Sunday, 7 December 2014


When England are not involved in any cricket I forget to blog.  In the absence of test cricket it takes at least two ODIs to make me remember.  England have lost the first two and I’m only mildly interested.  I’d like to see us do well in the world cup but right now they look nowhere near good enough.  England haven’t been in with a serious shout at the world cup since 1992 when we really should have won it. 

I was in Australia at the time and at the SCG when England thrashed Australia with a great all round performance from Ian Botham’s, possibly his last man of the match in international cricket?  This performance and that ’92 world cup is mentioned in Beefy’s autobiography, “Don’t tell Kath” which I read last week.  It was published about twenty years ago so a little dated but covers his career right up till retirement.  Now Botham is the greatest English cricketer that I have seen and has been a hero for most of my life.  I enjoyed reading Beefy’s accounts of series and matches that I have lived through as well as his adventures away from the game.  Botham is very honest about his indiscretions over the years but doesn’t seem to be particularly repentant.  His attitude to life is hell for leather, live the moment but with a bit of damn the consequences.  Ian Botham is going to do what he wants, when he wants and if you’re not with him then you must be against him.  Despite being a hero, I have to say he doesn’t come across as a very nice bloke.  Overall a decent read but I’ve read many better ‘cricket books’.

A quick update;  A few days have passed and England have played two more ODIs, winning won then losing the next in the final over.  A few positives and good performances but still no closer to knowing what our best XI is.

Its December already and the kids and I have spent the afternoon putting up the tree and decorations, it’s that time of year again.  This year I have decided not to be quite so grumpy about the whole over-commercialisation of our winter festival.  I will also try to not so rude to people full of booze and fake cheeriness.  I can do fuck all about it so I will do my utmost to ignore it.

Friday, 12 September 2014


The England selectors have chosen their centrally contracted players for the year ahead.  With loads of ODI cricket coming up, including the world cup there are five incremental contracts awarded to players who specialise in the shorter formats.  Of far more interest are there twelve men selected with Test cricket in mind.  It consists of eleven men who played test match cricket this summer and one who didn’t.  This is Stephen Finn who is looking like finding his form again at last and I’m very pleased to see him back in the squad.  A notable absentee is Sam Robson who did not convince as opener this year.  Robson needs to score big runs on the ‘A team’ tour this winter to have a chance of getting his place back.  Waiting in the wings are Lyth of Yorkshire who will also play for the A team as well as Hales who could force his way in if he does well in ODI cricket.

There are four players who could be classed as all-rounders in Jordan, Stokes, Woakes and Ali, I’d expect two from these to play in a test match.  With no specialist spinner in sight Ali is almost certain to play and I’d go for Stokes if all the others are fit & firing.  If he’s the player he looked like last winter then he has to play.  England do not play test cricket again until next spring when we have a tour to the West Indies before facing New Zealand at home.  England would expect to win both series and any player that does not perform against these teams will find it hard to justify selection for the Ashes series that follows.

Khaled Hosseini wrote “the Kiterunner” which is one of the best books I have ever read (if you haven’t read it, make it the next book you pick up).  He followed this with “A thousand splendid suns” which was another great book.  Both are set in Afghanistan and both are incredibly moving, euphoric in some places but horribly dark in others.  Houssini’s latest novel is “And the mountains echoed” and finds the author in familiar territory, telling a human story amid the historic turbulence of his homeland.  It’s a little different as the narrative jumps around between different characters whose paths connect through the years.  This works well even though there are a couple of sections that could have been left out.   I’ve put off reading this novel for some time as I know just how dark and disturbing Hosseini can be; do I want to go through that?  Will the high point justify it?  “Mountains…”does not take the reader to neither the dark depths nor exultant highs of his previous books.  Consequently it’s an easier, lighter read but ultimately not as fulfilling.  Make no mistake it’s still a damn good book and its unlikely Khaled Hosseini will ever top his first novel.

The ‘Ice bucket challenge’ has been the big craze of late summer.  If people want to be covered in a bucket of ice cold water in the name of charity then good luck to them.  However I’m uncomfortable with the way social media has been used to pressure/coerce/bully people into doing the same.  I regularly donate small amounts of money to charities or causes that are personal to me so opt out of having cold water chucked over me.  I did find myself inspired to invent the ‘Bucket of Michael’s piss challenge’ but so far David Cameron hasn’t answered the call.  Fair enough, I’m sure he gives a little to charity too.

Friday, 5 September 2014

Couple of books & stuff

Moan.  When I watch TV it’s either sport or comedy for most of the time.  I’ve noticed the breaks are loaded with gambling ads whether bookmakers or online casinos.  I have nothing against gambling, not my thing but each to their own.  What bothers me is many of these ads imply its cool to gamble, makes you one of the lads.  This is bollocks, gambling isn’t cool it’s just another way to spend money.  The only thing anyone ever needs to know about gambling is in the long run, the house always wins.  Always.

India won the ODI series because they are world champions and England were pretty awful until the final game when the series had already been lost.  Was this just the wrong team to be able to challenge for a world cup or is it the right squad playing badly?

Finished reading “Norfolk mystery” by Ian Sansom.  An eccentric writer and his upper class assistant are trying to write a book but get side-tracked by a suicide.  Or is it a murder? There’s a bit of melancholy to begin with followed by plenty of head scratching then some chuckling and a couple of full blown laughs.  The story didn’t go far but the characters are great and I look forward to enjoying the madness further as the series unfolds.  Perhaps a future TV series with Colin Firth and Stephen Fry starring?

I followed this with Nasser Hussien’s autobiography “Playing with fire”.  I remember forgetting to read this when it was new on the shelves a decade ago.  Nasser was a cricketer I admired and as England captain he helped build the platform to England’s best decade of test cricket since I’ve followed the game.  I should have read it at the time because the passing years means the book has lost some of the controversy that may have arisen.  I love reading about old matches that I followed and these include Hussein’s entire career so I was a bit disappointed that I can remember the games better than Nasser!  It’s interesting to look at players Hussein picked as potential stars of the future.  Andrew Strauss and Jimmy Anderson proved him right.  Alex Tudor couldn’t stay fit and maybe Rob Key was the right bloke at the wrong time?  Nasser was a very good cricketer, an excellent captain and an honourable man.  His book is a good read a decade on.
For no good reason at all, here's Kiki the wonder rabbit.

Friday, 22 August 2014

Dreams are weird

Last night I dreamed I had a  field of brown cattle and a large shed in my back garden, which had grown from the current tiny patch and become a large rolling field with stone walls and the occasional tree.  Come to think of it there was no sign of my house...
After dark the cows came into the shelter of the shed where I also kept a dinosaur.  A T Rex to be precise.  Now you could expect the Rex to feast on the cattle but this one was a lover not a biter and was only interested in shagging the cows.  A short time later there were several tiny dino-cows running around.
What the fuck was that all about?

