Thursday, 19 April 2018

Radio Ga Ga

Let me get straight to the point I really don’t like Heart FM.  I’ve always disliked local radio and whenever I have the choice then its Radio 6music for me every single time.  I have never tuned into Heart by choice but have at times been assaulted by it in the workplace where it’s been out of my hands.  I was listening at its inception in 2009 and despite the rebrand it was still the same old shit; safe, non-challenging pop/rock music that will offend no one, presented by affable idiots who are just too Smashy & Nicey to ever knowingly upset anyone. I totally believe that rock music should challenge and offend by definition.  Like any radio station the music is a mixture; a few songs I loathe, a few I like and sometimes one or two that I love but most just washes over me.  The maddening thing with Heart FM is they repeat the same thing over and over and over, forever and ever.

In 2009 Heart FM was playing, apart from whatever was in the charts at the time, music by Take That, Brittney Spears, Rhianna, Michael Jackson, Lady Gaga, Pink, Black Eyed Peas, Beyonce, Katie Perry, ‘Low’ by Flo rida was on all the time and two songs by Kings of Leon, either ‘Use Somebody’ or ‘Sex on Fire’.  With the exception of Take That and Brittney I like the rest of those artists and Kings of Leon are great but the constant repetition drove everyone mad.  After much debate the workplace radio was tuned into something else and we left Heart FM behind.

Now having changed employer I am forced to listen to Heart FM again and it’s as if I’ve been taken back in time.  Every day I listen to music by Take That, Brittney Spears, Rhianna, Michael Jackson, Lady Gaga, Pink, Black Eyed Peas, Beyonce, Katie Perry, ‘Low’ by Flo rida is still on regularly and still two songs by Kings of Leon, want to guess which ones?  Ed Sheeran is massive so of course they are going to play him and I actually quite like him.  Apart from being a seriously good song writer (‘Castle on the Hill’ is a cracking tune) he’s a fellow ginger lad from my home county of Suffolk, what’s not to like?  Today Ed was played seven times between 0800 and 1630; admittedly it was four different tunes but seriously seven times?  Likewise the cute US pop/rock star known as ‘Pink’; great voice and decent tunes, two of which were played three times each today.  This repetition will not make me rush out to buy the music, if anything it will have the opposite effect.  I don’t want to dislike these people but I’m getting seriously bored of hearing it.

If anything it’s gotten worse because they keep playing the fucking Spice Girls.  The fucking Spice Girls!!  Now if I’m honest back in the nineties I didn’t mind the Spice Girls, the music was crap but they looked like five slappers from the pub and you told yourself you could have pulled one of them, yes they were that rough.  Ginger Spice said the immortal words and all the little girls, whose brothers were playing Power Rangers, latched onto “Girl Power”, on the bandwagon rolled and rolled, they made billions and believed their own hype.  Now twenty years later the music is beyond crap, it is bland corporate earwax that offends me.  I feel like flushing my own head down the toilet just to drown out the sound.  Posh Spice can’t sing and of the others only Mel C is anything other than average.  But Heart FM still plays it?  Why?  Nostalgia I suppose, the kind of person that tunes to Heart FM has no taste and very little between the ears.

This is taking me off at a tangent, Heart FM keeps insisting on playing older songs that are fucking terrible, anything by ‘Ace of Bass’ for example (Yes Heart still play them!) but worryingly I remember liking some of this stuff at the time (not Ace of bass).  A prime example is Wyclef Jean.  Now ‘The Fugees’ made a brilliant album with ‘The Score’ and I didn’t mind Wyclef’s solo stuff but hearing it now, Jesus Christ its garbage!  The bloke can’t actually sing a note and the songs sound like they were written in a primary school class in a ‘write a bad poem’ competition.  ‘Perfect Gentleman’ is complete and utter garbage.

