Today has seen confirmation that the final of the World Test Championship will take place at The Ageas Bowl, and this is my response to that news.
Today saw confirmation that the first final of the World Test Championship, between India and New Zealand will take place at the Ageas Bowl, near Southampton. The match is scheduled for 18-22 June. The question had been whether it could be staged at Lord’s or not.
THE PROS AND CONS
From a purely cricketing point of view the Ageas Bowl is a superior venue to Lord’s – it will produce a good pitch on which cricketer’s of all types will be able to get into the game, whereas it would only take one overcast day at Lord’s for the match to settled in favour of whoever was bowling at the time, and spinners would find little assistance at any stage of proceedings.
Of course, from a historical and emotional point of view Lord’s, the home of cricket, would have been far superior to the Ageas Bowl.
However, heretical as it will seem to many devoted cricket followers, I would never have had Lord’s in the equation, for all its history and status as a ground – had I been going for a London venue, for which I can see the logic, I would have preferred The Oval, a ground with a grand history in it’s own right, and far more likely to provide a really good match than Lord’s.
As it is, I expect a cracking game between these two sides.
WHY THE AGEAS BOWL?
The Ageas Bowl is one of two grounds in England, the other being Old Trafford, to have hotel built into it, meaning that if the health situation warrants it can easily be turned into a bio-secure bubble, as it was last summer. For all the Prime Minister’s optimism regarding the health situation and his so called ‘road map out of lockdown’, Chris Whitty has been sounding a much more cautious note, and I for one trust him more than I do Johnson. So it seems do the cricketing powers that be who came to this decision.
To put it mildly my expectation is that ordinary spectators will not have to worry about getting there in any case, although it is possible that they will be allowed. The Ageas bowl has a reputation for not being accessible, and there is some justice in that. I did a bit of research based on a hypothetical journey from my home in North Lynn to the Ageas bowl and it went as follows:
Use of google maps revealed that the nearest train station to the ground is Southampton Airport Parkway.
If one can be at that station by 9:27AM there is a bus that runs to the ground and would arrive at 9:45AM. Otherwise, one either has a seriously long walk (over an hour, and not terribly pleasant either by the look of it), or one has to fork out for a taxi on top of other expenses (this is a station serving an airport, so taxis will be available, but doubtless at a premium price).
To arrive at Southampton Airport Parkway at 9:27 I would have to be on the 5:39 train out of Lynn, which means leaving my bungalow by 5:15 at the latest, I would then have to change at King’s Cross to the Victoria line, board a mainline train at Victoria and change at Clapham Junction to the train that calls at Southampton Airport Parkway. If and only if all of these connections worked as they are supposed to I would arrive at Southampton Airport Parkway at 9:13, giving me 14 minutes to be aboard the bus. With four stages at which things could go wrong this hypothetical journey would be a colossal (and doubtless expensive) gamble.
NB it is notoriously difficult to get from Southampton town centre itself to the ground, so at least to that extent my methodology, anchoring to Southampton Airport Parkway, is sound.
HOW THE MATCH SHOULD BE APPROACHED
This is a one-off match, with no ‘rest of the series’ or ‘league table position’ to be thought about, so both sides should look askance at the very idea of a draw and should be eager to force a definite result. I would personally favour allowing extra days, or even making this officially the 100th timeless test ever to be played, and the first such since WWII, in order that we do have a definite winner. In the Centenary Test Match of 1977 Mike Brearley ordered his side to keep going for an unlikely final innings target of 463, even though a defeat was the likely outcome of so doing, and stuck to that intent even going into the final session with 110 needed and only five wickets standing. England ultimately lost by 45 runs, the same result and margin as the inaugural test match 100 years earlier, but Brearley was right to scorn the draw in a one-off match. Brearley talks about the match in “The Art of Captaincy”, while Greg Chappell (Aussie skipper in the match in question) covers it in some detail in “The 100th Summer”.
It being Monday, today’s exploration on the ‘all time’ cricket XI theme looks at an international unit, in this case New Zealand.
Welcome to the latest in my series of ‘all time XI’ themed posts. Today being a Monday we are looking at an international outfit, and under the spotlight today is the land of the long white cloud (actually more often the land of the the thick black cloud) New Zealand.
NEW ZEALAND IN MY LIFETIME
John Wright – right handed opening batter. He was the first Kiwi to reach the landmark of 5,000 test runs. He was at one time successful for Derbyshire as well.
Bryan Young – right handed opening batter. He came late to this role but performed it conscientiously and successfully when the time came.
