Searching for Sunshine and Context – Super Series 7

If you feel like commenting, fire away.

Me? Well, I think you can tell how interested I am in cricket right now. Not when football and the ludicrous state of this country is like a constant soap opera. A stable, balanced England ODI team, playing well against a team we usually struggle against is a little vanilla. But if you have the time, and the inclination, enjoy the action. The forecast for London is wretched, so we’ll probably have another no result.

Night all.

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A Half-Hearted Intro Into Super Series Game 6

An ODI takes place in Bristol today and you can comment on it here. The Super Series is finished now, as we have an unassailable 13-3 lead, so obviously this game lacks context, and will therefore be something we really shouldn’t be interested in.

Terrific performances by Hales and Roy on Friday – regretfully, shopping trips to the supermarket and overwhelming tiredness from staying awake on Thursday night meant I’ve seen next to nothing of it. Let’s hope for more, because these are two players I can really get behind. They’ll have days like these, and then they’ll have days like those. But that’s what they can do.

I have seen a number of comments with some views on Brexit. Look, I can’t stop you either way, and I know they are of the lukewarm kind. I’m not admonishing anyone because we don’t live in a vacuum. But I’d advise against it. I’ve got some good mates, blokes who saw me through some difficult times, and I’m royally effed off with them at present. And I shouldn’t be. But there was something different about Thursday’s events that supersedes politics. There’s something about the way people of all beliefs (not one side or the other) were manipulated by half-truths and lies, by innuendo and supposition, that hits at me.

You know, through the stuff that happened with cricket in England, in 2014, and it is not on the scale of the decisions made this week I know (before anyone wants to get snippy on comparisons), we saw media manipulation, where truth and spin were at the forefront, and no-one seemed to care to look for facts, or make alternative cases based on them in the mainstream media or on TV. You know, some people can’t even say his name (Gower) while others use his name to collect hateful hits on their news site. It’s a tiny, some would say obsessive, example of what I’m trying to say. Actually, I’m not even sure what I’m trying to say, except I’m ashamed of what we’ve become as a consumer of news. News and journalism isn’t a profession, it is now a commodity and it is sold to you, the consumer, in the way you want it and the way you want to hear it. There will always be some who rail against it, but if you can brand them as loopy conspiracy theorists, that’s great. The Mail tonight doesn’t care to acknowledge that 48% of the country are not on their side. The 52% won, and the rest should shut up and eat it. Just like they did when someone they did not want to win ended up triumphant. Debate doesn’t happen when neither side is prepared to listen.

So with that, and I’m not entirely sure what it is, but it meant I could have a go at the press, and by extension, the ECB, enjoy the game at Bristol if you care, and I’ll leave it to you to comment as you see fit, but please, no fighting on the decision itself. There’s other places to do that.

All the best people. I don’t want you to leave, I’d prefer if you remain.

Not A Preview Of The 2nd ODI

One more point and we can’t lose the Super Series. Pray for rain.

After the tumultuous finish to the first ODI at Trent Bridge, courtesy of celebrating too early, a first List A 50 by Woakes and the Honey Monster mullering a maximum off the last ball to tie, we move to Birmingham for the first post-Referendum ODI. Will it be Isolated England or EU England suiting up? If the London Mayoral count is anything to go by, the result will be in by the time they’d switch the floodlights off. If we’re lucky. But enough of that.

So while the selectors discharge themselves from hospital for patting themselves on the backs too hard and causing multiple bruising (for the faith in Woakes – Lizzy and Dobbs still remain under observation) the top order travails can be put aside for another day (Root is in need of some confidence, because getting it back against Pakistan can be tough). The stage is clear for this game as the Euros are on a two day break, Wimbledon hasn’t started yet and Jamie Vardy spoils all the fun and signs a new contract.

I’m glad some of you are enjoying it. I quite enjoyed Buttler and Woakes and the finale, and I’d be lying if I said otherwise, but it’s fluff. It’s good fluff, but fluff nonetheless. I’m much more thrilled that Surrey won a Division One game before Noah parked his vessel at the OCS Stand End.

So comment away on the second match. I have heard from Chris, who, in homage to Alan Whicker, will be jetting away somewhere else next week. With this bloody weather, who can blame him? The Cricket Paper is out tomorrow as well. Let’s have it.

