Rain and Records

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

INTRODUCTION

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

YOUTH AND EXPERIENCE TO THE FORE

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

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

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

ADVANTAGE SOMERSET IN THE BWT

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

PHOTOGRAPHS

My usual sign off…

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England Win The Wisden Trophy

England’s victory at Old Trafford, player ratings and photographs from my collection.

INTRODUCTION

The Wisden Trophy is now England’s in perpetuity – future series between England and the West Indies will be played for the Richards – Botham Trophy. This post describes the concluding stages of the match.

THE BROAD/ WOAKES SHOW

After yesterday was washed out the question was whether there would be enough play today for England to complete the job. There were a couple of interruptions, but England took wickets regularly. Broad began today’s events by bagging his 500th test wicket, the seventh bowler to reach that landmark. His victim was Kraigg Brathwaite, who three years earlier had been James Anderson’s 500th test victim. Then Woakes bowled a marvellous spell in which he bagged five wickets, while Roston Chase was run out courtesy of a direct hit on the stumps by Dom Bess. Broad came back at the the end, and at 2:58PM he had Jermaine Blackwood edging to Jos Buttler for his tenth wicket of the match to go with his score of 62. The West Indies were all out for 129 and the final margin was 269 runs. Dominic Bess did not get a bowl in either innings such was the dominance of England’s pace bowlers.

COMMISERATIONS TO THE WEST INDIES

All true cricket fans should be deeply grateful to the West Indies for undertaking this tour given the circumstances, and they played superbly in the first match at the Ageas Bowl. They were badly beaten in both the games played at Manchester to end up losing the series. Jason Holder was guilty of two poor decisions after winning the toss in both games. Bowling first might have been justifiable the first time round although doing so is always a gamble (nb I specifically did not criticize England’s decision to bat first in the opener for this precise reason), but the second time round it was utterly inexcusable – not only did he know that doing so at the same ground had backfired a few days previously, he had also selected an extra spinner in the person Rahkeem Cornwall, certainly the heaviest top level cricketer since Warwick Armstrong and possibly since the mighty ‘Lion of Kent’, Alfred Mynn, star of the 1840s, and for the selection of the extra spinner to work you need to bowl last. The West Indies batters had a tendency to get caught on the crease rather than getting fully forward which meant that they suffered a lot of LBWs.

ENGLAND PLAYER RATINGS

  1. Rory Burns – 8.5 – 57 in the first innings, 90 in the second getting out playing aggressively, the dismissal the triggered the declaration.
  2. Dom Sibley – 6.5 – a blob in the first innings, but a 50 in the second, and he did show some attacking intent with England having an eye on a declaration.
  3. Joe Root – 7.5 – failed in the first innings, but a blistering 68 not out off 56 balls in the second propelled England to their declaration, and he handled the side well in the field.
  4. Ben Stokes – 5 – a quiet match for the talisman, scoring 20 in his only innings and not bowling due to a niggle.
  5. Ollie Pope – 8 – his first innings 91 was a magnificent innings, he took a splendid catch but was robbed of the credit for it because the bowler had overstepped.
  6. Jos Buttler – 5.5 – 67 in the first dig, when England needed runs from him. Struggled somewhat behind the sticks. His first innings score, while valuable in the context of this match should not save him – he has had so many chances that he was bound to make a decent contribution somewhere along the way.
  7. Chris Woakes – 7 – did little until the final day, but when he did get into the game did so in style with a five-for.
  8. Dom Bess – 6 – the off spinner was not called on to bowl, but he made a crucial contribution with the bat and fielded superbly, including a direct hit run out in the final innings.
  9. Jofra Archer – 6 – not the best match for the fast bowler, with only one wicket to show for his efforts, but he put in some hard yards.
  10. Stuart Broad – 10 – A blistering innings when England were far from secure having slipped from 258-4 to 280-8 in the first innings, 6-31 in the first West Indies innings and 4-36 in the second, the first three to open them right up, and fittingly the final wicket to fall. He also pouched a couple of catches, and as I said about Stokes in the previous match even Craig Revel-Horwood would rate this performance a 10.
  11. James Anderson – 7 – only two wickets in the match, both in the first innings for the veteran, but he bowled very well and played his part in this triumph.

PHOTOGRAPHS

My usual sign off…

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PS – Stuart Broad has been named Player of the Series, and just too late to save the West Indies the Manchester rain has returned (a bit like Adelaide 2010, when shortly after Australia were bowled out to give England an innings win the heavens opened).

 

Test Match Poised For A Great Finish

A very brief post updating on the situation at the Ageas bowl, as a test match worthy of the occasion (the resumption of cricket after covid-19) draws to what looks like being a great finish. Also includes some of my photographs.

INTRODUCTION

The Test Match at the Ageas Bowl is moving towards its closing stages and is still too close to call, though England are at present probably favourites to win.

THE FINISH OF DAY 4

England needed a good day yesterday, and up to a point they had one. At the high watermark of their second innings batting effort they had reached 249-3 and were looking like taking control of the game. Then Ben Stokes got himself out, and some good West Indian and some poor English batting saw a clatter of wickets, with the score plunging to 279-8. Jofra Archer and Mark Wood saw things through to the close at 284-8, with England 170 to the good.

