Two Great Test Matches

A look back at two great cricketing occasions – the women’s test between England and India and the World Test Championship final between India and New Zealand.

Now that I have finished my series about my Scottish holiday (all posts therein can be accessed from here) it is time to tackle other things. In this post I look back two great cricket matches which overlapped (poor organization there). I start with:

ENGLAND WOMEN V
INDIA WOMEN

This test match, the first women’s test match in two years and the first involving India Women for seven years was played between the 16th and 19th of June at Bristol. Not only do the women play very little test cricket, their domestic structure does not include long form cricket.

England were 269-6 at the close of the first day, having at one point been 230-2. Heather Knight, the captain, scored 95, Tammy Beaumont 66 and Nat Sciver 42. In occupation overnight were debutant Sophia Dunkley and veteran Katherine Brunt. Brunt fell early on the second morning to make ti 270-7 but Dunkley found excellent partners in Sophie Ecclestone who helped the eighth wicket to add 56 and then Anya Shrubsole who scored a blazing 47 as a further 70 accrued for the ninth wicket. At Shrubsole’s dismissal the score was 396-9 and Knight declared, leaving Dunkley with a debut innings of 74 not out to look back on. Sneh Rana, an off spinner, had 4-131 from 39.2 overs for India.

Smriti Mandhana and Shafali Verma gave the Indian first innings a magnificent start, putting on 167 before Verma, at the age 17, was out for 96 just missing a debut century. Some good bowling by England in the closing stages of the second day and an odd decision by skipper Mithali Raj to send in a nightwatcher with quite a lot of time left in the day (both the nightwatcher, Shikha Pandey, and Raj herself, obliged to go in anyway, fell in the closing stages) put India in trouble, a situation that got rapidly worse at the start of day three as more quick wickets fell. At one stage the score read 197-8, meaning that eight wickets had fallen for 30 runs. The ninth wicket provided some resistance and forced the taking of the second new ball. It took an absolute beauty from Katherine Brunt to break the stand, and no11 Jhulan Goswami got another good ball, this time from Anya Shrubsole, to end the innings at 231, meaning that, this being a four match, England were able to enforce the follow-on, which they quite correctly did. Ecclestone had taken 4-88 with her left arm spin.

Mandhana fell cheaply at the start of the Indian second innings, but Deepti Sharma, an off spinning all rounder who had batted well in the first Indian innings (she it was who orchestrated the tail end resistance), was promoted to no3 second time round, and by the end of day three she and Verma were still in occupation, with the score 83-1. After 16 runs had been added on the third morning Verma’s wonderful debut finally ended as she fell for 63, giving her 159 runs in the match. Just before lunch Deepti Sharma after the longest innings of her life finally fell for 54, making it 171-3, and the innings defeat avoided. The question now was could India hold out long enough to prevent England from being able to chase the runs down. Punam Raut dropped anchor at one end, but at the other Mithali Raj, Harmanpreet Kaur and Pooja Vastrakar all came and went fairly cheaply, with Raut being dismissed in between Kaur and Vastrakar. When Vastrakar fell India were 199-7, still only 34 to the good. Shikha Pandey joined Sneh Rana, and they put on 41, but even at that stage England seemed likely to win. However, Taniya Bhatia, the Indian wicket keeper, now joined Rana and they staunchly resisted everything England could produce. Rana was on 80 not out and might have had half an eye on a century and Bhatia 44 not out and definitely eyeing up a fifty, with the stand worth an unbeaten 104, only three short of the all time ninth wicket record in women’s test cricket when the umpires intervened, deciding it was too dark to continue (given how few overs were left, the draw had long since been certain). Ecclestone had again taken four wickets, although she also took some punishment as she tired in the closing stages, finishing with 4-118 this time. Shafali Verma’s two great innings on debut earned her player of the match, although Sneh Rana, and on the England side Knight (95 and wickets in both innings as well as being captain) and Ecclestone might also have been considered.

Both sides played well, and India showed tremendous fighting spirit to secure the draw the way they did at the end. A full scorecard can be viewed here.

WTC FINAL: NZ V IND

The inaugural World Test Championship had ended with India and New Zealand at the top, so these two teams convened at Southampton for the final. Six days were allotted, although the sixth would only come into play if weather interruptions necessitated it. In the end such was the weather between 18 and 23 June that even a sixth day was only just sufficient.

