2015 Century Watch #16 – Mohammad Hafeez

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Mohammad Hafeez – 224 v Bangladesh at Khulna

So while most of our attention is turning towards Bridgetown, there is a test match going on in Bangladesh and Mohammad Hafeez has filled his boots for a double hundred, moving into second place behind Kane Williamson in the highest score of 2015 list. This is currently the 146th highest innings in test cricket, and he is the 6th man to make this score, all of which have been in the past 22 years.

The first 224 was made against England, and it was by the man who stormed test cricket only briefly. Vinod Kambli made his highest test score at Mumbai on the fated tour by Gooch’s England, followed it up with another double against Zimbabwe and then never hit the heights again. Since then Lou Vincent (v Sri Lanka in Wellington), Jacques Kallis (v Sri Lanka at Cape Town), Mahendra Singh Dhoni (v Australia at Chennai) and Brendon McCullum (v India in Auckland in the series he followed this up with a triple) have made 224.

This is the 15th highest individual score in Pakistan test history. The leader is Hanif Mohammed with 337 in Bridgetown in 1958. It is the 38th double century in Pakistani test history (Javed Miandad has the most with six). Surprisingly (to me) it is just the 15th double century in Bangladesh, with the highest score currently Kumar Sangakkara’s 319 in Chittagong (Hafeez moved into 6th place with this innings).  Hafeez did not set the ground record for Khulna – that goes to everyone’s favourite saluter, Marlon Samuels, who made 260 for the West Indies against Bangladesh in 2012. Hafeez is the 5th Pakistan player to make a double hundred in Bangladesh – and his is the top score of those. Inzy, Younus Khan, Ijaz Ahmed and Mohammed Yousuf are the other double centurions.

This Mohammad Hafeez’s eighth test century (obviously his highest) and his third versus Bangladesh, with this being his second in Bangladesh. His previous career test best was 197 v New Zealand in Sharjah last year. Hafeez had suffered in the 190s before as he also has a 196 to his name v Sri Lanka at the SSC in 2012. For those eight test centuries, Hafeez has a DBTA of 64.17, which is more than useful. Hafeez has just the one ton away from Asia, which was made in Bulawayo.

Mohammad Hafeez made 100 off 123 balls, and this included 8 x 4 and 2 x 6. He made his 200 off 286 balls, which included 21 x 4 and 3 x 6. In total his innings lasted 332 balls and had 23 x 4 and 3 x 6.

Philadelphia

The City of Brotherly Love. A place where the name suggests accord and liberty, while 80 miles or so down the road in Baltimore, there’s a fire burning, and people are mad as hell.

But enough of that. I thought brotherly love might be an apt theme for my last post for a while from this side of the pond, as I’ll be heading over to Philly tomorrow, and straight out of it before the rush hour traffic hits. And in the spirit of brotherly love, I’d thought I’d look at what’s been happening the past few days and especially in relation to the man who seems to inspire it throughout the media and a large swathe of the English cricketing public. We are talking about our captain.

Or, is he as thick and creamy as the cheese spread that also takes the name? No comments on that from me….

The attitude that we’ve seen taken to Alastair Cook in the past year or so has been greeted here with a sense of wonder. There was the backing of him post-Ashes when there really wasn’t one of us who posts here who thought, in their heart of hearts, that he could carry on after that disaster. But in an amazing turn of events – and please, press, remember this when you keep harping on about KP’s press team – somehow, someway, he dodged all the bullets when it came to keeping his place. Flower was shunted upstairs, KP was shown the door, the hierarchy had either resigned, or were about to resign, the batting coach was invited to leave, and senior players went. Standing there, unabashed, backed to the hilt by the lost and departed Downton, was Alastair Cook, for whom blame was never attached by the fourth estate or the TV boys.

Now, we stand after a win against West Indies where we are being told by respected cricket writers like Simon Wilde (like Simon, so I wonder how recent, recent is meant to be), this…

and Cook is giving off all the impression that he’s the man with nothing to fear from anybody. He’s reportedly – and given it’s Sale saying it, I mean reportedly – been up to his old tricks of sorting out a journo or two who has done something he doesn’t like and had a pop. There’s a sort of swagger after this win, which came with him bringing us home with a half century after a decent hand in the first innings.

