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:

PHOTOGRAPHS

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.

PHOTOGRAPHS

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.

PHOTOGRAPHS

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.

PHOTOGRAPHS

My usual sign off…

World Test Championship Final Arrangements

Today has seen confirmation that the final of the World Test Championship will take place at The Ageas Bowl, and this is my response to that news.

Today saw confirmation that the first final of the World Test Championship, between India and New Zealand will take place at the Ageas Bowl, near Southampton. The match is scheduled for 18-22 June. The question had been whether it could be staged at Lord’s or not.

THE PROS AND CONS

From a purely cricketing point of view the Ageas Bowl is a superior venue to Lord’s – it will produce a good pitch on which cricketer’s of all types will be able to get into the game, whereas it would only take one overcast day at Lord’s for the match to settled in favour of whoever was bowling at the time, and spinners would find little assistance at any stage of proceedings.

Of course, from a historical and emotional point of view Lord’s, the home of cricket, would have been far superior to the Ageas Bowl.

However, heretical as it will seem to many devoted cricket followers, I would never have had Lord’s in the equation, for all its history and status as a ground – had I been going for a London venue, for which I can see the logic, I would have preferred The Oval, a ground with a grand history in it’s own right, and far more likely to provide a really good match than Lord’s.

As it is, I expect a cracking game between these two sides.

WHY THE AGEAS BOWL?

The Ageas Bowl is one of two grounds in England, the other being Old Trafford, to have hotel built into it, meaning that if the health situation warrants it can easily be turned into a bio-secure bubble, as it was last summer. For all the Prime Minister’s optimism regarding the health situation and his so called ‘road map out of lockdown’, Chris Whitty has been sounding a much more cautious note, and I for one trust him more than I do Johnson. So it seems do the cricketing powers that be who came to this decision.

GETTING THERE

To put it mildly my expectation is that ordinary spectators will not have to worry about getting there in any case, although it is possible that they will be allowed. The Ageas bowl has a reputation for not being accessible, and there is some justice in that. I did a bit of research based on a hypothetical journey from my home in North Lynn to the Ageas bowl and it went as follows:

  • Use of google maps revealed that the nearest train station to the ground is Southampton Airport Parkway.
  • If one can be at that station by 9:27AM there is a bus that runs to the ground and would arrive at 9:45AM. Otherwise, one either has a seriously long walk (over an hour, and not terribly pleasant either by the look of it), or one has to fork out for a taxi on top of other expenses (this is a station serving an airport, so taxis will be available, but doubtless at a premium price).
  • To arrive at Southampton Airport Parkway at 9:27 I would have to be on the 5:39 train out of Lynn, which means leaving my bungalow by 5:15 at the latest, I would then have to change at King’s Cross to the Victoria line, board a mainline train at Victoria and change at Clapham Junction to the train that calls at Southampton Airport Parkway. If and only if all of these connections worked as they are supposed to I would arrive at Southampton Airport Parkway at 9:13, giving me 14 minutes to be aboard the bus. With four stages at which things could go wrong this hypothetical journey would be a colossal (and doubtless expensive) gamble.

NB it is notoriously difficult to get from Southampton town centre itself to the ground, so at least to that extent my methodology, anchoring to Southampton Airport Parkway, is sound.

HOW THE MATCH SHOULD BE APPROACHED

This is a one-off match, with no ‘rest of the series’ or ‘league table position’ to be thought about, so both sides should look askance at the very idea of a draw and should be eager to force a definite result. I would personally favour allowing extra days, or even making this officially the 100th timeless test ever to be played, and the first such since WWII, in order that we do have a definite winner. In the Centenary Test Match of 1977 Mike Brearley ordered his side to keep going for an unlikely final innings target of 463, even though a defeat was the likely outcome of so doing, and stuck to that intent even going into the final session with 110 needed and only five wickets standing. England ultimately lost by 45 runs, the same result and margin as the inaugural test match 100 years earlier, but Brearley was right to scorn the draw in a one-off match. Brearley talks about the match in “The Art of Captaincy”, while Greg Chappell (Aussie skipper in the match in question) covers it in some detail in “The 100th Summer”.

