Events in the Womens U19 World Cup

A look at a couple of incidents from the inaugural Women’s Under 19 T20 World Cup and of course a photo gallery.

The inaugural Women’s Under 19 T20 World Cup is currently taking place in South Africa. 16 teams are involved, ranging from top tier cricketing nations like Australia, England and India to newcomers to the cricketing world stage such as Indonesia and Rwanda. In this post I look at two incidents from the tournament.

PAKISTAN V RWANDA – ROATeNSE STRIKES

For more about the ROATeNSE as I call it, please visit this post. This one happened near the end of the Rwanda innings, and attracted the usual howls of protest from those opposed to this form of dismissal (I have yet to meet a logical argument against it – it rarely if ever gets beyond “I don’t like it, so it shouldn’t happen.”). I note three things about this particular dismissal:

  1. The bowler ran in smoothly and only changed tack when noting as she was about to bowl that the non-striker was out of her ground.
  2. There was nothing marginal about it – the batter had her bat trailing behind her, and the toe end of that implement, closest part of bat or body to the crease line, was at least a foot out, possibly 18 inches, while the batter herself was at least a full yard beyond the crease line.
  3. This was not a situation in which an accusation of desperation (a popular tactic among opponents of the ROATeNSE) could be made – Rwanda had lost a lot of wickets and were headed for a poor score (Pakistan won easily in the end, with just over two overs to spare).

In addition to the above important points I also noticed (I saw a video clip of the incident) that the non-striker could see the bowler at all times and was still careless enough to stray out of her ground.

FOUR IN FOUR AND A CHANGE TO THE I XI

Today Rwanda were in action again, this time against Zimbabwe. They managed 119 from their 20 overs, and when Zimbabwe were 80-6 in response a close finish looked on. At that point Rwandan seamer Henriette Ishimwe took the last four wickets with consecutive balls giving Rwanda victory by 39 runs. When I did my all time XI series for each letter of the alphabet in the second half of 2022 the Is had a very weak seam combination, and this proof of Ishimwe’s skill is sufficient to induce a change – she replaces Anthony Ireland in that XI (she is also a useful lower order bat, whereas the Zimbabwean was a genuine number 11). That leads on to a question that crops whenever this wicket taking sequence happens:

IS IT A DOUBLE HAT TRICK?

Some people notice that the sequence WWWW contains two sets of three Ws – nos 1,2 and 3, and nos 2,3 and 4 and ignoring the fact that using this to call the sequence a double hat tricks means counting the second and third wickets twice (once in each hat trick) insist on referring to it as a double hat trick.

For me this is absolute nonsense – only four distinct wickets are taken, so it is four wickets in four balls, while a double hat trick would be six in six – two independent sequences of three in three in succession.

Additionally, the phrase hat trick exists because of a match that took place at the Hyde Park ground in Sheffield in the early 1850s. In that match Heathfield Harman Stephenson, captain of the itinerant All England XI, took three wickets with successive balls and the crowd were so impressed by his feat that they passed a hat around to collect money for him. Both hat and coins were presented to Stephenson. I doubt very much that a fourth successive wicket would have got the hat passed around again, but had Stephenson taken another three in succession either then or later it might well have been, and had another bowler matched his achievement it probably would have been.

PHOTOGRAPHS

My usual sign off…

Stokes Sets Up Superb Finish

An account of the extraordinary fourth day’s play between Pakistan and England in Rawalpindi, including an endorsement of Stokes and England’s approach.

Today was day four of Pakistan v England in Rawalpindi, and a remarkable day it was too. In this post I look at the events of the day and ahead to tomorrow and the future of international crickets oldest and greatest format, test cricket.

THE END OF THE PAKISTAN FIRST INNINGS

Pakistan boosted their total from an overnight 499-7 to 579 all out. All three wickets fell to Will Jacks, giving him 6-161 on test debut, his first ever five wicket innings haul in first class cricket. Agha Salman managed a 50.

