The Year in Blogging – Part 3 – April

Many of you have read the first two parts of this journey, so I thought I’d finish the year with the two main months for hits this year. April and especially May. Firstly, April.

We left the review just as England had been laughed out of the World Cup and Australia were being crowned champions again. What was our reaction going to be?

Cinema Cook and KP

The bogfather was causing trouble, tweeting my “Dirty Dozen” to Simon Hughes and it being called “an odd list”. I ranted. Plus ca change. It then got a little bit odd.

Simon Hughes - The Analyst

Ho Ho. The media were still incredibly prickly about the likes of us. The “new era” had seen the same World Cup results. Cook had been sacked as captain and was without a hundred. There needed to be  distraction.

We got it. If we were to hear this once in April, we’d hear it a thousand times.

Newman greeted the Wisden Editor’s Notes with his usual pro-KP stance.

“a decision on which they had right on their side”

“a decision supported by those who follow the team around professionally”

Ha Ha! Cat out of the bag and all that. Never mind, Paul. It was never really a secret with you lot.

April 8th was a sad day for this blog. I was outside the Shakespeare pub on Kingsway when the tweets started pouring forth. There were messages. I was waiting for my Uni mate, down in London for the day. He sees me, and before we say hello he says “He’s gone, what are you going to do? It was the end of aplomb. You seen any of the pro-Downton camp admit their massive error? Have you?

In tabloid style let me go through some of Downton’s best moments:

  • Sacking KP. Oh yes. For reasons unclear, but something to do with being disconnected. You make a big decision like that, you need to explain yourself. Constantly avoiding the question makes you look a fool.

  • Outside cricket. Given he used that phrase in a 1985 Q&A for Cricketer’s Who’s Who, it seemed to be something he would have said. Way to get a meme started.

  • Difficult Winter – Oh yes. Losing 12 out of 13 to your main foe is just “difficult”

  • The press conference – Alastair Cook being told that he wasn’t strong enough to captain KP seemed rather amusing. Of course that was our spin. Other saw aplomb.

  • The interview – SO good I got multiple posts out of it. Where do you start? Read this. The read this. Then read this. And then there is this. Once you’ve done that, read my conclusion.

  • Who can forget his interview round in Sri Lanka. Backing the captain, then presiding over his sacking a few days later, all the while refusing to answer any questions on KP. Good lord.

  • Then there was the side to be reckoned with going into the World Cup. That went well.

  • Then the media blitz post elimination which struck all the wrong notes, had him wondering how T20 cricket had impacted, and played “it weren’t my fault” cards all over the place.

But there were playing matters to attend to, and England were visiting the West Indies for the first time in tests since 2009. That series had seen the forming of the Strauss/Flower nexus. We went into this series with Moores under a cloud, his main pit prop gone, and with a captain bereft of runs and form, no matter how many people tried to spin it. Meanwhile, I was in it up to my neck and worried about how the blog could survive long-term without me being completely f*cked up about it. April was peaceful….

I was in full-on “Get Clarke” for the Downton dismissal.

The sad news came through from Australia that the great Richie Benaud had passed away. It wasn’t a shock, but it still hits you. Richie had been a part of my childhood, a key man in getting me to get into cricket through his commentary. A sad, sad day.

Then, of course, on Wisden launch day, it was confirmed that a minor part of the bible of cricket was dedicated to little old me. A really minor part. That I didn’t want to be there (no, the man doth not protest too much) passed many by. But it happened. I discussed it in Infamy.

That Sunday after KP scored 170 for Surrey against Oxford and the usual suspects lost their shit. Hey, we never realised, that University cricket wasn’t as good as test matches. How were we to know?

The first test against the West Indies in Antigua ended with Jason Holder batting out for a hundred and a draw. Trott hadn’t functioned well as an opener, but Ian Bell made what would be his last test ton in trying circumstances. The verdict on the match is here.

As work was getting tough, in the run up to a long period of leave I was about to take, a cry for help was heeded. The notice now seems incredibly peevish, and how my air of suspicion clouded some of my views. “My blog”. What a tit! But Chris came on board and this was the best thing to happen to the blog. His style is totally different to mine, we do different things with different strengths, and it has been fantastic. House Notice II launched TLG on the world.

He kicked off with a match preview. The Grenada test was an exciting one after some dull cricket with Jimmy Anderson bowling us to victory on the last day. The fact we’d beaten a mediocre side purely on the back of a brilliant bowling spell meant that the fans and media suspended reason and went mad. There were plenty “greatest win of recent times” swaddling. See Godfather. And Notes and Queries.

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

The elephant in the room mentioned in that post would be addressed in May, in Bridgetown. Compare Durban to this nonsense. It really doesn’t compare, does it?

The last post of the month was the last Cook one before he made his hundred. Philadelphia. This took us into May….the most hit month in the history of any of my blogs. I mean, not a lot happened. That will wait until the New Year.

Happy New Year all.

 

The End of 2015 – My Thanks

By Dmitri Old / Lord Canis Lupus

Happy New Year

The end of 2015 is nigh, and although I’ll continue with the Dmitris and the review of the year into 2016, this is a time to give my thanks to all of those who have made Being Outside Cricket what it is. What that is, I have no idea….

