All Time XIs – South Africa

My latest variation on the all-time XI theme takes me on a wander through the minefield of South African cricket – did I manage it without blowing metaphorically blowing myself to smithereens en route? Probably not!

INTRODUCTION

Welcome to the most difficult and controversial in this series of all-time XI themed posts. I am starting this post on Monday May 11 2020, and will finish when circumstances permit (see my previous post for why this is). I am looking at the most controversial of all international outfits, South Africa, and am well aware that in doing so I venture into a particularly densely populated minefield.

THE PARTICULAR DIFFICULTIES
AROUND SOUTH AFRICA

Peter Oborne in his biography of Basil D’Oliveira points out that no official South African side of their first period as a test nation, 1889-1971, can be regarded as in any way a representative XI as the vast majority of that country’s population were simply excluded from consideration. However, I will not disregard players from that era. I give due consideration to the white South Africans who had their international careers nipped in the bud by their country’s (IMO) long overdue international isolation, but I also make no secret of the fact I am rather more concerned about the non-white South Africans who with a few shining exceptions were airbrushed for many decades from cricket’s history, and they too feature in my thinking. Finally, there is one player in the team from my lifetime who has abandoned his native country after playing five tests for it, and I endeavour to explain and justify that inclusion. Also, I do not in my selection process acknowledge any kind of quota system, though I understand and accept the reasons why today’s South Africa continues to have one, and anyone thinking of using my approach to justify opposition to said quota system kindly take this as a preemptive ‘cease and desist’ notice. There are some goodies at the end of what will be a long post which should appeal to some of you.

SOUTH AFRICA IN MY LIFE

The readmission of South Africa, cleansed of apartheid, in the early 1990s, when I was in mid teens provides a natural cut off point for the start of my selections for this XI, and with due apology to some of the fine players from that country who showed what they could do at levels below full international, including against rebel tour sides some of whom were fairly strong I make it so.

  1. *Graeme Smith – left handed opening batter, captain. A magnificent record, including scores of 259 and 277 in successive matches against England, and he was also a very successful captain. My fellow blogger the pinchhitter has described his appointments in his current role running the SA national team as ‘getting the band back together’ in tribute to that fine film “The Blues Brothers”, as he has surrounded himself with a coterie of former team mates.
  2. Herschelle Gibbs – right handed opening batter. There were several possibilities for this role, but my choice of Gibbs is made because I think he is a perfect counterpoint to Smith.
  3. Hashim Amla – right handed batter. His record as the rock at no3 makes its own case for his selection. I remember his triple hundred against England when he never looked like getting out.
  4. Jacques Kallis – right handed batter, right arm fast medium. Another with an irrefutable case for selection. Had he been more enthusiastic about his bowling he would be a genuine challenger to Sobers’ title as the greatest of all all rounders, but as it is I have him as fourth seamer in this side.
  5. AB De Villiers – right handed batter, sometimes wicket keeper, occasional medium pacer. He is the X factor player in this eleven – and if the front four give him a really good start to cash in on hard hats for the spectators might well be advisable!
  6. Jonty Rhodes – right handed batter, brilliant fielder. Rhodes was the finest fielder I ever saw in action, and I have no hesitation in believing that like Gilbert Jessop of old he was worth 30 an innings to his side in that department, which is why I have given him the nod for this slot over others whose batting may suggest that they are more worthy and over Brian McMillan whose all rounder status might impress others.
  7. +Mark Boucher – wicket keeper, right handed bat. His amazing record as a keeper over the course of 147 test matches and his very handy middle order batting make him an easy pick.
  8. Shaun Pollock – right arm fast medium bowler, useful lower order batter. For this role he rates fourth out of all cricketers I have seen in my lifetime, with Wasim Akram, Malcolm Marshall and Richard Hadlee ahead of him.
  9. Simon Harmer – right arm off spinner, useful lower order batter. He played five times for his native land and had some success before decamping for England, for whom he may yet also get to play (although I personally think it would be a mistake to select him at this juncture for reasons I have discussed elsewhere). I acknowledge the frustrations that caused him to take the course he did, because I have very little doubt that if you are selecting only one front line spinner he is a better bowler than Keshav Maharaj. I also get why South Africa took the approach they did, so this selection is simply an endorsement of Harmer, NOT a criticism of anyone.
  10. Kagiso Rabada – right arm fast bowler. His record commands inclusion, and he is one of two ‘warheads’ I have given this South African attack along with…
  11. Allan Donald – right arm fast bowler. The fact that he chose to wait for his home country to be readmitted rather than qualifying for England  meant that he was a little later into the test arena than he might have been, which makes his magnificent record once the opportunity arrived even more outstanding

It is a reflection of South Africa’s cricketing strengths in my lifetime that I have given them an attack featuring only one front line spinner, but I do not think that manipulating an attack of Donald, Rabada, S Pollock an Harmer backed by Kallis to capture 20 wickets in a match would be considered unduly taxing by most captains! While I could see the appeal and in some circumstances recognize the necessity of going for a quick and decisive breakthrough by opening up with Donald and Rabada at full bore I could also see using one of Donald and Rabada in conjunction with Pollock as a new ball pairing and bring the other super speedster on first change, especially at a ground such as Headingley, where a less quick bowler who can run up the slight slope from the football stand end and use a wind blowing towards them to move the ball about is often extremely useful, and you could then give both speedsters a burst with the ball newish even at the end of the second one’s spell from the Kirkstall Lane end.