DAY 5 SO FAR

England advanced their score by a further 29 in the opening session of play before they were all out, thus setting the West Indies precisely 200 to win. Anderson and Archer began magnificently, and the West Indies were soon three down and with an opener nursing an injury. They reached lunch for no further loss, and have fared well since the interval, reaching 72-3, with a further 128 required for victory. It remains anyone’s game, and whatever happens kn what is left of it it has been a superb resumption for international cricket after its longest hiatus since 1971-2 (or in other words the longest international blank since ODIs became a thing). I shall be back tomorrow with a longer post analysing the match as a whole.

PHOTOGRAPHS

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England Struggling At The Ageas Bowl

Continuing thoughts on post-Covid test cricket, as being showcased at the Ageas bowl.

INTRODUCTION

The weather in the vicinity of Southampton is better today, and it seems that we will get a full day’s play today. This post looks at the goings on since this time yesterday.

DAY 2

Yesterday’s post finished with England having just lost a sixth wicket, ending a stand between Buttler and Stokes. Wickets 7,8 and 9 followed swiftly, but then some sensible aggression from Bess, with the support of Anderson, saw England pass 200, Bess becoming one of only three England batters to reach 30 in the innings (Stokes 43, with the assistance of a lot of luck, and Buttler 35. England tallied 204, and the West Indies reached 57-1 off the 19.3 overs of their innings that were possible before the light intervened (more of this later). England did not start today well, and a running theme was continued when an LBW was overturned on review (on this occasion because the bowler had overstepped, and the delivery was therefore a no-ball), the sixth time such a decision had been overturned to date, and all six have been given against the West Indies by on-field umpires Illingworth and Kettleborough. Shai Hope became the second player out in the West Indies innings, caught by Stokes off Bess, who has had the best game of any England player to date. Then Stokes struck with an LBW, which was yet again sent upstairs, but on this occasion came back as ‘umpires call’, meaning that the on-field decision, and Kraigg Brathwaite was out for 65, comfortably the highest score of the match to date. Shamarh Brooks and Roston Chase stayed in till lunch, and in the few minutes since the resumption have not been separated as yet, with the West Indies now 159-3. Now on to some thoughts about a few specific issues…

WHAT ENGLAND NEED FROM HERE

First England need to bowl better (and the quick bowlers need to bowl to a fuller length than they have been on this surface – Holder was successful for the Windies by pitching it up) and dismiss the West Indies before they build a really huge lead. Get the West Indies out for 250, which is definitely possible, and England will be in the contest, and even if they reach 300 that is not an impossible deficit to overcome, especially given the dryness of the pitch, which suggests that there will be genuine assistance for Bess in the 4th innings if the game goes that far. Then England need to bat well second time around. Denly and Crawley in particular need runs with Root due to return for the second match and Bracey and Lawrence knocking on the door (I would have given Lawrence the no4 slot and dropped Denly in any case). If England can set the West Indies even as much as 200 in the fourth innings that might easily be enough.

HOME UMPIRES

This move has been necessitated by the pandemic, but at the moment, for all their strong position the West Indies have a legitimate grievance in this matter – a succession of decisions by the on-field umpires have gone against them, and while all bar one have subsequently been overturned. The one that was not overturned was close, and would also have stood had it been given the other way.

WEATHER, LIGHT AND STARTING TIMES

Not much can be done about rain, but time has also been lost in this match to bad light, which I regard as inexcusable. Natty over at Sillypoint has suggested that pink balls should be used at test matches so that the overs can be bowled even if the floodlights are the only source of light at the ground, which has a lot going for it. The alternative is to keep the red balls for general use, but also have a stock of pink or white balls at the ground, and if the floodlights are the only available light delay play only for as long as it takes to swap the red ball for a pink or white one in similar condition. What is not acceptable is a continuation of the current system, where huge chunks of playing time are needlessly lost due to a desire to stick with red balls at all times. Finally, the Ageas Bowl was chosen as host venue for this series because there is a hotel that is structurally part of the ground, there are no spectators allowed for the obvious reasons, so no one has any commuting to do to get to the ground. Therefore, why the continuing insistence on 11AM starts – today has been bright and sunny down there from the start apparently, so why could play not have got underway at 10AM to make up for some of the lost time?

