Thoughts for New Zealand and a Calendar Preview.

A few thoughts about the upcoming tour of New Zealand and a preview of the 2020 aspi.blog Wall Calendar.

INTRODUCTION

The England squad for New Zealand is due to be named soon, and I have some suggestions here. I also use this post to offer aspi.blog readers a sneak preview of the aspi.blog 2020 wall calendar, currently in production and due to arrive with me early next week.

SQUAD FOR NEW ZEALAND

It is unlikely that any surface in New Zealand will warrant the selection of two front line spinners, so for this tour I am selecting fewer spinners than I normally would. Seam and swing tend to be important in NZ just as they are in this country, so I do not regard a second out and out super quick alongside Archer, who should be used in short bursts. Finally, I do not think that even if both are fully fit England should be thinking of using Broad and Anderson in the same squad, so only one of those makes the trip. Batting wise I think the experiment of picking white ball specialists to play test cricket has been tried and found seriously wanting. I have argued for some time that Tammy Beaumont deserves her chance alongside the men and I continue to believe that this experiment is warranted, however uncertainty over Stokes’ ability to function as a full-time bowler in test cricket at present leads me to temporarily shelve that idea. Dominic Sibley has made an iron-clad case for selection as a test match opener, and Rory Burns has done sufficient to hang on to his own place, which leaves Ben Stokes my envisaged no 3, Root back at 4 where he scores much more heavily than at 3, Ollie Pope in at 5, Ben Foakes wicketkeeper at six, Lewis Gregory coming at seven (there could be few better places for a seam bowling all-rounder to begin a test career than New Zealand), Sam Curran at 8, Jofra Archer at 9, Jack Leach at 10 and Stuart Broad at 11 (unless Anderson is fully fit, in which he case he replaces Broad). My reserves would be a top order batter (Beaumont – see above), a middle order batter, possibly Dan Lawrence of Essex who has played at least one major innings recently or if you want someone grittier Somerset’s Tom Abell, an out and out fast bowler (Stone or Wood depending on fitness) and a second spinner (Matt Parkinson would be my choice, his lack of skill with the bat not being a serious issue since I am not expecting him and Leach to figure in the same XI). Note that with both Burns and Pope having some experience of the role a reserve wicketkeeper is not needed.

On the radar for the future I would have Josh Bohannon, the young Lancashire batter, if more spinners are required offspinners Bess and Virdi are immediately in the equation and Patterson-White of Nottinghamshire (who have collectively been utterly dreadful this season, making his small success all the more impressive) may develop into a replacement for Jack Leach when the time comes. In the seam bowling department Ollie Robinson and Jamie Porter will warrant consideration, and the emerging fast bowling talent of Worcestershire’s Josh Tongue should also see him being talked about in the right places. Finally, opener Zak Crawley has attracted favourable notices at times, but at the moment he needs to increase the number of major innings on his CV before really meriting consideration as a test opener.

THE 2020 WALL CALENDAR PREVIEW

13 pics here, the front cover and one for each month:

England’s Prospects at Old Trafford

My thoughts on the changes to the England squad for the upcoming 4th Ashes Test and lots of photographs (do let me know of any you think calendar worthy!)

INTRODUCTION

England have made a couple of changes for the upcoming (and crucial) fourth Ashes test match at Old Trafford. This post looks at those changes and at England’s hopes, and optimistic as ever, discounts in the interests of simplicity the possibility of the Manchester weather emerging victorious.

SETTING THE SCENE

This is probably the most important Manchester test since the equivalent match in the 1902 series (when Australia won by 3 runs to clinch the Ashes). Again, a win for Australia would secure them the Ashes, since as holders a drawn series is enough for them, and that would be all England could do, while a win for England would leave them needing a draw at The Oval to secure the urn (as in 2005, when thanks to the second most significant 158 by a South African born England batter – Basil D-Oliveira’s 1968 effort being #1 in that category the necessary was achieved). In 1956 England needed a win at Manchester to secure the Ashes and Australia, thoroughly spooked by Jim Laker, failed to capitalize on the assistance of a number of weather interruptions, the final margin being an innings and 170 runs in England’s favour. In 1981 England were 2-1 to the good going into the penultimate match at Old Trafford, and won courtesy of Ian Botham’s second ton of the series. Finally, for the historical comparisons, in 1964 a draw was all Australia required from the equivalent match, being one up and holders, and on a pitch which needed white lines down the middle Bobby Simpson ensured that quite literally off his own bat, not being dislodged until the third morning of the match, for 311 in 762 minutes. Australia eventually declared at 656-8, England replying with 611 (Barrington 256, Dexter 174) and the few overs that remained before the draw could be officially confirmed were bowled by Barrington and Titmus with an old ball.

