All Time XIs – Match Ups 13

Continuing my extended analysis of how the all time XIs I created for each letter of the alphabet fare against one another.

Welcome to the next installment in my extended analysis of how the all time XIs I created for each letter of the alphabet fare against one another. The Cs still occupy the hot seat, and they are on 14.5 out of of 65 going into today’s match ups.

THE Cs V THE Os

The Cs have an overwhelming advantage in batting, and also have the better captain. Finally, Cummins and Croft are a better pair of opening bowlers than Old and Olivier. However, as against that O’Riordan is certainly a better third seamer than Constantine, and his left arm gives the Os seam attack a point of variation. The Os comfortably win in the spin bowling department, with Odumbe, third ranked spinner for them, clearly better than Cornwall, second ranked spinner for the Cs. Unfortunately for the Os their spin superiority only reduces the margin by which they lose this one: Cs 3.5, Os 1.5.

THE Cs V THE Ps

In theory the Cs have a substantial advantage in the opening position, but that is mitigated by the fact that both the Ps openers are regulars at the top of the order, unlike the C counterparts. Ponting and G Pollock comfortably win their match ups batting wise, and Ponting is not the captain. Chappelli probably does outrank Procter as a captain but not by as much as he would Ponting. G Chappell beats Pietersen in the number five slot. Pant wins the battle of the keepers, Procter is miles clear in the battle of the all rounders.S and P Pollock are outpointed by Croft and Cummins in the new ball stakes, but Parker and Prasanna are the better spin pairing. The Ps win everywhere except one batting slot (G Chappell outpointing Pietersen) and in the matter of the new ball pairing. These are more than compensated for by their overall superiority. Cs 0 Ps 5.

THE Cs V THE Qs

The Qs are massively outpointed in batting, keeping and fast bowling. Their advantage in the spin bowling department is not enough to make a dent in their inferiority elsewhere. Cs 5, Qs 0.

THE Cs V THE Rs

The Rs have the better opening pair, especially given that both of theirs are regular openers. Richards also wins the batting match up vs Chappelli. Root and Compton looks a very close contest, but Compton had more support than Root, who was often holding a dysfunctional order together, so I give that one to the Rs as well. G Chappell outpoints Ranji but not by as much as their figures make it look – Ranji played at a time when batting was a lot more difficult than it was in G Chappell’s pomp. Robins wins the battle of the all rounders, and is little if any inferior to Chappelli as a skipper. The Rs win the fast bowling comfortably – Croft and Cummins may outpoint whichever two of Roberts, Rabada and Richardson take the new ball, but the third of that trio is miles clear of Constantine. Robins and Chandrasekhar are closely matched as leg spinners. Rhodes comfortably outpoints Cornwall – far more so than a comparison of their overall records shows, since Rhodes the specialist spinner, the role I have given him in this XI, was one of the greatest of all time. Quite simply there is no set of circumstances in which I can envisage the Cs getting the better of the Rs: Cs 0, Rs 5.

The Ss have by far the better opening pair – especially given that both of theirs were regular openers. Graeme Smith wins the number three contest and draws the captaincy of element of his match up with Chappelli. Steven Smith beats Compton. Sangakkara wins his batting match up over G Chappell, though he loses the keeping match against Carter. Using Sangakkara as keeper enables the selection of Sobers and Stokes at six and seven. Sobers has no match up in the Cs XI, and Stokes beats Constanine massively on batting and just loses on bowling. Starc and Steyn are outpointed in the battle of the new ball bowlers by Cummins and Croft, but Statham is a far better bowler than Constantine, and the Ss have Sobers in his faster incarnations and Stokes as extra back up options in the seam department. Stevens is a close match for Chandrasekhar with the ball and better with the bat, while Sobers in his slower incarnations is at least as good as Cornwall. This is a complete non-contest: Cs 0, Ss 5.

THE Cs PROGRESS UPDATE

The Cs have scored 8.5 out of 25 points today moving them on to 23 of a possible 90 points, 25.56%.

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…

England 3 New Zealand 0: A Retrospective

A look back at the England v New Zealand test series.

Having finally concluded my series about my Scottish holiday I now look back at the series between England and New Zealand that concluded yesterday.