Fire away.

 

Not A Super Series Update / Preview

Absence Makes The Vision Wander

If a sport loses traction in the public eye, it is devilishly hard to get it back. This was always going to be a tough summer to keep the game relevant in the mass media. The European Championships, with three host nations and Ireland involved, were always going to grab the media spotlight, at least for June. Once they are done with there is the pre-season signing merry-go-round to fill the back pages, and with the top gossip clubs having new managers – Guardiola, Mourinho, Conte – the fictions and facts will block out much other sport. Then, when the test series against Pakistan is reaching its conclusion, we have the Olympics. Given we have two less “glamorous” opponents visiting these shores, the ECB have pretty much no chance of garnering media attention, even if they were the most enlightened, sharp, media-savvy organisation in sport (which they are not). Hell, even I can’t be arsed to write about the game that much. And I’m supposed to be a diehard supporter of it.

There’s the rub. I’ve been back from the States for the best part of a week, and I’ve written nothing on cricket. There are no international fixtures going on in England, a joke series in Zimbabwe, a tri-series of ODIs in the Caribbean, and a hotch potch of formats played here when not dodging the lamentable weather. I do a lot of this blog based upon the media output, and there’s been nothing to rail against. Sure, I could go on about Chris Stocks having another pop at Compton in The Cricket Paper, or I could comment on the new-look Cricketer (I actually quite like the look, it’s the writers I have a problem with) but it would be going through the motions. I think I’ve read just TCP and TC since I’ve been back, and not even in great detail. It just seems that in the middle of June, when we should be doing something to capture the public imagination during a football competition, there’s nothing. So Switzerland v Albania it is!

Writing this blog is not a job. I earn no money from it. I get more grief than I should have to put up with from it. I do it, as I’ve said many times, because I love the game, and I love writing. Throughout all your relationships, if that is the right word, with a sport, there are going to be times when you blow hot and cold, and the blast is straight out of the arctic right now. I have a team I can’t give my all to because of how it originated and who leads it. I have a sports body I still hold in complete contempt, feeling a self-congratulatory Trump-esque feeling of having grave suspicions about the current ECB chairman, while having nothing but fears about Super Series Strauss and Tom Harrison. The international game looks in poor shape, with Sri Lanka’s abject displays in the first half of the series laying bare the lie that the test game can go on as it is. Then there’s the attempts to influence us all in making us love a team some of us don’t feel we ever can until certain people have gone. The Essex Media Mafia have been in full effect over the ascension to 10000, and the tedious debate over “greatness”. This has been augmented by the victorious, smug “KExit” campaigners making no attempt to disguise their contempt for us, by taking over the Guardian BTL with their witless offerings.

I have no idea, nor do I care, how the T20 Blast is going. I’ve tried to follow Surrey’s wins and losses, but that isn’t because I can watch each game on a live stream, as I might if it were available, but laughably we don’t think we can do that due to our TV contract. As for the One Day cup? Well, if you want to finish a competition off, just do this. Split it in half, and see what happens. Make it be played in April to ensure its final complete annihilation.

It’s just Dmitri, once again being negative Nigel, always complaining, never offering anything. Well, I’ll tell you this. I listened to Colin Graves’s wonderful interview prior to the Sri Lankan series. I might be going too far to say it made me pine for Giles Clarke, but it certainly didn’t have me thinking he’s on our side. The problem with test cricket isn’t whether the damn thing is four or five days, or whether it has context or not. It’s the effing quality of it, there’s too much of it, and players are either knackered, injured or so fed up with it, that they don’t produce of their best. There’s little ebb and flow in our matches – we either run over a team on a pitch helping us, or we struggle – while India in their last series against South Africa might as well have rubbed each wicket with industrial strength sandpaper and they’ve have been more subtle than what actually happened. Australia remain dominant at home, and good on batting wickets. Pakistan are anyone’s guess, the rest are also rans. Anyone with the temerity to compare this nonsense with the 1990s oppositions we faced, where even Zimbabwe could run out a Flower or two, with Streak et al to back them up, is in need of some awakening. But Graves wants four day tests. Given some of the wickets we produce, this is aspirational all the wrong way round, but if he thinks making it four days will mean 100+ overs in a day, then I seriously suggest he reconsiders. The current lot don’t give a crap about getting 90 in most days.

