The First Sri Lanka v England Test Match in Retrospect

A look back at the test match in Galle that finished early this morning. Includes player ratings and selection thoughts for the second match, a look ahead and some photographs.

This post looks back at the test match just concluded in Galle. Another such game reaches its denouement in Brisbane tonight, and if weather permits it should be a cracking finish.

ENGLAND GO 1-0
UP IN THE SERIES

Both teams arrived for this match not so much ‘underdone’ as ‘completely raw’, due to scheduling issues. Sri Lanka slumped to 135 on the first day, with Bess emerging with five wickets for a rather patchy bowling performance. Both England openers then fell cheaply, Sri Lanka’s decision to give the new ball to Embuldeniya with his left arm spin paying off in spades, but Root and Bairstow took England to the close, within sight of a first innings lead. Bairstow was out first thing on day 2, but Dan Lawrence on debut batted like a veteran, making 73, and providing Root with superb support. By the close England were 320-4 and seemingly headed for a monster lead. Buttler fell early on the third morning, triggering a collapse that saw England all out for 421, Root 228, a lead of 286 when at one stage 400+ seemed likely. Sri Lanka dug in and fought hard in their second innings, with both spinners, Bess and Leach, bowling better than they had first time around, Wood bowling quick when he was used, Curran sometimes making things happen and Broad bowling almost as economically as his Notts and England predecessor Alfred Shaw did in the early days of test cricket. Just before the end of the fourth day Sri Lanka were all out for 359 leaving England 74 to get.

The start of the England innings resembled a flashback sequence as the openers Sibley and Crawley both fell cheaply to Embuldeniya, who looks a real find for Sri Lanka. Then Bairstow made a greedy call for a run and succeeded in stitching up his skipper, and that was 14-3, and the possibility of a history making collapse loomed. In 1882, in the match that spawned The Ashes, England were set 85 in the fourth innings and ended up all out for 77, losing by seven runs. It seemed that present day England might be about to choke on an even smaller target. Dan Lawrence joined Bairstow, and they saw England through to the close at 38-3. The fifth day started on time, and with the same two spinners, Embuldeniya and Perera taking up where they had left off. In the event, 35 minutes play was sufficient for England to get home without further loss. The only alarm was a close LBW shout, turned down, and had Sri Lanka sent it upstairs they would have had a wicket. In the event it was Bairstow who made the winning hit, when it would have been more fitting for it to have been Lawrence.

Had Sri Lanka been able to completely dry up England’s scoring (in the great 1882 match Spofforth and Boyle at one point bowled 17 overs for one run) they may have induced serious panic, but England were always able to keep the scoreboard ticking, and in the end the margin was very comfortable.

Sri Lanka can take great credit for fighting back hard enough to take the game into its fifth and final day after they performed so awfully on the first two days. For England the big pluses were Joe Root rediscovering how to go seriously big and Dan Lawrence playing so well on debut, while young Embuldeniya may yet develop into a worthy successor to Muralitharan and Herath. Sibley and Crawley need to improve their approach to spinners, otherwise every test skipper will be tossing the new ball straight to a spinner to get a couple of early scalps. If England’s spinners produce some of the stuff they did in this game when they come up against India they will get absolutely destroyed, but it was good to see both improve considerably as the match went on.

PLAYER RATINGS & STAY/GO

In this section I rate the performances of the England players and offer my opinions about who should stay and who should go.

  1. Dom Sibley – 2/10. Twice fell very cheaply to Embuldeniya and never looked comfortable in either innings. He stays – one bad match should not get someone the chop, but he does need to work on his handling of spin.
  2. Zak Crawley – 2/10. My comments about Sibley apply equally to him, although he has demonstrated that he can play spin well later in an innings, if he manages to get in against pace.
  3. Jonathan Bairstow – 6/10. A solid 47 in the first innings and after running the skipper out in the second he did well to see England home. I would not personally have recalled him to the test squad, but I see little point in dropping him at this juncture and having a newcomer at no3 for the second game of a two game series.
  4. Joe Root – 10/10. His mammoth 228 utterly dominated the England first innings, he also took several catches in the field, and handled his bowlers well as captain. He will need to demonstrate that his rediscovered ability to go seriously big works against the likes of India and Australia as well as against a very weak Sri Lanka, but he could not have done much more here.
  5. Dan Lawrence – 9/10. When a batter reaches 73 they should be able to complete the ton, and that is the sole reason the debutant does not get full marks. He played a fine first test innings, and showed great composure when England were rocking in the final innings. He definitely stays, and it looks like England have found a good one.
  6. Jos Buttler – 5/10. his first innings dismissal marked the start of a collapse, and he was not needed in the second innings. He kept competently other than missing a stumping in the second Sri Lankan innings. However, with spinners so much to the fore, both in Sri Lanka, and later on in India, as far as I am concerned he goes, as England need their best keeper, Foakes.
  7. Sam Curran -6/10. He made things happen with his bowling on a couple of occasions. For me he stays, but I have sympathy for those who would replace him with Woakes. I regard his left arm as a potentially valuable variation.
  8. Dom Bess – 6/10. Eight wickets in a match sounds like a great performance, but the truth is that most of his five first innings wickets were given rather than being taken, and that even in the second innings when he bowled better there were two many loose deliveries from him. He stays, but only because, on what I am expecting to be the ultimate in turners I go with three spinners, with him being in a bowl-off for the role of Leach’s spin partner with the third spinner – and starting that race from behind due to his patchy recent form.
  9. Jack Leach – 7/10. The left arm spinner was understandably rusty at first, but by the end he was bowling very well, and his five second innings wickets were just reward for a fine effort. He stays, his position as England’s #1 spinner confirmed by his performance here.
  10. Mark Wood – 7/10. Sensibly used by his skipper only in short bursts he was always quick, averaging around the 90mph mark, and in conditions that offered him nothing he did very little wrong. Nevertheless, I would leave him out to accommodate Parkinson who will be in a bowl-off with Bess for the second spinner’s slot.
  11. Stuart Broad – 8/10. The veteran took three wickets in the first innings, and although he went wicketless in the second, his extreme economy, reminiscent as I have said of Alfred Shaw, helped to create pressure, which created wickets for other bowlers. He stays, moving a rung up the batting order given the inclusion of Parkinson.

