Some thoughts on the Ashes match in progress at Edgbaston, suggestions for Lord’s and plenty of my photographs.
The first match of the five-test Men’s Ashes series is under way at Edgbaston, now into the third day. This post looks at what has been going on to date.
Australia somewhat surprisingly included Peter Siddle in their team, but there were no other surprises from them. England did not particularly surprise with their choices but there were several question marks in their XI:
Jason Roy opening is a questionable choice in Test cricket – in his debut match against Ireland he failed in the 1st innings and made runs from no 3 in the 2nd innings.
Joe Denly at no 4 – this is a 32 year old who had not featured in an England test XI before the back end of last year.
Moeen Alias sole spinner – NO WAY: if they were going with only one spinner Jack Leach should have been the choice, especially after his performance at Lord’s last week. The pitch is now looking very much like a two-spinner surface, in which case the choice should either have been the safe Leach and Bess double act or a look to the future in the form of Lancashire’s Matthew Parkinson (although this latter would have meant Leach at no 9, and Anderson getting a promotion to no 10)
Broadand Anderson are both getting on a bit, and the latter named has been injured recently – to select both was foolhardy (it is no secret to readers of this blog that Stuart Broad would not be in my starting XI in test cricket these days).
England started superbly, reducing Australia to 122-8 in their first innings, at which point Siddle joined Steve Smith. The last two Australia wickets added 162, with Smith going on to 144. At that point, with England’s top order an unknown quantity things did not look good. However Rory Burns became the first England opener since Alastair Cook at Melbourne in 2017 (on a pitch that warranted white lines being painted down the middle of it) to bat through an entire uninterrupted test match day, and was well supported by Root, Denly and Stokes. Australia started today well, taking four fairly quick wickets, but then Woakes and Broad shared a stubborn ninth wicket stand, giving Eng;and a first innings lead of 90. Anderson, who managed only four overs in the first innings before leaving the field injured batted briefly, and may bowl a few overs with the new ball, but it seems likely given the injury he has sustained that his Ashes series is effectively over. England therefore will be relying largely on Woakes, Broad, Stokes and Ali to prevent an Australian revival (if the ball continues to show signs of turn they may also use Denly’s leg spin, which would be a huge indictment of the original selection). Update – England have just emerged for the start of the second Aussie innings and Sam Curran is on the field for James Anderson.
Whether England win this one or not changes need to be made for the second test match. Anderson clearly will not figure, so a new ball bowler is needed. Ali is not good enough as a bowler to be the first choice spinner in a test XI and should be replaced, with Leach being first choice spinner and either Bess or Parkinson 2nd. Bairstow has been failing with the bat at test level of late, and I would replace him as wicketkeeper with Ben Foakes. I approve of Joe Root batting no 3, and would drop Roy to no 4, where has stroke making could be seen to better advantage. I have mentioned my controversial choice to open alongside Burns many timesbefore, and though Burns has produced the major innings needed to confirm his place I stick to my thinking from the back end of last season onwards. Therefore my 13 for Lord’s would be:
The latest in my “100 cricketers” series, featuring the bowlers from the eighth XI and introducing the ninth XI in batting order. Also contains an important link and some photograp;hs.
Welcome to the latest in my “100 cricketers” series. This post features the bowlers from my eighth XI and introduces the ninth XI in batting order. The introductory post to the series can be found here, the post in which I Introduce the eighth XI is here and the most recent post in the series is here. Before I get to the main meat of my post it is time for a quick…
COUNTY CHAMPIONSHIP UPDATE
There has been play in all matches today, and the current situations as I type are:
Hampshire v Essex – Hampshire 525-8 declared, Essex 164 and 15-1
Only bad weather (of which there has been some in this game) can now deny Hampshire, especially given that Adam Wheater did not bat in the Essex first dig, and woiuld presumably only do so in the second if there is a serious chance to save the match. Sir Alastair Cook made exactly 50 in the Essex first innings, but had little support. Nick Browne has already had his second failure of the match, and Cook and Tom Westley are currently batting together. West Indian quick Fidel Edwards picked up a five-wicket haul in the Essex first innings.
Somerset v Kent – Somerset 171 and 53-4, Kent 209 After a poor batting effort yesterday Somerset needed to bowl Kent out quickly today, and did a fairly decent job of doing so, Lewis Gregory and Craig Overton(who already has some England experience) each taking three wickets. However, they are struggling once again with the bat, with Tom Abell once again digging in but finding little support. Somerset somehow need to conjure up another 200 runs from somewhere to give themselves a serious chance.
