1986 – Nightmare At Nottingham – Part 1 of 2

You know I love a good anniversary, and you also know I love my nostalgia. So while Sky make a very decent and informative programme about England in the 90s, which, of course, coincided with Sky covering cricket, some of us have some more than poignant memories of the 1980s, when, at times, England were, truly, awful. You might remember I did a series of pieces on the Blackwash in West Indies in 1986, and yes, I never did quite wrap it up but it does stand another view if you’ve not seen it. August signifies a less heralded low point, but a low point nonetheless. In the early part of that month England took on New Zealand at Trent Bridge in the second test of a three match series. The first, at Lord’s had been a bit of a dull bore, livened up only by Bruce French being sconed, and replaced, for a short while, as keeper by Bob Taylor. The test hardly got going.

The second, though, was a different beast entirely. England had been without Ian Botham all summer after his admission to smoking some Moroccan Woodbines (that’s from Only Fools and Horses) and incurring the wrath of Denis Compton who wanted him banned for life. While Botham was a diminishing force anyway, the England team had not recovered from the annihilation in the Caribbean and had been easily defeated at home by India. David Gower was removed from the captaincy in favour of Mike Gatting, but the first test of the Middlesex man’s leadership regime was an annihilation at Leeds. Gatting made a massive ton at Edgbaston, but it looked like it wasn’t going to be enough until the weather ruined the final day of the third test when it looked more likely that India would win than the home team. Rain may have saved us from another clean sweep.

Bob Taylor

England were in disarray, and yet there was just a blithe assumption that we would beat New Zealand. These were not your pushover Kiwis any more. Richard Hadlee was a brilliant, utterly brilliant bowler – the Jimmy Anderson of his era only, and you might disagree here, much better. Martin Crowe was coming to the fore, not quite the great he would become, but a decent old presence in the middle order. At opener was the sturdy John Wright, doughty, a fighter but bloody good on his day. Ian Smith was the keeper, decent with the gloves, a nuisance with the bat. They had beaten Australia in Australia the previous winter and were simply not to be underestimated, but it felt like we did.

In that first test we gave a debut to Martyn Moxon, a consistent run-scorer at the top of the order for Yorkshire, and a man with a classical technique to match. Moxon had made a decent impression in the Lord’s test, making 74 in his first test innings. One run more than Joe Root made in his first innings in tests! Moxon was opening with Graham Gooch who had made the game safe in the second innings of the test with a score of 183. At three for England was Bill Athey, who at this point had not made an impression in tests, and seemed to be betwixt and between. It wasn’t until the following winter that he got a firm place in the team, and not until the next year he made his only test ton. He seemed made for test cricket, but seemed to be in the team due to a 142 not out he made in the second ODI (which I remember he avoided what looked a plumb LBW when he was near his hundred). At four was David Gower, not in great form, still getting over the captaincy, but still a class player on his day. Shame for England was he wasn’t having many of them.

At five was captain Mike Gatting, He’d made that 180-odd at Edgbaston, but he’d not shown signs of turning the ship around, and with an Ashes winter coming up, panic was beginning to set in. Panic may have been induced by the presence of Derek Pringle at number 6. Now, we’re not fans of Degsy here, but he wasn’t a bad player. I think even Pringle might admit that number six was probably one, and more likely two places too high for him in a batting order. A man who made one test half century shouldn’t be that elevated, and that indicated issues. Number 7 for England was John Emburey, who was a more than useful spinner and handy lower order batsman, and at 8 was his Middlesex spin partner, Phil Edmonds. Both had survived from the previous year’s Ashes series, in their own ways. Note that England had no hesitation in playing two spinners at home in those days. Batting at nine was Glamorgan quickie Greg Thomas, who had an in and out career, which didn’t last too long at the international level. Number 10 was Bruce French, the keeper – and yes kiddywinks, we thought nothing of having a keeper batting at 10! Number 11 was Gladstone Small, the Warwickshire seam bowler, who whenever I saw him play at county level, looked a handy old bowler. But it took him some years to get in the team. He made his debut in this match, joining Thomas, who had made his debut in the Blackwash series, and the military medium of Pringle. Yikes. We had to hope it turned!

The New Zealand team lined up as follows. John Wright opened with Bruce Edgar. That partnership had seemed to be in place for years! Both were doughty players, using that word again, but Wright just had that something extra. In at three was Jeff Crowe, who never seemed to make the scores required of him, but following him at four was his younger brother, the late, great Martin. In the foothills of his career, he’d shown his promise and played some crucial innings. He would become one of their greatest players in the fullness of time. Once the Crowes were out of the way there was Jeremy Coney, the skipper. A redoubtable player, a total annoyance, and a dibbly dobbly bowler of some awkwardness. Coney had a legendary relationship (or lack of) with his gun all rounder, Richard Hadlee, who batted at 7 (compare Hadlee, who made test tons batting 7, and Pringle batting 6 for England). In between Coney and Hadlee was Evan Gray, a spinner/batsman bits and pieces all rounder. Number 8 was John Bracewell, a spin bowler and handy lower order player (not giving much away to the uninitiated here!) and following him at 9 was Ian Smith (let it not be forgotten that in 1984, Smith had made a century against England, and here he was at 9!!!!). The number 10 was Derek Stirling and 11 was Willie Watson, two seam bowlers of honest toil, but limited repute.

Game on.

The B&H Yearbook, for those of you who don’t remember it, was a more pictorial, more acerbic, record of world cricket, than the Almanack of the time, and their introduction to the review of the second test is a belter…

“In the fortnightly search for a fast bowler, England brought in Gladstone Small for his first Test Match and Greg Thomas for his first Test match in England.”

Jeremy Coney won the toss on a wicket that looked a little greener than the previous years strip. The Trent Bridge test in the 1985 Ashes was a festival of runs, as Gower made a huge hundred for England (166?) and Australia replied with a big total of their own thanks to tons by Wood and Ritchie. This strip, according to Wisden, was not that different, but whereas the previous year’s match had been played in glorious weather for much of the contest, the day, according to B&H was mainly cloudy and very windy.

