will have noted.
For India Jasprit Bumrah looked formidable at all times, Ishant Sharma bowled economically and his two wickets were just reward for his efforts, Ashwin commanded respect most of the time, but the two younger spinners, Washington Sundar and Shahbaz Nadeem, both looked inadequate. Also in picking Sundar and Nadeem alongside Ashwin and overlooking Kuldeep Yadav India had left themselves with three very orthodox finger spinners. Yadav would have posed more of a challenge to England.
India were guilty of frequent no-balling, erring 19 times in total in this regard. In this match the the third umpire has been given sole responsibility for calling no-balls, and each such call was indicated by the sounding of a klaxon. Kohli was also at fault for his use of DRS – India lost all three of their of reviews in a fairly short period of time, and two were burned up in a manner that would have had Tim Paine blushing. The third (actually chronologically the second) was less outrageous, but DRS is supposed to be for the obvious mistake, not for use in an attempt to swing a close one your way, and the ball was clearly going over the top of the stumps. Having followed the series in Australia closely and heard almost every ball of this England innings thus far I am going to risk bringing down a tide of wrath on my head by saying that Rahane is a far superior skipper to Kohli, and that he should have that job, while Kohli plays purely as a batter. After these reviews had been burned a few close calls went against India, but they had only themselves to blame for the fact that they could not send them upstairs.
England will bat on tomorrow – their approach has made it clear that they are hoping to bat just the once in this game, unless the face either a) a tiny chase in the fourth innings or b)circumstances indicate they would be best served by having a lash for 20 to 30 overs before putting India back in for the fourth innings. An example of situation b could arise if England make say 580 in total, India are all out for a total in the upper 300s, either just avoiding the follow on or being close enough to doing so that it makes sense to rest the bowlers, somewhere around halfway through day four, and England look to score as many as they can be midway through the evening session and then get India back in. It would therefore make little sense to declare at this point – when Buttler and Archer fell in successive balls there would have been a case for a declaration to give a tired Indian side a brief mini-session to negotiate today. Ishant Sharma is on 299 test wickets, while Root moved past Alec Stewart to third on the all time list of England test run scorers, and you have to go down the list to Hanmond, 7,249 at 58.45 to find someone with a higher average. Hammond also features in another context here – the last England batter to score 150+ in an innings of each of three straight test matches was Hammond in 1928, when he scored 251 in the first innings at Sydney, 200 in the first innings of the next match at Melbourne and 119 not out and 177 in the fourth match at Adelaide. Gooch on 8,900 is next in Root’s sights and he may well get there this series the way he is going. Cook, on 12,472 is further in the distance, but I am now firmly expecting Root to get there before he is done. England need to win this series by two clear matches to make the final of the World Test Championship, while a series win of any sort will put India into the final, and the results not covered in the foregoing will see Australia face New Zealand in that final (the black caps are already booked in thanks to Australia’s very late cancellation of their trip to South Africa).
For the moment, England have done a fine job over these two days, but even with the pitch apparently starting to offer more to the bowlers taking 20 wickets will not be an easy task.
A combination of the cricket and solidly grey skies mean that I have few new bird pics, so I got one of my favourite old railway maps out to augment the gallery…
A look back at the recent Australia v India test match, and at today’s amazing BBL game between Hobart Hurricanes and Brisbane Heat, plus some thoughts on the BBL’s innovations for this year.
No, on this occasion my title does not refer to Mohammad Irfan and Poonam Yadav, though in another context it could! Instead I refer to the longest and shortest formats of top level cricket – 5-day test cricket and T20.
INDIA MAKE IT 1-1 WITH VICTORY AT MELBOURNE
India had lost the first match of the series at Adelaide after being bowled out for 36 in their second innings (see this post for more on that game), and Kohli had departed from the squad to be present at the birth of his child. Australia batted first, and with Bumrah and Ashwin featuring prominently, were dismissed for 195, no one managing to reach 50. India responded with a determined batting effort led by stand-in skipper Rahane who redeemed himself for running out Kohli in Adelaide by reaching a gritty century, while Ravindra Jadeja, one of the finest of contemporary all-rounders and a brilliant fielder to boot, contributed 62 to the cause, and India built a first innings lead of 131. At one point it looked like they might not have to bat again, but young Cameron Green and Pat Cummins resisted stoutly to take Australia into credit and the game into a fourth day. Green and Cummins continued their partnership on the fourth morning, but once they were separated resistance was limited. For the second time in the match no Aussie managed a fifty, but they did just reach 200 before Hazlewood shouldered arms to a straight one and was bowled to end the innings. Low totals have sometimes been defended, but very rarely as low as 70, and India lost only two wickets in reaching their goal.
