World Cup Matches 20 & 21 – Australia v Sri Lanka & South Africa v Afghanistan

Seemed like Lex Luthor left his kryptonite at home yesterday. England completed a routine win, with some scares of the physical rather than psychological kind, and Joe Root completed his second hundred of the competition, this time from the opening batsman slot. Last time he scored a hundred opening in a test, we had a very exciting meme result from it. Ah, the memories.

It has been an interesting old week. Almost a throwback. A tournament being played in a large block suddenly found the vulnerability of a front stalling over the UK, swinging backwards and forwards, round and around, dumping rain all over the place. Welcome to England in June – it happens. Anyone recalling the run-up to the London Olympics will remember the dreadful summer we had, until the games themselves, which got really lucky. There is really little can be done about it once you make up your mind that reserve days aren’t going to be a thing. I wish people could just be a bit more sanguine about that. Most baseball teams that had domes are getting rid of them, and to have a stadium with a retractable roof, like, for example, Minute Maid Park in Houston (where I was a month ago) for venues with 20000 capacity is not viable. It would probably eat up the entire five year ECB deal.

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That retractable roof ain’t cheap…. Minute Maid Park in May

We had the Guardian mafia descend on my post. That was fun. Particularly liked Selvey admonishing me like I was a naughty child. Don’t hold yourself out to be the voice of North London Nonsense when you then get called on it. Get it?

I’ll deal with all that at a future date, but something good came out of all of it. It put some bloody petrol in my engine, and I’m right up for it at the moment! I hope it fired some of you up to. That voice we have, judging by the spike in visitors, is still there when deployed.

The real home of English cricket (accept no North London interlopers) plays host to I think it’s final game today, when Australia return to the scene of their defeat last weekend to take on Sri Lanka, who have completed some nice little run chases at this venue in the past. And chase they will, as they’ve won the toss and put Australia in to bat.

This will mean Warner and Finch get to reprise their opening partnership which probably won the game against Pakistan. No doubt the focus will be on Warner, who made a hundred last time out, but was criticised in many quarters (more lukewarm on TV) for his outing against India. Stoinis is out of the competition, but as one of the comments intimated, he’s not exactly done much to be missed. Australia seem to have a little self-doubt at the moment. It wasn’t a disgrace the way they lost to India, and a few things either way and they could have won.

Australia are 9 to 1 on to win this. Sri Lanka are not pulling up any trees, and they are going to need to if they have any hope of getting a semi-final place. The tournament could do with another result setting the cat among the pigeons (only England v Pakistan did that momentarily), so eyes should be focused on The Oval this morning. The weather looks OK early, though may be a little iffy this late afternoon.

The other game being played at Cardiff pits two winless teams together. South Africa appear in total disarray, and anyone reading D’Arthez in our comments gets the unvarnished view of what is going wrong. Afghanistan have proven worthy competitors but haven’t really threatened the winner’s circle just yet. It is a game that could pass us by, as many could in the run-in to the semi-finals, but let’s hope for a really good game. Even if this World Cup is having its issues, the tournament is a force for good in showcasing the game, and we are all behind that, even if we think others may be wrong in their views of just how we take it forward.

Lastly, I want to know, seriously, how much the company that thought up Manchester Originals, as a hook to lure in those pressure mums and kids, got paid. At least with London X, you could have got a semi-unofficial tie up with a Marvel comic and film series. Who are the Originals? A spin-off from the Vampire Diaries? We after young mums?

A bit rushed this morning, as a few of us had events last night to go to. Enjoy what cricket you watch today, and if the mood takes you, comment below.

I’m now off to get my earplugs, and to test whether Slater and Clarke’s voice penetrates them.

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World Cup Match 19 – England vs. West Indies

Sadly, the rain intervened once again yesterday with the India vs NZ match called off without a ball being bowled, though that only gave us more time to read Dmitri’s passionate and pugnacious piece, which gained some great traction including a retweet from Jim Maxwell. If you haven’t read it yet, then please click here, you won’t be disappointed. Of course, the piece did ruffle a few feathers within the journalistic community who seemed to take umbrage with the content, though not from the some of the excellent journalists who there are many, but from those who do not quite meet those standards. One can argue that one doth protest a little too much with regards to a couple of those comments flying around.

