All Time XIs – Match Ups (3)

Continuing my analysis of my all-time XIs match up against each other. Today we look at the As against the Ls, Ms, Ns, Os and Ps.

Welcome to the continuation of my look at how my all time XIs for each letter of the alphabet match up against each other. Going into this post we have been through ten of the A XI’s match ups, and they are so far on 27 of a possible 50 points.

THE As V THE Ls

Among the top five batters the Ls have a clear advantage, even allowing for the fact that Labuschagne is out of position – only Laxman and Lloyd are not significantly clear of their opposite numbers. At number six we have a clash of left arm spinning all rounders. Shakib Al Hasan is ahead on the batting front, but there is very little doubt that Langridge was the finer bowler. While Langley was a better keeper than Ames he was a fraction of the batter that Ames was. Lindwall is outpointed by Akram, but Lohmann and Lillee are worthy adversaries for Ambrose and Anderson. Laker wins the battle of the off spinners on the bowling front, though he was a lot less of a batter than Ashwin.

Boiling it all down, The Ls have an advantage of the batting front, although their batting power is very top heavy, have the better keeper and are at least the equal of the As on the bowling front, and for my money definitely superior. There would probably be one occasion in a series when the As batting depth would count in their favour over the Ls top heavy power in that department, so I score it As 1 Ls 4.

THE As V THE Ms

Among the top five only Babar Azam for the As has a better batting average than his opposite number. Miller comes out slightly below Al Hasan on the batting front, way ahead on the bowling front. I suspect he was also the finer captain. Ames has an advantage on the batting front among the keepers, but Marsh was one of the greatest keepers ever to play the game. Marshall, McGrath and Mahmood a certainly a capable match for Akram, Ambrose and Anderson. Murali comfortably wins the battle of the off spinners on the bowling front, though Ashwin’s batting partly compensates for this. Additionally the Ms have a sixth bowling option, Charlie Macartney, who did win his country a match with the ball in hand. Miller once switched to off breaks on a Brisbane ‘sticky dog’, and took seven wickets, so even producing a raging bunsen for the benefit of Ashwin and Al Hasan might not be enough for the As. I find it hard to see any situation in which the As come out on top in this clash and accordingly score it As 0 Ms 5.

THE As V THE Ns

The As boss the opening combo. Nurse and Dudley Nourse outpoint Azam and Abbas, in one case by a minor margin in the other substantially. Azharuddin has a significant advantage over Dave Nourse. Al Hasan beats Noble with the bat, but the Aussie wins hands down with the ball and as a captain. Ames wins the battle of the keepers with the bat, and there is no huge difference in gkovework. Ntini, Nawaz and Nortje are comfortably outpointed by Akram, Ambrose and Anderson, and Nadeem is nowhere close to Ashwin in either department. The Ns do have an extra pace option in Nichols, but even that is not enough – The As have an overwhelming advantage in bowling and I expect that to tell in their favour: As 4, Ns 1.

THE As V THE Os

The As dominate this in all departments. The only member of the Os team the As would want in their own ranks is Bill O’Reilly. There can only be one scoreline here: As 5, Os 0

THE As V THE Ps

The opening pairs are closely matched here, the Ps dominate slots 3-5. Procter is massively ahead of Al Hasan as an all rounder – while the Bangladeshi has a better batting record, the Saffa is far ahead with the ball. Pant has a better batting average than Ames and is at least his equal with the gloves. Shaun Pollock is almost an exact match to Akram in terms of bowling figures and almost ten runs an innings better with the bat. Peter Pollock is beaten only by Ambrose among the As quick bowlers. Parker, a victim of selectorial malice in his playing days (a one cap wonder at test level in spite of that huge tally of FC wickets), is the best spinner on either side in this match, though Prasanna is outmatched by Ashwin. The Ps are stronger in batting, and Procter, S Pollock, P Pollock, Parker and Prasanna is not a definitely inferior bowling unit to Ambrose, Anderson, Akram, Ashwin and Al Hasan. I expect the Ps to win, and slightly more comfortably than a bare 3-2. Final score As 1.5, Ps 3.5.

As PROGRESS SO FAR

This has been a tough set of match ups for the As XI, and even with one 5-0 in their favour they score just 11.5 of a possible 25 points in this segment of the alphabet, putting them on 38.5 out of 75, a score of 51.33%, down from the 54% they were on going into this post.

PHOTOGRAPHS

My usual sign off…

All Time XIs – Match Ups (2)

Continuing my analysis of how I see the all time XIs I created for each letter of the alphabet faring against on another.

Yesterday I started the long process of analyzing how my teams for each letter of the alphabet measure up against each other. In that post I have covered the As XI against Bs, Cs, Ds, Es and Fs. At that stage the As rated at 13.5 out of 25. We pick up where we left off.

