Advantage England at Old Trafford

A look at developments in the third test match between England and the West Indies, a mathematical teaser and plenty of photographs.

INTRODUCTION

The test match at Manchester is deep into its second day, and England are in a strong position.

DAY 1

England got out of jail in the last part of yesterday, Pope playing beautifully to reach the close on 91 not out and Buttler also topping 50. The light intervened with 4.2 overs still to bowl, and the close of play score was 258-4.

DAY 2

Pope and Buttler both fell early in the day, as did Woakes and Archer to make it 280-8, with four wickets, including his 200th in tests to Kemar Roach. Then Broad arrived at the crease and attacked from the start. The game got away from the West Indies as Broad and Bess put on 78 for the ninth wicket, with Broad hitting 62 off just 45 balls, the highest score ever by an England no10 at Old Trafford, beating the 60 not out of Hedley Verity in 1934. Bess and Anderson then added a further 11 for the tenth wicket and England totalled 369. Lunch was taken as soon as England were all out. Broad continued his excellent day by getting Kraigg Brathwaite with the new ball. The other opener John Campbell was reprieved when Stokes dropped a chance in the slips off Anderson, and as I write West Indies are 20-1 after nine overs.

THE WISDEN TROPHY

England need to win this match to win the series and take the Wisden Trophy, while a draw would see the West Indies retain the Wisden Trophy, and a win would see them win their first series in England since 1988. I think England’s two escapes, first when they got away in the final session of yesterday and then the Broad/Bess flourish of this morning have taken the West Indies win out of the equation, leaving th only question being whether England can force a victory.

HOLDER’S ILLOGIC

Jason Holder, the West Indies captain, has not distinguished himself in this match. Having decided to go with an extra spinner he then responded to winning the toss by putting England in. If the first decision was correct, the second was certainly wrong, since it is in the closing stages of matches that spinners come into their own. I am not sure whether the pitch will offer much spin (Cornwall, the extra spinner, went wicketless in the first innings) but I am already certain that the decision to bowl first was wrong – the fact that England made 369 with only Ollie Pope batting really well and Broad having his bit of fun late in the innings indicates a pitch not offering hugely much to the bowlers. It also shows a failure to learn from experience – Holder made the same decision at this same ground just a few days earlier and his team took a hammering in that game. Then, yesterday evening, with Pope and Buttler going well the West Indies inexplicably delayed taking the new ball, which contributed to England bossing the opening day.

TAKING BAD LIGHT OUT OF
TEST MATCH CRICKET

Bad light needs to be eliminated from test cricket, and there are two ways of doing so, given that all international venues have floodlights:

  1. Have a stock of white balls at the venue, so that if the floodlights are the sole source of light the red ball can be replaced with a white one and the match continue after a short pause.
  2. Play all test matches with pink balls, so that there is no need to switch colour when the nature of the light changes.

THE REST OF THE GAME

After today there are three more scheduled days, and only Monday has a really bad weather forecast. I think England are favourites to win the match and therefore the Wisden Trophy. The follow-on is unlikely to come in to play, but England should have a respectable first innings advantage. Given that Monday is likely to be disrupted they should then look to advance that lead at a rapid rate. Jofra Archer has just struck to make it 44-2.

MATHEMATICAL TEASER

A very easy but quite fun teaser from brilliant.org (ignore the official difficulty rating):

The problem is 4 x 4 Calcdoku – each row and column contains the numbers 1,2,3 and 4, and various regions are marked out as having a certain total obtained by applying one of four basic arithmetic operations.

Calcdoku

Solution tomorrow.

PHOTOGRAPHS

My usual sign off…

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Tomato plants which I am currently attending to.
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Close ups of some of the fruit in this pic and the next.

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The London Cup and England’s 3rd Test Squad

The London Cup, England’s 3rd test squad, links, a teaser and some photographs.

INTRODUCTION

Just before starting work on this post I spotted that the England squad for the third test match has been selected. Therefore I will start with a look at that, before moving on to main subject.

A DISAPPOINTING SELECTION

The squad for tomorrow’s 3rd test match against the West Indies contains 14 names, as follows (see here for full details):

Joe Root (Yorkshire) Captain, James Anderson (Lancashire), Jofra Archer (Sussex), Dominic Bess (Somerset), Stuart Broad (Nottinghamshire), Rory Burns (Surrey), Jos Buttler (Lancashire), Zak Crawley (Kent), Sam Curran (Surrey), Ollie Pope (Surrey), Dom Sibley (Warwickshire), Ben Stokes (Durham), Chris Woakes (Warwickshire), Mark Wood (Durham).

Ben Foakes, James Bracey and Dan Lawrence have all been overlooked. My choice of 11 from this 14 (like the Irishman who was asked for directions ‘Oi wouldn’t start from here’) would be in batting order: Burns, Sibley, Crawley, *Root, Stokes, +Pope, Curran, Bess, Archer, Broad, Anderson. I refuse ever to name Buttler in a suggested test XI, which from this 14 means I have to give the gloves to Pope. I think England need both their veterans Broad and Anderson, and I also want the spinner, the out and out speedster and with due respect to Woakes I opt for the extra variation provided by Curran’s left arm, gambling on him at number seven. Although I would like to accommodate both speedsters, it would mean either one of the veterans missing out or Bess coming in at number seven which is a trifle too much of a gamble on the batting even for me. 

