Friday, 14 December 2018

Oh yeah there was some cricket...

Autumn is always busy for a variety of reasons but this year has been madder than most, for a variety of reasons.  This didn't mean that the test series passed by unnoticed, nor did the two successful white ball series either.  The test series was excellent with England winning all three matches and surprising just about everyone in the process.

The first match at Galle was notable for being Herath's last before retirement but he didn't get a happy send off.  England won comfortably by 211 runs with Ben Foakes coming from nowhere to make a debut century Jennings hit a long overdue ton and Moeen Ali took four wickets in each innings.
The second test held at Kandy was much closer with Sri Lanka gaining a first innings lead but Joe Root scored a fantastic century and Jack leach took five wickets to secure a 57 run win.
The final test at Colombo was another very close one, Bairstow playing his first match of the series scored a century, Sri lanka lost 9-67 in a collapse helped by Adil Rashid's 5 for.  In the final innings of the series Leach and Ali spun England to a 42 run win.

Yes this is possibly the weakest Sri Lankan team for many years but they are still hard to beat at home and England played really well.  All the players contributed except the pace bowlers, Anderson and Broad played three tests between them and made no impact but this was hardly surprising considering the conditions.  On the other hand the spinners Ali, Leach and Rashid all made match winning performances taking 38 wickets between them.  Stokes also deserves praise for some spells of quick hostile bowling that rattled the batsmen.  England's fielding was excellent throughout with great moments from Stokes and in particular Jennings at short leg.  

England's batting seemed frenetic at times but it kind of worked?  The two teams only managed four centuries between them but all were scored by Englishmen.  Jennings made 146 and this, along with his excellent fielding means he will stay in the team for the tour of the Caribbean.  Bairstow made a ton in his one and only match on the tour, batting at 3 which means he should stay in that spot for the next tour too.  Rory Burns done OK, certainly well enough to keep the openers job for a while. Buttler and Root had solid tours but we expect nothing less these days.  Stokes and Curran done well in their roles as batting all rounders too.

Man of the series for me was Ben Foakes who only played because of the injury and ended up topping the batting averages.  He scored a great century in his debut innings and added another half century later in the series, bth innings were made when England were in trouble.  Best of all was his wicket keeping, in these three matches he was almost flawless and looked like the best keeper since Jack Russell. (I haven't forgotten Chris Read or James Foster but they hardly got a chance...).

I think the main reason England won so well is they got the selection spot on.  At times Root could chose from three seamers and three different spinners as well as his own bowling.  England's strength is all rounders and on this tour we could include Adil Rashid in this group.  The selectors picked the all rounders best suited to the conditions.  The problem going forward will be knowing which ones to leave out.

England have named an unchanged squad for the tour of the West Indies (who are currently being thrashed in Bangladesh) which is unsurprising.  What did surprise me was the statistic that England have only won one test series in the Caribbean in the last fifty years.  (I can remember listening to Harmison bowling them out in Jamaica while decorating my sons bedroom in 2004). I know the West Indies were unbeatable for a large chunk of this timescale but even since the decline we have still struggled to beat them on their home turf.  Unfortunately these days the West Indies cricket board and/or the local businessmen want to make sure the stands are full for all five days of a test match and so keep the tourist dollars coming in.  This means we will probably see low, slow wickets and high scoring attritional cricket.  Despite the history England should be good enough to beat West Indies comfortably, shouldn't they?

But that doesn't start until next month and before then we have a mountain of bullshit to scale.  I feel a rant coming on...

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