England in Command in Galle

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

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

ENGLAND DOMINATE DAY 1

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

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

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

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

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

RECENT BBL ACTION

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

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

PHOTOGRAPHS

My usual sign off…

Picking a tour party for Sri Lanka

I don my selector’s hat to name my suggested tour party for the test tour of Sri Lanka in January. Also, as usual there are some photographs.

The dates for the England’s two test matches in Sri Lanka have been confirmed. The first test will take place from 14-18 January and the second from 22-26 January. In this post I name the tour party I would pick given the circumstances. This is not, repeat not, an attempt at prediction. Jofra Archer is confirmed as an absentee, and Jos Buttler is possibly also going to be rested, and I have made this my assumption. Ollie Pope is a doubt due to injury, and Stokes may choose to miss the tour for personal reasons. Here I have assumed that Pope is not available but that Stokes is, though I also explain who I would select as Stokes’ replacement and why. I have two supplementary sections after going through my chosen squad, one explaining the biggest of the unexplained omissions and a controversial footnote.

MY ENVISAGED STARTING XI

My thinking here is informed by several factors: Sri Lanka are currently not one of the strongest of international outfits which means that this could well be a good first tour for youngsters, classic English fast medium bowlers do not tend to fare all that well in Sri Lanka, and the spin options are somewhat limited for England. The scene set, here we go:

  1. Dominic Sibley – right handed opening batter, very occasional leg spinner. There are question marks over his ability to handle spinners, and he could well have difficulty against Sri Lanka’s best current bowler, Dananjaya (bowling average 24.33) but his overall record since his elevation means that he warrants selection. I do not expect him to increase his meagre tally of four first class wickets on this tour.
  2. Rory Burns – left handed batter, occasional wicket keeper. He is also happier against seam than spin, but like Sibley deserves his continued presence in the side.
  3. Zak Crawley – right handed batter. The youngster has been a revelation since his elevation to international level, with his monumental 267 vs Pakistan an obvious highlight.
  4. *Joe Root – captain, right handed batter, occasional off spinner. The skipper has been somewhat short of runs lately, but England will need his experience.
  5. Ben Stokes – left handed batter, right arm fast bowler. The one member of this England squad one cannot even attempt to find a like for like replacement for. If he does pull out it will be a crippling blow for England even considering the less than stellar opposition.
  6. Daniel Lawrence – right handed batter, occasional off spinner. He deserves his chance at the highest level, is known to play spin well, and his bowling is by no means negligible (I would certainly have him ahead of Root in the bowling pecking order). For more on my thinking here see my earlier post arguing against a test recall for Jonny Bairstow.
  7. +Ben Foakes – right handed batter, wicket keeper. Since the retirement from top level cricket of Sarah Taylor his status as England’s finest contemporary keeper has been unchallenged, he had a splendid tour of Sri Lanka last time England were here, and he should be given another opportunity.
  8. Sam Curran – left handed batter, left arm fast medium bowler. His left handedness increases the variety available to the bowling attack and he is also a more than useful lower/ middle order batter.
  9. Mark Wood – right handed batter, right arm fast bowler. Archer is not available for this tour, and I want at least one bowler of serious pace in the side.
  10. Jack Leach – left handed batter, left arm orthodox spinner. I think two genuine spinners are needed on Sri Lankan pitches, Bess has struggled of late, failing to build on his good tour of South Africa, and England are not massively spoilt for choice in this department.
  11. Matthew Parkinson – right handed batter, leg spinner. Deserves a chance to establish himself at the highest level.

We now turn our attention to the reserves. This is a very short tour, but Covid-19 necessitates having plenty of cover available, so I name seven designated reserves, and mention a couple of others.

  1. Liam Livingstone – right handed batter, occasional bowler of both off spin and leg spin. Primarily selected on the basis of his batting, but his bowling may well get some use as well.
  2. James Bracey – right handed batter, wicket keeper. He is more batter than keeper, but he is good enough at the latter role to be designated official reserve keeper as cover for Foakes while also covering a batting slot.
  3. Jordan Cox – right handed batter, occasional wicket keeper. A hugely promising youngster, having scored a double century for Kent against Sussex while still in his teens. I admit that in making this call I am influenced by the success that his county colleague Crawley has enjoyed since his own elevation.
  4. Will Jacks – right handed batter, off spinner. He probably has more bowling pedigree than Moeen Ali did when he was first selected to bowl spin for England, although he is undoubtedly more batter than bowler. He is as close to an all rounder who bowls spin as England have at the moment.
  5. Chris Woakes – right handed batter, right arm fast medium bowler. He is much better in England than he is overseas, but his all round skills would enable him to cover any vacancy save in the wicket keeping department without massively weakening the side.
  6. Olly Stone – right handed batter, right arm fast bowler. Cover for Wood, and might replace Curran to give the attack extra pace, although that would give England a decidedly long tail.
  7. Amar Virdi – right handed batter, off spinner. Specialist spin cover, chosen instead of Bess.
  8. Ollie Pope – right handed batter, occasional keeper. Obviously he makes the trip if fit, in which case Lawrence reverts to being a reserve, he is the first of two conditional names here, the other being…
  9. Lewis Gregory – right handed batter, right arm fast medium. Should he pull out Stokes cannot be replaced, and in view of the frequency of high scoring games in this part of the world I feel that bowling depth is more needed than batting depth, so the man who would take Stokes’ place in the event of him pulling out is someone who is more bowler than batter.