MATCH ONE: A NEW ERA DAWNS

The length of England’s injury list in the fast bowling department and well justified concerns about the top order batting made what already seemed a tough ask appear even tougher. However, Matt Potts of Durham, given his call up to fill one of the vacant slots in the pace bowling department had a superb debut, Broad and Anderson both bowled well on their return to the side, and England won impressively.

MATCH TWO: A DRAMATIC TURNAROUND

Prospects didn’t seem too rosy when England put New Zealand in on a flat pitch and the visitors racked up 550 in the first innings. However, England responded in kind, with Ollie Pope, whose presence at number three, where he had never previously batted in FC cricket, was a cause of some disquiet making a big hundred, Joe Root confirming his status as the greatest England batter of the 21st century with 176 and various other players producing runs. NZ managed to set England 299 to win, having looked in trouble at one stage of their second innings. When Root departed early and England were three down still needing well over 200 for the win the prognosis looked grim. Jonny Bairstow, enjoying a remarkable revival to his career in red ball cricket, played a remarkable innings, with Ben Stokes providing his principal support. Bairstow scored the second fastest test century by an England batter ever, beaten only by Gilbert Jessop’s 1902 effort against Australia, also in a fourth innings run chase. The Yorkshireman was 136* when England completed a five wicket win, with keeper Foakes undefeated at the other end in support.

MATCH 3: 55-6 AND THEN…

James Anderson was unable to play this match, meaning that Devonian born Surrey fast bowler and lower middle order batter Jamie Overton got a first test cap. New Zealand tallied 329 in the first innings, Leach the left armspinner answering some increasingly vociferous critics with 5-100. When Jamie Overton walked out to bat the score was 55-6 and NZ were probably contemplating enforcing the follow on. They were to end up in deficit on first innings. Overton on debut was 89* by the end of the second day, and the seventh wicket stand between him and Bairstow was worth 209, England being 264-6. On day three Overton agonisingly failed to complete a debut century, falling on 97. Bairstow went on to 162, the lower order providing some support, and England, all out for 360, led by 31 on first innings. NZ mustered 326 second time round, with Mitchell and Blundell sharing yet another long partnership in the middle order. Leach, remarkably, achieved a second five wicket haul, 5-66 this time, on a pitch that has seldom been kind to spinners in recent times. England thus need 296 to win. Lees was out early on this occasion, Crawley made a very fortuitous 25 before a chance offered to the slip/ gully region (a mode of dismissal he suffers unacceptably often), but Joe Root and Ollie Pope saw England to 183-2 by the end of day four, 113 more needed and eight wickets standing. Pope did not last long on the final morning, but his departure merely signalled more Bairstow fireworks. Bairstow was a little too brilliant on this occasion, depriving his fellow tyke Root of what would have been that worthy’s 28th test century. England won by seven wickets and taken the series 3-0. Leach was named Player of the Match for his bowling effort, while Root just pipped Bairstow to the Player of the Series award.

POSITIVES AND NEGATIVES

The new mindset that Brendon ‘Baz’ McCullum has instilled in his charges has been a huge positive. The comeback from the depths of 55-6 in reply to 329 in the third match illustrated the spirit in the camp. Pope finally seems to be reproducing his first class form in the test arena, Bairstow has been a revelation, reigniting a test career that looked done not so long ago. Potts and J Overton have both shown great promise early in their test careers, with Potts in particular seeming destined for great career. Leach has ended any discussion about who England’s no1 test spinner is with his bowling at Headingley (with a tour to Pakistan coming at the end of the summer the question of back up spinners will need looking at, and I have several ideas there which I will explore more fully nearer the time). Although temporarily indisposed (lower back pains which turned out to be an early symptom of Covid) Foakes remains first choice keeper. Lees has played a couple of decent knocks at the top this series, and Pope is looking good at three (and in any case that experiment needs rather more time than one three match series before it can be judged). A new opener is needed to replace Crawley. After 24 test matches Crawley averages 26.68 overall, and much less than that as on opener – in the course of this series Crawley’s average as an opener dipped below that of Mike Brearley, and of course for a lot of Brearley’s career his batting was not the main reason for him having a place in the side. While I can understand that it would have been difficult to call up a replacement opener for the one-off match against India that starts on Friday I am absolutely certain that there should be a new name up top (for me one of Chris Dent or Ben Compton) by the time the series against South Africa gets underway.

Overall this series has been hugely positive for England, and although India are likely to prove tougher opposition England are better placed than one could have imagined when they left the West Indies a few months ago with a record showing one victory in their last 17 test matches.