A sub-plot to this test was whether Graham Gooch would make himself available for the upcoming Ashes tour. Botham had missed the 1984/5 India tour, and while many came home from the West Indies the previous winter, missing tours was seen as a pretty drastic thing. Now, I must confess, although I know Gooch wasn’t there for the Ashes, I never really recalled why. Sidesplittin’ in the comments to a previous post said it was because he had had twins (he thought). B&H describes the decision as “hanging over English cricket like the Sword of Damocles”. Anyhow, Gooch began the test with an assault on Hadlee (18 off 18 balls) before the Kiwi, playing on his home county ground, trapped him LBW. Moxon, after his promising debut, was bowled shortly thereafter for 9 and England were 43 for 2. Bill Athey and David Gower took England to lunch, where the total had reached 102 – a really decent clip in any test, but bloody good in that era. It was described as one of England’s “rare shafts of light of the summer” according to B&H.

Athey was dismissed for 55, with the score on 123, LBW to Watson, having played with “pleasing assurance if not total confidence”. Gower marched serenely on, showing the “effortless grace which makes him the most attractive of batsmen” until offering no shot to a ball from Evan Gray that turned sharply from outside off and been given LBW. 170 for 4 became 174 for 5 when Gatting was bowled through the gate by Hadlee, a dismissal B&H thought had “some sense of inevitability”. “The England captain had played an embarrassing shot” it moaned. Arron might have applauded. Did you write it, sir?

20160727_234209-01.jpeg
Picture by Adrian Murrell – “enhanced using Snapseed”. I think this is a wonderful snap, just for Richard Hadlee. Evan is giving it the two hands. Smiffy is directing traffic. Wright Jeff Crowe is Saturday Night Fever. Coney looks like he’s in need of the facilities. And then there is Hadlee… Fabulous picture.

After a brief rain delay, Hadlee packed off the Middlesex spinners in one over, both falling to catches that rose sharply and moved away late, and these wickets moved Hadlee into third place in the wicket-takers list behind Lillee and Botham, and completed a 27th five wicket haul, then a record. Pringle, batting at a nose bleeding six, survived a drop before falling to a hook shot. B&H said

“….the failure was more one of confidence than technique. The Essex all-rounder seemed frightened to hit the ball in his old manner.”

As he’s never read the blog, nor is likely to, he won’t comment on that.

England’s innings meandered to the close, finishing 240 for 9. Thomas had played some “spirited shots” before falling to Hadlee. England added another 16 the following morning, with the aid of some dropped catches (B&H lamenting the slip fielding). The previous year 400 played 500, so this instinctively felt short of a decent total.

Thomas opened the bowling and was “fast, but wild” which could have been the summary of his brief career, but he succeeded in making the opening breakthrough, having Bruce Edgar LBW via a fast yorker for 8. Jeff Crowe joined John Wright and solidity was enforced. The pace was dilatory, but it took until the afternoon session to remove John Wiright, who “seemed in total command” and Jeff Crowe, caught behind, both off Gladstone Small to provide the Warwickshire man with the first two of his 55 test victims. Small became a bit of a fan favourite, and I’ll break off this test review to just share a piece of Matthew Engel’s pen picture on Cricinfo…

he was always a whole-hearted tryer, a committed team man and a delightful guy. Australia’s discomfiture was increased by Small’s strange build: seemingly without a neck, he walked around as though he still had a coathanger inside his jacket. He came to England from Barbados just after his 14th birthday, the cut-off date for automatic qualification. However, the combination of his looks and his then-pair of nerdish specs made the Lord’s registration committee think he had no chance of ever playing Test cricket anyway, so they let him through.

Anyway, we interrupt this message to ask, what did he have in common with Derek Randall, Les Taylor, Alastair Cook and Mike Gatting?

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Another pic from Adrian Murrell. Small captures his first test wicket, it says being Jeff Crowe, but the piece reckons Wright was his first victim. Quite hard to tell from here. Perhaps one of our New Zealand friends can make the definitive ID?

Back to the test and at 92 for 3 England had got themselves back into the contest. Martin Crowe was joined at the crease by Jeremy Coney, and they set about rebuilding again. Having put on 50 for the 4th wicket, and with both looking untroubled (although Coney had been dropped at slip) “disaster struck in the last over before tea”. Martin Crowe called for what was in the view of B&H an “unwise short single” and Coney hesitated, before perishing. The wicket before tea looked worse when straight after the break Crowe turned Emburey into the hands of Phil Edmonds at backward square leg and New Zealand were 144 for 5, still 112 in arrears. However, the New Zealanders had a more formidable lower order, and it was now their time to shine….

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67 thoughts on “1986 – Nightmare At Nottingham – Part 1 of 2

  1. nonoxcol July 28, 2016 / 7:45 am

    I’m a big fan of this stuff – should have said so in the questionnaire.

    Not having followed the Windies tour especially closely (girlfriend trouble and burgeoning obsession with pop music and EastEnders), and being at school for most of the India series, this would have been my first extended cricket-watching since the glorious 1985 Ashes. And I distinctly remember being angry and appalled that only five of the glorious 1985 Ashes XI (the three Gs and two Es) were still being picked. Five-nil was just what I was used to, and so I would not have seen it as just cause for that many changes. Botham I knew about of course, and let’s say I would not have given a stuff about cannabis, Denis Compton or anyone else’s view on the matter, and events in the two Tests after Trent Bridge were to prove me right. But the absence of Lamb and Ellison especially was a total mystery – I think I wrote in my teenage diary what the XI should have been, and basically just reeled off the Edgbaston 1985 side with maybe Small for Les Taylor.

    For much the same reasons, I wasn’t anti-Gatting at the time: you can’t really argue too much with his 1985-87 record.

    (Oh, by the way, much as I would like to have spluttered with laughter at the Happy Hooker v Harmison, Hoggard, Jones and Flintoff: “The Trent Bridge test in the 2005 Ashes was a festival of runs, as Gower made a huge hundred for England (166?) and Australia replied with a big total of their own thanks to tons by Wood and Ritchie.”)