Wednesday, 20 August 2014

Norfolk break

The fifth and final test was all over inside three days with another emphatic England win by an innings and 244 runs.  England played with an unchanged side and this time Jordan and Woakes came to the party to support the main two bowlers but the early damage was done by Broad and Anderson who was named man of the series.  With the bat Root scored another century and there were fifty plus scores for Cook and Ballance along with 40+ from Buttler.  As good as this victory was, it told us nothing as India were simply pathetic showing no fight whatsoever.  A year ago I sat on the beach listening to England clinch the Ashes and here I listened to them clinch another series.

There are now over six months until England’s next test series and a few question marks still hang over the team as they prepare for the Ashes next summer.  We are still no closer to finding an opening partner for Cook as Robson just hasn’t done enough and although Moeen Ali has improved as a spinner he still hasn’t impressed enough with the bat.  I’m still far from convinced we know who our best support bowlers are either.  Jimmy Anderson is just three wickets away from breaking Sir Ian Botham’s record for test wickets but he has a long wait until he gets the chance.

Over the next few months we have loads of ODI cricket and it looks like we’ll get to see more of Alex Hales in this form of the game.  He’s having a great summer in all formats at domestic level and could prove to be a match winner for England.  If he does well in this series against India and also in the world cup early next year he may well find himself opening at test level.  Watch this space.

While the test match was unfolding I spent a lovely weekend camping with the family in north Norfolk.  We pitched our tent at a site just behind the dunes at Waxham, close to the Broads and other attractions.  We spent a day in Norwich where Shelley & I found the castle really interesting.  Madi preferred the shops and Isaac enjoyed Pizza hut.  

 The best thing about camping at Waxham is a five minute walk across the dunes brings you to a lovely sandy beach with fantastic views and always Seals playing in the surf.  Unfortunately the British weather prevented us spending too much time on the beach but evening walks with the sun setting behind us were a must.
 Another good thing about being close to the coast is the opportunity to eat fresh seafood.  We enjoyed fantastic meals at the Hickling Greyhound and also the Lion at Somerton.  Both are friendly, family pubs where we were made to feel very welcome and I’d recommend them both to anyone visiting the area.
 At Great Yarmouth the children had fun at the Pleasure beach and all of us loved the Sealife centre which was fantastic.  It’s been a few years since we last visited and in that time it’s undergone a complete overhaul and is really well laid out.  Sealife is a clever company, they know what kids like to see and have added Penguins to the cast of thousands of fish and other sea creatures.  Kids also love ‘finding Nemo’ and weren’t disappointed but everyone’s favourites are the sharks.  I also couldn’t resist popping into “Pownall’s” tackle shop to have a look at the huge stuffed Pike on display.

A place I won’t recommend is “Buddah’s banquet” in Great Yarmouth.  We entered with the intention of having a meal but were made to feel like the staff couldn’t be bothered with our custom so we left quickly.  The kids always have fun in Yarmouth but this experience sums the place up from my point of view.  Peel away the gaudy seaside veneer and it really is a shit hole.  I don’t need piers, neon and crash bang wallop; just give me nature, sand dunes, a nice beach and the sea.

Elly Griffith’s novels are often set in Norfolk.  I really enjoyed reading ‘The Crossing Places’ a while back and recently picked up a copy of the ‘The outcast dead’.  Although I enjoyed this book it wasn’t as good as the first.  It didn’t seem to flow and seemed more like another chapter in a longer story than a novel in its own right but I suppose that’s exactly what it is.  Some of the less convincing characters from ‘Crossing places’ are still around and they just don’t work for me.  That said I'm sure I'll read another Elly Grtffiths novel in the future.

I also read “The girl who saved the King of Sweden” by Jonas Johansson which was damn funny and just as mad cap and enjoyable as “The one hundred year old man…” which I read last year.  If you like Tom Sharpe’s type of humour then you’ll like these books.  
My current book is also set in Norfolk; "Norfolk Mystery" by Ian Sansom, more on this to follow...

Sunday, 10 August 2014

Were England very good or India very bad?

The fourth test has been and gone, all over inside three days with another emphatic England win, the margin an innings and 54 runs.  In brief, India won the toss and elected to bat in gloomy conditions.  Anderson swung the ball all over the place to take 3-46 and Broad bowled mean for a superb 6-25.  England then batted pretty well with Bell getting 58 but at this point India actually managed to win a session.  When Buttler joined Root the lead was just 18 but a stand of 134 put England in control, both batsmen scored 70+ and the lead was over 200. The only downside was an injury to Broad which meant he couldn’t bowl.  In the end he wasn’t needed.  Anderson and Ali done the damage with the ball then Jordan tidied up.

Once again England played very well but on the other hand India were awful, a truly gutless display.  Yes their best bowler, Sharma is injured but let’s be honest, he isn’t that good anyway!  The bowlers who have played have done OK it’s the batsmen that have let them down and the fielding hasn’t been up to much either.

England are starting to look just a couple of players short of a good side now.  At the top of the order Sam Robson hasn’t taken his chance.  He’ll probably be given one last chance at the Oval but I’d like to see someone else given a go.  After this match there is a six month break for the test team before three tests in the Carribean next spring. I’d like to see Carberry given another chance or failing that Compton was surely discarded too early?  Moeen Ali is taking wickets but still doesn’t look like a top class spinner.  I like him and hope he retains his place but he needs to score runs consistently to do so.  In the last two matches Woakes and Jordan have just not taken enough wickets and have rarely looked like doing so.  Ben Stokes will come back into the side at some point as should Plunkett if fit.  Waiting in the wings is Stephen Finn who will one day become a great bowler.

My XI for the Oval;

Cook, Carberry, Ballance, Bell, Root, Ali, Buttler, Plunkett, Broad, Finn, Anderson + Stokes as cover for Plunkett.

Wednesday, 6 August 2014

More test cricket

Last time I found a moment to witter away on here I moaned because England’s senior cricketers hadn’t been producing the goods.  Since then the third test has come and gone, Cook & Bell scored big runs and Anderson took a bag of wickets.  There was also big runs from Ballance, six wickets from Ali and contributions from Root, Broad and Buttler on debut.  This led to a comfortable England win, in fact this was the best performance since England won away in India a couple of years ago.  Plunkett and Stokes were left out for this match with Woakes and Jordan coming into the side.  Neither made any headlines but were both unlucky to finish wicket less in the match. 

This leaves the series beautifully poised at 1-1 with two matches to play and the fourth test starts at Old Trafford tomorrow!  This wicket should suit England’s bowlers, Plunkett is unfit so it seems likely England will name an unchanged side.  The four seam bowlers will be expected to take wickets on this surface and after his performance at Southampton the pressure is off Ali for now.  He looks a good cricketer but I’m still not convinced he’s a really top level spinner though I’d love to be proven wrong.  Of England’s side Robson may start to feel pressure if he doesn’t make runs.  It would be good for England if Root could move back to open and free up a space for another bowler.

