Saturday, 16 December 2017

The writing on the wall

The Ashes series is fractionally passed the halfway point and already it seems inevitable that the metaphorical Urn will stay down under.  Two nil down after two and half way through the third where we cannot hope to win.  In truth it's very possible that England could escape Perth with a draw meaning victory in the last two matches would see us retain the Ashes.  But that isn't going to happen.

The problems started before we left home, obviously the absent Ben Stokes would have made a massive difference but I'd have picked Alex Hales too.  So it's the selectors to whom I'm going to give most of the blame; they have been piss poor ever since... well the last Ashes series down under!  They have consistently failed to pick the right players, most notably batsmen have come and gone all too regularly.  They pick a squad that includes three of four unproven batsmen and expect to win in Australia.  To be fair Stoneman is at last looking like an opening partner for Cook but how long will the latter keep playing?  Hopefully a while because even though his skills might be on the wane, he's still the best we've got.  Also Dawad Malan has scored a big century, fantastic now go get another one.  Vince is unconvincing and will Ballance even get a bat?

On home soil we literally have bowlers queuing up to do a job in what is often good bowling conditions but on most foreign surfaces most are unable to threaten.  This was the case in India a year ago and is even more apparent in Australia right now.  At least Anderson is able to maintain control but Broad has been well below par and Woakes hasn't impressed.  Overton has been as good as anybody.  What we really need from our bowlers is height, bounce and above all pace.  England had all three in 2010/11 but not in the two tours since.

Finally I have to give the captain some stick.  His tactics at Brisbane, when Australia were under pressure, were bizarre.  By not bowling Anderson Root seemed to be making some kind of "I'm the boss' statement, something that has already rebounded on him during his tenure.  This time it might even have cost the match?   His decision to bowl first at Adelaide seemed to be another kind of statement, 'Attacking option', really?  It was naive at best, but more likely just plain stupid.

Think positive, England are playing better than they did here four years ago (but it would be inconceivable for them to be any worse), they are competing for periods in every game and there isn't really much to choose between the two sets of players.  This is all true but we could still find ourselves on the end of a 5-0 scoreline.  If we can avoid that, this England fan would settle right now.

Wednesday, 22 November 2017


All of a sudden it's here!  The first test starts in less than half an hour, England have won the toss and will bat.  Can England win?  Things have gone OK on the tour so far but here comes the test.  If England don't lose here at the Gabba then yes they can win.  If Australia win well then I think the series will be as good as over.
Here goes...

Wednesday, 27 September 2017

Can England win Down under?

We all love to play "If I was selector..." and at the end of the test match summer my squad for the Ashes tour would be;
Root, Cook, Stoneman, Hameed, Malan, Hales.
Bairstow, Buttler.
Stokes, Woakes, Broad, Anderson, Wood, Finn
Ali, Rashid,
I expect the selectors will go for Crane and Ball ahead of Rashid and Finn, we'll see..

As usual the Selectors saw things very different with Gary Ballance and James Vince called up instead of Hales (disciplinary?) and Hameed (the future!).  Ballance must have compromising photographs of one of the selectors and Vince seems to have come from nowhere, his county form unspectacular.  Foakes instead of Buttler as reserve keeper is a little more predictable but I didn't see Overton (who? Impressive county stats) being picked.  TRJ & Wood (both injured) must be gutted.

Can England win?  Yes, if everything goes right, like it did in 2010/11.  England went into that series with a settled batting line up that gave the selectors no headaches, the top six picked itself.  This time around the uncertainties are obvious.  Like 2011 they have to hard and play to win in the warm up games, these matches will be tough and may well help finalise the batting line up.  We have to hope our bowlers stay fit and are picked on a 'horses for coarses' basis, again like they did in 2011.  England can't afford to drop as many catches as they have in recent matches either.  If all of those things fall into place and England come away from Brisbane unscathed, then yes they can win the series.

Likely XI ??  Cook, Stoneman, Ballance, Root, Malan, Stokes, Bairstow, Ali, Woakes, Broad, Anderson

Saturday, 9 September 2017


England win at Lords by 9 wickets inside three days.  Sounds easy on paper but in reality it was an even game until the third morning when England took control.  The match began with West Indies electing to bat first in tricky conditions. Stokes took 6-22, WI limped to 123 and the decision at the toss looked like a mistake.  England fared little better reaching a precarious 46-4 at the close.  Day two began with a brilliant 60 from Stokes but with Roach taking 5-72 England were pegged back, the last two wickets added sixty and were all out for 194.  West Indies bowlers had kept their team in the contest but only just!

The third innings of the match was the Jimmy Anderson show.  Lords rose to his 500th wicket on the second evening and by the third afternoon he was up to 506 as he recorded his test best figures of 7-42.  Shai Hope was impressive again with the top score of 62.  England needed 107 to win and reached it for the loss of just one wicket, with Stoneman and Westley both making welcome 40+ scores.  The Wisden trophy was retained by a score of 2-1.

A series which should have been an easy England win was far more competitive than anyone dared believe as West Indies exceeded all expectations, after the first test at least.  After every spirited display people ask if this is the start of a renaissance for Caribbean cricket and there have been very many false starts over the last twenty years.  To be fair West Indies have been slowly improving since Jason Holder took over the captaincy and he is a decent all round cricketer.  With Gabriel and Roach they have a first class pair of opening bowlers.   Braithwaite and Shai Hope are two excellent young batsmen, there are one or two others whose records suggest they are better players than the evidence of this series.  I hope the WICB get their act together and manage to get their best eleven cricketers on the field but maybe it would be better to ignore the T20 mercenaries and keep this group of young players together.  Whatever happens they'll need another wicket keeper.

