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.