A look at the semi-finalists at the T20 World Cup, my team of the tournament and some photographs.
We now know who will be contesting the semi-finals of the T20 World Cup in the UAE. This post looks at the routes the four teams took to reach the SF stage and names an XI of the tournament.
ENGLAND DOMINANT UNTIL THEIR FINAL GAME
England won their first four games, and did so comfortably, accruing a massive net RR of +3.183 in the process. Their last game was against South Africa, third in the group, yesterday. In yesterday’s first game Australia had comfortably beaten West Indies, which meant they were well placed to qualify. South Africa needed a big win to qualify. South Africa batted first and did the first bit very well indeed, scoring 189-2 from their 20 overs. That left England needing 87 to qualify, 106 to top the group, 131 to eliminate South Africa and 190 to make it five wins from five. England went for the win, and went into the 20th over of their innings with a chance of pulling it off. Liam Livingstone hit the longest six of the tournament along the way, a 112 metre monstrosity of a hit. The first three balls of the 20th killed England’s hopes stone dead, as three successive batters holed out to boundary fielders, giving Rabada one of the more bizarre hat tricks ever seen in top level cricket (Charles Townsend’s 1899 effort for Gloucestershire v Somerset, when all three victims were stumped by keeper WH Brain is also noteworthy in this department). SA emerged victorious by 10 runs, but had not quite done enough, and found themselves knocked out in spite of winning four of their five group games, including beating the group winners (England). Australia went through in second place.
THE OTHER GROUP
The second group comprised India, Pakistan, New Zealand, Sri Lanka, Scotland and Namibia. This morning and very early afternoon UK time New Zealand took on Afghanistan, with India also having a mathematical chance of qualifying, should Afghanistan win by a small margin and then India beat Namibia tomorrow. In the event, with the exception of Najibullah Zadran (73 off 48 balls), no Afghan batter could get going and they posted a modest 124-8. NZ were never in serious trouble against so modest a target, and got home off the first ball of the 18th, confirming their SF place and India’s elimination. This is a case of cricketing justice being done and seen to be done – NZ had won four of their five matches, and had they lost someone would have been qualifying with three wins out of five when a team in the other group went home with four out of five. Pakistan are just starting their last group match against Scotland, in a bid to be the only team to record a 100% win record at the Super 12 stage. India have been the biggest disappointment of this tournament, succumbing tamely to massive defeats at the hands of Pakistan (ten wickets) and New Zealand (a mere eight wickets, but more time in hand than Pakistan had had). It is possibly also significant that their most commanding batting performance saw skipper Kohli, one the 21st century’s greatest batters, not bat at all. Kohli’s last international century in any format was scored almost exactly two years, and it maybe that an outstanding career is approaching its close.
THOMAS’S TOURNAMENT XI
Before giving more details, my team in batting order:
There were three players contending for two opening slots, and I would not argue with those who went for the proven combination of Babar Azam and Mohammad Rizwan, but on any honest reckoning Buttler has been the best opener on show in this tournament, scoring both heavily and very fast.
My choice for number three has really announced himself during this tournament, showing serious talent (anyone who can whip an Anrich Nortje delivery over midwicket for six as he did against SA is a heck of a player).
Aiden Markram has had a superb tournament, and like the rest of his team is entitled to consider himself unlucky to not be still involved. As well as his batting he has been useful with the ball for SA.
Asif Ali is there just in case the team finds itself in a tight finish, in which situation he is a virtual cheat code.
Wanindu Hasaranga de Silva has been one of the stars of the tournament, batting well in the middle order and being devastating with his leg spin.
Chris Woakes has been very important to England’s success in this tournament to date, and it is noteworthy that England’s sole loss saw him have a poor game.
Mark Watt has been for me the Associate Nations Player of the Tournament, taking wickets in every match to date, and generally being very economical. He has also played one crucial innings, when he helped to rescue his side from 56-6 against Bangladesh.
Anrich Nortje has been consistently excellent with the ball, testing all his opponents to the fullest.
Shaheen Shah Afridi has been outstanding with his left arm pace. This place was a toss up between him and Trent Boult, who plays the same role for NZ (Mitchell Starc of Australia has not had his finest tournament) but I have gone for Afridi for his extra pace.
Tabraiz Shamsi is the best bowler of his type in the world, and has managed to enhance an already considerable reputation in the course of this tournament.
Liam Livingstone gets the 12th man slot because he covers lots of bases – he can spin the ball either way and is a ferocious batter.
This team has a stellar top four, a cheat code finisher, two magnificent all rounders of very different types and four wonderfully contrasting specialist bowlers. There are runs aplenty in this line up, and a mouthwatering array of bowling options. I regret not being able to find a place for any of the Aussies, but none has been definitively the best in the tournament in their role.
An account of today’s BBL10 ‘Eliminator Round’ between Strikers and Heat, some suggested changes to the format of the tournament, and an acknowledgement of Pakistan’s victory over South Africa.