For England it's the same old story, with an Ashes series on the horizon we still have three places in the batting line up up for grabs.  Mark Stoneman has probably done enough to hang onto his place at the top of the order, Tom Westley probably hasn't and Hameed is waiting in the wings.  Malan has started to look like a test cricketer but not in the fluent style he is said to play in county cricket, he looks like a number 3.  There are more candidates for the middle order but some day in the future I'm sure Alex Hales will make the number 5 position his own.  We seem to have plenty of good bowlers in home conditions but do we have the players to take wickets on flat Australian pitches?

With three rounds of the county championship to go and plenty of ODI cricket to come there is still time for players to get themselves noticed ahead of the trip down under.

Tuesday, 29 August 2017

Headingly. Pride before the fall.

The second test arrived without too much excitement, surely all England would have to do to win is turn up?  There is a sub plot here that will probably more interesting than the match.  Which batsmen, if any, can cement a place in the team ahead of the Ashes tour this winter?

England won the toss and elected to bat in cloudy skies; don't they say look up at Headingly?  Were England just a little over confident?  West Indies bowled well with an attack rejuvenated by the return of Gabriel and the captain found his radar too.  Joe Root equaled the record for consecutive matches with a score of at least fifty and Stokes hit a class hundred but England were restricted to 258 and none of the new boys done anything of note, except get out.

West Indies batted and with Jimmy making the ball talk they were soon 35-3.  England had under performed with the bat but it felt like we would get away with it against this opposition.  What happened next was totally unexpected, Brathwaite and Shai Hope put together a fantastic partnership of 246 with both going on to hundreds.  With quick runs from Holder and Blackwood WI took a first innings lead of 169.

At the midway point of the match West Indies were well on top and England's latest batting line up would get a serious test against a confident attack bowling well.  Stoneman passed the test with a solid 52. Westley didn't and simply looked out of his depth during his short stay.  Malan played the longest innings for a hard earned and impressive 61.  These two innings helped the established middle order players; Root and Stokes made good half centuries but WI fought back with three quick wickets.  At 327-7 the lead was 160ish and the match in the balance.  Cue Moeen Ali smashing a quick 82 with support from Woakes with 61* and England are in control with a 300+ lead.

Day five and with a big lead all England need to do is turn up and they will win, right?  How wrong can we be?  West Indies batted all day with 95 from Brathwaite and another ton from Shai Hope and the cruise to a five wicket win.  Wow!  What a match!

Hindsight is a wonderful thing and from here it seems England's decision to bat on the first day was arrogant in the context of this series.  Having decided to bat under a gloomy sky 258 was nowhere near enough runs.  England then seemed a bowler short and hindsight may say TRJ should have been given another game instead of Woakes.  Finally the fourth day declaration seemed a positive move at the time but looking back I don't think England would have done so had they been playing Australia or South Africa.

Throughout the history of English cricket, all of the great batsmen would have batted at Headingly, Bradman himself holds the highest score at the ground with 334.  The ground has been home to the likes of Hutton, Boycott, Tendulkar, Vaughan and Root yet Shai Hope is the first cricketer to score a century in each innings of a first class match at Leeds.  That is some stat when you think about it.

There is a week of rest before the final test of the summer at Lords and everything is set up nicely with the series tied at 1-1.  I expect England will play an unchanged side giving the new batsmen another go to book a trip to Australia.  If I were selector I'd want Roland-Jones back in the side at his home ground because Woakes doesn't seem fully fit and England now know they can't take this West Indies team for granted.  This is now a must win match for England, if they can't beat West Indies on home soil then they cannot expect to win the Ashes down under.

Sunday, 20 August 2017

The Pink experiment

Day/night cricket arrived in England to much fanfare but England won so easily we learnt nothing new.  England batted first on a good pitch, West Indies bowling, fielding and tactics were appalling, the massive first innings seemed inevitable.  With a mammoth from Cook and a ton from Root it was almost predictable.  Although Malan made his first half century we learnt nothing new about the batsmen.  We know this West Indies side is not in the same school as the great teams let alone the same class but the display on day one was inexcusable.  A fit Shannon Gabriel might have made a difference to the duration of England's innings if not the overall result.  Kemar Roach was the only seamer who can walk tall.  Former West Indian fast bowlers sitting in the commentary boxes were seathing.

West Indies' response to 514-8d was to lose twenty wickets for 305 runs, they didn't even pass the follow on target.  Since the great days the majority of West Indian batsmen try to play like the greats; Haynes, Greenidge, Lloyd, Richards, Lara, Sobers, the simple fact is the modern generation of Carribbean batsmen aren't anywhere near as good as those players nor a dozen more I could list.  They have to learn to play proper cricket before they can blaze away like the greats.  Most of the West Indies' home wickets are slow and dead these days, nothing like the fast bouncy pitches of the past which can't have helped.  The wickets were shared around England's bowlers but predictably Anderson and Broad picked up half of the twenty up for grabs.  England won easily in three days by and innings and 209 runs, Alastair Cook was man of the match for his 243.

The must frustrating thing for West Indian fans and indeed all cricket fans, is things could easily be different.  It is said the Carribbean groundsmen are encouraged to make pitches that last five days so the local economy can eke out every last tourist dollar.  There are a great many West Indian cricketers who, for a variety of reasons, are not available or unselected.  As far as I know  the Bravo brothers, Samuels, Gayle, Sammy, Narine and many others are still playing cricket.  Even the veteran Chanderpaul is been scoring runs for Lancashire in recent times.  When will the West Indies board and players sit down and do whats right for cricket?

It was a good idea to try pink ball cricket in England, it has pulled the crowds in Birmingham and I'm sure it will do elsewhere.  It is also good that England have had a taster ahead of this winter when we will play an Ashes match under lights in Adelaide.  Unfortunately the game wasn't competitive enough for the players to gain much experience but its better than nothing.

The second test starts at the end of the week and you'd expect an unchanged side and another comfortable England win, no matter how WI perform.  Should that be the case then why not leave out a handful of test regulars from the last test and try a few new faces?

Saturday, 12 August 2017

Proper cricket and a very good series.