ENGLAND’S CHANGES

Jason Roy and Joe Denly have changed places in the batting order, Denly moving up to open and Roy dropping to no 4, while Craig Overton of Somerset replaces Chris Woakes. While I think switching Roy and Denly was the least England could do in the agttempt to address the problems at the top of their batting order I do not believe it goes far enough (readers of this blog will be aware of my own radical solution, first proposed a year ago when Cook as approaching retirement and Jennings’ inadequacy was all too obvious), and I feel that a no 3 has also to be located somewhere, as Joe Root is clearly not relishing the position. Overton for Woakes is uncontroversial, though I would have preferred another Somerset man, Lewis Gregory, to have got the nod. Denly has a low initial bar to clear – get England’s batting off to a better start than they have been managing of late – a three-legged elephant would probably have a chance of clearing a bar that low. Having made their calls, England need to back their judgement, and if they win the toss they should choose to bat first and hope to score enough to put Australia under pressure. If the Denly-Roy switch works out (and it can hardly turn out worse than the previous arrangement!), then a big total is a genuine possibility. As England have been discovering lately it is hard if you are starting each innings effectively already two wickets down. If England win they will go to The Oval as favourites, a draw still leaves them with a chance (look up 1926, 1930, 1934 and 1953 for examples of an Ashes deciding victory happening at The Oval) but defeat means curtains. However, even a defeat might be used to benefit England in the long term – with the Ashes gone it would be an opportunity/ necessity for England to experiment (I would expect a second front line spinner to be named in the squad for that match regardless of the result of the upcoming one, because pitches in South London so often offer turn).

PHOTOGRAPHS

My usual sign off…

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This azure damselfly seems an appropriate picture to use to point out that I am thinking about pictures for use in the aspi.blog 2020 wall calendar – I have a few ideas already, and would welcome suggestions from readers.

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A red dragon fly in flight.

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A two for on damselflies! (five pics to choose from)

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Not often in easy view – a water vole seen near the centre of King’s Lynn today.

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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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Some Thoughts On The England Squad For Lord’s

Some thoughts on the England squad for the second Ashes test at Lord’s and lots of photos, along with an invitation for calendar nominations.

INTRODUCTION

In this post I look at the England squad announced for the second Ashes test at Lord’s, which starts on Wednesday.  There are also of course plenty of photographs for you to enjoy.

THE SQUAD

The squad, as shown at the end of a cricinfo article introducing it is as shown below:

Eng Squad
There is much that I agree with in this squad, but also some things I am not happy about…

MY THOUGHTS ON THE SQUAD

Archer had to come in, especially with Anderson and Stone both injured. I am not happy about the continuing presence of Broad and Denly, although if the latter is put in as Burns‘ opening partner that looks better than playing Roy right at the top of the order. In place of Broad I would have Lewis Gregory, whose ability to swing the ball and all-round skills fill some of the hole left by James Anderson, while his all-rounder status means that he cannot be considered as that impossible thing, a “like-for-like” replacement for Anderson. I would not feature either Buttler or Bairstow (the proverbial gun to the head proposition would see me select Buttler at test level) preferring Foakes as keeper and wanting a second genuine spin option, one of the following:

  1. Matthew Parkinson, the young Lancashire legspinner (even though as a batter he is as the old saying puts it “the ferret who follows the rabbits”).
  2. Dominic Bess, Leach’s regular spinning partner at “Ciderabad” aka Taunton.
  3. Amar Virdi, who recently took 14 wickets in a match for Surrey.
  4. Helen Fenby – her action took all the commentators by surprise the other day (and brought her four cheap wickets) – perhaps it will have the same effect on Steve Smith (surely something can unsettle him).

Still, the selectors have at least done the bare minimum that they had to after the Edgbaston debacle – jettison Moeen Ali.

PHOTOGRAPHS

As a lead in to my usual sign off, here is a graphic that I got from British Nature Guide by way of their twitter account, which I follow:

Butterflies

Now for my usual sign off…

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This is making its second appearance – I misidentified it first time round as being a type of painted lady, it is actually a “Comma”

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What I did in yesterday’s physio session.

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From now on, use the graphic (and better, follow the link to the website) to identify the butterlfies.

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I invite commneters to naminate pictures they particuarly like for the aspi.blog 2020 Wall Calendar.

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An azure damselfly in flight…
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…and a c,lose-up view extracted from the same original.
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These two pictures suggest that the butterflies are not done yet!

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The next four pictures featyure some species of dragonfly – I have not been able to identify which

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Appropriately enough for Norfolk, this is a ‘Red Admiral’ .

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Lewis Gregory in England Squad

Celebrating the inclusion of Lewis Gregory in the England squad for the game against Ireland.

