The Gathering Storm

Less than a week to go before the Ashes begin, and the news today that Ryan Harris has announced his retirement is an unwelcome development for Australia.  Harris probably wouldn’t have been in the side for Cardiff, mostly because his fitness was questionable anyway – and clearly rightly so – but to lose a player of that calibre from the squad is unquestionably a blow.  For Harris himself, he’s had perhaps four more years of a Test career than seemed likely when he limped out of the 2010/11 series, seemingly into retirement.  That he came back, and proved so effective a bowler, is greatly to his credit.  A shortened career at international level perhaps, but 113 Test wickets at 23.52 represents a fine return even so.   And there’s little question that a certain England captain will be delighted that there’s no prospect of his technique being picked apart by such a clever bowler.

He has said himself that he’s played 27 more Tests than he thought he would, and it’s probable that is at least partly down to Cricket Australia’s relatively careful management of him, providing space for recuperation.  They received a lot of stick for their policy of resting and rotating their pace bowling attack, yet it may well have ensured that in Harris’s case, they truly did get as much out of him as was possible.

Pat Cummins has been called up as his replacement, which is an interesting choice, as he hasn’t played first class cricket in almost two years.  His talent isn’t in doubt, but given his own injury record, it has to be questionable whether in the event he needed to play, he’d be able to last five days of a Test.  Even if completely injury free, he’s very much out of practice at the longer format.

Australia have had a decent workout in their two warm up matches, and perhaps the one area of concern for them has been that their spinners have come in for a fair degree of stick.  A warm up is a warm up, so not too much should be read into it, but it does perhaps detail a line of attack that England could look to adopt when the phoney war is over.

And a phoney war it certainly is.  David Warner picked the build up to the Tests to repeat his claims about Joe Root from the tour two years ago which resulted in Warner throwing a punch.  This is trivial stuff, but it indicates that the sledging game is well and truly on.  Australia themselves are something of a known quantity anyway, much of the series depends on how England play.  The one day series raised optimism that England would look to be aggressive, but the Test side and the one day side are two distinct entities.  An obvious difference is that the captain is Alastair Cook, not a skipper renowned for going for the throat of the opposition.  Indeed Shane Watson specifically referred to that issue recently:

“I’m not sure if that’s exactly in Alastair Cook’s DNA, to be really able to put a game on the line. It’s going to be interesting to see how now that Alastair Cook comes in and takes over the Test team, how they continue to evolve as a team, because it’s very obvious in the one-day series they’ve played how they’ve really started to take on the game.”

Watson hits the nail on the head there.  Partly of course it’s a case of trying to undermine England, which is normal enough and fair enough.  But the question itself is one that England followers have raised several times.  Putting aside the merits of the teams for a moment, the style of play is going to be interesting to watch.  It remains extremely hard to imagine England adopting the mentality of the first innings at Edgbaston in 2005.  That contradiction has been observed by the incoming coach Trevor Bayliss:

“The way the game has been played over the last five or ten years, you could argue that maybe we haven’t kept up to date maybe as some of the other teams. Whether you like it or not, the T20 format and the one-day format do have a bearing on the way the game is played at Test level. It’s that philosophy of being positive and aggressive.”

And yet Andrew Strauss doesn’t seem to be on the same page.

“As I said at the start of the summer, I think Cook is very much the man to take the England Test team forward

Perhaps there’s an element of having to say that, but the innate conservatism of Strauss is looking somewhat out of kilter with the approach of both the new coach and of the stand in.  It was certainly noticeable that Bayliss was very quick to praise Morgan and Farbrace for the way the one day team played the game, as was the much more non-committal remark about Cook:

“I’ve not seen him up close or worked with him before.”

It is of course entirely possible that despite the initial appearance of them being chalk and cheese, they might get on like a house on fire.  It wouldn’t be the first time that has happened – perhaps most notably in the instance of the taciturn Duncan Fletcher and the fiery Nasser Hussain, who proved to be an outstanding partnership.  But it still has the feel of end of term about Cook’s captaincy, particularly so if England lose, as so many expect.

And will England lose?  It was quite amusing to see Glenn McGrath react at the terming of Australia as “Dad’s Army” when it was actually Jason Gillespie who made a point of describing them as such.  And yet it is quite clear that this is indeed a fairly old Australian side.  One thing that shouldn’t be ignored is that sides never look past it until they actually are.  Although more sensible observers noted that England in 2013/14 were a side running out of steam, few anticipated the collapse that followed.  A side can look old very quickly.

Where Australia do clearly look to have the edge is in the fast bowling stakes.  Starc and Johnson are a potent opening pair, though Johnson does blow hot and cold.  If he were to return to the 2009/10/11 vintage, then Australia have a problem.  Of course, if he’s more like the one from the last Ashes, England could be in for a fearful hiding.  Even then, Starc looks a more obvious – and more consistent – threat in any case.

So where do England have to perform if they are to have a chance?  Cook himself is pivotal.  His technique was dismantled by Australia’s bowlers in the last two series, and should that happen again, England will do well to compete.  Cook bats long, and blunts opposition attacks when all is going well for him.  His technical approach is vastly improved over the recent vintage, both in terms of playing much straighter and his judgement of line.  The strength in England’s batting is in the middle order, but for that to be a strength they need a platform.  Lyth is at the start of his career, it’s asking a lot for him to provide it consistently at this stage.  So it hangs on Cook himself.  If England are consistently 30-3, then to call it an uphill task is an understatement.

Equally, there are question marks over other players.  Ballance’s sophomore difficulties need to be resolved and fast.  Ian Bell’s relative drought likewise.  There is ability throughout, but as things stand too many of them have dubious recent records.