The first day was entirely washed out, and on day two New Zealand decided to go in without any spin options, picking three specialist pacers in Boult, Wagner and Southee plus a fast bowling all rounder in Jamieson and also at no7 Colin de Grandhomme who bowls medium pace. When they won the toss it was almost inevitable that they would choose to bowl with that team, and they duly did so. The truncated second day ended with India 146-3 and seemingly somewhat ahead of the game. New Zealand bowled fantastically on the third morning to reduce India to 217 all out, and by the close of the third day they were 101-2 in response, the second wicket having fallen just before the close. The fourth day, like the first, saw no play at all. Fortunately the fifth day dawned bright and clear. When NZ were 135-5, India looked to have wrested the initiative back, but the last five kiwi wickets put on a further 114 to give them a first innings lead of 32. India batted poorly in their second innings, with a number of poor dismissals. Rishabh Pant top scored with 41, as they managed a mere 170, leaving NZ just 139 to win. R Ashwin accounted for both openers with his off spin but there was to be no further success for India as Kane Williamson and Ross Taylor saw their side home, with Williamson racking up only the second individual 50+ score of the match in the process, giving him a match aggregate of 101 for once out (49 and 52 not out, the second and third highest scores of the match behind Devon Conway’s first innings 54). Kyle Jamieson with match figures of 7-61 from 46 overs, the most economical by a pace bowler in a test in England since Joel Garner in 1980, and a crucial 20 in his only innings was named Player of the Match. New Zealand thoroughly deserved their victory. While all of the kiwis bowled well, Ishant Sharma and Jasprit Bumrah were both below their best for India, Ashwin was not helped by the conditions, though he put in a fine effort and Jadeja as a bowler was a virtual passenger on that pitch and in those conditions.

I like the concept of the WTC but I think the following changes are necessary for it to work:

  1. Every team to play the same number of matches in each cycle.
  2. All series to count towards the WTC (immediately before the final England and New Zealand played a non-WTC series, which New Zealand won and won well).
  3. All 12 test playing nations to be involved.

PHOTOGRAPHS

My usual sign off…

England’s Number Three Slot

A look at the England number three position where for once there are a number of good options, the reverse of the usual situation through my time following the team.

In this post I deal with a topic well known to all who have followed the England men’s cricket team for any length of time: who will bat at number three going forward? However, this is time the question is apposite for the reverse of the usual reason.

ENGLAND’S NUMBER THREE

The number three position has traditionally been a very tough one for England to fill. In the 1960s it was usually either Dexter at three and Barrington at four or vice versa, but since then it has been an almost continual problem. David Steele did well there in 1975-6, Chris Tavare did what was asked of him in the early 1980s – namely give the order something in the way of backbone, David Gower had one superb series there against Australia in 1985, Michael Vaughan made the position his own in the early 2000s, and a decade later Jonathan Trott was as good a number three as England have had in my lifetime. More recently we have seen Joe Denly there playing a holding role to ensure that the opposition bowlers were not instantly into England’s middle order, and this winter in India with Burns recently returned from a layoff we saw Jonathan Bairstow batting there and failing horribly. Suddenly however there appear to be a wealth of options.

NUMBER THREE PRESENT AND FUTURE

The current incumbent is Zak Crawley, who will bat there against New Zealand behind the opening pair of Burns and Sibley. Crawley scored 267 from no three against Pakistan last summer, but has done little since with Lasith Embuldeniya having his number in the Sri Lanka series, and save for one fifty India giving him a thoroughly miserable time. If Crawley does not produce significant runs against NZ then his place is definitely in jeopardy. There are at least three players who are in the running for his slot by dint of batting superbly there for their counties:

  • Tom Abell: The Somerset captain was placed at number three with two other Toms, Banton and Lammonby, opening at the start of this season. Banton has already been dropped from opening though did subsequently feature as keeper in one match. Lammonby has played one decent innings this season, and his strong start in first class cricket (459 runs at 51.00 in his first six matches) has been badly tarnished. He is young enough to bounce back, but currently an England call up looks a long way away. Abell at number three, and often with the innings beginning to disintegrate around him has scored over 500 runs this season at an average of better than 60 and is looking every inch an England number three in waiting.
  • James Bracey: The Gloucestershire batter and occasional wicket keeper was on the fringes of the England squad last season, spending a lot of time in bio-secure bubbles as a reserve. He has continued to impress from number three this season and has been named in the squad for the New Zealand series.
  • Nick Gubbins: The gritty Middlesex batter has had a superb season batting at three, and his masterly 124 on the final day of the last match against Surrey turned a situation in which Middlesex were hoping to avoid defeat and fearing the worst into one in which Middlesex had a definite sniff of victory before the rain made its final intervention, rendering the chase just too steep.

Of the three named, Abell and Bracey (already in the squad) are both in with a strong chance of being selected. Gubbins is an outside shot, but there seems little doubt that given the opportunity he could do a solid job for England.