My main thanks, of course, has to go to The Leg Glance. Chris offered his assistance at a time when I was really struggling with a change of job and some personal issues. He has been an absolute bloody tower of strength, a fantastic contributor to the blog (and no, he’s more than that, he is every much BOC as I am), and more than anything, a bloody good mate. We sealed the friendship over Krusovice, and no doubt we’ll share some more. I think one night in August, when a very well lubricated Dmitri entered into Twitter combat with a journo was when I was most thankful. Cheers, squire.

Then there are those that have contributed. Sean B, aka The Great Bucko, has put some really decent stuff out there for you, and I hope we’ll keep him from his own blog, and get his stuff on here. Also thanks for Philip for the batting piece in the late season. Again, really thought provoking. Thanks to both for the Ashes Panel too which brings me on to…..

To all those on the Ashes panel not already named, I can’t thank you enough. Keyser Chris (a great pleasure to meet you at Lord’s – let’s do that Adelaide piece one day), Man In A Barrel (despite the problems you caused 🙂 ), Cricketjon (how many names/emails you had on here 🙂 ), Paul Ewart (my main man in Finland!), The poet supreme that is The Bogfather (cut out the filth),  AndyIn Brum (my PoI fellow fanatic), Metatone (where you been, man?), EoinJPMorgan (what’s happened to Hillel), Andy Cronk (Oscar da Bosca), Dr. Melf (cheers for the support on Twitter as well), Rooto from the Cote D’Azur, Colonel Blimp (our man for the Windies) and Martin Payne (a Hammer, but I’ll let him off). The Ashes Panel went down really well, it was tough for all of you, but you responded superbly and made it what it was. Thank you so much for that.

To my constants for the last couple of years. Arron, who was there at the start of this blog going “big”. You know both Chris and I would love you to write more on here, but understand your desire to stay as a commenter. Simon H, Mr Stats, Mr News, the man who leads us to the stories – again, this blog would be a lot poorer without you here. Mark, the raging light that never goes out, who will say what he wants when he wants. I love a “Mark” response. To D’Arthez – again, we appreciate all the effort you put in, and understand the waning passion. Keep posting. Zephirine too (maybe one day I’ll learn to spell your name, but you taught me a lesson – never assume your respondents are male) – constant commenter, loyal follower. Northern Light, who has also been a big supporter over the last couple of years, as has Simon K, my local neighbour, who ruined my May with his tweets on politics!

To all my commenters this year. If I miss you out, it’s down to my error. So let’s go.

Iron Balls McGinty, @pktroll, AB, Ali Martin, Amit, Alan, Alec, Andrew Nixon, Andy (if not covered by Cronk or AiB), Angst (my man in Hong Kong), Ann Weatherly-Barton, ArushaTZ, Benny (great to meet you at The Oval, let’s do it again next year), Badger, Bags of Smoke, Belgianwaffle, Bertie, BigKev 67 (I think we’d get on better without this cricket lark), Blamcrambello, Bob, BoerinAustria (a perennial star here – thanks for the support over the last year and a half), Boz (hope you are well, long time no hear, drop me a mail), Brian Coleman, Burly (another one dropped off the radar), Cato Junior, Chateleine, Chris Stocks (appreciated the reply), Chrisps (like our Master In Charge, keep ploughing on), the tour de force that was/is Clivejw, Craig, Critihas, Culex, CustomCopyWriting (we’ll get to you later….), Dan, DanDanBoom, Danno (hope you and the family are well, Chris), Danny, Dark King (maybe Culex), Dave, DavetheVet, David Hopps, David Mutton, DLPThomas, Douglas Green (one, very odd, response), dvyk, Ed, emasl, Escort (up the BBC!), Footydoc, Fred (miss you on here, sir), FICJAM IS ON AGAIN AAAAGH (Must be someone else, but can’t match the mail), Fungineer, FustedBlush, Gambrinus (keep a welcome in the hillsides, squire), geoffboycottsgrandmother, Gonthaar (sorry for wordpress asking for your mail), Grenville, greyblazer, Grumble (or Jomesy as he is better known), Grumpy Gaz (another missing for a while), hatmallet, Ishallremainanonymous, Ian, Ian Jones, infrequent commentator (incredibly infrequent – just the once), Ivon Ivonovich (oh yes indeed), Jack Ballard (aka Ross), James (aka Larry David Niven), James Morgan (mentioned him already), Jamie, Jayman, JennyAH (who can see the nice in all of us, wish I could), jbkingsangler, jegmeister, Julie Gould (KP’s #1 fan, I’m just a jobbing amateur), JoFo, John Etheridge (still no), John Owen, Jomesy (again), Josh, Jrod (aka Jarrod Kimber), Lawrence Booth, LarryC, Leplayboy, Lezza44, Liam Desmond, Lionel Joseph, Lord Clarke of Paraguay, Lydia Thayer, Maggie, Marees, Marge, Maxie (we’ll get on to him later), May, Mike, MM, Moggy, Moosyn, Muzzleford, Narelle, NE Mike, Nephilim, NJH Cricket (I’m sure he’ll appreciate it. PS I know, have done for ages), Nicholas, Nick, Nick Atkinson, Pam Nash (ha ha ha, as if), Paul, Peeking Duck, PepperSydney, PhilA (need your help on the glossary, sir), pluckywingate, Pontiac (Nathan Lyon’s #1 Fan), Poultz24 (our newest contributor), Sherwick, Rich (aka Rich77), Richard, Rob, Roger, Rohan (thanks for all the contributions, and support), Ron, Ron Walaron (long time no hear for Ron as well), Rufus SG, Ross More (though I might have done him before), Sarah, Saxophone Alex, Scrim, Silk, Sebsmar, Shaun, SimplyShirah, Sir Peter (getting pangs for Cape Town, mate?), SNML, Steve from Oz, Steve, Steve T, SteveTuffers, SubtleKnife, THA, The Nibbler, The Vickster (back after 7 months!), Timmy, Tom (from a pacificview), Tony Bennett, Topshelf, Tregaskis (we’ll get to him later), Trevor, Tuffers86 (might have had another name), Tybalt, Veturi Sarma, VinnieMac, Volkerelle, Waikatoguy, What What, Wrongunatlongon (long time no hear – the bloke who inspired me to go that extra mile at the start of 2014), Yossarian 1977, Zero Bullshit (one of the great misses. Sad about this one) and Zeitkratzer Stockhausen (Toby Roland Jones…..)

