England On Top In New Zealand

A look at goings on the second test between New Zealand and England and a large photo gallery.

I am writing this as Australia and South Africa do battle in the final of the Womens’ World T20 Cup in front of a packed house crowd at Newlands, Cape Town – I will cover the closing stages of this tournament tomorrow. In this post I look at the first three days play in Wellington, where England are poised to win the test series against New Zealand.

THE ENGLAND FIRST INNINGS

I missed the first day’s play entirely – this being in New Zealand it is happening overnight my time. England were 21-3 at one point, but Harry Brook (184* by the close) and Joe Root (101* by the close) put on an unbroken 294 in what was left of the day – rain called a halt after 65 overs.

Brook was out early on the second day, but Root kept going, and when he reached his 150 Stokes declared. England had amassed 435-8. Root, the greatest English test batter of the 21st century and his heir apparent Brook had scored 339 of those for once out between them (Brook 186, Root 153*).

THE NEW ZEALAND FIRST INNINGS

By the end of day two, again hastened by bad weather, NZ were 135-7 and in all kinds of bother. A blitz by Southee, who ended with 73 off 48 balls, got NZ passed 200, but at 209 all out they had not quite done enough to dodge the follow-on. Anderson, currently the world no1 ranked test bowler at the age of 40, had three wickets as did Broad, and Leach outdid both of them with four. The next question was what Stokes would do – most current test skippers would not have enforced the follow-on, but as Stokes demonstrated at Rawalpindi not so long ago he is emphatically not most current test skippers…

THE NEW ZEALAND SECOND INNINGS

Stokes did enforce the follow-on, correctly in my view, given that this was day three and the weather was not to be relied on. New Zealand batted better second time round and reached the close on 202-3, still 24 runs in arrears. Kane Williamson and Henry Nicholls committed absolutely to defence in the latter stages of the day, which is why NZ are still in debit. If New Zealand can bat through day four they may be in a position to cause England trouble, but at the moment England are heavy favourites, and a couple of early strikes to start day four would underline that status.

PHOTOGRAPHS

My usual sign off…

England Men in New Zealand

A look back at the first New Zealand v England test match, a couple of 15-minute city related links and lots of photographs.

The first test of mini-series of two matches between New Zealand and England men’s teams has ended early on the fourth of five scheduled days in a crushing victory for England. This post looks back at the match.

ENGLAND BAT FIRST

England batted first and scored at a very quick rate, so that the regular loss of wickets was not as much of an issue as it might have been. When the ninth England wicket fell at 325, with a bit of time left in the day, Ben Stokes declared in order to get New Zealand in under the lights. Harry Brook had made 89 and Ben Duckett 84.

EARLY WICKETS AND A FIGHTBACK

Anderson, Broad and Robinson proved highly effective in the situation that the England batters and their skipper Stokes had created for them and by the end of day one New Zealand were 37-3. On the second day, largely through Tom Blundell (138), the Kiwis mounted a spirited fightback and ended up only 19 runs in deficit on first innings. Stuart Broad and James Anderson stood on the cusp of yet another piece of history, needing one more to wicket between them to have taken more wickets in test matches in which they played together than any other pair of bowlers.

ENGLAND’S SECOND INNINGS

England scored briskly once again, and avoided losing excessive numbers of wickets to the new ball. On day three Neil Wagner put in a spirited bowling effort for the Kiwis, but half centuries for Root, Brook and Foakes plus aggressive contributions from Stokes and Robinson got England to 374 in their second innings, and at pace that meant that for the second time in the match they got to attack the Kiwis under the lights with the new ball (I reckon even if they hadn’t been all out Stokes would have declared to make sure of this, just as he did in the first innings).

NEW ZEALAND SECOND INNINGS

England were even more devastating under the lights second time round, and the Kiwis ended day three on 63-5 and surely knowing that the writing was on the wall.