Before getting into the meat of today’s post, which deals with the ‘Eliminator’ round of BBL10, between Strikers and Heat, a word of congratulation to Pakistan, who completed a convincing win over South Africa by seven wickets. South Africa lost three wickets just before the close yesterday, as 175-1 became 185-4, and today they continued in that vein, being all out for 245, a lead of 87. Although Nortje bagged a couple of early wickets Pakistan were never in serious trouble, and fell appropriately to Fawad Alam to make the winning hit. His form since his recall to the colours makes one wonder how his team overlooked him for 11 whole years (not a record – George Gunn was called up by England after a lapse of 17 years between games, while in first class cricket there is the bizarre case of William Caesar who played two games in 1920 and four more in 1946, with nothing in between).
OVERKIND QUALIFICATION SYSTEM EXPOSED
It is rare the a pom gets an opportunity to call Aussies soft with any hint of justification, but BBL10 has provided it. A qualification system that allowed five teams out of a total of eight to make it to the knock out phase (in the Vitality Blast eight teams out of 18 do so, while in the 50 over contest it has been six teams out of 18) look questionable from the get go, and today’s match was powerful evidence for the prosecution, as Strikers took on Heat in the ‘Eliminator’.
Heat have been at their most vulnerable this season when faced with a run chase, so the Strikers were correct to choose to bat first. However, even if you make the correct call, you do then have to play decent cricket, and this was where Strikers slipped up. All seemed good when they were 18-0 after two overs, but overs three and four went for only six runs between them, giving a Power Play score of 24-0. In Overs 5-10 Strikers failed to gain any momentum, as first Carey and then Head pottered about, barely managing to achieve a scoring rate of one run per two balls (Carey 13 off 22, Head 12 off 21). At the half way stage Strikers were 53-1, way below par, and they immediately claimed the Power Surge, also using the ‘x-factor sub’ rule to bring Wells in for Worrall in an effort to jazz up their batting. One wicket fell in the Surge, but Strikers also scored 16 off those two overs, and they seemed to be maintaining the momentum, although bizarrely Renshaw came in ahead of ‘x-factor’ man Wells, when they were 94-3 after 15, having scored 41 in the third quarter of their innings. A big finish was needed, and did not materialize. In the end Strikers finished with 130-7 from their 20 overs, with only Weatherald, Salt, and at the death Wes Agar having shown anything like sufficient intent.
Heat made an even worse start than Strikers had, not scoring especially quickly and losing the big wickets of Lynn and Labuschagne early. A third wicket went down in the fourth over, and Heat’s Power Play had yielded 24-3. In overs 5-10 Heat scored 44 without losing a wicket, being 68-3 at halfway, 15 runs ahead but two wickets behind Strikers at the same point. They declined to take the Power Surge, holding back, and in the 14th over Denly was out for 41 to make it 92-4. At the end of the 15th Heat were 98-4, needing 33 of five overs, and the 16th was economical as well. Then however Travis Head blundered, giving himself a second over when he could have had Siddle and Agar bowl through. It revived the Heat, as they were 110-4 at the end of it, and that point they finally did claim the Power Surge. They got eight off the first over with it, reducing the ask to 13 runs off two overs, and then Agar, who had had a fine tournament with the ball, cracked under pressure, the winning runs being accrued off five balls of his over. Jimmy Peirson finished unbeaten on 47, a fine knock, which earned him the Player of the Match award.
Strikers made a huge mess of their own innings, with as I have said, Carey and Head especially culpable. Heat were barely any more impressive, getting their tactics badly wrong and being saved by Head’s inexplicable decision to give himself a second over. Heat should have claimed the surge when Denly and Peirson were together and they could have had two set batters use it. Also, their selection of Heazlett backfired – the left hander was picked to counter Strikers’ spinners Briggs and O’Connor both of whom turn the ball away from the right hander’s bat and was out before he got to face either.
Tomorrow sees Scorchers and Sixers do battle, with the winner going straight into the final, while the loser whill face the winner of Sunday’s game between Heat (their reward for winning this one) and Thunder. I would guess that if they followed today’s action Thunder will be licking their lips at the prospect of Sunday’s game.
This was a game that neither side deserved to win, and that had the qualification system been sensible would not have been taking place – 4th and 5th out of eight have no business making it to the knock out stages of a tournament, and it looked every inch a contest between two moderate sides neither of whom really know how to win.
I have already indicated what I think the qualification system should be: three teams qualify, group winners into the final, second vs third for the right to join them, with 2nd having home advantage.
I also feel the tournament would benefit from being more compact. A lot of the time there is only one game per day, with a few days featuring two games. With 14 rounds of group games I would play four fixtures per day, thereby having all eight sides in action, with a day off between rounds, meaning that the group phase would last 27 days in total, and then the two knockout matches would take place on successive days after two days off, making the whole length of the tournament 31 days – and it being an Aussie tournament I would make game day 1 Boxing Day, and the final to take place on Australia Day.