SOLUTION TO A TEASER

In my last post I included the following teaser, adapted from brilliant.org:

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

THE EARLY GAME

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

AROUND THE GROUNDS

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

A POTENTIAL ENGLAND NO3

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

A MATHEMATICAL TEASER

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

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

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

The first part is quite easy: problem A is resolved simply by using the concatenation symbol to turn the 1 and 2 into 12 and adding the three to get 15. Problem B cannot be resolved (the biggest number you can get without concatenation is 7 (3 x 2 +1 = 6+1 = 7) and the only numbers you can generate by concatenating are 321 (all numbers used, obviously hopeless), 32 which leaves with with one which enables you to finish with either 31, 32 or 33 and 21, which leaves the three, which appears at the beginning. The only integers you can generate with the three and the 21 this way round are 24 or -18.

For the second part you need to allow a minimum of three more operators: square roots and floor or ceiling functions (you only need the latter, but the two operations come as a package). The floor and ceiling functions are respectively the nearest integer below an actual answer and the nearest integer above an actual answer. With these you can concatenate the two and the one to form 21, the square root of 21 is approximately 4.58, the ceiling function of which is 5, and you have the three unused to multiply and make 15.

PHOTOGRAPHS

My usual sign off…

Thoughts On England Squad to Face New Zealand

A look at the England squad for the New Zealand series and possible XIs from it.

This post is mainly devoted to looking at England’s squad to face New Zealand in the upcoming test series, but I have one thing to do first:

LYNN NEWS CHARITY
OF THE YEAR 2021

The votes for this have been counted and the result is in, and NAS West Norfolk, of which I am branch secretary are the winners!

THE ENGLAND SQUAD

Here, courtesy of cricinfo.com (read their article by clicking here) is the squad:

Story Image

The above contains few surprises and little in the way of controversy. England have left themselves with no genuine all rounder (Craig Overton comes closest, but although he is an effective lower middle order batter for his county I do not see him as a serious contender for a slot above no8 in an England batting order) and with only one spin option, Jack Leach. I am not surprised that they did not feel the need to name two specialist spinners, but would have liked to see Critchley included as a possibility for a no7 batter/ fill in bowler role. In view of the decision to not call on anyone who had played IPL the lack of a genuine all rounder is not surprising, but there could have been little harm in considering the merits of Ryan Higgins. It is now time to look at…

CHOOSING AN XI

There are three basic variations here: gamble on a slightly substandard batting line up to ensure the presence of five genuine bowling options (Overton bats seven), rely on four bowling options including Leach, or, a different form of gamble to our first option, rely on four seamers as the only bowling options. The XIs could look as follows:

  1. The five bowler combo: Sibley, Burns, Crawley, *Root, Pope, +Foakes, Overton, Robinson, Stone, Leach, Anderson.
  2. A balanced bowling quartet: Sibley, Burns, Crawley, *Root, Pope, +Foakes, Lawrence, Robinson, Stone, Leach, Anderson
  3. An all seam bowling quartet aiming at maximising batting strength: Sibley, Burns, Crawley, *Root, Pope, +Foakes, Lawrence, Overton, Robinson, Stone, Anderson…
    3a) An all seam bowling quartet: Sibley, Burns, Crawley, *Root, Pope, +Foakes, Lawrence, Robinson, Stone, Broad, Anderson…
    3b) An all seam bowling quartet including two genuine speedsters: Sibley, Burns, Crawley, *Root, Pope, +Foakes, Lawrence, Overton, Stone, Wood, Anderson.

Myself given that even without ace left armer Trent Boult being available for them NZ will feature a formidable bowling unit I consider playing Overton at seven to be very high risk and would not recommend it. I am also not entirely comfortable with an all seam attack (if the proverbial gun to the head proposition forced to me to go this route I would opt for combination 3b above, with Robinson maybe playing ahead of Overton), so my first choice combo would be no2. Please note that in the 7/4 combos I have Foakes at six and Lawrence at seven because I want someone between Foakes and the bowlers and because I believe Lawrence is better suited to producing the kind of controlled aggression often needed when batting with the tail.

PHOTOGRAPHS

My usual sign off…

The County Championship and England

A look at the County Championship and the England situation in the light of two recent developments, plus some photographs.

Another round of County Championship fixtures concluded yesterday, and there was mixed news, some of which impacts on the England side. Yesterday was also a big day for this blog, courtesy of this post – do read it if you haven’t already.