PHOTOGRAPHS

Time for my usual sign off…

England’s Test Tours

A look at England’s tests in 2021 and forward to the future. Also a very important petition and a related post on Tax Research UK and some deserved mentions of successes by Women’s cricket teams.

This post looks back at the six test matches England have played in India and Sri Lanka and forward to the future.

THE STORY IN BRIEF

England won both matches in Sri Lanka against a side with a very unthreatening bowling attack, although there were warning signs in the form of Embuldeniya, a left arm orthodox spinner who caused England such problems as they experienced on that tour. In India England started with a victory in the first match, but then lost three in a row as their problems against spin on turning pitches were cruelly exposed. English cricket officialdom has a phobia of turning tracks, as shown by the punishment recently inflicted on Somerset. This combined with the fact that a large proportion of English first class cricket is confined to the margins of the season means that there are not many really good spinners in the game and that in consequence the batters rarely face much if any spin. Anyone shown Axar Patel’s figures in this series and not told who had recorded them would be forgiven for thinking it was Hedley Verity or Derek Underwood operating on rain affected pitches. There were other causes of problems besides this…

ROTATION POLICY AND POOR SELECTIONS

Some element of rotation was going to be necessary due to the circumstances in which these test matches were being played, but I think England took things too far in that regard, and the side became unsettled as a result. In particular the handling of the Moeen Ali/ Dom Bess situation was shocking. England had planned to play Moeen Ali for both Sri Lankan matches and the first two matches in India before resting him prior to the limited overs element of the Indian tour. Had that plan been operable it might have made sense, though Moeen Ali’s test record is unconvincing to put mildly. As it was he caught Covid and by the time he had recovered and quarantined himself for the required period the only match he would be available for was the second of the Indian series. Bess had not bowled especially well but had been picking up wickets, and the logical thing to do in the changed circumstances was send Moeen home earlier than intended and play Bess straight through or promote one of Parkinson or Virdi from the reserves. Moeen Ali was rushed into the XI for that one match, and on brute figures had a decent game, capturing eight wickets and scoring 49 runs. The problem was that most of the good things he did came after he had virtually bowled England out of contention by conceding 94 runs from his first 20 overs on a pitch that was offering assistance to spinners from the start of the game. In selecting Moeen Ali England had directed some harsh words in Bess’ direction (doubtless some even harsher ones in private than the ones we heard about), and then after the game they tried to persuade Moeen Ali to stay on, abandoning his plans to visit his family in England, and allowed this to become public knowledge. Then, still reluctant to promote Parkinson or Virdi, and unwilling to risk Bess, they went into the third match of the series with three specialist quicks plus Stokes and only Leach as a front line spinner. Inexplicably Chris Woakes was also entirely ignored, though with the party the entire time, and he was sent home after the third test. England then had a massive knee jerk reaction to the humiliating defeat they suffered in that third match and brought Bess back, and also brought Lawrence in to strengthen the batting, going into the game with three specialist bowlers plus Stokes. Lawrence had a fine match, showing fight in both innings to amass 46 and 50, but apart from Stokes (55 in the first innings, four wickets), and Anderson, who was his usual self and therefore always formidable, and with a nod to the ever reliable Leach who toiled hard with the ball, basically no one else did. Bairstow, a flawed selection, as I pointed out in December when rumours of a test recall for him first surfaced, needed a bit of luck to make 28 in the first innings and gave his wicket away first ball in the second to one of the softest dismissals in test history. The other problem besides basic disruption and his own inadequate performances with the selection of Bairstow was that he pretty much replaced Burns, which forced Crawley up to open, when the latter has done his best test work from no3.

One or other of Parkinson or Virdi, with a preference for the former, since as a leg spinner he brings something new to the team, should have been promoted from the reserves to partner Leach, rather than the obviously untrusted Bess being recalled. The treatment of Olly Stone, who bowled well in the second match on a surface that did not suit him in the slightest and was thereafter resolutely ignored is also hard to fathom.