ENGLAND PLAYER BY PLAYER

  1. Dominic Sibley – a failure this time, but he has done enough in his career to date not to be dropped.
  2. Rory Burns – again not a good first innings for him, but he is established in the side and should be retained.
  3. Joe Denly – his first innings failure took his test average below 30, and at the age of 34, he is surely only one more failure from the exit door.
  4. Zak Crawley – failed in the first innings, but worth persevering with, although he too needs a big score before too long.
  5. Ben Stokes – he rode his luck to make 43 with the bat, his bowling has not been great thus far, but you never know when he will come up with something, and although I expect Root to resume the captaincy there is no way Stokes is losing his place as a player.
  6. Ollie Pope – before getting out he looked several classes above anyone else in the line up, and there are surely big scores to come from him.
  7. Jos Buttler – I do not consider 35 an outstanding score and think that he must be running out of chances.
  8. Dom Bess – the only England player whose stocks have gone up in this match, a spirited innings in his secondary discipline and has bowled nicely so far.
  9. Jofra Archer – quick as ever but has bowled too short thus far and been consequently expensive and relatively unthreatening.
  10. Mark Wood – see my comment re Archer.
  11. James Anderson – the usual Anderson, accurate, always commanding respect. It would seem that the plan is for him and Broad to alternate through this summer, an idea I endorse. Broad it would appear has had an on air (TV) ‘toys out of the pram’ moment over his non-selection for this game, but the way he bowled in the warm up match, lacking pace, and largely too wide to pose any great threat he should have no complaints over missing out.

As far as I am concerned, any score that does contain three figures in the second innings should spell the end of Denly, as Root returns. Crawley may retain his spot, but one or other of Lawrence or Bracey could claim that. Buttler should lose his place (but probably won’t, so wilfully blind are the selectors to his faults in long-form cricket) for Foakes. Anderson and Broad will likely rotate as explained, and Robinson, Curran and Mahmood are all possibles for pace bowling slots. Bess’s performance here has underlined his role as first choice spinner, and if at any point there is a surface warranting two specialist spinners the leg spinner Parkinson should be the other. While I have been typing this Anderson has dismissed Brooks, caught by Buttler. This was the subject of yet another review, a terrible call by Brooks since the nick was blatantly obvious. I suspect that Brooks was influenced by the fact that the on-field umpires have been having such a poor game and found it hard to believe that they had actually got one right.

PHOTOGRAPHS

I congratulate the West Indies, and especially Holder and Gabriel, on their play in this match thus far, hope England can pick things up a bit and make this closer than it currently looks like being. I am delighted that cricket has returned, and have greatly enjoyed the TMS commentary on this game. Now it is time for my usual sign off…

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Dominic Bess has just nabbed a second wicket to make the West Indies 186-5 – Blackwood gone cheaply. Keeper Dowrich and skipper Holder are both useful batters, but after them are three tail enders.

All Time XIs – Through The Alphabet X

Continuing the all time XI #cricket series with a tenth ‘through the alphabet’ post. Also includes some photographs.

INTRODUCTION

Welcome to today’s all time XIs cricket post, the tenth in our alphabetic progression mini series. Unlike yesterday I also have some photos to share. Today we start with a Q…

IMAD WASIM’S XI

  1. Willie Quaife – right handed opening batter, occasional leg spinner. When it comes to opening batters whose surnames begin with Q there is really only one contender, the man who played for Warwickshire for almost 35 years, signing off with a century at the age of 56 years and four months. In the later years of his career he did on occasion open the batting with his son Bernard, but the latter only ever got picked because of whose son he was – he was not close to being top player (my source for this is long serving Warwickshire keeper EJ “Tiger” Smith by way of the ‘autobiography’ he gave to Pat Murphy by means of a series of recorded interviews).
  2. Chris Rogers – left handed opening batter. His test record for Australia was not stellar, partly because he was long past his prime before becoming a regular member of the side, but he was a seriously big scorer for Northamptonshire, Derbyshire and Middlesex in the county championship.
  3. Robin Smith – right handed batter. One of those rare batters who positively relished doing battle with the opposition fast bowlers (George Gunn, the Nottinghamshire legend was another, as was an earlier Hampshire man, George Brown) and even rarer in being an England player who actually enhanced his reputation during the 1989 Ashes series (keeper Jack Russell was the only other of whom that could be said). Another rare club to which Smith belongs is the ‘winners of a sledging contest with Merv Hughes’ club, again from that 1989 Ashes series. After a Smith play and miss Hughes, the bowler, said to him “you can’t ****ing bat”, Smith smacked the next ball for four and said “we make a fine pair: I can’t ****ing bat and you can’t ****ing bowl”.
  4. Sachin Tendulkar – right handed batter. Don Bradman, then a very old man, was watching a match an the TV at home and thought he had spotted something about the young man who was batting. He called his wife through to verify his observation, and Lady Jessie Bradman confirmed that yes, there was more than a passing resemblance between the methods of the batter in that match and Don’s own. The batter was, of course, Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar, who would go on to become the first and to date only batter to score 100 hundreds in international matches.
  5. Polly Umrigar – right handed batter, off spinner. He was at one time India’s leading test run scorer. There was a question mark about him against genuine pace, which he never got to face in Indian domestic cricket. Fred Trueman once claimed that on one occasion when he was bowling at Umrigar the square leg umpire was nearer the wicket than Umrigar. At No5, behind this side’s top four he is unlikely to be facing fast bowlers who have not already done a fair amount of bowling.
  6. +Roy Virgin – right handed batter, wicket keeper. He was only an occasional wicket keeper, but V is a difficult letter to fill. He was once named in the 12 for England but left out on the morning of the match, and that was as close to international cricket as he came.
  7. *Imad Wasim – left handed batter, left arm orthodox spinner, captain. He has played ODIs and T20Is with some success, but not yet test cricket. His first class record is 3,702 runs at 40.68 and 141 wickets at 31.14. I have named him as captain based on my thinking about slow bowling all rounders in this role. A cynic might say that since he is a Pakistani who is already an established part of their international set up I have a better than average chance of finding out how he handles the captaincy, given the way they go through captains.
  8. Xara Jetly – off spinner. This side has a longish looking tail, with the young kiwi off spinner at no8. X is a difficult letter to fill, and there is enough in her recent performances to at least suggest promise, and at the age of 18 she is certainly young enough to improve.
  9. Poonam Yadav – leg spinner. One of the attributes that is said to have made the Kent leg spinner Tich Freeman so difficult for opposition batters was his lack of height, which enabled him to release the ball upwards, making it difficult for the batters to follow its flight. Poonam Yadav is even shorter than Freeman’s 5’2″ and takes a similar approach to her own leg spin, releasing the ball upwards, and in her case, at as slow a pace as can ever have been seen in top level cricket.
  10. Dawlat Zadran – right arm fast medium bowler. The best pace bowler to have come from Afghanistan thus far, and he has an experienced new ball partner here in the form of…
  11. James Anderson – right arm fast medium bowler. 584 test wickets, and officially still counting. When the ‘bio-secure’ series starts next week we will see if he is in the England team. For me the choice is between him and Broad, with Curran (left arm, and a useful lower order batter), Wood (searing pace) and Bess the others chosen primarily for bowling and Stokes the all rounder providing a fourth pace option, with Parkinson possibly replacing Curran if a second specialist spinner is warranted (unlikely on a 21st century English pitch). However, whether or not he is selected for that match, his record speaks for itself, and in this team his experience will be invaluable.

