2015 Test Century Watch – #32 – Kaushal Silva

bhagya-and-kaushal-55

Kaushal Silva – 125 v Pakistan at Galle

In his 17th test match Kaushal Silva scored his second test hundred, his second highest test score, his highest score in Sri Lanka in tests, and without him Sri Lanka would have been in even bigger trouble than they ended up. It wasn’t a quick ton, but welcome nonetheless.

I expected 125 to be a pretty dull century watch, but it isn’t really. For instance, Silva is the first man to be dismissed on 125 in 7 years. The previous one was Thilan Samraweera, who made the score against the West Indies in Port of Spain. You expect this sort of score to be made much more frequently. This was the 36th instance of 125, with the last one being an unbeaten innings by Marcus North in 2009. Anyone remember that one at Cardiff. How topical….

Have you seen a 125, Dmitri? Nope. Just seven have been made since 2000 (1999 was a bumber year with three) and none in tests I’ve been at. Some notable 125s? Mike Atherton almost certainly has the slowest, with his monolithic effort in Karachi in December 2000, that , if I recall correctly one prominent cricket journalist berated for its sheer obduracy. We ended up winning that game. Ah, the press (now if only I can remember who it was without delving into old Wisdens). I remember watching Greg Blewett’s 125 at Edgbaston in 1997, when he and Taylor were starting to make a 350 run lead look vulnerable.

Desmond Haynes is the only man to make two scores of 125 in tests. One was at The Oval in the Blackwash series after he had a pretty raw time of it while all else about him was carnage, and the other was in his test dotage in 1993 against Pakistan in Bridgetown. I think Bourda, Georgetown is the only venue that has seen three scores of 125.

The first 125, and I always try to do the first of each score, was also, surprisingly, very late on in test cricket. The scorer of it was by Pieter van der Bijl in a rather famous test match played at Kingsmead, Durban in March 1939. This was, of course, the famous timeless test, when England were set the mere total of 696 to win a test, and had to leave the scene on 654/4 because their boat was sailing home. Van der Bijl’s innings of 125 was made in the first dig, when the hosts made 530 in a mere 202 overs – and these were 8 ball overs! England responded with 316, and instead of enforcing the follow on, the hosts piled on another 481 runs, at a better pace, with van der Bijl making another 97.

There is, bizarrely, a cricinfo report of this hundred!

To finish off, this was the 42nd century made by a Sri Lankan against Pakistan. This score places him 24th overall, the third highest at Galle in this match-up and the 12th highest in Sri Lanka. Sangakkara holds most of the records, so we’ll leave him to it. Except the highest score in tests between these two teams – Sanath Jayasuriya leads the way on that with 253 in Faisalabad in 2004. It’s the 226th century by a Sri Lankan in tests. It was the 53rd test century made at Galle.

Kaushal Silva’s century came up in 261 balls with 15 x 4.

2015 Test Century Watch – #31 – Steve Smith

steve-smith_1sf5t1glu2e9j1v73issyo604sSteve Smith – 199 v West Indies at Sabina Park, Kingston, Jamaica

Let’s get stuck into this meaty little innings played at a venue with a long history of test cricket. A recipe for some severe stat-mining, let alone the symbolic nature of the score alone.

This was the 91st century made at Sabina Park. Steve Smith became the first person to pass 163 and not make it all the way to his double hundred at this venue. That 163 was made by Roy Fredericks in 1972. 15 double hundreds (including two triples), so Smith slots in at #16. One boundary hit and he would have moved past two Aussie legends to become the innings record holder for his country at Sabina Park. Steve Waugh’s 200 in the series clinching win in 1995, and if it had been a six, Neil Harvey’s 204 in 1955 would have been shunted down to the minor placings. The highest score by a non-West Indian at Kingston is Andrew Sandham, and we’ve mentioned him before in Century Watch.

Only one player with three initials (SPD Smith) has made a higher score at Kingston in tests. Sir FMM Worrell was his name. Reasonable player. The two with just one initial to do it were both English. A Sandham and L Hutton.

This was Smith’s highest score in test cricket beating his 192 in the Boxing Day test against India just six months ago. It is his third score of 150 or above in seven months. No wonder he is world #1 at the moment. It was his first test hundred batting at #3 in the order. He now has 9 test hundreds.

So to 199. I’ve not seen one. I saw Vaughan get out in the 190s, and saw Hayden get out for 197 at Brisbane, so been close. This was the 75th score of between 190 and 199 in tests, and the list of those to make two scores in the 190s is as follows.

  • Mohammed Azharuddin – 199 and 192
  • Ian Chappell – 196 and 192
  • Rahul Dravid – 190 and 191
  • Herschelle Gibbs – 196 and 192
  • Brian Lara – 191 and 196
  • Mohammad Hafeez – 196 and 197
  • Mohammad Yousuf – 192 and 191
  • Ricky Ponting – 197 and 196
  • Sachin Tendulkar – 193 and 194*
  • Marcus Trescothick – 194 and 193
  • Michael Vaughan – 197 and 195 (in the space of four or so weeks)
  • Everton Weekes – 194 and 197
  • Frank Worrell – 191* (carried his bat) and 197* (captain declared on him – man, look at the scorecard.)
  • Younis Khan – 199 and 194
  • Steve Smith – 192 and 199

And with three scores in the 190s…

  • Kumar Sangakkara – 192, 199* and 192

That’s quite a list to be in.

So to the 199 score. This was the tenth in test cricket history. The first was made in 1984 by Mudassar Nazar for Pakistan against India in Faisalabad. This was in a turgid test series between the two rivals where a result never seemed on the cards. In this particular match, India made 500, and Pakistan replied with 674/6, and then everyone went home. Qasim Omar made a double hundred, and Mudassar was caught behind off the spin of Shivlal Yadav. The other eight 199s were made as follows.

  • Andy Flower v South Africa at Harare 2001 – not out
  • Kumar Sangakkara v Pakistan at Galle 2012 – not out
  • Mohammed Azharuddin v Sri Lanka at Kanpur 1986 – LBW Ratnayeke
  • Matthew Elliott v England at Headingley 1997 – Bowled Gough
  • Sanath Jayasuriya v India at Colombo SSC 1997 – Bowled Kuruvilla
  • Steve Waugh v West Indies at Bridgetown 1999 – LBW Perry
  • Younis Khan v India at Lahore 2006 – Run Out
  • Ian Bell v South Africa at Lord’s 2008 – Caught and Bowled Harris
  • Steve Smith v West Indies at Kingston 2015 – LBW Taylor

So three LBWs, two bowled, one caught and bowled, one run out, one caught behind and two not outs. Of those above, just Azharuddin and Elliott finished their careers without making a test double.

This was the 110th hundred by an Australian against the West Indies, and places him 10th equal with Steve Waugh. Australia are four away from their 800th century in test cricket. Smith’s 199, to put it into context, places him 68th=. Compared to England, where 199 (Ian Bell) places him 53rd (in 829 test centuries). Ian Bell has the 800th test century for England – 116* in the tedious Nagpur test in 2012 had that honour. I’m digressing!

Steve Smith’s 199 came up in 361 balls with 21 x 4 and 2 x 6 – his hundred came up in 200 balls with 13 x 4 and 2 x 6.

Ashes Panel #002 – Cook, Smith, KP and Memories

australia-celebrate-the-ashes-whitewash_10piscrajeyf61qj64a1ovgr5r (2)

Mainly decent reactions thus far to the first Ashes panel, so the pressure is on for me to keep up the questions. I’m sorry, but I lapsed with question 5, and one of my respondents wrote a wonderful piece on it which I will produce at the end.

So, we have, in no particular order for this panel, Andy In Brum, a legendary Twitter presence and lover of our press @AndyinBrum; Mr Steven Melford, another Twitter follower and occasional poster @drmelf; Keen retweeter and technician extraordinaire, @pgpchappers , better known as Philip Chapman (usually the first to retweet my posts), and cricketjon, who posts here quite regularly and has stood up to the task. I’m waiting on one more, and if they get back to me, I’ll add it on.

The rules are four out of five of you respond, I put it up, and the next batch of questions will be out to the third round of panelists towards the end of the week.

Reminder – Ashes Panel #001 can be found here – with PaulE’s new answers added in!

So, here are the questions and the responses…

1. Many are saying we are riding a crest of a wave after the ODI series. Do you feel it out there? Does it compare to 2005?
Andy – No, the ODI side is so different in personnel, attitude & captaincy that they’re completely separate. Also the 2005 ODI series was against the Aussies, this one wasn’t, so I’m not sure how it’s relevant. Also 2005 came off a fantastic 2004 & winter tour against South Africa. This time we’ve had a fucking awful start to 2014, an ok middle & a fuck awful end, we’ve only managed to draw with NZ this year. 2005 had a pack of excellent quicks, good batting & a captain who knew their players, trusted them & knew how to win games.
DrMelf – When you’re on holiday at the seaside for a fortnight, and it’s been pissing down for 13 days, a small break in the clouds will always be exciting. The ODI series showed what we are capable of and it was great for fans. However, I am worried there are too many ‘old guard’ in the test team to embrace a new mentality.  I hope Bayliss & Farbrace can push the guys to rediscover their fire. Compared to 2005?  It feels like the enemy is ourself as much as it’s Australia. If we are two down after the first couple of tests I expect big changes.

PCTo be honest no it doesn’t compare to 2005. We haven’t just beaten SA and the Windies away and the team is nothing like as established. We are also not playing against one of the greatest ever teams. My view is that the England team now doesn’t have the strength of personality of the 2005 team and as a mentally weaker team are more likely to mirror the opposition behaviour than have the ability to set the tone themselves. With that in mind I don’t think it in anyway compares to 05, personally. The fantastic New Zealand attitude rubbed off on this England team in the one day series especially and, if that continues, then wonderful we are in for a treat. Not likely though. Also remember we were outplayed in the second test.

 
However we are in a hugely different places to where we were after the world cup so that is good news. If we have a big start in Cardiff then it might be interesting – although I think the Balmy Army may have to sing Land of my Fathers rather than Jerusalem to start the day. Realistically, I don’t think we have enough to beat the Australians.
 
Looking back to ’05 the other key difference is that hardly anyone will be able to watch it, the kids will be worrying about their teams football transfers and they won’t know or care who Ben Stokes is as it isn’t on free tv or covered that well by the mainstream channels. That is a bit more bah humbug than it was meant to be!

Cricketjon – I do not think this is like 2005 at all. Back then we hadn’t played them since the difficult winter of 2002/3 and the team had moved on considerably in the period between 2002/3 and 2005. We had, at least, experienced a Sydney Test which was the first one without Warne and McGrath in several years and won due to some quality batting from Vaughan in the third inns of the match and a swansong from Caddick on a dying pitch. in the 2.5 years that followed, the captain had changed and a fit, available and increasingly experienced bowling line up had grouped together with much success.  Dare I say it, KP had added some venom to a reasonable batting line up.

In that era there wasn’t a lot between the composition of the ODI team and the Test team. The ODIs were an appetiser to the main event and quite a good one although the cynically scheduled NatWest Challenge served to fill the pockets of the peeps in charge ( a sign of things to come?) On this occasion, the make up of the teams is different as is the captain though we had to burn some fuel for such separation to take place. The 2015 World Cup was the crystallisation of the chaos that ensued before and in a similar way to 1996 we have new thinking in Planet ODI ( observe inclusion of Neil Smith as pinch hitter at 3 against India in seaming conditions in May 1996 as a knee jerk reaction to Jayasariya and Kalithawana in dry conditions two months earlier). The recent announced ICC regulations will reset the dial and provides another opportunity for England to assess how to play to those regulations notwithstanding that applies to all other teams as well.
In short there may be some carry over of “intent”, “euphoria” and “bonding” but there’s no credible way of arguing otherwise that the teams and captain differ greatly. If England do play well ( and they might) it is less likely to be down to the warm gloss painted by the ODI players no matter what is reported afterwards. Little is reported of what Dermot Reeve advised them in his one day assignment but the hell for leather performance cannot be entirely coincidental. The rewiring spoke of is of a different nature for Tests.
———————————————————————————————-
2. Alastair Cook is seen as a key man for England, and he does appear back to some good form. How do you think he’ll go in this series?
Andy – Batting wise I’ve no idea, hopefully well, he’s looked like he remembers how to hold the bat, is still & scored runs, last year he didn’t. Captaincy wise, a burning paper bag full of dog shit could do better.
Dr.Melf – There’s no question that Cook(y) is looking better with the bat than any time in the last two years. We need his runs, so I hope he does well. However, Australia will clearly target both his batting and his captaincy. If they get to him and he personally starts the series badly? I think he will be a huge liability. As an individual he has strength but I think he lacks the aggression we need to bag this series.

PCI believe he has already agreed to step down after the summer if the team looses, so won’t be under any personal pressure to succeed as captain. That will be to his benefit. His form is good. His technique is looking stronger than it has for ages so he is in a good place. His hip alignment is much better, hence his impact, really good to see, but I have no idea why it has taken so long to sort.

With Harris looking unlikely to start the first game and him being a good player of the quick stuff, he should do well, an attack of Johnson, Starc and Hazelwood may not be as intimidating as Harris, Siddle and Johnson at their peaks, as it was in Aus last time. Cook (and the rest of the batsmen) will certainly benefit from not having the accuracy of Siddle and Harris thundering in at him. Cook’s Ashes record is mixed and it is time for that to change.
Cricketjon It is instructive he is in good form and telling that he had to venture outside of the bubble to make the changes to his game. The Australians will target him and have a better chance of frustrating him than the West Indies or New Zealand. Australia’s availability of a quality first change bowler will be the reason. How he overcomes that is both a matter for him and a matter of fortitude. His record is excellent against average attacks and less so against the quality attacks so much rests on him setting a precedent. All this with the pressures of captaincy. We shall know even more about him come the end of August than we do now and yet we have learned much in the last 18 months.
—————————————————————————————————–
3. Stuart Broad has been clear in thinking that Steve Smith at number three might be a vulnerability. Do you think he is right?
Andy – Yes, get to him early with a swinging ball of course he’ll be vulnerable. Not that I have anyfaith that broad or Jimmy will pitch it up in the stumps to get any swing.
Dr.Melf – This has been a big problem position for Australia in recent times. On paper you’d agree with Broad(y) which is why England historically would never make this gamble. But Smith looks a like the kind of guy who loves proving people wrong, so I think he’ll rise to the occasion. He will be helped if Warner has a great series.

PCNo.

I think Smith’s technique is fine and we don’t play on uncovered wickets any more, we play on low, slow roads. His form is not a fluke it is a sustained period of excellence. Smith will score runs. If Rogers and Warner get a few starts it will be very messy for England. To be honest I would move Root to 3 to relieve Ballance of the pressure and to get his impetus into the top order, which would be a similar move to Smith batting at 3. But not many agree with me on that!!
Cricketjon – The media have pages and screens to fill and rent a quote Broad isn’t going to deviate too far from his tape on a loop monosyllabic responses. Number 3 is clearly more challenging than lower down the order and Warner may give him cause to test his skills early on. He looks like someone to me for whom (from an ugly stance) everything comes together perfectly at the split second it needs to. I do not know whether Broad is right or not but sides do have this habit of sending in their best player into a difficult position. To answer the point a different way, I wouldn’t want us sending Root in at 3 this summer, the burden is on Australia to demonstrate why they think this benefits the endgame at the expense of every other option.
————————————————————————————————-
4. If you’ve been reading the blog, we’ve been walking down memory lane. Give me an Ashes memory….
Andy – Sunday, day 4 of the Oval test 2005, Oz in a strong position with both openers getting tons. Freddy & Hoggard with a fantastic spell to get the last 9 wickets for under a hundred. That spell was as vital in saving the test as KP’S fire works the next day. Plus the Aussie players all wearing sunglasses to pretend it was really bright & all the England fans putting umbrellas up to pretend it was raining. Now that’s banter. Oh and meeting twatto in 2009, a really nice man to random fans.
Dr.Melf – Lunch at my grandparents in 1981 (aged nine). My dad and my grandad cheering as Bob Willis(y) scythed through the Aussies at Headingley. I walked in after his fourth wicket to ask “what’s going on?” My dad replied “something absolutely amazing”.  The oven was turned down and the roast was eaten late. #Hooked (#skatingonthinice – ed.)
PCSydney 2003. England bat first. It is my first Ashes test live and Lee opens the bowling with absolute thunderbolts. The Australian team is without Warne and McGrath, but Gillespie, Lee, Bichel and McGill was more than useful attack to a beleaguered England team! Vaughan was out early nicking off to a ball I can confidently say no other batsman on the planet at that time would have got within a foot of. Butcher walked out at three and batted astonishingly. He ground out a 100 when he could have been out at any time. Hussein got a pair of 70’s and Alex Stewart made runs In the Aussie innings there was the hugely emotional Steve Waugh last ball of the day 100, then we had Vaughan’s match winning second innings 180. An unbelievable innings. Followed up by Caddick’s last appearance for England by bowling out the Aussies. (should get you to write an Ashes Memory on that. ed.)
Oh and Harmison struggled to hit cut strip…
 
A brilliant 5 days and a brilliant holiday!
 