It does amuse me still that many in the various journalistic circles just do not get why we are we pull no punches in our assessment at times. They don’t get how 4 individuals who do not get paid (nor would we want to) are so passionate about the subject and won’t back down even when we are told to ‘pipe down’. They don’t understand how many (and not just us) can smell an ECB puff piece a mile off and that quite frankly, those who go down such a route are compromising the many excellent journalists out there, who are willing to speak their mind and are willing to criticize the ECB when they see fit. They also don’t understand how more and more individuals who are rightly concerned about where the game is going under the ECB’s watch refuse to be patronised or even worse, sneered at by those who claim to be bastions or patrons of the game. Those who are in positions of power are not willing to talk to the fans who they regard as the great unwashed, so naturally it is even more disappointing when those that do have access to them write something more akin to an ECB press release than a serious journalistic article questioning why the ECB continues with this white elephant in the face of huge opposition from the general public.

The thing is that game doesn’t belong to them, nor does it belong to the ECB or the ICC, it belongs to the fans and the players. Cricket would not exist without the fans. Without the fans there would be no TV deal that allows Tom Harrison to trouser £700k a year, nor would there be any money from gate receipts from overpriced international tickets or revenue from overpriced England merchandise. The ECB can hark that they have the best interest of cricket at heart, but when you lose the fans, then you lose the one thing you need to make cricket sustainable. Yet here we still are in the middle of a World Cup which only a select few can watch, reading and listening to various members of the ECB and those that would like a piece of it, talk about how the Hundred will be a great success and pointing to their  research as some sort of validation. Yes, the same research that they refuse to publish, when 99% of cricket fans in the UK want nothing of it. It’s laudable in a sense that they want to grow the game (if they really indeed do), but forcing a competition that was designed on the back of a fag package down the fans throats and then refusing to listen to those who have lined their pockets for years through forking out for Sky or going to matches is not just arrogant, it’s reckless. We know that there are many who agree with us and there are many who don’t, but we do this as a labour of love, no more, no less. If it means that we upset a few individuals who can’t deal with criticism, then so be it, at the end of the day it’s the opinion of 4 individuals who are passionate about the game we grew up with and love.

I could go longer, but I don’t want to flog a dead horse (unlike the ECB) and think you get the point here.

As for today’s game, the good news is that the weather seems fairly settled down in Southampton so we should see some of game, even if it isn’t the full 50 overs a side and for England this is where the competition really starts. The West Indies have looked a dangerous side for the whole tournament (and did when England last toured there) with a mixture of dangerous quick bowlers and batsmen who can take a game from you in double quick time. The West Indies were unlucky that the game against South Africa was rained off when they were in a strong position and in all reality, they should have beaten Australia when they had them on the ropes at 6 down for not many. Naturally the West Indies will hope that big Andre Russell is passed fit for the match as he is the type of player that can win a game on its own and from a purely entertainment point of view, I do hope he can play.

As for England, we have our own injury worries with Mark Wood yet again pulling up lame in training. It’s such a shame for Wood that every time he looks like he is getting going within the international arena, he picks up an injury that brings him back to square one. I hope for his sake that England don’t force him out there if he is not 100% fit. The other question will be if Moeen comes back into the side in place of one of the quick bowlers. In an ideal world, having 4 seamers and 2 front line spinners makes the attack feel naturally balanced; however with Moeen continuing to fail with the bat, then if it is seamer friendly, then I hope they go with the same set up they had against Bangladesh.

Here’s hoping for a good game and naturally feel free to post any comments or thoughts below:

 

 

What Side You On?

In 2014, when you know who got the you know what, I had a little quiet old blog called How Did We Lose In Adelaide. I was really very angry over the way you know who got the you know what, and felt, at the time, that the written media, and certainly the broadsheet media, had been useful accomplices in that story – a conduit for dressing room gossip, management plotting, and ECB high-handedness. I don’t want to rehash this here. It just sets my mood music.

During the next year my blogging life was one of extreme ups and downs. I had death threats from a Jonathan Agnew fan, and got talking to Aggers on Twitter after it. I spoke to journos, and found the experience interesting, and a little daunting. I held strong opinions, and aired them. It was, when running a one person blog, extremely nerve shredding. I didn’t do it for attention. I did it because I cared. Along the way I picked up a number of exciting fellow cricket fans, and they seemed to like my output. I even know some of the press corps did too!

