Tuesday, 26 January 2016

4th Test & beyond

South Africa won a good toss and batted.  England bowled poorly and didn't take their chances allowing SA to score 475 with centuries from Amla, Cook and De Kock. England had a stop start kind of innings, Cook, Root and Ali scored runs but Rabada bowled brilliantly and SA had a healthy lead which they built on steadily.  Once again Amla piled them up with support from Bavuma.  England were set four sessions to survive but didn't even managed two, blown away again by Rabada.

This has been a brilliant series and although 2-1 probably flatters South Africa, 3-0 would definitely have been harsh.  England fans will never forget Stokes amazing 258 or Bairstow's emotional 150.  Then there was Broad's 6-17.  South Africans will remember the brilliant run machine Hashim Amla but be very pleased by the emergence of Rabada and Bavuma.  This series has had a bit of everything, we deserve a fifth test!

South Africans my point to the injury to Steyn but it shouldn't be forgotten that Anderson and Finn both missed matches.  It makes no difference, the score books record that England have won away and dethroned the World No 1 team and this really is a great result.  But it has to be said, we've done it without playing at our best and we still have no clue as to what our best XI is!

Going forward some names are inked in with permanent marker.  Cook, Root, Stokes, Broad and Anderson are automatic selections, in the future all will be mentioned alongside the great names of world test cricket.  The skipper and the senior bowler haven't had their best series but have both contributed.  Root and Broad have had very good tours with brilliant moments.  Stokes has been our star man and has contributed in all disciplines.

Stephen Finn has arguably been our best bowler, he has really improved since returning and should always be in the side when fit.  Ahead of the series I'd have picked Buttler but Johnny Bairstow both had really great series with the bat but still needs to improve behind the stumps.  Hopefully this will be the beginning of a long career for him.  Moeen Ali has done OK, he is a good all round cricketer but at this moment in time he still isn't a world class spinner.  We will need another, better spinner in India next winter.  Those eight players are sure to be selected if fit, the other four players that featured won't be so sure.

  Chris Woakes played two matches as an injury replacement and didn't make much of a case to be picked again if Wood or even Plunkett are fit.Compton and Taylor both started the series well but have fallen away towards the end.  This has not been an easy series for batsmen but have they done enough to deserve another chance this English summer?  Poor old Alex Hales was on a hiding to nothing opening against Steyn and Morkel this series and even when the former was injured it didn't get any easier for him.  I like watching him bat in ODI cricket but he'll have to rack up a load of runs in the short form to maintain his place.  Gary Ballance has been waiting in the wings this tour and Ian Bell will be desperate to make a come back.  Should we try Compton as an opening partner for Cook again?

England have a young, talented squad of players for sure but are still far from the finished article.  When we reached No.1 in the world in 2011/12 the team picked itself but there are still places up for grabs in this one.  If we can find a decent opener and a spinner who can take wickets in Asia we may well reach No.1 again.

Monday, 18 January 2016


I made a load of notes for some kind of Review of 2015 to post on here but they were forgotten until now.  So here it is, a little late but what the fuck?

Cricket.  The World cup was a farce, England didn't have a chance and were embarrassing.  New Zealand were superb but the bloody Aussies won.  From that point our ODI form improved beyond measure and we played as well as any team in the world, for the first time in years I actually took more than a passing interest in England's one day matches and this will continue for as long as this neew attacking style of play lasts.  There is a World T20 competition coming up soon and on recent form, England are in with a good chance.

Test cricket was inconsistent in 2015; a drawn series in the West Indies was a moral victory for the hosts but the drawn home series against a good Kiwi side was better for England.  But could we really compete with the in form Aussies?  Yes we could do more than compete, we could beat them.  The win in Cardiff set up the series, the bounce back win at Edgbaston was brilliant but Trent Bridge and Broad's 8-15 will be remembered forever, undoubtedly the cricketing highlight of the year.  The UEA against Pakistan was a tough tour but England played OK in defeat, if only we had a spinner we could have won.

As ever my CD collection continues to expand at a steady rate.  My favourite new releases in no particular order.
Leftfield - Alternative Light source, superb electronic dance music, as good as anything out there. Charlatans - Modern Nature, of my favourite bands of the nineties only the Charlatans and James continue to make fresh music.  This is a really good record with a couple of absolute belters on it.
Eels - Live at the Royal Albert Hall, the perfect live recording.  But I may be biased because I was there.


Hardcore Punk started the year of, Fucked up, somewhere in in London, a good start to the year., noisy, exhilerating and damn good fun.
 Leftfield at the Forum- Fantastic, old school dance all night!
The Latitude festival was not as good as 2013 or 2014 but still brilliant.  Highlights, Vaccines were the stars of the weekend.  Short, sharp, singalong Punk tunes.  Brilliant fun! Charlatans were good but the festival set was too short, Noel Gallagher (who was much better than expected), Seasick Steve, who I've waited a long time to see.
We saw the Charlatans again in December, this time at Norwich, very good and nice to see the full set including SPG which always gets me emotional.

 I must read about one book a week on average and I can't remember half the titles.  I love reading.  There is a certain feeling that I get at the end of a good book.  There is an exhilaration as I near the end, I've travelled the road to completion but this is tempered by a knowledge that I have to leave the world created by the author.  This was once a "Books I've read lately" blog but I can't write proper reviews without giving the story away and I don't have time to even attempt it

As usual I read plenty of Crime fiction by the likes of Ian Rankin, Michael Connelly  and Elly Griffiths, I like pretty much everything these authors have published.  Stand out's from this year are Connelly's 'Burning Room' which features Harry Bosch chasing down a cold case and it really is a cracker.  Elly Griffith's latest 'the Ghost Fields' is pretty good and she has also introduced us to another crime solving team; Stephens & Mafesto based just after the war, so war, so good.

