Friday, 6 December 2019

Squad

The second test fizzled out, England actually played some good cricket and had the best of the game but ultimately the pitch won and the game was drawn, leaving New Zealand series winners at 1-0.  I seem to say this a lot but the quirky series selections havn't brought us any closer to identifying our best team.  A tough series in South Africa starts before you know it.

We know half the squad that toured New Zealand will already have tickets booked.  Of those that aren't so certain Zac Crawley will probably be retained, Joe Denly has once again done just enough to keep his place and Ollie Pope has been knocking at the door for a while now.  I hope Jack Leach keeps his place, surely they won't pick Mo over him?  It looks like Bairstow is back, already.  Curran and Woakes both done reasonably well but I can't see there being room for both...  As for Mahmood and Parkinson, well thanks for carrying the drinks.

Saturday, 30 November 2019

Catch up

Well the first test started quite well for England.  We started well with the bat, then let them off the hook.  Started well with the ball and let them off the hook again.  New Zealand done exactly the opposite and in the end outplayed us in all departments.

Now the second test is two days old and I don't know what to make of it.  England put the Kiwis in and 'restricted' them to 375.  Latham hit a century, Broad's resurgence continued with four for and Woakes picked up possibly his best overseas figures?  By close we were 39/2 with Burns and Root left at the wicket.  One of these two needs to score a century...  I don't have a clue how things will go from here; how good a score is 375?  Should be interesting listening in a bit...

Friday, 22 November 2019

First Test vs New Zealand

So here we are, a couple of months on from an Ashes series, test cricket is back with a series in New Zealand.  We are playing at somewhere called Mount Maunganui, in fact this is the first test match to be played here.  I can't comment about how it looks because I haven't seen a single picture of it.

As has become customary I listened to the start of the series on TMS which is as brilliant as ever.  All went to plan on Day one, England won the toss and batted and by the time I crashed on the latest opening partnership had passed fifty!!

And when I woke up in the morning the score had meandered along to 241/4 at stumps.  Yes England's top order actually batted how a test team should, Burns, Denly both made half centuries and Stokes was 67*.  This is all pretty good but it could all go wrong in the morning, i mean evening...

Day two starts in serene fashion with Stokes and Pope seeming to score freely but then both get out!  (Stokes for 91), quickly followed by Curran and Archer!  This leaves us 295/8 and it seems like same old England.  By the time I switch the radio off Buttler and Limpet Leach have calmed proceedings but we're still a long way short of a good score.

I wake up and switch the computer on with trepidation, i fear the worst.  The Kiwi's have a good batting line up, I'm sure they will be piling up the runs.  But no!  Buttler and Leach put on 52 to get us up to 353.  What's more we've knocked New Zealand's top four over, 144/4!  Curran took two wickets, Leach and Stokes one each.  Now I look forward to listening to Jofra steam in when play starts up tonight!

And while I remember Stephen Finn and Mark Ramprakash have made great additions to the TMS team, hopefully we can now jettison Vaughan and Swann, both of whom I loved as players but piss me right off in the comm box.


Friday, 15 November 2019

Comebacks

So as usual my winter tour selection was miles out (though the first XI not so far away?) but they did pick an interesting squad, chucking a couple of young batsmen into the mix, it will be interesting to see how they go.  I hope Bairstow scores massive runs in the championship next year and fights his way back but leaving him out was the right thing to do.  The first test is next week, England are currently struggling to take wickets in the warm up match and New Zealand have an excellent batting line up, I make the home side favourites.  I hope I'm wrong.  With the kids grown up Sky TV has gone so this will be the first series in about twenty years that I won't be able to watch on television.  I can live without it but I could never live without TMS.