COUNTY HIGHLIGHTS

Overall the weather won the last round of fixtures quite convincingly. However, Middlesex’s incompetence with the bat (a gritty first innings 50 by Gubbins apart) enabled Hampshire to win by seven wickets with over a day to spare in that one. In the other match in that group barely one eighth of the total scheduled playing time was actually usable, Surrey reaching 206-4 v Somerset before the weather made it’s final intervention. Essex played splendidly to account for Derbyshire, making up for huge rain delays by racking up 412-3 declared from 76 overs, Dan Lawrence with 150, and then bowling Derbyshire out twice, with Harmer taking 12 wickets in the game, including a career best 9-80 in the first innings. In the other game in that group Durham thrashed Worcestershire, temporarily going top of the group, although two of the teams in hottest pursuit of them have a game in hand. Derbyshire are now 26 points adrift at the bottom, more than a maximum points win, with just four games to play. Sussex v Kent ended in a tame draw when Kent declined to set Sussex a run chase on the final afternoon even though a draw could do them no good whatsoever. In that Kent second innings Leaning scored a ton, while Crawley and Oliver Graham Robinson each made scores of 85. The other match in that group was also drawn, Carlson steering Glamorgan away from potential danger with an unbeaten 88 in their second innings.

THE ENGLAND ANGLE

The ECB have let it be known that players who were involved in the IPL are unlikely to feature in their squad for the NZ test series which will be announced on Wednesday. Also Jofra Archer is out of that series because his elbow flared up during the Kent second innings, restricting him to just five overs. My opinion on this latter is that England now need to handle Archer with great care – they can probably do well without him in English conditions, so the focus should be on ensuring that he will be fit to travel down under for The Ashes. Also uncertain is Dominic Sibley, recovering from injury. The ECB have said they will announce 16 names, so I present my own options, a front 14 and two back up names:

  1. Dominic Sibley – right handed opening batter. If he is fit he plays and on that basis he should be in the list.
  2. Rory Burns – left handed opening batter. he has a bit to prove, but a strong start to the domestic season with Surrey suggests that he deserves continued selection.
  3. Zak Crawley – right handed top order batter. He has some recent good form, and talk of dropping him is premature to say the least.
  4. *Joe Root – right handed batter, captain, occasional off spinner. England need their skipper and they need him batting in his preferred position at no4.
  5. Ollie Pope – right handed batter, occasional wicket keeper. In the pink of form for Surrey, he has to play.
  6. +Ben Foakes – right handed batter, wicket keeper.
  7. Three possibilities for this position depending on one’s attitude: Ryan Higgins, right handed batter, right arm medium pace, would be the genuine all rounder if one wants five front line bowling options available. Matt Critchley is having a great season with the bat for Derbyshire and bowls occasional leg spin which might be good for a few overs in a test match. Finally, the cautious option is to accept having only four genuine bowling options and play Dan Lawrence, in great form with the bat, in this position.
  8. Two possibilities here: Oliver Edward Robinson, right arm fast medium and a decent lower order batter is possibly favourite for the position, but Craig Overton, also a right arm fast medium bowler and probably a better bat than Robinson will also have his advocates.
  9. Olly Stone – right arm fast bowler, right handed lower order batter. With Archer unavailable, Stone who has been bowling well for Warwickshire is my choice for the out and out speedster role.
  10. Jack Leach – left arm orthodox spinner, left handed batter. With due respect to Parkinson, Carson and Virdi who have all done good things with the ball for their counties recently ‘the nut’ still has to be first choice spinner for England.
  11. James Anderson – right arm fast medium, left handed tail end batter. The experienced leader of the attack who will be expected to take the younger pace bowlers under his wing and pass on tips of the trade to them.

The above if you have followed carefully comprises 14 names, so we need two more. One of those has to be a top order batter, and for me although others will have their advocates the fact that James Bracey could also don the gauntlets if needed gives him the nod. My 16th name to complete my own squad given the circumstances, is Matt Parkinson, the Lancashire leg spinner, as acknowledged second choice spinner.

PHOTOGRAPHS

My usual sign off…

England Potential Bowlers

A look at potential bowling options for England, a couple of links, a mathematical puzzle and some photographs.

Welcome to this post which features a few bonus features. The weather has ensured that developments in the County Championship do not warrant a post today, so I am looking at possible bowling options for England.

ENGLAND BOWLING PICKS

I am going to work through the options starting with out and out speedsters and ending with four players, two of them very much future rather than present prospects, who would not be picked purely for their bowling but might be used a few overs here and there.

The are four out and out fast bowlers who the selectors might well pick: Jofra Archer, Brydon Carse, Olly Stone and Mark Wood. Three of these have already played test cricket, while Carse has been making waves over the last couple of years. Personally given his injury history and his value in limited overs cricket I would be chary of picking Wood for test matches. Archer and Stone could both easily play, and Carse is an extra option. On home tracks I do not see more than one bowler from this bracket being warranted, but some overseas tracks may well warrant two or more out and out speedsters (Perth and Johannesburg spring to mind).