When is the ODI series? Is it soon? Oh, it’s tomorrow! How did I miss it?

How is cricket going to survive in the long run? The issue remains pretty simple to me. No matter what I hear or see, the fact is our top players are being paid well enough, but county pros are paid too much to justify the revenue they bring in (otherwise why are these clubs in crisis). Whether this is because the revenue isn’t there (maybe not enough conferences for your conference centre adjunct), or is being held back by a TV/media contract that stops clubs from exploring possible additional media revenue is for those that know to tell us. The top players won’t be giving up yet more money to keep their brethren in clover, otherwise it’s off to the T20 leagues and all that, so you have an impasse where a sport that needs to attract players with money, isn’t going to make enough money to pay them, and certainly won’t get it through money at the gate. When the interest sustaining the current level of international expenditure dries up, as it surely will on this path, I can bet very good money it won’t be the international players, or the administrators at the ECB, cutting back their wages. Only then might we have a county game that is sustainable on its own accord, but I highly doubt it. This is why you’d rather keep with the devil you know – paying the bills, limiting the access – than break free and see what you can do. In a number of ways, it mimics another decision being made this week.

I know. It’s downbeat. It’s me being me. I keep singing the same old tune. But those who criticise need think of this. I still care. But not as much. And not as much equates to not as much revenue through the gate, or on merchandise, or over-priced food and drink than before. And that equates to not watching on TV, or perhaps, giving up my subscription. Of not making the effort to go to a T20 game. And I started from a high base. Lord knows what those who dip in and dip out make of it.

Glad to be back? Maybe. ODI #1 tomorrow. A chance to clinch the Super Series. And they’ll be rejoicing in the streets.

One tiny piece of cross-promotion. In case you missed it I’m doing a blog on US sports. This may, or may not, be of interest but the link is www.dmitriamericana.wordpress.com – if you like it, let me know. If you don’t, don’t!

England vs. Sri Lanka, 3rd Test – The Wrap

In the end the predicted rain reared it’s head and ensured that there would be no meaningful play on the 5th day, thus ruining the ECB’s desperate sales pitch that all FOUR results were possible today, so come and spend some money please. Whether England could have bowled Sri Lanka out on this pitch or whether Sri Lanka could’ve mustered an unlikely run chase for the victory became a moot point and in my opinion the draw was always the favourite to win out. As I’ve been out at a client event for most of the day and am currently writing this having just got home, it was a little bit of a relief that I don’t have to hunt about to try and watch the highlights this evening to write something a little more substantial about the day’s play itself.

As for the series itself, I’m not sure we learnt anything that we didn’t know before the first ball was bowled. Sri Lanka, like many subcontinent team aren’t great against the moving ball in May, Anderson & Broad continue to perform excellently when presented with these type of conditions and we still don’t have a convincing answer to the number 3 & 5 positions in our batting line up, nor do we have a convincing spinner. Also it also pays for every England player to make sure you’re firmly in the ‘inside cricket’ camp otherwise Newman, Pringle or Selvey will be set loose to attack both you as a professional cricketer and as an individual. That seems depressingly familiar, right? Oh and definitely don’t write a blog that might challenge the combined pearls of wisdom that our traditional press regally hands down to us from upon high, after all we’re the worst of them all, the bilious inadequates. Ca plus change….

On the plus notes from the series, you could clearly argue that Hales has had a decent series and improved enormously from his travails in South Africa when he looked anything but an international batsman. He still isn’t totally convincing as I mentioned last night, but there does seem to be something to work with as we continue to search for a foil for Cook. Woakes also had an encouraging series both with bat and ball and was England’s most potent looking bowler when the pitches at Durham and Lords flattened out. I wrote in my 2nd Test preview that I felt it was now or never for Woakes to show that he can perform at International level and all in all, he did not let himself down. Whether he can become a potent opening bowler for England is still very much open to debate, but he showed glimpses that he can be a reliable first change; Steven Finn will be under the most pressure when Stokes is fit to take his place in this line up.