Steve Smith failed twice, Labuschagne managed some resistance in the first innings but not a substantial score, and Cameron Green’s promise aside there do not appear to many sources of runs for Australia at the moment, and bowlers, even such fine ones as Australia possess, cannot win matches if they don’t have anything to defend. David Warner returns for the next match at the SCG, with presumably the shockingly out of form and lacking in confidence Joe Burns dropping out. Also waiting in the wings, though currently not fully fit for action, is Will Pucovski who has produced some Ponsfordesque scores for Victoria. Travis Head in the Aussie middle order has what appears to be a respectable batting average, but what his average does not show is the fact that he has a severe case of ‘Watsonitis’ – he scores runs, but never seems able to turn a good start into a really major innings.
India meanwhile are strengthened by the return from injury of Rohit Sharma, who will presumably resume his opening berth alongside Agarwal.
This section is provoked by today’s astonishing game between Hobart Hurricanes and Brisbane Heat (the Hurricanes were nominally the home team, even though the match was taking place at the Gabba!)
Hurricanes batted first, and after 10 overs were 65-3 with Malan going well and Ingram newly arrived at the other end. Malan fell not long after, bringing Colin Ingram and Tim David together. They shared a good partnership, but Hurricanes failed to take advantage of the opportunity to claim the Power Surge with two destructive hitters together at the crease. After 18 overs they were 140-6, and had to take the Power Surge. Mujeeb Ur Rahman, on of three Afghan spinners (Rashid Khan, leg spin, and Zahir Khan, left arm wrist spin, being the others) to have BBL contracts bowled the 19th, and it was a quite superb over, not only going for only one run, but also yielding three wickets, giving Mujeeb 5-15 from his four overs. The 20th over was better for the Hurricanes, although they only lasted four balls of it, that was enough to boost their total by nine. That gave them precisely 150 to defend, a fairly modest total by BBL standards.
However, the Hurricanes were as brilliant at the start of their bowling innings as they had been poor in the second half of their batting innings, and the Heat were 8-3 early on and looking in some trouble. Then Max Bryant and Lewis Gregory shared an excellent partnership and seemed to have at least secured their side the Bash Boost bonus point for being ahead after 10 overs. Bryant was out to the penultimate ball of the ninth, making it 60-4, six need for the Bash Boost point. However, a combination of good bowling and tentative batting saw them just miss out. Gregory’s dismissal in the 11th over made it 66-5, and brought Bazley into join Peirson. They were still together at the end of the 14th, at which point Heat took the Power Surge. Overall these two overs were good for the Heat, the loss of Peirson not withstanding, and Heat needed 31 from 24 balls for the win. With Bazley going well and Steketee connecting with a couple of decent blows that came down to 15 off 12 balls. The 19th started with two dots, but then Bazley hit a six to reduce the task to nine off nine balls. The over ended with Heat needing seven to win. That came down to four off two balls with Steketee on strike. Steketee got two off the penultimate ball, and that meant two needed off one ball, or one to take it to a Super Over. Steketee went for the tying run off that final ball, but it was judged that although his bat was over the line before the bails were dislodged it was also in the air, and he was given run out, to make it 149-8 and victory for the Hurricanes by one run.
It was a magnificent game, but I would have preferred the Heat to win so that the Hurricanes got properly punished for mishandling the second half of their batting innings.
ON #BBL10’S INNOVATIONS
There have been three innovations to this year’s BBL, two which had their own impact on today’s game. They are: the Bash Boost point for the team who are ahead at the ten over mark, the Power Surge (instead of six overs of power play restrictions at the start of the innings there are four, with two more to be claimed at any time after the tenth over by the batting side) and the ‘x-factor sub’, whereby after 10 overs of the first innings a player who has a) not batted and b) bowled no more than one over can be replaced by a designated ‘x-factor’ sub.
I am a huge fan of the Bash Boost point, it has created points of interest in games which would otherwise have been dead, and today it was very closely fought.
