A Plan for Australia

A detailed look at possibilities for The Ashes.

With the last test of the series against India cancelled officially due to a Covid outbreak in the Indian ranks and unofficially due to the Indian players and board prioritizing the IPL over test cricket, I offer up detailed suggestions for the upcoming Ashes tour.

A BIG SQUAD NEEDED

In view of the situation, with Covid still very much with us, and Australia unlikely to allow reinforcements to be flown in mid-series England will need a large squad to give themselves a chance of getting through the tour. Thus the bulk of this post will look at 22 players who I have arranged into two teams who might contest a warm-up match. Before I get into that part of the post I need to clear up a few details, and after I have finished I will mention a couple of other players of promise.

PLAYERS NOT COVERED
IN THIS POST

There are some well known names who for various reasons do not feature in the main part of the post:

  • Players who are hors de combat for various reasons: Jofra Archer and Olly Stone are both definitely unavailable due to injuries, and even if Stuart Broad recovers in time to make the tour an away Ashes series is probably not advisable for someone coming back from a serious injury. Ben Stokes must also be regarded as unavailable at present – until and unless he himself states that he is ready to return to the side he should not be a factor in anyone’s calculations.
  • Players who are surplus to test requirements: I have seen enough of Moeen Ali, Dawid Malan and Jonny Bairstow to be certain that none of them belong in the test arena. Ali averages less than 29 with the bat, almost 37 with the ball and appears to be on the decline into the bargain, Bairstow had one good 12 month period starting in December 2015, but either side of that has consistently averaged in the mid 20s in a career that spans nine years, while Malan has produced one major test innings in his life and is now in his mid 30s.
  • Players I do not think need to play a warm up fixture, though they will be in the squad: Joe Root and Jos Buttler. The former would give whichever side he was part of a huge advantage, while we all know what the latter is capable of.

TEAM ABELL

  1. Tom Haines: Sussex, left handed opening batter. This season has been a breakout one for the youngster (23 years old), with him averaging close to 50 with the bat for his county.
  2. Alex Davies: Warwickshire (leaving Lancashire at the end of this season), right handed opening batter, occasional wicket keeper. He has had two strong seasons in a row (is avergaing 48 this season), and the fact that in retaliation for his decision to move to Warwickshire Lancashire have been vindictive enough to drop him (a classic example of cutting the nose off to spite the face) should have no bearing on whether or not he gets picked for this party.
  3. *Tom Abell: Somerset, right handed batter, occasional medium pace bowler, captain. He has been superb for Somerset this season and is an excellent skipper.
  4. Harry Brook: Yorkshire, right handed batter. The 22 year old Yorkshireman has a modest overall record but has been excellent this season and appears to have a fine temperament.
  5. Ollie Pope: Surrey, right handed batter, occasional keeper. Has an awesome record for Surrey but has yet to translate this to a higher level, though he did score 81 in the first innings of the last test at his home ground, and appears one of two genuine candidate for this slot.
  6. Oliver George Robinson: Kent, wicket keeper, right handed batter. The 23 year old is one of a number of talented young keeper batters that England have available to them.
  7. Matt Critchley: Derbyshire, right handed batter, leg spinner. His bowling does not quite allow him to be called an all rounder, but he has been batting well for Derbyshire of late, and his leg spin is not entirely to be disregarded.
  8. Craig Overton: Somerset, right arm fast medium bowler, right handed batter. As Steven Finn and Chris Tremlett showed a decade ago extra height can be a valuable asset in Australia, and the giant Devonian has it in spades. He is also a more than handy batter to have coming at eight.
  9. Mark Wood: Durham, right arm fast bowler, right handed lower order batter. With Archer and Stone both hors de combat he is the only express bowler England can seriously consider (Brydon Carse, his Durham team mate, is just as quick but has an uninspiring red ball record, and I have come to hate seeing players picked for test cricket based on white ball performances).
  10. Jack Leach: Somerset, left arm orthodox spinner, left handed lower order batter. He is the only current England spinner with a respectable test record (62 wickets in 16 matches at 29.98 – so almost four wickets a game and an average the right side of 30). In first class cricket there are a couple of spinners with cheaper averages than his 26 per wicket, but they have many fewer wickets than he does. It is one of the great absurdities of the last couple of years that he has not been England’s first choice spinner on a regular basis.
  11. James Anderson: Lancashire, right arm fast medium bowler, left handed lower order batter. England’s all time leading wicket taker. He was the leading wicket taker in the series last time England won in Australia a decade ago, and there is little sign of his powers waning for all that he turned 39 during this season

This side contains a solid top five, a talented keeper/batter at six, a player in good batting for at seven, and a well balanced front four bowlers, with support available from Critchley’s leg spin and Abell’s medium pace. Now it is time for a look at the opposition…