This side has a fine top six, an admitted gamble with Roy Virgin, an occasional in the role in his playing days, trusted with the keeping gloves, an effective all rounder, two quality specialist spinners and an excellent new ball pairing.

JACK IDDON’S XI

  1. Tammy Beaumont – right handed opening batter.
  2. Bransby Beauchamp Cooper – right handed opening batter. He once shared an opening stand of 283 with WG Grace, and as a participant in the inaugural test match at Melbourne in 1877 has the distinction of being the first test cricketer to have been born in what is now Bangladesh (he was born in what was then Dacca, India and is now Dhaka, Bangladesh).
  3. Rahul Dravid – right handed batter. For many years the sheet anchor of the Indian test team. Probably his greatest innings was at Kolkata in 2001, when he played the support role to VVS Laxman’s pyrotechnics, as India came back from being made to follow on to win by 171 runs, scoring 657-7 declared in that second innings.
  4. George Emmett – right handed batter. A Gloucestershire stalwart of the immediate post world war two era who played a few matches for England.
  5. Francis Ford – left handed batter. He was in his prime in the last decade of the 19th century, when he acquired a reputation for ‘gentle violence’ at the crease. He played a part in the first test victory by a side made to follow on, at Sydney in 1894. He contributed an aggressive 48 to England’s second innings revival, which saw them reach 437, setting Australia 177 to win. Australia were then spun to defeat when overnight rain gave Peel and Briggs a vicious sticky to exploit.
  6. John Gunn – left handed batter, left arm slow medium bowler. The youngest of three brothers who all played for Nottinghamshire. At one time he held the county record individual score with 294, and he took over 1,000 first class wickets at 25 each.
  7. +Ian Healy – wicket keeper, right handed batter. After Rod Marsh’s retirement in 1984 Australia struggled to find a keeper, as they did in other respects in that period. Then in 1989 along came Ian Healy, a champion keeper, a useful batter who reserved his best performances for the test arena (usually against England) and even in that Aussie unit a stand out sledger.
  8. Jack Iddon – left handed batter, left arm orthodox spinner. Slightly out of position, as he was in reality more of a batter than a bowler, but his bowling record was very respectable, and given England’s fairly recent usage of Moeen Ali in the test team I am not going to be overly apologetic about this one.
  9. Les Jackson – right arm fast bowler. A phenomenal bowler for Derbyshire, but picked only twice for England.
  10. Anil Kumble – leg spinner. The third leading wicket taker in test history, and one of only two to have taken all ten wickets in a test innings.
  11. David Lawrence – right arm fast bowler. A combination of the unwillingness of the then England selectors to pick him and Devon Malcolm in the same team and a horrific knee injury curtailed his test chances, but he was consistently successful for Gloucestershire.

This team has a solid top five, a couple of all rounders, a keeper who can bat and three excellent bowlers. Jackson, Lawrence, Kumble, Gunn and Iddon should be able to take 20 wickets between them on any surface.

THE CONTEST

This should be close. Jack Iddon’s XI are stronger in batting, but Imad Wasim’s XI have a somewhat better bowling attack. I cannot call this one.

PHOTOGRAPHS

My usual sign off…

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Masks, handmade for the use of members of NAS West Norfolk.

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Me wearing one of the masks today.
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Close up of the mask in position.
TTAX
The teams in tabulated form.