I expect England to go on and win the series 3-1 from here but I’m still not sure we have a side that can compete with Australia next summer.

Monday, 28 July 2014

Latitude Festival 2014

It’s like Christmas for adults, counting down the weeks and then days, the excitement grows then its finally here. I love Latitude and so does the lil lady.  This is our fourth year so we have a little experience to help us get the most out of the festival experience.  Latitude is friendly and familiar but each time we’ve been, the weekend has been unique; we’ve loved the festival for different reasons. 

We know we’ll have a mile walk from the car so don’t take too much stuff.  We do have a bloody good tent with loads of room and big enough to stand up in.  We also have pillows and an inflatable mattress because rest is important.  Our other comforts are a couple of small folding chairs and a stove + kettle so we can make a brew.  Finally we each have an ‘Ergolife’ roll up seat for back support in the arenas.  After that everything we pack is essential.  Good walking boots for when it’s dry plus comfortable wellies for when it rains.  Clothes that can be layered plus a good pack away waterproof jacket enable us to cope with all the British weather can throw at us.  All our kit is carried on our backs or on the Carp barrow, the only time it gets used each year.

We set off a little after midday on Thursday for what we knew would be a slow drive through the beautiful Suffolk countryside.  Unloaded the car into the fierce heat and set off for a heavy hike.  We took our time but had our tent set up and comfortable by mid-afternoon.  After a couple of hours spent just chilling in the sun we strolled down the familiar “Hollow Tree Way” into the equally homely village then on into the arena for a slow lap finding everything where we expected.  The Latitude vibe doesn’t hit you right away, it creeps up and slowly surrounds you and eases its way into your soul.

There were a few things going on to ease us into the festival.  We caught one song from Miles Hunt (formerly of the Wonderstuff) in the Literary tent before Alex Horne came on for a mad hour of Comedy that featured a replica of the kids game ‘Mousetrap’ made mostly of stuff he’d bought from Wickes.  There was loads of audience participation making a very clever, funny show.  Chilling on the grass by the lake we saw the end of a set by “the Irrepressibles”, not my kind of thing really but quite nice in the setting.  A quick mention for the beautiful sunset that descended upon Henham park, a splash of colours ranging from pink and orange to blue and lilac, a natural light show amongst all the manmade stuff.
There’s usually some kind of mad arty stuff on the lake, last year ballerinas on 20 foot swans, this year it was called “Iltopie” and was bollocks.  As usual for the first night there were many groups of over excited teenagers who haven’t learnt how to pace themselves with the booze.  We had a cruel chuckle knowing how bad they would feel in the morning.  We wandered off again and had a dance at the ‘Disco shed’ and another in ‘the Woods’ where ‘Goldierocks’ was on the decks.  She was good but we were knackered so crashed around 0100.

Once again the weather on Friday was dry and very hot which is great but tents heat up quickly and you can’t enjoy a nice lay in.  So it was up and out for a comfortable crap in the arena toilets, the only place in the world where you can “enjoy” a sauna and a shit at the same place.  Festival toilets are no longer the horror houses of the past but they aren’t always comfortable either.  After that we had a nice bacon roll for breakfast, can’t remember the name of the stall but it had a black & white front and the staff were Scottish.
We treat each day as if we were going hiking in the countryside.  Food is fuel so we eat regularly, drink loads of water and pace ourselves with the beer.  If there’s nothing going on that catches our fancy we’ll go back to the tent and just crash out for an hour.  We may miss out on a few things doing this but we can extend our days well into the early morning.

Our first stop of the morning was the comedy tent where we saw Tom Rosenthal (OK), Roisin Conaty (not bad) and Josh Widdecombe (pretty good).  That was the only time we made it inside the comedy tent all weekend.  We did try on another couple of occasions but it looked too packed and we wandered off elsewhere.

Elsewhere ended up being the main stage AKA Obelisk arena. Here we caught the last few songs of Paul Heaton & Jacqui Abbot’s set which consisted of Beautiful South and Housemartins tunes finishing with a cool version of “Caravan of love”.  The band sounded great and we wished we’d been there earlier.  We’d gone to the Obelisk to see Billy Bragg who started with “Sexuality” and finished with “New England” which were great.  Unfortunately in the middle Billy descended into Americana country stuff which really isn’t my thing.  The banter between songs was great however and there were enough good things to make us glad we’d seen the show even if we were a little disappointed.

We hung around to see Kelis who we’d seen on Jools Holland’s show earlier in the year.  The classic R&B sound was great, the crowd swelled and danced and Kelis looked fine and sung well.  The newer soulful stuff was first class and the older hits were given a bluesy revamp, the milkshake really did bring the boys to the yard.  Kelis was class and surpassed expectations.

After a brief stop off at the tent we met with our beloved friends Mr & Mrs Green + kids who were experiencing Latitude for the first time.  No time to catch up as we were straight into the Big tent to see Goat at Mr Green’s recommendation.  I’d only heard a couple of tunes on You tube so didn’t know what to expect but Goat were absolutely brilliant.  What is Goat?  To begin they are a rock band but the rhythm has a hypnotic, drum heavy African feel, the chopping, wailing guitar sounds like Hendrix and the duelling female vocalists chant and scream adding an extra layer of sound as well as much as delivering a set of words.  Visually it’s mad as the band all wear crazy costumes and a dead pan mask looks strange when you’re used to gurning guitarists.  The music is high energy and the performance matches this, especially the vocalists who are nonstop.  I loved Goat and bopped all the way through.
Goat finished and we all legged it back to the Obelisk to see Rudimental who were the surprise guests.  They were pretty good in the tent last year and played a bouncing set today which was made even better because we’ve become so familiar with the tunes over the last twelve months.  The crowd sang and danced along and it was impossible not to join in.  Next up were The Editors who sounded to me like typical coldplay clone safe rock music, if a little better than some.  I recognised a couple of tunes and they weren’t bad but not my thing.  We did at last get the chance to catch up with Mr & Mrs Green while they played.  We all went our separate ways for food, chicken noodles for me which was OK.  Bondax were playing nearby on the Lake stage and I liked what I heard.   There was another fantastic sunset which looks all the better in a beautiful setting like this.  We all managed to meet up again to see Lily Allen who was a last minute replacement as headliner.  The plan was to watch a few songs then slide off and check out the other arenas but Lily was actually pretty good.  She might not have the strongest voice around but she can carry a tune, her lyrics are clever and the songs catchy.  We ended up watching the whole show, say no more.