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  2. SimonH July 28, 2016 / 8:00 am

    I’m guessing that Small and the others all took Ashes’ winning catches? I’m sure Small caught Merv Hughes off Phil Edmonds to win in 86/87 and I’m also sure Randall took the winning catch in ’77 and Les Taylor in ’85 (a tame c&b – does anyone else remember Botham holding a great slip catch off Taylor in that match? It was to dismiss one of the Aussie bowlers – Geoff Lawson perhaps? I’ve never seen any film of it since). I’m not sure about Gatting – was it ’81?

    Hadlee’s wickets in that England innings:

    Did Gatt say afterwards, “that’s the way I play?”….

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    • nonoxcol July 28, 2016 / 8:09 am

      You just described my all-time favourite slip catch (well, alongside Gilchrist c Strauss b Flintoff)! I have never found film of it either, and even the Ashes Regained VHS doesn’t really capture how astonishing it seemed at the time.

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      • SimonH July 28, 2016 / 8:18 am

        It was one-handed above his head, from a front-foot slash as I remember.

        There was a terrific photo of it in WCM.

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  3. man in a barrel July 28, 2016 / 9:12 am

    Fwiw, I seem to recall that Jeff Crowe always wore a white helmet. In fact all that I can remember is his white helmet. I have no clue what he looked like as he was always enveloped in an enormous white helmet. I don’t know if Wright also wore white but, if he didn’t, there’s your ID nailed.

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    • SteveT July 28, 2016 / 12:36 pm

      Think most NZ players wore white helmets then

      Liked by 1 person

      • man in a barrel July 28, 2016 / 8:00 pm

        You are probably right but, somehow, Jeff Crowe’s helmet caught my fancy

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  4. sidesplittin July 28, 2016 / 9:21 am

    Fantastic article, thanks. I well remember watching the highlights of this series as a 13 yr old in the NZ winter of 1986.

    NZ were a seriously good side at the time – beaten Aus home and away in 1985/86, held the WI to draws in the first two tests in the WI in 1984/85 and drew 1-1 with the WI in NZ in 86/87.

    The first pic of Gower being dismissed it’s Chopper (aka JJ Crowe) at slip, not Shake (John) Wright.

    Second pic, that’s the gait of the left handed John Wright, v-c on that tour and latterly coach of Kent CCC and the first foreign coach of India. First Kiwi to score 5,000 test runs and a fantastic bloke to boot.

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    • LordCanisLupus July 28, 2016 / 9:50 am

      Thanks Ss. Needed the Kiwi eye.

      Second part in the next few days. If you have anything you would like added or other recollections of this match, email me on dmitriold@hotmail.co.uk .

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    • man in a barrel July 28, 2016 / 10:55 pm

      Are you sure? He has tucked the bat under his left armpit. This seems to me a more natural thing for a right hander to do. Maybe someone has done a study of how lefties and righties hold their bats while removing their gloves.

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    • SteveT July 28, 2016 / 12:35 pm

      Inner rings within the team eh? Who’d have thought it.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Rooto July 28, 2016 / 11:49 am

    My main memory of this series came from Lords: Richie saying “…and a fairy-tale start”.
    Hope that doesn’t need a spoiler alert.

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  6. whiterose76 July 29, 2016 / 8:05 am

    Thank you for reminding me how much I loved Gladstone Small! He was a bit of a hero amongst my friends at university for reasons never quite established. Then my housemate’s brother, who knew nothing about cricket, ended up on the same course as him in Manchester I think, leading to us getting some signed photos. We used to go to Headingley to cheer him on when Warwickshire visited (though ideally in a losing cause obviously…)

    Liked by 1 person

  7. SimonH July 29, 2016 / 8:52 am

    Australia need about 200 with 8 wickets left in Pallekele.

    I think I might be in love with the new SL spinner Sandakan.

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    • SimonH July 29, 2016 / 9:14 am

      Bit worried I might have jinxed him – then he bowls Burns in his first over with a ball that must have turned two feet!

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    • RufusSG July 29, 2016 / 9:24 am

      I’m watching it at the moment too, the game is set up fabulously. I gave them no chance before the start but this has been a brilliant fightback by Sri Lanka, and Mendis played an innings for the ages showing that the positive impression he made in England was thoroughly justified.

      I wish there were more chinaman bowlers going around at the moment – Sandakan’s mystery is definitely confusing the Australians at the moment.

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      • SimonH July 29, 2016 / 10:12 am

        And then they go off for bad light with two spinners on!

        I heard some mention that the playing conditions don’t allow the use of the floodlights – have you heard any more about this?

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      • SimonH July 29, 2016 / 10:16 am

        Here’s that wicket:

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      • RufusSG July 29, 2016 / 2:17 pm

        Yes, from what I’ve heard the grounds for the other tests don’t have working floodlights, so whilst Pallekele does it was agreed before the series that they wouldn’t be used for the sake of consistency so that every ground would be affected by the light in the same way. It seems completely crackers to me, given that the match is in danger of not reaching a result if the weather is just as poor tomorrow (which would clearly be a travesty given its current state), but there you are.

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  8. Mark July 29, 2016 / 10:50 am

    As Dmitri is asking some questions down in the post below I thought I might ask a question of you all my self. (Hope Dmitri won’t mind)

    What is the general feeling about 4 day test cricket? I ask this because my views might be changing a bit. I was originally completely against the move from 5 day tests to 4 day ones. And I still have some big issues with it. Notably, that I doubt you will get 100 overs in a day. They can’t even get 90 overs at the moment, even if they overrun by half an hour. The other concern is if there is a prolonged period of bad weather. Say a whole day gets washed out then that might be the test match over. (Although you might be able to have a rest day set aside, but that would defeat the object.)

