England in Control at the Ageas Bowl

A look at the extraordinary events that are unfolding at the Ageas bowl as Zak Crawley establishes himself at the highest level.

INTRODUCTION

It is now all but a 100% certainty that England will win the series against Pakistan, and what follows explains why.

DAY 1

Yesterday after messrs Curran, Foakes and Robinson were allowed to leave the bubble at the Ageas Bowl to play for their counties in the Bob Willis Trophy, leaving an England side of Burns, Sibley, Crawley, *Root, Pope, +Buttler, Woakes, Bess, Archer, Broad and Anderson (Dan Lawrence and Ben Stokes had already been released in both cases for family reasons) Joe Root won the toss and chose to bat. The morning session went England’s way as they reached Lunch on 91-2. The loss of Root for 29 and Pope for 0 in quick succession made it 127-4, and seemingly turning in Pakistan’s favour. However, Zak Crawley was playing a magnificent innings, and Buttler continued his good recent form with the bat (pity he has been so bad with the gloves). By the tea interval it was 183-4 with Crawley on the verge of a maiden test century and England were starting to look good. The evening session was brilliant for England and horrible for Pakistan. Late in the day the runs were coming very fast as the Pakistan bowling got decidedly ragged. The day ended with England 332-4, Crawley 171 not out and Buttler within sight of a century of his own.

DAY 2

There have been two disruptions for rain, but in the cricket that has been played England have fared well, with the Pakistan bowling not looking remotely threatening. The score is now 380-4, and the stand between Crawley and Buttler is an all time England fifth wicket record against anyone, and Crawley is seven runs away from becoming the youngest England player to score a test double century since David Gower against India at Edgbaston in 1979. This is Crawley’s first test century and among those who have gone big on their first venture into three figures at this level are Bill Edrich (219 at Durban in 1939), Tip Foster (287 in his first test innings at Sydney in 1903), Bobby Simpson for Australia against England at Old Trafford (311) and at the top of this particular tree Garfield St Aubrun Sobers, 365 not out for West Indies v Pakistan at Sabina Park. Crawley has just brought up the double century with a four to third man, and England are now 391-4. Crawley was picked on potential, with not a lot in the way of major first class batting achievements behind him, and had passed 50 on three previous occasions in his fledgling test career, but this innings has surely settled the number three position for some considerable time to come – it has been a supreme performance, with no definite chances given. The record score for England against Pakistan is 278 by Denis Compton at Trent Bridge in 1954, which is definitely within Crawley’s compass from here. No3 has caused England many problems since I first started following cricket, with only Michael Vaughan and Jonathan Trott really succeeding there before the emergence of Crawley who has looked like a natural at no3.

THE REST OF THE MATCH

The weather forecast is pretty good for the rest of this match, and it is very hard to see any way of England losing from here, especially given that a draw will give them the series, which means they can shut up shop if trouble threatens. The 400 has just come up, and I reckon the way things are going that Crawley and Buttler should have at least half an eye on the all-time test record with wicket stand by anyone – the 405 that Sidney George Barnes and Donald Bradman put on together against England at Sydney in 1946. For the real pessimists the highest ever first innings to lose a test match is 586 by Australia at Sydney in 1894, when England replied with 325 and then in the follow on 437 and Australia got caught on a sticky in the final innings and were all out for 166, with Bobby Peel taking six cheap wickets. My own reckoning is that with England putting up a total like this after being 127-4 Pakistan will be demoralized and that England will win comfortably. Crawley has just had a little bit of good fortune, with an attempted catch becoming a six, and his score is now 222, moving him one run ahead of his mentor Rob Key’s highest test score. Only two England batters have had a higher maiden century, Hammond with 251 at Sydney in 1928 and Tip Foster’s 287 also at Sydney in 1903. The 300 stand has just come up for the fifth wicket.

PHOTOGRAPHS

My usual sign off…

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Pakistan In Control In The Test Match

A look at developments in the test match, some mathematics and plenty of photographs

INTRODUCTION

The series opener between England and Pakistan is now into its third day of play. This post looks at developments in that match so far.

THE PAKISTAN INNINGS

A weather hit opening day ended with Pakistan two down, Babar Azam already past 50 and Shan Masood not far short. England bowled well on the second morning but did not get full benefit for their efforts in that department as they were badly let down by Jos Buttler who had an absolute nightmare behind the stumps. Post lunch England bowled poorly, and Masood cashed in, being well supported by Shadab Khan. Masood eventually reached 156 before his resistance was ended. Pakistan tallied 326 in total for their innings, a score that looks very good on this pitch.

