An account of England’s calamitous surrender in the first Test match in New Zealand, and a radical suggestion for Joe Root’s replacement as England test captain.
This post looks back at what happened during the last three days of the first test in New Zealand and then at a possible new England captain.
A SPECTACULAR REVERSAL
Those who read my last post will recall that England were extremely well placed after two days of the first test match – they had made 353 and New Zealand were 144-4 in reply. How then did this turn into a humiliating innings defeat for England? Well the tale of the tape is this…
Day 3: B J Watling batted all day at one end, well supported by De Grandhomme (55) and Santner who defended stoutly after De Grandhomme fell, and New Zealand by the close were 394-6, already 41 to the good.
Day 4: Watling and Santner first consolidated their overnight position and then opened out, Watling completing a double century while Santner reached his maiden test century. Eventually, with 615 on the board, New Zealand declared and England had 27 overs to get through before the close of day. They looked to be managing this when Sibleyfell to a poor shot. Then Burns, troubled by Santner, played an injudicious shot trying to get to the other end and was caught off a top edge. Finally, to leave England looking down both barrels, Jack Leach got hit on the grille by one from Santner that rose unexpectedly and two balls later lost his wicket. That left England with seven wickets standing and needing to bat the final day out to save the game.
Day 5: England looked adequate for the first hour, but then Root fell to a poor stroke and a collapse set in, only alleviated to an extent by a late flourish from Archer and Curranwho delayed the inevitable and provided a bit of late entertainment. Once their partnership was broken it did not take Broadlong to extend his record of ducks scored for England, and the final margin was an innings and 65 runs. Of the seven members of the England team (Burns, Sibley, Denly, Root, Stokes, Pope, Buttler) who were there either principally or solely for their batting six in this dismal second innings contributed to their own downfalls.
Not only is this another horrible defeat for him as captain, there is no longer any denying that Root as captain is incompatible with getting the best out of Root the batter, and it is in the latter capacity that England have most need of him (as a captain he is very average, whereas at his best he is one of the finest batters in the world). While acknowledging that Burns has demonstrated for Surrey that he can combine being captain with scoring big runs I feel that it is time to look away from batters for this role. While fast bowlers rarely make good captains, there is some history of slow bowlers enjoying success in the role, including among slow left armers the likes of Tony Lock (Leicestershire and Western Australia), Daniel Vettori(New Zealand) and Bishan Singh Bedi (India). So, my choice for England’s next test skipper is Jack Leach – he is established in the side, has demonstrated that he has an excellent temperament, and is still young enough to hold the role for some years. The fulltoss blog has looked at some potentials here, but I think they missed the best call. A full scorecard of the debacle can viewed here.
Some festive pics here as well as a few of my more usual type…
Some thoughts on the Ashes match in progress at Edgbaston, suggestions for Lord’s and plenty of my photographs.
The first match of the five-test Men’s Ashes series is under way at Edgbaston, now into the third day. This post looks at what has been going on to date.
Australia somewhat surprisingly included Peter Siddle in their team, but there were no other surprises from them. England did not particularly surprise with their choices but there were several question marks in their XI:
Jason Roy opening is a questionable choice in Test cricket – in his debut match against Ireland he failed in the 1st innings and made runs from no 3 in the 2nd innings.
Joe Denly at no 4 – this is a 32 year old who had not featured in an England test XI before the back end of last year.
Moeen Alias sole spinner – NO WAY: if they were going with only one spinner Jack Leach should have been the choice, especially after his performance at Lord’s last week. The pitch is now looking very much like a two-spinner surface, in which case the choice should either have been the safe Leach and Bess double act or a look to the future in the form of Lancashire’s Matthew Parkinson (although this latter would have meant Leach at no 9, and Anderson getting a promotion to no 10)
Broadand Anderson are both getting on a bit, and the latter named has been injured recently – to select both was foolhardy (it is no secret to readers of this blog that Stuart Broad would not be in my starting XI in test cricket these days).
England started superbly, reducing Australia to 122-8 in their first innings, at which point Siddle joined Steve Smith. The last two Australia wickets added 162, with Smith going on to 144. At that point, with England’s top order an unknown quantity things did not look good. However Rory Burns became the first England opener since Alastair Cook at Melbourne in 2017 (on a pitch that warranted white lines being painted down the middle of it) to bat through an entire uninterrupted test match day, and was well supported by Root, Denly and Stokes. Australia started today well, taking four fairly quick wickets, but then Woakes and Broad shared a stubborn ninth wicket stand, giving Eng;and a first innings lead of 90. Anderson, who managed only four overs in the first innings before leaving the field injured batted briefly, and may bowl a few overs with the new ball, but it seems likely given the injury he has sustained that his Ashes series is effectively over. England therefore will be relying largely on Woakes, Broad, Stokes and Ali to prevent an Australian revival (if the ball continues to show signs of turn they may also use Denly’s leg spin, which would be a huge indictment of the original selection). Update – England have just emerged for the start of the second Aussie innings and Sam Curran is on the field for James Anderson.
Whether England win this one or not changes need to be made for the second test match. Anderson clearly will not figure, so a new ball bowler is needed. Ali is not good enough as a bowler to be the first choice spinner in a test XI and should be replaced, with Leach being first choice spinner and either Bess or Parkinson 2nd. Bairstow has been failing with the bat at test level of late, and I would replace him as wicketkeeper with Ben Foakes. I approve of Joe Root batting no 3, and would drop Roy to no 4, where has stroke making could be seen to better advantage. I have mentioned my controversial choice to open alongside Burns many timesbefore, and though Burns has produced the major innings needed to confirm his place I stick to my thinking from the back end of last season onwards. Therefore my 13 for Lord’s would be:
Brief accounts of two T20 internationals that took place within twelve hours and ended in England wins.
Twice in less than twelve hours England cricket teams have won matches both of which could easily have been lost. This post covers both games, the first briefly, the second in rather more detail.
WINNING AFTER A DREADFUL START
In the West Indies the England men’s team made a dreadful start to their last match of the tour, being 32-4 at one point. Then Joe Root and Sam Billings had a good partnership, Root using all his experience to reach 50 off just 37 balls, while Billings reached the landmark of two balls fewer before then really opening out in the last few overs in the company of David Willey to finish unbeaten on 87 as England reached an improbable 182-6.
I decided that there was no way the West Indies were chasing that total down, and with the women due in action early in the morning my time went to bed. The West Indies had evidently been even more shattered by England’s recovery than I expected as was to find out that their response had been to crumple to 45 all out and defeat by 137 runs, Chris Jordan collecting extraordinary bowling figures of 4-6.
With their series already won, the England women rested Kathryn Brunt for the last match, with a view to their upcoming tour of Sri Lanka. A bright start from Beaumont and Wyatt was frittered away as 51-0 became 93-6, but some good batting at the end by Sophia Dunkley, Brunt’s replacement, and Anya Shrubsole at least gave England 120 to defend. Poonam Yadav, the slowest spinner in international cricket, was her usual mean self, Anuja Patil took 2-13 from her four overs, while Harleen Deol, mainly a batter, picked up her first international wicket. In total 18 of the 20 overs of this innings were bowled by spinners, India’s sole quick bowler Pandey being required to bowl only two of her four overs.
India lost Deol early, but a good partnership for the second wicket between Smriti Mandhana (whose half-century was a quite superb innings) and Jemimah Rodrigues seemed to have put India firmly in control, especially when the veteran Mithali Raj assumed control of the chase thereafter.
Shrubsole looked to have given England a late chance when she tightened things up so that the target became 7 off 7 balls, but then her final ball was hit to the boundary by Raj, meaning that Kate Cross, given responsibility for bowling the last over in the absence of Brunt, had to prevent India from scoring three runs for England to win. Almost unbelievably, the target was still three as she prepared to bowl the last ball of the match – yes she had produced five successive dot balls at the death (claiming two wickets, Fulmali caught and Patil stumped along the way). Pandey connected firmly with that last delivery of the match, but a fine piece of fielding from Tammy Beaumont ensured that no more than a single could be taken and England had squeaked home by one run. That final match-winning over, which gave Cross total figures of 2-18 from her four overs also earned her the player of the match award – and this was her first T20 international series since 2015. Player of the series went deservedly to Danielle Wyatt who batted well in all three games.
