England v India: Preliminaries and Opening Exchanges

A look at the opening exchanges in the England v India test series which got under way at 11:00 today.

The five match test series between England and India is under way, the first match at Trent Bridge having started at 11:00AM. This post looks at early developments.

ENGLAND SELECTIONS

England’s plans were thrown into confusion when Ben Stokes announced that he would be taking a break from cricket for mental health related reasons. I do not know when or even whether Stokes will return to competitive action – he should take as much time as he needs. However, neither that nor an injury to Ollie Pope excuse England’s actual selection. They have gone hypernegative, selecting only four front line bowlers none of whom is a spinner and none of whom is an out and out speedster. The team they have chosen is Burns, Sibley, Crawley, *Root, Bairstow, Lawrence, +Buttler, S Curran, Robinson, Broad, Anderson. I would have selected Hameed in place of Crawley, with him and Sibley then being in a bat off for who keeps their place in the side when Tom Abell, the man best equipped to bat three for England in this format, is fit again. I would not have selected Bairstow at all, going with Buttler at six and five genuine bowling options. My preferred line up from those available would have been Burns, Sibley, Hameed, *Root, Lawrence, +Buttler, S Curran, Robinson, Wood, Leach, Anderson. I regard the non-selection of Leach as criminal. In 16 test matches he has taken 62 wickets at 29.98 – that is his bowling average is the right side of 30 (only just admittedly) and he takes 3.875 wickets per match, which is around the par mark – most sides have five serious bowling options and to win you need to take 20 wickets, and 20/5 = 4. When then add in leaving out the only genuine speedster available, Wood, you have an attack that has no depth (only four front line options), and very little variety (three right arm fast mediums, all over six feet in height, with the only serious variation Curran’s left arm fast medium – no variation in pace whatsoever).

The side England have named has “picked to avoid defeat” rather than “picked to win” written all over it in bold capitals.

INDIAN SELECTIONS

Far fewer problems for the visitors although they somewhat surprisingly left out Ashwin, probably the best finger spinner in the world at the moment. They decided, again on ground of batting strength to rely on Jadeja as their sole spin option, with Thakur at eight and the three specialist quicks, Siraj, Bumrah and Shami at 9, 10 and 11. The alternative once they had decided on four seamers would have been take a chance an Ashwin at seven. While debatable this selection is not definitively wrong as some of England’s are.

THE PLAY SO FAR

England won the toss and chose to bat, the right thing to do on a sunny morning with clouds forecast for later in the match. They were off to a dreadful start when Burns fell in the first over. Sibley and Crawley held out for a while before Crawley was removed for 27. That brought Root to the crease and he and Sibley saw things through to lunch at 61-2. Sibley’s typically patient innings ended just after lunch, for 18,making the score 66-3. Root and Bairstow are still together at 73-3. Root is on 18, while Bairstow has reached two and has survived 15 balls which is quite impressive by his recent test standards. Bairstow has just scored a four off Bumrah to make it 77-3. Bumrah, Shami and Siraj have a wicket a piece.

PHOTOGRAPHS

My usual sign off – the butterflies are out in force at the moment…

As I publish this post England are on 82-3, Root on 23 and Bairstow on 6.

India v England ODI Series Goes To Decider On Sunday

A brief account of today’s second #INDvENG ODI, telling the story of a remarkable chase.

This post is an account of the match that has just finished in Pune.

THE PRELIMINARIES

Morgan and Billings were both injured, being replaced by Dawid Malan and Liam Livingstone, while Reece Topley came in for Mark Wood, leaving England without an out and out speedster. For India Shreyas Iyer was injured and Rishabh Pant was selected in his place. Stand in skipper Jos Buttler won the toss and decided that England would bowl, which at the time looked questionable.

THE INDIAN INNINGS

India started steadily, and built through the middle overs. Rashid Khan and Moeen Ali both bowled reasonably well but neither looked like getting wickets, and after 40 overs India were 210-3. Then, as in match one, England had a horror show in the final ten overs, as the Indian score mushroomed to 336-6. Though he picked up a couple of wickets among the mayhem Tom Curran has surely bowled his last for England. Moeen Ali was economical, but never looked like taking a wicket. India’s total looked formidable.

ENGLAND’S CHASE

Roy and Bairstow got England away to a strong start, but when Roy was out the game was far from settled either way. Ben Stokes came in at no3, and reached 50 from 40 balls, though he was a trifle fortunate to be given the benefit of the doubt on a very close run out caused by the fact that he had failed to realize the danger and was jogging rather than running full pelt. Having got himself a start Stokes proceeded to go absolutely berserk, blasting 49 from his next 11 balls before edging one behind to miss out on a century by the narrowest of margins. Bairstow and Buttler fell in quick succession, but England were so far ahead of the rate that even losing three wickets so quickly was barely a set back. Some solid blows from debutant Liam Livingstone and Dawid Malan took England home, Malan enjoying one moment of good fortune when an edged shot flew through third man for four – had India posted anyone in the slip area they would probably have been in business. I will draw a veil over the Indian bowling figures, none of which their owners would wish to be publicised. Hardik Pandya, supposed tn be an all rounder, was not called upon to bowl while his team mates took horrendous punishment. England had 6.3 overs as well as six wickets to spare when they completed the task and levelled the series.