The fourth test was another very good match despite ending up a one sided result, it mirrored the fourth test almost exactly.  The first day was tough and even but Bairstow and the bowlers dominated day two and England were in the ascendancy thereafter.  A brilliant all round display from Moeen Ali finished South Africa off.

England vs South Africa is the most evenly competitive of all international series.  At the end of this one the teams are totally deadlocked.  There have been eleven series since readmission and each side has won four, (two home and two away) while three have been drawn.  Furthermore each team has won fifteen tests over this period.

This has been a really good series where bowlers have dominated but England's batsmen were up to the task and the saffers' were not. Elgar, Amla and Du Plessis all had their moments but most impressive was Bavuma who looks like a test cricketer for years to come.

Whoever takes the field, South Africa have a world class bowling attack and they gave England's top order a proper test.  South Africans that have impressed;  Rabada is young and raw but will become a seriously good bowler.  Philander is excellent when he can stay fit.  On this trip Maharaj looked a really good cricketer and the best South African spinner I have seen, seriously impressed.  Morne Morkel has bowled brilliantly throughout most of the series, he's been the most consistent seamer from both sides and didn't have much luck, if he had...  Who knows?

Despite facing a seriously good bowling attack England managed to get runs on the board.  There were few centuries in this series but England managed to build partnerships, much more so than the saffers.  As we would expect, Cook, Root, Stokes and Bairstow all scored good runs against them; Tom Westley done OK in his two matches and deservedly retains his place, Malan didn't and hasn't looked good enough yet.  If he doesn't make runs soon I'd get Alex Hales in at five ASAP.  Jennings has not looked at home and definitely hasn't scored enough runs so has to go. Hameed isn't in form so Stoneman will get a go at opening the batting for now, I hope he does well.  Jennings may come back a better player, Hameed definitely will.  Another series has gone by and still the England selectors haven't managed to get any closer to getting our best batting line up on the field.

 We know what we are going to get from Broad and Anderson, accuracy, skill and class.  Like Morkel, Broad didn't get the wickets he deserved but Jimmy just keep rolling on.  TRJ done well in his two matches but will probably make way for Chris Woakes sometime soon.  Finally England's man of the series who was brilliant with both bat and ball, Moeen Ali has worked hard and quietly become a genuinely world class all rounder.  He is getting better and better and who knows how good he may become?

This was a very important series for England for if we couldn't beat South Africa on our own home grounds then how could we expect to win in Australia?  This is a similar situation to the last time we beat the saffers on home soil.  An Ashes tour came after that win in 1998 but in between came Sri Lanka who turned out to be a banana skin, winning at the Oval in brilliant style and seriously denting English confidence ahead of the Ashes.  This year we have three tests against the West Indies who are currently performing well against county sides.  England should be far too good for the West Indies but I expect their bowlers will be plenty good enough to test England's latest batting line up and we won't have things all our own way.  England mustn't look to far into the future...

Wednesday, 2 August 2017

Oval's 100th Test

So the Kennington Oval is staging its one hundredth test and I can certainly remember so classics here over the years.  Starting with Richards and Holding in 1976, the beginning of fifteen years of dominance by the best test team I have seen.  The Ashes have been secured at this ground in 1985, 2005 and 2009 which is always sweet.  Tufnell spun us to a consolation Ashes win in 1997, Devon Malcolm demolished the saffers in '93 but Murali announced himself in '98.  Personal experience of the ground isn't too good though.  Two days in the cheap seats, baking in the heat while opposition batsmen made massive scores;  Smith, Amla and Kallis then Watson (believe it or not!) and another Smith.

So back to the present and for me England picked a strange team.  With so many batsman why not play two spinners?  Who is Dawid Malan?  Tom Westley is a fair enough choice given his form and Toby Roland Jones has a good first class record and I can ignore any prejudice his name may incur.

England won the toss when they might have wanted to lose it and chose to bat.  Considering the conditions and an opposition attack that suddenly looks world class they done well to close at 171/4 on a rain interrupted day.  Cook top scored and held it all together, who else?  Jennings has one innings to save his place in the team.  Westley done OK, Malan came and went, nothing much has been learned on day one.

Day two started with nerves, especially after Cook went early but Ben Stokes made a brilliant century in tough conditions and with contributions from the lower order England posted 353.  How good would this prove? With South Africa 126/8 at the end of play it seemed very good indeed!  Toby Double-Barrell took the first four wickets and Jimmy a couple as the saffers crumbled.  A day which started with the match even finished with England dominant.

Day three was disappointing due to the weather.  England finished off SA for 175 giving them a healthy lead which had extended to 252 by the time the rain came.  Cook got a great ball from Morkel, for once Jennings had some luck, lots of luck and was unbeaten, as was Westley who continued to impress on debut.

Day four was fun, loads of runs and loads of wickets.  Jennings made a very flukey 48 and Westley looked class in making his first test fifty.  Root scored a quick half century and Bairstow a typical attacking top score of 63.  There were contributions all the way and the Saffers were set 491.  By close England had taken four wickets but Elgar and Bavuma had got stuck in.

The match was over before tea on the fifth day with South Africa falling 239 runs short.  Moeen Ali finished the match with a hat trick, Stokes and TRJ picked up a couple each too.  England had played excellent cricket and were deserved big winners.  Stokes with runs, wickets and catches was the obvious man of the match.

So in a couple of days time the fourth and final test begins and England's squad is the same with the exception of Finn replacing the injured Wood, he will surely only play if there is an injury.  Jennings is very lucky to retain his place, his runs in the second innings were unconvincing and he looked likely to get out at any time.  A word for Moeen Ali who has been playing test cricket for just over three years now and has improved continuously to become an outstanding all rounder.  I've doubted his bowling in the past but his record speaks for itself.  At the moment he, England's no.1 spinner is leading wicket taker in a series that features genuinely great pace bowlers on both sides.  I hope I haven't cursed him!

Wednesday, 26 July 2017

Eat, Sleep, Rave, Repeat...