PHOTOGRAPHS

As always I conclude this post by sharing some of my photos…

England Test Prospects For 2022 Season

A look ahead to the upcoming test summer with Ben Stokes as new captain.

The county championship season 2022 is in full swing, and there have been plenty of successes to celebrate from home grown talents. Ben Stokes has been appointed test captain in succession to Joe Root who resigned that office just before the season started (not a decision I would personally have made, but one that for the moment has to be accepted). Given recent batting efforts by England in test cricket only those two can be said to have nailed down front line batting slots while the bowling is somewhat more settled although finding a genuinely fast bowler who can stay fit remains a challenge, and spin options are somewhat limited. In the rest of this post I look at who is doing what and form my team and some likely alternatives for the coming season.

THE OPENERS

Alex Lees deserves an extended run having been selected for the tour of the West Indies and acquitted himself well there. I would like a right hander to partner him at the top of the order and Zak Crawley is not it for me – he averages below 30 for England and not much above that for Kent. Dominic Sibley is a possibility for a recall, but Tom Haines of Sussex had a good season last season and is in the runs again this time round, and he would be my choice. Rob Yates of Warwickshire is another prospect.

NUMBERS THREE AND FOUR

Joe Root will obviously fill one of these slots, and for me that would be number four owing to the fact that there are two regular number threes who are having outstanding seasons for their counties: James Bracey of Gloucestershire and Josh Bohannon of Lancashire. Bohannon has significantly the better overall record and has recently scored his maiden FC double century, and he would be my choice, with Bracey among the reserves.

NOS FIVE AND SIX

The skipper has one of these slots, leaving one other to fill. For me because his FC record is so far ahead of any other contender that slot goes to Ollie Pope though with a warning that if he fails to deliver some big scores in this summer’s test matches it will be the end of the road for him as a test player.

THE KEEPER AND BOWLERS

The keeper is an obvious choice – it is long past time that Ben Foakes was given an extended run at the highest level. The bowling is tougher, but based on form and fitness I would pick Woakes, who is one of the best in the world when playing in England (he is of questionable value abroad, which complicates matters but I regard his selection for home games as a must), and a 9, 10, 11 of Anderson, Mahmood and Parkinson (I believe it is time for England to trust the leg spinner who is improving rapidly and has a very impressive FC record). Oliver Edward Robinson has bowled well for England since his call up, but there have been fitness issues, notably in the later stages of The Ashes in Australia.

THE FIRST CHOICE XI

In batting order:

  1. Haines
  2. Lees
  3. Bohannon
  4. Root
  5. *Stokes
  6. Pope
  7. +Foakes
  8. Woakes
  9. Anderson
  10. Mahmood
  11. Parkinson

THE RESERVES

Among current openers Rob Yates of Warwickshire should be on the radar, while Ben Compton of Kent is making a strong case for being fast tracked (five centuries in his first 13 FC matches, current batting average 61 for just over 1,000 runs) into international cricket. There is also a case for Gloucestershire veteran Chris Dent who has just racked up a double century against Surrey in the course of which he has passed 10,000 FC runs at an average of 38.

Among middle order batters Dan Lawrence is of course in the mix, and I would add to him the names of James Bracey, Tom Abell and Jamie Smith, the last named another recent double century maker (that innings has pushed his career average above 40, and he is definitely on an upward trajectory at the age of 21).

There are various keepers doing well on the county circuit, and my personal pick for reserve keeper is Kent’s Oliver George Robinson.

Among the seam bowlers Stuart Broad is still going strong, Oliver Edward Robinson may merit further consideration if he can sort his fitness out, the Overton twins have both been in excellent form this season and if one of Archer, Stone or Wood can enjoy an injury free period they would be in the mix.

Jack Leach is the next best specialist spinner behind Parkinson, with youngsters Carson, Moriarty and Virdi all also on the radar. However it is unlikely that in England anyone would pick two specialist spinners, which brings Liam Patterson-White of Nottinghamshire into the equation. He bowls left arm spin and is a more than useful lower order batter. His averages are currently just the wrong way round – 25.45 with the ball and 24.65 with the bat, but he has plenty of time in which to improve, being only 23 years old.

FORECAST

For all that I am not entirely convinced that Stokes is the right choice as captain prospects are not altogether bleak, especially if some of the players I have named are given their opportunities. The batting is where there have been serious problems, and lots of players are scoring heavily in the early part of this season.