THE NEW PLAYERS IN THE ALL TIME XI

  • Barry Richards – right handed opening batter. One of those whose test career was ended by South Africa’s isolation. The word of Sir Donald Bradman (in Roland Perry’s “Bradman’s Best” that Richards was the finest opener he ever saw in action is good enough for me.
  • Herby Taylor – right handed opening batter. In 1913-14 when Syd Barnes tore South Africa to pieces with 49 wickets in four matches at 10 a piece before missing the fifth due to a dispute over terms and conditions there was one shining exception to the tale of South African batting woe: Herbert William Taylor emerged from the series with 508 runs at 50.80. In one of the early innings of that series 10 South Africans plus extras scraped up 73 between them, yet the all out total was a semi-respectable 182 because Taylor made 109 – and even at the end it was not Barnes but Johnny Douglas who actually dislodged him. Louis Duffus in a short piece titled “Herby Taylor Masters Barnes”, which appears in “The Faber Book of Cricket” describes Taylor’s performance in that innings thus: “with machine like precision he reduced Barnes to the ranks of the mortals.”
  • Graeme Pollock – left handed batter. His test average of 60.97 is only exceeded among those who have completed their careers and played 20 or more matches by Adam Voges who was lucky with his opponents (the one Ashes series he played was distinctly unimpressive, featuring only two fifties) and Bradman.
  • *Aubrey Faulkner – right handed batter, leg spinner. 25 test matches brought him 1,754 runs at 40.79 and 82 wickets at 26.58, the only person to have played over 20 test matches and achieved the double feat of averaging over 40 with the bat and under 30 with the ball. He was part of quartet who bowled googlies, along with Albert Vogler, Reggie Schwarz and Gordon White, the latter primarily a batter. It was the fact that two of the four were worth places as batters that enabled all four to be picked and pace bowling not totally neglected as it was by Indian teams in the 1970s when none of Venkataraghavan, Prasanna, Bedi or Chandrasakehar, the game’s other great spinning quartet, were remotely close to being front line batters. In line with my thinking about slow bowling all rounders being well equipped for the role I have named as captain of this side. Faulkner was part of the only team to defeat the 1921 Australians, an assemblage raised by former England skipper Archie MacLaren. After MacLaren’s XI were rolled for 43 in their first dig and the Aussies scored 174 in reply, MacLaren himself fell cheaply, but Faulkner made 153, supported by Hubert Ashton with 75, and then Faulkner, Michael Falcon and Clem Gibson bowled Australia out to fulfill MacLaren’s prophecy that “I could put together a side to beat Armstrong’s lot” (The 1921 Aussies were captained by Warwick Armstrong, then 6’3″ and 22 stone, probably the largest ever international cricketer).
  • Krom Hendricks – right arm fast bowler, could also bat. The first South African to miss out on international cricket due to his skin colour. He had many advocates for selection in the tour party being picked to go to England in 1894 (not a test tour, but who is to say that given the opportunity he would not still have been playing by the time of the 1907 tour). One attempt was made to include him by taking him along as scorer and baggage handler, a suggested arrangement to which Hendricks responded with outrage. Augustus Tancred, one the leading white South African cricketers of the day made an equally outraged counter response to Hendricks’ claims for equality, recorded in full in the Oborne book, and which basically amounted to ‘how dare a black man not know his place?’. I select Hendricks both for his own merits, which for the controversy in which he was involved to have arisen must have been very considerable and also as a kind of tribute to ‘the unknown black South African cricketer’ so many of whom performed over the years with poor/ no equipment and on the patches of wasteland with barely a blade of grass in sight that were the only ‘grounds’ and ‘pitches’ on which they were permitted to play. I considered Eric Petersen, a contemporary of Basil D’Oliveira for this position but opted for the more historic example of Hendricks.
  • Hugh Tayfield – off spinner. He was the leading wicket taker for the first incarnation of South Africa as a test playing nation, given his chance after injury brought Athol Rowan’s career to an end largely on the strength of a hunch by then springbok skipper Jack Cheetham (detailed by Louis Duffus in the chapter he contributed on Cheetham to “Cricket: The Great Captains”

With these players assigned their places in the batting order, and the necessary deselections to enable that to happen the All Time South Africa XI reads in batting order: Barry Richards, Herby Taylor, Hashim Amla, Graeme Pollock, Jacques Kallis, *Aubrey Faulkner, +Mark Boucher, Krom Hendricks, Hugh Tayfield, Kagiso Rabada and Allan Donald. This line up has a power packed top five, a genuine all rounder at six, a keeper who can bat st seven and four quality front line bowlers. The bowling attack with three genuine fast men in Donald, Hendricks and Rabada, an off spinner in Tayfield and a leg spinner in Faulkner backed up by Kallis if needed is both strong and well balanced. The southpaws are underrepresented with only Pollock among the front line batters featuring, and no left arm bowler of any kind. However, it looks every inch a serious force to be reckoned with.

HONOURABLE MENTIONS

There is one very notable omission from this section because I am featuring him in a section to himself and one famous SA cricket name which I am deliberately not mentioning anywhere in this post for reasons readers should be able to work out, one of two such. Among the other recognized openers I could have named were Bruce Mitchell, Alan Melville, the adhesive Trevor Goddard, Jimmy Cook, the best South African opener of their period of isolation and good enough to at least increase the number of contenders for the title of best opener named Cook to two (Sir Alastair of course being the other) and Gary Kirsten. Eddie Barlow, Clive Rice, Ken McEwan (who did remarkable things for Essex in the 1970s and early 1980s) and Darryl Cullinan would all have their advocates for middle order spots. The considerable pool of fast bowling talents available for selection included JJ Kotze, ‘the timber shiverer’ who terrorized England in 1907 when the spinners did not have wet conditions to exploit, Neil Adcock, Peter Heine, Peter Pollock, Vintcent Van Der Bijl (Edmonds, a Middlesex colleague, in “100 Greatest Bowlers” suggests that Van Der Bijl’s test record had he got to play at that level would have looked quite similar to Brian Statham’s) and Garth Le Roux. More recently, without yet having enough of a record to merit consideration Anrich Nortje has been making waves. The spin department is easier to deal with, as with acknowledgement to Athol Rowan and Faulkner’s fellow googly bowlers (Reggie Schwarz learned the trick from its pioneer Bosanquet while at Middlesex and taught the others) the only other two who might merit consideration were Denys Hobson, a 1970s leg spinner, and Imran Tahir, one of those who were seen by Harmer as blocking his progress. Other than Boucher only two other wicket keepers were in the mix, Denis Lindsay and John Waite.

MIKE PROCTER

Mike Procter was unquestionably a great all rounder, a genuinely fast bowler who could also turn his hands to off breaks at need and an attacking middle order batter who no opponent dared treat lightly. However, with Donald, Hendricks and Rabada all nailed down for places, and Kallis also there to bowl fast medium I felt that the genuine all rounder of the side needed to be a spinner for the sake of balance, and I defy anyone to challenge my categorization of Faulkner as the most genuine of genuine all rounders.

