England in Control at the Ageas Bowl

A look at the extraordinary events that are unfolding at the Ageas bowl as Zak Crawley establishes himself at the highest level.


It is now all but a 100% certainty that England will win the series against Pakistan, and what follows explains why.


Yesterday after messrs Curran, Foakes and Robinson were allowed to leave the bubble at the Ageas Bowl to play for their counties in the Bob Willis Trophy, leaving an England side of Burns, Sibley, Crawley, *Root, Pope, +Buttler, Woakes, Bess, Archer, Broad and Anderson (Dan Lawrence and Ben Stokes had already been released in both cases for family reasons) Joe Root won the toss and chose to bat. The morning session went England’s way as they reached Lunch on 91-2. The loss of Root for 29 and Pope for 0 in quick succession made it 127-4, and seemingly turning in Pakistan’s favour. However, Zak Crawley was playing a magnificent innings, and Buttler continued his good recent form with the bat (pity he has been so bad with the gloves). By the tea interval it was 183-4 with Crawley on the verge of a maiden test century and England were starting to look good. The evening session was brilliant for England and horrible for Pakistan. Late in the day the runs were coming very fast as the Pakistan bowling got decidedly ragged. The day ended with England 332-4, Crawley 171 not out and Buttler within sight of a century of his own.


There have been two disruptions for rain, but in the cricket that has been played England have fared well, with the Pakistan bowling not looking remotely threatening. The score is now 380-4, and the stand between Crawley and Buttler is an all time England fifth wicket record against anyone, and Crawley is seven runs away from becoming the youngest England player to score a test double century since David Gower against India at Edgbaston in 1979. This is Crawley’s first test century and among those who have gone big on their first venture into three figures at this level are Bill Edrich (219 at Durban in 1939), Tip Foster (287 in his first test innings at Sydney in 1903), Bobby Simpson for Australia against England at Old Trafford (311) and at the top of this particular tree Garfield St Aubrun Sobers, 365 not out for West Indies v Pakistan at Sabina Park. Crawley has just brought up the double century with a four to third man, and England are now 391-4. Crawley was picked on potential, with not a lot in the way of major first class batting achievements behind him, and had passed 50 on three previous occasions in his fledgling test career, but this innings has surely settled the number three position for some considerable time to come – it has been a supreme performance, with no definite chances given. The record score for England against Pakistan is 278 by Denis Compton at Trent Bridge in 1954, which is definitely within Crawley’s compass from here. No3 has caused England many problems since I first started following cricket, with only Michael Vaughan and Jonathan Trott really succeeding there before the emergence of Crawley who has looked like a natural at no3.


The weather forecast is pretty good for the rest of this match, and it is very hard to see any way of England losing from here, especially given that a draw will give them the series, which means they can shut up shop if trouble threatens. The 400 has just come up, and I reckon the way things are going that Crawley and Buttler should have at least half an eye on the all-time test record with wicket stand by anyone – the 405 that Sidney George Barnes and Donald Bradman put on together against England at Sydney in 1946. For the real pessimists the highest ever first innings to lose a test match is 586 by Australia at Sydney in 1894, when England replied with 325 and then in the follow on 437 and Australia got caught on a sticky in the final innings and were all out for 166, with Bobby Peel taking six cheap wickets. My own reckoning is that with England putting up a total like this after being 127-4 Pakistan will be demoralized and that England will win comfortably. Crawley has just had a little bit of good fortune, with an attempted catch becoming a six, and his score is now 222, moving him one run ahead of his mentor Rob Key’s highest test score. Only two England batters have had a higher maiden century, Hammond with 251 at Sydney in 1928 and Tip Foster’s 287 also at Sydney in 1903. The 300 stand has just come up for the fifth wicket.


My usual sign off…

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All Time XIs – Day In The Sun vs Supporting Cast

My latest variation on the all-time XI theme in which a team of players who had a day in the sun take on a team of supporting acts.


Welcome to the latest in my series of ‘All Time XI’ posts. This one pits a team of players who produced one glorious performance that set them apart from the common run of cricketers but never succeeded in duplicating it against a team representing the best of cricket’s supporting cast (yes cricket needs its supporting cast too, and the folk I have picked were superb examples).