THE As V THE Gs

The Gs have substantial advantages batting wise in positions 1 and 6, a theoretical disadvantage in position 3 and are otherwise about even down to number seven. WG Grace’s test batting average of 32.29 has to be looked at a) with regard to the fact that he was 32 when his career at that level began and almost 51 when it ended and b) with regard to the fact that he played on some pretty ropey pitches. I would thus say that he should be regarded as at minimum Babar Azam’s equal in that department. In bowling the Gs have a very clear advantage, with their sixth best bowler by average, Gregory, marginally better than the As fifth best, Shakib Al Hasan. I also have to say that I reckon that WG has to be considered a better skipper than Shakib Al Hasan. I would score this one as Gs 4, As 1.

THE As V THE Hs

The question here is whether the Hs can make their massive batting advantage tell, when their bowling is weaker than the As. With Hammond prospective third seamer for them, they probably need a turner, when their spinners Harmer and Herath are probably a stronger pair than Ashwin and Al Hasan – Ashwin may be better than Harmer, though it is far from conclusive, but Herath is unquestionably superior to Al Hasan as a bowler. For all the greatness of Hadlee and Holding, they are outnumbered by Akram. Ambrose and Anderson, and the first named of the trio is left handed to add a point of variation. I think that anywhere other than India or Sri Lanka the As would be able to make their pace bowling advantage count, and I score this one As 3, Hs 2.

THE As V THE Is

The As have a huge advantage in batting and in seam bowling, additionally, Ashwin’s clear superiority as an off spinner over Illingworth counter balances Ironmonger’s advantage over Al Hasan as a bowler. Finally, the tail end of the Is is very weak batting wise – Anderson would bat above any of Islam, Ireland or Ironmonger. This is a colossal mismatch in favour of team A, and I accordingly score it As 5 Is 0.

THE As V THE Js

Down to number five the Js win every batting match up. They also have an ‘X factor’ player in Jessop, a great captain in Stanley Jackson. In bowling the Js have greater depth, but the As have more frontline strength. I consider the As to have a definite advantage overall, courtesy of their stellar bowling line up, but not enough to score it at 4-1. Final verdict: As 3.5, Js 1.5.

THE As V THE Ks

Positions 1-3 are fairly even between these two teams, but the Ks boss positions four and five, and while Shakib Al Hasan has a slightly better batting average than his rival skipper, Imran Khan’s bowling average blows Al Hasan’s out of the water. Ames has a better batting record than Kirmani, but the Indian was probably the finer keeper. Charles Kortright, Bart King and Imran Khan are a faster trio than Akram, Ambrose and Anderson, though don’t include a left armer in their number. The contrasting pair of leg spinners, Kumble and Rashid Khan probably give the Ks the edge in the spin department, and they also have the luxury of having Kallis available as sixth bowler. Finally, whereas the As who two genuine tail enders in Ambrose and Anderson, the Ks bat literally all the way down, with the no11 having two first class hundreds. I award the Ks a substantial advantage, my final score being As 1, Ks 4.

As STATS UPDATED

In the end, with two heavy defeats, one overwhelming win and two respectable wins in these five matches the As score another 13.5 points, now having 27 out of a possible 50 and still being on 54%.

PHOTOGRAPHS

My usual sign off…

All Time XIs – The Letter A

Assembling an XI all of whose surnames begin with A. Also some photographs.

I am revisiting the theme of All Time XIs. This time I am focussing on teams that can be composed with players whose surnames all begin with the same letter. I begin at the beginning with the letter A.

