Early Thoughts on The Hundred

A look at cricket’s newest format, The Hundred and some photographs.

It has been a while since I last posted here, and it is time to rectify that omission. The new cricket competition, The Hundred got underway on Thursday evening, and I now offer my early thoughts on it.

ABOUT THE HUNDRED

The Hundred differs from other formats of cricket in the following ways:

  • No overs – there are blocks of five balls, a bowler may bowl either five balls or 10 balls at a stretch depending on the captain’s decision, and the players change ends every 10 balls. The total innings duration is 100 balls per side, hence the name. Commentator Dan Norcross made an intriguing Paris Metro based suggestion for naming these blocks – tickets on that transport are purchasable in blocks of five or ten and the word for such a block is ‘carnet’, pronounced ‘Car-nay’.
  • Each bowler may bowl up to 20 balls in the course of the innings.
  • The fielding captain is permitted to take one strategic time out lasting two and a half minutes at any time after the first 25 balls.
  • The first 25 balls are a Power Play in which only two fielders may be placed more than 30 yards from the bat, while for the rest of the innings five may be placed deep
  • If the fielding side have not started the last set of five balls by a certain preset tine they are punished by being required to bring one extra fielder in close.

PROS AND CONS

Many readers will be aware that when it was first mooted I was strongly opposed to The Hundred. I still think that it is cluttering up an already overcrowded calendar, and still have concerns about the absolute marginalization of the county championship, and I also feel that some of those pushing this competition have been unnecessarily antagonistic towards existing fans in their search for new ones. However, it is here to stay, it is very enjoyable. Also, it has undoubtedly been a huge boon for women’s cricket, with the women’s games an integral part of the tournament rather than a sideshow. On Saturday over 21,000 spectators watched the two women’s games, being respectively the largest and second largest ever audiences for a women’s domestic game in this country.

SOME OF THE MATCHES

The highest score of the competition to date came from Jemimah Rodrigues, who with the top order crumbling around her so that the score at one point was 19-4 chasing 131 to win scored 94 not out off 42 balls to carry her side to victory. Alice Capsey, the youngest player involved in the tournament, lit up Lord’s on Saturday morning with a glorious 59 off 41 balls. Yesterday at Manchester saw a bowling dominated day – in the women’s match Birmngham Phoenix tallied 113 batting first, which proved enough to win by 20 runs. Then in the men’s match Phoenix became the first side to be bowled out inside 100 balls, managing a measly 87 off 86 balls. Matt Parkinson for the home side, the Manchester Originals, took 4-9 from 19 balls, finishing the innings by taking three in four balls including as good a ball as a bowler of his type can produce – pitched on leg stump it tilted the middle stump backwards. Just to ensure that the total would never trouble the Originals Phil Salt gave the reply a flying start with 22 off 11 balls, as half the required runs were knocked off in the 25 ball Power Play. Thereafter there was no way for Phoenix to apply any pressure, although Benny Howell, a crafty medium pacer, bowled well for them.

YOUNGSTERS TO THE FORE

At the same time as the new competition is going on, so is the Royal London Cup 50 overs per side competition. With so many first choice players not available to them the counties have had no option but to select quite a number of youngsters. Yesterday’s match between Yorkshire and Leicestershire saw Harry Duke at the age of 19 rack up his first professional century, helping his side to a convincing victory.

PHOTOGRAPHS

My usual sign off…

England’s New ODI Squad

My thoughts on the new ODI squad that England have had to select, and some photographs.

The original England ODI squad for the upcoming series against Pakistan has had to go into self isolation due to seven positive covid-19 tests among their number. A new squad, to be captained by Ben Stokes, who was originally being eased back from injury and had therefore not been called up. In this post I look at the new squad, and provide some thoughts on it. This is the worst disruption faced by England cricket in my lifetime, beating even that caused by the rebel tours of Apartheid South Africa in 1982 and 1989, and overall the ECB have handled it well.

THE NEW SQUAD

The 18 names in the new squad are as follows (courtesy of the ECB website):

Ben Stokes (Durham, captain)
Jake Ball (Nottinghamshire)
Danny Briggs (Warwickshire)
Brydon Carse (Durham)
Zak Crawley (Kent)
Ben Duckett (Nottinghamshire)
Lewis Gregory (Somerset)
Tom Helm (Middlesex)
Will Jacks (Surrey)
Dan Lawrence (Essex)
Saqib Mahmood (Lancashire)
Dawid Malan (Yorkshire)
Craig Overton (Somerset)
Matt Parkinson (Lancashire)
David Payne (Gloucestershire)
Phil Salt (Sussex)
John Simpson (Middlesex)
James Vince (Hampshire)

Most of these names are fairly uncontroversial in the circumstances. The strangest selection among the 18 is John Simpson, a good cricketer but not my idea of international quality. I am also mistrustful of James Vince, whose England record is not impressive. Brydon Carse is a hugely exciting selection – he is in the same pace bracket as his county colleague Mark Wood and can handle a bat. Danny Briggs has a good limited overs record but I would preferred to see Dan Moriarty capped.