... Latitude 2017

Festival Republic puts on a top festival an hour from my house in a beautiful setting.  I love Latitude.  I am happy to pay for weekend tickets as I always have a great time but I know that once I am there FR will try to squeeze me for every possible penny whilst I am captive in the site.  Most of the food outlets belong to them as does most of the merchandise.  All the other vendors pay a high price to sit at the table. I don’t like all the corporate branding that is appearing but I am mostly able to ignore it.  Modern festivals (including Glastonbury) go against the ethos of the early ones, but to be fair they are a lot more comfortable these days, festival toilets are no longer the stuff of nightmares.  That’s the way it is, we take it or leave it so fifty one weeks since we last staggered out of the campsite we eagerly stagger back in.  Those weeks have both flown and crawled by…  As always “we” means the Purple Princess, my constant latitude companion and I.

Thursday and after the big push we set about putting the tent up then spent the afternoon chilling out and watching the canvas village arise around us.  As usual we went for a big wander around in the evening, checking things out, has anything changed since last year?  Yes and not necessarily for the better.  The site is still familiar now and its good to be back.  After several circuits we ended up in ‘the Alcove’ for a while, here we were entertained with some old style reggae toasting going on over some classic tunes which was good fun.  Then the house band turned up but we couldn’t get passed the singers voice…  Keith Allen popped in and out but didn’t actually seem to do a lot.

Friday was mostly spent roaming around for interesting stuff and to be honest not finding much.  In the evening we caught a little bit of Goldfrapp at the Obelisk which was OK, nice to hear a few old tunes from years ago.  It seemed Miss Goldfrapp’s vocals were “assisted” so I’m unsure how good her voice is but enjoyed it nonetheless.

By far the Friday highlight were Placebo, undoubtedly the best gig of the day.  The beginning was spine tingling with “Pure Morning” and it was great gig thereafter, pounding soaring, pulsing rock music, performed with passion and charisma.  This is a band I’ve been aware of for years but probably appeared around the time I was up to me elbows in nappies and stuff.  I’m sure a proper Placebo fans would have loved this and left the arena buzzing, the PP and I were happy too.

Saturday was another day of wandering, for the first time in a few years we actually found time and space in the Comedy arena seeing the end of Dane Baptiste’s set which got me laughing.  He was followed by Adam Hess who didn’t.  New comedy superstar Joel Dommett done OK but had to work hard for his laughs.  The experienced Andrew Maxwell just walked on and started cracking us up, undoubtedly the funniest show we saw.

We missed Leon Bridges two years ago but weren’t going to let this happen this year.  I love his authentic soul sound, I love the beautiful songs and was sure it would work live.  The band was tight and the sound was great but Leon’s mic seemed low to begin with?  Also starting the show with “Take me to the River” seemed the wrong choice.  This is a beautiful song but too slow to for an opener.  Something more lively would have got the neutrals in the crowd onside quicker but he won them over in the end anyway.  He’s a great performer, a brilliant dancer and we loved the show and still wanted more at the end.

Mumford and Sons are another band that have passed us by but still we returned to the Obelisk arena with an open mind.  The first tune was nothing special but the second one was actually pretty good but after that it just flew straight over our heads and we left after half a dozen songs.  As no one else was allowed to play while M&S were on, we could still hear them while we wandered around, nothing tempted us to go back into the arena.  Had we done so the rendition of “A little help from my friends” would have had us running away, pure cheese.  I had to google ‘Gentleman of the road” and from what I understand it just looks like a load of self indulgent bollocks.

Jack Garratt finished the night off in the big tent and he was very good.  The tent was hot and we were knackered so watched the end laying on the grass outside.  Even from this less than ideal viewpoint we still enjoyed the show.

This year there was only one “Must see” act (more to follow...) and a few that we thought ‘yea that’ll be good’ so plenty of free time for wandering around and finding stuff.  Most years this has been good as we’ve discovered new things that have stayed with us ever since but this year we found little or nothing.  I’m sure this is just bad luck, we just weren’t in the right place at the right time.  Roughly in order the acts we saw in passing this year were; Aine Cahill, Irish poppy folk which was OK, Albin Lee Meldau poppy stuff, again OK.  Saw a few minutes of Superglu, a punk band from Manningtree and liked what I heard.  Mystery Jets have been around awhile and have a good reputation but I found them bland Eagles wannabees with possibly the worst moustache in festival history.  I only saw a few minutes of Sohn but really like what I heard, shame I didn’t catch more.  Yorkston/Thorne/Khan flew straight over our heads whilst Jesca Hoop drove us out of the arena.  So after two and a bit days were were having a great weekend but nothing had really moved us, in any sense.

We had our best day on the Sunday despite an inauspicious start wandering when initially we found nothing of interest at the Sunrise arena, apart from the fellas strumming acoustic guitars in the woods but we eventually found Mavis Staples authentic bluesy soul sound at the Obelisk, by accident.  We settled in and enjoyed the show from a lady whose history, straight out of the civil rights movement, must be admired.  After that Sunday just got better and better.

I’d liked Public Service Broadcasting at the festival a couple of years ago so was happy to see them on the bill again.  Three nerdy looking blokes make a big sound and cleverly bring things to life with a visual show.  The PP really liked these visuals but I found them a little distracting and tried to concentrate on what was happening on the stage, which was plenty.  PSB were really good again, the highlight being “Gagarin” complete with dancing cosmonaut.

Loyle Carner blew us away last year so we were happy to be inside the big tent in time for his return to a bigger stage.  Once again he was very good, got a great reception and seemed genuinely moved by it.  We enjoyed ourselves once again even without the element of surprise. He’s a likeable bloke and I hope he becomes a star.