LOOKING AHEAD

England should make it 2-0 on Sri Lanka (the second game gets under way on Friday), but will need to improve to compete effectively with India, who have shown immense determination to take their series in Australia right down to the wire, and then at the back end of this year comes the toughest assignment of all for an England team – Australia in Australia. Lawrence looks a huge find, and with Pope due to return for the India series, Burns back in the reckoning before too long and Bracey waiting in the wings, concerns about Sibley and Crawley against spin notwithstanding the batting looks good. In conditions where out and out speed is of the essence Archer will soon be available as well as Wood, with Stone waiting in the wings. Seam and Swing are always England’s strongest suits, and with no sign of Anderson or Broad leaving, Woakes and Curran about, and Ollie Robinson in the wings that area remains strong. Spin remains a concern, although Leach is looking good, while in Australia I would expect Parkinson, the leg spinner, to fare better than Bess, for another reason I want him to get some test experience in before that tour starts. It is also possible that younger spinners such as Virdi, Moriarty and Patterson-White could be contenders. Finally, there remains the gamble which some would consider heretical of giving Sophie Ecclestone a bell and asking if she fancies having a go alongside the men.

PHOTOGRAPHS

My usual sign off, with the addition of an infographic about the ratings and stay/go section:

Galle and Brisbane

A look at the two test matches currently in progress, and at Joe Root’s status as an England batter.

There are two test matches in progress at the moment, with overlapping playing hours. This post looks at both.

GALLE: ENGLAND ON TOP

When bad light brought a slightly early end to day three in Galle (due to the old fort that adjoins the ground Galle stadium cannot have floodlights – the fort is a World Heritage Site, so my usual gripe re bad light and test matches does not apply here) Sri Lanka were beginning to offer resistance, but were coming from a very long way behind.

Day Two, also truncated by the weather, saw England establish complete control. Bairstow failed to add to his overnight 47, but debutant Dan Lawrence made a fine 73, Buttler was looking comfortable by the close, and Root had a blemish free 168 not out to his credit. England were 320-4 and looking at all sorts of history if things continued the same way.

Day Three saw the remaining England wickets add just a further 101, Root being last out for a splendid 228. The only chance he offered in this innings was the one that was taken at deep midwicket to end it. Embuldeniya had every right to feel more than a little frustrated, a fine effort with the ball leaving him with figures of 3-176 while the much less impressive Perera had four wickets in the end. Root’s innings took his test aggregate past 8,000, in fewer innings than any England batter save Pietersen (KP 176, Root 178). It now stands at 8,059, meaning that he needs a further 56 to become the all-time leading test run scorer among Yorkshiremen. Inspired by the rapid fall of England’s last six wickets Sri Lanka then showed some fight with the bat, helped it must be said by an unimpressive bowling display from England. Bess could not get his length right, Leach was unlucky, there was little for the quicker bowlers, though Curran picked up a wicket when a rank long hop sailed straight to deep third man. Root tried a few overs but unaccountably Lawrence was not given a go. Mendis finally got off the mark after four successive ducks, a sequence known in the trade as an ‘Audi’, thereby avoiding the ‘Olympic’, but fell just before the close. Sri Lanka sent Embuldeniya in as nightwatchman, and the light closed in quick enough that he was still there at stumps. Scores so far: Sri Lanka 135 and 156-2, England 421, SL need 130 more to avoid the innings defeat.

England are of course heavy favourites, but that should not conceal the problems – Bess has been far too erratic, and if he bowls this kind of stuff in India he will be destroyed, other than Root and Lawrence there were no major batting contributions.

IS ROOT ENGLAND’S GREATEST EVER BATTER?

This question was raised on twitter today, in view of the milestone Root has just reached in test cricket and his great records in the other two formats. My own answer was that this question cannot be resolved because it is impossible to compare different eras, but Root is a magnificent all-format player who would have been a great in any era. I am now going to look, in chronological order, at some of those who might have been just as good had there been multiple formats in their day. I have restricted myself to players who experienced international cricket…

  • WG Grace – the man who virtually created modern batting. He successfully countered every type of bowling that existed in his day, could score rapidly when the occasion warrants (in 1895, less than two months shy of his 47th birthday, he scored 257 and 73 not out v Kent, the latter played against the clock to chase down a target, which was achieved successfully.
  • Jack Hobbs – The Master, capable of very attacking performances, especially in his younger days.
  • Herbert Sutcliffe – as he once famously told Plum Warner “ah luv a dogfight”, a claim borne out by his averages: 52.02 in first class cricket, 60.73 in test cricket, 66.85 in Ashes cricket. Although he is best known for long determined innings, like his seven-hour 161 which began on difficult pitch at The Oval in 1926, and his 135 at Melbourne two and a half years later, he could and did attack when the occasion demanded it. His 100th first class hundred was made with Yorkshire needing quick runs, and he hit eight sixes along the way.
  • Walter Hammond – averaged 58.45 at test level. His highest score was 336 not out against New Zealand, accrued in just 318 minutes. When he scored 1,000 first class runs in May 1927 the innings that completed the achievement came at the expense of Hampshire, and saw him score 192 out of 227 made while he was at the crease. He once started a day’s play v Lancashire by hitting Ted McDonald, then the best fast bowler in the world, for five successive boundaries, and according to Neville Cardus, a Lancastrian, it was only a fine bit of fielding by Jack Iddon that stopped it being six boundaries out of six for the over.
  • Denis Compton – averaged over 50 for England, reached 100 first class hundreds in 552 innings, a tally beaten only by Bradman (295), scored the quickest ever first class triple hundred, reaching the mark in 181 minutes at Benoni in 1948.
  • Peter May – the 1950s were a low and slow scoring decade, and yet Peter May averaged 46 in test cricket through that decade, and was noted for his stroke making.

INDIA FIGHTING HARD AT THE GABBA

India have had terrible problems with injuries during their tour of Australia. Among those on the sidelines for this match were both halves of India’s best new ball pairing, Bumrah and Shami, both of India’s two best test spinners, Ashwin and Jadeja, and others. Nevertheless, they are very far from being down and out at the Gabba. Australia won the toss and batted, scoring 359, with three wickets a piece for Natarajan, Thakur and Sundar, of whom only Thakur had previously played test cricket. India had reached 62-2 in reply before a storm hit Brisbane, bringing an end to play for day two. Rahane and Pujara are together at the crease, with Agarwal and Pant still to come, Sundar at seven capable of making a useful contribution and then the specialist bowlers. If India win it will be an incredible achievement, if they manage the draw and thereby retain the Border-Gavaskar trophy that will still be a mighty effort, and even if Australia ultimately prevail I for one will salute India for making such a fight of this series in the face of so many misfortunes.

PHOTOGRAPHS

I end with my usual sign off…

England in Command in Galle

A look at day 1 of Sri Lanka v England in Galle, and a glimpse at the state of play in BBL10. Also some photographs.

Early this morning UK time the test series between Sri Lanka and England got underway. This post looks back at the first day.

ENGLAND DOMINATE DAY 1

Unsurprisingly given the current situation, with a global pandemic happening, neither side had had anything approaching proper preparation for a test match. Sri Lanka had had no cricket at all since taking a hammering in South Africa. England managed one day of an intra-squad fixture, which with both “sides” containing more than 11 players and arrangements being made that each would bat for at least 50 overs in the first innings had precious little resemblance to a real match – it was more in the nature of an extended net with umpires in position. This lack of preparation was shown in some less than stellar cricket.

Sri Lanka batted first, and mustered 135 all out, a poor score, especially given that almost all of their wickets were lost through bad batting rather than good bowling. There were a couple of freakish dismissals – Bess got one when a shot hit Jonathan Bairstow and Buttler caught the rebound, while Leach got a finger tip to a drive, deflecting it into the bowlers end stumps with Embuldeniya way out of his crease. Bess was also the beneficiary when a really succulent long hop was bashed straight into the hands of backward point. Stuart Broad was in the wickets early on, Jack Leach bowled nicely, and, by hook or by crook, Bess emerged from the fray with 5-30.

After that shocking display with the bat Sri Lanka needed things to happen for them with the ball. To that end they gave the new ball to left arm orthodox spinner Embuldeniya, a clever decision given that Sibley and Crawley would both prefer to begin against seam. It paid early dividends, as both openers perished with only 17 on the board. At that point skipper Root joined Bairstow, a choice at no3 which did not meet universal approval. They played beautifully, although Root was given out LBW fairly early on – he reviewed it, and the technology showed that the ball was going over the top of the stumps. By the close Root had reached 66 not out, Bairstow was on 47 not out, and England at 127-2 were in total control of the match.

Root has recently had problems turning starts into major innings, and he needs to dig in again early on tomorrow and make sure this effort does not go to waste. As for England as whole this is the most dominant opening day they have had since Trent Bridge 2015 when they rolled Australia for 60 and were comfortably into a first innings lead by the end of the day.

Those of us following proceedings by way of Test Match Special were treated during the lunch break to an interview with Justin Langer, coach of Australia. His attitude to the controversy over Steve Smith allegedly scuffing up a batter’s guard at the SCG showed a failure of understanding, and also a huge degree of petulance – it was basically an on-air tantrum. Smith’s actions may well have been as innocent as Langer insists, but what both Smith and Langer need to understand and are apparently unable or unwilling to is that a proven cheat will not be given the benefit of the doubt when such incidents occur.

RECENT BBL ACTION

The tenth running of the Big Bash League is still in full swing. Yesterday the two Sydney franchises locked horns in a top of the table clash. Thunder, batting first, began brilliantly, scoring 47-1 from their four overs of Power Play, but then had a disastrous second period of their innings, being 86-4 after 10 overs. They then slowed up in overs 11-15, declining to take the Power Surge in a bid to revitalize their innings, and found themselves 112-5 after 15. They left the Power Surge right to the end, finally taking it at the last moment they could, for the 19th and 20th overs. They did score 24 off this two overs, but they would probably have done that at the tail end of a T20 innings even without it being a Power Surge, so they effectively did not benefit from those two overs. They ended on 166-6 from 20, at a high scoring ground (the average innings score for a T20 at Manuka is 175). Ir rained during the interval, and a delayed start to the second innings led to a DLS recalculation. Sixers resumed needing 129 from 14 overs to win, and 67 off seven to claim the Bash Boost point, while they would have three overs of Power Play and one of Power Surge. They got off to a flier, secured the Bash Boost point with an over to spare, and maintained the momentum, winning in the end by five wickets, with eight balls to spare. That put them six points clear at the top of the group, and left Thunder just about catchable by the chasing pack.