The England bowling attack is simpler to assess.  Broad and Anderson are a fine new ball pairing in English conditions, the doubt is over whether the latter will be ground into the dirt and asked to do too much.  Broad might blow hot and cold almost as much as Johnson, but Australia does seem to bring the best out of him.  Perhaps the key might be Mark Wood, who has shown serious promise in his brief career to date.  That doesn’t mean he’s under pressure to deliver, it means that he’s a wildcard that may just come off.

Bayliss also made an interesting comment that Moeen was the number one spinner “at the moment”, and suggested that he had no problem with selecting two spinners for Cardiff. It seems unlikely, but it’ll give Adil Rashid a degree of hope he might be more than a drinks carrier in future.

One of the fascinating elements of this series will be how Steve Smith performs.  He’s had an outstanding couple of years, but his idiosyncratic technique is likely to receive greater examination with the Duke’s ball moving around.  He certainly didn’t do that well on the last tour, and while that doesn’t reflect the player he has become since, the same could be said of Joe Root.

And so it comes to the time of actually making a prediction for the series.  I don’t think it will be as one sided as some others do, but I do think Australia will have a bit too much for England to beat them.  Being optimistic, a 2-2 series result would represent serious progress for England, but the head says Australia will win 3-1.


84 thoughts on “The Gathering Storm

  1. thelegglance Jul 4, 2015 / 1:52 pm

    Sorry about the lack of posts from me recently – work got in the way!


  2. Mark Jul 4, 2015 / 2:47 pm

    What I find intriguing about this Ashes series is that you can make a competent argument how both sides could win. For me Aus are the favourites. And like all favourites if they play to their potential they will win. But will they?

    If Johnson Is anything like the last time England are in trouble. But there are signs he has gone off the boil slightly. Added to this are the slower pitches which will blunt him further. If Cook and the top order can see him and Stark off, England may be able to post some decent totals. Something they failed to do last time out.

    But will they get off to good starts? According to the media, Cook is back to his best. Hmm, we will see. And we have an un tested opening partner with him. England did ok in Australia knocking over their top order, but too often rear guard efforts got Aus up to half decent scores that could easily be defended. Can England keep Aus down to manageable levels? If they can we are very much in the game.

    If Aus perform, I think they win. Either 3-1 or 2-1 But if England preform ,and Aus are slightly off colour, England might just shade it 2-1. Weather is always a factor of course. The big worry Is Aus win the first 2 and like last time the wheels come off completely.


  3. SimonH Jul 4, 2015 / 3:08 pm

    Ryan Harris was about more than good stats – but he had some good stats anyway:


  4. SimonH Jul 4, 2015 / 3:16 pm

    Who’d be a spinner, part one – Nathan Lyon finally bowled a maiden and took a wicket in the warm-up match but had gone for over two hundred runs before he achieved either.

    Who’d be a spinner, part two – Essex have signed Liam Dawson on loan so it looks very bleak for any Monty Panesar comeback.


    • LordCanisLupus Jul 4, 2015 / 5:44 pm

      Not enough anger and high blood pressure in your life. Check out who is on CWOTV tomorrow! Selfey AND Newman!


      • Arron Wright Jul 4, 2015 / 6:01 pm

        Subjects under discussion:

        – Why Moeen’s place should never be questioned
        – Rashid bowls too slowly
        – Alastair Cook has scored more runs than anyone else at the same age, so Andrew Miller’s recent article should never even have dared ask such an impertinent question
        – Rashid isn’t quick enough through the air
        – Moeen is the premier spinner in England – it’s just common sense
        – Surely between us we can crowbar in a reference to lunchtime at Southampton last year
        – Why doesn’t Rashid just accept that he can never be a first choice Test spinner
        – Nine fifties in his last fourteen innings
        – Five wins in his last eight Tests
        – Michael Clarke has won a World Cup and received plaudits for handling a genuine crisis, but everyone hates him anyway, including me
        – Alastair Cook is incapable of behaving like a selfish, entitled brat, he was never a bed-blocker who prevented England from picking some of these ODI players a year ago, he never whined about being sacked as ODI captain, and everyone worships him, including me
        – Ryan Harris was miles better than that jammy tail-end botherer Mitchell Johnson, who was f-ing crap in England four years ago (even though his Ashes average in England is actually better than Saint Jimmy’s)
        – Did I mention Rashid at all?

        Get your bingo cards ready.

        Liked by 2 people

      • SimonH Jul 4, 2015 / 7:06 pm

        Selvey gets the penultimate one in before the programme even starts:

        Plus of course there’s the usual daily Tweet about Rashid…..


      • SimonH Jul 4, 2015 / 7:07 pm

        Linked wrong Tweet – trying again:


      • Arron Wright Jul 4, 2015 / 7:26 pm

        To be fair, I had read Twitter before setting out CWOTV bingo. The Andrew Miller one is basically a straight lift from his response to Sambit Bal RTing Miller’s piece.


      • Rooto Jul 4, 2015 / 7:48 pm

        As if talking about Cook isn’t going to be homo-erotic enough for CWOTV, Selvey has to go on about those wrists again.

        Liked by 1 person

    • Zephirine Jul 4, 2015 / 6:13 pm

      the 5-0 reversal 18 months ago. Reversal???

      Liked by 1 person

      • Zephirine Jul 4, 2015 / 6:19 pm

        Came out in the wrong place, that novel use of the word ‘reversal’ is from the Brenkley on Cook piece.


    • Mark Jul 4, 2015 / 6:51 pm

      “There are some little rehearsed facts about Alastair Cook as captain of England. Perhaps there is a conspiracy to keep them quiet because they do not fit with accepted wisdom, perhaps they do not mean much although that seems too convenient, perhaps their full import is only now on the verge of being revealed.”