The omission of Sam Hain who averages almost 60 and has a strike rate of 86 in List A cricket almost defies understanding. I would have liked to see a call up for the veteran Darren Stevens. Also the ECB would do themselves a favour if they actually fronted up and said in as many words that they will not pick Alex Hales – the announcement of this squad makes it clear what their actual attitude is and it is just silly to keep pretending that the door has not been shut on an England recall for him.

PICKING AN XI

This XI will almost certainly not happen, but this is the way I would from the selected squad:

My opening pair would be Will Jacks and Phil Salt, with the latter keeping wicket, while the former’s off spin may well enter the equation. At number three I would have Dawid Malan, batting in his best position. Dan Lawrence, needed on ground of prior international experience would bat four. Skipper Stokes gets the no5 slot. In view of the make up of the squad I would play Gregory at six, Carse at seven and Craig Overton at eight (all three can bat very effectively), David Payne whose left arm pace offers a variation would be at nine, with Mahmood and Parkinson rounding out the order.

England are by no means out of this series even after having to select a completely new squad just before it starts.

PHOTOGRAPHS

My usual sign off:

A “Rest XI”

In this post I envisage myself selecting a ‘Rest’ XI to play England in an old style ‘test trial’ match. One of my XI had played test cricket, but qualifies by virtue of not being official first choice for his position.

This post harks back to the days of ‘test trial’ matches, a common example of which was England v The Rest. In it I select, with explanations, my opposition XI if such a game was to played in the run up to the first test against New Zealand. There is one player in this XI who has test experience, while the rest have none. I also name a couple of reserves.

THE XI IN BATTING ORDER

Hassan Azad (Leics): Left handed opening batter, now averaging 43.89 in FC cricket, with five centuries at that level. His career best 144 not out came against Surrey this season, with his side needing to bat out the match to avoid an innings defeat, and his innings ensured that they accomplished that mission.

*Ricardo Vasconcelos (Northanmptonshire): Left handed opening batter, occasional keeper, captain. Two 150+ scores so far this season, one of them 185 not out in a monster run chase, have seen his FC average move above 40. Although both openers are left handed Vasconcelos is much more attacking than Azad who is very much a sticker.

Tom Abell (Somerset): Right handed batter, occasional right arm medium pacer. He has contributed significant knocks to all three of Somerset’s wins so far this season. Somerset have opted for three Toms at the top of their order this season, Lammonby and Banton opening and Abell at three. Lammonby has struggled so far in this, his first full FC season, having been touted as an England possible based on 459 runs at 51.00 with three centuries from his first six FC matches and is at present further from England consideration than he was at the start of the season, though that could easily change. Banton is miscast as a first class opener – he has a fine record opening the batting in short form cricket, but has not looked anything approaching convincing opening against the red ball. My own feeling is that if he is going to make the grade in first class cricket it will be batting somewhere in the middle of the order rather than at the top.

Matt Critchley (Derbyshire): Right handed batter, leg spinner. He has been in good form lately, although his county are not faring especially well.

+Ben Foakes (Surrey): Right handed batter, wicket keeper. I include him in this side because officially he is not England’s first choice test keeper, due to the continuing indulgence of Jos Buttler. Buttler is one of England’s finest ever white ball batters and a decent keeper, but in red ball cricket he should not be keeping Foakes out.

Lewis Goldsworthy (Somerset): Right handed batter, left arm orthodox spinner. The very definition of a bolter, with one FC appearance to his name. However, his performance in the fourth innings when he and Steven Davies steered Somerset home with them having been in some trouble showed that he has a superb temperament.

Ryan Higgins (Gloucestershire): Right handed batter, right arm medium fast bowler. After 42 first class appearances he has 1,965 runs at 33.87 and 151 wickets at 20.84. In Gloucestershire’s last game (see here) he took a good haul of wickets and played a crucial cameo innings that put his team ahead of the clock, enabling them to bring home a superb run chase. For my money, with Ben Stokes crocked, Cap 698 should be his.

Oliver Edward Robinson (Sussex): Right arm medium fast bowler, right handed lower order batter. Before I get on to his record a point of clarification: there are two Oliver Robinsons playing county cricket at present, and both like to go by Ollie, so when writing about them I use full names to make it clear which one I am talking about – Oliver Edward Robinson is the bowler and useful lower order batter who plays for Sussex and Oliver Graham Robinson is the keeper/batter who plays for Kent. Our Ollie Rpbinson, the Sussex bowler, has 270 FC wickets at 21.22 and has also scored 1,570 FC runs at 21.50, putting his averages just the right way round (credit balance 0.28). This season he achieved a new career best innings figures of 9-78 (match 14-135). He was rested for Sussex’s last outing to manage his workload, which suggests that an England cap is very much on the table (I have him down for number 699 as we are currently at 697 and Robinson comes after Higgins in the alphabet).

Jack Carson (Sussex): Off spinner, right handed lower order batter. The 20 year old has played eight first class matches, in which he 33 wickets at 22.03 a piece. He is a future prospect rather than someone likely to feature immediately – Jack Leach is first choice spinner, and England probably won’t select two for a home test, while Australia is not traditionally the happiest of hunting grounds for England off spinners, so the earliest time he is remotely likely to figure is summer 2022, but I would want a look at him in a game of above county standard anyway..

Saqib Mahmood (Lancashire): Right arm fast medium bowler. Until now, while possessing plenty of bowling variety this side his not offered up any real pace, and the young Lancastrian provides that. He has had some international white ball experience but has yet to receive a test cap.

Matt Parkinson (Lancashire): Leg spinner. 80 wickets at 23.53 in FC cricket for the young leg spinner, including a career best 7-126 this season to inflict an innings defeat on Kent. Unlikely to feature in tests this summer unless Leach gets injured, but absolutely should travel to Australia for The Ashes, and although I believe nos 698 and 699 are spoken for, Cap no 700 could be his.

This side has decent batting depth, with everyone down to no8 capable of significant contributions, a wealth of bowling options: three front line seamers of differing styles in Mahmood, Robinson and Higgins, with Abell available as fourth seamer if needed, a leg spinner, an off spinner and a left arm orthodox spinner, with Critchley’s leg spin also a legitimate bowling option. It also has the best keeper currently in the business, since he is not officially his country’s first choice. Now for the…

RESERVES

I am naming three reserves, an opening batter, a bowler who can bat well and a spinner:

Sam Evans (Leicestershire): Right handed opening batter. Azad’s regular opening partner, and really coming to the party this season as well.

Craig Overton (Somerset): Right arm fast medium bowler, right handed lower middle order batter. He has already played four test matches, but has been out of favour after struggling at that level. This season he has found a yard of pace from somewhere which gives his bowling genuine menace, and he has been scoring important runs as well. His FC averages are just the wrong way round, 21 with the bat and 23 with the ball, but he should be on the radar, hence my naming him among the reserves.

Sophie Ecclestone (Lancashire): left arm orthodox spinner. She has 106 wickets in Women’s international cricket across the formats at an average of 19.41 each, and is only 21 years of age. I for one would like to see her given her chance to play alongside the men, and to keep that thought in people’s minds I mention her here.

Feel free to use the comments to indicate who you would pick for a side of this nature.

PHOTOGRAPHY

Just a few pics today (the weather has not been conducive to photography in the last couple of days)…

County Championship Round Four Preview

A preview of the Championship games starting tomorrow and a bumper crop of photographs.

This post looks ahead to the county championship matches that get underway tomorrow. The competition is organized in an unusual way this year: the counties have been arranged in three groups of six, and will play an opening league stage of 10 rounds, after which there will be a split into three divisions, featuring the top two from each group, the middle two from each group and the bottom two from each group. For the teams who were in the same groups half points will be carried forward into this final stage, which will comprise four further matches. The leading side in the first division at the end of all this will become County Champions, and they and second place will play off for the Bob Willis Trophy.

GROUP ONE

Derbyshire v Nottinghamshire: The ‘Brian Clough Way’ Derby. The main road linking these two east midland cities is now named in honour of Brian Clough who had his greatest successes as a football manager in the two cities concerned. Neither side are going particularly well this year, and Nottinghamshire are without a first class victory since 2018. Many eyes will be on Haseeb Hameed of Nottinghamshire to see if he can kick on from scoring twin centuries last time out, but someone else who definitely merits some attention is Derbyshire’s leg spinning all rounder Matt Critchley.

Worcestershire v Essex: Essex will be looking to rebound from their loss to Warwickshire, and Simon Harmer will have been stung by going wicketless on a fourth day pitch in that game. Dan Lawrence will be looking to score some big runs for Essex.

Durham v Warwickshire: Warwickshire will be looking to build on their success against Essex last time out. Robert Yates will want to prove that his unbeaten ton in that match was not a one off, and Sam Hain is also one to watch.

GROUP TWO

Gloucestershire v Leicestershire: Gloucestershire won their first two games and held out for a draw against Hampshire in the third and most recent. That game saw the last pair defy Hampshire for over an hour to secure the draw. Hassan Azad will be looking for runs for Leicestershire to further bolster his England credentials. With an all rounder needed for England Gloucestershire’s Ryan Higgins will be looking to to continue his fine start to the season.

Somerset v Middlesex: The Lee family clash (Harry Lee was a Middlesex opener of long ago, and his brothers Frank, later a test umpire, and Jack both played for Somerset, and there was one occasion one the scorebook feature all three brothers on one line – Harry was caught by Jack off the bowling of Frank). The reverse of this game was played in round one and Somerset won, a result they will keen to duplicate on their own patch. Tom Lammonby will be looking to continue the rehabilitation from a poor run that his unbeaten 70 in the last match started. Several Somerset bowlers have fared well this season. Ethan Bamber has been impressive with the ball for Middlesex, and Luke Hollman, a leg spin bowling all rounder who is just starting out could well be worth watching.