THE ENGLAND SECOND INNINGS

England went about the business of extending their first innings lead of 78 with considerable spirit and gusto. At lunch they were 46-2, with Duckett and Pope gone. Crawley made exactly 50 before he was third out, and then came a gorgeous partnership between Root and Brook. Root at one point switched to batting left handed (his younger brother Billy, now at Glamorgan after spells with Yorkshire and Nottinghamshire, is actually a left handed batter). Root was fourth out, having scored 73, which was just enough to put his test average at 50.00. Stokes fell cheaply, but Jacks hit 24 off 13 balls, and then the injured Livingstone joined Brook, who was on for breaking the record for the fastest ever test ton by an English batter. That was not to be, as when Brook had reached 87 off 64 balls Naseem Shah clean bowled him to make at 264-7, a lead of 342. The umpires called tea, and as it transpired Ben Stokes decided that with only the crocked Livingstone and three specialist bowlers left it was time to declare. This move basically took the draw off the table.

PAKISTAN’S SECOND INNINGS

Pakistan set off in pursuit of the target of 343 with some brio, but Ollie Robinson induced Abdullah Shafique to pull a ball into deep square leg’s hands, and later in the same over the new batter, Azhar Ali, was injured and returned to the pavilion. Ben Stokes had rival skipper Babar Azam caught behind, but Imam-ul-Haq and Shakeel Saud lasted until fading light brought the usual early close to proceedings. Pakistan were 80-2 at that point, and therefore will need 263 with 7+ wickets standing (even if Azhar Ali can resume his innings at some point tomorrow he will not be fully effective when carrying an injury). Thus a game which in other circumstances would have been the drabbest of high scoring draws enters day five with three results possible and the draw (barring rain) not one of them. I would say the England win is most likely of the three, the Pakistan win a not too distant second and the tie, which would only be the third such result in test history cannot be entirely ruled out – in many ways this extraordinary match deserves such an outlandish final outcome.

STOKES’ DECLARATION & TEST CRICKET’S FUTURE

There were many criticisms of Stokes’ declaration on twitter, but none from me. Stokes has said many times that he has no time for draws, echoing the legendary Somerset fast bowling all rounder and skipper of yore, Sammy Woods, who once said “draws…they are for bathing in”, and this was a case of him putting that philosophy into practice. Although it represents a major gamble it was a logical move on two grounds:

  1. With Livingstone injured and having only specialist bowlers for company England were probably not going to score that many more runs anyway, and why gift Pakistan with the morale boost of three cheap wickets post tea?
  2. England’s best route to victory lies paradoxically in keeping Pakistan interested – if the set target was entirely nominal Pakistan would shut up shop and a couple of their number would boost their batting averages courtesy of some red ink.

By taking such a hardline stance and effectively eliminating the draw from consideration Stokes has done test cricket a great service. Many of cricket’s most successful skippers have been so precisely because of a willingness to take risks in pursuit of victory. Stuart Surridge, captain of Surrey for five seasons in the 1950s and winner of the county championship in all five of those seasons, was noted for making declarations that no other skipper would have dared to, and getting away with it very frequently. He once set Somerset, with a batting line up led by the aggressive Harold Gimblett 297 in 315 minutes, and even with Gimblett scoring a rapid century Surrey won with half an hour to spare. On another occasion Surrey had bowled Worcestershire out for 27, and were 92-3 in reply when Surridge declared as he wanted a second bowl at Worcestershire that evening. Laker and Lock took the new ball, and each had nabbed a wicket by the close, and the following morning Worcestershire were all out for 40, losing by an innings and 25 runs. This remarkable victory sealed that year’s championship for Surrey.

Ben Stokes this match has demonstrated how a captain who is fully committed to taking an enterprising and aggressive approach can generate results even on surfaces that are practically tailored to prevent such. Whatever happens tomorrow, in spite of it being played on a surface which is IMO unfit for test cricket due to being ridiculously loaded in favour of the batters this match will go down as a classic test match, fit to stand alongside the great Ashes battles of 2005 and that is down to England and Stokes’ commitment to go all out for victory even if doing so means risking defeat. This match has confounded many people’s expectations of how test cricket is/ should be approached, and that is all to the good as far as I am concerned. Whatever the final result I unreservedly applaud Ben Stokes and his England team for their approach to the game.

PHOTOGRAPHS

My usual sign off…

Rawalpindi Runfest

A look at goings on in Rawalpindi where Pakistan are playing England in a test match that has already seen seven centuries and the first test wickets by a bowler with first two initials WG since 1890.

