England Potential Bowlers

A look at potential bowling options for England, a couple of links, a mathematical puzzle and some photographs.

Welcome to this post which features a few bonus features. The weather has ensured that developments in the County Championship do not warrant a post today, so I am looking at possible bowling options for England.

ENGLAND BOWLING PICKS

I am going to work through the options starting with out and out speedsters and ending with four players, two of them very much future rather than present prospects, who would not be picked purely for their bowling but might be used a few overs here and there.

The are four out and out fast bowlers who the selectors might well pick: Jofra Archer, Brydon Carse, Olly Stone and Mark Wood. Three of these have already played test cricket, while Carse has been making waves over the last couple of years. Personally given his injury history and his value in limited overs cricket I would be chary of picking Wood for test matches. Archer and Stone could both easily play, and Carse is an extra option. On home tracks I do not see more than one bowler from this bracket being warranted, but some overseas tracks may well warrant two or more out and out speedsters (Perth and Johannesburg spring to mind).

Right arm medium-fast/ fast-medium: There are many English bowlers in this bracket with excellent FC records, but to me six have definite England claims. The two veterans Anderson and Broad will probably rotate, though there may be situation in which both get selected. Oliver Edward Robinson and Craig Overton are both having storming seasons, have superb career records and would seem to be in a head to head for the no8 slot. With Stokes currently injured it is quite likely that an all rounder will be selected to bat at no7, and the two main candidates for that role in this bracket are Chris Woakes and Ryan Higgins. Woakes if definitely fit would be the first choice, especially with the first test taking place at his northwest London fiefdom, aka Lord’s.

Left arm medium to fast-medium: Sam Curran is the obvious bowler of this type for England to turn to, and could possibly bat as high as seven, though eight seems more realistic for him at present. George Garton is another promising talent in this bracket, and Sussex have him batting at no7 at the moment.

Spinners: Jack Leach is the man in possession, and it is wildly unlikely that a home pitch will warrant the selection of two specialist spinners. Matt Parkinson (leg spin), Jack Carson and Amar Virdi (both off spin) have all had big performances this season, and given the slim pickings England off spinners have generally had in Australia Parkinson is probably the current no2. Finally, there remains the possibility of offering Sophie Ecclestone who has an extraordinary record in women’s internationals her opportunity to perform alongside the men.

Batters who bowl: Obviously Stokes (LHB, RF) would if fit be preeminent in this category, but he is currently injured. Matt Critchley of Derbyshire (RHB, LS) is having a superb season with the bat and it is quite possible that England would select him and give him a few overs here and there in addition to using his batting. A couple of youngsters who will be on the radar in the near future are Lewis Goldsworthy of Somerset (RHB, SLA) and Luke Hollman of Middlesex (RHB, LS). Goldsworthy hasn’t yet bowled in FC cricket, but has scored 39, 41 not out and 24 in his three innings, and the last two were knocks played under considerable pressure on pitches that were not straightforward.

Myself given that the next test match is at Lord’s I would be going with Woakes and Oliver Edward Robinson at seven and eight, with commiserations to Craig Overton. My team would look something like: Sibley, Burns, Crawley, *Root, Pope, +Foakes, Woakes, OE Robinson, Stone, Leach, Anderson. Archer, Carse or Wood could take Stone’s place and of course Broad could play ahead of Anderson depending on form or fitness.

A COUPLE OF LINKS

The Lynn News are running a poll for who should be their Charity of the Year, and NAS West Norfolk, of which I am branch secretary, are among the nominees. Please read the article and vote for us by clicking here.

Phoebe has one again opened up her blog for people to promote their own blogs, and I urge you to visit and check out some of the blogs advertising themselves there. Please click here to do so.

A MATHEMATICAL PUZZLE

This is a fun problem from brilliant.org:

PHOTOGRAPHS

Leaden sky and persistent rain are not the best conditions for photography, but I do have some pictures to share with you:

Somerset Steamrollering at Southampton

A look at goings on at the Ageas Bowl, where Hampshire and Somerset are doing battle, a scoot round the other grounds where there is championship action and lots of photographs.

This post looks at goings at the Ageas Bowl, where Somerset and Hampshire having been doing battle, before taking a quick look around the other grounds where there is county championship action.