ENGLAND’S RESPONSE

England were soon 12-3 in reply, with both openers and Stokes out cheaply. Root batted a long time but did not score many, and Buttler was just able to survive to the close after Root’s dismissal. At the end of day 2 England were 92-4, with Pope who had looked a class above anyone else in the order approaching a 50. This morning Pakistan bowled superbly and England did well to get through the opening session for the loss of only one wicket – Pope got an absolute beauty. Woakes was hit by a bouncer but resisted through to lunch in company with Buttler. Early in the afternoon session Buttler has been bowled by leg spinner Yasir Shah for 38 to make it 159-6. Bess will be next man in. Taking into account Buttler’s errors with the gauntlets a generously inclined assessor would now say that he is only in a double-figure rather than a triple-figure deficit for the match. Stokes’ unfitness for bowling means that England have little batting left – Woakes is more bowler than batter (though his record in England specifically is excellent), Bess can handle a bat, but against an attack equipped with serious pace and quality wrist spin (more difficult to handle than finger spin) little can be hoped for, much less expected, from Broad, Archer and Anderson. This Pakistan team look to be made of sterner stuff than the West Indies – Masood’s ton was his third in as many tests, while Azam’s innings was a magnificent performance, and his record suggests that he deserves to be bracketed with Kohli, Smith and Williamson and placed ahead of the current version of Root as a batter. The pace bowling, with a left arm quick in Shaheen Afridi, a right arm quick in the person of 17 year old Naseem Shah,  and an excellent exemplar of the steady medium-fast bowler in Mohammad Abbas looks superb. Yasir Shah with his leg spin and the second leg spinner Shadab Khan whose bowling has not yet been called on are likely to play an ever increasing role as the match goes on, and Yasir Shah has already accounted for a couple of wickets, Root yesterday as Pakistan’s keeper demonstrated that it is perfectly possible to make dismissals off a spin bowler on this pitch and Buttler today, bowled through the gate, once again failing to navigate his personal ‘Bermuda triangle’ which is located between 21 and 50. Ben Foakes has a first class batting average of 38 (having played just over 100 matches at that level – a very impressive record for someone for whom batting is the second string of the bow) and is also the best pure keeper in the country, and various young keepers are beginning to establish themselves at county level and would also be more deserving of the test gauntlets than Buttler, though my own feeling is that Foakes deserves an extended run as England’s acknowledged no1 test keeper before a youngster is blooded. Yasir Shah has nabbed a third wicket, that of Bess, while I was writing this. Archer has been sent in at no9, ahead of Broad and Anderson, and England need something major from Woakes backed by the tail – with the pitch already helping the bowlers quite a bit anything approaching a major deficit will be insuperable, and at the moment that is exactly what England will be facing.

A SOLUTION AND A NEW PROBLEM

I offered this problem from brilliant up in my previous post:

No multi-choice here (this is much too easy for that), but a bonus challenge: part 1) if there was a third square of the same size but divided into 49 smaller squares shaded in similar fashion which would have the largest shaded area, and part 2)what is the general rule relating the number of squares into which the big square is divided and the proportion of it that ends up shaded?

The first shape contains nine squares of which five are shaded, while the second contains 25 squares of which 13 are shaded. 5/9 = 0.55…, while 13/25 = 0.52, so the first shape has a greater shaded area. The 7X7 square would have an even smaller proportion of its area shaded – 25/49 = 0.51. The general rule is that the greater the number of squares the shape is divided into the closer the shaded area approaches to half the total area, while always remaining just above that limit.

Here is another problem from brilliant:

Venn Rectangles

Yasir Shah has just collected his fourth wicket, that of Woakes to make it 170-8, and England are definitely in the mire.

PHOTOGRAPHS

My usual sign off…

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IMG_2604 (2)
I gave these tomato plants a thorough watering this morning, mindful of the fact that extreme heat was forecast for later in the day (and has eventuated).

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This is a comma butterfly with its wings closed – opened out is orange and black,

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Cricket Hat Trick at Sports Personality of the Year

A cricket hat trick at the BBC Sports Personality of the Year awards, the origin of the phrase hat trick and some photographs,

INTRODUCTION

This post looks at a great night for cricket, and also at the origins of the term hat trick and some of the more notable examples. There are also of course some of my photographs at the end.