We had lost the ashes, but I was unbeaten in my part of that tour!
Cricketjon – Ashes memory. Hmmm. Sitting inside a damp rented house as a 12 year old with my mother watching ( on free-to-air)  Botham’s 118 at Manchester in 1981. When he was dismissed, the number 3, Tavare ( batting to orders because he was a dasher in the county game) was on 69 not out! My memory is of how dark it was that afternoon both in Birmingham where I watched it and at Old Trafford. For those who see those shots on the recordings now and think ” yeah ok, he was good but so what?” they need to realise that people didn’t play like that in those days. He truly was exceptional. It is fair to say that having top edged Lillee twice into the Old Warwick Road end he was millimetres from an Andy Roberts ball in the mouth repeat. He had no fear and he brightened up a very dark day and dismal rioting Britain ( sorry – don’t do royal weddings).
—————————————————————————————————
5. Let’s go for it. If he were selected, which won’t happen, how do you think Kevin Pietersen would have done?
Andy – If he was fit, a few infuriating 20’s or 30’s & probably a big fuckyou score & a vitally important wicket. But no thanks or appreciation.
Dr. Melf – Kevin loves a good script. Particularly when he’s the romantic lead. He is fit, playing well with a point to prove. I genuinely think he would have “mullered them” this series. I also think it’s a shame that a sport in desperate need of some exciting stories has been denied a fantastic narrative.
PC – The short version….
In short, 3 or 4 50’s and an epic, match winning 100 at some point. Because that is what he does. Also a crass interview with Jonathan Agnew about playing for the team, great to see Rooty batting so well and wanting to get 10,000 test runs. The jumpers aren’t mentioned.

Cricketjon – He would have done ok. A 300 in division two doesn’t make him a genius nor indeed was he disengaged in Sydney ( well no more so than anyone else in the team and that is the critical point, no-one else was demonised for it ). This isn’t about KP anymore because the ECB always continue to supply us with new material but there is no doubt they could have handled the matter  better ( I suppose aplomb is a bit much to ask). His absence means that Root can take over with only a slightly soiled sheet of paper when the time comes as distinct from the reams of pungent toilet roll currently wrapped around Cooks pristine whites. Root can take it forward without the legacy issues, as far as I am concerned, let Cook deal with the legacy of KPgate since he was undoubtedly involved in the shenanigans. What goes around comes around, it’s just a shame for the paying fan.

What I strongly object to is the rewriting of history that ECBTV propagates. The absence of KP in the Billy Joel remix flies in the face of what would have been a 2-2 drawn series in 2005. Lest we forget.
————————————————————————————-
So, many thanks to those who participated. I think this is working thus far, and would love to keep this going as best we can. I’ve always wanted to get you lot writing stuff, and so far, so good. And my god, have we got an ecelctic mix for the third set of questions. We have a poet, an Aussie or two, and a couple of other regulars.
I mentioned Philip’s epic on KP as a long-form answer for number 5. Instead of a separate post, I’ve added it below. Enjoy or wail, your decision.
——————————————————————————————————————
Here is PC’s Long version of the KP question…
An alternative view of a hero/villain’s return [delete as appropriate]
 
After being frustrated by the Welsh rain the Australian team humbled the “new era” England team with a very aggressive brand of cricket at Lord’s. In fact England were really struggling with Bairstow already called up for Jos Buttler whose split webbing had got infected.
 
Gary Ballance at three had made a no impact in Cardiff and made a pair at Lord’s. As the selectors sat down to agree the squad for Edgbaston, a mysterious force comes in and hypnotises the selectors, including Jonathan Agnew who sits in on the meetings so he can tweet the decisions really time.
 
Somehow they agree to select a maverick former player to come back and “rescue” the team, in a selection that harked back to the days of Brian Close. Steven Davies another Surrey player was discussed, but it was felt he “wasn’t quite ready” no one was totally sure what that meant but Aggers assured them it would keep the journalists inside cricket happy and the sages would nod wisely.
 
When the announcement was made on Sky news the following day Shane Warne was interviewed saying “ow look, this is the best think that could have happened”
 
No one was sure what this meant either, but the Guardian cricket columnist suggested foul play. He then wrote a lengthy blog on the retrograde step and how Davies, an openly gay cricketer, was the future, in the “comment is free” section below the “line” there were accusations of click bait, but these were censored. Boycott mentioned something about rhubarb and his mum.
 
Fast forward to the morning of the third test. A fight had broken out in the dressing room, someone had already started kicking off about the new stash and a misspelt name. New hi tech Adidas woolly jumpers were thrown off the balcony and Afrikaans was heard outside the rooms. Paul Farbrace was laughing with Trevor Bayliss and ignoring the fracas. Peter Moores was interviewed about the jumpers and said they should talk later about them, but a lot of scientific stuff had gone into the design – especially so they would look great on kids from the right kind of family. There was absolutely no mention about data, I repeat no mention about the data, even for Sky. The BBC wrote another apology letter.
 
Meanwhile out in the middle Alistair Cook had elected to bat, said some form of waffle to Mark Nicholas about being delighted to have a world class player back in the dressing room and said Root at 3 KP at 4 and Bell back to 5.
 
Piers Morgan had self combusted in his private box and even his wife was said to be relieved. “there were three of us in a very crowded relationship” she was overheard saying by a Mirror correspondent.
 
Back in the middle Alistair Cook had started nicely, but lyth was out early from a snorter by a bowler called Mitchell. The tourists had named a 4 man Mitchell attack, with Lyon for support. Clarke said they had thought of playing Siddle, but he had refused to change his name to Mitchell so it didn’t happen.
 
Just before lunch with England on 69-1 The heroic skipper inside edged a full ball onto the stumps for 27 off 98 balls.
 
There was a hush around the ground.
Cook departed to polite applause, then the booing started. First it was the Aussies in the crowd, then the Yorkshire fans who felt Lees or Rashid should be playing not a past it, cast off Saffer with a didgy knee.
Finally a small portion of the crowd got to their feet and cheered, only to be removed from the ground by Andy Flower and Giles Clarke dressed as the ECB security guards.
 
First ball. The Aussies were on their toes, with a funky field of three midwickets and 4 slips.
 
The new batsman knocked the ball into the leg side and called for the “Redbull” run. Root responded and there was a cloud of dust as the ball broke the stumps as Root leapt for his ground.
 
It goes upstairs.
 
Fortunately Colin Graves had stepped into have a chat with the third umpire and the Yorkshire hero was adjudged to have made his ground.
 
In the sky commentary box Michael “Slats” Slater was incensed, letting out a strange wailing noise through his nose. David Gower was non-plused and Bumble was going nuts about his car and it not starting.  Nobody was watching anyway as the sky coverage had just been put up to £250 a month to pay for the football.
 
Back on the pitch Root and the South African born batsman made it unscathed to lunch.
 
“Honours even, my dear old things” said Blowers to his adoring fans whilst eating some cake in the TMS box.
 
After lunch Root started playing well and moved to a nice fifty with a cover drive. Ed Smith suggested he looked like Michael Vaughan in his pomp. At the other end, the 100 test veteran was strangely becalmed. The online ball by ball commentary suggested he was facing a more hostile environment than he received in his native South Africa for that memorable first ODI series there, after his failures in Zimbabwe.
 
