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.

Friday, 2 August 2019

Edgbaston Day Two

I had no work today but had to be out and about early, nearly half an hour of play had passed as I reversed into the drive and I feared what I would find when I switched the TV on.  England know what they have to do; bat properly, all day.

I switch on Sky to find the score is OK, 22/0 but two balls after my arse touched cushion Roy was out.  Bugger.  The captain is batting at three, about time too.  Australia are bowling tight and Lyon's first ball spins ominously.  Siddle is on at the other end, an Aussie I can't help liking and a bloody good cricketer.

England actually start to look solid; Burns and Root run well and the score reaches fifty.  For once I actually feel calm.  But there is a moment of panic when Root is given out caught behind, he reviews straight away but the review shows he hasn't nicked it, in fact it's just clipped the stump without removing the bail!

The TV cameras have a habit of picking the selectors out of the crowd.  I have nothing against Ed Smith or James Taylor but they look a strange duo, like comedy villains.  England are still solid and reach lunch at 71/1 which is bloody great by our recent standards.  I would definitely have settled for that at start of play.

At lunch there is an interview with the KPego, I don't see much.  When he claimed that backyard matches against his brothers were tougher than international cricket it confirmed that he still talks bollocks.

After lunch England creep along.  Burns passes fifty and Root overturns an LBW decision via DRS.  For the first time in a very, very long time England's top order look in control and the score passes 100.

I had to pop out for half an hour and in that time more landmarks went by; the hundred partnership, Root's fifty and just after I sat down again the score had reached 150/1.  But minutes later Root was out to a sharp caught and bowled by that man Siddle, the score is 154/2 and recent experience tells me this could become 200 all out.  Shane Warne is on commentary, the annoying, one eyed Aussie bastard.  We plod on till tea and the score is 170/2 with Burns on 82.  I'd have absolutely settled for this.  It may not be spectacular batting but it's just what we need!

We resume after tea and England creep onward reaching 185 with Burns in the nineties.  The Aussies convince the umpires to change the ball and it looks like this fucker is swinging.  Concentrate please Burns and Denly!  Denly gets out...  Buttler comes and goes too quickly and its a different game since that ball was changed.  With the ball swinging Paine brings on Lyon and the threat seems greatly decreased.  Not the first strange bowling change of the day.

Burns nudges on, the score reaches 200.  Burns moves on to 99 where he is stuck for nine balls before clipping a single off his legs and beating the fielders throw.  A maiden test century!  In an Ashes match!!  The Edgbaston crowd has been lively all afternoon erupts and the volume is maintained for the rest of the day.

Burns and Stokes carry  on accumulating, the partnership passes fifty and the score goes beyond 250.  The day meanders to a close with England reaching 267/4, just 17 runs behind.  We've waited years to see England grind out a day like this, proper test match batting.  It's got us on top and if we can do it for a couple more sessions we should win.

Today was a good day.

Thursday, 1 August 2019

Ashes day one

Like most people I had to work today but had the radio and managed to be beside it just before 1100 in time to hear the start of another Ashes series.  After that I was doing my usual thing of catching up on Cricinfo when I couldn't get close to the radio.

It was all going so well at 122/8 with Broad and Woakes bowling well, I was beside the radio for the wickets of Paine and Pattinson the sun was shining and the world was a great place.  But Smith.  It's hard to like the sand paper salesman with the ugliest batting style in history but hell he can score runs and was different class today.  Like Kohli a year ago, I hope we get the same result.  And Jimmy is crocked too, possibly?  We'll know more tomorrow.

By the time I got the TV on back home it was for the highlights on channel 5.  Australia 284 but England managed to make it to the close unscathed.  If I could trust England's batting I'd say we were on top.  But I don't so I can't.

Ashes cricket indeed Test cricket!  ODI is fine and fun, that wonderful day almost three weeks ago will live long but you can't beat the real thing.