I’ve lost count how many times I’ve been told, not directly but I know some of it is aimed our way, to stop moaning and enjoy the win. And they have a point. I contrast this tom my football team in 2004, who got to the FA Cup Final, only to be soundly beaten by Manchester United, as expected. As we came out of the ground, all the Man Utd fans looked miserable. “Cheer up”  I exhorted one of the “you’ve won th FA Cup. Come on, be happy.” It was the retort one of them gave me that I’ll remember “We were supposed to win this, we’re not getting excited. We were expected to beat you”. As a Millwall fan that day, that hurt quite a bit. It actually signalled the starting point of me moving away from football. But think what United fans said, and, sadly, it was true. They were expected to win, it was nice to win, but no biggie.

As expected we’ve seen a deluge of piffle. Now, in the manner only those well-meaning souls can do, I’m showing no brotherly love to people who say “what the hell are you moaning about?” I think you’ll find, I’ve not done a lot. What has cheesed me off is someone started up the hyperbole machine and has forgotten to switch it off. One who has had me scratching my head in disbelief is Nasser Hussain. Seriously Nas, what the hell has happened to you? How is this an acceptable line of praise for an England captain as we aspire to reach the highest peaks.

but for now his game looks in very good order again and he is making very good half-centuries.

I’ve seen that average statistic trotted out as well. You know, the one that cuts off the year preceding Southampton. “Very good half-centuries” Nasser. Against, lets be fair, not top quality attacks. While Ballance, Root and Bell have made centuries in the middle order. This takes us for fools. I’ve downloaded some cricket for my flight, where I have Alastair Cook’s two tons in India in the second and third tests to look forward to. That’s very good order, Nasser, not a gentle 70-odd in five hours against some disappointing bowling, or drop-ridden knocks at the fag end of last Summer. Where’s the analysis in this?

You can’t drop him now for his batting, because half-centuries are good enough for him it seems. That elusive hundred might be very near, but as I’ve said on numerous occasions, when it comes, it doesn’t prove the selectors right for waiting for it. The longer this wait goes on, the longer it becomes an issue. Sure, a century in amidst a load of single figure scores isn’t a cure-all either, but this holy grail of Cook looking better is just wishful thinking masquerading as an analysis. Seriously, I watched five minutes of him playing in Colombo in 2012 a day or so ago and the difference is stark. He was more fluid. At the moment he bats like a metal man who hasn’t seen a drop of oil for a while, all stiff movements… as if he’s been pre-programmed.

I’m not a fan – I’m genuinely not fans of people who are protected on high by establishment and don’t seem to realise how bloody lucky they are to have that backing. This isn’t hatred, which, of course, is levelled at me and my ilk. I would like to see him make a ton of runs at the top of the order, and will be content if they lead to England wins. I don’t necessarily subscribe to the Essex succession in the record breaker charts, or some of the more fanciful stuff, but there’s a prodigal son aspect here and it is worrying. Half centuries are enough now (they weren’t for Mark Ramprakash, for instance but then, blah blah, 25 centuries, blah blah) because he now looks like a leader on the field.

Hogwash.

We won a test match against the 8th best team in the world. James Morgan on The Full Toss sums it up and also uses a football analogy. This win has been greeted by former players, Sky TV, some of the press, and the masses on Social Media like a massive win, a win for the ages. Even Botham is being invoked to reflect a wonderful spell by Anderson (want to watch him in his pomp – try Trent Bridge, 2013). This was a great win – no questions asked.

I love the West Indies, I want them to do so well, and we all know this is a really mediocre side we are playing. They could improve, but this isn’t top notch oppo. Sure, England did well to win, but you saw what I said on Sunday about inspired performances winning games – they aren’t reliable. A real curmudgeon, and I’m not entitled to be that in the glow of victory, would point out that the West Indies had got to 200 for 2 and it was a deck no team in the world could get a team out on if you listened to the media masses on Friday night. No, we bowled badly first time up, and also with the new ball first time round in the second innings. Against good teams, you don’t get second chances. Imagine that’s David Warner instead of Kraigg Brathwaite; AB deVilliers instead of Daren Bravo. Good luck with that.

But no. We must go mad for a win, and we must recognise Alastair’s “I’m In Charge” body language. It’s ludicrous. We’ve beaten a mediocre team. Graves is right.

Cook appears to have learnt from his mistakes. Last summer, for instance, his decision to spread the field when Sri Lanka captain Angelo Mathews was batting with the tail lost England the Headingley Test but here he kept the field up to Denesh Ramdin in a similar situation and kept the pressure on.