*Stephen Fleming – left handed top order batter, excellent captain. A successful captain and a big run scorer, though a stickler would point the relative dearth of centuries in his record.
Martin Crowe – right handed middle order batter. He scored almost 20,000 first class runs. His elder brother Jeff also played for NZ, though not so successfully. The other family link is that world famous actor Russell Crowe is a cousin. Martin Crowe’s maiden test century, against England in the 1983-4 series was the key innings that inspired his team to save a game that England has been bossing – Coney then made 174 not out and Lance Cairns played a useful supporting knock at the end. Against Sri Lanka, facing a huge first innings deficit he shared a New Zealand record partnership for any wicket with Andrew Jones, making 299 himself as the Kiwis reached safety on 671-4. He was unfortunate to find himself in the midst of a vicious controversy when Somerset named as overseas player in preference to either of the two West Indians Viv Richards and Joel Garner, which prompted the acrimonious departure from the club of Ian Botham.
Ken Rutherford – right handed batter – his test batting career got off to a start that might have made a tail ender blush, but he ended up with a fine record, and was also a good captain for a period.
+BJ Watling – wicket keeper and gritty middle order batter. He is the pivot of this side, and I have good cause to know just how dangerous he is – it was a long innings by him that out New Zealand in control of England’s last series there, a position they never relinquished.
Amelia Kerr – leg spinner and right handed middle order bat. My pick is the genuine all rounder. As is all too common with the best female players she has not had the opportunity to show what she can do in long form cricket, but a 232 not out in a 50 overs a side international match plus her leg spin bowling is recommendation enough for me.
Richard Hadlee – right arm fast bowler, left handed attacking lower middle order bat. Quite simply his country’s GOAT (Greatest Of All Time). What makes his performances at the highest level all the more impressive is that his support cast was generally speaking pretty ordinary. Graham Gooch, scorer of 183 not out against the 1986 Kiwis, the first to win a test series in England, described facing New Zealand as being like “facing a world XI at one end and Ilford 2nds at the other.” He became the first person knighted specifically in connection with cricket to play a test after acquiring the ‘Sir’ in front of his name (Bradman played his final first class match as Sir DG Bradman, while the Hon Sir FS Jackson was not knighted for reasons to do with cricket).
Daniel Vettori – left arm orthodox spinner, useful lower middle order batter. At the age of 20 he helped consign England to the bottom of the world test rankings not long after they had been shown the door of the World Cup they were hosting, and from then until his retirement he was an essential part of New Zealand’s plans. In later years the captaincy and the fact that he also had to do a lot of batting somewhat reduced his effectiveness as a bowler, but the 1999 version bowled left arm orthodox spin as well as I have seen it bowled.
Trent Boult – left arm fast medium bowler. The ‘conductor’ has been an effective leader of New Zealand’s pace attack for some years now, and just a few months ago he caused England considerable problems. He also gives my chosen pace attack an extra element of variety, bowling with his left hand.
Danny Morrison – right arm fast medium. Danny ‘the duck’ (hence his position at no11) was New Zealand’s outstanding pace bowler of the 1990s, and could be relied on to provide excellent back up in that department for Messrs. Hadlee and Boult.
This team has a solid opening pair, an excellent no 3,4 and 5, a fine keeper at six, Amelia Kerr the x-factor all rounder at seven and a fine bowling line up. The bowling attack, with a varied pace trio of Hadlee, Boult and Morrison backed by the contrasting spin styles of Vettori and Kerr also looks pretty impressive.
Had it not been for Stephen Fleming’s claims, and my desire that he should be captain, Andrew Jones would have been a strong contender for the no3 slot, and some would say that I should have picked him as an opener anyway. Nathan Astle, an explosive batter and sometimes useful purveyor of slow-medium would definitely have his advocates, as would big hitting all rounder Chris Cairns. ‘Two Metre Peter’ Fulton would have his advocates for an opening slot. Among the seam/swing/pace options I have overlooked were Shane Bond, the quickest his country has ever produced but sadly blighted by injuries, Tim Southee the ever reliable and Neil ‘the composer’ Wagner whose bouncers sometimes confound opposition batters. Colin De Grandhomme, a magnificent limited overs player, might have had the number seven slot I gave to Kerr, but his bowling offers less. I also considered another big hitting female all-rounder, Sophie Devine, but decided I wanted the extra spin option offered by Kerr. Brendon McCullum would have his advocates for the wicket keeping slot, as would Adam Parore, while I also thought about Ian Smith, but he will have to make do with being part of the commentary team, for which role he is a ‘shoo-in’. Finally, combative off spinner John Bracewell would have been the obvious choice had I wanted a third spin option.