Today, while I was focussed on the test match the Heat took on bottom of the table Renegades. Renegades mustered 149, which rarely wins a T20 these days. Heat made life a little more difficult for themselves than it should have been by surrendering three quick wickets as they entered the closing stages of the chase, but they won by five wickets in the 19th over. This moves Heat, who also took the Bash Boost point, into the fifth and last qualifying slot on 20 points. Renegades remain on nine points, 11 points short of the qualifying zone with only four games to play, and it is now only a matter of when, rather than if, their early exit from the tournament is officially sealed.

PHOTOGRAPHS

My usual sign off…

England’s Victory

Looking at the turnaround in the test match at Old Trafford, plus a few other bits.

INTRODUCTION

The main focus of this post is the opening test match against Pakistan at Old Trafford, with a brief glimpse at the second round of fixtures in the Bob Willis Trophy as well.

FROM THE JAWS OF DEFEAT

England’s fightback in this match began on Friday evening, when they reduced Pakistan’s second innings to 137-8. Although it did not take very long yesterday morning for the last two wickets to fall, 32 runs were accrued from the 3.2 overs for which Pakistan batted. This left England needing 277 to win, and at first, as wickets fell steadily it looked very unlikely. When Pope got out out to a brutal ball to make it 117-5 it seemed a matter of when, not if. At that point Chris Woakes with seven single figure scores in his last eight test knocks came in to join Jos Buttler who had had a stinker of a match up to that point. Both players played their shots, recognizing that taking the attack back to Pakistan was the only chance. As the partnership developed Pakistan became a little ragged, although nerves also kicked in for the England pair and progress slowed. Buttler fell for 75 with just over 30 still required, and England sent in Stuart Broad, known as a quick scorer, with the aim of making sure that the second new ball was not a serious factor. The ploy worked, and by the time the new ball became available the target had been reduced to 13. In desperation Pakistan put on a fast bowler at one end but kept Yasir Shah going at the other. Broad was out with England a boundary away from victory and Bess survived the remainder of the over. Woakes edged the first ball of the next over through the slip region for four and England were home by three wickets. Woakes had scored 84 not out, going with 19 in the first innings and total match figures of 4-54. In view of the result there was no other candidate for Man of the Match.

There has only been one occasion when an England no7 has scored more in a 4th innings run chase – at The Oval in 1902 when Gilbert Jessop came in with the team 48-5 in pursuit of a target of 263 and blasted 104 in 77 minutes. Woakes’ performance was more reminiscent of George Hirst’s effort in that match – five wickets with the ball and scores of 43 and 58 not out.

ENGLAND PLAYER RATINGS

  1. Rory Burns – 4 – the opener failed twice in this match.
  2. Dominic Sibley – 6 – one long innings and one failure with the bat, also a superb unassisted run out in the field,
  3. Joe Root – 6 – not many runs for the skipper, but he led the side well, and his promotion of Broad to cater for the specific circumstances of the second innings was an excellent decision.
  4. Ben Stokes – 6 – failed with the bat, but although not fully fit to bowl took a hand at the bowling crease in England’s hour of need and bagged a wicket.
  5. Ollie Pope – 7 – a magnificent knock in the first innings, when it looked like he was facing a different set of bowlers to everyone else, and the delivery that got him was all but unplayable. Also played a few decent shots in the second dig before fetching another ‘jaffa’.
  6. Jos Buttler – 4 – a horror show behind the stumps, including missing a chance to see the back of Shan Masood for 45 (he went on to 156) and several other howlers, a gritty first innings batting effort, and a fine effort in the second innings, but still even after that knock in overall deficit for the match.
  7. Chris Woakes – 9 – a magnificent match for the under-rated all rounder. He is now indispensable in England (in some other parts of the world where the combination of the Kookaburra ball and the different atmospheric conditions effectively eliminates swing he is a lot less of a player) and his Man of the Match award was thoroughly deserved.
  8. Dominic Bess – 5 – bad wicket keeping caused him to miss out on several wickets, but in the second innings with the ball definitely turning he should have done better than he did.
  9. Jofra Archer – 5 – an ordinary game for the express bowler.
  10. Stuart Broad – 7 – bowled reasonably, played two splendid cameo innings.
  11. James Anderson – 5 – the veteran was unimpressive by his own standards, though respectable by anyone else’s.

These ratings mostly look low for players in a winning side and that is for a good reason – Pakistan bossed this game through its first two innings, and England were fortunate to emerge victorious.

THE REST OF THE SERIES

News has just emerged that Stokes is heading to New Zealand for family reasons and will not play in the remaining matches of the series. Buttler cannot continue as keeper, the question being whether you think he can justify being picked purely as a batter. I personally do not and would leave him out. My chosen line-up from those available would be Burns, Sibley, Crawley, *Root, Pope, +Foakes, Woakes, Bess, Robinson, Archer, Broad. Anderson I think needs to be rested, and I opt for Robinson as his replacement. If Buttler’s selection is non-negotiable he gets the nod at six as a specialist batter, and Robinson misses out. Bess needs a good match sooner rather than later but I would not want to be without a front line spin option.