1100 TEST WICKETS OVERLOOKED?

I have mentioned elsewhere that Sri Lanka is not a happy hunting ground for fast medium bowlers, and that applies in spades to Stuart Broad, whose record there is quite frankly dreadful. James Anderson has a less bad record in Sri Lanka than Stuart Broad, but it is hardly one to shout about. I therefore feel that England can be best served by not selecting the two veterans, and instead giving younger bowlers a chance to flourish against one the less strong test match outfits. In the future England are due to tour India and Australia, and one would rather not have players making their first test match tour to either of those countries. Also, neither Leach nor Parkinson, my two envisaged spinners, are up to much with the bat, and while I do not subscribe to selecting bowlers based on their batting it has to be said that an 8,9,10, 11 of Broad, Leach, Anderson, Parkinson as it would presumably be looks very fragile.

A CONTROVERSIAL FINISH

I have noted that England are not hugely well equipped in the spin bowling department, and I think that recalling either Adil Rashid or Moeen Ali to the test squad would be a retrograde step, especially in view of the fact that this is a tour where youngsters should be getting a chance. One potential solution is someone who has a phenomenal record at both domestic and international level, just not in men’s cricket: Sophie Ecclestone. I have not named her in my envisaged tour party, but I could see her doing the job.

PHOTOGRAPHS

Time for my usual sign off – to see a photo at full size please click on it:

My England Line Up for the Second Test

My suggested England team for the second test match at Hamilton in view of the injury to Buttler.

INTRODUCTION

England have to change their line=up from the first test because Jos Buttler is injured, meaning that Ollie Pope will don the gloves (England risked this eventuality with their original selection of the tour party), and someone has to come into the side. In the rest of this post I explain my reasoning and arrive at my XI from the available players.

THE SITUATION

England are one down in a two match series, meaning that they need to win in Hamilton to share the spoils. Although the batters cannot be happy with their performance in match 1 it was the bowlers who really struggled. I have heard that there is a possibility that Woakes will replace Leach, giving England an all-seam attack, but that in my opinion is daft. Knowing that a win is needed I would stack the bowling, replacing the injured Buttler with Parkinson (I would also consider selecting Saqib Mahmood in place of Stuart Broad) and relying on the top six plus Curran, Archer and the adhesive Leach to provide enough runs for what would be a deep and varied bowling attack – Stokes being number 6 in the pecking order. Thus my team (and I will be gobsmacked if the selectors actually pick this side) would be:

  1. Burns
  2. Sibley
  3. Denly
  4. Root
  5. Stokes
  6. +Pope
  7. Curran
  8. Archer
  9. *Leach (see my previous post)
  10. Broad
  11. Parkinson

PHOTOGRAPHS

Just a few this time…

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RIP blackbird – I do not know how it met its end, there being no obvious clue, but this was a sad sight.

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England Humiliated in New Zealand

An account of England’s calamitous surrender in the first Test match in New Zealand, and a radical suggestion for Joe Root’s replacement as England test captain.

INTRODUCTION

This post looks back at what happened during the last three days of the first test in New Zealand and then at a possible new England captain.

A SPECTACULAR REVERSAL

Those who read my last post will recall that England were extremely well placed after two days of the first test match – they had made 353 and New Zealand were 144-4 in reply. How then did this turn into a humiliating innings defeat for England? Well the tale of the tape is this…

Day 3: B J Watling batted all day at one end, well supported by De Grandhomme (55) and Santner who defended stoutly after De Grandhomme fell, and New Zealand by the close were 394-6, already 41 to the good.

Day 4: Watling and Santner first consolidated their overnight position and then opened out, Watling completing a double century while Santner reached his maiden test century. Eventually, with 615 on the board, New Zealand declared and England had 27 overs to get through before the close of day. They looked to be managing this when Sibley fell to a poor shot. Then Burns, troubled by Santner, played an injudicious shot trying to get to the other end and was caught off a top edge. Finally, to leave England looking down both barrels, Jack Leach got hit on the grille by one from Santner that rose unexpectedly and two balls later lost his wicket. That left England with seven wickets standing and needing to bat the final day out to save the game.

Day 5: England looked adequate for the first hour, but then Root fell to a poor stroke and a collapse set in, only alleviated to an extent by a late flourish from Archer and Curran who delayed the inevitable and provided a bit of late entertainment. Once their partnership was broken it did not take Broad long to extend his record of ducks scored for England, and the final margin was an innings and 65 runs. Of the seven members of the England team (Burns, Sibley, Denly, Root, Stokes, Pope, Buttler) who were there either principally or solely for their batting six in this dismal second innings contributed to their own downfalls.