The final praise must go to Bairstow the batsman (his wicket keeping has been discussed plenty, and despite taking a record number of catches behind the stumps this series, a major rick never seems too far away). Bairstow has been one of the few players to take his county form, where he blew away most county attacks this season and last, into the Test arena and scored the big runs that England have so desperately needed him too. I shudder to think what might have happened had Bairstow not been in the form of his life (coupled with the complete ineptitude of the umpires on show, Aleem Dar excepted) and genuinely feel that we could have been reporting on a completely different series otherwise. Bairstow has without doubt benefited from the positive approach of Bayliss and Farbrace and seems to back his own ability rather than the slightly unsure, technically deficient player that we saw under Flower and Moores. If the England camp does decide to take the gloves off Bairstow (and I’m torn by both arguments), then I hope they continue to give him the olive treatment, as he seems a player that benefits from an arm around the shoulder and a few words of praise in his ear.

As for the white ball part of Andrew Strauss’ SUPER Series (nope still not excited), the 50 over team was pretty much as expected bearing in mind current injuries; however it was heartening to see a couple of new names in the 20 over format. Malan has deserved his call up through sheer weight of runs over the past couple of years and has found some consistency to go alongside the natural talent that he undoubtedly has; whereas Mills is something we haven’t had for a long time, a bowler who can run up and bowl seriously quickly. I really felt for Tymal Mills when I heard that he had been forced to give up most forms of the game due to a congenital back condition, as he seemed like a bowler that had been earmarked for the National team; however he has got on with things and worked on his T20 skills (which were a weaker part of his game) and has genuinely looked like a really threatening bowler in the T20 Blast this season. I hope both go well, if they get the chance.

LCL and TLG will soon be back from their respective jaunts across the other side of the world, so with them back in the saddle, I’m sure it will be business as normal for the blog…..

England vs. Sri Lanka – 3rd Test, Day 4

Today was one of those frustrating days at the cricket, with rain ensuring a wash out of the first session and then the players coming on and off the pitch at regular intervals during the rest of the day. Certainly England would’ve been hoping for no rain interruptions at the start of the day to allow them the opportunity to push on to 400 and ensure that Sri Lanka had no way back into the game; however we have a situation where, dependent on the weather, all 3 results are theoretically possible.

As for the batting, Hales showed a new found maturity and batted well, mixing some big attacking shots with some nice nudges to keep the scoreboard ticking over. This has been a criticism of Hales in his short career so far, in that he seems to get himself bogged down with an inability to turn over the strike and then gets out looking for the big shot (see his dismissal to Herath in the first innings); however both yesterday and today, he seemed to be pick able to pick gaps in the field to relieve the pressure. Graham Thorpe he is not, but it does show that he has the mental ability to look at his game and try to improve certain areas that have been holding him back. It was a shame that he missed out on a century and I do think it will be a weight lifted as soon as he reaches three figures, but out of all the un-established batsmen in this team, he is the one that looks most secure in his position.

As well as Hales batted, he really should’ve been out a couple of times, especially after being bowled off a ‘no ball’ that admittedly kept low. It does seem a complete mockery that a batsman can be reprieved by the third umpire on review for a no ball, but that the opposite, where an umpire makes a mistake with a no ball call, cannot result in the batsman being given out. Cricket really doesn’t help itself at times and Sri Lanka can rightly feel aggrieved at some of the umpiring decisions they’ve received in this Test, especially with the ridiculous ‘umpire’s call’ methodology used with DRS at the moment. I believe that this is likely to change ASAP after the ICC reviewed the current protocol and in my opinion this change can’t come quickly enough.

The afternoon passage of play was an odd one and did have me shaking my head in disbelief at times. I appreciate that Hales had a hundred on his mind and so didn’t want to be ultra aggressive (though his strike rate was decent), but Cook’s innings really wasn’t what we were looking for given the pursuit of quick runs. I’d have personally put Moeen ahead of him in the order and asked him to try and bash a few runs before tea, with the view of a declaration just afterwards; however Cook came in at 7 and proceeded to nudge and prod the ball about. Sure Cook did finally play some shots after the 2nd rain delay after tea, but by then it was almost 6:30pm and he still only ended up with a strike rate of 56, meaning that England had almost wasted an hour to have a go at the Sri Lankan batsmen this evening. I slightly facetiously posted on Twitter that the captain was protecting his series average; however can you imagine if that had been Compton who had managed a red inker with a strike of just over 50 and England needing quick runs? There would’ve been howls of anger from Newman & Selvey etc that he couldn’t score quickly enough and that he was potentially costing England the game. I bet we don’t get that  narrative applied to the Captain tomorrow! As with everything in the MSM, what gets reported tends to be through their very ECB rose-tinted spectacles…

