Schism – def. is a division between people, usually belonging to an organization, movement, or religious denomination.

Around 15 months ago, after the acrimony of Summer 2014, I mentioned on HDWLIA that the divide between the supporters of the Cook side of the argument and the KP side of the argument, if we can simplify matters here, had shown no signs of being bridged. At that time the former were firmly of the view, exhorted by a compliant press, that the moves by Downton and co to rid themselves of the turbulent KP were absolutely correct and that the team, and therefore, by extension those running it, needed our support. On the other side, those of us sick to death of hearsay, rumour, gossip and leak, having our most exciting player removed from the scene with nothing to say why (those cursed lawyers) also had the Big Three Stitch Up to get our teeth into.

I may not be a totally unbiased member of the jury, but I think the latter bunch absolutely slaughtered the other in the debate. We’ve been down the road about what we got right many times – most notably Downton and Moores – but there’s no doubting we got people talking in our own way, and got some terminology out there to guide us. You know, that “outside cricket” thing that won’t go away.

I thought, at the beginning of 2015, there was hope. A new head of the ECB, a disastrous World Cup that used up any goodwill anyone should have had, some moves towards a settlement of divisions with KP. It looked hopeful that the divide, which was becoming a chasm, could be bridged. But could it really? Because, as we know, the strength of feeling out there against KP, and that’s what it is only about to those on the other side of the debate (what else is there, that we are a grumpy bunch? That I offend the misuse of the Question Mark Society?) is immense. Absolutely immense. Not in quantity, as the unscientific polls show, but in sheer venom. By the end of 2015’s summer, and the Ashes win, the divide was becoming wider, not narrower.

Now this blog has been accused, on a number of occasions, of being spiteful and nasty. It’s been accused of being full of guesswork. Tonight it has even been accused of being a “bunch of oddballs” and not “real cricket fans”. You know, that might be what you think, but I doubt it. We give a toss. I didn’t spare criticism of Alastair Cook during those times for in my view, he deserved to be criticised. I fail to see how any sentient cricket fan could watch a series losing storm of nonsense like Day 4 at Headingley and not be moved to paroxysms of rage. It was woeful. Whether it was entirely him, his bowlers or Moores, it was extraordinary. There was anger at performance as well as anger at his appearance as being, in part, responsible for the exclusion of KP.

Bloody hell, I’m not saying I’m without sin here, without going overboard maybe, or said everything in the way I wanted to. But here’s what I do. I understand the frustration some have with us, keep harking on about bringing KP back, keep mentioning when he’s making the basis on which all selection decisions, with extremely few exceptions should be made, look a joke (the other side of the debate taught me many ways to discount an innings of 355* in first class cricket), keep saying what we’re saying. I understand people telling us we should move on, that this is a fight that’s over, that he’s never coming back so “get behind this new exciting team”.

I make one request tonight of those on the other side of the debate. Why do you think we’ve not totally embraced this new future? Do you seriously think it is man-love for one player? Because if you do, you are not the intelligent people I give you credit for.

The schism remains, and will continue to do so. I feel cut adrift from England cricket, I feel betrayed by the authority that runs the game, both in terms of domestic teams and on the international administrative stage, and it shows no signs of abating. It’s both sides to “blame”, whether you like it or not. Where there’s no signs of meeting in the middle, we’ll continue being torn apart.

Have a think, next time you question our support for the game. Have a think. Because I’ve never questioned yours. Just your judgement. As you, on the other side, no doubt do with ours.


South Africa vs England: Fourth Test, day four [Sticky – Other Posts Below]

Providing the weather holds, South Africa ought to win the final Test of the series some point tomorrow afternoon.  For the match has been thoroughly one sided throughout and unless England somehow escape through their own endeavours, which is possible but unlikely, a draw seems most possible only with the help of a thunderstorm or two.

If that were to happen, then perhaps the finger could be pointed firmly at the home team’s captain and coaching staff, for the lack of urgency in building the lead in the second session and after tea was unusual to say the least.  It’s not exactly a matter of batting on too long, more that with a more positive mindset they would have been able to declare somewhat earlier.  Still, with three early wickets already taken South Africa would be disappointed if they failed to finish England off, so the point will probably be a moot one, but just occasionally, this conservatism comes back to haunt teams, as England found on a number of occasions, most notably in managing to lose a series in the Caribbean they dominated, but where sheer timidity cost them two Tests and one collapse ultimately the series.