Not only is this another horrible defeat for him as captain, there is no longer any denying that Root as captain is incompatible with getting the best out of Root the batter, and it is in the latter capacity that England have most need of him (as a captain he is very average, whereas at his best he is one of the finest batters in the world). While acknowledging that Burns has demonstrated for Surrey that he can combine being captain with scoring big runs I feel that it is time to look away from batters for this role. While fast bowlers rarely make good captains, there is some history of slow bowlers enjoying success in the role, including among slow left armers the likes of Tony Lock (Leicestershire and Western Australia), Daniel Vettori (New Zealand) and Bishan Singh Bedi (India). So, my choice for England’s next test skipper is Jack Leach – he is established in the side, has demonstrated that he has an excellent temperament, and is still young enough to hold the role for some years. The fulltoss blog has looked at some potentials here, but I think they missed the best call. A full scorecard of the debacle can viewed here.

PHOTOGRAPHS

Some festive pics here as well as a few of my more usual type…

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The Elves getting ready to help in Santa’s grotto at Dobbies on Friday evening.

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Immediately outside the grotto (I was there in my caapcity as NAS West Norfolk branch secretary, and got to walk through after the children had received their presents)

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The one obvious howler in the set up – polar bears and penguins do not co-exist as they reside at opposte ends of the Earth)

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Championship Decider Features Five Frontline Spinners

A look at the early stages of the ‘winner takes all’ match between Somerset and Essex for the County Championship.

INTRODUCTION

One of the greatest of all English cricket seasons is drawing to a close, with the last fixtures thereof, the last round of County Championship games having got underway at 10:30AM today. The big game is at Taunton, where Somerset take on Essex in a “winner takes all” clash for the title. A draw would be enough for Essex as they currently head the table, having deposed Somerset from that position in the last round of games. This post looks at what is in store of the next four days.

AN EXPECTED BATTLE OF THE SPINNERS

Needing to win, Somerset had to prepare a ‘result’ pitch, and with two international quality spinners to call on it was thus no surprise, even with Simon Harmer in the ranks of the opposition that a ‘Bunsen’* was prepared. The nature of this pitch is illustrated by the fact that Somerset have included a third front line spinner, South African Roelof Van Der Merwe, in addition to Leach and Bess, while Essex have selected Aron Niijar, a slow left armer who pays 42 a piece for his first class scalps in addition to Harmer, while Tom Westley, mainly a batter, may get a go with his spinners as well. Somerset have won the toss and are batting, and have made a poor start, with Sam Cook bagging two wickets with new ball (a rather better known Cook will be opening the batting for Essex when the time comes). 

My own view is that in the situation, and given their bowling strengths, Somerset had to prepare a pitch of this nature and rely on getting the better of the battle of the spinners. Somerset’s pace bowling is in the hands of Lewis Gregory and Craig Overton, while Essex have Jamie Porter opening the bowling with Cook. Somerset have Tom Abell to provide seam bowling back up if needed, while Essex may turn to Ryan ten Doeschate and/or Ravi Bopara for help in that department. It would only be fitting for this season which has seen that World Cup Final, two last-ball finishes on T20 finals day and various other remarkable finishes to conclude with one final battle going right to the wire, and I hope that is what happens. James Hildreth’s bat is starting to sound quite sweet for Somerset, and Abell at the other end has played a number of gritty innings this season, and the could use another today.

This would be Somerset’s first County Championship, whereas Essex have won quite a few over the years, so as an inveterate underdog supporter I am rooting for Somerset. Whichever team wins this will be winning their second trophy of the season, Somerset having won the 50 over competition (the last occasion on which that will truly be a first team contest, due to The Hundred starting next season), while Essex won the T20 trophy on Saturday.

*’Bunsen’ is a piece of rhyming slang – Bunsen burner = turner.

PHOTOGRAPHS

My usual sign off…

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Heritage Open Day and Post Ashes

An account of Heritage Open Day, details of some events involving my role as branch secretary of NAS West Norfolk, and a look back at The Ashes,

INTRODUCTION

This post looks back at the Ashes and Heritage Open Day, and forward to some other events. I have plenty of photos to share as usual (calendar will be finalized later this week). I start with…

HERITAGE OPEN DAY

I was due to steward at Lath Mansion from 2PM to 4PM, and was well aware that I would not be able to keep going for the whole six hours of Heritage Open Day, so I decided to have an early lunch at home and then head for the town, aiming to have an hour in town before my stewarding stint began. Thus I arrived at the Tuesday Market Place at about 12:40, picked up a brochure for the event and proceeded from there.

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This is the place where I stewarded.

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I took time to look at two of the oldest cars the classic car display first of all…

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I decided that the only places I would visit prior to heading to Lath Mansion were the Norman house which these days houses a firm of solicitors and the Ouse Amateur Sailing Club, at the latter of which I consumed a pint of Ghost Ship. I then headed by way of The Lower Purfleet, the river front and St Margaret’s Lane to Nelson Street, and familiarized myself with Lath Mansion before starting my stewarding stint. Stewarding done it was time to head home. I am looking forward to be being involved again next year.

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Lath Mansion starts here picture wise.

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Not quite Faberge (!), but an ornamental egg.

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A very old style bus.

