Harder Than You Think, It’s A Beautiful Thing

The morning after the night before. An exhaustion of emotion akin to any life event you can imagine, a thrill ride which included luck, luck and more luck and a questioning of your own eyes. A conflict of emotions, a turmoil I’ve not experienced with a sporting event ever. Yes ever. I watched a team suffer under the weight of their mental pressures, I saw two rocks battle, scrap and claw their way to a chance of a win, and then scrap some more as lady luck turned up just in time. Then the Super Over. The Super Over. So let me try something with this piece. 50 thoughts plus 2 for the Super Overs. It blatantly steals Danny’s idea, but I’m sure he won’t mind.

Over 1 – Imagine if this event had been on pay TV only. Just imagine if the sheer terror of this finale, the pain and ecstasy had not been made available to all. Imagine a sporting body who thinks that this is acceptable. Imagine.

Over 2 – Many people think Ian Smith’s commentary at the end made the Final, added to the event. I then imagine what the doyen himself, Richie Benaud, would have made of it. I’m not sure he would have approved.

Over 3 – Very noticeable empty seats throughout the day. I can go on and on about ticketing arrangements for sporting events, and the legitimisation of onsale markets which become a ticket tout’s charter. But it’s not a great look to have the prime event of the sport’s four year cycle played to areas of seating not occupied. Those there may have a better perspective.

Over 4 – Martin Guptill’s review proved crucial. Not sure why he decided to review something knocking middle pole out, but I really think we need to keep this in mind when having a go at Erasmus later on.

Over 5 – Kumar Dharamasena has been a decent umpire. No-one would have made any comments on the “errors” today if he had not missed the Jason Roy phantom glove, and Roy not go mad about it. I generally loathe people going at umpires. It’s a cop out.

Over 6 – My next door neighbour has never, in my 40 years living next to her, mentioned cricket. I heard her going mad during the Super Over. I was pacing around in the garden between balls.

Over 7 – Chris Woakes bowled another very good opening spell. Not long ago lots were saying what is he doing playing for England. He’s so vanilla. He’s very decent at his job and that is to open the bowling for England in ODIs. He had a really good competition.

Over 8 – Henry Nicholls played a really sensible innings that set a platform for his team. It will barely be remembered among the hubbub that followed. An important constituent part.

Over 9 – Jofra Archer’s opening spell, and then his closing overs justified his selection. He has a nasty bouncer despite not being up there at Mark Wood pace. It’s really odd that you don’t feel Wood’s short stuff is particularly venemous, but Jofra’s is. He made de Grandhomme look like a club pro at times.

Over 10 – Andrew Strauss will probably get a knighthood out of this. As usual England success will be down to the coaches and the authorities, when really it is the players. No ECB planning gives you the ability to play the game. I’ll talk more about this in due course, because the ECB are going to milk this, and how they do is going to be important to watch.

Over 11 – Liam Plunkett wasn’t even in Rob Key’s squad. In this World Cup he played, and we won, and he played a big part. He has an uncanny ability to look toothless and then take wickets. He doesn’t seem to go for too many. A much underestimated cog in the wheel.

Over 12 – Mark Wood bowled a super little spell including a wicket maiden. He also went off injured, with what looked like a rib injury. I’m sure that was improved by his fruitless dive for the line later in the day!

Over 13 – Adil Rashid had a low-key final, bowled his 10 overs, run out without facing a ball, and scarpering when the champers was opened. His presence in the team is valued by those who matter most, his captain and team-mates. And nothing that is said outside is going to impact that.

Over 14 – Sourav Ganguly’s commentary was annoying in the extreme, especially the bit where he rubbed Isa Guha’s nose in it after the Jonny Bairstow decision. Not good. Trolling England fans throughout isn’t particularly a good look.

Over 15 – Sometimes life just isn’t fair. A cosmopolitan England side, with an Irish captain, two Muslim bowlers in the squad, players born overseas, and you get to see pictures of arch-Brexiteers, cosying up with Piers Morgan, on Twitter. I don’t do politics on here, as you know, but some hypocrisies make me retch.

Over 16 – For all our mocking of Paul Farbrace after the Australia loss, he was right, wasn’t he? It’s always appropriate to recognise when we were wrong. Well, I was.

Over 17 – I hope the tired, lazy tropes about momentum and so on are put to bed, although I know they won’t be, and yes, again, I fall into that trap. The final had no momentum issues. None. Nil. Nada. It was a one-off match.

Over 18 – The Williamson dismissal via a tiny nick was pounced upon by critics of Kumar. I’ve umpired, obviously not to international standard, and hearing nicks on a quiet Sunday afternoon game is tough, let alone at an international final with 25000 or so people not keeping quiet. What do you want him to do? Guess? He couldn’t hear anything, so there are reviews to prove otherwise. If batsman and bowlers weren’t so keen to tell umpires that they don’t know the LBW rules better than the person there to adjudge, then I’d have sympathy for the players.

Over 19 – Then there was Ross Taylor. I’m not going to go overboard here, but credit to Michael Clarke, who immediately called “height”. No-one else did in the box. If you call it when you see it, you can then comment on the error made. Otherwise, bin it. Erasmus has been a very good umpire and is widely respected (I still think Agar was stumped early on in his 2015 innings), and suddenly the angst pivoted to him. I found that amusing. More of this later on.

Over 20 – Have you ever seen a batsman look more out of his depth than Colin de Grandhomme? It was painful to watch. Archer tortured him.

Over 21 – I for one was wondering what the New Zealand game plan was later on. No-one seemed to try to biff it. I wonder if, looking back, New Zealand wished they’d pushed the button a little earlier. But hindsight is an exact science.

Over 22 – England’s bowling really impressed me again, but you do need to wonder about how much the wicket played a part.

Over 23 – Jason Roy was pinned first ball. It looked it to me. It looked it to most. The verdict was about as close to three reds as could be without being given out. Ian Smith went over the top in the comm box, but listen to his commentary. “Missing leg, is it missing leg”. Yeah. Ian, Slam dunk once you watched it on replay. That annoys me no end. As you can tell.

Over 24 – Jason Roy’s innings never got started, and it is concerning that when he fails, England seem to struggle. Certainly in this World Cup. For this to be comfortable he needed to make a quick half century, because he does seem to drag his partner with him. His dismissal made the chase less Australia semi-final and more India Champions Trophy 2015-like.

Over 25 – Who’d have thought cool Joe Root would let the occasion get to him? 30 balls of tortured batting, an inability to master the wicket, a few skittish attempts to whack it and then a windy swipe to nick off. He exemplified the need to just rotate the strike as much as possible. Easy to say from my sofa, but something, notably Jos Buttler, who is a shotmaker, did when needing to restrain his instincts.

Over 26 – Jonny Bairstow played a very sensible knock, having a little luck, but I was entertaining thoughts of him sealing the cup with a century. He then chopped on, as he looked like he could do, sparking Simon Doull and Sourav Ganguly commentating like infants for a couple of minutes. Bairstow’s rant midway through the tournament betrayed the concerns of the England camp, but he, as much as anyone, spoke in content afterwards with his two centuries. His fielding was immense on the boundary.

Over 27 – The opening bowling was decent without being worrying. Yes, England sort of got away with one early, but reaching 30 without loss should have been the platform to ease to victory. The fear really was what would Trent Boult and Matt Henry do. They weren’t really a factor early on. England were scoring nicely.

Over 28 – The vice was applied by Colin de Grandhomme. He dropped Bairstow when he failed to grasp a firm drive back to him. But the Big Man bowled with guile, skill, accuracy and mental pressure as players who thought they should be smacking him, couldn’t. His application meant the target started creeping up and up. I bet the players could sense our frustrations. Somewhere, out there, Ian Austin was saying to himself “if only” and Mark Ealham was thinking of coming out of retirement.

Over 29 – I never believed Eoin Morgan was going to get us over the line. Whisper it quietly but if someone had scored some runs to put pressure on the team, the obvious batsman to drop is Eoin. Now he has his plaudits and critics in the media and on here, and I think he can be a bit in love with his own brilliance, but when someone called him Brearley with runs yesterday, they were part correct. He’s a more valuable batsman than Brearley ever was, and he’s a very good tactician and leader, that is evident. The credit should rest a lot with him, instead of his authorities. But he’s getting weaker against the short ball, and his dismissal showed that. It seems a long time since he flayed Afghanistan.

Over 30 – Lockie Ferguson’s catch was as good as his tache is bad. His cheeky “soft signal” was, to this contrarian, one of the moments of the Final. I was a hopeless fielder, hated the ball coming to me. I admire anyone who takes a catch above the ordinary because I know I couldn’t. To do that knowing if you miss you might cop a mouthful of rock hard red ball gets my thumbs up. Then Ian Smith called it one of the “greatest ever” and my heart sunk. Really?

Over 31 – Four down and Buttler came in. Stokes had struggled to get going, but as was accurately mentioned on comms, the ball makes a different sound on Jos’s bat. What Jos did which was so damn good was he rotated the strike. Whereas Stokes kept hitting fielders, Jos kept avoiding them. He got the wicket early, knew it wasn’t one for his pyrotechnics, and played the situation. He would hit the shot when it came to him, but he let the game flow naturally knowing that a partnership needed to be built. He was the calm to the Stokes energy.

Over 32 – The run rate kept climbing. My brother asked me, via text, who I thought was going to win. I said New Zealand. This was not a pitch to score more than a run a ball on. New Zealand’s last ten overs reaped 62,

Over 33 – The Stokes/Buttler partnership saved England, no doubt. But was it a touch too slow? I’m not sure what Stokes’ issues were early on, but he was scoring at Root rates early on. I can only guess how hard it was for him to temper his natural game, but he was getting leading edges, bunting it into gaps where it wasn’t intended to go. Stokes has been the rock of the middle order, and it is hard to question him in hindsight, but the accelerator was always going to be tough to push.

Over 34 – Buttler got to 50, but the 40-42 overs all came in at much less than required, and at that stage I was convinced it was New Zealand’s. I said so on the blog. Especially when Buttler got out.

Over 35 – Jos Jos Jos. What was that shot? It’s easy to pop from your sofa, but you played a shot to a ball that wasn’t there and you’d been almost perfect up to then. While you were there I believed, hoped. When you were out, I felt that feeling in the pit of my stomach. I recognised it. It was the one when Simon Jones dropped Kasprowicz in 2005. At that point, I knew how far along the spectrum I was in the England love-o-meter. I couldn’t say I didn’t care. I know I did. I wanted them to win. Very badly. Oh, and it was a fine, fine catch by Tim Southee.

Over 36 – Woakes was overmatched, and departed to a skier. I noticed Tom Latham’s little photographer’s dive after taking the catch! A big plus to Nasser’s pretty cool commentary during this time. Concentrating on the dot balls, the number of balls and targets rather than wickets. I made a note to mention it.

Over 37 – Liam Plunkett put bat to ball better than most, but he was faced with having to do it from the start and with no time to adjust. His catch given to long off was inevitable. Liam had a good World Cup, and 10 off 10 balls doesn’t sound much, but it gave us hope when there wasn’t any.

Over 38 – Jofra Archer came in in front of Rashid, and promptly got bowled going for glory first ball. I have yet to see Jofra the bat, and he can according to many, but his was a minor part in the overall proceedings with the bat.

Over 39 – Went out of order.. the batsman crossed from the Plunkett steepler, and Stokes smashed the next ball from Neesham to long on. Boult was under it again, he took the catch, stepped back, knew he was going over the boundary, threw it to Guptill, and I put my head in my hands. But wait. Guptill is signalling six. What? Why? How? Oh my god, he’s stepped on the boundary. Is our name on the trophy? 16 off 8 sounds better than 22 off 9. A moment to say well done to Guptill. Of course, it would have been proven to be six, but he signalled it, knowing what the replay would show and not trying to pull a fast one (as Morgan, perhaps, could be accused of with the Ferguson catch). It says a huge amount for the way New Zealand play the game. I think it sounds patronising to keep patting their heads, but they are a fine team and do not compromise it by cheating. I wish it was like this everywhere.

Over 40 – So we are now down to 15 off the final over. Stokes in the position to be the man again, like the T20 Final. Irony not lost on me. Two dot balls were not in the script. Stokes might have been able to take a single but he thought he was the only one who could score the runs. The third ball was in the slot, down low he got under it, and belted it over midwicket, a long way back for 6. Great, but it is still 9 off three.

Over 41 – The moment of the match. Stokes hits the ball to midwicket and they were always going to go for two. It was a 1 3/4 run. Stokes steamed, head down, for the crease knowing the only chance of staying in the hunt would be to get there. Guptill’s throw was quick, hard, accurate. Stokes stretched and the ball appeared to ricochet away. It diverted past Latham and kept running, on and on, to the boundary. What? How? What? That’s six runs, isn’t it? Stokes sticks his arms out to say sorry. But it is going to be six runs. Suddenly it is 3 off 2. We have to win this now. The luck has been going our way.

Over 42 – There is something quintessentially English about feeling guilty about profiting from luck or mistakes, yet we are the first to moan about our ill fortune. England’s 1966 win is prefaced with us going on and on about the third goal. Do you think Germany, who in their guises have won the competition three times since give a shit now? Argentina don’t asterisk their 1986 triumph about Maradona’s Hand of God. I watched the 1992 Final, and honestly never remembered the Pringle LBWs until he made a thing of it a bit later – I was more pissed off at Botham not nicking it and being given out. Pakistan don’t give a shit, it’s all “cornered tigers” BS. Yet here we are – we should have let them win, it was only five runs, it should have been just two, it should have been this, been that. It’s sport. It wasn’t dishonest. It was luck. I am sure the rule will be changed as a result, but just do one with this asterisk shit. Why bother if the sport is to be cleansed of any element of chance. It is why I hate VAR. If your motivation for this is an anti-England feeling, then that’s your choice. I recognise it for what it was, a massive, enormous, huge slice of luck.

Over 43 – Three off two balls, but Stokes mishits one to long on, and there’s barely one and a half runs in it. The ball is thrown to the bowler’s end and Rashid is miles short. Out not facing a ball, note how Adil, when he walks off, tries to encourage Stokes. The thought, under all this pressure, was were New Zealand playing it safe getting the non-striker out, and not going for Stokes, who would have been out in all likelihood because he had a slow start given he’d got so low in hitting the yorker. In that cauldron, better to play safe.

Over 44 – The last ball, two to win, one for a Super Over. What will Stokes do? Go for glory? Make sure of the one if he can and gamble for a second. Mark Wood isn’t the fleetest of foot at the non-striker’s end. Boult bowls a full toss on middle stump, the ideal ball to whack, but Stokes bunts it to mid-on area. We have the single, they turn, the throw is deadly accurate at the non-striker’s end, Boult gathers and takes the stumps. The replay confirms he had ball in hand, nothing untoward, and it is a Super Over. At that point, I think I inhaled some air for the first time in 15 minutes. This is crazy. But this is sport. Meanwhile, at Wimbledon, the Men’s Final goes into that competition’s equivalent of the Super Over, a fifth set tie-break at 12-12. Sport.

Over 45 – The Super Over rules, and another chance to de-legitimise the victory. It is clear, if the score is tied after 50 overs, wickets are irrelevant. It has been for about 20 years so bloody well spare me the angst over that. There’s an Irish guy I follow on Twitter who is banging on and on about this (and the Super Over) and all he ever does is complain about sport. I genuinely ask why he watches it any more if he hates it that much. Yes, coming from me. So it is clear. Super Over – most runs win, and if it is a tie, who hit the most boundaries in combination. It’s in the bloody rules of the game. You might not like it, but it is clear. I still hate penalty shootouts. It still doesn’t mean I don’t count Millwall knocking Chelsea out of the Cup in 1985 because we won on one. Don’t be daft.

