Gasoline

Just to tide us over until I get home tonight and can look and revel in the majesty of the press (incidentally, my Mail Online at work has no new pieces since Saturday night so I’m not up on Newman’s latest, for instance) if the mood so takes me, I thought I’d give my reactions to events of the past four days and the immediate aftermath.

In the middle of the 2013 series Australia had two really good first days – the Old Trafford and Oval tests. These were slightly contrasting wickets and yet Australia filled their boots in the first innings having won the toss and batted. At OT, you know who made a century, while at The Oval, I believe you know who added two half centuries. I just want to put that out there because it is amazing the likes of Samuel were invoking his name, and even Andrew Miller was snorting derisively at people mentioning his name on cricinfo, yet we are all supposed to be moving on and even, hell, yes even forgetting who he is. Dave Kidd’s remarkable piece of weapons grade buffoonery in the Mirror entilted “We Need To Talk About Cooky” (with Kevin crossed out) spoke volumes of a media completely in tumult. Those people just won’t let go, constantly invoking his name, going on about him incessantly. Of course, those people are the media. Not us. There’s not been that much KP stuff prior to this weekend, has there? Kidd’s “Players Thrive Without KP The Forgotten Man” bye-line is a classic. If this weekend was thriving, God help us.

It is important not to over-react. The way media types were jumping on the “look how many times we are three down for not a lot” bandwagon as if this was a shock revelation says it all. That Cook, who has only just started being of any benefit with the bat after his two year slump, is now absolved of all blame is not such a shock. In a reverse Whitaker, it appears to be Ballance’s fault, and it also tolls on the Bell. The other opener has been such a problem for so long now, it’s taken as a given we’ll have another soon. However frightening Ballance’s technique is at the moment, and how Bell’s regression is a terror-strewn binary nightmare, both were seen to be OK after a sixty in Cardiff. The Twitter mouthpiece of All Out Cricket (The Official Magazine of the Professional Cricketers Association) was ramming it down doubters’ throats. “Drop Moeen, Drop Ballance, Drop Bell blah blah blah” (love that underneath my Twitter column for that it has “Translate from Indonesian”) as if doubting these players was erased by a half decent 60. We aren’t doing it because we enjoy it, Jo. We do it because we aren’t blind to trends, to technique, and to the relative abilities of the teams we are up against.

I don’t want to pick on that individual particularly – although that Tweet rankled – because in the main I agree with sticking with people for a while. But this England team set the bar with Cook’s wilderness period, and now Bell, with a 143 of great quality not three months ago, in the firing line there is the obvious implication of one rule for one etc. That’s the problem with our selection process. We have journos and pundits saying they can’t drop Bell without dropping Ballance and vice-versa. Why the hell not. Since when has our selection process, that has trust as its prime factor over ability, had any logic in it? If we have only one replacement that they think can come in, then drop just one player.

I am rambling, as usual, but I want to leave this piece with a couple of thoughts. First of all, we weren’t as good as Cardiff made us seem, and we genuinely aren’t as bad as this performance made us look. But we found out some harsh lessons that the “experts” chose to avoid. Steve Smith is a class number three and for all this was a featherbed, he made 215. He looked supremely in control when I saw him even when not at his best. Don’t insult him Swann. Don’t talk rot. Then there’s the Johnson can’t bowl at Lord’s codswallop based on the 2009 model. It’s six years on, and he was devastating. I don’t think we have a thing about him, I think we have a thing about left arm pace. Thirdly, Anderson was atrocious. Yes, atrocious. But he’s another sacred cow in this team, and that’s our issue.

Let me go back to Dave Kidd on Thursday:

“Pietersen’s new chums in the bookmaking industry make England even money to reclaim the urn. If Cook continues to lead as he did at Cardiff, they may soon be red-hot favourites.”