BASIL D’OLIVEIRA

Given what he achieved when he got to don the blue cap of England at an age well past cricketing prime, what I have read about his deeds in coloured cricket in South Africa and for the SACBOC XI, the nearest thing South Africa had to a truly representative team before 1992 (there were no whites involved, but not because they were excluded but because none chose to participate – had any done so and been good enough to get selected it would have been fully representative, and it was in any case far more so than the teams that were openly drawn from only a tiny minority of that country’s population) I am going to go right out on a limb and say that had D’Oliveira’s test career started in his early twenties for South Africa he would stand not merely as one of the finest cricketers of his generation but as one of the game of cricket’s greatest ever players. The first stage of SA’s isolation began when the MCC, in an attempt to avoid an awkward situation declined to name D’Oliveira in the 1968-9 tour party to South Africa, but then when Tom Cartwright, primarily a bowler, pulled out citing injury (but actually because he was not prepared to go to South Africa) they then named D’Oliveira as his replacement, knowing from the reaction to his initial non-selection that anything else would have been unacceptable. The then South African leader John Vorster decided this gave him the opportunity for a spot of jingoistic posturing and declared that D’Oliveira would not be allowed into South Africa. The MCC responded in the only way they could by cancelling the tour forthwith, although they tried to continue with the 1970 series in England, but soon found that that was not going to be possible either. The final curtain rang down on South Africa’s first incarnation as a test nation when they were due to tour Australia in 1971-2. Anti-apartheid protesters in Australia did not want this tour to go ahead, but others, initially including Bradman who would ultimately make the final call. Bradman made contact with protest organizers, as documented by Roland Perry, including Meredith Burgmann with whom he had an exchange of letters, in which to Burgmann’s own surprise she found Bradman coming round to her way of thinking. Then Bradman bearded the dragon in its den – he went to South Africa and had a private meeting with Vorster. Vorster, making the same kind of misjudgement about Bradman that Burgmann had when she assumed that he was ‘one of them’ assumed that Bradman was ‘one of us’ and during that private discussion gave vent to some unvarnished and apparently exceedingly crass racism and it was that that finally settled the issue for Bradman, and he not only cancelled the tour, but made a famous statement that “We will not play them again until they select their team on a non-racist basis.” From then until readmission post apartheid in 1992 South Africa did not play another official test match. Vorster who like certain hard right racists of more recent vintage (recognize anyone, USian followers?) did not take kindly to being crossed and had a tendency to throw tantrums proceeded to produce a classic in which he publicly berated Bradman because the Aussie had proved not be ‘one of us’ or ‘one of them’, but his own person, making decisions based on the evidence presented to him. While I could not name D’Oliveira in the squad because of his long association with England and English cricket I felt that a section about him was appropriate and I end with the little note that test series between England and South Africa are now played for the D’Oliveira trophy, which at the time of writing is in English hands.

A SUMMATION

When I set out on this little expedition through South African cricket I viewed it rather akin to strolling through a densely planted minefield because of the controversial nature of the subject matter. Feel free to comment if you so wish on how many times I metaphorically blew myself to pieces during the journey, but bear in mind that at least I made the journey myself rather than sending a minion, or recording video footage with the mines safely deactivated! I hope I have done justice to my subject matter, and that my selections are at least intelligible, and I conclude the cricket part of this post by repeating a point made in an earlier post in this series that with these international side selections no two people would be likely to arrive at the same set of answers.

A SOUPCON OF SCIENCE AND A MEASURE OF MATHEMATICS

For those interested in astronomy, a piece about the mapping of the surface of a Neutron Star from physics-astronomy.com,  accompanied by this video:

The ‘measure of mathematics’ comes from brilliant.org, from where I present the following problem:

Brilliant

I am feeling generous, perhaps because of the continued improvement in my health, and perhaps because this post has been such fun to create, so I will give the four available answers: a)9 b)15 c)21 or d)27. I will reveal all tomorrow.

PHOTOGRAPHS

Well, our African Adventure (yes, many years ago in my youth, I did read the series of books by Willard Price that included one with that title) is done, and we have seen a soupcon of science and a measure of mathematics, so all that remains is the final photographic flourish:

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The Fuchsia.

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Deep geological time (from “The Ancestor’s Tale” by Richard Dawkins)
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Ernst Haeckl anticipating modern evolutionary biology in the mid 19th century by placing hippos as the closest relatives of whales (same book).

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This curious bug is not pictured in my bug book.

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This one (five pics in total)…
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…is probably by a Western Honeybee…
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…although European Hornet is a possible…
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…there are two arguments against the latter: 1) the hornet usuall has some red in its head (cephalon technically)…
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…and 2) hornets of whatever type are normally aggressive or at least have that reputation, where as this critter was docile – after photographing I was able to open a large window in front of it and it gratefully flew off into the open air where it belonged.

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SA
The teams in tabulated form with abbreviated comments.

PS I have spaced the construction of this post out over most of a day, with breaks when needed, and I am feeling fine and only a little tired – for all the size of this post in total starting from 10AM I have probably given four hours to it, meaning that closer to five have been spent doing other things.

Cornish Winter Break 5: Eden Project (3)

My third and final post about this visit to the Eden Project – dealing with the Mediterranean Biome.

INTRODUCTION

This is my third and last post about our family outing to the Eden Project, covering the Mediterranean Biome.

MEDITERRANEAN IN CONTEXT

There are other parts of the world that have the same type of climate as the Mediterranean – parts of South Africa, southwestern Australia and parts of the USA, and they all feature in this Biome. There was much bird life in evidence in the Biome as well. My camera got steamed up and I failed to notice, so the photographs did not come out as well as I would have liked, but nonetheless I share them. After we had finished in this Biome we had a late lunch (sausage casserole with accompanying vegetables in my case, washed down with a bottle of locally brewed beer – from St Austell, the closest town of any significance) and then made our way back to the car park, availing ourselves of the bus from the visitor’s centre because I was getting tired by then (a legacy of the cancer that nearly killed me at the back end of 2018). I will certainly be visiting this place again in the not too distant future and would list at as an absolute must see place if you are visiting Cornwall.

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A plan of the Biome.

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These last few pictures were taken outside, on the way back to the visitor centre.

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Thoughts on England Squad for South Africa

My thoughts on the England squad selected for South Africa.