OVERTON ON SONG

Yesterday Somerset bowled Hampshire out for a beggarly 79, which even on a difficult pitch to bat on was never going to be enough. Byrom had replaced Banton at the top of the order, but that did not alter the start to the Somerset response – both openers fell cheaply. Hildreth was also out before Somerset took the lead. Bartlett and then Goldsworthy supported the adhesive Abell, 20 year old Goldsworthy especially impressive holding out a long time for his 24. Leach then came in as nightwatch, and did the first part of the job superbly, holding the fort until close of play, with Somerset 142-5. You might think that after an opening day like that things could only get better for the home side on day two, but you would be wrong. Leach hit six boundaries in the early part of the day as he took his score to 34. Abell was seventh out at 193, having chiselled out 64, an innings far more valuable than a double century against weak bowling on a flat deck. Davies and Overton shared a fine partnership, and then Gregory joined Overton and the good work continued, Overton overhauling Abell as top scorer for the innings during their ninth wicket stand. At 328 Overton finally fell for a well compiled 74. Josh Davey came in at no11, and saw the Somerset lead past 250, but at 336 he fell to end the Somerset innings, with Gregory unbeaten on 33. Keith Barker took 4-67 for Hampshire. Mysteriously Hampshire used Liam Dawson but not the wicket taking spinner Felix Organ. The Hampshire second innings is just getting under way.

AROUND THE GROUNDS

Leicestershire v Surrey: Leicestershire, batting first, are 495-9. Sam Evans made a century, and Harry Swindells, the wicket keeper, has just joined him in reaching that landmark. Amar Virdi has toiled away, taking 5-170 from 44 overs for Surrey.

Middlesex v Gloucestershire: Middlesex scored 210 batting first, and Gloucestershire are 132-4 in reply. Robbie White scored 76 not out for Middlesex, David Payne took 5-31 for Gloucestershire. Kraigg Brathwaite scored 33 for Gloucestershire, James Bracey is 44 not out and Ian Cockbain 21 not out. Tim Murtagh, James Harris and Martin Andersson each have a wicket for Middlesex.

Warwickshire v Worcestershire: Warwickshire scored 343 in the first innings and Worcestershire are 64-1 in reply. There were centuries for Robert Yates and Michael Burgess in the Warwickshire innings, while Ed Barnard took three wickets for Worcestershire. Libby is on 42 not out for Worcestershire, while Liam Norwell has the one wicket Warwickshire have claimed.

Lancashire v Glamorgan: This one has been affected by rain. Glamorgan are 226-6 in their first innings. David Lloyd made 78, while Callum Taylor and Dan Douthwaite are both in the 20s at the moment. James Anderson has 2-31, his 990th and 991st first class wickets, while Luke Wood also has two wickets.

Northamptonshire v Sussex: Sussex were rolled for 106 in the first innings, and only got that far thanks to Oliver Edward Robinson, who scored an unbeaten 49. Northamptonshire are 424-9 in response, Saif Zaib 135, Adam Rossington 87, Rob Keogh 66, and back at his day job, Robinson 5-58.

Nottinghamshire v Essex: Essex batted first and were rolled for 99, Nottinghamshire replied with 323 and Essex are 46-0 in the second innings. Nick Browne made 53 for Essex and Luke Fletcher took 6-24 for Nottinghamshire. Steven Mullaney scored 117 for Nottinghamshire, with Lyndon James making 51 and Haseeb Hameed 49. Shane Snater took 7-98 for Essex, bowling right arm medium pace.

Yorkshire v Kent: Kent made 305 batting first and Yorkshire are 77-2 in response. Crawley made 90 for Kent, backed by 47 from Leaning, 40 from O’Riordan, mainly an off spinner, and 38 from keeper Oliver Graham Robinson. Ben Coad took 3-53 for Yorkshire.Ballance is 27 not for Yorkshire, with openers Lyth and Kohler-Cadmore both gone cheaply, and Joe Root 6 not out.

Remarkably, given their first innings batting, Hampshire have not lost a wicket while I have been typing this, but there have been several appeals, and their scoring rate remains painfully slow.

PHOTOGRAPHS

I have lots of photographs for you:

Significant Performances From The Championship

A look at some of the more significant performances in the last round out of county championship matches, and some photographs.

This post looks at several very significant performances in the round of County Championship matches the concluded yesterday. The action ended when Hampshire accepted that even if they captured the last Gloucestershire wicket they could not knock the runs off in the time remaining. Worcestershire and Nottinghamshire also drew, as did Durham and Derbyshire. Warwickshire, Northamptonshire, Yorkshire and Lancashire all completed victories to go with those obtained by Somerset and Middlesex yesterday.

SIGNIFICANT INDIVIDUAL PERFORMANCES

David Bedingham was the chief architect of Dutham’s big total against Derbyshire. Durham were guilty of being over=cautious thereafter, first declining to enforce the follow on after a fine bowling effort from Chris Rushworth and then batting on until they were 384 ahead before declaring. Derbyshire were never in serious danger of defeat because of these tactics. Bedingham now averages of 50 in first class cricket, after 40 appearances at that level.