I don’t call the Australians “the cockroaches” for nothing. They may have been displaying distress signals, but they are never killed off. That’s the sign of a resilient, formidable team. Not a “win one game, ain’t we just the best, shut up haters and doubters” mob.

Back tonight.

51 thoughts on “Gasoline

  1. metatone Jul 20, 2015 / 1:05 pm

    I, on the other hand, am all about over-reacting:

    because this is just yet another data point in a long term trend of toothless bowling and inept batting on this kind of surface. It highlights all our failings in player development and selection…

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Arron Wright Jul 20, 2015 / 2:00 pm

    Some FICJAM-lite to tide you over…

    http://www.theguardian.com/sport/blog/2015/jul/20/ashes-2015-england-resist-panic-lords-australia-second-test

    Featuring an admission that Strauss helps pick the side. Well I go to the bottom of our stairs…

    …oh, and the usual focus on batting NOT bowling…. This paragraph is popcorn-fodder:

    “No side should be changed simply for the sake of finding a scapegoat, but there is something systematically wrong when only three of the last 14 opening partnerships have exceeded 17 and where on the same 11 occasions, the third wicket has fallen for no more than 73 runs. In this and nowhere else lies the crux of the England inconsistency that has thrice in the last three months seen them follow a win with a loss. It is to this, and nothing else, that Bayliss needs to find a solution that is not necessarily Lord’s-specific.”

    Liked by 1 person

    • Arron Wright Jul 20, 2015 / 2:22 pm

      BTL Guess Who (don’t look):

      “On a completely different note, it is heart warming to see Cook the battler back to his best. Leaving the balls outside off stump and putting such a heavy price on his wicket that the opposition feel soooo much relief when they finally get him.”

      Like

    • paulewart Jul 20, 2015 / 5:56 pm

      This after demanding change yesterday. Tabloid fodder.

      Like

  3. amit Jul 20, 2015 / 2:04 pm

    Has anyone one seen KP talk about his return post Lords? I haven’t. He’s largely been quiet, kept to himself and ignored most of the idiotic comments both ATL and BTL. So, why is it, that every time things go wrong with the team, his name is brought out as the thing gone most wrong. Why do they use KP as a tool to distract others from the main issues. Cook fails 7 times in last 14 innings, to even cross 20, yet his average (high 50s, buffeted by a big 162 against the kiwis) is remembered, not the fact that he failed in half his innings to give the team a decent start. Statements like “Players are doing fine without KP” are thrown about without any damn supporting evidence. The selective distortion of facts, to suit a narrative is just annoying. It would be a lot better and easier for him to connect with fans, if he didnt try to be the poster child of ECB and its cohorts. This unhealthy obsession with improving Cook’s image while discrediting KP for anything he’s ever done, is the single biggest obstacle to good PR. It sticks out a big fat thumb.
    Can someone please talk sense into these jerks at the board / MSM that we, the fans, know what we like and want and that the PR spins only work towards alienating us?

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Boz Jul 20, 2015 / 2:14 pm

    Has anybody seen Andrew C. Strauss?

    Liked by 2 people

    • thelegglance Jul 20, 2015 / 5:33 pm

      Did you hear Atherton’s pithy comment during the Test as the camera homed in on him in an executive box? Noting that Strauss was never to be seen at a northern Test.

      Still, he’s lucky – there aren’t any this series.

      Liked by 1 person

      • LordCanisLupus Jul 20, 2015 / 5:35 pm

        Trent Bridge is northern. Still Lord’s is northern to me so don’t listen to my old tosh.

        Like

        • LordCanisLupus Jul 20, 2015 / 5:50 pm

          What direction do I need to go from London to get there. 😆

          Like

      • thelegglance Jul 20, 2015 / 6:01 pm

        Head down to Gatwick, get a flight to Magaluf, then connect with another going to East Midlands Airport. Cab it from there.

        Sorted.

