A Draw in Antigua

A look back at the West Indies v England test match in Antigua.

The first test match in three match series between the West Indies and England ended in a draw yesterday. This post looks back at the match.

THE PRELIMINARIES

England made a cautious selection, opting for both Woakes and Overton, leaving out Saqib Mahmood. The West Indies meanwhile went for Holder at number six and four specialist bowlers as well. Joe Root won the toss and chose to bat first.

ENGLAND FIRST INNINGS

England made a disastrous start, slumping to 48-4. A fightback spearheaded by Bairstow and featuring good contributions from Stokes, Foakes and Woakes saw England end the first day 268-6 and possible back on track. On the second morning England battled on to 311 and it looked very much game on.

WEST INDIES FIRST INNINGS

West Indies did not score at all quickly, but they batted a very long time on a surface which had little life. Wood, the only bowler England had who was capable of bowling genuinely fast, left the field injured fairly early in the innings. Leach bowled well but without luck, keeping things tight but not taking wickets. Stokes, supposedly having his workload managed, was made to bowl 28 overs in the innings. Eventually the West Indies were all out for 375, Nkrumah Bonner scoring a very slow century to anchor the innings.

ENGLAND SECOND INNINGS

Zak Crawley delivered with the bat for once, and Root moved into second place on the England century makers list and became the leading scorer of centuries as England captain (24 in his career, still nine short of Alastair Cook’s tally and 13 as skipper). With Wood injured a measure of caution was necessary when it came to the declaration, and Root declared leaving WI a target of 286 in 70 overs.

WEST INDIES SECOND INNINGS

It was soon obvious that West Indies were not going to attempt the target, but when they lost their fourth wicket with quite a bit of time remaining England had genuine hope. Root made a point about his team’s mindset by staying out there until West Indies had six wickets left with only five balls to go – only then did he accept the draw. There was some adverse comment about this, but he did the right thing, not giving up on the chance of victory until he absolutely had to.

PHOTOGRAPHS

Time for my usual sign off…

Rain and Records

A look at the end of the test match summer, and at the state of the Bob Willis Trophy.

INTRODUCTION

From Friday through Tuesday at those times the weather permitted England and Pakistan did battle at the Ageas bowl in the last test match of this strangest of all summers, and from Saturday through Tuesday the fourth round of the Bob Willis Trophy took place, again with considerable interference from the weather. I look back at the test match and forward to the final round of BWT fixtures.

YOUTH AND EXPERIENCE TO THE FORE

England amassed 583-8 declared in their first innings, a performance underpinned by Zak Crawley who scored 267, his first test century. The only higher scores for a maiden test ton have been Brian Lara’s 277 at Sydney, Tip Foster (287 in his first ever test innings at Sydney), Bobby Simpson’s 311 at Old Trafford and Garry Sobers’ 365 not out at Sabina Park. Among England batters only Compton (278 v Pakistan), Foster (287 v Australia), Cook (294 v India), John Edrich (310 not out v New Zealand), Andy Sandham (325 v West Indies), Graham Gooch (333 v India), Walter Hammond (336 not out v New Zealand) and Len Hutton (364 v Australia) have ever scored more in a single innings. Only Hutton has ever scored more at a younger age than Crawley, who is just 22 years old. Thereafter, in the cricket that the weather permitted the spotlight was focussed on 38 year old James Anderson, as he first took a five-for (and had three catches missed) in Pakistan’s first innings, to which skipper Azhar Ali contributed a splendid 141 not out. This put Anderson on 598 test wickets, and England enforced the follow on as they had to. By the end of day 4, as the weather played havoc with the match Pakistan were 100-2 in their second innings, with one of the wickets to Anderson moving him on to 599, and yet another catch having gone begging off his bowling. There was heavy overnight rain, and it continued to rain for most of the morning, finally stopping just after 11AM. The sodden ground then had to dry out before play could commence, but eventually, at 4:15PM, with a possible 42 overs (27 mandatory and a further 15 if a result seemed possible) to be bowled. Anderson did not break through in his first spell, and as England hurried through overs to get to the second new ball Joe Root took a wicket with his part time off spin and Dom Sibley bowled one of the filthiest overs ever seen in a test match with his even more part time leg spin. The new ball was taken, and in his third over with it James Anderson induced a nick from Azhar Ali and the ball was pouched by a waiting slip fielder, bringing him to 600 test wickets. No one who bowled above medium pace had previously reached this landmark, and of the three spinners who had got there only one, Muttiah Muralitharan had done so in fewer balls bowled. Shortly after this a well struck four brought up a remarkable statistical landmark highlighted by Andy Zaltzman on Test Match Special: 1,000,000 runs in test matches involving England. A little later the last 15 overs were called, and after one ball thereof the teams decided to accept a draw as the pitch was doing precious little, and they were all eager to get away from the biosecure bubble and back to loved ones.