THE LONDON CUP

Surrey and Middlesex women’s sides convened at The Oval to play a T20 match for The London Cup yesterday evening, starting at 6PM. The game was available on livestream courtesy of http://www.kiaoval.com. Surrey had lost all of the previous five runnings of this event, and were without Nat Sciver, Sophia Dunkley and Bryony Smith, all up at Derby with the national squad.

Surrey bowled first, and opened with medium pace from Amy Gordon and spin purveyed by Claudie Cooper. Middlesex were saved from complete disaster by a robust innings from Cordelia Griffith who made 30, the highest individual score the game. Gayatri Gole came in at 60-5 and reached 28 not out, as Middlesex ended up recovering somewhat to 108-7 from their 20 overs.

Beth Kerins had a spell which started dreadfully – four of the six balls of her first over were rank full tosses but recovered well.

Dani Gregory, a young leg spinner with a very rapid arm action, bowled a spell in which she sent down a number of wides, but also some very good stuff, including this beauty (click link below to view), probably the best single delivery of the match.

Surrey themselves struggled with the bat, especially against Katie Wolfe, the quickest bowler on either side, and Emily Thorpe, another young spinner who looks a real prospect (she got two wickets, both clear cut LBWs, one of them Aylish Cranstone just as she was beginning to like dangerous). They too were 60-5 at low water mark, and their number 7, wicket keeper Kira Chathli, played a fine innings to rescue them. In the 18th over Chathli twice flipped deliveries over the keeper’s head for fours to get Surrey back almost up with the rate. The 19th over was bowled by Katie Wolfe, and until near the end looked like settling it for Middlesex, but then the irrepressible Chathli hit another four and six were needed off the final over. The number nine for Surrey got Chathli back on strike early in the over, and with two balls left three were required for victory. Chathli, cool as a cucumber, slotted one final boundary to take her own score to 28 not out and her side to victory with one ball remaining. Bhavika Gajipra also bowled well for Middlesex.

TEASER, LINKS AND PHOTOGRAPHS

A couple of pieces from Richard Murphy of Tax Research UK:

  1. The right response to the question ‘What taxes should be raised to pay for coronavirus?’ is ‘None’
  2. The UK government’s own accounts show that QE cancels government debt

A very easy teaser from brilliant.org:

Teaser

This was offered with multiple choice answers, but I am not going to be that generous. I will however give one hint: this is a problem about pattern recognition, not calculation.

Now it is time for my usual sign off…

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This panel is on Railway Road.

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A swan reflected in the water…
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…and reversing it, Escher style, so that the reflected swan looks like it is the original.

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Looking Ahead To Friday

Some speculations about possible inclusions for the third test, an all-time XI created around one of the possibles for the West Indies, the solution to yesterday’s teaser and a bumper collection of photographs.

INTRODUCTION

This post looks at the options for each time ahead of the deciding test match between England and the West Indies on Friday. There is a match taking place at The Oval tonight which may be interesting, and will be viewable courtesy of Surrey County Cricket Club’s livestream.

ENGLAND

I think the current top six can and should be retained, so I shall nothing further about them. Buttler has to go, and the question of his replacement is tied up with the question of how England should line up bowler wise. Here the problem is condensing the choices into at most five, and possibly only four. It would be rough on Jimmy Anderson not to play at his home ground, but equally Stuart Broad bowled two magnificent spells in the game just concluded and would not react well to being rested for the decider. Curran’s left arm and Archer’s extreme pace now that he can be selected again give them edges, as does the former’s batting. Woakes had a solid game with the ball in the match just concluded, and he also has batting skill on his side. Bess remains first choice spinner and the question is whether Jack Leach should also be selected. Going the two spinners route would require the selection of five players who are predominantly bowlers, and I feel that at least one of Curran or Woakes would have to be picked in this circumstance, as Bess at 7, Archer at 8, Leach at 9, Broad at 10 and Anderson at 11 leaves the lower order looking very fragile. A bowling foursome, if Leach is not to be picked should be Bess, Archer, Broad, Anderson, with Ben Foakes getting the gloves and batting at seven. For the two spinner route Pope gets the gloves, and the remainder of the order goes either Woakes, Curran, Bess, Archer, Leach or if you are prepared to gamble a bit more Curran, Bess, Archer, Leach, Broad I am going to plump for two spinners and a bit of a gamble on the batting and suggest as the final XI: Sibley, Burns, Crawley, *Root, Stokes, +Pope, Curran, Bess, Archer, Leach, Broad.