Ed Book

I have a couple of questions. Who is my visitor in Chile? And the one in Joinville, Brazil? E-mail me on dmitriold@hotmail.co.uk . Also, the visitor who might register from Templecombe in Somerset. Could you also drop us a line. You were a key visitor!

To supportive blogs like Dennis Does Cricket. I had good fun with the Ashes previews. Let us do it again, if we are still doing this next time around.

I’d like to pay tribute to the work of Tregaskis this year. When he posts, we listen. An inspiration in terms of depth, research and turn of phrase. Glad we are on the same side.

I was really gutted to see the end of The Full Toss, and the hopefully temporary hiatus in the output of Maxie. Another inspiration to me in particular, Maxie and James had a great thing going, and can see why it got to where it did. I’ve had my own doubts. Best of luck to James in his new venture.

To those journalists willing to engage, thanks. We don’t bite. It’s passionate, I know, but you take that away, you see those who the country depends upon to keep the fires burning turning their backs on the sport. I’m sure that’s never been in the ECB’s heads. There’s been less interaction this year, but the Ashes solved many issues in many eyes.

To the ECB. The Ashes didn’t solve a thing. While Giles Clarke has an official role with your backing, then it cannot.

To Jarrod and Sam, thanks for access to the film. Good luck in your ventures, and we’ll support it how we can within the confines of the blog. There are some, you know!

For the record, some of my best ofs for 2015.

My England innings of the year was Alastair Cook’s 162 at Lord’s. This isn’t me pulling my punches. It’s acknowledging that he played a truly special knock that played a huge part in us winning a fantastic match.

My favourite commentator this year was Mike Atherton. He has zoomed past Nasser Hussain who went downhill rapidly – maybe 2016 might bring redemption. Sky should also think of promoting Mark Butcher (although given his behind the sofa comment, which Cook raised at the end of the Ashes, and the close relationship between ECB and Sky, that’s a reach) and Robert Key. I think they only employ Dominic Cork to troll their viewers. TMS is much the same with Lovejoy. If you also have Sky, one minute of Brayshaw is enough to have you scratching your eyes out.

My favourite moment of last year was seeing Toby Roland Jones make his first hundred at the end of a great day at Lord’s. It was a joy to be there. And I am a Surrey man.

P1070022

The best bowling was Broad at Trent Bridge, how could it not be?

Finally, I want to thank all those who have been so supportive on here. I’ve met a few of you this year, and I’d like to meet a few more. How this blog will go next year is anyone’s guess. If you stick with us, I’m sure we’ll enjoy it. As I said, I was having major doubts at the end of the Ashes, and then again earlier this month, but I’ve rediscovered some of the fun in doing this again. My friends at work, overseas and the long-suffering beloved have been great this year. I should thank the wife for her patience, her listening to me wittering on about this thing, and being very supportive. One in a million.

Not sure how long it will last, but I hope this mood remains for a while yet.

I wish you all a Happy New Year. Good luck to you all.

Dmitri

 

The Poll Winners Party – Journalists

It’s that time of year. Here’s the rundown of the top 10 journalists, as voted by a combination of you and me….. The numbers in brackets relate to the last year’s poll.… The votes were collated from responses to the Poll in September, my scoring (counting a bit more) and some e-mail write-ins. It’s a bit arbitrary, and only one is a true outlier based on my scoring.

The “winner” scored 54. The runner-up 44. The third 24. A clear hierarchy.

I also announce the winner of the best journalist of the year at the end, as well – there’s rather a big clue! Again, voted by you (and me).

So, not to be taken absolutely seriously, but giving a guide to the thoughts of the blogging community on this site, here we go. Don’t like it, well….