LOOKING TO THE FUTURE

In terms of the batting two things have happened this tour that are of any significance: Lawrence has surely moved ahead of Pope, who seems to have regressed from the good start he made to his test career, in the pecking order, and Bairstow must finally have blown one opportunity too many for even this England management to recall him to the test ranks, though he remains an integral part of the white ball set up. Leach is now established as first choice spinner, and given the unlikeliness of any English test pitch warranting the selection of two specialist spinners (I would put such a pitch being prepared in England rather below a meteorite strike in the betting stakes), and the fact that the next tour is Australia where English off spinners have not fared well (see here for some detail on the spin options in England’s successful Ashes tour parties) I am looking at Leach as sole spinner for the home summer, and Leach and Parkinson as spinners for Australia (unless England go the radical route of inviting Sophie Ecclestone to plat alongside the men). Virdi may well merit an England call up as well, but probably not for Australia. Bess needs to have at least one seriously good season for his new county, Yorkshire, before his credentials can even be considered again, so should not be a factor in England terms before the 2022 home season at the earliest.

Unless someone has a string of superb performances at the top of a county order to start the season I do not see much point introducing another newcomer to the batting order – chronically ill equipped though they were to handle India’s spinners these batters are by and large the best available to England at present. I might consider Buttler as a specialist batter, but he has been so indulged by the England management in recent times that I refuse to officially nominate him for one of my teams. In view of the fact that Anderson and Broad need to be rotated to some degree, and that I prefer not to have four out and out tailenders in the team my XI for the first test of the home season if nothing significant changes mean time would thus be something like: Sibley, Burns, Crawley, *Root, Stokes, Lawrence, +Foakes, Woakes, Stone, Leach, Anderson. Archer or Wood if fit and firing could replace Stone, though I would like to see the latter given a proper chance, and similarly Broad may play instead of Anderson if conditions seem likely to favour him. Woakes in England is a formidable all round cricketer, and as indicated earlier in this piece he may well have proved useful at times in India had he been given the chance.

Among those who may force their way into contention in the not too distant future are Tom Abell and Tom Lammonby of Somerset, Sam Hain of Warwickshire, Liam Livingstone of Lancashire and Haseeb Hameed of Nottinghamshire. Ben Coad may claim a bowling slot (he pays about 20 per wicket in FC cricket, but England have plenty of pace bowling options). Jordan Cox is an outside chance if he can prove the double century he scored against Sussex last season was not just a one off. Lewis Goldsworthy, a left arm orthodox spin bowling all rounder, may make some sort of mark for Somerset with Leach on England duty. He has yet to play first class cricket but impressed at the Under 19 World Cup last year and has a decent record in the handful of T20s he has played for Somerset. It is also possible that Liam Patterson-White (bowling average 21.00 from five FC games) and Dan Moriarty (17 wickets at just under 21 each from two first class games) will prove that their currently impressive bowling averages are not freaks.

LINKS AND PHOTOGRAPHS

My first link is to a petition calling on the government to award NHS nurses a 12.5% pay rise. To sign this you have to be a UK citizen or resident. If you are please do so. A screenshot is below:

My second link is related to the above, being to a blog post by Richard Murphy of Tax Research UK that started life as a twitter thread, in which he takes Johnson to task for his derisory 1% offer. The start of what is a longish piece is shown below:

Finally congratulations to the England Women’s team who completed a clean sweep of the T20Is in New Zealand to go with their earlier triumph in the ODI series. Katherine Brunt was Player of the Match, while Tammy Beaumont, as in the ODI leg of the tour, was named Player of the Series. Also, South Africa Women won the first ODI of their series in India, with Laura Wolvaardt making a fine 80. Now it is time for my usual sign off…

India Zindabad! (Again)

An acknowledgement of a great performance by India and some magnificent bowling by R Ashwin and Axar Patel, with an honourable mention for ‘Daniel in the lions den’ Lawrence.

This is the second time I have used India Zindabad! as a title (see here). The first referred to a series win in Australia sealed in extraordinary circumstances at the Gabba. This one refers to events at Ahmedabad, which have just concluded with a masterful bowling display by Axar Patel and R Ashwin.