INTRODUCTION

Some of my recent posts (particularly those about England test teams accommodating two spinners) have taken the inclusion of Somerset all-rounder Lewis Gregory as read…

IT IS NOW

Today on cricinfo I was delighted to see that on this occasion at least what is obvious to me has also proven obvious to Ed Smith (whose opinions matter rather more in the current scheme of things!) and Gregory is in the squad announced for the one off test match against Ireland next week. True, given what he has been doing for Somerset recently this was a totally obvious call, but anyone who has followed English cricket as long as I have knows that that does not necessarily mean that it will happen!

I am delighted that Lewis Gregory has been given the call-up and I seriously hope that he plays rather than winding up as drinks waiter. A second of my calls – Jason Roy into the test team off the back of a tremendous World Cup – has also been made by a higher authority. My biggest call of all has yet to be made, but ever the optimist I am not prepared to abandon it just yet.

The cricinfo article can be read here.

PHOTOGRAPHS

My usual sign off…

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England Test XIs With Two Spinners

Some possible ways to incorporate two spinners into the England test team.

INTRODUCTION

This post is inspired by a post that appeared this morning on Toby’s Sporting Views. He was writing about an excellent bowling performance by Somerset’s spinners against Nottinghamshire on day two of their match, and I am looking specifically at an aspect he raised relating to this, namely two spinners playing for England in the Ashes tests this summer.

SETTING PARAMETERS

I am basing all my possible XIs around five specialist batters with Ben Foakes at six and wearing the gloves. The other fixed position, since he is indispensable in test cricket at present is James Anderson at no 11 and as one of new ball bowlers. Therefore the positions up for dispute are 7, 8, 9 and 10, which will be filled by two spinners and two quicks. Thus form my purposes each permutation will involve four cricketers, as I need not mention the others. Neither Adil Rashid nor Moeen Ali have done enough with the ball of late to merit consideration, and Lancashire’s Matthew Parkinson while promising is not as yet ready for elevation, so the two spinners would be Leach and Bess, becoming a latter day Lock and Laker.

1: THE PURE ENGLISH

In so far as such a line-up can be typical English this one is. It features Lewis Gregory at number 7, Sam Curran at number 8 and sharing the new ball with James Anderson, with Bess and Leach the two spinners at nos 9 and 10.

2: EXTRA PACE I

This one dispenses with Curran, and brings in either Jofra Archer or Mark Wood to bowl outright fast, sharing the new ball with Anderson.

3: EXTRA PACE II

This one dispenses with Gregory, having Curran move up to seven and playing one of Archer or Wood  along with the two spinners and Anderson. This is more of a gamble as it misses out on Gregory’s batting, which is better than that of any of the others.

4: THE OUTRIGHT GAMBLE

This one dispenses with both Curran and Gregory, and brings in both of the super-speedsters Wood and Archer, one of whom would perforce come on first change. This would likely mean Archer at no 7, Bess at no 8, Leach no 9, Wood no 10 and Anderson no 11, which is where the gamble is – there is no one who can really be called an all-rounder here, just five bowlers.

5: ANOTHER GAMBLE

My final possibility features picking Ben Stokes as a front-line batter and fill-in pacer, and having only four top-line bowlers, Curran, Bess, Leach and Anderson. If one of Curran or Anderson were to break down this side would then be using Stokes as a new-ball bowler, which makes it a very high risk strategy.

THOMAS’S PICK

Overall I would like one out and out ‘blitzman’ bowler in the team, and picking only two top line pacers for a test match is too rich even for my blood, so with all respect to Sam Curran I am going for Extra Pace I as my bowling combo. Injuries not intervening a possible line-up for match 1 if I was doing the selecting would be:

  1. Beaumont (see here for more on this controversial choice)
  2. Burns
  3. Roy (no 3 has been difficult for some time and Roy is at least in splendid form)
  4. *Root 
  5. Buttler
  6. +Foakes
  7. Gregory
  8. Archer
  9. Bess
  10. Leach
  11. Anderson

PHOTOGRAPHS

My usual sign off…

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County Championship Round Up

An account of goings on the County Championship, a brief mention of physio at Tapping House and lots of photographs.

INTRODUCTION

The County Championship matches currently in progress are now on day 3 of 4. In this post I will look at all of them before sharing some more of my photos.