FINAL THOUGHTS

England need to find a way of not being destroyed in the final ten overs – it has happened in both matches this series, though they made up for it today with the bat. They also have a virtual obligation to select leg spinner Matt Parkinson for the final game, given that he has been in bio-secure bubbles since January and played no cricket. India have a quandary in the spin bowling department – Kuldeep Yadav and Krunal Pandya were both slaughtered today. Also there are questions about their batting in the first 40 overs – it is not great to be reliant on a massive burst in the final 10, especially when it is not guaranteed that said burst will be enough: they scored 126 in overs 41-50 inclusive today and England made the chase look like an absolute cake walk. Sunday’s grand finale starts at 9:00AM UK time (an hour later than the first two games because British Summer Time kicks in overnight between Saturday and Sunday, with 12:59AM becoming 2:00AM as the clocks move forward an hour).

PHOTOGRAPHS

My usual sign off…

England Open T20I Series With An Emphatic Victory

A brief account of England’s impressive victory in the first T20I at Ahmedabad and some photographs.

The T20I series between Indian and England got underway at Ahmedabad, where all five fixtures will be played, at 1:30 UK time this afternoon. This post tells the story of that match.

A GREAT TEAM
BOWLING PERFORMANCE

England won the toss and put India in. Somewhat surprisingly they omitted Moeen Ali, relying on one spinner (Adil Rashid), with Archer, Wood, Jordan, Curran and Stokes their other bowling options. India were on the back foot right from the start, with Adil Rashid going for only two runs in the opening over, Jofra Archer opening from the other end with a wicket maiden and then Rashid claiming the prize scalp of Kohli in his second over. In the end, as every England bowler produced the goods only Shreyas Iyer, whose selection for the game was not universally popular among Indian fans, with a splendid 67 off 47 balls contributed anything of note. Axar Patel scored seven off the final three balls of the innings, but the final total was only 124-7, which did not look defensible. Archer had 3-23 from his four overs.

ROY’S REVENGE

At the IPL auction a few weeks ago Jason Roy went unsold, which may well have been in his mind, along with rumblings about a possible recall for Alex Hales who has been in stellar form of late (leading run scorer in BBL10) as he and Jos Buttler walked out to open England’s reply. Buttler scored 27 off 24 balls, slow by his standards, but valuable in the context of the match. Roy played magnificently, before being pinned LBW for 49, at which point it was 89-2, and England were so far ahead of the run rate that even a major collapse would probably not have derailed them. As it was Bairstow, in at no 4, scored an unbeaten 26 off 17, while Malan, the world no1 rated T20I batter, was also unbeaten from his regular slot at no3, with 24 off 20. England had eight wickets and 27 balls to spare when Malan hit the winning six. Deservedly, given that he was the best of the bunch, and it was the bowlers who put England in complete control of the match Archer’s 4-1-23-3 has earned him Player of the Match.

LOOKING AHEAD

This is match one of a five match series, but England have been hugely impressive and must surely now be favourites to justify their world no1 ranking in this format by winning the series. I expect India to come out fighting in the next game, but England look just too strong for them. With a World T20 coming up in this part of the world England look like putting down a serious marker for that event.

PHOTOGRAPHS

My usual sign off…

The Case Against A Test Recall For Jonny Bairstow

The case against the proposed recall to the England test squad of Jonny Bairstow.

Apparently England are considering recalling Bairstow to the test squad due to an injury to Ollie Pope. In this post I set out the reasons why they should not be doing so.

TRIED AND UNTRUSTED

Bairstow was dropped from the test squad because he was consistently failing to deliver in that format. His brilliance in limited overs cricket is unquestionable, but the case of Jason Roy should serve as a warning. Roy had a fantastic 2019 World Cup, and was drafted into the test squad off the back of it. Save for one good innings against Ireland at Lord’s he never looked like making the grade as a test batter. Not only that, the knock that his confidence took through his failures in test cricket has impacted on his international white ball form to the extent that his place in the squad is now in jeopardy.

DANIEL LAWRENCE AND JAMES BRACEY

On any rational assessment Daniel Lawrence and James Bracey should be ahead of Bairstow in the queue for a test place. Both have fine recent first class records, both made runs in intra-squad games in the preparation for the Covid-hit 2020 home international season. I would probably opt for Lawrence of the two, but fully acknowledge the case for Bracey. Lawrence and Bracey are both very much players for the future, and the upcoming series in Sri Lanka would give them a chance to stake a long term claim, whereas Bairstow would be a very regressive selection.