THE NEW NAMES IN THE ALL TIME XI
Bert Sutcliffe, a left handed attack minded opener, who averaged just over 40 in a test career that began at Christchurch in 1947 and ended at Edgbaston in 1965 comes in at the top of the order. For Otago against Canterbury he once scored 385. Otago’s all out tally in that innings was precisely 500, and in their two efforts Canterbury scored 382 runs off the bat – three fewer than Sutcliffe managed on his own! One over, bowled a chap named Poore, had Sutcliffe in two minds in the way bowlers don’t want – he hit three deliveries for four and three for six.
Glenn Turner, a right handed opening batter, the only Kiwi to score a hundred first class hundreds. During the Kiwis 1973 tour of England he reached his thousand first class runs before the end of May, one of only two to do that in an English season since World War II, the other being Graeme Hick in 1988.
Martin Donnelly, left handed middle order bat, scorer of Lord’s centuries in The Varsity Match, for The Gentlemen against The Players and in a test match for New Zealand. Also, in a 1945 match for The Dominions against England he made a century, considered by observers the outstanding innings in a game that also featured a ton by Keith Miller and one in each innings by Wally Hammond.
+Stewie Demspter – right handed batter, wicket keeper. Charles Stewart Dempster played a mere 10 test matches for New Zealand, before devoting himself to county cricket with Leicestershire. In this 10 test matches he scored 723 runs at 65.72, assisted it is true by four not outs, but even not taking the not outs into account that average would still be 48.20. Selecting him as keeper, a role he did on occasion perform, was the only way I could fit him in.
Jack ‘Bull’ Cowie – right arm fast bowler. He took his test wickets at 21 each, and one contemporary writer was moved to comment “had he been English or Australian he would no doubt have been termed a wonder of the age.” His last test series was in 1949 at the age of 37, and even then on flat pitches (all four test matches were drawn) he caused plenty of problems.
With these players coming in our All Time New Zealand XI reads: B Sutcliffe, GM Turner, *S Fleming, MD Crowe, MP Donnelly, +CS Dempster, AC Kerr, RJ Hadlee, DL Vettori, T Boult, J Cowie. This combo, with a great opening pair, Dempster in for Watling and Cowie looking a distinct cut above Morrison looks like a superb unit.
Merv Wallace, who came close to 1,000 first class runs before the end of May on that 1949 tour was considered for a batting place. John Richard Reid, a man whose range of cricketing skills was huge, was also a big miss. Middle order batters Geoff Howarth and Bevan Congdon both had good records at a time when New Zealand collectively had little to shout about. Two keepers, Eric Petrie and Ken Wadsworth, were both outstanding practitioners, but neither could offer much with bat, Petrie in particular being a genuine ‘bunny’ in that regard. Brian Taylor, who scored a century and bagged a five wicket haul on his test debut earned consideration as an all rounder, but there is no shortage of pace options. Of the cricketing Hadlees, other than Richard the only one who many would seriously consider was Dayle, a fast bowler who at one time was rated higher than his brother, but ended up many leagues behind. New Zealand have had few class spinners play for them, which leads neatly on to…
THE ONES WHO GOT AWAY
One name dominates this category, that of leg spinner Clarrie Grimmett, who crossed the Tasman to better himself. He failed to claim a place in either the NSW or Victorian state sides, but eventually managed to establish himself for South Australia, and at 33 made his test debut for his adopted country, bagging 11 England wickets for 82 runs. In 37 test matches he took 216 wickets, a wickets to matches ratio outstanding for anyone not named Sydney Barnes. He was dropped for the 1938 Ashes tour, a decision that Bill O’Reilly for one considered to be crazy – Frank Ward who travelled in his place did little, while Chuck Fleetwood-Smith had his moments but was as erratic, unpredictable and expensive as anyone familiar with his approach would have expected.
Two others who would have merited consideration had they not abandoned the possibility of playing for their country were leg spinner Bill Merritt whose first class victims (mainly for Northamptonshire) cost 24 each and fast bowler Tom Pritchard who had an impressive record for Warwickshire (818 wickets at 23.30 in all first class cricket, and he lived – just – long enough to celebrate the most impressive of all centuries, dying 165 days after reaching that landmark birthday).
