Friday, 27 December 2019

First Test vs South Africa

It's the last session of the second day at Centurion, England have just been bowled out for 181, conceding a first innings lead of 107.  This after Joe Root had won the toss and asked the Saffers to bat.

Several questions arise.
Why didn't England pick a spinner?
How did Bairstow get another chance?
Why do England ALWAYS lose the first test of any series?
Why did Root not choose to bat?
How many times has Root inserted a team having won the toss and how many times has this ploy worked?

Tuesday, 24 December 2019

Fuck it.

It seems I haven't had a Christmas rant for a few years...
Why do I hate 
Christmas?  Oh shit where do I start?
Christmas is for kids, a time of high excitement and sleepless nights.  A time when a pile of new stuff drops into our laps.  Stuff we’ve stared at lovingly in catalogues (Amazon?) and stuff for which we’ve built up a craving.  I get that, Kids should be excited, that’s what it’s all about, but adults?  
Buy new stuff, it’s Xmas!  Eat like a pig, it’s Xmas!  Booze yourself sick, its Xmas!  Spend more fucking money than you have and spend the rest of the year paying for it, it’s fucking Xmas. 

Bollocks to all that, I rebel.  Every year my cynicism shines like fairy lights.  If hating all this bollocks makes me miserable then yes I’ll wear the tag.
At some point in my adult life I had a  gradual realisation that Christmas was a sham, a festival of greed designed by the Establishment so it can reclaim the meagre collection of pounds we’ve managed to accumulate throughout the year.  AKA The festival of greed.  Looking at it like this Christmas is almost a tax?  Fuck it.

Why do we do it?  Why do people all around the world save their money and fill their fridges for this end of year blow out?  Why?  It’s because we have no choice.  We have been conditioned from birth to behave in this way and we never question it.  Christmas, in its modern form just is, like the four seasons, the sun, the moon and the tides.  It happens every year and we all rush headlong into it. Why is an adult excited by Christmas?  Why do we feel the need to take our brains out for a month and behave in a way we do not allow ourselves for the rest of the year?  

Fucking Christmas jumpers for fuck sake.  People pay for a hideous garment that serves no purpose other than make the wearer look a cunt.  It started off from the notion that everyone (men especially) would receive at least one item of clothing that was ghastly and too unfit to be seen wearing in public.  Consequently this item of clothing would be worn only once, on Christmas day, to appease the in-laws or whichever guest has cursed us with said ‘present’ (and presence?).  Christmas jumper used to mean ‘ugly jumper’ but some clever(?) person turned this around to make jumpers that are not only crap, colourful and tasteless but also festive too.  You know, shitty Santa and snowmen and such shit.  And people buy into it; “Look at me, I’m a jolly, happy go lucky, good sport sort of a dude and wearing this monstrous woollen shit rag proves it”.  Fuck Christmas jumpers.

Every year the east of England gets brighter in December, as soon as the month arrives people sprint to the loft and drag down the miles of sparkling lights they’ve stowed away and smother their home’s exterior with miles of brightly coloured flashing shite which says “Look at our house!  Aren’t we festive people!  Look how colourful we are and by extension, rich, successful, generous…  It’s almost like Stockholm syndrome, if one house in the street goes big with the fairy lights then other families feel the need to do the same to keep up with the Jones’ festivity.  Fuck Christmas lights, my single strip of 1980’s fairy lights adorning the window (from the inside of course) is so naff it makes me laugh.  Yes it is shit but to me it’s an ironic two fingers to the sparkling shit heads around me.

What is the most dangerous phrase in the English language?  It is slightly fluid but usually takes the form of cajolement ending in the words “… go on!  It’s Christmas”.  This cajolement is usually an attempt to get a person to do something that makes them uncomfortable; spend a bit (or a lot) more money, stuff more food into our bloated stomachs, drink excessive amounts of alcohol and damn the consequences.  In my case these words led me to a curry house in an unfamiliar town where I had a nice night with good people but felt uncomfortable throughout and couldn’t wait to leave.  Worst case “because it’s Christmas” can lead to a trip to A&E, divorce and death.  Yes I’m a festive fucker aren’t I?

But what is Christmas?  What does it mean?  I’m sure kids are still taught the nativity and surely there is still at least a small understanding of Christmas as a Christian festival?  (Or further back a celebration of Winter solstice?).  But do people actually link the religious stuff to Christmas anymore?  If not why do we celebrate Christmas?  Why are millions of people of the western civilisation celebrating?  What makes us do it?  Is it the promise of another heap of new stuff to add to the useless shit we fill our houses with?

It’s probably just the ultimate opportunity to engage in the British game of “Look at me!  Look at all the stuff I have!  Can’t you see how cool, wealthy and successful I am?”  One-upmanship.  The British disease, as true and relevant now as it was when Cleese, Barker and Corbett made the sketch.  
I live in a nice, comfortable house in a nice comfortable rural town.  Apart from stuff that wears out and need replacing (stuff obviously designed to fail at some future date…) there is absolutely nothing on earth that I want!  My tele is old and second hand but I won’t enjoy watching programs any better on a new flat screen HD thing!  Think about it, if you watch a Black and White film after five minutes you no longer notice it isn’t colour!  While I’m banging on about it HD TV is the biggest example of ‘emperor’s new clothes’ since CD’s took over from vinyl at twice the cost.  And now Vinyl is fashionable again and it’s twice the price of a CD?!  Fucking mugs!  I digress…

So fuck Christmas.  Fuck jumpers and stupid hats.  Fuck lighting your house up as a target.  Fuck false joviality and fake smiles.  Fuck buying loads of stupid, unwanted tat.  Fuck Coca Santa and the cult of greed.  Fuck mince pies and dry fucking Turkey.  Fuck hangovers.
But yes please to the peace and goodwill bit, we need a load more of that.

But after Christmas come boxing day and Test Cricket.  If England are fit and firing they should be too good for South Africa but we will have to start well and play better than we did in New Zealand.

Saturday, 14 December 2019


It seems late autumn is the busy time for touring bands.  I suppose the festival season now prevents summer tours so it makes sense to squeeze them in before the onset on the festival of greed.  We've managed to make it to three more in the weeks since Hawkwind.  

The first was at the UEA in Norwich, the excellent Primal Scream.  The Princess and I drove up with Mr H and Mr G then met the daughter at the Uni.  Having seen Bobby & Co at Latitude during the summer I wasn't too excited but tonight they played a much longer set and changed things around.  Starting with "Don't fight it feel it" they ripped through tune after tune, some more familiar than others, all sounded great, played by a tight band.  The favourites came out towards the end, best of the night for me was "Movin' on up" which was fantastic even without the full "Screamadelica" treatment. "Loaded" and "Come Together" don't quite survive the transition as well but were still very good. The encore of "Rocks" and "Jailbird" was a perfect uptempo finish and they stopped at the right time.  Afterwards the verdict was unanimous; Top band, top show, top night.
The following week Mr H chauffeured myself and Mr G into the dirty streets of Stoke Newington where we found the venue, found our friend from the west Mr S then found a proper pub.  The Guinness was rather good as was the conversation, so much so we lost track of time and had to scoot along the street to see the band.  Fat White Family, I don't know much about them and have hardly listened to them.  I have seen them live twice now and they've been very good both times.  I don't know how to describe their music but I'll try; seven piece, tight almost R&B rhythm section, lots of guitars, harmonies and a punky attitude.  Singalong and move your feet, which we did.  Tonight there was a weird interlude about 2/3 the way through when most of the band buggered off and no one seemed to know what was going on.  Least of all the musicians remaining on the stage who carried on regardless.  The rest of the show was back to full affect and they finished gloriously.

Finally a couple of days ago, after casting our votes we were back to the UEA, Mr H done his normal wonderful taxi service which the Princess, Mr G, Mr R and myself always appreciate.  The daughter met us again and it was a relief to get into a warm building and out of the rain.  I don't know who the DJ warming up was but he got us moving with some Hacienda vibes.  Then it was the Happy Mondays on the latest leg of their eternal tour, this time playing a set of greatest hits.  This band sound tracked some of the most debaucherous periods of my life and I will always love them.  Tonight was good but lets be honest, Shaun was never a great singer and he hasn't improved with age.  Rowetta has a decent voice but over does it, maybe trying to make up for Shaun?  Also the sound was pretty shit at times, particularly early in the set.  Apart from that they got most things right, But as the night went on the sound was tweaked and by the end the place was banging.  Some of the banter was hard to follow but did Bez really supply pills to the daughter of the Cheif Constable?  My daughter loved Bez and bounced about amidst the mayhem for a while.  They played almost all of the 'Pills and thrills...' album and loads of real oldies including "Rave On", "Mad Cyril" and "Hallelujah".  It's a shame the band think their greatest hits stopped in 1990 because there were a couple of good ones on 'Yes Please' and an album full on 'Uncle Dysfunctional'.  Last two tunes of the night were predictable in "Step On" and "Wrote For Luck" but they went down a storm anyway.  This was the fourth time I've seen the Mondays (and sixth I've seen Shaun in his various guises) over a period of nearly thirty years, it was good but a long way short of their best.
News on the drive home was horrendous.