THE BOB WILLIS TROPHY

The second round of matches in this competition are well underway. Worcestershire scored 455-8 against Glamorgan, who are 27-0 in reply. Yorkshire managed 264 in their first innings and Notts are 140-4 in reply. Northants v Somerset has seen some extraordinary happenings – Somerset made 166 in the first innings, Northants were then bowled out for 67, and Somerset were at one point 54-6 in their second innings before recovering to reach 222, Northants are 5-0 in their second innings. Middlesex made 252 against Hampshire, who are 129-3 in reply. Leicestershire managed 199 against Derbyshire who are 235-3 in response. Sussex made 332 against Kent who are 131-1 in response. Gloucestershire scored 210 all out v Warwickshire who are 73-3 in reply. Durham were all out for 180 against Lancashire, who are 138-4 in response. Finally, Essex scored 262 in their first innings, and Surrey are 81-4 in response.

SOLUTION AND NEW TEASER

I posed this problem from brilliant in my last post:

Venn Rectangles

The answer is 216, as shown in this published solution by Pall Marton:

PM

Here is another teaser, this one tangentially connected with sudoku:

Pinwheel

This one is not as hard as the five dagger rating suggests, but it is quite challenging. Solution in my next post.

PHOTOGRAPHS

My usual sign off…

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Damselflies have been out in force, as these remaining pictures show. They are tricky in two ways – actually capturing them on camera, and editing the shots to best effect.

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Seriously Strange Selections

A look at the selections and the early stages of the third test match between England and the West Indies at Old Trafford.

INTRODUCTION

The third test match is under way at Old Trafford. If England win they regain the Wisden Trophy, any other result and the West Indies retain it. Future series between these sides will be contested for the Botham-Richards Trophy, named after two legends of the game and close friends, although Beefy’s record against the West Indies does not really justify his name being on this trophy.

ENGLAND

Ben Stokes is fit enough to play but will not be able to bowl, which led to England opting for five front line bowlers. Less defensibly given those circumstances they also opted to persevere with the inadequate Jos Buttler, who will bat at six and keep wicket. Zak Crawley misses out, meaning that England have gone in with Sibley, Burns, *Root, Stokes, Pope, Buttler, Woakes, Bess, Archer, Broad, Anderson. I think that to go with five bowlers they should have given the gloves to Pope, keeping Crawley in at no3 and dropping Buttler. I would also have preferred Curran over Woakes for the extra variation offered by his left arm.

THE WEST INDIES

Rahkeem Cornwall plays, certainly the heaviest top level cricketer since Warwick Armstrong, and possibly the heaviest since the mighty Alfred Mynn who was in his pomp in the 1840s. Surprisingly Alzarri Joseph rather than the obviously exhausted Shannon Gabriel was the player to miss out. It is no great surprise that West Indies have opted for extra batting strength in the circumstances.

THE PLAY SO FAR

The West Indies won the toss, an in spite of having picked the extra spinner in Cornwall and a weather forecast that suggests that only today of the first four days will be uninterrupted, both of which argue strongly for batting they have decided to bowl first, the selfsame decision that backfired badly on them on the second match of this series.

Dom Sibley was out early, for a duck. Burns and Root batted reasonably well together until Burns unaccountably given the circumstances took a sharp single and a direct hit ran Root out to make it 47-2. That brought Stokes to the crease far too early for comfort, although the West Indies had already had a warning that their choice of which fast bowler to leave out for Cornwall had been wrong when Gabriel limped from the field. With the score at 92 Stokes was bowled by Kemar Roach, the latter’s 199th test wicket (the last West Indian fast bowler to reach 200 was the legendary Curtly Ambrose), bringing Pope to the wicket. So far Pope is looking very impressive, and England need a big score from him. With Burns and Pope together, the biggest all Surrey partnership at test level stands to the credit of Ken Barrington and John Edrich who once shared a second wicket stand of 369 against New Zealand. Burns has just completed his 50, which he should regard as establishing base camp – the main ascent for him begins here.

THE OFF SPINNING RIVALRY

A curio of this match is that the West Indies have a player named Cornwall as their principal off spinner, and his opposite number for England, Dom Bess, was born in Devon. Which side of the Tamar will prevail?

LINKS AND PHOTOGRAPHS

We start with the solution to yesterday’s teaser:

Teaser

Powers of two have last digit 2,4,8,6 and then back to 2 and so on ad infinitum. 1,000 being a multiple of four 2^1000 thus has a final digit of 6, which in turn means that 2^1001 ends with a 2.

A video from Richard Murphy of Tax Research UK answering the ‘how are you going to pay for it?’ question:

Please watch the video in full – it is five and a half minutes.

Now for my usual sign off…

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Manchester Musings

Some thoughts on the early stages of the second test match between England and the West Indies.

INTRODUCTION

The second test match between England and the West Indies at Old Trafford, Manchester is underway, and already curious things are happening.

THE SELECTIONS

England had decided to rest Anderson and Wood for this game (both have had injury problems of late, and were unlikely to stand up to three matches in quick succession, so resting them for the middle match made sense. What did not make sense was Jofra Archer deciding to visit his home in Brighton (south east of Southampton) before heading to Manchester (north west of Southampton), thereby breaking the bio-secure protocols that everyone else involved manage to stick to (btw Anderson’s family home is only a few miles down the road from Old Trafford, and he did not succumb to temptation) and rendering himself ineligible for the match. With Oli Stone also not fully fit that meant that England had no out and out speedster available to them. They therefore opted for Curran’s left arm to give them some variation in the seam department and Woakes rather than a debut for Oliver Edward Robinson. They correctly gave Crawley the no3 slot, dropping Denly. They wrongly, indeed inexcusably, but unsurprisingly persisted with Buttler as keeper and no7, so the full 11 reads: Sibley, Burns, Crawley, *Root, Stokes, Pope, +Buttler, Woakes, Curran, Bess and Broad. Curran’s left arm provides some variation, and he may create some useful rough for Dom Bess to exploit. However, the only possibility of providing some genuine pace will be if Stokes is used in short spells in which he goes all out for speed – no one else in this side is capable of producing anything describable as genuinely fast. The West Indies are unchanged, which means that off spinner Rahkeem Cornwall, probably the heaviest international cricketer since Warwick Armstrong captained Australia in 1921 while weighing in at 22 stone, misses out.

