Rain and Records

A look at the end of the test match summer, and at the state of the Bob Willis Trophy.

INTRODUCTION

From Friday through Tuesday at those times the weather permitted England and Pakistan did battle at the Ageas bowl in the last test match of this strangest of all summers, and from Saturday through Tuesday the fourth round of the Bob Willis Trophy took place, again with considerable interference from the weather. I look back at the test match and forward to the final round of BWT fixtures.

YOUTH AND EXPERIENCE TO THE FORE

England amassed 583-8 declared in their first innings, a performance underpinned by Zak Crawley who scored 267, his first test century. The only higher scores for a maiden test ton have been Brian Lara’s 277 at Sydney, Tip Foster (287 in his first ever test innings at Sydney), Bobby Simpson’s 311 at Old Trafford and Garry Sobers’ 365 not out at Sabina Park. Among England batters only Compton (278 v Pakistan), Foster (287 v Australia), Cook (294 v India), John Edrich (310 not out v New Zealand), Andy Sandham (325 v West Indies), Graham Gooch (333 v India), Walter Hammond (336 not out v New Zealand) and Len Hutton (364 v Australia) have ever scored more in a single innings. Only Hutton has ever scored more at a younger age than Crawley, who is just 22 years old. Thereafter, in the cricket that the weather permitted the spotlight was focussed on 38 year old James Anderson, as he first took a five-for (and had three catches missed) in Pakistan’s first innings, to which skipper Azhar Ali contributed a splendid 141 not out. This put Anderson on 598 test wickets, and England enforced the follow on as they had to. By the end of day 4, as the weather played havoc with the match Pakistan were 100-2 in their second innings, with one of the wickets to Anderson moving him on to 599, and yet another catch having gone begging off his bowling. There was heavy overnight rain, and it continued to rain for most of the morning, finally stopping just after 11AM. The sodden ground then had to dry out before play could commence, but eventually, at 4:15PM, with a possible 42 overs (27 mandatory and a further 15 if a result seemed possible) to be bowled. Anderson did not break through in his first spell, and as England hurried through overs to get to the second new ball Joe Root took a wicket with his part time off spin and Dom Sibley bowled one of the filthiest overs ever seen in a test match with his even more part time leg spin. The new ball was taken, and in his third over with it James Anderson induced a nick from Azhar Ali and the ball was pouched by a waiting slip fielder, bringing him to 600 test wickets. No one who bowled above medium pace had previously reached this landmark, and of the three spinners who had got there only one, Muttiah Muralitharan had done so in fewer balls bowled. Shortly after this a well struck four brought up a remarkable statistical landmark highlighted by Andy Zaltzman on Test Match Special: 1,000,000 runs in test matches involving England. A little later the last 15 overs were called, and after one ball thereof the teams decided to accept a draw as the pitch was doing precious little, and they were all eager to get away from the biosecure bubble and back to loved ones.

At the moment there is no way of knowing when England will next be in test match action, but James Anderson has every intention of still being in action when they do, and since he is still regularly clocking 85mph even at the age of 38 (while it is not unusual for veteran bowlers to be very successful due to the smarts they have acquired from years of experience it is unusual for a bowler of that age not to have slowed down – Walsh was barely exceeding 80mph when he toured England in 2000, likewise Shaun Pollock and Glenn McGrath in their veteran years) and is statistically bowling better than he ever has I for one am not counting him out.

I would like to thank both the West Indies who visited for three test matches immediately before Pakistan came over and Pakistan for braving the uncertainties created by this pandemic and coming to play, ensuring we had some cricket. I also tender a second huge thank you to the West Indies because their women are coming over to play against our women after India and South Africa cried off. I hope that England will reciprocate as soon as possible.