TEAM BURNS

  1. *Rory Burns: Surrey, left handed opening batter, captain. Only one English batter not named Root has scored a test ton in 2021, this man. He also has two fifties in his last three innings and is showing signs of forming a successful opening partnership with…
  2. Haseeb Hameed: Nottinghamshire, right handed opening batter. Having begun a renaissance after moving from Lancashire following a couple of lean seasons he announced his return to form to a wider audience when he scored a ton for the County Select XI v The Indians. His subsequent recall to the test ranks has seen two fifties in three innings back, both coming in century stands with Burns.
  3. James Bracey:Gloucestershire, right handed batter, occasional wicket keeper. A typical moment in recent England selection history saw this man make his test debut in his second favourite role and batting way out of position at number seven. Not altogether surprisingly he fared poorly on that occasion, but he deserves another chance, this time in his proper position and preferred role.
  4. Liam Livingstone: Lancashire, right handed batter, occasional purveyor of both off and leg spin. Has a good FC record, although he is better known for his white ball exploits.
  5. Dan Lawrence: Essex, right handed batter, occasional off spinner. He and Pope are the principal contenders for the no5 slot, and both have shown promise with neither staking an unassailable claim to the place.
  6. +Ben Foakes: Surrey, right handed batter, wicket keeper. The best English keeper currently playing the game and a fine middle order batter. I put him at six to insulate him just a bit from batting with the tail – nos 7 and 8 can both be counted as all rounders and the no9 is better than most lower order batters.
  7. Chris Woakes: Warwickshire, right handed batter, right arm fast medium bowler. With the colossus Stokes having to be regarded as hors de combat this man is the best all rounder available to England, and he would walk into almost any test side. His return to test action against India at The Oval saw him take a good haul of wickets, score a 50 and offer some decent resistance in the second innings when England were slumping.
  8. Liam Patterson-White: Nottinghamshire, left arm orthodox spinner, left handed batter. He recently reached a maiden first class hundred at the expense of Somerset, and his wickets in that match took his bowling average below 30. His temperament appears to be excellent as well. He has less FC experience than anyone else in either side.
  9. Oliver Edward Robinson: Sussex, right arm fast medium bowler, right handed lower middle order batter. He has had a sensational start to his test career, and as a bowler who uses his great height to cause opponents problems he may well enjoy bowling in the homeland of Glenn McGrath. His batting can also be valuable.
  10. Matt Parkinson: Lancashire, leg spinner, right handed lower order batter. After 29 first class games the young leg spinner has 93 wickets at 23.95. That average is excellent, but there is a concern over the relatively low wickets per game ratio. Nevertheless I feel that he deserves a place in this tour party – no current English spinner with over 5oFC wickets has taken them more cheaply than the Lancastrian.
  11. Saqib Mahmood: Lancashire, right arm fast medium bowler, right handed lower order batter. He has 70 wickets in FC cricket at 26 a piece and is quite sharp.

This side contains a good top five, one of the greatest of all wicket keepers, genuine all rounders at seven and eight, a bowler who can bat at nine and two excellent bowlers to round out the XI.

I conclude this section with a graphic:

ODDS AND ENDS

This section looks at a few other players who may be on the radar before long:

  • English off spinners have generally struggled down under (even Graeme Swann paid almost 40 per wicket in 2010-11, and failed to make it through the 2013-14 series), which is why none feature in my selections. There are two whose current records suggest they may make the grade eventually: Jack Carson of Sussex and Amar Virdi of Surrey.
  • Dan Moriarty, a left arm orthodox spinner, has a remarkable record in his fledgling first class career and may well be a candidate for elevation in the near future.
  • Luke Hollman, a leg spinning all rounder, has recently recorded a ten wicket match haul for Middlesex, and he may be a candidate in future.
  • When qualified for England Ricardo Vasconcelos of Northamptonshire will be a candidate for a top order berth.
  • Various fast medium bowlers whose chief weapon is accuracy have been overlooked because bowlers of that type rarely make much impact down under: Ben Coad, Sam Cook, Jamie Porter and Ben Sanderson are four who have very fine county records.

Please feel free to comment with suggestions of your own.

PHOTOGRAPHS

Well done for making it to the end of this post and enjoy my usual sign off…

County Championship Washouts

This post looks at such play as there has been in the latest round of championship fixtures, which have been heavily affected by the weather – there have been bands of rain sweeping across Britain, coming in from the west although by some freak my corner of northwest Norfolk has largely escaped, with only Friday being really wet.

THE EARLY GAME

Hampshire v Leciestershire was supposed to run from Wednesday to Saturday. In fact only a tiny amount of cricket was possible. Hampshire scored 233 in the first innings, bowled Leicestershire out for 84, and forfeited their second innings, leaving Leicestershire 22 overs to score 150 to win. Leicestershire made no serious effort to take on this chase on the game was drawn.

AROUND THE GROUNDS

A number of games have been so badly hammered by the weather that there is no real chance of a result. Kent v Glamorgan and Northamptonshire v Lancashire have already been confirmed as draws, though the former saw an amazing performance from Darren Stevens. Kent at low water mark were 93-7 in their first innings, but ended up tallying 307. Stevens, at the age of 45 scored 190, with 15 sixes and 15 fours. He shared a ninth wicket stand of 166 with Miguel Cummins, whose share of that partnership was one not out. Stevens then added the wicket of Marnus Labuschagne to his share of the spoils. Nottinghamshire v Worcestershire, Durham v Derbyshire and Essex v Warwickshire are all headed the same way, and it will take miracles for any of those games to yield definite results. Gloucestershire v Somerset is likely to be a draw as well, but the way Gloucestershire are collapsing means that it is not dead yet – Somerset scored 300-8 declared, with Tom Abell scoring his first century of the season (overall he now has over 500 runs at an average of more than 60 for the season), and Gloucestershire are 27-6 in reply. That leaves the London derby, in which the Surrey openers, Burns and Stoneman have been utterly dominant – they put on 135 in each innings, equalling the highest ever identical opening stands in FC history, a record set in 1979 by Kepler Wessels and John Barclay of Sussex. Surrey declared just before lunch today at 259-2, setting Middlesex 290 (full scores, Surrey 190 and 259-2 dec, Middlesex 160 and 28-1). Burns completed his first century of the season.