Surrey v Hampshire: The Phil Mead clash (the dour left hander failed to make the grade at Surrey but moved to Hampshire and set records for the most runs (48,809) and most centuries (138) made by anyone for a single first class side). Ollie Pope and Ben Foakes have both made runs to start this season and will be looking to continue that trend, while Amar Virdi will want to put down a marker given the successes other spinners have been having early this season.

GROUP THREE

Glamorgan v Kent: Indifferent starts for both of these sides. Zak Crawley will be looking to get among the runs for Kent. Kiran Carlson has had one fabulous match for Glamorgan this season.

Yorkshire v Northamptonshire: David Willey, who played for Northamptonshire earlier in his career may feature for Yorkshire. Dom Bess who took six wickets in the final innings of Yorkshire’s last game, in which they beat Sussex, will be looking to continue his revival. For Northamptonshire the obvious one to watch is Ricardo Vasconcelos, with two 150+ scores to his name already this season.

Lancashire v Sussex: First against third in the group. Matt Parkinson will be looking to continue his massively impressive start to the season. For Sussex Oliver Edward Robinson will be looking to underline his England credentials by producing something at a test match venue, and left arm pacer George Garton could well be part of England’s plans, especially if he plays well.

FOLLOWING THE ACTION

It will not be possible for fans to watch these games at the grounds, although it is my understanding that we are only a few weeks away from that happening. Commentaries on all games will be available via www.bbc.co.uk/cricket – click the ‘live county cricket’ button and scroll across to select your commentary, livestreams are available via the county websites and youtube, and for extra detail you can keep a cricinfo.com tab open with your chosen game selected.

PHOTOGRAPHS

I have lots of photographs to end this post…

Significant Performances From The Championship

A look at some of the more significant performances in the last round out of county championship matches, and some photographs.

This post looks at several very significant performances in the round of County Championship matches the concluded yesterday. The action ended when Hampshire accepted that even if they captured the last Gloucestershire wicket they could not knock the runs off in the time remaining. Worcestershire and Nottinghamshire also drew, as did Durham and Derbyshire. Warwickshire, Northamptonshire, Yorkshire and Lancashire all completed victories to go with those obtained by Somerset and Middlesex yesterday.

SIGNIFICANT INDIVIDUAL PERFORMANCES

David Bedingham was the chief architect of Dutham’s big total against Derbyshire. Durham were guilty of being over=cautious thereafter, first declining to enforce the follow on after a fine bowling effort from Chris Rushworth and then batting on until they were 384 ahead before declaring. Derbyshire were never in serious danger of defeat because of these tactics. Bedingham now averages of 50 in first class cricket, after 40 appearances at that level.

Worcestershire did make Nottinghamshire follow on, but had to settle for a draw. Haseeb Hameed, who had already scored 111 in Notts’ first innings 276 and Ben Slater each reached 114 not out, as with eight extras in there, Notts reached 236-0 in their second innings before the two sides accepted the draw. It would be premature to talk about Hameed in England terms after one tremendous match following several years in the wilderness, but it is good to see him making runs once again.

Somerset’s win over Leicestershire featured important performances from four players: Craig Overton with eight wickets in the match, and Jack Leach with five very economical ones were both hugely impressive with the ball, Overton seeming to have found some extra pace from somewhere to answer one of the criticisms that have been made of him. Tom Abell made runs in both innings, and Tom Lammonby, after a shocking start to the season scored an unbeaten 70 in the final innings to lead his side to a nine wicket win.

Warwickshire chased down a significant total in the fourth innings against Essex, including denying Simon Harmer any wickets. Robert Yates, a promising youngster, anchored the chase with an undefeated 120, supported chiefly by Indian international Hanuma Vihari and Sam Hain, a definite England prospect.

Northamptonshire chased down over 350 to beat Glamorgan, and the principal architect of that successful chase was Ricardo Vasconcelos, who produced his second 150+ score of the season – a new career best of 185 not out.

I have saved to the last the performance I rate highest of the lot. Lancashire beat Kent by an innings. This outcome was set up by an astonishing lower order turnaround that saw 190-6 become 525 all out, with nos 8 and 9 each scoring centuries, and the key architect of the subsequent victory was leg spinner Matt Parkinson, who after an economical first innings performance that yielded him two wickets took a career best seven in the second Kent innings. At high water mark in that second innings Kent were 305-4 and looked well capable of saving the game, but Parkinson, supported by Danny Lamb (whose sister Emma also had a big day out yesterday, with a ton and a wicket for Lancashire Women) ensured that Lancashire got the result their superiority merited. Parkinson’s match figures 9-164 (2-38, 7-126, the latter resulting from 52 overs of bowling) mean that he now has 77 FC wickets at 23.58, and even if he does not play a home test this season he must surely be in the Ashes party as one of the two first choice spinners alongside Leach.