The Pakistan vs England test series, the first between these two teams to take place in Pakistan in 17 years (for most of that time Pakistan were restricted to playing “home” series at neutral venues such as the United Arab Emirates because of security concerns) got underway on Thursday morning (earlyish Pakistan time, very early – though “ridiculous o’clock” rather than “ludicrous o’clock” as would be the case for a series in Australia). This post looks at the first three days action.

ENGLAND MANAGE TO NAME A TEAM

There had been fears that the start of this match would be delayed due to illness in the England camp, but although they had to make some last minute changes England were able to come up with 11 fit players. In batting order the final XI was Crawley, Duckett, +Pope, Root, Brook, *Stokes, Livingstone, Jacks, Robinson, Leach, Anderson. Foakes being unavailable meant Pope keeping wicket, and the team looked colossally strong in batting but limited in bowling (while some of the bowlers concerned are excellent practitioners of their art an attack with three specialists – Anderson, Leach and Robinson, and back up options Stokes, Jacks and Livingston is no one’s definition of a stellar bowling unit, with Stokes the nearest thing to a properly fast bowler in the ranks). There was less drama around the Pakistan selections, though their bowling attack was a very inexperienced one. Fortunately for England Stokes won the toss and chose to bat first (IMO a decision to field first would have raised legitimate questions about whether Stokes had been doing deals with dodgy bookies so terrible would it have been).

DAY ONE: THE RUNS FLOW

A barely believable opening day saw England post a new record for the opening day of a test match of 506-4, and that with fading light in the evening restricting play to 79 overs. The previous record of 494 by Australia versus South Africa had stood since 1910. Crawley, Duckett, Pope and Brook all registered centuries on this amazing opening day, and all went at over a run a ball. In amongst the carnage Joe Root just for once failed with the bat. Pakistan bowled poorly, and England’s batters took no prisoners – every loose ball was remorselessly punished.

DAY TWO: PAKISTAN FIGHT BACK

It is not often that a team who score 657 batting first could be disappointed with their efforts, but England were in that position. On one of the flattest pitches ever seen and against an experienced attack they lost their last six wickets in less than a full session, though their blistering scoring rate made up for the lack of time that they batted for. The innings lasted exactly 101 overs, with Brook scoring England’s quickest ever test 150 (at 80 balls his 100 was third on the England list behind Gilbert Jessop and Jonathan Bairstow, while Crawley had taken 86 balls, the same number as Botham at Old in 1981). Zahid Mahmood had the remarkable figures of 33-1-235-4!

By the time fading light forced a second successive early closure of a day’s play Abdullah Shafique and Imam-ul-Haq, Pakistan’s openers, were still together and the score was 181-0.

DAY THREE – LATE WICKETS SPARE ENGLAND’S BLUSHES

Abdullah Shafique and Imam-ul-Haq each completed tons for Pakistan, making this the first test match in which all four openers had scored first innings centuries. Babar Azam also reached three figures, and at 413-3 Pakistan looked well capable of taking a first innings lead. The breaking of Pakistan’s open stand featured a bit of cricket history – debutant Will Jacks became the first person with first two initials WG to claim a test scalp since the original “WG” dismissed Aussie wicket keeper Jack Blackham at Lord’s in 1890. This also meant that it took approximately 19 and a half years less as a test cricketer to claim a scalp on Pakistan soil than Anderson, whose own first scalp in that country came later in the day.

Late in the day England got things to happen, and by the time the light forced a third straight early finish to a day’s play Pakistan were 499-7, still 158 in arrears. Jacks has three of the wickets (remarkable given that at the start of the 2022 English season he had a grand total of three first class wickets), Leach two and Anderson and Robinson one a piece. England will be looking to polish of Pakistan’s tail early tomorrow, and score quick enough in their second innings to have a bowl at Pakistan before the close of tomorrow. Pakistan will be looking to thwart England for as long as possible – for them a draw will now be the summit of their ambitions for this match, while England retain some hope of winning. Incidentally with seven centuries already racked up it is worth noting that the record for any test match is eight and the FC record is nine, in an absurd game between Bombay and Maharashtra in the late 1940s which the former won by 354 runs – Bombay 651-9d and 714-8d, Maharashtra 407 and 604.