    So what is my reason for thinking there might me merrit for it?. Well, the number of draws in Test cricket is reducing quite a lot. The art of batting the draw seems to be disappearing from the game. Not really surprising in a world of 20/20 cricket. This has tended to mean that the side getting on top on day 1 seems to go on and win quite easily. England seem to be very good at this model. Pile up 500 plus and then bowl the other side out in the remaining time. Never enforcing the follow on, because there is plenty of time left. This is producing very boring cricket because the ability to play for the draw is being lost. (Americans have never understood the attraction of a game that ends in a draw but their sports don’t last 5 days.) if the draw is increasingly not something that is possible anymore unless weather interupts would reducing to 4 days bring that option back into play? After all, if you bat for 2 days, and pile up 500-600 you are only giving your self 2 days to bowl the opposition out twice. Now this will mean that teams will declare before they get to that type of score. 450 May be seen as enough. Some won’t like that but increasingly one sided test wins seem the alternative.
    Anyway what are your thoughts because the authorities seem to be moving that way whether we like it or not?

    Liked by 1 person

    • LordCanisLupus July 29, 2016 / 11:46 am

      Quick thought. Assuming the players still bowl just 90 overs without penalty think how a test like Lord’s a couple of weeks ago would have gone?

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    • d'Arthez July 29, 2016 / 1:54 pm

      I think 4 day Tests are a bad idea. One day washed out, and the draw is the favorite, almost regardless of who are playing and where. That is hardly making the sport more attractive.

      The fact that none of the Ashes Tests in England went to Day 5 is not suggesting that 4 days is enough time: simply it suggests that teams rather hit out and get out after 50 or 60 overs, rather than face 150 overs for the same result. The prospect is daunting, even if the actual game time does not come into play.

      If you want to increase injuries, you have to increase workloads for players. Don’t for a minute think that the 3-day mandatory rest period after a Test will be lengthened to 4 days if this idea passes. What you will have is more and more bowlers breaking down due to not having to bowl 18 overs in a day, but say 22. Ask say Pat Cummins, or Mark Wood how much fun it is to spend the better part of a year injured due to poor care being taken of them.

      So guess what will happen to bowlers from Non-Big 3 teams? They’ll retire en masse from Test cricket, because they can make much more money and risk fewer injuries in T20. That is not so much a concern for English or Australian bowlers. They’ll make millions of their central contracts. As such, they can easily afford not to be playing T20. James Anderson has played 44 T20s (19 of which were for England). Dale Steyn, who is not raking in 1 million GBP / year on a central contract, is on 179 (with just 42 of those being for South Africa).

      Wow, that is going to improve Test cricket. Instead of having to face Rabada, Philander and Steyn, you get to face Kleinveldt, Gqamane and say Siboto. Yeah, and then you have a captain who says this is the toughest era to bat in …

      There are still batsmen who can bat time. Cook for one can. Amla, du Plessis, de Villiers can. Kraigg Brathwaitte can (though he usually gets not much support from the rest of his batting lineup). And I certainly would not put it past Williamson, Murali Vijay, or Younis Khan and Misbah to do it. Even some bowlers can bat time decently, if not as good as specialist batsmen.

      But I suspect that part of the reason why many batsmen hit out, rather than bat time, is that they’re overworked (does anyone have an accurate idea of how many miles people like Warner, Dale Steyn, and other T20 stars travel in a year?). Then there is the issue of the different mindsets that are needed for Test cricket, compared to the limited overs stuff.

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    • Mark July 29, 2016 / 2:19 pm

      Dmitri I wondered if anyone would put up the Lords test as an example of what will be lost. And we can all nominate great test matches that have gone well into the final day. Two England draws that spring to mind our England vs Australia at the oval 2005 when KP batted most of the afternoon to save the match. Or the famous England vs Soth African match where Mike Atherton batted all day and a half to save the test match. Nasser making a hundred at Lords against New Zealand to win a test match springs to mind.

      But the number of test matches particularly in England that are going for a draw seems to be reducing quite a bit. If players no longer have the skill of the will to bat time is their a case for reducing it to 4’days? Some people may like the fact that there are fewer draws and so are happy to keep it at 5 days. I must say my biggest concern is the weather in Englamd would make 4 day cricket reduced to 3 days a virtual certainty of a no result.

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  9. SimonH July 30, 2016 / 9:51 am

    Day 5 bum squeaker in Pallekele just finished with a win for SL with about 30 overs left but dark clouds looming (and there’s been precious little play after tea on previous days).

    Nevill and O’Keefe held out for a long time (over 130 balls without a run at one stage) but the former finally poked at a wide one. Herath took his 24th five-for and Australia lost their 7th consecutive Test in Asia and first under Smith as captain.

    Pitch doctoring beats financial doping? To some extent. Pallekele doesn’t usually help the spinners that much but a dry pitch has turned throughout. Next Test is in Galle – and it always turns there.

    If Australia draw or lose this series, England can go top of the rankings. Some of the press boys don’t believe in the rankings (Selvey called them “meaningless”) so they won’t be partying like it’s 1999…..

    Indeed, beat Pakistan and it could be top of the rankings and holding all the trophies. Will Vic Marks be able to wait until they actually do it before giving all the credit to Strauss this time?

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  10. Mark July 30, 2016 / 10:10 am

    My favourate tweet on Dennis does cricket is …..

    ” Partnership: 4 from 91 balls, unbroken. I still find it more stimulating than Twenty20 cricket.”

    A team trying for the draw is so novel these days. Americans just don’t get it. So rare to see a test match turn completely around these days.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. sidesplittin July 30, 2016 / 10:44 am

    Great win for SL, beating the No 1 ranked team in the world, straight after being mullered in Eng. With Pak beating Eng this month in their first visit for six years, some succour to those here who fret re the hegemony of the big three.

    Things are never normally as good (or bad) as they seem.

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    • d'Arthez July 30, 2016 / 12:58 pm

      Mind you, Australia have a record in Asia of P16 W1 L:11 D:4 since Warne retired. With the sole win coming in Australia’s previous tour to Sri Lanka. They have not won a Test in India for more than a decade. Same with Pakistan / UAE, but since those series are extremely rare, that does not say as much as do the stats for India: P10 W:0 L:8 D:2, if memory serves.

      So yeah, the loss in Pallekelle is really not part of a long term trend for Australia. Of course not.