  1. Charles Bannerman – right handed opening bat. He completely dominated the first test ever played in March 1877, scoring 165 out of Australia’s first innings 245, in a match in which only one other person, England’s Harry Jupp topped fifty in a single innings. This not only accounted for three quarters of his entire test run tally, it was his only first class hundred. Minus this astonishing performance the Woolwich born Aussie amassed 1522 runs in first class cricket for 78 times out, giving an average of 19.64 (with his one big innings included that average was 21.62).
  2. David Lloyd – left handed opening bat, occasional left arm orthodox spinner. He played nine test matches for England and 14 of his 15 innings at that level brought him 338 runs at an average of 26.00, a very modest looking record. The one innings I have excised from that reckoning was sole 50 plus score at that level, a mere bagatelle of 214 not out that earned him his place in this XI and means that his actual test average was 42.46. For his native Lancashire Lloyd played a curious role in one of most extraordinary first class games ever. On day 1 Warwickshire declared at 523-4 in their first innings, Humpage 254, Kallicharran 230 not out, and has captured Lloyd’s wicket by the close of play. On the journey home that evening Lloyd told his passenger Graeme ‘Foxy’ Fowler “I reckon we’ll win this one”. The following day Fowler injured himself and Lloyd was sent in to act as his runner. Fowler scored 128, Lancashire declared at 414-6 just in case something curious was going to happen. On the third morning a sea fret (the match was being played at Southport) covered the ground and West Indian swing bowler Les MacFarlane found it to his liking, recording a career best 6-59 as Warwickshire slumped to 111 all out in their second dig. Lloyd decided he wanted a few runs of his own second time round rather than settle for running Fowler’s, so Ian Folley, a left arm spinner and tailend batter was deputed to act as runner for Fowler. Fowler was 126 not out, and Lloyd 88 not out when Lancashire completed an astonishing victory by ten wickets, the winning hit being a six off Asif Din, and Lloyd’s throwaway line on the journey home on day 1 was vindicated in some style. Lloyd went on after his playing days were done to become a fine commentator and a decent coach. After a draw, which Zimbabwe had secured with the assistance of some fairly blatant time wasting and some deliberately wide bowling, the then England coach Lloyd had a public meltdown declaring “We flippin’ murdered ’em”.
  3. *Heather Knight – right handed bat, occasional off spinner, fine captain. Heather Knight spared England’s blushes in one test match with a magnificent 157. Other than that marvellous knock her test record reads 229 runs at 20.82, and she has only two other fifties to her name at that level. The women do not get to play nearly enough test cricket, and having just turned 29 Knight is still young enough to render herself ineligible for this team, especially if the amount women’s test cricket increases. Her record in ODIs is impressive for a non-opener, with an average of 37.83. She is a shoo-in for the captaincy of this side, and if and when she plays the test innings that renders her ineligible for it no one will be more delighted than me.
  4. Tip Fosterright handed batter, 287 in his first innings as a test batter, at Sydney in 1903, increasing the record individual score at that level by 76. The Worcestershire ace, the only player to captain England men’s sides at both cricket and football, scored only 315 further test runs 13 more innings at that level, with one solitary fifty, a very fortuitous 51 against South Africa. His average with his virtuoso effort removed is therefore a very mortal looking 24.23 – as opposed to 46.30 with it included.
  5. Faoud Bacchus – right handed batter. Sheik Faoud Ahamul Fasiel Bacchus to give him his astonishing full name played 19 tests for the West Indies, making 30 visits to the crease. 29 of those of 30 knocks brought him 532 runs at 19.34, while the innings missing from that reckoning, his lone foray into three figures at the highest level, was worth a cool 250, increasing his average to 26.06.
  6. +Taslim Arif – right handed bat, wicket keeper. Picked for Pakistan in six test matches, in which he took six catches and executed three stumpings, the wicket keeper played 10 innings. In nine of them his tally was 291 runs with a single red inker to boost the average to a respectable 36.375, including two half centuries. The missing innings was a gargantuan 210 not out, giving him a full test record of 501 runs 62.625. In his case, given his perfectly respectable record outwith the double hundred that gets him into this team, the question seems to be why was an apparently competent keeper who could definitely bat only picked six times for his country?
  7. Ted Alletson – right handed batter, right arm medium pace bowler. When the players broke for lunch on day three of the Sussex v Nottinghamshire match at Hove in 1911 Sussex would have been anticipating a comfortable victory – Notts at 260-9 were less than 90 to the good, and although Alletson, 47 not out in his fifty minutes at the crease to date, had struck some meaty blows the end of the Notts resistance could not be long delayed. It was delayed for 40 minutes of that post lunch session, which was enough for Alletson to write himself into the record books. By the time he finally holed out off the bowling of George Cox, those 40 crazy minutes had seen Alletson increase his score by 142 to 189, with Bill Riley the no 11 batting sensibly for 10 not out. Tim Killick had been smashed for 34 in one over, having hindered himself by sending down two no balls, and had gone for 22 in another. There was a skating rink across the road from the Hove ground in those days and by the time Alletson had finished five cricket balls were on the roof of that building. Having been anticipating a comfortable victory a shell shocked Sussex lost some early wickets and ended up being grateful to escape with a draw. That 189 in 90 minutes remained Alletson’s only three figure score in first class cricket, and he finished with a first class average of 18.59, while his medium pacers netted him a mere 33 wickets in his 119 matches. Alletson benefitted from his innings to the tune of £100, then a significant amount of money, from his father’s employer and his mentor the Duke of Portland (Portland is on the southwestern tip of Dorset, but the main Portland estate is (or was) in Nottinghamshire). His Grace was not the only one to have expected big things from Alletson – Gilbert Jessop who knew a thing or two about big hitting batting had also reckoned that there were likely to be big scores as well as big hits from Alletson’s bat.
  8. Denis Atkinson – right handed bat, off spinner. A respectable but far from outstanding cricketer who contributed with both bat and ball but did not set the world alight save once. The West Indies were six wickets down against Australia when Clairmonte Depeiaza joined Atkinson, and the Aussies were probably already thinking about batting, but they were in for a rude shock. By the time the seventh wicket fell the West Indies score had advanced by 347 runs. Atkinson scored 219, Depeiaza 122, and neither of them had previously made a test ton. nor ever would again. Setting that 219 to one side Atkinson’s record in test cricket reads 703 runs at 25.11 and 47 wickets at 35.04. The 219 raises that batting average to 31.
  9. Bob Massie – right arm fast medium bowler. England had won the first match of the 1972 Ashes series, and Massie came into the Australian side for his debut at Lord’s. The ball swung crazily in that match, and the chief beneficiary was Massie who finished his debut with 16-137. Massie made five further test appearances, and they brought him a combined 15-510, 34.00 per wicket, meaning that he finished with 31 test wickets at 20.87. Immediately after the 1972 Ashes the Aussies headed for the West Indies, and with the ball not moving under Caribbean sunshine Massie attempted to alter his action so as to increase his pace and ended up losing his ability to swing the ball.
  10. Devon Malcolm – right arm fast bowler. The Derbyshire, Northamptonshire and Leicestershire speedster and genuine out and out tail ender played 40 test matches for England between 1989 and 1997, being like many of his contemporaries in and out of the side frequently. Against South Africa at The Oval in 1994 he was hit on the helmet by a bouncer from Fanie De Villiers, and when South Africa batted again he produced a quite awesome response of his own with the ball – he took 9-57, the best figures ever by an England fast bowler in a test match, and just five runs worse than the all-time fast bowler’s test record analysis, Richard Hadlee’s 9-52 v Australia. 18 months after this ultimate day in the sun Malcolm and then England supremo Ray Illingworth had a decisive falling out during a tour of South Africa, although Malcolm did come back into the England team briefly after Illingworth had departed the scene. Malcolm took 128 wickets in test matches at 37.09, but he was handled poorly at England level, and was never given a second genuine out and out speedster to support him.
  11. Narendra Hirwani – leg spinner. Against the West Indies at Chennai in 1988 he burst onto the test scene by destroying them in both innings to record match figures of 16-136. 16 further test matches brought him precisely 50 more wickets for 1851 runs, 37.02 per wicket.