PHOTOGRAPHS

As usual I end this post by sharing some of my recent photographs…

A Draw in Antigua

A look back at the West Indies v England test match in Antigua.

The first test match in three match series between the West Indies and England ended in a draw yesterday. This post looks back at the match.

THE PRELIMINARIES

England made a cautious selection, opting for both Woakes and Overton, leaving out Saqib Mahmood. The West Indies meanwhile went for Holder at number six and four specialist bowlers as well. Joe Root won the toss and chose to bat first.

ENGLAND FIRST INNINGS

England made a disastrous start, slumping to 48-4. A fightback spearheaded by Bairstow and featuring good contributions from Stokes, Foakes and Woakes saw England end the first day 268-6 and possible back on track. On the second morning England battled on to 311 and it looked very much game on.

WEST INDIES FIRST INNINGS

West Indies did not score at all quickly, but they batted a very long time on a surface which had little life. Wood, the only bowler England had who was capable of bowling genuinely fast, left the field injured fairly early in the innings. Leach bowled well but without luck, keeping things tight but not taking wickets. Stokes, supposedly having his workload managed, was made to bowl 28 overs in the innings. Eventually the West Indies were all out for 375, Nkrumah Bonner scoring a very slow century to anchor the innings.

ENGLAND SECOND INNINGS

Zak Crawley delivered with the bat for once, and Root moved into second place on the England century makers list and became the leading scorer of centuries as England captain (24 in his career, still nine short of Alastair Cook’s tally and 13 as skipper). With Wood injured a measure of caution was necessary when it came to the declaration, and Root declared leaving WI a target of 286 in 70 overs.

WEST INDIES SECOND INNINGS

It was soon obvious that West Indies were not going to attempt the target, but when they lost their fourth wicket with quite a bit of time remaining England had genuine hope. Root made a point about his team’s mindset by staying out there until West Indies had six wickets left with only five balls to go – only then did he accept the draw. There was some adverse comment about this, but he did the right thing, not giving up on the chance of victory until he absolutely had to.

PHOTOGRAPHS

Time for 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:

England Ignominiously Defeated In Two Days

This post is my account of how one of the most farcical test matches I can recall (with approximately 35 years of being an avid cricket fan behind me) reached its conclusion. A brief disclaimer: England were outclassed in this match, and the pitch did not influence the result – England won the toss, batted (correct thing to do) and still took a hammering, but a surface on which when it is a bare day and a half old Joe Root secures innings bowling figures of 5-8 is NOT a suitable surface for test cricket.

THE CRASH OF WICKETS

Virat Kohli’s dismissal near the end of the first day (see here for an account of that day) saw India 99-3 overnight. Leach struck twice fairly early to make it 117-5, and at that point, more or less coinciding with me putting out a tweet to the effect that he should do so, Joe Root came on for a bowl himself. He picked up the wicket of Rishabh Pant pretty much instantly, and that opened the trap door, as India slid to 145 all out, an advantage of 33, with Root having 5-8 from 6.3 overs. Leach had four wickets, taking his test bowling average below 30, where it stayed (it is actually precisely 29.50 – 60 wickets for 1,770 runs in 15 test matches). Could England bat respectably and give themselves some sort of chance of a win? Could they blazes. Zak Crawley, the first innings batting hero was out to the first ball of the innings, putting Axar Patel on a hat trick, and he nearly had it too, as Bairstow was adjudged LBW, but the TV replay showed a faint nick and the third umpire overturned it. The reprieve lasted one ball as Bairstow was promptly bowled through a ‘gap’ between bad and pad that a bus would have had a decent chance of navigating. This meant that Bairstow’s contribution to the occasion amounted to 11 balls faced, no runs scored, two horrible dismissals and a burned review in the first innings. Root and Sibley seemed to be righting things for a time, but then Sibley played a very un-Sibley like shot to surrender his wicket, and it rapidly became a procession, with England’s resistance levels down in the pico-ohms. The innings limped to 81 all out, leaving India needing just 49. Axar Patel had five wickets to follow his six in the first innings, a superb double, and achieving the rare feat of outdoing R Ashwin whose own haul saw him become the second quickest ever to 400 wickets, in his 77th test. With no other options on that surface Leach and Root took the new ball, but the target was just not enough for any pressure to be created and Rohit Sharma and Shubman Gill cantered home to a ten wicket victory.

