Are You Not Entertained?

Bad news for all you “The Leg Glance” fans out there, as the reins for the 4th Test preview have been handed to me. Yes, one of my alter egos that gets the people to moan, is back. The Twitter Idiot Dmitri Old. If you’ve not seen my poem on trains tonight, well, go and look. The Bogfather liked it. That’s enough for me. TLG is unavailable until much later in the week, so I’m writing the preview. Loads of words, a bit of scorecard nonsense, a plea for realism and I think just the one mention of Kevin Pietersen. That’s progress.

We’ve seen the media in full cry this week. I do believe we were world ranked #6 going into this series so inevitably knocking off the world #1 in their own backyard is sound enough evidence that this is the World’s Best on the brink of something special. Now, as you know, I’m not overly swayed by world rankings, and tend to think of who might come out best on neutral grounds in test matches. So, if England were to play Australia in India for example, who would win? India played Australia in the UAE who would win (or maybe the West Indies)? I think it is fair to say that South Africa got to number 1 because they were the most adaptable side in all conditions. They got stuck into pretty much anyone and didn’t lose. Then that tour of India saw them disintegrate and provided England with an opportunity to hit a side very low on confidence.

That they did, and kept the hammer down speaks volumes for this team, and we can all see the promise. But think of the dominant teams and you think of excellent bowling attacks – and England could provide rivals to the vaunted 2005 attack if only they could all bowl together. It’s as if Stuart needs Jimmy to be absent or off his game to be the king. Stokes has a lot more wickets at this stage of his test career than Freddie for instance. It has immense promise. The batting line-up is deep, allowing numbers 6,7 and 8 to flog tired attacks if the top order does its job. But the achilles heel is the batting. Think of world number 1 teams at their ascendancy. Greenidge, Haynes, Richards, Lloyd; Hayden, Langer, Ponting, Martyn, S. Waugh/Hussey/M.Waugh, Gilchrist; Sehwag, Dravid, Tendulkar, Laxman, Dhoni; Smith, Kallis, Amla, DeVilliers. We have Cook and Root. England’s team that got to world #1 had a fading Strauss, but Cook going well, Bell, Trott, KP. When you look at this team, it’s short there.

This needs to be remembered as we see press people get carried away. I’ve not read BTL, or much of the papers (that site needs updating when I have a few hours) as real life has interjected. But some of the hints on Twitter, the over-burdening of praise, over hyping individuals has been noted on social media. This is an exciting team, I really don’t want people to get the idea that I’m arguing the contrary, but act like we’ve not got ADHD? They’ve won three of their last 8 test series, drawn 1 and lost 4. Perspective is not losing sight of the bigger picture. There are many looking at the upcoming home schedule and thinking that it’s there for us. It could be, but let’s win those matches.

I was also amused at the piece today citing that Stuart Broad is in the top five English bowlers ever. All I’d say about that piece is that no-one would have written it before this test. And that’s not to besmirch Stuart Broad, who can point to the wickets and say, “it’s true.” I hate everything about this rush to hyperbole, and contextualising modern day cricket only. It’s the way the Premier League denies anything before 1992, why any young kid who scores for Man Utd is lauded out of scale etc. I’ll bark at the moon all I want on this one. I do get excited, just not carried away. That’s not the modern way.

So on to the 4th Test in Centurion. We have not lost there, if my memory serves me well. The first tour was the first test ever played on the ground, and Hick made a ton before the rains. The infamous leather jacket test was next, so less said the better. 2005 saw us clinch the series having given us mild palpitations after tea on Day 5, and the last time we visited, we drew with nine down. So the positives are that we go to a venue with a decent record. The flip side is that we don’t seem to finish test series well. Losses in Sharjah, at The Oval, Headingley and Bridgetown this past 10 months are fresh in the memory. Only one of those can be put down to being a “dead rubber” like this.

The hosts appear to be a team in disarray. A captain who seems to be giving out all the signs of jacking it in before he even started, flux at the top, Amla seeming to be not as sure as himself as he used to be, bowling raw or not good enough (or a bit of both) and the fielding surprisingly off. But there’s a palpable sense, from here, of a team lacking belief. Belief in itself, in the future, and with the sport itself. I’m used to South Africans being up for it, playing up their strengths, not approaching a game in fear. They looked a beaten side in Joburg long before the coup de grace was executed by Broad.

This is a big test match for Hales, Compton and Taylor. None have stamped their authority on their place, while all have given great hints as to why they are there. I’m not going to have the obligatory dig at Cook because there’s no point. His stats only matter when he scores runs. Bairstow nailing down the batsman/keeper spot is a bonus, Stokes’s game changing abilities are a rare commodity and we should be keen to accentuate the positive – I’m not sure we’ve really come to terms with the 258. I suppose Woakes will be in for the injured Finn to cement his status as “next taxi on the rank”.