Over 46 – It had to be Buttler and Stokes. Never did find out who was number three (was it Roy?). First ball squirts for three runs down to third man. Second is a well hit single to mid-wicket by Jos. The third finds a gap between the two leg-side boundary fielders to give Stokes 4 runs. 8 from 3. What is safe? The next ball Stokes carves straight to cover for a single. Buttler hits a yorker for two, and then smashes the last ball over mid-wicket for four. Is 15 any good? I can’t process basic thoughts. It sounds good. Archer is warming up. Good god. We’re trusting a kid, relatively, to bowl that last over. Really? Really? And this did not help:

Over 47 – Don’t bowl a wide. Don’t bowl a wide. Don’t bowl it in the slot. Don’t bowl a no ball. Don’t bowl a long hop. The first ball passes over the blue tramline. It’s a wide. Was it harsh? I thought so. Would I have gone on about it if we’d lost? Probably not. Thin margins.

Over 48 – Neesham squirts the next ball for two. The Black Caps got their skates on. At this point the comms were questioning whether Neesham was the right man for this. Next ball he takes a good length Archer ball and belts it into the Mound Stand. We’ve lost. 7 from 4. Neesham hoicks the next one to mid-wicket, Roy misfields, and it is another two. Five from three. Next ball, yorker, Neesham repeats the shot, it is better placed and there’s another two runs. Three from two. It has to be three, because England have hit more boundaries. Next ball is a slower ball bouncer. Neesham pulls it into his body. Guptill gets a motor on and makes it easily. Two from the last ball.

Over 49 – Time stands still. Utterly still. Only sport can do this. Spellbinding. Two to win, and the man tasked to score them was out at around 11:30. He hasn’t faced a ball in the Super Over. Archer is a rookie. On their heads the game rests. The field takes ages to set. The tension building. I’m absolutely numb. I know that a win is what I truly, totally want. It feels good, but it also feels like I’ve been a bit of a fraud. My last five years of agnostic, almost loathing of elements of this team. But damn you Stokes, damn you Jos, damn you Jofra, you’ve brought me back. Archer bowls full on leg stump, Guptill gets a great bat on it, you can’t smack that and gets it to deep mid-wicket. The fielder, heaven knows who it was at the time (the irony being Jason Roy who misfielded earlier) threw in, Jos gathers, smashes the stumps. Guptill looks well short. I am screaming yes, yes, yes. Jumping around the living room. Teddy looks scared, so I hug him and give a non-plussed border collie dying for his walk, a big old kiss. I feel that wave of elation, it lasts not as long as it used to, but that is what sport, and excitement, makes you do. I try to focus on what needs to be done, but I’m numb.

Over 50 – I am genuinely, totally uninterested in anyone else’s reaction. I don’t care in the immediate aftermath. I don’t want to hear pundits, I don’t want to hear people tell me what I think about it. These memories are mine, not yours “experts”. I want to react the way of the natural order. I take Teddy for his walk. I am buzzing. England have won the most exciting game of cricket I’ve seen, certainly since 2005, and up there with the best finales you could ever wish to see. And as sport fans, what more can you ask for?

Super Over 1 – From a personal standpoint I was trying to reference this match with other great sporting events I’ve watched. Personally, nothing can match the tearing up of my insides that was the second half of the FA Cup Semi-Final in 2004, but in hindsight that was meaningless, even if it didn’t feel like it at the time. The obvious cricket reference point is Edgbaston 2005. I think it is really similar to that, but a little different. England had that game won, and couldn’t finish off the team. Here England never had that won, and indeed, to be fair, didn’t win, but the miracles it took to get there made it exhausting. I am trying to remember an event where I actually shed tears during it. I did after that ball hit the bat and went for the boundary for the four “overthrows”. I actually couldn’t breathe. The winning moment was greeted with huge excitement, but I think I’ll remember the richochet more. Sport is amazing. Utterly amazing.

Super Over 2 – The time to talk about the ECB is in the next few days, not really now. But let this be said. They have been given this blessed gift from the gods. For a long time this was a dull ODI, played on a dog of a pitch, with no pyrotechnics, and only lifted because of the occasion. It finished in a maelstrom of total, utter, excitement. Think Wilkinson’s drop goal, Jones catching Kasper, the Aguero winner/Thomas winner of the league with the last kick of the season. Think Liverpool and Spurs on successive nights. Think how that can catch a country’s imagination, bring them together. The ball is in your court. I’ll wager you’ll congratulate yourselves and ignore the signs of what can be. Or as one of our number just said in this tweet:

There will be more, and I’m sure I missed some key moments too. I hope this conveys my thoughts adequately. I have the whole game recorded. I’ll be committing it to digital copy this afternoon. It’s not often a whole confluence of emotions are concentrated on half an hour of sheer sporting drama. I can’t do the flashy words. I’m more visceral. Yes. Yes. Yes. Get In There!

 

ADDITIONAL….. Maxie is right to raise the following:

For a long time this was a dull ODI, played on a dog of a pitch, with no pyrotechnics, and only lifted because of the occasion.

For someone coming to the game for the first time in ages, the match might have appeared dull, the same way a taut Cup Final with no goals can be to those not emotionally involved. It’s amazing how many big football matches my team played that were 1-0 or 0-0 never seemed boring to me. It wasn’t a dull game, it was tight one, but this was meant as a reflection as to how someone new to this might look at it. This isn’t T20….

Also, and totally remiss of me, I want to thank Chris, Danny and Sean for the coverage of the whole of this World Cup. I am biased, but it has been brilliant. Chris did the end of the live blog last night when I could barely think, let alone write. Danny and Sean put the hard yards in during the interminable group stages, and brought their own perspectives to the blog. I love what we do, I am honoured to write this blog with them, and even in those times when none of us are up to it, the BOC thing still resides in our heads. We are nothing special, we are just cricket fans. When we speak, we speak from our hearts. We care, care so much that it hurts some times. We can be brutal, but we are never trolls. We can call people out, but we do it through our own frustrations. The blog and the community we have, both here and on Twitter live for moments like this. There is no correct reaction. It is personal. All four of us show that in our writing. Thanks to all of them. I don’t say it enough.

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World Cup Final: England vs New Zealand – Live Blog

It’s 9am, and cricket is about to start on Channel 4. Anyone can tune in, it doesn’t need a day pass, it doesn’t need a subscription. Just turn the television on, or if you’re one of those millions the ECB insist don’t “consume content” this way, use the 4OD app and stream it. Either way, the England cricket team are there to be watched by everyone for the first time in 14 years.

It’s a treat of course. A special occasion, a one off. And the sheer delight at cricket opening itself to the masses is tempered by the absolute fury that it can have been 14 years since this was last the case. For a sport, any sport to have hidden itself away for so long, as a deliberate strategy, remains extraordinary, and extraordinarily stupid.

The way the ECB have been banging on about “engagement” in the last few days is the mark of an organisation desperately trying to justify its own actions, using every possible matrix to try to deny the consequences of its own conduct. It’s a common tactic of course, the same kind of adding up that led Manchester United to claim they had 659 million fans, through amongst others sleights of hand including all those who support other clubs but who play United and thus count as being interested in them, but with cricket, the numbers are so frighteningly low to begin with that the exaggerated numbers are more terrifying than reassuring.

Still, today is a chance, a rare opportunity, for someone to stumble across the game that we love, and be hooked by it. It’s a common memory for so many of us, to have played in the back garden or the street, and to discover it shown on tv and be drawn in. Times have certainly changed in the world of broadcasting, but a central tenet of sports adherence has not – in order to fall for a game, it has to be seen, it has to be watched. Today can only be beneficial. But the sad part, the desperately sad part, is that instead of being a foundation on which to build, it is instead a one off, a quick glimpse through the palace gates at the riches beyond and little more. Celebrate this instance, but remain furious that it is all we get.

It will be intriguing to see what kind of viewing figures are gained, and it’s not hard to imagine that the ECB’s worst nightmare is if they are strong. They’ll certainly be higher than anything gained on Sky over the last few years, but a strong latent interest will shine a light on their policies like nothing else. Naturally, they’ll protest that it justifies their Hundred approach of showing the odd game to the public, and how they intend to capitalise on reaching non-cricket fans in future. That’s the trouble with the ECB – you can write their responses yourself, if you can bear to continually write sentences including the words stakeholders and engagement.

Of course, this is an ICC event, and the granting of free to air coverage is entirely the decision of Sky, so the ECB claiming credit would be laughably misplaced, but it is unlikely to stop them.

But this is an unqualified “good thing”, an unexpected bonus for those who might well be able to afford a Sky subscription, but who care enough for the health of a sport that they want to see everyone exposed to it, who want everyone to get the chance to appreciate it. Of course Channel 4 are going to switch to the Grand Prix, they’ve had that scheduled for ages, but it is not like the early years of the century – everyone, and I mean everyone, now has digital television and can switch. Perhaps just as importantly given cricket’s absence from the wider airwaves, some who tune in for the motor racing might just hang around for the cricket afterwards as well.

It’s sunny, it’s exciting, and we’re all going to watch cricket. What a fabulous day, and there will be a new winner of the Cricket World Cup. What’s not to like?

As for the game, England are warm favourites against a New Zealand team that epitomises the cliche about them being more than the sum of their parts, but who have some outstanding cricketers in their ranks too. There seems little doubt the team winning the toss will wish to bat first, and that the pitch will be a batting friendly one for such a showpiece occasion.

We’ll all be joining in with the live blogging and commenting during the day, so the usual reminder that auto-refresh is a plug in that we’ve not come across yet, so you’ll need to manually refresh the page. Oh the hardship…

09:10 – 5 Live have started the build up, Sky have started the build up, and half the Channel 4 audience are seeing for the first time that a World Cup has been on for the last 6 weeks.

09:17 – I remember the 1992 World Cup, getting up at 3am to go down to the student union to watch the final. My mate Jason was going to come with me, but overslept the little shit, so I was stood outside his house cursing his name as he drifted. He eventually turned up at about 9 I think.

09:30 – the irony of the Sky feed showing bits of the 2005 series on Channel 4 but with the Sky commentary.

09:50 – interesting watching the interview with Eoin Morgan. Some in the media have been falling over themselves to praise people behind the scenes, like Strauss. It surely can’t be too difficult to give the bulk of the praise to the bloke who has been in charge of the team for the last four years. He’s the one, not a suit.

09:55 – toss delayed to 10:15. So presumably a delayed start too.

10:16 – New Zealand win the toss and bat. Probably not an easy decision given the overhead conditions. Same side for New Zealand. Morgan says he’s not bothered about losing the toss and that it was a 50/50 call. England also unchanged.

10:29 – “I got a duck in the World Cup final, it’s not that bad!”. Brendon McCullum is great – all the pontification about pressure and so on, and he offers a healthy dose of perspective.

10:38 – is it just me who really, really hates anthems before a cricket match?

Ok here we go. Not really nervous, not like before the football or rugby World Cup matches. Odd in many ways, I’d like to be.

10:45 – having said that, it’s worth England being in the final for the sheer bitterness of some of our Australian friends in particular. Marvellous.

Massive wipe at the first ball by Guptill. Fantastic to see, and what I’d hope to watch down the local club.

It’s a World Cup final and we’ve got Michael Clarke on comms. Did we deserve that?

Boy that pitch looks green. 5-0 after 1.

10:53 – great decision from Erasmus not to give a catch behind, and a good one from Morgan not to review it. Have to say, first instinct was it was out. Nope, hit the back leg.

10:55 WICKET! Nicholls lbw to Woakes. It’s been reviewed…oh this looks stone dead. Wow, going over the top. Must be going blind. So overturned, as you were. 8-0 off 2.3

11:00. 10-0 from 3. There’s movement for the England bowlers out there, but surviving the first half hour is going to be key.

I’m absolutely certain that my (abysmal) bowling arm came over at the same speed as Jofra Archer’s. But the ball dribbled out for me and goes down the other end like an Exocet for him.

11:03 – 22-0 from 4. Decent start.

How come I always get the promotion email about World Cup matches from the ECB well after the game is underway?

11:06 24-0. England have started reasonably, there have been a couple of alarms, but no more than ought to be expected.

Archer is perhaps bowling a bit short. The speed is starting to crank up though.

11:10 WICKET! Probably anyway – Woakes bowls full to Guptill and pins him in front. It’s been reviewed, and yep, that’s out. New Zealand also lose their review. 29-1.

Woakes has been good this morning, looking much the more dangerous of the opening attack. Kane Williamson arrives at the crease…

A general thing about reviews. Dharmasena hasn’t had a great tournament, but his error in giving Roy out in the semi-final would have been overturned had England not burned their review on a desperation attempt to prevent Bairstow’s dismissal. So it is here with New Zealand, by hoping for a miracle, they’ve now put themselves at risk of a mistake later. For all the criticism about a wrong decision, teams bring a lot of it on themselves with Hail Marys on ones where it’s a fair enough decision. My sympathy is in short supply.

11:20 bit of short pitched bowling from Archer to Williamson. A fast bowler pinging a batsman is great stuff. As long as you’re not the batsman. 30-1 from 8

Nicholls is struggling a bit here. 10 runs off 26 balls and looking a tad fretful with it.

11:28 Always easy to slate the commentators, and some are woeful. But it’s Atherton, Bishop and Smith on currently. They’re bloody marvellous. Can we have them on for the rest of the day?

1135 40-1, given it’s not easy out there, New Zealand will be pretty pleased with this start. Could have easily lost the final in the first hour, but they’re in the game.

1142 Bit of an iffy first over from Liam Plunkett, but everyone knows this entire game is about watching him bowl, and particularly watching him bat.

1148 50 up, in the 14th over. Been a bit of a struggle, but it’s fine. They’re in the game.

1150 Kane Williamson 4 not out off 24 balls. Which says above all else that people can get too stressed about the early part of an innings, because if he’s still there in 20 overs time, he’ll have a big score. Mark Wood into the attack.

1155 Mark Wood is getting more (away) swing than anyone else. Swing hasn’t been a big part in this tournament, it’s a pleasant surprise to see some.

95mph from Wood. That’s rapid.

1156 and that’s drinks.

1159 Hmm Stokes is limping a bit. Seems to be ok now, ran around the boundary well enough just now.

1202 68-1 from 16, and here’s Danny to take over.

1206 Tight over from Wood. New Zealand seem to be targeting 250-270, which has to be too low against this England team?

1210 Seven from Rashid’s first over, with not much spin off the pitch. It might be worth bowling Stokes a bit early on and seeing if the pitch if more receptive to Adil later on…

1214 Seven again from Wood’s third over. New Zealand are accelerating, and the English bowlers aren’t seeming very threatening in these middle overs so far.

1219 Another seven runs from Rashid’s over, and again no real threat.

1223 Seven runs from Wood’s end too. Since Woakes finished his 7-over spell, New Zealand are scoring at 6.4 runs per over, which could lead to them scoring over 350 altogether. Very worrying…

1226 Better from Rashid, only four of this one, but nothing to worry the batsmen. Ominous.

1230 WICKET. Williamson given not out edged behind, but that decision was by Dharmasena so England have reviewed. Huge spike on the UltraEdge and Plunkett has got Williamson out. Huge wicket from nowhere!

1242 A couple of tighter overs after the wicket and the pressure is back on the New Zealand batsmen. Losing Williamson could have cost New Zealand 50 runs or more from their total.

1248 WICKET No need for Dharmasena to fret about this decision. Plunkett bowls a full ball and an inside edge rips out Nicholls’ off stump. Amazing what happens when you bowl full.

1302 Three tight overs from Plunkett and Rashid, New Zealand’s wheels are spinning but they’re going nowhere fast. Stokes has apparently recovered and is bowling his first over.

1306 Stokes keep it tight, conceding four, and now it’s DRINKS.

13:08 – Dmitri taking over now. Teddy permitting.

13:10 – Rashid bowling his 8th over, with no wickets. Four singles from the first four balls and then two dots. Think they aren’t really taking a chance here, putting their eggs in a 250-270 basket. There’s not a lot in this wicket, so I’m not sure that’s a top idea.