Friday, 6 December 2019


The second test fizzled out, England actually played some good cricket and had the best of the game but ultimately the pitch won and the game was drawn, leaving New Zealand series winners at 1-0.  I seem to say this a lot but the quirky series selections havn't brought us any closer to identifying our best team.  A tough series in South Africa starts before you know it.

We know half the squad that toured New Zealand will already have tickets booked.  Of those that aren't so certain Zac Crawley will probably be retained, Joe Denly has once again done just enough to keep his place and Ollie Pope has been knocking at the door for a while now.  I hope Jack Leach keeps his place, surely they won't pick Mo over him?  It looks like Bairstow is back, already.  Curran and Woakes both done reasonably well but I can't see there being room for both...  As for Mahmood and Parkinson, well thanks for carrying the drinks.

Saturday, 30 November 2019

Catch up

Well the first test started quite well for England.  We started well with the bat, then let them off the hook.  Started well with the ball and let them off the hook again.  New Zealand done exactly the opposite and in the end outplayed us in all departments.

Now the second test is two days old and I don't know what to make of it.  England put the Kiwis in and 'restricted' them to 375.  Latham hit a century, Broad's resurgence continued with four for and Woakes picked up possibly his best overseas figures?  By close we were 39/2 with Burns and Root left at the wicket.  One of these two needs to score a century...  I don't have a clue how things will go from here; how good a score is 375?  Should be interesting listening in a bit...

Friday, 22 November 2019

First Test vs New Zealand

So here we are, a couple of months on from an Ashes series, test cricket is back with a series in New Zealand.  We are playing at somewhere called Mount Maunganui, in fact this is the first test match to be played here.  I can't comment about how it looks because I haven't seen a single picture of it.

As has become customary I listened to the start of the series on TMS which is as brilliant as ever.  All went to plan on Day one, England won the toss and batted and by the time I crashed on the latest opening partnership had passed fifty!!

And when I woke up in the morning the score had meandered along to 241/4 at stumps.  Yes England's top order actually batted how a test team should, Burns, Denly both made half centuries and Stokes was 67*.  This is all pretty good but it could all go wrong in the morning, i mean evening...

Day two starts in serene fashion with Stokes and Pope seeming to score freely but then both get out!  (Stokes for 91), quickly followed by Curran and Archer!  This leaves us 295/8 and it seems like same old England.  By the time I switch the radio off Buttler and Limpet Leach have calmed proceedings but we're still a long way short of a good score.

I wake up and switch the computer on with trepidation, i fear the worst.  The Kiwi's have a good batting line up, I'm sure they will be piling up the runs.  But no!  Buttler and Leach put on 52 to get us up to 353.  What's more we've knocked New Zealand's top four over, 144/4!  Curran took two wickets, Leach and Stokes one each.  Now I look forward to listening to Jofra steam in when play starts up tonight!

And while I remember Stephen Finn and Mark Ramprakash have made great additions to the TMS team, hopefully we can now jettison Vaughan and Swann, both of whom I loved as players but piss me right off in the comm box.

Friday, 15 November 2019


So as usual my winter tour selection was miles out (though the first XI not so far away?) but they did pick an interesting squad, chucking a couple of young batsmen into the mix, it will be interesting to see how they go.  I hope Bairstow scores massive runs in the championship next year and fights his way back but leaving him out was the right thing to do.  The first test is next week, England are currently struggling to take wickets in the warm up match and New Zealand have an excellent batting line up, I make the home side favourites.  I hope I'm wrong.  With the kids grown up Sky TV has gone so this will be the first series in about twenty years that I won't be able to watch on television.  I can live without it but I could never live without TMS.

A couple of days ago a couple of old friends and I went to see a band which have been touring for almost as long as we've been alive.  In fact this was the fiftieth anniversary tour for a very British institution, Hawkwind.  Apparently their music was once known as 'Space Rock' which is probably media speak for "music made and enjoyed whilst off your nut on psychedelics".  Tuesday night it still sounded pretty bloody good after drinking a solitary 'Ghost Ship'.  I've never been a massive fan of this band but I've seen them at least four times over the years and they were mostly good.  On this occasion the old favourites sounded great and went down a storm with the audience of old misfits.  But when the newer tunes were played it all went a bit flat.  "Spirit of the age" was fantastic, "Silver Machine" (Lemmy RIP) sounded tired,  "Hurry on Sunrise" a brilliant surprise.  Dave Brock looks and sounds like he could go on forever, I'll probably see them again one day. I must mention the venue Ipswich Corn Exchange which is a good room which could easily hold more people and bigger bands.  There isn't enough live music in my home town!

Tuesday, 17 September 2019

The amateur cricket selector/obsessed fan game.

It's the amateur cricket selector game...

England's test players this summer.

Joe Root had a reasonable series but scoring scores of 50 to 80 runs isn't going to win many matches.  Especially when the opposition's star batsman is smashing us all over the ground.  Unlike other players of his generation Root seems to have reached a level but is unable to kick on.  Root is our best batsman and should be inked into the team, his captaincy is improving but fork fuck sake don't over bowl Jofra!  The biggest thing going for Joe as captain is who else is there?  As vice captain Stokes would be in the frame if Root stepped down but history shows that giving the top job to our star all rounder isn't a good move.

Unlike Root, Ben Stokes keeps getting better and better.  He is reported to be the hardest trainer in the squad and the work is definitely showing.  His hundred at Lords was excellent, the knock at Leeds is legendary and there were fify plus scores in two other tests as well.  And that's without his bowling and fielding.  It's about time Stokes was thought of  as a batsman who bowls a few overs, in the mold of Jaques Kallis.

In the end Rory Burns impressed me, even after the hundred I wasn't convinced, I really expected his scores to drop away afterwards but that 81 at Old Trafford was a seriously good innings against a first class bowling attack.  He backed this up with decent partnerships at the Oval too, the longer the series went on the more comfortable he looked.  If he can make decent runs against Australia then he should be able to open up against all test nations.  He now deserves a good run in the side.

Joe Denly may be considered unlucky that his test debut came towards the end of his career.  Had he been picked earlier he might have made a decent career.  He's improved as this series has gone on and with 94 in the last innings of the summer has done just enough to hang onto his place but it looks like the poor bugger will be opening from now on.  Unfortunately Denly is in his thirties so may not have too long at the top, we will need another player in the top three in the near future.

The problem with most of the rest is they may well be excellent in white ball cricket but they don't often show the patience to make it in the longer form, it's about time we separated the two and picked red ball players.  It's worth noting that only three of Australia's ODI batsmen featured in the Ashes.

Jason Roy needs to work on his red ball game in county cricket or settle for being a great ODI player.

Johnny Bairstow is another world class ODI player but his test form has been poor for nearly two years.  Top order batsmen shouldn't get bowled as often as Bairstow, he's had a long run in the side and ultimately the stats don't lie, he isn't good enough.  I think JB should give up the gloves and concentrate on his batting, he may come back better in the future and hold down a top 5 place on merit but right now I'd leave him out.

Joss Buttler started the series poorly but he got better the longer it went on, apparently he's averaged higher than all the other England batsmen since his return to the side eighteen months ago.  Does he really have the desire to make himself a top test cricketer rather than a white ball superstar?

Whoever keeps must bat at no. 7, if it was good enough for Gilchrist (or even Matt Prior) it is good enough for whoever England select.  It's over twenty years since England have selected the best keeper in the country to play test cricket (and Bairstow is definitely not our best wicket keeper).  Ben Foakes is the best I've seen behind the stumps for a very long time and he has proved he can bat in tests too.  What does he have to do to get another chance?   As Bairstow and Buttler have played a lot of high pressure cricket this year I'd give them both a tour off and pick Sam Billings as a reserve keeper.