When the line up was announced back in March one name stood out above all the others, Fatboy Slim was the must see for the weekend and he didn’t disappoint.  Purists will moan about a DJ headlining a festival but they are wrong.  Fatboy was simply brilliant from beginning to end, the set was perfect and the crowd went absolutely fucking nuts.  We danced our way closer and closer and had a fantastic time.  I've experienced all kinds of live music audiences over a very long time but these days my absolute favourite is a dance crowd.

The night continued on the other side of the bridge with sets from Trevor Nelson and Danny Rampling.  We danced ourselves to exhaustion then staggered back to the tent and collapse. Sunday 16th July 2017 was one of our greatest festival days.

Other stuff.  Food was mostly the bland cack we’ve grown to expect with the Tibetan curry being the only exception.  To be fair the chips from the “Whitby” stand were good but bad experiences on other stalls has made me nervous of eating festival fish.  I didn’t drink much beer this year but the Wherry went down well but when you have Adnams, the best brewery in East Anglia just a few miles down the road it seems such a shame!

Cricket!!  Fair play to the dozen or so blokes in full whites who set up a game of Cricket, including umpire, in the campsite on Saturday morning.  Unfortunately Latitude always clashes with a test match and this year followed a recent trend of England defeats.

So roll on Latitude 2018, it's only fifty weeks away!

Wednesday, 19 July 2017

England 1 South Africa 1

Well I got that prediction very wrong but thankfully (?) I was unable to follow the carnage.  I always seem to miss one test per year, usually Lords, and every time England plunge to defeat.  In previous years we've bounced back in style but to do so England have to make changes.  A look at the scorecard says some players are not performing.  Ballance has done better than some but hasn't done nearly enough, he probably deserved another go but now he surely must be gone for good.  Alex Hales looked class in the one day final of weeks ago, he must find a way back.  Jennings had a poor test and is on borrowed time, if Hameed finds some form he'll put pressure on.  Mark Wood isn't doing his job, hopefully Woakes will be fit soon and finally if England insist on playing two spinners then Adil Rashid must play.

England's team has a backbone of top quality players and shouldn't lose as often as they have been.  The selectors must take blame for not being able to find our best XI over a period of two years or more.  I think we have enough good bowlers when all are fit but the batting is starting to be a worry, especially the top three.
If both teams play at their best then I still think England are the stronger.

Tuesday, 11 July 2017

England 1 South Africa 0

The first morning was a tough.  Seven months without test cricket and then a mini England collapse!  But there is a feeling nowadays that England can and will fight back, especially on home soil.  After that England dominated with contributions from everyone and Moeen Ali just pipping Root to the Man of the match award.

England have already named an unchanged side for the next test at Trent Bridge but as always there are players under scrutiny.  Most notably Ballance and Jennings who had quiet games if you look at the scorecard but taken in context their second innings 30+ scores were decent scores.  Dawson bagged a pair but picked up a couple in each innings.  I hope he does well but Rashid should be playing.

England have a good record at Trent Bridge but South Africa can surely only improve?  Given the players who will take the field on Friday, England at their best will beat South Africa at their best.

Wednesday, 5 July 2017

England vs South Africa

England last played test cricket way back in December, after the 4-0 loss to India I unwisely picked an XI for the first test this summer;
Cook, Hameed, Jennings, Root, Ali, Stokes, Bairstow, Woakes, Rashid, Broad, Anderson

At the moment Woakes in injured and Hameed out of nick but the rest of that XI has been performing well in whatever competition they happened to be playing in.  If there's a bowling place up for grabs Wood and Plunkett could get a call or maybe the Yorkshire youngster Ben Coad?
Gary Ballance has scored loads of runs this year but surely he won't get yet another chance?

The team was announced this morning and eight of the players I nominated in December will play.  Woakes is injured and Mark Wood comes into the side.  Hameed is out of form so Ballance has got another chance, he's a lucky man.  I can't believe Adil Rashid has been left out with Dawson preferred!!

England have picked two spinners for the Lords test which definitely took a bit of spin for the one day final last week.  We also have four seamers making six bowlers and we bat all the way down.  We have plenty of good players in and around this team.  Alex Hales looked brilliant at Lords last week and must play test cricket again soon.  Woakes is starting to look like a top class bowling all rounder and will come back soon.  Hameed is made to open in test cricket.  The future is bright and it starts with a test series win over South Africa over the next few weeks!

Wednesday, 14 June 2017


A week is a long time in politics, who would have thought that Jeremy Corbyn would be legitimately be seen as the strong and stable leader whilst the Tory party would cosy up to terrorist sympathisers.

Funny Facebook excuses; “It’s all the fault of the young you know, how dare they exercise their democratic right and vote for a better future for themselves?  How selfish, what do they know about life?”  But it wasn’t just the young, people of all ages have seen through the Tory bullshit and have had enough.  I’m even beginning to think that the age of Murdoch and the other arch villains manipulating people’s opinions is coming to an end.  The way people are informed has changed, the internet is full of independent sources of news that are not slanted to the agenda of a few billionaires.

“Emancipate yourself from mental slavery, none but ourselves can free our own mind”

No Labour didn’t win.  Yes we still have a Tory government but Labour was supposed to be wiped off the map and this didn’t happen.  Instead the Labour party has gained seats and is in a position to influence policy going forward.  Already the Tories have announced the end of austerity, how kind, what took them so fucking long?

New Labour is dead, the Blairites will be consigned to an embarrassing corner of history, the people have their party back, and there is hope for democracy.  For the first time in my adult life there is real optimism, the tide has turned!  But I don’t want to be interested in politics, I want to go back to ignoring it all and I definitely don’t want to care.  That’s the trouble with Jeremy Corbyn, I can’t ignore him and when all the bullshit is swept aside he’s on our side and deserves our support.

Terrorism in the name of religion is a lie, these people have no place in society, they steal oxygen and have no place in the gene pool.  Love and respect to all those who serve in the emergency services, you deserve more help and more pay.  The one love concert in Manchester was the best message, this song made me cry.