13:12 – Ben Stokes on for his second over. All quite low key so far. Latham pulls the second ball firmly for a single to backward square. Ross Taylor does pretty much the same to the next ball, but just a single. No getting away from the lack of boundaries. Another nick for a single off the fourth ball. Two leg-byes off the fifth ball as it flicks off Taylor’s hip to fine leg. Wide off the sixth ball which went right over the blue line. Kumar being a bit harsh. Guided down to third man for a single off the last ball. Seven off it – 141 for 3.

13:18 – Not sure this will be enthralling the nation. Mark Wood replacing Adil Rashid, to bowl his fifth over. First ball he nails Taylor in front, and with no review he has to go. Is that New Zealand’s last chance to post a big total? Erasmus is fireproof at the moment. Has he got this right?

WICKET – Ross Taylor LBW Mark Wood 15 – 141 for 4

Our band sings (well I do) this song, and our guitarist plays a damn sight better guitar solo than this. Neesham in. Is the game gonna go his way? LBW was too high, so congratulate Guptill for blowing the earlier review. And let’s see Erasmus get some grief (I don’t mean that, but Kumar got stick for some stuff earlier today on the back of a bad decision on Thursday). No runs from the next four balls. Make that five. A wicket maiden from Mark Wood – 141 for 4 from 34.

13:24 – “Funny How the Missus Always Looks The Bleedin’ Same” – How am I ever going to get that lyric into a blog post title? Stokes on again. One from the first, full bunger not dealt with for the second. Two left-handers in now. Stokes strays on to leg stump and Neesham clips it through mid-wicket for a rare boundary. First in 15 and a half overs according to Bishop. Follows up with a wide. Neesham clobbers the short ball through wide mid-on for another four from the fifth ball. A driven single makes it 11 off the over and the score with 15 overs to go at 152 for 4. Are we seriously expected to pay £20 extra to watch Dillian Whyte?

13:28 – Wood gets smacked first ball by Neesham but no run. Blocks the second, with Wood registering 92 mph on the speed gun. Evades a short ball third up, but connects with the fourth – Woakes dives to save three runs on the boundary. Jimmy giving it big lash early on. Play and miss on the fifth. Blocks the sixth, with just one run from Wood’s sixth over. 153 for 4.

13:33 – Stokes removed, and Liam Plunkett back on. First ball to Neesham who hit straight to backward point first up. Drop and run on the second ball. The Barmy Army trumpeter plays, whether you like it or not. Dot ball. Michael Clarke doesn’t remember much about the 2015 Final. Just like I don’t recall the early days of this blog. Plunkett goes short, and Latham goes for a pull, for four. Bounced before the “rope”. Quick single next ball. Dot ball off the sixth ball. Six from the over. 159 for 4 from 37.

13:37 – Latham times a ball through the covers for four from Wood’s first ball, but follows up with a play and miss to a pitched up delivery. Lovely to see the ICC dignitaries enjoying the cricket. Latham to third man for a single. Let’s see those ICC characters again. The public demands it. Dot ball to Neesham off ball four. Nothing from the fifth, a short ball Neesham ducks under. A squirted dab into the offside gets Neesham a single. 6 runs from the over, 7 from Wood’s last three, and it’s 165 for 4 with 12 overs left.

13:41 – Wasted. That’s a tune for the MCC members. Might be about the 2005 legacy, eh? Dot ball first up from Liam, just missing off stump. This is Plunkett’s ninth over. Dab down to third man for Neesham. Ah the Women’s world cup winners. What a legacy they’ve built since, aided and abetted by the ECB. Single to Latham, then two for Neesham. Not fireworks by any means. Neesham hits the next ball for four, an offdrive off the back foot that Woakes couldn’t reach. Then Liam gets his revenge, fooling Neesham who lofts it straight to mid-on and it is caught by Joe Root.

WICKET – Jimmy Neesham Caught Joe Root Bowled Liam Plunkett 19 – 173 for 5

A key wicket for England as in comes the Big Man. I’ll call him CdG for the purposes of this live blog. It is easier.

13:47 – Wood gives up a single to Latham first ball, and CdG now faces. He takes two to wide third man to get his score going as those lags, the Barmy Army, sing Livin’ On A Prayer. No more comment offered. Nothing doing from a misjudged shot third ball for CdG. A full ball on leg stump is beautifully timed, but Bairstow dives and the ball goes in clean and is returned rapidly. Still two runs, but great fielding. Dot ball from another 92 mph delivery. Wood is rapid at the moment, so no way he stays fit this summer! Single from CdG – 179 for 5, with six from the over. 10 to go. dum de dum dum dum dum.

13:51 – Lovely to see the full ICC box again. Half expect to see that Infantino chap turn up. Last over from Liam – two dot balls to start the 41st. What the public wants is more ICC freeloaders on screen. Single to deep midwicket for CdG off the third ball. Short ball clopped to deep midwicket for a single by Latham, who is onto 25. Oh, it’s our PM. For at least another week. Play and miss off the penultimate ball, so Liam has one more. 3 for 42 at the moment. It’s how he finished, a dot ball. 181 for 5. Here’s Ray Winstone. I miss him “having a bang on that”.

13:56 – Archer back on, and a single for Latham to start. Archer has 5 to bowl. Play and miss to the 85mph second ball. A total miscue from a short ball for CdG gets a single as it balloons off his helmet over backward point. I now get a two minute break. Latham strokes a single from the fourth. Sharp single from the big man, which would have been tight if hit. Wide from the sixth ball. Bouncer off the last ball. 186 for 5. 8 overs remaining.

14:01 – Single off the first full pitched delivery from Wood, as it goes down to fine leg from CdG. Single off the second. A run a ball gets New Zealand just around 230. 4 leg byes as the ball flicks CdG, a nice and nasty bonus. Two runs for CdG as he takes on Adil’s weak arm and gets home. Chopped down to third man for a single off the fifth ball of the over. Latham miscues a short one for a single. 10 off the over, and it is 196 for 5. I see Naylor has cheesed off some of the parish. Ah yes. One of my early blogging inspirations. And another of my regrets.

14:06 – Single from the first ball of Archer’s over. Another leg bye off the second. No, Simon, it hasn’t gripped the country. Stop telling nonsense. Short ball flapped for a single by Latham. Wide given for the next bouncer. 200 up. Miscue doesn’t carry to cover from CdG. Had a few of these through the innings. They’ll get ’em in leg byes as CdG is through early and it ricochets for a single. Wide off the supposed last ball of the over. Still six off the over so far. Wide again. Short and wide of leg stump. Single off the last, pictures of MCC eccentrics and 8 from the over. Pip Pip. 204 for 5 with six to go.

14:11 – Wood’s final over. No run from the first ball. Swing and a miss from the second. Lovely shot for six over mid-wicket by Latham as he picks up a straight full delivery from Wood. Wood hits Latham a midships the next ball. Top edge falls short of Archer who pings in a return to prevent a second. Buttler gathers and slings the stumps down, it is being reviewed and CdG is just in. A lot closer than it looked. One run. Bouncer, not given wide off the last. Wood done. 1 for 49. 7 from the over. 211 for 5. Five overs left.

14:16 – We are the army, the barmy army, we are mental and we are mad. Single for Latham from the first ball. Single for CdG from the second. Slower ball dabbed for one by Latham again. Wood clutching his rib at the end of his spell. Three weeks from the Ashes. CdG gets tied up with another short ball. Dot. Slower full ball means CdG mis-times. No run. Slow ball bouncer (78) and CdG waves what looks like a stick at it. 3 from the over. 214 for 5. 24 balls remaining.

14:19 – We interrupt the generic pap music to say Woakes is coming back. Wood wanders off. Hurry up and bowl Chris, that tune is dreadful. Latham pushes a single first ball. Slower ball is tucked behind square for 2 off the second. Single from the third ball. Latham cross bats a single. Slower ball is chipped in the air by CdG and he loops it to mid-off.

WICKET – Colin de Grandhomme Caught Sub (James Vince) Bowled Chris Woakes 16 – 219 for 6

James Vince gets his name on a World Cup Final scorecard. More than KP and Sir Al ever did! In comes Mitchell Santner, but Latham is on strike. Stroked to midwicket for a single. 220 for 6. 6 runs from the over. 3 overs remain.

14:26 – Archer to Latham. Single down to deep backward square. Single to Santner for the first run of his innings. Dot ball from a short ball third up. Driven single for Latham on the fourth ball. Single to Santner. Single to Latham. Dull. 5 from the third last over, and barely a chance taken. 225 for 6.

14:29 – Appeal, Woakes for LBW against Latham. Review. Missed run out. Need the lav. Ted’s asleep. Doesn’t look out, although he did wander. Pitched outside leg. A run taken. Santner clumps one to midwicket. Single. Lazy cricket gives New Zealand five runs. Short ball bouncer, wide, boundary. Muppets. Wide full toss, slow ball, chipped up, and Woakes gets another wicket. Horrid cricket.

WICKET – Tom Latham Caught Sub (James Vince) Bowled Chris Woakes 47 – 232 for 7.

Vince becoming a legend here. The catchmaster. Wonder if Vaughan can leverage that into an Ashes place. Someone shoot the guitarist. Woakes bowls a beamer to Santner, no ball and a free hit, which Santner misses (a slower ball telegraphed by second class post). Quick single again, a direct hit is missed, but probably safe. Vince not quite the legend. Woakes last ball to Henry is slower, and Matt massacres it over cow corner for a one bounce four. 238 for 7. 13 from the over. Last six…

14:37 – First ball, Santner move across, ball goes over leg stump. Dot. Another quick single second ball. Throw misses. One run to Santner. Bouncer third ball is adjudged as a wide. McCullum ranting on about 240. Full and straight next, and it smacks into off on the full.

WICKET – Matt Henry Bowled Jofra Archer 4 – 240 for 8

Next man in is Sweet Child Of Mine (not so sweet with this clown on the guitar) Trent Boult. Three balls left. Slow yorker. Dot ball. Boult drives the penultimate ball for a single, and scampers down the other end. Last ball to Santner who has five from eight balls at the tail end of the innings. It’s a bouncer and Santner ducks!!!!! A dot ball without a shot being played. Curious and even more curious. Innings over 241. Just 242 to win. New Zealand going to need early wickets. I think this is England’s to lose. It’s not a great wicket, but it isn’t 241 in 50 overs. England never took their feet off New Zealand’s throat.

We have a half hour break.

15:09 – Sean on the decks for the upcoming passage of play. How is everyone’s nerves? The Sky commentators seem to be confident of an England victory, i’m not so sure mind!

15:12 – This new ball is going to be crucial in the outcome of the final. If England can see off Boult and Henry and be 40-0 off 10, then they become overwhelming favourites

15:14 – Roy is a lucky boy. Boult raps him on the pads and NZ review, umpires call saves England from the worst possible start. Must admit that looked dead in real time. Just the single from the over.

15:21 – The ball is doing all sorts at the start of the innings, i’m glad i don’t have to face Boult and Henry on this. Roy connects with one sweetly down the ground. England’s first boundary.

15:27 – Steady from England here with Roy keeping hold of the strike. The Kiwi bowlers still looking dangerous mind, they need a wicket in the few overs though.

15:32 – Bairstow joins the party with 2 boundaries off Trent Boult. Are the Black Caps getting a little desperate now?

15:36 – OUT: Well they’re not getting desperate anymore, Henry gets Roy with an out swinger that is caught by Latham. Root comes to the crease and England will need something big from the Test captain.

15:43 – This has been a fascinating passage of play and kind of resembles the morning of Day 1 at a Test with a good old fashioned battle between bat and ball. ODI cricket is so much better to watch when there is something there for the bowlers as well as the batsmen.

15:50 – Bairstow playing Boult very sensibly here, leaving the one that goes across him and then a lovely pull for 4. Oh look, Tom Harrison is in the crowd, desperate to jump on any successful bandwagon no doubt. I hope Bairstow hooks one into his mush.

15:53 – Henry bowls a maiden over, he has bowled a very fine spell here, much fuller than the England bowlers. The Big Man is loosening up and coming on to bowl, the conditions could certainly suit De Grandhomme’s type of bowling.

15:56 – Many people commenting how flat the atmosphere is at the Final. It’s pretty much like every Lords international i’ve been too.

15:57 – CHANCE – The Big Man drops a relatively straight forward catch of his own bowling from Bairstow. How costly will that drop prove to be??

16:06 – Tense. The squeeze is on here from the New Zealand, England have to be a careful not to get bogged down here. 2 boundaries from Bairstow, the first a nice push of his legs and then nearly chops on next ball relieves a bit of pressure. Meanwhile:

16:12 – New Zealand bring on Ferguson for his first bowl of the game. England didn’t face him during the group game, so it will be interesting to see how they fare against him and that tremendous moustache.

16:16 – Root is getting bogged down here, not his fluent self by any means. An ambition LBW shout from De Grandhomme and then an ugly swipe from Root.

16:17 – OUT! A horrible innings from Root comes to an end with another ugly swipe and a tickle behind to Latham. New Zealand are most definitely still in this.

16:19 – Drinks and a good time to handover the reigns to the ice cold TLG. I’m going to hide behind the sofa meanwhile

16:20 – well now, TLG here and this is interesting. Tight and nervy all round. You’d say objectively that England ought to win from here, but there’s that nagging doubt and the pressure is on.

16:26 – A quick switch across to the laptop, as this blog has now got so long the WordPress app is struggling to load it properly.  I mentioned the tension with this game, and the cynical old sods writing this are all a bit tense.  Which is strange, considering it’s a feeling that’s been absent from all of us for quite a few years now.  Which just goes to show that once this ridiculous game has wormed its way in, there’s no stopping it.  Oh it’s 65-2.

16:31 – A gorgeous cover drive from Jonny Bairstow, but which is then followed by WICKET! As he chops on to his stumps from Lockie Ferguson.  It’s been coming too, he’s cut a few past his own stumps, with his bottom hand being overly dominant today.  England are in a bit of strife.  72-3

16:37 – Anyone wishing Moeen Ali was in the batting order today yet?

16:39 – Just two off that over.  Funny thing with England, if they go after the bowling, you back them to pull off a run chase, but the moment they get hesitant and cautious, you can almost see the nerves.  That’s not to say they should be having a slog at it, they’re probably approaching it the right way.  But it doesn’t half look as if they’re worried.

16:44 – 82-3.  You know, it’s almost like England on free to air tv hasn’t gone away, I’m pretty sure we left it in 2005 with England in a tense tight sitution.

16:47 – You’re thinking you don’t mind really if New Zealand win the World Cup, aren’t you?  Decent bunch of chaps, not Australian, underdogs, punching above their weight, a victory for cricket and all that.

16:49 – Checking our stats page, it seems we had a visitor to the blog who searched for “cricket for posh people”.  You what?

16:50 – WICKET! Oh drama.  Is Morgan caught?  Yes he is.  Pretty poor shot, and a fine catch from Lockie Ferguson.  England are in trouble here.  86-4 is not a promising position, and Ben Stokes is going to have to try and pull the fat out of the fire once again this tournament.

16:56 – 24 overs gone, 89-4.  Two new batsmen at the crease, both destructive, and with a target that’s modest enough it can be whittled away quickly.  But England have little room for manouevre now, the batting quality remaining is good, but we’re very much into the all rounders.

17:00 – How are the fingernails?

17:03 – Extremely unimpressed with Arron in the comments for drawing the England/Jimmy White parallel just as I was thinking about it and before I could write it.

17:04 – 98-4.  It’s interesting seeing people think the pitch is not up to scratch.  There’s something in that, given it’s not rewarded stroke play.  On the other hand, if this goes to the wire, then irrespective of anything else, the viewing figures are going to soar, and the chewing of fingers is going to reach cannibalistic levels.  For that’s the point, it can be certainly stated that fours and sixes might drag in the uninitiates (T20 suggests exactly that), but drama is what really does it, whether high scoring or low scoring.