THE XI IN BATTING ORDER

  1. Bobby Abel – Surrey and England. The diminutive opener scored 74 first class centuries with a best of 357* v Somerset at Taunton. He was the first England batter to carry his bat through a completed test innings, scoring 132* on that occasion. He was also a fine fielder.
  2. Saeed Anwar – Pakistan. A superb left handed stroke maker, an excellent counterpart to Abel at the top of the order.
  3. Babar Azam – Pakistan. One of the best all format batters in the world at the moment.
  4. Zaheer Abbas – Gloucestershire and Pakistan. The only Asian to have scored 100+ FC hundreds, a roll of honour that includes scores of 274 and 240 vs England in test matches and eight instances of a century in each innings of an FC match, including four where one of the centuries was a double.
  5. Mohammad Azharruddin – India. A wristy middle order batter who did enough before his career ended in scandalous circumstances (match fixing and other dealings with dodgy bookies) to earn his place in this XI. He announced himself with centuries in each of his first three test matches, and at his peak dominated attacks all around the world.
  6. *Shakib Al-Hasan – Bangladesh. Has an amazing all round record and has achieved it without ever having what could be described as a stellar supporting cast around him
  7. +Leslie Ames – Kent and England. The only recognized keeper to have scored 100FC hundreds. Also holds the record for career stumpings in FC cricket (418). Won the Lawrence Trophy for the fastest hundred of the season twice in its first three seasons. Three of the four instances of the ‘wicket keepers double’ – 1,000 runs and 100 dismissals in FC cricket in a single season – were achieved by him.
  8. Wasim Akram – Lancashire and Pakistan. Among left arm fast bowlers who bat only Alan Davidson of Australia, who played many fewer matches, boasts a test record to rival him.
  9. R Ashwin – India. The best off spinner of the current era, and a handy lower order batter. It is a fair bet that England’s exhilarating run chase at Edgbaston would have been harder work had India picked him rather than Thakur for the number eight slot in their team.
  10. Curtly Ambrose – Northamptonshire and West Indies. The list of bowlers with over 400 test wickets at under 21 a piece currently stands at one: Curtly Elconn Lynwall Ambrose. He rocked the WACA in Perth in 1998 by claiming seven Australian wickets for one run in a spell of 33 balls. Australia having reached 100 only one wicket down were all out for 118. At Trinidad in 1994 England need 194 in the last innings to win, with an awkward hour and a bit to survive in murky light on the penultimate day as their first task. By the end of that short session England were 40-8, and although bad batting played its part, so to did an immaculate spell of bowling by Ambrose.
  11. James Anderson – Lancashire and England. More test wickets than any other pace bowler, and nor is there any obvious sign of his powers waning as his 40th birthday approaches.

This XI has a heavy scoring top five, a genuine all rounder at six, an all time great keeper batter at seven and a quite awesome quartet of bowlers, two of whom can certainly also bat. While the bowling attack is missing a leg spin option it is by any standards both powerful and varied, with left arm pace (Akram), two of the greatest right arm fast mediums of all time, who are different in methods to boot (Ambrose, relying on his immense height and unrelenting accuracy, and Anderson with his mastery of swing and seam). This trio is backed up by a pair of contrasting spinners (Ashwin, off spin, and Al-Hasan, left arm orthodox spin). The biggest decision is likely to which of Anderson or Ambrose gets to share the new ball with Akram.

HONOURABLE MENTIONS

Mike Atherton was close to claiming an opening slot and Dennis Amiss even closer, but I feel credit should be given to Abel for the fact that most of his runs were scored in the 19th century when pitches were often treacherous, and in the case of Amiss also feel that his decision to join a rebel tour of apartheid South Africa counts against him. Two top order batters who could bowl seam up both entered my thoughts: Mohinder Amarnath and Tom Abell. Russel Arnold of Sri Lanka came close. Among the quicks I could not accommodate were Kyle Abbott (Hampshire and South Africa) and Mohammad Abbas (Hampshire and Pakistan). Sri Lankan strokemaker Charith Asalanka may merit a place in few years time. Tommy Andrews, an Aussie middle order batter and ace close fielder of yesteryear was another who could not force his way into the middle order. West Indian left hander Keith Arthurton needed a bit more substance to go with his style to claim a place. Finally, although anyone capable of scoring 167 on the kind of pitches that existed in 1777 as James Aylward of Hambledon did must have been a very fine player, but I felt that there was just too little evidence to justify such a selection.

PHOTOGRAPHS

My usual sign off…

England’s Record Run Chase

An account of England’s victory over India which they completed earlier today, and some of my recent photographs.

This post looks back at the match just concluded between England and India, officially the fifth of the 2021 series.

A LONG DELAYED FINALE

India won the the fourth test of the 2021 series comfortably, and then in the run up to the fifth test there was a Covid scare in the Indian camp. By the letter of the law the match should have been forfeited since England were able to play and India were refusing to put a team out, but because the BCCI pulls the ICCs strings a compromise was arranged, whereby the match would be played in 2022 instead. England after a miserable winter in Australia and then the West Indies had started 2022 in a blaze of glory, recording three successive spectacular victories over World Test Champions New Zealand (who won’t get to defend their title in consequence of this). India made some curious selecorial decisions (Pujara as makeshift opener when Mayank Agarwal was available, Thakur preferred to Ashwin, Vihari at three and Shreyas Iyer in the middle order all definitely questionable and the persistence with an aging, chronically out of form Kohli didn’t look right either), England had two obvious question marks, Crawley at the top of the order and the decision to drop Jamie Overton for the returning Anderson (Anderson’s return had to happen, but I would have had Broad make way for him).