Saturday, 6 May 2017

The Wailers Norwich UEA

A few weeks ago…

The Wailers, Peter, Bunny and Bob, joined by the Barrett brothers; Carlton and Aston AKA “Family man”.  A few years later Peter and Bunny left and the group became Bob Marley and the Wailers and conquered the world.  Sometime during the late seventies I became infected with the music which I have loved for a lifetime.  Line ups changed but Bob and the Barrett brothers remained.  After Bob’s death the Wailers continued to tour the world but by 1987 Peter and Carlton were gone, Bunny wouldn’t leave Jamaica so only “Family man” remained but the Wailers still toured.  For some reason I never got round to seeing them, it couldn’t work without Bob, could it?

In 2006 I turned up at the NEC to see UB40 for the third time.  My love of reggae had spread and although much maligned, UB40 were a fucking ace live band.  As I walked into the arena I glanced at the poster and stopped in my tracks; “Special guests, THE WAILERS”!!!  What a brilliant surprise!  After all these years I was going to see the bass player who started it all.  The Wailers walked on and there he was, Aston “Family man” Barrett, the man who provided the rhythm to a large chunk of my life up until then.  I loved the show, Bob’s songs played by authentic musicians, sounding great, getting the crowd moving.  Later UB40 were excellent as ever but couldn’t match the moment when I saw 'Family man' play.

So a decade later and the Wailers are still on tour and as they were playing nearby it would be rude not to go see them.  Unfortunately the first date was cancelled but was rescheduled for this March and the Purple Princess, Maddie and I drove north to the Norwich UEA.  What should we expect?  Well I knew they’d be professional, put on a show and we’d have a good night but are they any more than a tribute act these days?

The band ambled onto the stage, there’s “Family man” settling his seventy year old frame into a chair, minor adjustments then the unmistakable bassline “Natural mystic”.  It sounds great, the band are tight but the crowd is only simmering.  Next is “Buffalo Soldier” the rhythm picks up and the crowd go nuts!  After that it pretty much stayed that way, the Wailers roll out the hits, one after the other; bang, bang, bang.  The audience was hooked, the whole room is dancing and most are singing along.  This is beyond good, this is fucking ace!  I look around, Shelley and Maddie are enjoying it as much as me, this is as good as it gets.

The band look like they are having the time of their lives and this time consists of a few more former bandmates of Marley.  Junior Marvin is on guitar and vocals, Earl “Wire” Linsey on keyboards and Don Kinsey on guitar.  Family man gets the biggest cheer of the night and responds with a trademark grin along with a ‘Black Power’ salute.  Aston junior plays drums and Josh Barrett shares the vocals, I presume these are two of Family Man’s forty one children.  The line-up has an authentic feel and the sound is real, real, real.  This is the nearest thing we’ll ever get to seeing Marley and we are fucking loving it along with the whole room.

The Wailers play for an hour, they don’t let up and the audience doesn’t let them down.  This has taken its toll on Family man who is helped from the stage.  He’s stilling smiling and gives another salute and receives the adulation deserved by genuine A list legend but he doesn’t return for the encore.  The rest of the band play on and replacement bass by Dready Reid (I think?) is up to scratch.  One newer song written by the younger element then a load more classics.  During the night the Wailers played everything on the ‘Legend’ compilation and more; Exodus, No woman no cry, Jammin’, Could you be loved, Lively up yourself, Redemption Song and on and on.  However I have to be a tiny bit picky, “Trenchtown rock” would have been niiiiicce.  Another half hour of music before the Wailers departed for good, they played a blinder and the crowd gave them the reception they deserved.

Some gigs I look forward to for weeks and these are great, other gigs sneak up on me.  I go with no expectations and I’m blown away.  I should have known The Wailers would be good, it shouldn’t have been such a brilliant surprise but it was even more so because of it.
The Wailers in 2006, that's 'Family man' in the background

Thursday, 20 April 2017

I know my place

Maggie May sprung a spring surprise yesterday, a general election in early June.  Now we will find out just how brainwashed the population is.  If there is any hope for our country then the Tory bastards won’t get back in.  I know who I’m going to vote for; I don’t want to live in a George Orwell novel.

Bloody Brexit is a smokescreen, while everyone is distracted by that bollocks the realities of our own society are being ignored.  Baffle me with trade deals and big world bullshit, none of that means jack shit to me.  Talk to me about making our country a better place for the next generations because I don’t believe Brexit will change my life in any tangible way.

When I left school in 1984, (coincidentally; though we didn’t study that novel, instead we read ‘Animal Farm and learnt to fear communism, strange that…) we were in the middle of a recession but things were much better then than they are now!  Ordinary people had more money in their pockets than they do in 2017 but I digress…  However over the next ten years I was able to earn enough money to travel around the world and put down enough money for a mortgage on a house.  I could have gone to sixth form, polytechnic would have been feasible had I chosen to go down that path and this would not have seen me in debt to the government.

A family member finished her degree course last year and we are all proud of her becoming a nurse in the NHS.  She has had to pay a high price for this education that has trained her to become one of the most valuable members of our society, working in our most treasured national institution and witnesses the reality of underfunding on a daily basis.  The next generation of my family are aged between 14 and 24, the stark reality is they will all struggle to buy houses in the same area that we have lived all our lives.  Rural Britain is being bought up as second houses but that’s yet another issue…

Ever since I’ve been old enough to vote it’s been the same old shit. The faces changed, some wore blue and some wore red but it’s still the same old shit.  Forget party politics red vs blue that’s just another distraction when the plain reality is it’s down to Us vs Them.  Look out of the window, things aren’t as good as they were a generation ago.  Do you really believe this is because of immigrants or Europe?  Don’t you think it’s more likely to be down to greedy men in suits  I’ve read all the Corbyn smears and I’ve read the truth.  He’s not just taking on the Conservative party, he will have to fight the entire Establishment.  Whatever anyone says about him he still has more integrity than this current crop of piss taking Tories, which isn’t actually saying a lot now I come to think of it. For the first time in twenty years I’m voting Labour and there is absolutely nothing any of the campaigns can do to change my mind.  If anyone has managed to reach the bottom of the page I’m not going to ask you to vote Labour but please think long and hard before you vote Tory and if you do so, well you obviously know your place, don’t forget to tug your forelock on the way out.

