England Fighting At The Ageas Bowl

Thoughts on the test at the Ageas bowl as England work to build a defensible lead over the West Indies, an important petition and some photographs.

INTRODUCTION

England are making a fight of things in the test match at the Ageas bowl. As things stand they remain second favourites, but the humiliation that looked possible at one stage yesterday is not going to eventuate.

DAY 3 FINISH

At first the West Indies did very well, with Archer and Wood both guilty of bowling too short. The West Indies had no complete failures among their top batting, and never lost clumps of wickets. They moved into the lead with only five wickets down, and seemed to be building a very large lead when the sixth wicket pair carried the score to 267, an advantage of 64, with Holder, averaging 33 in test cricket, still to come. Stokes intervened, Bess bowled tidily, Anderson was as formidable as always, and Wood picked up the wicket of Gabriel to end the innings at 318, a lead for the West Indies of 114. Stokes had 4-49, including his opposite number Holder, the first time both captains had accounted for each other in a match involving England since 1996. Wasim Akram would have been more frustrated at being done by the opposition skipper on that last occasion than Mike Atherton. England had 40 minutes of batting to negotiate, and did so without losing a wicket, being 15-0 of 10 overs at the end of the day.

DAY FOUR SO FAR

Burns and Sibley continued to resist through the morning until 15 minutes before lunch when Burns aimed to crash a long hop from Roston Chase through the off side, executed the shot poorly and succeeded only in edging to deep point to be out for 42. Denly saw things through to lunch in partnership with Sibley. Sibley reached 50, chopped a no-ball into his stumps and then two deliveries later snicked the same bowler, Gabriel, through to keeper Dowrich to be out. That brought Crawley in to join Denly in what looks like being a ‘bat off’ for who keeps their place. Denly has enjoyed some good fortune, while Crawley has looked more solid. England have now wiped off the arrears, and so are building a lead. If they can advance this lead to 200, then with the pitch showing signs of misbehaving, the West Indies will have their work cut out. The batting still to come for England is Stokes, Pope, Buttler, Bess, Archer, Wood and Anderson, of whom all save Anderson are capable to varying degrees of making runs, while Anderson can hold up his end if someone is going well at the other.

LOOKING AHEAD

England have improved as this match has gone on, and the major decision that has to be made is between Crawley and Denly. However, Bracey and Lawrence are knocking on the door for batting spots as well. In the bowling department I do not see an urgent need for changes, although Broad may come in for Anderson if England are in fact adopting a policy of rotating the veterans, and Sam Curran and Oliver Edward Robinson are possibles for bowling slots. I would of course bring Foakes in for Buttler, but it seems that in the eyes of the selectors Buttler can do no wrong, so I do not expect that to happen. Denly has just reached 25, which he does quite frequently, but he rarely goes on – the last five times he has got to 25 he has failed to get as far 40.

AN IMPORTANT PETITION

This petition on change.org, calling for NHS staff be given free parking at work, was drawn to my attention by an aunt who posted the link to it on facebook this morning. Please sign and share it, by clicking on the screenshot below.

Petition

PHOTOGRAPHS

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PS England have reached the 150, still with only two wickets down, and a currently 37 runs to the good.

PPS Joe Denly has just thrown his wicket away for 29, Stokes will be joining Crawley, and that would appear to be the end of Denly’s test career – he was playing in somewhat chancy fashion even before holing out. If Crawley goes on to a big score it is definitely curtains for Denly, and there may also be a case for Lawrence or Bracey coming in, although no3, the disputed slot, is a difficult one to make one’s debut from. England 151-3.

All Time XIs – County Stalwarts vs Tried & Untrusted

A variation on the All Time XIs theme in which I create a squad of top county players who never got the England call and a squad of guys who got more England calls than their achievements merited.

INTRODUCTION

Welcome to a variation on the all-time XIs theme (don’t forget that all 18 of my first class county posts can be viewed from here). In this post I create two XIs, one consisting of successful county players who for various reasons never got the call from the England selectors, and the second made up of people whose records suggest that they played more test cricket than they deserved (and in all cases enough matches to form a definite opinion). I examine the merits of my two combinations and assess the likely outcome of the match. I start with…