      What accepted wisdom? what conspiracy to keep them quiet? Mr Brenkley, you are out of your tiny mind. There is only one conspiracy, and one accepted wisdom. And they are pushed daily by you and the rest of your merry band of freeloaders. And that is that Alasdair Cook is the second coming of Jesus. A Messiah for the 21st century. You have covered for him, you have eulogised him, you have dropped to your knees to worship him for the last 2 years. That is the real conspiracy, that is the accepted wisdom. Any pretence that there is some other MSM narrative is dishonest and disingenuous. You are part The Alasdair Cook fan club.

      “It is testament to Cook’s quietly cussed character, iron will and belief in his ability that he has returned from this slough of despond. ”

      A full house of Cook drinking game bingo.

      “This has been easy to interpret as a forced conversion, the rebellion of the St Paul’s choirboy he once was, saying “yah boo sucks” to his detractors.”

      Yah boo sucks? Who is he! A character out of the famous five? Is this the England cricket team or an episode of Tom Browns school days?

      “No England captain in any era was scrutinised and examined more closely for flaws and weaknesses than Cook in the summer of 2014.”

      Quite the stupidest thing you have ever written, and the competition of your stupid is of a very high standard .

      “The regard in which he is held was apparent that warm morning in the third Test against India. By lunch on the opening day, Cook had reached 49, having been dropped on 15, and the crowd gave him a standing ovation. His travails had made him admired as well as respected.”

      Bring on the violin music, and the fly past of Spitfires. Crank up The Elgar. But wait, you say he is admired and respected? But you told us the complete opposite in the first paragraph. You mumbled on about dark conspiracies. Which is it Brother Brenkley?

      “It is imperative that he continues in something approaching his recent vein, for only then can his captaincy truly flourish. ”

      What does that even mean? Are you saying he can’t captain if he his not scoring runs? If so he is not a very good captain. It never stopped Brearley from captaining with aplomb!

      “There was a strong case for his removal last summer and most of his recent predecessors as captain turned away from him, not least to spare his suffering. Cook did not listen, he had no intention of listening, he stood defiant, determined to survive, daring someone to pull the plug.”

      Rule Britannia, Britannia rule the waves…..Blah blah blah. Or maybe he was just bloody selfish. Perhaps you should check with Alice?

      “But that was four years ago. Cook has developed since then. This is his team now, as opposed to the one he took over from Strauss in 2012.”

      Is it? Is it really? Like “he’s not ready for test cricket” Butler.

      “There has been a shift in mood and opinion unthinkable a month ago. Cook and England can win the Ashes.”

      And that mood change has had jack shit to do with Mr Cook.

      “These are exciting times then, but there is the unmistakable sense that if Cook’s team do not defeat Australia it may be time for a change.”

      Oh, so he’s not the Messiah then? Just a very naughty boy.

      Liked by 1 person

      • dvyk Jul 4, 2015 / 8:03 pm

        “Cook did not listen, he had no intention of listening, he stood defiant, determined to survive, daring someone to pull the plug.”

        Now *that* is funny.

        But the hell is this ???–
        “There was a strong case for his removal last summer”

        No no Mr Brenkley, there was no strong case. It was all windbaggery, remember? Hypocrite. Slimey, slithering hypocrite.

        Liked by 2 people

      • Mark Jul 4, 2015 / 8:24 pm

        ““Cook did not listen, he had no intention of listening, he stood defiant, determined to survive, daring someone to pull the plug.”

        He makes him sound like captain Pugwash.
        Reminds me of a song…..

        It was on the good ship Venus
        By Christ, you should’ve seen us
        The figurehead was a whore in bed
        And the mast was a mammoth penis

        The captain of this lugger
        He was a dirty bugger
        He wasn’t fit to shovel shit
        From one place to another

        Friggin’ in the riggin’
        Friggin’ in the riggin’
        Friggin’ in the riggin’
        There was fuck all else to do.

        Liked by 1 person

      • paulewart Jul 4, 2015 / 8:33 pm

        Alastair Cook, obviously:

        Liked by 1 person

      • SimonH Jul 5, 2015 / 9:02 am

        Mark, I don’t know if you’ve seen how the Independent laid that article out in the print edition but if not do try to have a look at it (It’s shown at the start of CWOTV).


        • LordCanisLupus Jul 5, 2015 / 9:15 am

          I’ve seent 5 minutes of it.

          Newman already calling Cook’s critics “a vocal minority” and that he’s not as bad a captain as people make out (yeah – after Allott said Warne’s Clarke’s best mate, we then have even-handed captaincy critique from Neman), and then Selvey said the bowlers were responsibile in some degree, to make sure Cook is nicely able to transfer responsibility. Oh “and he was alright at Lord’s”.

          It’s been a belter. I will record the re-run later.


  5. dvyk Jul 4, 2015 / 8:24 pm

    Yep, I’d agree that Starc is the bigger threat to England. Nice to hear MJ’s stats mentioned too. I can’t imagine him being the destroyer he was last time, but an average performance would still be more than enough to cause an awful lot of problems.

    I was interested to read that Strauss passed over Gillespie in preference to Bayliss. If that is true it makes me wonder if Strauss has gone mad. Bayliss is no doubt a perfectly good coach — his statements make good sense, however garbled and undiplomatically they come out — but Cook is not happy with him at all. And he’s not photogenic and he doesn’t know how to strike those tough-guy power poses that Strauss does so well. I see trouble brewing….

    I also noticed that Steve Smith said Bell and KP sledged him the most last time. The clock is ticking for the first headlines about “Smith’s revenge on Pietersen” etc.