17:09 – Stokes eases the pressure a bit with a crunching straight drive to bring England’s hundred up.  The required run rate is just starting to climb a bit, up to 6.22.  Manageable certainly, a problem if a wicket or two falls.  And just to expand that earlier point, I’m not convinced that this is a poor spectacle right now.  Earlier in the day that could be said, but you don’t have to be a county member or a club player of 20 years standing to understand this is very tight.

17:15 Nelson up!  111-4.  These two are starting to look more at ease now.  You know what’s going to come next…

17:21 – A few singles here and there.  Nothing is happening but everything is happening.  Cricket is so good.

17:26 – Buttler cuts just out of reach of Guptill, and it races away for four.  Naturally, it gives the commentators the chance to talk about what would have been the catch of the tournament for the thousandth time.

Expect much, much more of this kind of thing if New Zealand win.

17:31 – 136-4.  Starting to tick over nicely.  And up comes the 50 partnership, that to channel my in Ronay is as welcome as a Green and Black’s ice cream on a hot day ooh aren’t I a clever one.

17:34 – time for a Powerade Hydration Break*.

*Just fuck off.

A masterclass in “I don’t know what the hell to say because I’m nervous, so I’ll state the bleeding obvious”.  We’ve all been there.

17:40 – 35 overs gone, 141-4.  A healthier looking scorecard, but still on a bit of a knifedge.  Those dull middle overs eh?

17:43 – Big lbw appeal against Buttler, Dharmasena says no, and we go to a review…looks to be heading down the legside though.  Yep, missing leg completely according to Hawkeye, so that’s New Zealand’s bowling review gone.  And since he’s had such a kicking from so many people, a good decision from Dharmasena, albeit not the hardest he’ll have had to make.

17:47 – Don’t bowl there.  Short and wide to Buttler who crashes it past point for four.  Stokes is the more conservative of his pair, with Buttler looking to be the aggressor.  Runs required is now under 100.

17:50 – The pressure is beginning to switch around.  New Zealand are now starting to badly need a wicket.  Required rate 7.24 though, and rising.

17:53 – Gorgeous straight drive for four from Buttler off Neesham.  Seven off the over, just what England need from here.

17:55 – Stokes in on the act, hooking Ferguson in front of square for four.

17:59 – 5-5 in the final set in the tennis by the way.

18:01 – Of course, if England do win this, they will be the only country to have won cricket, football and rugby World Cups.  It doesn’t matter much, except that it’ll cause an outbreak of fury amongst Australians and comments about it being a United Nations team.  It’s worth it for that alone.  166-4.

18:02 – Ah the Buttler ramp shot.  How good is he at that?

18:03 – Into the last ten overs, 72 needed, six wickets in hand.  You’d say England really ought to do it from here, or at least you would in a normal JAMODI.  In the World Cup final?  Feels a bit more fraught than that.

18:05 – Three balls gone this Ferguson over.  Three dots.  Pressure…And a wide follows.  But a fine over with just three off it.  Required rate edges up to 7.66

18:09 – New Zealand are putting the squeeze on here.   Just four runs off that over.   177-4, eight overs to go.

18:13 England probably need that one big over.  But they’re struggling to score at the moment.  Lots of singles, not many boundaries.  Creative from Buttler, almost scooping it, changing his mind and running it down to fine leg.  But only for a couple.  Six off that over.  OK, but no more than that.  8.42 an over needed.

18:17 Trent Boult returns.  Buttler crashes it over extra cover for four and goes to 50.  And Stokes joins him with a single down the ground.

18:23 – 53 runs needed from 36 balls.  Fantastic shot from Buttler, again over deep extra cover.  48 from 34.  Followed by a, well, a hoick, that heads down to third man.  Fine piece of fielding on the boundary saves a couple of runs.

18:26 – WICKET!  That’s huge.  Buttler skews it off the outside edge out to deep point, and the sub fielder Tim Southee runs in and takes another fine catch.  The game takes another twist as Woakes comes to the crease.  196-5.

The ECB have all the luck.  They do everything in their power to hide the game away from as many people as possible, and then when they fluke a game being shown on Free to Air, they get a thriller to remind everyone what is missing.

18:29 – Woakes gets off strike at the second time of asking.  England need a boundary or two, and it’s all on Ben Stokes.  The pendulum has swung dramatically with that wicket, and New Zealand might well be favourites here.  Four!!  Stokes somehow pings it through midwicket off the back foot, lacking any kind of finesse whatever.  But it’s unlikely anyone cares at this stage.

18:34 – WICKET!  Woakes has a massive heave at Ferguson, and it goes straight up in the air.  Latham makes an awful meal of it, but clings on, just.  And at this stage, no runs off a ball is a nice bonus.  All of which means it’s Plunkett time.  203-6

Plunkett can’t get his first couple of balls away, which is hardly surprising given the situation.  But it all adds to the ever spiralling required run rate and the pressure.  But wait, he then responds by belting it through midwicket for four.  But that’s it for the over, and again England are short of what they needed.  They have a chance, but it’s getting harder and harder.

Hussain is on commentary talking about the pitch dying and what a clever and brave decision it was to bat first.  Not so sure that was said by too many at the time.

18:40 – Right, 34 needed from three overs.

Four!!  Again over midwicket from Stokes.  30 from 17 balls.

Next ball through square leg for one.  Five off the first couple of balls is just what was needed.

Lads – get me a drink will you?

Plunkett too goes towards cow corner, and picks up a couple of runs.  Good over so far for England.

Dot ball.

Down the ground this time, the pair scamper for two.  217-6

And a single to finish the over.  24 runs needed from 12 balls.

18:44 – We’re all perfectly relaxed aren’t we?  Indifferent.  Calm.  Utterly chilled, right? Neesham to bowl the penultimate over, and England really need it to be a big one.

Single for Plunkett.  23 off 11.

Single to Stokes.  22 from 10.  A super over has been mentioned – I think England would take that right now.

18:47 WICKET!!  Plunkett goes down the ground, but doesn’t get the distance.  England are falling short here.  The one positive is that Stokes is back on strike, but this is now needing something spectacular.  22 from 9 as Archer comes in.

Six!!  Wow, that’s extraordinary.  Stokes goes big over deep midwicket, and Boult catches him, but his foot treads on the boundary rope.  Guptill is quick to signal it was six as well.  16 from 8.

Single from Stokes.  Archer has the last ball of the over to face.  WICKET!!  Archer has a slog, misses and is bowled.  England are 8 down, and it’s going to be entirely down to Stokes to pull off a miracle.  15 needed from the final over, or 14 to take us to a Super Over.  Which would be fun, wouldn’t it?

18:52 – Right, the final over, to be bowled by Trent Boult, who has been excellent as ever.

Stokes declines the single.  15 from 5 balls.

And again.  15 from 4.

Six!!  Bloody hell.  Stokes absolutely smashes a slog sweep for six over midwicket.  9 from 3.

Well that is accidental, but probably controversial.  It counts as six runs, as Stokes hits a couple, and as the throw comes in it deflects off him for an additional four overthrows.  Completely accidental, but this puts England right in the box seat.  Never seen anything quite like that.

I need a drink.  So do the umpires it seems, as they have a chat, but it went for four overthrows, there’s nothing anyone can do about it.  Sheer good or bad luck.

3 from 2

WICKET!! More mayhem.  England go for 2 runs to try and get Stokes back on strike.  Rashid is run out by a mile, but Stokes is back on strike.  2 needed off the last ball, but 1 for a super over.  What drama.

Here we go:

WICKET!! It’s a tie!!  Surely!  England go for two, but Wood is run out, and we have a super over.  Jesus Christ.  That was the most extraordinary final over I’ve ever seen – the six caught on the boundary, the accidental four overthrows, the two run outs.  What a finish.  What an incredible finish.

Fantastic innings from Stokes.  What a magnificent bowling and fielding performance from New Zealand.  Who the hell do the teams pick for a super over?  How big is Channel 4’s audience right now?  Where the hell is that drink?

19:08 SUPER OVER

Stokes and Buttler come out to bat for England.

Outside edge from Stokes, over third man, and they sprint three runs.  Buttler on strike…

A single.

Four runs!  Another slog sweep from Stokes, that goes flat through midwicket and beats the diving fielder.  8 runs off the first three balls and it’s a fine start from England.

Single.  9-0 off 4 balls.  Buttler back on strike.  A six would be nice…instead it’s a fine yorker, that Buttler screws out to deep extra cover.  Nicholls doesn’t pick the ball up and they get two.

Four!  Buttler goes over midwicket!  That’s a big total in one over, and New Zealand need 16 to win.

It’ll be Archer to bowl for England.  If the scores are level, it comes down to who hit the most boundaries, and that’s England.  So New Zealand do indeed need 16, if they get 15 then England will win.  Which is kind of a pity, because I was thinking we might have super overs for the rest of eternity, in a glorious, never ending arm wrestle for the title.

Guptill and Neesham come out to bat.  This can’t be easy, it’s been seemingly years since they batted today, and to have to come out, fresh and tee off for one over is a bit of a challenge to say the least.  England have the advantage already, even without having scored 15 runs off theirs.

Archer bowling from the other end to that he’s been bowling from.  Interesting call.

Starts with a wide.  15 from 6 now.

Fine yorker second ball, but it’s drilled down the ground by Neesham for two.  3 off the first ball effectively.

Six!  Huge over midwicket from Neesham.  And suddenly New Zealand are almost there.

Two runs.  A misfield from Roy allows a second run.  5 from 3 needed.

Two again.  3 from 2.  England really need a wicket.

A single.

And here we go, two runs needed from the last ball.  Not only did it go to the last ball of the normal game, not only did it go to a super over, it’s gone to the last ball of the super over.  What a game.

England have won the World Cup!  And even at the last, it was extraordinary, a run out going for the second run.

Collecting thoughts from that finish is going to take a little while.  Sport is just the most incredible thing, and that was the most extraordinary possible finish.  Undoubtedly this will be shown again and again over the years to come, and please God the TV audience on Channel 4 was enormous.  I’m sure it would have been, because word would have gone around about the utterly incredible conclusion.

England finally get their hands on the World Cup, New Zealand, have the consolation which is no consolation at all of being the unluckiest runners up they could possibly have been.  It can’t be said England deserved the win, because it can’t be said that New Zealand deserved to lose.  But someone has to win, and someone doesn’t.  The deflection off a diving Stokes to go for four overthrows was probably the margin between the sides at the end, and that probably says it all.

After such events, the “Greatest of All Time” comments come out of course, and usually cause eye rolling, but in white ball cricket, that might be hard to argue against.  This one really might well have been.

England have been gracious in their interviews, New Zealand are understandably crushed.  At this point, I’ll call time on the live blog, and go and get something to drink.  Thanks for the company, and of course the comments are still open.  TLG.

 

 

 

World Cup Final 2019 – England vs. New Zealand – A Preview and Much More

Well here we are, one day away from England’s first World Cup appearance for 28 years, at the Home of Cricket against a talented and clever New Zealand side. Firstly though, if you have read Dmitri’s heartfelt, ‘on the money’ piece from yesterday, please do so here – https://beingoutsidecricket.com/2019/07/12/things-are-much-better-now-and-just-the-nagging-doubts-remain/, it has helped me to focus down on some of the areas that I want to cover whilst reminding me why I joined BOC as a fellow writer a few years ago.

The biggest irony about tomorrow’s game is not that India didn’t make it through the rain at Old Trafford, nor is it that England didn’t lose their nerve against Australia, a team who normally prevails in tight semi-final contests. Nope, not even close. It’s the fact that England are playing a World Cup Final at home, one which the media and those at the ECB have maintained has been their consistent focus for the last 4 years and one which will symbolise the last truly professional 50 over match for a format that those wise bods at the ECB have determined is now not fit for purpose. It sort of feels like spending 5 years rebuilding Big Ben, only to decide at the last minute to replace it with a Mickey Mouse alarm clock. If you were a new supporter of English cricket, though those are harder to find than ever, you would imagine that someone was playing a joke on you if you were told that the 50 over game was no longer to be played at the professional level in England (except for bi-lateral international series); Unfortunately those who have followed English cricket for a long time are only able to let out a small sigh of despair at an administration that much prefers cold hard cash in their coffers and to be seen to be ‘doing something’ rather than focusing on re-building the bridges to the ordinary fan, who has been left behind since 2005.

As Dmitri mentioned in his above piece, many people who like to deem themselves as “Inside Cricket” have regularly sneered at those fans who complain that their game is being run into the ground or at blogs like ours, that are seen as more of an annoyance than anything else. Every so often one of the big or not so big behemoths comes along to dismiss us in the comments as ‘bilious inadequates’ or ‘social media zealots’; I mean the fact is we are just 4 blokes who do this in their own time for the love of the game, who have followed and played cricket for most of our lives, who have spent large amounts of money watching England, going on tours to see them play, and who dare to criticise the work of those ‘who know best’. It was this, especially after the KP incident in 2014 that made me turn to cricket blogs and eventually led me to be a writer of one, as one by one, those in the establishment or in the press, told me ‘it was not by business’ and to quietly jog on and listen to those in the know. That’s why I find it amusing in one sense and deeply worrying in another that many in the media have finally woken up and smelt the coffee and don’t agree with the route English cricket is being led down. But they are not being listened to by the ECB either. Of course, those who are deemed both worthy enough or seen as subservient enough are granted an interview with Tom Harrison, on the grounds that they don’t ask any difficult questions and there will always be a few who are either determined to secure a seat inside the ECB’s offices (yes I’m looking at you Dean Wilson), but even those who BOC have both agreed with (Dobell, Hoult etc) and have vehemently disagreed with over the years (i.e. Newman) are now on the outside looking in. It seems fate has a sense of irony after all. Anyway I digress….

This World Cup has been a strange affair, with a bloated format consisting of the big 3, some other teams and plucky Afghanistan who the ICC probably reluctantly decided to include in the tournament. Though there hasn’t been that many dead rubbers, it has felt since week 1 that it would be 4 out of 5 who would have a chance to actually qualify, which has made watching some of the matches rather tedious. I must admit I’m still furious that the ICC (with the help of the BCCI, ECB, ACB) for deciding that a 10-team tournament was the way forward. In every other sport, the governing body seems to be committed to growing the game across the world, but here we have cricket’s premier tournament only open to the old boys. The associates, who have genuinely given the tournament some great entertainment over the years and many a shock too, have been forced to watch from the outside looking in as world cricket deliberately shafts them in as many ways as they can. This is simply unforgivable, but the sad thing is that the ICC, now a subsidiary of the money-making machines of the BCCI, CA and ECB, either don’t care to or most probably won’t dare to do anything that prevents those boards from making the most money out of the damn thing. The only glitch being that no-one told New Zealand that they weren’t allowed to beat India to reach the final, so expect some weird IPL playoff style knockout in 2023, to ensure that those that teams who qualify for the tournament will have a chance to play India in the final. I’m not sure whether I should laugh or cry!

As for the game itself, England will go into the final as favourites after their thumping victory against Australia, but do not count out New Zealand for one moment. I am an unashamed England supporter, despite what the ECB has put us all through over the past 15 years and believe it would be unfair on the players who are just trying to do their best and to finally win a 50 over trophy, to be anything other than that. However that doesn’t mean that I don’t empathise with those who are either torn or have given up on English cricket altogether due to the disgraceful actions of our administrators over the past few years. I watched the semi-final in a state of some sort of Stockholm syndrome, waiting for English sport to crumble again at the semi-final stage and I must admit it was only when England needed less than 10 runs to win that I started to relax – I’m sure watching English sport has prematurely aged me! When England lost to Australia in the group stage, I must admit that I thought England had thrown it away again, but they have played some of their best cricket in the last 3 games and I am very happy to be proved wrong. Now though is the final, the ultimate ‘arse nipper’ time and we’ll see how England handle themselves as overall favourites at a ground, which has not traditionally been that kind to them in the one-day format. One would expect that barring any last-minute injury hiccups both teams will be the same as in the semi-finals, though Jason Roy did his best to be suspended for the game, even if he was rightly outraged by another poor decision by the hapless Dharmasena. You would imagine that the toss will play a large factor in the outcome of the game and if there are no clouds in the sky then whoever wins will bat first and try to squeeze the opponent through scoreboard pressure; however if it is dank and overcast, then maybe one of them will take the risk to bowl first, as Lords is a ground where you look up at the sky rather than down at the pitch and both teams have strong bowling attacks to make early inroads. Mind you, England will have to bowl a damned sight better than they last did at Lords, where they continued to hammer the centre of the pitch rather than using the conditions and pitching the ball up.