In the event, in the very small hours of this morning UK time, while I was asleep, the Kiwis managed to exactly double this score, going down by 267 runs. Anderson finished with 4-18, Broad 4-45. Harry Brook was named Player of the Match for his 143 runs across the two England innings. A full scorecard can be viewed here. The biggest difference between the sides was in how they used the new ball – England, helped by Stokes’ game management that saw them twice get to use it under floodlights, kept things tight and took plenty of wickets, while New Zealand took few wickets with the new ball and got smacked around when trying to use it.

SIDELIGHT: INDIA MEN RETAIN BGT

Meanwhile India men were in action against Australia men in the second match of the Border-Gavaskar trophy series, India having won the first by a huge margin. Going into today Australia looked like they had a real chance to level the series, but a brainless display of batting against Jadeja (7-42) and Ashwin saw them crash from 60-1 to 115 all out, and India were never seriously in danger of failing to chase their target of 114 (yes, the teams were separated by a single run on first innings), getting there with six wickets in hand.

PHOTOGRAPHS

I have lots of photographs to share with you. Most of my photographs are taken within walking distance of my home in King’s Lynn, which links to the subject of 15-minute cities – a vision of providing people with amenities close enough to home not to require a car to visit them, and I have two good links to share on this topic:

  1. This Guardian article by Oliver Wainwright.
  2. A twitter thread by Haringey based active travel enthusiast Carla Francome based on a recent radio interview.

Now for my usual sign off…

England and Australia off to Winning Starts at the Womens T20 World Cup

A look back at yesterday’s two matches in the Women’s T20 World Cup and some photographs.

The Womens World T20 Cup is underway in South Africa. This post looks back at the two matches that took place yesterday.

ENGLAND V WEST INDIES

West Indies batted first. There were no huge selection surprises. Katherine Sciver-Brunt entered the record books just by taking the field – at 37 years 224 days she became the oldest person ever to turn out for England in a Women’s T20 World Cup match. She also then became England’s oldest ever wicket taker in a match of this nature. England were not quite at their best with the ball and in the field, though Sophie Ecclestone emerged with 3-23 from her four overs. West Indies probably scored about 15 runs more than they should have done due to English lapses, eventually finishing on 136.

Sophia Dunkley served notice of her and England’s intentions by scoring 34 off 18 balls. However, she, Danni Wyatt and Alice Capsey all fell before England were halfway to the target. At that point Heather Knight joined Natalie Sciver-Brunt, and there were no further alarms as England cruised home with over five overs to spare.

AUSTRALIA V NEW ZEALAND

Australia are the current holders, and arrived at the tournament with an awesome looking squad. A blistering batting performance, with Alyssa Healy scoring a record equalling sixth World T20 cup 50 and Ellyse Perry scoring 40 off just 22 balls saw Australia total 173-9, a total that would require excellent batting and a fair amount of luck to overhaul.

The Kiwis, whose batting line up is not the deepest, started disastrously with both openers out for ducks in the first over of the reply. The third wicket pair hinted briefly at a revival, but when that stand was ended by a controversial decision. Thereafter no one really threatened to anything with the bat. Ashleigh Gardner took her first ever international five-for, 5-12, half of those runs coming from one defiant blow from Jess Kerr with the writing already on the wall. To sum up NZ’s fortunes, she was out to the very next delivery, and thje tenth and final wicket fell four balls later. NZ had scraped up a measly total of 76, going down by 97 runs.

PHOTOGRAPHS

Today’s usual sign off comes in two parts, first a general gallery and then a specific focus on the Egret that seems to have taken up residence in the environs of the Gaywood River.

Now for the Egret pics…

Looking Ahead to the Womens U19 World Cup Final

A look ahead to the final of the inaugural Women’s U19 T20 World Cup, and as usual some of my photographs.

This post looks ahead to tomorrow’s final of the inaugural Women’s Under 19 T20 World Cup. England and India will be fighting it out.

INDIA

India did enough to make the semi-finals with some comfort, but in spite of the inclusion of two established senior internationals in Shafali Verma and Richa Ghosh they have not had things all their own way. They beat New Zealand very comfortably in their semi-final, as the latter produced their only poor performance of the tournament at just the wrong time.