After a few weeks I rebelled and retuned, the first clear signal I received was Radio One which would never be my first choice but believe me it was like a tune wafting from heaven after weeks of Heart FM.  I haven’t been a Radio One listener for well over a decade, it wasn’t the music that turned me off but the arse hole DJ’s.  At breakfast time there was the odious, opinionated gob shite Chris Moyles, don’t get me started…  That fat ball of lard was followed by Mrs Ego Jo Wiley.  Nowadays the DJ’s seem a bit more low key, with the possible exception of Scott Mills with his annoying habit of … being Scott Mills.  Get “Off of” it you tit.  Honestly I could have put up with any DJ waffle because there was a good mix of music of all styles and types.   Once or twice a day I’d find myself yelling “Tune!!” as something truly great came through the speakers;  Massive Attack, Rage against the Machine, Panic! At the Disco, Bob Marley!!!

It didn’t last, someone noticed and retuned the radio to Bland FM and I spent today hearing stuff like ‘Gangsta’s Paradise’ by Coolio, which was released in 1995 but has been played about once a day for the last two months.  Why not play the original classic ‘Passtime paradise’ by Stevie Wonder. Likewise ‘Miami’ by Will Smith which was released in 1997, was crap then and is certainly not worth trawling out of any record archive today.  Not to mention all the usual safe, non-challenging pop/rock music that will offend no one…  Except me.  I’m offended by the bland, sterile, safe nice ness of it all!  I want to drive to Norwich, break into the studio and start smashing things…

Tuesday, 3 April 2018

Groundhog day

Despite dominating the second test, once again England could not take the twenty wickets necessary to win a test match.  New Zealand batted the final day out on a flat pitch and hung on for the draw.  It's no disgrace to lose in New Zealand, they have a decent test team nowadays and there is no such thing as an easy match away from home.  However, England have enough world class players to be a match for anyone, there is the spine of a world champion team but for the last four years our selectors haven't been able to fill the line up around Cook, Root, Stokes, Bairstow, Broad and Anderson.

At the moment Stoneman and Malan should retain their places in the side but both need to show a bit more and that still leaves a space in the batting line up.  Of those that have been tried in the last few years Ballance has by far the best record but doesn't look like a test player when facing the very best opposition.  James Vince is currently the man in position and had a decent last match but he isn't a long term test batsman. The brightest prospect is Hasseb Hameed who was very impressive against India last year but injury and poor form means he hasn't featured since.  It's only a matter of time before he does and could be a likely player to bat at 3 next season. 

Moeen Ali had a great home summer with both bat and ball but has had an equally awful winter.  He is a very good all rounder and could probably walk into any test team as a number 6 but we have Ben Stokes filling that role.  As a spinner Moeen is decent and threatens on home soil but every time he's toured he's been found wanting.  England must start looking for a genuinely world class spinner and Jack Leach done okay on debut so should hold onto this place for now.  Moeen could and should find himself in the squad for tours of the sub continent and may yet stake a claim as an out and out batsman.

England have no shortage of seamers that can run up and do a good job on home soil but what we need is a genuinely quick bowler who can make things happen on the flat pitches we often encounter overseas.  Mark Wood done okay in this match and has mostly performed well when selected but fitness is an issue.  Then there is Liam Plunkett who is probably our best ODI bowler but hasn't featured in a test for some time.  After those two players, well I don't know but I'd be happy to tour the county grounds for a look this summer.  Come to think of it, don't the ECB employ people to do this already?

The current head of selectors is James Whittaker who took over the role in 2013 and has given debuts to twenty three players in this time.  Of those only Moeen Ali has become a mainstay of the team but to be fair Wood, Malan, Leach and Hameed could yet earn a more permanent place in the side.  So if I'm generous and credit Whittaker with five hits that still leaves eighteen misses.  Those figure speak for themselves.

As bad as we have been in test cricket it's fair to credit the selectors with the ODI squads they have selected because after hard away series wins against both Australia and New Zealand, England are probably the best one day side in the world at the moment.

So a couple of months away from the next test series this selector would pick this XI;

Cook, Stoneman, Hameed, Root, Malan, Stokes, Bairstow, Broad, Wood, Leach, Anderson

Monday, 26 March 2018

Test Cricket WTF?

