Another ICC Meeting – Guest Post by Simon H

We asked our resident commenter in chief, and ICC scrutineer, to update us on the latest machinations at the ICC. And he agreed. Take it away Simon.

Another Bloody ICC Meeting

Another ICC meeting? Yawn…. Hang on, folks! Shit just got real – as they say in the Long Room. Some important decisions have just been made, not that you’d know it from the UK media. Cricinfo and Tim Wigmore have been excellent, but the rest? The BBC managed to cover both major decisions, the DT and the DM covered the elevation of Ireland and Afghanistan but not much else, the Guardian…. well, Selvey may have gone but his spirit of ignoring governance lives on.

Some of us have been commenting away BTL as the decisions have unfolded – but for anyone who’s missed it all, here are the main points pulled together:

1.Revenue-sharing. I’m old-fashioned enough to start with the money. The new revenue-model is:

http://www.espncricinfo.com/ci-icc/content/image/1105340.html?object=297120;dir=next

In percentage terms: India 22.8%; England 7.8%; Australia, Pakistan, SL, SA, Bangladesh, NZ and WI 7.2% each; Zimbabwe 5.3%; the 90-odd Associates 13.5%.

Why are teams getting these amounts? There’s no formula based on need, contribution or anything else. Countries have grabbed what they can. Why does small, rich NZ get the same as large, poor Bangladesh? Don’t ask me. Why does medium-sized, rich England get more than large, poor Pakistan? Er….

Is it a good and fair resolution? Well, it’s better than the 2014 deal that was the best that anyone could hope for (TM Selvey). A punch in the face for everyone outside the Big Three would be a better deal than 2014. Is it better than the pre-2014 arrangement? Possibly – I can see different sides to that debate. Is it as good as what they agreed just a few months ago? Well, another 112 USD have been thrown at India that was conjured up out of somewhere (the Associate budget, mainly).

Is it the basis for a long-term solution? Countries have grabbed what they can based on their power at this moment. When the power balance shifts, expect us to be here again with this.

  1. Test status for Ireland and Afghanistan. This has received most MSM coverage so I’ll say least about it here. Read Tim Wigmore on Ireland and Afghanistan’s promotion, if you haven’t already:

https://twitter.com/timwig/status/878307065378201603

Two points about it though – i) the Test challenge proposed for 2018 has been scrapped so Ireland’s first Test is now likely to be not against England at Lord’s but whatever they arrange (which means probably they’ll play Afghanistan… and again and again) ii) although Ireland and Afghanistan can now play Tests, for funding purposes they are still regarded as Associates so they will receive less than half the funding of Zimbabwe and the funding increase they will receive eats into the Associate funding for everyone else. The big losers from this meeting are the other Associates. A good definition of the ICC could be “a body set up to screw cricket in the Netherlands” because that’s all they ever seem to do.

  1. Test and ODI Championships. After much talk, one has finally been agreed…. to start after 2019:

http://www.espncricinfo.com/ci-icc/content/story/1105371.html

The Test Championship involves each nation playing series (minimum of two Tests) against six teams over two years with points awarded and the top two playing a Final (with Lord’s, Eden Gardens and the SCG mentioned as possible venues …. because nobody else has an iconic venue). It seems an absolute nonsense to me that we can have a league where some teams don’t play each other.

The proposed schedule for 2019-23 gives some idea where things are heading. To take just England, England will not be playing Bangladesh at home at all in this period and won’t play NZ until 2023. India look like they’ll be keeping five-Test series in England. Another back-to-back Ashes looks dead. SA look as if they will be further downgraded with their next winter against England shared with India and their next summer in England six years off and shared with NZ.

Zimbabwe, Ireland and Afghanistan have no regular fixtures and no means of promotion. Why would, say, WI arrange matches against Afghanistan when they won’t make much money and victories for Afghanistan would just underline the stupidity of WI having all these agreed fixtures and Afghanistan having a few crumbs.

  1. The ICC Constitution. Perhaps the most under-analysed part of the changes is the new constitution and what it means for future ICC decision-making:

http://www.espncricinfo.com/ci-icc/content/story/1105387.html

As I understand it, that means it will need two-thirds of 17 to carry significant future changes. This would appear to make it harder for a small group of nations to form a dominant bloc on the ICC.

Another change is the creation of a deputy chairman who will preside when Manohar is absent – and the good news is this post hasn’t gone to you-know-who but to Khawaja from Singapore.

Sundries (as our Australian friends might say).