 

All Time XIs – England

Today is international day in my ‘all-time XIs’ cricket series, and it is England in the spotlight. I also have a mini-section offering solidarity to #BlackLivesMatter.

INTRODUCTION

Today is a Monday, which means that it is international day in my ‘all time XIs’ cricket series. The international set up in the spotlight today is England.

ENGLAND IN MY TIME

  1. Alastair Cook – left handed opening batter. England’s all time leading scorer of test runs and test centuries.
  2. Alec Stewart – right handed opening batter. His average for England in this specific role (he played many roles in his long and distinguished career) was 45, excellent for his era. I have opted for him out of my available options because as a right hander of fundamentally attacking inclinations he complements Cook perfectly.
  3. *Michael Vaughan – right handed batter, occasional off spinner, captain. The captaincy did somewhat negatively affect his batting output, as it has done a lot of incumbents, but he was such a good captain that I am prepared to accept that.
  4. Joe Root – right handed batter, occasional off spinner. A magnificent batter, but wasted as captain, a role which is negatively affecting his output.
  5. David Gower – left handed batter. There were two choices for the left handed specialist middle order batter, Gower or Graham Thorpe, and I opted for Gower.
  6. Ben Stokes – left handed batter, right arm fast bowler. Ian Botham’s pomp occurred before I had got seriously into cricket, so I could not honestly include him in this XI, which left me two choices for the all-rounder, Flintoff or Stokes, and I regarded Stokes as the better option.
  7. +Matthew Prior – right handed batter, wicket keeper. This is a thorny one, which I shall be going into more detail on later on. Suffice to say for the present that this is not a selection I am entirely happy with.
  8. Graeme Swann – off spinner, useful lower order batter. The best spinner England have had in my lifetime (although the future in that department looks bright).
  9. Jofra Archer – right arm fast bowler. One of the most exciting talents I have ever seen.
  10. Steve Harmison – right arm fast bowler. Rated number one in the world at his absolute peak.
  11. James Anderson – right arm fast medium. England’s all time leading test wicket taker.

This team has a decent balance, although there is only one genuine spin option – until very recently England struggled in that department. The batting in strong, and Stokes’ bowling workload should be kept reasonably light with Harmison, Archer, Anderson and Swann also there.

HONOURABLE MENTIONS

I will split these into playing roles:

  • Opening batters – besides my actual choices there were three outstanding candidates for the positions, Marcus Trescothick, Andrew Strauss and Graham Gooch.
  • Nos 3-5 – the main candidates among those I did not pick were Graham Thorpe, Jonathan Trott, Ian Bell and Kevin Pietersen. I expect Ollie Pope to force his way in in the next few years.
  • The all-rounder – Flintoff was the only other serious candidate. I saw many ‘all rounders’ who were in truth not up to the job with either bat or ball.
  • The wicketkeeper – Ben Foakes should be England’s current keeper, and if he was he would have been in this team. Jack Russell was a fine keeper who was poorly treated by the selectors of his day. I also considered registering my unhappiness with the behaviour of the current England selectors over the keeping position by naming Sarah Taylor, a magnificent keeper for the England Women’s team.
  • Spinners – None of slow left armers Tufnell, Panesar, Giles or as yet Leach have a record to quite merit selection, nor does leg spinner Rashid. There are various young spinners who may feature in a few years time.
  • Fast bowlers. Mark Wood was in the mix and might have displaced Harmison. Simon Jones was another to merit consideration.

ENGLAND ALL TIME

  1. Jack Hobbs – right handed opening batter. Among the greatest ever to have played the game.
  2. Herbert Sutcliffe – right handed opening batter. Averaged 60.73 in test cricket, and 66.85 in the cauldron of The Ashes. Also formed the greatest opening partnership ever seen in test cricket with Hobbs (average stand 87).
  3. *WG Grace – right handed batter, right arm bowler of various types through his career, captain. His test average of 32.29 looks modest, but was achieved between 1880 and 1899, when batting averages were lower, and he was already 32 by the time he made his debut in the first test on English soil in 1880. His record as test captain was excellent – eight wins in 13 matches in that role, another reason for his selection. He usually opened, and I see value in having three recognized openers at the top of the order.
  4. Wally Hammond – right handed batter, occasional right arm medium fast bowler. 85 test matches, 7,249 runs at 58.45. Had he not returned to top level action after World War II, when into his forties, he would have had 6,883 test runs at 61.75.
  5. Denis Compton – right handed batter, occasional left arm wrist spinner. He averaged over 50 in test cricket in spite of losing six years of his prime to World War II.
  6. Ben Stokes – left handed batter, right arm fast bowler.
  7. Ian Botham – right handed batter, right arm fast medium bowler. For about the first five years of his career he was an authentic great, and he still had great moments after that for a few more years, although he went on long after his decline had become obvious. He completed the test career double of 1,000 runs and 100 wickets in 21 matches, 2,000 runs and 200 wickets in 42, maintaining the pace, and then slowed down, reaching the triple double in his 72nd test, while by the end of his career after another 30 matches he had over 5,000 runs, but was still short of 400 wickets.
  8. Billy Bates – off spinner, useful lower order batter. An eye injury ended his test career after just 15 matches, but 656 runs at 27.33 and 50 wickets at 16.42 were testament to his effectiveness. He was the first England bowler to take a test hat trick, in a match in which he took seven wickets in each innings and scored a 50.
  9. Fred Trueman – right arm fast bowler.
  10. Sydney Barnes – right arm fast medium bowler. 189 wickets in 27 test matches at 16.43 each. 77 of those wickets came in 13 matches in Australia.
  11. +Herbert Strudwick – wicket keeper. His career was disrupted by World War 1. 28 test matches between 1910 and 1926 saw him take 61 catches and execute 12 stumpings, while his 674 first class appearances saw him achieve 1,495 dismissals.