INTRODUCTION

The main focus of this post is the England squad for South Africa, announced today. The first test match of the 4 game series gets underway on Boxing Day.

THE SQUAD

The full squad can be seen below, ourtesy of cricinfo:

Image

Original here.

I am disappointed only in the continuing blind spot re Ben FoakesJonny Bairstow should not be in a test squad at the moment. I am glad that Moeen Ali did not get recalled – I would have regarded such a move as absolutely shocking, rating him as a spinner to be behind not just Leach and Parkinson, but also offspinners Bess and Virdi plus (inexperience notwithstanding) slow left-armer Liam Patterson-White, without venturing on to controversial territory such as selecting women in men’s squads (see various of my earlier posts, especially this one,for more detail on this if you wish).

Given that Mark Wood is still not fully fit, I do not consider it likely that a South Africam pitch will warrant two specialist spinners, and I prize variety in my bowling attacks my team for the first test would be: Burns, Sibley, Denly, Root, Stokes, Pope, +Buttler, Curran, Archer, *Leach (I have not given up even temporarily on all of my controversial notions!), Anderson. I would like to see Wood and Archer both in the same team later in the series, and would not at this stage of their careers pick Broad and Anderson together. Later in the series when Wood is fully fit I might consider gambling by dropping Buttler, handing the gloves to Pope and having Curran bat at seven followed by Archer, Leach, Wood and Anderson (or Broad if Anderson is not fit), or in the unlikely event of a surface in that part of the world justifying two specialist spinners in the team, Curran, Archer, Leach, Wood, Parkinson forming nos 7-11. The idea behind these later series selections is that Archer and Wood would both be used in short, fiery bursts, with the others plus contributions from Stokes doing the bulk of the bowling work.

This is a decent selection by England, and as South Africa are in disarray at present I expect England to collect the D’Oliveira Trophy at the end of the series.

PHOTOGRAPHS

My usual sign off…

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Labour candidate Jo Rust’s leaflet (three images) – she is the only one of the four candidates I have actually met, and will be getting my vote.

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India 3 South Africa 0

Some thoughts on the recently concluded India – South Africa test series, some stuff about the environment and climate change and some photographs.

INTRODUCTION

This post looks at the just concluded test series between India and South Africa, and also features a couple of other things plus some photographs.

AN APPROPRIATE  END TO AN EXTRAORDINARILY ONE SIDED SERIES

India had already settled the series by winning huge victories in the first two games, but they did not rest on their laurels. A batting performance led by Rohit Sharma (212) and Ajinkya Rahane (115) saw India rack up 497-9 declared over most of the first two days. In the last stages of day 2 they captured two cheap South African wickets. Day 3 was the day the match was settled – South Africa were rolled for 162 in their first innings and then by the close were eight down in the second with stubborn opener Dean Elgar injured and unlikely to resume his innings. The final wicket fell at the start of day 4, with Elgar as suspected not resuming his innings. The second South African innings mustered a mere 133, making the final margin a whopping innings and 202 runs.

India are traditionally hard to beat at home, but there were two factors about this series that should be seriously concerning for the rest of the cricket world:

  1. Historically, although they have had some great opening batters down the years India have not had many great opening pairs – their main batting strength has always been in the middle of the order, and they have tended to struggle against quick bowling. In this series a key feature of their success was that Rohit Sharma and Mayant Agarwal both had excellent series at the top of the order, with Rohit producing a string of scores that Bradman in his pomp would have been proud of.
  2. India’s successes have historically been dependent on spin bowlers taking wickets, with genuine pace bowlers few and far between. In this series, even with Jasprit Bumrah unavailable due to injury it has been the quicker bowlers who have done the most damage.

In short not only have India made South Africa look very ordinary indeed, they have also shown massive strength in what have been historically their two greatest problem areas – fast bowling and top order batting.On fast bowling the following graphic from cricviz analyst further emphasises the point:

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The good average recorded by Ireland’s pace bowlers was of course assisted by one of England’s most ignominious recent batting collapses (85 all out at Lord’s).

The other two matches don’t read much if any better for South Africa than this one – the first match saw India score 502-7 declared and 322-4 declared while SA managed 431 and 191, to go down by 202 runs, while the second saw India tally 601-5 declared against 276 and 189 by their opponents, for a margin of an innings and 136 runs. India in this series have thus tallied 1922-25 for an average of 76.88 runs per wicket, while South Africa have scored 1382-59, for an average of 23.42 per wicket. At the back end of 2019 India soundly beat Australia in Australia, while this summer England were more than a little fortunate to emerge from a home series against Australia with a 2-2 scoreline. The series just concluded shows that India are now even better than they were a year ago. Can England with what looks like a sensible test squad manage an impressive series in New Zealand?

For more detail about the recently concluded India – South Africa series start by clicking here.

ON THE ENVIRONMENT

I have a number of things on this important issue to share with you. I start by drawing your attention to Richard Murphy of Tax Research UK on the subject of Sustainable Cost Accounting:

  1. Why We Need Sustainable Cost Accounting
  2. Sustainable Cost Accounting Recognises The Myth Within Current Accounting
  3. Sustainable Cost Accounting – The Short Guide
  4. For those really interested in the detail here is a PDF

Courtesy of Team4Nature here is:

The People’s #100Actions4Nature: a Response to the State of Nature Report 2019

There is a petition just started on the official site for petitions to the UK government (you have to be a UK citizen to sign) “Grant additional funds to scientists to mitigate the effects of climate change” – click screenshot below to sign and share:

PetitionHere is a map showing what The British Isles could look like in the year 2100 if we do nothing:

BI 2100

I end this section with a note about the London Mayoral Elections. The incumbent Sadiq Khan is failing to help himself, the Tory vote will be split between the official Tory candidate Shaun Bailey and the nominally Independent but actually thorough-going Tory Rory Stewart, which all leaves Green candidate Sian Berry (3rd place in 2016) in with a very good chance of winning the election. I have already indicated that if I had a vote then under the system used for these elections my first preference would go to Sian Berry, and my second to Sadiq Khan as an insurance policy against either Tory getting in and my message to any one who is reading this and does have a vote is to do likewise – let’s get London a Green mayor.

PHOTOGRAPHS

My usual sign off…

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Three shots of a swan taken in pitch blackness on my way home from an evening event at the library.