What the fuck is going on in the world of cricket?

England started their test series against New Zealand with a shambolic collapse on the first morning, all out for 58 which was a recovery from 27-9.  After that New Zealand batted long, before and after almost two days were lost for rain and once again England were unable to bowl their opposition out.  England's second innings was better but nobody made a century despite seven of the top eight players scoring 23 or more.

You can look at the eleven players selected for this match and reasonably conclude that is a very strong team to field in English conditions.  However England have now gone twelve consecutive away tests without a win and have failed to take twenty wickets in eleven of those matches.  When will the selectors wise up?

Of the team that played the first test I'm going to single out two players;  Moeen Ali is out of form.  Chris Woakes has been consistently poor since returning from injury late last summer.  He may score useful runs but his job is taking wickets.  Both should be dropped and replaced by the pace of Mark Wood and legspin of Mason Crane.

In March 2009 England went to the West Indies confident of winning the test series only to lose the first test after being blown away for fifty something in Jamaica and went on to lose the series 1-0.  After that low point England kept improving and were the number one test team by August 2012.  Right now we have the players to repeat this feat and the second test would be a bloody good time to start.

The series in New Zealand is completely overshadowed by what has been going on in South Africa where Australia are touring.  The series stood at 1-1 after two hard fought but fractious matches, there was bad blood between the players and the odious David Warner was taking centre stage again.

The third match was of the same vein, tough cricket in front of a partisan crowd, Aussie coach Lehmann had the gall to complain about the abuse his team was receiving!!??!!  Oh Darren you whinging, hypocritical oaf!  Midway through the third day, with South Africa starting to dominate the match the Aussies resorted to cheating by tampering with the ball.  Bancroft was seen on TV behaving in a highly suspicious manner and concealing something that looked a lot like sandpaper.  Messages came from the coach to the players, this was followed by more suspicious behaviour.  Whatever they were trying didn't work, South Africa were well on top.

After play Bancroft and captain Smith turned up at the press conference and basically said "Yea sorry, we cheated and you caught us. We discusssed it at lunch and decided cheating was a good idea. Honestly it's never happened before and will never happen again.  Sorry see ya later".  The morons obviously didn't have the slightest idea of how seriously the world of cricket would take these events.  They probably thought they could front up and then be applauded for their honesty.  Now a couple of days on I think even idiots like Smith and Warner realise how deep the shit is.  The coach Lehmann cannot have been ignorant of what was going on. 

Meanwhile, in the background, the match continued.  Aus were set 400+ to win and managed to lose 10-50 on their way to being bowled out for 107.  A collapse of English proportions.  South Africa took an unassailable 2-1 lead and well played them.

So what happens next?  There will obviously be investigation and scrutiny.  As an English cricket supporter I'd like to know How long has this 'tactic' been going on?  It looks likely that Smith, Bancroft, Warner and hopefully Lehmann will all receive bans, they should be long ones.  In my opinion deliberate, premeditated tactical cheating is worse than spot fixing.  The bans handed out to these characters should reflect this.

The teams led by captains such as Border, Taylor, Waugh and Ponting would never have behaved in this way.  We disliked the Aussie cricketers for many years but we disliked them because they were so bloody good, it was a compliment.  This team has neither the class or the skill of those great Aussie sides but are disliked because of the arrogance and hypocrisy of the players.

Tuesday, 9 January 2018

Ashes autopsy

Another Ashes test series has come to an end, thankfully the ailing English Lion has been put out of its misery.  Australia deservedly finished 4-0 winners, at least we were spared the depressing humiliation of a whitewash.
Image result for Ashes 2017 Back in November the Aussie selection raised a few eyebrows but it seems they got it right as pretty much all of those picked have contributed in some way.  Stephen Smith in particular was brilliant and all four of their bowlers took more than twenty wickets.  England's biggest problem is that our combined bowling attack couldn't take twenty wickets in any of the matches.