Although this game is not utterly dead yet, that is more by accident than by design, and a pitch on which bowlers are as helpless as they have been these three days is a poor one for test cricket. My own feeling is that a draw remains the likeliest outcome, with the Pakistan win and the tie the two rank outsiders and an England win maybe 25%.

PHOTOGRAPHS

Today’s photographs are all work photographs. The auctions in which these items feature can be viewed here and here.

Now on to the second sale (takes place on Dec 14th):

England in Pakistan

A quick look at England’s selections for the first test in Pakistan, due to start early tomorrow morning UK time.

Yesterday I concluded my alphabetical all time XIs project. Tomorrow morning should be seeing the start of England’s first test series in Pakistan in a good many years, and England have named their XI. However an illness is sweeping the England camp and they are in negotiations to delay the start of the match. Before I look at the rights and (mostly) wrongs of this England XI I will say as an English person that England should get no special treatment – if they are not out in the middle and ready to play at the appointed hour the game should be awarded to Pakistan as per the laws of cricket.

THE ENGLAND XI

This is the XI England have named:

Overall I cannot say that I am impressed by this selection. Crawley has no business being in a test side and clearly only retains his place because his father is a golfing buddy of one of the top people in English cricket. Duckett to replace Lees is a reasonable call, though I consider Lees less in need of being replaced than Crawley. Pope, Root, Brook, Stokes and Foakes are all pretty automatic, with Bairstow injured. It is numbers eight to 11 that especially concern me: Livingstone is mainly a batter, with bowling very much his second string, and plays little red ball cricket these days, Robinson has had injury problems and while few could argue with Leach and even fewer with Anderson, the bowling looks to be lacking in both depth and variety, with the seam/ pace element limited to the new ball pair and Stokes, and Leach the only front line spin option, with Root and Livingstone by way of support. Pakistan pitches are usually flat and I cannot see this bowling “attack” taking 20 wickets on a flat track. Frankly this XI has all the appearance of one that has been selected to not lose, rather than selected to win, with extreme emphasis on batting depth and a skeleton bowling unit. Potts should be in there to support Robinson and Anderson, and if a batter who bowls spin is a must, then Brooks should miss out, with Stokes and Foakes each moving up one place and one of Rehan Ahmed or Will Jacks debuting at number seven (NOT Livingstone).

PHOTOGRAPHS

My usual sign off….

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…

A Game That Neither Side Deserved to Win

An account of today’s BBL10 ‘Eliminator Round’ between Strikers and Heat, some suggested changes to the format of the tournament, and an acknowledgement of Pakistan’s victory over South Africa.

Before getting into the meat of today’s post, which deals with the ‘Eliminator’ round of BBL10, between Strikers and Heat, a word of congratulation to Pakistan, who completed a convincing win over South Africa by seven wickets. South Africa lost three wickets just before the close yesterday, as 175-1 became 185-4, and today they continued in that vein, being all out for 245, a lead of 87. Although Nortje bagged a couple of early wickets Pakistan were never in serious trouble, and fell appropriately to Fawad Alam to make the winning hit. His form since his recall to the colours makes one wonder how his team overlooked him for 11 whole years (not a record – George Gunn was called up by England after a lapse of 17 years between games, while in first class cricket there is the bizarre case of William Caesar who played two games in 1920 and four more in 1946, with nothing in between).

OVERKIND QUALIFICATION
SYSTEM EXPOSED

It is rare the a pom gets an opportunity to call Aussies soft with any hint of justification, but BBL10 has provided it. A qualification system that allowed five teams out of a total of eight to make it to the knock out phase (in the Vitality Blast eight teams out of 18 do so, while in the 50 over contest it has been six teams out of 18) look questionable from the get go, and today’s match was powerful evidence for the prosecution, as Strikers took on Heat in the ‘Eliminator’.