      England were never crap in the 1990s, when they won 26 Tests and lost 43. Because they won in Kingston in 1990. They even won Tests in Melbourne and Adelaide in that decade. Or am I just using accidental results a bit too much, to drive home the point that two results that buck the trend actually don’t mean a thing in the greater scheme of things? You tell me.

      Mind you that W/L ratio of the 1990s achieved by England is still better than almost half of the international sides have achieved since 2007: Zimbabwe, New Zealand, Bangladesh and the West Indies have performed WORSE in the decade starting 2007, than England have in the 1990s. But of course, that does not suggest that standards are falling ….

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  12. SimonH July 30, 2016 / 10:54 am

    I know it’s anecdotal but some evidence of the invisibility of cricket to those outside the already-converted in two Guardian articles today:

    1) Jacob Steinberg says the Olympics can save this summer of sport. No mention of the national summer game.
    2) A lengthy article looks back on the summer of ’76. No mention of the national summer game.

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  13. Mark July 30, 2016 / 12:30 pm

    Don’t know who Jacob Steinberg is but I will not be reading either his article, or watching much of the Olympics. Apart for a few events, I suspect most people have more enthusiasm for the return of the football season in a couple of weeks. Every 4 years we are sold this propaganda about the Olympics, and so called legacy. remember the 2012 London games? It was well done, but the legacy is rather ironically that the Olympic stadium has been rented out to West Ham United for a pepper corn rent for 99 years in a dubious political deal.

    The big attraction of the Olympics is it is one of the increasingly view events still on free to air tv. The cricket is passing most people by, and last weeks open Golf championship (one of the greatest final shoot outs of all time) was watched live by hardly anyone.

    Can’t help feeling that Selveys departure from the Guardian could be an opportunity, a bit like the passing of Oliver Cromwell and the return of Charles 2nds monarch to liven things up. In those days music and dance was restored after the dull, years of the puritanicals. Selveys dull charmless days are coming to an end. Time for the cricket covergae to become more interesting and fun. Needs to take ff those ECB shades.

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    • Escort July 31, 2016 / 6:49 am

      Dont you suspect that Mike Selveys departure has something to do with the fact that the G is hemorageing money and needs to make drastic cuts to its budget?

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  14. SimonH July 30, 2016 / 1:14 pm

    So one Test finishes and another is about to begin….

    West Indies need to win in Jamaica if this series isn’t going to become a procession. Kingston is where they last beat India (in 2002 – so long ago Cameron Cuffy was opening the bowling) and the pitch is rumoured to be going to help the seamers.

    India are without the perpetually underrated Vijay with a hand injury. WI have U19 star Alzarri Joseph in their squad.

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    • SimonH July 30, 2016 / 3:10 pm

      Joseph not playing. Guess that’s sensible but…. boo!

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      • sidesplittin July 31, 2016 / 9:29 am

        Jerome Taylor announced his retirement from test cricket a couple of weeks back.

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    • d'Arthez July 31, 2016 / 7:14 am

      And a procession it is. 196 all out vs 126/1 at Stumps Day 1. Yeah, Test cricket is in great health in West Indies. Exhibit #3807

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      • SimonH July 31, 2016 / 9:03 am

        Nice counterattack from Blackwood (whose recent lack of form I’d commented on previously) and some fun at the tail from Cummins but otherwise it was ghastly once again.

        I can’t, for the life of me, work out why Carlos Brathwaite was dropped. And where’s Jerome Taylor – is he in the CPL?

        For all the talk about a seamers’ pitch, it turned again on Day One. Ashwin has got the ball swerving nicely before pitching which is something I can’t recall particularly noticing with him.

        I don’t think India could field this team against stronger opposition. The tail looks too long with Saha and Ashwin at Nos. 6 and 7 (like Marsh and Nevill look a place too high in Australia’s order).

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  15. fred July 30, 2016 / 4:06 pm

    Great test match.
    I’ve been wondering a bit about the big three heist and the unfair system, it’s Simonh I think who raises it most here. I agree of course than biased distribution of funds from the game will inevitably favour the chosen ones, but that’s not the whole story.

    As counter evidence:
    The West Indies didn’t achieve world dominance in their day through wealth and facilities;
    Australia got rolled recently by England in a morning session, all their wealth and privilage couldn’t help them in the face of a swinging ball.
    Australia also got rolled by SA a few years back, 47 all out? They also rolled SA in that match for 96.
    We’ve just seen SL win a match largely because only one man of the 22 managed to score much. One innings won the match. Even Herath wouldn’t have won that match for SL without the 150 from Mendis.

    It’s an unfair system, no question, but it’s not the whole story. The biggest trend seem to be the poor ability to tour.
    England has been abysmal in Australia recently, in fact most countries have been. You have to go back quite a few years to find Aus beaten at home, by Smith’s South Africans. England struggled away against a poor WI recently.
    Australia hasn’t won in England since 2001 (although they have been competitve at times). Australia has been largely hopeless in Asia.
    India, despite having some phenomenal talent, has has some embarrassing times in NZ, Eng, SA etc.
    The list goes on but it seems the biggest challenge facing teams today is coping with varied conditions and the other challenges of tours. Even the big three are not exempt from this, so it’s not all the fault of Wally, Srini and Giles’s.
    Maybe that’s just the natural order of cricket, and inevitable result of teams being products of their environments, and we should just be happy when someone manages to overcome this and win away, as SL did in their previous tour.
    Anyway, great to see SL dig themselves out of a hole, and deliver a fantastic win. We’ll see how Aus can respond at Galle, although I fear their goose might already be cooked, since Herath is not the only spinning threat in the team.

    Liked by 1 person

    • sidesplittin July 30, 2016 / 4:42 pm

      Couldn’t agree with you more and your perspective is welcome.

      What’s also overlooked hereabouts is the big three marginalising everyone else / playing against them infrequently as being somehow recent.