WEST INDIES

The West Indies’ big question is whether to pick Rahkeem Cornwall, and if so how they will fit him in. This depends on whether they are want extra batting strength to maximize their chances of retaining the Wisden Trophy, which they do by avoiding defeat, or whether they are determined to go all out to attempt to become the first West Indies side to win a series in England since 1988. The cautious approach entails bring Cornwall in for Shannon Gabriel, have him bat at nine below Holder, so that West Indies have only two outright tailenders, Joseph and Roach. The more aggressive approach is to drop a batter, presumably Shai Hope who has done precious little since scoring those twin tons at Headingley in 2017, and have a 7,8,9,10,11 of Holder, Cornwall, Joseph, Roach, Gabriel. To me the latter approach has far more appeal, and a side of Campbell, Brathwaite, Brooks, Blackwood, Chase, +Dowrich, Holder, Cornwall, Joseph, Roach, Gabriel thus eventuates. Cornwall is best known for being the heaviest international cricketer since Warwick Armstrong in 1921, so, in the spirit of my lockdown series of All Time XIs, we move on to…

THE PLUS SIZED XI

  1. *WG Grace – right handed opening batter, right arm bowler of varying types through his career, captain. As a youngster he was a champion sprinter and hurdler as well as a quality cricketer but in later years his weight mushroomed, reaching somewhere in the region of 20 stone near the end of his career. In 1895, less than two months short of his 47th birthday, he scored 1,000 first class runs in the first three weeks of his season (May 9th – 30th), including his 100th first class hundred (no 2 on the list of century makers at the time being Arthur Shrewsbury on 41).
  2. Colin Milburn – right handed opening batter. His career was ended prematurely by the car accident that cost him his left eye, but his record up to that point was very impressive.
  3. Mike Gatting – right handed batter, occasional right arm medium pace bowler.
  4. Mark Cosgrove – left handed batter, occasional right arm medium pace bowler. Australia were never keen on selecting him because of his bulk, but he scored plenty of runs in first class cricket.
  5. Inzamam-ul-Haq – right handed batter. He was once dubbed ‘Aloo’, which translates as ‘Potato’ on account of his shape. He had a long test career in which he averaged 49 with the bat.
  6. Warwick Armstrong – right handed batter, leg spinner. At the end of his test career he weighed in at 22 stone, and yet in those last two years he did as much batting as Steve Waugh in a comparable period and bowled as many overs of leg spin as Shane Warne in a comparable period. He was nicknamed ‘Big Ship’, and there is a book about him by Gideon Haigh titled “Big Ship”.
  7. Alfred Mynn – right handed batter, right arm fast bowler. ‘The Lion of Kent’ weighed in at 18 stone in his pomp, and later grew even heavier, allegedly weighing in at 24 stone by the end of his career.
  8. Rahkeem Cornwall – off spinner, useful right handed lower order batter. His averages are just the right way round at first class level – 23.75 with the bat and 23.57 with the ball. He is taller than Armstrong was by a couple of inches and weighs about the same.
  9. Jim Smith – right arm fast medium bowler, ultra-aggressive right handed lower order batter. 6’4″ tall and weighing in at 17 stone. He once clubbed a 50 in just 11 minutes off genuine bowling – not declaration stuff. He was born in Wiltshire, and under the rules of the day had to qualify by residence for a first class county, in his case Middlesex. He took 172 first class wickets in his first full season, finishing sixth in the national bowling averages, and helped by the fact that with Lord’s as his home ground he was enjoying success in front of the right people he was selected for that winter’s tour. Unfortunately for fans of big hitting he and Arthur Wellard of Somerset were only once selected in the same England team.
  10. Joel Garner – right arm fast bowler. 6’8″ tall and broad and solid in proportion to that great height. He is perhaps here under slightly false pretenses since he did not noticeably carry extra weight, but he was certainly a big unit.
  11. +Mordecai Sherwin – wicket keeper. Given the nature of the job it is no great surprise that plus sized wicket keepers are something of a rarity. However, this guy weighed 17 stone and was still able to pull off 836 dismissals in 328 first class appearances (611 catches and 225 stumpings).

This side has a strong top five (Gatting, with a test average of 35.55, is probably the least impressive of the quintet as a batter), two genuine all rounders in Armstrong and Mynn, a trio of fine bowlers, two of whom can bat a bit and an excellent keeper. The bowling attack, with Garner, Smith and Mynn to bowl pace, Armstrong, Cornwall and Grace purveying slower stuff and Gatting and Cosgrove available as seventh and eighth bowlers is strong and varied, although there is no left armer. Thus, even given the selection criteria, this is a team that would take some beating.

HXI

SOLUTION TO YESTERDAY’S TEASER

I offered up this from brilliant yesterday:

Here is Liam Robertson’s solution:

Sol

PHOTOGRAPHS

My usual sign off…

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England V Rain In Manchester

Bringing my coverage of the test match up to date, plus some photographs.

INTRODUCTION

Welcome to my latest update on developments at Old Trafford.

DAY 2 – ENGLAND ESTABLISH CONTROL

In yesterday’s post I covered the play up to England through Stokes and Sibley taking the score to 280-3. Sibley was out with the score of 341 and Pope did not last very long, but Stokes was still there and going well. At 395, with his own score on 176 Stokes attempted reverse sweep Roach and was bowled, Roach’s first wicket of the series after 71 overs. Chris Woakes was then out first ball, which prompted the revelation that Roach’s previous test wicket before these two had been a second in successive balls. Buttler reached 40 before he was eight out at 426, a decent innings, but not enough given that he was facing tired bowlers and really should have been able to punish them more severely. One run later Curran was out, bringing Broad in join Bess. These two displayed some sensible aggression, and boosted the score to 469 before England declared giving themselves a bowl in the last hour of the day.