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Cars parked on the PAVEMENT on the approach to the clinical psychology unit at Queen Elizabeth Hospital – ugh (note that this necessitates pedestrians walking in the road, and that a wheelchair user would have to be in the road all the way as there no way back on to the pavement after one has passed these cars if one cannot mount a step.

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A water vole peering out of its hole in a King’s Lynn riverbank to see if the coast is clear (nb I was on a footbridge crossing the river, would not set foot on that bit of riverbank even id I did not know od the existence if this hole).

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An Object Lesson In Two Games

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

INTRODUCTION

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

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

CONGRATULATIONS BANGLADESH

Just before getting to the meat of my post I belatedly congratulate Bangladesh for a magnificent seven wicket victory over the West Indies, chasing down 322 with eight and a half overs to spare. Shakib-al-Hasan made a superb century for Bangladesh and masterminded the chase.

NASSER’S TWO GAMES

The England-Afghanistan game featured a brief period of spectacular play, when Eoin Morgan blasted 120 off 46 deliveries, having just had a catch dropped. He shared a partnership with Joe Root worth 189 to which Root contributed 43, while Morgan scored 142 and there were four extras. At The Oval on 1886 W G Grace reached 134 not out by the time his opening partner W H Scotton of Nottinghamshire was out for 34 (two extras meant that this stand was worth 170, which coincidentally was WG’s final score when he was out to make it 216-2), while at Old Trafford in 1981, again against Australia Ian Botham scored 118 while Chris Tavare advanced his score by 28 (three extras meant that this stand was worth 149). Morgan’s amazing spree included 17 sixes, a record in a single innings in any form of international cricket, but precisely because it was so amazing it killed the game as a contest, and long before it had finished the final outcome was very obvious, which meant that the rest of the match lost something.

By contrast, the South Africa – New Zealand game went down to the wire, the latter eventually being seen home by Kane Williamson who hit the second ball of the final over for six to bring up his century and then coolly took a single of the next delivery to complete the job. This was a pulsating contest, commanding full attention all the way through. Its eventual outcome has almost certainly condemned South Africa to an early exit from the tournament.

England – Afghanistan saw 640 runs scored, South Africa – New Zealand only just over 480 and the lower scoring game was definitely the better of the two overall. Also, for all its spectacular qualities I cannot rate Morgan’s innings as high as I do Williamson’s – the latter was a clearly defined matchwinner, whereas England would probably have managed to win even if Morgan had made a blob.

South Africa – New Zealand was the game of the tournament so far, and Kane Williamson’s knock to see the latter home was as far as I am concerned the innings of the tournament to date. Morgan’s performance was spectacular, and wonderful while it lasted but it robbed that match of much interest by ending it as a contest before it was half over.

I welcome the fact that this world cup has not been the absolute run fest some predicted, because I continue to believe that at its best cricket is a contest between bat and ball, not a ludicrous spectacle in which bowlers are reduced to mere servants to fulfill the whims of the batters.

PHOTOGRAPHS

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

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

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

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

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My birthday present from my sister.

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A blackbird pays a visit to the feeder.

World Cup Warm Up Matches

Accounts and predictions relating to today’s cricket world cup warm up matches, a health/fitness update and some photographs.

INTRODUCTION

Two Cricket World Cup Warm Up matches are under way – both at the halfway stage. They form the main part of this post.

WORLD CUP WARM UP MATCHES

There are two games today:

  • South Africa v Sri Lanka South Africa 338-7 from 50 overs.
    A respectable total for South Africa at the Swalec Stadium in Cardiff. 88 from Du Plessis and 65 from Amla were the main batting contributions. Left-arm medium pacer Isuru Udana was economical, taking 1-42 from his 10 overs, while Lakmal and Pradeep each took two wickets, though expensively, going for 140 from 19 between them. This is a tough one to call, but looking the way everyone other than Isuru got treated in this innings I am going to predict that Sri Lanka chase these down.
  • Afghanistan v PakistanPakistan 262 all out from 47.2 overs.
    This match, at Ashley Down, Bristol, has all the makings of a classic. A century from Babar Azam was at the heart of the innings – and on recent evidence Babar Azam scoring a century is not necessarily good news for Pakistan. Mohammad Nabi had 3-46 from his 10 overs and Rashid Khan 2-27 from nine, while fast bowler Dawlat Zadran took 2-37 from 5.5 overs. Nabi and Khan will probably be very economical in the world cup, as opponents look to avoid losing wickets to them and hope to cash on the other less good bowlers. Today I am predicting that Afghanistan will chase down this target to put down a marker for the tournament.

PHOTOGRAPHS AND FITNESS

Today I broke new ground in my slow regaining of fitness and health post cancer. I managed to extend this morning’s walk to just opposite The Hob in The Well, which is close to King’s Lynn town centre. I am hoping to develop sufficient fitness to reach King’s Lynn Library unassisted in time for an NAS event there on June 14th, so that I do not have to rely on some kind person being able to gave me a lift. I finish with my usual sign off…

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The Ends of Two Series

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

INTRODUCTION

This post deals with the two test match series that have recently concluded and associated fallout. We start with…

SOUTH AFRICA 3 AUSTRALIA 1

Before getting into my account of the onfield happenings, it is time for an update on…

THE UNHOLY TRINITY

Cricket Australia have hit Steve Smith, Cameron Bancroft and David Warner with substantial playing bans, augmented in the case of Smith and Warner with bans on subsequently occupying leadership positions. The trio have a day left to appeal against these bans, and Smith and Bancroft have already said they will not do so (here and here). To my mind the fact that the other two have already accepted their bans leaves Warner with only two choices: accept the ban as they have, or announce his retirement from all forms of cricket with immediate effect (he is the oldest of the trio, and would probably find relaunching a professional career at the age of 33, as he would be when his ban expires, quite tough). It also leaves the Australian Cricketers Association with a lot of egg on their faces, since they have gone into bat on behalf of the trio, two of whom have now accepted the ban handed out by Cricket Australia. 