Even though Jimmy Anderson was crocked for the series the bowlers done as proud this summer.
Stuart Broad was excellent throughout the series, he bowled as consistently well as he has in years and looks like he has a few more good seasons ahead of him.  It was glorious watching him swarm all over little Davey this summer and he troubled all the batsman.  Michael Vaughan deliberately courts controversy and his comment saying Broad and Anderson should not play in the same side is typical bollocks.

Jofra Archer looks like being a new bowling superstar.  His pace, control and hostility was impressive at times this summer.  He had 'Six fors' in both England's wins but his spell at Lords was the most memorable.  Archer looks like he will become an awesome bowler but he must be kept fit, guided and looked after.

Chris Woakes is a very likable character but the plain truth is he isn't good enough to be a first choice pick for his bowling.  If Stokes is ever injured then Woakes could come into the side to add balance and give the captain a fifth bowler.
Likewise Sam Curran, a favourite of the selectors who I had considered little more than a fifth seamer but he proved me wrong at the Oval.  However if the ball isn't swinging he's cannon fodder.    I think Curran may still get better and at the moment I'd pick him ahead of Woakes.  For the series ahead this winter neither would get in my team unless other players are injured.

Craig Overton came in and done reasonably well although he looked far less threatening than Broad or Archer and all of the Australian seamers for that matter.  Surely we have better bowlers than that?  If the other Overton brother is quicker then pick him?  If other players are fit then then neither Overton takes a place.

Jack Leach done very well in his first Ashes series.  He will be remembered for the battling 1* at Headingley but throughout the series he took wickets and gave the captain the control that Moeen Ali couldn't produce.  Leach is our number one spinner now but Mo could come back for tours in Asia.

The bowling selections in Sri Lanka last year were perfect, the selection for the first test in Barbados was fucking ridiculous.  With Jimmy injured this summer we always seemed a bowler light, if Ollie Stone had been fit it would have been interesting to see how he went against Australia, he done OK against Ireland.  With Broad, Anderson and Archer bowling seam up, Leach bowling spin and Stokes chipping in here and there we have a very good attack that should do well in the future.  The older Curran looks a good cricketer and if we can keep Mark Wood fit we have a decent pace attack.  Dom Bess looked a good cricketer last year, a good replacement for Leach and we have Mo and Adil for tours of Asia.  Going forward there is plenty of reason to be optimistic about our bowlers.

It's the batting line up that has been causing problems for some time.  Rory Burns has proved he is a test player, he had been consistent for Surrey for a few seasons, why did it take so long for the selectors to get him in the side?  To be fair it didn't take Smith and Taylor too long.  whichever way Denly's career goes from here age isn't on his side.  We will still need to find another opener, at some time we have to try a youngster from county cricket, Ollie Pope seems to be next in line for the middle order, maybe Dom Sibley to bat in the top three.

The squad that won't be selected for the winter tours.
First XI
Burns, Sibley, Denly, Root, Stokes, Pope, Foakes, Archer, Leach, Broad, Anderson

Squad players;
S. Curran
Wood, Stone,

Sunday, 15 September 2019

The Oval finale

Back to work today and halfway there I realised I'd left my radio behind...  I was office based for a chunk of the day which was ironic but then I remembered that with a bit of fiddling I could get the radio to come out of my phone, which I did!  By this time England's innings was over, the tail had added a handful including two sixes from Broad, the lead was almost four hundred.

I was comfortably working when the Aussie innings started and after a few overs had passed I began to feel a little concerned.  But then Broad bowled Hapless Harris and shortly after had Walking Wicket Warner caught in the cordon again.  Fair play to 'Davey', this was one of his best innings of the series, he actually reached double figures.  The big two were now at the wicket but thankfully Funnyname didn't hang around as Leach had him stumped.  At lunch Australia were 68/3 and the win looked certain.

I was out and about for most of the afternoon session so missed Smith getting out to Broad and didn't hear much of Wade's counter attack or Marsh's brief stay at the wicket.  When I left work Paine and Wade were together.

By the time I settled into my chair Paine had gone and I'd missed most of the duel between Archer and Wade, the latter was moving ominously towards a century.  This normally attacking batsman was nudging carefully and taking his time.  Once he'd reached three figures he started slashing and whacking and had two close calls before he was eventually stumped off Root of all people.  It was as if he stopped caring about the result after he'd got to his ton.  After that the end came quickly with Root taking two decent catches in two balls off Leach, England won by 135 runs and tied the series 2-2.

One of my favourite Ashes series was Strauss' team winning 3-1 away in 2010/11.  I can clearly remember when we went 2-1 up at the MCG, we'd retained the Ashes but that wasn't enough.  As a fan I desperately wanted England to win the series outright, which they did.  I think a lot of Australians will be gutted today even though they retained the urn.  I feel quite happy with this result, 3-1 would have really flattered Australia who still haven't won a series in England for 18 years.

A lot of pundits are insinuating that England were lucky and Australia were the better team but I disagree.  If Anderson had not pulled up in the first test, Australia would not have built such a lead and without rain at Lords we'd have almost certainly won that match.  Back in July I predicted a close England win but back then I wasn't banking on Jimmy being injured for the whole series and who would have thought Steve Smith would be so brilliant?  I also predicted a golden series for a certain B.Stokes...

It has been a brilliant series of test cricket and perhaps 2-2 is a fitting way to finish.  Although it has been one of the better Ashes series this may be because the standard of test batting hasn't been good.  If either team had one more decent batsman they would have won comfortably.

Trevor Bayliss' reign as England coach has come to an end.  He was brought in primarily to improve our one day cricket which he has done with resounding success.  However our test team has not made anything like this progression, for a while it was going backwards but now it looks like we may be making progress.

When Ed Smith's first selections were revealed I was quite impressed.  I liked seeing Rashid and Buttler in whites and for a while it seemed as if Smith & co. were doing a lot right.  The quirky selections in the 3-0 away win in Sri Lanka seemed to prove the point.  But then somehow Curran was picked ahead of Broad in Barbados and I've been losing faith rapidly ever since.  The selections made for the test team this summer have done little to ease this feeling.  The sight of Smith and Taylor in the stands, suited, booted and wearing shades does nothing to increase confidence.  They look like a pair of villains from a shit comedy.  Why did it take so long to get Rory Burns into the team?

So the summer of Cricket has come to an end.  England's excellent ODI team confirmed their status as world No.1 by deservedly winning the world cup.  I must admit that on that day, half way through our innings I would have taken a world cup win over an Ashes win.  The first time in my lifelong addiction that I have placed ODI ahead of test cricket in importance.  By the time the Ashes series was in full swing that day at Lords seemed far away...  2019 has been a fantastic summer of cricket, one of the best I've ever experienced and one I will look back on fondly.

Day three at the Oval

Today I made a discovery that will enrich my life for ever more, my digital radio works in the car!!  I made this discovery in roadworks when England were 55/1 (I believe the first fifty partnership for any opening pair this summer) and the radio stayed tuned in all the way until I arrived at my destination at lunch when Root had just got out making it 88/2

In the afternoon I floated around on the Norfolk Broads, occasionally having a cast or two while on TMS Denly and Stokes just batted and batted and batted.  This was the kind of patient, sensible, batting that makes Sir Geoffrey purr, with more of this England will win more test matches.  The lead climbed on and on, for once in this series we have Australia down and aren't letting them get up.  Sitting in the sun in paradise, listening to Agnew, Maxwell, Mann and co, this is what summer is all about.

After tea the game moved on with much more pace than my boat.  Stokes was out for 67 to a good ball from Lyon, apparently.  Denly got to 84 before the poor bugger was removed by Siddle.  This brought Bairstow and Buttler together which could mean fireworks.  JB didn't last too long but Buttler batted aggresively before eventually falling for 47.  At the other end Curran and Woakes had come and gone leaving England 382 ahead with two wickets left.  I'm sure they'll keep the Aussies in the field as long as possible tomorrow, there's plenty of time left in the game.

So this was one of those rare days when listening to England bat is a pleasure, no nerves, no cursing, just runs.  On the other hand a batting line up that hasn't really worked may have saved itself?  Back to work tomorrow, hopefully to listen to England win...

Friday, 13 September 2019

Day Two

The morning was bitter sweet.  Taking my daughter back to Uni, she's following her dream but I'll miss her.  We arrived, as soon as I'd come out of the toilet I checked Cricinfo, England had made 294 and Aus were 10/1, David Wanker was out again!  By the time I left again Harris was gone too, Archer with both wickets.