40 mins after lunch there was a crack like a rifle shot which awakened the post lunch slumbering crowd. A split second later the ball was removed from an advertising board. The ECB marketing machine was furious with the batsman for damaging their sponsors logo, who had moved to 40 before anyone had really clocked what had happened. Not that the Waitrose chief executive minded – he was watching at Lords as Edgbaston was too far north for Waitrose.
 
Ruing the decision not to play a left arm spinner, Clarke (who had earlier pulled his hamstring setting a funky field) asked Warner to have a bowl and he promptly got into a fight with Joe Root, who was soon out hooking at Mitchell Johnson.
 
In strutted Ian Bell, showing he was up for the fight all collar popped and positive intent. He knew the Aussies were scared of him.
 
At the other end his partner at the crease raised his bat for a well-crafted and chance-less half century. Bayliss and Farbrace are on the balcony clapping whilst the Skipper doesn’t look up from his hymn book. Broad was too busy tweeting and Jimmy was in the match referee’s office still talking about Ravi Jadaja.
 
After tea it was like the apocalypse had arrived at Edgbaston. Clarke had set the field for a barrage of the short stuff for both Bell and the newly recalled batsman. While Bell bobbed and weaved, fearful that he might get out without playing enough trademark cover drives at the other end, as the Mitchell’s charged in the ball was deposited further and further into the stands.  
 
The crowd was going nuts now and as his 100 came up the ground stood to applaud the returning king – with many saying “he always was a player of great innings, I still don’t think he is a great player though”.
 
At the close of play, England are 331-3, Root with 67, Bell with 48not out and the other player with 158 not out. 
 
James Taylor was seen crying over at Trent Bridge as once again his county runs weren’t enough. 

2015 Test Century Watch – #30 – Murali Vijay

Murali_Vijay_Krishna_Wallpaper_confh_1920x1080

Murali Vijay – 150 v Bangladesh at Fatullah

Second for Murali. Second highest score ever made in tests at Fatullah. Second Indian to make a test hundred at Fatullah. But another in the big ton bracket I like to see, and thus providing some of the more interesting stat work.

I’ve done a fair bit on India in Bangladesh in the Shikhar Dhawan piece, so we can concentrate on this one a bit. This was the 15th century made in Bangladesh by an Indian, and the 4th highest, trailing Sachin, Shikhar and Rahul Dravid (160). It was Vijay’s sixth test match hundred and his third highest, trailing 167 against Australia in Hyderabad, and 153 against Australi in Mohali (once again, in alliance with Dhawan). The lowest of his six hundreds is 139. Impressive DBTA numbers. He has made the fifth century at Fatullah, and this is his fourth country in which he’s made three figures (India, Australia and England the others).

So, Dmitri, any scores of 150 that you’ve seen? I know I’ve seen a 149, but not a 150, I don’t think. But it hasn’t been a long time since the last one… Imrul Kayes did it a month or so ago. As I mentioned the first ever 150 in that post, let’s look at the second ever score of 150 (this is the 31st, by the way)…

The scorer of the first, Jamie Zulch was in 1911, and we had to wait another 41 years before the next. The scorer of it was one of our finest ever players, Len Hutton, against India at Lord’s. England won the match quite comfortably, as India’s modest first innings score of 235 was overwhelmed by Hutton, and then put firmly to bed by Godfrey Evans who made a rapid lower order hundred. Vinoo Mankad, how made 72 in the first innings, followed it up with 184 in the second, but England got home by 8 wickets, with Hutton adding 39 unbeaten runs to his first innings 150.

England owed much to Hutton. Quite early he appreciated that the conditions were unfavourable to slow bowlers and he called for a prolonged effort from his three seamers. The second day was dominated by Hutton, who not only scored 150 but, when he was second out at 264 after batting five and a quarter hours, his side were already 29 runs to the good. It was his first Test century against India and the second hit by an England captain since the war–F. G. Mann scored 136 not out against South Africa at Port Elizabeth in 1949.

At first Hutton was extremely cautious and his mood had a restraining influence on Simpson and May. The two hours before lunch produced only 60 runs, but afterwards Hutton found his most scintillating form. Simpson played a valuable part by staying two and three-quarter hours while the first wicket realised 106–the same as India’s–and then came a brilliant partnership between Hutton and May, who put on 158 in two and a half hours.

As much as I love the memories passed down to be by my dad of Peter May, a man who once made 364 against the Aussies and possessed a superior career doesn’t get in a Sky Ashes song! But David Lloyd being hit in the bollocks does.

Two scores of 150 in the space of six weeks for Kayes and Vijay? Pah. Gary Kirsten and Ricky Ponting made 150s in the same week. Kirsten’s came against Bangladesh in East London (starting on 18 October 2002) and Ricky Ponting’s came against Pakistan in Sharjah (starting on 19 October 2002). Interestingly, both those players have two scores of 150! Kirsten completed his on the 19th, Ponting the 20th.

Murali Vijay’s century came off 201 balls with 10 x 4 and 1 x 6

2015 Test Century Watch – #29 – Shikhar Dhawan

Dhawan Shikhar Dhawan – 173 v Bangladesh at Fatullah I’m well aware I am behind with the centuries, and the aim is to get up to date by the start of the Ashes. So here we have a relatively big ton which conjures up all sorts of potential for statistics. This was the mustachioed maestro’s third test ton, and his second largest, trailing his monstrous 187 on his test debut against Australia in Mohali. OK, it was Bangladesh, OK he was part of a 289 run opening stand, but he has a propensity to go big. A pity he seems not to have a propensity for the moving ball over here (ducks from Indian flak). This was the 14th test hundred made by an Indian against Bangladesh and the second highest. He trails Sachin Tendulkar’s 248* made in Dhaka in 2004 by a fair distance. Sachin has five of those 14 (15 if you include Vijay’s) and, of course, every single one of those 14/15 tons has been made in Bangladesh. Being India’s first test at Fatullah, Dhawan holds the Indian record there, but also the stadium record which he took from Adam Gilchrist who made 144 in a test where he famously pulled that great Aussie team’s arse out of the fire and kept them in a game they were being smashed in. So, Dmitri, how about a 173 in your collection? Well, I doubt it. I have a 175 and a 177, but not, to my knowledge, a 173. There is a famous 173, though, that all Englishmen recall fondly, and I remarked briefly about it in my Ashes memory of 2001. Mark Butcher’s crowning glory at Headingley in that year was the last unbeaten 173. There have been seventeen scores of 173 in tests, with the last by Virender Sehwag in 2010 against New Zealand. Viru has another score of 173 in his locker, making him the only man to make the score twice (the other against Pakistan in Mohali). Leeds, Lahore and Auckland have all seen two scores of 173. There is one particularly remarkable achievement in those 173s, and it belongs to a popular commentator who made that score batting at number NINE. Ian Smith did this at Auckland in 1990, undoubtedly also the fastest in terms of balls (136) for that score, and one of the top 100 innings in SimonH’s list earlier! The first 173 was made back in 1894 (well 151 of them were, the remainder were in 1895) by Andrew Stoddart of England against Australia in Melbourne. Once again with these feats, there seems to be something totally mad about the matches they took place in. In this case, on the opening day, England were bowled out for a brilliant 75! Stoddart was one of two to make it to double figures. Australia fared a little better, making 123, whereupon Stoddart became the only man in the second innings not to make double figures (by making triple figures). His innings allowed England to score 475, the Aussies followed with 333 and England went 2-0 up in the series. It seemed the first innings shenanigans were the result of a classic sticky:

The second of the test matches resulted in a well-earned win for the Englishmen by 94 runs. On the opening day the wicket was in a very bad state from the recent rain, and George Giffen, on winning the toss, put England into bat. His policy proved a wise one, the innings being finished off in two hours for a total of 75. The wicket had considerably improved when Australia went in, but Richardson bowled so finely that before the end of the afternoon the eleven were all out for 123, or only 48 to the good. A dry Sunday allowed the ground to thoroughly recover itself, and the Englishmen in their second innings batted under the most favourable conditions. It was not until the fourth day’s cricket was well advanced that they were got rid of, the total reaching 475. Mr. Stoddart, risking nothing, played a great game for his side, his innings of 173 lasting five hours andn twenty minutes. Australia wanted 428 to win, and when on the fourth day 190 went up with only one wicket down, the chances seemed against the Englishmen. Brockwell’s bowling, however, brought about a sudden change, and with several batsmen failing, the score for nine wickets was only 268. It then seemed as though the match would soon be over, but Iredale and turner added 60 runs together and played out time. On the fifth morning however, the end came in the second over, Iredale being bowled by Peel.