AUSTRALIA ANNIHILATED

In the final match of the series in which the scandal referred to above broke South Africa batted first and put up a daunting total of 488, (Markram 152, Bavuma 95 not out) before Australia replied with a modest 221. With a draw sufficient to secure their first home series win over the Aussies since readmission in 1992 South Africa declined to enforce the follow on. In the second South African innings Faf Du Plessis made a fluent century and Dean Elgar a limpetlike 81 in five and a half hours, and they batted until tea on the fourth day to ensure complete safety (there were injury worries about three of their frontline bowlers). Faced with a purely nominal fourth innings target of 612 Australia collapsed to be all out for 119. Vernon Philander emerged with figures of 6-21, while Morne Morkel finished his test career by claiming the final Australian wicket. South Africa’s winning margin of 492 runs was the biggest victory by a runs margin in a time limited test (the three bigger margins that have been recorded, 675 runs by England against Australia in 1928, 562 runs by Australia against England in 1934 and 520 runs by Australia against South Africa in 1911 were all in timeless matches, because all test matches in Australia were played to a finish between 1888 and 1946, and the Oval match in 1934 was settling the fate of the Ashes, and was played to a finish for that reason, as had happened in 1926 and 1930 and would happen again in 1938). More information about this match is available on cricinfo.

ENGLAND IN NEW ZEALAND

This was the second match of a two-match series and England needed to win it to square the series. A century by Jonny Bairstow helped England to a first innings total of 307. New Zealand slumped to 36-5 in response before a big stand between wicketkeeper B J Watling and the man with the coolest name in current international cricket, Colin De Grandhomme revived them. England eventually secured a first innings lead, but at 29 it was much smaller than they would have been anticipating. After Alastair Cook fished at one outside his off stump and was caught Mark Stoneman and James Vince, each batting to save a test career, took centre stage. Vince’s stylish 76 may have been sufficient to preserve his place or at least to give him a way back if he scores some big runs for Hampshire during the English season. Stoneman however (he is also a few years older than Vince, hence less time for potential comebacks) would appear to be finished as a test match batsman. His 60 was his fifth score of 50 or more in tests but also his highest, and he was nearly out a number times between reaching 50 and finally contriving to surrender his wicket for 60.

STONEMAN’S UNWANTED PLACE
IN THE RECORD BOOKS

Those noting that 60 would seem both to be a moderate career best for an opener and a moderate career best for someone with five scores of 50 or more give yourselves a bonus point. Mark Stoneman in point of fact now holds the record for the lowest career best for a batsman with five or more test fifties, the previous lowest in that category being 64 jointly held by:

  • Brett Lee, who was picked for his fast bowling, and was not particularly expected to score many runs.
  • Billy Bates, an all-rounder whose off-spin was more than capable of settling matches on its own, and who played in the 1880s when scoring was generally a lot lower due to the nature of the pitches. He was the first England bowler to take a test match hat trick (second ever, after Frederick Robert Spofforth), in a remarkable match performance which saw him take seven wickets in each Aussie innings, after scoring 55 in England’s 294 (a score which proved sufficient to win the match by an innings).

Root scored his seventh fifty plus test score this English winter, and for the seventh time this English winter failed to make it to the century mark. New Zealand were left 380 to chase to win the game. 

Although there were moments when England looked like they could win the match, and New Zealand were never in serious contention, it must also be acknowledged that most of the wickets that fell in this final innings were given by the batsmen rather than being taken by the bowlers. Additionally several chances went begging (Stoneman further blotting his already soiled copybook by shelling two). Finally, taking the Auckland horror show into account, the overall series result is well justified – a drawn series would have seriously flattered England. Full detail on this match is available from cricinfo.

ENGLAND PLAYER BY PLAYER

A new home season is often a time for new blood (ideally if I was giving someone their test chance I would want to see them at that level for at least one home season and one overseas tour before assessing whether to persevere with them), so what of the players who played for England in this match?

  1. Alastair Cook – he is finding it very difficult to get an innings going these days, but on the occasions when he manages it he scores seriously big. Also, he has done enough over the years to be allowed to leave the scene on his own terms.
  2. Mark Stoneman – not good enough at this level. Five fifty plus scores but a highest of 60 points to serious temperament issues. I hope not to see him lining up against Pakistan at Lord’s.
  3. James Vince – too many beautiful miniatures like his first innings 18 and as yet no full-sized masterpiece, though his 76 in the second innings, like his 83 at Brisbane suggests that he may yet come good at the highest level.
  4. Joe Root – his failures to convert fifties to centuries of late are beginning to be a worry, but he has proved in the past that he can go on to really big scores. 
  5. Dawid Malan – has done enough to be retained. Given Root’s dislike of the position and Vince’s less than iron grip on his place in the side he may have to take on the njumber 3 slot.
  6. Ben Stokes – has batted well this series but done very little bowling. His future is uncertain due to the pending court case against him.
  7. Jonny Bairstow – has batted magnificently on both legs of the tour, and his keeping has been pretty well flawless. Another possibility for that no3 slot would be selecting another wicketkeeper and having Bairstow (who is good against the quick stuff) play as a specialist batsman in the no3 position.
  8. Stuart Broad – bowled well in both innings of this match, and barring injury will continue to feature in the test team until he calls time on himself.
  9. Mark Wood – his presence gives the seam element of England’s attack variation through his extra pace. Both he and Broad spent too much of this match testing out the centre portion of an unresponsive pitch.
  10. Jack Leach – finally England select a genuine spinner, rather than a batsman who can roll an arm over. He bowled well in this match, though this was not a great pitch for him, and more should be seen of him. 
  11. James Anderson – he remains as good as ever. In this match he set a new record for the most overs delivered by a pace bowler in the course of a test career, going past Courtney Walsh. At times over the course of this English winter he has been not merely England’s spearhead, but most of the spear as well.

The likelihood is that Broad and Anderson will continue until 2019 so that they can take their final bows in a home Ashes series. Cook may also be thinking in those terms, and while no one would grudge him such a finish, a few more runs between now and then would be good. In the immediate term however England definitely need to find from somewhere the following.

  • A new opening batsman to replace Stoneman
  • Either a new wicketkeeper to take the gloves from Bairstow and enable him to play as a specialist no 3 or a new batsman to play at no 3 (or promote Malan and have the newbie at no 5). Dan Lawrence is an obvious candidate for a batting spot, and the early weeks of this season would be one heckuva time for some young batsmen to score heavily for their counties.
  • Bowling back-up for Anderson and Broad (Wood is good, but injury-prone, and none of the other pace options England have tried this winter have been remotely impressive).
  • A second genuine spinner or spin bowling all-rounder to back up Jack Leach (Moeen Ali’s form and confidence both appear to be thoroughly shattered).