As for tomorrow, it will be interesting to see if the pitch does break up at all and does offer some turn for Moeen, as the 12 overs this evening from England’s bowling unit weren’t exactly threatening. You do feel that Moeen could do with a few wickets in the 2nd inning to build his confidence in advance of the Pakistan series and this pitch should offer him far more assistance than either Headlingley or Durham. You do also feel that if England are going to win tomorrow, then they will need him to contribute with the ball. As for Sri Lanka, if they get through the morning session unscathed, then it’s not out of the question that they could chase this total down. Matthews, Chandimal and Kaushal are all destructive players and with the right platform, they could push on for the victory.

I won’t be able to see any of the game tomorrow, so any report does rely on me getting back from a work event at a decent time and getting to see some highlights. Anyway, Day 5 comments below:

England vs. Sri Lanka – 3rd Test, Day 3

What a difference a day and a bit of cloud cover can make, this Test which looked like it was ambling serenely towards a high scoring bore-draw, now has a bit of life in it.

England bowled tremendously in the morning, with both Woakes and thankfully Finn finding some much needed form with the ball to restrict Sri Lanka to 56-5 in the morning session. It does have to be mentioned that they undid some of their good work in the morning session by wasting the new ball when faced with a Silva and Herath (who has scored more runs than Joe Root in this series) counter attack; however if you had offered England a lead of 130 last night, they would have snapped your hand off. The fact that we bowled so well in the morning must have had the English management team scratching their heads, such was the ineffectiveness of the bowling unit yesterday, albeit in batsman friendly conditions. Perhaps they felt that they were just going to blow Sri Lanka away yesterday and it wouldn’t have surprised me if Ottis Gibson gave them a stern talking to last night. Whatever was said, it certainly worked.

With England maintaining a lead of 130, it was expected that the English batting unit, minus Captain CBE, would be able to bat Sri Lanka out of the game. Alas, this was not the case. Compton looked pretty good before he edged a decent delivery from Eranga, thus sadly signaling the end of his International career, Joe Root got an unplayable grubber (I didn’t think I would’ve be saying those words last night) and Vince had a brain fart in deciding to leave a delivery going down the slope. Vince has so far, got off rather lightly, considering he too has had a very poor debut series. An average of 13.5 in 3 Tests is not something that fills me with too much hope and with Compton now gone, the MSM will need someone else to fill up their pages, Vince could soon find himself in their firing line in the Pakistan series. The thing with Vince (and one could easily apply the same to Compton & Hales to a certain extent) is that he just doesn’t look an international player yet, more a player who dominated attacks in Division 2 but one that had a mixed season in Division 1 last year. Now I’m not advocating dropping Vince yet, as I believe a player needs 8-10 Test matches to prove whether he can cut it at this level and I certainly don’t want to go back to the late 80’s/early 90’s where players were given a couple of games then dropped back down to County level, but Vince needs to have a good series against a strong Pakistan attack, otherwise we’ll be looking a new number 5 as well as a new number 3.

England’s second innings collapse meant that poor Jonny Bairstow didn’t have much time to put his feet up and rest before coming out to try and save England’s bacon again. Indeed if I were him, I’d be having some strong words with my top order colleagues, no wonder the shot he finally got out to was so loose and there have been mistakes with his wicket keeping, he must be absolutely knackered! Indeed if England are going to get to a 400+ lead, which I feel they will still need to win the game, despite the odd ball misbehaving, a lot now is going to rest on Hales kicking on and scoring some big runs. Put this way, I can’t see a run a ball hundred from Captain CBE at number 9! That said, the weather doesn’t look too healthy over the next couple of days, so it may well be taken out of all our hands.

On a completely unrelated note, do have a read of the piece from David Hopps on county cricket and the rise of social media bringing it to new fans as opposed to the traditional press coverage, which has all but disappeared – http://www.espncricinfo.com/magazine/content/story/1024073.html. I thought this was a particularly well written and thought out article and it got me thinking around what more could be done to boost the popularity of our county game (although that could form a whole new piece). In essence it is still about access and money in my opinion, schedule the games when most people can see them live (i.e. Saturdays), negotiate with Sky, who only show a very limited amount of 4 day cricket, around streaming highlights packages of each day and each game on social media for free and of course, make the costs far more family friendly for attending. This is not rocket science, but will ever get done? Sadly I think we all know the answer to this.