I love Irvine Welsh's novels and this year he brought out a belter, "Sex lives of Siamese twins" is a really good story and I didn't have a clue where Welsh was taking me and didn't expect where I ended up.  It's hilarious and the ending is brilliant.  I'm looking forward to another one from Irvine Welsh this spring.  Another really funny book is "Look who's back" by Timur Vermes.  The premise is Hitler wakes up in Berlin in 2013 and as he appears in public people assume he is a brilliant comedy actor.  The result is a brilliant satire.

I re read Harper Lee's classic "To Kill a Mockingbird" and it is every bit as beautiful and brilliant as I remembered from my school days.  I'll get a copy of the recent sequel when it appears in paperback.
I read a couple of books by Paulo Coelho, "Brida" started good but faded; "The Pilgrimage' was a really nice, spiritual book.

Stephen King is brilliant and I read a couple of his books last year.  I really liked "Mr Mercedes"; likeable characters, a horrible villain, several unexpected twists and a breathless finish.  There is a promise that these characters will return in a sequel. This isn't one of Kings very best novels but it come close.  "Revival" is a decent read but for me falls short of Stephen King's high standards.  I liked the main character but for some reason I couldn't really buy into the story.

Last year I loved Macus Zusak's 'The Book thief' so I took a chance and picked up a copy of 'I am the Messenger'.  This is another excellent book, a real page turner that I literally couldn't put down.  This book is unexpected, I didn't have a clue where it was going and it is heart warming.  I didn't realise it was meant to be 'teen fiction' until I was three quarters of the way through but it didn't matter.  The characters are young but the themes are ageless.  For me the end was a little disappointing but its still a really good read.

I don't read much non fiction, I prefer novels so kept Owen Jones' 'The Establishment & how they get away with it' on the pile for a while before I eventually picked it up.  The title pretty much tells you all you need to know about the content.  This book did not surprise me unduly because I already had a pretty cynical view of all things political but what Owen Jones has done is explain (as the title suggests) how "They" go about royally ripping us off.  It's not an easy read and it has the potential to be depressing but it actually gives me a little hope.  If more and more people read this book and learn how they are getting ripped off then maybe we can rise up and change things for the better?  Here's hoping.

2015 saw me actually become interested in politics again for the first time since...?  This is soley due to Jeremy Corbyn becoming leader of the Labour party.  I like Jeremy's politics but best of all, he isn't part of the Eton/Oxbridge bullshit clique.  I really believe he could make this country a better place.

On a personal note the second half of 2015 was very tough because my Dad became ill in mid summer and died on September 10th.  He was a simple, humble man who touched many people's lives with a big smile and lots of laughter.  His family adored him and we all miss him every day.  At times like this faith helps, even if it is as unconventional as mine.

2015 will always be the year that my Dad died but I must not forget there have been good times too, some of the happy memories are mentioned above, others elsewhere.  I'm most delighted to say that my family and my children in particular have all grown in character as well as years.  My kids have endured difficult times over the last couple of years but they probably don't realise how fantastic they have been, even though I have made a point of telling them.  They have made their Granddad proud.

Saturday, 16 January 2016

England 2 South Africa 0

Wow what a test match!  And what a win for England!  South Africa should have made the most of the conditions on day one but no batsman passed fifty.  England were in trouble early but Root and Stokes counter attacked.  After two tough days, Joe Roots brilliant century seemed to give England a slight edge.  Rabada roared back on day three with five wickets and restricted England to a lead of just ten.  Then Stuart Broad bowled one of those spells and took the first five wickets to reduce the hosts to 35-5 and the game was as good as won.  Cook top scored with 43 as England chased down a small target to win by seven wickets.  Two up with one to play England have dethroned the world number one team in their own back yard.

England are starting to look like a seriously good team in development with several game changing players and in this series have kept coming out on top at the crucial moments.  South Africa are going the other way to England, a once very good side is now in decline.  There have been retirements and there will be talk of injuries but some have forgotten that Anderson missed the first test.

The neutral supporters may be disappointed that the series is decided before the final test but in truth England have dominated all three of the test matches so far and thoroughly deserve the win.  Can they go on to complete a 3-0 win or will they take their foot of the gas?

Friday, 8 January 2016

Cape Town test

The second test match from Cape Town will go down in history and will be remembered for as long as cricket is talked about.  England won the toss and amassed 629-6 with Bairstow making his first test century and Ben Stokes smashing 258 from only 198 balls.  In reply South Africa made 627-7 with Bavuma making the first test century by a black African and Amla making a match saving 201 from 477 balls.

It's fair to say that bat dominated ball in this match with some great innings played but Stokes assault on the Saffer bowling was without doubt the highlight.  With a strike rate of 1.303, if Stokes had faced as many balls as Amla he would have scored over 620.

Just when the game looked as if it was heading towards a dull conclusion England kept things entertaining by losing wickets at intervals that were too regular for us fans to be comfortable. By the time bad light stopped play we had reached a position of safety.

Despite the last day England are in good shape with everyone contributing to the team in some way, Cook is due a score.  Barring injury we are sure to name an unchanged side in the third test.

South Africa might argue they are in better shape.  They batted much better in this match and a second string attack had England a little worried at times on the first and last days.  Having been put under pressure and having responded in style, they may come out of the match the more positive of the two sides.  They also should have Steyn back for the next match.