My composite Ashes XI with reasoning and justification. Also some photographs.
A common feature of final days of series is the selection of a composite XI based on performances in said series. This is my effort for the current Ashes series. I am going to name my team in batting order first and then explain/amplify/justify these selections.
My team in batting order (England player names in dark blue, Aus in green):
Steven Smith (Captain)
Jonny Bairstow (Wicketkeeper)
The openers need no justification – the only major contribution from an opener not named Warner in the series was Cook’s monumental innings at the MCG. Number three is a thorny one. James Vince has demonstrated clearly that he does not belong there, and his huge score here at the SCG notwithstanding I remain skeptical about Usman Khawaja, hence my decision to promote England’s leading run scorer in the series to a position he occupies for his county. Number four, and with it the captaincywas the easiest selection of the whole lot. Shaun Marsh has not put a foot wrong since being called up to replace the inadequate Handscomb at number 5, and I regarded him as a must pick. Jonny Bairstowand Tim Paine have both had good series with the gloves, but I have opted for Bairstow as definitely the superior batsman. Mitchell Marsh has had a magnificent series, and was an absolute shoe-in at number 7, especially as Moeen Ali has had a terrible series – he has batted poorly in every match and his bowling average reads like a Bradman batting average. Of the specialist bowlers I have picked those at number 8,9 and 10 in the batting order are absolute stand outs. Number 11 was tricky, since Anderson with virtually no support has had a good series, and the better supported Hazlewood as also had a fine series. Accepting that even were it possible vivisection is not permissible (though ‘Anderwood’ is only one letter removed from a former test great!) I have opted for Anderson as I rate his the greater achievement.
Looking at the makeup of the team (and accepting that Hazlewood for Anderson and Khawaja for Malan would both be valid changes), Australian picks predominate in both batting and bowling, though it is especially the bowling, which in my team comes out at 4-1 (including all-rounder Mitchell Marsh) to Australia and is reality more like 4.3-0.7 (rating my selection of Anderson over Hazlewood as a 70:30 pick) which has split the sides. England have collected barely more than half of the 100 wickets that were available to them at the start of the series, whereas Australia assuming that they take the six England wickets that remain in this match will have managed 90, failing to take 20 opposition wickets only on the MCG pitch.
I always like to include a few photographs in my blog posts, so I end with these recently taken pictures:
Some thoughts on the recent test match at the Melbourne Cricket Ground, solutions to my lest set of puzzles and some photographs.
This is a two part post – first of all a bit about the test match that finally ended in a draw at about 6AM UK time, and then the companion to piece to “Puzzles and Pictures“, answering the puzzles posed there.
England had the better of Australia in the fourth test match of this Ashes series, but neither team stood a chance against the real winner of this drab affair – the MCG pitch which offered no assistance to any kind of bowler and was also so slow that batsmen could not play their strokes. Alastair Cook ended his poor run of form emphatically, with an innings demonstrating once again his astonishing powers of concentration. Australia without Mitchell Starc and on a pitch that was utterly lifeless looked an ordinary bowling unit.
At lunch on day 1 Australia were 102-0 with Warner going well and Bancroft surviving, but that was the only session of the game that Australia unequivocally won. Although wickets were in short supply on that opening day Australia reached the close at 244-3 – a definite failure to build on that fast start. The second day belonged to England – Australia were all out 327, losing their last five wickets for 13 runs and England in response reached 192-2, Cook 104 not out, Root 49 not out. The third day was also England’s – 491-9 at the end of it, with Cook 244 not out. On the fourth day rain intervened. Anderson lost his wicket to the first ball of the day, giving Alastair Cook yet another place in the record books – highest score by anyone carrying their bat through a complete test innngs, beating Glenn Turner’s 223 not out v West Indies. Bancroft and Khawaja were both out fairly cheaply, but when the rain finally halted proceedings for the day Australia were 103-2 with Warner and Smith in occupation. On the final day Warner fell 14 short of his second hundred of the game. Smith did reach his own hundred, after seven and a quarter hours, and then declared which officially ended the game as there was no time left for England to chase to 100 they would have needed to win.
The Melbourne Cricket Ground has a huge seating capacity, and the Boxing Day test is for that reason the best attended of all test matches. In particular, the Boxing Day Ashes test is habitually hugely attended. Because of the failure to produce a proper pitch the biggest crowds test cricket ever sees got a game that was not worthy of the occasion, and that is not acceptable. The MCG need to sort this out – on proper pitches test cricket can be the most fascinating of the three forms of the game, but on lifeless rubbish such as the MCG groundsman produced for this match it is a poor spectacle. The ICC (cricket’s global governing body) should come down on the MCG like the proverbial ton of bricks.