Broad and Woakes took the new ball, before Curran and Bess came on right near the end of the day. Curran broke through, with an LBW against John Campbell. Alzarri Joseph came in as nightwatchman, and he too would have been out had Curran reviewed an LBW against him right at the end of the day. The West Indies were 32-1 at the close.

DAY THREE – RAIN

So far there has been no play on day three due to rain. The information from Manchester is that there may be time for a couple of hours play once the weather clears. The weather is due to be better tomorrow and Monday. Those two days will be extended to 98 overs, meaning that even if there is no cricket at all today there will be 196 overs left in the day. The biggest news of the day so far concerns Jofra Archer who has been hit with a fine and given a written warning for breaching bio-secure protocols but will be eligible for selection for the third match of this series.

LOOKING AHEAD

It is very unlikely that the West Indies will win this game, although thirty-odd years of following cricket have taught me never to rule anything out completely. England need 19 more wickets, and in view of today’s disruptions they will have to enforce the follow-on if the opportunity arises. Also, which probably offers WI their biggest hope, the fact that England need to win to have a chance of regaining the Wisden Trophy means that they need to go after any opportunity of winning even if it is very high risk – if as is not entirely impossible England find themselves needing 100 in the final innings off 10 overs they have to go all out to get them. Whether England manage to press home their advantage or not they have responded superbly to what happened at the Ageas Bowl, although it would be nice if they could produce their finest without needing a preliminary metaphorical kick up the backside.

 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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Test Match Poised For A Great Finish

A very brief post updating on the situation at the Ageas bowl, as a test match worthy of the occasion (the resumption of cricket after covid-19) draws to what looks like being a great finish. Also includes some of my photographs.

INTRODUCTION

The Test Match at the Ageas Bowl is moving towards its closing stages and is still too close to call, though England are at present probably favourites to win.

THE FINISH OF DAY 4

England needed a good day yesterday, and up to a point they had one. At the high watermark of their second innings batting effort they had reached 249-3 and were looking like taking control of the game. Then Ben Stokes got himself out, and some good West Indian and some poor English batting saw a clatter of wickets, with the score plunging to 279-8. Jofra Archer and Mark Wood saw things through to the close at 284-8, with England 170 to the good.

DAY 5 SO FAR

England advanced their score by a further 29 in the opening session of play before they were all out, thus setting the West Indies precisely 200 to win. Anderson and Archer began magnificently, and the West Indies were soon three down and with an opener nursing an injury. They reached lunch for no further loss, and have fared well since the interval, reaching 72-3, with a further 128 required for victory. It remains anyone’s game, and whatever happens kn what is left of it it has been a superb resumption for international cricket after its longest hiatus since 1971-2 (or in other words the longest international blank since ODIs became a thing). I shall be back tomorrow with a longer post analysing the match as a whole.

PHOTOGRAPHS

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All Time XIs – Ones That Got Away

Today we look at players whose careers caused them to make major moves.

INTRODUCTION

Welcome to another ‘all time XI‘ cricket post. Today our we look at players whose talents were overlooked somewhere along the line, but who came through. We have an XI mainly comprising players who made it big after their first county overlooked them, with an overseas player to boost them and an XI of players who moved countries to make it. A little bit of good news – when TMS live coverage, as opposed to the ‘retrolive’ I am currently enjoying, resumes, it will be without the obnoxious Boycott.