This team has a strong top five, a keeper-batter at six, a big hitting no seven, an off-spinning all rounder at eight and three specialist bowlers. There is a good range of bowling options, and all 11 could produce the match winning performance if it is their day.


  1. Percy Holmes – right handed opening batter. No 2 to Herbert Sutcliffe at Yorkshire, and denied England opportunities by the presence of Jack Hobbs. He averaged over 40 at a time when few managed that, and at the time of his retirement had five of the ten highest individual scores ever made for Yorkshire under his belt. In a curious coincidence he and Sutcliffe were eight years apart in age to the day.
  2. Andrew Sandham – right handed opening batter. The southern equivalent of Holmes, opening the Surrey batting alongside Hobbs, and like Holmes not getting many opportunities at England level.
  3. Larry Gomes – left handed batter. The West Indies in the 1980s were noted for fast bowlers and stroke making batters. However, one key piece of the jigsaw at that time was a solid, dependable number three who without tearing up record books was frequently at the heart of a big West Indies score. Hilary Angelo Gomes made two centuries during the 1984 ‘blackwash’ series and was at the other end on 92 not out playing the quiet support role when Gordon Greenidge’s pyrotechnics won the Lord’s match after West Indies had been set 344 in less than a full day. There is a post about him here, which I urge you to read. If cricket had ever had an equivalent to the Oscar for ‘best supporting actor’ Gomes would have had a shelf full of them. 60 test matches brought him 3,171 test runs at 39.63 with nine centuries and a best of 143 – just compare with ‘Dependable Denly’ and his average of 30.00 in a similar role.
  4. *Herby Collins – right hand bat, occasional left arm orthodox spin. Australian captain after Warwick Armstrong, 19 test appearances brought him 1,352 runs at 45.06.
  5. Wilf Barber – right handed bat. An unobtrusive but vital cog in the Yorkshire machine that dominated the 1930s. He was picked twice for England, but it his first class record of 16,402 runs at 34.38 with 29 centuries that gets him in here.
  6. Bertie Buse – right handed bat, right arm medium fast. 10,623 first class runs, including seven centuries, 657 first class wickets including 20 five fors. For many years Somerset would never dream of taking the field without him.
  7. Ernie Robson – right arm medium fast, right handed bat. 1,147 wickets with his bowling (his out swinger was still an effective weapon after he had turned 50 – are you reading this Jimmy?) and 12,620 runs with his batting in  a career that ebgan in 1895 and ended in 1923.
  8. +Colin Metson – wicket keeper, right handed bat. Over the years England selectors have seemed to be afflicted by a curious visual handicap that restricts how far west they are capable of seeing, and one victim of this was the stalwart Glamorgan wicket keeper who took 561 catches and executed 51 stumpings in the course of 232 first class appearances. Yes, he was a limited batter, but he did tend to score his runs when they were most needed, and may well, as Ian Healy did for Australia, have proved better at international level than he was at first class level. For me, especially given some of the performers who did don the gloves for England in that period, it stands as a travesty that we never saw him do the job at that level.
  9. Ellis Robinson – off spinner. He played 301 first class matches, first for Yorkshire, then for Somerset, collecting 1,009 wickets at 22.58 with his off breaks. He never got the chance for his country.
  10. Horace Hazell – left arm orthodox spinner, one of the first names on the Somerset team sheet throughout his career. He frequently did useful work supporting senior partners as a lower order batter. Like Robinson he could never attract the attention of the England selectors, but 957 wickets at 23.97 is a more than respectable first class record.
  11. Tony Nicholson – right arm medium fast bowler. Nicholson was the best of the various individuals who opened the bowling with Fred Trueman for Yorkshire (although Melville Ryan also had a decent record doing that job), collecting 879 wickets in 283 first class appearances at 19.76 each, a record that is particularly impressive given that he always got the end Fred did not want to bowl from. However, it was not quite sufficient to gain him an England place, so he had to settle for being the best supporting act in county cricket.

This team has a solid top five, two unobtrusive but effective all rounders, a superb keeper, two high quality spinners and a splendid specialist new ball bowler in Nicholson. The bowling has three fine seam/swing bowlers and two quality spinners.


Obviously in any game any one of the ‘Day in the Sun’ XI could produce the match winning performance, but in the long haul I would expect the Solid Supporters XI to produce on a consistent basis, and would reckon that in a five match series the latter would definitely start favourites.


Yesterday I set you this teaser from brilliant.org:


This is a test of visualisation. The dotted square surrounding the shaded shape has side length 5m. If you look closely you will see that the sides of the dotted square can be ‘pushed and pulled’, or deformed, into shape to make the shaded figure which therefore has the same perimeter as the dotted square. Thus the answer is the the shaded shape has a perimeter of 4 x 5 = 20m.


Our two contending teams have appeared on the pavilion balcony, we have seen the answer to the mathematical teaser set yesterday, which leaves but one more thing to do before applying the photographic flourish: Phoebe has invited people to share their blogs, and I recommend that you head over there and join me in doing so. Now for my usual sign off…

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Day In Sun v Supporting Cast
The teams in tabulated form with abridged comments.