It’s interesting, in the context of that era, when the blog was getting a lot of traffic, that very few journalists ever went loopy at me. Very few worried about their integrity getting called into question. Very few thought I was worth the time and effort. Very few acknowledged me – some did, and came on the blog. But I was, and still am, quite irrelevant. It’s funny.

The last 24 hours have been interesting, and a little bit of a return to the old days. I wrote an angry post. Some context. Southeastern gave me a nightmare journey home. I read the Macpherson article on the train. I had not had a great day. I had my fill of Twitter. And yes, I was angry at what I was reading on the 100, the ECB and the Guardian.

You will note that Andy Bull has responded to my little rant yesterday. Fair play, he came on here. I don’t think we have much room to manoeuvre on the topic at hand, so I will take his sincere wishes of good luck for this blog, which is over 4 years old, and the HDWLIA year of You Know Who makes it over 5, in the spirit it was offered. Thank you for responding.

I see Russell Jackson got a little upset, vicariously, that a number of his writing cohorts were given a little bit of a verbal blast by me, and you know how much being upset on behalf of other people is something that I resonate with. Thank you Russell. I like the fact that the post got the thumbs up from Dan Brettig and Jim Maxwell, but that’s just life. Thanks for calling us geniuses. I’m not. I don’t even consider myself one of the great writers either. I just write because I like it, and I write to try to convey my thoughts. At least I’m honest in that intention.

And now we have Selvey. The man who doesn’t read blogs. Having a go. I had all sorts of goes at him in the past, he’s an emeritus on our Mount Cricketmore. He has won worst journalist on here, a popular vote from the commenters on the blog. You will see from the comments what I think of today’s little twitter exchange and how easy his original Tweet was to misinterpret. If he’s “ex-officio” who is this “we” he speaks of.

It’s amusing that it is this hill they are dying on.

I saw, today, Don Topley bully Annie Chave. Now we’ve seen a lot of output and a ton of love for the game from Annie. I see some of the 2014 me in her zeal, if not she’s a ton more polite than I ever was. She has decided to take a break from Twitter. Her motives questioned. I mean, Annie. She absolutely loves county cricket. She loves long form cricket. I mean, really?

We’ve seen Gurney dismiss this blog, and people who think like us. It’s really, really interesting how the cricket fans of this country are expected by players, ex-players and thin-skinned journos to shut up and take their word as gospel. I learned in 2014 that there was no evidence for me to do that, and I’m not apologising 5 years on for doubting them still. There’s a real aggressive streak in people fighting for a shorter format.

Was I a bit over the top last night? Possibly. You lot know me, and I think you like the style of draft first, correct later. I feel the game is being abused, neglected, and the existing loyal support insulted and taken for granted, and I’ll shout out against journos and ECB officials who act like that. If the cap fits it, then wear it. If I’m not angry, then I don’t care. If I don’t love, then I can’t care. I don’t doubt that those who write on the sport don’t love the game, but I’m damned if I’m not going to write when I’m angry.

As I said. Amazed it’s this hill they are battling on.

Sean is on the decks for tomorrow’s game. Let’s pray the rain stays away.

I’ve still got it, haven’t I?

World Cup Match 18 – India v New Zealand (But Lots More On Other Stuff)

I’m publishing this early. Have a look tonight, people, before any possible game tomorrow.

A short intro into for the contest. Both teams have 100% records. New Zealand making the most of what, on paper, looked like a nice start by beating the weaker three of the Asian nations. India taking out South Africa and Australia. All is set for a really exciting clash. Are New Zealand for real? Are India as good as they look? Will Trent Bridge contain two sides of considerable power?

Ah hell. The weather…

It is set to rain very heavily overnight, then the forecast for tomorrow is:
Mostly cloudy and largely dry at first tomorrow, though there may be some early brightness. As the day progresses, showers will become widespread and heavy at times.

The rain radar projection suggests the afternoon will be drier, but who the hell knows these days.

India have to replace Mr Dhawan, and it will be intriguing to see how they go about it. Will we see Risabh Pant? I hope so. Good luck to all concerned. I’ll be in meetings most of the day.