THE EARLY EXCHANGES

Some traditional Manchester weather meant a delayed start, and the toss took place at noon, with a one hour session scheduled for 12:30-1:30, afternoon 2:10-4:25, evening 4:45 – 7:00, with half an hour overlap allowed, so a potential 7:30 finish. The West Indies one the toss and put England in. Burns and Sibley saw off the quicker bowlers, but then Burns fell to the off spin of Roston Chase on the stroke of lunch, and Crawley fell to Chase’s next delivery, immediately after the interval. Sibley and Root are now together, doing their best to stabilize things. England need to bat well, but on a pitch which is already looking like it could break up a first innings tally of 300 would put them in the box seat. Two wickets down this early is not good news for England, bit if they were going to lose two fairly early wickets losing them to Roston Chase is less bad than the alternatives, given that Bess is likely to enjoy this pitch even more, and that England are short of serious pace in this game (btw Robinson would not have helped in that regard – he specializes in moving the ball around a bit at just above medium pace, a method that has brought him 236 first class wickets at 22 a piece but which is not likely to have test batters quaking in their boots).

LOOKING AHEAD

England are probably second favourites for this match given the effect that the combination of their selection policy and Archer’s misdemeanour has had on them, but it does look like the West Indies misread the pitch and would have done better to bat first. If the West Indies do win this game they win the series, the first time they will have done that in England since 1988 (the 1991 and 1995 series were both drawn 2-2, England won the 2000 series and have been dominant in these contests since then), if England prevail it will be 1-1 and all will come down to the decider at this same ground. My own feeling is that for the West Indies to win the series and retain the Wisden trophy (they won the last series in the Caribbean) they need to win this match  – a draw would also secure them the Wisden Trophy as the series could not then finish worse for them than 1-1, but if England win I think the West Indies will find it tough to pick themselves up for the final game. For the moment, Sibley and Root remain in possession, and although they are not scoring quickly they are looking quite secure.

PHOTOGRAPHS

My usual sign off…

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My England XI For The Second Test Match

My England XI for the test match that starts tomorrow – the team that should be selected though probably will not. Plus some photographs.

INTRODUCTION

I have not yet seen the official XI for the test match that starts tomorrow, and I do not expect it to be the same as mine  – I will outline the possible differences later.

THE XI VIA THE BBC WEBSITE

The BBC have an interactive piece on the cricket section of their website which you can use to pick your England team for this test match. I have done so and mine is:

XI

MORE ON MY XI

  1. Rory Burns – currently averaging 33 in his test career to date but seemingly upwardly mobile in that regard and deserves a few more games yet.
  2. Dom Sibley – his performances in South Africa were highly encouraging, and his second innings at the Ageas bowl was a solid effort, although the manner of his dismissal when in the 40s was disappointing.
  3. Zak Crawley – at the age of 22 he is very much in the ‘up and coming’ bracket, and his second innings 76 at the Ageas bowl was the best batting effort for England in the match, both in quantity and quality.
  4. *Joe Root – England need his batting, and while his captaincy is less impressive there are few appealing alternatives (see yesterday’s post). No4 is his preferred slot, Crawley likes to be high in the order (he opens for Kent), so I position them this way round.
  5. Ben Stokes – He is very much England’s x-factor player, and while his captaincy was less than impressive at the Ageas bowl he had a fine all round game as a player
  6. Ollie Pope – his emergence at test level was one of the highlights of the series in South Africa, his first class batting record is truly outstanding and while he may eventually bat higher in the order it should not be forced.
  7. +Ben Foakes – the best keeper in England at present, and he averages over 40 with the bat in the five test matches he has been allowed to play. Buttler in the long form of the game is no more than an ordinary batter and a substandard keeper – his miss at the Ageas bowl on the final day was the costliest England blunder of the match. Buttler has played 107 first class matches and averages precisely 32 with the bat, and has taken 213 catches and executed two stumpings. Foakes has played 109 first class matches, averages 38.01, and has taken 225 catches and made 23 stumpings. The likelihood therefore is that Foakes would actually score more runs than Buttler, but even if this proved not to be the case his superior keeping  would save more runs than under-performing with the bat could cost.
  8. Dom Bess – the offspinner had a good game at the Ageas bowl, including a spirited effort with the bat in the first innings and should hold his place.
  9. Jofra Archer – he had a poor time with the ball in the first innings, but bowled electrifyingly in the second.
  10. Mark Wood – not a good match for him at the Ageas bowl, but it was chiefly the batting that let England down there, and I hate seeing bowlers thrown under the bus when the batters are more blameworthy, plus as long time advocate of England going with two out and out speedsters I do not want to see the experiment abandoned after one game.
  11. James Anderson – he was bang on the money at the Ageas bowl and when fit is without doubt England’s most reliable performer with the ball. Additionally this match is taking place at his home ground of Old Trafford, and I think he deserves the chance to play there if he is fit enough to do so.

