100 Cricketers – Gower, Cook and Pietersen

INTRODUCTION

I launched this series with an introduction a while back and devoted a stand-alone post to Tammy Beaumont. Now after a some delays I continue with the remaining specialist batters from my first XI. I will deal with them in chronological order, starting with…

DAVID GOWER

I saw the last day of test cricket in the English season of 1990 live at The Oval. England were battling to save the game and thereby secure a series win, and the not out batsmen overnight were Mike Atherton and David Gower. Atherton did not last long that morning, but Gower batted magnificently through the day, finishing on 157 not out. John Morris kept him company for a good while but failed to reveal the stroke play that had earned him what was to a brief chance at international level. Allan Lamb then made a half century to ensure that no embarrassments could happen. Robin Smith had time to play one cut shot before the end. However, all of these players, and indeed the Indian bowling attack, were merely supporting cast for a day that belonged to Gower. 

There would be only two more years of Gower at international level before he was passed over for a tour of India (an unqualified disaster for England, although Graeme Hick and Chris Lewis each had moments in the sun during that series) and announced his international retirement. 

In the course of his test career David Gower scored over 8,000 runs at an average of  44, and he scored them in all circumstances and against all opponents. At Perth in 1978 while Geoffrey Boycott was taking 454 minutes to score 77 (one all-run four, but no boundary hits) Gower scored his maiden Ashes century. At Edgbaston in 1979 he took 200 not out off India. At Jamaica in 1981 he secured a draw for England by defying possibly the most fearsome pace quartet ever seen in cricket history (Garner, Croft, Marshall, Holding) for eight hours and an undefeated 154 – England would wait seven more years and ten straight defeats before they next shared the honours with the West Indies. In the 1985 Ashes he made three scores in excess of 150, two of which contributed to innings victories by England. Even in the 1990-1 Ashes down under, when England were crushed by an Australian side that knew itself to be the best in the world he made two centuries in the series.

A David Gower innings would stick in the memory. It never looked like he had really hit a ball until you saw it speeding to the boundary. It was precisley because he was so very good that his dismissals often looked absolutely terrible – how could such a player produce a shot like that?

KEVIN PIETERSEN

Fast forward 15 years to 2005 but stay at The Oval, and again a final day of the test match season started with England needing to secure a draw to win the series. This was an Ashes series, and since 1989 when a combination of injuries and a rebel tour to Apartheid South Africa saw England surrender the Ashes (only the weather prevented Australia from making history by winning all six matches in a six match series) the urn had been firmly in Australian possession. Kevin Pietersen (three fifties but as yet no century in his debut series) was dropped early in this innings by Shane Warne (who had a magnificent series overall), but England were definitely struggling at lunch time. 

Post lunch Pietersen decided that attack was the only form of defence and went after the bowlingn to spectacular effect. Paul Collingwood for an hour and Ashley Giles for two and a half hours played crucial supporting roles. By the time Pietersen was out for 158 England were well and truly safe.

Pietersen went on to play many more fine innings for England, although his career eventually ended in somewhat controversial circumstances, but if he had never scored another run after that day in 2005 he would have done enough to ensure imperishable fame. No one who witnessed that innings will ever forget it.

ALASTAIR COOK

England’s all-time leading run scorer, whose career started with a fifty and century against India in 2006 and ended in the same fashion 12 years later. In between times it included the most successful visit to Australia by anyone named Cook since Captain James of that ilk was in his prime. Having saved the first match at Brisbane with 235 not out he then contributed 148 at Adelaide, Pietersen making 227 and finally ensured that England would win the series by scoring 189 at Sydney. In total the series brought him 766 runs, second only for an English batter in Australia to Hammond’s 905 in the 1928-9 series.

As well as making big runs all the way through his career Cook also managed to be fit and available every time England needed him, a remarkable feat of longevity and endurance when so much cricket is being played. 

LOOKING AHEAD

Having covered the specialist batters from my first XI I will next be considering the all-rounders, including the wicketkeeper.