SPORTS PERSONALITY OF THE YEAR

First the ‘team of the year’ award went to England’s world-cup winning cricket team (only if the rugby team had beaten South Africa in the final of their tournament would this even have been a contest), then the ‘moment of the year’ went to Jos Buttler’s run out of Martin Guptill that sealed that victory, again not really a contest. Finally the Sports Personality of the Year went to Ben Stokes (with great respect to Dina Asher-Smith and Katarina Johnson-Thomson who had strong cases – sorry Lewis Hamilton, being at the wheel of the best car out there does not give you a case). Ben Stokes is the fifth cricketer to be thus honoured after off-spinner Jim Laker (1956, 46 wickets at less than 10 a piece in an Ashes winning series, plus an all-ten – 10-88 from 46 overs in the first innings for Surrey against Australia), white-haired grafter David Steele (1975, brought in at the behest of new captain Tony Greig to stiffen the top order and responded with 365 runs in three test matches), Ian Botham (1981 – Botham’s Ashes) and Andrew Flintoff (2005, Ashes superhero).

So that is the story of cricket’s hat trick at SPOTY 2019, which leads on to….

THE ORIGIN OF THE PHRASE HAT TRICK

In the early 1850s Heathfield Harman Stephenson (Surrey) travelled north with the All England XI (one of a number of travelling elevens that existed at that time and for some years after, a development that could have radically altered the way in which cricket was organized had the MCC not taken urgent action to get the biggest draw in the game, W G Grace, on side – his membership was proposed the Treasurer of the club and seconded by the Secretary, so desperate were they) to play a match at the Hyde Park ground in Sheffield. During that match he dismissed three of the opposition with successive deliveries (not the first to do so in a big match – Nottingham tearaway Sam Redgate had accounted for Fuller Pilch, Alfred Mynn and James Stearman in successive balls in 1840) and this feat so impressed the locals that someone passed a hat round to collect money to present to Stephenson, and hat and contents were both given to the player, and the phrase hat trick was born. It has subsequently come to be used in other sports for notable achievements involving the number three, but it is in origin a pure cricket phrase.

VIDEO AND PHOTOGRAPHS

Before the photographs, here is the moment that secured cricket’s hat trick of awards at SPOTY:

Just before my usual sign off, a shout out to Sarah Glenn, who after taking 2-38 on debut and 2-37 in her second match for England then starred in the weather ruined final gamed of that series by collecting 4-18, which means that three matches into her ODI career she has total figures of 8-93, for an average of 11.625 per wicket.

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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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India Demonstrate How Not To Polish Off an Innings

Some thoughts on the current test match, some mathematics, some climate change themed links and some photographs from an upcoming militgaria auction.

INTRODUCTION

Although my first and main focus in on the current test match between England and India I also have my usual assortment of other goodies.

SWITCHBACK RIDE AT THE OVAL

When England were 120-1 at one point yesterday it looked like they were making a solid if slow start. India then took control of the game, England finishing the day 198-7, with Jos Buttler looking to marshal the tail in a recovery act (the first time this millennium that an uninterrupted test match day in England has yielded less than 200 runs). When Rashid was out fairly early this morning to make it 214-8 the question was whether the Broad and Anderson could last long enough to see England to 250. Thanks to some crazy Indian tactics the final England wicket did not fall until the total had reached 332, Buttler top scorer with 87 and Broad a useful 38. Buttler was last out when it finally occurred to India that it might not be a good idea to allow him singles at will and set a field that necessitated improvisation if he wanted to farm the strike.

The “tactic” of concentrating all one’s efforts on the tailender and declining to make any effort to pressurise the senior batter is not one I have ever approved of, and today saw one of it’s many ignominious failures. 

Having failed yet again Jennings now surely has one innings left to save his test career. There are seven test matches for England, six overseas and one at home against recently elevated Ireland before the Aussies come calling, and it is those matches which can be used to bed in a new opening pair (it would be a major ask for an opener to make their debut against them) – and I do not see Jennings being one half of that pair. As I was writing this paragraph Stuart Broad picked up the first Indian wicket. Those who read my previous post know that I have my own highly unorthodox solution to the problem of who the new opening pair should be (the driver of the bus I travelled home from work on yesterday, who is a follower of this blog, commented approvingly on the controversial element of this, so I am not alone). 