Please feel free to use the comments to mention significant performances that you feel I have overlooked – this has been a particularly impressive set of games.

PHOTOGRAPHS

My usual sign off…

County Championship Clashes

A look at the state of play as the third round of county championship fixtures approach their conclusion, a solutiion to yesterday’s teaser and some photographs.

The third round of matches in the 2021 County Championship is drawing towards a close. My focus for the present is the battle between Lancashire and Kent, but before I get to that, I have few details to clear up from the three matches that are already done and dusted.

THE CONCLUDED GAMES

In yesterday’s post I mentioned that Middlesex had beaten Surrey, and Somerset were poised to beat Leicestershire. That game duly ended in a nine wicket win for Somerset, Lammonby ending his horror start to the season with an unbeaten 70, which means that he now has 542 first class runs at 38.71 per innings. Those who called for his immediate elevation to the test match ranks based on six FC matches were overhyping a good young cricketer, and those who ruled him out completely based on his poor start to this season were judging over hastily in a knee-jerk reaction to the previous overhyping. The game between Sussex and Yorkshire took a dramatic turn yesterday evening, with Dominic Bess getting among the wickets, and this morning Yorkshire completed the victory that Bess’ bowling last night set up for them. This is a reassuring sign that Bess is rediscovering form and confidence after events of this winter.

THE FEATURE GAME

This one has been a remarkable game – Kent put Lancashire in had the latter 190-6 at one point. Nos 8 and 9, Wood and Lamb, both scored centuries as the last four wickets produced 335 further runs. Kent then slumped to a 169 all out and Lancashire, with an advantage of 356 had no hesitation in sending Kent in again. Kent batted better second time round, and one point were 305-4 with Kuhn and Denly both seeming set. Then Danny Lamb struck twice to remove both set batters, and Parkinson has subsequently claimed the wickets of Darren Stevens (who was playing FC cricket before the leg spinner had even been born) and Matt Milnes to take his tally for the inning to five. Kent are now 334-8, still needing 22 to avoid the innings defeat. Parkinson has 5-115 and is into his 43rd over of the innings.

SIBLING RIVALRY?

Danny Lamb with his century and his wickets today has had a superb match, and he is not the only one of his family in that position today: his sister Emma scored a century for Lancashire Women today.

THE OTHER MATCHES

Worcestershire v Nottinghamshire: Worcestershire 436, Nottinghamshire 276 and 195-0. This one looks like a draw, batting an almighty collapse by Notts. Ben Slater has just completed a century, and Haseeb Hameed is closing in on what will be his second hundred of the match.

Warwickshire v Essex: Essex 295 and 244, Warwickshire 284 and 126-1. Warwickshire need 129 more with nine wickets standing. This has all the hallmarks of a fine finish and may well be my next port of call after the game I am currently listening to has finished. Warwickshire seem to be favourites but Essex have a potential trump card in Simon Harmer, the best spinner currently playing in the championship, who may yet send the midlanders into a tail spin. Hanuma Vihari, the Indian who is currently Warwickshire’s overseas player and Robert Yates, a promising youngster, both have half centuries to their name.

Northamptonshire v Glamorgan: Glamorgan 407 and 311-5 declared, Northamptonshire 364 and 170-2. Northamptonshire 185 more runs with eight wickets standing. Time may spoil this one, but it is looking like a classic at the moment, with Vasconcelos on 87 not out Rob Keogh 53 not out. Vasconcelos is now qualified for England, although he was born in South Africa and is of Portuguese ancestry (he is rivalled in this regard by Athanasios John Traicos, born in Egypt, to Greek parents and played for South Africa and Zimbabwe).

Durham v Derbyshire: Durham 475 and 175-2 declared, Derbyshire 267 and 180-3. Derbyshire need 204 more to win with seven wickets standing. Has Durham’s refusal to enforce the follow-on cost them their chance of winning this game? Derbyshire probably do not have enough time left to get the runs, but don’t seem to be in any great trouble. Wayne Madsen has just reached a 50, and Matt Critchley, who also bowls leg spin, is unbeaten on 40.

Hampshire v Gloucestershire: Hampshire 470, Gloucestershire 320 and 126-4. The draw is a clear favourite here, but credit to Hampshire for going for it by enforcing the follow on. Gloucs still need 24 to avoid the innings defeat and another couple of wickets quickly would certainly have them on the edge of their seats. Ian Cockbain is 34 not out, and Ryan Higgins has 10 not out.

None of the above matches is absolutely certain to end in a draw, and only two matches out of nine finished with more than a day to spare, which tells me that these games have been excellent and that the pitches have been well prepared for the format of the games.

SOLUTION TO A TEASER

Yesterday I posted this from brilliant.org:

The answer is that you should not play the game. Below is Shashank Tiwari’s published solution, and for more on the problem please click here.

PHOTOGRAPHS

My usual sign off…

It is tea on day four, and in the game I am following Kent are 345-8, needing 11 to avoid the innings defeat. Kent need to bat at least another hour to have any chance of saving the game.