I like the concept of the Power Surge, but it requires flexibility of thought, and not many sides have thus far shown that. I would say that all things being equal the ideal time to take it would be at the end of the 15th, using it as a launch pad for the final quarter of the innings. One might go earlier in two situations: the openers are still together after 10 overs and you want to use the Power Surge to launch you towards a really huge total, and also if you have lost a few wickets, your innings needs a shot in the arm and/or you want to ensure that you have two decent batters to use the Power Surge. I can see no case for delaying it right to the end, and I think the Hurricanes stuffed up big time, for all that it did not end up costing them, in their own innings – they should have taken the Power Surge while Ingram, who could really have cashed in on it was still there.
As for the ‘x-factor sub’, that belongs in the circular file. I fully understand the need for ‘concussion protocol subs’, but basically I remain convinced that teams should finish the match containing the same players who started it.
A final recommendation for the BBL: for goodness sake use the DRS – unlike football with the disastrous VAR we actually have a method of using technology to help with decisions that usually works, and it should be automatic to use it.
Today in my all-time XIs series I look at a test playing line up and put myself in the firing line for 1.3 billion of the game’s most avid fans – yes it’s India in the spotlight.
Welcome to the latest of my variations on an ‘All Time XIs‘ theme. Today for only the second time since starting this series I am doing a test XI, and I my choice puts me in the firing line of 1.3 billion avid cricket fans – yes it is India in the spotlight today. I am going to begin from players whp featured in the time that I have been following the game, and will then move to on the all-time element of the selection.
INDIA FROM MY CRICKET LIFETIME
For this element of the post I have set my cut off point at that 1990 series in England – I caught snatches of the 1986 series, but the 1990 one is the earliest involving India of which I can claim genuine recollection (England should have visited India in 1988-9 but that tour was cancelled for political reasons).
Mayank Agarwal – 11 test matches, 17 innings, 974 runs at 57.29, no not outs to boost the average. He has made a sensational start at the highest level, and is also part of a tremendously successful opening partnership with…
Rohit Sharma – 2,164 runs at 46.54 in test cricket sounds good but a little short of true greatness. However, Sharma was initially played at test level as a middle order batter, and his results since being promoted to the top of the order have been utterly outstanding.
Rahul Dravid – 13,288 test runs at 52.31 for ‘the wall’. In the 2002 series, he and Michael Vaughan of England took it in turns to produce huge scores. Dravid assisted in one of test cricket’s greatest turnarounds in 2001, when India were made to follow on and emerged victorious by 171 runs, and I shall have more to say about this match in due time.
Sachin Tendulkar – more runs and more hundreds (precisely 100 of them) in international cricket than anyone else in the game’s history. He was one of the few batters of his era who could genuinely claim to have had the whip hand on Shane Warne. I first saw him in that 1990 series when he was 17 years of age, and his personal highlights included a maiden test century and an astonishing running catch (he covered at least 30 metres to get to the ball).
*Virat Kohli – one of the top few batters in the world today (the Aussies Smith and Labuschagne both have higher test averages, and Kiwi skipper Kane Williamson bears comparison, and heterodox as I am about such matters I would also when it comes to long form batting throw Ellyse Perry into the mix), and has certainly already achieved enough to be counted among the greats.
+Mahendra Singh Dhoni– wicket keeper and dashing middle order batter. Of the contenders for the gloves he alone has a batting record the enables me to select five front line bowlers.
Ravindra Jadeja – left arm orthodox spinner, lower middle order batter and superb fielder. His averages are the correct way round (35 with the bat and 24 with the ball).
Kapil Dev – right arm medium fast, attacking lower middle order batter. He spent much of his career with no pace support whatsoever, having to attempt to be the spearhead of an attack that was often moderate. At Lord’s in that 1990 series he played an innings that should have saved his side from defeat, though it did not. Facing 653-4 declared (Gooch 333) India were 430-9, with Narendra Hirwani, a fine leg spinner who had captured 16 West Indian wickets on test debut but a genuine no11 bat at the other end, when Kapil faced off spinner Eddie Hemmings. There were four balls left in the over, and Kapil’s task was to score 24 to avert the follow-on. He proceeded to hit each of those last four balls for six to accomplish the task. Hirwani, as predicted, did not last long, and England had a lead of 199. Gooch crashed a rapid 123 in that second England innings (a record 456 runs in a test match, the triple century/ century double was subsequently emulated by Sri Lanka’s Kumar Sangakkara), and India collapsed in the fourth innings of the match, giving England what turned out to be the only victory of the series.