Tammy Beaumont and Women Playing Alongside Men

A radical suggestion for dealing with the England men’s teams top order batting woes…

INTRODUCTION

Having introduced my new series about cricketers in my last post I now move on to an opening batter who provides a springboard for plenty of other ideas.

VALE ATQUE AVE

The 2015 English cricket season started with the news of the dropping and subsequent international retirement of Charlotte Edwards after a long and illustrious career (she features later in this series). Who was going to fill the monster sized vacancy that her departure left at the top of the England women’s batting order? 

The first England women’s squad post the dropping and retirement of Edwards featured an opening pair of Tammy Beaumont and Lauren Winfield. Beaumont immediately began making big runs in her new role at the top of the order, and remarkably a fairly seamless transition from one era to the next took place.

OPENING WOES IN THE MENS TEAM

Meanwhile in the ranks of the England men’s team a gaping hole was emerging at the top of the batting order. Alastair Cook, so long an absolute rock in that position, seemed to have gone into irreversible decline and none of those selected to partner him looked remotely good enough. Mark Stoneman went after a sequence of test matches that brought him four 5o plus scores but never saw him get as far as 60 (and he had several lives in the course of his top score of 59). He was replaced by Keaton Jennings who has scored two test hundreds but who is also looking at an average of 25.86 after 16 test matches (at least 15 runs per innings light for a specialist batter at that level). 

When Cook announced that he was retiring from international cricket the problem became greater still. Rory Burns of Surrey was an obvious candidate for one slot at the top of the order, having scored far more runs than anyone else in the English season. For the the other England faced a difficult decision between the following:

  1. Stick with the underachieving Jennings and hope for miracles.
  2. Revert to Stoneman with even less chance of success
  3. Bring in a second brand new opener and hope that (at least) one of the newbies hits their straps right from the start.
  4. Faced with an assortment of unappealing options as listed above go for someone who has been making stacks of international runs at the top of the order and give Tammy Beaumont her chance to play alongside the men.

In the event England took option one, and one big score for him in Sri Lanka apart it has not worked out either for them or for Jennings. In the test match currently under way at St Lucia England are doing well, but they have not had many top order runs to work with, although Burns batted a long time in the first innings. In the first two tests of this series England were roundly defeated, and the less said about their batting efforts, the better. 

COULD A WOMAN PLAY ALONGSIDE THE MEN?

The short answer is yes. I would not expect a female fast bowler to be able to hold their own as power is so important in this department, but in batting, fielding, wicketkeeping and slow bowling, where there is less of a premium on pure power I see no reason why a female could not hold their own with the men, and my suggestion relates specifically to an opening batter. 

If some new opener makes a succession of centuries in the early part of the English season , thereby forcing themselves on the selectors my current thinking may be modified, but at the moment I remain convinced that the best solution to the England Mens team’s opening woes is to give Beaumont her chance and see what happens.

THOMAS SQUAD FOR 1ST ASHES MATCH

I have misgivings about someone who is almost 33 starting a test career from fresh, but Joe Denly’s 69 in St Lucia would seem to have earned him an extended run, so it is on that basis that he features in my squad for the first Ashes Match. I will list the names, and then append some explanations:

  1. I Beaumont
  2. Rory Burns
  3. Joe Denly
  4. Joe Root*
  5. Joss Buttler
  6. Ben Foakes+
  7. Ben Stokes
  8. Sam Curran
  9. Adil Rashid
  10. Jack Leach
  11. Mark Wood
  12. James Anderson
  13. Olly Stone

I have named 13 because the exact make up the bowling unit will depend on the nature of the pitch and the conditions. I regard Anderson, Wood and Stone as essential for the seam attack (two outright quicks, and England’s all-time leading wicket taker), with Leach and Rashid in that order of precedence as spin options should conditions warrant it, and Curran as a fourth front-line seamer (possibly batting at 7 in place of Stokes) should conditions warrant that option. Bairstow at no 3, as a specialist batter, is also an option but would seem shockingly inconsistent given the Denly has produced a significant score in St Lucia, which is why he is not there in my list.