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South Africa v England: 1st Test, day five and match review

South Africa in disarray, England exultant.  No doubt the word “momentum” will be used.

Taking four wickets for seven runs (including du Plessis last night) probably wasn’t the expectation of anyone, with the game effectively done and dusted within half an hour of the start.  But on reflection it probably shouldn’t come as that much of a shock, from the start of the fourth day South Africa seemed almost resigned to defeat, with only the brief passage of play at the top of the second innings suggesting some degree of fight.

It was Moeen Ali, named man of the match, who did the damage, removing AB De Villiers with the third ball of the morning.  Moeen hasn’t had an unquestioned role in the side, not helped by being shunted up and down the batting order and a lack of clarity about what his role is meant to be.  He isn’t one of the six best batsmen in the country, though he is one of the six best to watch, so his primary role has to be as spinner, with his batting complementing that.  There has been considerable development in his bowling since his debut, and it’s now time to start thinking of him as much much more than the part-timer he was then called.  It wasn’t an unreasonable description either at the start, but by all accounts he works harder than anyone and is keen to learn.   The fruits of that are starting to show, though how much further he can develop is an open question.

His Test bowling average isn’t anything special, though in recent historic terms for England it’s not bad either – Swann is an outlier amongst English finger spinners – but after 20 Tests his statistics are starting to become meaningful.  The one that reflects well on him is his strike rate, with a wicket every 56 balls.  That is actually better than Swann, though no one would argue he’s remotely the equivalent as a bowler, for Swann was vastly better at the defensive role.  But Moeen does have the knack of taking wickets, and just as with Finn, this is a skill that the England are finally starting to pay attention to; “bowling dry” is unquestionably a part of the game and England’s ability to strangle sides into submission was impressive.  But the ability to take wickets out of nowhere is more impressive still – the holy grail is to have both of course, but if it was that easy every side would do it.

Therefore it could be argued that 18 months into his Test career, Moeen is actually underrated.  It is his batting where he is underperforming somewhat which is slightly ironic.

He would have had more wickets in his career had numerous stumping opportunities been taken, so Bairstow will have been delighted to get Bavuma, particularly after missing De Villiers last night.  And here we need to talk about wicketkeeping, because it is the one area of the game where people who have played at the highest level and can talk with wisdom and experience about cricket have no knowledge or understanding except in a couple of very obvious cases.

The stumping this morning was an easy one, because it went past the outside edge of the bat.  That means the keeper is following the line of the ball all the way down and the hands are automatically in the right position.  It’s therefore straightforward unless there is excessive spin taking it beyond the reach of the gloves.  The difficult ones are those that go between bat and pad.  Bairstow, just like Buttler, is a part-time wicketkeeper, and that creates a number of issues.  The taking or missing of a particular ball can’t be seen in isolation.  More than anyone else on the field, more even than the batsmen who get to switch off to some extent for half of their time out there, the wicketkeeper is involved in every single ball of the game. Concentration is an obvious requirement, but it’s about more than that – or rather it’s only part of the story – it’s about expecting the ball to miss the bat and come into the gloves.  When it goes between bat and pad there is an expectation that it will be hit, and the eyes follow the line of the bat rather than the ball.

This is not a technical issue as such, Bairstow is more than capable of taking it, and so is Buttler; the difference between a good full time keeper and a talented but part-time one is the automatic expectation that the ball will continue on its path and not be intercepted by the bat.  The best keepers do this, and it’s why in the case of either Bairstow or Buttler they will learn it should they continue to keep over the longer period.  That doesn’t mean they then become good keepers, for there are technical flaws in both of them compared to the best, but it is to explain why that one was missed, and why in itself it shouldn’t be a concern – those kinds of stumpings will come.  Prior in his first incarnation also missed them regularly for example, in his second having focused on his keeping much more, he would take them.

Still, Bairstow took the opportunity today well enough, and will certainly gain confidence from it, which also is part of the equation.

From there it was something of a procession, Finn producing one that moved away just a fraction off the seam and was frankly wasted on Dale Steyn,  Moeen again got bite and turn to account for Abbott while Woakes finally got a wicket, which was the least he deserved – he has bowled well without reward this Test.

Fittingly, Stuart Broad delivered the coup de grace to give England a thumping win by 241 runs.

This is a remarkable margin of victory having been sent to bat in difficult conditions with England finding themselves 12-2 and then 49-3.  South Africa’s abundant problems will be much discussed in consequence, but there is always the danger of underplaying England’s wins and overplaying their defeats.  Too often England only win because the opposition were rubbish, and lose because they are rubbish.  It isn’t particularly fair, they won this game and won it well.

The first innings total of 303 is what set up the game.  It’s not a huge score but given the conditions and a pitch where run scoring wasn’t easy, it was a decent one.  Taylor and Compton can reflect on  their performances in that crucial period and be very satisfied with it.  As a combination they batted beautifully, and Graeme Swann’s bizarre and consistent criticism of Compton for batting too slowly gave something of an insight into the environment of the England team during his first spell in the side.  Compton did an outstanding job here, and deserves high praise not snide dismissal.  Had Alastair Cook done the same thing, he would have received considerable plaudits for it, for it was every bit a Cook type innings in pace, style and above all importance.  Rightly so too when Cook does it, but it is hard to avoid the conclusion that Swann is blinded by favouritism rather than what is going on in front of him.  It is distasteful.