INDIA IN CHARGE FOR THREE DAYS…

India had the better of all of the first three days, with only a century by Jonny Bairstow restricting England’s deficit on first innings to 132. India were then 126-3 in their second innings by the end of day three, leading by 258. James Anderson had underlined his enduring class in the Indian first innings by taking 5-60 while everyone else was was being thrashed. Rishabh Pant played a great innings for India, and was the centrepiece of their total of 416. At the end of day three (just under four playing sessions ago) you would have got generous odds on an England win, though probably not quite the 500-1 famously offered at Headingley in 1981.

…AND THEN

In the first part of day four India failed to make the most of their advantage, rather frittering away their last seven wickets for the addition of a further 120. Pujara scored a gritty 66, Pant a more flamboyant 57, but overall India would have been disappointed with a total of 245 all out, and would have been aware that they had not completely killed the game when they might have done. Ben Stokes claimed four wickets for England.

Just for once England did not lose their first wicket ridiculously early. Crawley and Lees both batted well, but just before tea Crawley was out for 46, leaving one that bowled him. This meant that Pope had to begin his innings twice over, either side of the interval. He managed the first, but not the second. Then Root made a horrible misjudgement which caused Lees to be run out. That was 109-3, 269 more still needed for victory, and Bairstow joined Root. Not only were this pair still together at the close, they had done a lot to break the back of the chase, taking England to 259-3, 119 short of victory with the final day to come. The final morning began with India surely needing to break the stand quickly, and probably needing to have both players out within the first half hour to keep their hopes alive. India showed themselves mentally already beaten when they set fields that effectively said “help yourselves to singles but please don’t bash us”. Root and Bairstow accepted the singles but did not comply with the second part of India’s implied request – anything loose (and India provided a fair quantity of this) was ruthlessly punished. After just an hour and a half of the fifth day, including two ball replacements (a huge number of balls have needed to be replaced in this season’s tests) the job was completed, with a single off the fourth ball of the 77th over of the innings. England won by seven wickets, Root 142*, Bairstow 114*. Root’s hundred was his 28th in test cricket, obliterating the so-called ‘curse of 27’, a piece of nonsense that had arisen due to Steven Smith and Virat Kohli both being stuck on 27 test tons for some considerable time. The truth is that a total of 20 players have scored as many as 27 test centuries, and 16, including Root, have gone on to at least 28, while only four (Allan Border, Graeme Smith, Steven Smith, Virat Kohli) failing to do so. It was also Root’s fifth test hundred of 2022, to follow the six he scored in 2021. Bairstow’s century was his fourth in five test innings, his sixth of 2022 and his second of this match. The Root/ Bairstow stand of 269* was the fourth biggest ever in a fourth innings behind 301 by Arthur Morris and Don Bradman at Headingley in 1948 (Aus won by seven wickets), 287* by Gordon Greenidge and Larry Gomes at Lord’s in 1984 (WI won by nine wickets) and 280 by Bill Edrich and Paul Gibb at Durban in 1939 (a preposterous draw, with England 654-5 chasing 696 for victory when play had to be abandoned). This was also the fourth successive time England had chased 275 or over to win a test match, and England’s record successful run chase, beating the 362-9 at Headingley in 2019.

Bairstow was named Player of the Match for his twin tons, and Root Player of the Series for his 737 runs across the five matches. Virat Kohli’s only noteworthy contributions to this match were sledging Bairstow when that worthy was struggling in the first innings, since which moment Bairstow scored a further 207 runs for once out and a disgraceful display of aggression at the fall of an English wicket yesterday which involved charging straight across the pitch and earned him a ticking off from the umpires and may yet have further repercussions in the form of a fine or even a ban.

For England, as well as the two batting guns Root and Bairstow, Anderson maintained his high standing, Potts looked the real deal, Leach came back well from a hammering in the first innings (1-28 from 12 overs in the second). Broad, two second innings scalps not withstanding, looks to be a fading force at test level. Lees and Pope both deserve extended runs in the side (Pope has just been assigned a new role at number three and has done quite well there, and Lees has shown a lot of promise). Zak Crawley’s second innings 46 should not be enough to save him from the axe, and I fully expect Lees to have a new opening partner against South Africa in six weeks time. India’s carelessness with the bat on the fourth morning probably cost them 100 runs, but the way this England handle fourth innings run chases even that might not have been enough. A full scorecard of the match can be viewed here.

PHOTOGRAPHS

My usual sign off…

Thoughts On New England Squad

My thoughts on the England squad for the first two tests against New Zealand, announced today.

The England squad for the first two tests against New Zealand was announced today – the first major announcement since the appointment of Brendon McCullum as new head coach of the test side. Also announced today was the appointment of Matthew Mott as new head coach of the England men’s white ball side. Mr Mott has experience of rendering a powerful side close to invincible having come to this job from being head coach of the Aussie Women’s side, who became during his tenure arguably the most dominant international cricket side there has ever been. The rest of this post looks at the new test squad and my thoughts about it.

THE SQUAD

The screenshot below, from the secret pear (Worcestershire are known as The Pears) twitter account shows the squad:

THE BATTERS AND KEEPER

Zak Crawley and Alex Lees will open. Lees is a sound call, having demonstrated in the West Indies that he can bat for decent periods of time. Crawley is a quite abysmal selection, with a test average of 28.60, which drops to 22.16 if you take his one freak performance against Pakistan out of the equation, and is 18.60 since he scored that 267. He averages 30.5 for Kent, and is averaging less than 20 for them this season. Among the openers to have shown form this season, which Crawley has not, are Burns, Sibley, Tom Haines, Chris Dent and Crawley’s own Kent team mate Ben Compton. Any of these five would definitely have been a better pick than Crawley.

Ollie Pope is scheduled to bat at three, which is one place higher than he has ever batted for Surrey. Pope is a fine batter who may yet start reproducing his county form at test level, but seeking turn him into a number three is a) foolish and b) downright insulting to Bohannon, Bracey and Abell (Bohannon has an FC average 47.5, while the other two have scored runs this season though can’t match his record) all of whom are regular number threes England might have turned to.

Joe Root will bat in the number four slot where he has been so brilliant down the years, the first likely pick that I unequivocally agree with.

Jonathan Bairstow is likely to bat at five in spite of the fact that a) he has a poor record there at test level and b)he is not currently playing long form cricket having followed the money to India, and c)he has not exactly had a sparkling IPL either. Harry Brook has earned his place in the squad with an avalanche of runs for Yorkshire (over 750 this season and we are still in mid-May, and I would prefer to see him picked ahead of Bairstow but suspect Bairstow will get the nod.

Number six will be the new skipper, Ben Stokes. Number six is a sensible slot for an all rounder, but whether Stokes can cope with being skipper and being fast bowling all rounder remains to be seen. Nonetheless this one is indisputable for the present.

Number seven and the gloves will almost certainly both go to Ben Foakes who has had a fine early season for Surrey and deserves an extended run in the England side. For those who are hellbent on getting Bairstow in one way to do so would to put Foakes at five, where he bats for Surrey and Bairstow at seven, where he has done well for England in the past.

THE BOWLERS

The pace/swing/seam department is severely injury hit (ironically the oldsters, Anderson and Broad are both fully fit). I am pleased that Matty Potts who has been bowling like a demon for Durham has been included and slightly disappointed that Parkinson of Lancashire has not, but Jack Leach, chosen to fill the spinners slot (and only one will play on an English pitch) is in excellent form and I don’t grudge him his place. I expect that the perceived need to deepen the batting will see an England 8,9,10,11 of C Overton, Broad, Leach, Anderson, but I would like to see Potts make his debut in place of C Overton in that line up. If you are getting the impression that I am a good deal less bothered by the bowling than I am by the batting give yourself 10/10 – I am not unhappy with the chosen bowlers whereas I consider that the batting choices leave a lot to be desired.

XIs – THEIRS AND MINE

I end the business part of this post with two XIs – the one I think will be named and the one I would name from the selected squad.

Their likely XI: Crawley, Lees, Pope, Root, Bairstow, *Stokes, +Foakes, C Overton, Broad, Leach, Anderson.

The XI I would name from this squad (though like the Irishman being asked for directions “I wouldn’t start from here”): Crawley, Lees, Pope, Root, Brook, *Stokes, +Foakes, Potts, Broad, Leach, Anderson.

Overall I award the selectors 6/10 for their efforts – Crawley’s retention on its own is worth three marks off, while Bairstow cannot be regarded as an ideal test selection, and while circumstances allow for leniency regarding the seam/ swing/ pace selections I also cannot approve the continuing refusal to pick Parkinson. Also as I have said I regard the attempt to turn Pope into a number three as foolish, and between them these misgivings amount to another mark off in addition to the hit for retaining Crawley.

PHOTOGRAPHS

My usual sign off…

Thoughts About The Ashes Squad

A look at the England tour party for the upcoming Ashes and my selections for the Gabba.

A few days ago the England squad for the upcoming Ashes tour was announced. They opted for a squad of 17, and picked the following players:

In the rest of this post I will look at the problems with this party and then name the XI I would pick for the Gabba.

FOUR SELECTION HOWLERS

There are four players who certainly should not be in the squad. First is Jonathan Bairstow, a great white ball player whose test career comprises one fat year (Dec 2015 to Dec 2016) and eight lean ones. His place should have been given the Ben Foakes, who has been shamefully treated by the England selectors over the last few years.