      I bore a lot of folks in my admiration for Hadlee, but let’s look at his career. He played test cricket across three decades (1973-1990). In all that time he missed 14 tests through injury or unavailability and played 86. 100 tests in 17 years !! Hadlee never once played in a five test series and only twice (vs Eng 1983, vs WI 1984/85) played in a four test series. Conversely, Gower (another favourite of mine) played his 100th test in 1988, only 10 years after his debut. NZ didn’t lose a home series for 13 years (1979-1992), so it’s hardly as if they were shit when many other sides were enjoying money spinning marquee series.

      Aus first played NZ in a test match in 1946. They didn’t deign to play another test against NZ until late 1973 !! NZ last played a test match at the SCG in 1985 and at the MCG in 1987. Eng first played a test match against NZ in 1930. It took until 1978 for MCC (as they then toured as) to tour NZ in it’s own right, rather than tagging a couple of tests on the end of an Ashes tour as an afterthought. Throughout the 30’s, 50’s and 60’s those Eng sides who toured India were virtual 2nd XI’s. Aus always start their home series at the ‘Gabba – it’s certainly not so the unacclimatised touring side can enjoy Brisbane’s (non-existent) twilight.

      WI were invited to Aus in 79/80, 81/82, 83/84 and 84/85 because they were box office. Now that they’re garbage, they’re hardly ever there.

      Manohar is making all the right noises about reversing the inappropriate hegemony – let’s all hope he does so.

      Like

      • Mark July 30, 2016 / 5:32 pm

        “Manohar is making all the right noises about reversing the inappropriate hegemony – let’s all hope he does so.”

        But what is the point of him doing anything if you don’t think there is a problem? If we on here are wrong, as you claim, there is no point changing anything.

        Like

      • fred July 30, 2016 / 6:59 pm

        Where did he say he didn’t think there was a problem?
        And where did he say we are wrong on here?
        And who’s we, kemosabe? 🙂

        Like

      • Mark July 30, 2016 / 7:44 pm

        ” Where did he say he didn’t think there was a problem?”

        I think he is implying that there is not a problem when he says this……

        “What’s also overlooked hereabouts is the big three marginalising everyone else / playing against them infrequently as being somehow recent.”

        The implication is that this is nothing new, and that its always been this way.

        “And who’s we?

        I guess when he said “hereabouts” I took that to mean us on here. You also mention Simon by name. After all, he is posting on this site so I take he is talking to those of us who have complained about this issue.

        Like

      • fred July 30, 2016 / 8:14 pm

        “I guess when he said “hereabouts” I took that to mean us on here. You also mention Simon by name. After all, he is posting on this site so I take he is talking to those of us who have complained about this issue.”
        Probably not everyone who reads or comments on this blog thinks the same thing about everything. I hope not.

        Like

    • fred July 30, 2016 / 5:38 pm

      SIDESPLITTIN
      you’ve reminded me that I shamefully forgot to include NZ in this comment, a neglected side if ever there was one, yet one who has produced delightful cricket for years. Hadlee, Crowe, Fleming, Cairns, Vettori, McCullum, Chatfield, Boult, Cairns (although *), Taylor, etc. they keep churning them out. And now it’s Williamson, probably the best batsman in the world, aside from Root.
      It irritates me that Aus doesn’t play NZ more, it’s only six hours away.
      The big three hegemony is nothing new to NZ, but it hasn’t stopped them from competing very well.

      Like

      • SimonH July 30, 2016 / 7:19 pm

        I wrote a long response to Fred and SS – but WordPress seems to have eaten it.

        If LCL or TLG see this, could you see if you are able to retrieve it?

        Like

      • SimonH July 30, 2016 / 7:20 pm

        Oh, there it is – scrap that!

        Liked by 1 person

  16. SimonH July 30, 2016 / 7:04 pm

    Yes, guilty as charged for regularly mentioning the current revenue-sharing arrangement in cricket (or financial doping to use the phrase coined by Arsene Wenger). Why do I keep mentioning it? Partly because the UK MSM never do. They’d like to ignore it. One could ponder why that is, but that it is so seems undeniable to me.

    I’m well aware that the connection between wealth and sporting success isn’t necessarily a straightforward one. As both Fred and SS are from the SH (I believe), let me take rugby as an example. If wealth determined success, France and England would have contested the Rugby WC. Instead, both were embarrassing. And in football, Leicester City can win the EPL. Only ManC, ManU and Chelsea won it time after time before them – and Chelsea have already bought one of Leicester’s key players (Kante) with another (Mahrez) almost certainly on the way out.

    I’m also not saying that the revenue-sharing arrangement pre-2014 was necessarily perfect. Should a small, rich country like NZ get the same as a large, poor country like Bangladesh? No. Did every country spend its money wisely? No. Some are wasteful, some are corrupt, some are both. Does every country do everything it can to raise its own revenue? No. At least Pakistan now have a franchise competition but there’s more that could be done. It’s not only B3 greed that’s wrong. But are any of these problems solved by making the poor poorer? Were the 2014 reforms motivated by a desire to find a just and lasting settlement for the good of the game as a whole – or by some grabbing as much as they could, because they could? It seems obvious to me.

    On touring, of course home advantage is a major issue in the game. I’ve posted plenty of comments about that here. But SL, NZ, WI and SA have all lost home series in the last two years. Only Pakistan of the non-B3 are still unbeaten at home (and I suspect that will change when Misbah and Younis go). Australia and India haven’t lost a home Test since 2012. England have been a little more beatable. I’d like longer acclimatisation periods – but I doubt that’s going to happen. I would tackle blatant pitch-doctoring by the use of neutral groundsmen and I would give a bonus in ranking points to away wins. I was delighted by SL’s win but let’s not pretend that wasn’t partly down to a pitch that was drier than it should have been.

    In the end, are you seriously saying that SL winning one Test proves that different levels of wealth don’t matter? That it’s irrelevant that England’s players are paid nearly twenty times what Pakistan’s players earn? That it’s okay that Australia’s players earn ten times what SL’s can earn? That that isn’t going to make any difference to those players’ development, priorities and motivation? If a player can earn ten times his national central contract in the IPL what is he going to spend most of his time on – perfecting the reverse ramp or learning how to play the swinging Duke ball? The skills in bowling are probably even more different – the difference between bowling a four-over T20 spell and 30 overs in a Test must be enormous.