    • thelegglance Jul 4, 2015 / 9:24 pm

      I do think that disconnect between Strauss-Cook and Bayliss-Cook is an interesting one. I’m really not sure Cook will have been at all pleased by the appointment. And with Root being made captain-in-waiting, that’s why I strongly suspect this is Cook’s last series as captain, barring a miraculous 4-0 win or something.


  6. Arron Wright Jul 4, 2015 / 11:05 pm

    I do love a bit of preposterous false equivalence.


  7. Rohan Jul 4, 2015 / 11:41 pm

    I don’t agree with brenkley’s comment about ashes optimism. For the reason already outlined, it was born out of performances by an ODI that were completely unCook like. In actual fact those ODI performances were the complete antithesis of Captain Cock. Throw in the fact the twins were not in the ODI team, but along with Cook will return to the test team and we have 3 very good reasons to be pessimistic not optimistic.

    Lastly, I would assert that this isn’t actually the mood of the general public at all, more so the mood of those inside cricket who are blinkered and enslaved to the ECB propaganda.

    TLG I wish I could believe we can win this series but I don’t. I can see how we might possibly sneak 2-2, but to my mind a starc, smith and hazlewood inspired 2-1 or 3-1 looks far more likely (even that may be optimistic)!

    Liked by 1 person

      • Rohan Jul 5, 2015 / 7:28 am

        Yeah You did, apologies, it was late at night and I was too tired to function properly. I think I was trying to say I don’t think we can win at all, whereas maybe you see a slim chance 😀. Great articles btw, still loving this place!


    • Mark Jul 5, 2015 / 12:23 am

      But wimbledon is not the governing body of tennis. It gives over a lot of its takings to the LTA. Wimbledon is more like Augusta National country club. It’s a private club, not a governing body of the sport. Yes it is snobbish, but it still sems to understand the notion of a large TV audience.


      • metatone Jul 5, 2015 / 7:29 am

        So more like the MCC?


  8. metatone Jul 5, 2015 / 7:33 am

    For me the big questions about Bayliss:

    1) Can he get England out of the failed “bowling dry” mentality?
    2) Even if he can, can he find the right mix of bowlers to make a success of attacking.
    3) Even if he can, can he get Cook to go with an attacking philosophy?

    What frustrates me about our media is that there is no recognition that “bowling dry” failed against SA here in a dry summer and Down Under in the 0-5 loss. We have to change because it’s now a losing strategy.


  9. dvyk Jul 5, 2015 / 7:38 am

    A few (obvious) questions I’d like to ask the ECB’s journalists blabbing on about England fighting fire with fire (N.B. – Not the coach, players or fans who should be talking like that!)

    If it’s fighting fire with fire, then why is Bell/Ballance in the team instead of Pietersen?

    If it’s fighting fire with fire, then why is Cook still captain?

    If it’s fighting fire with fire, then why will all the pitches be flat roads for batting?

    — What would worry Aus more than anything is if England bet on their batters handling pace better than Aus.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Arron Wright Jul 5, 2015 / 7:40 am

    Riled. Let me explain. There is an article at the G about Cardiff: it includes two references to the “2022 Ashes”. Go to Twitter and you see (via a BBC link) that Hampshire are also interested in a 2022 Ashes Test.

    Either there are three misprints, or the ECB have been lying again and the four year cycle will be abandoned STRAIGHT AWAY.

    What’s your money on?


    • Arron Wright Jul 5, 2015 / 7:59 am

      And just to hammer this home: the first series after 2019 would be due in 2021/22, in Australia.

      So, either Australia are also abandoning the four year cycle, or – joy unbound – we will apparently have another back to back Ashes.

      Everyone happy?


    • d'Arthez Jul 5, 2015 / 9:01 am

      I’d get 500/1 odds on the ECB being honest for a week.

      If they could, they’d have Ashes in England every 2 years. The other year is a 5-match series against India. While the best (of the rest – see as applicable) get a two match warmup in May, in the alternating years.

      That is really what the fans want.


    • SteveT Jul 6, 2015 / 12:38 pm

      Don’t like the sound of this one little bit


  11. SimonH Jul 5, 2015 / 8:59 am

    “He bowls so slowly”.

    BINGO! Only surprise – it’s taken 54 minutes.

    He’s also said NZ worked him out after that first game.

    Quite impressed by Richard Hobson so far – he really put the boot into the ground allocation for this series and the lack of games north of TB.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Mark Jul 5, 2015 / 9:19 am

      Simon, you have a stronger constitution than me. My TV is resolutely switched off this fine morning. I will not watch those clowns,and snake oil salesman.

      Time to take the dog for a walk. I will get more sense from the poo bags and their contents.

      Liked by 1 person

    • SimonH Jul 5, 2015 / 9:25 am

      Few more bits off CWOTV:
      1) None of the panel said one thing that indicated they’d watched a ball of Australia’s Tests in the WI. Hazlewood was largely dismissed on his first innings performance against Essex – but nobody mentioned what he did in his last two Tests.
      2) Selvey’s got mentions in of Bedford School, “Cooky” and “Goochie”. Then later Warne’s views were dismissed because he’s a mate of Clarke.
      3) Newman called criticism of Cook’s captaincy “agenda-driven” and “the views of a vocal minority”. He’s also confirmed this is likely to be Cook’s last series as captain, lose or win.
      4) Selvey’s just called the first day in Melbourne 10/11 England’s greatest day in Ashes’ history.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Arron Wright Jul 5, 2015 / 9:29 am

        Honest to god, why does anyone with a functioning critical faculty take him seriously? Number four might be a matter of opinion, number two is familiar territory for anyone who reads him, but number one is utterly indefensible for a paid writer.

        Liked by 1 person

      • SimonH Jul 5, 2015 / 9:39 am

        Selvey also said Australia were “a shambles” when Mickey Arthur went and England’s Test team has not been a shambles.