England also need to learn a lesson they should have learned decades ago: taking a phalanx of guys who bowl right-arm just above medium pace overseas does not work – such bowlers are only dangerous if the ball moves in the air for them. 

PHOTOGRAPHS

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

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

 

Scores and Scandals

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

INTRODUCTION

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

SCANDAL IN SOUTH AFRICA

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

PUNISHMENTS

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

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

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

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

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

KARMA

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

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

LINKS

Here are some links about this story:

WICKETS AND WASHOUTS 

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

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

For more about this match start here.

ENGLAND WOMEN FLYING IN INDIA

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

PHOTOGRAPHS

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

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

Drakemallard trioMallards IImallard quartetresting drakeFour ducks

BB1
A blackbird near my aunt’s house.

BBII

THI
Three pictures of the town hall to finish.

THIITHIII

England Win ODI Series 4-1

An account of England’s final triumph in the ODI series.

INTRODUCTION

At just after 11AM UK time England sealed victory in the final ODI in Perth and with it a 4-1 series win. This post looks back at the match and the series.

DEFENDING MODEST TOTALS

Australia had gained a consolation win in the fourth match of the series in Adelaide (though they nearly contrived to lose a match that they had commenced by reducing England to 8-5). Thus, dead-rubber though it was this match had a bit of extra significance as another win for the Aussies would give them the undeserved respectability of a 3-2 scoreline. Also, it marked an international debut for the new ground in Perth, which replaces the WACA. 

Put in to bat once again, England had a number of useful contributions with no one going on to play a really major innings, which was reflected in a final tally 259. Australia fared well in response for a time, but England bowled well, and after Stoinis (87) was dismissed nobody was able to take command for Australia. At 203-8 with Paine and the tail to score the runs it looked like England were home. Australia fought hard, but a four and then a six late in his innings not withstanding Paine simply could not score quick enough, and when Curran rattled his stumps with a yorker Australia were still 12 runs adrift. Curran, elder son of former Zimbabwe international Kevin Curran (the younger, Sam, is also widely tipped to play for England in the not too distant future), had bowled splendidly and this final wicket gave him figures of 5-35, beating the 5-46 taken by Andrew Tye in the England innings. 

I was also glad that the final wicket to fall was that of Paine rather than Hazlewood because Paine’s innings here was the second time in three matches (after his 31 not out off 35 in Sydney) that he had played what appears to have been a useful innings but because of the slow rate at which he scored it was actually better for his batting average than it was for his team’s chances. 

THE SERIES AS A WHOLE

England were even more dominant in this series than the 4-1 scoreline suggests. The evidence of Perth is that Australia’s wobble at Adelaide when chasing a total that was simply too low to pose a real threat was no coincidence, and that a tally of 250 in that match would have been ample for England to win. England won both the games in which they chased at the proverbial canter and were never seriously threatened when defending 300 in Sydney (OK, it was not until a mere three deliveries remained that Australia were so far adrift as to need no-balls from England to give them a chance, but the result of that match, in spite of Stoinis’ efforts in the later stages, was obvious from a long way out). The final match was certainly close, and there were times when Australia seemed favourites, but in the closing stages it never really felt like getting away from England. 

A SIDELIGHT – INDIA IN SOUTH AFRICA

I congratulate the current Indian Test Match team on pulling off their victory in Johannesburg. The pitch and conditions were exactly the sort in which Indian sides of the past would have crumbled to an ignominious defeat (it was a green ‘un and the ball was getting up to all sorts of mischief for the quicker bowlers – if messrs Starc, Hazlewood and Cummins got a go on a pitch like that New Zealand’s 26 all out in 1954 would be under threat as the all-time lowest ever test match team total!).  Commiserations to Dean Elgar who ground his way to an undefeated 86 in the final innings while his team mates surrendered to Bhuvanesh Kumar, Mohammed Shami and Ishant Sharma. The final calamity reads like something from 1990s England at their worst – SA subsiding from 124-1 to 177 all out.

PHOTOGRAPHS

As always, I finish with some of my photographs:

Sunset from the flat
The first four pictures were taken on Saturday evening.

Sunset in Baker Lane Car ParkSunset on the Upper PurfleetSunset over the custom house

HCE
This one was taken on Sunday morning
LumI
These last two were taken on Sunday evening.

LumII

England 3 South Africa 1

My thoughts on the recently concluded series between England and South Africa mens teams, plus some photographs from work.

INTRODUCTION

On Monday I listened to what turned out to be the final day of the test series between England and South Africa (Tuesday would have been available had South Africa taken the game that far but they never really looked like doing so). In this post I look back at the match and the series.

THIS MATCH

England batted first and made at least 50 more than they should have done in the circumstances, getting to 360. When the ninth England wicket fell South Africa turned to the “clever ruse” of dropping the field back to allow the major batter (Jonny Bairstow on this occasion) to take singles so that they could bowl at the no11. This is a dubious tactic in any case, but South Africa’s execution of it was downright bad – on a number of occasions Bairstow took twos early in the over, which should never happen when this tactic is in play. I can think of no occasion on which it can be demonstrated that a side fared worse by attacking at both ends than they would be adopting this tactic, whereas I offer the following examples of times where adopting it caused problems:

  • Perth 1978 – Australia eight down for not many facing and England total of over 300, Mike Brearley gives Peter Toohey with 50 to his name singles so as to attack Geoff Dymock. The ninth wicket pair stage a very irritating partnership. In the end England’s superior skill and professionalism tell (Australia were depleted by the Packer affair and Graham Yallop proved to be a very poor captain). My source for this story is Brearley himself in “The Art of Captaincy”.
  • Melbourne 1982 – The ninth Australian wicket in their second innings falls with them still needing 74 for victory. England allow Border singles so they can attack Thomson, the no 11. Australia get to within a boundary hit of victory before Thomson flashes at a wide one from Botham and is caught by Miller with an assist from Tavare.
  • Sydney 2010 – Pakistan have bossed the game against Australia, leading by over 200 on first innings, and Australia are only 80 to the good with two second innings wickets standing going into the 4th morning. Pakistan decline to attack Hussey, and Siddle plays a straight bat the relatively few deliveries he has to face. In the end Pakistan need 176 to win, which is far more than they were expecting. The pressure is too much for an inexperienced batting line up, especially once Mohamed Yousuf has compounded his failure as captain by falling to a very poor shot to leave his side 57-4. Australia end up winning by almost 40 runs.

