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.

Friday, 12 February 2021

Chennai part 1

Ah cricket!  You just never know.  I had hoped England could be competitive against India but then they go and win!  Not only win but dominate with almost the perfect performance for a wicket in southern India.  The performance was all the more heartening because just about every member of the XI contributed in some way but Root, Sibley, Stokes, Anderson and Leach in particular.

The next test starts tomorrow and the squad has already been announced which spoils my amateur selector guessing game.  There will be four changes in these Covid squad rotation times with Moeen Ali replacing the highly inconsistent Dom Bess and predictably Broad giving Anderson a rest.  Buttler has come home to put his feet up which means poor Ben Foakes finally gets another chance but is probably on a hiding to nothing.  Finally Archer has a niggle so he will be replaced by either Woakes or Stone.

The pitch is already being reported as looking likely to turn on day one which might make you wonder if the Indian team is panicking a bit?  Even with England’s great start it’s hard to look past a home win here but I will be delighted to be wrong.  This is the best England side we’ve had for a decade and I still think we’re destined to be world number one in the not too distant future. 

Sunday, 31 January 2021

January

 A week and a bit into the New Year and it was already apparent that the shit parts of 2020 were doing their best to cling on and stay topical.  Most obviously in the US where soon to be former president Fart was clinging on like a small crusty turd, still refusing to accept he lost and trying to bully officials into inventing votes and carrying out exactly the kind of electoral fraud he is accusing others of.  Fart said “it’s all paedos, communists and the smelly people out to get me; I won big because I said so”.  Fart’s rebellion reached a farcical summit when his followers collectively cried “I believe in bullshit!” led by Manbearpig they stormed the capitol building and invaded the chambers.  When things had calmed down five people were dead, including one man who allegedly died of a heart attack after tasering himself in the bollocks.  Fart continued to vent obnoxiousness and was rewarded with a life ban from social media so his connection with morons was made a little more tenuous.

The media went mental claiming the storming was “terrorism”; it wasn’t, it was a riot.  It was also described as an “attack on democracy” which it possibly could have been if the US was as democratic as it pretends, which it isn’t, obviously.  This also gave British media mouthpieces an excuse to ignore what was happening under their own noses for a day or two which was basically the pandemic causing carnage, aided and abetted by a British government that should be put on trial for manslaughter. 

On Sunday 3rd PM Penis assured us it was safe for kids to return to school the following day.  Arses had barely touched seats when Penis declared it wasn’t safe after all and put the country back into stricter lockdown.  But things were not as strict as last spring when the situation wasn’t as bad, loads of people were still going to work.  By Friday the exploding infection rate and tragic daily death tolls reached new heights exactly two weeks after families had gathered together to celebrate something or other (FFS!)  Penis looked dishevelled which was normal so gave the herd confidence.  Off camera he was allegedly heard muttering something about “bloody nerds, bloody useless, is there a fridge handy?”

As the month rolled on the US insisted that its problems were more important than anything else and the rest of the world agreed.  World leaders who had been silent for four years suddenly dared criticise Fart who was condemned to be pelted with peaches for a second time.  This was a brief distraction for the herd in the UK who soon became infatuated with just how much profit there was to be made from £30 worth of school meals while the daily death toll was consistently above a thousand and globally the count topped two million.  But at least the vaccines were getting out there, not the fun punky band, the things that will hopefully make us all safe against the plague.

Will January ever fucking end?  The daily death toll continued to climb to new record highs while PM Penis decided that as it was bloody cold outside he might as well get back in the fridge.  It was cold in the US too as Fart puffed and squeaked before being led away from power looked back in regret thinking of the missed putt on the seventeenth.  He tottered into retirement already looking forward to a life of ridicule and jail time but until his day(s) in court Fart done what all fat, old, rich yanks do when they’ve finished working, he moved to Florida.  Old Joe is now in charge and he may be a total cunt for all we know but at least he can form a coherent sentence and has the decency to at least pretend he’s a reasonable bloke.  Meanwhile back in Blighty the herd continued to demonstrate its intellect by travelling from far and wide to gather together to and celebrate.  Celebrate what exactly?  Who the fuck cares!  Party!!