This was an absolute cracker of a match, and I advise you to check out the scorecard hereand the official report here.
An account of the 1st ODI between England and the West Indies.
After a test match series most of which is best forgotten England last night started the ODI series against the West Indies in emphatic style. I followed the action on cricinfo, since there was no live commentary.
A RUN FEAST
Chris Gayle, playing his last international series at the age of 39, clubbed a spectacular century for the West Indies. The problem was that although he was smashing sixes like the Gayle of old he was no longer able to run at any sort of speed, and as a result his overall scoring rate was not actually that quick by modern standards as there were too many scoreless deliveries there.
The early lead in England’s response to the West Indies 360 was taken by Jason Roy who pretty much matched Gayle for freedom of stroke play and was also able to run properly, with the result that his strike rate was colossally impressive. Joe Root and Eoin Morgan then took over once he was out, and just before the end Root reached the third inidvidual hundred of the day, while Ben Stokes made an unbeaten 20 at the end to ensure that there would be no final wobble. Root was out at the death, caught of a dreadful full toss that was only just a legal delivery, but England’s margin was six wickets, with eight balls to spare, and at no point during the England innings did the West Indies look other than second favourites.
Although Gayle had a higher score the player of the match award went quite rightly to Jason Roy whose innings put England firmly in the driving seat, a position they never subsequently relinquished. In a match in which 724 runs were scored in 98.4 overs Ben Stokes’ bowling figures (3-37 from 8 overs) were noteworthy. Chris Gayle’s 135 came off 129 balls, so just above 100 runs per 100 balls, while Jason Roy’s 123 occupied just 85 balls – a strike rate of over 140 runs per 100 balls. A full scorecard can be viewed here.
In the early hours of tomorrow morning UK time, the England women take on India in an ODI, while the second match of the series in the West Indies gets underway later the same day.
An account of the first three matches of the test series between England and India plus some photographs
I have not written about the goings on in the current England versus India Test series as yet, because I have been busy writing about other stuff. This post repairs the omission.
MATCH 1 AT EDGBASTON
This was a nail-biter of a game, with fortunes swinging constantly as it progressed. When India were 115-6 in response to England’s 287 it looked like the home side were firmly in the driving seat, but Virat Kohli marshalled the lower order to such purpose that India trailed by only 13 on first innings. When England then slumped to 87-7 in their second innings it looked settled in India’s favour, but Sam Curran played a fine innings to give England a target of 194 to defend. England took wickets consistently, but not until Kohli was finally dislodged by a Ben Stokes yorker that trapped him plumb in front to make it 141-7, leaving nos 8, 9, 10 and 11 needing to cobble together a further 53 did the home side actually look favourites. They managed only 20 of those runs, and England were one up in the series. Curran was deservedly named player of the match (Kohli’s contribution of 149 and 51 was not enough to save his side from defeat, so it would have been wrong for him have got the award).
SECOND TEST MATCH AT LORD’S
India batted first in very difficult conditions. Nevertheless, and magnificently as England’s seamers bowled in conditions made to measure for them, a tally of 107 all out looked pretty definitively inadequate. When England were 131-5 themselves it looked less so, but a monster partnership between Bairstow and Woakes (in in place of the unavailable Stokes) effectively settled the outcome of the match. Woakes completed his maiden test century, being 137 not out when England declared, while Bairstow missed adding to his own tally of such scores by a mere four. India collapsed again (130 all out this time) and England were 2-0 up in the series. Anderson became the first bowler to take 100 test wickets at Lord’s in the course of this game, and only the second ever to 100 at a single venue anywhere (the first, Muttiah Muralitharan, did so at no fewer than three different venues). Woakes’ century meant that joined the select list of cricketers to feature on batting and bowling honours boards at Lord’s (Ian Botham is there, and among overseas cricketers Keith Miller is the sole person on both boards).