Stoddart was England’s captain, and it seems, quite a live-wire..

 In 1886 he scored a world record 485 in 370 minutes for Hampstead against Stoics, all after spending the entire night before the game playing poker. But even then the indefatigable Soddart wasn’t tired – he spent the rest of the afternoon playing tennis and finished off with a dinner party in the evening.

There was a sad ending for Stoddart who, in declining health at age 52, took his own life. But he had a decent old career, and played rugby for England too. He was the first captain to insert the Aussies, and the first to declare an innings. A daring spirit, maybe…

There’s also something else about him, that maybe ole Shikhar might admire too…. Stoddart Shikhar Dhawan’s hundred came up in a mere 101 balls, with 16 x 4. In total he took 195 balls and hit 23 x 4

Ashes Panel #001 – Sledging, Scheduling, Sentimentalism, Sky

Welcome to a new idea, which I hope will work. TLG and I will come up with five (could be more, could be less) questions and selected volunteers (and I might try some of the regulars who didn’t) will answer them. It’s a format blatantly copied from the Daily Mail, but with bilious inadequates rather than professional writers and broadcasters. I’m grateful for all volunteers.

I will wait for the first four responses, and it would be great if you could turn any answers around in 48 hours if you are requested (and let me know if you can’t as I have plenty of volunteers).

Let me introduce the panel for the first of these – we have stalwarts Keyser Chris (@keyserchris), our resident Yorkie, metatone, @EoinJPMorgan on Twitter (known as Hillel) and our reasonably infrequent, but very welcome to be here OscardeBosca. We are waiting on one more (our man in Finland) and will add his answers when they arrive. He did warn me of internet problems in advance. UPDATE – I’ve added PaulE’s comments, so all five are now here.

A second set of panel questions will be e-mailed tonight. TLG and I might even answer them ourselves.

As I say, I hope it works.

1. What do the Ashes mean to you?
KC – The Ashes for me started as a legend, specifically Beefy at Headingley. I was only 5 at the time so didn’t experience it, but as I grew up later watching what seemed like endless summers of TMS, Richie on the telly, Viv Richards, Windies bowling & Gatting/Gower/Gooch, it was always there in discussions. But it came alive for me with the Warne ball. I had never seen anything like it, and it was the portent of pain up until 2005. God, ’05 was GOOD! The Ashes is generally expected pain at the hands of a gritty Border or Waugh, with intermittent huge highs, 2010/11 particularly (I was at Adelaide in 2006 and 2010 – yin and yang indeed).
OdB – There is a lot to admire about Australians and their attitude to life and sport.  It’s why beating them at cricket is satisfying.  I was 9 in 1981 and didn’t really get cricket, 86/87 was when I have vivid memories of my dad telling me we’d won when I was waking up for school.  So then fast-forward to 2005 having got into cricket post 87 and I really, really wanted to beat the Aussies and 2004 showed me we had the team to do it.  I have loved the past 10 years even though it included two away whitewashes as we have beaten the Aussies at home.  For me it should be the epitome of test cricket and it is the one team I want to beat.  Hayden epitomises the Australian cricketer i want to beat (and potentially see cry 😀) not enough of the current lot have an element of Hayden about them (Warner excepted) which is unfortunate.  I like some of them (such as Harris and Lyon) and I feel dirty saying it.
Metatone – When I was young, the big Test was the West Indies. Greenidge and Haynes, Richards, Marshall, Ambrose and Patterson all stick in my mind. And (biographical alert!) my Dad is Indian, so India and Pakistan loomed large. When you get down to it, the Ashes were just another series at first. There was a mythology about Botham and 1981, but I was only 6 at the time. Then came 1989… The Ashes became a ritual reminder of how low England cricket had sunk. There’s an irony that in some ways I didn’t really notice how good the Aussies were (the new dominant team across the world) because I knew how bad we were. 2005 was a joy not just because of victory, but because we’d turned a corner, we were no longer inept.
Hillel – Like most English fans, my interest in cricket was sparked by the Ashes. Specifically, my epiphany came in 2009 when I wandered off from the physical exertion of tennis camp (don’t ask) to find solace in the wicket-taking antics of Stuart Broad. In fact, I even managed to maintain from 2009 to 2011 that I was a cricket fan who “only followed the Ashes”, before I too was eventually sucked in to the spiralling vortex of hipster cricket, attending county out-ground fixtures and desperately refreshing live scorecards of affiliate T20 games. To me, the Ashes are not simply another Test series but a cultural outpost which England and Australia share. The competition is as old as modern cricket itself, and unrivalled by any perhaps besides that of India/Pakistan. Whilst there remains a certain magic to the country becoming enchanted with the Ashes every couple of years, I am always reminded by the specialness of the contest when chancing upon a random Australian abroad, and without hesitation jumping into an in-depth Ashes discussion as if we’d been buddies for years.
PE – The Ashes means different things at different times. It means of course, victory and defeat, and gloating rights. It means heroic narratives; Botham and Brearley, Bob Willis and Graham Dilley, David Gower in the sunshine and Allan Border kicking back. But most of all it means 2005 and a nation briefly at peace with itself: positive, comfortable and progressive, it felt like the nation and the cricket team were as one, ready to embrace the future. Bliss was it in that dawn to be alive, But to be (relatively) young was very heaven! Sadly it wasn’t to last, and England as a nation and a cricket team hasn’t been as likeable since.
 
2. We all agree (say if you don’t) that three series in two years is overkill, but do you think this is damaging the brand that is the Ashes?
KC I had no problem with back to back series, the one-off idea really excited me & separating it from the WC is still essentially good. And there is precedent. This series though is the one I don’t like, blatant filler even pre-ICC stitch up. Should stick to its cycle from now on. Not optimistic though…
OdB – the ashes test series should be the epitome of test cricket, but there has been too much if it.  It now feels that Eng v SA or Eng v Pakistan is now a more important/interesting series, and that is due to its scarcity.  The ECB has milked this goose.  I went to Edgbaston to watch the Ashes in 2001 and my ticket was £28 for the Eric Hollies stand.  The same ticket for 2015 has cost me £81, now I may be wrong but I don’t remember 9-10% inflation over the past 14 years.  The lack of free to air coverage and the rising costs mean that whilst I will continue to go and watch test cricket in England, it will be an older and older audience watching and the younger audiences won’t be interested in the game.
Metatone – It’s not all the scheduling (the ECB has done plenty else to put those “outside cricket” off) but I’m basically bored of playing Australia. I’m much more looking forward to the SA and Pakistan series. Of course, a close series could reignite some enthusiasm. Part of the problem has been that since 2009 things have been rather lop-sided. Still, familiarity has left me jaded and yes, the media hoopla around the Ashes now rings hollow. I don’t think the damage is permanent, if we get back to a proper schedule – but right now it is hard to get excited.
Hillel – People tend to forget the enormous benefit of playing the Ashes with such frequency, inasmuch as it allows a narrative to be constructed. Usually the length of time between one Test series and another is so long that it virtually disconnects the two from each other. The beauty of the Ashes being played every two years is that we can remember the last and the anguish or triumph it brought. All of the vendettas, the rivalries, and the storylines that surround individual players exist because the Ashes are played so often. We would not have witnessed the complete evolution of Ricky Ponting, Michael Clarke or Mitchell Johnson if the Ashes were played more sporadically. It is also worth pointing out the majority of the British public only witness the Ashes every four years, for it is only the diehards who are prepared to risk the cycle of poverty initiated by being caught napping at work. Whilst the last few years have brought us more exposure to the Aussies than is recommended in a lifetime, normal service of England’s most popular cricket competition will resume, bringing the Ashes frequently enough to be brilliant, and yet infrequently enough to avoid devaluing the contest.
PE – Not the ‘b’ word again! Yes and no. The real damage was done in 2013 when the venal ECB and it’s draconian coach demanded far too much of the players. All the reports say that the England camp was in a good place until around 2011. The ECB and Andy Flower damaged England’s ‘brand’ more than any Ashes series.
 