I can’t comment on today’s match between Australia and Pakistan as I was detained in the office as we are short staffed at the moment. I’m writing this just before I retire to my bed, so please forgive me. Australia now move to three wins out of four, Pakistan have three points from four games, and people are comparing this to Australia 1992…. oh well, I guess they always will.

As you may have guessed from the comments left on the Australia v Pakistan game, there have been a number of articles that have left me shaking my fist at a cloud once more. There was Andy Bull just coming to the conclusion that 14 years of England international cricket being hidden behind a paywall might have done some totally unforeseen damage to the participation levels. I don’t know if these idiots thought cricket was nearer to football than it was to say, rugby league, but they’ve been proven terribly wrong. Trying to tell us that they’ve been on the side of the angels all along is just taking us for mugs. I don’t have time, and my memory has somewhat erased, to remember the trigger, but Bull has rarely been on the side of the great unwashed and too easily persuaded by administration and perhaps his previous guiding light at The Guardian. The fact is that if the sport is on one of the major TV channels, it gets people watching it. This tournament could be on Sky One, and it won’t get the audience they think it should. There’s little rhyme and reason, but there were, are, plenty who will tell you otherwise.

The twitter diversion from Selvey was as crap as usual. He comes on to say that just because he didn’t (on behalf of his county) vote to continue with Graves’ retention of the Chairmanship didn’t mean he was disagreeing with the ECB on the Hundred. We never felt it would, Selvey, we never for one minute. Before you knew it we were on to 2019’s version of “move on”. If you don’t know what I mean, stop me if you’ve read this before. “They’ve decided this is the way forward, and for the good of the game, it has to succeed, so we should get behind it. That’s because the alternatives are much worse.”

I’m just not even surprised at these clowns and their chutzpah. It’s not the long-suffering cricket fan’s fault that Giles Clarke put the money raising of Sky above the long-term health of the game, kicking the can as far down the road as he could on the back of the 2005 Ashes, which, remember, he was lucky to get in the run-in to the new Sky contract. So they gained some cash, and lost a generation. Oh happy days. Then you’ve peddled the unproveable “truth” that without the cash, the game would die. Would have died. We should all be really grateful for a ruthless business like Sky giving the sport its honourable support.

By coincidence Sanjay Patel was at it in the Standard in an interview with Will MacPherson. Sean linked it in the comments below, but it’s magnificent in its arrogance.

“Even Patel — who refers to The Hundred as “countdown cricket” in reference to the new scoreboard, designed to make the game easier to understand — is aware that it is not a panacea to cricket’s problems, an ageing audience and declining participation.”

Remember people, and as someone soon to be moving into his 6th decade I am categorised in this, ageing audiences are the problem. We, us, me, are the problem. A nearly 50 year old man, still writing a blog, dedicating time and effort to a game I love and care about, and I am one of cricket’s “problems”. You should be on your knees thankful we still give a stuff, Macpherson and/or Patel. We aren’t your problem, we are keeping the game alive with our income PAYING for SKY, our income PAYING your ticket prices, and as you will see later, the people you NEED to sell your effing Countdown Cricket.

“We launched a strategy in January, Inspiring Generations,” he told Standard Sport. “In it, there are 25 initiatives to grow the game in England and Wales. The Hundred is just one of them. We don’t think for one second that you can put one tournament in and have mass growth. It doesn’t work like that. It’s about everything working together.”

A pity the ECB didn’t think of that back in 2005, but hey, blame the audience, not the architects for the poor sound quality of the auditorium. WHY CAN’T THEY HEAR?

But it’s this that set my blood pressure rising on the 126 home today.

Patel explained: “Whether you’re a cricket fan who likes The Hundred or not, we all share a love for the game and have a desire to see it get bigger.

“I’d say to people who don’t like it, I respect and understand that but use this as an opportunity to bring your grandkids, your kids, your family. This format will deliver for those audiences, so use it as a chance to grow the game.”