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THE ASHES – THE MOST UNDESERVED 2-2 SCORELINE IN HISTORY

I got back from Heritage Open Day just in time to listen to the last knockings of the fifth Ashes test match at The Oval. Jack Leach finished with 4-49, while Broad had 4-62 as Eng;and completed victory by 135 runs. Leach has surely ended any argument about who is first choice spinner for England in red ball cricket – Matt Parkinson, Dominic Bess and Amar Virdi would all merit consideration should England opt for two front line spinners, while Liam Patterson-White of Nottinghamshire warrants consideration for the future (in a few years time he may well be ready to step in Jack Leach’s shoes, although at present there is of course no vacancy for a slow left armer). Sam Curran, whose left handedness gives the pace attack an extra element of variation was also a big plus, and Archer’s man of the match winning first innings bowling confirmed his stellar status. The batting remains problematic, with Denly seemingly able only to score runs in the second innings, Bairstow unable to buy a run against the red ball and Buttler not doing enough to warrant a place as a specialist batter. The only reason England’s lack of a decent opening pair was not even more cruelly exposed than it was in this series is that Australia fared even worse in that department, with Warner setting a new record low aggregate for an opener who has played 10 innings in a test series (surely that means a final “good riddance” from test cricket for him). At a minimum Sibley needs to be brought into the top three, enabling Root to go back to four, Pope to come in for Buttler and Foakes to get the gloves in place of Bairstow (his batting has always been much more of a selling point than his keeping, so consistent failure in that department should not be tolerated).

In truth England were thrashed at Edgbaston, outplayed for most of Headingley and thrashed at Old Trafford, while having just the better of Lord’s and managing to beat an Australia who basically did not turn up at The Oval. In terms of the next Ashes series, in 2021-2, whoever is England captain for that will need to achieve something last achieved by Ray Illingworth in 1970-1 (Brearley in 1978-9, Gatting in 1986-7 and Strauss in 2010-11 were all retaining, not regaining, the Ashes), and only achieved prior to that by Stoddart (1894-5), Warner (1903-4), Douglas (with some important advice from a sick Warner, 1911-2) and Jardine (1932-3). One can only hope that whatever he might say in public Ed Smith does not con himself into believing that England actually merited the 2-2 scoreline – they certainly did not. Propagandizing may be acceptable, buying into one’s own propaganda is invariably disastrous.

UPCOMING EVENTS

The “Yes I Can” event takes place at The Corn Exchange on Tuesday. Following the success of their Autism Friendly Youth Group, the library will be holding an Autism Friendly Adult’s Group, with the first session 5PM to 6:45PM on September 30th, and sessions being twice monthly, on a Monday near the end of the month and on a mid month Wednesday. NAS West Norfolk will be continuing to run a ‘drop in’ group at the Scout Hall on Portland Place every Wednesday.

Adult Social Group
An Infographic I created about the new adult social group at the Library

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My lanyard.

Yes I Can

PHOTOGRAPHS

My usual sign off…

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Not quite the last butterfly of the year (I have a red admiral on my camera from today), but this comma cannot be far short.

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England Players And Selectors Both Fail

An account of England’s defeat at Old Trafford, the loss of The Ashes and the subsequent failure of England’s selectors to take necessary action. Credit to Australia, who are worthy winners of both this match and The Ashes (and, almost certainly, the series as well).

INTRODUCTION

There are two threads to this post – the first is the loss of the 4th test match at Old Trafford and with it The Ashes, and the second is the unsurprising but very disappointing decision of the England selectors to name an unchanged squad for the fifth test match.

HOW THE DEFEAT PANNED OUT

England were eventually dismissed with just fewer than 15 overs to be bowled for 197 to lose by 185 runs. Denly made a half-century that was firmly in the “too little, too late” category. Craig Overton, in the side for his bowling skills, produced a display that should have brought blushes to the cheeks of most his supposed betters in the order by holding out for almost three hours before the inevitable happened, and Jack Leach lasted almost an hour with him in the ninth wicket stand that was England’s last gesture of resistance. Broad, the man with more test match ducks than any other England cricketer, escaped adding to his tally by being left 0 not out when Overton finally fell to end proceedings. That Overton and Leach were able to resist for as long as they did on this final day was a damning indictment of England’s top order (Burns and Root both got beauties from Cummins on the 4th evening, and Roy was on the end of a good ‘un as well, although his choice of shot certainly contributed to his downfall) who save for Denly failed to provide anything that could be described as an innings of substance (and even he nearly holed out at deep midwicket during what was supposed to be a resistance act). At Edgbaston in the first match Australia were 122-8 on the first day before Smith and Siddle rescued them and they went on to dominate that match. At Lord’s England had marginally the better of a drawn game, and save only for those amazing closing stages England were behind all the way at Headingley, while this match was pretty much all Australia as well. Thus Australia deserved their win, and deserve to have retained the Ashes. A win at The Oval would make the series 3-1 to Australia, and that would be a fair reflection of how the two sides have played. Were England to somehow win at The Oval and level the series 2-2 even I as an Englishman would have to say that it would be a travesty of cricketing justice, but I cannot see that happening with this same group of players named again. The full scorecard for this match can be viewed here.