Back home and it's after lunch, fucking Smith and fucking Funnyname plodding along again.  Archer is still bowling well and gets Funnyname!  Broad and Archer have to take a breather, Woakes bowls so badly he actually makes Curran look good.  And bugger me little Sam takes a wicket!  The highly unlikable Wade is gone.  I must be fair, I've been dismissive of Curran but he's looked far more likely to take a wicket than Woakes today or Overton in the last match.  At tea it's 147/4, Smith is still there with another half century...

After tea it's the best two bowlers, Broad looks tired but Archer is bowling well and bounces Marsh out!  We're not letting them get away!  Curran replaces Broad and once again looks good, he gets Paine caught behind and next ball Cummins for a golden!  Okay Sam I take it all back.  

Woakes returns and Smith misses a straight one to be out LBW for 80!  After that Woakes floated up a couple of overs of shit pies.  Siddle and Lyon combined for one of those irritating late order partnerships but Jofra returns and blows away the tail, a great slower ball then a brilliant catch in gully from Burns.  He finishes with 6/62 and are Australia 225 all out.  England have to survive four overs at the end of the day and finish 9/0 although Burns has to overturn a crap LBW decision.

At the end of one of the more enjoyable days of the test summer England lead by 78, star of the day once again was Jofra Archer with pace, hostility, control and stamina.  Can England bat all day tomorrow?  Denly, Bairstow and Buttler should all consider they are batting to retain their places.

Thursday, 12 September 2019

Fifth test day one

Work was busy, so busy the start of play was forgotten and it was after lunch before I tuned into TMS to find England were batting and the score was 97/1!!  What is going on here?  Australia had one the toss and put us in, which seemed weird.  I think me switching the radio on must have been the kiss of death as soon after Burns was out for a decent 47 and Stokes didn't last long either.

The afternoon continued in the same vein, every time I found myself near the radio it seemed another wicket had fallen.  Root out for another fifty, Bairstow out for another nothing score, the tail started to fold up.  The vastly over rated pair of Curran and Woakes didn't contribute much and to make it worse, Mitch fucking Marsh was taking the wickets! 205/7.  At least Buttler was finding form at the other end and finding the boundary too, with help from Leach (again), he passed fifty for the first time this summer.  When I got home play had finished, 271/8.  It could have been a lot worse, it should have been a lot better.

Fucking groundhog day.

Sunday, 8 September 2019

Ashes gone.

Back to work today but I had a lot of office based stuff to do which meant I was parked next to the radio for most of the day.  Things started off OK with Denly and Roy nudging along quite nicely and together these two most unlikeliest of batsmen put together a fifty partnership.  We knew it couldn't last and sure enough Roy was bowled again, and at lunch we were 66/3.  In came Stokes but even he couldn't hang around for long, at lunch we were 87/4. 

The afternoon session started, would the innings last longer than my shift at work?  Denly managed to compile a fifty which was bloody good work under the circumstances but he was out soon after.  Likewise Bairstow who scored a few before falling LBW, makes a change from bowled I suppose.  For some reason TMS softens the blow when England are doing badly, the whit and whimsy is a great distraction and I don't have to endure replays from every angle.  By now Buttler and Overton were at the crease and they managed to hold off the Aussies until I left work.  This is typical England, a partnership holds together for just long enough to have me believing we can do it, hope builds and then gets smashed away as the wicket falls.

Back home in the armchair and almost as soon as my arse touched down Buttler was out, quickly followed by Archer who never looked likely to block for long.  This brought Leach together with Overton and the two of them dug in, defended well and wore a few too.  I won't say I began to believe we could draw this game but I did begin to think if they stayed together a while longer then we might have a chance...

Then Leach was out and the game folded up pretty quickly.  Australia won by 185 runs but it was good to see England show some fight and take it into the final session.  Defeat was inevitable but still it was an enjoyable day of tough test cricket.

Fair play to Australia, they got a hell of a lot right this summer.  They had players like Siddle, Pattinson and Funnyname who'd been playing county cricket and were in good form.  They planned very well unlike England who just turned up at the end of the world cup.  They have an excellent bowling attack which they rotated sensibly.  There are similarities here with the England team led by Strauss that won down under a few years ago. 

It seems strange that Tim Paine is the captain to take the Ashes home when the likes of Ponting and Clarke failed to do so.  Paine is a good keeper when stood up to the spinners but dodgy when stood back.  He is not a test class batsman and I don't rate his captaincy, in fact it's a wonder he's in the team at all.

Most of all they have Steve Smith who is in a different league to any batsman currently playing.  Based on the four tests we've seen 2-1 is a fair reflection but England still have a chance to square the series even though the Ashes are gone.

Saturday, 7 September 2019

Day four

Here we are again, another sunny day of Ashes cricket and I'm parked in my armchair in position to see another great English fight back.  Stokes and Bairstow start cautiously and then start to look comfortable even when the new ball is taken.  But inevitably wickets fall and it's Starc doing the damage.  First Bairstow is bowled yet again and then Stokes, who looked totally comfortable, edges to the cordon, will we make the follow on?  Buttler bats well with the tail and with cult hero Leach we reach the follow on target.  Buttler is last man out for 41, his best knock of the series but...

Australia bat again, already leading by 196.  Broad is bowling brilliantly and soon has Bunny Warner out for his third duck in a row.  He follows this with the other opener Harris and it's 16/2.  At the other end Archer is steaming in bowling with high pace and hostility.  He removes Funnyname and Head and it's 44/4.  It's been high class seam bowling from both ends and an absolute pleasure to watch, each bowls nine overs straight off.  But at the other end Smith comes in and still looks like he'll never get out.  When Overton and Leach come on to bowl there's an immediate let up in pressure and the two batsmen look set by tea.

It looks a different game after tea, Smith looks in no trouble and gets to another inevitable fifty.  At the other end Wade is managing to survive and the lead creeps passed 300, then Australia start to accelerate, Smith looking to score off every ball.  The partnership passes 100 with Smith looks like he's having a net, toying with the batsmen like no one else I've seen since Sir Viv Richards.  I don't use that comparison lightly but I do use it begrudgingly.  Finally  Leach gets him to hit one in the air and he's out for 82, the lead is 345.  Australia bat on, in normal circumstances they'd surely have declared but memories of Headingley...  Archer gets Wade who is getting more dislikable with every match  (great catch from Bairstow) but Paine and Starc thrash a few more and Australia declare with a lead of 383.

Cummins opens the bowling and removes Burns third ball, then bowls Root with the next bringing Roy in on a hat trick ball.  He survives and together with Denly makes it through to the end of play 18/2.

Once upon a time I would be feeling deep gloom with the Ashes all but gone but today I just feel acceptance.  I've enjoyed the cricket today, even though England have taken a battering.  We haven't lost the match yet, hope still remains but a draw tomorrow would be more miraculous than the win at Leeds.

Friday, 6 September 2019

Day Three

I spent the morning in the fresh air, in and out of the shed sorting fishing gear for the autumn ahead.  With me was TMS but it was raining in Manchester so no play, still it was great listening.  I was outside at the start of play and by the time I settled in front of the TV Overton was already out, 25/2.

On the other side of the world an Aussie mate is still awake and enjoying what he's watching.  Burns and Root are digging in, there's a dry spell with tight bowling followed by a couple of boundaries.  Dare I say it, so far these two batsmen are doing OK.  This is proper test batting, what we haven't seen enough in recent years.  Of the next four batsmen to come, three of them should feel they are batting for their test careers.

Meanwhile Burns and Root overcome another tricky spell then Starc comes back and they pick him off.  Burns makes fifty, he looks like he's learning and improving with every game.  He's making hard runs against a very good bowling unit, at last I think we've found an opener.  He's made runs consistently in county cricket for a few years so what took the selectors so long to pick him?  Root gets moving again too and the score passes 100.  The score keeps ticking on, the partnership reaches a century and at tea we are 125/2.

Scoring is slow after tea but Root nurdles his way to fifty.  Cummins is bowling very well, there's a review, Root knicks two and survives it all, he's been hit too, something's got to give.  Cummins brilliant seven over spell comes to an end, somehow it's passed without a wicket and the score is up to 165/2  But Hazlewood comes on and has Burns caught at slip for 81 with only one more run added.  This brings Roy to the crease...  From feeling comfortable to feeling nervous all in a few seconds.  It gets worse Root is LBW for 71, another one of those good innings that hasn't been cashed in.  Roy looks nervous for a few balls but plays some nice shots to reach 22 before he misses a straight one and it's 196/5.  Bairstow and Stokes remain unbeaten when bad light brings an early end to the day.

At 200/5 and a new ball a few overs away Australia are well on top at this stage but England were in a far worse position after two days in Leeds.  There is hope that the remaining wickets can put enough runs together and we will avoid defeat.  In a post Headingley alternative universe Stokes will score a double century, England will post a 150 run lead and Jofra will bowl them out.

Thursday, 5 September 2019

Fourth Test

Two busy days at work skipping between TMS and Cricinfo, I haven't missed much.
Day one was rain affected, England started well with Broad removing both openers including shitbag Warner for a two ball duck.  This just brought Funnyname and Piggy Smith together and the two of them accumulated nearly all day until Overton (selected from nowhere when Jimmy was ruled out) got funnyname with a beauty.  The day ended 170/3.

Day two started OK in the first session with two more wickets but Smith just batted and batted and batted.  He gave chances that were missed including being out of a no ball... from Leach FFS!  He had support notably from Paine who got his first half century of the series and inevitably got to his third Ashes double century.  Whatever I may think about Smith I have to recognise he is a phenomenal batsmen who keeps getting better and better.  Take him out of this Aussie team and the batting line up is poor.  He was eventually out for 211, to Root of all people.  England had a poor day in the field and even Archer appeared to be showing signs of fatigue.  After some tail end carnage Australia eventually declared on 497/8 leaving England a tricky forty five minutes to survive.

Poor Joe Denly was moved up the order to open and fell to Cummins but Burns and nightwatchman Overton made it to the close, 23/1.  So for the second match in a row it looks bleak for England but it has to be said things aren't as bad as they were after two days at Leeds.  England need to be still batting on Saturday if we have any chance in this series, our batsmen need to realise they are playing for their careers now.

Monday, 26 August 2019

And breathe...

A day has passed and my brain is still struggling to process what happened at Headingley.  I watched the game in 1981 on TV and my abiding memory isn't Botham smashing the ball into the stands but Willis charging down the hill.  To a naive thirteen year old me, victory was inevitable.  (That series sealed my fate as a lifelong cricket addict.)  Same in 2001 when Mark Butcher played so well I knew he'd never get out.  Away from Ashes cricket I saw Devon Malcolm's 9/57 against the Saffers in 1993 and I knew he would win us the game.  And I watched Lara's 150+ against the Aussies at Barbados in 1999, that was as tense as it was awesome.  I can't think of anything in almost forty years that was as impressive as what Ben Stokes did yesterday.  Even Sir Geoffrey has rated it the best innings he'd seen.  I have a feeling we haven't seen the best of Stokes either.  He may never play another innings like the one I saw/heard yesterday but he will become one of our greatest ever batsmen, as well as a very handy bowler and a fabulous fielder.

The Ashes were gone but Ben Stokes happened and dragged them back but the series isn't over by a long way.  We still have to get better if we are going to win and we know where we have to improve.

Australia have a superb bowling attack but so do we.  Broad and Archer have been consistently superb, if Jimmy is fit he must play at Manchester.  Take Lords out of Chris Woakes records and his statistics are not good enough, yes he can bat but that isn't why he is picked, he should be rested for the next test.  Jack Leach is a tough character and is definitely our No. 1 spinner now, Mo may have played his last home test.

The amazing second innings shouldn't deflect attention from the almost disastrous first, it should have cost us the urn.  England must make changes but I have a horrible feeling they won't change anything, it was this selection group that picked Sam Curran ahead of Stuart Broad for the Barbados test earlier this year after all.

After day two I'd have dropped all of England's batsmen bar Burns, Root and Stokes but Denly's 50 contributed greatly to England's eventual win as did Bairstow's 36 so they stay for now.  If Bairstow is to bat at six then he doesn't keep, Foakes comes in and Buttler has to make way.  The selectors seem to like Ollie Pope.  That just leaves an opener, I like Jason Roy but now is not the time to be learning how to play red ball cricket.  There are a couple of young openers doing well in first class cricket, give them a go.

The XI that won't be picked for Old Trafford.
Burns, Sibley, Root, Denly, Stokes, Bairstow, Foakes, Archer, Broad, Leach, Anderson

Sunday, 25 August 2019

How the fuck did that happen.

So it's back to work with TMS on a day when Australia should retain the Ashes but we have a chance.  It's a weird feeling, the game was effectively gone on Friday but here we are still in it.  I'm quite calm, I don't have high hopes so won't feel too low.

The game starts on time and the score has hardly moved when Root is out, well that's it then.  Bairstow comes in and counter attacks and together they push along, scoring quite freely.  At lunch it's 238/4, we still need 120 with six wickets in hand, we can win this!

After lunch, Bairstow edges to slip for 34.  The score is 245/5, we still have a couple of men who can hold a bat.  Stokes has 50 but doesn't celebrate.  Disasters under pressure, Buttler is run out and Woakes doesn't last long.  261/7 it's over.  Archer hits a few then gets out and Broad gets a two ball duck 286/9, that's it, 73 required with 1 wicket in hand, the Ashes are all but gone.

Then Stokes goes mad, and starts smashing the ball, peppering the boundaries and the deficit reduces rapidly.  Stokes passes a hundred but still doesn't celebrate. The Aussies burn a review with a speculative punt.  The Aussies drop catches!!

As my working day comes to an end we need 8 to win.  I can't drive home so sit in my car with the radio on.  SIX!!  two to win.  Horror show, Leach should have been run out, Stokes should have been LBW but Australia don't have a review!  Next over, Leach on strike, can he survive?  He steals a single! The scores are level, the Ashes still alive!  Stokes smashes the next ball for four and England have won by one run with their highest ever run chase!  Stokes finishes on 135*, the last 74 came off 42 balls, possibly the best test innings ever played by an Englishman.  Leach finished with a glorious 1* in a partnership of 75.  I can drive home now.

I've just watched a repeat of the last half hour, fabulous stuff.  I'm totally mind fucked and feel exhausted.

Saturday, 24 August 2019

It's the hope that kills us

Day three, although by the state of the game you'd think it was towards the end of day four.  Australia's lead is probably long enough but they have four more wickets to help stretch it a bit further.  But Broad and Stokes are bowling well to begin with, torturing the England fans with hope.  A dropped catch from Bairstow doesn't help...  Time to change the keeper?  No that was last week.  If England had held their chances they would be batting by now, the fielding has been poor.

When Archer has Pattinson caught at slip the lead is 327 and the celebrations looked muted, in fact Root looks furious.  Archer fells Funnyname (who has now given FOUR chances ) with a rapid ball that thumps the grill.  Bowling isn't the problem, its the bats that have consistently let us down over several years now and fielding in this innings...
Archers short pitched attack continues, Funnyname is uncomfortable.  Stokes bowls a short one from the other end and Cummins pushes it to gully 226/8.  I'd be loving this bowling performance if our batting hadn't been so fucking shit!
Ironically it's a misfield from Denly that has Funnyname going for a second run that sees him run out for 80 and Aus are 9 down.  Not long afterwards Archer bowls Lyon and the innings is over for 246.  England have bowled very well but fielded badly and now require a record 359 to save the Ashes.  We make it through to lunch unscathed, bar Burns' fingers which take a rap, 11/0.

I try to think positively.  Records are made to be broken and this is Headingley where England pulled off miraculous Ashes wins in 1981 and 2001.  West Indies chased down 300+ here a couple of years ago.  For the England fan in Test cricket it's the hope that kills us.

Soon after lunch Burns gets an edge from a good ball but one he could have left.  Then Roy is bowled by a beauty and we're 15/2 and it looks like groundhog day.  But then the unthinkable happens, Root and Denly get in and start to nudge a few runs, what's most impressive is they are actually leaving the ball with good judgement.  This is one of those rare occasions where they are actually fighting and not giving their wickets away.  They bat through the afternoon and the partnership builds, passed fifty to rapturous applause and on.  If I can block out the match situation, watching them bat today is actually enjoyable.  Especially as the Aussie bowlers are really fucking impressive.