Second is Dom Bess. English off spinners have generally struggled in Australia. Swann, the best English offie of my lifetime, paid almost 40 per scalp on the successful 2010-11 trip and broke down midway through the 2013-14 trip. Bess is nowhere near being in the same class as Swann, and is a disaster waiting to happen in Australia. This place should have been given to one of Matt Parkinson (pays 23.5 per first class wicket) or if you want more batting depth available Liam Patterson-White (left arm spin bowling all rounder) or Matt Critchley (batter who bowls leg spin and has had a fine season).

Third is Zak Crawley, a man who averages 11 in test cricket since his sole major innings at that level. Tom Abell should have been selected to fill the no three slot, with the bonus that he can offer some support in the bowling department with his medium pace and that if he manages to establish himself at test level he will be a serious candidate to replace Root as skipper when the time comes.

Fourth is Dawid Malan, a man now in his mid-thirties whose test average is rather less than his age. I would have selected Tom Haines as reserve opener in place of Malan.

I will not deem it a mistake but I also have concerns about two veteran seamers, Anderson and Broad both being named in the tour party. Neither have the greatest records in Australia and the likelihood of both of them being fit for the whole of a five match series seems small. Jofra Archer and Olly Stone are both crocked, but a gamble on the extra pace of Saqib Mahmood or Brydon Carse might have been taken.

AN XI FOR THE GABBA

Having laid out my most pressing concerns about the tour party and established the like the Irishman being asked for directions “I wouldn’t have started from here” it is time to select an XI for the Gabba:

The opening pair presents no problems – Burns and Hameed have two century stands in three innings and to break them up at this point would be positively frolicking with disaster.

No three is tougher, but since he is in the party it makes sense to stick with Malan for all my entirely justified misgivings about him.

No four is the one position that no one will argue about – Joe Root, the skipper, retains his regular slot.

Number five is a close call between two players who have yet to fully establish themselves at test level, and I opt for Ollie Pope over Dan Lawrence – Aussie pitches should suit Pope.

Number six is Jos Buttler, the keeper (no six is his best position, and the balance of the side also dictates that he should bat there).

Chris Woakes has to be at seven if one wants four genuine seam options and a spinner, and his record batting at seven in tests is stellar (albeit from a small sample size).

Ollie Robinson has inked himself into the side given the way he has performed in his test career to date, and he is well capable of batting at no eight.

Mark Wood is the only genuinely fast bowler in the squad, and the Gabba should suit him (I would spare him from the thankless task of attempting to extract life from the Adelaide Oval, as I suspect he will need a bit of nursing to get through the series).

There is only one spinner of genuine test standard in the squad, and with possibly exception of Perth he should play every match, so Jack Leach gets in at number ten.

At number eleven is England’s all time leading test wicket taker, James Anderson.

This side (Burns, Hameed, Malan, *Root, Pope, +Buttler, Woakes, Robinson, Wood, Leach, Anderson) is slightly short on batting, with two of the top five definitely unproven (Pope may change that, but I actually regard Malan as proven in the wrong way – provenly not good enough) but does have the bowling resources to take 20 wickets at less than ruinous cost with Anderson, the height of Robinson, the pace of Wood, the spin of Leach and Woakes as fourth seamer. Here courtesy of Wisden is a picture of my team:

PHOTOGRAPHS

Time for my usual sign off:

Wickets, Catches and the Odd Run

A look at Hampshire v Somerset in the county championship and a scout round the other grounds where action is taking place. Also some photographs and a mention of the elections taking place.

As I get deeper into this post about the early action in round five of the county championship you will realized while I have borrowed the title of Trevor Bailey’s autobiography for this post.

HORRENDOUS HAMPSHIRE

The game I am principally focussed on at present is Hampshire versus Somerset. Lewis Gregory is back for Somerset, his girlfriend having had the all clear after a Covid scare. Hampshire dropped Brad Wheal and Scott Currie, bringing in Liam Dawson and Felix Organ, two all rounders (Dawson bowls left arm orthodox spin, Organ off spin). Somerset won the toss and put Somerset in. Although Gregory was not at his best early on, overall Somerset bowled superbly, and actually could well be doing even better – several close LBWs have gone Hampshire’s way and at least on edge failed to carry to the slips. No one has made a significant score, and Captain Statpadder (aka J Vince) was once again MIA when faced with good bowlers and his team desperately needing runs. Hampshire are currently 75-8 with Kyle Abbot and Keith Barker batting together. Gregory has 3-22 and Overton 2-16, with Davey having just claimed his second wicket to make it 75-9, 2-32 for Davey. There has also been one comedy run out, accounting for Sam Northeast.

AROUND THE GROUNDS

Leicestershire v Surrey: Leicestershire, batting first are 117-1, having lost Azad early. Sam Evans has 63 and Marcus Harris 47. Reece Topley has the wicket.