Now hopefully this will be my first and only word on the subject.  I intend to tune out of all the media bullshit and do my absolute best to ignore the whole shit storm.  Cricket soon!

Sunday, 26 March 2017

Still here

I decided to go back to my normal custom of doing everything I can to ignore politics and current affairs but things have got so ridiculous that its proving impossible.  There is so much madness in the world I've found myself drawn back into commenting.

I'll have to start with Trump, even though I live on the saner side of the Atlantic.  I don't accept he is the democratically elected leader of the free world because, for starters, I don't accept a democracy where the candidate who receives the fewest votes can end up elected.  As I have said before, the 'first past the post' system we use in the UK is just as crooked.  We know politicians tell lies, that is a given but Trump is so brazen he doesn't even try to hide the fact.  According to him the truth is whatever he wants it to be at the time.  The Irish PM Enda Kelly is a gutsy man, standing in the White house and delivering a speech critical of the mop haired moron's stance on immigration, fair play!  Contrast this with our own Theresa May who went to Washington and done everything but give him a gobble, the sniveling little witch.  (NB  I say 'our own' but I totally disown the unelected PM of our country).  Finally there are British people celebrating Trump on social media, if you are one of these then you are an utter fuckwitt.

The trouble with Trump is he distracts people from things that really matter.  For example the Tory party has been found guilty of  and fined for electoral fraud which should be big news, another example of our so called democracy being undermined.  This is just shrugged off by the brain washed British masses who are more interested by Trump's latest moronic tweet or Farage's latest borderline racist rant.

There has been more of this crap from Farage in the light of the murderous attack in Westminster last week, he says we should think about a Trump style travel ban on certain nationalities.  How would this prevent a British born murderer is anyone's guess but it did give the twat a soundbite opportunity.  What we have here is a murderous lunatic going on a killing spree and no one should use this for political capital, so far it seems as if this is the case.  Unfortunately there is nothing to stop fuckwitts on social media going on anti-Muslim rants.  No one tried to ban Irish or Catholics from entering the country in the aftermath of the IRA attacks in the seventies and eighties...

Earlier this month the England ODI team went to the Carribbean for a short, three match series.  We absolutely battered them and it was barely competitive.  Once again we have a reminder of just how far the once great cricketing nation(s) has fallen.  Of equal concern was the state of the crowds in Antigua and Barbados.  What has happened to the traditional West Indian cricket atmosphere?  The locals have been priced out of the grounds which were full of pissed up, over weight, middle aged Brits.  Instead of reggae and calypso sound systems the crowds were moving to modern dance music, of sorts.  Sad...

Monday, 2 January 2017


What the fuck was that all about?

A year of death.
It started in late 2015 with the death of Lemmy.  Given his lifestyle of sex, drus and rock 'n' roll in extreme excess it should have been no real surprise to anybody but we assumed he was immune and would live forever.  What happened next was the "Lemmy effect", famous substance abusers (and others) suddenly realised if Lemmy could die then so too could they.  A self fulfilling prophecy was born and famous people began to check out at an alarming rate.  In January it was Glen Frey followed quickly by David Bowie FFS!  Terry Wogan (liked a drink) and as the year progressed Paul Daniels, Harper Lee, Jimmy Greaves. George Martin, Peter Vaughan, Keith Emerson, Greg Lake, Ronnie Corbett, Howard Marks (another indestructible), Carla Lane, Frank Kelly, Victoria Wood, Caroline Aherne, Prince FFS!!!, Leonard Cohen, Prince Buster, Gene Wilder, Andrew Sachs, Rick Parfitt, Liz Smith, George Michael, Carrie Fisher, Debbie Reynolds....
Image result for muhammad ali
Of course the greatest sportsman of the modern age, (who didn't abuse anything he wasn't prescribed) Muhammad Ali died in February.  Possibly the greatest human being I've shared the planet with?

And every year, real heroes die too.  People that are unknown outside their circles of family and friends.  As I get older I find myself being touched by this more often and I don't suppose that will change now.  Three more gone but never forgotten.

The signs that 2016 would be a mad year came early on with Leicester City taking a runaway lead in the Premiership.  I have to say I fell out of love with football years ago when it was raped by Murdoch.  Nowadays nearly all the big clubs are owned by foreign billionaires who treat them as ego massaging playthings and don't give a flying fuck about the fans.  Unfortunately most of the fans are too indoctrinated to notice.  Anyway Leicester went on to win the league so fair play to all their loyal fans, who have had a once in a lifetime year and who should be grateful to the billionaire foreign owners and well done to the gentleman manager Claudio Ranieri.
The England national team played in the European championships this summer.  They were shit, even the Welsh were better.

It's official, we live in The post truth era and although this has been true for some time, it became so obvious in 2016 that nobody even tires to deny it any more.  The Establishment media makes a statement, social media spreads the message, the statement becomes fact.  If this "fact" later turns out to be false, nobody notices and if they do, nobody cares.  We know public figures rarely fill the image and personality they hide behind but nowadays social media allows the proles to create a false image to present to the world.  Nothing is real, no person is what they seem.

Brexit & other bollocks
Europe, or more specifically Britain's membership of the EU has always been a right wing argument.  Ukip was formed by a bunch of extreme Tory rejects and lead by Funky Farage.  Cameron pledged the EU referendum to appease disaffected Tories who were being tempted by UKIP.  Cameron felt safe in the certain knowledge that he couldn't possibly lose the vote.  However a chunk of the UK population felt disenfranchised enough to use the referendum as a protest vote.  They registered their anti establishment feelings by unwittingly voting for the establishment and the country voted to leave the EU, narrowly.