Worcestershire did make Nottinghamshire follow on, but had to settle for a draw. Haseeb Hameed, who had already scored 111 in Notts’ first innings 276 and Ben Slater each reached 114 not out, as with eight extras in there, Notts reached 236-0 in their second innings before the two sides accepted the draw. It would be premature to talk about Hameed in England terms after one tremendous match following several years in the wilderness, but it is good to see him making runs once again.

Somerset’s win over Leicestershire featured important performances from four players: Craig Overton with eight wickets in the match, and Jack Leach with five very economical ones were both hugely impressive with the ball, Overton seeming to have found some extra pace from somewhere to answer one of the criticisms that have been made of him. Tom Abell made runs in both innings, and Tom Lammonby, after a shocking start to the season scored an unbeaten 70 in the final innings to lead his side to a nine wicket win.

Warwickshire chased down a significant total in the fourth innings against Essex, including denying Simon Harmer any wickets. Robert Yates, a promising youngster, anchored the chase with an undefeated 120, supported chiefly by Indian international Hanuma Vihari and Sam Hain, a definite England prospect.

Northamptonshire chased down over 350 to beat Glamorgan, and the principal architect of that successful chase was Ricardo Vasconcelos, who produced his second 150+ score of the season – a new career best of 185 not out.

I have saved to the last the performance I rate highest of the lot. Lancashire beat Kent by an innings. This outcome was set up by an astonishing lower order turnaround that saw 190-6 become 525 all out, with nos 8 and 9 each scoring centuries, and the key architect of the subsequent victory was leg spinner Matt Parkinson, who after an economical first innings performance that yielded him two wickets took a career best seven in the second Kent innings. At high water mark in that second innings Kent were 305-4 and looked well capable of saving the game, but Parkinson, supported by Danny Lamb (whose sister Emma also had a big day out yesterday, with a ton and a wicket for Lancashire Women) ensured that Lancashire got the result their superiority merited. Parkinson’s match figures 9-164 (2-38, 7-126, the latter resulting from 52 overs of bowling) mean that he now has 77 FC wickets at 23.58, and even if he does not play a home test this season he must surely be in the Ashes party as one of the two first choice spinners alongside Leach.

Please feel free to use the comments to mention significant performances that you feel I have overlooked – this has been a particularly impressive set of games.

PHOTOGRAPHS

My usual sign off…

County Championship Update

A look at happenings in the county championship as day three draws to a conclusion. A mathematical teaser and some photographs.

In this post I look at what has been going on around the grounds on day three of the county championship. Due to today being one of my fortnightly music therapy sessions I missed the entirety of the morning’s play, which as it turned out meant missing the denouement of the London derby. I am therefore tuned into Leicestershire v Somerset, which is also highly likely to finish today, with Somerset heading towards a convincing win. Elsewhere in the world Sri Lanka and Bangladesh are contesting a test match, but due to the state of the pitch that game has been rendered an utter irrelevance which even the batters who have been bolstering their averages are unlikely to remember beyond stumps being pulled up tomorrow on the stalest of stalemates.

SPINELESS SURREY’S SATURDAY SURRENDER

Surrey resumed this morning just behind Middlesex with seven second innings wickets standing. Those wickets went down in a heap, Surrey crashing to 130 all out, setting Middlesex just 16 to win, a target the latter achieved wtihout losing a wicket in their second innings. Burns made 54 for Surrey, while Roland-Jones (four wickets) and Bamber (three scalps) did most of the damage with the ball. The last seven Surrey wickets fell while 25 runs were scored, the sort of passage of play that deserves to doom a side to defeat as it did.

SOMERSET IN CONTROL

Leicestershire faced an 85 run deficit when they began their second innings in their home match against Somerset. Craig Overton (a remarkable 18-10-25-5) and Jack Leach (20-8-43-3) ensured that Somerset’s victory target would be modest, Leicestershire being restricted to 199 in their second innings, a lead of only 114. Overton has match figures of 8-64, and Leach 5-82, an excellent effort from an England possible and England’s #1 spinner (unless the selectors are going to try the ‘Ecclestone Experiment’). Lammonby, who came into this season with many calling for his elevation but has barely scored a run thus far is finally relocating some form, 32 not out in a score of 51-1. That innings, over two thirds of his season’s run tally, has boosted his FC record to 501 runs at 35.79, with scope for improvement – seeing Somerset home will count heavily in his favour if he manages it. However Hassan Azad had moved ahead of him in the pecking order, though he did not have a great match this time, and there has been another significant development.