COUNTY CHAMPIONSHIP

The proving ground for long format players is supposed to the county championship, and even in the abbreviated 2020 season, where Essex and Somerset played six matches each and everyone else five more than one youngster accepted opportunities that came their way. The inclusion of Bairstow in a test squad would smack of ‘closed shop’ practices and look suspiciously like a slap in the face not just for the players I have actually named above, but for the County Championship. Jordan Cox of Kent had an amazing season, especially for someone who was still in his teens at the time (he has just turned 20), and has every right to expect a test call to come sooner rather than later, and like Lawrence and Bracey he would be more deserving of such than Jonny Bairstow.

The other alternative route the selectors could go down given his recent success with the bat is to promote Buttler to no 6 and give the wicket keeper’s role to Foakes. This too would be superior to the non-solution of a recall for Bairstow, especially if given the nature of Sri Lankan pitches they plan to elevate Matthew Parkinson, the young leg spinner.

PHOTOGRAPHS

Here are some recent photographs…

100 Cricketers – The Fifth XI Allrounders

The latest in my “100 cricketers” series, dealing with the all-rounders from my fifth XI, mentioning a couple of matches from today and incljuding some photographs.

INTRODUCTION

Welcome to the latest installment in my “100 cricketers” series, in which we shall look at the two all-rounders in the fifth XI. The introductory piece to the whole series can be found here, the piece in which I introduce the fifth XI here and the most recent piece here. Before I get to the main meat of the post there are two items of business to attend to.

ENGLAND WOMEN START T20 SERIES V SRI LANKA WITH BIG WIN

Having bowled Sri Lanka out for 94, with two youngsters, Linsey Smith (slow left-arm, 3-18 from her four overs) and Freya Davies (right-arm fast medium, 2-28 from her four) doing exceptionally well and the experienced Anya Shrubsole taking 2-20 from here four, England reached the target in 14.2 overs, for the loss of only two wickets, Tammy Beaumont unbeaten on 50 at the end. 

MCC V SURREY

The traditional curtain-raiser for the English first-class season, although it now takes place in Dubai, the MCC v Champion County fixture got under way today. It is the MCC’s (Marylebone Cricket Club) last remaining first-class game, and this time they picked the team from five county squads who were already out in Dubai. MCC reached 265 in their first innings, Daniel Lawrence (for whom international recognition must surely not be long away) top scoring with 58, while Will Rhodes (46) and Tom Abell (41) made significant contributions as well. South African born quick bowler Conor McKerr and the more locally born left-arm spinner Freddie van den Bergh each picked up three wickets. Surrey’s debutant wicketkeeper Jamie Smith took a catch, made a stumping and finished off a run out. In reply Surrey were 20-0 from three overs by the close. Now to the main business of this post, starting with…

+JONNY BAIRSTOW

An attacking batter and a good wicketkeeper, Jonny Bairstow earns his place at no 6 in this squad. Those who follow this blog closely will know that I have advocated that England play Bairstow as a specialist batter at no3, although at the moment, with 69 last time out Joe Denly is the man in possession, and unlikely to be dropped just yet. My reasons for this are twofold:

  1. England have problems at the top end of their order, with Cook having retired afvter an illustrious career, Stoneman recently been dropped for not being good enough, and Jennings obviously (to all save those so blind that they will not see) not up to the job at international level – a test batting average of 25.19 after 17 matches is practically down in the Brearley bracket without him having the captaincy skills to compensate. As you will see from this post, the second part of my solution to England’s top order problems is even more radical and features someone mentioned earlier in this piece.
  2. England have an even better wicketkeeper who is averaging over 40 so far in his brief test career in Ben Foakes, and it is he who should be donning the gauntlets for them.

In other words, England’s current needs dictate (at least to me) that Bairstow play as a specialist batter, but for the purpose of this series of posts I acknowledge his skills as a wicketkeeper by nominating him in that role. That leaves the number 7…

KAPIL DEV

The only player to have both scored 5,000 test runs (5,248 at 31.05) and taken 400 test wickets (434 at 29.64), Kapil Dev also captained India victory in the 1983 World Cup. For much of his career he had little or no recognized pace support in the Indian attack (even Manoj Prabhakar, his longest serving new-ball partner, was never much above medium). In 1990 at Lord’s Kapil Dev produced one of the most astonishing displays of hitting ever seen in a test match. England had made a massive 653-4 declared (Gooch 333), and in reply India were 430-9, and Narendra Hirwani, a legspinner who had taken 16 wickets in a remarkable debut against the West Indies, but was one of the most genuine of genuine number 11s was at the other end. India needed 24 to avoid the follow-on, and it was widely expected that getting them would save them the match. Kapil Dev rose to the occasion by htting off-spinner Eddie Hemmings for four successive sixes. As it happened, England made rapid runs in their second innings, Gooch scoring another century to rewrite the record books – his match aggregate of 456 remains a test record – and India failed to bat out time in their second innings, so the first innings rescue act was all in vain. 

In the next post in this series it will be the specialist bowlers from our fifth XI in the spotlight, and I will introduce the sixth XI in batting order.

PHOTOGRAPHS

My usual sign off…

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England One Day International Record

Some stuff about the ODI at the MCG, a neurodiversity quote, a mathematical puzzle and some photographs

INTRODUCTION

After the horrors of the Ashes test series it makes a change to write about a winning performance from an England cricket team in Australia. I also have a few other things to share of course, including more of my photos.