If Compton had a case for being man of the match, so did James Taylor.  Doubtless Kevin Pietersen’s view that he wasn’t good enough for Test cricket in 2012 will be thrown back at him, but firstly Taylor is a better player now than he was then, but also Pietersen’s view at the time was quite clearly echoed by the selectors, who didn’t pick him.  Here he was busy at the crease, and turned the pressure back on to the bowlers.  As a combination with the doughty Compton, it worked beautifully.

That the man of the match award wasn’t an easy one to choose is evidenced by Broad being the fourth player who must have felt in with a shout.  He took fewer wickets than either Moeen or Finn, but the timing of his was the key, breaking the back of South Africa first time round, and ensuring England had a big lead at half way.  Broad is becoming a very, very fine bowler indeed.  And he seems to have got his batting back to at least some extent.  It’s going to be a big few years from him.

Lastly Finn himself can count himself a trifle unlucky to be overlooked too.  Having written about him yesterday there is no point repeating it, but he is looking in fine fettle.

England do have the nice problem of finding a place for Anderson, and Woakes seems certain to make way for him.  Harsh on Woakes if so, but it’s hard to criticise bringing back England’s record wicket taker.

Whither South Africa?

The first thing here is that a side can be comprehensively beaten in one match and gel in the next.  Even those without long memories ought to know that from the last Ashes series where the teams took it in turns to batter the other.  With that said, they do look in some disarray.  The injury to Steyn looks highly likely to keep him out of at least the second Test, but the rest of the attack – and Morkel in particular – compensated admirably here.  Their problems were not in the bowling.

De Villiers’ less than subtle hint about his workload appears to have been listened to, with de Kock being brought in to the squad for Cape Town and seemingly certain to play.  Overloading the best batsman in the side always seemed a peculiar approach, but it’s not in and of itself a reason for how this Test unfolded.  Yet for all the talk about Bairstow behind the stumps it shouldn’t be overlooked that De Villiers had a poor time with the gloves in this game anyway.

Elgar had an excellent match, looking solid and but for being on the losing team probably was the outstanding performer on either side, while Van Zyl in the second innings could well have played himself back into some kind of form without going on to make a substantial score.

The captain is clearly a concern, but Amla is a high class player and has been for a decade.  He was all at sea in the first innings, but much better in the second.  Anyone writing him off does so at their peril, for he will come good, and when he does England will suffer for it.

The immediate response to their performance has a hint of overreaction about it; England are not that good and South Africa are not that bad.  It’s one Test, and South Africa’s difficult tour of India notwithstanding, they have not become a bad side overnight, but they are clearly very low on confidence.

Newlands is a fortress of South African cricket, and while England will go there with confidence, suggestions that they are favourites to win based on this game are a triumph of hope over experience.  South Africa will probably not play as badly as they have done in Durban – if they do they are indeed in real trouble, and at that point a reassessment might be in order.

This isn’t going to stop some getting carried away, and it will be the same people who usually do so.  C’est la vie.

 

The Blogging Review Of The Year – Part 2 (March)

Thanks for the great response to the first part of the review. On looking back at what has happened this year, the relative peace and quiet of the last couple of months could give the impression it hasn’t been an eventful year. On closer inspection, it’s been a ride all right. On to the next few months and we’ll see where we get….

Uh Oh. Bad news. For some. March had a lot going on. This is going to be in more parts than first feared. Oh well. I’m game if you are….

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South Africa v England: 1st Test, Day Four

By no stretch of the imagination could this Test be called a classic, for one thing England have been edging ever further ahead in it over the course of the game, but to go into the final day with all results (just about) possible is indicative of a match that has been fascinating throughout.  The most likely outcome remains that England will go 1-0 up some time tomorrow afternoon, but South Africa showed admirable grit in their second innings; had they done so in the first innings, it could be argued they wouldn’t have been in such trouble.  Yet ironically enough, they finished the day with a near identical score to that they had at the close on day two.  Perception is a funny thing.

England appeared relatively untroubled by the loss of wickets in the morning, a lead already approaching 300 tends to limit any sense of panic after all, and it was Bairstow who was the undoubted star of the show.  On a surface that started slow and is edging towards the turgid as we approach the conclusion, fluent run scoring has proved difficult, yet Bairstow merrily thrashed his way to 79 at better than a run a ball.  England do have an abundance of strokemakers, but they also require the latitude to play that way, both in terms of the match situation and the allowance from the captain and management above.  The signs are positive that coach Trevor Bayliss is keen to allow the players to express themselves, a welcome change from the years of rigid game management, but it still requires the groundwork done by others – Compton’s 85 and 49 are not going to win any awards for entertainment, but a team requires different kinds of batsmen who play in their own way to to bring out the best in the others; he did exceptionally well, and while no judgements can be made going forward on the basis of a single game, it can be said he played the role of the perfect number three here.