Warwickshire v Worcestershire: Warwickshire are batting first and have reached 133-2, Robert Yates on 69, Sam Hain on 8. Pieter Malan made 32 on his Warwickshire debut, and Joe Leach and Ed Barnard have a wicket each.

Middlesex v Gloucestershire: Middlesex are 63-3, with a rain interruption at present. Gubbins is on 11 from 59 balls. David Payne, Ryan Higgins and Matt Taylor have a wicket a piece.

Lancashire v Glamorgan: Glamorgan are 97-2, with rain also affecting that one. James Anderson has claimed the wicket of Marnus Labuschagne, gaining an early psychological point ahead of this winter’s Ashes tour. Saqib Mahmood, the young pretender, has the other wicket. David Lloyd is 60 not out.

Northamptonshire v Sussex: Sussex are batting first and are 87-8, a recovery after being 25-7 at low water mark. Oliver Edward Robinson, in the hunt for an England cap later this summer is unbeaten on 40. Stuart Meaker made 23, and Jack Carson, the young off spinner, is currently batting with Robinson. Ben Sanderson and Gareth Berg have each taken four wickets – Berg 4-16, Sanderson 4-23.

Nottinghamshire v Essex: Essex, batting first, are 99-8. Luke Fletcher has 5-24, Stuart Broad 2-31. Nick Browne made 53 for Essex.

Yorkshire v Kent: Kent are 109-3, Zak Crawley 66 not out. Ben Coad, Jordan Thompson and Steven Patterson each have a wicket.

While I have been writing this up Hampshire have been finished off for a beggarly 79, Gregory 4-26, Weatherley 20, and Somerset are about to start their first innings.

PHOTOGRAPHS

Before I get to my main gallery, today is local/regional elections day. I have voted – in the county council election I voted for the Green candidate, Rob Archer, who is quite well known in these parts. In the Police and Crime Commissioner election I gave my first preference to the Green candidate and used my second preference as an insurance policy, giving it to Labour, an approach I may well have taken in the London Mayoral election if I still lived there, though there would have been a temptation to vote for Count Binface and give my second preference to the Greens just to ensure that a certain failed actor got the wooden spoon he so thoroughly deserves. The two pictures below show my tools for the polling station and my ballot papers:

Now time for the rest of my photos:

County Championship Round Five Preview

A look ahead to the county championship matches starting tomorrow.

This post looks ahead to set of County Championship games starting tomorrow. There are some very tasty looking clashes there.

PREVIEWS

Yorkshire v Kent: Yorkshire have made a decent start to the season while Kent are struggling badly. Adam Lyth looks to continue a strong start to the season with the bat, while Dom Bess will be looking to continue the revival of his career following his move from Somerset. For Kent Zak Crawley could do with a decent score and Darren Stevens will be out to produce another performance to demonstrate that age is just a number.

Leicestershire v Surrey: The reverse of this fixture was drawn, with Hassan Azad producing a career best innings to make it so. Hassan Azad and his opening partner Sam Evans will both need to contribute for their county to have any chance. For Surrey a number of their batters have been scoring runs with Ollie Pope foremost among them. Amar Virdi will be looking ti produce a significant performance, especially with several other spinners faring well.

Warwickshire v Worcestershire: The west Midlands derby. Robert Yates and Sam Hain are names to watch for the home side, while Worcestershire have drawn all four of their matches so far.

Middlesex v Gloucestershire: Gloucestershire are top of the group and will be looking to consolidate. Middlesex have had a poor start to the campaign and need to rebound after a having lost to Somerset after being well ahead. Ethan Bamber is one to watch for Middlesex, while for Gloucestershire there are three players who may well wish to make a point to their former employers: Ryan Higgins, Tom Lace and George Scott. The first two named have had good moments already this season, and with Stokes injured Higgins may well reckon that a big performance at Lord’s would secure him his England cap.

Lancashire v Glamorgan: Glamorgan beat Kent in under two days last time out, and will be looking to continue that form. For Lancashire Matthew Parkinson has already produced a career best this season and will be looking to bolster his own England credentials and it is possible that the pace attack will be led by a combination of an old master and a young pretender: James Anderson and Saqib Mahmood.

Northamptonshire v Sussex: Sussex have been trusting to youth this season, especially in the bowling department. Oliver Edward Robinson was rested from their last game to manage his workload, and I expect he will be back for this one. Jack Carson has had a magnificent start to the season and I expect him to feature once again. For Northamptonshire much will rest on the batting of Ricardo Vasconcelos. Look out for a potential contest between the left handed Vasconcelos and off spinner Carson – off spinners often fare well against left handers.