Anil Kumble – leg spinner, lower order batter. One of only two bowlers, the other being Jim Laker, to have taken all 10 wickets in a test innings, and the third leading test wicket taker of all time.
Mohammed Shami – right arm fast bowler. India has not generally been known for producing out and out quick bowlers, but Shami’s 180 wickets at 27.49 are a testament to his effectiveness.
Jasprit Bumrah– right arm fast bowler, 14 test matches, 68 wickets at 20.33. Save for when the West Indies were in their pomp visiting fast bowlers have rarely been able to claim to have blitzed the Aussies in their own backyard. Bumrah, who virtually settled the destiny of the Melbourne test of 2018, and with it the Border-Gavaskar trophy, with a devastating spell in the Australian first innings is one of the exceptions.
This combination boasts a stellar top five, a wicket keeping all rounder at six, and five varied and talented bowlers, the first three of whom can all contribute with the bat as well. I believe that Kapil Dev as third seamer in a top quality attack rather than spearhead in a moderate one, which was too often the role he had to play, would be even finer than he was in real life. Now we look at the…
This section begins with an explanation (nb not an excuse, there being in my opinion nothing to excuse) of one of my choices:
JADEJA V ASHWIN
The choice for the second spinner role was really between these two, and there will be many wondering at the absence of Mr Ashwin. Here then is the explanation:
Jadeja – 1,869 test runs at 35.24, 213 test wickets at 24.62. Ashwin – 2,389 test runs at 28.10, 365 wickets at 25.43
Jadeja outdoes Ashwin both with bat and ball, which is why he gets the nod from me.
Now we on to the other honourable mention to get his own subsection…
THE VERY VERY SPECIAL INNINGS
Against the mighty Aussies in 2001 Vangipurappu Venkata Sai Laxman came in in the second innings with India having followed on and already four down and still some way behind. He proceeded to score 281, at the time the highest individual test score ever made by an Indian, India reached 657-7 declared (Dravid 180 as well), and with 383 to defend rolled Australia for 212 to win by 171 runs. India took the next match and with it the series as well – Laxman in one brilliant, brutal innings had upended the entire series. Laxman finished his career with 8,781 test runs at 45.24, a very respectable record, but not quite on a par with the middle order batters I actually selected – India has always been hugely strong in this department.
OTHER HONOURABLE MENTIONS
Two other opening batters besides my chosen pair featured in my thoughts – Virender Sehwag, scorer of two test triple hundreds, and a shoo-in for Agarwal’s partner had I decided not go with the known effective partnership, and Navjot Singh Sidhu, an attack minded opener in the 1990s, who had a fine test record, but not quite fine enough to make the cut. For much of my time as a cricket follower India have struggled to find openers, often selecting makeweights to see of the new ball before the folks in the middle order take control (Deep Dasgupta, Shiv Sunder Das, Manoj Prabhakar and Sanjay Bangar, the last two of whom also served as opening bowlers are four examples that I can remember). In the middle of the order Mohammed Azharruddin, Sourav Gangulyand Vinod Kambli were three of the highest quality performers to have missed out, although the first named is of course tainted by his association with match fixing. Cheteshwar Pujara was a candidate for the no 3 slot I awarded to Dravid, but for me ‘the wall’ just shades it. Kiran More, Nayan Mongia, Rishabh Pant and current incumbent Wriddhiman Saha are a fine foursome of glove men all of whom would have their advocates. Among the spinners I passed over were Chauhan and Raju in the 1990s, Harbhajan Singh in the early 2000s and Narendra Hirwani the leg spinner who took 16 on debut but did little else in his career. Also, while mentioning Indian spinners who I have been privileged to have witnessed in action I cannot fail to mention Poonam Yadav, who nearly bowled her country to this years T20 world cup. The seam bowling department offered fewer alternatives, but Javagal Srinath, the first Indian bowler of genuine pace who I ever saw, left arm fast medium Zaheer Khan and dependable fast medium Bhuvneshwar Kumarwould all have their advocates, but I had already inked Kapil in the for role of third seamer and wanted the two out and out quick bowlers of the current era as my shock bowlers.