The show closed and we wandered off.  The lil lady and I had lost our dancing feet, not so surprising as we’d seen eight bands during the day and half of these had been really good shows.  What a start to the festival!  However we were thoroughly knackered so decided to go back to the tent.  A good night’s sleep would charge up our batteries for the following day…Or so we thought.

We got to sleep alright but it didn’t last.  Some of our newer neighbours returned and made sure of that.  I suppose we were about due for a noisy festival night because this was the first and only time we’ve ever had a really disturbed night.  That’s the rough and the smooth of a festival I suppose, not worth getting wound up about and we’ll never let anyone or anything spoil our festival.  However one thing niggled me, this group were old enough to know better, had they have been kids I could understand it more.  By morning every tent in the vicinity knew these peoples sexual preferences and how good the ching was.  There was a storm and showers during the night and it was actually easier to get to sleep when the rain on the tent drowned out all other sound.

Back to the arena area around midday and after breakfast and the bog run we tried to get into a too busy comedy tent but ended up at the obelisk where we saw the African rhythms of Tinariwen who were nice enough but didn’t really move us.  Booker T Jones followed and he started well and got better and better.  Authentic rhythm & blues; the “Stax sound” including a many familiar tunes from Booker’s career but the highlight was the cover of “Hey Joe”.  Can’t remember who the guitarist was but he absolutely nailed it.  Superb! We hung around the main stage to see James but as there was a bit of a break decided to lie down and rest our eyes for a while.  Upon rousing we saw the notice on the screen telling us that James were stranded somewhere and had been rescheduled for the following day.  Disappointing but what can you do?  After that we wandered off for food and seeing as there was no events that took our fancy we went back to the tent to crash for a while.

After a couple of hours rest we felt refreshed so wandered off again.  We made it to the main stage in time to see Bombay Bicycle Club.  We’d enjoyed them in the tent a couple of years back but tonight they couldn’t hold our attention so after half or dozen or so songs we took a slow stroll around the arena in the direction of the big tent.  One of the acts we’d looked forward too was the Royksopp & Robyn ‘Do it again’ collaboration.  We saw Royksopp playing some chilled dance beats, followed by Robyn doing a bit of electro dance/pop then finally Royksopp and Robyn blasting it out together.  The setting was hot and stuffy but the show worked.  The music was hypnotic and we didn’t stop dancing, apparently the lightshow was great but I hardly noticed.  We got our money’s worth too as the show was over two hours long and we danced for every minute of it.
As the tent began to clear it became apparent that not only was it raining, it was absolutely pissing it down.  A huge electrical storm had engulfed the area and wasn’t going anywhere fast.  We donned our waterproofs and headed out into the storm, unsure of what to do next.  Fired up by the Royksopp show we definitely didn’t want to go to bed.  The donut stand called us, as it tends to do at this time of night, for some sweet sugar fuelled energy.  Then the DJ on the Lake stage played Fat boy’s “Praise you” and called us back to dance. 
Dancing in a soggy field in a thunderstorm at midnight may not be anyone’s first choice activity but for us, at that time and place it was the only choice.  An hour later we were still dancing in the rain with beers in hands, smiles on faces being wowed by the music and the awesome natural lightshow provided by the storm.  We were wet but loving it.  However there comes a time when wet and warm gives way to cold and shivering, we were sober enough to be aware of this so decided to head back to the tent while we were still enjoying ourselves.  Ironically by the time we were cosy and dry in our kip bags the rain had just about stopped but at least the camp site was quiet.

Before I move on to the next day it has to be said that the food at Latitude was piss poor this year.  Every previous festival we’ve managed to find decent food that is enjoyable to eat.  This year our breakfast rolls or burgers from the Scottish stall were okay as were the chunky chips from next door.  We had a reasonable chicken noodle meal and a curry that was adequate despite the naan bread being cardboard.  The chicken shack looked like a really good deal but in actual fact it was barely edible crap and a rip off.  These will be avoided at all costs in future.

Before we knew it Sunday had arrived. We had a decent night sleep but once again the heat in the tent had us up and about earlyish.  The heavy rain had muddied the ground up in places so it was a welly day today, luckily my Muck boots are as comfortable as any other footwear I own so no hardship there. After a brew we set off for our morning routine, down to the arena for a bog stop and breakfast. Afterwards we went off to the big tent to meet the Greens and see a band I’ve loved for over twenty years but had never managed to see live, James.  They started with a few songs from the latest album, the first was a mellow tune, this was Sunday lunchtime after all.  After this the songs got more up tempo, despite being unfamiliar they sounded great.  As the set went on a few older tunes were thrown in which lifted the atmosphere of the packed tent.  The hour passed too quickly and with a rousing version of “Sometimes” with the crowd singing along the set finished on a high.  I’d waited years to see James, it could have been an anti-climax but it was great.
No time for reflection as we all hot footed over to the main stage to see the Atomic bomb band.  Really good synth dance music (featuring members of Hot Chip and LCD sound system) had the crowd dancing in the sun and a good time was had by all.  We all chilled out at the Obelisk arena while Phosphorescent and the Jayhawks went through their paces.  Neither managed to rouse me into a standing position, in fact had we not been enjoying the company of my friends I’m sure we would have wandered off to check out what was going on elsewhere.  Chrissie Hynde was next up playing a pretty good set including many familiar hits from the Pretenders.  I’ve never been a fan but quite enjoyed it anyway, maybe Gran rock is the thing of the future?

After that the lil lady and I made arrangements to meet Mr & Mrs Green back at the Obelisk then went off for food followed by a lie down in the tent to recoup some energy.  A group of morons wrecking their own campsite did not deter us.  After a couple hours of much needed rest we set off in fading light and made it down to the Obelisk to meet the Greens and get in position for the final headliner of the weekend, The Black Keys.  To begin with the sound didn’t seem right to me but they either got it nailed or I stopped noticing.  It didn’t matter, the crowd was up for it, and the atmosphere was great, the Black Keys were bloody good and we boogied right through the rousing set.  Highlights were ‘Gold on the ceiling’, ‘Fever’ and ‘lonely boy’.
We said goodbye to Mr & Mrs Green + kids who were going back to the tents but we weren’t done yet.  This was the last night at Latitude so we were determined to make the most of it.  We ended up down at the Lake stage dancing with the kids, mostly old soul funk tunes which kept us bopping till our old legs couldn’t take it anymore.  After that we sat on a bench, watched, listened and tried to absorb as much of the Latitude vibe as we could.  Around 0300 the security began to clear the arena so we slowly took a last walk around the lake and up the hill towards our campsite.  We sat outside our tent for a while watching the sky in the east grow lighter, we had planned to wait for the sun to come up but we didn’t last, sleep called.

Latitude 2014 was a fantastic year for music with great performances every day.  Goat were a massive musical surprise, Royksopp & Robin was the performance of the weekend, James turned back the years and the Black keys were polished, professional and excellent.  Kelis, Booker T Jones, Rudimental and even Lily Allen deserve a mention too.

Monday morning saw us slowly tidy our camp site before the yomp back to the car.  There is something special about the Latitude festival that goes beyond the music, dancing, comedy, arts etc.  After five days and four nights we leave the campsite in dire need of a long hot shower but there is a special magical vibe that relaxes the mind and soothes the soul. Our fourth Latitude festival was over and once again it had been a brilliant weekend.   We would now begin to count the weeks till next year.

Friday, 25 July 2014

Missed the second test...

I missed almost all of the second test (but I had a good reason).  I left home midway through the first session on Thursday and returned half way through what proved to be the last.  In between India beat England by 95 runs.  From what I can gather England bowled too short after inserting India on a green wicket.  On the last day they collapsed just when they began looking like they could make the runs.  During the match only Balance (110), Root and Plunkett made more than fifty.  The wickets were shared but the new boys performed well.   Credit to India who have won a test after a horrendous run of defeats away from home.  

It has to be said; Its England’s senior players that are underperforming at the moment.  Cook, Bell, Prior, Broad and even Anderson are not making the contributions we expect from them.  It has been revealed that Prior has been carrying an injury and will now miss the rest of the series.  If that's the case then he shouldn't have been picked in the first place, England aren't good enough to carry any unfit player.

Monday, 14 July 2014

First test. England vs India

The first test between England and India has been and gone.  It took place on one of the worst wickets ever seen in this country at Trent Bridge of all places.  This is almost always a venue which produces a result but this time the teams didn’t even manage to complete three innings.

India won the toss and batted first with opener Vijay scoring 146 and Dhoni 82, however at 346-9 it looked like England could take a hold of the game.  Cue a tenth wicket partnership of 111 between Kumar & Shami and India had a commanding total.

Cook fell cheaply again but Ballance and Robson both past fifty in a partnership of 125.  After that came a middle order collapse that has become all too frequent lately left us 202-7.  Luckily for England Joe Root dug in and with support from a Broad counter attack began to turn things around.  However at 298-9 things looked bleak, India were well on top.  Next came another epic tenth wicket partnership between Root and Jimmy Anderson, the former got his century and the latter passed fifty for the first time in all cricket.  In the end this became the world record for a tenth wicket stand in a test match reaching 198 with Jimmy out for 81 and Root unbeaten on 154, England had a lead.

By the end of day four India had plodded along to 167-3 and the draw looked a certainty.  The morning session of the fifth day was brilliant cricket that swung the game again.  Anderson and Broad bowled superbly to reduce India to 249-7 and an England win became a possibility.  Binny scored an important 78 to make the game safe for India and the final session became a farce with England using part time bowlers with Cook cheering himself up by taking a wicket.  India kept England in the field all day and the draw was secured.  Jimmy Anderson was man of the match, more for his batting than his bowling on this occasion.  Nice to see him smiling on the podium after the sickening finish to the match against Sri Lanka.

Despite the terrible pitch both teams managed to play some good cricket and there were moments of drama when each team had chances to grab hold of the match.  In the end the pitch won.  Had one of the teams had a world class spinner or a lightning quick bowler maybe things would have been different?

For England the young batsmen Robson & Ballance continue to impress but the middle order are a worry.  We expect more from Ian Bell in particular.  Cook captained the side well but managed to get bowled around his legs.  Our bowlers all performed well on the dead wicket but we are still lacking a world class spinner.  Moeen Ali did OK and managed a few wickets but we know he’s a batsman first and foremost.  We have to pray that Monty Panesar gets his mind right and plays again soon, until such times whoever England play is only a temporary measure and the selectors may well give Ali another match.

Saturday, 5 July 2014

Eels at the Royal Albert Hall

Last weekend Shelley and I couple of days in London, not what I’d normally choose to do but on this occasion we had plenty of good reasons but our main motivation for braving the capital was to see our favourite band in the world, “Eels” play at the Royal Albert Hall. 
We got to the venue early and with a little time to kill we sat on a bench near the Albert memorial and tried to while away the minutes.  We’d seen Eels three times on the two previous tours and they’d been fabulous each time.  This was our first visit to the RAH though and it looked impressive even from the outside.  An annoying shower saw us head for shelter early.  Our tickets were standing, way up at the very highest point of the hall and we found our entrance and started queuing. 

With ten minutes to go someone opened the door and offered all of the handful queuing free ticket upgrades!!  There were a few seats unsold to the side of the stage and we eagerly swapped ours!  We went in, got a beer then wandered around, grinning with that “can’t believe our luck” feeling.  We entered the hall and “Jesus Christ!” what a place!  We’ve all seen the hall on television numerous times but only by being there can you appreciate its grandeur.  Instead of standing up in the roof peering down we had brilliant seats to the right hand side of the stage but only two rows back.  The view was different but brilliant. 

Lights dimmed and… the support…  I can’t remember what they were called and I have no wish to find out.  The only memorable thing about the performance was the dullness.

Then came the Eels, could tonight possibly match the brilliant emotional nights we’ve seen before?  Yes they bloody well could!  Every Eels tour is different.  We’ve seen “Tremendous Dynamite” a blues brothers R&B show with a horn section then last year was “Wonderful Glorious”, just the five regular band members playing a hard rock and roll show.  This year was the regular five again playing a mostly acoustic set.  We heard many songs both old and new that we hadn’t seen performed live before and I can only remember 2 ½ songs that featured on last year’s tour.  Three tours, three totally different sets, three different experiences. 

“Mr E” (AKA Mark Oliver Everett) is a fantastic songwriter with a cynical view on the world around him.  He uses this cynicism to find humour in what he sees and celebrates the beauty of life.
All of the band members can play several instruments and we were blown away by seeing them reveal skills we didn’t know they had.  Yes we know “Mr E” can play just about every instrument there is (tonight it was mostly piano or guitar) but “Royal Al” (what else?) played an upright bass.  “Pee Boo” played trumpet as well as guitar, “Knuckles” had tubular bells and a glockenspiel beside his drum kit and “Chet” added slide guitar and something I believe is called a ‘melodica’ to his repertoire.

Tonight there were many different arrangements of familiar tunes, all of them worked.  The set started slowly with what “Mr E” described as “sweet bummer rock” then built in tempo and swept the audience along.  Standout tunes tonight; “It’s a mother-fucker”, “Daisies through the concrete”, “Last stop this town”, “Parallels” and “I like the way this is going”.  Sometimes during a concert I start looking at my watch and thinking ‘I’ve had enough’; never with Eels, they could play all night and I’d try to keep up with them.  Sadly they couldn’t play all night.  “E” hugged the crowd, the band played a long encore then finally “Mr E” took over the massive pipe organ for a rendition of “Flyswatter”.  