This is top drawer from Nasser. He has learned from being an absolute weapons grade disaster and instead didn’t cave in and make a hash of it. We are celebrating competence. I watched how an Australia team strangled England at Adelaide. They believed they could get us all out, and the one man we had to shepherd the tail wasn’t interested in scoring runs. Watch that. If someone blasts the life out of you, fair play. Here Hussain says Cook lost us a test match, something not often repeated (many criticised the bowlers and Moores for the tactics as well), and yet we can hope the next time he gets a good side in this position, he doesn’t capitulate. Oh, and Mathews was well on his way to a ton at the time, while Ramdin was just starting so let’s not compare apples and oranges.

This doesn’t rank in the top five, easily, of test wins this England team have had away from home in the last 10 years. Mumbai and Kolkata to win in India (under Cook, great stuff) are too fresh in my memory to be erased by a collapse in Grenada. I’d stick Colombo in 2012 to end a run of four straight defeats as well. The demolition in Melbourne would be there, because we’d just lost in Perth, in 2010/11. I’d add the grossly underrated win in Durban in 2009 to the mix, aided by a fantastic hundred by Cook, because it was so unexpected. Mumbai 2006 was also one for the ages, as we squared a series in India.

This win can only be significant because it bolsters a team that needs it. A team coming together but with the captain more important than anything else. Every interview is “I back Cooky” etc etc, and all this good environment and positive vibe bullshit. The last one who didn’t back him got the boot, the media are in the tank because they mostly appear to love him, I’m constantly told on twitter and on podcasts that he’s a lovely bloke, and that no-one wants to see him fail. Fine. But if, like me, you have tons and tons of games on your archives at home, or if you can get to see them elsewhere, you are being sold down the river. Cook’s not back to his best. He’s nowhere near it. And if you are being misled over that, what else are you being misled over? Oh, I’m a tin-hatted conspiracy theorist. No. I don’t like being told something when almost the opposite is staring me in the face.

If we win against New Zealand, fine. Win against Australia, brilliant. I’ll eat the humblest of humble pie. Until then, spare me the great wins claptrap, the reinforced leader of a loyal hardy bunch of men BS, and the back to his best cockwaffle. And I will be a bloody curmudgeon if I want to be. I am a real fan, and real fans don’t go mental over wins pulled out of their arse against a team that is prone to brainfarts. Or as Australia called them in 2006/7 and 13/14 “England”.

That’s my lot. A rant and a half, and still didn’t cover everything I wanted to.

I’m travelling tomorrow, so I’ll leave you in Vian’s capable hands, and see you on the other side of the Atlantic.

TwitterTweeting

Please, please read Vian’s post below.

But to let you know a couple of things.

First – the record for monthly hits was passed around 4pm today with three full days in the month remaining. Many thanks.

Second – We have a new Twitter Feed – @OutsideCricket . We are hoping to link all posts on there and make it an area we can exchange views. We have followed some already, so follow us back!

Now – read the man…..

Notes and Queries

Over the last few days, the nation has gone into paroxysms of deep celebration, as England pulled off a mighty victory against an impressive West Indies team.  Few could have ever hoped for them to scale such heights of majesty, and fewer still to predict it.  No wonder the press have gone overboard about it all.

Or perhaps not.

It’s a curious situation.  In advance of the Test series, a certain member of the fifth estate was including three victories in his notorious “11 from 17” prediction for the next year, and many others were not much less gung ho.   That one may have been something of an outlier, but there’s no doubt at all that the response to England’s win seems entirely out of keeping to what had been expected to be a comfortable series win in the first place.

Is that a trifle churlish?  Maybe it is.  Certainly England arrived on the last day without having much right to expect a victory, and James Anderson bowled one of those spells to first create an opening, and then to ram home the advantage.  Equally, the West Indies were trying to do the right thing, by being positive and not getting stuck in a hole as England themselves have done so often, but they didn’t quite get the balance right – and some injudicious shots hastened their demise.

All of which leaves us where exactly?