A POTENTIAL ENGLAND NO3

Somerset started this season with a plan for their top order – three guys all answering to Tom, Lammonby, Banton and Abell at 1,2 and 3. Banton has already fallen by the wayside, his career as a first class opener over almost before it began. Lammonby has managed one good score all season, and his dismissal in the game currently in progress, run out going for one that was never there, was the product of a scrambled mind. The one to prosper has been Tom Abell who is handling batting at no3 like one born to perform that task. Crawley remains the man in possession for England, but if he does not score runs against NZ then England may decide that change is needed, and Abell would surely be the logical person to turn to in that case: he is just entering the prime years of a cricketer’s career, he is batting superbly at no3 and several of his best scores have come in very testing situations, all of which give him the appearance of a test no3 in waiting.

A MATHEMATICAL TEASER

This problem comes from brilliant.org, but I have added a bonus element as well as slightly tweaking the setting:

A brief note on ‘concatenation’: in a mathematical context it is represented by an equals sign flipped through 90 degrees and it means that the two digits between which it appears are joined to form a single number.

Additional ‘bonus’ question: Once you have worked out the answer to the main problem, if one of the two sums cannot be solved under the given conditions what extra operations would need to be permitted to make it solvable? Full explanation in my next blog post.

PHOTOGRAPHS

My usual sign off…

Nottinghamshire v Worcestershire has progressed while I have been preparing to put this post up – Worcs, all out for 80 in the first innings are 106-4 in their second, still 214 away from avoiding an innings defeat, and suddenly definitely looking at defeat.

Day Two Championship Action

A look at goings on in the county championship, a solution to yesterday’s teaser and some photographs.

We are just in to the afternoon session on day two of the current set of county championship games. This post looks at what is going on.

SURREY V HAMPSHIRE

This is the game I have been focussing on today. Yesterday Surrey dismissed Hampshire for 92, and were going well in response, with Burns and Amla established at the crease. Today Surrey have been hugely impressive, although Burns fell for 80. Amla is past his century, 137 not out, and Ollie Pope is on the verge of reaching 50. Surrey, 278-2, are already 186 to the good.

AROUND THE GROUNDS

Sussex v Lancashire: Lancashire cleaned the Sussex tail up quickly this morning, restricting them to 328 all out, and have reached 55-0 in reply. Tom Bailey and Danny Lamb each took three wickets, and Saqib Mahmood, Matt Parkinson and Liam Livingstone picked up one apiece. Keaton Jennings and Alex Davies are both in the 20s for Lancashire.

Notts v Derbyshire: Nottinghamshire scored 256 batting first, and had Derbyshire 86-8 at the end of yesterday. This morning they winkled out the last two, Derbyshire reaching 105. Nottinghamshire then declined to enforce the follow on, an understandable but cautious decision. Notts are 115-1 in their second innings, 266 to the good. Haseeb Hameed and Ben Duckett are going well for them. Luke Fletcher took five wickets in the Derbyshire innings, and Stuart Broad and Dane Paterson two each.

Worcestershire v Essex: Essex are 393-4, with Cook and Westley having scored centuries and Dan Lawrence 90. Alzarri Joseph has 2-92.

Durham v Warwickshire: By the close yesterday Warwickshire were already in the lead with all 10 wickets standing. They have lost one wicket today, and are currently 212-1 in response to Warwickshire’s beggarly 87. Lees has 86 not out, while Will Young has just gone for 124. Liam Norwell has the one wicket Warwickshire have taken.

Gloucestershire v Leicestershire: Leicestershire are 393-7, Ben Mike having just reached 50. Sam Evans and Lewis Hill both scored centuries. Daniel Worrall has 4-79 and Ryan Higgins 2-65.

Somerset v Middlesex: Middlesex batted first and made 357, Somerset are 14-0 in reply. Robbie White scored 92 for Middlesex, while Davey and Overton each took three wickets.

Glamorgan v Kent: Kent were all out for 138, and Glamorgan are 170-8 in reply, having resumed today on 109-2. David Lloyd followed his four cheap wickets with 62, and birthday boy Darren Stevens has 5-53, while Matt Milnes has 3-46. Were Stevens to get an England call up he would be the fourth oldest test debutant ever, behind James Southerton (49years 19 days old when the first ever test started), Miran Baksh (47 when called up in 1955) and Bert Ironmonger (46 when called up in 1928). If he went on to get selected for the Ashes tour he would be the oldest Ashes tourist since Hobbs in 1928-9 and the oldest to make a first trip to Australia since Southerton.

Yorkshire v Northamptonshire: Yorkshire reached 206 in the first innings, helped by a half century from Dominic Bess. Northamptonshire are 137-5 in response, Saif Zaib 31 not out and Tom Taylor 21 not out. Steven Patterson has three wickets and Jordan Thompson two. Wayne Parnell took five wickets for Northamptonshire and Gareth Berg three.

While I have been typing this Surrey have cruised on to 308-2, Amla 147 not out, Pope 68 not out.

SOLUTION TO TEASER

Yesterday I posed this from brilliant.org:

192 + 162 + 122 = 476. There 30 x 3 students = 90 doing two languages at least. 476-90 = 386. There are 404 students in total and 404 – 386 = 18, thus 18 students must be studying all three languages.

PHOTOGRAPHS

As I go to publication Surrey have moved on to 324-2, Amla 156, Pope 75.

England In Control

An update on the test match, a bit of mathematics and some photographs.

INTRODUCTION

The weather may yet baulk England in the current test match in Manchester, but the West Indies will not be doing so.