        Like

  5. lionel joseph Jul 20, 2015 / 2:18 pm

    Unrelated but nice to see that James Taylor understood that had he scored 300+ he would never have played for England again.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Mark Jul 20, 2015 / 4:02 pm

    As the media has become nothing but the voice piece of the ECB there is little point reading it. One day the media might admit they were forced to stay in the good books of the ECB if they wanted access and freebies. Personally I think they just all hated KP. It was as simple as that. He was not English and he was arrogant and he didn’t bow to authority. (those traits alone made him a hate figure) as others have pointed out, a lot of England fans would rather lose than have him in the team.

    Every time England fail badly they have to stamp out any thoughts of a return. In some ways KP has become a living legend that is a dragon that has to be constantly slayed. It amuses me greatly the power he still holds over them. You only have to see how panicked they all became when he scored 300. The head of English cricket running around like a headless chicken organising meetings and leaking to his friendly media the moment the meeting ended. English cricket run as a Marx brothers movie!

    The genuflecting in front of Cook has become more insane, and more hilarious as it goes on. You suspect Sky sports are like the Soviet politicians who had to clap harder with every speech Stalin gave in case they would be taken outside and shot. It is teedius, and frustrating but I think the best policy is to just point and laugh at the coverage. Sky is proud of their sports coverage. Their cricket coverage has become a joke if they cannot criticise the The England captain. What is even funnier is the Sky box is awash with ex England captains. They must wonder why they were never given such fawning and grovelling.

    The much more worrying issues facing English cricket are where are all the young fast bowlers, and where are the spin bowlers? And if we can’t produce fast bowlers how will any of our batsman ever face them in domestic cricket? And added to that Dmitris observation that Giles Clarke is still running English cricket. That alone makes me want to cheer for the baggy green.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. Belgianwaffle Jul 20, 2015 / 4:15 pm

    Sorry to be boring about this but, given that scoring quickly is no longer the team’s main problem, is there a good reason to think that Compton might not be a good solution to replace Lyth for now (ignoring the dreadful unfairness to Lyth of course).

    Like

    • metatone Jul 20, 2015 / 4:47 pm

      If we put aside the question of whether or not Lyth deserves more of a chance, I think at this moment Compton or Carberry are the two main possible replacements who look like they could scrap it out in what will be a torrid opening spell. Johnson and Starc will be full of pace and aggression, looking to blow the openers away at the beginning of the next game…

      Like

    • Tony Bennett Jul 20, 2015 / 4:59 pm

      I don’t see it happening but I reckon Compton would be a better bet at 3, rather than plonking Root up there, which I assume is the almost certain decision. I’d leave Lyth where he is for now. He’s had some good deliveries to deal with, and is not disgraced by his failures, I think he is in place for all five tests (It’s surely part of the contract for all new England openers that they get a series).

      Like

      • LordCanisLupus Jul 20, 2015 / 5:34 pm

        Just don’t see it with Compton. Don’t know why. Gut feel. Root at three is also fraught with danger. Give it to Bell if you have to.

        Like

      • thelegglance Jul 20, 2015 / 5:51 pm

        It would be typical England to move the one player who is doing well to cover for all those who are not.

        Liked by 1 person

  8. dvyk Jul 20, 2015 / 4:47 pm

    Looking from a distance, Ballance should be protected from further failure — i.e. sent back to CC to work on his technique. Holding said he looks like a night watchman at the moment. And that was *before* the second innings.

    I’d stick Bell up to 3 and encourage him a bit. Tell him all he needs to do is just not get out cheaply and look better than Ballance did. Try and take some pressure off him and let his talent do the rest. Lyth looks a bit out of his depth to me, but his technical issues are stuff that can be worked on.

    Also, I would have some concerns about Cook’s mental fitness. Selvey and co keep saying he got out because he was tired. They blame it on how many hours he’s already batted this season, but already in WI, Selvey said it was “weariness” that caused him throw his wicket away after batting all day. If they are right, rather than just inventing bizarre excuses, it means that if Cook gets 90 or 100 in the first innings, he will be “desperately tired” for the rest of the match.