I also wanted to say something about New Zealand, who despite the advantages the Big Three have in terms of cash at their disposal, have once again played above the sum of their individual parts and fully deserve their place in the final. They are wonderfully led by Kane Williamson, who in my opinion is one of the best players in the World across all 3 formats and someone who doesn’t get quite the adulation he deserves compared to others across the Big Three. This New Zealand group is a tight-knit team and one who many who have had the chance to interview have remarked what a pleasure it is to be around this team. Williamson undoubtedly holds the key to their batting, and he will need to fire again in the final in order to win it, but the English batsmen cannot overlook their superb bowling attack for one minute. If there is some movement early on, Boult, Henry and the brilliantly moustachioed Ferguson will be incredibly dangerous. As much as I would like England to win the World Cup and I will be massively disappointed if we lose, there are not many other teams out there other than New Zealand who would deserve it more.

On a final note, tomorrow sees the return of an English cricketing national side return to free to air television for the first time in 14 years. At the end of the fourth Test in the 2005 series over 8.7 million people were watching the game on Channel 4 and as someone who was in his mid-twenties during that series, I remember virtually every pub having the game on and people who had never really followed cricket cheering loudly every time an Australian wicket fell. Yet here we are in 2019, with a World Cup being held in England and there has hardly been a murmur from those who don’t follow the game, especially with it being shown behind a paywall. I am still appalled by Giles Clarke, who not only did the exclusive deal with Sky but also managed to convince the Government to relegate cricket’s status from the “A Group’ with the likes of Wimbledon, the Six Nations, the FA Cup and the World Cup, to the ‘B Group’ which meant that it now longer had to be shown on FTA TV. 2005 was exactly the right time to build on the huge interest that the Ashes had garnered, yet those at the ECB decided that they wanted the money above all else instead of reaping other rewards such as growing the game and there it has stayed for the last 14 years, behind a paywall that only a select few can watch. Now this isn’t a pop at Sky who have bought in some great innovations for those that are able to watch to it (though the quality of their commentary remains mixed) and no doubt some of that money has helped the county game survive, but much of it has remained in the domain of the administrators allowing them to pocket obscene amounts of money whilst they slowly destroy the game from the inside. The fact still is that whilst English cricket is far healthier cash wise than they have ever been before (naturally just before they punt many millions on a doomed format with no legs), there is an argument that by making a better deal with Sky that would have allowed some of the international game to remain on FTA, would have served many more millions far better than the chosen few who have made their cash. The fact that they are now desperately hunting around for ‘new and innovative ways’ to attract more fans, which the rest of us can see as a desperate final throw of the dice, is something that should have never been allowed to happen. To this day, that decision to put short term wealth ahead of long-term growth saddens me deeply.

Of course, this didn’t stop the ECB’s empty suit and ‘Chief Bandwagon’ climber declaring that the tournament has been a massive success for growing the game in England and providing massive engagement with the English public:

The fact that we are able to watch the final on Channel 4 and More 4, gives us a rare chance to show the administrators that there is far broader interest if for once you make it open to the general public and just the select few, and I would ask that even those who have Sky watch it on FTA. It perhaps won’t make any difference in the long run, but if it least makes a couple of hundred kids pick up a cricket bat or a ball, then it will be worth it. It will also highlight how the ECB have failed both the fans and the so-called ‘new generation of fans’ in every single way possible over the last 14 years.

On that note enjoy the game, we’ll be doing our best to live blog the action during the whole of Sunday. As always, please feel free to comment below:

Things Are Much Better Now, And Just The Nagging Doubts Remain

I thought I’d take a song lyric from the song that was on Now 80s as I’m sitting indoors looking after my border collie while the beloved is in the States. When I started the week, I thought this would mean a lot of time on my hands, some work I could get done, enhance the living environment and all that. Instead, it’s been knackering. Hence a post I was tasked to write last night ends up being written on this Friday afternoon.

A common theme of my blogging the past 5 and a half years has been the falling “out of love” with the England cricket team. To some extent that is still very much the case. What those 66 months have done to my views of the game in this country has opened my eyes to how I, as a fan, was treated, and when I was cheeky enough to put my thoughts from my pulpit, how I was degraded in some eyes, and treated by others. Fandom has never been blind loyalty to me. I pick my team, I stick with them. It’s why I stick with the Chicago Bulls and Miami Dolphins. It’s why I will never be anything other than a Millwall fan. I can’t not be a Surrey fan, and believe me, when I was picking them, they were rubbish. This was more Duncan Pauline, Graham Monkhouse era, rather than the Hollioake and Brown days. I was, am, also a huge national team fan, and football especially as it gives me the chance to watch a team I support at the top level. But the team I spent the most money on, nationally, was England cricket. For those new to this blog, I went on three tours, all self-planned, self-catered, self-ticketed, to Australia in 2002 and 2006 (two tests) and South Africa 2004-2005 (Cape Town and two days at Joburg). I went to the Oval test for 16 years on the bounce. I was a diehard England fan,

This context is necessary because I found after 2014 I couldn’t divorce the boots from the suits, because during that aftermath, the boots were a little bit too cosy with the suits, as were the scribes. The Hundred appears to have changed some of that thinking, with members of the media openly hostile to the ECB over this drivel, but for me it was more a matter of “about time”. When I was impertinent enough a few weeks ago to call out Andy Bull for his lack of perceived support for “my cause” I got impertinence times a hundred back. Almost as if I’d touched a nerve. I don’t set out to do so, but if the cap fitted at that time, then you needed to wear it. I’m minded to cite Public Enemy once more…

Some people accuse some people of crimes
Some people get away wit’ losin’ my rhyme
They don’t like where I’m comin’ from
So dey play dumb
Dumb diggetty dumbb diggetty dumb
But I’m tellin’ you what they do
Play a fool
While the real thief cools in a pool

A bonus of being on leave this week is that I got to watch nearly all of the semi-final yesterday. Now I confess, I wasn’t fully cheering England on at the start. Part of me thought this team were paper tigers. They had beaten up teams on the equivalent of pre-tournament friendlies, on pitches at home that resembled airport runways, and had earned a billion plaudits. But in the back of your mind was the Champions Trophy flop in 2017, when they lost their mind and nerve in the semi-final when conditions weren’t all in their favour. Those fears, doubts, scepticism were augmented by the losses to Pakistan and Sri Lanka (not so much Australia, as they were in decent nick at the time). I then had a number of doubts about the, shall we say, veracity of the contest between England and India. The resounding win against New Zealand, where a good start threatened to be undone by a middle order wobble, was overcome and England qualified. I think England need to earn support again, and I freely admit it is personal and many other views are available, and so yesterday gave them a chance to put things partly right in my eyes.

And they did.

They did it by playing brilliantly. By playing with amazing confidence. The bowling of Archer, Woakes and Rashid won that match, make no mistake. The opening bowling was top notch, and got the big hundred threats of Warner and Finch out early. This almost immediately stopped a potential score of 300. Then the temptation and then skill of Rashid ending the partnership of Carey, seeing off Stoinis, and then Maxwell, made the potential total smaller and smaller. England keeping Aussie to 223 was the game over in all but name. The name being “mental”. There wasn’t anything that horrific in the wicket. The bowling attack was Starc plus some others, really. What did not need to happen was for England to limp to victory. They had to play the way that they had the previous few years. Enter Jason Roy. The man who won the previous ICC semi-final England had succeeded in when he scored vital runs to break the back of a total. A couple of extra cover drives off Starc calmed the nerves. One, he wasn’t going to back down, and two, that was their champion he was belting. Stuff you.

When it was all over, and England basked in the glory of their success, I was exhausted from live blogging the match. As the innings goes on, if you read my “at the time” thoughts, you’ll see the belief flowing through me. My brother texted me at 120 for 0 or such like saying “when will the wheels fall off”. I replied “they won’t. They’ve packed it in”. Mentally that Steve Smith wicket, attempting to buy a wicket, being smashed for 20-odd was England saying “don’t bring that nonsense to me, it’s not bloody worthy”. Where many of us would sit there and say “don’t fall for it, Jason” I thought, “No, smack it miles”. And yes, I know, I had a go at Roy for getting out against Bangladesh when he had a double hundred for the taking, but that was different. That was silly, this was sending a message. I loved it. And in a way, I felt a little re-connection again.

Some may say it is me jumping on the glory bandwagon after tough times. I really don’t give a stuff if you do. This is the ODI team, and separate from the test line up which still needs some re-connection, and may never get there. This team has something else, and yesterday was it in clear focused reality. England may still lose to New Zealand on Sunday, and the doubts and comments will return, but that was great yesterday and it was a privilege to watch it.

Barney Ronay, a journo I’m not going to start up a fan club for, wrote a fascinating piece last week asking the question that if England do win the World Cup, do we, as a nation, deserve it? Will all it end up doing is reinforcing the ECB’s decision making “prowess” and allow them to continue to ride roughshod over the county game and continue treating the fans lamentably. Will it justify them hiding the game behind a paywall as the game becomes increasingly invisible, safe in the knowledge they have won the World Cup (or got to the Final) with the current structure? Will they get even more big-headed? Will this be the justification? We, I think, know the answer. A resounding yes. Two years ago England’s women won the World Cup. In the last two weeks they’ve been defeated 3-0 in the 50 over series, the last a beating so severe, it set records. Laurels are never to be rested on. Success is short-lived if the basics aren’t right. That England’s wobble came when Roy wasn’t there, or failed, speaks volumes that the depth may not be there. Players may be knocking on the door, but once through the portal, lose their nerve. Be careful, ECB.

All eyes on Lord’s for Sunday. I’m not a tennis fan, and the Grand Prix season is a bit of a procession this year. The game is on Channel 4, and More 4, and it’s time to turn on to watch that to prove there is a market out there. I care about this game, and I care about this sport. Cricket is part of my life. I want it to succeed. Sunday is the true legacy. I hope people care enough to watch, or the game is not that invisible.

One of my jobs is to take Teddy for an evening walk over the fields. There used to be a park cricket pitch on those fields. The sort you never really wanted to play on as a player, but in London, you played on to, well, play a game. No-one has played cricket on that field for many years. As I walk over there now, the football pitches and goals are permanently installed. Teams are doing their summer training for the long recreational game season. Those pitches aren’t used as much as they used to be. The fields in summer were used for golf practice a couple of decades ago. Like cricket, golf has shut itself off, and has participation issues in the UK. I reckon they’ll be chipping and putting there before anyone will use those fields for cricket practice. The game is invisible. The match on Sunday has a chance to get some of that back, before international cricket (some T20s excluded) disappears again. That’s the truth.

We will live blog the final, and have a lot more to say in the run-up, I hope. Hope you enjoyed the live blog yesterday, as it got more self-indulgent. Beating the old enemy in a big game does that to me, and English cricket should be relieved that for people like me, it still can. Despite everything.

World Cup Semi-Final – Australia v England

Morning everyone. It really doesn’t get much bigger than this. A sporting occasion for all cricket fans, a chance to see the old enemies fight it out for a place in the Final. In a repeat of 1975, these two meet at this stage, at Edgbaston rather than Headingley (interesting to note the choice of venue all those years ago, when the Yorkshire venue, I believe, had an automatic right to test matches each year, with the winners meeting New Zealand on Sunday. The only other meeting in knockout phases came in 1987, when England lost the Final. England haven’t beaten Australia at a World Cup since 1992, but in the last three Champions Trophy meetings in England, the hosts have won the lot. What does it all mean? Nothing really. It’s just filler.

I’m sorry, not really, to keep harping on about this, but I am taken back to a conversation a while back when someone from our media friends, a limited group we know, said “don’t you think if England make it to the semis, there will be a build up of interest in the country?” His reference point was the women’s team a few years ago, but the point was probably more to see an enhancement of that. Today’s game is one that could catch the imagination. 2005 is becoming a more distant image in the rear view mirror. The 2010/11 team, although not visible, retained some of those names, and again had people talking about the game. Today England meet their arch enemy in a semi-final of the World Cup, the first time they have been there since 1992, and it’s behind a paywall. What more needs to be said about the crippling decision to hide the game from public view than that? What a missed opportunity to bring the game to people who can’t see it. It’s a matter of great sadness. Today’s players get paid well, much better than their counterparts 15 years ago (probably substantially more when accounting for inflation), out of the Sky contract, but in doing so, the game become hidden, and the consequences are there for all to see.

I don’t think we’ll ever stop banging that particular drum.

The game today will, I hope, feature some live blogging. I am currently on leave, but it is with the little horror that is Teddy. My wife is back in the States and with her Mum (or mom as they say) and I have just me to look after a 9 month old border collie with serious alpha male issues. So I will update as and when I can (and the rest of the gang can join in too, if available). Looking at Rain Alarm Pro, there isn’t much nonsense in the Birmingham area, although. The forecast is for showers later in the day, but tomorrow looks OK if we need to come back.

So sit back, relax and enjoy the day. The best ODI bowler in the world, against YJB and Roy in great form. Will Buttler hit his stride in what has been a mainly disappointing tournament for him? What will Warner and Smith do? Have Australia got too many injuries to repeat their Lord’s triumph? Will Finch make his third ton in as many World Cup matches v England? Will we need free to air on Sunday? All this and more, to be revealed…

The winner will meet New Zealand, who triumphed yesterday because their quicks removed the top three, the Indian middle order got starts but did not go on, and then MS Dhoni played one of those mysterious innings. While Ravi Jadeja, a seriously under-rated, under-used cricketer for India was playing a brilliant innings, fulfilling his 9 runs per 6 balls quota that was required to keep up with the rate, Dhoni was pottering about like he had not a care in the world. While this was happening, I was always sure that the Black Caps were going to win. Especially when Jadeja got out. It was mad to me that the most experienced ODI player in the team dropped down to 7 as it was. To then put all the pressure on Jadeja was mad. That Dhoni was run out just after hitting a six left the legend of the master-chaser intact. It’s horse manure. He makes chases more difficult than they need to be, especially recently, and yesterday it got to the stage that they wanted 32 off the last two overs. And still people act that if a freak piece of fielding hadn’t happened, Dhoni had paced it perfectly. I am so glad I don’t go in for blind fandom these days.

I am going to leave it there, and hopefully update during the day. I have a couple of chores that need doing each day – the Teddy walk is the main one – which I will get in, hopefully, before the start of play.

Your comments below, as always. I’ll add mine in the text of the post. We are also on Twitter too, so hope you can keep up with us during the day.

My prediction? I am yet to be convinced by England’s big match temperament. On paper they should win. Between the ears, have they the belief to slay the dragon? Batting first might help. But who knows. It’s that great sporting contest. It’s what sport is about, despite the gimmicks, the nonsense, the corporatism, the ludicrous authorities that govern the game globally and domestic. Sport to watch. Sport not for all.

LIVE BLOGGING

10:20 – OK, back from walking Teddy. While trying to teach the headstrong pup some basic dog skills, I got the note that Australia won the toss and batted first. No real surprises in either line-up, with Handscomb coming in for the injured Khawaja. However, as the camera pans over the ground, the stadium appears half full. Don’t know about anyone else, but if I have a ticket for this, no way do I turn up after 9:30, let alone 10:30.

10:30 – Warner booed as he comes out. Getting dull. Woakes opens up for England, Clarke opens up on the comms. Dear lord. Warner drives the first ball, a rank half volley, for four. As Scooby would say “ruh-ro”.

10:32 – No further runs from the over. Good comeback. Meanwhile, reasons to be cheerful / fearful.