Cameron resigned immediately saying in Eton speak "Fuck this for a game of soldiers I'm offski".  Funky Farage said "my work here is done, I've got what I want, you lot can sort this fucking mess out", then resigned the leadership of UKIP once again.  Ironically Nige still collects a pay cheque from the EU...

Meanwhile professional fuckwitt Boris Bollocks who had come out in support of Brexit after considering his career options right up until the last minute was nicely positioned to assume leadership of the Tory party.  He was then dramatically back stabbed by rubber faced wank rag Michael Gove and the Tory party was in turmoil.

When the dust had settled, everyone had resigned and scarpered, not only was the country up shit creek without a paddle but the only people left in the boat were the passengers.  Who was to blame for this right wing cluster fuck presided over by the Tory party?  Well it was Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour party of course!  Many Labour MP's who are in reality Establishment stooges with red rossettes tried to oust JC but he survived with an increased majority.

The country was divided by the campaigns and again by the result and subsequent gloating.  Eventually 'remainer' Theresa May assumed control of the Tory party and so became Prime Minister, despite a history of dodgy dealings.  In the name of increases sovereignty and democracy we ended up with a PM that nobody had voted for.

By the end of summer it had become apparent to most that Brexit was nothing but a massive Establishment con job.  The £350 Million promised to the NHS was quickly acknowledged as a lie by Funky himself.  In all likelihood Brexit will not see one single immigrant prevented from entering the UK.  Prices are already rising and the pound is falling.  The lives of working people will not be positively changed in any way.  The architects of Brexit have run and hid behind the sofa.  The government hasn't got the first fucking clue what to do next.  Anyone who points out these facts is labelled a 'Whinging remainer' ( an assault on free speech!) while the triumphant Brexiteers continue to trumpet their ignorance and empty victory.  Brexit is the biggest con of the working class since "Your Country needs You".

I won't pretend to understand what the hell is going on in Syria but its obvious to anyone that a world of shit has exploded over millions of innocents and a few thousand not so innocents.  I don't understand who is attacking who or why but I do understand why people have to flee the region.  The lack of compassion shown by post Brexit Britain is a sickening disgrace.

I think it is also plain for most that the situation in the middle east has resulted from Bush & Bliar's disastrous war in Iraq.  Their attempt at grabbing oil fields under the guise of bringing stability and democracy to the region is a fucking sick joke.  The rise of IS and the terrorism that has occurred on the continent over the last couple of years also stems from those two war criminal's crusade.  Now the attempt to bring freedom to Iraqi's has led to people in Britain having their own civil liberties squeezed, to prevent terrorism. How fucking ironic?

The 2016 Olympics in Rio were brilliant and Team GB done amazingly well.  It was brilliant to see lesser known stars of unfashionable sports grab the limelight from the overpaid ego driven footballers.  Team GB restored pride in our sportsman and its especially nice that all parts of the UK come together to support one team.  My highlights were Mo Farah as ever,  The Women's Hockey team, the cyclists... Andy Murray added a gold medal to the Wimbledon title he won earlier in the year, I'm not a tennis fan (in any sense) but fair play.

The Poppy has traditionally and correctly seen as a symbol of remembrance and peace.  By 2016 it has evidently become something different.  According to FIFA it is a political symbol.  According to some it is a sign of oppression in the middle east, others see it as a sign of support for the military.  To not wear a poppy means you hate soldiers and are a terrorist sympathiser.  I wore a poppy this year, for the original meanings.

Trump FFS
It has been obvious for decades that the US election is nothing more than a charade; "Show business for ugly people" as the saying goes.  There was a decent man called Bernie Sanders who had good ideas and came close to being nominated but the US establishment closed ranks and blocked him.  After months of campiagning and billions of dollars the choice came down to the two worst candidates in the history of the world.  A corrupt woman in the pocket of big business Vs a xenophobic, bigoted fucktard; or as 'South Park' billed it, a Turd sandwhich Vs a giant Douche.  Everyone seemed shocked that the racist hairpeace won though in hindsight, after Brexit, we should have seen it coming from a mile off.

I must admit to being a fair weather Rugby Union fan but this year I managed to follow England's team throughout (rugby league is shite).  If I was home at the weekends I'd watch on TV but I mostly followed the matches on the radio whilst sitting in a boat.  The year began well with an unexpected Grand slam and all of a sudden we had a team that looked impressive.  Even more unexpected was the 3-0 away win in Australia and the team looked even better still.  Following on from that England were expected to win their autumn internationals, which they did in style.  New coach Eddie Jones must take credit for improving the players we have and now there is genuine strength in depth.

Our Test Cricket team has had a mixed year.  A really good win away in South Africa was followed by an expected comfortable win against Sri Lanka.  Late summer saw an excellent drawn series against a good Pakistan team but when the dust settled England would have felt they should have won.  Cricket in the sub continent is always difficult but we underestimated Bangladesh and a draw flattered England.  Five matches in India were always going to be difficult and so it proved, despite some good moments for England the home side won 4-0
Despite this I think the future is bright for England.  We have a growing squad of bowlers that look capable of taking wickets on wickets outside the sub continent.  Our spinners are improving too, slowly.  We have four cricketers than qualify as all rounders and at least two are worth their place in the side for both their disciplines.  It's starting to look like our top order is very nearly settled.  I think we now have the makings of a very good test team, in twelve months time we'll have a good idea if I'm right.
We getting better in the shorter forms of the game too and although I can't get emotionally involved in this type of cricket, I tune in when I can.  We came close in the T20 world cup and played attacking, exciting 50 over cricket all year.  I think we have a very good ODI team at the moment, the coming series in India will be a good test.

So thank Christ that one is over, 2017 can't be any worse can it?  Well the world will have to learn to live with the decisions made last year so who knows, not counting any chickens.  I think I'll go back to my old habits of not watching any news and ignoring the farce called politics, current affairs or anything relevant.  Well I'll try at least.