If, as now seems to be one of two live possibilties (a draw and overall 3-1 being the other) England end this series with the scoreline 4-1 in their favour India will have chucked this match in the first part of day 2. Virat Kohli is a great player but on all available evidence he has precisely no aptitude for captaincy. In thirty years of being an avid cricket follower I cannot recall a finer demonstration of how not to polish off an innings.

TEASERS

First up solutions to the problems I set on Wednesday (all problems in this section come by way of brilliant.org):

WHICH STAR IS CLOSER?

astroproblem

First the answer:

Star answer

The blue star has changed relative position more than the red, hence it must be closer, while all the other stars are so far distant that they have not changed relative position. 

BULLETS

Bullets

The answer:

Bullet answer

Here is Brian Moehring’s solution:

BMbullets

NEW PROBLEMS

31 problem

Here is another problem:

squacubes

LINKS

Three closely related pieces here. 

  1. Richard Murphy brings news of a campaign victory – the BBC has admitted to getting its coverage of climate change wrong and has warned people that it is not necessary to give airtime to climate change deniers for the sake of balance. Here is the end of Murphy’s piece on this:
    Of course I am pleased.

    And massive credit to Rupert Read for achieving this.

    Next the BBC should stop platforming tax deniers.

    And those who will not disclose their funding.

  2. Rise for Climate – this is a new source of information about actions being taken to combat climate change – feel free to visit and sign up for emails as I have.
  3. Anna presents a detailed and very clearly laid out Q & A on the campaign the prevent the building a big new road through Trosa. An English version follows the Swedish.

PHOTOGRAPHS

These pictures all come from our militaria sale that will be happening on September 19th. Disclaimer: one of the items pictured is a relic from one of history’s vilest regimes – I show it because it is a remarkable specimen which has already attracted large amounts of interest.

2
Lot 2 – this dagger is definitely genuine – and will go for a lot of money.

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10
Lot 10, this will be on the front cover of the catalogue.
51
Lot 51

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231
Lot 231
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Lot 402
406
Lot 406
405
Lot 405

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404-c
Lot 404

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204
Lot 204

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Lot 373
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Lot 372

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Lot 407 – this uniform will bring the cujrtain down on the sale.

407-a407-b407-c

Failing to Convert

A post provoked by an asinine comment I saw on cricinfo yesterday, dealing with the question of failure to convert in cricket.

INTRODUCTION

This post was provoked by something I saw yesterday morning on cricinfo’s online coverage of the second ODI between England and Australia (I was at work, so could not listen to the commentary, but having this tab open and peeking occasionally in between doing other stuff was manageable – I was constantly using the internet for work purposes anyhow). 

ENGLAND 2-0 UP IN SERIES

England won this match by four wickets, with plenty of time to spare. Joe Root was there at the end on 46 not out. In the first match he had been there at the end on 91 not out. This coincidence that both times he was just short of a personal landmark led to a character posting under the name Dave (knowing what I do of such types I am not prepared to say that this is actually their name) to post a comment about Joe Root failing to convert. My response to this display of asininity is as follows:

  1. Failing to convert implies regularly getting out before reaching important landmarks and Joe Root was undefeated in both innings.
  2. Individual landmarks are valuable, and generally to win one needs someone to go to and well beyond several such, but cricket is a team game, and on both occasions Root missed his landmarks through playing a support role to people who were going more fluently at the other end (Jason Roy in game one, and Jos Buttler and Chris Woakes in game two).
  3. Joe Root has proven frequently that he can go on to and well past significant personal landmarks.

To end this section I quote a post from a few minutes after Dave’s which provides an indication of how good Root actually is in ODI chases:

Hypocaust: “Joe Root now has the 3rd highest average (87.06) in victorious ODI chases (min. 20 innings), behind Dhoni (102.72) and Kohli (93.64) and just ahead of Bevan (86.25).”

A PUZZLE

Here courtesy of brilliant is a puzzle:

LC

A SOLUTION

Here is the solution to the problem that I included in my post England One Day International Record:

solution

PHOTGRAPHS

As usual we end with some photographs:

 

A Spectacular Recovery

An account of the dramatic finish to yesterday’s ODI between England and Sri Lanka, some links and some photographs.