England’s long batting order also demonstrated its value, as first Moeen Ali and then Chris Woakes provided competent support, with South Africa merely looking to limit the damage.

Indeed the approach from the hosts was quite instructive.  The new ball was already available when Taylor was dismissed to leave England 224-6, 313 ahead.  It wasn’t taken.  What this betrayed was that South Africa didn’t truly believe they could win the game; for a side that did would surely have wanted to grab the new nut, knock over the tail and set off in pursuit of 330, with a belief it was possible.  Sure, England would have been strong favourites to win still, but it would have by no means been out of the question.  Equally of course, the new ball could have gone around the park, but not to take it was extraordinarily defensive given from there South Africa could still have won.  It is hard to credit that the view of Amla and/or the coaching staff was that their best chance of doing so was to retain the old ball, it seemed purely about being content to stay in the field as long as possible to avoid batting, and that is fair enough if the opposition are already 450 ahead, but not when they are only 300 and a bit on, with six wickets down.   A few things about this South Africa outfit seem rather muddled.

The debate then turned to the timing of any declaration.  Once again though, there was so much time left in the game.  As it happened, England were dismissed before it became an issue, but with a target of 416 and the best part of 150 overs remaining, it was by no means a pressing matter.  Put simply, if South Africa batted the remainder of the match – and no rain was or is forecast – they wouldn’t be too far away from that target.  Therefore England weren’t going to be losing potential overs that might be needed to take a last wicket or two.  Had they gone on much longer, then yes, it would have become a topic of debate, but it didn’t arise.

In the customary manner, South Africa batted much better second time around initially.  Van Zyl in particular started off exceptionally positively, to the point one or two who had been questioning England for not setting about 350 actually queried whether they should have (if they could) gone on longer to make the game safe.  Sometimes there is a desire to have it all ways.  For let’s put it simply, if South Africa were to achieve the second highest run chase in Test history, then you simply doff your caps to them and say they deserve it.  If they instead manage to bat out the game for a draw, then you may wonder why they didn’t get close enough to win in the time available, but you still doff that cap.  The target was exceptionally challenging, the time remaining extensive.  England and Cook did nothing wrong, however it turns out tomorrow.

After that strong start by the Proteas, and with a ball that resolutely refused to swing or seam to any great extent, it was Stokes and then Finn who made the difference.  Firstly, patience is always needed in these situations, for the wickets will usually come, and secondly you need to have a strike bowler who takes those wickets.  Earlier in his career Finn was criticised – and then dropped – for leaking runs, but he takes wickets.  His strike rate is the best of any England bowler with 100 Test victims, at an outstanding 47 balls per wicket.  This is a serious weapon.  Who cares if he goes for a few runs when he can do that?  So does Dale Steyn for that matter, and while his economy rate is a little better than Finn’s, it’s hardly impressive either.  Trying to force the square peg of potent strike bowler into the round hole of line and length operator consistently missed the point about the attacking wealth offered by him.  When he comes on to bowl it’s quite clear he will drop the odd one short and get hit to the boundary.  It’s also equally clear there is a decent prospect of sending one or two opponents back to the shed.  Leave him be, let him do what he’s excellent at – England have other bowlers to tie an end up.

And on that particular matter, Broad is becoming nigh on unhittable in Test cricket these days.  Indeed an economy rate in this innings of 2.27 probably represents something of a disappointment to him.  Add to that that he takes wickets, as his record over this calendar year shows only too well, and it is time that it was more widely acknowledged that he’s a fantastic bowler, one of the best England have had in a long time.  Appreciation of his skills (if not his DRS expertise) is overdue.

Standing in the way of England emerging victorious is one AB De Villiers.   England did have a chance to get him, Moeen Ali’s beautifully flighted delivery turning sharply through the gate with De Villiers out of his ground, only for Bairstow to miss the stumping.  England are choosing wicketkeepers who are primarily batsmen, and the reality is that while they do so, stumpings like this are going to be missed.  The same applies when it’s Jos Buttler doing the job.  In both cases they tend to miss the stumpings when the ball goes between bat and pad.  The eyes follow the bat rather than ball, expecting it to make contact, and by the time the ball has passed the bat, it’s far too late to adjust.  This certainly isn’t to excuse an error that Bairstow himself was in despair over, but it is to explain how it happens and why.  The very best wicketkeepers don’t make that kind of mistake because they always follow the line of the ball instinctively.  It’s a much much harder skill than might be supposed.

With Du Plessis and De Villiers at the crease, memories of their monumental match saving rearguard against Australia were well to the fore, but Finn returned just before the end to produce one that lifted just enough to take the shoulder of Du Plessis’ bat, Cook taking an excellent catch, and England will breathe much easier tonight.

There was still time for two items of note – firstly that Dale Steyn came out to bat as nightwatchman.  There are two ways of looking at that, either surprise at taking such a risk with a key player with the Cape Town Test only days away, or that he’s already ruled out and therefore there is little to be lost.  A slight puzzle though.   Secondly, immediately after Du Plessis was out the ball was changed.  It had been looked at earlier in the over, and the change itself was routine, and nothing need be inferred from the decision.  Just as nothing needed to be inferred from the decision to change the ball when South Africa were bowling.  It is unlikely that those who cast aspersions through innuendo and suggestion in that case will do so here – and that says it all.