THE COUNTY STALWARTS

  1. Alan Jones (Glamorgan) – 36,049 first class runs, 56 centuries and no test caps. He batted left handed and was an occasional off spin bowler.
  2. John Langridge (Sussex) – 34,378 first class runs including 76 centuries. He was also a good enough fielder to pouch 788 catches in his 574 first class appearances. 
  3. Edgar Oldroyd (Yorkshire) – 15,925 first class runs including 36 centuries. A consistent and reliable no 3 in one of Yorkshire’s many very strong periods. He may well hold the record for time spent padded up ready to bat since the usual opening pair for Yorkshire in his day, Herbert Sutcliffe and Percy Holmes shared no fewer than 74 century opening stands, 69 of them for the county. His grand-daughter Eleanor is now a well a known commentator and broadcaster. He was a right hand bat and an occasional bowler of right arm medium pace and off spin.
  4. Percy Perrin (Essex) – 29,709 runs in first class cricket, including 66 centuries. An irony of his career is that although he was never picked for England as a player he did become a selector and ultimately chairman of selectors. He was a right hand bat.
  5. Tony Cottey (Glamorgan) – 14,567 first class runs including 35 centuries. The diminutive Cottey (officially 5’4″) also had the knack of scoring his runs when they were most needed. He was a right handed batter who liked to attack (I saw him make a wonderful century at Swansea which was made to look even better by the way Messrs Hayhurst and Bowler scratched around for Somerset the following day – so torturous was the former’s 96 that I was feeling sufficiently uncharitable as to be relieved when he missed out on his century – justice was done, when Robert Croft spun through the Somerset second innings and Glamorgan took a well earned victory). He also occasionally bowled off breaks.
  6. Ernie Robson (Somerset) – 12,620 first class runs, 1147 first class wickets taken with his swing bowling. He was 25 when his first class career began in 1895, and 53 when he finished in 1923. He was still troubling opposition batters to the end, and settled one match in that final season by walloping a maximum in the last possible over. Sir Jack Hobbs rated him one of the most difficult bowlers he faced.
  7. Bill East (Northamptonshire) – 4,012 first class runs and 499 wickets. A right handed middle order batter and medium pace bowler, he was one of the two people chiefly responsible along with George Thompson for his county gaining first class status. He was already 33 years old by the time this happened in 1905, but played on until the outbreak of war in 1914.
  8. Don Shepherd (Glamorgan) – 2218 wickets at 21.32, more than anyone lese who never played test cricket, 5,696 first class runs. He bowled off cutters rather than true spin.
  9. +David Hunter (Yorkshire) – more first class dismissals than any other keeper not to gain international recognition.
  10. Tom Wass (Nottinghamshire) – 1,666 wickets in 312 first class matches at 20.46 each. He could bowl fast medium or leg spin.
  11. *George Dennett (Gloucestershire) – 2,151 wickets at 19.82 each. He was unlucky to be a contemporary of Rhodes and Blythe (Kent), two of the greatest left arm spinners in history. Against Northamptonshire in 1907 he had one of the most astonishing match performances not to be crowned with victory (see also William Mycroft, in my Derbyshire post). After Gloucestershire had struggled to 60 in their first innings (Jessop 22), Northants were dismissed for 12 (Dennett 8-9, Jessop 2-3), Gloucestershire then scored 88 second time around (Jessop 24) and Northamptonshire fared slightly better in their second dig, reaching 40-7 (Dennett 7-12), and the general reckoning is that had there been time for even one more Dennett over the game would have been done, but Northants were saved by rain, and Dennett, with 15-21 in the match, had to settle for a draw. Bizarrely, given the combined Northants effort of 52-17, the only player in the game to bag ’em was Dennett himself.

This team has a very solid top five, two all rounders at six and seven, three specialist bowlers and a superb wicket keeper. Now it is time to move on to…

TRIED AND UNTRUSTED

  1. Keaton Jennings (Durham and Lancashire) – even a fine tour of Sri Lanka, for which many would not have picked him, only boosted his average to 25.19 from 17 test matches. The left hander was named in the tour party for Sri Lanka this year before coronavirus caused that tour to be put on the back burner. Presumably when test cricket resumes England’s top three will be Burns, Sibley and Crawley, so it seems reasonable to presume that he has played his last game as an England opener.
  2. Mark Stoneman (Durham and Surrey) – this may get me excommunicated in the northeast, but while entitled to your own opinions, you do not get to pick your own facts, and the harsh facts here are that having had 11 test matches Stoneman averages 27.68, with a best of 60 (having been given three lives along the way), not the stuff of which test openers are made.
  3. Joe Denly (Kent) – some will see this inclusion as harsh, even draconian, and I freely concede that Denly has done a useful job as a stopgap no 3 in a difficult period. However, once again, you do not get to pick your own facts, and Denly averages precisely 30 from his 14 test match appearances (26 innings), which is not the stuff of which proper test match no 3s are made. The England selectors snookered themselves by failing to prepare for Cook’s retirement, an eventuality which Polyphemus could have seen coming even after Odysseus had finished with him and persisting with Jennings for far too long after he had been exposed as not being of test class, and were also handicapped by a major falling away in Bairstow’s red ball contribution, but with Burns, Sibley and Crawley now established it seems that Denly can safely be regarded as a former test cricketer.
  4. Mark Ramprakash (Middlesex, Surrey) – 52 test match appearances, a measly two centuries and an average of 27.32 constitute a massive underachievement by the last cricketer to reach the career milestone of 100 first class hundreds. Many found the fact of his failure at the highest level hard to accept, and as late as 2009 there were voices calling for his selection when England needed a new batter for the final match of that year’s Ashes series at The Oval. Fortunately, 21st century England selections have in general been more sensible than those of the 1980s and 1990s (not a high bar!) and quite correctly Jonathan Trott as ‘next cab in the rank’ got the nod.
  5. Graham Roope (Surrey) – an average of 30.71 from his 21 tests (compare with fellow 1970s picks Steele – average 42.06 from eight test matches – and Radley – avergae 48.10 from eight test matches – who both played fewer games), highest score 77. On the credit side of the ledger that 77 did come against the Aussies, as England made 538 in their second innings at The Oval in 1975 to save the game.
  6. Geoff Miller (Derbyshire, Essex) – actually one place lower than he often batted for England. 34 test matches yielded him 1,213 runs at 25.80 (HS 98 not out), and 60 wickets at 30.98. The bowling average sounds almost respectable, but there is a strong “anti-mitigating” factor – that wicket taking rate of less than two per match, which simply does not permit him to be regarded as a front line bowler.
  7. David Capel (Northamptonshire) – One of the many who suffered from attempts to fill a Botham shaped hole that was opening in England’s ranks during the second half of the 1980s. 15 test matches brought him 374 runs at 15.58 and 21 wickets at 50.66.
  8. +Geraint Jones (Kent) – yes, he played his part in the 2005 Ashes triumph, but his less than polished wicket keeping was excused on grounds of what he could do with the bat, and average of 23.91 from 34 test matches is nothing special. He has a place in the ‘exotic birthplaces’ squad, having been born in Papua New Guinea.
  9. *Derek Pringle (Essex) – to me, and I suspect many other English cricket followers of my generation, this man is the living embodiment of the antithesis of an all rounder. I was actually surprised to note that his 30 test appearances yielded a batting average of 15.10 and a bowling average of 35.97 – I expected even worse. However, when I first saw him play in 1986 he came in at no 6, and was being touted as an all rounder. His bowling is also subject to the ‘anti-mitigation factor’ that he only took 70 wickets in those 30 test matches – 2.3 per match, approximately half the wicket taking rate required from a front line bowler. Additionally he was not the most mobile of fielders and had a dreadful throw (in fact usually bowling the ball in rather than producing a proper throw). The award of the captaincy to him reflects his status as to me the ultimate in being “tried and not trusted”.
  10. Ian Salisbury (Sussex, Surrey) – leg spinner who bowled at least as many bad ‘uns as he did good ‘uns. His 15 test appearances netted him 20 wickets at 76.95, and at a time when test scoring rates were generally lower than they are now he went at 3.70 an over. I considered the left arm slow bowler (not spinner – if he ever got one to turn I did not see it) Richard Illingworth (Worcestershire), but the latter had the sole merit of accuracy, which means that while not generally penetrative his bowling average remained at least semi-respectable.
  11. Peter Martin (Lancashire) – a classic example of a type of player I saw far too much of in the 1980s and 1990s, the guy who experiences some success bowling a bit quicker than medium for his county but looks innocuous at a higher level. A bowling average of 34.11 from eight test matches may not sound terrible, but the ‘anti-mitigation factor’ comes into play – he only took 17 wickets, just over two per game in those matches. Had he had 34 wickets at 34 I would have said that at least he demonstrated an ability to take wickets, and maybe the average would come down in future, but with 17 in eight matches there was not even that straw to grasp at.