3. Do you think the media are making too much of this sledging issue? Do you see it as a psychological ploy to get under the skin of the Aussies?
KC – I’m not sure. Aussies sledging is not news. England it seems we’re worse than I thought at it, hadn’t realised how bad their rep was. Agnew using the Hughes speech against Clarke was contemptible though. Ultimately it’s mostly boorish, but adds some theatre to a series. Though I reserve the right to poke endless fun at Shane Watson.
OdB – It will backfire.  The Aussies don’t give a shit what others think of how they conduct themselves, and Agnew sermonising to Clarke about Hughes is not something I want to hear.  I don’t care about sledging, it goes on, it works for some and not for others.  What I don’t like to see is the moralising that goes on after, especially regarding the ‘spirit’ of cricket.  The ridiculous nonsense regarding whether to walk or not (don’t, the Aussies don’t (when in Rome dear boy)) that became the meme of the last home series, it would appear that until the series start and proper incidents occur, the MSM Ashes preview meme is player behaviour.  When you are paid to write you need something to occupy your pen.
Metatone – Yes, it’s typical media froth. It’s not against the Laws of the game, so the Aussies will continue the way they always do. (I lived for a while in Perth, WA – and if you think they’ll do anything other than play up to the very limit of the laws, you’re a fool.) If it is an ECB ploy, it’s an inept one. (Tautology alert?) If anything it helps build the AU siege mentality. Worth noting that their fast bowlers will be looking to hurt the batsmen – and I’m sure there will be plenty of verbals. The way to respond is to get ahead on the scoreboard. The verbals always start to look silly then.
Hillel It is generally impossible to understand the workings of the British media, and this case is no exception. The tour of an exceptionally pleasant New Zealand team have left the media banging a ridiculous drum of worthless stupidity requesting that the Australians replicate the behaviour of their neighbours, naturally forgetting that such a cause makes no sense whatsoever. Whilst New Zealand are simply an international team with no cause for us to hate, the Ashes brings genuine competition between England and Australia. When an Aussie sledges an Englishman (or South African for that matter), it represents the wider rivalry between the two nations. In my mind, one hasn’t understood the purpose of the Ashes if they don’t want to throttle an Aussie by the time it’s all over. If this is a psychological ploy to irk our Australian cousins, it is a horrifically awful one. Rather than splashing our complaints all over the back pages, we should think about sledging the Aussies back: Meet fire with fire.
PE – Yes, and yes. We know how the ECB and their lapdogs in the mainstream media operate. File under cant and hypocrisy, next to smear and Operation Pietersen. Vic Marks did a wonderful job of lampooning his fellow scribes, Darren Lehmann, proved himself a wily operator today. No-one’s fooled by media spin anymore, are they? (Don’t feel the need to answer).
 
4. I’m not a fan of Sky’s coverage of cricket, but I’m a notorious curmudgeon. What do you think of it?
KC Technically, Sky’s coverage is superb, near-flawless. Most of the commentators are really good value (Holding, Nasser & Atherton especially) bar the likes of Knight & Strauss. It’s nowhere near as sycophantic as Channel 9, but you do have to listen with a pinch of salt at times (Botham…). Declaration speculation in particular is crap – play the time left in the game, not the weather. Sorry, bit of a personal bugbear that!
OdB – Channel 4 went to racing regularly and unless you had satellite or cable you missed cricket.  The BBC were similar.  Sky’s coverage is at very least committed to covering it properly.  The problem is the commentary team is hit or miss, for every Atherton there is nick Knight (anodyne),Botham (awful) and Warne (best taken in small doses).  However the smugness of Lovejoy and ficjam (Ed ‘fucking’ Smith) make TMS unlistenable at times (although I do like Boycott, Alison Mitchell, and Charlie Dagnall).
Metatone -Commentary teams are a matter of taste, I don’t mind most of Sky’s collection overall, but it rarely thrills me. Some of that is the passage of time – we lost Ritchie Benaud and it makes a big difference. Technically, it’s good camera work – but you can look at the highlights from 2005 and it’s obvious that it’s not actually that much better than the Channel 4 coverage. (I’ll note as a former professional with sport photography that some of the recent NZ series camerawork was below par.) Sky’s defenders always invoke BBC coverage from days gone by (we had some good youtube of 1971 Boycott in a comment thread, you can see the very big technical limitations there) but compared with Channel 4 of 10 years ago, the improvements aren’t large. Key point, I don’t think the technical advances remotely make up for the fact that I now have to go to the gym or the pub to watch coverage.
Hillel With the exception of Nick Night, Shane Warne complete with endless anecdotes about strip clubs and golf courses (kill me now if the word mulligan is mentioned once during this Ashes), and just about all of their pundits, Sky actually do a rather decent job. They employ some rather excellent voices of reason, Mike Atherton chief among them, and whilst we take it for granted in the modern game, the picture quality and coverage is actually incredibly good. With the exception of the odd silly gimmick (what’s the point of the rev counter if every spinner from Xavier Doherty to Muttiah Muralitharan is going to be in the orange zone), the analytical supplications they provide are genuinely quite insightful. Although I do begrudge the concept of handing over the rights of all English cricket to such an expensive TV package such as Sky, that is no-one’s fault but the ECB, and Sky themselves must be commended on excellent coverage.
PE – Don’t get to see a great deal of it here in Finland, but, from what little I’ve seen it does seem to have embarked on a road marked ‘despair’. The cricket itself is good, the adverts and commentary less so. I’m more disappointed by TMS to be honest. It was a lifeline for many years, charming, eccentric but vaguely inclusive and often very funny indeed. I find it excruciating now, patronising, craven and humourless. Thank goodness for Geoffrey, one of the few credible voices in the game.
 
5. The question on all lips it seems is the transfer of the ODI attitude over to the test team? Is it important, and if yes, do you think it will happen?

KC If they can transfer it, yes, it could be very important. But Cook is the skipper, and I trust him with the team’s attitude even less than I would with a spinner, so it in short, no it won’t happen.

OdB – Yes, the ODI series in 2005 was important as the attitude shown then was crucial and it carried forward to the test series, however the test and ODI squads were very similar then.  Unfortunately I think it will be lost in translation.  Cook hasn’t the capacity to play in that fashion, and whilst he should be the perfect rock for the more attacking players to perform around (and I hope he plays like he did against NZ as he appeared back to his unhurried best, it may be slow, there may only be 3/4 scoring shots, but it is mightily effective).  My issue is that he is a reactive defensive captain.  He makes poor decisions on the field which appears to permeate into the team and then as more things go wrong the worse things get.  Our fielding during the ODI series was average (which is a vast improvement on the test side  who’s fielding has been mediocre at best (Jordan apart)). Is this the fault of poor captaincy and poor decisions leading to lower morale, more frustration, and ultimately sledging the opposition?  Einstein once said that madness was doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.  Since India away, England have been in control of a lot of games in winning positions and thrown them away, day 4 at headingley (pick a year either 2014 or 2015 will do).  Cook appears incapable of learning from his mistakes and I genuinely think his captaincy will be the difference between the two sides.  Their bowlers are good but these are our home conditions, and I think both batting lineups are potentially brittle.  As with most 5 match series there will be a number of key points, if Cook has an ordinary day we might win some, if he regresses to the mean we will lose those and subsequently the Ashes.

Metatone – Of course it is important. Vaughan said it before 2005 and he proved it on the field (as indeed other teams have) – Australia are out of their comfort zone when the opposition don’t back down. Test cricket is not just about skill, it’s a mental game too. Will it happen? Probably not. Cook is by nature a grinder. We have some batsmen who can do it differently (Root, Buttler, Stokes) but our bowling doesn’t look set up to attack.