CONSISTENCY OR STUBBORNNESS FROM ED SMITH AND FRIENDS?

I certainly do not want a return to the scattergun approach of the 1990s when players were in and out of the side at the drop of a hat, but naming this same group of players when at least four (Denly, Roy, Buttler and Bairstow) have simply failed to produce to the required standard seems to me to be veering from consistency (a degree of which should be maintained) into stubbornness if not pigheadedness. The bowlers are not to blame for the debacle that this series has been, and I would not make many changes there (I went into detail about my squad for The Oval yesterday – please visit that post for a look), but the specialist batting and the wicketkeepers position need changing. I hope that the England selectors will start afresh when naming the winter tour parties. Then the new players can be given this winter and the next home season to prove themselves. With all due respect to the Somerset giant, that Craig Overton batted longer than anyone else in England’s second innings points up the problems that rout (67 all out) in the first innings at Headingley so devastatingly revealed. A slightly less scathing assessment of England at present can be found here. Although I will not reproduce any of the substance of yesterday’s post, here is the 13 I suggested for The Oval, just for purposes of comparison with the inertia of the England selectors:

  1. Rory Burns
  2. Tammy Beaumont
  3. Dominic Sibley
  4. *Joe Root
  5. +Ben Foakes
  6. Ben Stokes
  7. Lewis Gregory
  8. Jofra Archer
  9. Stuart Broad
  10. Jack Leach
  11. Helen Fenby
  12. Ollie Pope
  13. Craig Overton

PHOTOGRAPHS

My usual sign off…

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Three rare shots – a cormorant in the Gaywood river (the Great Ouse is home to many cormorants, but I have never previously seen one in the Gaywood).

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The Headingley Heist

My own thoughts about the amazing “Headingley Heist” and the remainder of the Ashes series, plus links and of course photographs.

INTRODUCTION

This post features my thoughts on the incredible test match that has just finished at Headingley. I also have a couple of other things to share at the end of this post.

A LATE TWIST

England looked to have destroyed their Ashes chances when they slumped to 67 all out after having dismissed Australia for 179. Australia reached 246 all out in their second dig, with Labuschagne once again their top scorer. This meant that England needed 359 to win, which if achieved would be the highest total they had ever scored to win a test match, beating the 332-7 at Melbourne in 1928-9 (Herbert Sutcliffe 135, Jack Hobbs 49, and a crucial piece of advice to promote Jardine if he or Sutcliffe got out that evening – he did and Jardine, with the pitch still difficult, chiselled out a crucial 33) that secured that series for England. Roy failed again as opener, underlining his unsuitability for that position in red ball cricket. Burns was also our fairly early, but Root and Denly batted well for a time, before with the close of play for the day approaching Denly who had reached 50 surrendered his wicket. That brought Stokes to the crease, and he and Root were still there at the close. Root was out early on the 4th morning for 75, and although Bairstow batted well, Buttler, Woakes, Archer and Broad were all out fairly cheaply. England were 286-9 when Jack Leach walked out to join Stokes and the game looked well and truly up, though England had made a fight of it. Then Stokes, who had spent a long time digging himself in before beginning to score freely, started to really lash out, one over from Hazlewood being clonked for 19 including two huge sixes. As England got closer and closer Australia started to panic, and first skipper Paine burned their last review on an L.B.W appeal when the ball was obviously missing leg very comfortably, then Lyon failed to hold a return when had he done so Leach would have been run out by a country mile. Then an L.B.W appeal was turned down, and had Australia had a review left sending it upstairs would have won them the match at the last gasp. Leach got off the mark with the most important single he will ever score, off Cummins, which brought the scores level and put Stokes back on strike. Cummins bowled to Stokes….
and Stokes creamed it for four, and England had pulled off a truly spectacular heist, and Ashes 2019 was back on with a vengeance.

Here are some extra follow-up links:

  • The full scorecard of this truly extraordinary match.
  • Video highlights of those amazing final stages.
  • Some of the social media comment on Stokes’ innings.
  • On a lighter note, the Beard Liberation Front have given Ben Stokes a free pass to the final shortlist for “Beard of the Year” – surely given his Christchurch birthplace and that country’s attitudes towards its larger neighbour he is also nailed on for “New Zealander of the Year 2019”?!

DON’T USE YESTERDAY TO PAPER OVER THE CRACKS (OR CHASMS?!)