Our batsmen didn't exactly excel either.  Alastair Cook had one magnificent knock of 244 but failed to pass 40 in any of the other innings.  Mark Stoneman began the tour in decent form with a couple of fifties but his returns dwindled as the series wore on.  To be fair opening the innings is difficult anywhere and even more so on Australian wickets with quality bowlers sending the ball down at 90mph.  Cook may well be getting towards the end of his career but is still well worth his place in the team and who else is there?  The lack of alternatives means Stoneman has probably done enough to keep his place in the side for the tour of New Zealand at least.

James Vince was a bizarre selection and I really wonder if Alex Hales would have got that spot had it not been for the 'Bristol incident'.  Hales was in the wrong place at the wrong time, I imagine the selectors thinking 'shit, who do we pick?'  Vince started well with 83 in the first test and managed a second fifty but kept getting out for low scores after wafting at wide balls.  After twelve tests he averages 22 and has never looked the part.

One of the very few positives from the tour was Dawad Malan who scored his first test century and backed this up with other decent scores to finish the tour with 383 runs at 42.55.  This is s decent return for a young player and he'll hopefully push on from here.

Johnny Bairstow only managed one fifty plus score but this was 119 and although he wasn't up to his usual standard he is a class batsman, his keeping improves all the time.  The waft outside the off stump in Sydney, after refusing a nightwatchman was horrible...

Moeen Ali had a poor tour, he didn't get the runs we have come to expect from him and his bowling was totally ineffective.  On home wickets Mo is class with both bat and ball but his bowling definitely doesn't travel.  He started the tour with a bit of an injury and a slow start might have affected his confidence but I still don't believe he was up to the job that was asked of him.

Chris Woakes could also be regarded as an all-rounder but on this tour he didn't look like he could bat or bowl.  At times Woakes has looked like a very good cricketer but remove one great match against Pakistan from his record and it becomes distinctly average.  If he is going to keep his place in the side then he will have to do more in the future.

We have two truly great opening bowlers who had contrasting series.  Stuart Broad was well below his usual standard, he bowled a couple of very good spells but also had a couple of poor matches.  In truth Broad hasn't been a game changer since the tour of South Africa a couple of years ago and if he doesn't rediscover his form soon he might find himself discarded.  On the other hand James Anderson has been on top form all year and showed his class on this tour even though the pitches didn't suit him.  He was our leading wicket taker with 17 but this tally was still fewer than any of the Aussie bowlers.

A few bowlers came and went; Jake Ball played one match, took one wicket then got injured and never featured again.  Mason Crane displayed his leg spin at Sydney but didn't make an impact.  Craig Overton and Tom Curran both played two matches each and both showed they could contribute with a few runs.  Overton looked a decent bowler too but his tour was shortened by injury, hopefully he will come back.

That just leaves the captain; Joe Root done OK with the bat and passed fifty five times without making it to three figures.  If he is going to make the most of his talent and become the truly great player he looks like being then he has to make it count when he gets in.  If he could have turned a couple of those half centuries into three figures then who knows how those games would have turned out.  The worst example was the new ball waft at Sydney whilst on 83 which exposed Bairstow and let a powerful position slip away to a pitiful one.  His captaincy is improving all the time but he made two unforgivable cock ups in not bowling Jimmy when Australia were under pressure in Brisbane, then inserting the Aussies after winning the toss in Adelaide.

For me the biggest mistakes for England were made before we even left home and I don't mean the Stokes thing.  I think our selectors have been consistently bad for several years; they still don't know what our best batting line up is but they may be getting closer with Hameed waiting in the wings and I think Keaton Jennings might come back better in future.  
Their biggest crime however comes with the bowlers selected; on pitches abroad we need a quality spinner and at least one 90mph shock bowler.  I don't know who or where these players will come from but that's the selectors job isn't it?

There's some ODI stuff coming up over the next few weeks followed by a couple of test matches in New Zealand which will be a proper test.

