The Greatest World Cup Final Ever

An autistic cancer survivor’s eye (and ear) view of yesterday’s World Cup Final at Lord’s.

INTRODUCTION

First a little bit of background about the occasion from my point of view. On Friday I went in to hospital for a procedure known as a “Radical Inguinal Orchidectomy” as the latest stage in the treatment of the cancer that less than a year ago threatened to kill me. The operation was performed under general anaesthetic, and I was kept in hospital overnight, and only discharged on the Saturday once I had demonstrated my capacity to walk unaided. Thus yesterday, the day of the Mens Cricket Cup World Final, was my first full day out of hospital after the operation.

THE MATCH ITSELF

New Zealand had beaten India through a splendid display of controlled seam and swing bowling to qualify for the final while England had disposed of arch-rivals Australia with satisfying ease to book their place in the final. Everything seemed to point to an England win, but New Zealand had dealt very well with theoretically far superior opposition in the semi-final. As it was on free-to-air TV (the first time any cricket match in England has been thus broadcast since 2005) I was initially picked up by my father and taken over to my aunt’s house to watch the match. England bowled well to restrict New Zealand to 241. New Zealand however learned well from the England bowlers and England were soon behind the required rate. I missed a tiny bit of the England innings when I was taken home, being by then thoroughly exhausted. Back in my own home I listened to the astonishing climax and followed the ball-by-ball updates on cricinfo. The possessor of the coolest name in international cricket, Colin de Grandhomme, bowled the most economical allocation of 10 overs by anyone in the entire tournament (1-25), but Jos Buttler and Ben Stokes kept cool heads and kept England just about in contention deep into the final overs. When the final over began England needed 16 to win, and they got 15 of them to tie (aided by a very fortunate four overthrows which gave them six instead of two on one of the deliveries), which meant a “super over’. Ben Stokes and Jos Buttler took centre stage once more, while after a long delay Trent Boult accepted responsibility for bowling the over for New Zealand. England made 15 runs of the over. 24-year old Jofra Archer accepted responsibility for bowling the final over, while New Zealand sent out Jimmy Neesham and Martin Guptill. Archer’s first delivery was somewhat harshly called a wide, and then Neesham blasted a six, at which point it looked all over for England, but Archer responded and eventually it came to two needed of one ball, with Guptill on strike for the first time. Guptill hit it out into the deep, where Jason Roy fielded, and arrowed in a superb throw to Jos Buttler who whipped the bails off to run out Guptill, who was obliged by circumstances to go all out for the second. Thus the super-over contest had also ended in a tie. The next method of dividing the two teams if the super over did not work was on boundaries hit, and on that criterion England were ahead and so finally, after three previous losing finals (1979, 1987-8 and 1991-2) England’s men had won a cricket world cup. The Women’s cricket world cup is also held by England courtesy of a wonderful piece of bowling by Anya Shrubsole at Lord’s two years ago. This is the first time any country other than Australia have held both men’s and women’s world cups simultaneously. A low scoring day provided just about the most thrilling contest ever seen in any sport, with England taking the spoils by the narrowest possible margin – the cricket equivalent of winning by a Planck Length!

This match is ‘Exhibit A’ in the argument against anyone who dares claim that cricket is boring. Cricket has produced plenty of extraordinary games before in its long history – Warwickshire v Hampshire in 1922, when Hampshire recovered from bowled out for 15 in their first dig to win by 155 runs, Headingley 1981, when Ian Botham, with assistance from Graham Dilley, Chris Old and Bob Willis gave England something to defend when they seemed down and out, and Willis than saved his international career by taking 8-43 to win it for England being just two that spring to mind. Also, the 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 5th test matches of the 2005 Ashes series were all classics in their different ways.

This match on its own would probably be sufficient to call this the greatest world cup ever, but there were plenty of other good matches along the way.

Ben Stokes with his Herculean efforts in this match redeemed himself completely for a somewhat chequered past. Also, he has shown a consistency here that has previously eluded him – his 84 was his fourth 80-plus of the tournament and he also scored a 79. One way of accommodating him in the test side, which needs to be thought about would to gamble a little by having Ben Foakes at five, followed by Stokes, Gregory, Bess, Archer, Leach and Anderson, meaning that Stokes would be fourth seamer, backing up the main attack of Archer, Anderson, Gregory and the spinners.

PHOTOGRAPHS

My usual sign-off…

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World Cup Final Stages Approaching

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.

INTRODUCTION

The 2019 cricket men’s world cup semi-finals are all but sorted now. This post examines the possible permutations.

FAREWELLS

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.

POTENTIAL FINALS

  • 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.