A great concert is more than just a performance, the music has to connect with the audience on an emotional level, Eels manage to do this every time.  The sound was brilliant, the atmosphere fantastic and the hall was splendid.  However they decide to play Eels are the best live band I’ve seen in thirty years of gigging and the RAH was the perfect venue for this set.

Tuesday, 24 June 2014

Torture... but a great Test match!

Well as expected Sri Lanka won the match but not in the manner expected, by me at least.  England could have rolled over and put us fans out of our misery but no they made us suffer all day, raising our hopes before cruelly dashing them at the very end.  In doing so at least our team restored its pride and Moeen Ali played an extraordinary innings.  Hopefully this is the beginning of something special.

This short series has been an absolute cracker, both matches going to the final over of the fifth day with games in the balance.  England may feel hard done by losing a series in which they played the better cricket for eight of the ten days, yet Sri Lanka deserved to win this match.  England may have gained more and learned more in defeat than they would have done so with a win.

So what is there to make of England’s selections through this short series?  Some of the team are inked in so no need to dwell on them, I’ll focus on the newer players here. Robson and Ballance have both stepped up with good hundreds so they’ll keep their place in the side, for a while at least.  Surely Ben Stokes will be making a return soon which made Moen Ali’s selection strange.  Was he picked as a temporary all-rounder just to see if his spin bowling is up to the mark?  Today’s brilliant hundred showed he has what it takes to make runs at the highest level but we have not really learnt much about his bowling.  It looks like the top six will remain unchanged against India.  Going forward England will need a top class spinner and right now Ali hasn’t shown us he’s it. 

If we have to play a proper spinner then who is the man?  If Monty Panesar has his mind right then he’d be my pick for sure but that doesn’t look likely at the moment.  In the counties the men in form are veteran Gareth Batty of Surry or Lancashire’s Kerrigan who was battered by the Aussies last summer.
Assuming the long term plan is to bring Ben Stokes back into the side then Jordan and Plunkett have been in a shoot-out for the final seam bowling place.  Based on these two matches Plunkett looks the better bowler.  Surely Stephen Finn will return some time in the future.  A bit of time honing his craft in county cricket may well be the making of him.  I think England would be better off picking the attack on a ‘horses for courses’ basis.  Have a squad of bowlers to cover all options and select those that would best suit the conditions.  After two matches England’s selectors still have as many questions as answers.

Finally Cook’s captaincy is definitely under scrutiny.  If this is affecting his batting then he should step aside as his runs are just too valuable to England.  In truth he has never impressed me tactically, he just doesn’t seem to have a ‘Plan B’.  If Cook steps aside who else is there?  Prior in VC at the moment and other being mentioned include Bell and Broad.

Players in the frame for India; It seems certain that Cook, Robson, Ballance, Bell, Root, Ali, Prior, Broad and Anderson will all play?  Then we’re picking two players from seamers Stokes, Jordan, Plunkett and possibly Finn.  Spinners under consideration may be Panesar, Kerrigan and Batty.

A home test series defeat to Sri Lanka just isn’t good enough.  The newer players have done quite well but in truth the big name players have underperformed in this series.  However despite the defeat there are reasons for England to feel positive about the future.

Monday, 23 June 2014

A right ol thrashing...

Over the last two days the England cricket team has gone from a position of almost certain victory to one of imminent defeat.  Two days of dominance has been followed by two days of surrender.  Last winter we blamed the batsmen but in this match our bowlers have been out performed by the Sri Lankans.  For England only Liam Plunkett has stood tall but he is on his home ground.  Cook’s captaincy is still unimpressive.  Moeen Ali’s selection is questionable but if he’s picked he has to bowl more overs.  As it stands we’ve learnt nothing about his bowling because the captain seemed reluctant to bowl him.

Tonight we are facing almost certain defeat thanks to Prasad blowing us away, bowling the length Geoffry Boycott has been preaching about for the last four days, maybe he listened.  England’s bowlers obviously didn’t.  Mustn’t forget Angelo Mathews who played a great captains innings.  Sri Lanka will win this match because they’ve played the better, tougher cricket.  They’ve beaten us at our own game.

Saturday, 21 June 2014

Second test...

Day one of the test match went as expected, Sri Lanka grinding out runs but England getting wickets to keep things in the balance.  The cloudy skies & Headingly wicket kept things interesting.  The last session saw England blow Sri Lanka away; two for Jimmy, a hat trick for Broad and a first test fiver for Plunkett.  A very busy afternoon at work so I missed most of the carnage .All out for 257, Kumar top scored again with 79.  England held on to go in with 36 on the board.

Day two dawned bright and clear, England need to bat all day.  Cook was out early bringing back familiar feelings…  A couple of years ago we knew one or two England batsmen would chip in with a score, they always did.  Nowadays things are far less certain, nervous times for an England fan. However Robson and Ballance stayed firm and accumulated runs well into the afternoon.  GB was out for 74 bringing Bell to the crease, scoring freely in his 100th test match.  Robson got to his first test ton just after tea then he and Bell pushed the scoring on passed the SL total.  However the second new ball accounted for Robson who made 127.  A few overs later the end of Bell for another 50+ score sparked a collapse of sorts.  Root and Ali fell cheaply leaving Prior and Jordan to salvage something.  A couple of years ago we could count on runs from the lower order but recently we’re more used to seeing them blown away.  They made it to stumps bringing the score to 320-6 but things aren’t going to be easy in the morning and England need a bigger lead.

Elsewhere most of the world is more interested in the football.  England played poorly and lost to Uruguay, showing the same mistakes in defence as last week.  It was a relief when they were officially knocked out yesterday and we were all put out of our misery.  It’s only football...

Tuesday, 17 June 2014

The first Test at Lords and some football

After three days the first test between England and Sri Lanka looked like it was heading for a dull, high scoring draw.  Joe Root made an unbeaten 200 and Matt Prior 80+ for England while Kumar Sangakkarra scored his first century at Lords and skipper Matthews hit a ton.  On the fourth day things livened up.  England lost quick wickets in their second innings but Gary Ballance held things together with a century and the tail wagged.  At the beginning of day five Sri Lanka had an unlikely target of 390 to win but holding on for the draw looked the most likely result.  At tea on the final day it looked like SL had done enough.  However the final session was a cracker, Anderson bowled superbly to remove the middle order and an unlikely win became a possibility.  As the final over of the match began Sri Lanka were eight down but Broad had Herath caught off the glove and he walked.  Had he reviewed the decision he would have survived as his hand was away from the bat when the ball brushed it, (shades of Kasprowicz in 2005).  Broad then thought he had last man Pradeep LBW and we began to celebrate but the review proved he’d got an inside edge and he survived.  The match was drawn but what a cracker!