Derbyshire v Durham – Derbyshire 197 and 308-8, Durham 171
Derbyshire have taken control of this one, with wicketkeeper-batter Hosein contributing his second fifty of the match, and Tom Lace scoring 62 as well. Matt Critchley, a bits and pieces player who would appear from his record to not be quite good enough in either department made 51. A 19 year old slow left arm orthodox bowler, Liam Trevaskis, has taken one of the wickets – and April is not usually a great month for slow bowlers, so I am going to take a punt and say “watch this space”.
Northamptonshire v Middlesex – Northamptonshire 445, Middlesex 271 and 45-2 My congratulations to Northamptonshire on enforcing the follow-on even though they only just had the requisite lead – many teams would have taken the cowards option of batting again, but as far I am concerned going for the quick kill is the right thing to do. They may yet be baulked by the weather, which his halted this game for the moment. Nathan Buck took five wickets in the first Middlesex innings, and also has both the second innings wicket to fall so far. James Harriswith 61 not out was the only Middlesex batter to make a major contribution.
Sussex v Leicestershire – Sussex 173 and 308, Leicestershire 252 and 99-1 If the rain eases off (play is currently suspended there as well) it would seem that Leicestershire have a fairly straightforward route to victory – 131 with nine wickets in hand should not be too difficult. In the second Sussex innings Tom Taylor picked up four wickets, giving him ten in the match, while Colin Ackerman, a South African who is mainly a batter picked up five. Paul Horton has 53 not out for Leicestershire.
Now to the main business of the post, starting with…
THE FAST BOWLERS
In addition to Richard Hadlee, featured in my previous post in this series I have two other quicks, and of those I see one as third seamer, and one sharing the new ball with Hadlee. I will start with Hadlee’s new ball partner…
The only bowler to have taken 40 or more wickets in a test series on two separate occasions (both in England, 42 in 1981 in a losing cause and 41 in 1989 in a winning one). He is also unique in my 100 cricketers, in being the only one of my selections to have been on a rebel tour to South Africa. In general, since I reckon that players who participated in such tours should have been banned for life I have refused to include them, but Alderman would have been worth a pick purely for his 1981 efforts, so I have made am exception for him. He took a longish run-up, but was no more than medium-fast in pace. However, he was exceedingly accurate, and in English conditions he swung it significantly. Had he been available for the 1985 Ashes (he was banned for his South African excursion) it is likely that Shane Warne would not have been the first take 100 test wickets in a country other than his own, and that series would almost certainly have been much closer than it was.
The third seamer in this XI, he is second in the all-time list of England test wicket takers behind James Anderson. He, Alderman and Hadlee are three different types of pace bowler, which gives this XIs attack lots of variety, especially when one factors in…
THE SLOW BOWLERS
I have two of these in the XI, plus Chanderpaul’s occasional legspin (see this post for more details). I will start with the offspinner…
255 test wickets at 29.96 (he also averaged 22 with the bat by the way) from 60 matches is a fine record. Even on occasions when he did not take many wickets, such as Australia 2010-11, he bowled economically – and his 15 wickets at 39.80 in that series looks magnificent when put alongside the truly beastly combined analysis of 5-666 recorded in the same series by Australia’s spinners. Among England slow bowlers only Derek Underwood took more test wickets. Swann was a genuine spinner who gave the ball a real rip. We finish our eighth XI with a slow left-armer…
She has recently turned 24, and her international experience is limited to eight T20Is, but her record in those stands at 11 wickets at 15.09 a piece, with a best of 3-18. England Women are currently very well stocked with young spin bowlers (there are at least four aged 24 or younger who have shown signs of serious skill), but she should continue to get opportunities, and is definitely young enough to still be improving.
I will be tackling this XI in a slightly different way from they way I have tackled previous XIs due to the nature of some of my picks. Also shrewd observers will have noted that 9 x 11 = 99, and I have called this series “100 cricketers”. I am not prone to basic mathematical howlers, and I will be finishing the series with a stand alone post about a cricketer who completed quite a few hundreds in their playing days – if you fancy a guessing game see if you can identify the mystery 100th player.
Christmas report on the England men’s team, and some Muscovy duck pictures.