This team has a top five who can confidently be expected not to score heavily enough, three varying types of ‘anti-all rounder’, an unreliable wicket keeper and two specialist bowlers neither of whom are likely to take wickets and one of whom will very probably get smacked around – quite like a late 1980s and 1990s England team in fact! I also reckon that skipper Pringle will make plenty of wrong decisions.

THE VERDICT

Our team of good county players who never got the test nod looks a well balanced combination, with just about every base covered. The ‘tried and untrusted’ team looks a rabble. I would expect the team of non-internationals to win by a huge margin – the ‘contest’ would probably make the 2006-7 Ashes look like a nailbiter!

Remember that this exercise is just a bit of fun, and if disputing some of my picks remember that while you are entitled to your own opinions, you are not entitled to your own facts.

PHOTOGRAPHS

We have completed our journey through the “County Stalwart” and “Tried and Untrusted” XIs, and all that is left for me is to supply my usual sign off (and field the comments when they come)…

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The next four pictures are from my little bit of garden.

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Uncapped v Overcapped
The two teams in tabulated form.

 

 

 

England’s Prospects at Old Trafford

My thoughts on the changes to the England squad for the upcoming 4th Ashes Test and lots of photographs (do let me know of any you think calendar worthy!)

INTRODUCTION

England have made a couple of changes for the upcoming (and crucial) fourth Ashes test match at Old Trafford. This post looks at those changes and at England’s hopes, and optimistic as ever, discounts in the interests of simplicity the possibility of the Manchester weather emerging victorious.

SETTING THE SCENE

This is probably the most important Manchester test since the equivalent match in the 1902 series (when Australia won by 3 runs to clinch the Ashes). Again, a win for Australia would secure them the Ashes, since as holders a drawn series is enough for them, and that would be all England could do, while a win for England would leave them needing a draw at The Oval to secure the urn (as in 2005, when thanks to the second most significant 158 by a South African born England batter – Basil D-Oliveira’s 1968 effort being #1 in that category the necessary was achieved). In 1956 England needed a win at Manchester to secure the Ashes and Australia, thoroughly spooked by Jim Laker, failed to capitalize on the assistance of a number of weather interruptions, the final margin being an innings and 170 runs in England’s favour. In 1981 England were 2-1 to the good going into the penultimate match at Old Trafford, and won courtesy of Ian Botham’s second ton of the series. Finally, for the historical comparisons, in 1964 a draw was all Australia required from the equivalent match, being one up and holders, and on a pitch which needed white lines down the middle Bobby Simpson ensured that quite literally off his own bat, not being dislodged until the third morning of the match, for 311 in 762 minutes. Australia eventually declared at 656-8, England replying with 611 (Barrington 256, Dexter 174) and the few overs that remained before the draw could be officially confirmed were bowled by Barrington and Titmus with an old ball.

ENGLAND’S CHANGES

Jason Roy and Joe Denly have changed places in the batting order, Denly moving up to open and Roy dropping to no 4, while Craig Overton of Somerset replaces Chris Woakes. While I think switching Roy and Denly was the least England could do in the agttempt to address the problems at the top of their batting order I do not believe it goes far enough (readers of this blog will be aware of my own radical solution, first proposed a year ago when Cook as approaching retirement and Jennings’ inadequacy was all too obvious), and I feel that a no 3 has also to be located somewhere, as Joe Root is clearly not relishing the position. Overton for Woakes is uncontroversial, though I would have preferred another Somerset man, Lewis Gregory, to have got the nod. Denly has a low initial bar to clear – get England’s batting off to a better start than they have been managing of late – a three-legged elephant would probably have a chance of clearing a bar that low. Having made their calls, England need to back their judgement, and if they win the toss they should choose to bat first and hope to score enough to put Australia under pressure. If the Denly-Roy switch works out (and it can hardly turn out worse than the previous arrangement!), then a big total is a genuine possibility. As England have been discovering lately it is hard if you are starting each innings effectively already two wickets down. If England win they will go to The Oval as favourites, a draw still leaves them with a chance (look up 1926, 1930, 1934 and 1953 for examples of an Ashes deciding victory happening at The Oval) but defeat means curtains. However, even a defeat might be used to benefit England in the long term – with the Ashes gone it would be an opportunity/ necessity for England to experiment (I would expect a second front line spinner to be named in the squad for that match regardless of the result of the upcoming one, because pitches in South London so often offer turn).

PHOTOGRAPHS

My usual sign off…

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This azure damselfly seems an appropriate picture to use to point out that I am thinking about pictures for use in the aspi.blog 2020 wall calendar – I have a few ideas already, and would welcome suggestions from readers.