ALTERNATIVES AND CLOSE RESERVES

I fear that England will continue with their indefensible policy of selecting Buttler as keeper. I sincerely hope that it is the end of the road for Denly, but I cannot even be certain of that. I could accept Broad being selected, especially as England have indicated that they are thinking in terms of rotating him and Anderson, but I remind of you of my earlier comments about bowlers being thrown under the bus when it is batters who are really blameworthy. I do not consider that an English surface is likely to demand two specialist spinners, but if it does I have Parkinson ahead of Leach in my personal pecking order. Finally rather than any reprieve for Buttler or Denly I would have Bracey down as cover for any batter in the top three and the wicket keeper and Lawrence earmarked should one nos 4-6 be unavailable at short notice. Denly was selected as a stopgap no3 until that gap could be filled properly, and in Crawley it looks like England have found the person to fill it long term.

PHOTOGRAPHS

My usual sign off…

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The England Captaincy

Some thoughts on the England test captaincy, a section on masks including an important link, and some photographs.

INTRODUCTION

With Joe Root due to return I am going to have a look at the question of the captaincy of the England men’s team ahead of Thursday’s second test.

GREAT BATTER, ORDINARY SKIPPER

Root is England’s leading batter at present, and his selection in that role is absolutely mandatory. However, the captaincy has somewhat adversely affected his batting returns, especially in the matter of converting fifties to hundreds, and he is hardly outstanding as a captain. So should be relieved of the captaincy?

STOKES’ FIRST OUTING NO TRIUMPH

Ben Stokes fared reasonably well as a player in his first outing as skipper, twice scoring 40+ with the bat and taking four cheap wickets in the first West Indies innings. However, he was less impressive as a skipper. His biggest blunder was over Bess in the second innings. Having chosen to bat first in the hope of Bess having a turning pitch to bowl on the final innings Stokes then shied at the last. Although Bess did turn the ball and created two definite wicket taking opportunities and other possibilities he was mysteriously given only ten overs, when he should have been kept going at one end while as many of the overs at the other as practicable were bowled by the blitzmen Archer and Wood. So Stokes is a possible, but certainly not a definite.

THE OTHERS

It is no secret that I think that neither Denly nor Buttler should be in the test side, and since with all due respect to the legendary Mike Brearley I cannot recommend selecting a specialist skipper in general that rules them out. Archer and Wood as out and out speedsters devote too much energy in the field to their craft and would therefore probably struggle as skipper. Anderson and Broad are apparently intended to play on a rotation basis, which rules them out, although Anderson could well handle the job decently. Sibley, Crawley, Pope and my choice as keeper, Foakes are all too new to international cricket to be serious candidates just yet, and the combination of keeping and captaincy is a tough one for anyone to handle. So, if you accept that he is the undisputed no1 spinner the only alternatives to Root and Stokes would appear to be Dom Bess and Rory Burns. If I was going to appoint a new captain, then I would follow my instincts regarding slow bowlers who can handle a bat and go for Bess, but I think that I would prefer to stay with Root for the home summer, and then maybe appoint Bess as captain for a winter tour if one happens.

SOME THOUGHTS ON MASKS

I am still seeing far too few people using protective masks when out and about. As someone who less than two years ago was in hospital and among other things receiving extra oxygen and who always wears a mask when going out (I have recently emerged from several months of shielding, but I continue to take great care) I can tell you which is the greater inconvenience. There are some minor difficulties associated with masks, and I know that not everyone can cope with them (being autistic I would be did I choose to claim it exempt from wearing one), but for most of us the difficulties associated with mask wearing (they don’t combine well with spectacles, a difficulty I freely acknowledge) are as nothing compared to being in hospital and receiving extra oxygen. So, for yourself and others, please wear a mask whenever you go out. Charlie Hancock has an excellent piece in Spyglass Magazine about the type of people who throw hissy fits about being asked to wear masks, titled “100 Years of Anti-Maskers“.

PHOTOGRAPHS

My usual sign off…

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All Time XIs – Yorkshire

Continuing my all-time XIs series with Yorkshire.

INTRODUCTION

This is the fourth all-time XI post I have done (Surrey, Gloucestershire and Worcestershire were the first three). I have an ancestral connection to Yorkshire, and I lived in Barnsley for six years. As you would expect of the county that has by far the most outright championships (32 at the present time), there is a positive embarrassment of riches to choose from.