PHOTOGRAPHS

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A recent acquisition, which has also featured on my London Transport themed website.

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India on Brink of Victory at MCG

INTRODUCTION

The Boxing Day test match at Melbourne has limped into its final day, with India needing two more wickets for a convincing and thoroughly deserved victory. India claimed an extra half hour to try to finish things today but were unable to do so.

INDIA SECOND INNINGS – 54-5 OVERNIGHT TO 106-8D

Patrick Cummins emulated Jasprit Bumrah by picking up career best test bowlinjg figures in this match (6-27 in his case). India’s declaration left Australia needing 399 to win…

AUSTRALIA SECOND INNINGS 258-8

Australia’s main batting performed like a squad of Wattos – most of them got some sort of start but none went on to a significant score. Then that man Cummins showed that his abilities are not entirely restricted to bowling – he is not a genuine allrounder but his batting is definitely a cut above that of the out and out tailender – he finished the day on 61 not out, the only Aussie fifty of the match. Nathan Lyon at number ten held out for over an hour, which should have had some his supposed betters squirming as well.

Bumrah added two wickets to his first innings six, equalling a record match aggregate for an Indian paceman in Australia (Kapil Dev twice took eight in a game there and Ajit Agarkar achieved the feat once). Ravindra Jadeja picked up three wickets with his left arm spin and Ishant Sharma and Mohammed Shami also struck.

India deserve to be on the brink of victory, and Cummins’ late defiance will end up enhancing the entertainment value of the match but not affecting its result. 

SOME THOUGHTS ABOUT THE UPCOMING ASHES SERIES

This English season the Aussies come calling to resume the oldest grudge match in international sport. Based on their unconvincing efforts against India at home and England’s triumph in Sri Lanka I make the home side heavy favourites, probably to win with a very comfortable margin of superiority.

Looking at the match at the MCG prompted some thoughts about England’s bowling options for this series, and I have arrived at the following:

  • England need at least one bowler who can produce vicious pace in their squad – which means that the Norfolk born Olly Stone gets the nod from me. 
  • James Anderson, who in the veteran stage of his career no longer has the pace but has ringcraft in spades is of course a guaranteed selection.
  • At least one other specialist pace bowler will be required to support the first two.
  • After their triumphs in Sri Lanka it is hard to look beyond Rashid and Leach for the front-line spin bowling roles at present.
  • If his head is in the right place Ben Stokes could be useful as back up bowler but should not be considered for a front-line bowling slot.
  • I am largely happy with the front-line batting for England, with Ben Foakes having made the keepers role his own and Bairstow now surely ensconced as no 3. I am not entirely happy about the continuing presence of Jennings but he did make runs in Sri Lanka and the Sutcliffe Super Radical Solution (Tammy Beaumont to be given her chance among the men) is not going be adopted any time soon.

As against this Australia are short of both form and confidence, and with the honourable exception of Usman Khawaja have no front-line batsman who is currently scoring with any consistency.

Thomas’s predicted Ashes outcome: England 4 Australia 1 (I do not believe that these Aussies are sufficiently bad as to be left winless but England look better in all departments).

PHOTOGRAPHS

Finally for those who have reached the end of this post here are some pictures from my “Cabinet of Curiosities”:

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Ashes Composite XI

My composite Ashes XI with reasoning and justification. Also some photographs.

INTRODUCTION

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.

THE TEAM

My team in batting order (England player names in dark blue, Aus in green):

  1. Alastair Cook
  2. David Warner
  3. Dawid Malan
  4. Steven Smith (Captain)
  5. Shaun Marsh
  6. Jonny Bairstow (Wicketkeeper)
  7. Mitchell Marsh
  8. Mitchell Starc
  9. Pat Cummins
  10. Nathan Lyon
  11. Jimmy Anderson

MY REASONING

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 captaincy was 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 Bairstow and 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. 

FINAL THOUGHTS

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. 

PHOTOGRAPHS

I always like to include a few photographs in my blog posts, so I end with these recently taken pictures:

FW
The first five pictures were taken while walking to the Scout Hut on Beulah Street for Musical Keys yesterday.