THE ONES THAT GOT AWAY – COUNTY

  1. Jack Hobbs – right handed opening batter, occasional right arm medium pace bowler. While his mentor and fellow Cambridge native Tom Hayward was lobbying Surrey on his behalf the man himself wrote to Essex requesting a trial. The letter was ignored, but thankfully Surrey listened to Hayward. 61,237 first class runs at 50.65 and 197 centuries rather emphatically demonstrates which county got this one right!
  2. *Wilfred Rhodes – left handed batter, left arm orthodox spinner. There is an entry in the Warwickshire year book for 1897 which reads “unfortunately it was not possible to offer a contract to W Rhodes of Huddersfield.” In that same year of 1897 Bobby Peel, the incumbent Yorkshire left arm spinner, disgraced himself and saw his first class career brought to a sudden close. Rhodes was given his chance for his native county, took 13 wickets in the match first time out for them and never looked back. He and Hobbs opened together for England just before World War 1, and on one occasion against the old enemy they put on 323 together to launch the innings, Hobbs first out for 178, Rhodes second out, with the score at 425, for 179.
  3. Charles Burgess Fry – right handed batter. Having grown up in southwest London, albeit attending boarding school in Derbyshire (Repton, where he competed for sporting honours with the Palairet brothers, Lionel who subsequently opened for Somerset and Richard, assistant manager of the 1932-3 Ashes tour party) he began his county career for Surrey. Unfortunately for him and Surrey he took a slightly too obvious shine to the wife of then skipper Kingsmill Key, leading to his departure from the county, and the start of his association with Sussex.
  4. Phil Mead – left handed batter. He began his career with Surrey, where he was considered to be mainly a bowler, and they let him go. He signed for Hampshire, and ended his career with the 4th highest career aggregate of first class runs (55,061) and also 4th highest ever tally of centuries (153) ever assembled.
  5. David Gower – left handed batter. When Leicestershire made enquiries about speaking to a talented teenage left hander his native Kent raised no objections, and David Ivon Gower headed for the east midlands. A few years later at the age of 21 he was making his England debut and announcing his presence at the highest level by hitting his first ball at that level for four and going on to score 58. Later that year he scored his maiden test century, and then that winter his maiden Ashes century, ultimately becoming only the second England batter to reach 8,000 test runs. When he decided to leave Leicestershire, he considered two options, Kent and Hampshire, and for the second time it was Kent who missed out, as he signed for Hampshire.
  6. Len Braund – right handed batter, leg spinner. Like Phil Mead he failed to make a sufficient impression on the folk at The Oval. He headed for Somerset, and after an incident in which he was selected for a game at Lord’s before having served his residential qualifiying period he went on to a distinguished career for both Somerset and England.
  7. +Ben Foakes – wicket keeper, right handed batter. To be unwilling to drop the veteran James Foster to make way for a talented youngster is understandable, but allowing said youngster to fly the coop altogether is less so. Foakes signed for Surrey, and has subsequently played for England, a position that many think should be his as a matter of course, rather than merely for a handful of appearances.
  8. Albert Trott – right arm slow bowler, right handed batter. Overlooked for the 1896 tour of England after a sensational start to his test career (and the captain of that party was his brother Harry) he made his own way to Blighty and signed for Middlesex. In 1899 and 1901 he combined a haul of over 200 first class wickets with a tally of over 1,000 first class runs (an equivalent in today’s shorter FC season would be 100 wickets and 500 runs). He and Wilfred Rhodes were together when the Players completed a dramatic chase of 501 in under seven hours to beat the Gentlemen at Lord’s in 1900.
  9. Jim Laker – off spinner. When Surrey made enquiries about signing a young spinner from Bradford no one up north thought to raise an objection. James Charles Laker duly became a Surrey cricketer, and went on to become the greatest off spinner of the era, and possibly the greatest England ever had, with all due respect to Mr Swann.
  10. Frank Tyson – right arm fast bowler. Lancashire failed to impressed by a young quick bowler, and he headed for pastures new, in this case Northamptonshire. In the next few years Lancashire would discover just what a rick they had made, as Frank Holmes Tyson blazed across the cricketing skies like a meteor. In a final irony Tyson’s greatest cricketing moments came in partnership with Brian Statham of Lancashire.
  11. Derek Shackleton – right arm medium pacer. A reverse of Phil Mead, who was overlooked at The Oval because his bowling was not up to standard. Shackleton was viewed in his native north (he was born and raised in Todmorden) as a batter, his bowling rarely used. He moved south to Hampshire, and after a brief and unsuccessful dalliance with leg spin he reverted to his natural medium pace, and in 1949 achieved his first season haul of 100 first class wickets, a feat he would repeat for every season until 1968, 20 successive seasons in total, ending his career with the eighth highest total of first class wickets ever recorded.

This team has a fine top five, a genuine all rounder in Braund, a great keeper who can certainly bat and a great quartet of bowlers. Tyson and Shackleton would probably combine well as an opening pair, and Trott, Laker, Braund and Rhodes are an excellent looking slow attack.