    Like

  9. SimonH Jul 20, 2015 / 5:11 pm

    Lawrence Booth:

    “If 2014 will go down as English cricket’s wasted year, the early signs of the Andrew Strauss regime are that inconvenient decisions need not be swept under the carpet.
    After a difficult start, when Strauss had to confirm the fate of Kevin Pietersen the day after his triple-century for Surrey against Leicestershire, he has barely put a foot wrong: Peter Moores was sacked, bringing an instant upturn in fortunes, and Eoin Morgan retained as one-day captain (New Zealand were beaten 3-2). Then came Trevor Bayliss, and the win at Cardiff.
    The causality can be overstated, of course”.

    2014 a “wasted year”? That wasn’t what we were told at the time – it was a brave ‘new era’. Strauss won’t avoid “inconvenient decisions”? He flunked reforming the broken selectorial system for one. “A difficult start”? File that one with the ‘difficult winter’. “Strauss had to confirm the fate of Kevin Pietersen”? Had to? Like he had no agency in the matter? Like it wasn’t why he’d been appointed – and it’s a f*****g disaster? “He has barely put a foot wrong”? He’s given one press conference in two months – what genius. “Peter Moores was sacked”? Not exactly the most difficult decision. “An instant upturn in fortunes”? Moores’ last Test series was 1-1, the next was 1-1. How is that an instant upturn? “Eoin Morgan retained as one-day captain”. Fair enough on that one. “Then came Trevor Bayliss, and the win at Cardiff. The causality can be overstated, of course”? I’ll say it can…..

    Liked by 3 people

    • LordCanisLupus Jul 20, 2015 / 5:32 pm

      Strauss. Downton with recent experience until he proves otherwise. I don’t trust early reactions.

      Like

    • BoerInAustria Jul 20, 2015 / 5:37 pm

      Well to be honest:

      – Wasted the 2013/24 Ashes and a number of players careers to accomodate the WC
      – Wasted the WC
      – Wasted 2014 (it is official now?)
      – And wasted the 2015 Ashes as well as the WI and NZ series
      – 2016… who knows?

      The price England cricket is paying is extraordinary high to indulge the singlemindedness of a few individuals. Zephirine had a great analysis yesterday regarding the Clarke rational and other aspects around the Cult of Cook. The stewardship by the ECB of England cricket is appaling, yet they carry no accountabilty.

      And as Mark pointed out – Talent.
      “What has that got to do with anything? Let’s waste some more….”

      Liked by 2 people

  10. SimonH Jul 20, 2015 / 5:17 pm

    Newman reckons Bairstow will be in for Ballance with Lyth and Bell given one last chance.

    This is of course good journalism and not to be confused with seepage or any other problems that require plumbers.

    Like

  11. SimonH Jul 20, 2015 / 5:25 pm

    Scyld Berry’s player ratings for Lord’s are so bizarre they must be some sort of performance art work designed to illustrate the vacuity of player ratings as a concept.

    Start off with the fact that he gives Broad and Anderson the same rating…..

    Liked by 2 people

    • LordCanisLupus Jul 20, 2015 / 5:31 pm

      Superb. These ratings are the stuff of legend. Did Cooky get 11?

      Like

      • MM Jul 20, 2015 / 5:47 pm

        He should… a great big Spinal Tap-style 11.

        Like

    • lionel joseph Jul 20, 2015 / 6:50 pm

      I’ve just looked at these.

      Either someone has been fucking about with Scyld’s numeric keypad or he’s been sniffing glue.

      Liked by 1 person

    • hatmallet Jul 20, 2015 / 7:58 pm

      As I said BTL there, the ratings for the first Test were odd, with Australia over ranked. Even worse this time around.