Tea comes and goes.  Root and Denly continue and it's a wonder to watch.  Root gets to fifty, the partnership passes a hundred, both landmarks greeted by standing ovations.  Fair play to the crowd at Leeds, they haven't given up on England.  Denly finally gets to a deserved fifty, his best test knock to date if not yet his highest.  But there he is stranded, Lyon and Hazlewood, bowling in tandem are strangling England and finally there's a crack, Denly is bounced out and it's 141/3.  I'm pleased he's made some runs even if I don't think he should be in the team.  Stokes comes in and immediately looks in control, even if he's hardly scoring.  We make it to close at 156/3 with Root 75*.

So tomorrow England need another 203 runs to win with seven wickets in hand, they can't do it can they?  As ever the first hour will be crucial, if both Root and Stokes are removed then the game is gone.  If one of them remains they will need to be not out at the end of play.  In all likelihood Australia will take the seven wickets they need to retain the Ashes.  But even so we might be in for a torturous, tight, heart breaking finish.  As ever, it's the hope that kills us.

Friday, 23 August 2019

3rd test

Day One
Work is too busy to contemplate the radio so following the game is purely down to clicking onto Cricinfo whenever I can.  there's lots of rain around in the grim north so I don't feel like I'm missing much.  Archer and Broad both strike early to reduce Australia to 25/2 but Scumbag Warner and Marky Funnyname counter attack, Woakes and Stokes go around the ground and at 120/2 the score looks grim.  Archer and Broad return and Warner goes which is the start of a batting crumble.  When I leave work the score is 139/5.

I get home just as Woakes removes the hapless Paine.  The next hour is very enjoyable, Archer bowling with reduced pace but great control, like Malcom Marshall often would.  I don't use that comparison lightly.  He's too good for the Aussie tail and when Stokes gets Funnyname with a full toss the game is up.  179 all out.  We'll take that!  Watching England's bowlers when they scent blood is a thrill and a joy.

Day Two
Once again I have to pop out before start of play and I'm an impatient bastard with all the obstructions conspiring to prevent me from getting home in time.  But I make it and settle into my armchair in front of the box.  I'm nervous, England may have had a good day but the Aussies can bowl, and we have a strange line up that doesn't inspire confidence.  It's like everyone knows the selectors haven't got it right but we have to let things play out.  It may come back to haunt us.  NO!  Today is the day for those batsmen to step up and show what they are made of and get us back into the series!

Play starts and the first over is comfortable, both openers get off the mark and Roy gets a thick edged four through gully.  A couple of tight overs, nerves start to ease...  Roy belts a boundary through cover and middles the next for no run.  I just feel an edge is coming...  And it does 10/1.  Root comes in, today will be his day!  No it won't but it's a great ball, Hazlewood has two.  Only a review from Denly prevents it being three.  Meanwhile dare I say Burns looks composed?  Fuck sake, Burns gloves a short ball and it's 20/3. Fuck.  We have two men on 0.  Denly takes an age to get off the mark but hits his 24th ball for four.  A period of calm but Stokes plays an awful shot to a rank ball and it's 34/4.  Three of our batsmen have got themselves out.  It feels like the Ashes are slipping away.

Another period of relative calm, Bairstow gets off the mark, can these two hang in until lunch?  No.  Denly has been tortured and eventually folds, playing a poor shot and getting an edge.  This brings Buttler to the crease which does nothing to improve my confidence.  I like Joss, he's great to watch in all formats but right now it's time to show us he's a test cricketer.  Bairstow is next to get out.  45/6.  Yes the Urn is slipping away.

From bad to worse.  Woakes goes to the first ball after lunch bringing Archer to the crease.  Hopes of a lead are long gone we'll be bowling again soon.  Buttler goes next over 56/8.  Then Archer unluckily. Then Leach is bowled around his legs, all out for 67.

The frustrating thing is this collapse was no surprise, we've seen this so often in recent years I almost expected it today.  Just look at the line up; Burns has done well enough to keep his place for the foreseeable future, he may have a reasonable test career but he doesn't look likely to ever be considered a great player.  Roy has the talent but not the mind set to make it as a test opener.  Root is class but I don't rate his captaincy and I bet if the stats were checked his batting has become less effective since becoming skipper.  Denly has had ample opportunity to prove he isn't good enough for test cricket.  For the second innings we might as well swap Roy and Denly over.  Stokes is a world class all rounder but is he batting in the right spot?  If Bairstow is considered a keeper then his record stands up but if he is a No. 6 batsmen then he should hand over the gloves to aid the improvement he will need.  And if Buttler is a test batsman then he is too low at 7!   Whoever is in the team, I want them to do well, even if (like Bairstow) I think they should be dropped.  England are a long way from having a decent test batting line up.  The truth is over the last few years our bowlers have been brilliant in English conditions and they have been the reason we have a good home record.

Now I wait for England to bowl again.  As good as Archer is we will get the best out of Woakes with a hard, shiny new ball.  He has to open up the hill with Broad or Archer bowling a short spell down the hill but I doubt that will happen.  It doesn't, Archer runs up the hill but next over Broad gets slimeball Warner for a duck and we have a wicket.  If we could just bowl them out for less than a hundred...  Woakes replaces Archer after a short spell meaning Jofra should come back after Broad's spell, that's sensible...  But it isn't Archer, it's Leach?  He bowls Harris first ball!  What do I know?  Australia edge a few runs and I'm getting the sinking feeling but Woakes strikes! 52/3.  The session then drifts, Australia bat well and England look flat, even Archer seems to have lost his mojo.  The batsmen haven't given the bowlers a rest.  At tea its 82/3.  I'm watching our hopes of an Ashes win fizzle away.  It doesn't hurt at the moment but it's grim viewing.

It's little better after tea but Leach seems tidy and Stokes is bowling with pace and rhythm.  He finds the edge of Funnyname's bat but Root drops it at first!  I sense that may be the signature scene of England's day.  The lead is passed 200.  But Stokes carries on and yorks Head with a superb ball.  Aus still tick over but the bowling is good, two reviews don't go our way...  Leach is given a rest after an expensive over but Woakes comes on and doesn't look like he'll take a wicket.  Stokes has bowled an excellent spell but he has to take a rest.  Archer comes on, bowls four deliveries then has to stop, it looks like cramp, let's hope it's nothing more!  That would just rub it in.  So Stokes just carries on bowling, in the end 15.2 straight overs taking 2/34.  He breaks a 60+ partnership between Wade and Funnyname and should have had more reward.  Broad gets the skipper for a duck and the day ends at 171/6.

England's bowlers stuck to it this afternoon and didn't let the game totally go, we're still in it in theory but only just.  The Aussie batsmen, limited as they are, still managed to give us a lesson in how to bat in test cricket.  They left well and put away the bad balls.  In all probability today was the day England let the Ashes slip away.

Tuesday, 20 August 2019

Eels at Rock City

A day off work means a lazy start but after breakfast it's time to load the car and point it towards Nottingham.  Eels are back in the country and we don't know when their next visit will be so can't miss this tour!  Sadly things start off awry, the daughter is feeling decidedly unwell so makes a mature decision in opting to stay in bed.  This takes the shine off our day, the Princess and I are somber driving north but the show must go on.  We are on our way by 1245.

The journey...  The A14 is in shit order at the moment, there have been major roadworks around Cambridge for over a year and these will continue into the next.  This slows us considerably but we left home with loads of time to spare so no stress.  The queue in the opposite direction is much worse, miles and miles of trucks, many heading to the east coast ports, why are they not on a train?  The A1 seems clear but suddenly traffic grinds to a halt, we inch forward for a mile or so, pass a minor shunt pulled into the edge and shortly after debris all over the inside lane, skid marks and finally a van crunched into the back of a lorry.  A few other vehicles seem to have been caught up in it too.  Thankfully it doesn't look serious.  We get by before the emergency services seal the road and continue northward.  Google revealed this accident closed the A1 for hours and caused miles of tailbacks but thankfully no fatalities.  I've got into the good habit of leaving a large gap between me and the car in front, there are so many fucking idiots on dual carriageways I like to give them space to drive badly.

We got into Nottingham and using my hand written directions (sat nav? fuck off) found the venue and car park easily.  We were loose on the streets of Nottingham around 1600 so had loads of time to kill so went walking, passing the venue I'm sure that's the bass player milling around but my bladder is screaming at me and I can't concentrate...  Into the city, firstly in search of a toilet then a long wander around.  We both fancy pizza but who would have thought the Hut would be so elusive?  Eventually after a long circle we find one, close to where we started...  I quite like Nottingham, I've been here several times, mostly for cricket but occasionally into the city, I find it has a friendlier vibe than most big cities.  After filling up on pizza we find ourselves parked on a bench, nearby there's some kind of street sing/dance performance going on.  It's crap and we wander off before they come round with the begging bowl.