While the England Women’s team have had a fabulous year, thoroughly deserving to win Team of the Year at the BBC Sports Personality of the Year awards (and had there been any justice Anya Shrubsole would have been Sports Personality of the Year) life has been tougher for the men. The confirmation in the early hours of Monday morning UK time that the Ashes had been lost (yes folks, I was listening to TMS right to the bitter end) lies behind this post (going up now through a combination of thinking before I wrote and work commitments yesterday). I end as usual with some of my own photographs.
THE FIRST THREE TEST MATCHES
Gritty fifties from Stoneman and Vince on the opening day notwithstanding Brisbane was a bad match for England. The ease with which Warner and Bancroft knocked off the 170 needed to win in the second innings, and the immovability of Aussie skipper Smith in their first innings were the most worrying sings.
Adelaide kicked off with Joe Root deciding to field first when he won the toss. An Australian tally of 442-8D in the course of the first day and a half made that decision look worse than it was (it was still poor, though not down there with Nasser Hussain at Brisbane 2002). England were then all out for 227, and as this was as a day-night test with the night session due to start it seemed mandatory to enforce the follow-on, but Steve Smith declined to do so. Australia stuttered under the lights to 50-4, and England’s best bowling effort of the series so far continued the following morning reducing Australia to 138 all out, leaving England 354 to get. England made a decent fist of things, and at 170-3 it looked like they might just get them. Unfortunately both for England and for cricket as a whole (there are a lot of captains these days who almost automatically decline to enforce the follow-on, and had England chased down this target of 354 it might have made those people think) a wicket just before the close of day 4 and then a clatter the following morning put paid to that.
So it was on the Perth for the last Ashes game to be staged at the WACA (a new stadium just across the road will stage future Perth tests), a venue where England had only one once, way back in 1978. Precedents for a comeback from 0-2 down in a five match series are equally thin on the ground – the only successful example being Don Bradman’s 1936-7 Aussies (Bradman himself produced scores of 270, 212 and 169 in the third, fourth and fifth matches of that series, and also produced a tactical masterstroke in those days of uncovered pitches in that third test when faced with a terror track he sent in tail-enders O’Reilly and Fleetwood-Smith to miss everything until the close of that day – Bradman emerged the following day at 97-5 to join regular opener Jack Fingleton who had come at no 6, and with the pitch now eased they put on 346 for the sixth wicket to settle the issue), although 42 years earlier Australia had won the 3rd and 4th matches after being 0-2 down before England won the final game of that series.
England batted first in Perth, and at 131-4 a familiar pattern seemed to be emerging, but then Dawid Malan and Jonny Bairstow got going, and both made hundreds. Malan went on to 140. Once their 237 run partnership was broken the rest of the innings subsided quickly, but 403 still seemed a respectable total. When Australia were 248-4 England still looked in with a shout, but by the end of day 3 Australia were 549-4, Smith having set a new career best and Mitchell Marsh in front of his home crowd turning his maiden test hundred into 181 not out. Smith and Marsh both fell quickly the following morning, and Starc was also out cheaply, but Tim Paine and Pat Cummins made useful contributions, and Australia declared at 662-9, leaving England four and a half sessions to survive for the draw. By the close of that fourth day Bairstow and Malan were together once more, with the only convincing batting effort up to then having come from Vince, who played very well for his 55 and was unlucky to get an absolute brute of a ball from Starc.
It rained overnight, and the covers at the WACA proved inadequate, leaving a wet patch on a good length at one end, which delayed the start of the fifth day’s play. Root argued for an abandonment, while Smith of course tried to hasten the start of play. I fully understand why Root tried to get play abandoned, but actually I am glad he failed in the attempt – to keep a series alive in that fashion would have been deeply unsatisfactory. At Headingley in 1975 a delicately poised final day (Australia 220-3 needing 445 to win, and Rick McCosker five away from what would have been a maiden test hundred) was abandoned after protesters sabotaged the pitch (“George Davis is innocent” – according to Peter Chappell, namesake of two members of that Australian team, but not according to the courts, or his future record – released from that sentence for armed robbery, he was soon back inside for another armed robbery to which he pleaded guilty).
Once the game finally commenced it was soon obvious which way the wind was blowing, and for the third time in the space of a year (following two occasions against India last winter) England had managed to lose by an innings margin after tallying 400 first up.
ENGLAND PLAYER BY PLAYER
Alastair Cook: 150 tests, the last 148 of them in sequence – remarkable longevity. At the moment he is having a rough trot, and when Cook is having a rough trot (as he did in the early part of 2010) it is often hard to imagine where his next run is coming from.