Alastair Cook’s epic innings deservedly gained him the player of the match award. A full scorecard and links to further detail about this match can be found on cricinfo. The final match of this series is in Sydney, starting on January 4th, and I sincerely hope that they produce a better pitch (they cannot produce a worse one – such a thing does not exist).
As we switch focus the the puzzles I presented a couple of days ago, here are some bird pictures from yesterday:
PUZZLE 1: LOGIC
As I said when I set it, this one is very straightforward. The key is that person B has said “I am the Knave”. The Knight cannot say this as it would be a lie, and the Knave cannot say it as it would be true, so the only person who can say “I am the Knave” is the Jester. Therefore the Jester is person B (note that both Knight and Knave can say “I am not the Knave”, so we cannot say which of A and C is which).
PHOTOGRAPHS – THE GREAT OUSE
PUZZLE 2: AREA CHALLENGE
The red sgements in the four corners of the shape are each half the size of the red segments along the sides of the shape, which in turn are each half the size of the blue shapes in the middle of the pattern. Thus counting the smallest segments as 1 there are (4 x 1) + (8 x 2) red segments = 20 red segments. Each blue shape in the middle comprises four segments and the are four of them = 16 blue segments. Thus the ratio of red area to blue is 20:16 = 5:4
PHOTOGRAPHS: THE WALKS
The Walks was still flooded yesterday, although less than it had been when I took my last set of pictures there two days previously.
PUZZLE 3: EVEN AND ODD
Instinct suggests that the answer should be no, but this is one of those occasions when one should mistrust one’s instinct. To demonstrate a solution (one of many along these lines), I choose as my three even numbers 6, 8 and 4 in that order. Six divided by eight is 0.75, and 0.75 x 4 = 3 = an odd number.
PHOTOGRAPHS: MUSCOVY DUCKS 1
The Muscovy duck that I had seen in The Walks recently was not there yesterday, so I finished my walk by heading towards the place where I had firstseen the species. I waqs rewarded when just on across Littleport Street from that location I saw the entire flock. Here are some of the pictures.
Christmas report on the England men’s team, and some Muscovy duck pictures.
While the England Women’s team have had a fabulous year, thoroughly deserving to win Team of the Year at the BBC Sports Personality of the Year awards (and had there been any justice Anya Shrubsole would have been Sports Personality of the Year) life has been tougher for the men. The confirmation in the early hours of Monday morning UK time that the Ashes had been lost (yes folks, I was listening to TMS right to the bitter end) lies behind this post (going up now through a combination of thinking before I wrote and work commitments yesterday). I end as usual with some of my own photographs.
THE FIRST THREE TEST MATCHES
Gritty fifties from Stoneman and Vince on the opening day notwithstanding Brisbane was a bad match for England. The ease with which Warner and Bancroft knocked off the 170 needed to win in the second innings, and the immovability of Aussie skipper Smith in their first innings were the most worrying sings.
Adelaide kicked off with Joe Root deciding to field first when he won the toss. An Australian tally of 442-8D in the course of the first day and a half made that decision look worse than it was (it was still poor, though not down there with Nasser Hussain at Brisbane 2002). England were then all out for 227, and as this was as a day-night test with the night session due to start it seemed mandatory to enforce the follow-on, but Steve Smith declined to do so. Australia stuttered under the lights to 50-4, and England’s best bowling effort of the series so far continued the following morning reducing Australia to 138 all out, leaving England 354 to get. England made a decent fist of things, and at 170-3 it looked like they might just get them. Unfortunately both for England and for cricket as a whole (there are a lot of captains these days who almost automatically decline to enforce the follow-on, and had England chased down this target of 354 it might have made those people think) a wicket just before the close of day 4 and then a clatter the following morning put paid to that.
So it was on the Perth for the last Ashes game to be staged at the WACA (a new stadium just across the road will stage future Perth tests), a venue where England had only one once, way back in 1978. Precedents for a comeback from 0-2 down in a five match series are equally thin on the ground – the only successful example being Don Bradman’s 1936-7 Aussies (Bradman himself produced scores of 270, 212 and 169 in the third, fourth and fifth matches of that series, and also produced a tactical masterstroke in those days of uncovered pitches in that third test when faced with a terror track he sent in tail-enders O’Reilly and Fleetwood-Smith to miss everything until the close of that day – Bradman emerged the following day at 97-5 to join regular opener Jack Fingleton who had come at no 6, and with the pitch now eased they put on 346 for the sixth wicket to settle the issue), although 42 years earlier Australia had won the 3rd and 4th matches after being 0-2 down before England won the final game of that series.