We have concluded our virtual tour of the home of The Lord of The Rings and The Hobbit movie series, and it remains only to apply my usual sign off…
My suggested England team for the second test match at Hamilton in view of the injury to Buttler.
England have to change their line=up from the first test because Jos Buttler is injured, meaning that Ollie Pope will don the gloves (England risked this eventuality with their original selection of the tour party), and someone has to come into the side. In the rest of this post I explain my reasoning and arrive at my XI from the available players.
England are one down in a two match series, meaning that they need to win in Hamilton to share the spoils. Although the batters cannot be happy with their performance in match 1 it was the bowlers who really struggled. I have heard that there is a possibility that Woakes will replace Leach, giving England an all-seam attack, but that in my opinion is daft. Knowing that a win is needed I would stack the bowling, replacing the injured Buttler with Parkinson (I would also consider selecting Saqib Mahmood in place of Stuart Broad) and relying on the top six plus Curran, Archer and the adhesive Leach to provide enough runs for what would be a deep and varied bowling attack – Stokes being number 6 in the pecking order. Thus my team (and I will be gobsmacked if the selectors actually pick this side) would be:
An account of England’s calamitous surrender in the first Test match in New Zealand, and a radical suggestion for Joe Root’s replacement as England test captain.
This post looks back at what happened during the last three days of the first test in New Zealand and then at a possible new England captain.
A SPECTACULAR REVERSAL
Those who read my last post will recall that England were extremely well placed after two days of the first test match – they had made 353 and New Zealand were 144-4 in reply. How then did this turn into a humiliating innings defeat for England? Well the tale of the tape is this…
Day 3: B J Watling batted all day at one end, well supported by De Grandhomme (55) and Santner who defended stoutly after De Grandhomme fell, and New Zealand by the close were 394-6, already 41 to the good.
Day 4: Watling and Santner first consolidated their overnight position and then opened out, Watling completing a double century while Santner reached his maiden test century. Eventually, with 615 on the board, New Zealand declared and England had 27 overs to get through before the close of day. They looked to be managing this when Sibleyfell to a poor shot. Then Burns, troubled by Santner, played an injudicious shot trying to get to the other end and was caught off a top edge. Finally, to leave England looking down both barrels, Jack Leach got hit on the grille by one from Santner that rose unexpectedly and two balls later lost his wicket. That left England with seven wickets standing and needing to bat the final day out to save the game.
Day 5: England looked adequate for the first hour, but then Root fell to a poor stroke and a collapse set in, only alleviated to an extent by a late flourish from Archer and Curranwho delayed the inevitable and provided a bit of late entertainment. Once their partnership was broken it did not take Broadlong to extend his record of ducks scored for England, and the final margin was an innings and 65 runs. Of the seven members of the England team (Burns, Sibley, Denly, Root, Stokes, Pope, Buttler) who were there either principally or solely for their batting six in this dismal second innings contributed to their own downfalls.
Not only is this another horrible defeat for him as captain, there is no longer any denying that Root as captain is incompatible with getting the best out of Root the batter, and it is in the latter capacity that England have most need of him (as a captain he is very average, whereas at his best he is one of the finest batters in the world). While acknowledging that Burns has demonstrated for Surrey that he can combine being captain with scoring big runs I feel that it is time to look away from batters for this role. While fast bowlers rarely make good captains, there is some history of slow bowlers enjoying success in the role, including among slow left armers the likes of Tony Lock (Leicestershire and Western Australia), Daniel Vettori(New Zealand) and Bishan Singh Bedi (India). So, my choice for England’s next test skipper is Jack Leach – he is established in the side, has demonstrated that he has an excellent temperament, and is still young enough to hold the role for some years. The fulltoss blog has looked at some potentials here, but I think they missed the best call. A full scorecard of the debacle can viewed here.
Some festive pics here as well as a few of my more usual type…
An autistic cancer survivor’s eye (and ear) view of yesterday’s World Cup Final at Lord’s.
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.
A look at the permutations for the semi-finals of the Men’s Cricket World Cup (nb the inaugural Women’s Cricket World Cup took place in 1973, two years before the men got started), plus a shed,load of photographs.
The 2019 cricket men’s world cup semi-finals are all but sorted now. This post examines the possible permutations.
Afghanistan, The West Indies, Sri Lanka, South Africa, Bangladesh and Pakistan are heading home after the group stage unless Pakistan can beat Bangladesh by 320 runs or thereabouts (due to the workings of “net run rates” Pakistan cannot go through if Bangladesh bat first).