        Let’s look at the records:
        1) England’s last five series are W1 D2 L2. In terms of individual Tests W5 L9 D4
        2) Australia’s last five series under Arthur W3 D0 L2. Individual Tests W9 L5 D3

        One of those records qualifies as a shambles and one doesn’t?

        Liked by 1 person

      • SimonH Jul 5, 2015 / 10:26 am

        On Selvey’s MCG 10/11 day one as England’s greatest day in Ashes’ history –

        That day seems to me about the same as day one MCG in 86/87. That day was made all the more special by Botham somehow fiddling a five-for (his last in Tests) when seriously unfit with an intercostal injury. Nobody ranks that as Botham’s greatest performance because everyone knew how weak Australia were.

        To rate 10/11 ahead of any number of days in 2005 or 1981 is just preposterous. Then there are famous days from history – Underwood in 68, Tyson in 54/55, Jessop in 1902. I have a personal soft spot for the Boycott/Knott partnership at TB in 77.

        One of the many things I find irritating about Selvey is his apparent ignorance of England’s history. Still, what’s that compared to the day when your mates Flower and Saker were supposedly vindicated?

        Liked by 1 person

      • Arron Wright Jul 5, 2015 / 10:41 am

        I know I said it was a matter of opinion, but I agree with you completely. Playing devil’s advocate, the series was 1-1 and England had been blown away in Perth. But I recall a certain MS was still asserting England’s superiority in every column during 2010/11, even after Perth, so a) it looks like personal vindication played its part as well and b) if they were so superior, where was the jeopardy and why was 10/11 a greater achievement than 05? And c) that was the worst Australian side for 25 years, especially once Harris was ruled out.

        I wouldn’t rate it any higher than days three and four at Edgbaston 1985, which were also where a superior side finally made it tell in a series locked at 1-1, and the Australian wheels came off completely thereafter, resulting in two innings defeats and a 3-1 series loss.


    • Arron Wright Jul 5, 2015 / 9:26 am

      I’m still pissing myself at Mark Wood being equated with Mitchell Starc, as well as being given the same mark out of ten as Joe Root by Scyld Berry yesterday.


      • metatone Jul 5, 2015 / 10:43 am

        More than anything it shows the Reality Distortion Field around the press attitude to Broad and Anderson. Always praising, never questioning – and yet, the big hope for the Ashes is Wood, because he’s the only one regularly past 85 mph.

        Liked by 1 person

  12. Mark Jul 5, 2015 / 11:09 am

    Selveys views can be dismissed because he is one of Cooks cheerleaders. (If Warnes views of Clarke can be dismissed because he is a mate, so can most of the English press pack on Cook.)

    As to his 4 th claim. Pure garbage. One thing Selvey and his mates will not accept or even face up to ………was that tour was probably the worst Aussie team I have ever seen. They named a 100 players at the start of the season they might pick from. Can you imagine them doing that in 2005?

    Is Selvey ranking that above some of the great days in 2005? 1986/7? 1981? Or Harold Larwood in the body line series? Ray Illingworth lifting the Ashes in 1971? Selvey is a moron if he thinks so because he takes no account of the quality of the opposition. But he has to do that to continue to brown nose Cook.

    As to Nemans claims this will be Cooks last series, win or lose, that seems to be coming from more and more people. One can only assume it has come from the horses mouth. Why is this, if Cook is such a great captain? Are they going to get rid of him if he wins? And why has this been decided before the series begins? Is Cook being given a lap of honour? A jolly send off on Cooks terms? If so what a disgrace to the position and prestige of England captain.

    Liked by 2 people

    • thelegglance Jul 5, 2015 / 11:15 am

      Personally, I think it’s Cook seeing the writing on the wall as far as his captaincy goes. The support has been less than unequivocal, even from Strauss, who while he said the right things as far as Cook was concerned, made a point of saying “for the summer” time and again. If he really did think Cook was the right person to “take England forward”, then he’d never use that qualifier, he’d just say he was the captain and be done with it.

      They always avoided appointing a proper vice captain, because TINA was the line pushed again and again. Well now TIAA,whether a good one or not remains to be seen. So to me, it’s a clear case of saying how wonderful he is in public, while preparing the time honoured ECB tactic of stabbing him in the back when he’s outlived his usefulness to them.


      • SimonH Jul 5, 2015 / 11:50 am

        If so about Cook, then the new captain (presumably Root) starts off with Pakistan in UAE (unbeaten) and SA (world No.1). If Andrew Miller thinks Cook starting captaincy in Bangladesh was a ‘hospital pass’, how would he describe that as a captaincy baptism? If Cook were the team man we’re told he is, would he not take those tours on and let the newbie have an easier start? One might almost think Cook and the ECB want Cook to go when his career starts can, with some manipulation, not look too bad so the decision in 2014 doesn’t look so much of the clusterf*** it was.

        By the way, it’s chucking it down here in Wales at the moment and the forecast for Wednesday isn’t great.

        Liked by 1 person

      • thelegglance Jul 5, 2015 / 11:56 am

        Fresh start, investing in youth, a chance to move forward, thanks for his efforts in getting England to this point, exciting new era….blah, blah, blah.

        Don’t forget that whatever we think of Cook as captain, the ECB is the organisation that vocally backed him as ODI captain, only to fire him two days later.

        In any case, although the ECB wouldn’t apologise if they were responsible for starting a world war, they care far more about appearance than they do cricket – which is why they appointed Cook in the first place. And they will be well aware that he’s the last remaining lightning rod for the dissatisfaction of the last couple of years (Strauss doesn’t count because he wasn’t there). So dumping Cook allows them to say it’s a break from the past and to really “move on” as a result. For now he’s a very useful idiot.