YORKSHIRE ALL TIME XI

  1. Herbert Sutcliffe – a big occasion player, as witnessed by the progression of his averages (overall FC 52.02, overall test 60.73, Ashes 66.85), he also overlapped for a few years at first class level and rather longer at club level (both were raised in Pudsey) with the person I have chosen as the other opener. He could claim that both World Wars affected his career since the first prevented his entry into first class cricket until he was 24, and the second led to his retirement from the game (and his 1939 performances were not those of a man preparing to lay aside his bat for the last time, though resuming after a six season layoff when past the age of 50 was obviously not going to happen). He tallied over 50,000 first class runs in total with 149 centuries.
  2. Leonard Hutton – a man who averaged 56.7 in test cricket and was also hugely productive in first class cricket, in spite of missing six of what would have been prime development years to World War II, from which he emerged with one arm shorter than the other due a training accident. In 1953 as captain he regained the Ashes which had been in Australian hands since Woodfull’s 1934 triumph, and eighteen months later he led England to victory down under.
  3. David Denton – in the first decade of the 20th century only one Yorkshire cricketer gained England selection purely on the strength of batting skill, and that person was David Denton. He was known as ‘lucky’ Denton because he seemed to benefit from plenty of dropped chances but there are two counters to that, firstly there is Napoleon’s “give me a lucky general rather than a good one”, and secondly people noticed him benefitting from dropped chances for the very simple reason that he made it count when such occurred.
  4. Maurice Leyland – a left handed bat and a bowler of ‘chinamen’, he scored heavily for both Yorkshire and England.
  5. Joe Root – the current England test captain, and a bat of proven world class, though his off spin would not see much use in this team, and you will note that I have not named as captain of this team.
  6. George Hirst – rated by his long time county captain Lord Hawke as the greatest of all county cricketers, he batted right handed and bowled left-arm pace. He achieved the season double of 1,000 runs and 100 wickets in first class matches 14 times, 10 of them in successive seasons. In each of 1904 and 1905 he had over 2,000 runs and 100 wickets, and in 1906 uniquely he had over 2,000 runs and 200 wickets. He was also noted for his fielding at mid-off.
  7. *Wilfred Rhodes – the other of the ‘Kirkheaton twins’, a right handed bat and slow left arm bowler with over 4,000 first class wickets and almost 40,000 first class runs in his career, the longest ever test career in time terms (31 and a half years between his first and last appearances) his astonishing career linked the era of Grace with that of Bradman. I have named as captain because although being a humble professional he never officially had the job I believe he would have been excellent at it- when asked about Percy Chapman as England captain Rhodes said “‘ee wor a good ‘un – he allus did what me an’ Jack telt him”.
  8. Tom Emmett – a left arm pace bowler who took his wickets very economically and was a good enough wielder of the willow to have a first class hundred at a time when they were not easy to come by. He accounted for W G Grace 36 times (as well as Gloucs v Yorks, there were fixtures such as North v South, Gentlemen vs Players etc, so top cricketers came up against one another frequently) and was highly rated by ‘The Doctor’.
  9. Fred Trueman – “T’finest bloody fast bowler that ever drew breath” at least in his own oft stated opinion, and it was close enough to true for the exaggeration to be pardonable. He was the first to take 300 test wickets, and in a 20 year first class career he bowled an average of 800 overs per year. He could also handle a bat and was a good fielder.
  10. Schofield Haigh – a right arm quick medium/ off cutter bowler and lower order bat who sometimes made useful contributions. He often bowled devastatingly in tandem with Hirst and/or Rhodes.
  11. +David Hunter – the only non-international in the XI, he made 1,200 dismissals as Yorkshire wicket keeper, and with the depth of the batting in this side I felt it right to go for the best wicket keeper irrespective of batting ability.

There are a stack of players who could have merited inclusion but for the limit of 11. Among the openers Louis Hall, Jack Brown and Percy Holmes (partner of Herbert Sutcliffe in 74 century opening stands, 69 of them for Yorkshire) could all have been considered, while Brian Close would have his advocates in the middle order, as would various others. Off spinning all rounders Ted Wainwright and Billy Bates could have had a place, and there are a number of slow left armers who could have been given the nod – any of Ted Peate, Bobby Peel, Hedley Verity, Johnny Wardle or Alonzo Drake. Among the faster bowlers for whom no space could be found were George Freeman, Emmett’s regular opening partner for a few years, who took his first-class wickets at less than 10 a piece, George Macaulay, Emmott Robinson, Darren Gough and Chris Silverwood, all of whom might have their advocates. Similarly I could have given the gloves to Arthur Dolphin, Arthur Wood (“always wor a good man for a crisis” when coming in at 770-6 at the Oval in 1938), Jimmy Binks, David Bairstow or Jonny Bairstow. One big name who I refuse to call unlucky to miss out is Geoffrey Boycott – I pick teams to win, not to draw, and Yorkshire’s record in the two seasons in which Boycs averaged over 100 is testimony to the problems his approach created in that regard. Undoubtedly he has the best career record of anyone I have neglected to pick for one of these teams, but too often his runs were not made in a winning cause. I try to balance my sides as well as possible, and in the one I chose I have five top of the range batters, two of the greatest all-rounders to ever play the game, three great and contrasting bowlers and a super gloveman. The bowling options include two different types of left arm pace (Emmett and Hirst), right arm pace (Trueman), right arm medium fast (Haigh), left arm spin (Rhodes), left arm wrist spin (Leyland) and at a push off spin in the person of Root and right arm  leg spin courtesy of Hutton. Also, if I am going to err in selecting a side it will be in the direction of stronger bowling rather than stronger batting – you will note that both two actual overseas players I have picked in previous posts and the potential one that I mentioned in the Surrey post are all bowlers. There are examples of teams with less than stellar batting but excellent bowling being big winners – Yorkshire in several of their most outstanding periods, Surrey in the 1950s and a few others, but there are few examples of the converse. Sussex in the the first decade of the 20th century had a powerful batting line up, with Fry and Ranjitsinhji among the all time greats and Joe Vine are top drawer opening partner for Fry plus a few other useful contributors, but they never came close to being champions because they did not have the bowling to press home the advantage that batting should have given them.

PHOTOGRAPHS

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The cars in the background are parked, not travelling anywhere.

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England Humiliated in New Zealand

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.

INTRODUCTION

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 Sibley fell 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 Curran who delayed the inevitable and provided a bit of late entertainment. Once their partnership was broken it did not take Broad long 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.

PHOTOGRAPHS

Some festive pics here as well as a few of my more usual type…

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The Elves getting ready to help in Santa’s grotto at Dobbies on Friday evening.

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Immediately outside the grotto (I was there in my caapcity as NAS West Norfolk branch secretary, and got to walk through after the children had received their presents)

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The one obvious howler in the set up – polar bears and penguins do not co-exist as they reside at opposte ends of the Earth)

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