Right arm medium-fast/ fast-medium: There are many English bowlers in this bracket with excellent FC records, but to me six have definite England claims. The two veterans Anderson and Broad will probably rotate, though there may be situation in which both get selected. Oliver Edward Robinson and Craig Overton are both having storming seasons, have superb career records and would seem to be in a head to head for the no8 slot. With Stokes currently injured it is quite likely that an all rounder will be selected to bat at no7, and the two main candidates for that role in this bracket are Chris Woakes and Ryan Higgins. Woakes if definitely fit would be the first choice, especially with the first test taking place at his northwest London fiefdom, aka Lord’s.

Left arm medium to fast-medium: Sam Curran is the obvious bowler of this type for England to turn to, and could possibly bat as high as seven, though eight seems more realistic for him at present. George Garton is another promising talent in this bracket, and Sussex have him batting at no7 at the moment.

Spinners: Jack Leach is the man in possession, and it is wildly unlikely that a home pitch will warrant the selection of two specialist spinners. Matt Parkinson (leg spin), Jack Carson and Amar Virdi (both off spin) have all had big performances this season, and given the slim pickings England off spinners have generally had in Australia Parkinson is probably the current no2. Finally, there remains the possibility of offering Sophie Ecclestone who has an extraordinary record in women’s internationals her opportunity to perform alongside the men.

Batters who bowl: Obviously Stokes (LHB, RF) would if fit be preeminent in this category, but he is currently injured. Matt Critchley of Derbyshire (RHB, LS) is having a superb season with the bat and it is quite possible that England would select him and give him a few overs here and there in addition to using his batting. A couple of youngsters who will be on the radar in the near future are Lewis Goldsworthy of Somerset (RHB, SLA) and Luke Hollman of Middlesex (RHB, LS). Goldsworthy hasn’t yet bowled in FC cricket, but has scored 39, 41 not out and 24 in his three innings, and the last two were knocks played under considerable pressure on pitches that were not straightforward.

Myself given that the next test match is at Lord’s I would be going with Woakes and Oliver Edward Robinson at seven and eight, with commiserations to Craig Overton. My team would look something like: Sibley, Burns, Crawley, *Root, Pope, +Foakes, Woakes, OE Robinson, Stone, Leach, Anderson. Archer, Carse or Wood could take Stone’s place and of course Broad could play ahead of Anderson depending on form or fitness.

A COUPLE OF LINKS

The Lynn News are running a poll for who should be their Charity of the Year, and NAS West Norfolk, of which I am branch secretary, are among the nominees. Please read the article and vote for us by clicking here.

Phoebe has one again opened up her blog for people to promote their own blogs, and I urge you to visit and check out some of the blogs advertising themselves there. Please click here to do so.

A MATHEMATICAL PUZZLE

This is a fun problem from brilliant.org:

PHOTOGRAPHS

Leaden sky and persistent rain are not the best conditions for photography, but I do have some pictures to share with you:

Picking a Test Side Without Stokes or Woakes

A look at options for the England side for the first test and some photographs.

This post looks at the problems caused by the absences of Stokes (injured) and Woakes (at the IPL) for England. Another round of County Championship matches gets underway tomorrow and may provide more information.

FOUR BOWLERS OR FIVE?

Stokes and Woakes are the two best English all rounders currently playing, and without either the choice is between relying on four bowling options or accepting a weakened batting line up in order to have five bowling options. My choice, because one needs to take 20 wickets to win a test match is to have five bowling options.

BUILDING THE TEAM

There are doubts over whether Sibley will be fit for the first test match, and the only potential replacement who is doing enough at the moment in my book is Hassan Azad of Leicestershire. Burns and Crawley will round out the top three. Skipper Root will be at four, the slot he has made his own. Number five is choice between Pope and Lawrence, but Pope has underlined his quality with a huge score in the last round of championship matches, so I select him. As readers of this blog know I consider that Foakes should be a shoo-in for the test wicket keeping berth, and with five bowlers needed I put him at six. Personally I would select Ryan Higgins at seven – he is a cut above Overton, Gregory or S Curran with the bat, and an FC bowling average of 21 suggests he could do a job at the highest level. No8, where also batting skills are not entirely irrelevant is for me locked down – Oliver Edward Robinson who underlined his credentials with a nine wicket innings haul a few days ago gets the nod. Archer is at the IPL, and current form suggests that of the other two out and out speedsters Olly Stone should get the nod. Parkinson’s fine bowling against Northants not withstanding Jack Leach is clear as England’s #1 test spinner. James Anderson is missing Lancashire’s next game due to a tight calf, which suggests that Stuart Broad has to get the final placed. Thus my provisional line up, assuming that availability is as it seems is:

  1. Hassan Azad
  2. Rory Burns
  3. Zak Crawley
  4. *Joe Root
  5. Ollie Pope
  6. +Ben Foakes
  7. Ryan Higgins
  8. Oliver Edward Robinson
  9. Olly Stone
  10. Jack Leach
  11. Stuart Broad

PHOTOGRAPHS

My usual sign off…

Stokes Out For Three Months

A look at ways for England to cope with the enforced absence of Ben Stokes, a look at the cricket that is happening today, an answer to the teaser in my last post and some photographs.