PLAYER RATINGS

I have done these in info-graphic form:

SELECTION ISSUES

There have been various complications with this tour, but to put it bluntly England’s approach to selection has been abysmal. They snookered themselves for this match by naming a group of 17 from whom the final XI would come that effectively given their obvious lack of trust in Bess meant they would be playing only one specialist spinner. Then, rather than shoring up the batting with Woakes at eight they picked three specialist quicker bowlers, Archer, Broad and Anderson, one of whom has no experience of bowling in India and one of whom pays the proverbial king’s ransom for his Indian wickets, giving themselves a tail to rival that of a diplodocus. Ben Foakes was twice left high and dry with this tail, spoiling his chances of doing anything significant with the bat. My suggestion for this match is that England look to the future, with WTC qualification hopes up in smoke, and promote both Parkinson and Virdi from the reserves. I name Woakes as no8 to guard against Foakes being left high and dry with the tail again, not really expecting either him or Stokes to feature with the ball. Thus, with the obligatory dropping of Bairstow (and, surely to goodness, the end of any nonsense about him featuring in any further test squads) and deciding that Lawrence will probably not be an improvement on Pope I arrive at the team in the infographic below:

PETITION AND PHOTOGRAPHS

There is a petition calling for the creation of a direct rail link between King’s Lynn and Norwich on 38 Degrees, and given the state of Norfolk’s transport infrastructure and resultant traffic overload on Norfolk’s roads I can only consider this an excellent idea, so please sign and share it by clicking here (screenshot below as a segue into my usual sign off).


India Seize The Day In Chennai

A look at the first day in Chennai, where England made a selectorial howler, the 3rd umpire made two howlers on the day, and England have already pretty much played themselves out of the contest.

The second test match in the India v England series got underway at Chennai today. As you will be finding out it is hard to see other than a 1-1 scoreline at the end of this one, given the events of day 1.

AN EXTRAORDINARY DAY

India won the toss, and chose to bat, as was inevitable, given that the pitch looked a minefield before a ball had been bowled on it. Stone was preferred to Woakes for England, with everything else as expected. The day began well, when after a maiden from Stuart Broad, Olly Stone removed Shubman Gill with India still scoreless. Leach took the wicket of the adhesive Pujara, and Kohli had a wild drive at Moeen Ali and was bowled, his reaction, which virtually compelled the umpire to send it upstairs, making the delivery look better than it actually was. In truth, Kohli played a very poor shot, especially for so early in his innings. Rahane joined Rohit Sharma in a fourth wicket stand that put India firmly on top. At one stage Rohit was on for breaking one of test cricket’s oldest records, for the highest percentage of a completed innings by one batter, set by Charles Bannerman in the first test innings of all (165 in a score of 245 all out, 67.34% of the total), but Rahane upped his own rate as the game increasingly ran away from England. At 248, Rohit Sharma fell for 161, sweeping Leach to deep midwicket and being caught, though the shot had previously brought him rich rewards against the spinners. Rahane was reprieved when the third umpire refused to look further at a replay after it was confirmed that bat had not been involved – unfortunately glove had after the ball bounced off the thigh. There was also a stumping which the third umpire incorrectly refused to give – the batter’s foot was on the line, and the laws of cricket are very specific on this point: “…some part of the foot must be grounded behind the line”. Shortly after his reprieve, Rahane, his mind clearly no longer on the job, swept wildly at one from Moeen and was bowled. Ashwin also fell in this little period, but Rishabh Pant and Axar Patel got India to the close at 300-6, an absolutely mammoth score on a pitch that was already offering considerable turn. I now look at several factors in the day’s play in turn.

ROHIT SHARMA’S INNINGS

My own reckoning is that the Player of the Match award is already done and dusted. Rohit Sharma’s amazing 161 has put his side in command of the match and it will take something extraordinary from England, with R Ashwin, Kuldeep Yadav and Axar Patel a stronger spin combo than theirs, to even make a contest of it. Knowing that the pitch was already in the process of breaking up, Rohit Sharma knew he had to get runs while it was at all possible, and how brilliantly he succeeded. A near analogue from cricket’s distant past was Victor Trumper’s innings at Old Trafford in 1902, when knowing that England sought to keep him quiet in the morning because conditions would be perfect for Lockwood after lunch, he blasted a century on the first morning of the match. Australia duly won, albeit by only three runs. Credit also to Rahane for playing so well in the support role.