THE THIRD TEST AT TRENT BRIDGE
Before this match got underway England perpetrated a blunder, setting the scene for four and little bit days in which such things would become routine, by dropping Sam Curran after two matches in which he performed excellently to make way for Ben Stokes, now cleared of all criminal charges, to return to the squad. I personally would not have selected Stokes at all, but even had a gun at the head proposition forced me to do so nothing would have induced to me to drop Curran (yeah, pull that trigger if dropping Curran is the price to pay for you not doing so!).
Perhaps feeling after the first two matches that they could bowl India out on anything England put them in after winning the toss. India tallied 329, helped by some butter-fingered English fielding. The match was won and lost in the space of an hour and a half on day two when England being 54-0 in reply to 329 became England 128-9 in reply to 329. Buttler and Anderson got the final England first innings total up to 161. In their second innings India reached 352-7 before declaring leaving England two days and a mini-session to negotiate or 521 to score. Kohli had his second century of the series, having misssed out by three in the first innings. Cook and Jennings did the first part of their mammoth task, getting England to the close without losing a wicket. Both then fell early on day four, and two more quick wickets followed, at which point Buttler and Stokes joined forces. Their partnership at least showed some belated fight, and Buttler completed his maiden test hundred, while Stokes batted for a long time in largely defensive manner. Another clatter of wickets followed the breaking of the partnership and it was only some bloody-mindedness on the part of Rashid and Anderson (who had earlier in the game become only the second bowler to record 100 wickets in test matches against India, behind Muralitharan) took the game into a fifth day.
Somewhat bizarrely the Trent Bridge authorities decided to charge £10 for admission on a day that could have lasted for one ball (actually it managed to last for 17, meaning that anyone who paid to get in did so a rate of just under 59p per delivery). At the MCG in 1982, when again the final day could have lasted one ball, but there was also an outside chance of a home victory (37 needed with one wicket left BUT at the crease with no 11 Jeff Thomson was a certain Allan Robert Border) the authorities there did not charge admission. On that earlier occasion those who took advantage of the freebie got 85 minutes of gut-wrenching tension and one of the closest finishes of all time (England won by three runs after Thomson nicked one from Botham that would have had the umpire spreading his arms had the no11 simply ignored it, Tavare palmed the ball upwards and Geoff Miller took the rebound. Here, with in excess of 200 required and nos9 and 11 together at the crease there could only be one result (the largest number of runs that a last wicket pair have ever knocked off to win a first-class match is 76 way back in the fifties). Thus England were well beaten and lead the series 2-1.
England’s top four is their major current problem area. At Trent Bridge those positions were filled by:
England’s all-time leading test run scorer but also someone who has not had a decent score since the Melbourne featherbed in December.
Someone who is clearly out of his depth at this level (Jennings)
One of the three best batsmen currently eligible for test cricket (Root – Kohli and kiwi Kane Williamson are the other two) to be found anywhere in the world.
A fine young batsman who at this stage of his career is not a test match number four.
The above situation, India managing a decent first innings total and the fact that Root for once had a poor game put a lot of pressure on the middle order, and Buttler and Stokes kin the second inninsg apart, they folded under it.
My suggested squad for the fourth test is: A N Cook, R J Burns (someone with a magnificent record as an opening batsman who is probably ready for elevation to the test match ranks), B A Stokes, J E Root*, O Pope (I did not say that he is not a test match batsman, and I believe that he can be, and should be persevered with, just not as high as number four, a position he never occupies even for his county), J C Buttler+, C Woakes, S Curran, A Rashid, S C J Broad, J M Anderson. If two spinners are warranted then Bess comes in for Broad, with Curran sharing the new ball with Anderson (the latter being a change I might make anyway, having Broad as third seamer). When recovered from his injury Bairstow comes in to the squad, probably replacing Stokes at no 3, just possibly coming as opener, bringing down the curtain on Cook’s illustrious career. Some of these suggestions, especially even considering dropping Cook might be seen in certain quarters as heretical.