A couple of days ago a couple of old friends and I went to see a band which have been touring for almost as long as we've been alive.  In fact this was the fiftieth anniversary tour for a very British institution, Hawkwind.  Apparently their music was once known as 'Space Rock' which is probably media speak for "music made and enjoyed whilst off your nut on psychedelics".  Tuesday night it still sounded pretty bloody good after drinking a solitary 'Ghost Ship'.  I've never been a massive fan of this band but I've seen them at least four times over the years and they were mostly good.  On this occasion the old favourites sounded great and went down a storm with the audience of old misfits.  But when the newer tunes were played it all went a bit flat.  "Spirit of the age" was fantastic, "Silver Machine" (Lemmy RIP) sounded tired,  "Hurry on Sunrise" a brilliant surprise.  Dave Brock looks and sounds like he could go on forever, I'll probably see them again one day. I must mention the venue Ipswich Corn Exchange which is a good room which could easily hold more people and bigger bands.  There isn't enough live music in my home town!

Tuesday, 17 September 2019

The amateur cricket selector/obsessed fan game.

It's the amateur cricket selector game...

England's test players this summer.

Joe Root had a reasonable series but scoring scores of 50 to 80 runs isn't going to win many matches.  Especially when the opposition's star batsman is smashing us all over the ground.  Unlike other players of his generation Root seems to have reached a level but is unable to kick on.  Root is our best batsman and should be inked into the team, his captaincy is improving but fork fuck sake don't over bowl Jofra!  The biggest thing going for Joe as captain is who else is there?  As vice captain Stokes would be in the frame if Root stepped down but history shows that giving the top job to our star all rounder isn't a good move.

Unlike Root, Ben Stokes keeps getting better and better.  He is reported to be the hardest trainer in the squad and the work is definitely showing.  His hundred at Lords was excellent, the knock at Leeds is legendary and there were fify plus scores in two other tests as well.  And that's without his bowling and fielding.  It's about time Stokes was thought of  as a batsman who bowls a few overs, in the mold of Jaques Kallis.

In the end Rory Burns impressed me, even after the hundred I wasn't convinced, I really expected his scores to drop away afterwards but that 81 at Old Trafford was a seriously good innings against a first class bowling attack.  He backed this up with decent partnerships at the Oval too, the longer the series went on the more comfortable he looked.  If he can make decent runs against Australia then he should be able to open up against all test nations.  He now deserves a good run in the side.

Joe Denly may be considered unlucky that his test debut came towards the end of his career.  Had he been picked earlier he might have made a decent career.  He's improved as this series has gone on and with 94 in the last innings of the summer has done just enough to hang onto his place but it looks like the poor bugger will be opening from now on.  Unfortunately Denly is in his thirties so may not have too long at the top, we will need another player in the top three in the near future.

The problem with most of the rest is they may well be excellent in white ball cricket but they don't often show the patience to make it in the longer form, it's about time we separated the two and picked red ball players.  It's worth noting that only three of Australia's ODI batsmen featured in the Ashes.

Jason Roy needs to work on his red ball game in county cricket or settle for being a great ODI player.

Johnny Bairstow is another world class ODI player but his test form has been poor for nearly two years.  Top order batsmen shouldn't get bowled as often as Bairstow, he's had a long run in the side and ultimately the stats don't lie, he isn't good enough.  I think JB should give up the gloves and concentrate on his batting, he may come back better in the future and hold down a top 5 place on merit but right now I'd leave him out.

Joss Buttler started the series poorly but he got better the longer it went on, apparently he's averaged higher than all the other England batsmen since his return to the side eighteen months ago.  Does he really have the desire to make himself a top test cricketer rather than a white ball superstar?

Whoever keeps must bat at no. 7, if it was good enough for Gilchrist (or even Matt Prior) it is good enough for whoever England select.  It's over twenty years since England have selected the best keeper in the country to play test cricket (and Bairstow is definitely not our best wicket keeper).  Ben Foakes is the best I've seen behind the stumps for a very long time and he has proved he can bat in tests too.  What does he have to do to get another chance?   As Bairstow and Buttler have played a lot of high pressure cricket this year I'd give them both a tour off and pick Sam Billings as a reserve keeper.

Even though Jimmy Anderson was crocked for the series the bowlers done as proud this summer.
Stuart Broad was excellent throughout the series, he bowled as consistently well as he has in years and looks like he has a few more good seasons ahead of him.  It was glorious watching him swarm all over little Davey this summer and he troubled all the batsman.  Michael Vaughan deliberately courts controversy and his comment saying Broad and Anderson should not play in the same side is typical bollocks.