England batted first in Perth, and at 131-4 a familiar pattern seemed to be emerging, but then Dawid Malan and Jonny Bairstow got going, and both made hundreds. Malan went on to 140. Once their 237 run partnership was broken the rest of the innings subsided quickly, but 403 still seemed a respectable total. When Australia were 248-4 England still looked in with a shout, but by the end of day 3 Australia were 549-4, Smith having set a new career best and Mitchell Marsh in front of his home crowd turning his maiden test hundred into 181 not out. Smith and Marsh both fell quickly the following morning, and Starc was also out cheaply, but Tim Paine and Pat Cummins made useful contributions, and Australia declared at 662-9, leaving England four and a half sessions to survive for the draw. By the close of that fourth day Bairstow and Malan were together once more, with the only convincing batting effort up to then having come from Vince, who played very well for his 55 and was unlucky to get an absolute brute of a ball from Starc.
It rained overnight, and the covers at the WACA proved inadequate, leaving a wet patch on a good length at one end, which delayed the start of the fifth day’s play. Root argued for an abandonment, while Smith of course tried to hasten the start of play. I fully understand why Root tried to get play abandoned, but actually I am glad he failed in the attempt – to keep a series alive in that fashion would have been deeply unsatisfactory. At Headingley in 1975 a delicately poised final day (Australia 220-3 needing 445 to win, and Rick McCosker five away from what would have been a maiden test hundred) was abandoned after protesters sabotaged the pitch (“George Davis is innocent” – according to Peter Chappell, namesake of two members of that Australian team, but not according to the courts, or his future record – released from that sentence for armed robbery, he was soon back inside for another armed robbery to which he pleaded guilty).
Once the game finally commenced it was soon obvious which way the wind was blowing, and for the third time in the space of a year (following two occasions against India last winter) England had managed to lose by an innings margin after tallying 400 first up.
ENGLAND PLAYER BY PLAYER
Alastair Cook: 150 tests, the last 148 of them in sequence – remarkable longevity. At the moment he is having a rough trot, and when Cook is having a rough trot (as he did in the early part of 2010) it is often hard to imagine where his next run is coming from.
Mark Stoneman: some gritty performances thus far, but he needs to start turning those fifties in to hundreds some time soon.
James Vince: to put it mildly a controversial choice for the crucial number three slot, and notwitshstanding two fine innings so far, one in Brisbane and one in Perth, he has not yet done enough to convince – see my closing comment about Stoneman.
Joe Root: would seem to be the latest in a long line of England players to suffer captaincy-itis, not only he is failing to make runs, he is getting out in un-Rootlike ways. England need his batting to be at its best, so perhaps someone else should be made captain (see later for my controversial suggestion).
Dawid Malan: his 140 at Perth and fighting effort in the second innings as well confirms his arrival as a test batsman of quality. Also, while it never looked threatening his part time leg spin was at least economical.
Jonny Bairstow: other than his first innings performance at Perth not thus far a great series for the wicketkeeper-batsman.
Moeen Ali: Fulfils a useful all-round role, although England offspinners have rarely been successful in Australia (the chief exceptions being Laker in 1958-9, Titmus in 1962-3 and Emburey in 1986-7). Also, if England do decide that Root needs to be replaced as captain to enable him to concentrate solely on what he does best – his batting – then Moeen would be my choice for the job.
Chris Woakes: Save for his bowling in the second innings at Adelaide he has not looked very threatening in this series. That game was also the scene of his only significant batting effort of the series so far. Right-arm medium fast when the ball is not deviating (and it generally doesn’t in Australia) simply will not trouble good batsmen.
Craig Overton: Looks like he belongs at this level, but my comments about Woakes’ style of bowling in Australian conditions also apply to him.
Stuart Broad: A nightmare series for him, not because he has bowled especially badly, though he has consistently been pitching it too short, but because he has looked completely unthreatening and has bowling figures that reflect that.
Jimmy Anderson: continues to climb the wicket taking charts. His 12 wickets at 25 apiece in this series, while all his colleagues have been taking drubbings is a remarkable effort in the face of adversity. I fully expect that in the early stages at Melbourne he will move ahead of Courtney Walsh in the wicket takers list (current Anderson 518, Walsh 519), leaving only Glenn McGrath among the quick bowlers ahead of him. He has bowled beautifully this series but with Broad off the boil his ‘support’ has simply not been up to standard.