DAY TWO

I covered the events of day one here, so I now resume with coverage of day two. England bossed the opening session, and did likewise for most of the second, at one point having India 148-6, still 57 behind, when Washington Sundar joined Rishabh Pant. England then paid for a team selection that had left them short of bowlers, with Stokes and Anderson both exhausted and Bess unable to provide any control. Pant completed a magnificent century and then fell immediately after, but then Axar Patel joined Sundar, and they were still together at the close, with India 294-7, 89 runs to the good.

THE CONCLUSION TO THE INDIAN INNINGS

Day three began as day two had ended, with India making merry, and it looked for a good while like Sundar would be joining Pant in the centurions club. The breakthrough finally came after 90 minutes, when Axar Patel was run out for 43. Ishant Sharma was then trapped LBW by the persevering Stokes, and then Mohammad Siraj took evasive action in anticipation of a bouncer and was bowled by the full length ball that Stokes actually produced. That gave Stokes four wickets for the innings, with Anderson taking three and Leach two.

ENGLAND 2ND INNINGS: DANIEL IN THE LIONS DEN

The reason for the biblical allusion in the heading of this section will become apparent as the story of England’s second innings unfolds. Zak Crawley was first to go, falling to Ashwin for five, before Bairstow played his first ball straight into the hands of a fielder to end his test career with a golden duck (there can be no way back for him in this format, though he will still be a white ball regular for some time). Sibley was then bowled by Axar Patel to make it 20-3, with Root already looking comfortable. Stokes was sent in at no5 in spite of not having much rest from his bowling endeavours, and he accrued two runs before playing a ball from Patel into the hands of Kohli to make it 30-4. Pope made a decent beginning but was then stumped by Pant off Patel for 15 to make it 65-5, which brought Daniel Lawrence to the crease to join Root. Almost immediately Ashwin trapped Root LBW, which he reviewed out of sheer desperation, but it was never going to be overturned. That was 65-6, and Ben Foakes came out to join Lawrence. Foakes resisted stoutly for a time, lasting 46 balls and 61 minutes for 13 and the partnership between him and Lawrence yielded 44 runs. Bess managed two before Pant took a catch off Axar Patel to account for him and make it 111-8. Jack Leach resisted stubbornly as Lawrence moved towards a 50, and a further four after that would have given him an aggregate of 100 for the match. Just after Lawrence had reached his first milestone Leach edged Ashwin to Rahane and it was 134-9, which brought Anderson to the crease. Anderson got a single, and Lawrence had a big swing at Ashwin and was bowled to end proceedings with England 135 all out and India winning by an innings and 25 runs. Daniel Lawrence had scored 50 out of 70 runs scored while he was at the wicket, off 95 balls and in 112 minutes. R Ashwin had just pipped Axar Patel to the bowling honours, with 5-47 from 22.5 overs to the left armer’s 5-48 from 24 overs. In the series Ashwin had 31 wickets and Patel 28, a combined tally of 59, with Axar Patel not playing the first match, while England’s bowlers between them had accounted for 58 wickets in the series. The pitches for the second and third matches both attracted adverse comment, some of which was merited, but this match was played on an excellent cricket pitch that brought everybody into the game, and England quite simply and abysmally failed to find any sort of counter to two excellent spin bowlers who bowled very few loose deliveries. Ravindra Jadeja is due back fron injury in the not too distant future, and slotting him into the team will give India the right kind of dilemma (I would say that Rahane who has neither current form nor an outstanding past record in his favour and Sundar are the two most vulnerable current team members).

I conclude this post by congratulating India on a magnificent performance. New Zealand will have a tough battle on their hands in the World Test Championship final, though that will be in England. An analysis of England’s two tours in the early part of 2021 is a subject for a separate post, which will be coming either today or tomorrow. A full scorecard for this match can be seen here. Pant’s ton and immaculate keeping have deservedly earned him Player of the Match, while Ashwin’s outstanding all round effort has equally deservedly seen him named Player of the Series.

PHOTOGRAPHS

My usual sign off…

India’s Day In Ahmedabad

A look at the events in day 1 of the fourth and final test of the India v England series.

The fourth and final test of the India v England series started at 4:00AM this morning UK time, at Ahmedabad. This post looks at a day that may very well have booked India their place at Lord’s for the World Test Championship Final.