    I could also point out that Australia’s possible decline in the rankings doesn’t disprove the importance of money. Australia are by some way the least of the B3. If India and England overtake them, the result rankings will actually move closer to the financial rankings.

    I’m also not sure why it matters that there’s always been inequality in the past. Of course, there has. It didn’t make it right then and it doesn’t make it right now. The long era of WI dominance was underwritten by the English CC system. WI players could be paid a pittance by their board because the players would top it up by their CC contracts. That was killed by the decision in the late 80s to limit overseas’ players in the CC to one. It’s world that isn’t coming back. As for NZ, they’ve produced some superb players but they’ve never won the WC and I doubt they’ve ever topped the rankings (and I know they’ve never held all the trophies). NZ history is littered with players who drifted out of the game because they couldn’t make a decent living at it (Dion Nash and the second John Reid are two examples). NZ are going to struggle to compete against, say, Australia as they have nearly a tenth of the population – does reducing their funding help that in any way?

    Finally, if money doesn’t matter, presumably the B3 will be handing it back as, hey, it makes no difference! Of course, they’re not. Manohar has only talked about handing 6% of the additional money from 2014 back. It’s nowhere near adequate – and it’s still all talk. Let’s see some action.

    Liked by 2 people

    • fred July 30, 2016 / 8:02 pm

      I said twice in my original post that I recognised the financial inequality issue, and understood it was unfair, my point was that there is more to it than that. I do not for a minute underestimate the impact of inequal treatment of the 10 teams.
      I understand this, but if I didn’t then Brettig would have made it clear with his article today, which stated:
      “But more notably Australia’s defeat was their seventh in consecutive Test matches in Asia, a streak spanning back to the start of the infamous 2013 tour of India. Over that period, Cricket Australia have spent many thousands of dollars on gearing their players towards better performances in the region. They have changed coaches, selectors and captains; they have employed a host of consultants, even Muttiah Muralitharan; and they have tried to replicate Asian conditions with expensive “spin pitches” at the National Cricket Centre in Brisbane.”
      What do SL to prepare for Australia? Do they have “expensive bounce pitches”? SL couldn’t even afford to employ Murali as a coach for this series, so Australia did.
      I understand that, I’m just saying it’s not the whole story.

      “In the end, are you seriously saying that SL winning one Test proves that different levels of wealth don’t matter?”
      No I’m not saying that. I’m just pondering why, despite that, results don’t always follow the money.

      I’m interested in your comment about WI being underwritten by CC. I’m sure CC was a great support, but the emergence of that decade-long dominance can’t be put down just to CC. How did WI ever create enough players good enough to even be considered by CC? Even if, as you say, that system underwrote those players, they had to come from somewhere. CC wasn’t running training camps in Jamaica. Probably no one was.

      That’s really the nub of my comment, despite the short term self interest of those with power, cricket continues to throw up surprises, and no team can be sure to win any given series.

      Oh, and what?
      “I could also point out that Australia’s possible decline in the rankings doesn’t disprove the importance of money. Australia are by some way the least of the B3. If India and England overtake them, the result rankings will actually move closer to the financial rankings.”
      Bloody hell, they just got their hands on the mace, (although it was handed over like a back-alley drug deal), is it going to be so shortlived? If it has to be handed over to England, can the ceremony take place in the local pub at Meekatharra on a Sunday afternoon, so it doesn’t demoralise the Australian players too much?

      Like

    • Mark July 30, 2016 / 8:26 pm

      Well said Simon.

      The difference between the All blacks, and the NZ cricket team is that there aren’t many Pacific islanders who either want to play, or are good enough to play cricket. 😉

      Stil, I think there could be a few SA white cricketers who will be available to anyone who can pay them soon. Something England have taken advantage of for years.

      I would take one Pakistan win at Lords, and one SL win on a very off pitch as a claim that alls well with a pinch of salt.

      Like

    • fred July 30, 2016 / 9:32 pm

      “I would take one Pakistan win at Lords, and one SL win on a very off pitch as a claim that alls well with a pinch of salt.”
      Who said that? Can you stop putting words in people’s mouths?

      Like

      • sidesplittin July 31, 2016 / 6:38 am

        Quite, Fred.

        In the past, Mark has (rightly) trumpeted this blog as a place where differing opinions are welcome. Taking umbrage when different perspectives on issues are offered therefore seems odd.

        Just to be clear, I don’t see recent results as evidence that all’s well. Nor do I think the big three’s power is good for the global game. What I do think is that there’s a context, historical parallels and shades of grey.

        I agree that a real issue is that most sides tour poorly. Whereas a slower pace of time once allowed for multiple FC touring games, sides now jet in and play a condensed test series with little or no prep. They therefore really struggle to adapt to touring conditions.

        To broaden your point, the day when we’re all required to think the same will be the time when I stop visiting here.

        Like

      • SimonH July 31, 2016 / 9:33 am

        Apologies if it seemed I was misrepresenting what you’d said, Fred – I was trying to watch the Jamaica Test at the same time so didn’t pick up on some of the nuances of what you’d said and haven’t yet read the link from Brettig (who I rate very highly and have praised several times on this forum).

        I’d also acknowledge that I’ve developed a bit of a default mode that distrusts the “of course we know inequality is a factor, but…..” line of argument. It may be different in Australia but in England it happens a lot in discussions about all sorts of issues. I used to work in education and we used to get it all the time. At best, it was used to sidetrack the debate, at worst it becomes a way of blaming the victims.

        FTR I don’t distrust your motives. I do of course recognise it isn’t only money. Heck, an Englishman who has seen Peter Moores, Stuart Lancaster and Roy Hodgson knows that poor coaching can offset deep pockets!

        On WI and the CC, some of the 70s WI were very raw talents when they came to the CC (Greenidge, Richards and Roberts for example – I suspect the former played for Hampshire before he played for Barbados but can’t prove it). The CC meant a WI cricketer could have a good career in cricket while still being able to play for WI – without the CC, players would have had a choice of a miserable, precarious income from playing for WI and their island, a cricket career where they couldn’t also play for WI, or jacking the professional game in altogether. I’ve got half a memory that I heard once that Sobers came close to giving up Test cricket and playing in the leagues?

