27th December Cricket – Comments Thread

Australia – 345/3 (Khawaja 144, Burns 128) v West Indies

England – 179/4 (Taylor 70, Compton 63*) v South Africa

The two tests could hardly be a greater contrast. In Melbourne Australia are participating in what looks like another total mismatch, as Burns and Khawaja picked up centuries, and there’s probably at least another one in them hills for either Smith or Voges given their propensity these days in cashing in. The West Indies seem further and further away from competitiveness. I must confess that I was watching the Cavaliers v Warriors NBA game rather than this lack of a contest, but what I did notice was David Warner setting off like a train and getting out quite quickly. I saw one of my Aussie-based Twitter followers had something to say about that.

England find themselves in a much better position than 49 for 3 suggested, especially as the “two rocks” had both been dismissed. Nick Compton looked very solid, not offering much in the way of chances, and ground out 63 from 179 balls. It’s 300 ball hundred pace, which while is important in situations like this, it’s not match-winning stuff. That sounds harsh, I know, and he’s played the situation magnificently. But that question will remain until we see something slightly more multi-faceted.At this stage England need to take solidity and composure any which way they can. We’ve been spoiled on Tres, Vaughan and even Strauss who could keep the scoreboard ticking over. My fear is Compton is going to be too one paced. Today, that’s not a problem.

But look, this has been a top innings today and probably one in the eye for a few people (including me, who has never been convinced he’s the answer). I’m a bit different on Taylor who looks like the least worst option in that position, and again played well in a tight situation. He has that attitude of persistent motion, an energizer bunny, reining himself in before he fires off at all different angles. This is his second 70-ish score and yes, they’ve been accumulated in the right way and tight situations.  A shame he got out just before the close, but he has been a bright spark today.

It’s too soon to make a comment on Hales – of course it is. That’s a lot different to people “thinking” he’s not up to it as a test opener, because I know, like others, those that think that way want to be proved wrong. If you want to know the ultimate example, you should have seen the text messages between me and a Millwall mate after HIM was dismissed in the first innings at The Oval. I’d love Hales to do well, I really would, but already you can hear the jungle drums. “Compton open, Compton open, Compton open”.

A couple of other observations. I see it’s a mixed South African / English team under the SuperSport banner. I thought, for the larger series, and I thought this was one, that we had the full Sky treatment. What with the car park settings for the BBL, are there serious cost-cutting measures on board at the home of England Cricket?

Also, the game will be poorer when Dale Steyn isn’t playing it. What a champion. Also self-deprecating in his interview afterwards, saying he’s not as skilled as Jimmy Anderson. Hogwash. They are different types of bowlers, and Steyn has skill in abundance. A top player. It’s a disgrace he’s not been seen playing against England in his home country since 2010, and in this country since 2012.

Happy to have all your comments on the games today and those for the play tomorrow. The beloved is dragging me down to the Garden Centre in the morning – I’d rather have an hour of James Brayshaw if truth be told – so I won’t be around for all of it.

Comments below……

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South Africa v England: First Test, day one

If the toss is crucial in a game, and you lose said flip of the coin, then perhaps if at the end of the first day you can say you are still in the match then that represents a very good day indeed.

Weather conditions were unfriendly throughout, and the surface looked green, seaming just enough early on to be a real danger to the batsman and als0 (more surprisingly – not least for Joe Root) proving conducive to spin from the start.  Yet the forecast for improved weather for the rest of the game made this first day potentially decisive for the Test, and England will be well pleased that they are not just in the game, but in a reasonable position.

The late loss of Taylor was unquestionably a blow, for without that wicket it could have been said to not just be a good battling performance, but one where England had a chance of getting on top.  Even so, from 49-3 and in terrible trouble, to reach 179-4 is a fine recovery.

Losing early wickets probably shouldn’t be too harshly viewed, for it certainly appeared difficult batting conditions, though the nature of those wickets will grate somewhat – Cook won’t need to be told that was a poor shot – and it didn’t appear to ease greatly for the rest of the play.

For both Taylor and Compton, much praise is warranted.  Although Compton scored slowly, which is what he was criticised for first time around, in these circumstances it was exactly what England needed, and in any event at no time did it feel in any way negative – he put away the bad ball well, and turned over the strike regularly.  One might say that the difference is in a player who is backed to perform rather than failure being pounced upon, but one innings is one innings.  What is interesting is that he is batting at number three, and given the most successful recent exponent of that position for England was Trott, it may yet be a position that suits him.

Taylor has developed from the batsman who first appeared three years ago, though even then that flawed player showed there was no shortage of nerve and bottle in him.

South Africa only have three front line seamers and England must aim to keep them in the field, and put the pressure on Steyn through additional overs he has to bowl.  Certainly he appeared what he is – a class above anyone else.

England do have a deep batting line up, so will hope to capitalise on the hard work done, but they’re in that tough situation where 300 would be a pretty impressive total to reach given conditions, but likely won’t be enough as the track flattens out in the sun.  So while they have done extremely well, they will need to do extremely well again tomorrow as well – perhaps an unfair return for the effort put in.

All in all, decent effort from England – or more specifically decent effort from Compton and Taylor.  On to tomorrow, where we’ll have a better idea of the balance of the game.

 

2015 Dmitri #4 – Peter Moores

I’ve been absent for a bit, what with it being Christmas and all that, so I think I owe it to you to produce a couple more Dmitris for the end of year round-up. This one takes us back to the first half of the year and his role in a couple of the major talking points in the opening round for Being Outside Cricket. As Paul Downton was on the list last year, he can’t make it in for this, so instead it will be the man he called, with many remarking at the time how impressive he was in so doing, “the greatest coach of his generation”. Dmitri number four is Peter Moores.