LOOKING FORWARD TO THE SEMIS
Barring an astonishing miracle result for Pakistan against Bangladesh the semi finals will be Australia v New Zealand and England v India. Three of these four teams definitely deserve to be there, while New Zealand are somewhat fortunate, and arrive in the semi-finals on a serious downturn having been thumped in their last two games, one by England.
SEMI FINAL 1: AUSTRALIA V NEW ZEALAND
Australia will be heavy favourites for this one, having played well throughout, while New Zealand have been poor in their last two games. Although I would love to see New Zealand deliver a sucker punch to the Aussies I cannot see it happening, therefore my prediction for this one is that Australia will win and go through to the final.
SEMI FINAL 2: ENGLAND V INDIA
Having put themselves under pressure by indifferent early from England have hit top gear just in time, despatching India and New Zealand in their last two games, both by comfortable margins. India had already secured their place in the semifinals by the time they came up against England. In view of the record of chasing sides in this competition so far I reckon that whoever wins the toss must opt to bat first and get their runs on the board. If England win that toss and make the right decision I reckon that they will win, just as they did in the group game between the two sides. If India bat first they will be favourites but I will not rule out England completely even then. Overall prediction: England, but I would not put money on it.
Australia v England – This will depend heavily on the toss – if England get their runs on the board they will be favourites, likewise Australia. I think England would be marginally less likely to lose chasing than Australia, so by the thickness of a cigarette paper I make them favourites if this final materialises.
Australia v India –Again this will come down to the toss – assuming they make the correct decision whoever wins it collects the cup.
New Zealand v England – New Zealand would be cock-a-whoop at beating Australia but may also be unable having achieved that to summon up the resolve for one last effort, and based on the group game between the two I would make England firm favourites for this one.
New Zealand v India – India would be favourites for this one for the same reasons as England in the one above.
Of these potential finals I would most like it to be New Zealand v England, with England b Australia 2nd choice and New Zealand v India third choice. A win for either New Zealand or England would be a first in the men’s world cup, while for India it would be their third triumph and for Australia their sixth. A final thought: If the miracle happens in the Pakistan v Bangladesh game then I believe that sheer relief at managing to qualify will be enough to propel Pakistan to victory – in that circumstance they would be alone among the four semi-finalists in having no pressure on them.
Some more thoughts about the 2019 cricket world cup/
Bangladesh and Afghanistan are in action today in the cricket world cup, and following several interesting results and very tight games over the last few days there is more riding on this game than would have been expected.
Afghanistan are definitely not going to qualify for the next stage, since they are without a win so far, but a win for them would make their presence at the world cup harder to argue with (I firmly believe that they should be here, and that the tournament should have involved more teams in any case – see here). If Bangladesh win they will give themselves a serious chance of qualifying for the next stage, which in turn would give tomorrow’s match between international cricket’s two oldest foes – England and Australia – even more of a needle match than it already would be.
Bangladesh were put in and made 262-8 from their 50 overs, a gettable total, but Afghanistan are not the best chasers – they muffed a chase of barely 200 against Sri Lanka earlier in the tournament. I am not sure whether an outsider making the last four or the lowest ranked team in the tournament recording a win means more, but either situation has plenty going for it. Whichever happens it can be said to be one in the eye for the myopic ones who openly resent the presence of lesser ranking teams (there are still a few of these around sadly). Yesterday there was a fine finish to New Zealand v West Indies, when a magnificent innings by Carlos Brathwaite nearly pulled the game out of the fire for the Windies.
After some poor weather threatened to spoil it this world cup is now shaping up very well. I continue to maintain that more teams should be involved – these tournaments should be used to grow the game, and a tournament with “world” in its title should be truly global (as for an American-only championship being called “The World Series”, that is just beneath contempt).
My usual sign off, this time in several parts…
James and Sons recently held an auction at which I won three lots…
HUNSTANTON BEACH HUT
NAS West Norfolk hired the Mencap beach hut at Hunstanton for the day, and I was given a lift (thank you Rick and Emma)…
BEES AND BUTTERFLIES
I have lavender growing outside my front window, and that attracts these creatures in numbers (I think judging by size and appearance that butterflies are Large Tortoiseshells)…
Straw poll .. which game has provided more entertainment?
Eng vs Afghanistan with 33 sixes hit or lower scoring affair today at edgbaston with more in it for the bowlers? Forget jingoistic loyalty or the room for both in the game answer which there obviously is .. pick one !!
