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:
Some cricket stuff, including a view on the ball-tampering in South Africa.
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).
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.
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
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 Alimissing 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 KaneWilliamson (his 18th in test cricket moving him past MartinCrowe and Ross Taylor to the top of the Kiwi pile in this department) and HenryNicholls (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 MarkStoneman’s55 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 BenStokes, Jonny Bairstow or Moeen Ali to get out of this one.
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 Sciverand 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).
Regular visitors to this site will know that I always include some of my own photographs in my blog posts: