Good day to you all.
You don’t need to be as great an administrator as Paul Downton to note that output is down on here at the moment. That longer piece on Giles Clarke was written over a week ago, and I’ve not felt the urge, or had the time, to write anything else. TLG is also incredibly busy at this point. We’ll try to get some more stuff out, so keep checking in, but these are the dog-days of blogging and we don’t even have a tasty autobiography on the horizon to get enthused about!
Some points that aren’t worthy of an entire post, but caught my attention can be discussed here. What’s going on with Australia and Bangladesh? I have to say I am stunned that there are security issues that might prevent the matches going ahead. Clearly Pakistan is still a country too far for international teams, and I can’t see that really changing, but there’s never been a hint that Bangladesh shares the same problems, has there? I have a couple of benchmarks to go alongside here – India in 2008, when England returned after the Mumbai Hotel siege and played out two tests; and Sri Lanka in the 80s and 90s, when bombings were reasonably frequent, and yet teams toured (I seem to recall New Zealand coming home from one series). This may be due to lack of coverage in the UK, but you don’t get that impression of Bangladesh.
No-one can say that Australia are wrong to do what they are doing because we don’t know the full facts. But you are really left wondering if this is worse than being in England during the 2005 bombings, or if this were India they were talking about, then there’d be this impasse. As I say, you just wonder.
To return to KP, I saw a quote where he supposedly says Strauss was right to drop him. The quote in the article says
“[Strauss] made his decision and it’s turned out absolutely fine. Absolutely it seems to be the right decision at the moment.
Notice how those last three words are left out of the headlines?
Sad to see the death of Frank Tyson, an England legend of days gone by, well before I was on this good Earth. Legends of his pace, of his winning exploits in Australia are passed down by those who saw him in action, who can tell of the greatness. In many ways, in this age where everything is covered on TV, and you can access pretty much anything, this air of mystery to someone like me adds so much. In the absence of personal experience, read the many tributes on the dedicated pages.
The County season drew to an end, with not too much drama in the first class game except relegation battles in the first division. Sussex went through the trap door, and that’s sad for a county that seem to do the right thing most of the time. Somerset and Hampshire had rocky seasons but survived, with Somerset’s last day win pulling them well away from the zone they had begun to flirt with. Hampshire stayed up by the skin of their teeth (2 points). Surrey won the 2nd Division with their summer surge finally catching and then passing Lancashire (and definitely having the better of their September match-up), who took second and looked nailed on for promotion from the start.
There was, of course, the One Day Cup Final, which was a great match, won by the unfashionable county over the flash boys. I could not help but regret that something like that, which Sky doesn’t really care about, couldn’t be held at a better time, and with more access. It had to compete with a crowded sporting calendar, and especially the start of the tedious Rugby World Cup (sorry folks, not my bag). Imagine if a wider audience could have seen the performances of old man Geraint Jones and the young tyro Sam Curran? That’s the sort of thing that inspires. But no. A great game, with great stories, passed the world by. No-one cares any more because the networks don’t care about it, and to a certain degree, players and counties don’t. I really think it needs to go to knockout format now. The group stages can be tainted when two or three counties lose early games and think it isn’t worth it and chuck out lower strength, unmotivated teams, which defeats some of its purpose. The same happens, to a lesser degree, in T20 (Middlesex, I’m looking at you) but it’s not as important. The crowds will still go, in much the same way as crowds turn up to those Premier League Darts things because the results don’t really matter, it’s the “entertainment”.
What is noticeable is the line-up of next year’s County Championship Division One. Surrey, Middlesex, Nottinghamshire, Warwickshire, Lancashire, Yorkshire (the original Big 6 test venues), Durham and Hampshire (two new test venues) and Somerset (the odd one out). One would suggest that if Tom The Empty Suit, and Graves the Gutless, could pick a county championship line-up this would be it, right down to Giles Clarke’s county being the odd one out in the line-up of 9!
Please do fill out the survey. I haven’t had too many responses so I’ll push the deadline back a bit. I suppose if you don’t want to do it all, then just do the best and worst journalist part, and the same for TV. After all, that’s all anyone is really interested in, isn’t it?
I’d also point out that I took up my annual ritual and purchased the 2015 Wisden from the Book People. I’m not paid to advertise them, but it’s worth looking. That Dmitri fella somehow ended up in it. Funny and all that.
I’m sure things will pick up with more international cricket on the horizon, so keep the comments and stuff coming. I have a piece on DoaG and the international scene to write…..
Don’t fret about lack of output Dmitri. These are the dog days of summer. Last weeks final between Surrey and Glos was an example of where English cricket is headed. No mainstream coverage, and no one is interested anymore. Not even this can be shown on free to air TV thanks to the genius of Clarke and his spivs. While English cricket rotted on a pay per view channel, The public was watching Japan beat South Africa with an audience that cricket can only dream of. It used to be one of crickets big days of the year. Whisper it quietly but players even used to get selected on winter tours on the back of a Lords final in September. I’m looking at you Robin Smith. Of course it was silly to do so, although players like Smith did go on to have good careers at England level.
I was watching the rugby last night and had to chuckle. England rugby is straight out of the Srauss/ Moores model. Robotic, management self help books. I wonder if he was there in the posh seats with the princes? The England backroom is filled with white boards and buzz words. Im sure Trust is a word often spoken. Last night England couldn’t deal with change. As the game changed in the last 10 minutes, they had been programmed for a different outcome. They couldn’t adapt, left flat footed and even ended up with their brains scrambled at the last ditch refusal to go for the 3 points. Of course England players can still turn it around, but will they be allowed to? The media coverage before the game implied the players were irrelevant. This was a straight contest between Lancaster, and Gatland. Both connected to a play station and who ever was the best would win. Sport reduced to a video game were leadership comes from above, handed down in tablets of sponsors stone. Their week long selection dilemma determined by systems. The coach as guru. You had to laugh at the end when the England management said they couldn’t get messages onto the field to tell the captain what to do.
Cipriano, like KP and many others have been removed. They are a poison that pollutes the all powerful and and hallow modern dressing room. No room for individualIsm, or any threat to the religious order. A generation of yes men players who have a coach for every function. Welcome to English sport of the modern era. Still, I’m sure there was a lot of trust there last night.
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I’m with LCL when it comes to rugby, but – as an Englishman with a Welsh better-half – I was pleased to see the result. Why? Constant references to Lancaster and his organised, understated but confident style that Comma, Cricket was aiming for were enough for me to want that team to go down in flames.
Too late, considering the Ashes result, but a small pleasure, and one less avenue for the press to scurry up in their constant cat-and-mouse game of half-truths and leaks. Which ‘successful’ model will they designate as the next template for our Comma to base himself on?
Ironically, if you want to see a sports team that has dragged itself from tragedy to success, look at Alec Stewart’s Surrey. Shame they couldn’t get him.
I realise that Strauss has actually done alright, results wise, and my little rant is more against the press than him. Tough times ahead, though, and it will be interesting to see how wagons are circled if there is a difficult winter. Shotguns pointing outwards at us Injuns, or inwards…?
There is no “successful” model. I must have missed all those grand slams, victories against New Zealand and such like. Lancaster hasn’t won a massive game in his life. They either blow out in a tough away game, or come close to the major powers of the Southern Hemisphere. In the absence of anyone else, I’d probably have fired him a year ago, but then I know next to nothing about the sport. It’s what makes me laugh when people harangue Roy Hodgson, but then fellate over Lancaster!
My Back Pages: Telegraph 17 Jul 2014
“English cricket’s director of elite coaching Andy Flower may have been looking for a Lancaster type when he re-appointed Peter Moores …… It was instructive to see Andy Flower – England’s director of elite coaching – sitting in the Grand Stand on Thursday alongside Stuart Lancaster, the man who is generally credited with turning around the England rugby union team.”
Yes, my guard stood hard when abstract threats
Too noble to neglect
Deceived me into thinking
I had something to protect
Good and bad, I define these terms
Quite clear, no doubt, somehow
Ah, but I was so much older then
I’m younger than that now
…and “England begin the countdown to the defining match of Stuart Lancaster’s reign amid accusations by the former captain Will Carling that their head coach has created a “classroom-orientated environment” among players treated as “schoolboys”.”
“What will ultimately lead to a winning side is the culture. That willingness to be selfless, to be part of a group willing to work hard for each other, to be humble, not to be arrogant, to respect each other and everyone else”
“But those 2 major shifts in our leadership meant that there was a change in culture and I think in a number of ways we drifted away from the strong pillars that formed a strong foundation of our culture, stuff like honesty, personal responsibility, respect. ”
Andy Flower 2015
I noticed that Andy Bull gave all the England management and coaches a free pass for the RWC defeat to Wales.
Good to see rugby fans having to put up with the same kind of nonsense we’ve been enduring in cricket. If he starts getting the players’ names wrong his transformation into Martin Samuel will be complete.
Before I start this little comment, I’m going to say I know next to nothing about rugby union.
There was a truly special piece of analysis last night, and it came from Johnny Wilkinson. It was analysing England’s try. It was excellent. A set move, a player running across another and being missed out on the pass, doing this twice, creating an overlap. Subsequently we went on to score.
Of course, Wilkinson’s best line was “if all those pieces hadn’t come together, there wouldn’t have been a try”. The key point was that the move, beautifully worked as it was, had the small matter of Watson dropping the ball.
Wilkinson seemed absolutely keen to give credit to a coaching move that might have worked if play had run its course. Instead, the Welsh got sucked in a little and a crackingly timed pass set up the try for May. In essence, it was only partially related to the try, in the same way that a great catch at gully is only partially down to what a bowler does, or a free-kick goal in football is down to a well worked passing move that ended in a foul.
What Sean B and I had on DM on Twitter last night was a discussion on mentality. I’ve supported England teams (and UK, and Europe) teams across sporting formats, and a general rule is our utter fear of defeat. The paralysis of losing is ingrained in us. Look at the way people were talking at half-time. England were by far the better side, and yet all you heard was how the Welsh would be buoyed by being just 7 points down due to a late penalty. Lots of nations would be talking about how well their team was playing. England seemed to be talking about the potential to lose a game. If Lancaster really wanted to know what our identity and culture really is, it is that, right there.
Lancaster is another in that line of non-threatening coaches who somehow convinces on the strength of decency and media savvy. Mark nails him correctly in the comment above. He’s never won a really big game as coach. He’s always nearly done it with England. It’s progress from some previous years, but defeats like last night can’t be brushed away by the Bull’s of this world. No way. When you put your colours to the mast of team culture and playing for the shirt, losing a game you should have buried, and by your own mistakes as players, hurts you. Your culture could be interpreted as “no composure” or “fear”.
Another coach, another one excusing failure, holding on to one more chance. That’s England.
” I’m going to say I know next to nothing about rugby union.”
I wouldn’t worry about it mate. It’s never stopped your old favourite Oliver Holt. Read his effort from last night on the rugby. Yes, he is trying is luck on rugby now. Having tried cricket and football he has become an expert on rugby.
Anyway, Wales won because they have coal mines, and choirs, and valleys. Ffs when was the last time the Welsh had a working coal mine?
I was rather surprised to see who appears to be Oliver and Martin’s boss at the Mail. Another of the Hold The Back Page generation.
Ha Ha ha
The Hold the back page generation of sports journalism. “The beautiful people.”
No wonder they are in Debretts
Lovejoy’s less talented brother feels qualified to write a “County Championship Team Of The Year”.
Had to chuckle at this “justification”.
2 Nick Browne (Essex)
To Chelmsford for the other opener. ‘Alastair Cook with a straight drive’ is one description I’ve read and there are certainly worse players to be compared to.
I posted this on anither story but thought I would add it here.
To add my opinions on the rugby too. Again I admit I don’t know a huge amount about rugby. The Lancaster tinkering with the XV reminded me of Moores tinkering with the batting order just before the world cup.
Also is it my imagination but are England Rugby captains appointed on basis of how they look and how marketable they are rather than being best man for the job? I just can think of quite a lot of England rugby captains doing adverts.
‘The past is a foreign country’ indeed…
Zepherine: brilliant. But I must say Tyson’s action was a bit of a mess, he makes Watson look sleek. My favorite bit was Mrs Tyson saying “I couldn’t get dressed quick enough”.
The other thing I noticed was the brief glimpses of the Australian male spectators at the MCG. They were quite something. Elegant.
Some great hats, as always in that era.
KP is really hard to characterise, because he really is quite child-like in his reactions. It’s quite typical of him to respond, after his tawdry treatment, (which was partly self inflicted), to be generous and forgiving. I only know him through a heavily distorted press filter, but he strikes me as someone with the mentality of a five year old, who just responds to what is in front of him; this is both a blessing and a curse (he hasn’t managed his career very well, but on the other hand it takes a certain denial of reality to play the way he did) . And he also has the optimism and enthusiam of a child of the new world, so he always looks forward. It’s not really that surprising that after all this, KP just shrugs it off and says “yeah maybe they had a point” and then gets on with his life. Good luck to him.
Fred, I think ‘mentality of a five year old’ is a bit extreme! But you’re right in the sense of living in the moment, which is a great strength in athletes – Nadal, for example, famously shrugs off a bad point and moves on to the next as if it had never happened.
G’day folks. I was there when kp made that comment – on the same stage that Lovejoy had spouted EWCB vitriol about a month earlier. Questioned of course about the Strauss meeting on the back of that 300 he was upbeat, pleased about the ashes result and asked if Strauss made the right decision answered rather magnanimously “at the moment”. Didn’t stay for audience questions as a meeting had to be made. Good on him I thought. His other comment was about having a fantastic life, travelling the world, still playing top flight (hit and giggle) cricket, and having a wonderful family. One of the best five minutes of last week without a doubt. Keep rolling
Nature (or the ECB press machine) abhors a vacuum so we have:
‘I think it is probably the most exciting team I’ve been involved in since I’ve started playing for England’.
Anyone fancy picking the bones out of that one?
BOC Spin Doctor…. James Anderson claims 2011 World #1 team weren’t very exciting, and don’t mention that 2005 team I couldn’t get in.
Yet he’d walk into it now (copyright Nasser Hussain), and hey Jimmy, weren’t you the one with your razzmatazz and your nights on the town and your talk of creating a legacy with the 2011 side?
Reminds me of …. “Pace bowler Stuart Broad says England’s current one-day batting line-up is the most powerful he has played with. ”
I wonder if the spin doctors charge less for second hand strap lines
“I have in my hand a piece of paper that guarantees peace in our time.”
Said with the same poker face as when he said: “I’d stayed out longer than I should have done professionally,” Broad admits, but he says he missed a sponsor event the next day [on Thursday] due to a severe migraine and not a “marathon drinking session” as a newspaper report suggested
The Gloucester wing Jonny May also insists the players are happy with Lancaster’s regime.
“The coaching team is the best I’ve ever had …”
This just caught my eye
Most interesting are responses saying they should!
Now I know we are laughing because of the cricket journalism society, but Sam (and Ben) are right. England threw away a massive match. Are they supposed to say everything is ok? Some muppets want us to act like the Aussie media. Right. You seen what that’s like when they fail?
A breathtaking twitter exchange.
Paul Hayward in the Telegraph:
“English rugby’s wish to shift closer to football in prominence has been greatly assisted by a mid-tournament inquest of extraordinary ferocity. As the fall-out from the Wales game spreads, Stuart Lancaster can now see how it is for a Fabio Capello or Roy Hodgson.
Uproar was inevitable when England threw away a 10-point lead against Wales and tried to blow up the whole car in the last two minutes when they needed only to blow the bloody doors off.
But the way some people are telling it, Lancaster’s men are already out, the whole culture is rotten, England are a team of robots and pestilence is about to engulf us.
Wise after the event is one thing. But what we are hearing is a host of ex-England players and coaches being wise during it. Long-suppressed gripes about the Lancaster regime have burst into the open. King of the score settlers is undoubtedly Sir Clive Woodward, who, strong rumour has it, applied for the head coach’s job in 2012 but lost out to a modest Cumbrian farmer’s son.”
Hayward is ignoring context here. Again, I put down that although I watch the 6 Nations and the internationals when I can, and have done for years, I don’t follow the game as avidly as others. From an outside context, all I can say is that Lancaster’s England lose the big games. The really big games. Ireland away. New Zealand. The occasional win against Australia, the odd win in Cardiff aside, his teams never convince me. I have had them down to go out in the 1st round of this Cup since I saw the draw – as unbelievable as that draw is, which seemed to give Scotland the magic carpet ride through to the quarters.
To call all “abuse” of Lancaster “toxic” and to accuse some of score settling is a joke. I go back to 2003, when Mark McGhee was manager of my club and everyone wanted him out. It was clear to many he was losing it, and even up to the last night in charge, I was defending him. I didn’t like the man, but recognised what he’d done in providing me with the most attractive Millwall team I’ve ever seen, and opening up its potential. I’m not knee-jerk. I don’t think watching a few years of Lancaster’s team going nowhere, having his brilliance shoved in our faces when he witters on about culture and all that bollox, and then when it comes to the competition that really matters, his team chokes, is knee-jerk. Not at all.
But, hey ho. Some out there think we all need to be cheerleaders. Us against them. I want us to stuff the Aussies. But don’t be surprised when we don’t.
This quote. THIS FUCKING QUOTE….
“It’s disappointing, especially from someone who has not been in the environment. I’ve been involved in many environments as a player and as a coach. This environment is as good an environment as I’ve seen. It allows players to express themselves and get better as players and leaders. I don’t buy into that [criticism] whatsoever.”
They can all sing Kumbaya together…. or whatever the hell this means.
While we worry about nonsense like this, other teams create great players and make them better. We worry that they can all get along, and don’t upset the applecart.
I liked Andy Farrell when he was at Wigan.
It’s interesting about this idea that you must just blindly “get behind the team.”
This seems to be the new poison that has infected all English sport. God knows we on this site have taken a beating because we dared to question, we dared to point out the Emperor has no cloths. Will Carling was getting some abuse from some moron on Twitter; attacking him because Carling had criticised some of the players and coach. This fans view was that Carling should just shut up, and back the team. At one point he said (referring to a particular player) “He’s English, back him.” Simple, knuckle dragging stupidity.
I now see quite clearly how Nazi Germany got started. (One for the deluded people who follow Godwin’s law ) It’s a kind of stupid, lemming like crazy. No thought is required or wanted. Just blind obedience.
Andy Murray had some joker on at him about why he wasn’t wearing a Union flag on his track suit. Murray pointed out there was a flag on the track suit, and he wore the kit he was supposed to wear. Supporters and players of British sport are now made to behave like they were living in a national sporting Gulag where uniforms must be worn. National anthems must be sung at full volume. And no criticism will be tolerated.
Maybe it’s just me, but there is something deeply sinister about all this. And if you don’t believe that, then at least except on just a pure sporting level that it’s insane. We lose matches because we don’t perform. And we don’t peform because we don’t have enough great players. It doesn’t matter how many times you sing the anthem, or whether Carling has done a Smashy and Nicey, “your great, great mate.”
To be fair, Will Carling is full of crap.
It has been quiet in the West Indies. Hence it was time for yet another blunder: Phil Simmons temporarily suspended as he is being investigated with regards to remarks he has (allegedly) made, concerning team composition.
Still no word from the WICB on the claim of $42 million.
This is all great stuff and extremely interesting. I enjoyed the article and the comments, both Cricket and Rugby related, are really good, with some very funny input from the usuals. Grand stuff!
In relation to the Rugby, I have to admit that on HDWLIA, I did at one point advocate English Cricket looking at Lancaster and English Rugby, as a model the ECB could follow to improve the culture of the England team after the ‘difficult winter’. In hindsight, however, this has turned out as a bad call. As good as the culture reset by Lancaster was, it has not resulted in a team consolidating and building on said culture, to become great players capable of taking control of a match. The culture seems all important and results in the stifling of creativity, where players who are unpredictable are jettisoned in favour of ‘defensive generals’ or ‘test match animals’ whatever those are……
I would like to add another point, which is contrary to the perceived wisdom that was purveyed by Clive Woodward and the ex-pros during and after the match. Namely, that Lancaster’s selection was wrong and it was not the second half changes that were our undoing. The team selection consisting of a midfield of Farrell, Burgess and Barritt was negative, it was picked to nullify and stultify the play of Wales. This resulted in a lack of creativity in attack. Our only try was created by our fast and gifted back 3 and Ben Youngs, all good creative and attacking players. They were, however, not involved in the first half nearly as much as they should have been, as the selected midfield did not bring them into the equation. It was a midfield that lacked a passing centre, someone capable of releasing those outside him. It was a midfield selected to smash and defend. In that first half Wales were playing poorly and we could have and should have scored more tries, we should have taken full advantage of their malaise. That we did not and could not, was because we lacked the talent and flair in midfield to release our dangerous back 3. To put it bluntly we lost because of Lancasters selection and a fear of selecting attacking players who might win us the game, but might make mistakes…….we should have established an unassailable lead in the first half!
Anyway sorry for the non cricket rant.
I am glad we are long rid of the Ashes summer, I will not remember it fondly nor will I reminisce on its quality. I am very much looking forward to the UAE tour though. Pakistan are mercurial and a joy to watch. They always surprise and manage to unearth some new express pace bowler or mystery spinner, which makes them far more intriguing than another Aus fest……..could Amir even make a return………
Rohan, Pakistan named their squad for the England Tests last week and Amir isn’t in it.
Wahab Riaz, Imran Khan, Rahat Ali and Junaid Khan are the seamers.
Posting elsewhere I pointed out that although the spinners are the main threat, it is not as though Pakistan don’t often have a high quality pace-man they can’t suddenly spring from nowhere. It would be highly ironic if England got skittled by a paceman on this tour. Well actually it wouldn’t but you know what I mean.
Thanks for that, must have missed it! Even so, that is a very handy looking attack and on potentially flat/low and slow wickets, I think their pace attack will be far more threatening!
It’s gonna be fun to see how the press ‘dress’ this one up. We win, they will say Pakistan = greatest team ever. We lose, they will say Pakistan = irrelevance as can’t even play in their own country….
There’ll probably be an accusation from the UK MSM that Pakistan are cheating somehow…
Very much agree PK. Selvey in his pre-tour piece ignores the Pakistan seamers and rubbishes their spinners (not that Yasir Shah has just become the fastest Pakistan bowler to fifty Test wickets or anything).
He has his finger on the pulse of world cricket as usual.
Just read that piece. Selvey writes it as if he doesn’t have a scooby who or what makes up the Pakistan team these days.
I suspect Selvey could tell you more about Bedford School’s last game than Pakistan’s last dozen Test matches…
Selvey has reached the point where he should no longer be classed as a cricket journalist. He is nothing more than part of the ECB PR department.
You might as well call in at ECB central and pick up a press release. His writing is completely useless.
In the first test in 2012 in Dubai. England were Ajmaled in the 1st innings but it was Umar Gul in the second innings that removed the England top 4.
FWIW, I hear from friends that Dhaka has become a bit tense recently. Couple of killings claimed by a local ISIS organisation.
Looks like Australia’s tour of Bangladesh will be canceled.
Good Spin today from Barney Ronay, worth a read.
Second that nomination. Definitely worth a read. Along with part One as well.
Grassroots are dying because counties are only interested in supporting a slim structure for favoured candidates to be groomed into county players, is my take…
BR is quite fair about how the counties are struggling financially and must cut back. But then, where does all that lovely money from Sky go, we ask ourselves?
…and in case you missed a full body shot to appreciate good Giles’ dress sence:
I’ve read it and felt really sad. I have some empathy with that as my club is one of the only ones existant in their borough. They have pressures from the surrounding residents over the usage of the ground, and when heaven forbid players hit sixes and they are concerned over their cars etc.
There is also a junior club that also uses the same ground and if the park was taken away from cricketing use that would be them finished. As far as I know they are still going ok but it wouldn’t take very much as I indicate for them to be finished and that would be another area of urban cricket lost like Lewisham.
Even at senior recriational cricket level, my club has had similar issues with the lack of people still playing the game. We used to have a whole load of southern hemisphere folk playing for us (we still have some) and could field two teams a weekend for most of the summer. Now we can’t do that and were we excluded from playing from our home base due to lack of council support our club would likely be finished just like the junior team would. This is the challenge that urban cricket faces.
Series’ prediction from Lovejoy:
“‘I think it will be a tough series for England but I’m hopeful they can do well. I think they’ll sneak the series 2-0. The bowlers did well last time but the batsmen really struggled with some of the spinners over there, but they’re not the force they were now the ICC have changed the laws on straight arms a little bit.”
Lovejoy undoubtedly does not know or care that Pakistan have been unbeaten in a series in the UAE since 2009. No other side has had similar success in their respective home(s).
Last time the bowlers did well. Yeah, and how many of Swann and Panesar will be playing? So, now it appears that Lovejoy’s implied position is that Moeen is a better slow bowler than Lovejoy and Panesar combined.
The batsmen struggled. That includes Cook and Bell. Both of whom will be playing.For all others it will be (with the exception of Patel), their first full series in Asia. Root, Moeen, Stokes, Buttler, Wood, and Rashid are pretty much untested there. Now, they might do well, but they might also pull of an Australia. Australia were pretty much untested (Rogers, Maxwell, Mitchell Marsh, albeit more experienced than England) in Asia, and that did not lead to much success either.
If sides such as Sri Lanka and South Africa have failed to achieve it in two attempts, what would make England odds on favorites to easily succeed, especially on the back of having suffered a whitewash in their last attempt? Their world class spin bowling? Their excellent batting records in Asia? A side with the likes of Smith, Amla, Kallis and de Villiers, of whom the last three have 50+ averages in Asia, has struggled to outbat Pakistan in the UAE, so Joe Root and the walking wickets (Bell’s 8.50 average in the previous series merits that assessment at least on Bell’s part, and Cook had one score of 90-odd, but excepting that innings, he was about as effective as Bell) in Asia must be favorites to achieve what South Africa have failed to achieve.
Rehman did not have issues with his action. The laws were not changed with regards to bowling actions in the past 4 years. It is the same extension limit of 15 degrees. Nice bit of misinformation there Lovejoy.
Pakistan are a pretty settled side. They have more batsmen in the top 30 (5 vs 2) of the ICC rankings than England. Oh, and those rankings for England are mostly based on familiar conditions, and the “mediocre” opposition of the West Indies – hardly the sternest tests either. Was Headingley against New Zealand a real bunsen? Was Lord’s (against Australia) transformed in a Lankan dustbowl whenever England batted?
Both sides have the same number of bowlers (4) in the top 30 of the rankings. Admittedly Ajmal and Rehman will not be playing, but we have to bear in mind that some of the new bowlers in Pakistan are still penalised on the rankings because they have played few Tests (I think you need a minimum of 12 Tests played to not have the “inexeperience” penalty in those asssessments). Just as Wood is probably better than #59 (as the ranking currently suggest), so are the likes of Imran Khan, Rahat Ali and Babar than their rankings – at least in the UAE.
Lovejoy is predicting England will win as many Tests in this series as they’ve won in their entire history away against Pakistan. I was reminded of all the MSM predictions that England would win the WC warm-up series in SL – which also required England to double their total number of ODI wins ever in SL in a single series. That went well, I seem to remember.
Nothing’s impossible I suppose, but…