At the moment there is no way of knowing when England will next be in test match action, but James Anderson has every intention of still being in action when they do, and since he is still regularly clocking 85mph even at the age of 38 (while it is not unusual for veteran bowlers to be very successful due to the smarts they have acquired from years of experience it is unusual for a bowler of that age not to have slowed down – Walsh was barely exceeding 80mph when he toured England in 2000, likewise Shaun Pollock and Glenn McGrath in their veteran years) and is statistically bowling better than he ever has I for one am not counting him out.

I would like to thank both the West Indies who visited for three test matches immediately before Pakistan came over and Pakistan for braving the uncertainties created by this pandemic and coming to play, ensuring we had some cricket. I also tender a second huge thank you to the West Indies because their women are coming over to play against our women after India and South Africa cried off. I hope that England will reciprocate as soon as possible.

ADVANTAGE SOMERSET IN THE BWT

The format of the Bob Willis Trophy, tailored to fit special circumstances, is that the 18 first class counties have been grouped into three regional conferences, meaning that five rounds of matches will be played, and then the two best group winners will fight out a five day final at Lord’s. After four rounds of matches Somerset lead the central group with 76 points, Derbyshire the north group with 71 points and Essex the south group with 70 points. Although bonus points (of which as readers of this blog will be aware I am not a huge fan) complicate the issue somewhat, basically any win in their final match will qualify Somerset, since it is next door to impossible to win a match without taking full bowling bonus points, which on its own would put Somerset on 95, meaning that Derbyshire could equal them with a maximum point win and Essex could finish on 94 with a maximum win. Somerset crushed Gloucestershire and the most recent round, dismissing them for 76 and 70. Surrey’s nightmare season went from bad to worse as they were beaten by Kent in spite of the restored Ben Foakes contributing a century and a fifty. A major role for Kent was played by Darren Stevens, an all rounder who bowls medium pace, and who remains a force to be reckoned with at county level even at the age of 44. Limited overs cricket will be the order of the day for most of the rest of this season, which will extend into October because of the hugely delayed start. The T20 blast competition gets underway tomorrow afternoon, with commentaries on all matches accessible via www.bbc.co.uk/cricket.

PHOTOGRAPHS

My usual sign off…

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England Win The Wisden Trophy

England’s victory at Old Trafford, player ratings and photographs from my collection.

INTRODUCTION

The Wisden Trophy is now England’s in perpetuity – future series between England and the West Indies will be played for the Richards – Botham Trophy. This post describes the concluding stages of the match.

THE BROAD/ WOAKES SHOW

After yesterday was washed out the question was whether there would be enough play today for England to complete the job. There were a couple of interruptions, but England took wickets regularly. Broad began today’s events by bagging his 500th test wicket, the seventh bowler to reach that landmark. His victim was Kraigg Brathwaite, who three years earlier had been James Anderson’s 500th test victim. Then Woakes bowled a marvellous spell in which he bagged five wickets, while Roston Chase was run out courtesy of a direct hit on the stumps by Dom Bess. Broad came back at the the end, and at 2:58PM he had Jermaine Blackwood edging to Jos Buttler for his tenth wicket of the match to go with his score of 62. The West Indies were all out for 129 and the final margin was 269 runs. Dominic Bess did not get a bowl in either innings such was the dominance of England’s pace bowlers.

COMMISERATIONS TO THE WEST INDIES

All true cricket fans should be deeply grateful to the West Indies for undertaking this tour given the circumstances, and they played superbly in the first match at the Ageas Bowl. They were badly beaten in both the games played at Manchester to end up losing the series. Jason Holder was guilty of two poor decisions after winning the toss in both games. Bowling first might have been justifiable the first time round although doing so is always a gamble (nb I specifically did not criticize England’s decision to bat first in the opener for this precise reason), but the second time round it was utterly inexcusable – not only did he know that doing so at the same ground had backfired a few days previously, he had also selected an extra spinner in the person Rahkeem Cornwall, certainly the heaviest top level cricketer since Warwick Armstrong and possibly since the mighty ‘Lion of Kent’, Alfred Mynn, star of the 1840s, and for the selection of the extra spinner to work you need to bowl last. The West Indies batters had a tendency to get caught on the crease rather than getting fully forward which meant that they suffered a lot of LBWs.