RECORDS GALORE AT THE MCG

The pitch at the MCG for the first of five One Day Internationals (50 overs per side) was a vast improvement of the strip they had produced for the test match, and the players produced a match worthy of the occasion. England won the toss and chose to field. England;s improvement in this form of the game since their horror show at the 2015 World Cup has been such that even before they started batting an Australia tally of 304 seemed inadequate.

England got away to a quick start, although Jonny Bairstow did a ‘Vince’ – looking very impressive for 20-odd and then giving it away. Alex Hales also fell cheaply, but Joe Root came out and played excellently, while Jason Roy produced the major innings that England needed from one of their top order. When his score reached 124 Roy had an England ODI record for the MCG, and that soon became an all-comers MCG record, to match Cook’s all-comers test record score for the MCG. When he went from 171 to 175 Roy establish a new England ODI individual scoring record. His dismissal for 180, with 200 just a possibility was a disappointment but by then the result was not in doubt, and even the loss of a couple more wickets in the dying overs served only to reduce the final margin. England won by five wickets with seven deliveries to spare, and it was a much more conclusive victory than those figures suggest because three of the wickets came with the outcome already settled courtesy of Roy. Joe Root also deserves credit for his support role to Roy’s pyrotechnics, a selfless display that saw him finish just short of his own hundred when the winning runs were scored. The Test squad has a lengthy shopping list of new players needed (two openers given Cook’s age, at least one new batsman for the middle order, a couple of genuine quicks and a serious spinner at minimum), but the ODI squad is in splendid fettle.

A CLASSIC NEURODIVERSITY COMMENT

This comes courtesy of twitter:

ND

PHOTOGRAPHIC INTERLUDE

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A PUZZLE

Those of you who have read Alison’s response to my nominating her for a Blogger Recognition Award will have noticed that she specifically mentioned enjoying the puzzles that sometimes feature here. Here courtesy of the mathematical website brilliant is another:

Cioncatenation

PHOTOGRAPHS

The colony of muscovy ducks that I first saw in late 2017 are still in residence along a section of the Gaywood River that is close to where it enters The Walks en route to becoming the Millfleet, in which guise it flows into the Great Ouse…

Group shotdark muscovyGrey Muscovy IGrey Muscovy IIIMuscovy headdark muscoviesdark muscovy IIdark muscovy iiidark musciovi ivdark muscovy with white frontdark muscovies IIdark muscovies IIIdark muscovy with white front IIdark muscovy with white front IIIDark muscovy with white front VDark muscovy V

 

Ashes Composite XI

My composite Ashes XI with reasoning and justification. Also some photographs.

INTRODUCTION

A common feature of final days of series is the selection of a composite XI based on performances in said series. This is my effort for the current Ashes series. I am going to name my team in batting order first and then explain/amplify/justify these selections.

THE TEAM

My team in batting order (England player names in dark blue, Aus in green):

  1. Alastair Cook
  2. David Warner
  3. Dawid Malan
  4. Steven Smith (Captain)
  5. Shaun Marsh
  6. Jonny Bairstow (Wicketkeeper)
  7. Mitchell Marsh
  8. Mitchell Starc
  9. Pat Cummins
  10. Nathan Lyon
  11. Jimmy Anderson

MY REASONING

The openers need no justification – the only major contribution from an opener not named Warner in the series was Cook’s monumental innings at the MCG. Number three is a thorny one. James Vince has demonstrated clearly that he does not belong there, and his huge score here at the SCG notwithstanding I remain skeptical about Usman Khawaja, hence my decision to promote England’s leading run scorer in the series to a position he occupies for his county. Number four, and with it the captaincy was the easiest selection of the whole lot. Shaun Marsh has not put a foot wrong since being called up to replace the inadequate Handscomb at number 5, and I regarded him as a must pick. Jonny Bairstow and Tim Paine have both had good series with the gloves, but I have opted for Bairstow as definitely the superior batsman. Mitchell Marsh has had a magnificent series, and was an absolute shoe-in at number 7, especially as Moeen Ali has had a terrible series – he has batted poorly in every match and his bowling average reads like a Bradman batting average. Of the specialist bowlers I have picked those at number 8,9 and 10 in the batting order are absolute stand outs. Number 11 was tricky, since Anderson with virtually no support has had a good series, and the better supported Hazlewood as also had a fine series. Accepting that even were it possible vivisection is not permissible (though ‘Anderwood’ is only one letter removed from a former test great!) I have opted for Anderson as I rate his the greater achievement. 

FINAL THOUGHTS

Looking at the makeup of the team (and accepting that Hazlewood for Anderson and Khawaja for Malan would both be valid changes), Australian picks predominate in both batting and bowling, though it is especially the bowling, which in my team comes out at 4-1 (including all-rounder Mitchell Marsh) to Australia and is reality more like 4.3-0.7 (rating my selection of Anderson over Hazlewood as a 70:30 pick) which has split the sides. England have collected barely more than half of the 100 wickets that were available to them at the start of the series, whereas Australia assuming that they take the six England wickets that remain in this match will have managed 90, failing to take 20 opposition wickets only on the MCG pitch. 