Anyway, I’m off out to watch the football. Day 4 comments and thoughts below:

England vs. Sri Lanka – 3rd Test, Day 2

It’s on days like this that it is sometimes difficult to muster the will to write much about the game as from first observations nothing much really happened. The pitch looks like an absolute road with no seam movement or swing for the bowlers and a surface that is deader than John Cleese’s parrot. I said in my pre-match report that I felt that Lords would prepare a dead, flat wicket and unfortunately my cynicism towards the ECB has been proved right again, money before entertainment has been the order of the day in this Test.

With the pitch looking like something akin to Antigua in the 1990’s, England’s first innings of 416 looks no more than par on this pitch and dependent on how Sri Lanka bat in the first innings it could end up being at least 100 light as to what it should have been. As for the good today, Bairstow batted like a man in the form of his life and would’ve likely gone on to make a double ton had anyone stuck around with him and the Sri Lankan top three showed they have both decent techniques and some fight on a pitch that offers very little for the bowlers. As for the bad, England’s bowling attack again looked fairly military medium in it’s nature (always a worry when England come across flat pitches away from home) and Bairstow’s horrendous drop of Karunaratne, when it seemed more difficult to drop the ball than it did to take the catch (Atherton, Selvey and others may have tried to blame conditions at Lords, but for me, it was just a poor piece of wicketkeeping).

The Jonny Bairstow wicketkeeper conundrum is going to be something that rears itself time and time again. It isn’t just the fact that he keeps dropping chances, it’s the fact that the chances he has dropped are ones a club wicketkeeper should expect to take. Sure this is a dead Test (despite the amazing super series points on offer) but what happens when Bairstow drops Kohli on 1 in Mumbai over the winter? How many runs will that cost this England team in a series where you need to take every chance on offer? I can see why England are persisting with Bairstow at wicketkeeper/batsman, because quite frankly without his batting England would have been a complete shambles this series, but is it really prudent to pack the side with all-rounders who aren’t quite good enough at one or more of the disciplines (Bairstow with the gloves, and Moeen with the ball as an example) in the hope that they can score enough runs to compensate for our consistently woeful batting in the top order? Despite all the protestations of the progress that we have made in the Strauss era, we still don’t have a convincing opener, our number 3 is toast, our number 5 (albeit 3 games into his career) isn’t pulling up trees and our spin option looks as threatening as Min Patel. Sooner or later our lower order is going to fail to dig England out of a hole of their own making and the results are unlikely to be pretty.

A final note on the pitch again (sorry pitches are a big bugbear of mine), no-one wants to see sides being consistently rolled out for under a hundred (unless it’s Australia, then it’s supremely hilarious), but equally no-one wants to see 500 vs. 500 on featherbed either. This pitch is not like Adelaide where things are likely to start happening on Day 4, this is Lords and the chances are the pitch won’t change over the next 3 days. The reason I mention this is ‘entertainment’ as after all, that is what sport is about. Cricket is about to go up against the Euro’s and the Rugby Union over the next couple of weeks and to stand a vague chance of retaining people’s interest, then it needs to produce some compelling action not the yawn fest that this Test match has produced (hell I’m bored of it and I’ve only watched the highlights on both days). Perhaps I’m missing the point again, after all the ECB has the type of people they want packing out the game at Lords over the weekend and they’re very happy to pay £75 a ticket et al, so why bother spreading the game to the masses, after all the average punter probably can’t afford to be a part of the ECB’s exclusive club. Let them have their football…

Day 3 thoughts and comments below:

England vs. Sri Lanka – 3rd Test, Day 1

One of the slightly annoying vagaries of the Test Match season is that work rather gets in the way of my ability to watch any of the game and I’m afraid that is the case today and will also be the case tomorrow too, with my only chance to catch up on proceedings being through the Channel 5 highlights.