THE PRELIMINARIES

England sprang a major surprise by naming what amounted to eight batters and three bowlers: Sibley, Crawley, Bairstow, *Root, Stokes, Pope, Lawrence, +Foakes, Bess, Leach and Anderson. I do not believe that Bairstow has a place in test squad, let alone the XI, and relying on three frontline bowlers plus bits and pieces is a massive gamble. Australia tried this strategy at The Oval in 1938 and were on the wrong end of what remains the worst defeat in test history, the margin an innings and 579 runs (England 903-7 declared, Australia 201 and 123, with two batters, Fingleton and Bradman injured during the long England innings and unable to bat). India meanwhile made only one change, Mohammad Siraj coming in for Jasprit Bumrah. England had selected themselves a team that meant they virtually had to win the toss to have a chance. They did so and chose, correctly, to bat first…

THE PLAY

It is never the case that winning the toss means winning the match – you have to make the right decision which England did, and you have to play good cricket, and that is where England slipped up. There was early life for the pacers, but it was the arrival in the attack of Axar Patel, left arm orthodox spin, which started England on their downward spiral. Sibley, obviously spooked by events of the previous two tests, was so anxious to cover possible turn that he was not in the right position to play one that went straight on, and his stumps were rattled. Crawley having hit one four early in an over attacked again a couple of balls later and holed out on this latter occasion. Root got a good ball from Siraj and was trapped LBW and that was 30-3. For a time Bairstow and Stokes went well, but then Bairstow got in a mess against Siraj and was LBW for 28 (he had enjoyed some good fortune along the way too, including a boundary from a shot that had there been a second slip would have been catching practice for them). Pope dug in in support of Stokes, but just after completing a fine 50 Stokes lost a bit of concentration and allowed a ball from Sundar to cannon into his pads. Lawrence then joined Pope and they seemed to be recovering things once again before Pope was unluckily dismissed when he played a ball into his pad from whence it looped up to forward short leg. Foakes was out cheaply. Then, just as a 50 seemed on for him, Lawrence departed for 46, and almost immediately Bess followed to make it 189-9. Leach and Anderson at least saved England the embarrassment of a sixth successive sub-200 total, pushing the score up to 205 before the end came. Patel, who currently has the best bowling average of anyone to take over 20 test wickets (he is on about 10.5 per wicket, with Lohmann, a 19th century great who took 112 wickets in 18 test matches, on 10.75), had 4-68, while there were three scalps for Ashwin and two for Siraj.

Anderson got Gill in the first over of the reply, but that was the limit of England’s success for the day, Rohit Sharma and Cheteshwar Pujara reaching the close with their side 24-1, 181 adrift. England bowled far better than they had batted but remain well behind the eight ball. This was the best cricket pitch of the series by some way, with players of all types firmly in the game and although one should not generally make judgements until both sides have batted once the instinctive feeling, with few balls doing anything mischievous, is that England fell in the region of 100 short of a decent total. Axar Patel now has 22 wickets in five test innings.

I would say that the ordering of results by likelihood after this day of play is as follows: India Win – defo odds on, England win – substantial odds against but not absolutely out of the question, Tie – now only the third least likely of the four results, though as always long odds against, Draw – not happening.

PHOTOGRAPHS

My usual sign off…

England Women Dominate T20 Opener in New Zealand

England came into the T20 series having won the ODI series very impressively, and further boosted by the news that Tammy Beaumont’s magnificent series had seen her rise to the top of the Women’s ODI batting rankings.

A MAGNIFICENT TEAM BOWLING PERFORMANCE

England bowled first, and a magnificent bowling performance it was too. Brunt, Sciver, Ecclestone and Glenn each took two wickets, Mady Villiers 1. Glenn went for just 11 from her full four overs, Ecclestone 18 from the same, and Brunt who got the final scalp with the fourth ball of her final over had gone for just 13 as. Freya Davies bowled one over for three runs. Villiers had 1-16 from three overs. Only Sciver who conceded 28 was somewhat expensive. The fielding was of a standard to match the bowling. New Zealand were all out for 96, with only wicket keeper Katey Martin (36) having any real success with the bat.