A further 280 is required from 90 overs tomorrow.  More realistically, England need six more wickets.  It probably won’t be easy, but it probably will happen.  On the basis of the first four days, England deserve it.

 

2015 Dmitris #7 – Mike Selvey

Bilious Inadequates

Last year I put the whole of the UK media in to the Hall of Dmitri, so it leaves me open to start picking them off individually. So while Jim Holden’s article might have had a place all of its own, or Paul Newman might deserve true consideration for his commitment to anti-KP wordsmithing and excessive pro-Cook prose, or Stephen Brenkley could take his arslikhan to a new dimension, there is only one who can really walk through the hallowed portals this year. That man is Mike Selvey.

Often hard for journos to remember they are read by many many more people online than few bilious inadequates who dominate comment section. – Mike Selvey, 8 May 2015

During the KP business last year, Selvey was annoying because he seemed to have a firm feel on next steps in front of others, and when he didn’t, he’d been seen to bolster credentials of people who later got jobs. There was the “how Downton was an inspired appointment and he was a good and safe man on the tiller”. No-one remind him of that one, eh? Then there was how Andy Flower was the second coming, and that the 2013-14 Ashes debacle really could’t be pinned on him. How about his wailing against the dismissal of Graham Gooch, gnashing his teeth at players who had stopped listening to him as if that was all he needed to do – talk? But most of all it was the proposing, repeatedly, of Peter Moores as the obvious choice to replace Flower. He was unshakeable in his contention, firm in his belief. Not forgetting, of course, how he was good friends with our bowling coach in the face of evidence that our bowling was regressing alarmingly, maintaining support as you would for a friend (and that still rears its head – see “the enforcer” comments which, as our readers showed, came from Saker and weren’t a “media construct”).

So the judgement is sound, but what got worse is that as these contentions looked more and more ridiculous, Selvey got more and more hardline, and that has upset a lot of readers on here. It’s easy for me because I’ve never really liked him as a writer or broadcaster, but to see people on here who thought he was a top journo and a decent TMS man turn on him was revelatory. When it came to the crunch, after a debacle of an Ashes series, Selvey, writing for the putatively sceptical of authority Guardian, revelled in the role of the Company Man. A more loyal scribe to the powers that be you could not find.

This year he has grated on the commenters on this blog like no other. He has made his position abundantly clear. He has no time for the likes of us. Hence the bye-line on the blog. We are “bilious inadequates”, “vile ignoramuses” or “social media zealots”. I’m not asking for an invitation to the Cricket Writers Christmas Shindig, but what I am looking for is someone who is there to represent all shades of cricket supporter, not just those who think the sun shines out of the ECB’s backsides. Because if you are looking for critical dissemination of the running of England cricket, you’ll be seeing Selvey’s heels, but anyone upsetting the applecart will get it with both barrels. I’ll let others determine the motivation, because there is one major theory doing the rounds.

So this year he is our journalist emeritus idioticus for a number of reasons. Contempt is top of the list. Now I get people will not exactly invite their critics in for a cup of tea, but Selvey’s attitude is remarkably dismissive. I have looked at this post a lot (it was originally going to be the third Dmitri, but I wanted to be fair) and can understand being riled by nonsense. But I don’t think he’s tackled by stupid people.

There was this quote around the time of Moores’ dismissal:

Too many people here do not understand how journalism works. And too many look for conspiracy where there is none. And do you seriously think we would give up the sources of our stories? Get real, as Farage once said.

There’s that theme again. “You don’t know how journalism works” as if the securing of information is some sort of complex, unsolveable equation that only those with the special gift can solve. Your job entails watching cricket, analysing cricket, listening to anodyne press statements and indulge in gossip and intrigue to find out what is happening as background. How you do it and who your sources are is your stock-in-trade, and probably requires you to be slightly ruthless but also not backward in coming forward. But to me, the only special skill you need over the likes of us is the ability to develop contacts while not betraying them. So save that £5 for the first pint, journos. If they really mean keeping in with the ECB while maintaining enough of a link to provide stories, then that’s not a skill I’d be singing about.

But the last part of his dismissal above sums up how far up their own arses some have gone. “Do you think we would give up the sources” he wails. What the fuck is this? Nuclear secrets? Industrial espionage? It’s bloody gossip and it relates to the future of OUR England team, not some cosy cabal of journalistic purveyance to maintain THEIR relevance. For without the backstories, they become us with a paid ticket in a shady stand. No wonder they wail when people try to pin them down on who stabbed who in the back in OUR team…. without their “access” it’s Wizard of bleedin’ Oz time. They would be virtually irrelevant.