ENGLAND

England utterly bossed their first round group, and were barely any less convincing winners of their Super Six group. It was a different matter in the semi-final against Australia, as their batting misfired for the only time in the tournament, and they had a mere 99 to defend. However, their bowlers set about repairing the damage in very impressive fashion. At 59-7, and again at 77-8 they seemed to have the match won. The ninth wicket pair added 19, but then, a mere boundary stroke away from the final, Milly Illingworth was run out to make it 96-9. Four balls later Grace Scrivens claimed the final wicket, and England were home by three runs. Hannah Baker was named Player of the Match for taking 3-10 from her four overs.

A BATTLE ROYAL

I expect this contest to go down to the wire, but I think that England’s successful defence of a mere 99 in their semi-final is enough to make them favourites – their batting has failed only that once all tournament, and their bowling has been magnificent throughout, whereas India came into the semi-finals as the least impressive of the four qualifiers. Whatever happens tomorrow England have let the cricketing world know in no uncertain terms that the future of their women’s team is in good hands.

PHOTOGRAPHS

My usual sign off…

England 3 New Zealand 0: A Retrospective

A look back at the England v New Zealand test series.

Having finally concluded my series about my Scottish holiday I now look back at the series between England and New Zealand that concluded yesterday.

MATCH ONE: A NEW ERA DAWNS

The length of England’s injury list in the fast bowling department and well justified concerns about the top order batting made what already seemed a tough ask appear even tougher. However, Matt Potts of Durham, given his call up to fill one of the vacant slots in the pace bowling department had a superb debut, Broad and Anderson both bowled well on their return to the side, and England won impressively.

MATCH TWO: A DRAMATIC TURNAROUND

Prospects didn’t seem too rosy when England put New Zealand in on a flat pitch and the visitors racked up 550 in the first innings. However, England responded in kind, with Ollie Pope, whose presence at number three, where he had never previously batted in FC cricket, was a cause of some disquiet making a big hundred, Joe Root confirming his status as the greatest England batter of the 21st century with 176 and various other players producing runs. NZ managed to set England 299 to win, having looked in trouble at one stage of their second innings. When Root departed early and England were three down still needing well over 200 for the win the prognosis looked grim. Jonny Bairstow, enjoying a remarkable revival to his career in red ball cricket, played a remarkable innings, with Ben Stokes providing his principal support. Bairstow scored the second fastest test century by an England batter ever, beaten only by Gilbert Jessop’s 1902 effort against Australia, also in a fourth innings run chase. The Yorkshireman was 136* when England completed a five wicket win, with keeper Foakes undefeated at the other end in support.

MATCH 3: 55-6 AND THEN…

James Anderson was unable to play this match, meaning that Devonian born Surrey fast bowler and lower middle order batter Jamie Overton got a first test cap. New Zealand tallied 329 in the first innings, Leach the left armspinner answering some increasingly vociferous critics with 5-100. When Jamie Overton walked out to bat the score was 55-6 and NZ were probably contemplating enforcing the follow on. They were to end up in deficit on first innings. Overton on debut was 89* by the end of the second day, and the seventh wicket stand between him and Bairstow was worth 209, England being 264-6. On day three Overton agonisingly failed to complete a debut century, falling on 97. Bairstow went on to 162, the lower order providing some support, and England, all out for 360, led by 31 on first innings. NZ mustered 326 second time round, with Mitchell and Blundell sharing yet another long partnership in the middle order. Leach, remarkably, achieved a second five wicket haul, 5-66 this time, on a pitch that has seldom been kind to spinners in recent times. England thus need 296 to win. Lees was out early on this occasion, Crawley made a very fortuitous 25 before a chance offered to the slip/ gully region (a mode of dismissal he suffers unacceptably often), but Joe Root and Ollie Pope saw England to 183-2 by the end of day four, 113 more needed and eight wickets standing. Pope did not last long on the final morning, but his departure merely signalled more Bairstow fireworks. Bairstow was a little too brilliant on this occasion, depriving his fellow tyke Root of what would have been that worthy’s 28th test century. England won by seven wickets and taken the series 3-0. Leach was named Player of the Match for his bowling effort, while Root just pipped Bairstow to the Player of the Series award.