      Like

    • Arron Wright Jul 20, 2015 / 8:13 pm

      And I thought the Liverpool-obsessed Daily Mirror giving Gerrard 4/10 for getting sent off in 43 seconds would be the all-time nadir for player ratings in sport. How terribly naïve.

      Like

    • waikatoguy Jul 21, 2015 / 1:00 am

      I thought they were pretty weird. What exactly did Anderson do to get the ranking he achieved (7/10)? But the one that I though most ridiculous was the 9/10 that he gave to Steve Smith. What exactly did Berry think Smith needed to do which he didn’t to achieve that elusive 10?

      Like

  12. Sherwick Jul 20, 2015 / 6:01 pm

    It says something when the worst, most terrible event for the ECB to deal with in the past 2 years, (2 years lest we forget that featured a 5-0 thrashing to our arch enemy and a ddisasteous world cup amongst other calamaties), was an England player scoring 355 not out.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Sherwick Jul 20, 2015 / 6:14 pm

      In a county match of course. It would be even more disastrous for the ECB if he ever scored again in Test cricket.

      Like

    • SimonH Jul 20, 2015 / 6:54 pm

      “It’s a comment that goes to the heart of much of the recent talk that suggests that anything defensive is bad and anything aggressive is good. For what England have missed most in recent months is a pair of opening batsmen who can see off the new ball and shield the attacking middle-order from the conditions at their most difficult”.

      So, England never pick David Warner – or Marcus Trescothick.

      Like

    • Sean B Jul 20, 2015 / 7:39 pm

      I think it’s bit harsh focusing on George Dobell’s piece, as he is the one journo I actually rate. In the main, I think he has a valid point around the necessity to find an opener who can see off the new ball and stick with him as we’re hardly blessed with them. I could also go on a long winded rant about the pitches currently played on at county level (don’t worry I’ll save that for another time), but in the main, the first time these players are subjected to real pace or good spin, is at Test level. Something there surely isn’t right.

      Like

      • Zephirine Jul 20, 2015 / 8:10 pm

        “the first time these players are subjected to real pace or good spin, is at Test level. Something there surely isn’t right.”

        It isn’t, and what’s more – I’ve just had a rant over at TFT about this – once they’re in the Test side it seems they’re not being prepared properly for what they’ll inevitably have to face. The England setup knew Johnson and Starc were coming and surely they must have done some intensive training on facing pace? You’d think so. But the batsmen looked just as lost playing those bowlers as England did 18 months ago.

        Liked by 2 people

      • thelegglance Jul 20, 2015 / 8:17 pm

        I wasn’t criticising the article! More about what it says.

        Like

    • metatone Jul 20, 2015 / 8:23 pm

      Pitches are a problem in CC – but the lack of “rain days” (as I call them) is a problem too. Result pitches are just about some teams pandering to mediocre bowlers – it’s also about being able to get a result before the weather closes in. (Durham 2013 were masters in this regard, having a good attack at the time.)

      Like

  13. SimonH Jul 20, 2015 / 9:06 pm

    Some interesting stats from Bunkers:

    “In 1989 [England] used 29 players in a hopeless quest to try to retain the Ashes, in 1993, trying to regain them, they picked 24, in 1997, 18, in 2001, 19.

    Then it changed. The last three home series against Australia, in 2005, 2009 and 2013 have seen the use of 12, 15 and 14 players respectively”.

    Like

    • Tony Bennett Jul 20, 2015 / 9:26 pm

      For those who witnessed the 1989 series, it was of course tremendous fun trying to guess what the next test line-up would be (just as it was in the previous season against the West Indies when I believe 28 players appeared for England). The 1989 series was the most devastating Ashes home defeat for England since 1948. The worse it got, the more the selectors panicked. We can be sure (I think…) that there will be nothing of the kind this time round.

      Like

      • Mark Jul 20, 2015 / 9:53 pm

        The 1988 series against WI was a cracker. We had a different captain almost every test match.