This team has a very strong top five, two magnificent all rounders at six and seven, a superb keeper and three excellent and varied bowlers. Although he would have share the new ball with Trueman, there is an argument for regarding Barnes, based on descriptions of his method as effectively a leg spinner, which is why I did not select a second front line spinner (Compton is also available as back up).

HONOURABLE MENTIONS

It is impossible to cover everyone who would have claims advanced on their behalf, but I shall mention some of the more obvious omissions:

  • Opening batters – I had positive reasons, based on their records, and their amazing success as an opening pair for going for Hobbs and Sutcliffe, and the only other England opener for whom I would consider breaking this pair up is Len Hutton, who was also an all-time great.
  • Nos 3-5 – Eddie Paynter (test average 59.23), Ken Barrington (58.67) and KS Duleepsinhji (58.52) had the highest averages of anyone I omitted, and Paynter in particular as a left handed batter was unfortunate. Peter May who averaged 46 batting in a difficult decade for run scoring (the 1950s) would also have his advocates. Frank Woolley, Patsy Hendren, Phil Mead and KS Rinjitsinhji all also had fine test records, while Colin Cowdrey’s longevity at the highest level was remarkable, and Ted Dexter would also have his advocates.
  • The all-rounders – Andrew Flintoff had a a few magnificent years (2004, 2005, first part of 2006) and had occasional moments either side of that golden period, but cannot displace Botham on any rational assessment. George Hirst, Trevor Bailey and Tony Greig all did good things for England over the years without having records to merit serious consideration.
  • Keepers – England have had some excellent ones, including the three contrasting Kent characters Ames, Evans and Knott, Bob Taylor and JT Murray.
  • Spinners – Jim Laker would have been the conventional selection as an off spinner, There have been a plethora of quality left arm spinners down the years: Johnny Briggs, Bobby Peel, Wilfred Rhodes, Colin Blythe, Roy Kilner, Hedley Verity, Johnny Wardle, Tony Lock and Phil Edmonds of the conventional type, plus the left arm slow-medium of Derek Underwood. Also three bowlers of that type who barely believable given their first class records have a single cap between them: George Dennett, Alonzo Drake and Charlie Parker. There have been fewer leg spinners with really good England records, but Tich Freeman, Ian Peebles and Doug Wright might all have their advocates.
  • Pace bowlers – too many of these to name. I am aware that I have not selected a left arm quick, and the best options in that department among those who got to play for England would be Fred Morley, Frank Foster or Bill Voce, while William Mycroft was at his peak just too early (he took his wickets at 12.09 each in first class cricket).

If naming another five players to make up a standard sized touring party I would choose Paynter and Woolley as reserve batters, Ames officially as reserve keeper, noting that he could also be played as a batter, and noting Woolley’s skill as an left arm orthodox spinner, Lohmann (right arm medium fast, 112 wickets at 10.75 in 18 test matches) and Underwood as my reserve bowlers.

LINKS AND PHOTOGRAPHS

This links section is to declare my solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement, and especially to support the activists who toppled the statue of slave trader Edward Colston in Bristol.

Had Covid-19 not caused a change of plan for them, soprano Charlotte Hoather and her fiancee, pianist George Todica would have been married this weekend. Instead they settled for giving a wonderful concert from their balcony, posted by Charlotte on her blog yesterday.

Finally it is time for my usual sign off…

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This picture, and the next five after it are of a little bird that I spotted for the first time yesterday and captured on camera. My bird book does not offer a conclusive answer, so I post it here to invite comment.

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England
The teams in tabulated form.

England Ahead On Points In 1st Ashes Test

Some thoughts on the Ashes match in progress at Edgbaston, suggestions for Lord’s and plenty of my photographs.

INTRODUCTION

The first match of the five-test Men’s Ashes series is under way at Edgbaston, now into the third day. This post looks at what has been going on to date.