POSITIVES AND NEGATIVES

The new mindset that Brendon ‘Baz’ McCullum has instilled in his charges has been a huge positive. The comeback from the depths of 55-6 in reply to 329 in the third match illustrated the spirit in the camp. Pope finally seems to be reproducing his first class form in the test arena, Bairstow has been a revelation, reigniting a test career that looked done not so long ago. Potts and J Overton have both shown great promise early in their test careers, with Potts in particular seeming destined for great career. Leach has ended any discussion about who England’s no1 test spinner is with his bowling at Headingley (with a tour to Pakistan coming at the end of the summer the question of back up spinners will need looking at, and I have several ideas there which I will explore more fully nearer the time). Although temporarily indisposed (lower back pains which turned out to be an early symptom of Covid) Foakes remains first choice keeper. Lees has played a couple of decent knocks at the top this series, and Pope is looking good at three (and in any case that experiment needs rather more time than one three match series before it can be judged). A new opener is needed to replace Crawley. After 24 test matches Crawley averages 26.68 overall, and much less than that as on opener – in the course of this series Crawley’s average as an opener dipped below that of Mike Brearley, and of course for a lot of Brearley’s career his batting was not the main reason for him having a place in the side. While I can understand that it would have been difficult to call up a replacement opener for the one-off match against India that starts on Friday I am absolutely certain that there should be a new name up top (for me one of Chris Dent or Ben Compton) by the time the series against South Africa gets underway.

Overall this series has been hugely positive for England, and although India are likely to prove tougher opposition England are better placed than one could have imagined when they left the West Indies a few months ago with a record showing one victory in their last 17 test matches.

PHOTOGRAPHS

As always I conclude this post by sharing some of my photos…

World T20 Semi-Final Line Ups Complete

A look at the semi-finalists at the T20 World Cup, my team of the tournament and some photographs.

We now know who will be contesting the semi-finals of the T20 World Cup in the UAE. This post looks at the routes the four teams took to reach the SF stage and names an XI of the tournament.

ENGLAND DOMINANT UNTIL THEIR FINAL GAME

England won their first four games, and did so comfortably, accruing a massive net RR of +3.183 in the process. Their last game was against South Africa, third in the group, yesterday. In yesterday’s first game Australia had comfortably beaten West Indies, which meant they were well placed to qualify. South Africa needed a big win to qualify. South Africa batted first and did the first bit very well indeed, scoring 189-2 from their 20 overs. That left England needing 87 to qualify, 106 to top the group, 131 to eliminate South Africa and 190 to make it five wins from five. England went for the win, and went into the 20th over of their innings with a chance of pulling it off. Liam Livingstone hit the longest six of the tournament along the way, a 112 metre monstrosity of a hit. The first three balls of the 20th killed England’s hopes stone dead, as three successive batters holed out to boundary fielders, giving Rabada one of the more bizarre hat tricks ever seen in top level cricket (Charles Townsend’s 1899 effort for Gloucestershire v Somerset, when all three victims were stumped by keeper WH Brain is also noteworthy in this department). SA emerged victorious by 10 runs, but had not quite done enough, and found themselves knocked out in spite of winning four of their five group games, including beating the group winners (England). Australia went through in second place.