Those who know anything about me can probably guess my answer, but please read on anyway…
Just before getting to the meat of my post I belatedly congratulate Bangladesh for a magnificent seven wicket victory over the West Indies, chasing down 322 with eight and a half overs to spare. Shakib-al-Hasan made a superb century for Bangladesh and masterminded the chase.
NASSER’S TWO GAMES
The England-Afghanistan game featured a brief period of spectacular play, when Eoin Morgan blasted 120 off 46 deliveries, having just had a catch dropped. He shared a partnership with Joe Root worth 189 to which Root contributed 43, while Morgan scored 142 and there were four extras. At The Oval on 1886 W G Grace reached 134 not out by the time his opening partner W H Scotton of Nottinghamshire was out for 34 (two extras meant that this stand was worth 170, which coincidentally was WG’s final score when he was out to make it 216-2), while at Old Trafford in 1981, again against Australia Ian Botham scored 118 while Chris Tavare advanced his score by 28 (three extras meant that this stand was worth 149). Morgan’s amazing spree included 17 sixes, a record in a single innings in any form of international cricket, but precisely because it was so amazing it killed the game as a contest, and long before it had finished the final outcome was very obvious, which meant that the rest of the match lost something.
By contrast, the South Africa – New Zealand game went down to the wire, the latter eventually being seen home by Kane Williamson who hit the second ball of the final over for six to bring up his century and then coolly took a single of the next delivery to complete the job. This was a pulsating contest, commanding full attention all the way through. Its eventual outcome has almost certainly condemned South Africa to an early exit from the tournament.
England – Afghanistan saw 640 runs scored, South Africa – New Zealand only just over 480 and the lower scoring game was definitely the better of the two overall. Also, for all its spectacular qualities I cannot rate Morgan’s innings as high as I do Williamson’s – the latter was a clearly defined matchwinner, whereas England would probably have managed to win even if Morgan had made a blob.
South Africa – New Zealand was the game of the tournament so far, and Kane Williamson’s knock to see the latter home was as far as I am concerned the innings of the tournament to date. Morgan’s performance was spectacular, and wonderful while it lasted but it robbed that match of much interest by ending it as a contest before it was half over.
I welcome the fact that this world cup has not been the absolute run fest some predicted, because I continue to believe that at its best cricket is a contest between bat and ball, not a ludicrous spectacle in which bowlers are reduced to mere servants to fulfill the whims of the batters.
Final thoughts on two test series and one major cricketing scandal. Also some photographs.
This post deals with the two test match series that have recently concluded and associated fallout. We start with…
SOUTH AFRICA 3 AUSTRALIA 1
Before getting into my account of the onfield happenings, it is time for an update on…
THE UNHOLY TRINITY
Cricket Australia have hit Steve Smith, Cameron Bancroft and David Warner with substantial playing bans, augmented in the case of Smith and Warner with bans on subsequently occupying leadership positions. The trio have a day left to appeal against these bans, and Smith and Bancroft have already said they will not do so (here and here). To my mind the fact that the other two have already accepted their bans leaves Warner with only two choices: accept the ban as they have, or announce his retirement from all forms of cricket with immediate effect (he is the oldest of the trio, and would probably find relaunching a professional career at the age of 33, as he would be when his ban expires, quite tough). It also leaves the Australian Cricketers Association with a lot of egg on their faces, since they have gone into bat on behalf of the trio, two of whom have now accepted the ban handed out by Cricket Australia.
In the final match of the series in which the scandal referred to above broke South Africa batted first and put up a daunting total of 488, (Markram 152, Bavuma 95 not out) before Australia replied with a modest 221. With a draw sufficient to secure their first home series win over the Aussies since readmission in 1992 South Africa declined to enforce the follow on. In the second South African innings Faf Du Plessis made a fluent century and Dean Elgar a limpetlike 81 in five and a half hours, and they batted until tea on the fourth day to ensure complete safety (there were injury worries about three of their frontline bowlers). Faced with a purely nominal fourth innings target of 612 Australia collapsed to be all out for 119. Vernon Philander emerged with figures of 6-21, while Morne Morkel finished his test career by claiming the final Australian wicket. South Africa’s winning margin of 492 runs was the biggest victory by a runs margin in a time limited test (the three bigger margins that have been recorded, 675 runs by England against Australia in 1928, 562 runs by Australia against England in 1934 and 520 runs by Australia against South Africa in 1911 were all in timeless matches, because all test matches in Australia were played to a finish between 1888 and 1946, and the Oval match in 1934 was settling the fate of the Ashes, and was played to a finish for that reason, as had happened in 1926 and 1930 and would happen again in 1938). More information about this match is available on cricinfo.