Peter-Moores-and-Paul-Dow-011

History, it is said, is written by the winners. And in the case of Peter Moores re-appointment, several key people who, shall we say, were glad to see the back of KP, set about rehabilitating the past reputation of the best coach in county cricket over the last decade or so. His triumphs at Lancashire were lauded as if this were Sir Alex Ferguson (who was a crap international coach too) at the helm, while the relegation the year after they won it all was consigned to the “forgotten” pile. His time in England colours was to be remembered for the great talents he brought on, not for the losing series or the problems motivating players for which one man carried the can (and the strength of that contempt from others was evident in the manner of Moores’ dismissal). By the time the likes of Selvey had had their say, with plenty of evidence of “good journalism” to help him along the way, it would have been mad not to appoint him. To be fair to John Etheridge, he pointed out at the time that the reappointment lacked credibility. Still, we were trusting a World Cup to him. We were trusting an Ashes series to him.

The appointment was greeted reasonably favourably. It was seen as a chance for redemption, to give Moores the proper go at the big competitions that he’d been denied previously. And that was the tone, he’d been denied, as if there were no choice but to sack him the first time around because of HIM. It was all nonsense of course, and Moores was back because (a) he was a decent coach and (b) he would have no trouble not picking HIM.

This isn’t a piece to berate Peter Moores. Everything about the bloke in his public utterances and the way he conducted himself, especially during the shameful events of his humiliating sacking, indicates he is a class act as a person. But he wasn’t an England cricket coach to take us forward. He was a useful interim while the ECB sorted out the post-HIM wastelands. Seen as a nurturer of talent, he was given a number of new players, in the fresh and exciting era, to bring on. The fact that none have really gone on to greater things has to be a worry, but while we were beating India 3-1, objectivity in both the media and the blogosphere was in short supply. Ballance was Whitaker’s poster-child, there was an almost unhealthy obsession with Chris Jordan, who looks like a slightly less good Phil DeFreitas to me, and Moeen Ali may always be the nearly man. Jos Buttler started well and faded. The ODI cricket was going nowhere as Alastair Cook stuck out like a sore thumb as opener. There was muddled thinking, horrendous days (Day 4 at Headingley…) and some baffling press stuff.

But why Moores for a Dmitri? Well, the World Cup comes around every four years, and this was his go at it. We went out before the quarter-finals, losing to every test nation we met. The scale of these defeats were monstrous. Australia annihilated us in the first match of the Australian section of the competition. James Taylor, who’d looked solid at 3, was demoted to 6 and made runs, while Ballance, who’d busted his hand in the lead up, looked out of his depth at 3. The loss to New Zealand was awful. A total rout, losing with what, 35 or so overs to spare (226 balls to be precise)? Then came Sri Lanka where England patted themselves on the backs for making over 300, and then watched the islanders cruise to total victory. Finally, the loss to Bangladesh, chasing a total we probably should have got, but collapsing under fear and pressure. A punchers chance, they said at the start of the tournament? We knocked ourselves out.

England head coach Peter Moores

At this point I think we knew that Moores was not going to last.The ECB were in a period of flux as Clarke was being shunted upstairs, Collier had a replacement in professional Tim Westwood body-double Tom Harrison, and reviews threatened. Graves said what he said (yes, a throwaway line according to Alec Swann), and there was a febrile atmosphere. Harrison had Downton on his way, but Moores was left to win a test series in the West Indies with the medicore tag ringing in his ears.

A drawn test series against the mediocre West Indies sealed his fate it seemed, but I have a feeling Strauss’s antipathy to his coaching techniques would have done it anyway. When the ECB were cleaning house, and brushing out the Downton from the cupboard below the stairs, it was easy to claim a clean break and relieve the coach of his duties. Except the new man couldn’t keep his trap shut, the information got out there (was it Moores’ agent, was it Nick Knight – I was in the US at the time) and Peter Moores had to endure a day I’d wish on no-one. Saying sorry never really felt like it was enough, because he’d had to run an England team while others were almost laughing at him. The ECB probably reached its nadir that weekend, because HIM made a big score soon after and leaked that out too.

When Downton got his marching orders (after a frankly bizarre reaction to the World Cup exit which actually sounded like a “please sack me because I’m out of my depth” plea) and Strauss replaced him (albeit with a comma) Moores was out. Strauss had made no secret in his autobiography, carefully worded as it was, that he didn’t think much of Moores as a coach (the only time he was dropped as a player was under Moores – any coincidence?) and sure enough he pulled the trigger. I am accused, constantly, of being obsessed by HIM, but it spoke volumes that Strauss did to Moores exactly what HIM did, yet…..

Moores went back to county cricket, assisted Nottinghamshire and got hugely favourable reviews, and he will probably go on to do what he does best. Raise young county cricketers and gel them as a team with technical skills. When you get to international level coaching, that doesn’t appear to be enough these days.

I’m convinced that an English coach will never succeed in major international sport, because, by their nature, they’ve not gone overseas, and they don’t have that charisma or gravitas. Peter Moores was the victim of the HIM putsch, not the beneficiary. His record first time around replicated. His reputation the same as before – good county coach, found wanting at the top level. The collective brains of the outfit thought they could reinvent the wheel. Sell us the same goods, but with experience. Peter Moores was chewed up and spat out. He was Downton’s folly. Bayliss has proved how lacking he was, especially at limited overs cricket. It wasn’t all his fault, as the selectors for the World Cup ballsed it up, but he didn’t exactly provide the data to keep him on.

More Dmitris to follow…..