THE OTHER GROUP

The second group comprised India, Pakistan, New Zealand, Sri Lanka, Scotland and Namibia. This morning and very early afternoon UK time New Zealand took on Afghanistan, with India also having a mathematical chance of qualifying, should Afghanistan win by a small margin and then India beat Namibia tomorrow. In the event, with the exception of Najibullah Zadran (73 off 48 balls), no Afghan batter could get going and they posted a modest 124-8. NZ were never in serious trouble against so modest a target, and got home off the first ball of the 18th, confirming their SF place and India’s elimination. This is a case of cricketing justice being done and seen to be done – NZ had won four of their five matches, and had they lost someone would have been qualifying with three wins out of five when a team in the other group went home with four out of five. Pakistan are just starting their last group match against Scotland, in a bid to be the only team to record a 100% win record at the Super 12 stage. India have been the biggest disappointment of this tournament, succumbing tamely to massive defeats at the hands of Pakistan (ten wickets) and New Zealand (a mere eight wickets, but more time in hand than Pakistan had had). It is possibly also significant that their most commanding batting performance saw skipper Kohli, one the 21st century’s greatest batters, not bat at all. Kohli’s last international century in any format was scored almost exactly two years, and it maybe that an outstanding career is approaching its close.

THOMAS’S TOURNAMENT XI

Before giving more details, my team in batting order:

+Jos Buttler (Eng, RHB, WK)
*Babar Azam (Pak, RHB, captain)
Charith Asalanka (SL, LHB, occ OS)
Aiden Markram (SA, RHB, occ OS)
Asif Ali (Pak, RHB, RMF)
Wanindu Hasaranga de Silva (SL,LS, RHB)
Chris Woakes (Eng, RHB, RFM)
Mark Watt (Sco, SLA, LHB)
Anrich Nortje (SA, RF, RHB)
Shaheen Shah Afridi (Pak, LF, LHB)
Tabraiz Shamsi (SA, LWS, RHB)

12th: Liam Livingstone (Eng, RHB, LS/OS)

There were three players contending for two opening slots, and I would not argue with those who went for the proven combination of Babar Azam and Mohammad Rizwan, but on any honest reckoning Buttler has been the best opener on show in this tournament, scoring both heavily and very fast.

My choice for number three has really announced himself during this tournament, showing serious talent (anyone who can whip an Anrich Nortje delivery over midwicket for six as he did against SA is a heck of a player).

Aiden Markram has had a superb tournament, and like the rest of his team is entitled to consider himself unlucky to not be still involved. As well as his batting he has been useful with the ball for SA.

Asif Ali is there just in case the team finds itself in a tight finish, in which situation he is a virtual cheat code.

Wanindu Hasaranga de Silva has been one of the stars of the tournament, batting well in the middle order and being devastating with his leg spin.

Chris Woakes has been very important to England’s success in this tournament to date, and it is noteworthy that England’s sole loss saw him have a poor game.

Mark Watt has been for me the Associate Nations Player of the Tournament, taking wickets in every match to date, and generally being very economical. He has also played one crucial innings, when he helped to rescue his side from 56-6 against Bangladesh.

Anrich Nortje has been consistently excellent with the ball, testing all his opponents to the fullest.

Shaheen Shah Afridi has been outstanding with his left arm pace. This place was a toss up between him and Trent Boult, who plays the same role for NZ (Mitchell Starc of Australia has not had his finest tournament) but I have gone for Afridi for his extra pace.

Tabraiz Shamsi is the best bowler of his type in the world, and has managed to enhance an already considerable reputation in the course of this tournament.

Liam Livingstone gets the 12th man slot because he covers lots of bases – he can spin the ball either way and is a ferocious batter.

This team has a stellar top four, a cheat code finisher, two magnificent all rounders of very different types and four wonderfully contrasting specialist bowlers. There are runs aplenty in this line up, and a mouthwatering array of bowling options. I regret not being able to find a place for any of the Aussies, but none has been definitively the best in the tournament in their role.

PHOTOGRAPHS

My usual sign off…

A Look at The T20 World Cup

A look at the T20 World Cup, in which there have been some interesting developments, a gesture of solidarity to the folk of Wisbech, a massive open letter and photographs.

The T20 World Cup in the UAE is developing very interestingly, and this post looks at some of the developments.