The piece could go into many things this year, but to me two items really summed up Selvey’s year of antagonism and they are:

The Attitude to the issues raised in Death of a Gentleman – Selvey made, it seemed, a virtue out of the fact that a cricket correspondent for a major national newspaper did not bother to watch a film which tried to expose the workings of international cricket (as he revealed on CWOTV). Now, whether he thinks Sam and Jarrod are a couple of chancers who love to indulge in conspiracy theories, the sort of which Selvey would never indulge in, is by the by. It’s the sort of story the Guardian should be lapping up. Potentially corrupt officials governing an international sport in naked short-term, corrosive self interest. To our shame our board is part of this disgrace. Our toffee-nosed, dismissive, disgraceful ex- ECB head, who manouevred himself into the role of our international representative has committed these acts in our name. An important, widely discussed in cricket circles film is out there, and he’d not even watched it? If that is acceptable to you, fine. I think it’s pretty shoddy. As I said above, there are reasons out there that seek to explain this nonsense. Let them stand until they are disproved. On the key topics he seems to have reasonably well developed views. He’s clear that the Olympics won’t work, instead of seeing the massive advantages of trying to do so – that seems remarkably similar to another key individual – and talks the way he does to anyone who disagrees.

Adil Rashid – I have not seen anything like it. Selvey has been waging a one man campaign against Adil’s selection the likes of which is unprecedented in my memory. That any number of 80 mph trundlers have been selected for overseas tours that were going to be played on flat decks with a Kookaburra ball passes with little comment, but a leggie with success in county cricket who bowls under 50 mph is beyond the pale? I may be being unfair, but really? If you’ve been told once that he bowls too slowly, then you’ve been told dozens of times. No-one here believes that Adil is the answer to our spinning woes, but we should at least give him a try. He can spin the ball, the wrong way for many English players, and he can also hold a bat (as he proved when nearly saving the Dubai test). But he was briefed against:

There is a view, though, one held within the England set-up, that Rashid bowls too slowly for Test cricket where the demands of batsmen are not to try to score at seven an over with fielders round the boundary.

and…

There are also doubts about how comfortable he would be in a Test environment.

Although I am struggling to find the smoking gun at present, I do believe he was also scathing about his injury at the time of the Lord’s test. But that one above is just odd. Who had those doubts? Why are they telling you? Why are you putting this out there?

Then there was the Abu Dhabi collapse by Pakistan which Selvey put down to him increasing his pace (not discernibly, according to my scribes here). It has been a bizarre campaign against a new player to the squad (relatively). I have no idea what this is about.

Selvey’s dismissive attitude towards his critics is, in some ways perfectly understandable. There’s been quite a few sightings recently of “he’s a good bloke, really” statements by people we speak to and read. They are aware how a group of people feel about him. The censoring of comments to his articles, the wonderful responses to tweets, all the received wisdom and sniffiness. Of course, he doesn’t care. Why should he? All I can say is that I read the Guardian a lot less now, due to him.

I have a huge amount of anger towards the press corps, yes for Pietersen, but also for what they did in 2014 to prop up a corrosive, rotten edifice because of reasons they’ve never quite explained, but no doubt will form a chapter in the elusive tome “How Cricket Journalism Works”. The anger is derived from that, it will take a long time to go away, if, indeed, it ever does. This year Selvey gets the nomination, aided by Pringle’s demotion to virtual irrelevance and Newman winding his neck in. The readers here are the reason why – as I said, I try not to read too much of what these people say now, but I’ve seen enough – because they feel let down.

No doubt this will be filed away as another attack. I think there are messages in there. But hey, they don’t really care. Why would they? We just want to be them, don’t we?

So Selvey wins the Dmitri. That is all.

 

29 December Comments Thread

Australia are forced to play a Day Four. Will Smith (geddit) get two centuries in a Boxing Day test?

England 250+ up with Root en route (geddit) for a ton in South Africa.

Comments thread for the evening and morning’s action. Glad to see the West Indies put up some fight, and in Carlos Brathwaite they have a real character (the celebrations of his first wicket were brilliant). Smith is playing the party pooper and looks sure to get another hundred if they don’t declare.

England are in almost total control of this game, South Africa are falling apart at the seams, and if we were ruthless, this could get ugly. However, we’ve also seen how South Africa play if they can’t win. They are harder to dislodge than….. (fill in the blanks).

Comments here, and also on TLG’s day review below.

Meanwhile…new FICJAM. From “Intelligent Life”. I don’t think I’ve seen this before, but then, I think I have. It has that ring of familiarity.

WHY DO VIOLINISTS have mentors, sportsmen have coaches and doctors (usually) have neither? That was the starting point for Atul Gawande’s examination of his career as an elite surgeon.

Don’t ever change, FICJAM. Please.

Also. Came across this tonight. Match report for the 5th test in 2007. Matthew Engel. Rather good I thought. image

A Review Of 2015 Blogging…. Part 1

It has been a year all right. An absolute rollercoaster. It started on HDWLIA, finished here, had an extra bit appended to it, things turned incredibly nasty towards the end of the Ashes, and all in all, I exit the year with some enthusiasm remaining, but with the enjoyment a lot less than before. We’ve lost the Full Toss, we’ve seen Tregaskis hit the stocks with a couple of epic posts, and we’ve had new faces on here too. Then we’ve also had The Leg Glance (aka Vian) to write regularly and become co-editor of this blog. It’s not exactly been quiet!

 

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