South Africa’s response, if it can be so described, was to scrape together 226 for a deficit of 136. A fine innings by Moeen Ali in the second England innings takes England to a lead of 379. Dean Elgar fell cheaply to start the South African second innings, and by the lunch interval Heino Kuhn and Temba Bavuma had also been accounted for. Amla and Duplessis resisted stoutly for a time, but the dismissal of Amla sparked a collapse, with no one else making a significant contribution as 163-3 at the high point of the innings subsided to 202 all out. Moeen Ali took five of the wickets to finish with 25 for the series alongside over 250 runs for the series (the first time this double has been achieved in a series of fewer than five matches). Moeen Ali was player of the match, and also player of the series for his all-round efforts.

THE SERIES AS A WHOLE

Barring the aberration at Trent Bridge this was a series that England dominated, and 3-1 is a fair reflection of that fact. Lord’s (it is named after Thomas Lord of Thirsk, so Lord’s is technically correct) saw the only really huge first innings tally of the series, and from that point on England were always going to win that match. I wrote in some detail about the Trent Bridge debacle at the time. At The Oval (these days there is always a sponsor’s name attached but I refuse to mention them whoever they may be) England made a respectable first innings total and South Africa crumbled, while this final match at Old Trafford went along similar lines. 

THE PLAYERS

I am going to finish the text element of this post by looking at both sets of players, starting with South Africa.

Dean Elgar – a tough competitor whose second innings 136 at The Oval when all around him were surrendering was a stand out performance. 

Heino Kuhn – resembles a test-class opener about as closely as Liam Dawson resembles a test-class all-rounder. The only surprise out his dismissal during the morning session fo what turned into the final day of the series was that it did not come sooner.

Hashim Amla – a magnificent batter now nearing the end of his illustrious career. This was not a great series for him but his fighting 83 in the final innings was a splendid effort.

Quinton De Kock – fine wicketkeeper and on his day a very destructive batter, but was miscast in the key number four role where was too often coming in with the team reeling from early blows. He was moved down for the final match of the series, but this was his equivalent of Adam Gilchrist’s 2005 in England – batting wise a series to forget.

Faf Du Plessis – it continues to be debatable whether he is worth a place as a batter, but the team play much better under his captaincy than when he is not present. 

Temba Bavuma – a very reliable batter. He needs to develop ways of keeping the scoreboard ticking – at the moment it takes him a very long time to score his runs.

Theunis De Bruyn – anonymous in this series, he did nothing significant with the bat and his bowling was not much used.

Chris Morris – occasional moments with his hard-hitting batting but his bowling was very expensive.

Vernon Philander – a great cricketer, but like Alan Davidson and Chris Old before him he is somewhat of a hypochondriac. He did not contribute fully to this series.

Keshav Maharaj – South Africa’s leading wicket taker of the series. 

Kagiso Rabada – A fine fast bowler who bowled well in this series and at times did enough with the bat to have embarrassed some of bhis supposed betters in that department.

Morne Morkel – A solid series – it was not South Africa’s bowlers who were chiefly responsible for their defeat in this series.

Duanne Olivier – more will certainly be seen of this young fast bowler.

Now for England…

Alastair Cook – continues to steadily ascend the test run scoring lists – in the course of this series he went past Allan Border’s aggregate. His effort on the truncated first day at The Oval put England in control of that game, a position consolidated by Ben Stokes’ century.

Keaton Jennings – surely he has run out chances after a series in which his highest individual score was 48 and during which he never looked convincing. 

Gary Ballance – given a chance to re-establish himself in the side because he scores so many in domestic cricket he failed, and looked out of place. He was deservedly one of the casualties of the Trent Bridge debacle.

Tom Westley – a solid start to his test career. He looks like he belongs in the test arena and I expect to see a lot more of him.

Joe Root – his first series as test captain, and with a 3-1 series win and himself being leading run scorer on either side for the series it was a splendid start. 

Dawid Malan – came in to the side after the loss at Trent Bridge and has not yet done much.

Jonny Bairstow – an excellent series with both bat and gloves.

Ben Stokes – regular contributor of runs, wickets and catches. Like the man I will be dealing with next he is that rarity, a genuine all-rounder.

Moeen Ali – deservedly named player of the series, he was outstanding with bat and ball. 

Liam Dawson – my comments about Heino Kuhn suggest that I do not rate Mr Dawson, and that impression is correct. He has neither the batting nor the bowling to be of use in test match cricket. If conditions warrant two spinners pick a real spinner, and if they don’t Moeen Ali will be the sole spinner.

Toby Roland-Jones – he started his test career firing with both barrels – a five-for including the top four in the opposition batting order, and has done well in both his matches so far. 

Stuart Broad – a good series for the big fast bowler. 

Mark Wood – two matches in the series, total figures 1-197 – ’nuff said.

James Anderson – 20 wickets in the series at 14 each. At the age of 35 he remains arguably the finest user of a new ball in world cricket. The authorities at his home ground of Old Trafford have recently paid him the compliment of naming one of their bowling ends in his honour – and he responded by taking four cheap wickets from that end at the first time of asking. I reckon he still has a couple of good years left in him which would enable him to sign off with a home world cup followed by a home Ashes series.

PHOTOGRAPHS

I always like to include photographs in my posts, and although I have none relating to cricket, here are a few from yesterday at work (these will be going under the hammer on August 30th, our second end of August auction, with a sale happening at our shop on Friday August 25th – more on this in a later post):

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Lot 1403 – there is a little wallet incorporated in the inside back cover of the book to store the map when folded.

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Lot 1415 – the largest railway map I have ever seen – and it has stout front and back panels so that when folded it looks a bit like a book.

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A stamp on the back of one the ordinary panels.
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The front panel
1415-d
The back panel
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Lot 1422 – A more modern and much smaller railway map, with promotional material on the reverse (four images)

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Lot 1428 – Some south Wales railway history.