England had a good match here at Lords but there are concerns over Cook’s form and his new opening partner Robson had an unconvincing match.  Liam Plunkett bowled okay without taking many wickets and Moeen Ali batted nicely in the first innings but didn’t trouble the Sri Lankans with his spin.  Plus points for England were obviously Root’s double century and Ballance’s ton under pressure in only his second test match. It was great to see Matt Prior return to form and Bell hit another half century.  Anderson and Broad bowled well as we’d expect and Chris Jordan had a good game with both bat and ball.  England go into the next match on Friday with an unchanged squad.

For Sri Lanka it was nice to see Kumar score runs as he’s a great player to watch and Angelo Mathews looks like the captaincy suits him.  Their bowlers did well too.  I expect the next match to be close again but based on this match England look most likely to win.

Elsewhere in the world there’s a bit of a football tournament going on.  I watched part of the opening match, Brazil beat Croatia 3-1 but I was saddened to see blatant cheating and appalling refereeing.  England were unlucky to lose their opener 2-1 to Italy but it was a much better game played in good spirit.  England looked very good going forward but made mistakes in defence and the goalie had a poor game.  I hope we can continue to play like this whether we win lose or draw.  If so we should progress to the next round, at least. 

Friday, 6 June 2014

And some boxing for a change

A couple of weeks ago I made my predictions for the test match squad and was nowhere near!
My XI;  Cook, Carberry, Root, Bell, Balance, Stokes (or Woakes), Buttler, Jordan, Broad, Anderson, Panesar.  Also in squad, Finn, Robson.
I selected 14 players above and of those only nine feature.  Stokes is not considered fit enough but Woakes is in the squad.  Carberry has been discarded and replaced with one of my picks Robson.  Matt Prior takes the gloves again so Buttler doesn’t play.  Finn and Panesar aren’t in the mix at all at the moment.  As expected Jordan is in the squad but a surprise to see Liam Plunkett is back for the first time since Freddie was captain.  The spinning option goes to Moen Ali who will likely edge out Woakes for the all rounder’s spot.  So the team will likely line up like this; Cook, Robson, Root, Bell, Ballance, Ali, Prior, Broad, Jordan, Plunkett, Anderson.  Just six of the players that started the Ashes in Brisbane last November are still around.  By the end of that series the England team that had pretty much picked itself was broken up.  Few would have predicted that.
So Sri Lanka, they have two genuinely great batsmen in Sangakarra and Jayawardne.  They have a decent team but how good remains to be seen.  Any Sri Lankan team will be capable of beating England if we don’t perform.  On home soil with the likes of Cook, Bell, Anderson and Broad England should win and it will be fascinating to see how the summer unfolds.

Froch vs Groves I was a great fight but the abrupt end spoiled things and left more questions than answers.  In the aftermath Carl Froch claimed the referee saved Groves from a beating.  He said he wasn’t motivated because he under estimated Groves which affected his preparation and attitude going into the fight.  (What he didn’t quite admit was Groves had done an Ali mind job on him and totally got under his skin.)  In the build up to the rematch Froch claimed he was totally focused this time around and that Groves couldn’t live with him at his best.
On the other hand George Groves was adamant he’d given Froch a hiding until he’d been robbed.  He was sure he would have recovered and carried on to beat Froch.  Going into the rematch he was positive there was no way Froch could possibly beat him.

Froch vs Groves II was a closer, more tactical fight but the ending proved that Froch was 100% correct in everything he said after the first fight.  That was as good a knockout punch as you would ever see.  He is at the pinnacle of a great career and is high on the list of the great British & Irish Super Middleweights that includes Calzaghe, Eubank, Benn, Watson, Collins, Woodhall….  Groves now finds himself behind in the pecking order to James Degale, a man he has beaten.  Degale is looking good but has Groves peaked to soon?  George needs a rest before he begins trying to rebuild his career.

Wednesday, 28 May 2014

Test cricket coming again soon

It’s been months since I wrote anything on here, no proper cricket and life getting in the way.  Since the Ashes there was an ODI series in the West Indies, I can’t even remember the score but I think WI won.  Then there was the world T20 in Bangladesh where England underperformed again.  The only bright spot was a good win over the eventual champions Sri Lanka.  Now the Lankans are over here and won the T20 match last week.  Now we’re in the middle of the ODI series with England edging ahead but the cricket hasn’t been great but places may be up for grabs with two test matches next month.  So who will play?
Cook will captain the side, his opening partner is unclear with Root (who will definitely play somewhere in the line-up), Carberry and youngster Robson in the frame.  Bell is certain of his place somewhere in the middle order, maybe it’s time for him to bat at No. 3?  Who will yake the last spot in the middle order?  Trott is sadly out of the picture.  Ballance played in Australia and James Taylor has been around the squad for a while.
Stokes will play at 6 if he is fit.  If not why not try out another all rounder like Woakes?
The wicket keeper’s position is up for grabs.  Matt Prior hasn’t batted in first class cricket since scoring a century in the opening match of the season.  If he was fit and in form I’d expect him to play so maybe there is an opening for Buttler?
If fit Anderson and Broad will play, mid-way through the ODI series Chris Jordan looks to have jumped to the top of the queue for third seamer.  Finn has been in good county form.  That leaves a spin bowler, well I’d play Monty but Kerrigan is doing well in first class cricket at the moment.

My XI;  Cook, Carberry, Root, Bell, Balance, Stokes (or Woakes), Buttler, Jordan, Broad, Anderson, Panesar.  Also in squad, Finn, Robson.

Wednesday, 5 February 2014

I can't quite believe this is the end for the KPego.

The ashes tour was a disaster that didn’t end with the test series.  Throughout the ODI’s and T20’s that followed England only managed to win one match.  Even so the fall out, make that carnage that followed came as a shock.

Firstly Andy Flower resigned as England’s head coach.  This is a shame.  Yes the last three months have been the lowest point ever for the England fan but judge Flower on the five years that preceded it.  He was at the helm for the most successful period of English cricket in the modern era.  We England fans have never had it so good and it looks like it will be a long time before the good times return again.

Now we have the even more surprising news that the KPego has been effectively sacked as an England player.  His behaviour on the recent tour has irked his colleagues so much they no longer wish to share a dressing room with him.  The Cook vs Pietersen scenario is so reminiscent of the Gooch/Gower affair that ended the latter’s career.  However Gower was a far more likeable character.  Pietersen was lucky to be allowed back into the fold after the South Africa fiasco in 2012, maybe he shouldn’t have been?  I’ve been critical of the KPego’s behaviour on these pages and could never bring myself to like the man since 2012.  What can’t be denied is it has been thrilling watching Pietersen bat in an England shirt.  He has played some truly great innings and has also been one of the key components in this great period for English cricket.  Despite everything I can’t help thinking it’s a bloody shame we’ll never see him bat in test cricket again.  Or will he?

The road back to the top could be a long one and if England don’t start climbing the rankings soon, what price a return for the KPego?  I wouldn’t rule it out.