YESTERDAY

When I wrote yesterday’s post the West Indies were just starting their response to England’s 369. England took wickets regularly throughout yesterday’s play, the West Indies reaching the close at 137-6, with Holder and Dowrich together. This meant that enforcing the follow-on was still a possibility to be considered.

TODAY

England were possibly over mindful of the chance of enforcing the follow on, and hoping to keep Broad and Anderson to use the new ball in an envisaged West Indies second innings they opened up with Archer and Woakes. Holder and Dowrich were still together 53 minutes into the day when Broad was finally called upon to bowl. He proceeded to whip out the last four wickets, limiting the West Indies to 197, 172 less than England jad scored. Broad’s four wickets today gave him innings figures of 6-31, the 12th time he has taken six or more in a test innings, equalling Sydney Barnes (who however needed only 27 test matches to take his 12 six plus wicket hauls. Broad also scored 62 in the England first innings. At Melbourne in 1883 Billy Bates scored 55 with the bat and took seven wickets in each Aussie innings, including England’s first ever test cricket. In 1980 Ian Botham scored 114 not out and took 6-58 and 7-48 vs India in what was then Bombay (now Mumbai). Shortly after this match he injured his back and was never quite the same bowler again, although he still took plenty of wickets by sheer force of character. At Edgbaston in 2005 Andrew Flintoff scored 73 and 68 and took four wickets in each innings.

England have not altered their batting order for the second innings thus far – Sibley and Burns are in action, but in view of the forecast for tomorrow they would be well advised to be thinking in terms of declaring today so that even if tomorrow is a total washout they still have one full day in which to bowl West Indies out again. West Indies keeper Dowrich is off the field injured, with Shai Hope briefly taking over while Da Silva the reserve keeper got himself padded and gloved for action, and he is now behind the stumps. England when playing against New Zealand in 1986 used four keepers in a single innings – French was injured, Athey took over briefly before Bob Taylor was summoned from a hospitality tent to act as sub for the rest of that day, while Bobby Parks of Hampshire (son of James M Parks, grandson of James H Parks, grand nephew of HW Parks) responded to an SOS and did the job the following day. Da Silva has just made a complete horlicks of a stumping chance, knocking the stumps over without having the ball in his hands.

THE OVAL – THE RETURN OF SPECTATORS

There is a friendly match between Surrey and Middlesex at The Oval which is being used to trial the carefully managed return of spectators – 1,000 (900 Surrey members and 100 Middlesex members) have been allowed into the ground, the spectators seated singly or in small groups, with at least two empty seats between each separate spectator or group of spectators. It appears to be going well so far. In terms of the cricket Surrey are batting today, and Middlesex will bat tomorrow. Will Jacks, one of Surrey’s better young players is batting well according to reports.

A MEASURE OF MATHEMATICS

This section of the post has three parts, beginning with…

SOLUTION TO YESTERDAY’S TEASER

Yesterday I offered you a calcdoku courtesy of brilliant.org with the task being to work out the sum of the numbers in the diagonal from top left to bottom right. Here is the solution:

SC

The diagonal thus contains two 2s and two 1s for a sum of 6. The key to solving this is the ’64X’  block, which can contain only the numbers 1,2 and 4. It has three quarters of a row and three quarters of a column, and so all three numbers are needed to go in those five squares – the corner being the overlap. That corner contains a 2, which means that the numbers in the other four squares are two 1s and two 4s, making the sixth number a second two. These numbers then force the ‘9+’ block to be 3,4, 2, which in turn force the placing of the remaining of the numbers.

EMMY NOETHER

Emmy Noether was a German mathematician who changed the face of physics by linking two important concepts, conservation laws and symmetries. 102 years and three days ago Noether unveiled her theorem. Emily Conover has an article about this on sciencenews.org. Here is what famousscientists.org have to say about Noether.

A NEW PROBLEM FROM BRILLIANT

This problem is a splendid one which was somewhat spoiled by the conditions as I shall explain:

Fractal

I will make this multiple choice, but not with the options given on brilliant, which were the spoiler – the answers I offer you to pick from are:

a)1.00-1.25
b)1.25-1.50
c)1.50-1.75
d)1.75-1.99

Solution and explanation tomorrow.

PHOTOGRAPHS

My usual sign off…

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Seriously Strange Selections

A look at the selections and the early stages of the third test match between England and the West Indies at Old Trafford.

INTRODUCTION

The third test match is under way at Old Trafford. If England win they regain the Wisden Trophy, any other result and the West Indies retain it. Future series between these sides will be contested for the Botham-Richards Trophy, named after two legends of the game and close friends, although Beefy’s record against the West Indies does not really justify his name being on this trophy.

ENGLAND

Ben Stokes is fit enough to play but will not be able to bowl, which led to England opting for five front line bowlers. Less defensibly given those circumstances they also opted to persevere with the inadequate Jos Buttler, who will bat at six and keep wicket. Zak Crawley misses out, meaning that England have gone in with Sibley, Burns, *Root, Stokes, Pope, Buttler, Woakes, Bess, Archer, Broad, Anderson. I think that to go with five bowlers they should have given the gloves to Pope, keeping Crawley in at no3 and dropping Buttler. I would also have preferred Curran over Woakes for the extra variation offered by his left arm.

THE WEST INDIES

Rahkeem Cornwall plays, certainly the heaviest top level cricketer since Warwick Armstrong, and possibly the heaviest since the mighty Alfred Mynn who was in his pomp in the 1840s. Surprisingly Alzarri Joseph rather than the obviously exhausted Shannon Gabriel was the player to miss out. It is no great surprise that West Indies have opted for extra batting strength in the circumstances.