ENGLAND PLAYER RATINGS

  1. Rory Burns – 8.5 – 57 in the first innings, 90 in the second getting out playing aggressively, the dismissal the triggered the declaration.
  2. Dom Sibley – 6.5 – a blob in the first innings, but a 50 in the second, and he did show some attacking intent with England having an eye on a declaration.
  3. Joe Root – 7.5 – failed in the first innings, but a blistering 68 not out off 56 balls in the second propelled England to their declaration, and he handled the side well in the field.
  4. Ben Stokes – 5 – a quiet match for the talisman, scoring 20 in his only innings and not bowling due to a niggle.
  5. Ollie Pope – 8 – his first innings 91 was a magnificent innings, he took a splendid catch but was robbed of the credit for it because the bowler had overstepped.
  6. Jos Buttler – 5.5 – 67 in the first dig, when England needed runs from him. Struggled somewhat behind the sticks. His first innings score, while valuable in the context of this match should not save him – he has had so many chances that he was bound to make a decent contribution somewhere along the way.
  7. Chris Woakes – 7 – did little until the final day, but when he did get into the game did so in style with a five-for.
  8. Dom Bess – 6 – the off spinner was not called on to bowl, but he made a crucial contribution with the bat and fielded superbly, including a direct hit run out in the final innings.
  9. Jofra Archer – 6 – not the best match for the fast bowler, with only one wicket to show for his efforts, but he put in some hard yards.
  10. Stuart Broad – 10 – A blistering innings when England were far from secure having slipped from 258-4 to 280-8 in the first innings, 6-31 in the first West Indies innings and 4-36 in the second, the first three to open them right up, and fittingly the final wicket to fall. He also pouched a couple of catches, and as I said about Stokes in the previous match even Craig Revel-Horwood would rate this performance a 10.
  11. James Anderson – 7 – only two wickets in the match, both in the first innings for the veteran, but he bowled very well and played his part in this triumph.

PHOTOGRAPHS

My usual sign off…

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PS – Stuart Broad has been named Player of the Series, and just too late to save the West Indies the Manchester rain has returned (a bit like Adelaide 2010, when shortly after Australia were bowled out to give England an innings win the heavens opened).

 

Rain Delay At Old Trafford

An update on developments from Manchester, a mathematical teaser, and some pictures plus and update regarding my employment status.

INTRODUCTION

The predicted rain has arrived at Manchester in spades, but England are still in a very strong position thanks to their efforts yesterday.

THE MATCH AS IT STANDS

Having secured a first innings advantage of 172 England batted well second time around. Sibley made a half century, Joe Root scored at a very rapid rate throughout his unbeaten half century and Burns managed 90, his dismissal triggering a declaration which left the West Indies 399 to make to win the match and England six overs to bowl yesterday evening. Broad who had terminated the first West Indies innings with extreme prejudice earlier in the day produced another magnificent spell of bowling, bagging the wickets of John Campbell (84 runs in the series for the opener, a performance reminiscent of that of another left handed attacking opener, David Warner in last year’s Ashes) and nightwatchman Kemar Roach to take his tally of test wickets to 499. The West Indies ended that mini-session at 10-2 off six overs, needing a further 389 to win. There has been no play thus far today due to the rain, but it is no longer raining in Manchester (it is rodding it down here in King’s Lynn) and the umpires have thrown down a challenge to Jupiter Pluvius by declaring that they will inspect at 3PM if there is no further rain. Of course England declared yesterday evening precisely because we were expecting little if any play today, and the forecast for tomorrow is good (and Old Trafford is, as it needs to be, a quick draining ground). Unless one of the remaining West Indies batters can somehow channel the Lord’s 1984 version of Gordon Greenidge the only question is whether we will see enough cricket today and tomorrow for England to get those final eight wickets.

SOLUTION TO YESTERDAY’S TEASER

Fractal

I offered the following choices:

a)1.00-1.25
b)1.25-1.50
c)1.50-1.75
d)1.75-1.99

Brilliant had offered as it’s three possible answers less than 1, between 1 and 2, and 2. Anyone who has read about fractal geometry knows that the fractal dimension of a line is always between 1 and 2, so this selection of answers constituted a give away, reducing a three-dagger problem to a one-dagger joke.

In this case the calculations give an answer of approximately 1.33, so the correct choice from the selections I offered is b) 1.25-1.50.

Here is a published solution by Mateo Doucet De Leon:

Fractal Sol

PICTURES AND AN UPDATE

Today’s pictures are of coins. A return to employment with James and Sons Auctioneers is on the horizon, although current circumstances make it impossible to predict when this will happen, but I have agreed to do some imaging from home in the meantime, and the first consignment of stock to be imaged arrived yesterday. The auction can be viewed here. Below are some of the lots I have already imaged…

1
This half guinea is lot 1.

1-a1-b

1-p
I tried a photograph as well as the scan, but the scan is undeniably better.

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Advantage England at Old Trafford

A look at developments in the third test match between England and the West Indies, a mathematical teaser and plenty of photographs.

INTRODUCTION

The test match at Manchester is deep into its second day, and England are in a strong position.

DAY 1

England got out of jail in the last part of yesterday, Pope playing beautifully to reach the close on 91 not out and Buttler also topping 50. The light intervened with 4.2 overs still to bowl, and the close of play score was 258-4.

DAY 2

Pope and Buttler both fell early in the day, as did Woakes and Archer to make it 280-8, with four wickets, including his 200th in tests to Kemar Roach. Then Broad arrived at the crease and attacked from the start. The game got away from the West Indies as Broad and Bess put on 78 for the ninth wicket, with Broad hitting 62 off just 45 balls, the highest score ever by an England no10 at Old Trafford, beating the 60 not out of Hedley Verity in 1934. Bess and Anderson then added a further 11 for the tenth wicket and England totalled 369. Lunch was taken as soon as England were all out. Broad continued his excellent day by getting Kraigg Brathwaite with the new ball. The other opener John Campbell was reprieved when Stokes dropped a chance in the slips off Anderson, and as I write West Indies are 20-1 after nine overs.