England pulled this one out of the fire, but their batting was badly exposed in the first innings, and they benefitted from more than a little good fortune in the closing stages. England made an escape to send Harry Houdini green with envy, and it is highly likely that the next match decides the fate of the Ashes – if Australia win it they have retained them, and if England win it they will go to The Oval 2-1 up, and those of us who remember 2005 and 2009 know what happens when England reach The Oval still in control of their own destiny. Thus, although yesterday’s events made a nonsense of the title of my previous post I hold firm to the arguments made therein (half-decent batting efforts from Denly and Bairstow not being sufficient to change my mind on that score). My reasoning and selected squad for the next test match are reproduced below:

  1. An opening batter alongside Burns (Roy is not suited to this role in red ball cricket, though he may be able to handle no 3 if the openers see off the new ball). Absent anyone who has made a really commanding case I once again suggest the radical solution of dropping Tammy Beaumont a line and seeing if she is up for having a go alongside the men (I first suggested this about a year ago).
  2. Roy or Stokes (if you fancy a calculated gamble) at no 3, to enable…
  3. Root to revert to no 4 where he really belongs.
  4. Ollie Pope in at no 5 to stiffen up the middle order (he is fresh off the back of a double century, and has a first class average of almost 60).
  5. Stokes down a place to no 6 if you don’t put him at no 3, otherwise Ben Foakes to bat here as keeper
  6. If Stokes is at no 6, then Foakes bats 7, otherwise Roy (if deep batting is needed) or Lewis Gregory (if you want five genuine bowlers possibly with Stokes as 6th).
  7. No change needed at nos 8-11 – the bowlers acquitted themselves well, though Sam Curran has to be considered, and a second spinner (for my money either Matthew Parkinson or Helen Fenby depending on how radical you are prepared to be) should be in the squad.

Thus my 13 for the 4th match would be: Burns, Beaumont, Stokes, *Root, Pope, +Foakes, Roy, Woakes, Archer, Broad, Leach, Gregory, Fenby, with the first 11 names listed likely to play unless conditions warrant Gregory for Roy or Fenby for Roy if two spinners are warranted. As for Denly, he has had too many nearly innings, most of them given away by ill-judged shots and has to go. Australia’s new opener Harris has just fallen to Jack Leach making Australia 36-2. Eight more wickets and then some much better batting now the requirement.

I add a little coda to the above – if Anderson is fit he should of course play.

For the moment: game on – oh, and Aussies you really need to brush up on DRS, you messed up big time in that department.

LINKS AND PHOTOGRAPHS

Two links for you first:

  1. A reminder about the petition to ban driven grouse shooting, which is now about 4/5ths of the way to 100,000 signatures.
  2. The results of a large survey about Autism – they make interesting, and for some of you, challenging reading.

Now for my usual sign off…

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England Test XIs With Two Spinners

Some possible ways to incorporate two spinners into the England test team.

INTRODUCTION

This post is inspired by a post that appeared this morning on Toby’s Sporting Views. He was writing about an excellent bowling performance by Somerset’s spinners against Nottinghamshire on day two of their match, and I am looking specifically at an aspect he raised relating to this, namely two spinners playing for England in the Ashes tests this summer.

SETTING PARAMETERS

I am basing all my possible XIs around five specialist batters with Ben Foakes at six and wearing the gloves. The other fixed position, since he is indispensable in test cricket at present is James Anderson at no 11 and as one of new ball bowlers. Therefore the positions up for dispute are 7, 8, 9 and 10, which will be filled by two spinners and two quicks. Thus form my purposes each permutation will involve four cricketers, as I need not mention the others. Neither Adil Rashid nor Moeen Ali have done enough with the ball of late to merit consideration, and Lancashire’s Matthew Parkinson while promising is not as yet ready for elevation, so the two spinners would be Leach and Bess, becoming a latter day Lock and Laker.

1: THE PURE ENGLISH

In so far as such a line-up can be typical English this one is. It features Lewis Gregory at number 7, Sam Curran at number 8 and sharing the new ball with James Anderson, with Bess and Leach the two spinners at nos 9 and 10.

2: EXTRA PACE I

This one dispenses with Curran, and brings in either Jofra Archer or Mark Wood to bowl outright fast, sharing the new ball with Anderson.

3: EXTRA PACE II

This one dispenses with Gregory, having Curran move up to seven and playing one of Archer or Wood  along with the two spinners and Anderson. This is more of a gamble as it misses out on Gregory’s batting, which is better than that of any of the others.

4: THE OUTRIGHT GAMBLE

This one dispenses with both Curran and Gregory, and brings in both of the super-speedsters Wood and Archer, one of whom would perforce come on first change. This would likely mean Archer at no 7, Bess at no 8, Leach no 9, Wood no 10 and Anderson no 11, which is where the gamble is – there is no one who can really be called an all-rounder here, just five bowlers.

5: ANOTHER GAMBLE

My final possibility features picking Ben Stokes as a front-line batter and fill-in pacer, and having only four top-line bowlers, Curran, Bess, Leach and Anderson. If one of Curran or Anderson were to break down this side would then be using Stokes as a new-ball bowler, which makes it a very high risk strategy.

THOMAS’S PICK

Overall I would like one out and out ‘blitzman’ bowler in the team, and picking only two top line pacers for a test match is too rich even for my blood, so with all respect to Sam Curran I am going for Extra Pace I as my bowling combo. Injuries not intervening a possible line-up for match 1 if I was doing the selecting would be:

  1. Beaumont (see here for more on this controversial choice)
  2. Burns
  3. Roy (no 3 has been difficult for some time and Roy is at least in splendid form)
  4. *Root 
  5. Buttler
  6. +Foakes
  7. Gregory
  8. Archer
  9. Bess
  10. Leach
  11. Anderson

PHOTOGRAPHS

My usual sign off…

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Some Thoughts About Possible England Cricketers

Some thoughts about the possible make-up of the England team against Ireland later this year.