OK, I’ve meandered enough. Comments for Day 1 will be in a separate thread, but until then, have a great rest of the week.

All the best.

Dmitri / Lord Canis Lupus

@DmitriOld @LordCanisLupus.

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13 thoughts on “Are You Not Entertained?

  1. Benny January 21, 2016 / 6:41 pm

    Like it. Dmitri trips off the tongue more easily. Agree with your comments, as I frequently do. I too have been bemused by the short memory of sports pundits but then I am of a fine age. Georgie is still the most outrageously talented footballer I have ever seen. The most wonderful England test team for me was Hutton, Edrich, May, Compton, Graveney, Bailey, Evans, Laker, Lock, Trueman, Bedser

    I am very encouraged by the new England team. It is still under development, although I think they are at the stage they should have been 12 months ago but, hey, look at our selectors. Looking forward to the final Test. Will Jimmy get a few wickets this time?

    Like

  2. Mark January 21, 2016 / 8:55 pm

    A pretty meaningless match. The series already won, the opposition in disarray. If Englamd win it will be further evidence they are not just the best in the world, but the greatest of all time. (I kid you not. That was the question on Tuffers and Vaughn on 5 live tonight……….. Is this the best 4 man pace attack England have ever had?

    Fair play to Vaughn for saying he couldn’t go against the attack he lead in 2005. The hyperbole is idiotic, and as you say is part of modern life. The quality of the opposition is never looked to closely at these days. And with the big 3 only getting bigger it will only get worse. England are a very big fish in an increasingly small paddling pool.

    If England lose, it will be an irrelevance. On the other hand if they win? The greatest ever? Sums up the challenge of Cooks captaincy for the last 2 years. No challenge at all.

    On another note, I see the hype is being ramped up for Eddie Jones the New England rugby coach. He is getting the full fawning BBC sport interview by Sonia McLauhlan. Is there nobody left in England who can coach anything? Perhaps all the ex players and experts are all working for the media?

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  3. man in a barrel January 21, 2016 / 9:35 pm

    It’s funny how short memories are. In 2013, England were top dogs after beating New Zealand and Australia. There then followed the whitewash, for which KP was solely to blame. It looks as if South Africa have just gone down the same path. Kudos for Stokes getting that huge score but don’t you just wonder whether he could have done it against Alderman and Lillee, or Donald and Pollock, or Wasim and Wear? Sadly we are starved of bowling these are days. If you go by the wickets per match metric, from memory of the last time I looked , Lillee was at 7,while the great and immortal Jimmy was at 3 per match. Broad was lower than Jimmy. I would love to see a comparison of the 2005 team v now in terms of wickets per match. Too difficult in Salamanca, sadly: what a lightweight curmudgeon I am.

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    • sidesplittin January 22, 2016 / 7:00 am

      Lillee 355 wickets in 70 Tests = 7 ?? Test cricket’s always had weaker and stronger opponents, that’s life.

      Like

    • Zephirine January 22, 2016 / 12:26 am

      We should introduce a new rule, that all the non-Big-Three Test teams are allowed to draft in one ‘wild card’ player from another country….

      Like

      • Alec January 22, 2016 / 8:43 am

        That’s far too conservative thinking.

        Each team should play should send over 11 players and then the teams are randomly selected from the 22 available. This of course has the added bonus that one team may have a batting line-up of Cook, Cook, Ali, Broad, Jimmy, Woakes, Abbott, Morkel, Piedt, Rabada and de Kock.

        Of course, the other side may find it hard taking 20 wickets when asking Stokes and Duminy to open the bowling…

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  4. Sherwick January 21, 2016 / 11:07 pm

    Interesting.
    In the latest Guardian piece, our fearless leader Cook says of Hales: “You have to play the way you’re selected for.”.
    Interesting.
    Very interesting.

    Or stupid.

    Like

    • Escort January 21, 2016 / 11:48 pm

      Does that statement apply to Nick Compton as well?

      Like

    • northernlight71 January 21, 2016 / 11:53 pm

      I’d go with stupid.
      Why would he suddenly grow a brain and change habits cultivated over a lifetime of choirs, farming and fragrant wives?

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    • Mark October 31, 2016 / 11:27 pm

      He should be sacked for that idocy. How many players and pundits over the years have said you should play in the same way that has got you there in the first place? I have never heard of the idea that you dump your strengths and play to some bizzare new form.

      I think Cook has inadvertently given away the real problem with ENGLAND in that quote. It also explains a lot about the strange selections and why some people seem to be leaked against almost immediately. Perhaps they don’t show enough obedience to the theory of why they were selected.

      Like

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