PHOTOGRAPHS

I always like to include a few photographs in my blog posts, so I end with these recently taken pictures:

FW
The first five pictures were taken while walking to the Scout Hut on Beulah Street for Musical Keys yesterday.

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PW1
These last four pictures were taken in Fakenham on Thursday.

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Christmas Report On The England Men’s Cricket Team

Christmas report on the England men’s team, and some Muscovy duck pictures.

INTRODUCTION

While the England Women’s team have had a fabulous year, thoroughly deserving to win Team of the Year at the BBC Sports Personality of the Year awards (and had there been any justice Anya Shrubsole would have been Sports Personality of the Year) life has been tougher for the men. The confirmation in the early hours of Monday morning UK time that the Ashes had been lost (yes folks, I was listening to TMS right to the bitter end) lies behind this post (going up now through a combination of thinking before I wrote and work commitments yesterday). I end as usual with some of my own photographs.

THE FIRST THREE TEST MATCHES

Gritty fifties from Stoneman and Vince on the opening day notwithstanding Brisbane was a bad match for England. The ease with which Warner and Bancroft knocked off the 170 needed to win in the second innings, and the immovability of Aussie skipper Smith in their first innings were the most worrying sings.

Adelaide kicked off with Joe Root deciding to field first when he won the toss. An Australian tally of 442-8D in the course of the first day and a half made that decision look worse than it was (it was still poor, though not down there with Nasser Hussain at Brisbane 2002). England were then all out for 227, and as this was as a day-night test with the night session due to start it seemed mandatory to enforce the follow-on, but Steve Smith declined to do so. Australia stuttered under the lights to 50-4, and England’s best bowling effort of the series so far continued the following morning reducing Australia to 138 all out, leaving England 354 to get. England made a decent fist of things, and  at 170-3 it looked like they might just get them. Unfortunately both for England and for cricket as a whole (there are a lot of captains these days who almost automatically decline to enforce the follow-on, and had England chased down this target of 354 it might have made those people think) a wicket just before the close of day 4 and then a clatter the following morning put paid to that.

So it was on the Perth for the last Ashes game to be staged at the WACA (a new stadium just across the road will stage future Perth tests), a venue where England had only one once, way back in 1978. Precedents for a comeback from 0-2 down in a five match series are equally thin on the ground – the only successful example being Don Bradman’s 1936-7 Aussies (Bradman himself produced scores of 270, 212 and 169 in the third, fourth and fifth matches of that series, and also produced a tactical masterstroke in those days of uncovered pitches in that third test when faced with a terror track he sent in tail-enders O’Reilly and Fleetwood-Smith to miss everything until the close of that day – Bradman emerged the following day at 97-5 to join regular opener Jack Fingleton who had come at no 6, and with the pitch now eased they put on 346 for the sixth wicket to settle the issue), although 42 years earlier Australia had won the 3rd and 4th matches after being 0-2 down before England won the final game of that series. 

England batted first in Perth, and at 131-4 a familiar pattern seemed to be emerging, but then Dawid Malan and Jonny Bairstow got going, and both made hundreds. Malan went on to 140. Once their 237 run partnership was broken the rest of the innings subsided quickly, but 403 still seemed a respectable total. When Australia were 248-4 England still looked in with a shout, but by the end of day 3 Australia were 549-4, Smith having set a new career best and Mitchell Marsh in front of his home crowd turning his maiden test hundred into 181 not out. Smith and Marsh both fell quickly the following morning, and Starc was also out cheaply, but Tim Paine and Pat Cummins made useful contributions, and Australia declared at 662-9, leaving England four and a half sessions to survive for the draw. By the close of that fourth day Bairstow and Malan were together once more, with the only convincing batting effort up to then having come from Vince, who played very well for his 55 and was unlucky to get an absolute brute of a ball from Starc.

It rained overnight, and the covers at the WACA proved inadequate, leaving a wet patch on a good length at one end, which delayed the start of the fifth day’s play. Root argued for an abandonment, while Smith of course tried to hasten the start of play. I fully understand why Root tried to get play abandoned, but actually I am glad he failed in the attempt – to keep a series alive in that fashion would have been deeply unsatisfactory. At Headingley in 1975 a delicately poised final day (Australia 220-3 needing 445 to win, and Rick McCosker five away from what would have been a maiden test hundred) was abandoned after protesters sabotaged the pitch (“George Davis is innocent” – according to Peter Chappell, namesake of two members of that Australian team, but not according to the courts, or his future record – released from that sentence for armed robbery, he was soon back inside for another armed robbery to which he pleaded guilty). 

Once the game finally commenced it was soon obvious which way the wind was blowing, and for the third time in the space of a year (following two occasions against India last winter) England had managed to lose by an innings margin after tallying 400 first up.