Mark Stoneman: some gritty performances thus far, but he needs to start turning those fifties in to hundreds some time soon.
James Vince: to put it mildly a controversial choice for the crucial number three slot, and notwitshstanding two fine innings so far, one in Brisbane and one in Perth, he has not yet done enough to convince – see my closing comment about Stoneman.
Joe Root: would seem to be the latest in a long line of England players to suffer captaincy-itis, not only he is failing to make runs, he is getting out in un-Rootlike ways. England need his batting to be at its best, so perhaps someone else should be made captain (see later for my controversial suggestion).
Dawid Malan: his 140 at Perth and fighting effort in the second innings as well confirms his arrival as a test batsman of quality. Also, while it never looked threatening his part time leg spin was at least economical.
Jonny Bairstow: other than his first innings performance at Perth not thus far a great series for the wicketkeeper-batsman.
Moeen Ali: Fulfils a useful all-round role, although England offspinners have rarely been successful in Australia (the chief exceptions being Laker in 1958-9, Titmus in 1962-3 and Emburey in 1986-7). Also, if England do decide that Root needs to be replaced as captain to enable him to concentrate solely on what he does best – his batting – then Moeen would be my choice for the job.
Chris Woakes: Save for his bowling in the second innings at Adelaide he has not looked very threatening in this series. That game was also the scene of his only significant batting effort of the series so far. Right-arm medium fast when the ball is not deviating (and it generally doesn’t in Australia) simply will not trouble good batsmen.
Craig Overton: Looks like he belongs at this level, but my comments about Woakes’ style of bowling in Australian conditions also apply to him.
Stuart Broad: A nightmare series for him, not because he has bowled especially badly, though he has consistently been pitching it too short, but because he has looked completely unthreatening and has bowling figures that reflect that.
Jimmy Anderson: continues to climb the wicket taking charts. His 12 wickets at 25 apiece in this series, while all his colleagues have been taking drubbings is a remarkable effort in the face of adversity. I fully expect that in the early stages at Melbourne he will move ahead of Courtney Walsh in the wicket takers list (current Anderson 518, Walsh 519), leaving only Glenn McGrath among the quick bowlers ahead of him. He has bowled beautifully this series but with Broad off the boil his ‘support’ has simply not been up to standard.
THE REST OF THE SERIES
Before I get into this section let me clear that I do not believe for an instant that had the likes of Ben Stokes, Mark Wood and Toby Roland-Jones been available England would be doing a whole lot better. Certainly to be deprived of the services of three such excellent cricketers simultaneously is unfortunate but England are 3-0 down because they have been outclassed throughout this series (only in Adelaide to England ever look close to making a game of it – the Malan-Bairstow partnership in the first innings at Perth was the only other major period in the series to date in which England had the whip hand).
The good news for England is that their records at Melbourne and Sydney are better tahn their records elsewhere in Australia. While the batsmen need to score more runs, it is the bowlers who (Anderson apart) really need to pick things up – England have not yet taken 20 wickets in a match in this series, and at Perth they failed to even take 10.
I think England can pick themselves up and win at least one of the two remaining matches. In many ways it would be an injustice to Australia were England to win both and make it look respectable at 3-2 – this England side does not deserve better than 4-1 (though I also think it does not deserve worse – it is not as shambolic as Flintoff’s 2006-7 squad who really did deserve to be on the wrong end of a 5-0, as in the end they were.
The take home message of the three matches played so far is one that England should already have learned a long time ago – a bowling ‘attack’ of four right-arm medium-fast bowlers and an offspinner will not cut the mustard in Oz.
A little while back I reported sighting some birds which turned out to be Muscovyducks (Cairina moschata). Well, I have seen another (this time a single bird), this time in The Walks.
The cricket section of the BBC website gives you a chance to pick your XI for the opening ashes match this winter. It is not a free selection – they give you a pool of names to pick from, which is why I am producing this post.