THE PLAY SO FAR

The West Indies won the toss, an in spite of having picked the extra spinner in Cornwall and a weather forecast that suggests that only today of the first four days will be uninterrupted, both of which argue strongly for batting they have decided to bowl first, the selfsame decision that backfired badly on them on the second match of this series.

Dom Sibley was out early, for a duck. Burns and Root batted reasonably well together until Burns unaccountably given the circumstances took a sharp single and a direct hit ran Root out to make it 47-2. That brought Stokes to the crease far too early for comfort, although the West Indies had already had a warning that their choice of which fast bowler to leave out for Cornwall had been wrong when Gabriel limped from the field. With the score at 92 Stokes was bowled by Kemar Roach, the latter’s 199th test wicket (the last West Indian fast bowler to reach 200 was the legendary Curtly Ambrose), bringing Pope to the wicket. So far Pope is looking very impressive, and England need a big score from him. With Burns and Pope together, the biggest all Surrey partnership at test level stands to the credit of Ken Barrington and John Edrich who once shared a second wicket stand of 369 against New Zealand. Burns has just completed his 50, which he should regard as establishing base camp – the main ascent for him begins here.

THE OFF SPINNING RIVALRY

A curio of this match is that the West Indies have a player named Cornwall as their principal off spinner, and his opposite number for England, Dom Bess, was born in Devon. Which side of the Tamar will prevail?

LINKS AND PHOTOGRAPHS

We start with the solution to yesterday’s teaser:

Teaser

Powers of two have last digit 2,4,8,6 and then back to 2 and so on ad infinitum. 1,000 being a multiple of four 2^1000 thus has a final digit of 6, which in turn means that 2^1001 ends with a 2.

A video from Richard Murphy of Tax Research UK answering the ‘how are you going to pay for it?’ question:

Please watch the video in full – it is five and a half minutes.

Now for my usual sign off…

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The England Captaincy

Some thoughts on the England test captaincy, a section on masks including an important link, and some photographs.

INTRODUCTION

With Joe Root due to return I am going to have a look at the question of the captaincy of the England men’s team ahead of Thursday’s second test.

GREAT BATTER, ORDINARY SKIPPER

Root is England’s leading batter at present, and his selection in that role is absolutely mandatory. However, the captaincy has somewhat adversely affected his batting returns, especially in the matter of converting fifties to hundreds, and he is hardly outstanding as a captain. So should be relieved of the captaincy?

STOKES’ FIRST OUTING NO TRIUMPH

Ben Stokes fared reasonably well as a player in his first outing as skipper, twice scoring 40+ with the bat and taking four cheap wickets in the first West Indies innings. However, he was less impressive as a skipper. His biggest blunder was over Bess in the second innings. Having chosen to bat first in the hope of Bess having a turning pitch to bowl on the final innings Stokes then shied at the last. Although Bess did turn the ball and created two definite wicket taking opportunities and other possibilities he was mysteriously given only ten overs, when he should have been kept going at one end while as many of the overs at the other as practicable were bowled by the blitzmen Archer and Wood. So Stokes is a possible, but certainly not a definite.

THE OTHERS

It is no secret that I think that neither Denly nor Buttler should be in the test side, and since with all due respect to the legendary Mike Brearley I cannot recommend selecting a specialist skipper in general that rules them out. Archer and Wood as out and out speedsters devote too much energy in the field to their craft and would therefore probably struggle as skipper. Anderson and Broad are apparently intended to play on a rotation basis, which rules them out, although Anderson could well handle the job decently. Sibley, Crawley, Pope and my choice as keeper, Foakes are all too new to international cricket to be serious candidates just yet, and the combination of keeping and captaincy is a tough one for anyone to handle. So, if you accept that he is the undisputed no1 spinner the only alternatives to Root and Stokes would appear to be Dom Bess and Rory Burns. If I was going to appoint a new captain, then I would follow my instincts regarding slow bowlers who can handle a bat and go for Bess, but I think that I would prefer to stay with Root for the home summer, and then maybe appoint Bess as captain for a winter tour if one happens.

SOME THOUGHTS ON MASKS

I am still seeing far too few people using protective masks when out and about. As someone who less than two years ago was in hospital and among other things receiving extra oxygen and who always wears a mask when going out (I have recently emerged from several months of shielding, but I continue to take great care) I can tell you which is the greater inconvenience. There are some minor difficulties associated with masks, and I know that not everyone can cope with them (being autistic I would be did I choose to claim it exempt from wearing one), but for most of us the difficulties associated with mask wearing (they don’t combine well with spectacles, a difficulty I freely acknowledge) are as nothing compared to being in hospital and receiving extra oxygen. So, for yourself and others, please wear a mask whenever you go out. Charlie Hancock has an excellent piece in Spyglass Magazine about the type of people who throw hissy fits about being asked to wear masks, titled “100 Years of Anti-Maskers“.

PHOTOGRAPHS

My usual sign off…

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England Fighting At The Ageas Bowl

Thoughts on the test at the Ageas bowl as England work to build a defensible lead over the West Indies, an important petition and some photographs.

INTRODUCTION

England are making a fight of things in the test match at the Ageas bowl. As things stand they remain second favourites, but the humiliation that looked possible at one stage yesterday is not going to eventuate.

DAY 3 FINISH

At first the West Indies did very well, with Archer and Wood both guilty of bowling too short. The West Indies had no complete failures among their top batting, and never lost clumps of wickets. They moved into the lead with only five wickets down, and seemed to be building a very large lead when the sixth wicket pair carried the score to 267, an advantage of 64, with Holder, averaging 33 in test cricket, still to come. Stokes intervened, Bess bowled tidily, Anderson was as formidable as always, and Wood picked up the wicket of Gabriel to end the innings at 318, a lead for the West Indies of 114. Stokes had 4-49, including his opposite number Holder, the first time both captains had accounted for each other in a match involving England since 1996. Wasim Akram would have been more frustrated at being done by the opposition skipper on that last occasion than Mike Atherton. England had 40 minutes of batting to negotiate, and did so without losing a wicket, being 15-0 of 10 overs at the end of the day.

DAY FOUR SO FAR

Burns and Sibley continued to resist through the morning until 15 minutes before lunch when Burns aimed to crash a long hop from Roston Chase through the off side, executed the shot poorly and succeeded only in edging to deep point to be out for 42. Denly saw things through to lunch in partnership with Sibley. Sibley reached 50, chopped a no-ball into his stumps and then two deliveries later snicked the same bowler, Gabriel, through to keeper Dowrich to be out. That brought Crawley in to join Denly in what looks like being a ‘bat off’ for who keeps their place. Denly has enjoyed some good fortune, while Crawley has looked more solid. England have now wiped off the arrears, and so are building a lead. If they can advance this lead to 200, then with the pitch showing signs of misbehaving, the West Indies will have their work cut out. The batting still to come for England is Stokes, Pope, Buttler, Bess, Archer, Wood and Anderson, of whom all save Anderson are capable to varying degrees of making runs, while Anderson can hold up his end if someone is going well at the other.

LOOKING AHEAD

England have improved as this match has gone on, and the major decision that has to be made is between Crawley and Denly. However, Bracey and Lawrence are knocking on the door for batting spots as well. In the bowling department I do not see an urgent need for changes, although Broad may come in for Anderson if England are in fact adopting a policy of rotating the veterans, and Sam Curran and Oliver Edward Robinson are possibles for bowling slots. I would of course bring Foakes in for Buttler, but it seems that in the eyes of the selectors Buttler can do no wrong, so I do not expect that to happen. Denly has just reached 25, which he does quite frequently, but he rarely goes on – the last five times he has got to 25 he has failed to get as far 40.

AN IMPORTANT PETITION

This petition on change.org, calling for NHS staff be given free parking at work, was drawn to my attention by an aunt who posted the link to it on facebook this morning. Please sign and share it, by clicking on the screenshot below.

Petition

PHOTOGRAPHS

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PS England have reached the 150, still with only two wickets down, and a currently 37 runs to the good.

PPS Joe Denly has just thrown his wicket away for 29, Stokes will be joining Crawley, and that would appear to be the end of Denly’s test career – he was playing in somewhat chancy fashion even before holing out. If Crawley goes on to a big score it is definitely curtains for Denly, and there may also be a case for Lawrence or Bracey coming in, although no3, the disputed slot, is a difficult one to make one’s debut from. England 151-3.

The Resumption of Test Cricket

The resumption of test cricket is our main theme today, and there are as usual some photographs.

INTRODUCTION

Test cricket has returned, club cricket restarts in this country on Saturday, and the domestic first class game restarts on August 1st. This means that the ‘all time XI’ series with which I have been filling the gap has performed its task (see yesterday’s sign off post). This post is the first of the new era on this blog.

THE ALL TIME XIS IN RETROSPECT

The series began with an 18 post whistle stop tour of the first class counties, and then as I realized that there was going to be a major wait before I had any real cricket to concentrate on it developed into a wide-ranging series covering national set ups, various esoteric themed XIs and variations on these themes. When it was confirmed that this test series between England and the West Indies would be happening I had my logical point at which to bring the series to a close. Most of the players I selected in my XIs were players I had already heard of, but just occasionally, when I was one or two names short of an XI I used cricinfo.com not merely to check on records but to find players to fill the XI.

THE TEST MATCH – DAY 1

There was some stuff about Black Lives Matter and racism in cricket – Ebony Rainford-Brent and Michael Holding, two black former players, were especially impressive on Sky (video footage of this was made available after the event by Sky themselves). Unfortunately the weather failed to oblige, and very little actual play was possible.

There are no spectators at the ground, all part of keeping it bio-secure, which means that there is no natural crowd noise. Test Match Special have prerecorded background noise as a default setting – it sounds like a low hum in the background – but one can also access a version without the fake crowd noise, which I greatly prefer. England were 35-1 at the end of the first day, with Burns one runs away from his 1,000 career runs in test cricket.

Play was officially called off just before 6PM, due to bad light (given the presence of floodlights why do they not have a selection of white balls available, so that play can continue under the lights even if it is dark – there are no spectators to get home, and the Ageas bowl was chosen as a venue precisely because there is a hotel there for the players to use, so they have no travelling to do?).