      • Mark Jul 5, 2015 / 11:57 am

        Do you think they have told him? Or do you think he has told them? Sensing the writing on the wall he will get out ahead of being pushed?

        There does seem to be an air of demob happy about the Cook press cheerleaders. Almost as if this series is a wave bye bye to captain Cook job rather than win the Ashes priority.

        I wrote on TFT 18 moths ago about how Cook was there to run down the clock on KPs chance of coming back. That is why they were so crazed in their defence of him last year. Propping him up no matter what. When it looked like KP might return they had to change the rules again, and say runs don’t actully matter . By then Cook had fulfilled his usefulness to the ECB machine. So now he can be dispensed with.

        What a way to run a national sport? Keeping people in to keep others out.

        Liked by 3 people

        • LordCanisLupus Jul 5, 2015 / 12:03 pm

          Just before my Sky Box got a technical fault (too much bullshit) I could have sworn I heard a “Journalist” refer to our captain as “Cooky”.


      • thelegglance Jul 5, 2015 / 12:06 pm

        Cook isn’t stupid. Not Warner/Stokes/Gibbs stupid anyway.

        Pietersen is a side issue for this, though I wouldn’t be at all surprised once Cook has gone if they pretended to be more open to the idea – when it’s nicely too late of course.

        But all the changes at the ECB recently have been moves away from the Cook model. Even Strauss wasn’t necessarily positive for him, because he’s an establishment man yes, but not specifically a Cook man. It’s pretty apparent he didn’t think a lot of his captaincy when he was a commentator, not because of criticism – he’d never do that, but because of the way he’d try and find something nice to say. You don’t do that if you genuinely believe in someone.

        The appointment of Bayliss is almost anti-Cook. And that’s what I was talking about in the post.

        If England were to somehow win this series, then it’s perfect timing for him to stand down with the glowing thanks of the establishment. If they lose, then they follow the Strauss line about it being a young side learning and Cook being there to be the senior statesman in a new era.

        It’s almost impossible to be too cynical about the ECB’s machinations. I’ve been almost certain this is how it will play out for a few months. Cook will never be sacked, but he’ll stand down for the good of English cricket because he’s such a top bloke.

        Liked by 3 people

    • LordCanisLupus Jul 5, 2015 / 11:56 am

      My favourite line so far is “a journalist’s job is to ask the questions and we get stick for some of the stuff we write as a result”.

      That had me rolling on the floor with laughter.

      Liked by 2 people

    • paulewart Jul 5, 2015 / 7:11 pm

      1. Selvey is now officially a national embarrassment. It looks increasingly like his colleagues and editors at The Guardian are embarrassed by him – see Vic’s piece on Rashid for evidence. 2005 was way above anything that occurred in 2010: the 2005 Aussies were one of the great teams.

      2. Even Cook’s most ardent defenders don’t actually defend his captaincy. They may say there is no alternative, they never say he’s a good captain, a point that is seldom noted.

      3. Cook’s last series: this story first began circulating over a year ago, the argument being that the WC and Ashes series marked ends in a ‘cycle’. Journos were obviously briefed some time ago, when the ECB were in damage limitation/jam tomorrow mode having shot themselves in the foot over Pietersen.

      Liked by 1 person

  13. Mark Jul 5, 2015 / 12:24 pm

    Talking about Warner………..

    One story that seems to have had little coverage is the one in yesterday’s Independent. I just came across it on line. It is about Joe Root and what happened in that bar when he was punched by Warner. According to the ECB at the time Root played no role in the incident and it was an unprovoked attack on him by Warner.

    Well that is not quite how Warner sees it. At the time he took all the blame, and was banned from the team for a set period. But reading his account (and he admits he should not have punched Root ) the idea Root was completely innocent is not quite true. It’s worth a read. Apparently the Aussie players were ushered to a roped off area in the night club. Root climbed over the ropes to get into that section, and then took a fancy dress wig off one of Warners friends, without asking and wore it like a Hashim Alma beard. Warner is accusing Root of racism. I do not know if this is the true account, but It does cast doubt on the ECBs claims that Root is a complete innocent.

    One of the reasons Australia were so pumped up for the last Ashes was they left these shores with a lot of pent up grievances. That is why they were so fired up in Brisbane. What with Root and then Broads antics, and the doctored pitches. England were completely clueless to this which is why they were so hopeless ambushed.

    In light of some of their previous antics a claim of racism from a member of the Australian cricket team might be dismissed as rather ironic. But claims of this nature in football get a lot of coverage, I’m surprised hardly any mention of it. Or is this more ECB air brushing of their next captain in waiting?


    • thelegglance Jul 5, 2015 / 12:28 pm

      Telegraph covered it too, and I briefly mentioned it in the post because I thought that’s all it deserved.

      I don’t believe a word of what Warner says to be honest. His whole series of claims don’t remotely ring true, and the lack of back up from his team mates for his version of events speaks volumes.

      As a candidate for MENSA, Warner is a very good batsman.


      • Zephirine Jul 5, 2015 / 1:02 pm

        What can be said with certainty is that they’d all been drinking and they all accept that they behaved stupidly. I’d like details from a sober witness before I got any outrage going.

        The bit in Warner’s story that I found rather sweet, although I totally shouldn’t, is the image of Finn sleeping it off in the gutter. Presumably taking up several parking spaces.

        Liked by 2 people

      • hatmallet Jul 5, 2015 / 1:15 pm

        I’m sure if we tried to rationalise the silly thing we’ve done whilst drunk, we’d also look quite stupid. Warner’s just digging a hole. Not that it matters.


      • Mark Jul 5, 2015 / 2:34 pm

        I don’t hold much store in what Warner says either.