        Like

      • Mark July 31, 2016 / 10:24 am

        “In the past, Mark has (rightly) trumpeted this blog as a place where differing opinions are welcome. Taking umbrage when different perspectives on issues are offered therefore seems odd.”

        Right, so you are admitting you are taking a different perspective to those of us who think there is a problem with the big 3? So I’m not putting words in people’s mouth? Just to be clear? (Because you and Fred seem to be denying that now) You either agree or disagree with the idea that the big 3 are becoming too powerful. I am now confused as to what you believe.

        I dont mind at all you taking a different view from me, but I now don’t really understand what your position is. You seemed to use the SL win yesterday to imply that those of us who think there is problem with the power of the big 3 today are mistaken……Maybe I’m a bit thick, but I don’t really know what you are saying now.

        Fred, I am not aware that I have put any words in any ones mouth. And it’s not my intention to do so. The real problem I think is I am completely clueless as to what you and SS are saying. Sorry.

        Like

      • fred July 31, 2016 / 12:48 pm

        Thanks Simon.
        I still can’t figure out the WI thing though.

        I’d never thought about the role of CC money in developing that team, but it makes sense. I used to mock England for the number of SA accents in the team but I’ve stopped doing that now because I recognise it’s just a natural result of Englands place in the world, both as a cricket nation and as a former empire. I don’t know why England doesn’t have more players of Indian and Pâkistan heritage. England as the engine room of world cricket, or one of them at least.

        But CC money still doesn’t explain why Wi produced that crop. But then, who can explain why Aus produced McGrath, Warne, Gilchrist, Gillespie, Ponting, and Hayden all around the same time? Just historical chance I guess.

        Nor can I figure out the away losses. As sidesplttin says, lack of warm up games doesn’t help, but it can’t be just that. I look back to the 2001 Ashes scorecard for an explanation. Australia scored a shed load of runs: 575 at Birmingham, 400 at Lords, 447 at Leeds, 641 at The Oval. Australia’s second innings’ were not required, or just a formality. Why did they suceed, is it the bowling?
        Gough, Caddick, Mulally, Tufnell? Who’s Ormond? (Australia had Lee, Gillespie, McGrath and Warne). Is it because they pllayed more warm up games? No, it’s because Australia had Warne and McGrath, and England had Tufnell and Mulally. How did that come about? If I knew the answer you would appoint me Director, Cricket, Universe.

        I read something the other day about why poor people make more bad decisions than rich people. They are pretty much destined to make more bad decisions, because they have to fight so hard to get by, they don’t have the resources to reflect and analyse the way rich people do. I don’t underestimate the impact of wealth. It’s self-perpetuating.

        Like

      • fred July 31, 2016 / 1:06 pm

        “Fred, I am not aware that I have put any words in any ones mouth. And it’s not my intention to do so. The real problem I think is I am completely clueless as to what you and SS are saying. Sorry.”

        Mark
        but you did, you said: “I would take one Pakistan win at Lords, and one SL win on a very off pitch as a claim that alls well with a pinch of salt.” No one said that. I can’t think of anyone who would say that, except maybe Alistair Cook, and that west arsehole from the guardian. I didn’t say it andd sidesplittin didn’t.

        What I said, and sidesplttin seems to agree with, is that in addition to the inequity of the dominance of the big three, there are also other factors that influence outcomes. We saw that just yesterday when SL won a test against the odds. That’s all.

        No one said that all’s well, and no one said there is no problem with the current unfair governance.
        I just said that touring teams do badly, whether they are big three or not. And wondered why that was.

        Sidesplittin is right to highlight NZ’s history in the last few decades: few opportunities but great contribution.

        Like

      • fred July 31, 2016 / 1:20 pm

        Simon,

        “and haven’t yet read the link from Brettig (who I rate very highly and have praised several times on this forum).”

        Yeah, Brettig’s not bad is he? I used to just read him as a guy that wrote match reports, ie. just delivered the facts, in the disciplined way that Cricinfo does, but I’m starting to recognise his point of view now. I’m starting to trust his articles as a way to interpret what has happened.

        Any smart person filters what they read. If I read Selvey now it’s mostly for laughs, to see what agenda he’s pushing. It didn’t used to be like that, but I have lost all confidence in his analysis. I simply don’t believe a word he says. Which is a shame because he knows alot about cricket, but he’s become an unreliable witness.

        Dobell I trust more, and Kimber too, because he fancies himself as a revolutionary freewheeling punk who wants to expose the truth that no one else can face, which is fine by me. It’s actually the very definition of a journalist. But I’ve been enjoying Brettig recently, one to watch.

        Liked by 1 person

      • SimonH August 1, 2016 / 8:34 am

        I’m very keen to read Brettig’s ‘From Whitewash to Whitewash’ but it’s hard to get hold of at a reasonable price in the UK. From the lengthy extracts posted on Cricinfo, he seems to have the priceless ability to get insiders to talk to him but without sacrificing his independent judgment (something Selvey and, to some extent, Dobell didn’t manage).

        Australian cricket-writing is in rude health at the moment – Kimber on the T20 WC is the best piece I’ve read all year and Russell Jackson is impressive.

        Geoff Lemon can be a little hit-and-miss but after his demolition of the C9 commentators, he’s written a superb article this morning on the SL Test:

        https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2016/aug/01/sri-lankas-unheralded-side-manages-what-its-most-distinguished-could-not

        Anyone who can write so well about a defeat clearly loves the game more than any one team and is to be treasured.

        Like

  17. SimonH July 31, 2016 / 1:11 pm

    LCL,
    You have mail (I hope).

    Like

  18. sidesplittin July 31, 2016 / 2:06 pm

    Mark

    Fred has very accurately put my position over and, before you accuse me of having multiple profiles (as you have previously), I have no idea who he is.

    Like

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