INTERNATIONAL ESCAPEES XI

  1. Roger Twose – left handed opening batter, occasional medium pace bowler. He played well for Warwickshire but was never able to attract the attention of the England selectors. So when the opportunity to play for New Zealand arose he accepted gratefully. His test record was modest but he did superbly in ODIs.
  2. Roy Marshall – right handed opening batter. When he first appeared on the scene there were those who thought he would be a match for the ‘three Ws’ who dominated Caribbean batting at the time. In the event he signed for Hampshire, and scored stacks of runs for them, his test promise remaining unfulfilled.
  3. Stewie Dempster – right handed batter. A brief but spectacular career for New Zealand, which saw him average 65.72 in 10 test matches ended when he signed for Leicestershire, who he served well for a long period.
  4. Kevin Pietersen – right handed batter, occasional off spinner. Believing that his talents were going unrecognized in his native South Africa he moved to England. With an English mother the qualifying period was less for him than if he had had no connection to England, but still long enough for him to burn his bridges at one county (Nottinghamshire), and it was only after a move to Hampshire that he played for his new country. He top scored in both innings of his debut test, albeit in a losing cause, and at the end of that series played the innings that ensured that England would regain The Ashes. He went on to average just a bit below 50 in test cricket.
  5. Basil D’Oliveira – right handed batter, right arm medium pace bowler. The colour of his skin condemned him to second class status in his native South Africa, but he managed to escape, helped by John Arlott. By the time he was called up for England he was 35 years old, but he still averaged over 40 in test cricket, playing his last match at that level as a 41 year old. The events surrounding the aborted 1968-9 tour of South Africa finally forced people to take notice of the way South Africa conducted itself, and a visit by Bradman in 1971 in which he met with South African leader Vorster and was shocked by the latter’s behaviour and attitudes led to the final banishment of apartheid South Africa, although Ali Bacher and others made misguided efforts on their behalf by doing things like organizing rebel tours, it was only after the abolition of apartheid that South Africa were readmitted.
  6. Sydney Smith – left handed batter, left arm orthodox spinner. He was born in the West Indies, long before they became a test nation. He got to show what he could do in front of wider audience because he qualified by residence for Northamptonshire. He did the double in his first season for them, and enjoyed a most distinguished career for them.
  7. +Sammy Guillen – wicket keeper, right handed batter. He was picked for his native West Indies for a tour of New Zealand, stayed there and ended up playing for them later in his career.
  8. Simon Harmer – off spinner, useful lower order batter. After playing five tests for South Africa he decided to sign for Essex as a ‘Kolpak’, and has rendered them colossal service. He is now qualified by residence for England, but the rise of Dominic Bess, the fact that Amar Virdi is clearly knocking on the door, the presence of spinners of other type such as Leach and Parkinson, and the more distant but visible prospects of the likes of Liam Patterson-White and the all round talents of Lewis Goldsworthy mean that at least as far as I am concerned it would be a retrograde step for him to be selected for England at this stage. This is not intended as a reflection on Harmer, a denigration of his qualities, or least of all a suggestion that people who have started elsewhere should not play for another country. It is his misfortune that he has qualified at the same time as England after a fallow few years have started to develop some serious spinning talent.
  9. Jofra Archer – right arm fast bowler. The Barbadian born fast bowler, inspired by Chris Jordan, decided to try his luck in England. Having qualified by residence for his new country he played a crucial role in its triumph in the 2019 World Cup, including being chosen the bowl the ‘super over’ that settled the final. He subsequently had some great moments in the test arena, and will be part of England’s plans for some years to come.
  10. Neil Wagner – left arm fast medium bowler (mainly bouncers). Another who left South Africa to find fulfillment elsewhere, in his case in New Zealand. He has had considerable success for New Zealand.
  11. Clarrie Grimmett – leg spinner. He had cause for reckoning that he had to move if he was going to make the most of himself as a cricketer – as it happened he was already 38 by the time his native New Zealand gained test status, and in spite of treading a winding road that involved trying his luck in NSW and Victoria before finally breaking through for South Australia, he had been playing test cricket for over five years for his new country. His test career ended when he was not selected for the 1938 tour of England, but he played on in first class cricket until World War Two caused Australian first class cricket to be suspended in 1941.

This team has a good top five, a genuine all rounder at six, a fine keeper and four well varied bowlers. Archer and Wagner should combine well with the new ball, and D’Oliveira and Twose can provide seam back up, while Grimmett, Harmer and Smith are a fine trio of spinners.

THE CONTEST

The contest, for what I shall call the ‘Learie Constantine Trophy’ would be a good one. I certainly could not forecast a winner.

LINK AND PHOTOGRAPHS

I have introduced the concept and the teams, but just before bringing th curtain down I have an excellent video from Alex Collins about the importance of conservation:

Time for my usual sign off…

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The first time I have ever seen a swan on the patch of grass outside my bungalow. They are much more aquatic in nature than ducks, and walk very inelegantly.

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Ones That Got Away
The teams in tabulated form.

 

England Poised For Pyrrhic Victory At The Oval

A view of where things stand in fifth Ashes test at The Oval, and what the likely result means for England, plus a photo section that invites reader involvement – one of these pictures will be in the 2020 wall calendar.

INTRODUCTION

England seem likely to make the 2019 Ashes series a 2-2 draw either later today or some time tomorrow, after a good second innings batting performance secured their control of a game in which Australia by dreadful batting ceded the initiative to England on Friday. This post, written as I prepare myself for Heritage Open Day, looks at what is going on there and examines the merits and demerits of what the likely result of this match means for England. However, before I get into the main body of this post there is a small matter of business to attend to…

A CORRECTION TO MY PREVIOUS POST

On previous occasions when such has been necessary I have made it clear that it is policy on this blog not to do the equivalent of burying corrections in six point type in the middle of page 27. Therefore I am giving due prominence to a mistake I made in regard to this year’s County Championship. Somerset are indeed comfortably ahead of Essex at the top with no one else having a chance of taking the title, but I said in my previous post that they had a game in hand. This was an error – I misread the presentation of the table on cricinfo as saying that the game Essex were playing, which was still in progress, was their 13th, because their games played appeared as 12* which I took to mean that they had already played 12. In actuality the game in progress was their 12th, and I take this opportunity to correct the error. What this means is if Somerset and Essex both win their next games, Somerset will need a draw in their final match, which is a showdown against Essex to secure the title, if Somerset win and Essex don’t then Somerset will effectively be over the line with a game to spare, while victory for Essex and any other result for Somerset would make the final game a true “winner takes all” affair.

A POTENTIAL PYRRHIC VICTORY

The phrase “Pyrrhic victory” comes from king Pyrrhus of Epirus who won a battle against the then fledgling Roman empire but said when congratulated on his victory “I cannot afford another such victory”. Not many years later Epirus became a province of Rome. Why do I describe the victory that England are approaching in the fifth Ashes test as Pyrrhic?