INTRODUCTION

This post is about the closing stages of yesterday’s ODI between England and Sri Lanka, which I listened to once I had got home from work.

A DISTANT PROSPECT

When I switched the commentary on Sri Lanka had made a respectable 286, which by that stage was looking positively mountainous since England were 39-4. When skipper Eoin Morgan was out for 42 to make the score 73-5, and Moeen Ali also fell cheaply to a poor shot the situation looked even grimmer for England, as Chris Woakes walked out to join Jos Buttler…

A GREAT PARTNERSHIP

Buttler and Woakes fared better than had seemd posssible when they came together, and gradually victory moved from the realms of fantasy to a distant but imaginable outcome to a genuine possibility. Two wickets in quick succession, Buttler and then Dvaid Willey seemed to have once again settled things in Sri Lanka’s favour, but Liam Plunkett (surely the most talented batsman ever to be at number 10 by design) played well alongside Woakes who established a record score for a number 8 in an ODI. In the end it came down to…

A SPECTACULAR FINAL OVER

At the start of this final over 14 were needed for England to win. Good bowling restricted England to seven off the first five, meaning that unless a wide or a no-ball was bowled England could no longer win. Neither was forthcoming, but Liam Plunkett did hit that final ball for six to level the scores and earn England a tie after a come-back of epic proportions.

LINKS

My first link, just to tie up the loose ends from the first part of this post is to an official account of yesterday’s ODI, courtesy of cricinfo.

My remaining links are all on the subject of referendums and one referendum in particular. I start with David Hencke’s post about why he will be voting for remain.

My next two links are both to posts from that legal eagle of the blogging world jackofkent, first a detailed analysis of what he sees as the flaws of referendums, and second, acoompanied by a screenshot below and some subsidiary comments of my own afterwards a proposal for banning referendums:

JoK

I would change clause 2 of the above act to read:

2. This Act can only be repealed by a unanimous vote in the house (for the purposes of this Act abstentions and absences count as votes against).

PHOTOS

For anyone who has read all the foregoing text here is your bonus in the form of some recent photographs:

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Although the day rider plus that is my standard bus ticket specifically excludes the coasthopper whose route map is pictured here, coasthopper buses sometimes run other routes, notably the X8 between King’s Lynn and Fakenham.

 

The Ashes 2015: A Personal View

A last look at the 2015 Ashes.

INTRODUCTION

This is the first of a several posts I shall be producing today. I hope you will all enjoy it.

AUSTRALIA WIN THE BATTLE HAVING ALREADY LOST THE WAR

Australia won the Oval test match very comfortably to narrow the series score to 3-2 in England’s favour. Although it takes a little gloss of England’s overall victory this cannot really be considered significant – there have been many occasions when a side who have already won the series early have failed in the final match. Examples include England in 1928-9, 1986-7 and 2015, and Australia in 1902, 1924-25, 1968, 1993 and 1997. For the rest of this post I am going to look at England’s players through the series…

ENGLAND SUCCESSES AND FAILURES

So, who did what?

Alastair Cook: as captain he unequivocally did was required – his task was to win the Ashes and that objective was achieved with a match to spare. As a batsman he had an ordinary series, with no century and only two really significant scores, one of which was made with the match already lost (85 at the Oval).

Adam Lyth: he was an unequivocal failure at the top of the order. Nevertheless, while I would have no quarrel with him being dropped at this point, I maintain that the England selectors were right to give him the whole home season of tests in which to make his mark – and as a veteran of the second half of the 1980s and the whole of the 1990s, during which England were an international laughing stock I saw far too many occasions when selectors chopped and changed and changed and chopped so that no one ever knew whether they were coming or going I was delighted to see this example of consistency of approach.

Ian Bell: By his own standards a poor series – only three 50 plus scores and none of them a century.

Joe Root: Quite simply magnificent – his century at Trent Bridge on a pitch on which the Aussies had rolled over for 60 in 18.3 overs was a classic innings, made when runs had to be earned.

Gary Ballance: Only played the first couple of matches, but he will be back.

Jonny Bairstow: A fine innings at Trent Bridge, when he backed Joe Root splendidly, but not much else to show for his participation in the series.

Ben Stokes: Mr X Factor – runs, wickets and the moment of the series – that catch at Trent Bridge.

Jos Buttler: A shocking series with the bat, adequate behind the stumps.