A desire to see it get bigger! You have to be kidding me. Who the f*****g hell (sorry, I just can’t do this without an expletive) shrunk the game? It wasn’t us. It was your precious organisation who are now as addicted to Sky money and India baling us out every four years when they visit, as any heroin addict is to their next hit. I can’t live without it….. You took a sport at the most recent peak of its powers, with some real star names, charisma, excitement and achievement. Then you hid it away behind a paywall so the players, and your administrators, could rake in a few more quid. You took T20 and milked the golden goose (yes, I know you can’t milk a goose), and then now treat it as a mangy old bird. You took England stars further away from the domestic game, and wondered why county cricket struggled even more. You did everything in your power to shrink the game for additional money, and now you sit there, and have the absolute gall to tell me that it is up to me, and my generation to bale you the hell out? I think I’ll quote my response:

We (the ECB) brought this in when few people wanted it. We did research that we didn’t share. We can’t handle basic stuff like releasing team names yet we call you obsessives. We lie to you in interviews. We don’t answer questions. We discuss nothing until we’ve decided and then it’s a load of nonsense. We pay ourselves ludicrous money, and charge you more to watch England. We decide you abide.

You have treated us with contempt. Your organisation told us to pipe down and move on. You created a schism in the fan base over a scapegoating. You insulted our intelligence with Downton. You had the press singing from your hymn sheet. You had the insulting contempt to label those not in your cabal “outside cricket”. You lied, you obfuscated, you sold out, you swivelled, you cited trust when it suited, you did everything in your (lack of) wit to get shot of the problem few. You have a supine, almost ridiculously so, ex-pro cabal sucking at your teat. You had the nerve, your CEO, to label people who quite liked their county team as “obsessives” as if those that stuck by the game were the oddballs, and not those who actually celebrated pissing the next generation up the wall for a few quid. Words cannot adequately summarise my rage at these charlatans asking me to make the game bigger. Here’s who gets the credit if it somehow works. One guess. It won’t be us 50 year old plus cricket tragics. They’ll just ask us to pay more. It’ll go to Harrison and Patel, and they’ll demand they are paid more.

“Everything we do has to be designed to make cricket reach above where it is,” he said. “We are keen to talk to young people. Three-quarters of fans learn to love the game before 16, so how do we nurture that? There’s been a major process to get to that point. We have done lots of work in all these cities, we asked young people what it means to come from there. We think it will appeal to a broad set of people and current cricket fans, too.”

Except putting an Ashes test live on free to air? How might that help, Sanjay, given you are doing everything to make cricket reach above where it is? No. You’ve made sure that the next five years, we might get a token T20 international friendly for the plebs to watch, where our C team might get a game. Oh, and the Hundred. I’ll leave the taking apart of countdown cricket to Danny. He doesn’t need my help.

If this article hadn’t made me mad enough, then come Chris pointing out the Times of India article about Michael Holding criticising the umpires in the West Indies v Australia game. Let’s not worry too much about the umpire-bashing for that’s a red herring. What this is about is commentary is now not about telling you what’s happening, adding insight occasionally and insightfully, aiding and educating the watching spectator, bringing the joy, and anger, of the game in front of you. It’s about cheerleading, and promoting the product. Ex-pros with the odd broadcaster there to sell you the game, not tell you the game. It’s not new. It’s the way of the world. Sport isn’t about the competition, it’s about the money. It probably always was, but it is certainly without doubt now. The evolution must be monetised. The product sells, and we don’t want someone pointing out where things aren’t working. Good on Mikey for standing up for himself. Stay in Newmarket, sir. Those horses respect more than the donkeys running the game.

There’s more. Lawrence Booth’s piece in the Mail redefines insipid. The ICC turning the players into cats has enraged some:

This is funny, because we know something about who is working for the ICC at this World Cup and also, if it weren’t so misplaced, it rather reflects on how we feel the press have been with our governing authority – tame pussycats. Remember Downton aplomb. Damn site more nonsensical than the above “horseshit”. Critics of this piece often talk about making love to cover drives, for heaven’s sake.

I’m off for a lie down. I’m feeling quite unwell.

Oh, before I go, and before hell freezes over, Paul Newman wrote a very moving piece on his interview with Robin Smith. Nonoxcol linked it in the comments to the game before last. I do recommend it. It’s one of the reasons Newman annoys me. No-one doubts his love for the game. I certainly don’t. But he’s doing no-one any favours most of the time, siding often, not always, with the rampant mob running our sport. A damn pity he pulls his punches with them.