        Like

        • Tony Bennett Jul 20, 2015 / 9:59 pm

          An absolute cracker. The icing on the cake was picking Cowdrey as captain, who then scored 0 and 1 (I think), got injured, and disappeared without trace.

          Like

      • Mark Jul 20, 2015 / 10:24 pm

        Ah yes, Cowdrey as captain. I remember him walking out to the toss with full blazer and cap. He looked as if he couldn’t believe it. NOBODY could believe it.

        And Viv Richards with base ball hat on, and looking like he didn’t have a care in the world.

        Like

        • Tony Bennett Jul 20, 2015 / 10:40 pm

          “We believe Cowdrey’s style of leadership is what is now required”,claimed England’s chairman of selectors Peter May, who was also Cowdrey’s godfather, amid charges of favouritism. [Wikipedia]

          Like

    • paulewart Jul 21, 2015 / 12:39 pm

      Bizarro football.

      Like

  14. SimonH Jul 20, 2015 / 9:59 pm

    The “inexperienced side, got to expect inconsistency” meme is poking its head above the parapet again. It drives me up the wall – mainly because England are always considered in isolation as if the opposition are always 11 Sangakkaras. (There are other reasons of course – like not acknowledging that inexperience is partly self-inflicted).

    Looking at the teams at Lord’s Australia were again the older side (by two years on average – 29 to 27). However in terms of Test experience Australia were much the less experienced side (by 14 Tests a man on average – 46 to 32). Australia had only two players with 50+ caps whereas England had four.

    I noticed on the new Switch Hit that the emphasis on inconsistency has changed to it now being a result of the way England play. It’s now because of their fearlessness. Hmmmm.

    The trouble with this pleading inexperience line is that, like “Cook’s back to his best” or “Cook’s captaining better”, when it’s argued when it’s obvious cobblers nobody then believes it when it becomes true. England’s inexperience will be a factor in UAE (if the tour goes ahead) or in SA. Possibly eight of the team might be experiencing those conditions at Test level for the first time. But to plead inexperience at home is pretty feeble.

    Liked by 1 person

    • amit Jul 21, 2015 / 10:52 am

      I wouldn’t quite disagree with the inexperience part. Esp. with Lyth just starting out. Ballance too hasn’t played for too long and when you consider Moeen and Jos B, not too much experience there.
      That it was probably more than australia, would be besides the point but some of these folks are genuinely new.

      Like

      • paulewart Jul 21, 2015 / 12:41 pm

        Aye, but as well all know, experienced players are available (if not for selection). This was and remains a choice. No-one forced the ECB to drop their leading batsman.

        Like

      • SimonH Jul 21, 2015 / 2:12 pm

        Two more points about inexperience:
        1) England are trying to have it both ways – they made a conscious decision last year to go with new players and proclaim a new era. They didn’t have to. They didn’t have to sack Pieteresen. Swann, Prior and Trott needed replacing but they could have called up some county stalwarts (as Australia have done with Rogers and Voges). They can’t then complain about inexperience when it is a result of their own decision.
        2) The case of Moeen Ali particularly irks me – he is 28 and has played 130+ f/c matches. Those are the stats of a mature player in any other culture. Some say Moeen’s inexperience refers specifically to his bowling – but then, lo and behold, when his place was in jeopardy Moeen’s champions (Selvey and Dobell principally) discover he has bowled as many f/c deliveries since 2012 as Rashid and in fact is an experienced spinner after all.

        I think somewhen in life I missed the lesson in subtextual English where everyone else learnt to use ‘inexperienced’ as a euphemism for ‘not very good’.

        Like

  15. amit Jul 21, 2015 / 3:16 pm

    Valid points re sacking the experience lot. Couldn’t agree more on these being self inflicted wounds. However, it does mean that the new kids have to bear the additional pressure. ECB stupidity, I know, is legendary.

    Like

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