THE WISDEN TROPHY

England need to win this match to win the series and take the Wisden Trophy, while a draw would see the West Indies retain the Wisden Trophy, and a win would see them win their first series in England since 1988. I think England’s two escapes, first when they got away in the final session of yesterday and then the Broad/Bess flourish of this morning have taken the West Indies win out of the equation, leaving th only question being whether England can force a victory.

HOLDER’S ILLOGIC

Jason Holder, the West Indies captain, has not distinguished himself in this match. Having decided to go with an extra spinner he then responded to winning the toss by putting England in. If the first decision was correct, the second was certainly wrong, since it is in the closing stages of matches that spinners come into their own. I am not sure whether the pitch will offer much spin (Cornwall, the extra spinner, went wicketless in the first innings) but I am already certain that the decision to bowl first was wrong – the fact that England made 369 with only Ollie Pope batting really well and Broad having his bit of fun late in the innings indicates a pitch not offering hugely much to the bowlers. It also shows a failure to learn from experience – Holder made the same decision at this same ground just a few days earlier and his team took a hammering in that game. Then, yesterday evening, with Pope and Buttler going well the West Indies inexplicably delayed taking the new ball, which contributed to England bossing the opening day.

TAKING BAD LIGHT OUT OF
TEST MATCH CRICKET

Bad light needs to be eliminated from test cricket, and there are two ways of doing so, given that all international venues have floodlights:

  1. Have a stock of white balls at the venue, so that if the floodlights are the sole source of light the red ball can be replaced with a white one and the match continue after a short pause.
  2. Play all test matches with pink balls, so that there is no need to switch colour when the nature of the light changes.

THE REST OF THE GAME

After today there are three more scheduled days, and only Monday has a really bad weather forecast. I think England are favourites to win the match and therefore the Wisden Trophy. The follow-on is unlikely to come in to play, but England should have a respectable first innings advantage. Given that Monday is likely to be disrupted they should then look to advance that lead at a rapid rate. Jofra Archer has just struck to make it 44-2.

MATHEMATICAL TEASER

A very easy but quite fun teaser from brilliant.org (ignore the official difficulty rating):

The problem is 4 x 4 Calcdoku – each row and column contains the numbers 1,2,3 and 4, and various regions are marked out as having a certain total obtained by applying one of four basic arithmetic operations.

Calcdoku

Solution tomorrow.

PHOTOGRAPHS

My usual sign off…

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Tomato plants which I am currently attending to.

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Close ups of some of the fruit in this pic and the next.

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England Dominant At Old Trafford

A look at the extraordinary developments in the test match at Old Trafford, a suggestion of a tweak to DRS regulations and some photographs.

INTRODUCTION

The second test match between England and the West Indies at Old Trafford is now approaching its climax. In yesterday’s post I outlined various scenarios that could lead to an England victory (see also Saturday’s post), though I acknowledged that it seemed unlikely. Now I take the story on.

SECOND HALF OF DAY FOUR – ENGLAND KEEP THEIR HOPES ALIVE

When the West Indies were 235-4 the draw would have been the heavy favourite with the bookies, with time seemingly set to run out on England. A spell by Ben Stokes of 11 overs, in which 57 of the 66 deliveries he bowled were bouncers softened the West Indies up, and then Broad, Woakes and Curran used the second new ball with devastating effect, and suddenly the West Indies were all out for 287 and England led by 182. With quick runs for a declaration the order of the day Stokes and Buttler were sent in to open the England second innings. Buttler was castled for a duck, putting his test future in jeopardy, Zak Crawley came in at three, and was out for 12 with five overs remaining in the day. Root came in at four, and he and Stokes were still in possession at the close with England 37-2, 219 runs to the good. That left England needing to make things happen fast on the final day. 7

THE FINAL DAY SO FAR

England needed quick runs for a declaration, and many (including me) reckoned that they needed to score them in at maximum 11 overs, which would give them 85 at the West Indies, which crucially would allow the use of a second new ball to polish off the tail if required. Stokes was dropped early off an absolute sitter and the West Indies swallowed up some time by spectacularly burning off their three reviews on three of the most blatant not outs you could imagine. Ten overs into the day the England lead stood at 299, and a declaration would have made sense. However, England batted on for one more over, boosting their lead to 311 and giving themselves the anticipated 85 overs to bowl the West Indies out. Broad and Woakes bowled splendidly with the new ball, and the West Indies were three down by lunch, a wonderful morning for England. Since lunch Broad has added the wicket of Roston Chase, giving him three for the innings, while Woakes picked up the other, the wicket of Kraigg Brathwaite, the big sticker in this West Indies line up. The West Indies are now reeling at 42-4, needing a purely academic 270 more to win, while England need six wickets. So far this day has gone perfectly according to England’s script, and from a draw being clear favourite mid afternoon yesterday it is now looking very like at an England win.