INDIA ALL TIME
I will only mention the players I have not already covered, before listing the batting order in full and moving on to the honourable mentions.
Sunil Gavaskar has a test record that absolutely demands inclusion – he was the first to 10,000 test runs and made a good portion of those runs against the West Indies when they were stacked with fast bowlers. I could not include him in the team from my time as a cricket follower, because he was finishing his great career just as my interest in cricket began to develop. I saw one reminder of his past glories, when he batted for The Rest of The World v the MCC in the MCC Bicentenary match and made a chanceless century, never giving the bowlers a sniff.
Cottari K Nayudu was an off spinning all rounder and India’s first ever test captain. His seven test matches left him with a modest looking record at that level, but his first class record, built up over a span of 46 years looks very impressive indeed.
Syed Kirmani is generally considered to be have been India’s greatest wicket keeper.
Amar Singh was a shooting star across the cricketing sky, India’s first great fast bowler, and for many years the only one of international repute that his country produced. His seven test appearances produced 28 wickets at 30.69, but it is record in 92 first class appearances, 506 wickets at 18.35 that gets him the nod from me, especially given what cricket in India was like in that period.
Palwankar Baloo was a left arm spinner who played his cricket before India was a test playing nation, and had to contend with huge prejudice as a member of a low caste. Unlike the various Jam Sahebs, Maharajas and Nawabs who were able to strut their stuff in English county cricket he had to settle for those games people would pick him for in India. The 33 games he played at first class level yielded him 179 wickets at 15.31 each. Although I am open to correction on this I believe he is also the only first class cricketer to share a name with a character from the Jungle Book (Baloo is the big brown bear who teaches Mowgli the law of the jungle in Rudyard Kipling’s magnum opus).
Thus my all-time Indian team in batting order is: 1)Sunil Gavaskar 2)Mayant Agarwal who in spite of his short career to date holds his position 3)Rahul Dravid 4)Sachin Tendulkar 5)*Virat Kohli 6)Cottari K Nayudu 7)Kapil Dev 8)+Syed Kirmani 9)Amar Singh 10)Palwankar Baloo 11)Jasprit Bumrah
This combination features a stellar top five, 6,7 and 8 all capable of useful runs, and three superb specialist bowlers. The wicket keeper is top drawer. The bowling attack features two genuinely fast bowlers, Kapil Dev as third seamer and two contrasting spinners in Baloo (left arm orthodox) and Nayudu (off spin).
Other than those mentioned earlier the only other opener I considered was Vijay Merchant, who had the second highest first class average of anyone at 71.22. His test average was a mere 47 however, a massive decline on his first class output for reasons I shall go into later, and for this reason I reluctantly ruled him out. In the middle order Vijay Hazare, Pahlan Umrigar and Gundappa Viswanath would all have their advocates, will I also had to ignore the possessor of the 4th highest first class score in history, Bhausaheb Nimbalkar. Among all rounders the biggest miss was Mulvantrai Himmatlal ‘Vinoo’ Mankad, who completed the double of 1,000 runs and 100 wickets in test cricket in his 23rd match (only Botham has required fewer), but I was determined to select Baloo, which meant that there would be less scope for Mankad’s left arm spin, so in the interests of balance I left him out. My view on the mode of dismissal named after him is that it is the batter who is trying to gain an unfair advantage by leaving the ground earlier, and if the bowler spots and runs them out well done to them, although delaying before going into delivery stride in the hope of catching a batter napping is taking things a little too far. Dattu Phadkar, a middle order batter who was often used as an opening bowler was another who could have been considered. With all due respect to Messrs Bedi, Prasanna and Venkataraghavan who each had more than respectable records the only one of the great 1970s spinners I really regretted not being able to find a place for was Bhagwath Chandrasekhar the leg spinner who was a genuine original. His right arm was withered by polio, and that was the arm he bowled with. Among specialist pace bowlers there are, as I have previously indicated, few contenders, but Chetan Sharma had has moments in the 1980s. It is now time for…
A CODA ON THE DOMINANCE OF THE BAT IN INDIAN CRICKET
For a long time first class matches in India were timeless, which is to say they were played out until a definite result was reached. Some of the scores were astronomical, with the only two first class matches to have had aggregates of over 2,000 runs both played in India. I will use one match as a case study:
BOMBAY V MAHARASHTRA 1948