ENGLAND PLAYER BY PLAYER

Alastair Cook: 150 tests, the last 148 of them in sequence – remarkable longevity. At the moment he is having a rough trot, and when Cook is having a rough trot (as he did in the early part of 2010) it is often hard to imagine where his next run is coming from.

Mark Stoneman: some gritty performances thus far, but he needs to start turning those fifties in to hundreds some time soon.

James Vince: to put it mildly a controversial choice for the crucial number three slot, and notwitshstanding two fine innings so far, one in Brisbane and one in Perth, he has not yet done enough to convince – see my closing comment about Stoneman.

Joe Root: would seem to be the latest in a long line of England players to suffer captaincy-itis, not only he is failing to make runs, he is getting out in un-Rootlike ways. England need his batting to be at its best, so perhaps someone else should be made captain (see later for my controversial suggestion).

Dawid Malan: his 140 at Perth and fighting effort in the second innings as well confirms his arrival as a test batsman of quality. Also, while it never looked threatening his part time leg spin was at least economical.

Jonny Bairstow: other than his first innings performance at Perth not thus far a great series for the wicketkeeper-batsman.

Moeen Ali: Fulfils a useful all-round role, although England offspinners have rarely been successful in Australia (the chief exceptions being Laker in 1958-9, Titmus in 1962-3 and Emburey in 1986-7). Also, if England do decide that Root needs to be replaced as captain to enable him to concentrate solely on what he does best – his batting – then Moeen would be my choice for the job.

Chris Woakes: Save for his bowling in the second innings at Adelaide he has not looked very threatening in this series. That game was also the scene of his only significant batting effort of the series so far. Right-arm medium fast when the ball is not deviating (and it generally doesn’t in Australia) simply will not trouble good batsmen.

Craig Overton: Looks like he belongs at this level, but my comments about Woakes’ style of bowling in Australian conditions also apply to him.

Stuart Broad: A nightmare series for him, not because he has bowled especially badly, though he has consistently been pitching it too short, but because he has looked completely unthreatening and has bowling figures that reflect that.

Jimmy Anderson: continues to climb the wicket taking charts. His 12 wickets at 25 apiece in this series, while all his colleagues have been taking drubbings is a remarkable effort in the face of adversity. I fully expect that in the early stages at Melbourne he will move ahead of Courtney Walsh in the wicket takers list (current Anderson 518, Walsh 519), leaving only Glenn McGrath among the quick bowlers ahead of him. He has bowled beautifully this series but with Broad off the boil his ‘support’ has simply not been up to standard. 

THE REST OF THE SERIES

Before I get into this section let me clear that I do not believe for an instant that had the likes of Ben Stokes, Mark Wood and Toby Roland-Jones been available England would be doing a whole lot better. Certainly to be deprived of the services of three such excellent cricketers simultaneously is unfortunate but England are 3-0 down because they have been outclassed throughout this series (only in Adelaide to England ever look close to making a game of it – the Malan-Bairstow partnership in the first innings at Perth was the only other major period in the series to date in which England had the whip hand).

The good news for England is that their records at Melbourne and Sydney are better tahn their records elsewhere in Australia. While the batsmen need to score more runs, it is the bowlers who (Anderson apart) really need to pick things up – England have not yet taken 20 wickets in a match in this series, and at Perth they failed to even take 10. 

I think England can pick themselves up and win at least one of the two remaining matches. In many ways it would be an injustice to Australia were England to win both and make it look respectable at 3-2 – this England side does not deserve better than 4-1 (though I also think it does not deserve worse – it is not as shambolic as Flintoff’s 2006-7 squad who really did deserve to be on the wrong end of a 5-0,  as in the end they were. 

The take home message of the three matches played so far is one that England should already have learned a long time ago – a bowling ‘attack’ of four right-arm medium-fast bowlers and an offspinner will not cut the mustard in Oz. 

PHOTOGRAPHS

A little while back I reported sighting some birds which turned out to be Muscovy ducks (Cairina moschata). Well, I have seen another (this time a single bird), this time in The Walks. 

Cairina Moschata 1
The first four pictures were taken on Monday afternoon.

Cairina Moschata 2Cairina Moschata 3Cairina Moschata 4

CmI
These are all from today – six pictures of the whole bird…

CmIICmIIICmIVCmVCm VI

Cmsideprofile
…two pictures of the profile view of its head.

Cmprofile

Cmheadfronton
…a front-on pic…

Cmtailfeathers
…and a pic of the tail feathers.

 

Ashes Selections

On Ashes selections…

INTRODUCTION

The cricket section of the BBC website gives you a chance to pick your XI for the opening ashes match this winter. It is not a free selection – they give you a pool of names to pick from, which is why I am producing this post.