DAY 2 SO FAR

The weather has been better, and play got under way at 11AM sharp (again, why not an early start to make up for lost time?) The West Indies, relying on four pace bowlers, Kemar Roach, Alzarri Joseph, Shannon Gabriel and the captain Jason Holder (if they decide they need spin it will be bowled by Roston Chase – Rahkeem Cornwall is not involved in this match) bowled very well. England did not bat especially well, and Denly, Burns, Crawley and Pope all fell before lunch, which was reached with England 106-5 from 42 overs. Gabriel was especially impressive, accounting for all of England’s top three, Burns, Sibley and Denly, and the giant Holder took the other two wickets. Since lunch Stokes and Buttler have batted reasonably well, although Stokes has benefitted from two dropped chances so far, one either side of lunch, and England are currently 127-5 off 48 overs. England’s remaining batters are Bess, Wood, Archer and Anderson (at least I presume they will come in in that order). I would not have selected Denly,  preferring to give Lawrence a debut and keep Crawley at three. I would also have selected Foakes in preference to Buttler, and the latter could do with producing a serious score in red ball cricket. I am pleased that both the out and out speedsters, Wood and Archer are in the side. On this surface, which does appear to be decidedly bowler friendly England are not in quite as desperate trouble as the score might seem to indicate – if they can conjure another 100 they will have a defensible looking total (and Bess has a test 50, Wood has made useful runs at test level and Archer is supposedly capable of batting, so it does not quite all rest on Stokes and Buttler – though one of them will need to bat through from here). I also note that four of the five England wickets have fallen to good bowling rather than poor batting (Pope, who had looked in impressive touch, will not want to see his dismissal again but none of the others have too much with which to reproach themselves). In summary of the play so far: well bowled the West Indies. I do not think England made the wrong decision in opting to bat first: if you choose to bowl you need quick wickets to justify that decision, which puts extra pressure on the bowlers, and it is quite possible that by the final innings the pitch will be assisting Bess as much as it helps the quicker bowlers.

HOME COUNTRY UMPIRES

Another change wrought by the pandemic is that umpires can no longer safely be jetted in from round the world, so we have home country umpires back in charge. The two guys in the middle, Richard Kettleborough and Richard Illingworth, have not so far had the best of times – two LBWs which were quickly given ‘not out’ in the middle were reviewed by the West Indies and overturned pretty smartly by the TV replay umpire Michael Gough. On the plus side this has shown that with DRS in place and being used wisely (are you reading this, Mr Paine?) that giving ‘home’ decisions is no longer so much of an issue as it was when third country umpires were introduced, because they just get overturned. While I have been typing this England have passed the 150 with no further wickets down, although Stokes is still somewhat riding his luck.

PHOTOGRAPHS

My usual sign off…

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PS – just as I finalize this before publication Stokes’ luck has run out – he has gone for 43 and England are 154-6. Dom Bess has come in at no8 as expected.

Ashes Gone -What Should England Do Now?

Conceding the fourth test, and with it The Ashes, this post looks ahead to the fifth test at The Oval, with various changes to the England squad suggested. There are also lots of my photographs.

INTRODUCTION

England’s defeat at Old Trafford has yet to be officially confirmed, but barring serious rain it seems inevitable, and that will mean that Australia have retained The Ashes. Even if England somehow escape with a draw (which would be undeserved) they would need to win at The Oval and that looks unlikely given Australia’s overall superiority thus far in the series (save for a few sessions at Lord’s and the amazing final stages of Headingley Australia have been bossing things all through this series). Based on three matches and four days of the fourth cricketing justice demands that Australia retain The Ashes. Thus this post looks at the future and suggests changes for the fifth test based on The Ashes being already gone, though I would still recommend that they make these changes regardless. Having started this post just before play begins on day five there is a question of which will be completed first – this post or Australia’s victory – and my lack of confidence in England’s remaining batting is such that am not betting on which happens first!

THE STORY OF DAYS 1-4

Australia racked up 497-8 declared in their first innings, Steve Smith helping himself to a double century, his third in test cricket, all of them at England’s expense (only Don Bradman, with no fewer than eight, has scored more against England). England just avoided the follow-on, Burns and Root playing substantial innings – the former in the process becoming the first opener not named Cook to score three fifties for England in a series since the retirement of Andrew Strauss. Then Australia went out for quick runs, and got enough to declare yesterday evening, setting England just over 380 to win, Smith by his standards failing, managing a measly 82 (nb – I have had plenty to say regarding his personal conduct, but I have never criticised his batting.). Then Burns and Root fell in successive deliveries in the first over of England’s 2nd innings. Denly and Roy saw things through to the close, but barring more heroics from Stokes, it has hard to see England batting out today.

ENGLAND’S PROBLEMS

Burns’ successes have resolved one of England’s top order problems, but still required there are a)another opener who can do it against the red ball and b) someone who is comfortable at no 3 against the red ball. Additionally I think that Buttler (his first innings effort here notwithstanding) and Bairstow both need replacing, with a genuine frontline batter and a wicketkeeper-batter respectively). The bowling is in a much better state, but at The Oval a second spinner is likely to be needed alongside Leach, and somehow they have to find out a way of getting Smith out.

SORTING THE BATTING

I do not believe that either Roy or Denly belong in a test XI, and even big scores for both of them today will be too little too late as far as I am concerned. I have been arguing in posts since August 31st 2018 for Tammy Beaumont to be given her chance alongside the men, and I stick to that line. At no 3 I opt for a third regular opener, Dominic Sibley, and then Root back where he really belongs at no 4. As wicketkeeper and no 5 I select Ben Foakes, with Ben Stokes rounding out the top six. I then go for all-rounder Lewis Gregory at seven, Jofra Archer at eight, Stuart Broad at nine, Jack Leach at ten, and at 11 my second spinner, to whom I dedicate the next subsection of this post…

HELEN FENBY – THE MYSTERY OPTION

I was alerted to this possibility in a match in which she took four cheap wickets and also surprised all the commentators with her action – if it is a new one on them then perhaps it will be a new one on Steve Smith (all orthodox selections seem to have drawn a blank, so let’s try an unorthodox one). While this would be envisaged XI I would also have in reserve in case conditions warrant it 1) an extra batter, in this case Ollie Pope of Surrey, and 2) a reserve pace bowler, Craig Overton. Thus, my full squad for The Oval would be (all names in hyperlink form):