England go into the final Test a match up, and it’s worth noting that Dinesh Ramdin has asked for a pitch with pace and bounce.  Had they got away with the draw in Grenada, you don’t need to be on the inside track of the West Indies team to recognise that’s the last thing they would have wanted.  Even so, that’s the prerogative of the home side, and it does mean at least that we might have some interesting cricket in Barbados.  The criticism of the pitch in St Georges was much overdone – essentially it was fine when England were doing well on it, and boring and turgid when they couldn’t take wickets.  So often, the domestic press are England’s worst enemy, trying to claim black is white and vice versa, and assuming the readership is either myopic or unintelligent. Hype is not necessary, it was a good win.

I can forgive Peter Moores for going a little over the top in his response to success.  He would have felt under severe pressure himself that final morning, and the relief of victory would have been keenly appreciated.

Of course, Alastair Cook has been praised to the skies, in the way we knew we would be.  Again, the written press really aren’t helping here with the hyperbole.  His final day captaincy was decent enough alright, but continual reminders that it was reasonable enough by the Sky commentary team merely drew attention to it being often otherwise.  The implication was quite clear, in Cook’s case being competent is worthy of having attention drawn  to it.  Since when has being competent been notable unless it’s not often the case?

And then there’s his batting.  He did look a little bit better in this Test compared to the first, where he frankly looked all over the shop.  Runs in themselves will do him the power of good, and will also give him confidence in his method.  But it’s still not the Cook of old; he’s fighting it constantly – his head remains too far over to the offside and he doesn’t look balanced in his shot.   Clearly the loss of Jerome Taylor to the West Indies attack was a huge bonus for him – but that’s the luck of the draw and few could begrudge him that.  So the runs were welcome – let’s be clear on this, to have a chance in the summer we need Cook back to his best – but nor do they merit an assumption that all is now well with him, because it isn’t.  Looked at benignly, it is a work in progress, and I doubt too many bowlers in Sydney and Auckland are panicking about their plans just yet.

Jonathan Trott may come under pressure for his place in the final Test, and this is not remotely fair on him.  He’s not an opener, he is a number three.  The jobs are not the same, not least because the number three has a bit more time to relax after coming in from fielding.  Having brought him back to do that role, to drop him after two Tests would be tantamount to ending his career having handed him a hospital pass and complaining when he dropped it.  Nor would it be particularly fair on Adam Lyth who would presumably take over.  He’d have a single Test and as we know, things can change when it comes to the home summer.  He’d be under pressure to score in this match, and fully aware that his predecessor had been dumped after two games.  Selecting Trott to open may well have been the wrong decision in the first place, but having done so, three Tests is the absolute minimum he should expect – and more reasonably he should get the New Zealand series too.

Of the other players, Joe Root is showing signs of being of genuinely exceptional quality.  Certainly there are bigger challenges for him over the coming summer than he’s faced in Tests the last year, but it’s hard to argue with the numbers on this.  He is rapidly becoming our key player.  And in that, he’s only just ahead of Gary Ballance, who has made a superb start to his Test career.  As an aside, when looking at a technical set up, Ballance is an excellent contrast to Cook at the moment – there’s no expectation of similarity of course, but Ballance is….well beautifully balanced.

Moeen Ali did not bowl well, and of course ran himself out for a duck.  OK, the run out happens, few have avoided the odd brain fade in their careers, and Anderson’s was worse.  His bowling looked reflective of someone who had hardly bowled, which is of course the case.  I note Nasser Hussain’s thoughts about it potentially being a reversion to the mean, and of course that is quite possible.  But a little premature to say so after one poor match post-injury.

Buttler’s keeping was overall excellent.  However, as Graeme Fowler observed, his gloves close at the time of the shot when standing up to the stumps.  That’s not good technique, and is something that Peter Moores himself ought to be able to have corrected.  Maybe he’s on to it.

Stuart Broad was a proper curate’s egg in this match, and indeed in the series so far.  His overall pace is way down, but he’s equally bowled some sharp and hostile spells.  He also seems to attract a lot of negative comment even though his form as a bowler has been very strong for England in Tests.  He’s more or less the only established player to come out of the Ashes shambles with his reputation intact.  He deserves time to get it right.

Ben Stokes showed promise.  That’s where we still are with him.  Likewise Chris Jordan.

And Anderson.  He’s not a great bowler, not by any stretch of the imagination.  But so what?  By definition hardly anyone is.  He’s a very fine, exceptionally skilled bowler who can occasionally be completely unplayable.  It should be enough and shouldn’t be a stick with which to beat him.