MY SELECTION ON THE BBC WEBSITE

Restricted by the BBC website I selected the following XI:

Cook, Stoneman, Joe Clarke, Root, Liam Livingstone, Stokes, Bairstow, Moeen Ali, Roland-Jones, Anderson, Leach – yes I overlooked Stuart Broad, but I was being deliberately controversial…

VARIOUS POSSIBLE XIs

In actual fact, depending on conditions my selections could vary considerably. England spinners have rarely enjoyed themselves at Brisbane, so in practice I would probably not select two spinners for that particular match, while at Perth I might even consider leaving out Moeen Ali. At Adelaide, where the pitch tends to be exceedingly batsman friendly I would want more bowling options, and if the pitch was obviously going to favour spin then Moeen might even be third spinner in the XI. Thus here are some possible XIs, unerestricted by the BBC website’s preselections:

Normal conditions: Cook, Stoneman, Westley, Root (C), Dan Lawrence, Stokes, Bairstow (WK), Moeen Ali, Roland-Jones, Broad, Anderson.

Fast bowlers’ paradise (Perth would be a possible): Cook, Stoneman, Westley, Root (C), Lawrence, Stokes, Bairstow, (WK), Woakes, Roland-Jones, Broad, Anderson.

On a ‘bunsen’ (rhyming slang, bunsen burner = turner) – unlikely in Oz but you never know: Cook, Stoneman, Westley, Root (C), Lawrence, Stokes, Bairstow (WK), Moeen Ali, Dominic Bess, Jack Leach, Anderson (this is a colossal gamble, relying on Anderson and Stokes to do all the fast bowling between them, a more cautious approach still catering for lots of spin would see Broad retain his place and Ali and Bess or Bess and Leach have the spin bowling roles).

For the batsman’s paradise (e.g Adelaide, or the Bellerive Oval, Hobart): Cook, Stoneman, Root (C), Lawrence, Stokes, Moeen Ali, Bairstow (WK), Roland-Jones, Bess, Broad, Anderson (note that to play the extra bowler I move Ali up two places, keeping Bairstow at 7 – there is a reason why Gilchrist never moved up from number 7 in Australia’s great days).

 

 

England 3 South Africa 1

My thoughts on the recently concluded series between England and South Africa mens teams, plus some photographs from work.

INTRODUCTION

On Monday I listened to what turned out to be the final day of the test series between England and South Africa (Tuesday would have been available had South Africa taken the game that far but they never really looked like doing so). In this post I look back at the match and the series.

THIS MATCH

England batted first and made at least 50 more than they should have done in the circumstances, getting to 360. When the ninth England wicket fell South Africa turned to the “clever ruse” of dropping the field back to allow the major batter (Jonny Bairstow on this occasion) to take singles so that they could bowl at the no11. This is a dubious tactic in any case, but South Africa’s execution of it was downright bad – on a number of occasions Bairstow took twos early in the over, which should never happen when this tactic is in play. I can think of no occasion on which it can be demonstrated that a side fared worse by attacking at both ends than they would be adopting this tactic, whereas I offer the following examples of times where adopting it caused problems:

  • Perth 1978 – Australia eight down for not many facing and England total of over 300, Mike Brearley gives Peter Toohey with 50 to his name singles so as to attack Geoff Dymock. The ninth wicket pair stage a very irritating partnership. In the end England’s superior skill and professionalism tell (Australia were depleted by the Packer affair and Graham Yallop proved to be a very poor captain). My source for this story is Brearley himself in “The Art of Captaincy”.
  • Melbourne 1982 – The ninth Australian wicket in their second innings falls with them still needing 74 for victory. England allow Border singles so they can attack Thomson, the no 11. Australia get to within a boundary hit of victory before Thomson flashes at a wide one from Botham and is caught by Miller with an assist from Tavare.
  • Sydney 2010 – Pakistan have bossed the game against Australia, leading by over 200 on first innings, and Australia are only 80 to the good with two second innings wickets standing going into the 4th morning. Pakistan decline to attack Hussey, and Siddle plays a straight bat the relatively few deliveries he has to face. In the end Pakistan need 176 to win, which is far more than they were expecting. The pressure is too much for an inexperienced batting line up, especially once Mohamed Yousuf has compounded his failure as captain by falling to a very poor shot to leave his side 57-4. Australia end up winning by almost 40 runs.

South Africa’s response, if it can be so described, was to scrape together 226 for a deficit of 136. A fine innings by Moeen Ali in the second England innings takes England to a lead of 379. Dean Elgar fell cheaply to start the South African second innings, and by the lunch interval Heino Kuhn and Temba Bavuma had also been accounted for. Amla and Duplessis resisted stoutly for a time, but the dismissal of Amla sparked a collapse, with no one else making a significant contribution as 163-3 at the high point of the innings subsided to 202 all out. Moeen Ali took five of the wickets to finish with 25 for the series alongside over 250 runs for the series (the first time this double has been achieved in a series of fewer than five matches). Moeen Ali was player of the match, and also player of the series for his all-round efforts.

THE SERIES AS A WHOLE

Barring the aberration at Trent Bridge this was a series that England dominated, and 3-1 is a fair reflection of that fact. Lord’s (it is named after Thomas Lord of Thirsk, so Lord’s is technically correct) saw the only really huge first innings tally of the series, and from that point on England were always going to win that match. I wrote in some detail about the Trent Bridge debacle at the time. At The Oval (these days there is always a sponsor’s name attached but I refuse to mention them whoever they may be) England made a respectable first innings total and South Africa crumbled, while this final match at Old Trafford went along similar lines. 