Monday, 6 January 2014

Post Mortem

Thank God we have been put out of the misery of the worst Ashes tour in living memory.  Firstly credit to Australia who have played with the same kind of attitude and performance as England did in 2005.  They’ve been tough, aggressive and have attacked England who have not been up for the fight.  As a cricket fan I cannot begrudge Mitchell Johnson his redemption or Chris Rogers his fairy tale.  As an average Sunday afternoon wickie I have to give credit to Brad Haddin’s record breaking series.  Good honest sportsmen like Siddle and Harris deserve an Ashes win after disappointments of the past.  Like England, Australia’s top order has been shaky but unlike England, always done enough to allow the lower order to counter attack. England’s middle & lower orders came in under pressure and have just been blown away.  It may be easy to skipper a winning side but Clarke has excelled where Cook has dithered.  Australia’s fielding has been first class throughout the series, England have been sloppy. 

The Aussie bowlers have performed brilliantly as a unit and have been the major difference between the two sides. Johnson’s pace and re-found accuracy has made the headlines but Harris, Siddle, Lyon and Watson have done exactly what their captain Clarke has asked, giving him total control.  Form and fitness have all come together at the right time for these bowlers and right now only South Africa can match that attack.  Once again Australia remind me of England in 2005.  It’s just a shame the likes of Warner, Watson and Clarke come across as arrogant pricks. 

The series is over and it’s time for a change of personnel to take the England test team forward.  This tour has seen casualties. 
First Jonathon Trott went home with what we can only assume to be depression of some sort.  This is a horrible illness but there’s no reason why Trotty can’t resume his career and become a fixture of the side again.  Early season runs will surely put him in the frame.  Chris Tremlet was dropped after the first test and it seems unlikely he’ll feature in a test for England again.  He can be proud of his record, in twelve matches he took 53 wickets and like Simon Jones, Neil Foster and Dean Headley we’ll always wonder how good he might have been without injuries.
Graeme Swann retired after the third test, the timing seemed bizarre but Swanny ended with 255 wickets from 60 matches and will go down as one of England’s greatest spinners.  Matt Prior was dropped after Perth too.  He hasn’t become a bad player overnight and has a chance of getting his place back as there is no obvious successor.
Tim Bresnan played in two tests but was dropped after the MCG disaster and must have moved way down the pecking order of English seamers.  He’s a decent batsman but not good enough to be considered an all-rounder. It’s interesting that Bresnan has played 23 matches exactly the same number as Stephen Finn.  Bresnan has 72 wickets but Finn has 90, enough said. Jonny Bairstow got his first chance behind the stumps for England and did OK with the gloves but not enough with the bat.  I expect him to play a full season for Yorkshire this summer.
Boyd Rankin played in the final test but broke down after 8.2 overs in the first innings but came back to take a wicket in the second.  His fitness makes him look a liability in test cricket.
Michael Carberry failed to take the one last chance offered at Sydney and his test career must surely be at an end.  His big chance came in the most difficult of circumstances and he didn’t do badly, he just didn’t do enough. 
Of the eight players mentioned above I can only see Trott and Prior coming back into the side any time soon.  The others need to go back to county cricket and perform so well the selectors cannot ignore them.
Those who will get away with it for now.

Cook, Bell, Pietersen and Anderson all come under the same category, they are very good cricketers who have underperformed in this series.  All are proven match winners, form is temporary but class is permanent.

The Jury is still out on the following players;  Gary Ballance made his debut with the score at 17-4 and well in the circumstances.  His second innings stay was less impressive but I’m sure he’ll get another chance.  Scott Borthwick took a wicket in his first innings but went for 7 an over.  He improved in the second finishing with 3-66 and I’m sure the selectors will pick him again as he is a decent bat and a good fielder.  Unlike Monty Panesar who played two matches in the series and didn’t make an impact.  He is England’s best spinner at this moment in time but the selectors don’t like him which is a shame.  I hope Monty is not discarded, he proved his value on last year’s tour of India.  Stephen Finn came through unscathed by not playing a match, he has enormous potential and must be allowed to bowl himself into form.

There are just two players who will leave Australia with their heads held high.Stuart Broad with the bat had no answer to the Aussie pacemen to begin but came good towards the end.  He was our best bowler throughout the tour and was our leading wicket taker with 21 scalps.  Ben Stokes our only brightest star throughout the tour scoring his maiden test century in the third test and his first five wicket haul in the fifth.  He made runs and took wickets throughout the four matches he played, let’s hope he stays fit for the future!

So who will play in the first test against Sri Lanka in the spring?  A few weeks ago I nominated the following team;
 Cook, Root, Trott, Bell, KPego, Bairstow, Stokes, Broad, Onions, Anderson, Panesar. 

How does this XI look now the series has finished?
I think there are Six cast iron certainties who will play if fit;  Cook, Bell, KPego, Stokes, Broad and Anderson. 

That leaves two batting places to fill starting with an opener.  Carberry has not taken his chance and will almost certainly find his test career over.  Will England offer another chance to the luckless Nick Compton?  He has performed as well as any new batsman coming into the side since Flowers reign began.  I hope they do give Compton a chance but I’m sure Joe Root will move up to open again. If Trott comes back for Warks and scores early season runs I’m sure he’ll be picked but who is in reserve if he doesn’t?  England picked Ballance for this tour so he must be next cab on the rank, failing that James Taylor is highly rated.
The position of wicket keeper is wide open as Bairstow certainly hasn’t done enough to merit retaining the gloves. Matt Prior finds himself leading a group of English wickies that will battle for the gloves, whoever finds the best early season form may well find themselves in possession for the summer.

There are two Bowling places up for grabs but who will be in the frame? I’d go for a ‘Horses for courses’ selection policy, look at the wicket then pick the bowlers.  Early season in England Graham Onions may well be the best bet and it’s time he was given another chance.  However, later in the year on harder wickets Finn should be the man to slot in.  Mitchell Johnson has proven the worth of genuine pace so isn’t it time to stop messing with Finn, let him bowl himself into form and most of all, bowl fast! 

Scott Borthwick has probably done enough to be picked against Sri Lanka but should England need an alternative, the Monty has to be in the frame.  Borthwick can bat well enough to be classed as an all-rounder and is a good fielder too.

From nowhere Stokes has become the key man in the side, a genuine all-rounder batting at six gives the team balance and the opportunity spread the seamers’ workload or play two spinners on the right wickets.  The days of top teams relying on just four bowlers are over, in recent years both South Africa and now Australia have demonstrated the value of all-rounders in test cricket.

Revised XI to play Sri Lanka
Cook, Root, Trott, Bell, KPego, Stokes, Prior, Borthwick, Broad, Onions, Anderson.

Also in squad; Taylor, Finn, Panesar.

Have faith, in two years time we'll be watching scenes like this again...