Championship Performances of Promise

A look at some of the more important success stories from this round of county championship games and a bumper crop of photographs.

As this round of county championship matches heads towards its conclusion (three are already settled – congratulations to Essex, Gloucestershire and Hampshire on their wins) I highlight several performances of potential interest to England.

While Ollie Pope dominated Surrey’s massive total against Leicestershire with his 245 there were also useful runs for Jamie Smith (119) and far more significantly for Ben Foakes (87), who should feature as England’s test wicket keeper.

For Leicestershire, Hassan Azad, mentioned as a candidate for an opening berth (Burns remains under some scrutiny after his winter, and Sibley is injured and may not be fit for the first test, while Lammonby is struggling horrendously after a fine start to his FC career) made a century in the first innings and is well on the way to doubling up. As things stand at the moment he is averaging 44.84 in FC cricket, while playing his 31st match at that level.

In the west country derby Ryan Higgins had a fine match, and with there being a possible vacancy for an all rounder with Stokes injured and Woakes playing in the IPL that could prove significant. Of more definite significance is the performance of James Bracey – a century and an 82 not out in the second innings. He has been part of the England set up but has yet to play a test match.

Finally, Matt Parkinson for Lancashire has produced a good bowling performance. He took 3-49 in the first innings, including a pretty good impression of the ‘Gatting ball’ and already has 2-23 in the second as Lancashire press for victory (Northamptonshire can do no better than a draw from here). His five wickets in this match have taken his bowling average in FC cricket below 25 (currently 67 wickets at 24.42). He remains #2 to Leach among current England spinners, although he is now paying less per wicket than Leach in FC cricket, because Leach has over 300 wickets to his credit at FC level and is faring respectably at test level, but he may well be earning himself a trip to Australia as an accredited member of the party rather than a ‘reserve’ as was over the winter just gone.

Oliver Edward Robinson of Sussex, definitely a candidate for elevation, has just recorded innings figures of 9-78, giving him 13-128 in the match. If England want five bowling options, Higgins at seven, Robinson at eight, one out and out speedster, Leach and one of Broad/ Anderson could work well, Higgins and Robinson have decent batting credentials.

PHOTOGRAPHS

I have lots of photographs to share with you…

Suggestions For Tomorrow’s Deciding ODI

A look ahead to tomorrow’s final ODI between India and England, some photographs and the resumption of one of NAS West Norfolk’s activities.

The main body of this post is devoted to looking at what England should do in terms of selection for tomorrow’s final match of the tour of India.

THE BATTING

Morgan remains unavailable, though Billings could be picked. Personally although most of the work was done by Bairstow and Stokes I think that both Malan and Livingstone did enough to warrant continued selection, so I would not recall Billings. I believe an element of flexibility is needed after the 1,2,3 – if the second wicket goes before over 30 then either Malan (if Stokes is second out) or Livingstone (if both openers are out, meaning that the left handed Stokes is still in) come in at no4. If the second wicket goes after over 30 then skipper Buttler should promote himself and treat it like a T20.

THE BOWLING

Tom Curran has to go – he is not quick, he does not take many wickets and he is not exceptionally economical. I hope Wood will be fit, in which case he plays. Also, Adil Rashid has not been impressive, and Matt Parkinson has been in bio-secure bubbles since January for no cricket, so for my money he has to play. Reece Topley did quite enough to retain his place, so he rounds out the bowling options.

THE XI IN BATTING ORDER

Bear in mind the caveats in the section about the batting, and that therefore this is a ‘likely’, not a ‘set’ batting order:

  1. Jason Roy
  2. Jonny Bairstow
  3. Ben Stokes
  4. Liam Livingstone
  5. Dawid Malan
  6. *+Jos Buttler
  7. Moeen Ali
  8. Sam Curran
  9. Mark Wood
  10. Reece Topley
  11. Matt Parkinson

PHOTOGRAPHS

This usual sign off has a variation to it: today for the first time in over a year an NAS West Norfolk activity happened: music therapy at the scout hut on Beulah Street. This was organized in two 45 minute sessions, and at no time were there more than four people in the room, which is a very large room, and the back door was open to keep it properly ventilated (and with a classic Norfolk ‘lazy wind’ – can’t be bothered going round you, so it goes straight through you – blowing outside I can tell you that the place was most definitely properly ventilated!). Explanation complete, it is finally time for the photographs…

England’s Test Tours

A look at England’s tests in 2021 and forward to the future. Also a very important petition and a related post on Tax Research UK and some deserved mentions of successes by Women’s cricket teams.

This post looks back at the six test matches England have played in India and Sri Lanka and forward to the future.