AROUND THE GROUNDS

Sussex v Yorkshire: Sussex are 59-1 in their second innings, needing a further 176 to beat Yorkshire. Yorkshire battled to 305 in their second innings to give Sussex a genuine target in the fourth innings. There were runs for former England batters Lyth and Ballance, an off spinner named Jack Carson took a five for, and Oliver Edward Robinson, widely expected to feature for England sooner rather than later, took three wickets.

Worcestershire v Nottinghamshire: Worcestershire 436 all out, Nottinghamshire 276 all out. Worcestershire should enforce the follow on, going for the win, but may well take the cautious option of batting again. Haseeb Hameed, whose budding test career was interrupted by injury, and who then lost form with Lancashire, scored a century in the Notts innings, a knock that prove of considerable significance to England. Charlie Morris took 3-30 for Worcestershire.

Essex v Warwickshire: Essex are 129-6 in their second innings, an overall lead of 140. The winners of three of the last four English FC trophies are not having things all their own way this time. Dan Lawrence is undefeated on 49, and Simon Harmer is supporting him. Craig Miles has three wickets, with the other three shared between Oliver Hannon-Dalby and Olly Stone.

Northamptonshire v Glamorgan: Glamorgan are 92-2 in their second innings, leading by 135 overall. Billy Root, younger brother of Joe, is batting decently there and he has Nick Selman for company.

Durham v Derbyshire: Durham 475, Derbyshire 267, Durham 48-1. Durham lead by 256, and a big final session could set them up for an overnight declaration (although I suspect that enforcing the follow on would have been a better call by them). The Durham second innings wicket has been claimed by Hudson-Prentice, who bowls right arm medium fast and is beginning to establish a decent reputation for himself. Chris Rushworth, a magnificent county bowler who has never caught the eyes of the England selectors, took 6-58 for Durham.

Kent v Lancashire: Lancashire 525, Kent 169 and 141-0. The large opening stand notwithstanding, Lancashire have done the right thing in sending Kent back in. Bell-Drummond in on 72 and Jordan Cox 62. Tom Bailey took four wickets in the Kent first innings, centurion Luke Wood three and leg spinner Matt Parkinson two. Bailey incidentally looks rather familiar as a line in a scorebook – his initials are TE, the same as Trevor Bailey, once of Essex.

Hampshire v Gloucestershire: Hampshire 470, Gloucestershire 283-5. Gloucestershire need 38 more to avoid the follow on, and if by some chance they fail to get them, then unquestionably Hampshire should enforce it – we are deep in to day three, and bowling Gloucs out a second time is the only route Hampshire have to victory. As I type the sixth Gloucs wicket has just gone at 283. Ryan Higgins, underlining his considerable all round credentials, is undefeated on 70, having already claimed four wickets in the Hampshire innings. Kraigg Brathwaite (WI) and James ‘Bobby’ Bracey (a good chance of playing for England) have both also scored significant runs for Gloucestershire.

Newsflash: Worcestershire have correctly enforced the follow on against Nottinghamshire. Somerset meanwhile have moved on to 72-1, just 43 short of victory over Leicestershire, Lammonby 37 not out.

A MATHEMATICAL TEASER

At the request of several of my twitter followers I am including a mathematical teaser, the solution to which I shall include in my next blog post. As usual it comes from www.brilliant.org.

Do not be overly intimidated by the four flames – it is not actually as difficult as the setters thought.

PHOTOGRAPHS

My usual sign off…

As I reach the final prepublication stages of this post, Lammonby has completed a 50, and Somerset now need just 21 more, still with nine wickets standing. Lammonby now has 55 not out, which gives him 527 runs at 37.64 in FC cricket.

Picking a Test Side Without Stokes or Woakes

A look at options for the England side for the first test and some photographs.

This post looks at the problems caused by the absences of Stokes (injured) and Woakes (at the IPL) for England. Another round of County Championship matches gets underway tomorrow and may provide more information.

FOUR BOWLERS OR FIVE?

Stokes and Woakes are the two best English all rounders currently playing, and without either the choice is between relying on four bowling options or accepting a weakened batting line up in order to have five bowling options. My choice, because one needs to take 20 wickets to win a test match is to have five bowling options.

