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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IMG_2662 (2)
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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England Ahead On Points In 1st Ashes Test

Some thoughts on the Ashes match in progress at Edgbaston, suggestions for Lord’s and plenty of my photographs.

INTRODUCTION

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.

THE PRELIMINARIES

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. Moeen Ali as 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)
  4. Broad and 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 times before, 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:

  1. Burns
  2. Beaumont
  3. *Root
  4. Roy
  5. +Foakes
  6. Stokes
  7. Lewis Gregory (with Anderson likely gone for the series it is surely time for this move)
  8. Chris Woakes
  9. Jofra Archer
  10. Jack Leach
  11. Olly Stone
  12. Sam Curran (could play in place of Gregory, Woakes or Archer)
  13. Matthew Parkinson (with all respect to Bess I gamble on the legspinner as second specialist spin option, in the knowledge that the skipper can bowl passable off-breaks if needed)

David Warner (most infamous of the ‘sandpaper trio’) has been dismissed by Stuart Broad while I write this, giving that worthy his 450th test match scalp.

PHOTOGRAPHS

My usual sign off…

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King’s Lynn has lost a lot of railway connections over the years.

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A large white.

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An azure damselfly in flight (three pics, all frok the same original)

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A variety of “painted lady” I think

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Four shots of a “peacock butterfly

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A couple of shots of nearly fledged young ducks.

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Two Wins For England Cricket Teams

Brief accounts of two T20 internationals that took place within twelve hours and ended in England wins.

INTRODUCTION

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.

Full scorecard here.

A TIGHT FINISH IN GUWAHATI

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 here and the official report here.

PHOTOGRAPHS

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England’s Impressive Start To ODI Series

An account of the 1st ODI between England and the West Indies.

INTRODUCTION

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.

PHOTOGRAPHS