INTRODUCTION

In this post I will be looking at the claims of some potential England cricketers and at the end I will list those who at present would featurie in my plans for the summer. There will be some new names, because although it is only one match I believe that the game against Ireland represents an opportunity to give people a start at test match level, and I would prefer not to have give someone a debut against Australia, who are next up. Before looking at ‘potentials’, it is time clear the decks by first listing the…

SPINE OF THE TEAM

This, given the recent international retirement of Sir Alastair Cook and the lack of success of certain others comprises four names:

  • Rory Burns – He deserves more time to show what he can do at this level (here today, gone tomorrow selections plagued the 1990s when England were an aboslute embarrassment), so one of the openers slots is still his.
  • *Joe Root – The captain and finest batter in the side (and one of the finest in world cricket), his place is assured
  • +Ben Foakes – The best wicketkeeper around and averaging over 40 with the bat in his brief test career to date, I would regard his omission as a disgrace.
  • James Anderson – England’s all-time leading wicket taker and the leader of the bowling attack. As well as his bowling he should be working with the younger bowlers in the squad giving them the benefit of his vast experience and knowhow.

With these four names in mind we now have to decide on the rest, and the next section sets out what is…

REQUIRED TO COMPLETE THE SQUAD

We have two specialist batters and a wicket keeper, and to augment them we need three more specialist batters and an all-rounder or four more specialist batters, one of whom is a regular opener. Only one bowler is listed, and we need a new-ball partner for him, at least two further pace bowlers and two front-line spinners so that we can pick an attack to meet all conditions. With this in mind I am going to start with the…

OPENING BATTER

As far as I am concerned Mark Stoneman and Keaton Jennings have both been found wanting at the highest level, so I strike them straight out. Not many openers have done big things in the first two rounds of county championship matches. Three who merit consideration are Haseeb Hameed who fared well against India before he was injured, but who has had two successive very poor seasons before coming into some runs against Middlesex to start this season, Zak Crawley who has had a superb match for Kent against Warwickshire, although his overall average is only just above 30 and his century in the match just completed was only his second in first-class cricket (from 39 innings) and Dominic Sibley whose 132 for Warwickshire in that same match was fifth century in as many games. Also worth a thought is Middlesex’s Nick Gubbins, who averages 34.92 in first class cricket with seven centuries from 61 innings, and who was one of the few Middlesex players to fare decently with the bat against Lancashire. Of these four my pick would be 25 year-old Gubbins, but with a note to look out for the scores of Hameed, Crawley and Sibley – if any of these start producing big scores on a consistent basis they could still challenge. However, I am not massively convinced by any of these potential openers, and continue to espouse the radical solution I have suggested elsewhere of giving Tammy Beaumont a go amongst the men.

THE NUMBER THREE SLOT

There are fewer options here – not many people have been scoring big at number three. I see the following possibilities:

  1. Persuade Joe Root to go in at number three, enabling an extra middle-order batter to be selected, which could work, but may end up adversely affecting Root’s performances.
  2. Treating him principally as a batter who will sometimes bowl short spells at high pace see if the new, responsible Ben Stokes can handle the number three slot.
  3. Picking him as a specialist batter give Jonathan Bairstow this slot.
  4. Although he does not bat there for his county cross one’s fingers and pitch Joe Clarke straight in at number three.
  5. Gamble on youth by selecting Ryan Patel of Surrey, whose 100 not out was the sheet anchor of their first innings against Essex, guiding them from 75-1 to 395 all out. Fine performance though it was, it was also his first first class hundred, though he is only 21. 

My personal order of preference for these options is as follows: 3, 2, 5, 1, 4 – I regard promoting Root as too much of a gamble and think that expecting someone who is not a regular no 3 to start doing that job at test level would be a big ask, and I think Patel needs a few more big performances be can be seriously entertained, but he is on my radar. 

THE REMAINING BATTERS/ ALL ROUNDERS

With the top four slots filled and a wicket-keeper in place we need either two more specialist batters or a specialist batter and an all-rounder. My possibles are as follows:

  • Joe Clarke – averages over 40 with the bat, started this season splendidly with 112 and 97 not out against Yorkshire, although he then failed twice against Somerset. I believe a place must be found for him, and that number five would be a good position for him to begin his test career from.
  • Ben Stokes – A position in the middle of the order would probably suit him better than number three, and having an all-rounder if they are genuinely good enough is always valuable. 
  • Ollie PopeThe Surrey man’s 251 in the Champion County game showed that he is the form of his life and made his case all but irrefutable.
  • Tom Abell – The Somerset captain has played two valuable innings this season, the 49 in the first innings against Kent and the hundred against Nottinghamshire when his side looked in trouble, but ended up going on to win by an innings.
  • Kiran Carlson – A sparkling century to start his season against Northamptonshire, albeit on a featherbed of a pitch (there were over 80 runs per wicket in that drawn match), and it was only his fourth in 49 first class innings. The 20 year-old is clearly very promising but he needs to do more to earn a place.
  • George Bartlett – Twice in their two matches this season Somerset were deep in trouble and on both occasions Bartlett was instrumental in hauling them out of it. In the second innings of their opener against Kent his 63, backed by some hefty blows from Jack Brooks at number 11 gave them something to bowl at and they duly dismissed Kent, while against Nottinghamshire he came in after the top three had all been dismissed cheaply and with his team initially looking down both barrels produced 133, his maiden first-class ton (note that Carlson was cashing in after two of his team mates had already smashed tons). The fact that he has twice made runs when they were desperately needed suggests that he has the right temperament, so he is definitely in the reckoning.