ENGLAND’S BOWLERS

Stuart Broad was not at his best, but did not bowl badly even so. Ben Stokes was not fully fit, and bowled only a few overs. Olly Stone was hugely impressive and may now be ahead of Wood, though still behind Archer, in the outright pace pecking order. Jack Leach was economical, and deserved better figures than 26-2-78-2. Moeen Ali was a ghastly failure, gifted the wicket of Kohli, and also lucky to pick up Rahane given the circumstances, and hideously expensive – at one point he had 1-94 from 20, going at 4.70 per over. His final figures for the day were 26-3-112-2 – 4.31 per over on a spinner’s pitch. For comparison, on a surface that was still fairly flat Dominic Bess in the first innings of the first game recorded 4-76 from 26 overs, double the wickets and only going at 2.92 per over. Joe Root, a part time bowler, used himself at one point, and had figures of 8-2-15-1, a devastating indictment of Ali. Had Leach had serious support in the middle part of the day he would likely have had many more wickets, but in opting for Ali England had shot themselves in the foot, learning nothing from India’s selection of Sundar in game 1 – he batted well, but his bowling was ineffective and India lost. I expressed my opinions of the Ali selection forcibly yesterday, and the evidence of today causes me to metaphorically underline and bold them. For someone selected as a front line spinner to be outdone by Joe Root, and to go at such a rate on a spinning pitch is indefensible. Yes, Rohit Sharma was magnificent, but Ali also bowled a lot of rubbish. With Stokes bowling only two overs and Ali proving expensive England were effectively trying to do the job with three bowlers. This is Moeen Ali’s 61st test appearance, and he has 183 wickets at that level, for an average of three per game. England intended to give themselves five bowling options (Stokes being able to bowl so little was not in the script), and 20/5 = 4, so Ali is a wicket per match down on what is needed, and that can only be made up for by being very economical, and he was the spendthrift of the attack. Centuries on the opening day of a test match do not often end up against the name of a bowler, but Moeen unfortunately was utterly deserving of this one. Had England dropped Bess to clear the way for Virdi or Parkinson I would have had no issue – the only way you can definitively find out whether youngsters can bowl in test cricket is to give them that opportunity, but bringing back Moeen Ali was a hugely retrograde step.

Even if England get the last four wickets quickly tomorrow they will have to bat out of their skins to get back into the match. I sincerely hope England will learn from this disaster.

PHOTOGRAPHS

Only a few photos today…

England Take An Early Lead With Victory in Chennai

A look at the closing stages of the test match in Chennai, a brief summary of the whole game, player ratings and more.

This post details the events of the fifth and final day of the 1st test between India and England, looks at the match as a whole and provides a complete set of player ratings.

AN EMPHATIC WIN

At the start of the final day the match situation was England 578 and 178, India 337 and 39-1, meaning India needed 381 to win and England needed nine wickets.

Leach struck first, removing Pujara with a fine piece of bowling, a crucial strike as he was the most likely of the Indians to be able to bat through the day at one end. For a time thereafter India fared respectably, with Kohli in full control of his innings from the start and Shubman Gill completing a good fifty. Then James Anderson intervened in no uncertain terms, removing Gill and Rahane in one sensational over, both bowled by absolute beauties. Pant also fell to Anderson to put Indian five down. Sundar fell for a duck, to well taken catch by Buttler off the bowling of Bess. Ashwin resisted stoutly for a time, before he picked the wrong ball to cut and succeeded only in edging to Buttler who accepted the offering, giving Leach his third wicket of the innings. That was 171-7, and left Kohli with only three tail enders for support. Eight runs later a beauty from Stokes, with a bit of assistance from the pitch (it kept low) got through Kohli’s defences for 72. Shortly after that Shahbaz Nadeem, who made number nine look a rather lofty position, was caught in the gully by Burns off the bowling of Leach, giving him a fourth wicket of the innings. Ishant Sharma and Jasprit Bumrah resisted as best they could, with one ball beating everything and going for four byes. The was a bizarre near ending to the match when a bail was knocked off and stump tilted backwards, but the on-field umpire sent it upstairs and sure enough the bail had been dislodged before the ball was bowled, so, quite correctly, dead ball was called. However, the end was not long delayed as Archer located the edge of Bumrah’s bat and Buttler made no mistake with the catch. India were all out for 192 and the margin was 227 runs.