This post looks at how England might cope without Ben Stokes, who will definitely be missing the first test series of the home summer against New Zealand, though he may be able to turn out against India later in the summer. There are also brief mentions of today’s cricket.

REPLACING STOKES

There is no such thing as a like for like replacement for Ben Stokes. The question is then whether you want five genuine bowling options or whether your primary concern is to deepen the batting. If you are worried about the batting then the logical approach based on current evidence is to play either Pope at five and Lawrence at six or vice versa, then rounding out the order with +Foakes, Woakes, one of Archer/Stone/Wood depending on form and fitness, Leach and one of Anderson/Broad depending on form and fitness. If you prefer five bowlers, then you pick one of Pope/ Lawrence to bat at five, gamble on +Foakes at six, have Woakes at seven and avoid a diplodocan tail by selecting one of Oliver Edward Robinson, Lewis Gregory or Craig Overton at eight, and then the 9/10/11 on the basis I have already explained. Two sample line ups using the different approaches are below:

Four Bowlers XIFive Bowlers XI
Dom SibleyDom Sibley
Rory BurnsRory Burns
Zak CrawleyZak Crawley
*Joe Root*Joe Root
Ollie PopeOllie Pope
Dan Lawrence+Ben Foakes
+Ben FoakesChris Woakes
Chris WoakesOliver E Robinson
Olly StoneOlly Stone
Jack LeachJack Leach
James AndersonJames Anderson
Sample England line ups (please read full post) – do you gamble on four bowlers being sufficient and aim for a strong batting line up, or do you insist on having five front line bowlers?

Feel free to comment on these ideas and make suggestions of your own.

TODAY’S CRICKET

It is day two of the second round of County Championship fixtures. Mohammad Abbas has obliterated the top half of the Middlesex batting order (at low water mark, facing a tally of just over 300 they were 14-5, Abbas 5-3) down at the Rose Bowl. In the game I am principally focussed on, the west country derby at Taunton, Gloucestershire are 113-3 in reply to Somerset’s 312, with Tom Lace the most recent casualty, to an entirely self inflicted dismissal. In South Africa the home side are going nicely in their T20I vs Pakistan, 64-1 after seven overs, while the IPL action for the day starts in just under an hour, and the question is will the mere kings (Punjab Kings) be able to get the better of the super kings (Chennai Super Kings)?

SOLUTION TO TEASER

In my previous post I set a teaser from brilliant.org. I now provide the answer.

The selection of these multiple choice options left a hack just waiting to be exploited, though as far as I am aware I am the only solver who actually admitted to having done so. The total area of the circle is 36pi, which is just over 113 units. No way are either 24 or 36 big enough to be the largest possible, while 144 is larger than the total available area and therefore clearly impossible. This leaves 72 as the only possible answer, and sure enough, it is the correct answer. Had one their largest available answer been 84 or 96 this hack would not have been available (note that 108 is too close to the total available area to be a really convincing alternative) and I would have had to actually work out a proper solution. I now share with you an authentic solution, published by David Vreken:

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My usual sign off…

Selecting An All Time Test XI

I take on the near impossible task of selecting an all time test XI. Also some more photographs for you.

Let me start by saying that this task, suggested on twitter by Adam Sutherland, is the sort of thing Alexa might come up with if asked for an example of an insoluble problem. The embarrassment of riches at one’s disposal is such that I would expect no two people to arrive at the same answer. Nevertheless it is fun to do, and I am going to offer my answer. Feel free to list your alternatives, or if you dare, a completely different XI of your own to take on mine in a five match series in the comments.

THE TEAM

There are lots of candidates for an opening pair. In my case I resolve the issue by selecting an opening pair who were the best in test history and who I therefore pick as a package: Jack Hobbs and Herbert Sutcliffe, with their average partnership of 87.81 at that level.

Number three, with all due respect to such masterly practitioners as Rahul Dravid and Ricky Ponting is one of the two nailed on certainties for a place in this XI: the one and only Donald Bradman, who I also name as captain of the side. An average of over 30 runs an innings more than any of the competition does not allow for argument.