AN ADDITION TO THE DRS

Having seen the West Indies burning up their three reviews in the field this morning clearly as a device to soak up time I now think that a coda to current DRS regulations is required. This would be a ‘vexatious review’, whereby if the TV replay umpire from the evidence they see deems it clearly spurious (e.g sending an LBW upstairs when the delivery in question has pitched about a foot wide of leg stump and was going even wider) the culprit does not just lose that review, they lose their teams entire allocation of reviews for the innings.

PHOTOGRAPHS

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England V Rain In Manchester

Bringing my coverage of the test match up to date, plus some photographs.

INTRODUCTION

Welcome to my latest update on developments at Old Trafford.

DAY 2 – ENGLAND ESTABLISH CONTROL

In yesterday’s post I covered the play up to England through Stokes and Sibley taking the score to 280-3. Sibley was out with the score of 341 and Pope did not last very long, but Stokes was still there and going well. At 395, with his own score on 176 Stokes attempted reverse sweep Roach and was bowled, Roach’s first wicket of the series after 71 overs. Chris Woakes was then out first ball, which prompted the revelation that Roach’s previous test wicket before these two had been a second in successive balls. Buttler reached 40 before he was eight out at 426, a decent innings, but not enough given that he was facing tired bowlers and really should have been able to punish them more severely. One run later Curran was out, bringing Broad in join Bess. These two displayed some sensible aggression, and boosted the score to 469 before England declared giving themselves a bowl in the last hour of the day.

Broad and Woakes took the new ball, before Curran and Bess came on right near the end of the day. Curran broke through, with an LBW against John Campbell. Alzarri Joseph came in as nightwatchman, and he too would have been out had Curran reviewed an LBW against him right at the end of the day. The West Indies were 32-1 at the close.

DAY THREE – RAIN

So far there has been no play on day three due to rain. The information from Manchester is that there may be time for a couple of hours play once the weather clears. The weather is due to be better tomorrow and Monday. Those two days will be extended to 98 overs, meaning that even if there is no cricket at all today there will be 196 overs left in the day. The biggest news of the day so far concerns Jofra Archer who has been hit with a fine and given a written warning for breaching bio-secure protocols but will be eligible for selection for the third match of this series.

LOOKING AHEAD

It is very unlikely that the West Indies will win this game, although thirty-odd years of following cricket have taught me never to rule anything out completely. England need 19 more wickets, and in view of today’s disruptions they will have to enforce the follow-on if the opportunity arises. Also, which probably offers WI their biggest hope, the fact that England need to win to have a chance of regaining the Wisden Trophy means that they need to go after any opportunity of winning even if it is very high risk – if as is not entirely impossible England find themselves needing 100 in the final innings off 10 overs they have to go all out to get them. Whether England manage to press home their advantage or not they have responded superbly to what happened at the Ageas Bowl, although it would be nice if they could produce their finest without needing a preliminary metaphorical kick up the backside.

 PHOTOGRAPHS

My usual sign off…

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Test Cricket Back With A Bang

My thoughts on the test match at the Ageas bowl, plus some photographs.

INTRODUCTION

When a match is the first for some months would what be your requests – mine would be:

  1. An interesting match, for preference going right to the wire.
  2. Some good individual performances to talk about.

This match gave us both of the above – it was not until the final session of the final day that it became clear which way it would ultimately go, and Jason Holder, Shannon Gabriel and Jermaine Blackwood for the West Indies, Zak Crawley and Jofra Archer for England produced unforgettable performances. The TMS commentary team did a splendid job in circumstances that must have been tougher than they ever let on, with Carlos Brathwaite a worthy addition as expert summariser, and everyone else close to their best.

ENGLAND BEGIN BADLY

England having opted for a starting XI of Burns, Sibley, Denly, Crawley, *Stokes, Pope, +Buttler, Bess, Archer, Wood and Anderson won the toss and batted. Many hav criticized this decision by Stokes, but for me the problem was not the decision but England’s poor response to it. Virtually every batter got some sort of start (Denly, out for 9, and Pope, 12 were the exceptions), but no one produced a major innings. Stokes top scored with 43, which needed a lot of luck (two clear dropped chances and other iffy moments), while Buttler made 35 before becoming one of many to give his wicket away rather than forcing the bowlers to take it. It was only a spirited innings from Bess, whose 31 showed up his supposed betters, that even got England to 200. Holder, with 6-42 including opposing skipper Stokes, and Gabriel who took the other four wickets both bowled outstandingly, but were also helped by some ordinary batting.