BUILDING THE TEAM

There are doubts over whether Sibley will be fit for the first test match, and the only potential replacement who is doing enough at the moment in my book is Hassan Azad of Leicestershire. Burns and Crawley will round out the top three. Skipper Root will be at four, the slot he has made his own. Number five is choice between Pope and Lawrence, but Pope has underlined his quality with a huge score in the last round of championship matches, so I select him. As readers of this blog know I consider that Foakes should be a shoo-in for the test wicket keeping berth, and with five bowlers needed I put him at six. Personally I would select Ryan Higgins at seven – he is a cut above Overton, Gregory or S Curran with the bat, and an FC bowling average of 21 suggests he could do a job at the highest level. No8, where also batting skills are not entirely irrelevant is for me locked down – Oliver Edward Robinson who underlined his credentials with a nine wicket innings haul a few days ago gets the nod. Archer is at the IPL, and current form suggests that of the other two out and out speedsters Olly Stone should get the nod. Parkinson’s fine bowling against Northants not withstanding Jack Leach is clear as England’s #1 test spinner. James Anderson is missing Lancashire’s next game due to a tight calf, which suggests that Stuart Broad has to get the final placed. Thus my provisional line up, assuming that availability is as it seems is:

  1. Hassan Azad
  2. Rory Burns
  3. Zak Crawley
  4. *Joe Root
  5. Ollie Pope
  6. +Ben Foakes
  7. Ryan Higgins
  8. Oliver Edward Robinson
  9. Olly Stone
  10. Jack Leach
  11. Stuart Broad

PHOTOGRAPHS

My usual sign off…

Stokes Out For Three Months

A look at ways for England to cope with the enforced absence of Ben Stokes, a look at the cricket that is happening today, an answer to the teaser in my last post and some photographs.

This post looks at how England might cope without Ben Stokes, who will definitely be missing the first test series of the home summer against New Zealand, though he may be able to turn out against India later in the summer. There are also brief mentions of today’s cricket.

REPLACING STOKES

There is no such thing as a like for like replacement for Ben Stokes. The question is then whether you want five genuine bowling options or whether your primary concern is to deepen the batting. If you are worried about the batting then the logical approach based on current evidence is to play either Pope at five and Lawrence at six or vice versa, then rounding out the order with +Foakes, Woakes, one of Archer/Stone/Wood depending on form and fitness, Leach and one of Anderson/Broad depending on form and fitness. If you prefer five bowlers, then you pick one of Pope/ Lawrence to bat at five, gamble on +Foakes at six, have Woakes at seven and avoid a diplodocan tail by selecting one of Oliver Edward Robinson, Lewis Gregory or Craig Overton at eight, and then the 9/10/11 on the basis I have already explained. Two sample line ups using the different approaches are below:

Four Bowlers XIFive Bowlers XI
Dom SibleyDom Sibley
Rory BurnsRory Burns
Zak CrawleyZak Crawley
*Joe Root*Joe Root
Ollie PopeOllie Pope
Dan Lawrence+Ben Foakes
+Ben FoakesChris Woakes
Chris WoakesOliver E Robinson
Olly StoneOlly Stone
Jack LeachJack Leach
James AndersonJames Anderson
Sample England line ups (please read full post) – do you gamble on four bowlers being sufficient and aim for a strong batting line up, or do you insist on having five front line bowlers?

Feel free to comment on these ideas and make suggestions of your own.

TODAY’S CRICKET

It is day two of the second round of County Championship fixtures. Mohammad Abbas has obliterated the top half of the Middlesex batting order (at low water mark, facing a tally of just over 300 they were 14-5, Abbas 5-3) down at the Rose Bowl. In the game I am principally focussed on, the west country derby at Taunton, Gloucestershire are 113-3 in reply to Somerset’s 312, with Tom Lace the most recent casualty, to an entirely self inflicted dismissal. In South Africa the home side are going nicely in their T20I vs Pakistan, 64-1 after seven overs, while the IPL action for the day starts in just under an hour, and the question is will the mere kings (Punjab Kings) be able to get the better of the super kings (Chennai Super Kings)?

SOLUTION TO TEASER

In my previous post I set a teaser from brilliant.org. I now provide the answer.

The selection of these multiple choice options left a hack just waiting to be exploited, though as far as I am aware I am the only solver who actually admitted to having done so. The total area of the circle is 36pi, which is just over 113 units. No way are either 24 or 36 big enough to be the largest possible, while 144 is larger than the total available area and therefore clearly impossible. This leaves 72 as the only possible answer, and sure enough, it is the correct answer. Had one their largest available answer been 84 or 96 this hack would not have been available (note that 108 is too close to the total available area to be a really convincing alternative) and I would have had to actually work out a proper solution. I now share with you an authentic solution, published by David Vreken:

PHOTOGRAPHS

My usual sign off…

Somerset’s Comeback Triumph

A look back at the first round of the county championship, especially Middlesex v Somerset, plus some photographs.

This post looks back at an extraordinary turnaround in one of the only three fixtures in the opening round of the County Championship to have a definite result (Gloucs beating Surrey and Hants beating Leics were the other two).