And then there’s someone who didn’t play, but became a topic of conversation – Adil Rashid.  Geoff Boycott talked about the situation whereby the selectors choose a squad, but that the team on tour is chosen by captain and coach.  And if captain and coach don’t rate a player, then there’s little point in them being selected.  I don’t wish to put words in Boycott’s mouth, as he chose them very carefully, but it seemed to indicate this was the position with Rashid, and perhaps that’s why Yorkshire requested his release from the tour.  England were right to rebuff them by the way.  The question of his selection and whether he ever had a chance of playing is a valid one, but the selectors having done so he’s on the tour and should stay on the tour.

For the West Indies, there are signs of promise.  Developing and struggling teams are always prone to a collapse, particularly when kept under pressure.  They were and they did.  But Brathwaite looked a proper Test batsman, Samuels batted mostly responsibly – well more responsibly than normal – and they fought hard.  There are some green shoots perhaps.  Let’s hope they sprout.

And so we move to the final Test.  A win and England can say they’ve done alright.  And they will have done alright.  You can only beat what’s in front of you.  A draw is problematic, and a defeat, well a defeat and there will be consequences.  England are a better side than the West Indies, even though they have significant problems of their own.  They should win, they ought to win.

And yet….

https://twitter.com/BlueEarthMngmnt

2015 Century Watch #15 – Kraigg Brathwaite

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Kraigg Brathwaite – 116 v England at St. George’s, Grenada

The fifth test hundred at the St. George’s ground, the third by a West Indian, and the first by a Barbados man (the two others were by Jamaicans) was a triumph of application and temperament over doomsaying and dismissal. I’ve rarely been more appalled by a commentariat so ignorant and so dimissive of a ton, excused as it was because it was made on a road that was killing test cricket. Rant over. I like this man, and hope he has a top future.

For those who commentate and ignore anything outside the England bubble, this would not have come as a surprise. It was Brathwaite’s 4th test hundred in 19 tests (Samuels has 7 in three times as many games) and his second highest. His best was against Bangladesh, when he made a double (212) and one of his other four was made against South Africa in Port Elizabeth (another “dead” track). I don’t expect miracles from a youngster, but he’s doing well. Did you know he’s hit just the one six in test cricket?

This was the third highest score made at St. George’s, below Root and Gayle. It was his third century in the Caribbean (the others were made at Kingstown (St Vincent) and Port of Spain).

This was the 67th score of 116 in test cricket. As is usual, I’ll look back at some of the older scorers of this amount for any statistical frippery. Archie MacLaren made the first 116 in tests, back in 1901. This was in the first test of the 1901/02 Ashes and England won by an innings and a few against the hosts at the SCG. That was as good as it got for England, as we lost the next four. No doubt the Selvey and Newman’s of the age would have been hootering and a hollering about the SCG and telling us all to pipe down and nothing was wrong!

The last 116 was scored by Mushfiqur Rahim of Bangladesh against the West Indies in Kingstown (when Brathwaite got his double). I’ve seen a test 116, and it was by everyone’s favourite Bedford schoolboy, when he hit a doughty and defiant innings of that score at the WACA in 2006.

Cook pushes a single to complete his century against Australia in Perth 2006. Taken by this
Cook pushes a single to complete his century against Australia in Perth 2006. Taken by this “not true fan” of England. Anyone can use it if they like….

Mark Butcher and Chris Broad (as well as Cook) are Englishmen with two scores of 116 to their name. For the West Indies, they have just five scores of 116 out of those 67 – Clyde Walcott, Ramnaresh Sarwan, Kraigg Brathwaite and two for Shiv Chanderpaul.

Kraigg Brathwaite’s 100 came off 228 balls and contained 11 fours. He made his 116 in 252 and added three more boundaries to his total.

2015 Test Century Watch #14 – Joe Root

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Joe Root – 182 not out v West Indies at St. George’s

You’ve read all the stuff about over 150 scores for Joe Root, but the century watch is for my statistical buffoonery, and not those boring old stats. We’ll be talking DBTA and all sorts.

Joe Root’s 182 not out is his first century overseas, and adds on to the five made at home. It his second highest score in test cricket, nestling behind his double ton against Sri Lanka last spring at Lord’s.  His DBTA now stands at 184.5, which is rather good and reflects he has a Steve Waugh propensity to make 150s and stay unbeaten in doing so. This is, of course, a small sample size, and will come down with time, but still amazing.

This was the 17th score of 182 in tests, and the sixth unbeaten score. I actually saw the start of the last 182 not out in tests – I walked out of the match because I was fed up – which was made by Jacques Kallis at The Oval in 2012. The last 182 in tests was made a few days after Kallis’s efforts, when Alviro Petersen made that score at Headingley. Root is the third Englishman to make 182 in a test match – CP Mead and MC Cowdrey being the others. Of the 17 scores of 182, two each have been made at The Oval, Sydney, Georgetown (Bourda), Headingley and Kolkata.

For me there is one score of 182 seared on my memory, and it is this one. It is one of the best innings I’ve ever seen (but then I loved Richie Richardson):

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uouZo1lUZx0

Greg Chappell has two scores of 182. 182 links two other West Indian greats – Lara and Richards. It’s a venerable old score.

This was the 4th century at St. George’s and the second highest. The record is held by Chris Gayle who made 204 against New Zealand at this venue in 2009. Samuels was the third century maker, and we have the fifth to come… It was the second by an overseas player, and the highest (obviously) beating Scott Styris who made 107 in 2002. Not many tests are played at Grenada (this was the 4th) so there isn’t a huge track record to go on.

This was England’s 12th highest score against the West Indies. The best is by Andrew Sandham who made 325 in Jamaica back in 1930, and is, along with Bob Cowper and John Edrich, one of those frequently forgotten on the list of test triple centurions. The last double made against the West Indies is by current fan favourite Kevin Pietersen, who made 226 against them at Headingley in 2007. Three of our top ten scores were made at Sabina Park. Root’s 182 was the fifth highest score made in the West Indies by an England man.

Joe Root’s century came up in 125 balls with 13×4 and 2×6. His innings consisted of 229 balls with 17×4 and 4×6.

2015 Test Century Watch #13 – Marlon Samuels

There can only be one suitable picture…

Samuels Salute

Marlon Samuels – 103 v England at St. George’s, Grenada

Well, Marlon, thanks a bunch. 103. When was the last time we had one of those? Oh yes. About five days before you did one. See Jason Holder (#12). So read that post for some of the statistical quirks surround 103s in test cricket, which, when Marlon did it, was the 121st time in test cricket. There have been two 103s closer together, and quite recently (2011). Rahul Dravid made 103 not out on the Saturday, and Matt Prior on the Sunday of the first test at Lord’s. Both were undefeated (I went to Day 5 of that game and got very excited about it – but then I’m not a real fan). On a personal note, this not real fan spent not real money to see a 103 made against England. This one was by Michael Hussey in Perth in 2006. The remainder of that day, when Adam Gilchrist went off, is the stuff of legend (because I missed it, of course….)

So as there were two other tons made in this test, and both were higher scores, the ground record section will be taken then. This leaves me with a Marlon Samuels perspective for the rest of this piece. Wish me luck…

This was Samuels 7th century in tests. Looking at the seven we see something pretty striking. He has a DBTA (Dmitri Big Ton Average, worked out as if you assume the player is on 0 when he makes 100 and then take his batting average from then) of 30.43. Not brilliant, but not disastrous. This is because it is distorted, Ian Bell-like (hmmm) by a massive score against Bangladesh of 260. The fact is that in four of Samuels scores over 100, he hasn’t made it to 110.

This was just Marlon’s second test hundred at a home venue (he has one at Kingston), and was his second against England. He has two test hundreds in South Africa, which really betrays how his talent is not matched by his stats. Not sure how I can work it out on Statsguru, but there have been 12 1/2 years between century #1 and century #7 for Marlon.

Marlon Samuels century came up in 226 balls with 14 x 4.

Godfather

You may have come here in error – Twitter playing havoc. For the Death of A Gentleman review click here – https://collythorpe.wordpress.com/2015/08/10/death-of-a-gentleman-2/

Or read below…..

We should really have known.

There’s a statement made about NFL players scoring a Touchdown. “When you get into the end zone, act like you’ve been there before”. I think a lot of England fans, and that’s what they are, even if they disagree with me, need to keep that in mind. Sure, celebrate your victories and enjoy them, but don’t get carried away. Act like we’ve been there before. Act like this isn’t a vindication.