WEST INDIES ESTABLISH A USEFUL LEAD

Kraigg Brathwaite (no relation of Carlos, although both hail from Barbados, that mass producer of cricketing talent) scored a gritty 65, and there were useful runs all down the order from the West Indies. At their high water mark they were 267-5, 63 ahead and threatening a monster lead, but England pegged away, and in the end got them out for 318, an advantage of 114. Stokes got his opposite number Holder, as well as three other scalps, Anderson was his usual self, always formidable, and Bess bowled economically and nabbed a couple of wickets. The two speedsters, Wood and Archer, were both below par, both bowling far too much short stuff on a pitch that required the ball to pitched up.

ENGLAND FIGHT BACK

Burns and Sibley dug in well at the start of the second England innings, but Burns having seemingly laid a solid foundation for a big score got himself out, aiming to crash a long hop through the off side, and edging to deep point. Denly then joined Sibley who moved into the forties, before he too self destructed. That brought Zak Crawley to the crease, with him and Denly seemingly playing for one place, with skipper Root due to return for the second match. Denly, whose first innings failure had seen has test average drop into the twenties (it had stood at precisely 30), got to 29 while Crawley was starting to play nicely. Then Denly played to shot that cost him his wicket and with it surely his international career. Joe Denly, at the age of 34 hardly describable as ‘up and coming’ now has 818 test runs at 29.21 and has not managed a ton. Stokes joined Crawley and we were now treated to the best English batting of the match, as these two raised the score to 249 before Stokes fell having added 46 to his first innings 43. That triggered a clatter of wickets, among them Crawley for a new test best of 76. He has now played eight test innings in five matches, has 250 runs at 31.25 with two half centuries, and at 22 years of age is very much in the ‘up and coming’ category – he is definitely upwardly mobile. He deserves especial credit, because before this match he had never batted at no4 in first class cricket, let alone a test match, but was moved down one place from his regular test berth to accommodate Denly. The most gruesome dismissal from a substantial field was that suffered by Buttler, with only nine to his credit and the ship needing to be steadied. He is barely even a competent keeper, and 44 runs the match plus being the chief cause of his own dismissal in both innings cannot be described as making oneself worth a place as a batter. From 279-8 England staged a mini revival, ultimately reaching 313 on the final morning, a lead of 199.

THE WEST INDIES CHASE

Anderson and Archer took the new ball, and they bowled magnificently, to put the West Indies on the ropes at 27-3 with opener John Campbell having suffered a foot injury. Jermaine Blackwood, in company with first Roston Chase and then keeper Shane Dowrich and finally skipper Holder pulled the innings round. By the time Blackwood was out for a superbly crafted 95 the score was 189-6 and the opener Campbell was ready to return. Had England got through him, then with only Alzarri Joseph, Kemar Roach and Shannon Gabriel to come there would still have been a chance of victory, but he held out in partnership with Holder to see his side to a deserved victory. Seeing a winning score of 200-6 and an opener on 8 not out might suggest a Richard Barlow or William Scotton at work to someone who was not familiar with the circumstances.

PLAYER OF THE MATCH

Shannon Gabriel, the West Indies fast bowler, was named player of the match, for his haul of nine wickets over the two innings, a lionhearted effort. I do not especially quarrel with this, but Jermaine Blackwood’s innings, begun with his side reeling and ending with it in sight of victory also deserved consideration, as did Holder’s all round contribution (he averages 33 with the bat in test cricket and 26 with the ball, making him worth his place purely as a bowler, and a very handy player to have coming at no8).

WELL DONE ALL ROUND

The¬† West Indies played superbly and deserved to win. England played reasonably well, but need to do better in terms of turning starts into serious scores – Crawley’s 76 was the only major innings played by an England batter in this match. I was also impressed by the commentary, although I would prefer it if ‘natural sound’ was the default option rather than having to switch to it as soon as it becomes available – I do not like the fake background noise in the standard version. The pitch at the Ageas bowl was a good one, although the hoped for spin never materialized. The teams now move to another bio-secure venue, Old Trafford, which like the Ageas bowl has its own hotel and go again on Thursday.

WHITHER ENGLAND?

Most of the team will retain their places, and deserve to. Broad may come in, especially if the plan to rotate him and Anderson is adhered to. Denly must go, permanently (to drop Crawley to make way for Root would be a shocking decision, and England need Root’s batting, even if they decide Stokes can retain the captaincy), and at 34 there ought not to be a way back for him. Buttler needs to go, and again his test career should be over, although he is a vital component of the white ball teams, I would prefer to see Foakes get an extended run, but could live with Bracey getting the nod as keeper (he like Buttler is principally a batter, but he has recent runs in the bank, and has done some work on his keeping). My own XI for Thursday would be Sibley, Burns, Crawley, *Root, Stokes, Pope, +Foakes, Bess, Archer, Wood and one of Anderson or Broad.