SOMERSET RECOVERY

Somerset won the toss and put Middlesex in (see here for more on the early stages of the match). At low water mark Somerset were 89-9 facing a Middlesex total of 313. Marchant de Lange and Jack Leach, nos 10 and 11 for Somerset added 83 for the final wicket to save the follow on (there would have been no sensible case for Middlesex declining to enforce it). When Middlesex were 87-2 at the end of the second day they still looked firm favourites, but great bowling efforts from Overton, Davey and Leach restricted Middlesex to 143 in their second innings, leaving Somerset 285 to win. Three wickets went fairly early, but then Tom Abell and George Bartlett shared a good partnership before Abell was dislodged for 84. Steven Davies and Craig Overton both fell cheaply, and the target was still over 100 away when Lewis Gregory walked in to join Bartlett. Gregory, who had picked up a five-for in the first Middlesex innings came to the party for the second time in the match, and he and Bartlett were still together when the winning run was scored, Bartlett 76 not out, Gregory 62 not out. Appropriately, it was Gregory who sealed the win. Leach’s total match figures of 4-61, going at less than two an over, were huge news for England, since unless they are prepared to go seriously radical and drop Sophie Ecclestone a line there is no other serious specialist spin option for the test team at present – Matt Parkinson, with 62 wickets at 25 each in FC cricket ranks second to Leach, having a similar bowling average but only about a fifth of the number of wickets. Gregory has Woakes (definitely) and Oliver Edward Robinson (probably) ahead of him in the England pecking order. Abell and Bartlett may also be on the radar, and the runs they made in uphill circumstances will count heavily in their favour. On the debit side the other two Toms, Banton and Lammonby failed to do anything of note this time round. Ethan Bamber of Middlesex may have out himself on the radar with a fine bowling performance.

Elsewhere the most significant news from an England perspective were scores of 74 for Burns, the opener whose place is under scrutiny after a tough winter, and 133 for Foakes, who should be first choice keeper, and who must have improved his stocks with that effort.

PLAYER LINKS

Here are links to the cricinfo profiles of the players mentioned above in an England context:

PHOTOGRAPHY

My usual sign off…

County Championship Action

A look at the county championship match between Middlesex and Somerset, an XI inspired by the Somerset top order and plenty of photographs.

This post looks at the county championship match between Somerset and Middlesex, with a bonus feature related to Somerset’s batting order. However I begin with…

OLD MAN DIES – BBC WILDLY OVERDOES THINGS

At 12:13PM yesterday an official announcement was made that Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, had died at the age of 99. The news was not much of a surprise since it was known that he had been ill, and his death can hardly be considered untimely at that age. Yet the BBC not only devoted all their TV channels and all their principal radio stations to talking about this and only this, they also commandeered every other aspect of their coverage for the same purpose, which meant that my plan to produce a blog post while listening to the cricket yesterday went by the board. I found a live stream on youtube, but that had to be watched, and could not simply be on in the background while I did other things. It may have been justifiable for both BBC1 and BBC2 to be devoted exclusively to this death, and for radio 1,2,3,4 and 5 to be devoted to it as well, though I would have considered even that to be overdoing it. However, to black out specialist content such as cricket commentaries, which one tunes into for one purpose and one purpose only was definitely overdoing it. The BBC is now back at more or less normal service after most of a day and night of blanket coverage of the death. It also seems inappropriate to be making so much of the death of a very old man by natural causes at a time when some 150,000 Brits have died before their time due to the Johnson government’s appalling mishandling of the coronavirus pandemic.

MIDDLESEX V SOMERSET

Somerset put Middlesex in, and a so-so bowling performance (only Lewis Gregory with 5-68 and Jack Leach with a superbly economical effort of 1-43 off 22 overs really bowled well) and some very poor fielding allowed the home side to reach 313 in their first innings, Sam Robson making the most of several slices of luck to rack up 165.

At 89-9 it looked like Somerset may well be headed for an innings defeat, but nos 10 and 11, Marchant de Lange and Jack Leach, put on 83, de Lange reaching a half century, to get Somerset to 172, just past the minimum needed to avoid the follow on, 164. Middlesex reached 87-2 by the close of day two, Craig Overton with both wickets, but a brilliant bowling performance today, with Overton getting a third wicket, Josh Davey taking 3-16 from 11 and Leach 3-18 from 11.2 overs saw Middlesex bowled out for 143, leaving Somerset needing 285 to win. Tom Lammonby fell early, but the other two Toms, Banton and Abell are going well, with Somerset 65-1, needing 220 more to win. This segues nicely on to my bonus feature…

THE TOMS XI

The fact that the top three in the Somerset order all answer to Tom got me thinking about an XI all of whom answered to Tom (nb I was very specific that this must be players who were actually referred to as Tom – Thomas or Tommy do not county – I am a Thomas and I dislike any diminutive form of my first name). Below is what I came up with:

