Tuesday, 28 July 2020

Wisden decider

Before the match started it was announced that the Wisden trophy will be retired and future test series between England and West Indies will be played for the Richards and Botham trophy.  I'm not normally one for breaking tradition and rebranding things but I think this is a great idea.  Viv Richards and Ian Botham were two cricketers that inspired me to pick up a bat, were fiercely competitive opponents on the international field but team mates in county cricket and great friends off the field.  I think it's a perfect fit to name the new trophy after these two players.

Today stared with West Indies winning the toss and inserting England which seemed a poor decision but with England reduced to 122/4 it appeared to have paid off.  Listening to TMS while fishing on the broads with my son I started chuntering about arrogant selections again, England have left out Crawley so they can play another batsman.  Of the top four only Burns passed fifty.  But Pope and Buttler played well and their partnership may have changed the course of the series.  Pope took the plaudits but his innings highlights looked streaky to me.  At stumps, early due to daft umpiring, England were 258/4.

Morning day two, West Indies had the luck that had deserted them during the previous session and knocked over both Pope and Buttler, then threatened to go through the tail but Bess and Broad managed to score a few runs and pushed the score past 300.  This seemed to give Stuart the licence to throw the bat and he heaved the ball all over the place and passed fifty.  The partnership with Bess negated all the good work the West Indies bowlers done first up.  Broad was eventually out for 62 but the damage had been done and England eventually posted 369.

The afternoon was no better for West Indies, every time they threatened to put a partnership together a wicket fell and England remained in control throughout the day which ended with the visitors on 137/6, the wickets being shared amongst the pace bowlers.  With two days gone it looks like only the weather can stop England regaining the Wisden trophy.

I spent most of day three at work, happily sat by the radio listening to TMS.  It was a surprise when England started off with Archer and Woakes which was put into perspective when Broad destroyed the tail to finish with six wickets.  England's openers accumulated a century stand with both passing fifty, then there was an acceleration when Root reached the crease and the captain cruised passed fifty.  The declaration came when Burns was out for 90, setting West Indies 399 to win.  England had enough time for five overs which was all Broad needed to take two wickets and leave England well on top.

Day four was a washout but that didn't matter, England got the job done easily on the final day with brilliant Broad and Woakes sharing the wickets.  The big news of the day was Broad getting his 500th test wicket, fair play.  TMS kept me company at work.

West Indies always show a bit of fight against England which makes you think they are improving as a side but they don't show any consistency.  A lot of this may be down to inter island rivalry and political bollocks but they do have some good players and a good captain, even if he made some questionable decisions.  But nowadays England should always expect to beat West Indies in test cricket.

We are starting to look like a very good team now, Burns and Sibley have shown that their good starts in test cricket were not flukes and with Crawley looking good we have a decent top three.  In Root, Stokes, Anderson and Broad we have four genuinely world class cricketers.  Add to that batsmen like Pope and Bairstow if he can find form again, Foakes and Buttler behind the stumps and a squad of decent bowlers; Archer, Wood, Woakes, Leach and Bess.  Players like Curran and Ali still have roles to play too.  I feel optimistic that England could rise to number one in the world again in the future.  But the England cricket fan is nothing if not an optimist...

Monday, 20 July 2020

Second Test

England are back to winning ways, despite losing a full day to rain.  The four days play we were treated to showed everything that is great about test cricket.  Sibley and Stokes ground out big hundreds in testing conditions to set the game up.  Stuart Broad returned and changed the game with a spell of 3/1.  Stokes smashed the ball to all parts and England's bowling unit squeezed the life out of the West Indies to finish it off.  This was an excellent test match and it's such a shame there wasn't a crowd there to appreciate it.

The next match starts in a couple of days and it's hard to guess how the selectors will go.  All of England's bowlers contributed at some point but Dom Bess isn't playing his best cricket at the moment.  Woakes and Curran are good all round cricketers but we have better bowlers.  Joss Buttler has to produce something soon.

This selector would pick;

Burns, Sibley, Crawley, Root, Stokes, Pope, Foakes, Archer, Broad, Anderson, Leach.

It's good to see the West Indies team continuing to improve but they do seem to play their best cricket against England.  I'd love to see them challenging teams around the world again and Jason Holder seems like a leader who can inspire them to do so.  However I can't see anything other than an England win next week.

Sunday, 12 July 2020

Cricket returns!

One of the most disturbing things about this most surreal spring has been the lack of cricket but with things apparently improving the test series against West Indies was rearranged and all of a sudden it was here, albeit played without fans.

It was a surprise that Stuart Broad was left out of the eleven, I find it bizarre that a man with 485 test wickets can be left out in home conditions.  Thinking back to the first test in Barbados last year when the same player was left out and England were hammered.  At the time I described this non selection as arrogant and after two days of this test match I was thinking the same.

To be fair England's 204 on first innings was not enough and the deficit of 114 could have been much worse.  This was down to poor batting from England and good bowling by Jason Holder in particular.  I still think had Broad played then West Indies would have found scoring much more difficult.

England's second innings was much better with good scores from all of the top order, newcomers Sibley and Crawley in particular.  Just when England were threatening to take the game away West Indies fought back and ripped through the middle order.

The last day, Archer scored some valuable runs and England set West Indies 200 to win.  I'd have backed the home team at this point, especially after Archer had helped reduced WI to 27/3 but the middle order got stuck in. There was a bit of a wobble towards the end but West Indies hung on to deservedly win by 4 wickets.

Post mortem.  Broad should have played ahead of Wood in this game, it's fucking obvious really, another arrogant selection.  Wood is great but pick horses for courses, this was Southampton not Sydney.

Joe Denly is a very likable character but has played fifteen tests and not improved, this must be his last test.  I love watching Joss Buttler bat but he too has not delivered in test cricket.  We keep being told he's a 'game changer' but I can't ever remember him changing a game?  It's about time Ben Foakes got another chance.