I still just about make England favourites for the series (after all, they are still ahead), but they need to respond better to opponents making decent totals – this not the first time in recent years that they have folded in response to a respectable but not massive total – it happened twice against South Africa last year.
For you hardy souls who have made it to the end of this post, here are some of my photos:
A post provoked by an asinine comment I saw on cricinfo yesterday, dealing with the question of failure to convert in cricket.
This post was provoked by something I saw yesterday morning on cricinfo’s online coverage of the second ODI between England and Australia (I was at work, so could not listen to the commentary, but having this tab open and peeking occasionally in between doing other stuff was manageable – I was constantly using the internet for work purposes anyhow).
ENGLAND 2-0 UP IN SERIES
England won this match by four wickets, with plenty of time to spare. Joe Root was there at the end on 46 not out. In the first match he had been there at the end on 91 not out. This coincidence that both times he was just short of a personal landmark led to a character posting under the name Dave (knowing what I do of such types I am not prepared to say that this is actually their name) to post a comment about Joe Root failing to convert. My response to this display of asininity is as follows:
Failing to convert implies regularly getting out before reaching important landmarks and Joe Root was undefeated in both innings.
Individual landmarks are valuable, and generally to win one needs someone to go to and well beyond several such, but cricket is a team game, and on both occasions Root missed his landmarks through playing a support role to people who were going more fluently at the other end (Jason Roy in game one, and Jos Buttler and Chris Woakes in game two).
Joe Root has proven frequently that he can go on to and well past significant personal landmarks.
To end this section I quote a post from a few minutes after Dave’s which provides an indication of how good Root actually is in ODI chases:
Hypocaust: “Joe Root now has the 3rd highest average (87.06) in victorious ODI chases (min. 20 innings), behind Dhoni (102.72) and Kohli (93.64) and just ahead of Bevan (86.25).”
Some stuff about the ODI at the MCG, a neurodiversity quote, a mathematical puzzle and some photographs
After the horrors of the Ashes test series it makes a change to write about a winning performance from an England cricket team in Australia. I also have a few other things to share of course, including more of my photos.
RECORDS GALORE AT THE MCG
The pitch at the MCG for the first of five One Day Internationals (50 overs per side) was a vast improvement of the strip they had produced for the test match, and the players produced a match worthy of the occasion. England won the toss and chose to field. England;s improvement in this form of the game since their horror show at the 2015 World Cup has been such that even before they started batting an Australia tally of 304 seemed inadequate.
England got away to a quick start, although Jonny Bairstow did a ‘Vince’ – looking very impressive for 20-odd and then giving it away. Alex Hales also fell cheaply, but Joe Root came out and played excellently, while Jason Roy produced the major innings that England needed from one of their top order. When his score reached 124 Roy had an England ODI record for the MCG, and that soon became an all-comers MCG record, to match Cook’s all-comers test record score for the MCG. When he went from 171 to 175 Roy establish a new England ODI individual scoring record. His dismissal for 180, with 200 just a possibility was a disappointment but by then the result was not in doubt, and even the loss of a couple more wickets in the dying overs served only to reduce the final margin. England won by five wickets with seven deliveries to spare, and it was a much more conclusive victory than those figures suggest because three of the wickets came with the outcome already settled courtesy of Roy. Joe Root also deserves credit for his support role to Roy’s pyrotechnics, a selfless display that saw him finish just short of his own hundred when the winning runs were scored. The Test squad has a lengthy shopping list of new players needed (two openers given Cook’s age, at least one new batsman for the middle order, a couple of genuine quicks and a serious spinner at minimum), but the ODI squad is in splendid fettle.
A CLASSIC NEURODIVERSITY COMMENT
This comes courtesy of twitter:
Those of you who have read Alison’s response to my nominating her for a Blogger Recognition Award will have noticed that she specifically mentioned enjoying the puzzles that sometimes feature here. Here courtesy of the mathematical website brilliantis another:
The colony of muscovy ducks that I first saw in late 2017 are still in residence along a section of the Gaywood River that is close to where it enters The Walks en route to becoming the Millfleet, in which guise it flows into the Great Ouse…