ENGLAND DOMINATING THEIR GROUP

England have won all three games they have had so far, and have a huge positive net run rate (+3.694, the biggest in either group). They are in action today against Sri Lanka, and are batting first, which is tricky in the UAE, but as Afghanistan have shown twice this tournament it can be done that way. On Saturday they inflicted a body blow on Australia, winning by eight wickets with exactly 50 balls to spare. South Africa almost came unstuck against Sri Lanka but David Miller rescued them when they needed 15 off the last over to win, and they are well placed to take second spot behind England and with it a semi-final berth.

A 2+ WAY SCRAP FOR SECOND PLACE IN THE OTHER GROUP

Pakistan, with three wins from three, are almost sure to top this group, and they have been mightily impressive. They nearly came unstuck against Afghanistan, but with 24 needed off two overs Asif Ali struck four sixes in the penultimate over, bowled by Karim Janat, to take Pakistan over the line.

Second place in the group just about has three contenders, but the third of them are hanging on by a thread. New Zealand beat India by eight wickets yesterday, with a lot of time to spare, which leaves India winless from two games (they went down by ten wickets against Pakistan in their first game), but with their three theoretically easiest opponents to come. Their net run rate is a disastrous -1.609. NZ have won one game out of two, and the big hurdle for them will be Afghanistan – if they win their remaining games they qualify for sure, but defeat against Afghanistan probably finishes them, since while their net RR is respectable at +0.752, Afghanistan’s is a whopping +3.097, due to the fact that beat Scotland by 130 runs and Namibia by 62 runs. Afghanistan almost certainly qualify if they beat either India or NZ, and even two defeats won’t definitely doom them because if NZ or India come unstuck against one of the minor nations that net RR will come to their rescue. My reading of this group is that NZ are the most likely second place team, Afghanistan second most likely, and India while not out of it are in the last chance saloon with last orders having been called.

BOWLERS MAKING THEIR PRESENCE FELT

There is a good contest brewing between Anrich Nortje (SA) and Haris Rauf (Pakistan) for who can bowl the quickest ball of the tournament – both have been significantly above 150KPH. At the moment Nortje just leads the way on 153.5 KPH (95.5MPH). The next most notable performer among the pacers has been Pakistan left armer Shaheen Shah Afridi who has caused everyone problems.

Afghanistan have two top quality spinners, Rashid Khan (leg spin) and Mujeeb Ur Rahman (off spin), and they left Qais Ahmed behind. South Africa have Tabraiz Shamsi (left arm wrist spin), Sri Lanka have leg spinning all rounder Wanindu Hasaranga de Silva who has done the hat trick during this tournament and the young off spinner Maheesh Theekshana. New Zealand have Ish Sodhi (leg spin) and Mitchell Santner (left arm orthodox) who were each allowed to go at less than five an over by India yesterday.

A T20XI FROM BEFORE THE T20 ERA

I am allowing myself one “given man” – a single player in the XI who has actually played T20. I have allowed myself four overseas players, treating this as a franchise type selection. Following these rules this is what I came up with:

  1. G St A Sobers – left handed batter, left arm bowler of every type known to cricket.
  2. Gilbert Jessop – right handed batter, right arm fast bowler.
  3. Frank Woolley – left handed batter, left arm orthodox spinner.
  4. +Les Ames – right handed batter, wicket keeper.
  5. Clem Hill – left handed batter.
  6. *Tony Greig – right handed batter, right arm medium fast bowler, off spinner.
  7. Alan Davidson – left arm fast medium bowler, left handed batter.
  8. Rashid Khan – leg spinner, right handed batter.
  9. Joel Garner – right arm fast bowler, right handed lower order batter.
  10. Derek Underwood – left arm slow medium bowler, right handed lower order batter.
  11. Alfred Shaw – right arm slow medium bowler, right handed lower order batter.