Comments, if the game is played, below. Hope you enjoyed the return of angry me. I feel like exploding.

Dmitri

World Cup Match 17 – Australia vs Pakistan

Rain, Rain go away, come again another day. After 2 washouts in a row, which will no doubt have the Aussie fans whingeing that the tournament shouldn’t be held in England, the prognosis for today’s play doesn’t look a whole lot better. The weather in Taunton looks to be a mixture of cloud punctured by the odd regular shower and we don’t yet know how the drainage at the ground will cope with the sheer amount of water that has been dumped on it for the few days. The ICC have come out and said that it wouldn’t be logistically possible to have reserve days for all of the games, which I do actually agree with, it’s just a shame that a freak weather front is wreaking havoc with the schedule at the moment.

If we can fashion some sort of play today, then it wouldn’t surprise me if it were a reduced overs game, which might actually benefit Pakistan rather than Australia. Pakistan continue to be an enigma wrapped in a riddle, superb as they were against England one day and then poor as poor can be as they were against the West Indies. I suppose that just adds to the entertainment as to which Pakistan side will actually turn up but it must be a nightmare to be an ardent follower. As for Australia, the 36 run defeat against India, who must now be seen as tournament favourites, rather flatters the Aussies as to how competitive they were in that game. The bowling is still stronger than the batting, especially if David Warner decides on another ‘go slow’ approach to the innings, which often leaves Steve Smith having to rescue the innings with one or two rapid contributions from the lower middle order.

On another note, it has been reported that an average of only 550,000 people tuned into the first few England games of this World Cup, another shiny example of why short term greed does long term harm. There isn’t another sport that would purposely hide a World Cup away from Terrestrial TV (and the Channel 4 highlights at 1am in the morning are just a pathetic joke), but I suppose cricket isn’t like other sports. The ICC have made it clear with a 10 team World Cup that cricket is for the privileged few and certainly not for growing the game amongst the masses. If England do end up exiting the competition early, then i dread to think what the viewing figures will end up looking – it certainly won’t be pretty either way!

As ever, if we do get some form of a game on today or if you just fancy a rant about something else, then please do comment below.

World Cup Match 16 – Bangladesh v Sri Lanka

I’m not hopeful. 

For all of you from outside our lovely country you should be warned that the next few days are likely to be rain affected. London, especially south of the river got it yesterday, just about reaching Southampton to abandon yesterday’s match, and the south west is looking bad today. More heavy rain is forecast for Wednesday and Thursday. That good drainage that is a blight on test wickets is going to come into play if the rain does cease. 

This game appears to be of little consequence. Neither of the two participants look likely to make the semis. However it will be interesting to see how Bangladesh are rising and Sri Lanka are falling if that’s the way it pans out. There’s certainly positivity heading in the Tigers’ direction and not a lot for Sri Lanka. 

Good luck in Bristol in avoiding a second successive washout for Sri Lanka. If there is any play, or if you have any other thoughts on stuff like tedious guitar riffs, brave run chases, Kohli the gent, or the retirement of the enigmatic Yuvraj, then fire away. 

I’m off to monitor Rain Alarm Pro.

Comments below. 

World Cup Match 15 – South Africa vs West Indies

When you’ve lost the first three matches, and need a win to have any realistic prospect of qualifying for the semi-finals, what you really need is a dodgy weather forecast.  Today in Southampton there are showers.  All day.  It’s not promising.

Still, it will give the opportunity for plenty to lament the unique phenomenon that rain only ever happens in England.

If a game is played, it looks a tough ask for South Africa to resurrect their World Cup, and the various pieces of information coming out concerning AB De Villiers late bid to be included in their line up implies a squad ill at ease with itself.  That he would have strengthened their line up is not in question, that it appears they bent over backwards to encourage him to be part of the side only to be knocked back until the 11th hour is very much the Cricket South Africa line.  Whatever the truth of it, it has been a distraction at best, though it doesn’t explain the supine performances to date.

Yesterday’s India – Australia match, magically assigned a Sunday when coincidentally Indian television audiences might be at their height, was far more one sided than the raw scores might suggest.  Australia were never in it, despite Malcolm Conn’s description of their chase as a “brave” one.  It was a curious innings from David Warner, who looked hideously out of sorts, and left the subsequent batsmen with a near impossible task.  Perhaps it would have been better if the bails had been knocked off early in his innings.