  1. Rory Burns
  2. Tammy Beaumont
  3. Dominic Sibley
  4. *Joe Root
  5. +Ben Foakes
  6. Ben Stokes
  7. Lewis Gregory
  8. Jofra Archer
  9. Stuart Broad
  10. Jack Leach
  11. Helen Fenby
  12. Ollie Pope
  13. Craig Overton

FURTHER SUGGESTIONS TO COMPLETE A TEST TOUR PARTY

I want another three players to complete a test touring party, and I reckon that they should be a batter, a pace bowler and a spinner. My three choices for these roles are George Bartlett of Somerset (a look to the future, with a youngster who is better suited in both style and temperament to playing long innings against the red ball than to biffing the white one around – his county colleague Abell and Joe Clarke of Nottinghamshire both also merit consideration), Anderson if he is fit, and if not whoever out of Mark Wood and Olly Stone is fit and Dominic Bess (since I have a left arm spinner and leg spinner in my squad I opt for the off spinner Bess in preference to leg spinner Matt Parkinson).

PHOTOGRAPHS

My usual sign off…

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A bit like too many of England’s recent batting efforts – a variety of ducks (the big one with the red face is a Muscovy duck).

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PS – contrary to the mischievous comparison made in the introduction to this post England have not lost a wicket thus far today.

England Ahead On Points In 1st Ashes Test

Some thoughts on the Ashes match in progress at Edgbaston, suggestions for Lord’s and plenty of my photographs.

INTRODUCTION

The first match of the five-test Men’s Ashes series is under way at Edgbaston, now into the third day. This post looks at what has been going on to date.

THE PRELIMINARIES

Australia somewhat surprisingly included Peter Siddle in their team, but there were no other surprises from them. England did not particularly surprise with their choices but there were several question marks in their XI:

  1. Jason Roy opening is a questionable choice in Test cricket – in his debut match against Ireland he failed in the 1st innings and made runs from no 3 in the 2nd innings.
  2. Joe Denly at no 4 – this is a 32 year old who had not featured in an England test XI before the back end of last year.
  3. Moeen Ali as sole spinner – NO WAY: if they were going with only one spinner Jack Leach should have been the choice, especially after his performance at Lord’s last week. The pitch is now looking very much like a two-spinner surface, in which case the choice should either have been the safe Leach and Bess double act or a look to the future in the form of Lancashire’s Matthew Parkinson (although this latter would have meant Leach at no 9, and Anderson getting a promotion to no 10)
  4. Broad and Anderson are both getting on a bit, and the latter named has been injured recently – to select both was foolhardy (it is no secret to readers of this blog that Stuart Broad would not be in my starting XI in test cricket these days).

England started superbly, reducing Australia to 122-8 in their first innings, at which point Siddle joined Steve Smith. The last two Australia wickets added 162, with Smith going on to 144. At that point, with England’s top order an unknown quantity things did not look good. However Rory Burns became the first England opener since Alastair Cook at Melbourne in 2017 (on a pitch that warranted white lines being painted down the  middle of it) to bat through an entire uninterrupted test match day, and was well supported by Root, Denly and Stokes. Australia started today well, taking four fairly quick wickets, but then Woakes and Broad shared a stubborn ninth wicket stand, giving Eng;and a first innings lead of 90. Anderson, who managed only four overs in the first innings before leaving the field injured batted briefly, and may bowl a few overs with the new ball, but it seems likely given the injury he has sustained that his Ashes series is effectively over. England therefore will be relying largely on Woakes, Broad, Stokes and Ali to prevent an Australian revival (if the ball continues to show signs of turn they may also use Denly’s leg spin, which would be a huge indictment of the original selection). Update – England have just emerged for the start of the second Aussie innings and Sam Curran is on the field for James Anderson.

Whether England win this one or not changes need to be made for the second test match. Anderson clearly will not figure, so a new ball bowler is needed. Ali is not good enough as a bowler to be the first choice spinner in a test XI and should be replaced, with Leach being first choice spinner and either Bess or Parkinson 2nd. Bairstow has been failing with the bat at test level of late, and I would replace him as wicketkeeper with Ben Foakes. I approve of Joe Root batting no 3, and would drop Roy to no 4, where has stroke making could be seen to better advantage. I have mentioned my controversial choice to open alongside Burns many times before, and though Burns has produced the major innings needed to confirm his place I stick to my thinking from the back end of last season onwards. Therefore my 13 for Lord’s would be:

  1. Burns
  2. Beaumont
  3. *Root
  4. Roy
  5. +Foakes
  6. Stokes
  7. Lewis Gregory (with Anderson likely gone for the series it is surely time for this move)
  8. Chris Woakes
  9. Jofra Archer
  10. Jack Leach
  11. Olly Stone
  12. Sam Curran (could play in place of Gregory, Woakes or Archer)
  13. Matthew Parkinson (with all respect to Bess I gamble on the legspinner as second specialist spin option, in the knowledge that the skipper can bowl passable off-breaks if needed)

David Warner (most infamous of the ‘sandpaper trio’) has been dismissed by Stuart Broad while I write this, giving that worthy his 450th test match scalp.

PHOTOGRAPHS

My usual sign off…

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King’s Lynn has lost a lot of railway connections over the years.

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A large white.

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An azure damselfly in flight (three pics, all frok the same original)

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A variety of “painted lady” I think

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Four shots of a “peacock butterfly

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A couple of shots of nearly fledged young ducks.

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