10:33 – Archer opening from the other end. And strikes first ball, subject to review. Looked a bit iffy to me on first glance. Pad first. Three reds. Dead and a lost review. Hundreds in his previous two World Cup innings against England and now a golden one.

WICKET – Aaron Finch   LBW Archer 0 – 4 for 1

10:37 – Steve Smith in to a chorus of boos. Clarke says “Smith has been crying out for an opportunity” while ignoring that he’s not come in at 3 much (if at all) in this competition. Smith off the mark from his third ball. 2 from the over and it is 6 for 1.

10:41 – Warner looks up for it. Smashes Woakes over his head as soon as he pitches up. 10 for 1. And then a little shorter, and he nicks it off to first slip, and Warner goes. YJB is jubilant. England are off to a bloody flier. 10 for 2.

WICKET – David Warner   Caught Bairstow Bowled Woakes 9 – 10 for 2

10:43 – Peter Handscomb in at number 4, not having had a knock for a long old time. Fail to prepare, prepare to fail, anyone? A man who has a technique opened up in tests. Massive appeal first ball. I thought it looked very close, and Morgan has reviewed. Umpire’s call, so not out. Erasmus, come on, you don’t like the Aussies, do you? Handscomb benefits from a misfield off the last ball to get off the mark. 11 for 2 after 3 overs. Clarke already getting on my nerves.

10:49 – One run from that over, and a play and miss from Smith in it. 12 for 2 after 4.

10:50 – Another close, close one from Woakes as Handscomb gets an inside nick to save him. He looks like an LBW every time, Handscomb.

Clarke doesn’t believe in a paucity of words, nor shying from hyperbole. Smith coming down less than straight and looks a nick-off waiting to happen, but we could wait a while. 13 for 2 from 5.

10:56 – I see Carey is due up next. About time. Handscomb runs the last ball of Archer’s over down to third man for the only run in the 6th. 14 for 2.

10:57 – “Can they build a partnership” says Nasser. Er, no. Handscomb hangs the bat out, he inside nicks it on to his stumps, and Woakes has the third wicket of the match. You feel that they are a Steve Smith away from taking this game away from Australia.

WICKET – Peter Handscomb   Bowled Woakes  4 – 14 for 3

10:59 – Carey in, and first ball he nicks it short of second slip, and off the ricochet, he gets a single to get off the mark. Smith has 1 off his first 14 balls. Make that 17, as there are no more runs from the over and it is 15 for 3 from 7 overs.

11:03 – Archer to continue, as we say goodbye to Nasser and Clarke, with Ian Bishop on the mic now. Carey punches down the ground for three, and the return is met with the duclet tones of Kumar Sangakkara on the comms. These two are like velvet, compared to the sandpaper we experienced for the first half hour. And there’s your only sandpaper reference for the day. Promise. Smith takes a quick single and gets away with it, from the fourth ball. The last ball is a vicious bouncer, and Carey catches his helmet before it can do any damage to his stumps. Actually great reactions from Carey, although he’s worn one. End of the 8th. 19 for 3.

11:10 – Carey has a nice plaster on his chin. After a few minutes of running repairs, we are back in action. Woakes with his fifth over. The last ball of the over is a wide half volley which Carey creams through the covers, and it is 24 for 2. Smith has 2 from 21 balls.

11:16 – Three runs from the 10th over, a pretty quiet one, and 27 for 3 after 10.

11:19 – Takes years of watching the game, playing it, and commentating on it to come up with analysis like this:

Woakes in his 6th over, and possibly his last for a while, concedes just one run to Smith and it is 28 for 3 after 11.

11:23 – Stokes replaces Archer. 1 run from the over. 29 for 3.

11:27 – Wood replaces Woakes. A bit rough and ready with two wides. Brilliant work on the boundary saves two leg byes. Carey’s cut still bleeding, and his other cut (shot) is half stopped by Stokes. A third wide off the seventh delivery is making this a pressure releasing over, but the last two balls were much better. 36 for 3.

11:34 – Malcolm Conn Watch. Crickets. Chirp Chirp Chirp Chirp.

Carey has some repairs, and now has a huge plaster. Stokes to continue, and Carey takes a single from the first ball. Smith pulls an ugly four, the first boundary for a while, and the first in his 35 ball stay. Mel Jones has been on for five minutes and made two errors – it was McCosker, not Gilmour, who broke his jaw, and the West Indies were not at the peak of their powers in 1995. 9 from the over, and it is 45 for 3 from 14. Building a recovery, maybe?

11:43 – A better over from Wood, and just two from it. 15 overs up and it is 47 for 3.

11:45 – Lovely.

Jonathan Liew would approve.

11:47 – Plunkett replaces Stokes, and his first ball is driven straight by Smith for four. Fifty up. 8 from the over and it is 55 for 3.

11:54 – Smith takes a boundary from the last ball of Wood’s over. 7 runs from it, 62 for 3 off 17.

12:02 – Rashid on for the 20th over, and Slater enters the Comm box for his stint. 72 for 3 at the start, and he’s bowling to Carey. A lofted drive off the fifth ball goes through the gap for four. Six from his first over, and it’s 78 for 3.

12:09 – 21st over yields two runs. 80 for 3 from 21. Inexorable feelings that England are letting Aussie off the hook a little.

12:24 – 103 for 3 at half-way. Got to take a bit of a break now. Looking like 250-280 on the cards unless wickets get taken.

12:33 – From absolutely nowhere Carey flips an innocuous Rashid delivery straight down James Vince’s throat (on as a sub) at deep midwicket and the partnership is broken. England needed that, and although the home fans are worrying, let’s face it, we’d be saying get a move on if this was England.

WICKET – Alex Carey – Caught Sub, Bowled Adil Rashid 46 – 117 for 4.

Smith brings up his 50, and accompanied by boos.

WICKET – Marcus Stoinis – LBW Adil Rashid 0 – 118 for 5

That looked outside the line, and with Finch blowing the review, Stoinis could not review. Stoinis played back and got done by the googly, but the appeal won Dharmasena over and I’ll be interested to see Hawkeye. Stoinis goes second ball. Maxwell time. Two umpires calls, so a little fortunate. Would not have been overturned. 118 for 5 at the end of the 28th over.

12:41 – Smith is looking in ominous form for the Ashes. Another driven four. Without him, the Aussies would be sunk. 127 for 5 at end of the 29th.

12:43 – Rashid induces an edge from Maxwell, but Root can’t nab him at slip. 2 runs ensue. 3 from the Rashid over, who has 2-34 from his 6 overs.

12:48 – Archer returns, and Maxwell nails a pull shot in front of square for 4. 5 from the over, 135 for 5.

12:51 – Maxwell hits the first six of the day over long-on off Rashid. But with only another single from that over, the damage isn’t that bad. 142 for 5 and it is drinks at the end of the 32nd over.

13:08 – Perils of solo live blogging. Missed the Maxwell wicket while taking the dog for a quick stroll and giving him his lunch. Archer makes him prop one up to cover and the catch is taken by Morgan.

WICKET – Glenn Maxwell    Caught Eoin Morgan, Bowled Jofra Archer 22 – 157 for 6

13:11 – Rashid finishes his 9th over, and the 36th of the innings. 161 for 6. Archer back for the 37th, and his 9th. 4 from that over and it’s 165 for 6 with 13 to go. Smith still there on 67.

13:16 – A beautiful googly somehow induces an edge/steer to Joe Root at slip, and Cummins goes. Rashid has his third wicket, proving his importance to this team, if indeed, it still needs saying. Mitchell Starc in to try to play the Nathan Coulter-Nile role. Rashid finishes with 3 for 54.

WICKET – Pat Cummins   Caught Joe Root, Bowled Adil Rashid  6 – 166 for 7

13:20 – Archer bowling out. Three singles from the first three balls. Woakes still has four to bowl, with the other 7 remaining due to come from Stokes, Wood and Plunkett. Archer finished with 2 for 32 and it is 171 for 7 from 39.

13:26 – Mark Wood bowls over number forty, and it goes for four runs. Entering the last ten overs, Australia are 175 for 7.

13:29 – Plunkett bowls over number 41. Four dot balls to start to Mitchell Starc. Make it five as he swishes at a wide one. A single off the last ball stops the maiden, but England will be pleased with that. 176 for 7.

13:33 – Mark Wood again. 2 single leg byes, followed by a single in his first three balls. Another whip to fine leg for a single off the fifth ball, and another off the last. Five in total off that and it is 181 for 7. 8 remaining.

13:37 – Plunkett again. Three singles, including a misfield/run out attempt from the first four balls. Clarke babbling on incessantly. Shut up. 2 off the last ball from a cut, and it is 186 for 7.

13:40 – Wood on for the 44th over. Starc smashes the second down the ground for four. I make it that Woakes won’t bowl his 10 now.  No runs from balls 1,3 and 4 in this over. A wide from the next delivery. A single to Starc off the fifth, and he moves on to 14. Six from the 45th and it is 192 for 7.

13:44 – Second six of the innings (?) from Starc as he reads the first ball of Plunkett’s oval and plonks it over long-off for 6. Adds a single from the next. Smith moves to 78, and brings up the 200 off the third ball. A wide, a single, and another vile looking pull for four round out a pretty rubbish over from Plunkett. 14 from it and it is 206 for 7.

13:48 – Woakes comes on, to bowl three of his four remaining overs – can’t help thinking Morgan gave Wood one too many, or Liam two too many. Starc dabs a single – there really do not look to be too many terrors in this wicket, this is going to be a purely mental challenge when it comes to the chase – and moves on to 23. Smith mishits another for a single from the second ball. Dot ball from the third. A mishit from Starc, and another dot ball from the fourth ball. Something might give here. No. Starc pulls a ball to deep backward square for another single. Big LBW appeal off the last ball of the over for Smith, which is turned down but reviewed. No real hope on this one, I don’t think. Height. Going to be umpire’s call at best….and it is. There was a leg bye, four from the over, and it’s 210 for 7. Clarke has a little laugh and I want to throw my mouse at the screen.

13:54 – Wood bowls a full ball, which Smith inside nicks for a single. Starc dabs a ball into the legside, and gets a smartly taken two runs. A good save by Plunkett means just two from the third ball. Starc on to 28. Dot ball from the fourth. This is the 47th over, so just 20 balls to go. Starc top edges the fifth ball but it doesn’t reach Plunkett, and he gets a single. 50 partnership up. The last ball brings another horrible looking pull, but Smith gets a single, keeps the strike and it is 217 for 7 with three to go.

13:58 – Buttler nails the stumps and runs out Smith after he tries to get through for a short legbye – brilliant from Jos. Taking off the glove he hits the bowler’s end stumps and Smith is marginally short of his ground. A vital knock if aesthetically like walking past a sewer. We’ll need to get used to it, I’m afraid. He’s just too good, even when he’s bad. Big wicket.

WICKET – Steve Smith  Run Out (Jos Buttler) 85 – 217 for 8

Woakes then gets a nick off an expansive drive from Starc, and he’s got to walk now. Thin nick to Jos Buttler and England feel a little better about life.

WICKET – Mitchell Starc   Caught Jos Buttler  Bowled Chris Woakes 29 – 217 for 9

Nathan Lyon in at 11 for the team hat-trick. Blocks the first ball. Risky single off the 4th ball of the over, and gets away with it. Behrendorff would have been out by miles. Dot ball from the 5th, one from this over so far. Dot ball from the 6th too, and one from the 48th over. Not going to matter, but we should have brought Woakes on one over earlier. End of the over, 218 for 9.

14:05 – Mark Wood bowling his 9th over, the 49th of the innings. Lyon fishes at the first, but misses. A run off the second, not sure if it was a leg bye or a single. I think given as the later.  Behrendorff dabs a ball to third man for a single off the third ball. Clarke saying it’s not Smith’s day because the ball went between his legs. He didn’t exactly bat with fluency, Clarke. Two more singles off balls four and five. Final ball and Mark Wood yorks Behrendorff and England will need 224 to win and make the Final.

WICKET – Jason Behrendorff    Bowled Mark Wood  1 – 223 All Out

So – Woakes 3/20, Rashid 3/54, Archer 2/32 and Wood 1/45.

OK. We would have settled for that at the start, no doubt. Smith made batting look hard, but in his own way, and while you may think from above that I’m having a go, I’m not. He doesn’t give his wicket away. He just doesn’t. It could be a long Ashes summer. There are not those devils in the wicket, but Starc is a danger. It appears a bit of a short of a length wicket, as most boundaries appeared to come from pitched up deliveries. But that’s a nothing score, and England will be livid if they can’t chase this down. This run chase will be 90% in the head. Don’t panic and it will come to you. See you after the break. Hopefully.

 

14:38 – Negative vibes, bad precedents, worrisome stats, fears pervading. This should be comfortable but we know that it won’t be. Roy to face the first ball from Jason Behrendorff. First three balls all good. Roy plods one down to third man to get his account under way off the fourth ball. First ball to YJB and he crushes it through point for 4. Exhale. A little. 5 for 0 after the 1st over.

14:42 – Mitchell Starc time. Holding my breath here, no idea why. I’m not as invested in this team as others. Four dot balls, the last one at 92 mph. Roy getting in line at the moment. Fifth ball a bit shorter, hits Roy in the midriff, timed at 94 mph. The sixth ball is a wide. So still no maidens. Solid behind the final ball – 6 for 0.

14:50 – Win predictor says that Australia have a 7% chance of winning. Does it feel like that to you? No runs off the first four balls, and then a beauty that goes the other way to YJB, who doesn’t quite nick it. A maiden. 6 for 0.

14:53 – A sensational drive off Mitchell Starc’s first ball of the fourth over by Jason Roy goes for 4, and then clips one through wide mid-on for two more. Then came a knock on the door, and back for the last ball of the over and it’s another magnificent drive through extra cover for four. 10 from the over, one parcel for someone I’ve never heard of, and Teddy has been woken up by the knock on the door. I bet the Guardian and Cricinfo never have that. 16 for 0 from 4.

14:58 – Behrendorff keeping it tight to YJB since that first ball. He appears a little frustrated, but off the third ball of the over he shovels the ball into the leg side for a single. Teddy laying down again. Roy plonks one through midwicket and the two openers scamper two runs. A little dance from Roy to the last ball yields no run. Three from the over. 19 for 0 from 5.

15:02 – Starc gives up a wide from his first ball to YJB. The next is a massacred square cut from the red headed raging Yorkie, and another four. Demolished. The ball screamed for mercy as it raced along the carpet, picking up friction burns before smashing into the boards. Two dot balls follow, the second seeing YJB hurtle down the wicket, but Roy giving it the No No No No No.  A glide down to third man off ball four brings up a single. Oh, we’re one ninth there….  Roy then hits an amazing six as he flips a leg side ball far too close to fine leg for comfort, but it sails over for a maximum. Hussain’s heart has been extracted from his throat. Roy blocks ball six, and there’s a lovely dozen from that over. 31 for 0 from 6.

15:07 – Pat Cummins comes on for Behrendorff. Two dot balls to start to YJB. Cummins being talked up. Teddy now moving on to his bed. No idea he has to remain in the same position. A bit of a false shot third ball, but no harm done. Sways out of the way of a shortish ball for the fourth of the over. Nice drive off ball five for no run, as it goes straight to cover. The final ball is mis-timed through extra cover for two runs, thus preventing a maiden, adding on another 1%ish of the total required, and making the score 33 for no loss after 7. Teddy moves again. He does have some Australian in his bloodline. I think it’s his grandad. Someone tell Conn.

15:12 – Behrendorff replaces Starc. Roy does one of his wanders and plays and misses, then blocks ball two. LBW appeal for ball three, which England get a legbye, and Finch ignores the appeal as it pitched several miles outside leg. Bairstow clips the fourth ball to deep backward square for a couple more. A little uppish drive, quite close to Behrendorff is timed superbly, and goes for four straight down the ground. A guide to gully off the last ball gets no run, and England are now 40 for 0 at the end of 8 overs.