A look back at the recently concluded T20I series between South Africa and England, a petition, a link and some photographs.
The T20I series between England and South Africa ended last night, and what an ending it was! This post looks back at that series.
MATCH 1: BEURAN HENDRICKS’ HORROR SHOW
South Africa bossed this match for most of its duration, but in the 17th over of the innings Beuran Hendricks lost his bearings completely and in so doing lost South Africa the match. England had needed 51 off the last 24 balls to win, but by the time Hendricks had reached the end of his over, taking nine deliveries instead of the regulation six to do so, that had become 23 of 18, and England were suddenly in full control, and duly completed their victory with four balls and five wickets to spare.
MATCH 2: NGIDI’S PYRRHIC VICTORY OVER MALAN
Once again England were behind for large parts of this match, and with three overs to go in the chase they needed 28, which looked a tough proposition on a slow pitch. Ngidi;s final over was the 18th over of the chase, and although he dismissed Malan with the fifth ball of it the previous four had been dispatched for 14. The dismissal was immediately followed by a wide and then two off the extra delivery necessitated by the infraction, which reduced the target to 11 off 12 balls. South Africa opted for Nortje rather than Rabada to bowl the 19th, and by the end of it England needed just three to win, and gamely though he tried not even Rabada could prevent that.
MATCH 3: THE MALAN MASTERCLASS
South Africa won the toss and batted. After 10 overs they were 66-3, by the end of the 15th this had improved to 107-3, and then Rassie van der Dussen and Faf du Plessis went crazy in the last five overs, plundering no fewer than 84 further runs to finish on 191-3, a daunting looking total.
Roy made 16 before holing out, which brought Dawid Malan, the world no1 ranked T20I batter, in to join Buttler. Malan hit 10 off his first two balls, and simply kept on going. Buttler supported him well, and by the end of the 10th over England were 85-1, needing 107 in the remaining 10 to complete a 3-0 sweep. By the end of the 15th, such was the onslaught they now launched, this target had been reduced to 29 in the final five overs, and in the 18th over Malan hit his fifth six to move to 94 and put England within six of the target. The next delivery was a wide, and then Malan hit a four to level the scores. Off the fourth legal delivery of the over Malan took the match and series winning single, finishing unbeaten on 99 off 47 balls. This victory took England to the top of T20I rankings, and Malan’s innings saw him become the first T20I batter to have a rating of over 900 points – 915 to be exact. In his 19th T20I it was tenth score of 50 or more, and his average in the form of the game now stands at 53. Before this match began, for all his ranking, there were those still questioning whether Malan was worth his place in the team. He provided the most emphatic of affirmative answers to that one, and I trust we will hear no more of such nonsense.
The first two matches of this series were closely fought, with the result in doubt until quite close to the end, but this was every bit as much of a shellacking as a margin of nine wickets with 14 balls to spare suggests. Less than eight hours after this game finished Australia set out to make at a 3-0 sweep of an ODI series against India, and failed to deliver, going down by 13 runs, the hitherto dominant Steve Smith (rapid centuries in both the first two matches) contributing just seven.
Richard Murphy of Tax Research UK has put up a post titled MMT: a primer, which I heartily recommend you to read. If you want to explore the subject in greater detail, as I hope, then as well as Richard’s blog I recommend that you get hold of a copy of Stephanie Kelton’s “The Deficit Myth”.
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!
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.
*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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
+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.
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.
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.
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…
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
My third and final post about this visit to the Eden Project – dealing with the Mediterranean Biome.
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.
I am disappointed only in the continuing blind spot re BenFoakes – Jonny 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 Leachand Parkinson, but also offspinners Bessand Virdiplus (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.
Some thoughts on the recently concluded India – South Africa test series, some stuff about the environment and climate change and some photographs.
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:
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 Agarwalboth 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.
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 Bumrahunavailable 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:
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:
Here is a map showing what The British Isles could look like in the year 2100 if we do nothing:
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.
Straw poll .. which game has provided more entertainment?
Eng vs Afghanistan with 33 sixes hit or lower scoring affair today at edgbaston with more in it for the bowlers? Forget jingoistic loyalty or the room for both in the game answer which there obviously is .. pick one !!
Those who know anything about me can probably guess my answer, but please read on anyway…
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.
Accounts and predictions relating to today’s cricket world cup warm up matches, a health/fitness update and some photographs.
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:
SouthAfrica 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 Lakmaland 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 Pakistan – Pakistan 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 Nabihad 3-46 from his 10 overs andRashid 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…
Final thoughts on two test series and one major cricketing scandal. Also some photographs.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Ben Stokes – has batted well this series but done very little bowling. His future is uncertain due to the pending court case against him.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Finally, for those of you whobhave made it to the end of this post, some of my photographs: