Sunday, 30 June 2019

Match Thirty Eight

Work was busy.  So busy I didn't have time to remember about the cricket (though this may also have been influenced by my feelings of moodiness towards the team since those two poor defeats).  When I did remember I had a moment of panic; what would I find when I logged into cricinfo?  With a quickening heartbeat I waited for the page to upload...  Breathe easier, England had won the toss and batted first and made an impressive 337/7 with 11 from Bairstow, 66 from Roy and 79 from Stokes.

India's reply had started and they had crawled along to 28/1 from ten overs.  Things looked good for England.  Several deep breaths of relief later I considered this was a decent position and against almost any opposition I should expect England to bring it home.  However if any team in the world can make us sweat its India.

By the time I got home Sharma and Kohli were going well with the score 140/1 I feared the worst but soon after the skipper was out and I was able to relax again.  Sharma completed yet another century but was out soon after.  Pant played an expansive cameo but was well caught on the boundary by Woakes.  226/4 with ten overs to go, England should be favourites but it's still game on.

Even with Dhoni at the wicket Pandya still looked like the danger man but when he was caught off the brilliant Plunkett It seemed the game had tilted towards England.  MS played a strange innings which showed no urgency, lots of singles but few boundaries and the run rate climbed at such a rate I was able to relax and watch England bring home the win.  Woakes and Plunkett shared the wickets but Archer bowled very well too.  This evening England looked like world beaters once again.  You'd think Plunkett, who has been left out of late, has done enough to remain in the side for as long as the tournament goes on now.

Over the last couple of days Australia thrashed the Kiwi's, handing them their second defeat in as many games.  India beat West Indies despite a Brathwaite onslaught and Pakistan struggled against Afghanistan but scraped a win to pile the pressure on England.  South Africa scored a rare win against Sri Lanka which leaves me wondering how we managed to lose against them?  As I sit here the top four is back to normal with Australia on top followed by India, New Zealand and England.  Bangladesh and Pakistan both hold hope of qualifying and play each other next week.  If England beat New Zeland on Wednesday then this result won't matter.

There are seven more group games to go in this World cup, at the same stage in 1992 New Zealand were sitting on top of the table followed by England, with South Africa and India holding the last two semi final places.  But this changed over the last week of the group games...

Wednesday, 26 June 2019

Match Thirty two

England versus Australia.  Whatever the sport this is always a nervous affair.  With a day off work I could have parked in front of the TV for the day but instead I went out with my son for the morning.  Why?  Maybe I couldn't handle the nerves of an England vs Australia match but mostly I wanted to spend time with my son.

We got home in time to watch the last few overs of Australia's innings and with a score of 285-7 off the fifty overs (Finch 100) I felt confident England could close this one out.  However by the time I'd got my fishing gear ready and loaded the car England had been reduced to 53-4 by some excellent new ball bowling by Starc and Berendorf.  Vince went second ball, Morgan fell hooking, Root missed a straight one...By the time I was away in the boat things were looking much better with Stokes and Buttler pushing the score passed 100.  I thought to myself that if England could bring it home from here then I would have great faith that we could win the tournament.  But Buttler fell hooking soon after...

The rest of the innings consisted of short spells of hope punctuated by crushing wickets.  Stokes top scored with 89 but no one else reached thirty and the defeat was made less painless by it's inevitability.  By the end there was none of the pain and anxiety familiar to the England cricket fan, I had ceased to care.

Since then Pakistan have beaten New Zealand and Bangladesh saw off Afghanistan, both results pile the pressure on England who now have to win two tough matches to qualify.  The pre tournament favourites are now looking unlikely to qualify for the semi finals just a week after looking nailed on certainties.

What has gone wrong?  The defeat against Sri Lanka was terrible, this was a match we should have won comfortably and it is this that has heaped the pressure on England.  It's no disgrace to lose to an Australian team that are now looking like favourites to retain the cup.  However it is ironic that the Aussies used two  players who were banned for on field antics that were absolutely disgraceful yet an England star, Alex Hales, was left out of the squad for allegedly having a puff off field.  His replacement, James Vince has not been up to the task.  It's also ironic that England have struggled against top quality pace bowlers on seaming "English" style wickets.

So to qualify for the final four England must now beat both India and New Zealand, two teams in top form in this tournament.  As I said it seems unlikely even though it's still possible, the potential world champions should fear nobody.  If we manage to qualify from here then I will be confident that England can go all the way and win the trophy and what's more we will deserve it.

The parallels between this tournament and the 1992 affair are now looking horribly familiar, that time the favourites and host nation failed to qualify and Pakistan came from nowhere to win.  More about that another time.

Sunday, 23 June 2019


I managed to get off work early and flew up the A12 in no time at all, then it took me about twenty minutes to move a mile so was late picking Rich up.  An hour later and way behind schedule we met the Purple Princess then pointed the car north through the Suffolk countryside and headed to High Lodge.  The traffic near the venue was crawling but we expected little else.

By 1930 we were in the arena, actually a bowl amidst the trees of Thetford forest, chewing on a burger and supping a beer.  The burger was very good but the beer was indifferent, like brown lager.  This was my first visit to this arena and it really is a lovely setting.  Looking around the crowd gave me cause for concern though, I'm used to being one of the oldest people at a gig but today we were definitely in the younger half.  The last time I was in a crowd of this age the atmosphere reflected it.  Also as much as I admire Mr Weller I feel no compulsion to try and look like him.  There were literally dozens of impersonators who all seemed a bit sad really, one actually looked more like Jimmy Saville...
Image result for paul weller thetford
Support band was 'Stone Foundation' who we'd seen before a few years ago when they blew the roof off a small tent at Latitude.  Today they were OK, professional and entertaining but didn't get us moving as they had before.

Paul Weller came on stage around 2040 and the set started in a low key manner with "I'm where I should be" followed by "My ever changing moods" and "Long time".  Three songs in and everything was a bit flat, the sound was poor with the bass swamping everything and the crowd wasn't really getting swept up in it.  There was a group of pissed dickheads behind us offering 'advice'.  Rich looked at me and said "That's what happens when cousins marry..."

The sound improved for through the next few numbers and "Wild wood" followed by "That's entertainment" finally got the crowd properly engaged.  From there the gig just got better and better and better, as did the atmosphere.  Mr Weller doesn't talk much on stage he just concentrates on playing, tune after tune, all familiar faves; "Can you heal us ?", "The Princess' fave "You do something to me" and my all time Weller favourite "Hung up".  The regular set finished with "Peacock suit" by which time the sky was almost dark and the crowd was roaring for more.  

The band returned for two lengthy encores and we tried to guess what they would play.  We could never have predicted a cover of "Curtis Mayfield's "Move on up" but it was brilliant!  Final tune of the night was "Town called Malice" which brought the show to a close almost two hours after Weller had first taken to the stage.  After the slow start we were now totally Wellered and didn't want the show to end.  Would he come back for "Changing man" or "Eton Rifles"?  No.
Image result for paul weller thetford
The Princess and I saw Weller a few years ago and he was brilliant.  This time he played a very different set with fewer Jam songs and more by the Style Council.  He also has less energy than he did then but he's passed sixty now and is probably fitter than me.  It was an excellent show in a nice venue and I'd very much like to experience both again some time.

Match Twenty Seven.

Earlier in the day I'd struggled to follow the cricket at work but when I saw Sri Lanka had been restricted to 232 I felt confident England would overhaul this with ease.  Even with a couple of early wickets going down I could only see one result.  When I got home from the gig and switched on my phone I was shocked to see England had found a way to lose!  This armchair fanatic is wondering if the damage was done when Alex Hales was omitted from the squad?  James Vince has not contributed.  All of a sudden the nailed on favourites are looking anything but and we have three very tough matches to come, next up the bloody Aussies.  Since then we've had a couple of good matches with Afghanistan almost embarrassing India but not quite and New Zealand winning a close game against the West Indies.  As I type Pakistan are on the verge of eliminating the Saffers. Perhaps there's a surprise or two left in this world cup?  Hopefully not nasty ones for an England fan.

Thursday, 20 June 2019

Match Twenty Four

Isaac and I spent Tuesday morning fishing in the sunshine from a punt, we caught loads of silver fish while TMS kept us up to date with the cricket.  By the time we tuned in Vince had already fallen but Bairstow and Root were building a formidable lead.  It was a shock when the latter was out for 90 but this brought Morgan to the innings and he simply dismantled the Afghan bowling.  He hammered them all over for 148 off 71 balls which included a world record seventeen sixes.  England racked up 397-6. The morning was idyllic.

We were home in time for the Afghanistan innings and after a blistering start from archer it all got a bit boring, there was never any kind of contest.  I thought England were sloppy in the field which is understandable in a way but still unacceptable.  Afghanistan finished on 247-8 with wickets for Archer, Rashid and Wood.

Everything else is going to form; Australia comfortably beat Sri Lanka, India flattened Pakistan in a rain affected match, South Africa finally picked up a win against the Afghans and the woeful West Indians were well beaten by Bangladesh.  I hoped the Tigers would give Australia a run for their money but despite playing well the Aussies won and the Kiwis maintained their unbeaten record with a win over South Africa in a rare good match.

It had been hoped that the round robin format would mean less meaningless matches but with just about everything going to form that's not the way it's been.  The top four in the table has stayed the same almost from the very start of the tournament and doesn't look like changing now.  England look sure to make the semi finals but can we win the two important games that will see us crowned world champions?  It feels too good to be true...

Friday, 14 June 2019

Match Nineteen

West Indies are the only team to have held England in an ODI series since... India beat us in the sub continent?  Anyway they should be considered a threat.

An early start on a drying wicket, England won the toss and the only decision is field first.  Once again I couldn't follow the cricket live but I did manage to do so via Cricinfo.  From what I could gather England were in control from the start with our pace bowlers holding sway.  The pure pace of Archer and Wood took the headlines but everyone contributed including a bonus two wickets to Joe Root.  At a high point of 144/3 West Indies subsided to 212 all out, their tail couldn't cope with England's two 90mph bowlers.

The only downside was injuries to two of our star batsmen, Roy and Morgan limped off the filed meaning a rejigged batting line up, Root opened with Bairstow and the two put on 95 before Bairstow was first out.  Enter England's number three, er Chris Woakes?  Really?  The boy done good making 40 from 54 balls, falling with only a handful left.  Root completed his second century of the tournament and Stokes hit the winning runs with nearly seventeen overs to spare.

So another good win and the defeat against Pakistan is forgotten, England are looking good.  The injuries are scary though and we have to hope they are not too bad.  Unfortunately Alex Hales is not in the squad for, er off the field misdemeanors, if he was he'd just slot straight in.  James Vince now has his chance to be a hero.

Elsewhere in the tournament we've only had one result over the last few days with Australia beating Pakistan. The weather has been horrendous with monsoon conditions across the country causing three abandoned games meaning India, New Zealand, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, South Africa and West Indies all picked up one point each.  The top four currently consists of New Zealand, England, Australia and India but there's plenty of time for change.

In 1992 India scored wins over Pakistan and Zimbabwe, South Africa thrashed West Indies which would have caused serious consternation in the Caribbean and best of all England thrashed Australia by eight wickets at the SCG in a match I attended.  None other than Ian Botham took 4-31 and hit a half century against the Aussies.  Maybe one day I'll write about this day which is one of the most memorable of my life but at the moment I don't have time to do it justice.  A few days later Australia did manage to win a game against Sri Lanka. At this stage of the tournament the top four consisted of  New Zealand, England, India and Sri Lanka.  It's worth noting that this four does not include two of the eventual semi finalists or the winner.

Sunday, 9 June 2019

Match Twelve

I missed the England match.  The weather out here in the east was horrendous, a strong wind and sheets of rain, surely no cricket would be played today?  Also the curse of work got in the way and it was a busy day, so busy I actually forgot the match was on.  I remembered on the drive home when the weather was much improved and got home to find England had avoided a potential banana skin and thrashed Bangladesh.  Jason Roy top scored with 153 while there were also half centuries for Bairstow and Buttler.  In fact pretty much all the batsmen contributed to a big score of  386/6.  It would have taken something really special for Bangladesh to overhaul this, Shakib hit 122 but this was in vain as Stokes and Archer took three wickets each and bowled out the Tigers for 280.  Jofra Archer looks better every time I see him, he generates serious pace but seems to put hardly any effort into doing so.  He'll be playing test cricket before the end of the year, as should Jason Roy.

Previously the results had gone pretty much as you'd expect.  Sri Lanka won comfortably against Afghanistan, India beat the woeful Saffers, New Zealand beat Bangladesh, Australia won a tight game against West Indies in a match that included some controversial decisions and New Zealand kept up their 100% record with a win against Afghanistan.  The game between Pakistan and Sri Lanka was abandoned due to rain (more about this later) and today India piled on the runs and won comfortably against the Aussies who crumbled amusingly.  So after fourteen matches in eleven days New Zealand top the table with England, India and Australia making up the top four.  At the bottom South Africa and Afghanistan have played three matches each but have failed to score a point.

Eleven days into the 1992 World cup New Zealand were unbeaten, England were going well and Australia were struggling.  The top four consisted of New Zealand, England, Sri Lanka and West Indies.  Interestingly Pakistan who went on to win the tournament had won one match, lost one match and had one abandoned, exactly the same record as they have now in 2019.

Monday, 3 June 2019

Match six

England's first game looked pretty one sided on the scorecard but it felt anything but for most of the day.  However the next three matches were totally one sided; Australia crushed Afghanistan, New Zealand mashed Sri Lanka and West Indies thrashed Pakistan.  Game five was a bit better, Bangladesh set a good target and South Africa couldn't chase it down to leave them 0/2.  Once upon a time Bangladesh beating a major team would have been a shock but no more, they do it too often...

So today and the sixth match against Pakistan who we've already beaten five times this summer, what could possibly go wrong?  Their bowling line up looks much stronger with the inclusion of Riaz and the cheat Amir.  England win the toss and elect to field, by the time I settled in front of the TV the match was well underway and Pakistan were cruising with Imam and Fakar going well.  Cue Moeen Ali who comes on to bowl with a tight and testing spell that accounts for both openers.

I had a busy morning so took TMS with me but I didn't like what I heard.  England were missing crucial chances, like Hafeez badly dropped before he'd got started who then went on to top score with 84.  Unlike the first match England's fielding was sloppy and we were leaking runs that we shouldn't.  By the time I got home the innings was wrapping up, Pakistan finished on 348-8, a very good score but not beyond this England team in normal circumstances but this is the World cup with extra pressure.  We're going to have to bat well.

Once again the opposition opens with a spinner and once again it works, this time it's Jason Roy who departs but not before crunching a couple of fours.  Root comes to the wicket and together with Bairstow a partnership forms and the scoreboard ticks over nicely, things start to look relaxed... Until Bairstow edges to the keeper with the score on 60.  Two down and things are not looking good.

After being dropped at Slip Root goes on and makes the batting look easy but at the other end part time spinners are making hay, both Morgan and Stokes fall to poor shots without causing Pakistan too much discomfort.  At 118-4 off 21.2 overs Pakistan are well on top.  I have a sinking feeling, it's hard to see England winning from here.

Then comes the partnership of the day between Root and Buttler who both make the game look easy and the feeling of despair starts to slip away.  There's some cracking shots, some great running and a bit of luck, the runs come quickly and crucially the wickets remain intact.  Both batsmen pass fifty and keep going.  Strangely instead of feeling more relaxed I can feel my nerves building again, bit by bit I'm becoming a gibbering wreck.  There's still a long way to go, still a lot that can go wrong and every ball seems to be taking me closer to the next disaster.  The partnership passes 100 and still I feel impending doom.  Not even Root reaching his century can ease the tension!  Then he gets out for 107 and it seems my premonition has come true, we still need 101 to win!  We need another partnership!

Mo comes in and he looks terrible, he should have been out twice and he can't get the ball off the square but somehow he sticks in with Buttler who looks sublime!  On 99 he hits his 76th ball for four!  The celebration is muted, he knows he still has a job to do.  But he's out next ball and any hope slips away.  I'm no longer nervous, it would take something very special for us to win from here now.

Woakes comes in and is hitting the ball well, somehow he and Ali put a partnership together but the required run rate is climbing...  Ali still looks shocking and it's almost a relief when he gets out but when Woakes falls to the following ball our last glimmer of hope has gone.  England finish the fifty overs 15 runs short at 334-9.

So what went wrong?  Firstly Pakistan batted well but England would feel that they should have kept them down to a lower total.  Secondly Pakistan's revamped attack was pretty good too but three of England's top five got out to piss poor shots.  Jason Roy had a crap day but he'll come good another time. It was definitely the best game of the tournament so far but that doesn't stop me from feeling gutted. That's ODI cricket for you, on their day, any team can come good and win against the odds as opposed to test cricket where over the course of a series the best team will win.

Back in 1992 the sixth game saw the hosts Australia lose for the second time, thrashed by nine wickets at the SCG by South Africa who were playing their first ever one day international.  I was at the match, high up in the Brewongle stand, discretely cheering for the Saffers.  Elsewhere New Zealand won their second game and West Indies thrashed Pakistan...  Oh and while I remember after twelve completed innings in the current tournament we've already had five scores in excess of 300 and I'm sure there will be a whole lot more.