Hillel – It wasn’t too long ago the media proclaimed the same should be applied in reverse, and that England should carry forward their momentum from the Test series victory against India to ODI’s, and onward to the World Cup. We all know how that turned out. Not only is it not important to carry over the ODI attitude to the Test team, it is vitally imperative not to. There is no intrinsic flaw in the conservative methods employed by our Test team, and the media banging on about how Cook must be as aggressive as the ODI team will put undue, unnecessary pressure on him. The problems which the English Test squad encounter are those of poor tactical decisions during the game (such as field settings) and inconsistent performances of batsmen and bowlers, not the attitude to Test cricket itself. Whilst some will point to the radical development of how Tests are played, as exhibited by New Zealand, it is worth remembering that England did win that Test series. The sooner international teams are able to divorce the longer and shorter formats from each other, the better they will perform in both.

PE – I’m delighted by the transformation undergone by the ODI team. Demonstrable evidence that those criticising the decisions of the last couple of years are right. It just goes to show what can be achieved by a group of players with the right captain and the right coach. It’s all about mentality. I’d be very surprised if the form is transferred: to paraphrase Bill Clinton ‘it’s the captain, stupid.’

So – there you have it. A number of voices, with some great points (they rate Sky a lot higher than me). Chew on it and think along. Because you might be next…..

Dmitri’s Ashes Memories – A Brief Recall of 2001

The 2001 series was the one that saw Australia at their most dominant over here. It saw them able to leave out Michael Slater and bring in Justin Langer, who never relinquished the slot as opener. It saw Warne bowl us to distraction, McGrath in his pomp, Gillespie an option we would die for, Gilchrist an absolute demon who made an outrageous hundred at Edgbaston and a 90 at Lord’s that took games away from us. We were outclassed, our players fell like flies, and even the win we got, at Headingley, was semi-gifted to us and required an innings from the gods by Mark Butcher.

So, by the time I wended my way to The Oval for my annual pilgrimage – for the first time for the first day of a game – although we had a little happiness in our step (having won the 4th test) we were not exactly jumping for delight. In addition, I was in the midst of one of my many weight loss campaigns and was not drinking. I had to watch the two days on a diet of excitement, not so much food, and no beer.

Add on top of that the two days play I saw were decidedly sobering. Steve Waugh, all intent and ego, had declared he would play this match despite needing his leg amputated. Langer came in for Slater, while England opted to play Jimmy Ormond, immediately labelled a “lard-arse” by Ferret (a world famous cricket follower, if you haven’t met him, you haven’t lived) and brought back Phil Tufnell on the premise that he’d bowled the Aussies out four years ago.

Now imagine watching two days of cricket in blazing hot sunshine, where Australia won the toss and batted, and racked up 641 for 4 declared. It was excrutiating to watch our attack put to all parts. 4.2 runs an over, three centuries, two fifties, four bowlers going for over a hundred and no beer. Not a glass of the Oval’s wretched Fosters passed my lips.

I remember Hayden and Langer cruising past 150, before the Big Unit hit a ball straight down deep square leg’s throat. A friend texted “Tuffers is back” but that was his last wicket. In test match cricket. Back, then gone for good. Wonder what he is doing now?

Justin Langer passed his hundred before copping one on the head from Andy Caddick, which brought Mark Waugh to the crease with Ricky Ponting.  The latter didn’t make it quite to the end of play and he provided Jimmy Ormond one of his two test victims (his other was Rahul Dravid – not bad for the only two on your CV). 324/2 was the score at the end of the first day’s play. As we left the ground we saw Justin Langer, looking a bit woozy, in the back of a car. That I remember.

Day two saw the slaughter continue. Mark Waugh went through to a century and then got bored, being bowled by Darren Gough for 120. Steve Waugh hobbled on. making his point, to the nth degree, while Adam Gilchrist came out at number 6 and blapped one up in the air to give Usman Afzaal his only test wicket in his last test. 534/4 and the Aussies were in crisis. Tugga continued, grinding England into the dirt, and yes, he did that celebration while waving his bat from the floor after diving to avoid being run out. We got it, Steve. You were one hard bastard. Damien Martyn made an effortless, more than a run a ball 64, and Waugh decided to call it quits with him in red ink and Australia on 641/4.

By this time I was going through 2 litre bottles of water like pints of lager. Dehydrating rapidly in the warmth. In a frightful piece of name-dropping, I told this tale of woe to John Buchanan once – he thought it wryly amusing. I didn’t.

Trescothick made 55 not out by the close of play, but Atherton fell to Warne. Butcher got a heroes welcome, and was unbeaten at the close. 80 for 1 wasn’t a bad start, and we in fact,  made 432. Ramps made a superb 133. But we lost. Tugga had it right. We were soft, we were not prepared to fight and we gave in too easily. Tautology reigns when I talk about Tugga. I’ve been mentally disintegrated by those two days. Evian did well, though.

Closing the circle

Amongst all the cricket news and build up to the Ashes over the last few days, Kumar Sangakkara quietly announced that he’d be retiring from international cricket in August, after the second Test against India.

He’d said at the end of the World Cup that it was the start of the long goodbye, but it’s still sad news that such a player should depart the stage, especially one who seems to be getting better by the year rather than deteriorating, although I suppose a Test average over the last year of a shade over 50 might be considered lower than normal.  The relatively muted response to it is in keeping with how Sangakkara has been considered through most of his career; rarely has he received the kind of accolades that should be his due.

Certainly the raw figures are astonishing.  12,305 Test runs at an average of over 58, 14,234 ODI runs at an average a shade under 42, and even 1,382 runs in international T20, at a still decent average of 31.40, with a strike rate around 120 – Sanga has demonstrated mastery of all formats of cricket.  But it is Tests that make the legacy, and that record in particular bears closer examination.

No player in the last half century with any kind of career longevity has exceeded Sangakkara’s Test average.  In the all time list, with a 50 innings minimum, he’s in fifth place.  And yet it goes further than that.  Sangakkara started his career as a wicketkeeper/batsman, and a became a very fine one.  But the wicketkeeping depresses the batting average quite significantly in his case, 48 matches in his career were played as the designated keeper, and in those he averaged a still healthy 40.48.  But in the 84 matches (not an inconsiderable number) where he wasn’t the wicketkeeper, that batting average rises to a truly astounding 68.05.  There is no player apart from Bradman who has figures like that.  None.

He did it almost everywhere.  South Africa was his least happy hunting ground, and perhaps surprisingly to some extent England wasn’t an opponent he did especially well against.  But an average of over 60 in Australia is a good indicator of the level at which he operated.

I was fortunate enough to be at Lords last year.  Given the circumstances, the chance to watch Sangakkara one last time in a Test was the main motivation behind going, and the evening before as he came into bat was one of those anxious watches, hoping against hope he wouldn’t get out.  In all truth, I bored my fellow travellers to the Test rigid with talk about this player, how I really hoped he would go on to get a score, and how fantastic a player, and how undervalued a player, he really was.  It was therefore nothing but a privilege to watch him bat, and to see him score a Lords century.

It’s hard to understand quite why it is that Sangakkara doesn’t get the plaudits that such a career should generate.  Perhaps his understated manner is the reason, but he’s anything but an ugly player – that cover drive having been a thing of beauty throughout his career.  Yet understated he may be, he was anything but an angel on the field.  At the start of his career he collided rather memorably with Nasser Hussain, the spiky pair exchanging constant pleasantries on the field.  In the days when Sky would dare to ask awkward questions of the England captain, they were perhaps surprised by Hussain’s smile in response, and statement that he thought the young man was great.

And yet he’s always been about more than just the game itself.  In 2011 he was invited to give the annual Spirit of Cricket lecture by the MCC.  His impassioned, erudite and powerful speech concerning the history of cricket in Sri Lanka, interwoven with what the game meant to him on a wider basis, rightly made headlines all over the world.  Here was a great player, who was also intelligent, exceptionally articulate and above all, deeply caring of the game of cricket.

For anyone who hasn’t watched it yet, put an hour of your time aside, and do so.

As he reaches the end of his career, it’s perhaps time to make the claims for him that few others have.  Sangakkara is the best batsman of the last 75 years.  He’s possibly second only to Don Bradman in the history of the game.  His record is genuinely astonishing, and he played with a grace and fluidity relatively unusual for such a high achiever.  And given that he was in a side who routinely struggled everywhere away from their own jewel of an island, that record looks all the better.