        But I do find it interesting that the ECB make this a condition of being England captain that they must be whiter than white. Yet we have a man running English cricket who is held up as man off integrity who uses the C*** word on global TV, and the ECB defenders quote this as the highlight of the year. And our next captain in waiting is someone who gets drunk in nightclubs and into fights.

        Personally I have no problem with the idea that the England captain is a man of the people. It is the ECB who insist on these standards, and they are very contradictory as to how they implement these rules. When it is an insider who gets into hot water the rules don’t seem to apply. Other players don’t apparently get a second chance and are shown the door.

        Liked by 1 person

  14. Zephirine Jul 5, 2015 / 12:45 pm

    Guess who wrote these:

    “Kevin has a brash exterior but everyone in the side gets on really well with him. He’s always been very good to me and one of the things you most notice about him is that he’s very keen for other people to learn, not just to learn himself.”

    “Kev had been having a quiet run by his standards, but truly great players do not stay quiet for long and Pietersen is one of them.”.


      • Zephirine Jul 5, 2015 / 1:35 pm

        Those are quotes from Starting Out: My Story So Far by Alastair Cook (2008).
        (The acknowledgements include thanks to Paul Newman of the Daily Mail for “all his help – this is the start of a great player/pressman friendship!”)

        Work is dominating my life at the moment and I thought I’d enliven a necessary boring train journey with a little touch of Alastair on the Kindle.

        Enliven turned out to be not quite the right word. It’s mostly a stunningly dull book. There are flashes of a genuine response to Mumbai and the Stanford match, but otherwise it’s like stats made into sentences. Not a triumph of Mr Newman’s art.

        I wanted to find out about the FEC phenomenon – didn’t really get any answers, except that at quite an early stage of his time with England he was sent by persons unnamed for a meeting with Mike Brearley to talk about captaincy. He thought it was useful, though he hadn’t read The Art of Captaincy in spite of owning a copy and seemingly didn’t think to read it before the meeting. At the time when this book was written he generally seemed to think the captaincy was a bit of a doddle, and had hoped he might get it when Pietersen was made captain and again when Strauss was.

        Naïve or arrogant, hard to tell. The overall impression is of a boy in a bubble, but a bubble largely of his own making. It was interesting that Gooch as well as his parents wanted him to go to university, one suspects because they felt he needed to expand his horizons, but he didn’t want to go.

        I hadn’t realised how much Gooch had done for Cook as a young player, nor how seamlessly Flower had slipped from Essex team-mate to coach.

        Praise and admiration for Pietersen recurs throughout the book. There’s also high praise for Monty Panesar. Funny old world, isn’t it?

        Liked by 2 people

        • LordCanisLupus Jul 5, 2015 / 2:00 pm

          Did a brief review of this on another site a while back (written in September 2010)…

          When you have some Smiths Vouchers to use, it seemed appropriate as they were selling this cheaply last Autumn to pick this up. Of course it was bought with the knowledge that (a) Cook is 25 years old (24 when this was issued) (b) he is hardly likely to say anything controversial as he has to sit with these chaps in the dressing room and (c) there are definitely going to be signs of ghost writing in this.

          Sure enough, this pretty much lived down to many expectations. I get particularly annoyed when the ghost writer, in this case Paul Newman, sticks in cricket trivia and statistics when I’ll bet a man who confessed to never really having watched the game wouldn’t have a scooby what had happened many years ago. These things grate.

          So I found out Cook was small for a child, was packed off to St Paul’s Choir School at 8, and is an impatient so and so who doesn’t like being left out or not promoted quickly enough. Interesting he looked upon the 2005 England team as pretty much a closed shop, wondering how he would ever get in the team, and now he is one of the key beneficiaries of being ensconced in a line up where you need to play poorly for 18 months to get dropped. While he mentions at points that “no-one is guaranteed a place in the England team” he perhaps unwittingly shows that that only goes for bowlers when mentioning England’s reaction to an appalling batting performance in Hamilton in 2008 was to jettison Harmison and Hoggard. Hoggard in particular was annoyed because it was the batsmen that let England down. Same as it ever was….

          Cook is best mates with Jimmy Anderson, KP is a good bloke, Strauss is posh, Collingwood is a great team man, Prior is unfairly criticised for being mouthy, Swanny is a riot….they are all there. Freddie is inspirational and it wasn’t his fault we lost in Australia. Vaughan was a great captain, everyone was upset about Trescothick. All there, all very uncontroversial, all very placid stuff.

          Cook is probably at his best when talking about establishing himself in the England team and his debut in Nagpur having been flown from Barbados. He does say that he fears 20/20 taking over and that test cricket is the best form of the game – again, hardly controversial. Defeats are embraced phlegmatically and victories embraced with some detachment. One gets the idea that Cook loves being Cook, and his drive has got him into a position where if he continues his career, he is going to set all the English runs records. If only his style wasn’t so structured, so lacking intuitiveness. He is this era’s Graham Gooch (mechanical) rather than David Gower (aesthetical). We saw glimpses at The Oval of his ability to dominate once in, but if asked, we can only recall his propensity to nick off (which is, funnily, more Gower than Gooch!). He’ll always be unloved in many ways, which is a shame. He seems a decent enough bloke after all.

          This book is one to dispense with quickly. I wait for more candid memoires in about 10 years time at the end of his career. Not one of the best I’ve read.

          2.5 out of 5.


      • BoerInAustria Jul 5, 2015 / 2:06 pm

        Thanks … should have known!! Lovely juxtaposition:

        From SimonH above:
        “Newman called criticism of Cook’s captaincy “agenda-driven”

        From your post:
        “thanks to Paul Newman … – this is the start of a great player/pressman friendship!”