THE PRELIMINARIES

Australia somewhat surprisingly included Peter Siddle in their team, but there were no other surprises from them. England did not particularly surprise with their choices but there were several question marks in their XI:

  1. Jason Roy opening is a questionable choice in Test cricket – in his debut match against Ireland he failed in the 1st innings and made runs from no 3 in the 2nd innings.
  2. Joe Denly at no 4 – this is a 32 year old who had not featured in an England test XI before the back end of last year.
  3. Moeen Ali as sole spinner – NO WAY: if they were going with only one spinner Jack Leach should have been the choice, especially after his performance at Lord’s last week. The pitch is now looking very much like a two-spinner surface, in which case the choice should either have been the safe Leach and Bess double act or a look to the future in the form of Lancashire’s Matthew Parkinson (although this latter would have meant Leach at no 9, and Anderson getting a promotion to no 10)
  4. Broad and Anderson are both getting on a bit, and the latter named has been injured recently – to select both was foolhardy (it is no secret to readers of this blog that Stuart Broad would not be in my starting XI in test cricket these days).

England started superbly, reducing Australia to 122-8 in their first innings, at which point Siddle joined Steve Smith. The last two Australia wickets added 162, with Smith going on to 144. At that point, with England’s top order an unknown quantity things did not look good. However Rory Burns became the first England opener since Alastair Cook at Melbourne in 2017 (on a pitch that warranted white lines being painted down the  middle of it) to bat through an entire uninterrupted test match day, and was well supported by Root, Denly and Stokes. Australia started today well, taking four fairly quick wickets, but then Woakes and Broad shared a stubborn ninth wicket stand, giving Eng;and a first innings lead of 90. Anderson, who managed only four overs in the first innings before leaving the field injured batted briefly, and may bowl a few overs with the new ball, but it seems likely given the injury he has sustained that his Ashes series is effectively over. England therefore will be relying largely on Woakes, Broad, Stokes and Ali to prevent an Australian revival (if the ball continues to show signs of turn they may also use Denly’s leg spin, which would be a huge indictment of the original selection). Update – England have just emerged for the start of the second Aussie innings and Sam Curran is on the field for James Anderson.

Whether England win this one or not changes need to be made for the second test match. Anderson clearly will not figure, so a new ball bowler is needed. Ali is not good enough as a bowler to be the first choice spinner in a test XI and should be replaced, with Leach being first choice spinner and either Bess or Parkinson 2nd. Bairstow has been failing with the bat at test level of late, and I would replace him as wicketkeeper with Ben Foakes. I approve of Joe Root batting no 3, and would drop Roy to no 4, where has stroke making could be seen to better advantage. I have mentioned my controversial choice to open alongside Burns many times before, and though Burns has produced the major innings needed to confirm his place I stick to my thinking from the back end of last season onwards. Therefore my 13 for Lord’s would be:

  1. Burns
  2. Beaumont
  3. *Root
  4. Roy
  5. +Foakes
  6. Stokes
  7. Lewis Gregory (with Anderson likely gone for the series it is surely time for this move)
  8. Chris Woakes
  9. Jofra Archer
  10. Jack Leach
  11. Olly Stone
  12. Sam Curran (could play in place of Gregory, Woakes or Archer)
  13. Matthew Parkinson (with all respect to Bess I gamble on the legspinner as second specialist spin option, in the knowledge that the skipper can bowl passable off-breaks if needed)

David Warner (most infamous of the ‘sandpaper trio’) has been dismissed by Stuart Broad while I write this, giving that worthy his 450th test match scalp.

PHOTOGRAPHS

My usual sign off…

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King’s Lynn has lost a lot of railway connections over the years.

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A large white.

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An azure damselfly in flight (three pics, all frok the same original)

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A variety of “painted lady” I think

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Four shots of a “peacock butterfly

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A couple of shots of nearly fledged young ducks.

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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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100 Cricketers – First X1 Bowlers and introducing the second X1

Continuing my “100 cricketers” series and taking the opportunity to say 750 thankyous.

INTRODUCTION

Welcome to the latest post in my “100 cricketers series“. In this post I complete the coverage of my first XI (see here, here and here for the other posts about this XI) and introduce my second XI in batting order. However, before I get to the main part of this post I would like to say…

750 THANKYOUS

This blog has been steadily gaining followers, and today the milestone of 750 was reached. I am honoured that so many of you take an interest in an eccentric personal blog. I have been blogging for almost eight years now, and that comprises two very distinct periods. From when I started in 2011 through to the first part of 2014 I was producing blog posts but was not doing anything else. Then from the second part of 2014 I learned from the good examples of other bloggers, such as Anna, and started to interact more, visiting blogs and leaving likes and where I deemed it appropriate comments. I have gone in the second period of my blogging life from being a plain blogger to being part of a blogging community, and the latter is much more satisfying. Now back to my cricketers…

JACK LEACH

When England won the series in Sri Lanka at the back end of 2018, their first victory in that part of the world since 2001, it was notable because it was achieved largely by England’s spinners outbowling their Sri Lankan counterparts in their own backyards. Part of this achievement saw Jack Leach record his first five wicket innings haul in a test match, and with 20 wickets at 24.90 from the four test matches he has played so far he seems certain to have a fine international career ahead of him. With all due respect to Moeen Ali, who fared reasonably well in the losing series against the West Indies, I believe that England’s first two choices for spinner’s roles at the moment should be Leach and Adil Rashid, who also recorded his first test match five-for against Sri Lanka. A further candidate who may force himself back in to the picture is Leach’s Somerset team mate Dominic Bess who may yet form a long standing England partnership with Leach, given that Rashid and Ali are both closer to the end than the beginning of their careers.