MY SELECTION ON THE BBC WEBSITE
Restricted by the BBC website I selected the following XI:
Cook, Stoneman, Joe Clarke, Root, Liam Livingstone, Stokes, Bairstow, Moeen Ali, Roland-Jones, Anderson, Leach – yes I overlooked Stuart Broad, but I was being deliberately controversial…
VARIOUS POSSIBLE XIs
In actual fact, depending on conditions my selections could vary considerably. England spinners have rarely enjoyed themselves at Brisbane, so in practice I would probably not select two spinners for that particular match, while at Perth I might even consider leaving out Moeen Ali. At Adelaide, where the pitch tends to be exceedingly batsman friendly I would want more bowling options, and if the pitch was obviously going to favour spin then Moeen might even be third spinner in the XI. Thus here are some possible XIs, unerestricted by the BBC website’s preselections:
Fast bowlers’ paradise (Perth would be a possible): Cook, Stoneman, Westley, Root (C), Lawrence, Stokes, Bairstow, (WK), Woakes, Roland-Jones, Broad, Anderson.
On a ‘bunsen’ (rhyming slang, bunsen burner = turner) – unlikely in Oz but you never know: Cook, Stoneman, Westley, Root (C), Lawrence, Stokes, Bairstow (WK), Moeen Ali, Dominic Bess, Jack Leach, Anderson (this is a colossal gamble, relying on Anderson and Stokes to do all the fast bowling between them, a more cautious approach still catering for lots of spin would see Broad retain his place and Ali and Bess or Bess and Leach have the spin bowling roles).
For the batsman’s paradise (e.g Adelaide, or the Bellerive Oval, Hobart): Cook, Stoneman, Root (C), Lawrence, Stokes, Moeen Ali, Bairstow (WK), Roland-Jones, Bess, Broad, Anderson (note that to play the extra bowler I move Ali up two places, keeping Bairstow at 7 – there is a reason why Gilchrist never moved up from number 7 in Australia’s great days).
An account of the first day-night test match on English soil, with some photographs at the end.
Welcome to this account of the first test match in the series between England and the West Indies, which should still be going on but actually finished on Saturday.
THE FIRST DAY-NIGHT
TEST MATCH IN ENGLAND
One of the test matches in Australia later this year (the second of the series at Adelaide) is going to be a day-night test match, featuring sessions played under floodlights, and as part of that pink balls (as opposed to the usual red). England not fancying this being their first experience of the format decided to schedule a day-nighter at home beforehand. The problems with this decision are:
England because of the long twilight periods when neither natural nor artifical light are really good is not a suitable place for the day-night format.
The current West Indies side can hardly be considered to pose a challenge of anything like the magnitude of that of the Aussies in their own backyard.
THE MATCH ITSELF
England lost debutant opener Mark Stoneman and number three Tom Westley (also recently elevated to this level) early on, but then Alastair Cook and Joe Root put the bowling in perpsective with a huge and largely untroubled third-wicket stand. Root just pipped his predecessor as captain to the hundred mark. When Root was out for 136, Dawid Malan joined Cook and they took England through to the close of day 1. On Day 2, England lost a few wickets, including eventually that of Cook for 243 – this last triggering a declaration with the score at 514-8. Rain intervened with the West Indies 44-1.
On Day 3 the West Indies had a horror start, largely thanks to James Anderson, with 44-1 rapidly becoming 47-4. Although Jermaine Blackwood showed some spirit with a rapid 79 wickets continued to tumble and the West Indies first innings ended on 168 from 47 overs. While many captains have become cautious about enforcing the follow-on in recent years this was one occasion when any captain declining to do so would surely have deserved to be presented a white feather and their P45. Joe Root duly sent the West Indies in again. Early in the West Indies second innings there was some speculation about whether England would take the extra half-hour to finish the job, but it soon became clear that the West Indies would not be batting long enough for the question to arise. Once again resistance was conspicuous by its absence, and the West Indies were all out for 137 in their second innings, this time from 45.4 overs. The most noteworthy feature of this innings was Stuart Broad moving ahead of Ian Botham to number two (behind Anderson) on the all-time England test wicket takers list.
England had won by an innings and 209 runs with a couple of hours of possible playing time remaining on day 3 (taking the rain that shortened day 2 into account this was effectively a victory in half a test-match worth of playing time).
While I hope to see Stoneman, Westley and Malan get some big runs in the two remaining tests I do not think that performances against these West Indians will count for anything down under, and nor for reasons already outlined can I really consider this dreadful mismatch any sort of preparation for Adelaide in November. On this occasion it may actually be genuinely the case that Geoffrey Boycott’s mum would have scored runs and/ or taken wickets such was the feebleness of the opposition (for the uninitiated, based on his comments as expert summariser Geoffrey’s mum would appear have a batting record to compare with Don Bradman and a bowling record not dissimilar to that of S F Barnes!).