Heat have been at their most vulnerable this season when faced with a run chase, so the Strikers were correct to choose to bat first. However, even if you make the correct call, you do then have to play decent cricket, and this was where Strikers slipped up. All seemed good when they were 18-0 after two overs, but overs three and four went for only six runs between them, giving a Power Play score of 24-0. In Overs 5-10 Strikers failed to gain any momentum, as first Carey and then Head pottered about, barely managing to achieve a scoring rate of one run per two balls (Carey 13 off 22, Head 12 off 21). At the half way stage Strikers were 53-1, way below par, and they immediately claimed the Power Surge, also using the ‘x-factor sub’ rule to bring Wells in for Worrall in an effort to jazz up their batting. One wicket fell in the Surge, but Strikers also scored 16 off those two overs, and they seemed to be maintaining the momentum, although bizarrely Renshaw came in ahead of ‘x-factor’ man Wells, when they were 94-3 after 15, having scored 41 in the third quarter of their innings. A big finish was needed, and did not materialize. In the end Strikers finished with 130-7 from their 20 overs, with only Weatherald, Salt, and at the death Wes Agar having shown anything like sufficient intent.

Heat made an even worse start than Strikers had, not scoring especially quickly and losing the big wickets of Lynn and Labuschagne early. A third wicket went down in the fourth over, and Heat’s Power Play had yielded 24-3. In overs 5-10 Heat scored 44 without losing a wicket, being 68-3 at halfway, 15 runs ahead but two wickets behind Strikers at the same point. They declined to take the Power Surge, holding back, and in the 14th over Denly was out for 41 to make it 92-4. At the end of the 15th Heat were 98-4, needing 33 of five overs, and the 16th was economical as well. Then however Travis Head blundered, giving himself a second over when he could have had Siddle and Agar bowl through. It revived the Heat, as they were 110-4 at the end of it, and that point they finally did claim the Power Surge. They got eight off the first over with it, reducing the ask to 13 runs off two overs, and then Agar, who had had a fine tournament with the ball, cracked under pressure, the winning runs being accrued off five balls of his over. Jimmy Peirson finished unbeaten on 47, a fine knock, which earned him the Player of the Match award.

Strikers made a huge mess of their own innings, with as I have said, Carey and Head especially culpable. Heat were barely any more impressive, getting their tactics badly wrong and being saved by Head’s inexplicable decision to give himself a second over. Heat should have claimed the surge when Denly and Peirson were together and they could have had two set batters use it. Also, their selection of Heazlett backfired – the left hander was picked to counter Strikers’ spinners Briggs and O’Connor both of whom turn the ball away from the right hander’s bat and was out before he got to face either.

Tomorrow sees Scorchers and Sixers do battle, with the winner going straight into the final, while the loser whill face the winner of Sunday’s game between Heat (their reward for winning this one) and Thunder. I would guess that if they followed today’s action Thunder will be licking their lips at the prospect of Sunday’s game.

This was a game that neither side deserved to win, and that had the qualification system been sensible would not have been taking place – 4th and 5th out of eight have no business making it to the knock out stages of a tournament, and it looked every inch a contest between two moderate sides neither of whom really know how to win.

ORGANIZATIONAL CHANGES

I have already indicated what I think the qualification system should be: three teams qualify, group winners into the final, second vs third for the right to join them, with 2nd having home advantage.

I also feel the tournament would benefit from being more compact. A lot of the time there is only one game per day, with a few days featuring two games. With 14 rounds of group games I would play four fixtures per day, thereby having all eight sides in action, with a day off between rounds, meaning that the group phase would last 27 days in total, and then the two knockout matches would take place on successive days after two days off, making the whole length of the tournament 31 days – and it being an Aussie tournament I would make game day 1 Boxing Day, and the final to take place on Australia Day.

PHOTOGRAPHS

My usual sign off…

Rain and Records

A look at the end of the test match summer, and at the state of the Bob Willis Trophy.

INTRODUCTION

From Friday through Tuesday at those times the weather permitted England and Pakistan did battle at the Ageas bowl in the last test match of this strangest of all summers, and from Saturday through Tuesday the fourth round of the Bob Willis Trophy took place, again with considerable interference from the weather. I look back at the test match and forward to the final round of BWT fixtures.

