Thursday, 25 February 2021

Was that Day Two?

All over, England lost by ten wickets early in the third session on day two.  Were India the better team?  Obviously.  Was the pitch fit for test cricket?  Definitely not.  Did Bairstow fail after missing a straight one? 

Did England pick the wrong XI?  Definitely.  Would India have won on a better pitch in a match that lasted 4 ½ days?  Probably.  What are the odds on the next pitch (on the same ground) giving little chance of a result?

Would I have settled for England having a chance (?) of tying the series going into the final match?  Yes actually.

Wednesday, 24 February 2021

Third test - Day one

First of all I didn’t like the team.  Burns had to be left out to shoehorn Bairstow in and Johnny did what he always does and got out to a straight ball.  But on the other hand the hair and beard should have been enough to see Burns dropped.  

Then just picking one spinner in India, really?  Is Root planning to bowl more overs?  He might well have to.  

I couldn’t really follow any coverage at work today but from what I could gather a promising if tenuous position collapsed in horrifying style and bar Crawley, none of the batsmen seem to have done themselves much credit .  I may be biased but I’ll put a hand up for Ben Foakes who done better than most, it seems we can only score decent runs in the sub-continent when the captain goes big.  

Again there was controversy with the use of DRS which was more down to consistency that daylight robbery, even so it’s hard to make any conclusions other than I’m not the only person showing bias.  But at the end of the day this doesn’t excuse a poor performance from England.

Friday, 19 February 2021

'A Brief History of Seven Killings' by Marlon James

This is the second time I’ve read this book and on both occasions I’ve absolutely loved it.  It starts in mid seventies Jamaica and charts the rise, spread and fall of the Kingston gangs over a fifteen year period.  The story, like its protagonists and their chaos, crosses the Caribbean into mainland USA in the second half of the book.  Starting with the attempted assassination of ‘The Singer’ in 1976 when eight gunmen entered the yard on Hope Road and the happy stoned vibe was shattered forever, ‘Seven Killings’ chronicles the eventual demise of those involved and very many more literally caught in the crossfire. 

This is much, much more than a book about Yardie gangbangers, there are so many more themes running through it; How Jamaican politics has exploited and brutalised the island’s population, the effect of US foreign policy/interference on smaller, poorer nations.  The drug trade and how politicians helped it grow, both knowingly and unwittingly. These were major reasons for the mass migration away from a supposed tropical paradise.  James also deals with sex and sexuality in the macho Caribbean.  Then there is racism – obviously.  The author takes all of these things and examines their effects on all aspects of society from the top rankin’ to ordinary people.  The book is coke fuelled and brutal, it is shocking and sad then crack headed and sickening but authentic all the way through.  Expect to find yourself tip toeing through shanties, wading through shit and running for your life from gunmen.

Reading ‘Seven Killings’ is consuming, all I wanted to do was read and all the distractions of life were just obstacles that conspired to prevent me getting to the next bit, even though on second reading I already knew what was going to happen.  I still felt the heat, horror, the sadness and the relief.  When I got to the end I didn’t want to leave the world that Marlon James has created, I wanted to pick it up and start again from page one and I’ve felt like this after both readings.

The first time I read the book I knew that many of the events in the first half of the story were based on actual events but it wasn’t until fairly recently that I learnt that almost all of the major happenings were based on fact, this includes crackhouse massacres, funerals and prison fires.  That these things actually happened is almost unbelievable and very sad, how could a world like this exist?  Knowing the truth it becomes even more obvious that many of the characters are real people albeit with changed names, this includes gangsters and politicians, (If you can’t work out who ‘The singer’ is then this book probably isn’t for you…).  I suspect in many cases this is done for legal reasons as that certain musician’s estate would probably phone the lawyers in a second but also Marlon James would have a very real fear of personal reprisal from gangs that still exist.  But it’s hard to get your head around the fact that these people, these lives and experiences were real.  I say ‘were’ because there are few survivors.

I am a life long constant reader and this is one of the best books I have ever read, I will definitely read it again one day, in fact I’m looking forward to it as there are things I still haven’t worked out.  You don’t have to be a reggae fan, but it helps.  You don’t have to have a connection to the region but that helps too.  You do need a stomach for violence and depravity vividly brought to life but if you can look beyond that you’ll find love, joy and wicked humour.  This is a book that will not leave you with any doubts, you may hate it but if you don’t there will be no middle ground and you will find yourself loving it.  Do yourself a favour and read it if you dare.

Tuesday, 16 February 2021

Stuffed in Chennai

 It's no shame to get stuffed by India, especially not on home soil and especially not on a pitch that is turning.  England were outplayed and India deserved to win.  


That pitch was not fit for test cricket.  If an English county prepared a wicket like that they would be docked championship points, just ask Somerset fans.  Will India be docked Test championship points?  Not while the BCCI controls the ICC.

And the DRS umpiring was appalling, England were on the wrong end of three decisions and when the umpire is watching slow motion from all the angles something is up.  There has been talk of home umpires being allowed to stand in tests again but in the second test we saw why this can't happen.

There isn't too much for England fans to take away from this match that we might not already know.  Olly Stone looks like a serious bowler and was impressive.  Moeen Ali is as frustrating as ever and after deciding to pull out of the tour he might have played his last test?  Jack Leach is definitely our number one spinner.  Finally Ben Foakes is a brilliant wicket keeper, an absolute master who is a joy to watch but he looks unlikely to play as many tests as his talent deserves.  He done as well as anyone with the bat in this match too. 

Two matches down and we are at 1-1 with the best team in the world, I'd definitely have taken that two weeks ago.

Friday, 12 February 2021

Chennai part 1

Ah cricket!  You just never know.  I had hoped England could be competitive against India but then they go and win!  Not only win but dominate with almost the perfect performance for a wicket in southern India.  The performance was all the more heartening because just about every member of the XI contributed in some way but Root, Sibley, Stokes, Anderson and Leach in particular.

The next test starts tomorrow and the squad has already been announced which spoils my amateur selector guessing game.  There will be four changes in these Covid squad rotation times with Moeen Ali replacing the highly inconsistent Dom Bess and predictably Broad giving Anderson a rest.  Buttler has come home to put his feet up which means poor Ben Foakes finally gets another chance but is probably on a hiding to nothing.  Finally Archer has a niggle so he will be replaced by either Woakes or Stone.

The pitch is already being reported as looking likely to turn on day one which might make you wonder if the Indian team is panicking a bit?  Even with England’s great start it’s hard to look past a home win here but I will be delighted to be wrong.  This is the best England side we’ve had for a decade and I still think we’re destined to be world number one in the not too distant future.