Various other changes have been agreed (have a drink every time a UK MSM journo shows no awareness of these):

  • a) A World XI will tour Pakistan for three T20s later in the year as part of re-introducing international cricket to the country.
  • b) Teams will not have DRS topped up after 80 overs (because no-one will be able to bat that long anymore?) but will not lose a review for ‘Umpire’s Call’.
  • c) The bat-size restrictions and red cards for misconduct proposed by the MCC were adopted.
  • d) A batsman won’t be run out if their bat bounces up after having been grounded.
  • e) USACA were booted out. USACA gave their usual response that everyone else is wrong. This is worth keeping an eye on as there are some in the ICC desperate to get the T20 WC in the USA before the end of the next decade.
  • f) Radical measures were introduced to improve over rates. Oh sorry, no they weren’t!
  • g) What else wasn’t discussed? Well, there’s nothing about the Olympics, nor about the future of the CT, nor about the future structure of tournaments (in the name of God, won’t someone do something about this disaster of a World Cup that’s getting closer and closer….).
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England v South Africa – 3rd T20

International cricket carries on. And on. And on.

Sean sent me a Whats App this evening. He appears to be in a state of mental torture. He needs to be checked in to a relevant place to cure him.. He is suffering from “Too Much White Ball Cricket Syndrome”. He beseeched me to write a piece to introduce the game tomorrow. Danny is on holiday. Chris is out of touch, and no doubt enjoying it. So it falls to me. Fresh back from Faversham, the piece needs to be written. What do I write?

It’s 1-1 in the series. I’ve not seen a ball.

Tomorrow is the decider. Not a clue who will be playing for England or South Africa.

Looks up where it is being played. After Southampton and Taunton, it’s now Cardiff. That’s nice. I suppose the north doesn’t want to see T20 cricket. It’s not as if the denizens of Cardiff have had no chance to see international cricket in the past three weeks. Give ’em some more.

I might be able to watch some of this, but life is as life is these days. I know we are now 12 days away from test cricket, which is much more to my liking than this blatant money raking exercise, but tomorrow marks the last time AB de Day Off will play international cricket in England until the 2019 World Cup. I hesitate to compare him to Kevin Pietersen, but AB gets a relative free pass for this, while you know who didn’t. I think it is incredibly disappointing to know that the test series doesn’t mean as much. Sad.

Anyway, comments on the game below, comments on Cricket Writers below, comments on the Women’s World Cup below, comments on anything else going on. Also, stick down your best guess for the date when England host Afghanistan in a test match for the first time. 2024?

Laters.

England vs. South Africa – 2nd T20 thread

With England winning the first T20 at a canter, it seems like the hugely disappointing performance in the Champions Trophy is already being swept under the carpet. The first T20 was a strange affair as South Africa were truly abject with both bat and ball. The fact that they could only muster 142/3 on that pitch was truly shocking, I for one, have never seen AB de Villiers so out of nick, this coupled with another average performance from the perennially average Behardien, made the English bowling attack look like the West Indian attack of the 80’s! As for their bowling, I think the phrase pop gun would be too kind, they were far worse than that. A truly terrible day at the office for the Proteas and one they’ll need to get out of their system quickly.

This is not meant to take any credit away from England who batted and bowled both professionally and ruthlessly, something England haven’t been exactly renowned for in the near past. Whilst Woods will get most of the acclaim with the ball, it was the two inexperienced spinners that should get the most credit in my opinion as both Crane and Dawson bowled like they were seasoned internationals, not two bowlers who have less than 10 ODI caps between them. As for the batting, Roy got us off to a good start before giving his wicket away and then Bairstow carried England to an easy victory with another brilliant innings. You have to give YJB a lot of credit as whenever he’s picked for a white ball game, he nearly always sticks his hand up with a decent score. It must be incredibly frustrating being the ‘nearly’ man of England’s white ball team and many would’ve displayed a less than positive attitude, but it’s a great credit to Bairstow that he has continued to be upbeat and back his own ability. In my opinion, England simply need to find a way to fit him into the white ball setup permanently.

So we roll on to Taunton, which is hosting its first international game and for a measly £60 you could go and watch it, that is if you’re slightly insane with money to burn. It should be a high scoring game as Taunton is generally a bowlers graveyard and it will be interesting to see what changes both sides make. I still think it would be criminal if Curran, Malan and Livingstone aren’t handed any game time in what is essentially a meaningless series, so it will be interesting to see if and how they slot them in.

In other news, Ireland and Afghanistan have been made full members, which is great news until you realise that they are being funded as Associates who have just lost £40million as part of the settlement to appease the BCCI. You have to give it to the ICC, they are the masters of giving and taking away at the same moment. Then we have the ECB trying it’s best to rinse the media quickly so as to pay off the counties and to swell their own coffers – http://www.telegraph.co.uk/cricket/2017/06/22/ecb-expect-1bn-bt-sport-sky-prepare-tv-rights-bidding-war/. Stuff the cricket, this is the ECB’s number one priority. We’ll try to cover these in a little more depth when we have the time.

Anyway thoughts on the match and other news below:

England vs. South Africa – T20 thread

Anyone else bored of white ball cricket yet? I certainly feel that I’ve had my fill. Yet here we have the token T20 part of this tour, just to make sure you get Empty Suit’s vision of the future, with a bolted on series that I doubt anyone else but the punters can get excited about.

In a way I hope England use this series to blood new talent, as we know the pro’s and con’s of the normal group. I’d definitely like to see Livingstone & Malan given a chance up the order and whilst I think they’ve picked the wrong Curran, I hope Tom gets a chance to bowl as England’s attack is far from potent. It seems like Mason Crane has been inked in to play the series, which I’m excited to see as it’s clear the guy has talent, though how many games he gets to play without being labelled fragile or too expensive by Pringle, Newman et al, will be interesting.

We’ll try to post as many reports as we can, but it’s holiday season combined with the fact that we’re all busy and a bit bored of not being able to see Test Match Cricket.