Ah, the bails.  On five occasions this World Cup the ball has struck the stumps hard without them being dislodged, the zing bails apparently being heavier and the stumps themselves heavier.  Since it’s the same for both sides, it perhaps doesn’t matter overly, except that it is remarkable that it has been ignored as an issue in favour of the bling of them lighting up.  In a wonderful example of the kind of daft controversy cricket can embroil itself in, there has been lengthy discussion of the depth of the grooves, the weight of the bails themselves and even how firmly the stumps are held in the ground, with Scyld Berry offering up the solution of watering the holes rather more to loosen the stumps.  On such subjects, it’s far from impossible to have no view on it whatever, but to be deeply amused that it has come up at all.

Assuming there is any play today, comments below!

Match 14 – India v Australia

Chris had his say about the events of yesterday, so I won’t add to them here. England move on to Cardiff with four points, the mark Australia find themselves on at the moment, with India having two points from their first game. The Oval is the setting for the first meeting of members of the Big Three, the organising countries who will keep the World Cup for themselves for the foreseeable future, who will keep most of the cash raised, and in many eyes, form the three principal threats of winning the competition. I think New Zealand, who won comfortably against Afghanistan yesterday, will also be in the shake-up, and possibly West Indies who ran the Aussies close last week.

Those same West Indies, who will be our next opponent, face South Africa on Monday, although the weather forecast is absolutely dreadful for both that day, and Tuesday’s clash between Bangladesh and Sri Lanka, so this could, possibly be our last game for a few days. What a mouth-watering contest it promises to be. India lost to Australia in the 2015 semi-final, and Australia lost to India in the 2011 quarter-final. The batting line-up that posted 328 at Sydney included Finch (81), Smith (107), Warner and Maxwell, who should reprise their roles at the original home of England international cricket (accept no North London impostors) tomorrow. India will return Dhawan, Sharma, Kohli and Dhoni from the top 6 back in that semi. I suppose it goes to show that teams don’t evolve that much in the batting department!

Australia have won 3 of the last 5 head-to-head match-ups, are on an impressive winning streak, and strutting their stuff a little bit. India never seem to lack confidence, had a good workout in the first game where Bumrah and Sharma certainly hit the ground running, and Chahal proved his inclusion was well-merited. But both teams showed some frailties last time out – Australia getting out of a massive batting hole through Coulter-Nile, India taking care to make their total having let the tail wag for South Africa. It promises to be a good one.

Comments below, as always.

England vs Bangladesh – Comfortably Done

In most ways, England’s exceedingly comfortable victory over Bangladesh was entirely to be expected, and occurred more or less as it should have, given the difference in playing resources.  But England’s defeat to a Pakistan team who consistently send people to a thesaurus to check for synonyms for “mercurial” lent a slight air of doubt about how well England are equipped to win the competition.   It’s the natural state of being for most England supporters to be pessimistic about their team’s prospects, having been magnificently unsuccessful in ODIs for 40 years, even when they’ve had a good team.  But just as one defeat oughtn’t have led to increased resignation that it would all happen again, nor should this dominant display lead to any greater certainty about their prospects.

England are a very fine team indeed, with a batting line up that has now broken an all time ODI record by passing 300 six matches in a row.  That is a fine level of consistency, and a mark of how far they’ve come in the last few years that the 311 in the South Africa game felt a disappointing total, and the 386 today a return to what might have been expected.  For a team as good as England’s, reaching the semi-final stage ought to be reasonably straightforward, and from that point knock out cricket is an entirely different beast.  That’s not to say that England are definitely going to qualify, for the matches against Australia, West Indies, New Zealand and India are fraught with peril.   But it is to say that a side with aspirations of winning the competition ought to be confident.  There are two ways of looking at it – that all of those games are a danger, certainly, but with six wins likely to be enough, two victories in the bag, and barring major surprises, wins against Sri Lanka and Afghanistan to come, England should only need two victories against the heavyweights.

Bangladesh are of course one of the lesser fancied teams in the competition, but they are not the minnows of years past either (though it must be noted those minnows despatched England in both 2011 and 2015), and despite falling a long way short of England’s total today, they still showed they are far from a poor side.  A routine win, certainly, but one made routine because of how good England were.