January crawled to a conclusion by which time the statistics were terrifying, one hundred thousand dead.  With a TV address due PM Penis wrote a brilliant speech that said “thank you for ignoring the nerds and listening to me!  You’ve been rewarded with lots of old relatives taken off your hands so it will cost you less next Christmas…”  He handed it to an advisor who almost fainted but recovered in time to rewrite it before the broadcast.  Penis read it and didn’t notice the changes, uncivil servants were relieved when he managed to avoid smirking in front of the cameras.  Meanwhile in the USA Ol’ Joe is still hanging in there.  At the very end of the month, after spending several years and much money in removing the UK from the EU it was announced that we the government had signed a trade agreement with another group of countries, in around the Pacific rim (yes the fucking Pacific) which included industrial powerhouses like Brunei and Malaysia.  Obviously this will be much more lucrative than dealing with our nearest neighbours.

Monday, 25 January 2021

Galling...

All of a sudden there’s cricket in my life again!  A test match in Sri Lanka and a much changed and impossible to predict eleven players took to the field for England.  For two days everything went England’s way; Bess took five and Root passed 200.  England were miles ahead and the win was inevitable.  The pundits lambasted Sri Lanka and moaned about one sided test matches.  Personally I enjoy seeing England crush an opposition because I just get too emotionally involved and tight matches can be stressful.  But then on days three and four Sri Lanka fought back to the point where commentators were back tracking and getting excited again while I was almost worried.  Going into day five England needed 36 runs while Sri Lanka seven wickets.  If the game is still going on by the time I wake up I’ll have reason to worry…

I woke up, there was no worry.  England won by seven wickets.  Yes Sri Lanka were bad for two days but for any England team to win a match in Galle is a big deal and this was far from a full strength XI too.

A few days later, another test match!  None for months then two in a week.  A week in which India’s second XI managed to win a series in Australia…  Once again Sri Lanka won the toss and batted, this time doing the job properly with a ton from Mathews and other big scores driving them on to a challenging score.  Sir Jimmy took 6 wickets and all ten fell to seam, which is worrying when you look at what is coming up…  England replied and for the third consecutive innings our new opening pair folded against left arm spin but Root and Bairstow rebuilt admirably.  Three days gone, the game could go in any direction.  Root continued to another massive century and wiith further support from Buttler, England had a competive total.

I woke up on day four to find Sri Lanka had collapsed and this time our spinners done the damage.  This left England a potentially tricky chase of 164 on fourth innings and at 89-4 we were wobbling on a turning pitch, I was almost nervous for a short time.  Sibley came good at the right time and Buttler’s good form continued to see England home by six wickets. 

For an understrength England team to win 2-0 in Sri Lanka is a great result and stands us in good stead for the tough tour of India that follows.  Root has been magnificent, his batting superb and his captaincy improving.  Buttler batted well and his keeping is threatening to look world class, Bairstow done well without re-cementing his place, Lawrence started the series well but tailed off.  There is concern with our openers against the spinning ball but at least Sibley seemed to improve and finished well.  Our seamers; Broad, Anderson and Wood were all excellent but the spinners struggled at times, although they had good spells and finished okay in the end, they will have to improve further in the coming weeks.

So India,  possibly the toughest of all tours against what is probably the strongest team in the world.  Last time we won there we had world class spinners in Swann and Panesar but we don’t have the like at the moment.  It’s hard to imagine England winning this series, if we can compete it will be a sign of improvement.  With the likes of Stokes, Burns and Ali joining the squad and others departing and with imminent squad rotation, it’s hard to play selector, or is it?

Burns, Sibley, Root, Stokes, Pope, Buttler, Ali, Bess, Broad, Leach, Anderson.