It is also possible that a new spinner will emerge from somewhere to make a case for themselves, but at the moment, unless the match is being played on a green-top and a spinner is clearly not going to be required Jack Leach would be my first choice as the front line spinner.

JAMES ANDERSON

When he first appeared on the scene James Anderson sported some ridiculous hairstyles (though never one quite as awful as Pietersen’s 2005 “Dead Skunk” effort) and recorded some quite horrible looking bowling figures. For a few years he was good if the ball swung and absolutely innocuous if it did not.

In the second phase of his career, starting with the 2010-11 Ashes series, he was absolutely magnificent in all circumstances, and it was a great moment when he finished England’s 4-1 beating of India (who only a few months later beat Australia in Australia) by becoming the all-time leading test wicket taker among pace bowlers, moving ahead of Glenn McGrath.

2019 could be his last home season as an England bowler (he is now 36 years old, and a home Ashes series would be a great stage on which to make his final curtain call), but so long as he remains fit and motivated he should definitely be among the first names on the team sheet. He has earned the right for his career to end at a moment of his own choosing.

I hope that as well as continuing to bowl well he uses his vast experience to assist younger swing bowlers such as Sam Curran, passing on the knowledge he has built up over the course of 15 years in international cricket.

OLLY STONE

This pick is a look to the future. The Norfolk born paceman has 116 first class wickets at 24.20, and is well capable of propelling a cricket ball at 90mph and above. Having seen how Mark Wood shook the West Indies up in the last match of what was otherwise a shocking series for England and also how Jasprit Bumrah and Pat Cummins both impacted the Australia v India series with their extra pace I feel that England need some serious pace at their disposal, as well as crafty swing bowlers like Anderson and Sam Curran, and of course in appropriate conditions spinners such as Leach and Rashid. 

Incidentally, although Norfolk has never been a first class county a number of Norfolk born players have achieved high honours in the game – five members of the Edrich family, led by Bill and John of that ilk, played first class cricket, Middlesex stalwarts Peter Parfitt and Clive Radley (test avergae 48.10) were both Norfolk born, and going back to the very early days, the leading batsman of the 1830s and 40s, Fuller Pilch, was also Norfolk born.

INTRODUCING THE SECOND XI

Preparing the ground for the continuation of this series, here in batting order is my second XI

    1. SMRITI MANDHANA
    2. CHRIS GAYLE

 

  1. SACHIN TENDULKAR
  2. *ALLAN BORDER
  3. AMELIA KERR
  4. IAN BOTHAM
  5. +SARAH TAYLOR
  6. SHANE WARNE
  7. WASIM AKRAM
  8. WAQAR YOUNIS
  9. MUTTIAH MURALITHARAN

I came up with the cricketers who will feature in this series of posts during one of my recent spells in hospital, and because I want this series to be fully authentic I am sticking to the choices I made then, and presenting them in the order in which I made them. As this series continues to unfold I offer a couple of challenges to those who follow it sufficiently closely:

  • Once I have presented the full 100 players pick your best Men’s XI
  • Your best Women’s XI
  • And your best mixed XI 

PHOTOGRAPHS

Here are a couple of of my photographs for those who have made it through the entire post:

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Cricket and a Few Other Bits and Bobs

Some thoughts on the opening day of the test series between the West Indies and England, and a couple of NAS West Norfolk related bits.

INTRODUCTION

England’s latest test series in the West Indies is under way, and for the most part this post deals with the opening day’s play which happened yesterday. 

ANDERSON SHOWS THAT
CLASS IS PERMANENT

At the age of 36, by when many bowlers of his type have retired, James Anderson showed once again just how magnificent he can be. Yesterday he bowled 24 overs and finished with figures of 4-33 in a West Indies total of 264-8. He was well backed up by Ben Stokes (3-47 from 19.2 overs – the last taken on the brink of the close, hence the over not being completed). Several of the West Indians got starts, but unless Hetmeyer (56 not out overnight) does something remarkable in company with the tail none have gone on to make really big scores, and that is why their total looks decidedly modest, especially given that they won the toss and chose to bat.

Before very long we shall see how England handle batting on this surface. I anticipate a fairly handy lead on first innings for England. For the moment however, and for the umpteenth time it is a case of “take a bow, Jimmy”.

A COUPLE OF EXTRAS

On Tuesday morning I attended an NAS West Norfolk committee meeting for the first time since becoming ill, and earlier today I typed up my notes and emailed them to the branch chair. For reasons that should not need explaining I cannot share any details of that meeting here. 

Still on the NAS West Norfolk front, a lady named Claire who is a carer for the younger son of our branch chair is running in the year’s GEAR (Grand East Anglia Run) to raise funds for NAS West Norfolk. You can find her Just Giving page here, and I can assure you that every penny received by NAS West Norfolk is used to help autistic people (we spend about £15,000 per year running activities for our members and donations are our only source of income).