By now there's a queue at the venue, loads of people decked in 'Eels' tour shirts, as are we.  The doors open and the queue moves quickly.  So this is 'Rock City'?  An iconic venue that has been printed in the tour dates on the back of thousands of tee shirts.  It's dark and wide with a small balcony, not as big as I'd imagined but with loads of vantage points should a short arse like me really need to see the stage.  No bitter at the bar!?  I thought this was the north?  I settle for a Guinness but even this comes from the can and I have to ask for a glass/plastic cup thingy.

We sit on the steps and sip, until my backside goes dead and I stand.  A few minutes later the support act arrives.  Hailing from Texas and wearing a white tuxedo and matching cowboy hat he immediately makes the worst kind of impression on me, I consider bolting for the door but pull myself together.  Actually it's not so bad.  The 'Texas piano man' is not my cup of tea but he doesn't have too much of a twang, he doesn't take himself too seriously and his lyrics are full of humour.  I've seen a lot worse but wont be rushing off to buy an album.

It's nearly 2100, we left home hours ago and have been killing time in Nottingham since four but we're only minutes away from seeing our favourite band in the world.  They walk on to the ironic strains of the 'Rocky' theme then as usual start off with a couple of covers including The Who's 'Out in the street' and once again my favourite Prince song 'Raspberry beret'.  The crowd is appreciative but don't really crank it up until Eels play their own tunes.  'Bone dry' has an air of menace, the guitar on 'Flyswatter' sounds like its oozing from hell, 'Dog faced boy' is as sinister as it should be.  The crowd is moving, clapping, singing.  Three dirty arsed, pounding rock tunes has done the trick.

Mr E takes to the mic with his usual wit and invites us to 'soft rock' for a while.  "We haven't played this tune in a very long time... except for last night... and the two nights before that..."  Then goes into "I need some sleep" a classic we've not heard live before; then after 'Dirty Girl' another classic new to us live "In the yard behind the church".  After three relatively mellow tunes it's full power again for 'Prize fighter' and 'Tremendous dynamite'.  and so on...

Rock City is a good venue and the crowd were right up for it.  As nobody ever seems to have heard of 'Eels' it's heartening to be in a room full of like minded people, I don't know where the audiences come from but this band keeps filling halls all around the world, I hope they always will.

Eels are my favourite band, this is the sixth time I've seen them and they are consistently brilliant live.  Mr E is the master songwriter, singer and multi instrumentalist, Chet is a brilliant virtuoso guitarist, Big Al plays a solid base and the latest drummer Little Joe kicks arse.  I love the way they take an old familiar song and completely reinvent it on stage, I don't want to hear the same tunes played the same way year after year I love the altered arrangements.  However this tour is basically a continuation of the one we saw last summer so the look and feel of the band was little changed.  The set was very similar to last year too which takes away some of the "wow factor" you get when you haven't a clue what is coming next but there were still half a dozen or so changes from last time.  If they are true to form the next tour will see a complete change.  

Tune of the night for me was "P.S. You rock my world" which literally had me welling up.  As usual Eels make a mockery of the 'encore charade', this time by coming back on virtually as soon as they have all walked off, twice.  Before the band finished with an instrumental jam, the last recognisable tune of the evening was the end of 'Wonderful Glorious' which sums up the night for me.  This wasn't the best performance I've seen from Eels but it was still wonderful and still glorious.

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We wait for the rush to clear before wandering off, battling with the pay machine in the car park and starting our escape from the big city.  The signage is clear and we get onto the A52 with no trouble.  The roads are quiet too so the drive is much easier until we get towards Cambridge and the A14 diversion from hell adds at least half an hour to the journey.  I swear some fucker had been switching the signs around.  There are far fewer trucks on the road now but every lay by has at least half a dozen parked up.  I back into the drive around 0200, knackered.

Sunday, 18 August 2019


The first day was a washout, one of those sunless, soakers that we usually associate with the colder months and not a ball was bowled.

Day two Australia won the toss and put England in.  I was at work and so busy I became oblivious to cricket.  When I did remember and got the Cricinfo site up it was approaching lunch, 76/2 with Roy and Root back in the pavilion.

I was unable to follow much of the days play but in the early afternoon every time I clicked in another wicket had fallen.  Denly, Burns (53), Buttler, Stokes, 138/6.  This is no surprise, it is normal for England.  Woakes and Bairstow wagged and put on 72 for the seventh wicket and England limped to 258 all out.  Bairstow managed 52.  I would have dropped him for this match but fair play.  He now needs to get more scores like this to prove me wrong.  I hope he does but Ben Foakes must find a way into this team.

Australia had to bat for an hour and Root proved he isn't a captain by opening with Archer instead of Woakes.  I like Archer and he will do great things but Woakes is a proven threat on this ground in these conditions.  As it was Broad took the only wicket, the loathsome Warner bowled for 3 and Australia finished the day 30/1.

Day three.  We popped out in the morning which took longer than planned so I missed start of play but sat down at 60/1 to watch Archer bowl in test cricket.  I'd missed his previous spell so this was a first for me and very soon a first test wicket for him, Bancroft LBW confirmed by review.  Next over from Woakes and Khawaja edges behind, it's become 60/3!  It's gloomy at Lords, can England take advantage?  England bowl brilliantly for a few overs but Smith (who else?) and Head see off Archer.  Broad returns without the menace of Jofra but is bowling well.  He hits Head's pad and on TV it looks plumb but it takes a review to confirm this 71/4.  Stokes comes on and there's no let up in pressure.  Wade overturns an LBW by review.  It's been compulsive viewing this morning, England on top and look like taking a wicket at any time, (except when Smith is facing), this is test cricket at its best.  Rain brings an early lunch, 80/4 England still lead by 178.

I cut the grass at lunch and by the time I'm finishing it's raining in Suffolk, I doubt we'll see much more play today, if any.

Day Four.  Another morning spent perched in front of Sky sports.  I don't want to advertise these people but their cricket coverage is excellent.  England bowl very well; Stokes, Broad, Archer and Woakes all look threatening.  Eventually Broad strikes to remove Wade, caught in the cordon.  Archer looks very impressive, every inch a test cricketer.  Paine looks really troubled and even Smith looks uncomfortable but he resists, together they eke out a few runs, mostly streaky but the odd decent shot.  Leach comes on for a few overs and looks OK, certainly not overawed.  Lunch arrived with Australia on 155/5, England are still 103 runs ahead.

I had to drop Maddie off at the station and by the time I got home Archer was in full flow and had already removed Paine with a short ball.  I sit wide eyed at Archer steaming in, consistently between 92 and 95mph, rapid, hostile and accurate.  Fast bowling does not get any better than this, the crowd is roaring!  He hits Smith and hurts him.  Meanwhile up the other end a total contrast, Leach is tight and tidy, the captain has full control.

Archer wow!  He hits Smith below the helmet at 93mph.  The world's best batsman is starfished, face down, the crowd goes quiet.  Smith retires hurt.  I've seen spells of pace and hostility from the great West Indians as well as English bowlers like Willis, Malcolm, and Harmison.  This afternoon Archer was as exhilarating as any of them and this is his test debut!

I left with England taking the new ball and drove to the lake, all the time my mind was fixated with the cricket, what's going on at Lords?  On arrival the radio is straight out of the bag, TMS lets me hear Leach and Broad take the last two wickets to bowl Australia out for 250, our lead is just 8.  The afternoon was windy enough to put up a shelter, I don't want the rustling reeds drowning out the radio.  Sitting by a lake, comfortable in shorts and a tea shirt with TMS on the radio, this is what summer is all about.

England bat.  Burns seems confident and Roy is off the pair but doesn't contribute much else, then Root gets a golden and we are 9/2!  Cummins has two.  I'm numb again.  Surely we can't let Australia into this match?  Burns and Denly post a calming fifty partnership, their second of the match but then Denly is out and the door is open again.  Stokes comes in ahead of Buttler which seems right to me but with two lefties at the crease Lyon returns and is all over Stokes but somehow he survives the over.  But it's Burns that gets out next over, caught behind from a Siddle snorter and we are in trouble again at 71/4, the lead just 79.  If we can get another 100 we'll have a chance?

A shower brings an early end to the day, somehow Stokes and Buttler have survived and nudged the lead up to over 100.  This test match is alive and kicking, all results are still possible.