PHOTOGRAPHS

My usual sign-off…

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Gettring really good pictures of these butterflies is a challenge – this one is porbably my best yet.

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A female pheasant views the world from atop a car at The Norfolk Hospice, Tapping House.

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The weights we use for some of our exercises during therapy sessions at Tapping House.
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Raffe prizes at Tapping House
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I bought a ticket to support the cause, and this would be my first choice prize should the opportunity arise.

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World Cup Hotting Up

Some more thoughts about the 2019 cricket world cup/

INTRODUCTION

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.

THE PERMUTATIONS

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).

PICTURES

My usual sign off, this time in several parts…

NEW PURCHASES

James and Sons recently held an auction at which I won three lots…

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Lot 293 (two pics)

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Lot 416 (four images)

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Lot 446

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)…

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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)…

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This is a jay – bringing the number of species of corvids I have seen outside my bungalow to four – rooks, jackdaws and magpies as well.

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An Object Lesson In Two Games

A post inspired by a tweet from former England cricket captain Nasser Hussain.

INTRODUCTION

This post is inspired by a tweet from former England captain Nasser Hussain:

Those who know anything about me can probably guess my answer, but please read on anyway…

CONGRATULATIONS BANGLADESH

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.

PHOTOGRAPHS

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The first pictures in this selection are from Tapping House, where I continue to attend physio sessions – my upper body strength is apparently quite good,

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My birthday present from my fellow NAS West Norfolk committee members – I wonder if anyone had given one of these to Mr Smith or Mr Warner?! (the actual day was May 31st, and for the record it was number 44.

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A few pics from Golding’s in King’s Lynn town centre

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Once a huge eysore the outside if this supermarket has been done up recently,

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My birthday present from my sister.

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A blackbird pays a visit to the feeder.

The Ends of Two Series

Final thoughts on two test series and one major cricketing scandal. Also some photographs.

INTRODUCTION

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. 

AUSTRALIA ANNIHILATED

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?

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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. 
  5. 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.
  6. Ben Stokes – has batted well this series but done very little bowling. His future is uncertain due to the pending court case against him.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. 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.
  10. 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. 
  11. 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. 

PHOTOGRAPHS

Finally, for those of you whobhave made it to the end of this post, some of my photographs:

MinsterBoatsBlack headed gullCormorants and gullsJackdawblack backed gullsBlack headed gull IIdouble spreadWingspan VSquawkBlackbird MDCLXVIBlackbird IIDaffodilClimbing squirrelSquirrelSquirrelsBlackbird IVXLCDM

 

Congratulations New Zealand

A cricketing post, in which I set out my stall for World Autism Awareness Week and then the month of April.

INTRODUCTION

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 Asif and skipper Salman Butt were 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’s medium paced bouncers should have caused the havoc they did. Leg spinner Todd Astle collected 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.

PHOTOGRAPHS

Sun on the Great Ouse I
Unless I specifically state otherwise any photos you see in this blog will be mine.

Sun on the Great Ouse IIBlack headed gull IBlack headed gull IIswimming gullFour large gulls

Tortoiseshell Butterfly
On the first remotely spring-like day of 2018 (it was still not that warm, but there was a curious yellow ball-shaped object visible in the sky) I spotted my first butterfly of 2018.

CormorantCormorantsthree cormorantsCormorant trioSwimming birdsRedshankRedshank II

 

 

Scores and Scandals

Some cricket stuff, including a view on the ball-tampering in South Africa.

INTRODUCTION

A lot has been happening in the cricket world over the last few days, and I am using this post to write about some of those things. There are a lot of links in this post – anything in bold and underlined will be a link.

SCANDAL IN SOUTH AFRICA

South Africa are handily placed to inflict a heavy defeat on Australia, but the actual state of that match has been completely overshadowed by a scandal that has broken while it is in progress. Cameron Bancroft was caught live on camera tampering with the ball, and it has subsequently emerged that his action was the on-field element of a plan concocted by the so-called ‘Leadership Group’ of the Australian team. Already Steven Smith and David Warner have been stood down from their roles for the rest of the match (other members of the Leadership Group remain to identified, since as part of press conference performance of breath taking arrogance, which also included refusing point-blank to resign as captain, Mr Smith declined to put names to the Leadership Group, but the vice-captain cannot be protected even by that). 

PUNISHMENTS

As a preface to this section I am going to stay straight out that fines do not come into the equation – the use of fines in other, less serious situations has demonstrated that players are not bothered by fines (unsurprising, since the fines relate only to match fees, which form only a small part of the incomes of top players). I will now list my thoughts on punishments for those involved:

Cameron Bancroft, perpetrator: permanent ban from all forms of professional cricket.