From first glance, England very much have Jonny Bairstow to thank for digging them out of a very large hole of their own making on a flat and benign pitch at Lords. Fair play to Sri Lanka who bowled well and tightly on this pitch, but it was an often repeated story as England constantly threw away their wickets at regular intervals, with only James Vince being able to convincing argue that he got a good’un. Hales’ mow at Herath showed that he is not an international class batsman as of yet and Compton’s fidgety, sometimes painful innings was bought to an end when he nicked off chasing a wide one. It is hard not to sympathise with Compton as a fan of the game, he has worked hard to get his chance but it just hasn’t happened for him at Test level. This will now have been his 16th Test in an England shirt (and fair play to Bayliss who has resisted the MSM pressure to give him a decent run in the side) but he just hasn’t scored the necessary runs, nor convinced that he can operate at this level and so the search for a new number 3 will now start in earnest. The vultures over at the MSM of course didn’t have any sympathy mind declaring that it had been a waste of everyone’s time to pick Compton in the first pace:

https://twitter.com/Paul_NewmanDM/status/740875179455303680?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw

A note to the likes of Newman and Berry, no it wasn’t a waste of time in picking Compton, he was picked because England felt that he was the best number 3 that we had. It hasn’t unfortunately worked out for Compton or England, but the real waste of a summer would be read the nefarious drivel that you consistently insult your readers with. Rant over.

As for captain courageous, he got a start, looked good and then got out in the 80’s. I’ve kept my powder fairly dry in the ‘is Alastair Cook a great of the modern game?’ This clearly gave us our answer for all to see, a great player would have gone on and made a big hundred against a weakish attack on a placid pitch, Alastair Cook did not, again. Cook’s average may look pretty healthy over the last 12 months but that is mainly down to a monumental score on a featherbed in Abu Dhabi and a couple of not outs and when you dig a little further, it’s not quite as healthy as his followers would tell you. Put it this way, when was the last time Cook scored a match winning hundred to ultimately turn a game in England’s favour? Answers on a postcard? The ability to do that on a consistent basis in my opinion, should be the mark of a great batsman, sure Alastair Cook is a very good international batsmen, but a great? I can give you 10,000 reasons why he falls short.

The Decision Review System came under scrutiny again today, when umpire Ravi, England’s favourite umpire gave a decision not out, when it looked for all the world to see that the ball was cannoning into leg stump. Now I’m not blaming S Ravi for the system not being up to scratch (though he is an extremely poor umpire in my eyes), it is more the fact that we don’t seem to be getting the right result from the technology. My own view is that either you trust the system implicitly and a batsman is given out if any of the ball is forecast to hit the stump or you ditch DRS completely, not stick with this halfway house which is making us all look a little bit stupid. The fact that the bowling (or batting team) loses a review for an umpires call is even more galling and something really does need to be done to address this issue ASAP.

Apologies for the slightly sparse report tonight, watching the highlights doesn’t exactly give me too much to go off.

Day 2 thoughts and comments below:

England vs. Sri-Lanka, 3rd Test – Preview

So we’re off to Lords tomorrow with England taking an 8-0 advantage in the Super Series there, so still absolutely everything to play for…said no cricket fan ever! In a grudging kind of way, you have to admire Strauss for managing to keep a completely straight face when he commented:

We believe this will enhance the international game over all formats, at a time when we all recognise the need to keep all forms of international cricket exciting, relevant and engaging for the public.”

“We have to recognise that the world of cricket is changing very quickly. We’ve seen some fantastic innovations recently such as the first ever day-night Test Match in Australia last year, and I see this as something similar for all formats – a way of keeping them all relevant. It’s part of our ongoing efforts to modernise the game of cricket.”

Unfortunately for the Director, English Cricket, most cricket fans or those with even half a brain know a turd when they see one and despite the ECB desperately trying to add a hefty whack of polish to it, I’m afraid that no-one has been taken in by this colossal heap of bullcrap. Perhaps it’s best for the Director, England Cricket to go back to what he knows best i.e. instructing your friends in the mainstream media to continue to write souped up hagiographies

Anyway onto the cricket itself and I’m not sure the majority of the country is amazingly enthused about the prospect of watching this final Test Match in what has been a low quality and underwhelming series. As I suspected, England have gone in again with the same eleven, which hopefully provides Steven Finn with a chance to find some form and rhythm in time for the rest of the summer’s cricket. It also nicely provides the MSM the chance to have one more potshot at Nick Compton before he is cast adrift from the National team and I’m sure the likes of Pringle, Selvey, Newman and Stocks have their pencils sharpened in the hope of writing his international obituary with the same glee that they have writing about what an inspirational leader Alastair Cook is! I’m still not quite sure what Compton has done to upset the MSM apart from not scoring that many runs and not being Joe Root, but it seems he has rubbed up the wrong people and that is basically that for him. I will eat my proverbial hat if he is picked for the first Test of the Pakistan series.