ENGLAND PLAYER RATINGS (OUT OF 10)

  1. Dominic Sibley – 5.5 – twice batted reasonably only to get out when well set.
  2. Rory Burns – 5 – fared less well than Sibley, but again he was not all bad.
  3. Joe Denly – 2 – arguably he is lucky even to get this many, his first innings was awful, his second better, but getting out the way he did with 29 to his name is unforgivable.
  4. Zak Crawley – 8.5 – batted in a position he has never even occupied in first class cricket (Denly should have been the one moved down, not him), and produced the best England innings of the match even so, a splendid 76 in the second innings. I expect to see centuries from him before too long.
  5. Ben Stokes – 8 – the only things he really did wrong were to get out twice when going well (43 and 46). His four cheap first innings wickets were badly needed.
  6. Ollie Pope – 3.5 – his first innings was a miniature gem, but there is a limit to the amount of praise a specialist batter can be given for making 12, and his second effort produced the same modest score and was less impressive.
  7. Jos Buttler – 2 – two self inflicted dismissals for a combined total of 44 runs, and the costliest England mistake of the entire match when he dropped a chance on the final day – had he taken it England would have been firmly back in control of proceedings.
  8. Dominic Bess – 6 – a spirited batting effort when it was much needed in the first innings, and bowled well on a surface that offered less turn than expected. He was a little unfortunate in the second dig, with a couple of very close LBWs going against him.
  9. Jofra Archer – 7.5 – batted reasonably in both innings, bowled poorly in the first but produced an electrifying opening burst in the second that put England in a winning position that they were unable to press home.
  10. Mark Wood – 5.5 – persistent short stuff in his first innings bowling effort, when the wicket of a tail ender flattered him. He bowled better second time around, but was not a match for Archer.
  11. James Anderson – 7 – he commanded respect in both innings, and if not quite the Anderson of old, he has little with which to reproach himself.

FINAL THOUGHTS AND PHOTOGRAPHS

Although the outcome of this match remained uncertain until deep in the final day it was in truth lost in it’s early stages when England were only able to reach 200 courtesy of Dom Bess’ late innings. Providing England notice the kick up the rear that this result amounts to it could actually benefit them, since a win would have allowed a papering over of cracks, whereas defeat does not come with such a luxury. I like the presence of two out and out speedsters for all that neither had great match here (Archer produced one magnificent spell, and some good bowling later on the fifth day as well) and hope that England will persist with that aspect of things. Now it is time for my usual sign off…

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Test Match Poised For A Great Finish

A very brief post updating on the situation at the Ageas bowl, as a test match worthy of the occasion (the resumption of cricket after covid-19) draws to what looks like being a great finish. Also includes some of my photographs.

INTRODUCTION

The Test Match at the Ageas Bowl is moving towards its closing stages and is still too close to call, though England are at present probably favourites to win.

THE FINISH OF DAY 4

England needed a good day yesterday, and up to a point they had one. At the high watermark of their second innings batting effort they had reached 249-3 and were looking like taking control of the game. Then Ben Stokes got himself out, and some good West Indian and some poor English batting saw a clatter of wickets, with the score plunging to 279-8. Jofra Archer and Mark Wood saw things through to the close at 284-8, with England 170 to the good.

DAY 5 SO FAR

England advanced their score by a further 29 in the opening session of play before they were all out, thus setting the West Indies precisely 200 to win. Anderson and Archer began magnificently, and the West Indies were soon three down and with an opener nursing an injury. They reached lunch for no further loss, and have fared well since the interval, reaching 72-3, with a further 128 required for victory. It remains anyone’s game, and whatever happens kn what is left of it it has been a superb resumption for international cricket after its longest hiatus since 1971-2 (or in other words the longest international blank since ODIs became a thing). I shall be back tomorrow with a longer post analysing the match as a whole.

PHOTOGRAPHS

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England Struggling At The Ageas Bowl

Continuing thoughts on post-Covid test cricket, as being showcased at the Ageas bowl.

INTRODUCTION

The weather in the vicinity of Southampton is better today, and it seems that we will get a full day’s play today. This post looks at the goings on since this time yesterday.

DAY 2

Yesterday’s post finished with England having just lost a sixth wicket, ending a stand between Buttler and Stokes. Wickets 7,8 and 9 followed swiftly, but then some sensible aggression from Bess, with the support of Anderson, saw England pass 200, Bess becoming one of only three England batters to reach 30 in the innings (Stokes 43, with the assistance of a lot of luck, and Buttler 35. England tallied 204, and the West Indies reached 57-1 off the 19.3 overs of their innings that were possible before the light intervened (more of this later). England did not start today well, and a running theme was continued when an LBW was overturned on review (on this occasion because the bowler had overstepped, and the delivery was therefore a no-ball), the sixth time such a decision had been overturned to date, and all six have been given against the West Indies by on-field umpires Illingworth and Kettleborough. Shai Hope became the second player out in the West Indies innings, caught by Stokes off Bess, who has had the best game of any England player to date. Then Stokes struck with an LBW, which was yet again sent upstairs, but on this occasion came back as ‘umpires call’, meaning that the on-field decision, and Kraigg Brathwaite was out for 65, comfortably the highest score of the match to date. Shamarh Brooks and Roston Chase stayed in till lunch, and in the few minutes since the resumption have not been separated as yet, with the West Indies now 159-3. Now on to some thoughts about a few specific issues…