15:16 – Cummins again. Roy on 19, YJB 18. Two dot balls to start. Third is short and Roy ducks underneath. Another dot for ball four. No rush, chaps. We’re all breathing really well right now. There’s a real lobby for Jason Roy being selected for England’s test team, which I still think is mad. The last ball of the over is another gorgeous shot as he whips a ball through square leg with a majestic piece of timing and it races for four. Maiden thwarted, another 3.6% of the total required knocked off, and England move on to 44 for 0 after 9.

15:21 – Behrendorff starts his fifth over, and YJB pushes one through square leg for a single. A repeat, slightly better timed, brings Roy another run. YJB repeats again, slightly in front of square for a third single. Two through the covers for Roy, as the two nearly collide when they run. Another single, as England take a run after it hits YJB’s bat. Conn starts to froth at England cheating, but up comes the 50. YJB plays out the last ball, and it is 50 for 0 from 10. A very decent start.

15:25 – On comes the Mouth of Adelaide, Nathan Lyon. Jason Roy facing. I feel sick. Then Roy smacks his first ball straight over long-on for 6 – there was a fielder on the boundary that it sailed over . Dear lord. He’s going to be KP ain’t he? Misses the second ball after a little fiddle outside off. Roy gives himself room to hit the next ball out to the sweeper on the offside for a single. Bairstow sweeps ball four for a single. Now Roy reverse sweeps for four. Good grief. A leading edge, a pirouette, and a single makes it 13 from the over and England are 63 for 0 after 11.

15:29 – Cummins to bowl his third over as he changes ends. Second ball, Roy hoiks it down to fine leg for a single and moves to 40. Hopeful appeal from the third ball to YJB, but Finch knows that’s a load of dollop and doesn’t review. Talking of dollop, Cummins bowls a short pitched load of rubbish, sails over Carey, and add a very welcome 5 to the total. Another short ball brings two balls as this time it is on the offside, but the bad news is YJB goes down in some pain as he slipped turning for the second. We’ll have a little break here. 71 for 0. On resumption there’s a shortish ball which hits YJB on the hip. No harm done. A firm drive, for no run concludes the 12th over. 71 for 0.

15:40 – Lyon bowls again, Roy makes room, hits it to sweeper, and gets a run. Now we have Slater and Clarke in tandem on the mic. Lord help us. YJB tries to sweep ball two. Nothing. Slaps the next to square, no run. Clarke burbles. A horrible wipe skews over third man and somehow gets four, as Starc’s dive is in vain. YJB plays straight to ball five. Straight to backward point off the last, no run. 76 for 0.

15:43 – Cummins induces an inside edge from Roy but it thuds into his pads and no run. A little surprised by the bounce from the second, and no run. A wonderful fine hip flick from Roy crashes into the fine leg boundary for four off the third. Short for ball four, but not deemed a wide. No run from ball five. Bunts ball six in the air, falls short of mid-off. 80 for 0.

15:47 – Over number 15, and the Lyon experiment ends. Mitchell Starc is back. YJB smashes the ball over mid-off first ball for four. A single down to third man, and I need to take a Teddy toilet break! As I open the door, Roy wallops one over mid-off for another four. A well-timed square cut is stopped, and that’s followed by a wide. Roy on 49. Given width, he smacks the next one through extra for another four, 53 off 50 balls. Conn will no doubt refer to his birthplace. A single off the last ball, and it is 95 for 0 off 15 and drinks. Teddy is now livening up. You feeling it, people? Fighting like cornered TV companies behind a paywall.

15:55 – Steve Smith coming on. Interesting. Someone puts an umbrella up. Roy smears a single first ball. Wide second ball. Brilliant fielding saves a boundary from the second legitimate delivery, and keeps it to a single. Roy gets hold of the next, clears Maxwell, and even though he doesn’t get all of the full bunger, it goes for 6. He hits the next one straight for 6 as well. File this under “not a great idea“. The next one went absolute miles, air-mailed to London, it may never come down. Finch is shopping at Louis Vitton here. And he still can’t afford it. That’s the metaphorical white flag folks. 21 off the over, the last six being 100 metres. 116 for 0.

15:59 – Stoinis on, and YJB clips for a single. A diving stop keeps Roy to two instead of four as he pulls a short one to mid-wicket. It’s going to rain a little bit, judging by my radar software but it won’t last very long. A couple of dot balls, and I get my first message saying that he’s waiting for the wheels to come off. There’s a wide to bring up the 120. Roy murders the last ball with a sort of swivel shovel for four to bring the total to 124 for 0. Hundred to go people.

16:04 – Mitchell Starc, 0/38 off four, is back. This is just the 18th over. YJB is nailed on the crease, and is given LBW. YJB reviews instantly. He’s not hit it. Looks dead. So he takes the review with him as well, which is a bit silly.

WICKET – Johnny Bairstow  LBW Mitchell Starc 34 – 124 for 1.

Joe Root in. First ball is short, hits Root’s glove, avoids Carey and goes for 4. Luck with Root there. Into line for the next one and plays it well. Starc’s 27th wicket. Record. Root glides a leg side ball very fine again for another four. Starc shopping at Harvey Nicholls at the moment. Wide outside off stump next, and Root smashes it through point for another boundary. A wicket, but 12 off the over. 136 for 1 from 18 overs.

16:10 – Roy belts Stoinis’s first ball for four through mid wicket, then dabs the next to third man for a single. Jason now on 84. A couple of dot balls. No tweets from Malcolm Conn. Another dot ball to Root. A sedate five from that over. 141 for 1.

16:13 – Roy nurdles the first ball from Cummins down to fine leg for a single. Joe Root then smashes one through backward point for 4, and the total needed is below 80. The next makes a lovely sound, but finds deep square for another single, Actually, it’s his first single, but another to the total. Roy is given out down legside, and is caught by the wicketkeeper. He believes he never touched it, and is furious. Save your rage for YJB. He has missed that by a mile. Roy goes for 85.

WICKET – Jason Roy  Caught Alex Carey Bowled Pat Cummins 85 – 147 for 2.

I told you YJB’s review was a nonsense. That’s what happens when you let your ego get in the way. Roy missed that by a mile. A shocking decision.

Roy shouldn’t have stayed around to argue. Morgan in. He’ll be up before the beak afterwards.

16:20 – Kumar’s got the memo on the umpires. Starc back on. This would be a hell of a choke from here. Root gets a couple from the fourth ball of the over. Off the last ball of the over, Root brings up the 150 with another couple. 151 for 2. 21 overs gone.

16:24 – Cummins on, and Morgan gets off the mark with a glide to fine leg. 72 to win. Root takes a single off the first ball he faces in the over, down to backward square. Cummins bowls a short one, Morgan sways out of the way. Morgan is like a jittery man at the crease, all movement. Lets another short one go by, dropping his hands. You feel he just needs to nail one to ease any thoughts. Wears the last one. Two from the over. 153 for 2 after 22.

16:29 – A bit more peace and quiet. Good fielding saves a single off the second ball. Starc in his 7th over. A nudge from the fourth brings a single to Root, who is on 23 from 21. Aaron Finch is now fielding at backstop, short ball outside off, Morgan flips it over square cover for four. Morgan is like a cat on a hot tin roof, but prods the last ball out. 158 for 2. 66 to win. 27 overs left.

16:34 – Cummins to Root, who gets a sharp single, aided by a misfield. Comes round the wicket to Morgan, who nearly spoons one up to Cummins off glove and splice. An edge gets the captain another run – a single to third man. A wide, harmless delivery to Root is pushed to sweeper for another run. Another bouncer to Morgan is too high, and is given wide. A fuller ball for the last one of the over is pushed over mid off for four, and heads drop just a little more Down Under. 166 for 2.

16:39 – Starc again. No point dying wondering. Three dot balls to Root. The fourth is full on Root’s legs, and another glance for four. A single to mid off off the last, and five from the over. 171 for 2. After 25 overs. Australia were 103 for 3.

16:43 – Bairstow and Roy to open in tests says Drug Cheat. Yes. YJB is our keeper, that will work. Lyon now on and Roy hits through square leg for a single to open up. 52 to win. An attempted reverse sweep from Morgan is missed. Morgan does try again, and he gets four to backward point / backward square leg. He then edges the next delivery for two, and it is 178 for 2. 46 to win.

16:47 – Behrendorff back, and Root gets a single straight away. Morgan gets done by a slower ball and gets lucky as it just evades Finch at mid-off. It’ll say 2 in the book, and there aren’t any pictures in there (Smith’s would be interesting). Morgan pulls a lolloping long hop for four behind square. Just a single pulled off the last ball and it is 186 for 2. 38 wanted.

16:51 – Morgan chops one late from Lyon down to backward point for a single off Lyon’s first ball. Root milks a single to long on second ball. Morgan sweeps fine for four third ball. Exhalation all round. They’ve got this. Morgan backs away and then drive/cuts in front of square for four, and by far his best shot. Gets away with the 5th delivery as Morgan dances down the wicket, and then glides just short of backward point. He takes a single off the last ball, 11 from the over. 197 for 2. 28 overs gone.

16:55 – I’m sure Aussie have won an ODI at Edgbaston since 2001, haven’t they? Anyway, Behrendorff continues. Morgan miscues the first ball. And the second. Doesn’t play a shot at the third. Defends the fourth. Both Root and Morgan are on 33. Nothing from the fifth, and nothing from the sixth. Bills have to be paid, so we take an early drinks interval.

One thing we should observe in the run up to the final. The old mantra that success has many parents, but failure is an orphan. Let’s see that rush for credit.

17:01 – 197 for 2 from 29 overs. It’s brilliant to watch. I thought there were no demons in the wicket, and there haven’t been. The bowlers have won this game for England. No doubt. Root takes a single from the first ball of Lyon’s over. Morgan belts a shot over cover for four, and brings up the 200. Count them down. A shovel in front of square brings Morgan two more, so it’s now 20 to win. A single off the fourth ball. Root reverse sweeps for another boundary. 15 to win. Single off the last, 210 for 2. I’m thinking the ODI that they might have won was rained off (2005), but the Aussies belted us in a couple of series after that.

17:05 – Behrendorff’s eighth over. Those five wickets he took last time seem a long long time ago. Wide from the second ball. 13 to win. Root swats, as Nasser called it, a four in front of square from a lolloping long hop. 9 to win.  Root hits a full bunger down to fine leg for a single. 216 for 2. 8 to win. Root on 44.

17:09 – Before the end of the game, I would like to thank Teddy for being a wonderful dog this afternoon. He’s been calm and sound, and helped me to do this live blog. Thanks all to those who have followed it as well. We’ll do the final. Starc on, Root drives through the offside for a majestic four, and it’s down to two to win. They’ve been amazing. Root pulls to midwicket for a single. He should finish on 49 not out. Starc to Morgan….takes a single. Scores are level. Miscounted. 2 to win. Root on 49. Starc bowls, no run. 1992 was the last time, so they say, and there’s been nonsense since then. Just took common sense, picking the right players, changing the way they play. Root denied the winning runs by Maxwell. Over ends on a Richie – choo choo choo for choo. (222/2)

17:14 – Morgan smacks it over mid-on. Game over. Dame Edna, Paul Hogan, Skippy, Malcolm Conn, Rod Laver, Paul Keating, Men at Work, Icehouse, Guy Pearce, Boomer. Your boys lost. For once. Let England enjoy it.

Cheerio. Someone can write up the match report. England v New Zealand on Sunday at Lord’s. I have been Dmitri Old, and it has been my pleasure to watch an England team play like that.

 

 

World Cup Semi-Final: India vs New Zealand

After 45 matches, and into the third calendar month of the competition, we finally reach the semi-finals.  Three games to go, the secret tournament gets to the business end amid a frenzy of indifference in the host country.

The semi-final stage really ought to be the one where the anticipation is huge, and where the wider audience is tuning in far in advance ready to view a showpiece occasion.  In New Zealand, Australia and India, that could well be the case.

This has been repeated in numerous quarters ad nauseam, but it doesn’t make it any less true, or less concerning, nor is it a dig as Sky Sports, no matter how sensitive their employees are or how “outrageous” they consider articles on a blog lamenting the invisibility of the game to be.  That they are so touchy tends to re-inforce the truth of the complaints – no one gets so irate unless it has touched a nerve.

Still, while the viewing figures for today will be as miserable in this country as they usually are, it is a World Cup, it is a semi-final, and a big event for the cricketing world.  And the two teams involved today have had sufficiently contrasting recent form to make India overwhelming favourites.  Despite their defeat to England, they have looked every inch potential winners of the competition, whereas the Black Caps three successive defeats have resulted in them stumbling into the knockout stage on net run rate.  The outcome of this one ought to be obvious.

But underdogs though they might be, New Zealand’s malfunctioning batting order do have enough to cause problems, and have the bowling attack to make any opponent queasy.  Their slump has been a rather surprising one given the quality on offer, even if player for player, the Indian team would be reckoned superior overall.  New Zealand embrace their underdog status at the best of times, and with this one, when someone as notable as Sachin Tendulkar wishes MS Dhoni all the best for “the next two games” it will certainly provoke a wry smile in the Kiwi camp.

India should win.  New Zealand have been poor.  But it could be fun if they decide to show up for it.

Comments below.

 

World Cup Matches 44 & 45: Sri Lanka vs India, Australia vs South Africa (and a bit of TV, FTA and the ICC)

And so we arrive at the end of the group stage, and more by luck than judgement, there is even a little bit to play for in the last two games. Not in terms of qualification though, after Pakistan’s always likely to be vain attempt to gatecrash the top four ended in victory, but not by enough, against Bangladesh.

Thus, it’s merely the order of the top four that is in question, and the incentive, such as it is, of who plays whom in the semi-finals. The most likely outcome is that Australia will play New Zealand at Old Trafford, and that India will play England, once again at Edgbaston. It’s probable that India and Australia would prefer to play New Zealand, both because of their recent stumbles, and also because England are unquestionably a side everyone else fears somewhat, even if they would certainly feel they can be beaten. But it’s hard to see beyond victories for both the Big Three members playing tomorrow, and that the semi-finalists includes them plus England is unsurprising, if somewhat depressing. But then, the whole structure of cricket at a global level is intended to allow them to maximise their income and power, so it is exactly as desired in the corridors of power. In most sports, an unexpected outcome in a tournament is something to be celebrated, only cricket responds by trying to ensure it doesn’t happen again.

Today Sky Sports announced that if England reach the World Cup final, it will be broadcast free to air. At present it isn’t quite clear what “free to air” would mean, but it appears highly unlikely it will be via a mainstream channel with a large reach. This isn’t so surprising, there are other major sporting events on the same day, such as the men’s Wimbledon final and the British Grand Prix (another outstanding piece of scheduling for cricket), and clearing the decks for six hours of cricket at short notice is somewhat impractical, albeit it would be amusing to see the response if a main broadcaster expressed interest in doing so. What seems more likely is for it to be on something like Sky Mix, or even online via Youtube or Sky’s own app and website – the BT approach to screening the Champions League final.

Such an initiative is to be welcomed, but the focus and pressure on Sky to allow it to be shown free rather lets the ICC specifically, and the ECB more generally given this tournament isn’t in their purview, off the hook. The World Cup is behind a paywall because the policy of the ICC, as instructed by its members, was to maximise revenue in their TV contracts. The moment that was the intention, pay TV was always going to be the only outcome. The principal contract for England, India and Australia is held by Star Sports, who paid $2 billion back in 2014 for the rights to ICC tournaments up to 2023. It was for them to then sub-contract to national broadcasters and, naturally as a business, to maximise their revenue accordingly. Everything stems from that, the drive for revenue at every stage, and the reason why such tournaments not only won’t be on free to air, but effectively can’t be.

This isn’t Sky’s fault, they too are a business trying to make money, but it is the ICC’s for making the financial aspect the key one. To suggest, as some notable employees of Sky have done, that this is down to the free to air broadcasters failing to bid is a specious argument – they simply cannot financially compete on the same level as pay TV, and see little point in spending money preparing bids, or even considering preparing bids, for something they cannot win. It almost certainly is the case that the kind of wall to wall coverage required is now only in the purview of the satellite broadcasters here, but it’s still a matter of justifying the status quo by pretending that the creation of this situation is entirely separate from the bidding processes in the current market.