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PW1
These last four pictures were taken in Fakenham on Thursday.

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MCG, Photographs and Solutions

Some thoughts on the recent test match at the Melbourne Cricket Ground, solutions to my lest set of puzzles and some photographs.

INTRODUCTION

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. 

5-0 AVERTED

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).

PHOTOGRAPHIC INTERLUDE

As we switch focus the the puzzles I presented a couple of days ago, here are some bird pictures from yesterday:

RookLapwing Ilapwing and waderFlying gullsMH1MH2MH3white duckblackbirdsMH4

PUZZLE 1: LOGIC

jester

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

Great OuseGreat Ouse 2

PUZZLE 2: AREA CHALLENGE

area test

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.

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PUZZLE 3: EVEN AND ODD

Odd and Even

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 first seen 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.

white muscovygrey patched muscovyBlack and white muscovyFive muscoviesFive muscovies IIthree muscoviesdark muscovyblack and borwn bodied muscoviesblack muscovyfour muscoviesblakc muscovy IIMuscovies and gullsthree dark muscovieslight muscovieslight muscovybrown muscovybrown muscovy IIMuscovy and mallardsmottled muscovymainly white muscovyside by side

PUZZLE 4: DIVISIBILITY

divisability

And here is my own solution posted on brilliant:

Thomas Sutcliffe 
Dec 26, 2017
 Upvote0

We have to use the numbers 1,2,3,4 and 5 to make a five digit number. The first requirement is that the first three digits form a number dvisible by four, which can only be achieved from these numbers by using 124 (= 31 x 4), then digits 2,3 and 4 must form a number divisible by five, so the fourth digit has to be 5 as numbers divisible by five end either in five ior zero and zero is not available to us. That leaves us the fifth digit to fill, and the only number we have not used is 3, hence the number is 12,453, and back checking using the last limitation, that the final three digits be divisible by three confirms this (453 = 151 x 3).

PHOTOGRAPHS – OTHERS

These were taken near the end of my walk:

Corn ExchangeMoon IMoon IIMoon III

PUZZLE 5: INVESTMENT EXPERT

Investment

The minimum starting amount he needs to ensure that it stays growing on these terms is $4. On my subsidiary question, although this starting point only yields a fortune of two billion and four dollars after one billiSuch is the power of exponential growth that if you increase this starting amount by even a small amount it will suffice. According to Denis Husudvac on brillaint even a stgarting point $4.01 will be enough.

PHOTOGRAPHS: MUSCOVY DUCKS 2

dark muscovy IIdark muscovy IIImottled muscovy IIGrey muscovyGrey muscovy IIImuscovy and mallard drakemuscovies and mallardsMottled muscovy IVMuscovy Headfour muscovies IIbrown muscovy IIImottled muscovy Vblack muscovy IIImuscovy head IItwo muscoviesbrown muscovy Vtwo brown muscoviesblack muscovy IVIn convoymuscovy ducklight muscovy II

 

Christmas Report On The England Men’s Cricket Team

Christmas report on the England men’s team, and some Muscovy duck pictures.

INTRODUCTION

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. 

PHOTOGRAPHS

A little while back I reported sighting some birds which turned out to be Muscovy ducks (Cairina moschata). Well, I have seen another (this time a single bird), this time in The Walks. 

Cairina Moschata 1
The first four pictures were taken on Monday afternoon.

Cairina Moschata 2Cairina Moschata 3Cairina Moschata 4

CmI
These are all from today – six pictures of the whole bird…

CmIICmIIICmIVCmVCm VI

Cmsideprofile
…two pictures of the profile view of its head.

Cmprofile

Cmheadfronton
…a front-on pic…
Cmtailfeathers
…and a pic of the tail feathers.

 

Ashes Selections

On Ashes selections…

INTRODUCTION

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:

Normal conditions: Cook, Stoneman, Westley, Root (C), Dan Lawrence, Stokes, Bairstow (WK), Moeen Ali, Roland-Jones, Broad, Anderson.

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).