2015 World Cup – Game 38 – England v Afghanistan

Good god, do we have to play this match? The team has nothing to gain and everything to lose. Afghanistan could not pick a better time to play us.

With our hands over our eyes, with our memories of burger sales staff at Schiphol Airport (I’ve been through there and never seen it) and such like, Sydney is the venue and problems lie ahead. The forecast isn’t special so we may be spared a result, who knows.

All comments on this game in the usual place.



Although I am not, and never have been, a Chelsea fan, I thought I’d use one of their buzzwords for the title of this post in honour of another edifice with a reputation based on perception rather than reality. Much like the Premier League’s vainglorious battle cry that it is “the best league in the world”, the machinations and spinning of England’s cricket team approach to tournaments and series as being the most advanced, the most professional and the most thorough is becoming as laughable a mantra. Work hard and the results will come. Everything comes through hard work. Perspiration rather than inspiration.

It seems, from the tone of some (not all) of the articles that I have read, and I have most certainly not read them all, is that although this is a calamitous World Cup, and another opportunity gone begging, (a) it doesn’t matter; and (b) if we win the Ashes, who gives a stuff. This sort of attitude drives me round the bend. It is not, and it has never been a quid pro quo. Let me take you back to the year 1987. Australia had been on the end of some chastening test losses, including losing at home to New Zealand and a beating in the Ashes both home and away. Lore is that Border got sick of it, and turned it around by being nasty. I contend that winning the 1987 World Cup was the real start. They stuck with players that had disappointed, believing in their talent (Steve Waugh, David Boon) and started to build on that. What they needed was a boost, and winning the World Cup was it. They did not look back.  They came over in 1989 and thrashed us to pieces – without rain helping us in tests 3 and 6, it would have been 6-0 – and our complacency was matched by our Dexterian stupidity. Australia have never thought in terms of either/or, yet we sit here watching people say that only the one thing matters to us. Who the hell do we think we are?

Mike Selvey’s article posted last night, and which was summed up beautifully by SimonH as a “continental-sized piece of dung” is an example of our condescension to ODI cricket in particular, and to fans as well as it insults our intelligence. It talks about how fate was cruel to England in terms of the run-out. If Jordan had stayed, if he’d seen us home with the impressive Woakes, and if we’d beaten Afghanistan (notice how this was just assumed) and we got to the Quarter-Finals then anything could happen is not clever. It really, really isn’t. A lot of money goes into the game through Sky and our ticket fees. This, in turn, is used to set up all sorts of facilities and amenities to the top level that their predecessors could only dream of. Increasingly, I’m seeing more of this “if only….then this” philosophy permeating English cricket. I see it in the thoughts around the Ashes. If only Australia’s aged players break down like ours did last time around, then we have a brilliant opportunity. Seriously, is there anyone out there who thinks Australia aren’t going to beat us handily. Since 2013-14, we lost a test series at home to Sri Lanka, and yes, beat India, who we all blithely assume checked out once the going got tough in Southampton. Australia lost in UAE, yes, but they won in South Africa. They then comfortably saw aside India who had Kohli in form. There’s this assumption that this 3-1 win against India is some sort of indication that the test team is flying. It isn’t. It hasn’t faced high pace yet. That elephant in the room is never really mentioned.

I can’t make people care about ODI cricket, but I’ll bet these players really care. If anything they may care too much. I don’t know, but the fact that this winter was all ODI cricket and the only focus was the World Cup may have hindered our chances. The format of the game we are least worst at is test cricket, and a good number of the ODI squad play for our test team. Perhaps there was an opportunity to have a quick two test series against Bangladesh, or maybe stick a test in somewhere against Sri Lanka, but we chose not to. We were the only full test nation, I think, to take this clear the decks approach. Every media man or woman thought this was a good idea. Hindsight will probably show that instead of formulating a team ethic, a viable game plan and a familiarity with the game, it entrenched a cosy squad with little to be cosy about, downloaded and installed a flawed game plan which seemed to actively discourage innovation and flexibility until specific moments, and our familarity turned into a inability to adapt. Nothing screamed that more to me when that waste of vocal chords, Paul Downton, cited as an element of progress that we’d “made 300 a couple of times”.

The writings of George Dobell throughout this debacle have been interesting as they strike a different tone. There is always a suggestion, a comment, a positive proposal gained through his love and interest in county cricket and his observing the game. We don’t see this anywhere else. Mark is always on here going on about the cosy cabal between the ECB and the press, and these stories about Downton speaking to various members of them to get back in line and back the boys is worryingly backing up our Mark! The theme of this blog, and it’s angry fore-runner (HDWLIA is still available from the links on the right) has been to hold those in authority to account. It is also to hold those who report on it to similar account. That sounds pompous, but it isn’t.

I’m also not fooled by this turning on Moores by certain elements of the press. These are not new men, persuaded by the evidence just presented to them. They are following not leading opinion. Downton was toast ages ago in the eyes of many. I was getting messages from people who had that view privately but were not expressing it in public. To many the machinations and deliberations in the corridors of power are an arcane irrelevance to the public, those “outside cricket”. But they aren’t in this modern age of social media and blogging. Everything is under scrutiny. The one thing an individual with the hide of a rhino like Giles Clarke brings is the convenient pantomime villain, who shrugs off this stuff like it is normal to him, and doesn’t care a jot. So the media push and prod him, but the executors of his plans stay under the radar. This blogger was at Downton from Day 1. Yes, because he fired KP, but more because he hadn’t the balls to come out, in public, and say why while I was being told how damn great he was by members of the media. I noted the other day Selfey said he wasn’t part of the plan to bring Downton in, but he certainly wasn’t missing an opportunity to big him up when he was appointed.

This carefree attitude to ODI cricket, to those inside the halls of power and towards the people who pay for it has shown in the spin after the event. The players must be sick as dogs, but all I hear is how nice they are, how they are a group of men who you can’t help to pull for. Lovely. We have nice losers. Nothing sums our country up more than that when it comes to sport. Don’t be a single-minded winner, an obsessive, a freak, a natural talent, a boat-rocker, because we find those uncomfortable in sport. Funny how those are always the ones in business though…. If only we turned the tables.

Carefree about ODIs once we’ve lost, carefree about people in power, carefree about our attention span. The selectivity is what grates.

Just another moan on my day off. What’s new….


I am currently in a bit of turmoil. Personal reasons to some degree, also been told I’m moving positions in my work life to a newly created post which I want no part of but have no choice, it seems. So unhappiness is not uncommon in those that have followed my path, and nor are the ups and downs of moods. So it is with this in mind that, other than my rant at Downton the other day, I’ve taken a back seat to watch all those follow the words I said at the start of this wonderful adventure car-crash and that resonated with so many of you.

Downton with aplomb - brenkley

However, let’s do what I used to do, and fisk some load of old twaddle. I’ve selected Brenkley. That should come as no surprise. I don’t know who has been saying he’s seeing the other side because this load of old establishment shite isn’t giving the game away.

England refused yesterday to buckle to the demands of the mob. In many ways, it was an admirable stance, which did not exactly ignore the  evidence but tried to lend it balance and perspective.

We’re off to a flyer. Those that have pointed out the failings at the start of this gruesome twosome are “a mob”. Nice one. And by ignoring those who are being proved right every day this is “admirable”, and by doing so they are showing “balance” and perspective”. Taking the opposite view those of us who have pointed out the failings are contemptible, we are unbalanced and lacking in perspective. Good start. I’m looking forward to the rest of this…. (unless Brenkley is taking the piss, and frankly, if this is satire, it’s good, because I’m not getting it)

In short, it seems that as nobody expected much from the World Cup campaign and despite the fact that it has gone much worse than anybody could possibly have imagined in their most horrific nightmare, everybody can carry on regardless.  No one will be sacked, or asked to resign or pushed conveniently aside.

Downton thought we’d be a bit of a force to be reckoned with, didn’t he? You giving him a free pass? So this it what it comes to. Go in with a defeatist attitude, lose, and it’s all OK. Those who put the structures in place, those who cleared the decks, those who focused on ODI cricket and those who planned our campaign should stay. Because we’ve always been crap. That’s the attitude that gets you to the top of the pile. I do hope Brenkley is taking the michael here.

Because if he is, I’m missing the gag.

A review is being launched….

Do stop it Aggers.

as soon as England return home next week after completing their programme with a fixture against Afghanistan on Friday. But it is seeking reasons for the failure so they will not be repeated – a mantra heard often before – not heads that should roll.

Those reasons will not be the MD who set this course, or the greatest coach of his generation. I see 1999 referred to a lot as our worst ever performance. Let’s remember we beat Sri Lanka and Zimbabwe in that competition and finished 4th in the group thanks to a bit of a freak result in the South Africa v Zimbabwe game. Here we are 5th in the group. This is the worst ever. Seek a reason for the worst ever World Cup performance after the worst ever Ashes performance last year when a review was deemed unneccessary other than to fire one of your marquee players and give the old coach a nice domestic number. I don’t trust these people to review a Janet and John book.

The loss of four matches from five in the tournament, which has led to England’s elimination, is a matter for grave disappointment, but no more.

Who is saying this? Brenkley? Is he mad? Or is he doing this in an ECB voice, because it’s bloody hard to tell at this point…. In a sense he is right, it is sport, and that isn’t life and death. But it’s not an old boys club either, and the rest of the world don’t seem to be so matter-of-fact oh-well about it.

Peter Moores was the right man when he was re-appointed as head coach 10 months ago and he remains the right man now.

I’ll let that statement stand for the ridicule it deserves… I’m sure I heard that about Alastair Cook about a billion and one times.

Whether the public will be appeased by that, or whether they expected precisely this sort of return and will put up with anything, will gradually become clear as the summer unfolds.

Public appeasement? Nice. We want to see the best for our team. Very few people believe that is represented by Moores and Downton. I feel a little for having a pop at Moores, but you know, Bunkers, many of your colleagues in the press box (and Etheridge doesn’t hide his views) are in our camp, not some ECB “don’t give in to the great unwashed” camp. Many think Moores needs to go. It is nice to be joined by them after this time, when we haven’t exactly been proved wrong, have we? You carry on, old fruit….

To rely on survival on the grounds that we don’t give a flying one about ODIs is contemptuous, and seems to indicate this mob that is invoked in the early part doesn’t actually exist. Make your mind up.

It would seem certain that England cannot go on losing after performing so poorly in a tournament for which they specifically prepared over a period of five months.

Because, as the mantra goes, we only give a shit about the Ashes.

Paul Downton, the managing director of England cricket, who calls the shots, was calm and unflustered yesterday when he dealt with a string of questions in a  conference call.

Obsequious. I like that word. Think it applies to both you and Downton. Personally I thought he made himself look even more of an incompetent, out of touch, should never have been appointed imbecile in the interviews I saw, but hey, you make your own mind up.

He was in London, his interrogators were in Sydney. For all we knew he might have been pulling faces into the telephone but much as he might have felt like it, that is not his style.

No. I call it misplaced arrogance. That’s his style. Incompetent buffoonery. More his style. Out of his depth that he’s below fish with lights (thanks Andy), is more his style. You keep kissing his arse.

“I’m not saying everybody’s job is safe and I’m not saying that everybody is going to be sacked,” he said. “It feels as though, from your perspective, there needs to be a scapegoat. There needs to be a target.

Do stop it Aggers.

“All I’m saying is we’re in a position where we’re a transitioning side and that will take time. We have to take the right decisions to ensure we do that as quickly and smoothly as we can. But it’s too early to say yet in terms of any definitives: he’s going or he’s not going.”

Meaningless business-speak, unmeasurable, aspirational cock-waffle. May I also point you to this tweet by your’s truly on Sunday.

I’m actually worried that I can predict this shit. By the way, regretfully, this was not “all I’m saying” from Downton. When he does appear from the cupboard under the stairs, you can’t stop him.

Downton backed Moores continuing in his role. It would be easy to say that he had to do so considering he was instrumental in his reappointment 10 months ago. But there was something oddly reassuring in his comforting words. This was not a man who would be easily swayed from his course, whatever the accusations of misguidedness.

Because nothing screams “fucking incompetence” like bad appointments prolonged, just to prove how god-damn awful they really are. You, Bunkers, might find that “oddly reassuring”. I call it complete insanity. “Hey, I can’t drive an F1 car, and I’ve just totalled it. I tell you watch, let me drive another one…and for kicks, stick a load of people in the way. I’ll be fine…..”

“The first thing to say is that whilst we’re hugely disappointed with our performance let’s put it into context again,” Downton said. “Peter was appointed only 10 months ago and as I said on TV yesterday whoever was appointed to that position was always going to have a bit of a job.

Well, it was 11 months ago, but I’m being picky. Downton’s as good with numbers as he is picking England coaches. I’d have expected a bit more from the “greatest coach of his generation” than this. I mean, really I would. I’m sure a team to be reckoned with was also on your mind as well Paul, but hey, you cherry pick what the hell you want. It’s transition time (as if he and his appointment had absolutely no influence at all…. all those players they “bigged up”, all the illusory “progress”) and that’s the message. Scoundrels.

“We’re in the middle of a very significant rebuilding phase. We offered six new central contracts during the summer. My first job when I came in here was to try to re-establish a Test side which we made progress with in the summer. The next job was to get to the World Cup with as competitive a side as we could. We always knew we were coming from behind, we haven’t won back-to-back one-day internationals for well over a year now. All I will tell you is that there are no quick fixes in this situation. Look through  history, look at any very  successful side which has broken up, how long it takes sometimes to rebuild again.