I’m happy to heap praise on England for creating an opening and then ruthlessly exploiting it. Hurrah!  Jimmy Anderson pressed the “on” button, got the vital wickets with the new ball, and then let the situation and the pressure do the rest. Busting down the door on a wicket completely condemned as a dead loss (because these same bowlers did not come up to those standards in previous new ball spells, which is going to be forgotten now) was very good to see. Contrary to what those who criticise us think, I enjoyed watching us do that. What I won’t do is get carried away.

There’s something in the English sporting spirit that makes us over-react to victories. It’s the reason we never completely dominate anything for any length of time. While we seem remarkably satisfied with winning the 2005 and 2010/11 Ashes, the fact both of these were followed by total humiliation not long after summed up a lot of our England sporting psyche. I mean, seriously, how do you think Australia would have greeted this win against the 8th rated side in the world? Sure, they’d go on a little, but many would say “how the hell did we need a brilliant session to beat these guys?”

I’m one for parallels with history, and this looks and smells like Spring 2008. England had lost a shocking match to New Zealand at Hamilton, getting turned over for a small total in the 1st Test, and people had the knives out for the captain (Vaughan) and the coach (Moores). Then we won a scrappy test at Wellington on the back of a Tim Ambrose century, and went on to win at Napier as KP bailed us out on day one, and Strauss made his career best in the second. No-one went overboard over those expected victories, because coming up were sterner tests. When we lost the big home series to South Africa, the writing was on the wall for the nightmares to follow. Wellington wasn’t a new dawn, just a false one.

Let me turn to the reaction once more, and I’ll probably start with a reply to a comment below:

You know I was mad at Yossarian’s post in the week and some questioned why I should be. I’m glad I saw BTL because it proved I’m totally right to feel as I do. I’ll pick up on what those who have called people “not real fans” all I like because (and to sound childish) they started it. I’m not having any person question my fandom to the England cricket team. I went on a whitewash in 2006/7 and fronted up and pushed our corner in a foreign land. I went to South Africa. I’ve been to tests in England for many many years, often losing years. I’ve been a county member for many years. You question whether I’m a real fan? Excuse my French but Fuck Off.

If I weren’t a real fan, I’d have left. I’d have not bothered writing a blog nearly every day for a year. I don’t question your status, do not have the absloute front to question mine, and those who come on this blog. Who made you the sole arbiters of fandom? Do one. You don’t get to choose how I follow my team.

That should do it…..

You are not a real fan unless you over-react totally to this win and tell the world that Jimmy Anderson is absolutely amazing (is he a bowler of great spells, rather than a great bowler? To throw that cack back at them) and that Alastair Cook is now a very good captain in good form. If you can’t celebrate this win, what’s up with you?

We’ve beaten the 8th ranked team in the world, without their best quick bowler, and a frail batting line-up having wasted the advantage given us to a large degree on the 1st day. If this was a flawless, ruthless demolition over four days on a good deck, I’d be encouraged. But this was won because of an inspired performance on Day 5. The thing with inspired performances is that by and large, they don’t happen often. You can’t rely on them.

I was very happy with the win last night, but knew this was coming. I despair of the lack of nuanced thought. I’m not going to like Alastair Cook any more for it, but nor am I going to say he was rubbish. I’d just point out that there’s a mighty old elephant in the room if we’re celebrating 70s and cosy little 50 not outs (after the shine went off the new ball, this was no more than a net, albeit one played with some little initial pressure on it) as him being in good form, I recall him being in really decent nick when he reeled off three centuries on the bounce in India or three in five in Australia, including doubles and big tons. You are the ones clutching at straws, not me.

I knew what was coming, so I watched The Godfather for the first time. I might want to make some of those who call me “not a real fan” an offer they can’t refuse.

Horticulture

Well good day all.

Feeling a little better, with a bit more energy today. Absolutely zonked for the last 36 hours, but I’m made of resilient stock. I think.

I’m more certain of my resilience when I have to listen to numerous hours of the Moores-Cook In House TV Channel and embedded media as I did yesterday. It’s quite rare for me to watch a whole day’s play of a tour test match, and yesterday offerered me the opportunity (although I did doze throughout the day). Good grief, what’s happened to them?