WHAT ENGLAND NEED FROM HERE

First England need to bowl better (and the quick bowlers need to bowl to a fuller length than they have been on this surface – Holder was successful for the Windies by pitching it up) and dismiss the West Indies before they build a really huge lead. Get the West Indies out for 250, which is definitely possible, and England will be in the contest, and even if they reach 300 that is not an impossible deficit to overcome, especially given the dryness of the pitch, which suggests that there will be genuine assistance for Bess in the 4th innings if the game goes that far. Then England need to bat well second time around. Denly and Crawley in particular need runs with Root due to return for the second match and Bracey and Lawrence knocking on the door (I would have given Lawrence the no4 slot and dropped Denly in any case). If England can set the West Indies even as much as 200 in the fourth innings that might easily be enough.

HOME UMPIRES

This move has been necessitated by the pandemic, but at the moment, for all their strong position the West Indies have a legitimate grievance in this matter – a succession of decisions by the on-field umpires have gone against them, and while all bar one have subsequently been overturned. The one that was not overturned was close, and would also have stood had it been given the other way.

WEATHER, LIGHT AND STARTING TIMES

Not much can be done about rain, but time has also been lost in this match to bad light, which I regard as inexcusable. Natty over at Sillypoint has suggested that pink balls should be used at test matches so that the overs can be bowled even if the floodlights are the only source of light at the ground, which has a lot going for it. The alternative is to keep the red balls for general use, but also have a stock of pink or white balls at the ground, and if the floodlights are the only available light delay play only for as long as it takes to swap the red ball for a pink or white one in similar condition. What is not acceptable is a continuation of the current system, where huge chunks of playing time are needlessly lost due to a desire to stick with red balls at all times. Finally, the Ageas Bowl was chosen as host venue for this series because there is a hotel that is structurally part of the ground, there are no spectators allowed for the obvious reasons, so no one has any commuting to do to get to the ground. Therefore, why the continuing insistence on 11AM starts – today has been bright and sunny down there from the start apparently, so why could play not have got underway at 10AM to make up for some of the lost time?

ENGLAND PLAYER BY PLAYER

  1. Dominic Sibley – a failure this time, but he has done enough in his career to date not to be dropped.
  2. Rory Burns – again not a good first innings for him, but he is established in the side and should be retained.
  3. Joe Denly – his first innings failure took his test average below 30, and at the age of 34, he is surely only one more failure from the exit door.
  4. Zak Crawley – failed in the first innings, but worth persevering with, although he too needs a big score before too long.
  5. Ben Stokes – he rode his luck to make 43 with the bat, his bowling has not been great thus far, but you never know when he will come up with something, and although I expect Root to resume the captaincy there is no way Stokes is losing his place as a player.
  6. Ollie Pope – before getting out he looked several classes above anyone else in the line up, and there are surely big scores to come from him.
  7. Jos Buttler – I do not consider 35 an outstanding score and think that he must be running out of chances.
  8. Dom Bess – the only England player whose stocks have gone up in this match, a spirited innings in his secondary discipline and has bowled nicely so far.
  9. Jofra Archer – quick as ever but has bowled too short thus far and been consequently expensive and relatively unthreatening.
  10. Mark Wood – see my comment re Archer.
  11. James Anderson – the usual Anderson, accurate, always commanding respect. It would seem that the plan is for him and Broad to alternate through this summer, an idea I endorse. Broad it would appear has had an on air (TV) ‘toys out of the pram’ moment over his non-selection for this game, but the way he bowled in the warm up match, lacking pace, and largely too wide to pose any great threat he should have no complaints over missing out.

As far as I am concerned, any score that does contain three figures in the second innings should spell the end of Denly, as Root returns. Crawley may retain his spot, but one or other of Lawrence or Bracey could claim that. Buttler should lose his place (but probably won’t, so wilfully blind are the selectors to his faults in long-form cricket) for Foakes. Anderson and Broad will likely rotate as explained, and Robinson, Curran and Mahmood are all possibles for pace bowling slots. Bess’s performance here has underlined his role as first choice spinner, and if at any point there is a surface warranting two specialist spinners the leg spinner Parkinson should be the other. While I have been typing this Anderson has dismissed Brooks, caught by Buttler. This was the subject of yet another review, a terrible call by Brooks since the nick was blatantly obvious. I suspect that Brooks was influenced by the fact that the on-field umpires have been having such a poor game and found it hard to believe that they had actually got one right.

PHOTOGRAPHS

I congratulate the West Indies, and especially Holder and Gabriel, on their play in this match thus far, hope England can pick things up a bit and make this closer than it currently looks like being. I am delighted that cricket has returned, and have greatly enjoyed the TMS commentary on this game. Now it is time for my usual sign off…

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Dominic Bess has just nabbed a second wicket to make the West Indies 186-5 – Blackwood gone cheaply. Keeper Dowrich and skipper Holder are both useful batters, but after them are three tail enders.