      • BoerInAustria Jul 5, 2015 / 2:15 pm

        To LCL
        Prophetic words in 2008: “This book is one to dispense with quickly. I wait for more candid memoires in about 10 years time at the end of his career.”

        I assume it will contain the following: ““There will be a time in the not-too-distant future when I can give you the whole side of my story but I hope you can bear with that a little longer,”

        But only in 2018…? We shall see…

        Liked by 2 people

    • hatmallet Jul 5, 2015 / 1:47 pm

      Googling found nothing. So must be from a book rather than an interview/column?

      Broad, Swann, Anderson and Prior have released books. But more likely to be a bowler I think, one whom Pietersen had helped with batting.

      By the sounds of the quote, was probably referring to the 2010-11 tour as KP had struggled during the summer.


      • Zephirine Jul 5, 2015 / 2:11 pm

        Hatmallet – see above. A Cook (+P Newman) in 2008.


      • hatmallet Jul 5, 2015 / 3:45 pm

        Yeah, should have refreshed the page before commenting!


    • Mark Jul 5, 2015 / 2:47 pm

      It’s going to funny watching Newman and Hughes and Selvey competing to write his final autobiograhphy. They are all competing now with who can be the biggest suck up, but why bother? It will be the biggest Turkey of the year. So it should arrive just in time for Christmas.

      Liked by 1 person

  15. SimonH Jul 5, 2015 / 12:47 pm

    Bad light just stopped play in Pallekele with SL on top after a tremendous fightback from an early collapse led by Angelo Mathews.

    There was an interesting table of batting averages when captain (min. 1000 runs):

    Only Bradman has a better record than Mathews. (Clarke is 8th, Cook is 33rd – haven’t seen many mentions of that). Mathews is leading SL for the first time without Sanga, Mahela or Herath. This is what a captain leading from the front and making young team his own actually looks like when it is real as opposed to a marketing exercise. Also a team made in Angelo Mathews’s image sounds like a team I’d like to watch whereas a team made in Alastair Cook’s image, errrrr, doesn’t.

    Another stat from today is that Yasir Shah has 24 wickets in a three-test series. That’s the second best ever with only Warne’s 26 in 2004 better.

    Liked by 2 people

    • hatmallet Jul 5, 2015 / 1:31 pm

      TLG is, hopefully, right about Strauss’s lack of backing for Cook. I noticed it in his original interview too when “explaining” the KP decision.

      Strauss obviously didn’t want to change too much so soon, which is understandable, but it does mean they’ll be crossing their fingers for the Ashes, hoping for some luck.

      So although it does weaken us for the Ashes, it didn’t annoy me too much because at least there will be a change afterwards. In fact, Strauss annoyed me more by sticking with Morgan as captain – on the basis of the one series so far, he was very right and I very wrong.


      • hatmallet Jul 5, 2015 / 1:33 pm

        Oops, that was meant to be a regular reply not one to SimonH.


    • metatone Jul 5, 2015 / 3:55 pm

      By those stats, Mathews had some good role models…


    • ArushaTZ Jul 5, 2015 / 7:00 pm

      Where is that Yasir Shah stat from? is there a qualification? cos it’s not correct.


      • SimonH Jul 5, 2015 / 8:22 pm

        The Yasir Shah stat was from the TV coverage. I didn’t check it I’m ashamed to say.


        • ArushaTZ Jul 5, 2015 / 8:31 pm

          Not to worry. One would expect the broadcaster to be professional enough to check stats before giving them out on air.


        • ArushaTZ Jul 5, 2015 / 8:33 pm

          I’ve just thought, they were probably talking about leg-spin. Second highest number of wickets in a three test series by a legspinner.


      • SimonH Jul 5, 2015 / 8:34 pm

        Ah, explanation found. It was for three-match series in SL. Warne took 26 in SL in 2004 and I remember Richard Hadlee was third on the table and he took 23 on a SL tour in the mid 1980s.


      • SimonH Jul 5, 2015 / 8:36 pm

        Warne wouldn’t be the record for leggies in a three-match series because Abdul Qadir took 30 once against England!


        • ArushaTZ Jul 5, 2015 / 8:42 pm

          Ah right! Well at least we’ve cracked it.

          England are gonna have to come up with a method against Shah in the UAE if they want to avoid another whitewash. He’s had a pretty good start to his international career to put it mildly.


  16. Arron Wright Jul 5, 2015 / 2:05 pm

    Saw some Ashes predictions in my Grandad’s Sunday Mirror. One of the eight people asked went for “England 2-0. Andrew Strauss is exactly the right man for English cricket and I think Alastair Cook can lead us to victory against this side.”

    If only this man was escapable. As it is, he’s on the brink of claiming the Robbie Savage award for most ubiquitous yet shit-awful pundit in any sport ever.

    It is, of course, Lovejoy.


  17. emasl Jul 5, 2015 / 2:42 pm

    Have been neglecting reading you this week due to Wimbledon being on but am really looking forward to the Ashes starting. What reminded me about it all was the fact that is was Sleb Saturday at Wimbers yesterday when all the great and the good get their freebies and a good seat on Centre Court. Up comes Straussy smirking and beaming closely followed by Anderson, who was SMILING instead of his usual surly snarl. I was keeping an eye out for Cook but he did not seem to be there thank the Lord as my toe was twitching and my TV screen in danger.

    Good to be here and read the witty and reasoned debate. I have spent a bit too much time on Twitter recently and BTL on Telegraph and my somewhat trenchant views on the sensitive Ms Williams who got upset with the noise the crowd was making the other day has led to me being called jealous, racist, and bigoted. So I am rather glad to be back with you all.

    Here is to a good series and having fun at laughing at Selvey

    Liked by 2 people

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