This match featured in Patrick Murphy’s “Fifty Incredible Cricket Matches”, and he used a phrase about matches such as this one that I just love “a meaningless fiesta for Frindalls” (William Howard Frindall, aka ‘Bearders’, was the second chronologically of two legendary statisticians to have initials WHF, the other being William Henry Ferguson). Bombay scored 651-9 declared in their first innings, Maharashtra made 407 in response, and Bombay declined to enforce the follow-on, racking up 714-8 declared at the second time of asking to set Maharashtra 959 to win. Maharashtra managed 604 of these, losing by 354 runs in a match that saw 2,376 runs and 37 wickets, the highest aggregate for any first class match ever. Three batters notched up twin centuries, Uday Merchant (nb Uday, not the famous Vijay) and Dattu Phadkar for Bombay, and Madhusudan Rege for Maharashtra. Phadkar was a test regular, Rege played one test match in which he aggregated 15, and even in first class cricket averaged only 37 in all, while Merchant had a first class average of 55.78 but was never picked for a test match, and there were three other individual centuries. What this kind of thing meant was that Indian bowlers tended to operate under a collective inferiority complex, while the batters would flounder any time they faced other than a shirt front. Fred Trueman, who bowled against Pahlan Umrigar in the 1952 test series (at his retirement Umrigar held a fistful of Indian test records), and claimed that there were times when he was bowling and the square leg umpire was nearer the stumps than Umrigar, the batter, and while this story may have grown in the telling, it would have been an exaggeration rather than a complete invention. This is why I would need a lot of convincing of the actual merits of some of those who had fine looking batting records in those years, while any bowler with a good looking record is likely to get huge credit, and it is one reason why I make no apology for my choices of Amar Singh and Palwankar Baloo in my All Time Indian XI.
LINKS AND PHOTOGRAPHS
We have reached the end of our journey through Indian cricket, and it only remains to put in a couple of links before applying my usual sign off. First, finishing with the cricket I draw your attention to the pinchhitter’s latest offering, which will certainly repay a read. Finally, a splendid piece on whyevolutionistrue in defence of governor Andrew Cuomo who has been pilloried by religious zealots for daring to not give god full credit for such success as has been had in the fight against Covid-19. And now, in my own distinctive way it is time to call ‘Time’:
Some thoughts on the recently concluded India – South Africa test series, some stuff about the environment and climate change and some photographs.
This post looks at the just concluded test series between India and South Africa, and also features a couple of other things plus some photographs.
AN APPROPRIATE END TO AN EXTRAORDINARILY ONE SIDED SERIES
India had already settled the series by winning huge victories in the first two games, but they did not rest on their laurels. A batting performance led by Rohit Sharma (212) and Ajinkya Rahane (115) saw India rack up 497-9 declared over most of the first two days. In the last stages of day 2 they captured two cheap South African wickets. Day 3 was the day the match was settled – South Africa were rolled for 162 in their first innings and then by the close were eight down in the second with stubborn opener Dean Elgar injured and unlikely to resume his innings. The final wicket fell at the start of day 4, with Elgar as suspected not resuming his innings. The second South African innings mustered a mere 133, making the final margin a whopping innings and 202 runs.
India are traditionally hard to beat at home, but there were two factors about this series that should be seriously concerning for the rest of the cricket world:
Historically, although they have had some great opening batters down the years India have not had many great opening pairs – their main batting strength has always been in the middle of the order, and they have tended to struggle against quick bowling. In this series a key feature of their success was that Rohit Sharma and Mayant Agarwalboth had excellent series at the top of the order, with Rohit producing a string of scores that Bradman in his pomp would have been proud of.
India’s successes have historically been dependent on spin bowlers taking wickets, with genuine pace bowlers few and far between. In this series, even with Jasprit Bumrahunavailable due to injury it has been the quicker bowlers who have done the most damage.
In short not only have India made South Africa look very ordinary indeed, they have also shown massive strength in what have been historically their two greatest problem areas – fast bowling and top order batting.On fast bowling the following graphic from cricviz analyst further emphasises the point:
The good average recorded by Ireland’s pace bowlers was of course assisted by one of England’s most ignominious recent batting collapses (85 all out at Lord’s).