AN EFFICIENT CHASE

Danni Wyatt who had had a thin time in the ODI series, Tammy Beaumont, Natalie Sciver and Amy Jones all made positive contributions, with only skipper Knight failing, as England made light work of the chase, winning by seven wickets with four overs to spare. Jones had earlier shown that she had learned a good deal from her time as Sarah Taylor’s understudy by pulling off a super smart stumping in the Kiwi innings. A full scorecard of the match can be viewed here, while a highlights package is available on the following link: https://www.ecb.co.uk/video/2051616/highlights-england-cruise-to-victory-in-series-opener-new-zealand-v-england-first-it20?tagNames=England-highlights&utm_source=TWITTER&utm_medium=englandcricket&utm_content=100001880092520%2B&utm_campaign=England+women+in+NZ

Tomorrow is an early start for serious cricket fans living in the UK as live coverage of the final test of the India v England series commences at 3:45AM, with an early opening of a cricinfo tab to check for advance news highly recommended. The below image shows my preparation:

With the additional precaution of moving my computer into the bedroom when I go to bed tonight so that I can follow the first session from in bed before properly getting up during the lunch break the alarm setting above gives me time to open up cricinfo, open up the talksport2 coverage and log on to twitter to check in with other die-hard fans and be ready for the day’s action.

PHOTOGRAPHS

My usual sign off…

England XI For Thursday

A suggested England XI for the fourth and final test of the current series, which starts on Thursday. Also a couple of important links and some photographs.

I suggested an England XI for the fourth and final test of the India v England series in my post about the end of the third match. Since then Chris Woakes has gone home, which eliminates one of my chosen XI and I have concluded that a couple of specialist pace bowlers are actually required. Therefore I am presenting a new XI here, with a couple of possible variations noted.

THE SERIES SCENARIO AND SELECTION POLICIES

With England’s hopes of winning the series and of qualifying for the World Test Championship both up in smoke and series levelling victory serving only to usher Australia into the WTC final I am thinking that a degree of experimentalism is called for. In my view, with Root able to bowl respectable off spin it is more valuable if the second specialist spinner can bowl leg spin, giving a new variation to the attack.

THE BATTING

Dan Lawrence struggled at number three and should not be asked to bat there again for some while. Jonathan Bairstow, 2021 vintage, does not belong in a test match squad, let alone first XI. Thus the question is whether one goes with a top three of Sibley, Burns and Crawley or whether one promotes Stokes in the hope that his experience stiffens the top part of the order. With this the last test of the series and a home summer followed by an Ashes series down under next up I opt in this case for the top three that is likeliest to feature there rather than promote Stokes. With Stokes not being promoted the nos four and five slots are spoken for – Root and Stokes. Pope deserves to stay on in the middle order, with apologies to Dan Lawrence who has had the rough end of the stick this tour, and Foakes will keep. I might consider trying Foakes at six and Pope at seven as Pope is more likely to able to score fast with the tail, but they definitely occupy those two slots in some order. Thus our 1,2,3,4,5,6,7 will be either Sibley, Burns, Crawley, *Root, Stokes, Pope +Foakes or Sibley, Burns, Crawley, *Root, Stokes, +Foakes, Pope.

THE BOWLING

With an eye to the future and also wishing to see something that has not yet been tried I conclude that both veterans should be rested for this one, and also that Archer who has been underwhelming in his outings so far should miss out, naming Wood (who bowled well in SL) and Stone (who bowled well in the second test of this series), opting for two out and out speedsters. Leach holds his place, and rather than Bess I recommend a promotion from the reserves for Parkinson. My 8,9,10,11 is therefore Wood, Stone, Leach, Parkinson. The full XI is encapsulated in the infographic below:

LINKS AND PHOTOGRAPHS

First up, courtesy of twitter (in this case Trisha Greenhalgh) here is an infographic about masks (link to original here):

Then, as a segue into my usual sign off, a petition calling for new law to protect nature, which you can sign and share from here (screenshot of petition text, from e-activist.com is below):

https://e-activist.com/page/75310/petition/1?ea.tracking.id=email&utm_source=&utm_medium=email&utm_term=&utm_content=2&utm_campaign=

Now, it is time for those photographs…