Number four has many contenders, but having named three right handers I wanted a left hander, and the best record among such batters is held by Graeme Pollock, with an average of 60.97 (Brian Charles Lara is the other contender, but too many of his really big scores came in either defeats or draws).

Number five goes to Sachin Tendulkar. Again there were many possibilities, but I accept the word of Don Bradman, who recognized something of himself in the way Tendulkar batted (a resemblance also acknowledged by Lady Bradman when consulted), and there can be no higher praise.

Now we need an all-rounder, and this is the other utterly undisputable slot other than no3: the most complete cricketer there has ever been, Garfield St Aubrun Sobers. He scored 8,032 test runs at 57.78, took 235 wickets, bowling virtually every type of delivery known to left arm bowlers (he was originally selected as a left arm orthodox spinner, batting no9) and he was also one of the greatest fielders the game ever saw.

For the wicket keeper, although I do not normally approve of compromising at all on keeping skills I rate Adam Gilchrist’s batting at no seven so highly that I am selecting him for the role.

For my remaining bowlers I go for Wasim Akram at no8, left arm fast and capable of generating prodigious swing. No9 is Malcolm Marshall, for me the greatest fast bowler of the golden age of West Indies fast bowling. No10 is Sydney Barnes, 189 wickets in just 27 tests (seven per game) at 16.43 a piece. I round out the order with the off spinner Muttiah Muralitharan.

Thus in batting order we have:

JB Hobbs
H Sutcliffe
*DG Bradman
RG Pollock
SR Tendulkar
G St A Sobers
+AC Gilchrist
Wasim Akram
MD Marshall
SF Barnes
M Muralitharan

Barnes’ principle weapon was a leg break at fast medium pace, so I felt that the off spinner Muralitharan as opposed to a leg spinner (Warne, O’Reilly, Grimmett and Kumble being the principle contenders) gave the attack more variation. Wasim Akram’s place as left arm paceman could have gone to Alan Davidson or Mitchell Johnson without appreciably weakening the side, and there are a plethora of right arm quicks for whom cogent cases could be made. Barnes’ extraordinary record made him the third clearest selection in the entire XI.

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Just before my usual sign off, a link to the piece I produced OTD last year as part of my ‘all time XIs’ series: Leicestershire. Now for those photos…

Possible England Bowling Attacks For Australia

A look ahead to Ashes, focussing especially on the bowling.

This piece was prompted by a little discussion on twitter this morning about this subject. Somebody who tweets as The Slog Sweeper was advocating the selection of five specialist bowlers, Archer, Stone, Wood, Leach and Anderson, all of whom I firmly believe should be in that tour party if fit, in the team at one the same time. I can understand the logic, but it seems to me to be too high risk, with virtually no runs coming from the second half of the innings. I am going to look at possible combinations for that series in more detail here.

THE ROLE OF THE SPINNER

Jack Leach is established as England’s no1 test spinner. Given that English off spinners have generally fared poorly in Australia and the paucity of options with even respectable first class records the only remotely likely choice for the role of second spinner would be Matt Parkinson (FC bowling average 25). Back for Leach in the role of left arm orthodox spinner is hard to find at present, unless Sophie Ecclestone gets offered her chance to try her stuff alongside the men. I have examined the role of left arm slow to medium paced bowlers in successful Ashes campaigns down under elsewhere on this blog. The only regular test venue in Australia that is remotely likely to warrant the selection of two specialist spinners is Sydney. It could well be the case that no spinner is selected in Perth, and at the other three venues Leach will be the chosen spinner.

BALANCING ATTACKS TO SUIT LOCAL CONDITIONS

At the Gabba for the series opener the right bowling attack would feature two out and out speedsters, Leach and Anderson. At Adelaide, where pitches are often favourable for batting there might be a case for slightly weakening the batting order in an effort to get 20 wickets and playing Woakes at seven, two of the speedsters, Leach and either Broad or Anderson depending on form and fitness. At Perth I might well gamble on all three out and out speedsters and a toss up between Leach and Broad for the fourth specialist bowler. The MCG is the one Aussie ground where I would be happy without two out and out speedsters and would pick whichever of the three is bowling best, both veterans and Leach, or possibly Woakes in place of one of the veterans. At the SCG I am either going two out and out speedster and two spinners (Parkinson coming in) or possibly two out and out speedsters, Anderson and Leach.