Stephen Smith, Australian Captain: At minimum a ban from all forms of professional cricket until the end of the Australian season of 2021-22, which would cost him a world cup and an ashes series on home soil. He is instigator-in-chief of this incident, and in picking the youngest and most vulnerable member of the squad as his cat’s paw he has taken the same approach to his variety of misconduct as Hansie Cronje did to his when he roped in Herschelle Gibbs and Henry Williams. Thus I would not actually quarrel with him copping the same punishment as Bancroft, and have suggested my alternative slightly lesser punishment as part of a sliding scale…

David Warner, Australian vice-captain (and other members of the Leadership Group when identified): At minimum a ban from all forms of professional cricket until the end of the 2019 English season (thereby costing those involved a world cup appearance).

These suggested punishments are intentionally draconian because I believe cricket needs to send out an unmistakable message about this. 

KARMA

I hope that sometime later today the first three lines in the Australian second innings scorecard will read:

C Bancroft…B Rabada 0
D Warner… B Rabada 0
S Smith…     B Rabada 0

LINKS

Here are some links about this story:

WICKETS AND WASHOUTS 

At the end of the fourth day’s play in the first test match between England and New Zealand there is an outside chance of England escaping defeat. An hour and a half into day 1 it did not look like this match was making it anywhere near day 4, let alone going into the day 5. In that time England had been dismissed for 58, and for much of that period it had looked like being much worse. At 23-8 England were in serious danger of being all out for the lowest total in test history (26 by New Zealand against England, also in Auckland, in 1955). At 27-9 there would probably have been people putting money on England failing to match their own previous record low (45 all out in 1887). Craig Overton then connected with some lusty blows, reaching 33 not out before James Anderson finally succumbed. Overton’s innings was the second highest proportion of an all-out total scored by a number nine in test history, Asif Iqbal‘s 146 in all out tally of 255 for Pakistan v England being the record holder (Asif came in at 53-7, lost his senior partner at 65 and then found such good support from leg-spinner Intikhab Alam that they put on 190 together, Intikhab finishing with 51). While crediting the fine bowling performances of Tim Southee and in particular Trent Boult (a.k.a The Conductor – his colleague Neil Wagner – ‘The Composer‘ did not even get a bowl) the people most responsible for this dire score were the England batsmen, most of whom contributed to their own downfall (it is a toss-up in my mind between Bairstow, pushing back a return catch to make it 18-6 or Ali missing a straight full-toss and being castled to make it 23-8 for the worst culprit).

A combination of a lot of rain on days two and three, and the fact that while never looking very threatening England contrived to bowl less dreadfully than they had batted plus a second-innings batting effort that finally showed a hint of backbone is how this match is going into a fifth day. The New Zealand innings featured centuries from Kane Williamson (his 18th in test cricket moving him past Martin Crowe and Ross Taylor to the top of the Kiwi pile in this department) and Henry Nicholls (a.k.a ‘Harvey‘ – hat-tip to Graeme Swann for that one). England are currently 132-3, needing a further 237 to clear the deficit. Alastair Cook failed again, while Mark Stoneman’s 55 was his fourth test fifty, but his highest score remains 56, and I suspect that barring a mammoth score there the second and final match of this series in Christchurch will be his last for England, Joe Root also scored a fifty but fell to the last ball of the day. England will need a major contribution from Dawid Malan, not out overnight and from at least one out of Ben Stokes, Jonny Bairstow or Moeen Ali to get out of this one. 

For more about this match start here.

ENGLAND WOMEN FLYING IN INDIA

England’s men may not be faring too well at present, but the women are having a splendid time. Having started the tri-series (England, India, Australia) by beating Australia (after a disciplined bowling performance left them only 150 to get in their 20 overs, splendid batting performances by Natalie Sciver and Tammy Beaumont carried England to a very comfortable win) England followed up with a record breaking chase against India. India made 198-4 in their 20 overs (Jenny Gunn made history by playing in this game – she is the first player of either sex to appear in 100 T20 internationals), with Smriti Mandhana scoring 76 off 40 balls. England cruised home with 7 wickets and 8 balls to spare, largely due to Danielle Wyatt (124 off 64 balls, becoming only the second woman ever to score two T20 international centuries).

PHOTOGRAPHS

Regular visitors to this site will know that I always include some of my own photographs in my blog posts:

Mallards I
Ducks are not a common sight at King;s Lynn bus station, but the very morning after England’s collapse in Auckland there they were (one short of matching England – four ducks showed in total, to five on the England scorecard.

Drakemallard trioMallards IImallard quartetresting drakeFour ducks

BB1
A blackbird near my aunt’s house.

BBII

THI
Three pictures of the town hall to finish.

THIITHIII