THE REST OF THE SERIES
Before I get into this section let me clear that I do not believe for an instant that had the likes of Ben Stokes, Mark Wood and Toby Roland-Jones been available England would be doing a whole lot better. Certainly to be deprived of the services of three such excellent cricketers simultaneously is unfortunate but England are 3-0 down because they have been outclassed throughout this series (only in Adelaide to England ever look close to making a game of it – the Malan-Bairstow partnership in the first innings at Perth was the only other major period in the series to date in which England had the whip hand).
The good news for England is that their records at Melbourne and Sydney are better tahn their records elsewhere in Australia. While the batsmen need to score more runs, it is the bowlers who (Anderson apart) really need to pick things up – England have not yet taken 20 wickets in a match in this series, and at Perth they failed to even take 10.
I think England can pick themselves up and win at least one of the two remaining matches. In many ways it would be an injustice to Australia were England to win both and make it look respectable at 3-2 – this England side does not deserve better than 4-1 (though I also think it does not deserve worse – it is not as shambolic as Flintoff’s 2006-7 squad who really did deserve to be on the wrong end of a 5-0, as in the end they were.
The take home message of the three matches played so far is one that England should already have learned a long time ago – a bowling ‘attack’ of four right-arm medium-fast bowlers and an offspinner will not cut the mustard in Oz.
A little while back I reported sighting some birds which turned out to be Muscovyducks (Cairina moschata). Well, I have seen another (this time a single bird), this time in The Walks.
The cricket section of the BBC website gives you a chance to pick your XI for the opening ashes match this winter. It is not a free selection – they give you a pool of names to pick from, which is why I am producing this post.
MY SELECTION ON THE BBC WEBSITE
Restricted by the BBC website I selected the following XI:
Cook, Stoneman, Joe Clarke, Root, Liam Livingstone, Stokes, Bairstow, Moeen Ali, Roland-Jones, Anderson, Leach – yes I overlooked Stuart Broad, but I was being deliberately controversial…
VARIOUS POSSIBLE XIs
In actual fact, depending on conditions my selections could vary considerably. England spinners have rarely enjoyed themselves at Brisbane, so in practice I would probably not select two spinners for that particular match, while at Perth I might even consider leaving out Moeen Ali. At Adelaide, where the pitch tends to be exceedingly batsman friendly I would want more bowling options, and if the pitch was obviously going to favour spin then Moeen might even be third spinner in the XI. Thus here are some possible XIs, unerestricted by the BBC website’s preselections:
Fast bowlers’ paradise (Perth would be a possible): Cook, Stoneman, Westley, Root (C), Lawrence, Stokes, Bairstow, (WK), Woakes, Roland-Jones, Broad, Anderson.
On a ‘bunsen’ (rhyming slang, bunsen burner = turner) – unlikely in Oz but you never know: Cook, Stoneman, Westley, Root (C), Lawrence, Stokes, Bairstow (WK), Moeen Ali, Dominic Bess, Jack Leach, Anderson (this is a colossal gamble, relying on Anderson and Stokes to do all the fast bowling between them, a more cautious approach still catering for lots of spin would see Broad retain his place and Ali and Bess or Bess and Leach have the spin bowling roles).
For the batsman’s paradise (e.g Adelaide, or the Bellerive Oval, Hobart): Cook, Stoneman, Root (C), Lawrence, Stokes, Moeen Ali, Bairstow (WK), Roland-Jones, Bess, Broad, Anderson (note that to play the extra bowler I move Ali up two places, keeping Bairstow at 7 – there is a reason why Gilchrist never moved up from number 7 in Australia’s great days).
My composite Ashes XI, with a controversial choice at no 5.
This post, which is purely and simply what the title says will be followed by one of more my more usual posts.
AN END OF SERIES TRADITION
One of the things that people do as an Ashes series approaches its conclusion is pick a composite team. A team is not simply the 11 players who have had the best series – to be properly selected it has to be capable of functioning as a team, so it needs sufficient batting and bowling resources and a genuine wicket-keeper. Having set out my criteria I will now begin selecting:
None of the openers in this series will remember it with especial fondness, but with Warner now established as the Caddick of batsmen (much better in the second innings than in the first), and Lyth having not had a big score at all, the selection is quite straightforward: Chris Rogers and Alastair Cook (Captain).
THE MIDDLE ORDER
Number 3 is clear cut – Stephen Smith is a flat track bully, not to be trusted if the ball is doing anything, whereas Ian Bell produced two fifties in the third match to help restore England’s lead in the series. Verdict: Bell by the proverbial country mile.