THE PLAYERS

I am going to finish the text element of this post by looking at both sets of players, starting with South Africa.

Dean Elgar – a tough competitor whose second innings 136 at The Oval when all around him were surrendering was a stand out performance. 

Heino Kuhn – resembles a test-class opener about as closely as Liam Dawson resembles a test-class all-rounder. The only surprise out his dismissal during the morning session fo what turned into the final day of the series was that it did not come sooner.

Hashim Amla – a magnificent batter now nearing the end of his illustrious career. This was not a great series for him but his fighting 83 in the final innings was a splendid effort.

Quinton De Kock – fine wicketkeeper and on his day a very destructive batter, but was miscast in the key number four role where was too often coming in with the team reeling from early blows. He was moved down for the final match of the series, but this was his equivalent of Adam Gilchrist’s 2005 in England – batting wise a series to forget.

Faf Du Plessis – it continues to be debatable whether he is worth a place as a batter, but the team play much better under his captaincy than when he is not present. 

Temba Bavuma – a very reliable batter. He needs to develop ways of keeping the scoreboard ticking – at the moment it takes him a very long time to score his runs.

Theunis De Bruyn – anonymous in this series, he did nothing significant with the bat and his bowling was not much used.

Chris Morris – occasional moments with his hard-hitting batting but his bowling was very expensive.

Vernon Philander – a great cricketer, but like Alan Davidson and Chris Old before him he is somewhat of a hypochondriac. He did not contribute fully to this series.

Keshav Maharaj – South Africa’s leading wicket taker of the series. 

Kagiso Rabada – A fine fast bowler who bowled well in this series and at times did enough with the bat to have embarrassed some of bhis supposed betters in that department.

Morne Morkel – A solid series – it was not South Africa’s bowlers who were chiefly responsible for their defeat in this series.

Duanne Olivier – more will certainly be seen of this young fast bowler.

Now for England…

Alastair Cook – continues to steadily ascend the test run scoring lists – in the course of this series he went past Allan Border’s aggregate. His effort on the truncated first day at The Oval put England in control of that game, a position consolidated by Ben Stokes’ century.

Keaton Jennings – surely he has run out chances after a series in which his highest individual score was 48 and during which he never looked convincing. 

Gary Ballance – given a chance to re-establish himself in the side because he scores so many in domestic cricket he failed, and looked out of place. He was deservedly one of the casualties of the Trent Bridge debacle.

Tom Westley – a solid start to his test career. He looks like he belongs in the test arena and I expect to see a lot more of him.

Joe Root – his first series as test captain, and with a 3-1 series win and himself being leading run scorer on either side for the series it was a splendid start. 

Dawid Malan – came in to the side after the loss at Trent Bridge and has not yet done much.

Jonny Bairstow – an excellent series with both bat and gloves.

Ben Stokes – regular contributor of runs, wickets and catches. Like the man I will be dealing with next he is that rarity, a genuine all-rounder.

Moeen Ali – deservedly named player of the series, he was outstanding with bat and ball. 

Liam Dawson – my comments about Heino Kuhn suggest that I do not rate Mr Dawson, and that impression is correct. He has neither the batting nor the bowling to be of use in test match cricket. If conditions warrant two spinners pick a real spinner, and if they don’t Moeen Ali will be the sole spinner.

Toby Roland-Jones – he started his test career firing with both barrels – a five-for including the top four in the opposition batting order, and has done well in both his matches so far. 

Stuart Broad – a good series for the big fast bowler. 

Mark Wood – two matches in the series, total figures 1-197 – ’nuff said.

James Anderson – 20 wickets in the series at 14 each. At the age of 35 he remains arguably the finest user of a new ball in world cricket. The authorities at his home ground of Old Trafford have recently paid him the compliment of naming one of their bowling ends in his honour – and he responded by taking four cheap wickets from that end at the first time of asking. I reckon he still has a couple of good years left in him which would enable him to sign off with a home world cup followed by a home Ashes series.

PHOTOGRAPHS

I always like to include photographs in my posts, and although I have none relating to cricket, here are a few from yesterday at work (these will be going under the hammer on August 30th, our second end of August auction, with a sale happening at our shop on Friday August 25th – more on this in a later post):

1403
Lot 1403 – there is a little wallet incorporated in the inside back cover of the book to store the map when folded.

1403-a1403-b1403-c

1415
Lot 1415 – the largest railway map I have ever seen – and it has stout front and back panels so that when folded it looks a bit like a book.

1415-a

1415-b
A stamp on the back of one the ordinary panels.

1415-c
The front panel

1415-d
The back panel

1422
Lot 1422 – A more modern and much smaller railway map, with promotional material on the reverse (four images)

1422-a1422-b1422-c

1428
Lot 1428 – Some south Wales railway history.