Jofra Archer looks like being a new bowling superstar.  His pace, control and hostility was impressive at times this summer.  He had 'Six fors' in both England's wins but his spell at Lords was the most memorable.  Archer looks like he will become an awesome bowler but he must be kept fit, guided and looked after.

Chris Woakes is a very likable character but the plain truth is he isn't good enough to be a first choice pick for his bowling.  If Stokes is ever injured then Woakes could come into the side to add balance and give the captain a fifth bowler.
Likewise Sam Curran, a favourite of the selectors who I had considered little more than a fifth seamer but he proved me wrong at the Oval.  However if the ball isn't swinging he's cannon fodder.    I think Curran may still get better and at the moment I'd pick him ahead of Woakes.  For the series ahead this winter neither would get in my team unless other players are injured.

Craig Overton came in and done reasonably well although he looked far less threatening than Broad or Archer and all of the Australian seamers for that matter.  Surely we have better bowlers than that?  If the other Overton brother is quicker then pick him?  If other players are fit then then neither Overton takes a place.

Jack Leach done very well in his first Ashes series.  He will be remembered for the battling 1* at Headingley but throughout the series he took wickets and gave the captain the control that Moeen Ali couldn't produce.  Leach is our number one spinner now but Mo could come back for tours in Asia.

The bowling selections in Sri Lanka last year were perfect, the selection for the first test in Barbados was fucking ridiculous.  With Jimmy injured this summer we always seemed a bowler light, if Ollie Stone had been fit it would have been interesting to see how he went against Australia, he done OK against Ireland.  With Broad, Anderson and Archer bowling seam up, Leach bowling spin and Stokes chipping in here and there we have a very good attack that should do well in the future.  The older Curran looks a good cricketer and if we can keep Mark Wood fit we have a decent pace attack.  Dom Bess looked a good cricketer last year, a good replacement for Leach and we have Mo and Adil for tours of Asia.  Going forward there is plenty of reason to be optimistic about our bowlers.

It's the batting line up that has been causing problems for some time.  Rory Burns has proved he is a test player, he had been consistent for Surrey for a few seasons, why did it take so long for the selectors to get him in the side?  To be fair it didn't take Smith and Taylor too long.  whichever way Denly's career goes from here age isn't on his side.  We will still need to find another opener, at some time we have to try a youngster from county cricket, Ollie Pope seems to be next in line for the middle order, maybe Dom Sibley to bat in the top three.

The squad that won't be selected for the winter tours.
First XI
Burns, Sibley, Denly, Root, Stokes, Pope, Foakes, Archer, Leach, Broad, Anderson

Squad players;
Billings,
S. Curran
Wood, Stone,
Bess,

Sunday, 15 September 2019

The Oval finale

Back to work today and halfway there I realised I'd left my radio behind...  I was office based for a chunk of the day which was ironic but then I remembered that with a bit of fiddling I could get the radio to come out of my phone, which I did!  By this time England's innings was over, the tail had added a handful including two sixes from Broad, the lead was almost four hundred.

I was comfortably working when the Aussie innings started and after a few overs had passed I began to feel a little concerned.  But then Broad bowled Hapless Harris and shortly after had Walking Wicket Warner caught in the cordon again.  Fair play to 'Davey', this was one of his best innings of the series, he actually reached double figures.  The big two were now at the wicket but thankfully Funnyname didn't hang around as Leach had him stumped.  At lunch Australia were 68/3 and the win looked certain.

I was out and about for most of the afternoon session so missed Smith getting out to Broad and didn't hear much of Wade's counter attack or Marsh's brief stay at the wicket.  When I left work Paine and Wade were together.