Archer was awesome today.  His figures are impressive but still don't reflect the intense hostility of his bowling.  He may not have got Smith out but he was all over the world's best batsman.  If he can bowl like this consistently over a lengthy test career he will be a superstar and we will be lucky to watch it.  Writing this on the fourth evening of the match I think Archer's spell is a game changer.  If England can avoid defeat in this match then we will win the series.

Day Five.  I'm at work but once again I've been able to arrange my day to be at a desk for start of play, which is delayed!  I learn that Smith can't play though... So my day is rearranged again and I'm back at the desk in time to hear Stokes and Buttler bat in a very low key manner and nudge the score along.  Most importantly they are sticking in and batting Australia out of the game.  They take their partnership passed fifty and reach the delayed lunch unscathed, the lead is 165.

Afterwards Buttler is out without adding to his score but Bairstow comes in and plays his second good innings of the match.  I'd have left him out but fair play he's batted well, hopefully he'll take this form on.  But Stokes steals the show, unfortunately I don't get to hear too much of it but he batters the Aussies to all parts of Lords to make another Ashes century.  Not long after England declare on 258/5, the same score they made first time around, Stokes not out on 115.

As my work day comes to a close so Archer starts again.  I don't hear his carnage but Cricinfo tells me he's taken the wickets of Gobshite Warner (for another single digit score) and Khawaja!  Another journey home spent wondering what is going on in the match and why my car stereo doesn't have long wave?

I'm home just before tea and watch a few overs of nervous Australians hopping around  46/2.  After tea and just one run added Leach gets Bancroft plumb LBW and it's game on again.  Archer has the same hostility as yesterday but not quite the same intensity.  Still the Aussies are uncomfortable.  Some bloke called Labushagne is Test cricket's first ever concussion replacement and to be fair he does well, despite being sconned by Archer second ball.  At the other end Head digs in and survives a dropped catch!!  Ultimately it's this partnership that digs Australia out of a big hole.

We are eating dinner when Leach gets Labuschagne but not when he gets Wade shortly after.  England still have a chance but we're running out of time...  Then Archer bounces out Paine, brilliant catch from Denly!!!  The game is on again!  Then it got cloudy and the umpires advised that Archer couldn't bowl.  Disappointing but fair enough, it was only then that I felt we could no longer win this game.  And so it proved.  A drawn test match but some fantastic cricket played and England had the better of it. 

Ben Stokes was rightly named man of the match but Jofra Archer has changed the course of this series.  I can't remember a more exciting debut performance from an England bowler.  He was impressive in the world cup but even so I didn't realise just how good he is until Saturday afternoon when I watched wide eyed and slack jawed.

 England's middle order fired in this match and will have gained confidence.  Our pace bowlers looked good and Leach with the ball done everything Moeen Ali couldn't.  I expect the selectors will keep the same side at Headingly later in the week.  Denly and Roy will be looking over their shoulders, maybe they should swap places?  One of the bowlers will have to make way some time soon, we have Jimmy to come back too...  Confidence restored, England can win this series!

Monday, 5 August 2019

1st Test. England stuffed, Jimmy crocked.

Work again but I had to be desk bound for a lot of it and arranged my schedule to suit.  I wish I hadn't bothered.  Burns fell early, no surprise after his first innings, he isn't a Smith after all.   Roy and Root done OK for a while but the former played a shot so bad it was almost funny and then England didn't really collapse as much as crumble.  Australia won by 251 runs.  England stuffed, Jimmy crocked, could it be any worse?  I have no emotion, did I use it all up on that white ball stuff?

Jimmy going lame was massive.  We might not have won with four fit bowlers but it would have been a much closer game.

Smith played as well as any Australian batsman has ever played in an Ashes match as long I've been watching cricket.  Our own star batsman had an average game.

Their spinner was excellent, our spinner was piss poor.  Gotta love Mo but he's in woeful form and should be dropped but won't be.

Our much vaunted middle order did not contribute, with the exception of Stokes it was they that let Australia off the hook after our top three had done their jobs.

Can England come back?  Well we did in 2005 but in reality how many of the current squad would get a place in that team?  Root for Bell and Jimmy for Hoggard?  For that matter only Root would have stood a chance of forcing his way into Strauss' No.1 ranked test team.  The reality is our batsmen just aren't that good.

If fit Archer will walk into the team now with Broad and Woakes taking the new ball.  I doubt England will make any changes but I'd definitely drop Ali.  Australia will consistently take 20 wickets this summer,  if we pick five fit confident bowlers I'm sure England can to.

England must get enough runs to exert pressure.  Will Joe Denly get another test?  He probably deserves one more but...  If Buttler and Bairstow are not contributing then one of them should make way for Foakes who is by far the best keeper.  Since returning to test cricket Buttler averages 37.8, in the same period Bairstow averages 22.4.  Both have scored one hundred, as has Foakes who averages 41.5 from his ten test innings.

Whoever plays at Lords the middle order must do better if England have any chance of coming back in this series but we're still in it.  Can we come back?  Yes.  Will we?  Only if our batsmen improve.

 The XI that won't be picked for Lords;

A. Nother,  R. Burns, J. Root, J.Roy, J. Buttler, B. Stokes, B. Foakes, C. Woakes, J. Archer, S.Broad, M. Leach.

Sunday, 4 August 2019

Heaven and Hell

I had a teenager to deliver to a far flung corner of the county, there is no long wave on the car radio so it's a nervous journey back wondering how things are going.  I rushed through the house and turned on the TV, Burns caresses one through the covers for four but Stokes is out (for 50), the score is 293/5, the lead is just 9.  We need at least another hundred.  A couple more singles then Burns is out to Lyon for 133 and the score 296/6.  Every extra run is vital now.  Ali leaves a straight one and gets a predictable duck then Bairstow plays a crap shot and it's 300/8.  The game has evened up.  Broad and Woakes bat sensibly and survive until lunch nudging the lead along to 44.

After lunch I have the car loaded and ready to go fishing for the first time in ages but decide to wait until the fall of the next wicket, anything could happen.  The lead inches past fifty, the crowd cheers every run and inwardly so do I.

It is evident that Tim Paine is out of his depth.  As captain he's used his bowlers and Lyon in particular poorly.  From what the TV is showing Smith is orchestrating thins and Paine is captain in name only.  His keeping is sloppy, he takes his eyes off the ball and he contributes fuck all with the bat and could soon be unemployed.

Meanwhile the partnership creeps past fifty and the score past 350 while the Edgbaston crowd ramp it up, giving the Aussies grief.  Smith comes on to bowl to a crescendo of boos and "... he's got the sand-paper in his hand...".  The lead is now 72, fifteen more minutes and I'm going fishing.

I had to stop en route so it was 1600 before I was on the water and TMS tuned in.  Australia 22/1, the loathsome Warner out!  As I drifted down the stretch Ali removed Bancroft but then Smith and Khawaja start hitting it around and the lead (which was 90) was being whittled away.  Stokes get's Khawaja! and Head comes and seems comfortable.  By the time I am settled with a brew Australia were effectively 4/3.

Australia picked up Runs with ease over the next hour.  As idyllic as it is, listening to TMS afloat in the wilderness I would have liked to have been hearing England taking wickets.  Eventually the light closed in and the umpires took them off, 124/3.  Australia are 34 ahead and still well in this match.  Ali has bowled poorly today, Smith is the key now.

Day four and I had to work again but managed to position myself next to the radio for a large part of the day, it was horrible.  TMS started with eager anticipation of quick wickets but Smith and Head continued to frustrate, in fact they made it seem easy.  Head got out to Stokes but Smith passed 100 for the second time in the match.  When I left work the lead was about 250 but when I switched the radio back on down at the lake it was 454/7, the lead is massive.

Australia eventually declared after some torturous tail end hitting, the score 487/8 meaning England need an impossible 398 to win or bat three sessions tomorrow to survive.  But not before a tricky few ominous overs this evening.  England made it through to the close unscathed despite a few near misses, 13/0.

Ali has had a poor match and with Jimmy injured we've effectively had three bowlers which has been a factor but England have been absolutely crushed today.  For the first time in a decade England face going behind in an opening home Ashes match but it doesn't hurt too bad and I won't have a sleepless night.  There is still a good chance we can save this match but part of me is thinking 'fair play', Piggy Smith has been playing a different game, even better than Kholi this time last year.  It's been a brilliant test match and England have been in strong positions but haven't kept the Aussies down.  If we get out of jail tomorrow it will be a right result.