THE STORY IN BRIEF

England won both matches in Sri Lanka against a side with a very unthreatening bowling attack, although there were warning signs in the form of Embuldeniya, a left arm orthodox spinner who caused England such problems as they experienced on that tour. In India England started with a victory in the first match, but then lost three in a row as their problems against spin on turning pitches were cruelly exposed. English cricket officialdom has a phobia of turning tracks, as shown by the punishment recently inflicted on Somerset. This combined with the fact that a large proportion of English first class cricket is confined to the margins of the season means that there are not many really good spinners in the game and that in consequence the batters rarely face much if any spin. Anyone shown Axar Patel’s figures in this series and not told who had recorded them would be forgiven for thinking it was Hedley Verity or Derek Underwood operating on rain affected pitches. There were other causes of problems besides this…

ROTATION POLICY AND POOR SELECTIONS

Some element of rotation was going to be necessary due to the circumstances in which these test matches were being played, but I think England took things too far in that regard, and the side became unsettled as a result. In particular the handling of the Moeen Ali/ Dom Bess situation was shocking. England had planned to play Moeen Ali for both Sri Lankan matches and the first two matches in India before resting him prior to the limited overs element of the Indian tour. Had that plan been operable it might have made sense, though Moeen Ali’s test record is unconvincing to put mildly. As it was he caught Covid and by the time he had recovered and quarantined himself for the required period the only match he would be available for was the second of the Indian series. Bess had not bowled especially well but had been picking up wickets, and the logical thing to do in the changed circumstances was send Moeen home earlier than intended and play Bess straight through or promote one of Parkinson or Virdi from the reserves. Moeen Ali was rushed into the XI for that one match, and on brute figures had a decent game, capturing eight wickets and scoring 49 runs. The problem was that most of the good things he did came after he had virtually bowled England out of contention by conceding 94 runs from his first 20 overs on a pitch that was offering assistance to spinners from the start of the game. In selecting Moeen Ali England had directed some harsh words in Bess’ direction (doubtless some even harsher ones in private than the ones we heard about), and then after the game they tried to persuade Moeen Ali to stay on, abandoning his plans to visit his family in England, and allowed this to become public knowledge. Then, still reluctant to promote Parkinson or Virdi, and unwilling to risk Bess, they went into the third match of the series with three specialist quicks plus Stokes and only Leach as a front line spinner. Inexplicably Chris Woakes was also entirely ignored, though with the party the entire time, and he was sent home after the third test. England then had a massive knee jerk reaction to the humiliating defeat they suffered in that third match and brought Bess back, and also brought Lawrence in to strengthen the batting, going into the game with three specialist bowlers plus Stokes. Lawrence had a fine match, showing fight in both innings to amass 46 and 50, but apart from Stokes (55 in the first innings, four wickets), and Anderson, who was his usual self and therefore always formidable, and with a nod to the ever reliable Leach who toiled hard with the ball, basically no one else did. Bairstow, a flawed selection, as I pointed out in December when rumours of a test recall for him first surfaced, needed a bit of luck to make 28 in the first innings and gave his wicket away first ball in the second to one of the softest dismissals in test history. The other problem besides basic disruption and his own inadequate performances with the selection of Bairstow was that he pretty much replaced Burns, which forced Crawley up to open, when the latter has done his best test work from no3.

One or other of Parkinson or Virdi, with a preference for the former, since as a leg spinner he brings something new to the team, should have been promoted from the reserves to partner Leach, rather than the obviously untrusted Bess being recalled. The treatment of Olly Stone, who bowled well in the second match on a surface that did not suit him in the slightest and was thereafter resolutely ignored is also hard to fathom.

LOOKING TO THE FUTURE

In terms of the batting two things have happened this tour that are of any significance: Lawrence has surely moved ahead of Pope, who seems to have regressed from the good start he made to his test career, in the pecking order, and Bairstow must finally have blown one opportunity too many for even this England management to recall him to the test ranks, though he remains an integral part of the white ball set up. Leach is now established as first choice spinner, and given the unlikeliness of any English test pitch warranting the selection of two specialist spinners (I would put such a pitch being prepared in England rather below a meteorite strike in the betting stakes), and the fact that the next tour is Australia where English off spinners have not fared well (see here for some detail on the spin options in England’s successful Ashes tour parties) I am looking at Leach as sole spinner for the home summer, and Leach and Parkinson as spinners for Australia (unless England go the radical route of inviting Sophie Ecclestone to plat alongside the men). Virdi may well merit an England call up as well, but probably not for Australia. Bess needs to have at least one seriously good season for his new county, Yorkshire, before his credentials can even be considered again, so should not be a factor in England terms before the 2022 home season at the earliest.

Unless someone has a string of superb performances at the top of a county order to start the season I do not see much point introducing another newcomer to the batting order – chronically ill equipped though they were to handle India’s spinners these batters are by and large the best available to England at present. I might consider Buttler as a specialist batter, but he has been so indulged by the England management in recent times that I refuse to officially nominate him for one of my teams. In view of the fact that Anderson and Broad need to be rotated to some degree, and that I prefer not to have four out and out tailenders in the team my XI for the first test of the home season if nothing significant changes mean time would thus be something like: Sibley, Burns, Crawley, *Root, Stokes, Lawrence, +Foakes, Woakes, Stone, Leach, Anderson. Archer or Wood if fit and firing could replace Stone, though I would like to see the latter given a proper chance, and similarly Broad may play instead of Anderson if conditions seem likely to favour him. Woakes in England is a formidable all round cricketer, and as indicated earlier in this piece he may well have proved useful at times in India had he been given the chance.