By the time I settled into my chair Paine had gone and I'd missed most of the duel between Archer and Wade, the latter was moving ominously towards a century.  This normally attacking batsman was nudging carefully and taking his time.  Once he'd reached three figures he started slashing and whacking and had two close calls before he was eventually stumped off Root of all people.  It was as if he stopped caring about the result after he'd got to his ton.  After that the end came quickly with Root taking two decent catches in two balls off Leach, England won by 135 runs and tied the series 2-2.


One of my favourite Ashes series was Strauss' team winning 3-1 away in 2010/11.  I can clearly remember when we went 2-1 up at the MCG, we'd retained the Ashes but that wasn't enough.  As a fan I desperately wanted England to win the series outright, which they did.  I think a lot of Australians will be gutted today even though they retained the urn.  I feel quite happy with this result, 3-1 would have really flattered Australia who still haven't won a series in England for 18 years.

A lot of pundits are insinuating that England were lucky and Australia were the better team but I disagree.  If Anderson had not pulled up in the first test, Australia would not have built such a lead and without rain at Lords we'd have almost certainly won that match.  Back in July I predicted a close England win but back then I wasn't banking on Jimmy being injured for the whole series and who would have thought Steve Smith would be so brilliant?  I also predicted a golden series for a certain B.Stokes...

It has been a brilliant series of test cricket and perhaps 2-2 is a fitting way to finish.  Although it has been one of the better Ashes series this may be because the standard of test batting hasn't been good.  If either team had one more decent batsman they would have won comfortably.

Trevor Bayliss' reign as England coach has come to an end.  He was brought in primarily to improve our one day cricket which he has done with resounding success.  However our test team has not made anything like this progression, for a while it was going backwards but now it looks like we may be making progress.

When Ed Smith's first selections were revealed I was quite impressed.  I liked seeing Rashid and Buttler in whites and for a while it seemed as if Smith & co. were doing a lot right.  The quirky selections in the 3-0 away win in Sri Lanka seemed to prove the point.  But then somehow Curran was picked ahead of Broad in Barbados and I've been losing faith rapidly ever since.  The selections made for the test team this summer have done little to ease this feeling.  The sight of Smith and Taylor in the stands, suited, booted and wearing shades does nothing to increase confidence.  They look like a pair of villains from a shit comedy.  Why did it take so long to get Rory Burns into the team?

So the summer of Cricket has come to an end.  England's excellent ODI team confirmed their status as world No.1 by deservedly winning the world cup.  I must admit that on that day, half way through our innings I would have taken a world cup win over an Ashes win.  The first time in my lifelong addiction that I have placed ODI ahead of test cricket in importance.  By the time the Ashes series was in full swing that day at Lords seemed far away...  2019 has been a fantastic summer of cricket, one of the best I've ever experienced and one I will look back on fondly.

Day three at the Oval

Today I made a discovery that will enrich my life for ever more, my digital radio works in the car!!  I made this discovery in roadworks when England were 55/1 (I believe the first fifty partnership for any opening pair this summer) and the radio stayed tuned in all the way until I arrived at my destination at lunch when Root had just got out making it 88/2

In the afternoon I floated around on the Norfolk Broads, occasionally having a cast or two while on TMS Denly and Stokes just batted and batted and batted.  This was the kind of patient, sensible, batting that makes Sir Geoffrey purr, with more of this England will win more test matches.  The lead climbed on and on, for once in this series we have Australia down and aren't letting them get up.  Sitting in the sun in paradise, listening to Agnew, Maxwell, Mann and co, this is what summer is all about.

After tea the game moved on with much more pace than my boat.  Stokes was out for 67 to a good ball from Lyon, apparently.  Denly got to 84 before the poor bugger was removed by Siddle.  This brought Bairstow and Buttler together which could mean fireworks.  JB didn't last too long but Buttler batted aggresively before eventually falling for 47.  At the other end Curran and Woakes had come and gone leaving England 382 ahead with two wickets left.  I'm sure they'll keep the Aussies in the field as long as possible tomorrow, there's plenty of time left in the game.

So this was one of those rare days when listening to England bat is a pleasure, no nerves, no cursing, just runs.  On the other hand a batting line up that hasn't really worked may have saved itself?  Back to work tomorrow, hopefully to listen to England win...