Sunday, 6 June 2021

Test Cricket!!!

 The test match summer sneaked up on me again this year, England vs New Zealand for two test matches but both teams have their eyes on over fixtures this summer.  But England should never under estimate the Kiwis who are certainly one of the best sides in the world and not playing the test championship final by accident.  England picked a strange team but they often do that these days, even without rotation, resting and injuries.  The batting line up was pretty much as you'd expect in these circumstances but someone called Bracey came in behind the stumps for the poor injured Foakes and someone called Robinson (yet another Ollie which I find confusing...) had managed to get a bowling spot.

New Zealand won the toss and obviously elected to bat, their debutant Devon Conway opened then dominated the next couple of days finishing with 200.  Nicholls also chipped in but no one else did and a strange looking card saw them reach 378.  For England Jimmy and mad Mark took a few wickets but the most noise was created by Ollie Robinson who took four, but that was only part of the story.

England batted and as was the norm in India, wickets fell at regular intervals and by the end there were four ducks on the sheet.  Root passed forty as did that man Robinson but the star was Rory Burns who returned to test form with 132 and held the whole thing together.  England all out for 275 with the excellent Southee taking six wickets.

Somewhere amongst all that a day was lost to rain which probably ruined what could have been a good test match.  New Zealand thrashed a lead then declared on the last afternoon setting England a target they never tried to chase.  Root got out in thye forties again but Sibley scored a much needed 60 so will hopefully carry some confidence forward.

Also during the match it transpired that Ollie Robinson had sent racist/sexist/homophobic tweets when a teenager, for which he apologised.  All of us men are dickheads when we are teenagers but you'd expect someone growing up in this millennium to know better.  I expect Robinson will get left out as some kind of punishment but he does deserve another chance.  If he talks any more bigoted bollocks then kick him far into the long grass please.

On the face of things New Zealand had the better of this match but not by much and I did find it annoying to hear English pundits moaning about us not having a go at a tempting target.  The next match starts on Thursday, We've now got our traditional poor first test of the summer over with, England are capable of playing much better but I suspect the Kiwis are too.   If we put out a full strength side then I really don't believe New Zealand could live with us on home soil but these two teams look evenly matched and the series could go either way.

Tuesday, 9 March 2021

The Lizard's Soap Opera

I tried to avoid it but others in the house were interested and lets be fair, it’s been every fucking where and impossible to ignore.  Some thoughts. 

1-      1 - Entitled/rich people airing their personal grievances on international television is the same as stupid people having public rows on Facebook.

2-     2 -  Worried about your personal security/safety?  It’s obvious, move to a country where every mad fucker has a gun.

3-    3 -   Concerned about institutional racism in the UK, the solution – move to Trump’s USA because black lives really do matter over there.

4-     4 -  Why the fuck does anybody give a monkey’s about any of this ridiculous shit show? 

Monday, 8 March 2021

The fourth test and beyond

The last test of the series was predictable, India won comfortably but at least this time England were still in it until Pant smashed us and at least we made it into the third day.  But in the end, the result was predictable.

India are a very, very good team and they have strength in depth.  This is the main reason they are so difficult to beat at home but on this type of pitch defeating them is almost impossible.  All home teams prepare pitches to suit their own bowlers and why wouldn’t they?  But not everywhere in the world does this practice make an away win out of the question.

Yes we were well beaten in India but when you look at the six tests in the sub-continent we won three and lost three which is pretty good going and in reality as good as we could have hoped for.  But take away Joe Root then we would have probably lost all six. 

Other than the captain pretty much all the batsmen chipped in with a few runs and would have learnt a great deal.  If these same players are together for a few years (and I think most will be), then I’d expect them to compete on a return to India.  Rory Burns barely got a chance, making way so Bairstow could be accommodated and the latter should be spending next summer playing for Yorkshire.

In the games he played Ben Foakes done as well as the other England batsmen and his keeping was fantastic to watch but Buttler is improving in all aspects of his game and is hinting that he might become a very special player in all formats.

Our seam bowlers done well all things considered, Jimmy is in a different class but Stone looked bloody good in the one game he played.  We also learned that Jack Leach is our best spinner but if we want someone to hold an end and score a few runs then Moeen Ali is a better pick than Dom Bess, who still has lots to learn.

The media have complained about the squad rotations claiming it hasn’t worked.  It’s true that we haven’t fielded our best XI at any time but if the aim of the rotation was for the sake of the players as stated, then as long as they all come home in a sound state of mind then it’s been a success.

Coming up this summer we have New Zealand then India again, the two teams competing for the world test championship which tells you all you need to know about how good they are.  After that there’s an Ashes tour.  If we win all three series would that make us number one in the world?  Piece of piss.  And there’ll be loads of white ball stuff too.

Thursday, 25 February 2021

Was that Day Two?

All over, England lost by ten wickets early in the third session on day two.  Were India the better team?  Obviously.  Was the pitch fit for test cricket?  Definitely not.  Did Bairstow fail after missing a straight one? 

Did England pick the wrong XI?  Definitely.  Would India have won on a better pitch in a match that lasted 4 ½ days?  Probably.  What are the odds on the next pitch (on the same ground) giving little chance of a result?