ENGLAND IN NEW ZEALAND
This was the second match of a two-match series and England needed to win it to square the series. A century by Jonny Bairstow helped England to a first innings total of 307. New Zealand slumped to 36-5 in response before a big stand between wicketkeeper B J Watling and the man with the coolest name in current international cricket, Colin De Grandhomme revived them. England eventually secured a first innings lead, but at 29 it was much smaller than they would have been anticipating. After Alastair Cook fished at one outside his off stump and was caught Mark Stoneman and James Vince, each batting to save a test career, took centre stage. Vince’s stylish 76 may have been sufficient to preserve his place or at least to give him a way back if he scores some big runs for Hampshire during the English season. Stoneman however (he is also a few years older than Vince, hence less time for potential comebacks) would appear to be finished as a test match batsman. His 60 was his fifth score of 50 or more in tests but also his highest, and he was nearly out a number times between reaching 50 and finally contriving to surrender his wicket for 60.
STONEMAN’S UNWANTED PLACE
IN THE RECORD BOOKS
Those noting that 60 would seem both to be a moderate career best for an opener and a moderate career best for someone with five scores of 50 or more give yourselves a bonus point. Mark Stoneman in point of fact now holds the record for the lowest career best for a batsman with five or more test fifties, the previous lowest in that category being 64 jointly held by:
Brett Lee, who was picked for his fast bowling, and was not particularly expected to score many runs.
Billy Bates, an all-rounder whose off-spin was more than capable of settling matches on its own, and who played in the 1880s when scoring was generally a lot lower due to the nature of the pitches. He was the first England bowler to take a test match hat trick (second ever, after Frederick Robert Spofforth), in a remarkable match performance which saw him take seven wickets in each Aussie innings, after scoring 55 in England’s 294 (a score which proved sufficient to win the match by an innings).
Root scored his seventh fifty plus test score this English winter, and for the seventh time this English winter failed to make it to the century mark. New Zealand were left 380 to chase to win the game.
Although there were moments when England looked like they could win the match, and New Zealand were never in serious contention, it must also be acknowledged that most of the wickets that fell in this final innings were given by the batsmen rather than being taken by the bowlers. Additionally several chances went begging (Stoneman further blotting his already soiled copybook by shelling two). Finally, taking the Auckland horror show into account, the overall series result is well justified – a drawn series would have seriously flattered England. Full detail on this match is available from cricinfo.
ENGLAND PLAYER BY PLAYER
A new home season is often a time for new blood (ideally if I was giving someone their test chance I would want to see them at that level for at least one home season and one overseas tour before assessing whether to persevere with them), so what of the players who played for England in this match?
Alastair Cook – he is finding it very difficult to get an innings going these days, but on the occasions when he manages it he scores seriously big. Also, he has done enough over the years to be allowed to leave the scene on his own terms.
Mark Stoneman – not good enough at this level. Five fifty plus scores but a highest of 60 points to serious temperament issues. I hope not to see him lining up against Pakistan at Lord’s.
James Vince – too many beautiful miniatures like his first innings 18 and as yet no full-sized masterpiece, though his 76 in the second innings, like his 83 at Brisbane suggests that he may yet come good at the highest level.
Joe Root – his failures to convert fifties to centuries of late are beginning to be a worry, but he has proved in the past that he can go on to really big scores.
Dawid Malan – has done enough to be retained. Given Root’s dislike of the position and Vince’s less than iron grip on his place in the side he may have to take on the njumber 3 slot.
Ben Stokes – has batted well this series but done very little bowling. His future is uncertain due to the pending court case against him.
Jonny Bairstow – has batted magnificently on both legs of the tour, and his keeping has been pretty well flawless. Another possibility for that no3 slot would be selecting another wicketkeeper and having Bairstow (who is good against the quick stuff) play as a specialist batsman in the no3 position.
Stuart Broad – bowled well in both innings of this match, and barring injury will continue to feature in the test team until he calls time on himself.
Mark Wood – his presence gives the seam element of England’s attack variation through his extra pace. Both he and Broad spent too much of this match testing out the centre portion of an unresponsive pitch.
Jack Leach – finally England select a genuine spinner, rather than a batsman who can roll an arm over. He bowled well in this match, though this was not a great pitch for him, and more should be seen of him.