The early part of the day was dominated by the Joe Root love-in. Now, fair enough, Joe made an excellent hundred befitting his talent and ability, and more importantly, his temperament. He’s a great player in the making, and is doing what a good batsman should do against bowling attacks like the one is he up against. He should be giving the impression when he walks out that “I’m in form, and the only way you get me out is I make a mistake. You ain’t good enough to get me out.” He is giving off that impression. At this point, of course there were two things really missing from the love-fest from all the team (alongside the love-fest for Bell for his 143 and Ballance for his 122 in the last test):

  • The wicket was a slow one, and you needed to be a decent player to make a ton at a decent rate on it; and
  • If this wicket was such a belter, how come our great line-up had just one ton to its name on it. Most notably, the captain (there, I said it).

The tone had switched by the evening session when players who have made runs in test cricket, like Kraigg Brathwaite (a hundred in South Africa last winter – I’ll bet Botham, for one, never had a clue prior to being told this fact by his scorer/analyst), Darren Bravo (big hundred in India to his name, for one) and Marlon Samuels (100 in difficult conditions early on in this test) made batting look easy, and getting them out hard. Now this wasn’t anyone else’s fault other than the groundsman / cricket authorities for laying on this wicket.

Now don’t confuse this pitch with a great test wicket. But I’d guess the commentators know about as much about pitch preparation as many of them do about the home team’s international playing records. This isn’t St. John’s Rec we are playing on, with 700 playing 700. The home team’s batsmen are allowed to play well. It isn’t against the laws of cricket. As Vian keeps saying, we blew this test in the 1st innings, not this one. This isn’t the allowed narrative, as we found out….

So what we had was Alastair Cook doing what all competent captains should do, and he did it competently. No more. This wasn’t “excellent” captaincy. It was decent. He tried things, but the excellent ones have them come off, whereas the competent ones are those that have tried. I’m not having a pop at Cook here, because it’s not his fault his bowling attack is limited, and especially that he’s been thrown a spinner who has had a side injury and is expected to be better than he’s been. You can only use what is at your disposal. Broad was guff, Anderson has been a disappointment, and Jordan is the bowler us Surrey fans saw a few years ago. Stokes is always going to be inconsistent.

So we had an issue. Clearly we can’t have the TV saying a major reason a tired performance from our bowlers was due to the insanity of back-to-back tests on hard graft wickets. That’s absolutely not on, because it’s like this due to TV schedulers in the main, and this series is being ludicrously shoe-horned as part of our “11 out of 17 wins year of cricket”. So we have the TV and press tripping over themselves to absolve the team of blame, pouring scorn on the “mediocre” jibe by Graves, and telling us time and time and time and time and time and time and time and time and time and time….again that this pitch is “flat”.

A regular tweeter in opposite view to many of those expressed in this parish said that Nasser had said Cook had captained excellently, so that will do for him. But even Nas has been at the Kool-Aid on this one. While he pointed out, very astutely in my view, that Moeen Ali’s over-hyping last summer may have been a little premature, he then said Cook had done nothing wrong, and had been excellent. The fact that they need to keep telling us this is a sign indeed, as another poster here or on Twitter has been saying here. Cook’s need, whether explicit or implicit, for positive reinforcement betrays the problem. No-one thinks his captaincy is going to create something out of nothing if has little to work with.

The other clear implication is that this has to be a dead wicket because Kraigg Brathwaite (who has copped some good ones, and got sorted out by a short ball) has made a hundred. Anyone following West Indian test cricket in the recent past knows this guy is made of the right stuff. His technique is quite individual (yet to be convinced of the Dravid comparison, fellow author) but he has temperament and ability, and he showed it. So once we had the rather perfunctory mentions of Brathwaite batting well (Gower’s line of questioning of how proud was he of scoring a century against England in particular struck me as borderline arrogant – he’s got one against a far better attack) it was back to the wicket.

Test cricket is hard. It’s meant to be tough to get wickets. We got 291 runs in the day, which isn’t bad, especially when one side its trying to save the match. Our attack has never been as good as the media portrayed (it is the reason that our two top pace men average 30-ish) and it’s main spinner is having a major off day. This pitch only became a terrible one, responsible for the match situation once Brathwaite had made the ton that, frankly, Alastair Cook failed to complete when he had the chance. Because, to say this pitch is a road, in which you can’t get anyone out on, let’s the real cat out of the bag. The Alastair Cook who made the likes of 294 or 235 on pitches like this, didn’t this time. I have the whole of that Brisbane test in my archives, for one, and you don’t hear about how bad that wicket was anywhere near as much as you did yesterday. There’s the rub. A test wicket only appears terrible when we can’t take wickets on it.