Would I have settled for England having a chance (?) of tying the series going into the final match?  Yes actually.

Wednesday, 24 February 2021

Third test - Day one

First of all I didn’t like the team.  Burns had to be left out to shoehorn Bairstow in and Johnny did what he always does and got out to a straight ball.  But on the other hand the hair and beard should have been enough to see Burns dropped.  

Then just picking one spinner in India, really?  Is Root planning to bowl more overs?  He might well have to.  

I couldn’t really follow any coverage at work today but from what I could gather a promising if tenuous position collapsed in horrifying style and bar Crawley, none of the batsmen seem to have done themselves much credit .  I may be biased but I’ll put a hand up for Ben Foakes who done better than most, it seems we can only score decent runs in the sub-continent when the captain goes big.  

Again there was controversy with the use of DRS which was more down to consistency that daylight robbery, even so it’s hard to make any conclusions other than I’m not the only person showing bias.  But at the end of the day this doesn’t excuse a poor performance from England.

Friday, 19 February 2021

'A Brief History of Seven Killings' by Marlon James

This is the second time I’ve read this book and on both occasions I’ve absolutely loved it.  It starts in mid seventies Jamaica and charts the rise, spread and fall of the Kingston gangs over a fifteen year period.  The story, like its protagonists and their chaos, crosses the Caribbean into mainland USA in the second half of the book.  Starting with the attempted assassination of ‘The Singer’ in 1976 when eight gunmen entered the yard on Hope Road and the happy stoned vibe was shattered forever, ‘Seven Killings’ chronicles the eventual demise of those involved and very many more literally caught in the crossfire. 

This is much, much more than a book about Yardie gangbangers, there are so many more themes running through it; How Jamaican politics has exploited and brutalised the island’s population, the effect of US foreign policy/interference on smaller, poorer nations.  The drug trade and how politicians helped it grow, both knowingly and unwittingly. These were major reasons for the mass migration away from a supposed tropical paradise.  James also deals with sex and sexuality in the macho Caribbean.  Then there is racism – obviously.  The author takes all of these things and examines their effects on all aspects of society from the top rankin’ to ordinary people.  The book is coke fuelled and brutal, it is shocking and sad then crack headed and sickening but authentic all the way through.  Expect to find yourself tip toeing through shanties, wading through shit and running for your life from gunmen.

Reading ‘Seven Killings’ is consuming, all I wanted to do was read and all the distractions of life were just obstacles that conspired to prevent me getting to the next bit, even though on second reading I already knew what was going to happen.  I still felt the heat, horror, the sadness and the relief.  When I got to the end I didn’t want to leave the world that Marlon James has created, I wanted to pick it up and start again from page one and I’ve felt like this after both readings.

The first time I read the book I knew that many of the events in the first half of the story were based on actual events but it wasn’t until fairly recently that I learnt that almost all of the major happenings were based on fact, this includes crackhouse massacres, funerals and prison fires.  That these things actually happened is almost unbelievable and very sad, how could a world like this exist?  Knowing the truth it becomes even more obvious that many of the characters are real people albeit with changed names, this includes gangsters and politicians, (If you can’t work out who ‘The singer’ is then this book probably isn’t for you…).  I suspect in many cases this is done for legal reasons as that certain musician’s estate would probably phone the lawyers in a second but also Marlon James would have a very real fear of personal reprisal from gangs that still exist.  But it’s hard to get your head around the fact that these people, these lives and experiences were real.  I say ‘were’ because there are few survivors.

I am a life long constant reader and this is one of the best books I have ever read, I will definitely read it again one day, in fact I’m looking forward to it as there are things I still haven’t worked out.  You don’t have to be a reggae fan, but it helps.  You don’t have to have a connection to the region but that helps too.  You do need a stomach for violence and depravity vividly brought to life but if you can look beyond that you’ll find love, joy and wicked humour.  This is a book that will not leave you with any doubts, you may hate it but if you don’t there will be no middle ground and you will find yourself loving it.  Do yourself a favour and read it if you dare.

Tuesday, 16 February 2021

Stuffed in Chennai

 It's no shame to get stuffed by India, especially not on home soil and especially not on a pitch that is turning.  England were outplayed and India deserved to win.  

But...

That pitch was not fit for test cricket.  If an English county prepared a wicket like that they would be docked championship points, just ask Somerset fans.  Will India be docked Test championship points?  Not while the BCCI controls the ICC.

And the DRS umpiring was appalling, England were on the wrong end of three decisions and when the umpire is watching slow motion from all the angles something is up.  There has been talk of home umpires being allowed to stand in tests again but in the second test we saw why this can't happen.

There isn't too much for England fans to take away from this match that we might not already know.  Olly Stone looks like a serious bowler and was impressive.  Moeen Ali is as frustrating as ever and after deciding to pull out of the tour he might have played his last test?  Jack Leach is definitely our number one spinner.  Finally Ben Foakes is a brilliant wicket keeper, an absolute master who is a joy to watch but he looks unlikely to play as many tests as his talent deserves.  He done as well as anyone with the bat in this match too. 

Two matches down and we are at 1-1 with the best team in the world, I'd definitely have taken that two weeks ago.