Jason Roy was the star of England’s innings, his 153 coming off a mere 121 balls, and fairly evenly paced from the start.  Even after such a score, the manner of his dismissal caused a degree of disquiet, which perhaps goes to show little has really changed.  Having hit the first three balls of Mehidi’s over for six, Roy clearly had every intention of aiming for six sixes in the over.  The fourth ball was every bit as much there to hit as the previous three, but he lost his shape and skied it.  It wasn’t an outrageous shot, by any stretch, so it was more a matter of execution than intent, and there is always the danger in basing judgements on outcome.  “Great shot, great shot, great shot, you idiot£ is an invariably unfair way of looking at it.  Still, it can be argued that he was seeking a personal milestone rather than a team one in so doing.  Perhaps that is a fairer point to make, but it does apply to most batsmen much of the time, it is often a matter of degree. The intent though, and the sheer confidence behind it, were welcome.

Bairstow and Root performed their supporting roles well, while Jos Buttler, promoted up the order, was as explosive as ever.  One particular shot, his weight entirely on the back foot, was utterly outrageous – a straight hit out of the ground and into the river Taff.  The joy of watching a special talent in any sport is not so much in seeing exceptional competence, it is in watching someone do something that leaves the observer scratching his or head and wondering how the hell he’s done it.  Such players are rare and precious.

Of more concern was Buttler’s clear discomfort during his innings, and while his practising his wicketkeeping in the interval to see how fit he was to do so was reassuring, it was surely sensible for him to have the second half off and let Bairstow take the gloves.  England are a strong side, and not reliant on one player, but Buttler adds an X Factor that cannot be replaced.  The England medical team will doubtless play down any worries, but as was once said in a different context, there is a massive trust issue there.

After a slight collapse around the 340 mark (it remains ludicrous such numbers are regular landmarks in an England side) the innings was finished off in some style by Liam Plunkett, whose late innings hitting has been a precious resource for England on a fair few occasions.

387 was always likely to be beyond Bangladesh, and so it proved.  Jofra Archer produced a peach to dismiss Soumya Sarkar, the ball flying off the top off of stump and over the boundary without bouncing.  Incidentally, it’s worth noting that those who deride critics of the game being behind a paywall often pipe up that clips on social media are an adequate substitute in the modern world.  The clip of that happening did indeed get lots of attention in a tweet:

Note that the upload of a few seconds of action has now been deleted by the rights holder, an act consistent with the ongoing removal of historical cricket content on Youtube, and the act of commercial entities and a cricket structure that has no idea how to market itself to a wide audience.  Football might do the same thing to some extent, but not to the extent cricket does.

Archer bowled swiftly, with serious threat and with intelligence as well.  Whatever the comment around his qualification for England, he has added a significant new dimension to this side.

Bangladesh didn’t wilt, the increasingly impressive Shakib scoring a fine century, but the ever rising required run rate meant that the outcome of the game was in little doubt.  Woakes was a bit expensive, but Archer and Stokes in particular looked dangerous.  England are back on track, and have nearly a week off before facing a highly dangerous West Indies team.

But so far, overall, not too bad.

World Cup Matches 12 & 13: England v Bangladesh, New Zealand v Afghanistan

Assuming that the weather doesn’t intervene, England have the chance to show that the defeat to Pakistan was nothing more than a blip. There’s a bit of World Cup history, for Bangladesh have defeated England in the last two competitions, and of course knocked them out last time, as skipper Mashrafe Mortaza was quick to point out. It may be a much different England team, but Bangladesh have improved too, their victory over South Africa was a mere mild turn up, not the major surprise some pretended it was.

Still, a team with pretensions of winning the World Cup really ought to win and win comfortably, defeat today would be something of a crisis.

In the later game, New Zealand are of course strong favourites, and have been quietly and impressively going about their business. At this World Cup there are more dark horses than at a point to point meeting, suffice it to say that they look dangerous enough to anyone. Afghanistan’s achievement is their continual and rapid improvement. It’s not patronising to regard them with astonishment and awe, but this looks a tough day in prospect for them.

Comments below, and we’ll do a proper review on the England game later.