Two Great Test Matches

A look back at two great cricketing occasions – the women’s test between England and India and the World Test Championship final between India and New Zealand.

Now that I have finished my series about my Scottish holiday (all posts therein can be accessed from here) it is time to tackle other things. In this post I look back two great cricket matches which overlapped (poor organization there). I start with:

ENGLAND WOMEN V
INDIA WOMEN

This test match, the first women’s test match in two years and the first involving India Women for seven years was played between the 16th and 19th of June at Bristol. Not only do the women play very little test cricket, their domestic structure does not include long form cricket.

England were 269-6 at the close of the first day, having at one point been 230-2. Heather Knight, the captain, scored 95, Tammy Beaumont 66 and Nat Sciver 42. In occupation overnight were debutant Sophia Dunkley and veteran Katherine Brunt. Brunt fell early on the second morning to make ti 270-7 but Dunkley found excellent partners in Sophie Ecclestone who helped the eighth wicket to add 56 and then Anya Shrubsole who scored a blazing 47 as a further 70 accrued for the ninth wicket. At Shrubsole’s dismissal the score was 396-9 and Knight declared, leaving Dunkley with a debut innings of 74 not out to look back on. Sneh Rana, an off spinner, had 4-131 from 39.2 overs for India.

Smriti Mandhana and Shafali Verma gave the Indian first innings a magnificent start, putting on 167 before Verma, at the age 17, was out for 96 just missing a debut century. Some good bowling by England in the closing stages of the second day and an odd decision by skipper Mithali Raj to send in a nightwatcher with quite a lot of time left in the day (both the nightwatcher, Shikha Pandey, and Raj herself, obliged to go in anyway, fell in the closing stages) put India in trouble, a situation that got rapidly worse at the start of day three as more quick wickets fell. At one stage the score read 197-8, meaning that eight wickets had fallen for 30 runs. The ninth wicket provided some resistance and forced the taking of the second new ball. It took an absolute beauty from Katherine Brunt to break the stand, and no11 Jhulan Goswami got another good ball, this time from Anya Shrubsole, to end the innings at 231, meaning that, this being a four match, England were able to enforce the follow-on, which they quite correctly did. Ecclestone had taken 4-88 with her left arm spin.

Mandhana fell cheaply at the start of the Indian second innings, but Deepti Sharma, an off spinning all rounder who had batted well in the first Indian innings (she it was who orchestrated the tail end resistance), was promoted to no3 second time round, and by the end of day three she and Verma were still in occupation, with the score 83-1. After 16 runs had been added on the third morning Verma’s wonderful debut finally ended as she fell for 63, giving her 159 runs in the match. Just before lunch Deepti Sharma after the longest innings of her life finally fell for 54, making it 171-3, and the innings defeat avoided. The question now was could India hold out long enough to prevent England from being able to chase the runs down. Punam Raut dropped anchor at one end, but at the other Mithali Raj, Harmanpreet Kaur and Pooja Vastrakar all came and went fairly cheaply, with Raut being dismissed in between Kaur and Vastrakar. When Vastrakar fell India were 199-7, still only 34 to the good. Shikha Pandey joined Sneh Rana, and they put on 41, but even at that stage England seemed likely to win. However, Taniya Bhatia, the Indian wicket keeper, now joined Rana and they staunchly resisted everything England could produce. Rana was on 80 not out and might have had half an eye on a century and Bhatia 44 not out and definitely eyeing up a fifty, with the stand worth an unbeaten 104, only three short of the all time ninth wicket record in women’s test cricket when the umpires intervened, deciding it was too dark to continue (given how few overs were left, the draw had long since been certain). Ecclestone had again taken four wickets, although she also took some punishment as she tired in the closing stages, finishing with 4-118 this time. Shafali Verma’s two great innings on debut earned her player of the match, although Sneh Rana, and on the England side Knight (95 and wickets in both innings as well as being captain) and Ecclestone might also have been considered.

Both sides played well, and India showed tremendous fighting spirit to secure the draw the way they did at the end. A full scorecard can be viewed here.

WTC FINAL: NZ V IND

The inaugural World Test Championship had ended with India and New Zealand at the top, so these two teams convened at Southampton for the final. Six days were allotted, although the sixth would only come into play if weather interruptions necessitated it. In the end such was the weather between 18 and 23 June that even a sixth day was only just sufficient.

The first day was entirely washed out, and on day two New Zealand decided to go in without any spin options, picking three specialist pacers in Boult, Wagner and Southee plus a fast bowling all rounder in Jamieson and also at no7 Colin de Grandhomme who bowls medium pace. When they won the toss it was almost inevitable that they would choose to bowl with that team, and they duly did so. The truncated second day ended with India 146-3 and seemingly somewhat ahead of the game. New Zealand bowled fantastically on the third morning to reduce India to 217 all out, and by the close of the third day they were 101-2 in response, the second wicket having fallen just before the close. The fourth day, like the first, saw no play at all. Fortunately the fifth day dawned bright and clear. When NZ were 135-5, India looked to have wrested the initiative back, but the last five kiwi wickets put on a further 114 to give them a first innings lead of 32. India batted poorly in their second innings, with a number of poor dismissals. Rishabh Pant top scored with 41, as they managed a mere 170, leaving NZ just 139 to win. R Ashwin accounted for both openers with his off spin but there was to be no further success for India as Kane Williamson and Ross Taylor saw their side home, with Williamson racking up only the second individual 50+ score of the match in the process, giving him a match aggregate of 101 for once out (49 and 52 not out, the second and third highest scores of the match behind Devon Conway’s first innings 54). Kyle Jamieson with match figures of 7-61 from 46 overs, the most economical by a pace bowler in a test in England since Joel Garner in 1980, and a crucial 20 in his only innings was named Player of the Match. New Zealand thoroughly deserved their victory. While all of the kiwis bowled well, Ishant Sharma and Jasprit Bumrah were both below their best for India, Ashwin was not helped by the conditions, though he put in a fine effort and Jadeja as a bowler was a virtual passenger on that pitch and in those conditions.

I like the concept of the WTC but I think the following changes are necessary for it to work:

  1. Every team to play the same number of matches in each cycle.
  2. All series to count towards the WTC (immediately before the final England and New Zealand played a non-WTC series, which New Zealand won and won well).
  3. All 12 test playing nations to be involved.

PHOTOGRAPHS

My usual sign off…

All Time XIs: A Women’s XI For International Women’s Day

An international women’s day special, selecting an XI of the finest contemporary female cricketers, with a couple of extra features.

Today is International Women’s Day, and as a cricket fanatic I am commemorating it by selecting an XI comprising the finest talents from contemporary women’s cricket.

THE XI IN BATTING ORDER

  1. Laura Wolvaardt – right handed opening batter. The 21 year old South African already has over 2,000 ODI runs at an average of 46. She forms one half of an opening partnership that blends youth and experience and could confidently be expected to function superbly. A career best 149 and one other hundred indicate that she can go big.
  2. Tammy Beaumont – right handed opening batter. Just a few days short of her 30th birthday, the experienced England opener is in the form of her life at the moment, reflected by her status as the no1 ODI batter in women’s cricket. She averages a run per innings less than Wolvaardt, but has played rather more. Seven centuries in ODIs confirm her ability to go on and get big runs.
  3. Smriti Mandhana – left handed top order batter. She normally opens for India, but should also go well at number three. An ODI average of 42, including four centuries at that level indicates a player of high class, and she is also one of the most aesthetically pleasing of all international batters, especially when driving through the covers.
  4. Amelia Kerr – right handed batter, leg spinner. At the age of 20 she has a personal highlights reel at international level that includes a double century and a five wicket haul. In the one victory New Zealand recorded over England in their recent series she starred with 72 and four wickets.
  5. Ellyse Perry – right handed batter, right arm fast medium bowler. The 30 year old Aussie is the most complete all rounder in the game. Her eight test appearances have yielded her a batting average of 78 and a bowling average of 18, in 112 ODIs she averages 52 with the bat and 24 with the ball, while in 120 T20Is she averages 28 with the bat and 19 with the ball. She has also found time to feature in the later stages of a football world cup along the way – she is an all rounder in more than one sense!
  6. +Amy Jones – right handed batter, keeper. Her batting is improving, and her keeping at its best can be reminiscent of great predecessor in the role, Sarah Taylor.
  7. Deepti Sharma – left handed batter, off spinner. She averages 38 with the bat and 27 with the ball in ODIs.
  8. Katherine Brunt – right arm fast medium bowler, right handed lower order batter. She regularly bats seven for England, having massively improved that area of her game over the years, but it is her bowling that makes her worth her place.
  9. Sophie Ecclestone – left arm orthodox spinner, right handed lower order batter. 106 international wickets at less than 20 each and she is still only 21. For more detail on her please visit Inside Edge Cricket’s post on her produced specially for today as this post is, by clicking here.
  10. Poonam Yadav – leg spinner, right handed lower order batter. A complete contrast to her predecessor in the order, who is very tall, the leggie is the smallest member of the XI, and bowls very slow, high tossed spinners. She has many remarkable spells to her credit, perhaps the most outstanding being against Australia in a world T20 cup match, when the latter were seemingly cruising to victory when she was brought on and nailed on for defeat by the time she had bowled her four overs.
  11. Shabnim Ismail – right arm fast medium, left handed lower order batter. The veteran South African is bowling as well now as she ever as and will be an excellent new ball partner for Brunt. She had a superb tournament in the most recent running of the Women’s Big Bash League.

This team comprises a stellar top five, two of whom are genuine all rounders, a splendid keeper/batter at six, a genuine all rounder at seven, a top quality bowling all rounder at eight and three superb specialist bowlers. Brunt and Ismail with the new ball, Perry as third seamer if needed and spin quartet of Ecclestone, Yadav, Sharma and Kerr provides a bowling attack that should be comfortably able to meet all eventualities. Below is the team in infographic form:

LINK AND PHOTOGRAPHS

Just the one link before my usual sign off, a tweet which fits the international women’s day theme – it is a list of rape prevention tips, which rather than being the usual victim-blaming c**p such things usually are actually addresses those who need to be told – the men. It was posted by Theresa Drennan, and can be viewed it’s original niche by clicking here.

Now it is time for my latest photographs…

England’s Test Tours

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

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

THE STORY IN BRIEF

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

ROTATION POLICY AND POOR SELECTIONS

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

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

LOOKING TO THE FUTURE

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

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

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

LINKS AND PHOTOGRAPHS

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

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

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

England Women Dominate T20 Opener in New Zealand

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

A MAGNIFICENT TEAM BOWLING PERFORMANCE

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

AN EFFICIENT CHASE

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

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

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

PHOTOGRAPHS

My usual sign off…

England Women Secure Series Victory With A Game To Spare In New Zealand

A brief look at events in New Zealand where one England cricket team is doing well, and a revisit to my radical suggestion for sorting the men’s teams problems with finding good enough spinners.

This post looks briefly at goings on in New Zealand, and then explores a favourite theme of mine. First of all however, a brief…

NEWSFLASH

At 10:55 this morning I received my first Covid-19 jab. I barely felt the needle go into my arm and have as yet experienced no serious side effects. The second jab will be a minimum of four weeks from now and could be as much as 12 weeks. Contrary to what pro-government propaganda sources would have you believe my situation does not count in any sane view as ‘vaccinated’ – I have begun the process of getting vaccinated, but until I have had the second jab I am not actually vaccinated. Also, the government deserves very little credit for the vaccination program – the hard yards are being done by NHS workers, and the extent of government involvement for me was sending me a link I could not use, and a very inefficient helpline system which when I finally got through advised me to contact my surgery, who duly booked me a slot. The government have bungled all along the line, and their lockdown easing plans seem set to continue that trend, going too far too early.

ENGLAND WOMEN GO 2-0 UP WITH ONE TO PLAY IN NZ

A disciplined all round bowling performance, highlighted by Nat Sciver’s 3-26 from nine overs restricted NZ to 192 off 49.5 overs. Tammy Beaumont played the anchor role in the chase, finishing unbeaten on 72, while Sciver completed a fine day’s work by scoring a rapid 63, and keeper Amy Jones completed the job with an equally rapid unbeaten 46. England had seven wickets and 12.2 overs in the bank when they reached the target. Sophie Ecclestone failed to add to her haul of international wickets but did only go for 33 from her 10 overs, an economy rate bettered only by Sciver. Katherine Brunt and leg spinner Sarah Glenn each picked up two wickets and Kate Cross had one, while there were two run outs. Full scorecard here.

The men are struggling in India, but the women are going well, which leads me on to my theme…

ENGLAND MEN’S
SPIN PROBLEMS

In yesterday’s post I argued for the promotion of Parkinson and Virdi from the reserves to the full squad for the final test match, advocating a spin trio of Leach, Virdi and Parkinson. England do not have many other male spinners whose records inspire much confidence. Thus, I suggest that England offer Ecclestone the opportunity to play alongside the men. For those wondering about the women, in addition to Glenn who I have already mentioned here is a sextet of decent spin options available to the women: Linsey Smith, Kirstie Gordon, Sophia Dunkley, Alex Hartley, Helen Fenby and Danielle Gregory. If she bowls well in a few men’s county games, then given her 100+ international wickets she could be fast tracked into the England men’s team and possibly be part of the Ashes campaign at the end of this year.

PHOTOGRAPHS

My usual sign off…