The other two matches don’t read much if any better for South Africa than this one – the first match saw India score 502-7 declared and 322-4 declared while SA managed 431 and 191, to go down by 202 runs, while the second saw India tally 601-5 declared against 276 and 189 by their opponents, for a margin of an innings and 136 runs. India in this series have thus tallied 1922-25 for an average of 76.88 runs per wicket, while South Africa have scored 1382-59, for an average of 23.42 per wicket. At the back end of 2019 India soundly beat Australia in Australia, while this summer England were more than a little fortunate to emerge from a home series against Australia with a 2-2 scoreline. The series just concluded shows that India are now even better than they were a year ago. Can England with what looks like a sensible test squad manage an impressive series in New Zealand?
For more detail about the recently concluded India – South Africa series start by clicking here.
ON THE ENVIRONMENT
I have a number of things on this important issue to share with you. I start by drawing your attention to Richard Murphy of Tax Research UK on the subject of Sustainable Cost Accounting:
Here is a map showing what The British Isles could look like in the year 2100 if we do nothing:
I end this section with a note about the London Mayoral Elections. The incumbent Sadiq Khan is failing to help himself, the Tory vote will be split between the official Tory candidate Shaun Bailey and the nominally Independent but actually thorough-going Tory Rory Stewart, which all leaves Green candidate Sian Berry (3rd place in 2016) in with a very good chance of winning the election. I have already indicated that if I had a vote then under the system used for these elections my first preference would go to Sian Berry, and my second to Sadiq Khan as an insurance policy against either Tory getting in and my message to any one who is reading this and does have a vote is to do likewise – let’s get London a Green mayor.
A look at the permutations for the semi-finals of the Men’s Cricket World Cup (nb the inaugural Women’s Cricket World Cup took place in 1973, two years before the men got started), plus a shed,load of photographs.
The 2019 cricket men’s world cup semi-finals are all but sorted now. This post examines the possible permutations.
Afghanistan, The West Indies, Sri Lanka, South Africa, Bangladesh and Pakistan are heading home after the group stage unless Pakistan can beat Bangladesh by 320 runs or thereabouts (due to the workings of “net run rates” Pakistan cannot go through if Bangladesh bat first).
LOOKING FORWARD TO THE SEMIS
Barring an astonishing miracle result for Pakistan against Bangladesh the semi finals will be Australia v New Zealand and England v India. Three of these four teams definitely deserve to be there, while New Zealand are somewhat fortunate, and arrive in the semi-finals on a serious downturn having been thumped in their last two games, one by England.
SEMI FINAL 1: AUSTRALIA V NEW ZEALAND
Australia will be heavy favourites for this one, having played well throughout, while New Zealand have been poor in their last two games. Although I would love to see New Zealand deliver a sucker punch to the Aussies I cannot see it happening, therefore my prediction for this one is that Australia will win and go through to the final.
SEMI FINAL 2: ENGLAND V INDIA
Having put themselves under pressure by indifferent early from England have hit top gear just in time, despatching India and New Zealand in their last two games, both by comfortable margins. India had already secured their place in the semifinals by the time they came up against England. In view of the record of chasing sides in this competition so far I reckon that whoever wins the toss must opt to bat first and get their runs on the board. If England win that toss and make the right decision I reckon that they will win, just as they did in the group game between the two sides. If India bat first they will be favourites but I will not rule out England completely even then. Overall prediction: England, but I would not put money on it.
Australia v England – This will depend heavily on the toss – if England get their runs on the board they will be favourites, likewise Australia. I think England would be marginally less likely to lose chasing than Australia, so by the thickness of a cigarette paper I make them favourites if this final materialises.
Australia v India –Again this will come down to the toss – assuming they make the correct decision whoever wins it collects the cup.
New Zealand v England – New Zealand would be cock-a-whoop at beating Australia but may also be unable having achieved that to summon up the resolve for one last effort, and based on the group game between the two I would make England firm favourites for this one.
New Zealand v India – India would be favourites for this one for the same reasons as England in the one above.
Of these potential finals I would most like it to be New Zealand v England, with England b Australia 2nd choice and New Zealand v India third choice. A win for either New Zealand or England would be a first in the men’s world cup, while for India it would be their third triumph and for Australia their sixth. A final thought: If the miracle happens in the Pakistan v Bangladesh game then I believe that sheer relief at managing to qualify will be enough to propel Pakistan to victory – in that circumstance they would be alone among the four semi-finalists in having no pressure on them.
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).