YOUTH AND EXPERIENCE TO THE FORE

England amassed 583-8 declared in their first innings, a performance underpinned by Zak Crawley who scored 267, his first test century. The only higher scores for a maiden test ton have been Brian Lara’s 277 at Sydney, Tip Foster (287 in his first ever test innings at Sydney), Bobby Simpson’s 311 at Old Trafford and Garry Sobers’ 365 not out at Sabina Park. Among England batters only Compton (278 v Pakistan), Foster (287 v Australia), Cook (294 v India), John Edrich (310 not out v New Zealand), Andy Sandham (325 v West Indies), Graham Gooch (333 v India), Walter Hammond (336 not out v New Zealand) and Len Hutton (364 v Australia) have ever scored more in a single innings. Only Hutton has ever scored more at a younger age than Crawley, who is just 22 years old. Thereafter, in the cricket that the weather permitted the spotlight was focussed on 38 year old James Anderson, as he first took a five-for (and had three catches missed) in Pakistan’s first innings, to which skipper Azhar Ali contributed a splendid 141 not out. This put Anderson on 598 test wickets, and England enforced the follow on as they had to. By the end of day 4, as the weather played havoc with the match Pakistan were 100-2 in their second innings, with one of the wickets to Anderson moving him on to 599, and yet another catch having gone begging off his bowling. There was heavy overnight rain, and it continued to rain for most of the morning, finally stopping just after 11AM. The sodden ground then had to dry out before play could commence, but eventually, at 4:15PM, with a possible 42 overs (27 mandatory and a further 15 if a result seemed possible) to be bowled. Anderson did not break through in his first spell, and as England hurried through overs to get to the second new ball Joe Root took a wicket with his part time off spin and Dom Sibley bowled one of the filthiest overs ever seen in a test match with his even more part time leg spin. The new ball was taken, and in his third over with it James Anderson induced a nick from Azhar Ali and the ball was pouched by a waiting slip fielder, bringing him to 600 test wickets. No one who bowled above medium pace had previously reached this landmark, and of the three spinners who had got there only one, Muttiah Muralitharan had done so in fewer balls bowled. Shortly after this a well struck four brought up a remarkable statistical landmark highlighted by Andy Zaltzman on Test Match Special: 1,000,000 runs in test matches involving England. A little later the last 15 overs were called, and after one ball thereof the teams decided to accept a draw as the pitch was doing precious little, and they were all eager to get away from the biosecure bubble and back to loved ones.

At the moment there is no way of knowing when England will next be in test match action, but James Anderson has every intention of still being in action when they do, and since he is still regularly clocking 85mph even at the age of 38 (while it is not unusual for veteran bowlers to be very successful due to the smarts they have acquired from years of experience it is unusual for a bowler of that age not to have slowed down – Walsh was barely exceeding 80mph when he toured England in 2000, likewise Shaun Pollock and Glenn McGrath in their veteran years) and is statistically bowling better than he ever has I for one am not counting him out.

I would like to thank both the West Indies who visited for three test matches immediately before Pakistan came over and Pakistan for braving the uncertainties created by this pandemic and coming to play, ensuring we had some cricket. I also tender a second huge thank you to the West Indies because their women are coming over to play against our women after India and South Africa cried off. I hope that England will reciprocate as soon as possible.

ADVANTAGE SOMERSET IN THE BWT

The format of the Bob Willis Trophy, tailored to fit special circumstances, is that the 18 first class counties have been grouped into three regional conferences, meaning that five rounds of matches will be played, and then the two best group winners will fight out a five day final at Lord’s. After four rounds of matches Somerset lead the central group with 76 points, Derbyshire the north group with 71 points and Essex the south group with 70 points. Although bonus points (of which as readers of this blog will be aware I am not a huge fan) complicate the issue somewhat, basically any win in their final match will qualify Somerset, since it is next door to impossible to win a match without taking full bowling bonus points, which on its own would put Somerset on 95, meaning that Derbyshire could equal them with a maximum point win and Essex could finish on 94 with a maximum win. Somerset crushed Gloucestershire and the most recent round, dismissing them for 76 and 70. Surrey’s nightmare season went from bad to worse as they were beaten by Kent in spite of the restored Ben Foakes contributing a century and a fifty. A major role for Kent was played by Darren Stevens, an all rounder who bowls medium pace, and who remains a force to be reckoned with at county level even at the age of 44. Limited overs cricket will be the order of the day for most of the rest of this season, which will extend into October because of the hugely delayed start. The T20 blast competition gets underway tomorrow afternoon, with commentaries on all matches accessible via www.bbc.co.uk/cricket.