Most of all, in the remaining two matches of this series I would like to see the West Indies show a bit of heart and spirit, and at least make England work for the victories, as they signally failed to do at Edgbaston. Anyone who had booked seats for the fourth and fifth days is highly unfortunate – the refunds policy covers bad weather but not one side playing bad cricket.
What we saw in this match was a proficient, professional outfit dealing severely with opposition who were not remotely in the same class – well done England, but in a few months you will be facing much tougher opposition.
A scorecard of the match can be viewed here, and if you so wish you can explore from there to read more about this match.
We end with a regular feature – some of my pictures:
My thoughts on the recently concluded series between England and South Africa mens teams, plus some photographs from work.
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.
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.
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.
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):
My account of the first test match between India and England at Rajkot.
At just after 11AM GMT yesterday the first test match of the five match series between Inida and England was confirmed as a draw.
THE FIRST INNINGS
Alastair Cook made the first right move of the series when he won the toss and chose to bat (on a plumb pitch, with the only hope of interesting developments being if it deteriorated this was a clear cut decision). Gary Ballance’s wretched form had finally caught up with him, and 19 year old Haseeb Hameed whose family originated in these parts came in for his debut, with Ben Duckett dropping to number four so that Hameed could open. In the two match series in Bangladesh England’s top five had a combined record of three 50 plus scores in 20 innings with no one reaching three figures. Here Joe Root and Moeen Ali (nos 3 and 5 respectively) racked up centuries, and Ben Stokes, for once given a base from which he could build rather than attempt to rebuild added another as England totalled 537, effectively putting defeat out of the question right from the start.
Ravi Ashwin, the offspinner who was expected to prove far too good for England’s batting finished with the less than commanding innings figures of 2-167. Jadeja, on home turf (with that surname he is definitely connected to the old royal family of Nawanagar, who ruled here in the days of the princely states, and produced cricketing legends of earlier times Ranjitsinhji and Duleepsinhji) took three wickets.
THE SECOND INNINGS
Murali Vijay and Chesteshwar Pujara each reached three figures, while Ashwin somewhat redeemed his bowling figures with 70. India were all out for 488, giving England a lead of 49. These two huge first innings scores had been acquired comparatively slowly as both sides bowled tightly, and the fourth of five days was nearing its conclusion by the time India’s last wicket fell. Adil Rashid, given the opportunity to bowl with runs on the board, picked up 4-114, while the other spinners, Moeen Ali and Zafar Ansari each picked up two wickets. None of the faster bowlers were able to extract anything from this pitch, but Stuart Broad, playing in his 100th test, was economical, taking 1-78 from his 29 overs and Woakes who finished wicketless was positively Scrooge like in only conceding 57 from 31 overs.
THE THIRD INNINGS
While it would have been nice to see England go on the all-out attack and see if they could make a genuinely challenging declaration I can fully understand, especially given events in Dhakanot so long ago, why Cook took the safer option of batting the game into oblivion before declaring to see if his bowlers could take a few Indian wickets at the end.Cook himself made 130, his 30th test century, while the debutant Hameed made 82, and Ben Stokes, promoted to have a bash before the declaration made 29 not out in quick time. England called a halt at 260-3, leaving India a purely nominal target of 310 off 49 overs. Ashwin took 1-63 in this innings, giving him match figures of 3-230.
THE FOURTH INNINGS
Given that four and a half days of action had produced a combined 1295-23 it was most unlikely that any result other than a draw would eventuate, so the real question was whether England could nab some wickets and thereby claim a moral victory. In the event, India finished on 172-6, with only Virat Kohli, 49 not out, emerging from the innings with real credit. Rashid took 3-64, emerging with comfortably the best match bowling performance on either side, while Woakes, Ansari and Ali all picked up wickets.
THE FINAL VERDICT
A total match score over the five days of 1467-29 makes the truth about this game obvious. The pitch, which never offered serious assistance to any kind of bowler, won hands down. For England almost everyone emerged with some kind of credit, with most of the batsmen making runs and the bowlers sticking well to the Sisyphean task inflicted on them by the groundsman. India, although never in serious danger of losing this game have less to be happy about – although he is a spinner rather than a quick bowler Ashwin’s 3-230 in this match have a bit of a look of Gillespie ’05 about them. England have bounced back well from their disaster in Dhaka. Haseeb Hameed has made a splendid start to his career, and has probably settled the question of an opening partner for Cook – in a few years time England will probably be faced with finding someone to replace Cook as Hameed’s opening partner.