This XI features a strong batting line up with a good mix of left and right handers (the top seven, who are expected to almost all the scoring feature four left handers – Sobers, Woolley, Hill and Davidson; and three right handers – Jessop (the quickest scorer in the game’s history), Ames (winner of the Lawrence trophy for fastest FC hundred of the season twice in its first three years, sandwiching his Kent team mate Woolley) and Greig. Ames as keeper is top bracket – the “keepers double” of 1,000 FC runs and 100FC dismissals for the season was achieved four times, once by JT Murray of Middlesex and three times by Ames. The bowling has an awesome range of options, with only Ames and Hill not able to contribute in this department.

LINKS AND PHOTOGRAPHS

A few years back we in King’s Lynn fought off plans to plant an incinerator on us. Now, with COP26 just getting under way, another fenland town, Wisbech, is facing the threat of an incinerator. More about this is available here.

Also COP related, there is a massive open letter to presented to the folk at COP26, which you can read and sign here.

Now it is time for my usual sign off…

Two Great Test Matches

A look back at two great cricketing occasions – the women’s test between England and India and the World Test Championship final between India and New Zealand.

Now that I have finished my series about my Scottish holiday (all posts therein can be accessed from here) it is time to tackle other things. In this post I look back two great cricket matches which overlapped (poor organization there). I start with:

ENGLAND WOMEN V
INDIA WOMEN

This test match, the first women’s test match in two years and the first involving India Women for seven years was played between the 16th and 19th of June at Bristol. Not only do the women play very little test cricket, their domestic structure does not include long form cricket.

England were 269-6 at the close of the first day, having at one point been 230-2. Heather Knight, the captain, scored 95, Tammy Beaumont 66 and Nat Sciver 42. In occupation overnight were debutant Sophia Dunkley and veteran Katherine Brunt. Brunt fell early on the second morning to make ti 270-7 but Dunkley found excellent partners in Sophie Ecclestone who helped the eighth wicket to add 56 and then Anya Shrubsole who scored a blazing 47 as a further 70 accrued for the ninth wicket. At Shrubsole’s dismissal the score was 396-9 and Knight declared, leaving Dunkley with a debut innings of 74 not out to look back on. Sneh Rana, an off spinner, had 4-131 from 39.2 overs for India.

Smriti Mandhana and Shafali Verma gave the Indian first innings a magnificent start, putting on 167 before Verma, at the age 17, was out for 96 just missing a debut century. Some good bowling by England in the closing stages of the second day and an odd decision by skipper Mithali Raj to send in a nightwatcher with quite a lot of time left in the day (both the nightwatcher, Shikha Pandey, and Raj herself, obliged to go in anyway, fell in the closing stages) put India in trouble, a situation that got rapidly worse at the start of day three as more quick wickets fell. At one stage the score read 197-8, meaning that eight wickets had fallen for 30 runs. The ninth wicket provided some resistance and forced the taking of the second new ball. It took an absolute beauty from Katherine Brunt to break the stand, and no11 Jhulan Goswami got another good ball, this time from Anya Shrubsole, to end the innings at 231, meaning that, this being a four match, England were able to enforce the follow-on, which they quite correctly did. Ecclestone had taken 4-88 with her left arm spin.

Mandhana fell cheaply at the start of the Indian second innings, but Deepti Sharma, an off spinning all rounder who had batted well in the first Indian innings (she it was who orchestrated the tail end resistance), was promoted to no3 second time round, and by the end of day three she and Verma were still in occupation, with the score 83-1. After 16 runs had been added on the third morning Verma’s wonderful debut finally ended as she fell for 63, giving her 159 runs in the match. Just before lunch Deepti Sharma after the longest innings of her life finally fell for 54, making it 171-3, and the innings defeat avoided. The question now was could India hold out long enough to prevent England from being able to chase the runs down. Punam Raut dropped anchor at one end, but at the other Mithali Raj, Harmanpreet Kaur and Pooja Vastrakar all came and went fairly cheaply, with Raut being dismissed in between Kaur and Vastrakar. When Vastrakar fell India were 199-7, still only 34 to the good. Shikha Pandey joined Sneh Rana, and they put on 41, but even at that stage England seemed likely to win. However, Taniya Bhatia, the Indian wicket keeper, now joined Rana and they staunchly resisted everything England could produce. Rana was on 80 not out and might have had half an eye on a century and Bhatia 44 not out and definitely eyeing up a fifty, with the stand worth an unbeaten 104, only three short of the all time ninth wicket record in women’s test cricket when the umpires intervened, deciding it was too dark to continue (given how few overs were left, the draw had long since been certain). Ecclestone had again taken four wickets, although she also took some punishment as she tired in the closing stages, finishing with 4-118 this time. Shafali Verma’s two great innings on debut earned her player of the match, although Sneh Rana, and on the England side Knight (95 and wickets in both innings as well as being captain) and Ecclestone might also have been considered.

Both sides played well, and India showed tremendous fighting spirit to secure the draw the way they did at the end. A full scorecard can be viewed here.

WTC FINAL: NZ V IND

The inaugural World Test Championship had ended with India and New Zealand at the top, so these two teams convened at Southampton for the final. Six days were allotted, although the sixth would only come into play if weather interruptions necessitated it. In the end such was the weather between 18 and 23 June that even a sixth day was only just sufficient.

The first day was entirely washed out, and on day two New Zealand decided to go in without any spin options, picking three specialist pacers in Boult, Wagner and Southee plus a fast bowling all rounder in Jamieson and also at no7 Colin de Grandhomme who bowls medium pace. When they won the toss it was almost inevitable that they would choose to bowl with that team, and they duly did so. The truncated second day ended with India 146-3 and seemingly somewhat ahead of the game. New Zealand bowled fantastically on the third morning to reduce India to 217 all out, and by the close of the third day they were 101-2 in response, the second wicket having fallen just before the close. The fourth day, like the first, saw no play at all. Fortunately the fifth day dawned bright and clear. When NZ were 135-5, India looked to have wrested the initiative back, but the last five kiwi wickets put on a further 114 to give them a first innings lead of 32. India batted poorly in their second innings, with a number of poor dismissals. Rishabh Pant top scored with 41, as they managed a mere 170, leaving NZ just 139 to win. R Ashwin accounted for both openers with his off spin but there was to be no further success for India as Kane Williamson and Ross Taylor saw their side home, with Williamson racking up only the second individual 50+ score of the match in the process, giving him a match aggregate of 101 for once out (49 and 52 not out, the second and third highest scores of the match behind Devon Conway’s first innings 54). Kyle Jamieson with match figures of 7-61 from 46 overs, the most economical by a pace bowler in a test in England since Joel Garner in 1980, and a crucial 20 in his only innings was named Player of the Match. New Zealand thoroughly deserved their victory. While all of the kiwis bowled well, Ishant Sharma and Jasprit Bumrah were both below their best for India, Ashwin was not helped by the conditions, though he put in a fine effort and Jadeja as a bowler was a virtual passenger on that pitch and in those conditions.

I like the concept of the WTC but I think the following changes are necessary for it to work:

  1. Every team to play the same number of matches in each cycle.
  2. All series to count towards the WTC (immediately before the final England and New Zealand played a non-WTC series, which New Zealand won and won well).
  3. All 12 test playing nations to be involved.

PHOTOGRAPHS

My usual sign off…

World Test Championship Final Arrangements

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.

GETTING THERE

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”.

PHOTOGRAPHS

Time for my usual sign off…

All Time XIs – New Zealand

It being Monday, today’s exploration on the ‘all time’ cricket XI theme looks at an international unit, in this case New Zealand.

INTRODUCTION

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

  1. 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.
  2. Bryan  Young Рright handed opening batter. He came late to this role but performed it conscientiously and successfully when the time came.
  3. *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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. +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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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).
  9. 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.
  10. 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.
  11. 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.

HONOURABLE MENTIONS

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.

HONOURABLE MENTIONS

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).

PHOTOGRAPHS

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…

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NZ
The teams in tabulated form, with abbreviated comments.