Jack Leach had 4-76 from 26 overs, the same figures that Bess had recorded in the Indian first innings, while Anderson’s spell that ripped the heart out of the Indian innings read more like a PIN code than a set of bowling figures: 5-3-6-3. He now has a better bowling average in test matches in Asia than Kapil Dev did. He also augmented his list of records by overtaking Courtney Walsh to move to the top of list of most test wickets taken after the age of 30, being now on 343 since he attained that age. His next marker is nine wickets away – wicket number 620 will take him to the third in the list of all time leading test wicket takers.

THE MATCH IN BRIEF

England dominated this game, beginning by scoring big runs and batting long into the game, a combination they could not manage on their last visit to India, restricting India to 337 in their first innings, when the pitch was still playing well, and although the latter stages of their own second innings were not great, the lead stretched to over 400. Anderson’s sensational spell on the final morning pretty much settled the outcome, all else that followed being a mere epilogue. Of the 14 sessions that this game spanned (it ended midway through the penultimate possible session) England were clear winners of at least ten (2-6 inclusive, 8-10 inclusive and 13-14, halved the very first session and possibly the seventh, and possibly had the worst of sessions 11 and 12, though by then they were so far ahead it hardly mattered. The session score thus reads at 11-3 to England.

THREE MAJOR INNINGS

In terms of their significance to the outcome of the match there were three major innings played in this game. Obviously Joe Root’s first innings double century stands head and shoulders above anything else in the match, but there were two other innings of major importance played alongside it: Dominic Sibley in batting the whole of the first day for his 87 got some miles into the legs of the Indian bowlers, and built the base from which England assumed command of the match, and Ben Stokes’ 82 on day two, a very different type of innings, was also of huge importance to England. Pant’s first innings fireworks and Kohli’s near infallible effort in the final innings were impressive in isolation, but were not enough to save their team from a sound thrashing and cannot therefore be rated as of major significance.

ENGLAND’S BOWLERS

Jack Leach showed immense fortitude in coming back from the savaging he got from Pant in the first Indian innings to finish the match with six wickets in total. Dominic Bess captured five wickets in the game and contributed some useful lower order runs to the cause, and a) his respectable wicket hauls are becoming too frequent to be attributable to chance – this is now three matches in a row in which he has fared well, plus b) Napoleon’s famous comment about lucky generals also applies. Stokes was not as influential with the ball as he was with the bat, but he did produce the delivery that snuffed out India’s last slender hopes by rearranging Kohli’s stumps. Archer had a fair game, and had the honour of terminating proceedings by dismissing Bumrah. Anderson, in a sunbathed Chennai with barely a hint of green to be seen, showed his enduring class. His wickets in 2021 have come at ten a piece, and all in Asia. He had his problems in the first few years of his career, but as a veteran he is simply brilliant, and I for one will consider all rumours of his impending retirement greatly exaggerated until and unless they originate from the man himself.

THE WORLD TEST CHAMPIONSHIP

This has been rendered very unsatisfactory by Covid-19, though in truth I suspect that the fall out from the pandemic his merely added the word very to the adjective. England are one up in this four match series, and need to win it by two clear games to make the final of the WTC which is likely to be at Southampton. If India win the series outright they make the final, and if any result not covered by the foregoing eventuates then the Aussies sneak in. Things could get very interesting if England are up 2-1 going into the final match – there could be little point in either side settling for a draw which would give Australia a ticket to the final of the WTC.

PLAYER RATINGS

I have a graphic for these. I will add to that graphic the following details: I was very harsh on Rohit Sharma because as one of the senior pros he should be setting an example for the youngsters whereas he actually failed twice with the bat, and his second innings was inappropriate for a senior pro in a side trying to save the game. Also, my ratings cumulatively give England 77 out of 110, an average across the board of 7/10, whereas those for India come to 59/110, an average of 5.36 out of 10. This reflects the fact most members of the England team contributed something to proceedings whereas India had several ‘passengers’.

LOOKING AHEAD

I now think that England have a serious chance of winning both this and the home series against India, and even though it has not been done by an England side for half a century I believe they are capable of regaining the Ashes down under in just less than a year’s time. India thumped Australia in Australia just recently. Looking to the next test, Foakes is coming for Buttler of necessity, and there is a case for bringing Broad in for Anderson, who has now played two matches back to back, but I see no need for any other changes. In particular there have been those arguing for Moeen Ali to replace Bess, but to me exhibit A against that notion is Sundar in this match, who contributed with the bat but did very little with the ball. There is no guarantee that Moeen Ali would even contribute significantly with the bat – his test average is only a little bit better than Bess’s, while as a bowler he is leagues below Bess. I would stick with Bess for the present, but if the proverbial gun to the head proposition compelled me to drop him and bring someone else in I would promote Parkinson, the young leg spinner, from the reserves to the full squad and play him. For India meanwhile, the sequence of their last five test matches with the name of the captain in brackets is quite telling: L (Kohli), WDW (Rahane), L (Kohli). Kohli is still worth his place as a batter, but I think that if they are to have any chance of getting back into the series India need to appoint Rahane captain on a permanent basis. I think Kuldeep Yadav whose wrist spin will offer England a different challenge has to be fitted in, with either Sundar or Nadeem missing out.

PHOTOGRAPHS

It is time for my usual sign off…

England Still In Charge

A look at day four in Chennai, including some strange captaincy by Root and some good captaincy also by Root, a fine innings by Sundar and some good bowling from Leach.

This is my account of day four in Chennai, an intriguing day in which we saw two sides of Root the captain and parts of three of the games four innings.

INDIAN FIRST INNINGS

The day started well for India, with Sundar and Ashwin both playing well, but when Ashwin fell to Leach that opened up the tail, and although Sundar continued to play well the remaining wickets fell fairly quickly. Leach got Shahbaz Nadeem, and then Anderson claimed Ishant Sharma and Jasprit Bumrah. Sundar was left unbeaten with 85, in an Indian score of 337 all out.

ENGLAND 2ND INNINGS

England chose not to enforce the follow on, opting to leave India a fourth innings chase and rest their bowlers, a correct call as far as I am concerned. They batted well for a time, although losing wickets regularly, an occupational hazard of looking for quick runs, and at tea were 119-5, a lead of 360 overall. I could understand why Root declined to declare at that point, but England’s post tea batting was inexplicable, as was Root’s approach near the end of the England second innings. When Buttler was dislodged, ending a useful if curious partnership between him and Bess, who had most of the strike and signally failed to up the tempo, the declaration seemed virtually compulsory, but Root kept England going with Bess and the tail. Even after Bess fell Anderson was sent out to join Leach, so we briefly had the bizarre sight of England, over 400 to the good, having nos 10 and 11 together at the crease rather than declaring and getting stuck into India’s second innings. Anderson fell second ball, giving Ashwin his sixth wicket of the innings, ninth of the match and 386th of his 78 match test career. Ishant Sharma also took his 300th test wicket during the England innings, and among Indian pacers only Zaheer Khan (311) and Kapil Dev (434) have taken more. This all left India needing 420, a record 4th innings chase if successful, and England needing ten wickets.

INDIA 2ND INNINGS

India started fast, though Root did well to entrust the new ball to Jack Leach on a surface taking spin, and it was a good ball from Leach that dismissed Rohit Sharma, who with two poor scores and horrendous dropped catch while in the field has had a shocking match. Pujara joined Shubman Gill and they saw India through to the close at 39-1, meaning that India need 381 tomorrow and England need nine wickets. England, Root’s unwillingness to declare notwithstanding, are still very much in the box seat, and should take the nine wickets they need tomorrow. If India wriggle of the hook then Root’s tactics in the later stages of the England second innings will undoubtedly be in the spotlight and rightly so. This is a final day not to be missed. For people in the UK there is live TV coverage on Channel Four, live radio commentary on talksport2, the TMS cricket social on radio five live sports extra and of course updates on cricinfo.com as well – I will listen to the live commentary and have a cricinfo tab open for extra detail. This match, the extraordinary game in Chittagong that I mentioned in yesterday’s post and the game in Rawalpindi between Pakistan and South Africa which ended today in a 95 run defeat for the visitors, who lost their last seven wickets very quickly, a collapse which started with Markram and De Kock going in successive balls and then Bavuma who had shared a good stand with Markram falling very shortly after, have all shown that test cricket is doing very nicely thank you.

PHOTOGRAPHS

The snow that we have been forecast for a few days arrived in northwest Norfolk this morning, and dominates my usual sign off…