THE STATE OF PLAY IN
THE COUNTY CHAMPIONSHIP

This is what is happening around the country…

  • Nottinghamshire v Essex Nottinghamshire 187 and 157, Essex 241 and 81-1, Essex need a further 24 to win.
    The Nottinghamshire batting has failed twice, leaving Essex a fairly clear run to victory. No Nottinghamshire batter topped 50 in either innings. Nick Browne made 67 in the Essex first dig, while spinner Simon Harmer destroyed the Notts second innings with 6-50. Tom Westley is on the verge of only the second half-century of the match and is being staunchly supported by the only knight of the realm currently playing first class cricket. Joe Clarke of my “Five to Follow” made 48 and 1 for Notts.
  • Kent v YorkshireYorkshire 210 and 328-4, Kent 296.
    Kent took what would have looked a useful first innings lead, but Yorkshire have turned this one around in their second innings. They will now be eyeing up a declaration to give Kent an awkward period of batting before the close today and then the whole of tomorrow. 81 for Zak Crawley and 103 from wicketkeeper Ollie Robinson were Kent’s main batting efforts, while Gary Ballance is 143 not out in the second Yorkshire innings. Ben Coad and Duanne Olivier each took three wickets for Yorkshire.
  • Surrey v SomersetSurrey 380 and 19-2, Somerset 398.
    This one could go a long way to deciding the ultimate destiny of the title as it features the defending champions (Surrey) and the form side thus far this year (Somerset). So far this shaping up as Lewis Gregory’s match – three wickets in the first innings, a magnificent 129 not out, including 10 fours and five sixes to give Somerset a first innings lead and already has a second innings wicket (the other second innings wicket has gone to the Devonian giant Craig Overton). Somerset have quite a tradition of pace bowlers who love to give the ball a wallop – Sammy Woods, Arthur Wellard, Maurice Tremlett (grandfather of Chris, father of Tim), the one with whom we do not compare up and coming allrounders because it gives them an impossible benchmark and a few other lesser names, and Gregory with the development of his batting bids fair to join them. It would be a big ask for anyone to start out in an Ashes series, but I certainly hope that Gregory will be in the winter touring parties. George Bartlett failed in the Somerset first innings but may get a second chance, if Somerset bowl Surrey out.
  • Warwickshire v HampshireHampshire 354 and 186-3, Warwickshire 233.
    I suspect that Hampshire will be looking at batting until there is an hour to go in this day’s play before sticking Warwickshire back in to face a huge target in the fourth innings. The fact that they are going at over five an over in a four-day game tells me that they are looking very definitely at victory. Alsop made 150 in the first Hampshire innings, Sibley carried his bat through the Warwickshire first innings for his sixth century in as many matches. 23 year-old Oliver Soames scored 62 in the second Hampshire innings, 22 year-old Joe Weatherley 46, while Northeast and Rossouw are currently batting together.
  • Glamorgan v GloucestershireGlamorgan 250 and 184-1, Gloucestershire 463.
    Glamorgan are making a fight of this in their second innings, but probably need to bat until teatime tomorrow to save this one after conceding such a huge first innings deficit. Ryan Higgins matched James Bracey’s century in the Gloucestershire innings, while Hemphrey and Wagg made fifties in the Glamorgan first innings. Hemphrey has made another fifty in the second innings while Nicholas Selman is on 83 not out. 20 year-old offspinner George Drissell took 4-83 in the Glamorgan first innings.
  • Lancashire v NorthamptonshireNorthamptonshire 230 and 54-3, Lancashire 415.
    Lancashire are in control of this one. Jennings and Vilas each contributed 97 to the Lancashire first innings, while Luke Wood took 5-72. Temba Bavuma and Rob Keogh are batting together for Northamptonshire at present.
  • Middlesex v LeicestershireMiddlesex 349 and 147-8, Leicestershire 268.
    After taking a useful looking first innings lead Middlesex are making an utter Horlick’s of their second innings, giving Leicestershire a way back into the match. Sixties for Ackerman and Dearden were the principal scores for Leicestershire, while no one has reached 40 in the Middlesex second innings. Tom Taylor and Chris Wright each have three wickets.
  • Worcestershire v DurhamDurham 273 and 107-5, Worcestershire 390.
    Durham are deep in trouble in this one. A century for Wessels and 61 for 21 year old Some  helped Worcestershire to a substantial first innings lead. In the Durham second innings Burnham and Liam Trevaskis are together, the latter having picked up a wicket with his slow left-arm in the Worcestershire innings.

Essex have completed their win over Nottinghamshire. Westley fell for 49, but Dan Lawrence and the knight saw Essex home, the latter finishing with 40 not out. Jack Leach has just bagged a wicket with his slow-leftarmers, reducing Surrey to 43-3, a mere 24 runs on – defo looking good for Somerset.

PHOTOGRAPHS

Some of these photographs were taken at Tapping House where I had a physio session on Tuesday. All the exercises went well, highlighted by the arms only part of cycling, where I clocked up the equivalent of a mile in three minutes.

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These are the Tappin House shots…

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The last of the Tapping House shots.

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A moon in a daytime sky

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Another shot of the moon in a daytime sky.

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