It’s been a rare treat to have been able to watch a genuine, bona fide, all time great of the game of cricket.  Perhaps like so often, it’s only when he’s no longer playing that a proper appreciation of his merits will be forthcoming.  But in 50 years time, when an eight year old boy somewhere in the world looks up the records, they’ll be asking their dad who this one was, and why they haven’t heard of him before.

@BlueEarthMngmnt

Times of Lupus

Hello all.

Just a quick few updates on things as they stand.

Ashes Panel #001 will be up as soon as either Hillel or PaulE get their responses to me! I’m promised one response this afternoon (and I can add the other’s later). Good stuff so far. I thought I’d also set down some etiquette rules with it. I’m really grateful these people have put in time and effort to respond so be polite, people. Disagree, but don’t abuse. This will work if we do it right.

The second set of questions will be out for the next wave of the panel in the next day or so. A third set will come out for the third group towards the end of the week. I have 15 or so volunteers so grateful for that.

I am pleased people like the Ashes flashbacks, and I’m enjoying reading the individual stories you have. Please, please keep them coming.

The Leg Glance is back from his work assignment and has a couple of good things lined up for you.

I’m watching Cricket Writers on TV and it is one of the better ones. I think this is down to Charles Colvile actually, who asks journalist questions rather than some of the “how great were we” that Allott seems to be adroit at. I’ve always had a bit of a thing against Allott from 2002. We were queueing up in a long old line to get throught Brisbane passport control, and in front of me was a true England legend, one of the few who had made a triple hundred in tests, and there, breezing through on my right was Paul Allott. If I was John Edrich, I’d have been mad as a mongoose. Well, I was mad…..

Colvile posed questions on ICC that were asked in a really direct way. Etheridge is correct in that it doesn’t interest people who read the Sun, but that doesn’t make it right. Curbing the World Cup to 10 teams in perpetuity it seems. I’ve not gone on at the ICC on this blog, and that’s because I can only have a go at the ECB really before my head spins off its neck! But this is a load of convenient blindness. SimonH pointed out the tweets yesterday. The game itsn’t being developed properly. Hoult was right that England has been a soap opera, and that this takes precedence.

Etheridge of course, is wrong about his men in boots, men in suits, because while we all love (most of the time) watching the men in boots, it’s the men in suits relieving me of my money, determining what I watch and how much I pay for it, and determine what is right for me. Hence I can, and do, write about the men in suits.

OK. More later, including another Ashes memory possibly from me.

Dmitri’s Ashes Memories #4 – Adelaide, The First Time

I’ll come back to the 1985 series in the week, but while watching Kanye West wittering on at Glastonbury, I thought I’d go back to my second test match overseas, and that was in 2002 at Adelaide.

We had an Australian secretary who thought I was out of my mind going to Adelaide, but I also had a great mate of mine who had gone out to Australia and lived in Adelaide for a large part of her time there (she found a bloke). We hadn’t been in contact, but she always said Adelaide was OK.

So, having endured Brisbane, and the hammering we got at that venue, Sir Peter and I flew up to Cairns and stayed in Port Douglas (another recommendation from my mate) and it was incredible. I will return one day if it is within my power to do so. Then we spent four days in Sydney, and saw an incredible New South Wales line up lose to South Australia. We then thought it might be a decent idea to book some accommodation. Except, when we looked at all the websites, there was nowhere in our price range. And I mean nowhere. For Wednesday and Thursday night there was a decided lack of places to stay. This provided us with a massive dilemma. We had somewhere we could stay in Sydney, but might have to reschedule flights and miss the first two days.

Then a morning spent in a tourist office came up with a place to stay in Glenelg. And at a reasonable price. We jumped all over it. A late arrival in Adelaide, a pick up of a key from a safety deposit box, and a brilliant, wonderful taxi driver and we had somewhere to stay. It was a bit of a flea pit, but who gave a stuff.

So we got the tram (the old version in those days) from Glenelg (I’ll leave out the bizarre karaoke we heard when we arrived, where people were queueing up to do a Gary Glitter song) to King William Street, followed the crowd through the centre of Adelaide, over the Torrens River and towards this legendary venue. While not quite the goosebumps of Brisbane, it was still something to wonder. This had history, this was where Bodyline reached its height of fury. This was Bradman country (I know he was from Bowral). The thing was, we didn’t have our tickets. We’d bought them, but expected to pick them up from the Oval. Hence we were an hour early. We got in the queue and…… nothing.

The queue never moved. There was obviously a total cock-up with the ticketing system. It turned out that the company that flogged them had not really been clear. We weren’t supposed to pick them up from the ground, but from their ticket offices in the centre of the city. We took this news with equanimity, but I’ll now give these guys all the credit. They confirmed our tickets were there, got confirmation of our information, and then escorted us into the ground to our seats (and delivered our tickets for the rest of the test – we had days 2 & 3 tickets). We missed the start, but England were batting.

That first day was all about Michael Vaughan. Sure, he got away with that catch to gully that Langer got the arse about, but he was brilliant to watch. He made a wonderful 177, getting out off the last ball of the day. It was magnificent entertainment as he played on a different level to every other England player. I still have all that day’s play on DVD (what a mum I had – she did all the recording on tape for me – I miss her) and while it seemed, on the face of it, to be a really decent day for England, losing Vaughan to the last ball was a punch in the guts. I recall Vaughan treating the square boundaries as an invitation to go aerial and he looked in control to the degree I’ve not seen from an England batsman before or since. Seriously, I think his spell between the 197 at Trent Bridge, up until he was given the captaincy, was the most impressive test batting I’ve ever seen from an England man. It was not just the big hundreds, but the manner and pace of them, and the shot-making.

The first day was also evidence of the world religion of cricket to me. While I had plenty to moan at (and if you ever see Live and Uncut Down Under, I do moan), I did meet two absolutely superb blokes to chew the fat with. I’m not quite sure how it happened, but I was a smoker on that tour (I jacked it in 3 months after I came home and never smoked again) and under the floodlight pylon I got talking to this Aussied called Michael. He journeyed over from Sydney every year for the Adelaide test and we got chatting about cricket. His mate Bernie, definitely quieter, was also great entertainment. That’s what cricket is to me, a bringing together of people who love the sport.

I recall we were buzzing that night, so we decided to try to extend our holiday by a few more days. We decided to get up early to see if we could get to the Singapore Airlines offices to fly back on the Wednesday rather than Sunday. It meant we were late to the second day’s play, so we missed Mark Butcher (heard him getting out as we took our places), and the rest of the team subsided by lunch, I believe. Michael gave us a bit of stick about that at the break. The afternoon saw England work hard, nipping out the two openers, but that was about all of the good news. Damien Martyn and Ricky Ponting were going well and England’s 300-ish innings was never going to be enough.

I had decided to stop smoking (again) but Saturday morning did for me. I spent two hours in the presence of a know all who knew eff all, and I was being worn down by the humour. I have a rant and a half at lunch on camera and then went off to the pylon to nick a cigarette off Michael – who only smoked unflitered ones so that was raw! Ponting finally got out, we bounced out Steve Waugh, but the Aussies were going to make 500, and so they did. I remember one thing about this attritional day. It was hot. Stinking hot. The hottest I can ever remember. It was, therefore, little surprise that Australia declared over 200 in front and then took three of our wickets before the close, including another off the last ball of the day. That plane home on Sunday might have been better!

We moved to the Holiday Inn motel on Sunday morning, and all hope now was on a brutal weather forecast from the afternoon and the next 36 hours. All we needed to do was survive three hours and we would probably be safe. But no. McGrath took an incredible catch to dismiss Vaughan, and although Stewart made a half century, and there were various delays for light drizzle, Australia closed in on victory and got there. I think the umpires were a little generous to the Australians, but they’d demolished us. It rained steadily for most of the Sunday, and then all of the Monday, which we spent loitering around indoor facilities. A wine trip on Tuesday and a flight home on Wednesday was all she wrote for a magic holiday, not ruined by the result at all. See, I followed my team, supported my team, loved Vaughan’s 177, loved watching Harmison’s promise, liked what I saw out of the guys keeping going in the field, but we were outclassed. Simple as.

There’s a lovely picture, one of my favourites of me, which I won’t share, at the end of the game in front of the scoreboard. Behind me is a hubbub of England fans, all not leaving, all staying to support the team, and drink…. and that for me will be my most abiding memory of that tour.