Number 4 is even more of a no-contest – Michael Clarke has barely scored a run in the series while Joe Root has been superb. Verdict: Root on a walkover.
Number 5 is a difficult one. There have been no convincing performances from anyone at number 5. I am going to resolve it by thinking outside the box, to someone who regularly bats no 5 and has been in superb form recently. It will come as no surprise to readers of this blog that my choice for no 5 goes to … Ellyse Perry.
Number 6 takes us back to no-contest territory – it is Mr X Factor himself a.k.a Ben Stokes who stands out like the proverbial sore thumb for this position.
Number 7, and wicketkeeper is a bit tough – I have no doubts that Jos Buttler is the superior cricketer of the two keepers, but Peter Nevill has had a fine series whereas Buttler has not. Final verdict: Nevill, on ground of faring better in this particular series.
Number 8 and we are in the territory occupied by folk who are in the side for their bowling, and England’s domination in this area over the series is indisputable. Hence, this position and nos 9 and 10 are all occupied by England players. In the position of No 8 itself is Stuart Broad.
At Number 9 I have given James Anderson a promotion on his regular position in order to fit in my remaining two bowlers.
Number 10, back to his best after a couple of years in the wilderness is Steven Finn, probably third seamer behind Broad and Anderson but possibly sharing the new ball with Anderson.
We are at Number 11 and there is no recognized spinner in the side. In this area, and this is why the tail of my composite side is so long, there is no proper contest since England’s designated “spin option”, Moeen Ali, is in my humble opinion nothing of the kind (though a fine cricketer), so this slot goes to Nathan Lyon.
Here then in batting order is Thomas’s Composite Ashes XI 2015: (nb an asterisk next to a player designates captaincy, a plus sign having the wicketkeeping gloves)
An account of today at James and Sons, with images and links, plus a couple of bonus links at the end.
This is a post about today at work. I also have some links to share later on.
James and Sons’ August Auction will take place at Fakenham Racecourse on the 26th (a week tomorrow). Today therefore was spent imaging lots that had not yet been done, creating and despatching a bulk email and various other bits and bobs.
There were a few interesting items in today’s imaging…
The process of creating a bulk email involves identifying recipients, selecting/ creating an image, working out a headline and body text, assembling, and once a higher authority has deemed everything acceptable sending it out. I used the cover of the catalogue as an image. There were several variations before I was done…
Welcome this little look back the test match that finished yesterday morning. I also have links, photos and infographics to share.
ENGLAND REGAIN THE ASHES
The third and fourth matches of this series have just about totalled five days (one test match that goes the distance) between them, such has the speed with which England destroyed Australia in both games. Previously England had won the first match comfortably, but were utterly monstered at Lord’s in the second. All in all, this means that England now have an unassailable 3-1 lead in the five match series. Given what happened on the Lord’s shirtfront the groundsman at the Oval would be well advised to prepare a pitch with some life in it for the fifth match.
In four successive innings Australia have had their batting wrecked by four different bowlers (never before has one country had four different bowlers pick up six or more wickets in four successive innings). The figures that Stuart Broad produced in the first Australian innings of the match that concluded yesterday still test credulity.
Both captains had good moments near the end of the match: Cook by giving the youngster Mark Wood a chance, duly accepted, to finish things, and Clarke by announcing that the Oval will be his last test match, thereby sparing Cricket Australia an unpleasant but necessary decision.
Stuart Broad deservedly got the man of the match award for his destruction of the Australian first innings which set England on the road to victory, while Ben Stokes’ sensational catch (check it out here) deservedly won the champagne moment.
A PHOTOGRAPGIC INTERLUDE
Here a few pictures from yesterday evening…
Not so many links to share as sometimes, but enough to split them into subsections.
Three petitions for your consideration this morning:
This piece, from respectfullyconnected is a heart-wrenching account of a piece of thuggery perpetrated someone referred to due to their conduct as “Ableist, Sexist Jerk” or “ASJ” for short. I am sharing at here, as I already have done elsewhere (twitter, facebook, google+) not in any hope that “ASJ” will see it but because it so outraged me that someone thought it was OK to behave in the manner described. The title of the piece is “Don’t You Dare Call My Autistic Son a Sissy”
A link to quirky new blog, featuring Walthamstow among other locations, which I wish every success, called dutchgirlinlondon.
A SEGUE LINK
This is to a new find from this morning, which I got onto courtesy of a post on twitter by Jon Swindon. It is a blog called pollysshortattentionspan and it will no surprise to anyone familiar with Jon Swindon that the segue is to…