POSSIBLE XI FOR THE GABBA

The questions if any are over the top of the order. However, unless either:

a) Haseeb Hameed, with a test average before injury interrupted his career of 43, has an epic season and positively demands selection or

b)One of the younger openers hits their straps in the early part of the county season and establishes themselves at international level during the summer

I think that it will be a case of hoping that the existing top order can function well down under – it would be a huge ask of an opener to make their international debut in an away Ashes series. Thus my Gabba XI in batting order reads as follows:

  1. Dom Sibley
  2. Rory Burns
  3. Zak Crawley
  4. *Joe Root
  5. Ben Stokes
  6. Dan Lawrence
  7. +Ben Foakes
  8. Mark Wood/ Jofra Archer (dependent on form and fitness)
  9. Olly Stone
  10. Jack Leach
  11. James Anderson

With two out and out speedsters, the skill and experience of Anderson, Leach and Stokes in the x-factor role I have considerable confidence in this side taking 20 wickets, and while the batting order would not be the deepest England have ever fielded it should be capable of producing enough runs.

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My usual sign off…

Two Formats, Two Successful Chases

A look at two successful run chases from yesterday.

Yesterday was the fifth and final day of the second Afghanistan v Zimbabwe test match and also the day of the second T20I between India and England. This post looks at both games.

AFGHANISTAN V ZIMBABWE

Going into the final day Zimbabwe had a small lead but only three second innings wickets standing. For a time the overnight pair of Sean Williams and Donald Tiripano kept the resistance going, with Williams reaching 150. Tiripano fell only five runs short of becoming only the second ever batter named Donald to rack up a test century. The resistance did not quite end there, with Zimbabwe finally being all out for 365, an advantage of 107. Afghanistan were never in serious trouble in the chase, though the loss of three wickets as the target approached reduced the margin from nine to six wickets.

While acknowledging Zimbabwe’s great fight back I am personally pleased that Afghanistan won and thereby levelled the series. They had very comfortably the better of the game overall, and also if they had lost the follow on (see my previous post)would have become obsolete in the minds of a lot of captains. The truth is that Zimbabwe’s great fightback has no bearing on the decision to enforce the follow on, and I wonder how many were questioning it when Zimbabwe were 142-7, still 116 short of making Afghanistan bat a second time. If any Afghanistan decision was questionable it was the decision to declare the first innings at 545-4 rather than pushing on past 600.

The other notable feature of this match was the workload shouldered by leg spinner Rashid Khan – 99 overs in the match, in which he captured 11 wickets (he now has 34 test wickets in five matches at that level, including two hauls of 10 in a match), three more than Zimbabwe as a whole managed across both Afghanistan innings. This was the most since Muralitharan sent down 116 overs of off spin at The Oval in 1998, taking 16 wickets in the process. The overall test record was set by Hedley Verity, at 774 balls across the two innings of the last timeless test (eight ball overs in that match), while in first class cricket CS Nayudu tops the list having once bowled 917 balls in the course of a match. Another notable workload was the 124 overs bowled in the Adelaide test in the 1928-9 Ashes by JC ‘Farmer’ White (13 wickets, and England won albeit only just). The single innings record was set by Sonny Ramadhin at Edgbaston in 1957, when he wheeled down 98 overs in England’s second innings. Tom Veivers bowled 95.2 overs in England’s innings at Old Trafford in 1964 (A 656-8 declared, Simpson 311, E 611 all out, Barrington 256, A 4-0).

A full scorecard for the match can be viewed here.

INDIA V ENGLAND

Mark Wood had a niggle and was replaced by Tom Curran, a decision that many questioned at the time. India won the toss and put England in. No one really sparked for England, though Roy managed 46, and there were several scores in the 20s. It was only poor fielding by India that enabled England to reach 164-6 from their 20. When Sam Curran opened the defence with a wicket maiden things looked interesting. However, Kohli and Ishan Kishan, making his debut, soon put India well on top. No English bowler was really impressive, and the fielding was sloppy, lowlighted by bad dropped catches on the part of Buttler and Stokes. By the time Kishan fell for a magnificent 56 off 32 balls the game was effectively up for England. There was still time for Pant to score a rapid 26, while Kohli anchored the chase. The skipper finished things with a six, taking him to 73 not out. Shreyas Iyer was 8 not out, following his 50 in the previous match. Tom Curran bowled two overs for 26 and never looked like causing anyone any problems. Although Kohli had the highest score of the day Kishan was quite correctly named Player of the Match for his game changing innings. For India Rohit Sharma is now available again and will presumably displace KL Rahul who has had a horrible time of late, while they might also look at ways to give themselves a sixth genuine bowling option – although it did not affect them this time, Hardik Pandya as fifth bowler seems a trifle hair raising. For England Wood will return in place of Tom Curran if fit, if not either Reece Topley or if England want an extra spin option Moeen Ali could come in. The other possible move is Liam Livingstone, mainly a batter but also capable of spinning the ball both ways, to come for Stokes. A full scorecard can be viewed here.

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My usual sign off…