James Anderson – he remains as good as ever. In this match he set a new record for the most overs delivered by a pace bowler in the course of a test career, going past Courtney Walsh. At times over the course of this English winter he has been not merely England’s spearhead, but most of the spear as well.
The likelihood is that Broad and Anderson will continue until 2019 so that they can take their final bows in a home Ashes series. Cook may also be thinking in those terms, and while no one would grudge him such a finish, a few more runs between now and then would be good. In the immediate term however England definitely need to find from somewhere the following.
A new opening batsman to replace Stoneman
Either a new wicketkeeper to take the gloves from Bairstow and enable him to play as a specialist no 3 or a new batsman to play at no 3 (or promote Malan and have the newbie at no 5). Dan Lawrence is an obvious candidate for a batting spot, and the early weeks of this season would be one heckuva time for some young batsmen to score heavily for their counties.
Bowling back-up for Anderson and Broad (Wood is good, but injury-prone, and none of the other pace options England have tried this winter have been remotely impressive).
A second genuine spinner or spin bowling all-rounder to back up Jack Leach (Moeen Ali’s form and confidence both appear to be thoroughly shattered).
England also need to learn a lesson they should have learned decades ago: taking a phalanx of guys who bowl right-arm just above medium pace overseas does not work – such bowlers are only dangerous if the ball moves in the air for them.
Finally, for those of you whobhave made it to the end of this post, some of my photographs:
A cricketing post, in which I set out my stall for World Autism Awareness Week and then the month of April.
While this post is a cricket post, it is also my first post in World Autism Awareness Week. Thus to set the stage for this week and for the whole of April you will notice a couple of changes:
All of my own text will in #RedInstead
Save in photographs where it is unavoidable the colour blue will not appear in this blog before the start of May
The main theme of this post is what happened in Auckland, but before that…
A QUICK UPDATE ON THE
AUSTRALIAN CHEATING SAGA
For full details please visit my previous post. The official ICC ‘punishments’ – a one-match ban and a meaningless fine for skipper Steve Smith and just the meaningless fine for Bancroft are a complete joke. However, it seems that Cricket Australia will be taking tough action against Smith and vice-captain Warner(this latter has to rank as one of the stupidest appointments in cricket history given his reputation) and less tough action against Bancroft. The latter annoys me on the following counts:
Yes, Bancroft was a junior player acting under the influence of his seniors, but “I was only obeying orders” has certainly been utterly debunked as a defence since at least 1945.
Bancroft is both older and more experienced than was Mohammad Amir at the time of his fall from grace and yet the latter (quite correctly) spent five years banned from the game (the other two offenders in that case, Mohammad Asifand skipper Salman Buttwere both drummed out of the game permanently, again correctly.
Incidentally, the match in which this scandal broke finished yesterday, a day early, as Australia collapsed in their second innings, losing all 10 of their wickets for the addition of 50 runs (57-0 to 107 all out, thereby outdoing England’s collapse of a few days ago).
CRICKETING JUSTICE IN THE END
England made a decent fist of things on the final day in Auckland, taking the match into its final session, but in the end cricketing justice prevailed, with New Zealand winning by an innings and 49 runs. The truth is that this match was a three-cornered affair, with New Zealand coming out just ahead of the weather and England way back in a distant and dismal third.
There were two things that stood out about the England second innings:
Nearly every batsman got going, but none managed to produce a really major innings, Ben Stokes‘ 66 being the top score.
The ends of sessions were calamitous for England, with Root falling just before the close of day 4, Moeen Ali on the stroke of tea on day 5 and Stokes on the stroke of the dinner break on day 5.
New Zealand bowled very well again, although there is no way that Neil Wagner’smedium paced bouncers should have caused the havoc they did. Leg spinner Todd Astlecollected 3-39. Trent Boult was deservedly named Man of the Match for his nine wickets in the course of the game – it was his magnificent bowling on day 1 assisted by English ineptitude that gave New Zealand an ascendancy that only the weather seriously threatened to take away from them.
England need to learn from this – the only publishable word to describe their ‘preparation’ for the test match section of this tour would be”shambolic”, and their batting in the first innings reflected this.
A win in Christchurch would give them a 1-1 draw in the series, though I reckon that another defeat and resultant 0-2 reverse might just administer the kick up the collective backside that they need. Further information about this match and the players involved can be found here.
I end this section by emphasizing once more where the credit belongs: my heartiest congratulations to New Zealand on a splendid performance.