Moeen Ali: A fine cricketer, but not in the way England used him in this series – he is not a front-line spinner. In the UAE where pitches are likely to take spin he could be useful as an opening batsman (a role he plays for his county) and back up spinner to Adil Rashid and possibly another.

Mark Wood: A good prospect, and Cook’s decision to give him the opportunity (which he took) to wrap up the Trent Bridge match was an excellent piece of captaincy.

James Anderson: The only England bowler to date to have taken 400 test wickets – it is a tribute to messrs Broad, Finn and Wood that he was not missed at Trent Bridge. The UAE would be a good tour for him to miss – there will be no assistance for him there, and he will be needed in South Africa.

Stuart Broad: Can one be player of the series almost entirely on the strength of one spell of bowling? Yes, if that one spell is 8-15 off 9.3 overs and makes the outcome of the series effectively certain.

Stephen Finn: After a couple of years in the wilderness he is back to some thing like his best, he achieved one of a run of four straight six plus wicket hauls by four different England bowlers (the others were Anderson, Stokes and Broad).

Thomas’s Composite Ashes XI

My composite Ashes XI, with a controversial choice at no 5.

INTRODUCTION

This post, which is purely and simply what the title says will be followed by one of more my more usual posts.

AN END OF SERIES TRADITION

One of the things that people do as an Ashes series approaches its conclusion is pick a composite team. A team is not simply the 11 players who have had the best series – to be properly selected it has to be capable of functioning as a team, so it needs sufficient batting and bowling resources and a genuine wicket-keeper. Having set out my criteria I will now begin selecting:

THE OPENERS

None of the openers in this series will remember it with especial fondness, but with Warner now established as the Caddick of batsmen (much better in the second innings than in the first), and Lyth having not had a big score at all, the selection is quite straightforward: Chris Rogers and Alastair Cook (Captain).

THE MIDDLE ORDER

Number 3 is clear cut – Stephen Smith is a flat track bully, not to be trusted if the ball is doing anything, whereas Ian Bell produced two fifties in the third match to help restore England’s lead in the series. Verdict: Bell by the proverbial country mile.

Number 4 is even more of a no-contest – Michael Clarke has barely scored a run in the series while Joe Root has been superb. Verdict: Root on a walkover.

Number 5 is a difficult one. There have been no convincing performances from anyone at number 5. I am going to resolve it by thinking outside the box, to someone who regularly bats no 5 and has been in superb form recently. It will come as no surprise to readers of this blog that my choice for no 5 goes to … Ellyse Perry.

Thinking outside the box: Ellyse Perry's excellence cuts the gordian knot of who to select at no 5 in the composite ashes XI!
Thinking outside the box: Ellyse Perry’s excellence cuts the gordian knot of who to select at no 5 in the composite ashes XI! (acknowledgements to cricinfo for the picture)

Number 6 takes us back to no-contest territory – it is Mr X Factor himself a.k.a Ben Stokes who stands out like the proverbial sore thumb for this position.

Number 7, and wicketkeeper is a bit tough – I have no doubts that Jos Buttler is the superior cricketer of the two keepers, but Peter Nevill has had a fine series whereas Buttler has not. Final verdict: Nevill, on ground of faring better in this particular series.

Number 8 and we are in the territory occupied by folk who are in the side for their bowling, and England’s domination in this area over the series is indisputable. Hence, this position and nos 9 and 10 are all occupied by England players. In the position of No 8 itself is Stuart Broad.

At Number 9 I have given James Anderson a promotion on his regular position in order to fit in my remaining two bowlers.

Number 10, back to his best after a couple of years in the wilderness is Steven Finn, probably third seamer behind Broad and Anderson but possibly sharing the new ball with Anderson.

We are at Number 11 and there is no recognized spinner in the side. In this area, and this is why the tail of my composite side is so long, there is no proper contest since England’s designated “spin option”, Moeen Ali, is in my humble opinion nothing of the kind (though a fine cricketer), so this slot goes to Nathan Lyon.