  1. Tom Hayward – right handed opening batter, right arm medium paced bowler. He would be delighted to know that in this XI he will definitely by no higher than sixth choice as a bowler – he advised his great protege and fellow Cambridge native Jack Hobbs not let Surrey find out how good a bowler he was, because he felt that he himself was overworked by the county in that department. He was the second to reach 1,000 FC runs in an English season before June after WG Grace, and also second after WG to the career landmark of 100 first class hundreds. He was also a fine fielder.
  2. Tom Lammonby – left handed opening batter, left arm medium pacer. Two failures in the current match has reduced has record to 464 runs at 42.18 (was 459 at 51.00 going into it). That record includes three centuries. He is one the Somerset trio, two of whom I have named in this XI (Banton, who has just gone to make it 79-2, 206 still needed, is the one to miss out).
  3. Tom Abell – right handed batter, right arm medium pacer. The second of the two current Somerset Toms in this XI. He currently averages 32 in FC cricket, but is clearly on an upward trajectory, and an England career would not surprise many. Hayward shared many large partnerships with Bobby Abel – maybe he would also go well with an Abell!
  4. *Tom Graveney – right handed batter, occasional leg spinner, captain. The best batting record of any Tom, and the second most prolific batter to have played all his FC cricket after WWII. In 1966 he was part of a record breaking revival – West Indies had scored 268 and reduced England to 166-7, but Graveney (165), Murray (112 from no 9) and Higgs and Snow with a fifty a piece boosted England to 527 – 361 for the last three wickets! Unsurprisingly the West Indies were knocked sideways by this and went down to an innings defeat.
  5. Tom Killick – right handed batter. He averaged just above 40 through a 92 match first class career. This included 15 centuries and a career best score of 206.
  6. +Tom Blundell – right handed batter, wicket keeper, occasional off spinner. The Kiwi has a test average of 38 including two centuries, slightly better than his FC average of 36.
  7. Tom Emmett – left arm fast bowler, left handed lower middle order batter. Though it is principally his bowling for which he is selected, he was good enough with the willow to record a first class century when such scores were far from being commonplace. He was one of five ‘tykes’ to feature in the first ever test match in 1877.
  8. Tom Cartwright – right arm medium pace bowler, right handed lower order batter. Again picked for his bowling, but again far from valueless with the bat. He played a role in South Africa’s isolation from international cricket – he was named in the original England tour party, and withdrew citing injury but in truth because he did not want to tour in such circumstances. D’Oliveira, who should have been a shoo-in for the original squad anyway was named in his place, and when Balthazar Johannes Vorster then announced that D’Oliveira would not be accepted the tour was cancelled. This same Vorster a couple of years later gave vent to some particularly crass racism during a one to one meeting with Don Bradman which prompted the latter to pull the plug on South Africa.
  9. Tom Wills – right arm fast bowler/ right arm slow bowler. 130 FC wickets at less than 10 a piece. He was a hugely important figure in Australian sporting history, with his involvement in the 1868 Aboriginal tour of England and his role as the pioneer of Australian Rules Football, which he conceived as something for Aussie cricketers to do in their off season.
  10. Tom Goddard – right arm off spinner. He started his long career as a quick bowler and even took a hat trick using that method, but his overall returns were underwhelming, and Gloucestershire’s veteran left arm spinner Charlie Parker noted his big hands and suggested he turn his attention to spinning the ball. Goddard spent three years turning himself into an off spinner and gained his reward in the form of a long career which saw him become the fifth most prolific bowler in FC history with 2,979 scalps at less than 20 a piece. He achieved five more first class hat tricks as an off spinner, putting him joint second (alongside Parker who also achieved the feat six times) in this category, one behind Doug Wright who achieved seven first class hat tricks. As late as 1948 when he was not far short of 50 an England recall was a possibility, scotched by Arthur Morris who accepted responsibility for knocking him out of contention when Australia played Gloucestershire and doing just that, racking up 290 in five hours.
  11. Tom Richardson – right arm fast bowler. He took his 1,000th first class wicket in his 134th match at that level and his 2,000th in his 327th match at that level, both of which remain records for reaching those milestones. In the calendar years 1894, 1895, 1896 and 1897 combined he took 1,005 wickets. Neville Cardus, who named him one of the ‘Six Giants of the Wisden Century’ in a 1963 essay, recounted an incident from a match against Lancashire in brutal heat, when Richardson, deep into one of his customary marathon spells chased a ball all the way to the boundary off his own bowling.