With Compton seemingly on the way out, social media and Sky has been awash with views around who is going to replace him at number 3. It has been mentioned that there is the possibility of Vince moving up to 3, Bairstow to 5 and Buttler to come in at 7, though I think that is highly unlikely considering that Vince hasn’t exactly been prolific in his first couple of Tests (despite Andy Flower’s assertions that he is the new Don Bradman) coupled with the fact Buttler hasn’t played any type of red ball cricket this summer and is unlikely to get much practice before Pakistan start their tour. As a result, many are casting around County Cricket for a potential replacement with Robson, Westley and Borthwick being the names that keep cropping up. Scott Borthwick for me is the most interesting name on the list and one cannot praise him highly enough for having the aptitude, work ethic and skill-set to turn himself from a bowling all rounder to a fixture at number 3 for Durham. Indeed he has had a fantastic season so far scoring three hundreds for Durham, including two in one match, in what is one of the hardest grounds to consistently score on in the County Championship. The fact that Borthwick had been so consistent in recent times, got me thinking why he hadn’t been mentioned before now and why the sudden clamour for his inclusion? One could rightly point out that it’s the number of runs he has churned out for his county this year or it could also be pointed out, if one was a little more cynical, that he has fairly recently been signed up by those lovable rogues, ISM! Perhaps I am being a little churlish and I actually do think Borthwick deserves a chance to showcase his skills on the international stage, especially with the bonus of his leg spin bowling and upcoming trips to Bangladesh and India, but it also does worry me the about seemingly large amount of power that this agency holds over our selectors. Perhaps I’m being paranoid about this, but then again perhaps I’m not (and Katy Scott’s – @ithilienorthend – excellent piece on the growth of ISM is worth a read – https://ashestourist.wordpress.com/2016/05/14/the-impact-of-ism/). Whatever the exact truth is, it seems clear that they have the ears of those in power and if I was an aspiring England cricketer, then being represented by Vaughan and the like would certainly be an interesting prospect. I’m awaiting the Ajmal Shahzad for England bandwagon to pick up over the summer with baited breath.

As for Sri Lanka and their chances of performing at Lords, I would suggest that their batting has a better chance of clicking as it did in the second innings at Durham, than their bowling does to cause England too many worries (especially as all of their first choice bowling attack are either injured or have been reported for dodgy actions). The main reason why I think the Sri Lankan batting attack is likely to fare better is that the Lords pitch is likely to be flatter than an England performance having won a series and judging by the state of the Lord’s pitch this year in county games, a high scoring draw is far more likely than any other result, a 3 day Test Match this won’t be. As I mentioned in my customer experience piece, Lords is the ECB’s cash cow, this is where they make their money, so why take the chance of a Sri Lankan collapse to put at risk guaranteed income from the ECB’s preferred type of fan? This isn’t those ghastly Tests up North (in the ECB’s eyes not mine) where fans refuse to spend £75 a ticket and to nicely line the ECB’s coffers by purchasing £85 lunch hampers, this is the real deal now and something that needs to be protected….

On a final note, I wonder if anyone else has tried to put themselves through the abject pain of watching the WI, Aus & SA tri-series in the West Indies? This surely has to be a lesson to all cricket administrators worldwide that playing meaningless series on substandard pitches and then trying to sell this to the paying public is an act of extreme folly. In fact, I would suggest that this has done more harm than good, with the pitches displaying variable bounce and extreme spin from the first over, this was not a spectacle that will live long in the memory. Sure, no-one wants to see 400 plays 400 in every game, but paying fans do want to see batsmen being able to get the ball off the square and a pitch that doesn’t resemble a Day 5 pitch in Chittagong – no wonder cricket uptake in the West Indies is massively on the wane…

Day 1 thoughts and comments below…