Among those who may force their way into contention in the not too distant future are Tom Abell and Tom Lammonby of Somerset, Sam Hain of Warwickshire, Liam Livingstone of Lancashire and Haseeb Hameed of Nottinghamshire. Ben Coad may claim a bowling slot (he pays about 20 per wicket in FC cricket, but England have plenty of pace bowling options). Jordan Cox is an outside chance if he can prove the double century he scored against Sussex last season was not just a one off. Lewis Goldsworthy, a left arm orthodox spin bowling all rounder, may make some sort of mark for Somerset with Leach on England duty. He has yet to play first class cricket but impressed at the Under 19 World Cup last year and has a decent record in the handful of T20s he has played for Somerset. It is also possible that Liam Patterson-White (bowling average 21.00 from five FC games) and Dan Moriarty (17 wickets at just under 21 each from two first class games) will prove that their currently impressive bowling averages are not freaks.

LINKS AND PHOTOGRAPHS

My first link is to a petition calling on the government to award NHS nurses a 12.5% pay rise. To sign this you have to be a UK citizen or resident. If you are please do so. A screenshot is below:

My second link is related to the above, being to a blog post by Richard Murphy of Tax Research UK that started life as a twitter thread, in which he takes Johnson to task for his derisory 1% offer. The start of what is a longish piece is shown below:

Finally congratulations to the England Women’s team who completed a clean sweep of the T20Is in New Zealand to go with their earlier triumph in the ODI series. Katherine Brunt was Player of the Match, while Tammy Beaumont, as in the ODI leg of the tour, was named Player of the Series. Also, South Africa Women won the first ODI of their series in India, with Laura Wolvaardt making a fine 80. Now it is time for my usual sign off…

England XI For Thursday

A suggested England XI for the fourth and final test of the current series, which starts on Thursday. Also a couple of important links and some photographs.

I suggested an England XI for the fourth and final test of the India v England series in my post about the end of the third match. Since then Chris Woakes has gone home, which eliminates one of my chosen XI and I have concluded that a couple of specialist pace bowlers are actually required. Therefore I am presenting a new XI here, with a couple of possible variations noted.

THE SERIES SCENARIO AND SELECTION POLICIES

With England’s hopes of winning the series and of qualifying for the World Test Championship both up in smoke and series levelling victory serving only to usher Australia into the WTC final I am thinking that a degree of experimentalism is called for. In my view, with Root able to bowl respectable off spin it is more valuable if the second specialist spinner can bowl leg spin, giving a new variation to the attack.

THE BATTING

Dan Lawrence struggled at number three and should not be asked to bat there again for some while. Jonathan Bairstow, 2021 vintage, does not belong in a test match squad, let alone first XI. Thus the question is whether one goes with a top three of Sibley, Burns and Crawley or whether one promotes Stokes in the hope that his experience stiffens the top part of the order. With this the last test of the series and a home summer followed by an Ashes series down under next up I opt in this case for the top three that is likeliest to feature there rather than promote Stokes. With Stokes not being promoted the nos four and five slots are spoken for – Root and Stokes. Pope deserves to stay on in the middle order, with apologies to Dan Lawrence who has had the rough end of the stick this tour, and Foakes will keep. I might consider trying Foakes at six and Pope at seven as Pope is more likely to able to score fast with the tail, but they definitely occupy those two slots in some order. Thus our 1,2,3,4,5,6,7 will be either Sibley, Burns, Crawley, *Root, Stokes, Pope +Foakes or Sibley, Burns, Crawley, *Root, Stokes, +Foakes, Pope.

THE BOWLING

With an eye to the future and also wishing to see something that has not yet been tried I conclude that both veterans should be rested for this one, and also that Archer who has been underwhelming in his outings so far should miss out, naming Wood (who bowled well in SL) and Stone (who bowled well in the second test of this series), opting for two out and out speedsters. Leach holds his place, and rather than Bess I recommend a promotion from the reserves for Parkinson. My 8,9,10,11 is therefore Wood, Stone, Leach, Parkinson. The full XI is encapsulated in the infographic below:

LINKS AND PHOTOGRAPHS

First up, courtesy of twitter (in this case Trisha Greenhalgh) here is an infographic about masks (link to original here):

Then, as a segue into my usual sign off, a petition calling for new law to protect nature, which you can sign and share from here (screenshot of petition text, from e-activist.com is below):

https://e-activist.com/page/75310/petition/1?ea.tracking.id=email&utm_source=&utm_medium=email&utm_term=&utm_content=2&utm_campaign=

Now, it is time for those photographs…