This team has a strong top five, a keeper batter at six, two bowlers who can bat at seven and eight and three excellent specialist bowlers. Although there is only one genuine spinner the attack has plenty of variety. The chief misses due to the tightness of my restrictions were Tommy Andrews, an Aussie batter who was also an outstanding cover fielder and Thomas Godfrey Evans, one of the greatest of all keepers, who was always known by his middle name Godfrey. Please feel free to use the comments to identify any Toms you think I have treated harshly by not including them.

PHOTOGRAPHS

My usual sign off…

County Championship Under Way

A brief look back at the opening day of the county cricket season and some photographs.

Today saw the first day of play in the county championship and the weather thankfully did not pay a huge part in the action.

A TENSE DAY AT LORD’S

I opted to follow the action in Middlesex v Somerset at Lord’s. Somerset won the toss and decided to bowl. A combination of ordinary fielding (at least four chances went begging) and Sam Robson who cashed in on some of the former to rack up 165 gave the opening day honours to Middlesex, but not by much. The close of play score was 293-8, Lewis Gregory taking four wickets, while Jack Leach did an excellent job as a spinner on day one in England, keeping things very tight (he bowled 22 overs and had 1-43 to his name).

Elsewhere there was some vintage stat padding by James Vince at the expense of Leicestershire, Oliver Graham Robinson the Kent wicket keeper scored a fifty and Oliver Edward Robinson the Sussex fast medium bowler and useful lower order batter did likewise.

PHOTOGRAPHS

My usual sign off…

Possible England Bowling Attacks For Australia

A look ahead to Ashes, focussing especially on the bowling.

This piece was prompted by a little discussion on twitter this morning about this subject. Somebody who tweets as The Slog Sweeper was advocating the selection of five specialist bowlers, Archer, Stone, Wood, Leach and Anderson, all of whom I firmly believe should be in that tour party if fit, in the team at one the same time. I can understand the logic, but it seems to me to be too high risk, with virtually no runs coming from the second half of the innings. I am going to look at possible combinations for that series in more detail here.

THE ROLE OF THE SPINNER

Jack Leach is established as England’s no1 test spinner. Given that English off spinners have generally fared poorly in Australia and the paucity of options with even respectable first class records the only remotely likely choice for the role of second spinner would be Matt Parkinson (FC bowling average 25). Back for Leach in the role of left arm orthodox spinner is hard to find at present, unless Sophie Ecclestone gets offered her chance to try her stuff alongside the men. I have examined the role of left arm slow to medium paced bowlers in successful Ashes campaigns down under elsewhere on this blog. The only regular test venue in Australia that is remotely likely to warrant the selection of two specialist spinners is Sydney. It could well be the case that no spinner is selected in Perth, and at the other three venues Leach will be the chosen spinner.

BALANCING ATTACKS TO SUIT LOCAL CONDITIONS

At the Gabba for the series opener the right bowling attack would feature two out and out speedsters, Leach and Anderson. At Adelaide, where pitches are often favourable for batting there might be a case for slightly weakening the batting order in an effort to get 20 wickets and playing Woakes at seven, two of the speedsters, Leach and either Broad or Anderson depending on form and fitness. At Perth I might well gamble on all three out and out speedsters and a toss up between Leach and Broad for the fourth specialist bowler. The MCG is the one Aussie ground where I would be happy without two out and out speedsters and would pick whichever of the three is bowling best, both veterans and Leach, or possibly Woakes in place of one of the veterans. At the SCG I am either going two out and out speedster and two spinners (Parkinson coming in) or possibly two out and out speedsters, Anderson and Leach.

POSSIBLE XI FOR THE GABBA

The questions if any are over the top of the order. However, unless either:

a) Haseeb Hameed, with a test average before injury interrupted his career of 43, has an epic season and positively demands selection or

b)One of the younger openers hits their straps in the early part of the county season and establishes themselves at international level during the summer

I think that it will be a case of hoping that the existing top order can function well down under – it would be a huge ask of an opener to make their international debut in an away Ashes series. Thus my Gabba XI in batting order reads as follows:

  1. Dom Sibley
  2. Rory Burns
  3. Zak Crawley
  4. *Joe Root
  5. Ben Stokes
  6. Dan Lawrence
  7. +Ben Foakes
  8. Mark Wood/ Jofra Archer (dependent on form and fitness)
  9. Olly Stone
  10. Jack Leach
  11. James Anderson

With two out and out speedsters, the skill and experience of Anderson, Leach and Stokes in the x-factor role I have considerable confidence in this side taking 20 wickets, and while the batting order would not be the deepest England have ever fielded it should be capable of producing enough runs.

PHOTOGRAPHS

My usual sign off…