Saturday, 16 December 2017

The writing on the wall

The Ashes series is fractionally passed the halfway point and already it seems inevitable that the metaphorical Urn will stay down under.  Two nil down after two and half way through the third where we cannot hope to win.  In truth it's very possible that England could escape Perth with a draw meaning victory in the last two matches would see us retain the Ashes.  But that isn't going to happen.

The problems started before we left home, obviously the absent Ben Stokes would have made a massive difference but I'd have picked Alex Hales too.  So it's the selectors to whom I'm going to give most of the blame; they have been piss poor ever since... well the last Ashes series down under!  They have consistently failed to pick the right players, most notably batsmen have come and gone all too regularly.  They pick a squad that includes three of four unproven batsmen and expect to win in Australia.  To be fair Stoneman is at last looking like an opening partner for Cook but how long will the latter keep playing?  Hopefully a while because even though his skills might be on the wane, he's still the best we've got.  Also Dawad Malan has scored a big century, fantastic now go get another one.  Vince is unconvincing and will Ballance even get a bat?

On home soil we literally have bowlers queuing up to do a job in what is often good bowling conditions but on most foreign surfaces most are unable to threaten.  This was the case in India a year ago and is even more apparent in Australia right now.  At least Anderson is able to maintain control but Broad has been well below par and Woakes hasn't impressed.  Overton has been as good as anybody.  What we really need from our bowlers is height, bounce and above all pace.  England had all three in 2010/11 but not in the two tours since.

Finally I have to give the captain some stick.  His tactics at Brisbane, when Australia were under pressure, were bizarre.  By not bowling Anderson Root seemed to be making some kind of "I'm the boss' statement, something that has already rebounded on him during his tenure.  This time it might even have cost the match?   His decision to bowl first at Adelaide seemed to be another kind of statement, 'Attacking option', really?  It was naive at best, but more likely just plain stupid.

Think positive, England are playing better than they did here four years ago (but it would be inconceivable for them to be any worse), they are competing for periods in every game and there isn't really much to choose between the two sets of players.  This is all true but we could still find ourselves on the end of a 5-0 scoreline.  If we can avoid that, this England fan would settle right now.

Wednesday, 22 November 2017


All of a sudden it's here!  The first test starts in less than half an hour, England have won the toss and will bat.  Can England win?  Things have gone OK on the tour so far but here comes the test.  If England don't lose here at the Gabba then yes they can win.  If Australia win well then I think the series will be as good as over.
Here goes...

Wednesday, 27 September 2017

Can England win Down under?

We all love to play "If I was selector..." and at the end of the test match summer my squad for the Ashes tour would be;
Root, Cook, Stoneman, Hameed, Malan, Hales.
Bairstow, Buttler.
Stokes, Woakes, Broad, Anderson, Wood, Finn
Ali, Rashid,
I expect the selectors will go for Crane and Ball ahead of Rashid and Finn, we'll see..

As usual the Selectors saw things very different with Gary Ballance and James Vince called up instead of Hales (disciplinary?) and Hameed (the future!).  Ballance must have compromising photographs of one of the selectors and Vince seems to have come from nowhere, his county form unspectacular.  Foakes instead of Buttler as reserve keeper is a little more predictable but I didn't see Overton (who? Impressive county stats) being picked.  TRJ & Wood (both injured) must be gutted.

Can England win?  Yes, if everything goes right, like it did in 2010/11.  England went into that series with a settled batting line up that gave the selectors no headaches, the top six picked itself.  This time around the uncertainties are obvious.  Like 2011 they have to hard and play to win in the warm up games, these matches will be tough and may well help finalise the batting line up.  We have to hope our bowlers stay fit and are picked on a 'horses for coarses' basis, again like they did in 2011.  England can't afford to drop as many catches as they have in recent matches either.  If all of those things fall into place and England come away from Brisbane unscathed, then yes they can win the series.

Likely XI ??  Cook, Stoneman, Ballance, Root, Malan, Stokes, Bairstow, Ali, Woakes, Broad, Anderson