ADVANTAGE SOMERSET IN THE BWT

The format of the Bob Willis Trophy, tailored to fit special circumstances, is that the 18 first class counties have been grouped into three regional conferences, meaning that five rounds of matches will be played, and then the two best group winners will fight out a five day final at Lord’s. After four rounds of matches Somerset lead the central group with 76 points, Derbyshire the north group with 71 points and Essex the south group with 70 points. Although bonus points (of which as readers of this blog will be aware I am not a huge fan) complicate the issue somewhat, basically any win in their final match will qualify Somerset, since it is next door to impossible to win a match without taking full bowling bonus points, which on its own would put Somerset on 95, meaning that Derbyshire could equal them with a maximum point win and Essex could finish on 94 with a maximum win. Somerset crushed Gloucestershire and the most recent round, dismissing them for 76 and 70. Surrey’s nightmare season went from bad to worse as they were beaten by Kent in spite of the restored Ben Foakes contributing a century and a fifty. A major role for Kent was played by Darren Stevens, an all rounder who bowls medium pace, and who remains a force to be reckoned with at county level even at the age of 44. Limited overs cricket will be the order of the day for most of the rest of this season, which will extend into October because of the hugely delayed start. The T20 blast competition gets underway tomorrow afternoon, with commentaries on all matches accessible via www.bbc.co.uk/cricket.

PHOTOGRAPHS

My usual sign off…

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Two Wins For England Cricket Teams

Brief accounts of two T20 internationals that took place within twelve hours and ended in England wins.

INTRODUCTION

Twice in less than twelve hours England cricket teams have won matches both of which could easily have been lost. This post covers both games, the first briefly, the second in rather more detail.

WINNING AFTER A DREADFUL START

In the West Indies the England men’s team made a dreadful start to their last match of the tour, being 32-4 at one point. Then Joe Root and Sam Billings had a good partnership, Root using all his experience to reach 50 off just 37 balls, while Billings reached the landmark of two balls fewer before then really opening out in the last few overs in the company of David Willey to finish unbeaten on 87 as England reached an improbable 182-6. 

I decided that there was no way the West Indies were chasing that total down, and with the women due in action early in the morning my time went to bed. The West Indies had evidently been even more shattered by England’s recovery than I expected as was to find out that their response had been to crumple to 45 all out and defeat by 137 runs, Chris Jordan collecting extraordinary bowling figures of 4-6.

Full scorecard here.

A TIGHT FINISH IN GUWAHATI

With their series already won, the England women rested Kathryn Brunt for the last match, with a view to their upcoming tour of Sri Lanka. A bright start from Beaumont and Wyatt was frittered away as 51-0 became 93-6, but some good batting at the end by Sophia Dunkley, Brunt’s replacement, and Anya Shrubsole at least gave England 120 to defend. Poonam Yadav, the slowest spinner in international cricket, was her usual mean self, Anuja Patil took 2-13 from her four overs, while Harleen Deol, mainly a batter, picked up her first international wicket. In total 18 of the 20 overs of this innings were bowled by spinners, India’s sole quick bowler Pandey being required to bowl only two of her four overs.

India lost Deol early, but a good partnership for the second wicket between Smriti Mandhana (whose half-century was a quite superb innings) and Jemimah Rodrigues seemed to have put India firmly in control, especially when the veteran Mithali Raj assumed control of the chase thereafter.

Shrubsole looked to have given England a late chance when she tightened things up so that the target became 7 off 7 balls, but then her final ball was hit to the boundary by Raj, meaning that Kate Cross, given responsibility for bowling the last over in the absence of Brunt, had to prevent India from scoring three runs for England to win. Almost unbelievably, the target was still three as she prepared to bowl the last ball of the match – yes she had produced five successive dot balls at the death (claiming two wickets, Fulmali caught and Patil stumped along the way). Pandey connected firmly with that last delivery of the match, but a fine piece of fielding from Tammy Beaumont ensured that no more than a single could be taken and England had squeaked home by one run. That final match-winning over, which gave Cross total figures of 2-18 from her four overs also earned her the player of the match award – and this was her first T20 international series since 2015. Player of the series went deservedly to Danielle Wyatt who batted well in all three games.

This was an absolute cracker of a match, and I advise you to check out the scorecard here and the official report here.

PHOTOGRAPHS

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