PHOTOGRAPHS

My usual sign off…

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England in Control at the Ageas Bowl

A look at the extraordinary events that are unfolding at the Ageas bowl as Zak Crawley establishes himself at the highest level.

INTRODUCTION

It is now all but a 100% certainty that England will win the series against Pakistan, and what follows explains why.

DAY 1

Yesterday after messrs Curran, Foakes and Robinson were allowed to leave the bubble at the Ageas Bowl to play for their counties in the Bob Willis Trophy, leaving an England side of Burns, Sibley, Crawley, *Root, Pope, +Buttler, Woakes, Bess, Archer, Broad and Anderson (Dan Lawrence and Ben Stokes had already been released in both cases for family reasons) Joe Root won the toss and chose to bat. The morning session went England’s way as they reached Lunch on 91-2. The loss of Root for 29 and Pope for 0 in quick succession made it 127-4, and seemingly turning in Pakistan’s favour. However, Zak Crawley was playing a magnificent innings, and Buttler continued his good recent form with the bat (pity he has been so bad with the gloves). By the tea interval it was 183-4 with Crawley on the verge of a maiden test century and England were starting to look good. The evening session was brilliant for England and horrible for Pakistan. Late in the day the runs were coming very fast as the Pakistan bowling got decidedly ragged. The day ended with England 332-4, Crawley 171 not out and Buttler within sight of a century of his own.

DAY 2

There have been two disruptions for rain, but in the cricket that has been played England have fared well, with the Pakistan bowling not looking remotely threatening. The score is now 380-4, and the stand between Crawley and Buttler is an all time England fifth wicket record against anyone, and Crawley is seven runs away from becoming the youngest England player to score a test double century since David Gower against India at Edgbaston in 1979. This is Crawley’s first test century and among those who have gone big on their first venture into three figures at this level are Bill Edrich (219 at Durban in 1939), Tip Foster (287 in his first test innings at Sydney in 1903), Bobby Simpson for Australia against England at Old Trafford (311) and at the top of this particular tree Garfield St Aubrun Sobers, 365 not out for West Indies v Pakistan at Sabina Park. Crawley has just brought up the double century with a four to third man, and England are now 391-4. Crawley was picked on potential, with not a lot in the way of major first class batting achievements behind him, and had passed 50 on three previous occasions in his fledgling test career, but this innings has surely settled the number three position for some considerable time to come – it has been a supreme performance, with no definite chances given. The record score for England against Pakistan is 278 by Denis Compton at Trent Bridge in 1954, which is definitely within Crawley’s compass from here. No3 has caused England many problems since I first started following cricket, with only Michael Vaughan and Jonathan Trott really succeeding there before the emergence of Crawley who has looked like a natural at no3.

THE REST OF THE MATCH

The weather forecast is pretty good for the rest of this match, and it is very hard to see any way of England losing from here, especially given that a draw will give them the series, which means they can shut up shop if trouble threatens. The 400 has just come up, and I reckon the way things are going that Crawley and Buttler should have at least half an eye on the all-time test record with wicket stand by anyone – the 405 that Sidney George Barnes and Donald Bradman put on together against England at Sydney in 1946. For the real pessimists the highest ever first innings to lose a test match is 586 by Australia at Sydney in 1894, when England replied with 325 and then in the follow on 437 and Australia got caught on a sticky in the final innings and were all out for 166, with Bobby Peel taking six cheap wickets. My own reckoning is that with England putting up a total like this after being 127-4 Pakistan will be demoralized and that England will win comfortably. Crawley has just had a little bit of good fortune, with an attempted catch becoming a six, and his score is now 222, moving him one run ahead of his mentor Rob Key’s highest test score. Only two England batters have had a higher maiden century, Hammond with 251 at Sydney in 1928 and Tip Foster’s 287 also at Sydney in 1903. The 300 stand has just come up for the fifth wicket.

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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