Hampshire v Somerset: For me the tie of the round. These teams are second and third in their group. For Hampshire there are three key figures: James Vince who could do with a big score against a serious bowling attack, and their opening bowlers Kyle Abbot and Mohammad Abbas. For Somerset Craig Overton will be looking to continue a fine season, Lewis Goldsworthy made a hugely impressive debut in the last game and I hope he will be in action again.

Nottinghamshire v Essex: Having just broken a winless run dating back to 2018 by thrashing Derbyshire, Nottinghamshire will be keen to kick on, while Essex were unable to make anything happen on the road Worcestershire produced for their last game. Haseeb Hameed will be hoping to continue his revival. For Essex look out for Dan Lawrence with the bat and Simon Harmer with the ball.

SOMERSET’S TRIO OF TOMS

Somerset have opted this season for three Toms at the top of their order: Lammonby, Banton and Abell. Abell is looking very solid at no3, having produced significant scores in every game to date. Lammonby has had a struggle, and needs some serious runs soon just to prove that that the 459 runs at 51.o0 from his first six FC matches, which had some people touting him as an England opener, were not a flash in the pan. Tom Banton has not shown any signs of being a suitable red ball opener, though he has done very well as an opener in limited overs cricket. My own reckoning is that if Banton is going to succeed in FC cricket it will be as a middle order batter.

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…

India’s Day In Ahmedabad

A look at the events in day 1 of the fourth and final test of the India v England series.

The fourth and final test of the India v England series started at 4:00AM this morning UK time, at Ahmedabad. This post looks at a day that may very well have booked India their place at Lord’s for the World Test Championship Final.

THE PRELIMINARIES

England sprang a major surprise by naming what amounted to eight batters and three bowlers: Sibley, Crawley, Bairstow, *Root, Stokes, Pope, Lawrence, +Foakes, Bess, Leach and Anderson. I do not believe that Bairstow has a place in test squad, let alone the XI, and relying on three frontline bowlers plus bits and pieces is a massive gamble. Australia tried this strategy at The Oval in 1938 and were on the wrong end of what remains the worst defeat in test history, the margin an innings and 579 runs (England 903-7 declared, Australia 201 and 123, with two batters, Fingleton and Bradman injured during the long England innings and unable to bat). India meanwhile made only one change, Mohammad Siraj coming in for Jasprit Bumrah. England had selected themselves a team that meant they virtually had to win the toss to have a chance. They did so and chose, correctly, to bat first…

THE PLAY

It is never the case that winning the toss means winning the match – you have to make the right decision which England did, and you have to play good cricket, and that is where England slipped up. There was early life for the pacers, but it was the arrival in the attack of Axar Patel, left arm orthodox spin, which started England on their downward spiral. Sibley, obviously spooked by events of the previous two tests, was so anxious to cover possible turn that he was not in the right position to play one that went straight on, and his stumps were rattled. Crawley having hit one four early in an over attacked again a couple of balls later and holed out on this latter occasion. Root got a good ball from Siraj and was trapped LBW and that was 30-3. For a time Bairstow and Stokes went well, but then Bairstow got in a mess against Siraj and was LBW for 28 (he had enjoyed some good fortune along the way too, including a boundary from a shot that had there been a second slip would have been catching practice for them). Pope dug in in support of Stokes, but just after completing a fine 50 Stokes lost a bit of concentration and allowed a ball from Sundar to cannon into his pads. Lawrence then joined Pope and they seemed to be recovering things once again before Pope was unluckily dismissed when he played a ball into his pad from whence it looped up to forward short leg. Foakes was out cheaply. Then, just as a 50 seemed on for him, Lawrence departed for 46, and almost immediately Bess followed to make it 189-9. Leach and Anderson at least saved England the embarrassment of a sixth successive sub-200 total, pushing the score up to 205 before the end came. Patel, who currently has the best bowling average of anyone to take over 20 test wickets (he is on about 10.5 per wicket, with Lohmann, a 19th century great who took 112 wickets in 18 test matches, on 10.75), had 4-68, while there were three scalps for Ashwin and two for Siraj.

Anderson got Gill in the first over of the reply, but that was the limit of England’s success for the day, Rohit Sharma and Cheteshwar Pujara reaching the close with their side 24-1, 181 adrift. England bowled far better than they had batted but remain well behind the eight ball. This was the best cricket pitch of the series by some way, with players of all types firmly in the game and although one should not generally make judgements until both sides have batted once the instinctive feeling, with few balls doing anything mischievous, is that England fell in the region of 100 short of a decent total. Axar Patel now has 22 wickets in five test innings.

I would say that the ordering of results by likelihood after this day of play is as follows: India Win – defo odds on, England win – substantial odds against but not absolutely out of the question, Tie – now only the third least likely of the four results, though as always long odds against, Draw – not happening.

PHOTOGRAPHS

My usual sign off…