  1. The Ashes are still Australia’s, so it changes nothing in that regard, while
  2. By giving a 2-2 series scoreline it creates an excuse for inaction on the part of the selectors that would not be there had the final scoreline been the 3-1 to Australia that cricketing justice demands, so on that ground it is a classic case of a victory that is at least potentially damaging to the victor’s long term hopes
  3. Several players who should probably be facing the axe have produced performances that may just save them (Buttler with two decent innings in the game, and Denly with a second innings 94 – such is the proportion of his runs that have now come in second innings efforts that he is turning into a batting equivalent of Andy Caddick, only less good, to name but two). 

Thus in many ways it would actually be better for England if Australia pulled off the mammoth second innings run chase that will be facing them. There were three unequivocal pluses for England in the first three days of this game – Burns‘ first innings 47, Archer’s second haul of six wickets in a test innings and Sam Curran’s wickets (although he does not have the pace to pose much of a threat when the ball is going through straight – without lateral movement he is a blunt sword). Australia have not been at the races in the three days we have had thus far, but I acquit them of trying to lull England into a false sense of security because I am well aware that no Aussie team would ever willingly accept defeat at England’s hands – it is just happens to be the case that a poor performance here may end up helping them in the long term, depending on exactly how ostrich-like Ed Smith and co turn out to be.

Given the size of the total Australia will be facing, and the only remotely likely way they will get anywhere near chasing to down, just for the record Steve Smith needs 224 to bring his series aggregate to 975 and claim one of Don Bradmans records for himself.

PHOTOGRAPHS

A variation of my usual sign off. I am presenting various pictures of a full moon from a couple of days ago, one of which will feature in my 2020 wall calendar. Please use the comments to nominate your choice…

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New Shoes and England Looking Down Both Barrels

More (as promised) on my new shoes and an account of England’s Ashes Woes, as well as lots of photographs.

INTRODUCTION

In my previous post I included a picture of my new shoes, bought in Holt on Wednesday along with a challenge to my followers. In this post I complete that story and look at England’s current woes in the Ashes series.

THE SHOES

First up, the picture from my previous post and its accompanying challenge:

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The pair of shoes – can you identify their many plus points from this picture (all will be revealed in my next post)?

Here are the particularly good points of these shoes as I noted them:

  • Soft and padded leather uppers
  • user-friendly and sturdy laces
  • soles that are a) thick, meaning that they should last a long time and b) rubber, meaning that they will provide good grip even in wet conditions
  • Also, an advantage that is often available to me as a man with size seven (40 in Continental Europe) feet, they were massively discounted – £49 instead of £125.

Well done if you identified all the above. Here are some more pictures looking more closely at some of the features identified:

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The full underside
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The Ecco name

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See what I mean about the thickness of the soles?

I wore the shoes for a couple of hours on Wednesday to get an early feel for them, and was pleased. Yesterday I put them to a stiffer test, because my physio session was cancelled due to staff sickness. Thus I decided that a long walk was in order (see the photos at the end of this post), and used it to give the new shoes their first real test. They passed with flying colours – my feet were aching by the end of the walk, but that was tiredness, not because the shoes had caused them any problems.

ENGLAND’S ASHES WOES

After a magnificent bowling effort yesterday, spearheaded by Jofra Archer (6-45) accounted for Australia for 179 (and that after they had been 136-2) England’s batters proceeded to throw away the good start, slumping to 67 all out, with only Joe Denly (12) making double figures. Broad has claimed an early wicket in Australia’s second innings, but given that short of rain of ‘ark building’ intensity a draw is now a virtual impossibility it has hard to see how England can keep their Ashes hopes alive. At minimum they need a superlative bowling effort after having had a mere 27.5 overs respite and then a jolly sight more application in their second innings to have a chance.

All of the problems in this innings (most of the wickets were given rather than being taken) are ones we have seen before. The following are the most obvious needs for this squad (and with the Ashes likely gone the last two tests should be used for experimentation):

  1. An opening batter alongside Burns (Roy is not suited to this role in red ball cricket, though he may be able to handle no 3 if the openers see off the new ball). Absent anyone who has made a really commanding case I once again suggest the radical solution of dropping Tammy Beaumont a line and seeing if she is up for having a go alongside the men (I first suggested this about a year ago).
  2. Roy or Stokes (if you fancy a calculated gamble) at no 3, to enable…
  3. Root to revert to no 4 where he really belongs.
  4. Ollie Pope in at no 5 to stiffen up the middle order (he is fresh off the back of a double century, and has a first class average of almost 60).
  5. Stokes down a place to no 6 if you don’t put him at no 3, otherwise Ben Foakes to bat here as keeper
  6. If Stokes is at no 6, then Foakes bats 7, otherwise Roy (if deep batting is needed) or Lewis Gregory (if you want five genuine bowlers possibly with Stokes as 6th).
  7. No change needed at nos 8-11 – the bowlers acquitted themselves well, though Sam Curran has to be considered, and a second spinner (for my money either Matthew Parkinson or Helen Fenby depending on how radical you are prepared to be) should be in the squad.