India recovered in a fortnight. We have more players returning to a World Cup (6) than India (4) and Australia (5). Beware of false prophets spouting codswallop. Also, who has presided over this lamentable ODI run?

“I am very confident that in a year’s time, in two years’ time this group of players will be battle hardened and will be more competitive.”

Jam tomorrow. Blah blah blah…. They may even be a team to really be reckoned with. Did you let him get away with this unmeasurable cock-rot?

Downton is seeking to buy time. The trouble is that sport demands results and this is the sixth World Cup in succession in which England have played badly.

Oh, we are so picky. They set the quarter-final as a low bar target and they couldn’t even meet that. We don’t have a right to demand something better than that? Really? REALLY? We are so damn unreasonable…. It’s such a trouble that we might expect a bit more bang for our buck. Such a nuisance…. After all, who targeted this tournament or are we supposed to forget this?

For this one, they moved Ashes series, to ensure players were not turning up drained after a tough series against Australia, and concentrated solely on one-day cricket for almost six months. The result was still calamity and worse a side that did not lack skill but was intimidated by the event.

Nothing to do with the coach then? The management who prepare them for this?

If Downton is supported by his own bosses at the England and Wales Cricket Board, and all the indications suggest he has their faith that corners will be turned, it would be presumptuous of him to expect two years. That is an eternity in any walk of life and he should know from his former career in the City  that fortunes can be won and lost five times over in that sort of period.

“all the indications suggest he has their faith”. Well, I’d suggest they check faith at the door and check that uncomfortable thing called evidence. Read HDWLIA. There’s plenty there. Listen to Geek and Friends podcasts, read Twitter feeds, read BTL from those not suffering from Stockholm Syndrome. Hell, start reading some of the press, even NEWMAN. They should go now. If they don’t, then they are treating the fans with contempt. Even those that don’t think they are. If I cock up my new role in the first year so badly that we lose tons and tons of money, it wouldn’t be another two years, I’d be gone. This bloke has no track record in cricket management at international level and he’s failed. The coach has a failed track record in international cricket, and he’s failed again. I see one trend. You believe in faith, ECB. I know who is probably right. I have evidence, you have hope. That’s worked for Cook’s ODI form, the KP saga et al…

The Ashes this summer will take on a different hue.  England were a laughing stock in Australia and New Zealand yesterday – and more. In two separate appearances on radio programmes in both countries, trying to offer some excuse for the poor beleaguered Poms, the presenters in both cases called England spineless.

That’s ok. No doubt they are a mob too. Damn colonials. You see, they don’t suffer fools down there. We don’t mind them if they are the right kind of bloke, or the right kind of family, or former cricketers employed by JPM.

Moores wants desperately to prove himself as a capable international coach. He would regret it forever if he left now with not only business unfinished but also because he has never quite yet shown he can cut it internationally as he so patently has at county level.

When I was younger, I was desperate to prove that an overweight, asthmatic, low-income clerical worker could convince Elle MacPherson that I was Mr Right. Sadly, I had to look at her calendar instead. Elle, I have unfinished business, but don’t tell my lovely Missus, eh….

Jesus, this sounds like a love letter. He so wanted to succeed, but leaving this business unfinished would be of regret. This is putrid.

“Clearly he said yesterday that as head coach he feels responsible,” Downton said. “We all feel responsible frankly because we feel we have let the country down and nobody wants to do that.

You don’t feel responsible, Downton. Your entire interview round has been to put forward why you aren’t responsible. This, above all, sickens me. He doesn’t feel as if it is his fault at all. Inexperience, transition, programme not set by him, not aware of T20 impact (I mean, for heaven’s sake, I’d sack him on the spot for that shite) etc. It’s excuses as to why it isn’t “their responsibility”. You let him get away with this.

“As far as his ability is concerned I still feel he is a very high quality coach, so, no nothing has changed since we appointed him 10 months ago. You don’t become a bad coach overnight but the scale of the issues we have got to deal with are significant as everybody has seen.”

It took him his next bit to say he (and Moores) weren’t responsible with these pesky “significant issues”. Many of us believe one of these “significant issues” is your serial incompetence, Downton.

Downton somehow brought to mind the daft wisecrack  in a Carry On film from 50 years ago. “You’ve stood on my Indian dress,” said Barbara Windsor. “Sari,” said Kenneth Williams. “Don’t  mention it.” Everybody’s sari and that makes everything  all right.

No? Me neither…. Tell me I totally missed the point of this article. Tell me I’m wrong. Tell me this is one joke I just didn’t get.

Have a nice evening.