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A red dragon fly in flight.

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A two for on damselflies! (five pics to choose from)

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Not often in easy view – a water vole seen near the centre of King’s Lynn today.

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Tammy Beaumont and Women Playing Alongside Men

A radical suggestion for dealing with the England men’s teams top order batting woes…

INTRODUCTION

Having introduced my new series about cricketers in my last post I now move on to an opening batter who provides a springboard for plenty of other ideas.

VALE ATQUE AVE

The 2015 English cricket season started with the news of the dropping and subsequent international retirement of Charlotte Edwards after a long and illustrious career (she features later in this series). Who was going to fill the monster sized vacancy that her departure left at the top of the England women’s batting order? 

The first England women’s squad post the dropping and retirement of Edwards featured an opening pair of Tammy Beaumont and Lauren Winfield. Beaumont immediately began making big runs in her new role at the top of the order, and remarkably a fairly seamless transition from one era to the next took place.

OPENING WOES IN THE MENS TEAM

Meanwhile in the ranks of the England men’s team a gaping hole was emerging at the top of the batting order. Alastair Cook, so long an absolute rock in that position, seemed to have gone into irreversible decline and none of those selected to partner him looked remotely good enough. Mark Stoneman went after a sequence of test matches that brought him four 5o plus scores but never saw him get as far as 60 (and he had several lives in the course of his top score of 59). He was replaced by Keaton Jennings who has scored two test hundreds but who is also looking at an average of 25.86 after 16 test matches (at least 15 runs per innings light for a specialist batter at that level). 

When Cook announced that he was retiring from international cricket the problem became greater still. Rory Burns of Surrey was an obvious candidate for one slot at the top of the order, having scored far more runs than anyone else in the English season. For the the other England faced a difficult decision between the following:

  1. Stick with the underachieving Jennings and hope for miracles.
  2. Revert to Stoneman with even less chance of success
  3. Bring in a second brand new opener and hope that (at least) one of the newbies hits their straps right from the start.
  4. Faced with an assortment of unappealing options as listed above go for someone who has been making stacks of international runs at the top of the order and give Tammy Beaumont her chance to play alongside the men.

In the event England took option one, and one big score for him in Sri Lanka apart it has not worked out either for them or for Jennings. In the test match currently under way at St Lucia England are doing well, but they have not had many top order runs to work with, although Burns batted a long time in the first innings. In the first two tests of this series England were roundly defeated, and the less said about their batting efforts, the better. 

COULD A WOMAN PLAY ALONGSIDE THE MEN?

The short answer is yes. I would not expect a female fast bowler to be able to hold their own as power is so important in this department, but in batting, fielding, wicketkeeping and slow bowling, where there is less of a premium on pure power I see no reason why a female could not hold their own with the men, and my suggestion relates specifically to an opening batter. 

If some new opener makes a succession of centuries in the early part of the English season , thereby forcing themselves on the selectors my current thinking may be modified, but at the moment I remain convinced that the best solution to the England Mens team’s opening woes is to give Beaumont her chance and see what happens.

THOMAS SQUAD FOR 1ST ASHES MATCH

I have misgivings about someone who is almost 33 starting a test career from fresh, but Joe Denly’s 69 in St Lucia would seem to have earned him an extended run, so it is on that basis that he features in my squad for the first Ashes Match. I will list the names, and then append some explanations:

  1. I Beaumont
  2. Rory Burns
  3. Joe Denly
  4. Joe Root*
  5. Joss Buttler
  6. Ben Foakes+
  7. Ben Stokes
  8. Sam Curran
  9. Adil Rashid
  10. Jack Leach
  11. Mark Wood
  12. James Anderson
  13. Olly Stone

I have named 13 because the exact make up the bowling unit will depend on the nature of the pitch and the conditions. I regard Anderson, Wood and Stone as essential for the seam attack (two outright quicks, and England’s all-time leading wicket taker), with Leach and Rashid in that order of precedence as spin options should conditions warrant it, and Curran as a fourth front-line seamer (possibly batting at 7 in place of Stokes) should conditions warrant that option. Bairstow at no 3, as a specialist batter, is also an option but would seem shockingly inconsistent given the Denly has produced a significant score in St Lucia, which is why he is not there in my list.

PHOTOGRAPHS

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A recent acquisition, which has also featured on my London Transport themed website.

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