Thus my 13 for the 4th match would be: Burns, Beaumont, Stokes, *Root, Pope, +Foakes, Roy, Woakes, Archer, Broad, Leach, Gregory, Fenby, with the first 11 names listed likely to play unless conditions warrant Gregory for Roy or Fenby for Roy if two spinners are warranted. As for Denly, he has had too many nearly innings, most of them given away by ill-judged shots and has to go. Australia’s new opener Harris has just fallen to Jack Leach making Australia 36-2. Eight more wickets and then some much better batting now the requirement.

PHOTOGRAPHS

My usual sign off…

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I have noticed huges numbers of flies that mimic wasps in King’s Lynn this year, including a numnber that I photographed yesterday.

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A swallow captured in flight…
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…and cropped much closer

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The Greatest World Cup Final Ever

An autistic cancer survivor’s eye (and ear) view of yesterday’s World Cup Final at Lord’s.

INTRODUCTION

First a little bit of background about the occasion from my point of view. On Friday I went in to hospital for a procedure known as a “Radical Inguinal Orchidectomy” as the latest stage in the treatment of the cancer that less than a year ago threatened to kill me. The operation was performed under general anaesthetic, and I was kept in hospital overnight, and only discharged on the Saturday once I had demonstrated my capacity to walk unaided. Thus yesterday, the day of the Mens Cricket Cup World Final, was my first full day out of hospital after the operation.

THE MATCH ITSELF

New Zealand had beaten India through a splendid display of controlled seam and swing bowling to qualify for the final while England had disposed of arch-rivals Australia with satisfying ease to book their place in the final. Everything seemed to point to an England win, but New Zealand had dealt very well with theoretically far superior opposition in the semi-final. As it was on free-to-air TV (the first time any cricket match in England has been thus broadcast since 2005) I was initially picked up by my father and taken over to my aunt’s house to watch the match. England bowled well to restrict New Zealand to 241. New Zealand however learned well from the England bowlers and England were soon behind the required rate. I missed a tiny bit of the England innings when I was taken home, being by then thoroughly exhausted. Back in my own home I listened to the astonishing climax and followed the ball-by-ball updates on cricinfo. The possessor of the coolest name in international cricket, Colin de Grandhomme, bowled the most economical allocation of 10 overs by anyone in the entire tournament (1-25), but Jos Buttler and Ben Stokes kept cool heads and kept England just about in contention deep into the final overs. When the final over began England needed 16 to win, and they got 15 of them to tie (aided by a very fortunate four overthrows which gave them six instead of two on one of the deliveries), which meant a “super over’. Ben Stokes and Jos Buttler took centre stage once more, while after a long delay Trent Boult accepted responsibility for bowling the over for New Zealand. England made 15 runs of the over. 24-year old Jofra Archer accepted responsibility for bowling the final over, while New Zealand sent out Jimmy Neesham and Martin Guptill. Archer’s first delivery was somewhat harshly called a wide, and then Neesham blasted a six, at which point it looked all over for England, but Archer responded and eventually it came to two needed of one ball, with Guptill on strike for the first time. Guptill hit it out into the deep, where Jason Roy fielded, and arrowed in a superb throw to Jos Buttler who whipped the bails off to run out Guptill, who was obliged by circumstances to go all out for the second. Thus the super-over contest had also ended in a tie. The next method of dividing the two teams if the super over did not work was on boundaries hit, and on that criterion England were ahead and so finally, after three previous losing finals (1979, 1987-8 and 1991-2) England’s men had won a cricket world cup. The Women’s cricket world cup is also held by England courtesy of a wonderful piece of bowling by Anya Shrubsole at Lord’s two years ago. This is the first time any country other than Australia have held both men’s and women’s world cups simultaneously. A low scoring day provided just about the most thrilling contest ever seen in any sport, with England taking the spoils by the narrowest possible margin – the cricket equivalent of winning by a Planck Length!

This match is ‘Exhibit A’ in the argument against anyone who dares claim that cricket is boring. Cricket has produced plenty of extraordinary games before in its long history – Warwickshire v Hampshire in 1922, when Hampshire recovered from bowled out for 15 in their first dig to win by 155 runs, Headingley 1981, when Ian Botham, with assistance from Graham Dilley, Chris Old and Bob Willis gave England something to defend when they seemed down and out, and Willis than saved his international career by taking 8-43 to win it for England being just two that spring to mind. Also, the 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 5th test matches of the 2005 Ashes series were all classics in their different ways.

This match on its own would probably be sufficient to call this the greatest world cup ever, but there were plenty of other good matches along the way.

Ben Stokes with his Herculean efforts in this match redeemed himself completely for a somewhat chequered past. Also, he has shown a consistency here that has previously eluded him – his 84 was his fourth 80-plus of the tournament and he also scored a 79. One way of accommodating him in the test side, which needs to be thought about would to gamble a little by having Ben Foakes at five, followed by Stokes, Gregory, Bess, Archer, Leach and Anderson, meaning that Stokes would be fourth seamer, backing up the main attack of Archer, Anderson, Gregory and the spinners.

PHOTOGRAPHS

My usual sign-off…

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