Certainly South Africa’s reluctance to take risks was justified early on, for with Anderson taking two wickets in an over early on, there would have been some concern even though at 182 ahead for three wickets down, it was hardly disastrous; given the collapse in the last Test, perhaps it was forgivable.  But the lack of acceleration after lunch was less so, as by that point they were 254 runs ahead with four wickets down.  England probably weren’t too upset.  Between lunch and tea they only scored 102 runs in 30 overs, and after tea 65 runs in 15.2 overs – a small acceleration, but hardly putting their collective foot down.

By that point, and with England going through the motions to an even greater extent than they have in the Test is a whole – bowling wide of the off stump and wide of the leg stump in an effort to restrain the scoring and keep them out there, the Test really wasn’t going anywhere, except for a debate as to whether they were intending to let Bavuma score a century.  It was a touch peculiar, and suggested a side seriously lacking confidence, for there was no sign of an imminent declaration.

The rain break forced their hand and with a pretty nominal 382 required in 109 overs, England were left with just a draw to play for.  They didn’t exactly start very well.  Alex Hales did get one that kept a touch low, but that he hasn’t had a great series is plain.  As ever, it needs to be qualified that he’s hardly alone in not having a great series.  The radio report from Jonathan Agnew this evening highlighted that he’s averaged 17 across the Tests, and that is indeed not great.  Yet it is as striking as it always is that this point was followed with saying that Cook was the next to be dismissed, with no mention of him only averaging 23 in the series.

It is tiresome to have to keep writing this, but it does Cook no favours to be treated as the prodigal son all the time.  Yes, he has a very strong record behind him, and yes anyone can have a bad series.  But to specifically, repeatedly and consistently overlook when the chosen one doesn’t do well as though it is of no consequence is failing to properly scrutinise matters.  That does not mean for a second that Cook is or should be in any kind of danger of his place, for he had a decent 2015 after a disastrous 2013 and 2014 and has the fine career as evidence of his skill and ability.  But what it does mean is that he has had a bad series.  It happens.  It’s worth noting.  It’s worth mentioning.  It is something that when totally ignored draws attention to the disparity in treatment.  Sky have managed to skilfully ignore his poor series but still mention that he’s closing in on 10,000 Test runs.  That will be a fine achievement, and worthy of comment as the first England player to reach that mark – though another would probably have done so sooner had his career not been curtailed.  It is also true that he’s not had a great tour.  It is quite astounding how the media will go out of their way to ever mention these things.  Once again, it is not a case of criticising him heavily, querying his position, calling for his removal or any such thing, but it unquestionably is about highlighting how TMS can entirely ignore it, yet tweet a question as to whether Compton has convinced in this series with an average of 30.

For tomorrow, England do have a long batting line up, but assuming a full day’s play of 98 overs, pulling off a draw here would be an outstanding achievement.  Indeed, nigh on impossible though the target might be, with a middle order as attacking as England’s is, it would probably be more likely that England win rather than bat out a draw, and that’s very unlikely indeed.  And if South Africa do win the Test, then Scyld Berry’s point that it would have set up a fifth Test perfectly is ever more apposite.  It was meant to happen, for the ECB promised it would a few years ago. It didn’t.  And while the home team have to approve the scheduling, there has been a remarkable silence on the part of the ECB that their desire for five has been flouted.  Four Tests is at least an improvement on the dreadful three match series in 2012 that was blamed on the Olympics, but five is the best Test format for big series for very good reason – as previous England – South Africa encounters have demonstrated amply.  It’s not being wise after the event, plenty of people who love cricket were disappointed it wasn’t five before the series started.  Apparently, only India and Australia are deserving of this.  The Big Three who have accrued all the power and money to themselves, allowing five match series between themselves.  Try to contain your shock.

England’s repeated defeats in the final Test of a series, dead rubber or otherwise, is beginning to look careless.  Curiously, it isn’t so long ago that they suffered from losing the first Test of a tour consistently.  The series win is a fine achievement, and whether South Africa are quite the side they were doesn’t change that.  But if they do want to be the best side in the world, there’s plenty of work ahead of them yet.

Day Five discussion below.