Here then in batting order is Thomas’s Composite Ashes XI 2015: (nb an asterisk next to a player designates captaincy, a plus sign having the wicketkeeping gloves)

C ROGERS
A COOK*
I BELL
J ROOT
E PERRY
B STOKES
P NEVILL+
S BROAD
J ANDERSON
S FINN
N LYON

A Wonderful Weekend of Sport

INTRODUCTION

As well as the sporting events that I shall be writing about I have some important links to share. Faced with more sport than I had time to follow I had to make choices, and with I settled on cricket and athletics (in the form of the European Team Championships). I will write about each in turn starting with…

A FINAL MATCH THRILLER

To set the scene for Saturday’s action, the series was level at 2-2, and records had been tumbling left, right and centre throughout. The actual result was pretty much a secondary consideration given the quality of the cricket that had been on show through the series.

NEW ZEALAND BATTING

Very early on in their innings New Zealand passed their all-time record aggregate for a five match ODI series, a feat that England had achieved in the previous match. For the first time in the series batsmen found it difficult to really get going, and it took some big hitting in the closing stages to get New Zealand to their eventual 283-9, the lowest first innings score of the series.

THE INTERVAL AND DUCKWORTH-LEWIS

During the interval between innings it rained, and it kept raining for some time (this is England after all). Eventually, by the time play was possible again there was time for England to bat for 26 overs, and the Duckworth-Lewis calculation (a very complicated formula that has produced the least unfair way for resolving rain affected ODIs yet devised) gave England a target of 192 off 26 overs.

ENGLAND’S CHASE

The England innings got off to a disastrous start, with three wickets falling in next to no time. The fourth and fifth wickets did not take a whole lot longer to fall, and at that stage England were looking down both barrels. Then Eoin Morgan and Jonathan Bairstow, the latter only playing because of an injury to Jos Buttler (scorer of the first and second quickest ODI centuries by an Englishman) shared a good partnership. When Morgan was out, England were still second favourites, but Adil Rashid joined his fellow Yorkshireman Bairstow for a partnership that gradually brought the asking rate back to manageable levels. Seventeen were needed off the last two overs when for the first of them the ball was given to a debutant who until his late call-up had been playing Devonshire League cricket. Bowling the penultimate over in these circumstances would be tough for anyone, and in the end the last over was not required, as a combination of fine strokes from Bairstow and Rashid and a loss of nerve by the bowler settled the issue.

A RAPID TURNAROUND

Just a few months ago England were having their all-time worst ever World Cup campaign, being hammered by all and sundry and being exposed as being sadly behind the times in their approach to one day cricket. To have come from that to even taking part in a series that is a jewel in the crown of international cricket (and ultimately winning it) is an extraordinary transformation. What brought this about? Well England were forced to recognise by the sheer awfulness of that World Cup campaign that they had to change. The new picks for this series were guys noted for 20-20 (ultra-short form) success. Also, however there has been an attitude change. In this series, England never went on to the defensive, there was never a period of seriously slow scoring. Even when those three early wickets went down on Saturday, there was no ‘consolidation’. In the second half of the summer England have another set of visitors from the antipodes to contend with, and it will be interesting to see what kind of account they can give of themselves in that situation.

EUROPEAN TEAM ATHLETICS

The European Team Athletics championship, which I watched on i-player, is decided on a points system. The top nine countries from last year, plus three promoted from the second group, do battle. Twelve points are accrued for winning an event, down to one for finishing. A disqualification in a track event, or a failure to record a valid distance/ height in a throwing or jumping event results in a zero.

In the end, after a some excellent results, and some very bad ones, Britain finished in fifth place, behind Russia (winning comfortably on home  soil), Germany, France and Poland.

Probably the person who overachieved the most for Britain was Rhianwedd Price who, on international debut, came third in the 1,500m.

LINKS

CAMPAIGN TO PROTECT THE FAIRY POSSUM

This tiny marsupial is on the critically endangered list, and the campaign to protect it by creating a preserved environment for it is being run by The Wilderness Society. I have two important links for you:

1)The article which gives full detail about what is happening.

2)A petition which I hope you will sign and share.

WAR ON WANT PETITION TO CANCEL GREEK DEBT

Just a single link, which I urge you to follow up.

AN ACCOUNT OF A TRIP TO THE NATURAL HISTORY MUSEUM

This is an excellent piece detailing both the visit and what was seen, and the differing approaches taken by Autism Mom (the author of the piece), the Navigator and Autism Dad. I have already shared this piece with my twitter and I am delighted to include this link to dinos-photos-and-his-own-world.

CONCLUDING REMARK

I hope that you have all enjoyed this post, and that you will be encouraged to share it. For those of you who have stayed with this post right to the end I have a final message…

TY3