PACE BOWLERS

We are looking for two or three guys to back up Anderson in this department. I see the following as especially worthy of consideration (in addition to Stuart Broad, whose claims need no amplification here):

  • Lewis Gregory – 5-18 in the second innings of the first match to bowl Kent out, 6-68 in the first innings against Nottinghamshire and a quick fifty to help boost the Somerset total past 400 in that same match. The 26 year old now has 223 wickets at 27.03 in first-class cricket from 76 matches and seems to have stepped things up a notch this season, with a total of 14-145 from two matches, average 10.36 per wicket.
  • Sam Curran –  after the way he burst on the scene against India last year he should feature strongly again. He has not been involved in the early county matches because he is currently playing IPL cricket in India (and has some good performances there to his name).
  • Mark Wood – A bowler who propels the ball at over 90mph, though he is injury prone. I think England need at least one bowler of extreme pace in their attack, and after his efforts against the West Indies he is the prime contender. If he gets injured than my choice in this role would be…
  • Olly Stone –  The Norfolk born quickie takes his wickets at 24 each in first-class cricket, and has the kind of extreme pace that only Wood among the others can match. 
  • Tom Bailey – The Lancashire fast-medium bowler has 161 wickets from his 48 first-class games at 26.15 each, including 5-67 in the Middlesex first innings this season, when his illustrious tem mate Anderson bagged three. The fact that he and Anderson have experience of bowling in tandem could be useful as well. 
  • Henry Brookes – He is just 19 years old, and his seven first class matches have brought him 24 wickets at 26.08 although he has yet to record a five-for. Also hbis ten first class innings have produced three fifty-plus scores, including a career best 84 against Kent that saved his side from an innings defeat, although Kent did manage to chase down the 124 they needed to win, an average of 29.33. He could well develop into a genuine allrounder and definitely merits consideration as a potential no 8.

From the bowlers I have named in this section Stuart Broad, Sam Curran, one out of Wood or Stone and Brookes are the ones I consider serious possibilities. I would consider Brookes if the conditions were such that I thought no spinner was warranted, in which case I would be picking four front-line quick bowlers, otherwise the question would be who missed out in the toss-up between Broad and Curran, and that would be Broad for my money, because he and Anderson are both nearing the end of their great careers, and I think Anderson can support the younger bowlers on his own. I would expect Anderson and Curran to share the new ball, with Mark Wood (if fit) or Olly Stone (otherwise) coming on first change, and Henry Brookes as fourth seamer if the pitch was a green top.

THE SPINNERS

Jack Leach with his 6-36 against Nottinghamshire made his case, strengthened by a maiden test five-for in Sri Lanka, irrefutable. In the absence of any other spinners pulling up trees Adil Rashid who also produced a maiden test five-for over the winter is the choice for the second spinner should conditions warrant such (unlikely, but in July when the next tets match takes place not impossible). Moeen Ali misses out for two reasons – he is not good enough in either department, a bits and pieces player rather than a true all rounder, and he is an off-spinner, and Joe Root (who should be encouraged to trust himself more in this area) can bowl a bit of off-spin if needed. Meanwhile I will be on the look out for a serious option to replace Rashid. Dominic Bess may get himself back into the reckoning as the season goes on, but for the moment two front-line spinners remains enough.

THE FINAL RECKONING

My squad is as follows, starting with the likely first eleven assuming normal conditions:

  1. Rory Burns
  2. Tammy Beaumont
  3. Jonny Bairstow
  4. *Joe Root
  5. Joe Clarke
  6. +Ben Foakes
  7. Ben Stokes
  8. Sam Curran
  9. Jack Leach
  10. Mark Wood/ Olly Stone according to fitness.
  11. James Anderson

The reserves and circumstances in which I would consider picking them are:

  • Adil Rashid – plays if two spinners are needed.
  • Henry Brookes – plays on a green-top if no specialist spinner is deemed necessary.
  • George Bartlett – plays at no7 if Stokes is unavailable, on the understanding that his off-spin will come into the equation.
  • Stuart Broad – slots into his accustomed role as Anderson’s new ball partner if Sam Curran is injured, would also replace Anderson as senior bowler if he was injured, and may start if neither of our extra-fast bowlers is available.
  • Ollie Pope – in the event of injury to any of my suggested nos 3-6 he is the next cab off the rank.
  • Dominic Sibley – if one of my preferred openers is injured he gets the nod.

PHOTOGRAPHS

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