Where it does get more interesting is in the argument as to whether some cricket on free to air would benefit Sky themselves. This is one of those that only those inside broadcasting (we’re outside that too) can answer, but holding expensive rights to a sport in major decline cannot be a healthy financial position for them either, even if the fear in the future is that cricket sinks so far that Sky will be able to buy all the rights for a song as no one else cares. It seems unlikely this will happen for as long as there is more than one pay TV broadcaster, for cricket is a boon for them, filling lots of screen time for comparatively little cost compared to, say, drama. In any case, to say no one else cares about cricket is a weak defence. Firstly, the single positive of the Hundred, that there will be some shown on the BBC, implies otherwise to at least some extent, but more than that, if more cricket is of no interest to the terrestrial broadcasters, it’s because cricket isn’t of sufficient interest to them. But it was, at one point. And now it isn’t. For the ECB to have failed to nurture their broadcast partnerships over the last 15 years has been an abrogation of their responsibilities to the game. At another time, a World Cup the majority were unable to watch would have provoked howls of outrage. Now it is largely indifference whether they can or they can’t, and limited awareness that it’s even on.

Equally, there is the wider argument about the role of the various governing bodies. It is simply wrong to argue that all the ICC can possibly do is sell the contracts to make as much money as possible, because it isn’t what other sports do at all. Wimbledon could certainly make far more from selling off their event to the highest bidder, but refuse to because they value the exposure they get on the BBC. More pertinently, World Rugby, for their own showcase World Cup, specifically talk about finding free to air partners. Indeed, their wording is very precise:

“Securing deals with major free-to-air broadcasters who are passionate about sport is central to World Rugby’s mission to make rugby accessible in a global context. With each Rugby World Cup we are broadening the sport’s reach and appeal through a broadcast and digital strategy that is aimed at reaching, engaging and inspiring new audiences within existing and emerging rugby markets.”

This is completely alien to the approach taken by cricket, to the point that it is diametrically opposed in almost every clause in that paragraph. Very few people are so single minded as to believe that everything should be on free to air, irrespective of contract value, and given World Rugby’s activities and attitudes in other areas, it’s hardly that they can be held up as notable supporters of the common man and woman in every aspect. But it is a striking difference in strategy, to intend the widest possible audience for their blue riband event.

It is highly noticeable that Sky appear to feel they are on the defensive about this whole subject. It’s not necessarily why they’ve made the decision to offer the final conditionally free, but also how some of their staff appear to be spending considerable time messaging cricket supporters and blogs with impassioned defences of their position. It’s a different approach, certainly, and perhaps not a coordinated one, but the righteous indignation, when it isn’t even them who are bearing the brunt of the annoyance, is interesting.

What the viewing figures might be for any final, broadcast for free, with England in it will be interesting. It really isn’t just the free aspect either – buried away on a minor channel that only subscribers are aware exists is not going to cause a dramatic change, although in a perfect scenario, a very tight, exciting final might just allow word of mouth to spread, and for non-adherents of the game to seek it out.

For this is a positive, without any question. How big a positive is more debatable. If the stars were to align, then just maybe it could grab attention, even with all the competition. This is what every cricket fan surely wants.

One other small item. It’s been reported that the other counties are displeased with Warwickshire for offering guaranteed contracts with the Birmingham Phoenix franchise in an effort to lure them to the county. This is the kind of esoteric, obscure item that barely anyone notices, but has a big impact. For the Hundred franchises are meant to be entirely separate to the counties. But what did the other counties expect? That this would be adhered to? That it wasn’t really going to go down the route of concentrating power and wealth in the hands of the chosen ones? We get accused of being cynical too often, but to not see this coming is extraordinarily naive on the part of those upset by it. It’s more likely to have been a deliberate strategic approach by a governing body that has long disliked having 18 counties to deal with.

Update: the article concerning the recruitment for the Hundred has been pulled, and according to George Dobell, a retraction sought. Curioser and curioser.

Comments as ever below.

World Cup Match Number 43 – Pakistan v Bangladesh (Not Free To Air)

We are nearly there. The first phase is coming to an end. There are six matches left. And breathe.

The end of the league stage is nigh, and in theory all three games have something riding on them. Yet even the most diehard of fans has to struggle with the remnants of this phase. On Saturday we decide who the semi-final match ups are, with Australia playing South Africa and India playing Sri Lanka and the combination of results supposedly matters. If Australia win, they play New Zealand; if they lose and India win, Australia play England. Be still your beating hearts, but the theory out there is that England would rather play the team they beat at Edgbaston than the one they lost to at Lord’s.

Tomorrow (today if you read this on Friday) will see a theoretical chance for Pakistan to qualify. To do so they must not bowl first, and if they bat, they have to win by over 310 runs (and more the higher score they get). It’s not going to happen. Any supposed excitement is possibly over at the toss. It might be true Pakistan to win and stick Bangladesh in. Imagine. Just imagine.

There are historical connotations with this match, of course. Having visited Bangladesh a couple of years ago (in an aside, I met with the owner of the Dhaka Dynamites this week), I know they are captivated by the sport. Having had political briefings on the market, I know that a lot of their politics are framed by their partition from Pakistan. So I suppose this might matter a little bit. In cricketing terms they are near neighbours in the table. Bangladesh are hopefully here to stay.

Their long run of futility in the international game has seen two World Cups where they’ve taken new scalps, and to defeat Pakistan would be a big deal. They have given really decent shows of themselves in the matches they have lost, have shown they have top quality one day players, and will never be taken for granted in this competition, the 50 over format, again. They get their chance to play an ODI at Lord’s and I hope they play really well. Pakistan will also want to show that at their best they are up there with the rest, but once the toss is over, and if Bangladesh bat, I hope we still see a decent game. The so-called dead rubbers have not been too bad so far. I don’t think the competition has been that bad either. But there are other views available.

So as there is little real tension in the weekend fixtures, the focus is once again on the FTA v Paywall debate. Sky have said they will not be sharing the live coverage with free to air TV, but there are thoughts that the Final will be on Sky One, or one of their other non-sport mainstream channels. The final is on 14 July, which in case anyone hasn’t noticed, is the same day as the Wimbledon Men’s Singles Final (BBC free to air) and the British Grand Prix (Channel 4 free to air). If you don’t fancy that free to air coverage of sport, there is also the Tour de France live on ITV 4 if you are struggling for something to watch. Who is supposed to carry these free to air event? Why would the old major channels want to go up against their long contractually engaged events (and in the case of Wimbledon, BBC’s crown jewel) for a sport that turned its back on them years ago. The question really is will Sky put it on a channel everyone can watch, and share it as widely on their own platforms, and can they attract anyone who might be busy watching something else.

But this didn’t stop Liam Plunkett being, it appeared, forced to issue a hurried retraction to some comments which, on the face of it, seemed innocent enough. I’m taking Lawrence Booth’s copy of the comments made to Radio Five as the evidence.

‘It would obviously be great to have as many people watching as possible – we feel like we’ve built something special here as a team. It would be nice to go all the way and to have big numbers watching that final if we get through and win.’

Asked whether he would like Sky to put the final on free to air, he said: ‘I’m not sure they’re going to do it but it would great for everybody to be able to watch that.

‘Playing for England, you’re the pride of the country and you want people to be able to access that and watch that.

It is hardly gob-smackingly out of line, is it? He wants the maximum exposure for a once in a quarter century experience (potentially of course, England have a semi to play), so that the nation can at least have the chance of watching the team play in a final. It’s not massively controversial. But, in something that speaks volumes of the culture in English sport these days, one dare not say a single word PERCEIVED to be against the narrative, and Liam had to take to Twitter to clarify….

The tweet’s content is not the problem here. It’s what happened behind the scenes. Praise the broadcaster who supposedly pays their wages (never forget, it’s your subs and advertising revenue that pays it, and Sky take the difference between cost and income), and make sure they are paid homage to. If Sky asked them to do this, more shame on their thin skins. I imagine it was more the ECB and their press team who are so terrified of the perception of offending one of their strategic partners, they wanted to make sure that there was a “clarification”. Interesting how they react to their TV partner in a heartbeat, but ignore domestic grass roots fans when it comes to upsetting them, tangibly, over the future of domestic cricket. You can eat platitudes. Sky have grovelling homilies.

Liam is a millimetre from “I was taken out of context” but his words, if as reported by the widely respected editor of Wisden, who is hardly some keen intern, are correct, what’s he got to be worried about? He’d love the audience to perform in front of. He would like to see the bandwagon, however remote, be created. He wants the country to be behind them in larger numbers, if possible.

But someone is so scared of Sky, that Plunkett has to put out this Tweet. The headline may draw a conclusion that is the logical extension of his thoughts, but those aren’t bad things to say. You have an England hierarchy more scared of their TV paymaster than they are the future inspiration a win could bring. I can’t say I’m surprised. I may be drawing conclusions, but they are obvious. Far worse to upset a TV company than it is your fans. File another success for the ECB custodians. A hundred cheers all round.

Anyway. To Lord’s. I hope it’s a good game. On Sunday I enter my 6th decade, and tomorrow I’ll be leaving the 5th with a good old do, so I hope to see you all sometime later in the weekend. I am on a break from work from then on, so hopefully will be live blogging the semis and the final (I have Sky). Until then, comment on the match tomorrow, and see you soon, my strategic partners!

Comments below.

World Cup 42 – Afghanistan vs. West Indies (and reaction to the England game)

So England have qualified for their first World Cup semi-final in 27 years and without doubt the most relieved people won’t necessarily be the players but more likely those who are in charge of running English cricket. After the various pronouncements after the 2015 World Cup and the change in emphasis from the red ball game to the white ball game, which many of us still fiercely disagree with, anything less than reaching the last four would have been disastrous and another sad indictment on the ECB. That they have managed to qualify for the knockout stages of their own home World Cup is a relief for all concerned or at least those who have access to Pay-TV anyway.

England went into this game knowing that the only way they could guarantee qualification was with victory and that the knives were sharpened in case they didn’t. They immediately had some fortune by winning the toss and electing to bat on what at first looked like a belter of a pitch, but one that became considerably slower and more two paced as the game went on. Roy and Bairstow once again showed their class at the top of the order by registering another century stand and scoring the bulk of the runs, with the former scoring a run a ball 60 and the latter hitting another ton before falling for 106. I can’t emphasize enough how important the return of Jason Roy has been to the team and not just the fact that he has replaced James Vince. Roy and Bairstow complement each other perfectly with the former often hitting his straps straight away to put the opposition under pressure, which then allows Bairstow to take his time at the start of the innings and then accelerate once he has got the feel for the pitch.

The rest of the side then faltered somewhat on a pitch that became more difficult to score on and all of a sudden, a forecasted score of 350+ became a bit of a slog. The finally reached 305-8 at the end of the 50 overs thanks to some inventive hitting from both Plunkett and the ever-maligned Rashid and there would have been more than one or two nervous England fans biting their fingernails during the interval. Thankfully any cause for alarm was quickly extinguished during the early part of the New Zealand chase.

New Zealand knew that to chase this score down they needed to finally have a decent opening stand rather than relying on Williamson and others to dig them out of a hole, this though, was exactly what they didn’t get with Nicholls getting a rough LBW decision, that he chose not to review, from the ever hapless S. Ravi. Guptill who also looked pretty out of touch this tournament quickly came and went, leaving Williamson and Taylor as the last vestiges of hope for the New Zealand team. Both these batsmen looked in decent touch and having weathered the early England storm, were hoping to kick on, before they were both run out in very different fashions. Williamson was incredibly unlucky to see a return drive from Taylor clip the fingernails of Mark Wood and cannon onto his stumps when he was out of his ground, whereas Taylor had a complete brain fade and took on Rashid arm for a run that wasn’t there and found himself short of his crease. From there it was a case of when rather than if, even with a battling half century from Tom Latham, and New Zealand quickly subsided to 186 all out. I doubt England were expecting as comfortable a victory as they got when they turned up to the Riverside this morning, but some good all-round performances alongside getting the best of conditions, meant they got just that.

So England officially qualify for the World Cup semi-finals and another trip to Edgbaston and unless something seriously strange happens in the Pakistan vs. Bangladesh game (and I mean ICC investigating strange), New Zealand will face the first placed side at Old Trafford. It is likely that the England will come across their favourite nemesis India once again, whilst New Zealand face their antipodean counterparts Australia, though a loss for Australia against the Proteas and a resounding victory for India vs. Sri Lanka could mean a switch at the top of the table.

It will be interesting to see how the media react to this victory and whether they are going to pronounce them a saviours already. For me, I still think they are outsiders to win the World Cup after India and Australia who have looked to be consistently stronger. This side still isn’t playing at its peak and is far too heavily reliant on Roy and Bairstow at the top of the order. There are definite concerns about Buttler’s form (though he might well make me eat my words here) as well as Rashid’s from with the ball and Morgan’s habit of going missing in the big games. I hope they remember that reaching the semi-finals was an absolute bare minimum and that England have had some luck reaching them. That being said, I won’t be surprised if I read an article from Shiny Toy or the like proclaiming them to the be the best ever One Day team, it comes with the territory especially from known idiots like Vaughan who will say anything then happily contradict himself the next day, to try and stay in the limelight. It certainly will be an interesting few days in the build-up to the semi-finals for the small majority who have access to the games at least.

As for tomorrow, we have ourselves another dead-rubber with Afghanistan playing the West Indies for nothing else than pride. Will we see another decent game like we saw on Monday or will either or both of the teams be mentally checked out and ready to head to the airport? And yes, I’m looking at you West Indies!

Feel free to comment on your thoughts about today’s game, tomorrow’s game or anything else you’d like to get off your chest, below:

World Cup Match 41 – England vs New Zealand – Must-Win Part 2

It perhaps shows the ODI fatigue of ourselves at BOC that it wasn’t until 9 o’clock this morning that someone even thought to ask “Is anyone writing today’s post?” Having the day off today (as part of my normal rota, rather than actively making sure I could see an England game), I drew the short straw.

With Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and the West Indies falling by the wayside over the past week, the arithmetic is now quite simple for England. If they win today, they go through. If they draw or tie today, they will almost certainly go through on Net Run Rate. If they lose today, then they will still go through unless Pakistan beat Bangladesh on Friday. New Zealand are also technically vulnerable, although they would have to lose by a very large margin today to allow Pakistan to catch them on Net Run Rate.

The stories this morning about the teams’ fitness seem to be playing into England’s hands. Roy and Archer have both been declared “fully fit”, which must have surprised the Indians after Roy was considered physically unable to field a single ball just three days ago. For their opposition, New Zealand’s dangerous fast bowler Lockie Ferguson is being rested as a precaution due to having a tight left hamstring.

In other news, Sky have completely ruled out any possibility of airing the final on Freeview, even in the event that England are playing. This would seem to make a mockery of the claims Sky and the ECB made when the latest TV deal was signed, when both declared themselves partners in trying to increase participation and interest in cricket. Or, to quote Sky Sports’ Managing Director Barney Francis:

“[This TV deal] extends our partnership with the game into a third decade and will see us work with the ECB to excite and engage cricket fans of all ages.  We will continue to innovate in our coverage and make it accessible across our channels, products and services.  And drawing on our experience of getting millions on their bikes with our successful 8-year Sky Ride initiative, we are committed to working with the ECB to help grow the game at all levels.”

Back to today, with a close loss for New Zealand still virtually assuring their place in the semi finals it seems unlikely that the Black Caps will bat with the same intensity that they might in a more important game, so England really should be able to win this game against a team who are already looking forwards to their own semi final. But, as any English cricket fan will tell you (particularly after the last few weeks), England have a tendency to make things difficult for themselves and their supporters at times and you can take nothing for granted.

As always, please comment on the game or anything else which catches your attention below.