Anyway thoughts on the game below…

CT 17 Review – One Of Our Writers Is Missing

We have decided, well Danny, Sean and I have, to recreate a panel of sorts, and write up our views on the Champions Trophy.
First Up…. Danny
1. Pakistan winning the competition. What’s not to love?
I know I am probably in the minority here, but I’ve still not entirely forgiven the Pakistan cricket team for the fixing scandal in 2010. People who know more about Pakistan cricket than me say that it’s clean now, but I can’t help thinking about it. Of course this feeling is not helped by the fact that one of the people convicted in 2010, Mohammad Amir, is still playing for them. If I was able to pick a team I’d have wanted to win the Champions Trophy (after England, obviously), it would have been Bangladesh or Sri Lanka.
Despite all that baggage, I’m still glad Pakistan won. Given the choice between India and any other team, I’d pick any other team every time. If world cricket was a film, India would clearly be the villains. They have significantly more money than everyone else and they use that to get their own way and screw over other countries whenever they can, especially Pakistan. My only disappointment with the result is that India even made the final.
2. England. Bump in the road or a major setback?
The Pakistan game showed everyone how far England still had to go before they could claim to be a world-class limited overs side. Right now they are flat track bullies; great at batting on quick flat pitches, but they fall apart on anything else. You would imagine that the ECB are working hard to make sure that England play on fresh pitches in every game of the 2019 ODI World Cup, but that shouldn’t disguise just how bad they were with bat and ball in the semi-final.
It often feels like the ECB trains its players to follow the coaches plan to the letter rather than think for themselves, so when the plan isn’t working they panic rather than adapt. The other problem is that England seemingly lack the skills to play on slow pitches. It’s hard to see how that can be remedied quickly though, many of the players are in all 3 formats for England so don’t really have the time to go away and work on their technique or play abroad in different conditions.
3. Biggest disappointment at the CT?
That England v Australia at Edgbaston wasn’t a washout. The sheer amount of whinging this would have generated from the Aussies if they had been eliminated without completing a single game would have been *exquisite*.
4. What’s your view on the Champions Trophy? Great or grating?
Great, for the most part. It’s short and sweet, so doesn’t overstay its welcome. Of course there didn’t seem to be much interest in the wider British public, even with highlights on BBC, but that’s a broader issue for English cricket rather than the Champions Trophy.
5. Your favourite memory of CT17?
I’d have to say Jason Roy’s review on the second ball in the game against Australia. Pitched in line, hit him in line and was going to hit the stumps with the full ball. He didn’t even check with his partner Hales, just reviewed it straight away. I’d go as far as to say it may even have surpassed Shane Watson at his best. Bravo, Jason Roy.
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Second Up…. Sean
  1. For me, it is impossible not to love Pakistan cricket even with the retirement of two of my favourite cricketers, Misbah and Younis. No one (including myself) gave Pakistan a hope in hell of winning the Champions Trophy 3 weeks ago and especially after their tonking by India in the first game, but then Pakistan did what they have done in the past and suddenly raised their game in a big tournament. They comfortably beat the 3 best teams in the tournament based around a strong and balanced bowling attack that was able to both squeeze the opposition and take wickets at regular intervals. Now I must admit that I was no great fan of Mohammad Amir being allowed to return to international cricket, but his opening spell against India in the final is one of the best bowling displays that I have seen in the last 20 years and one, which India never recovered from. They even managed to drop Kohli and take his wicket the next ball, which in my opinion is peak Pakistan and the reason why they are impossible not to cherish. My only slight disappointment was the lack of comedy run outs, though they again provided one in the final. Magnifique.
  2. It’s a bump in the road and as much as I would love to bury Director Comma, to compare where England are in ODI cricket now to where they were after the World Cup in 2015 is like trying to compare apples and oranges. That being said, I think it’s only right that we should be bitterly disappointed, as the trophy was there for the taking. My main issue with England now is that they only have a Plan A, which is to try and hit every ball out of the park. This is absolutely fine on flat pitches, but we all knew that the Cardiff pitch was a used pitch, so surely the brains trust should have been a bit more sensible about the way we approached the game. I’m not saying 270 would have been a winning score, but it would have been a lot closer. Whilst this is not a fatal blow for Director Comma, there certainly will be more attention on the upcoming Test series.
  3. The easy answer would be England’s failure in the semi final, but that’s not the one I’m going to plump for. For me, the most disappointing aspect was the performance of the South African batting line up. On paper they had the best batting line up in the tournament, yet Hashim Amla aside, they performed terribly once again on the big stage. De Kock looked in woeful touch, David Miller looked like he’d never seen a white ball before and ABDV must have been tired from all that cricket he hasn’t been playing, though to be fair to him, there wasn’t a £million pound reward for him, so it must have been hard to motivate himself to perform. South Africa have been known as chokers for many years, but in this tournament they weren’t even close to that, they were simply abject.
  4. I actually quite like the format of the Champions Trophy, it’s relatively quick and the condensed nature means there are few meaningless games. It is certainly something that the World Cup could learn from, as it always seems like it lasts for an eternity and for all I know, the 2015 World Cup could still be going. Am I a big fan of white ball cricket? Well no, but at least a tournament that only lasts a couple of weeks might just about keep me interested to the final.
  5. This is a difficult one. There were a few great moments of the Champions Trophy, like the rare times that Atherton and Ponting were on commentary together, which was a blessed relief from the nonsense that the other commentators were spouting (yes I’m especially looking at you Michael Slater). Then there was the comedy South African run out, which summed up their performance in the tournament; however I’ll probably have to go with the obvious one, which was Stokes’ century against the Aussies. For me, beating Australia in any format of cricket always brings more than a smile on my face, this coupled with the clean and brutal power that emanated from Stokes’ bat on that day was a pure joy to watch. We all know that Stokes is incredibly talented; however we all know that he is at best inconsistent, therefore to put on that display after we had lost 3 early wickets was just superb. The thing that grips me when an in form Stokes bats is the sheer brutality in which he hits the ball, he is not a classic elegant batsman like Ian Bell or Joe Root, but he makes up for that by regularly depositing the ball into the second tier. It was especially sweet for him to do it against Australia as a number of their supporters essentially think he is an average player (yes Dennis I’m talking about you), so for him to ram that down the throats of his Australian detractors was a special moment, hence why I’m listing this as my favourite memory of the tournament. Actually scrap that, I’ve just seen that South African run out again, which has to be the purest piece of comedy gold that I’ve seen on a cricket field for a very long time. Funny cricket >> Good cricket in my opinion.

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Finally, Dmitri / LCL / Misery Guts

  1. Pakistan winning the competition. What’s not to love?

There is a lot of goodwill out there for Pakistan, but as is usual with the twitterati, it has to be a bit overboard. Pakistan can be a capricious beast when it comes to the game, but they have good players, and we’ve all known that pointed in the right direction, getting a bit of momentum going, and a couple of players surprising us all can work wonders. We saw it with Sri Lanka in the 1996 World Cup. We saw it with West Indies in the 2004 Champions Trophy and last year’s World T20. We saw it with Pakistan in 1992. The “love” for Pakistani cricket is probably reflective of the need for us all to have a top tier of the world game with more than the Big 3 and South Africa putting up top class performances. The fear is that this won’t do anything other than paper over the cracks, like the West Indies wins in 2004 and the T20 tournaments. Oh, and is Mohammad Amir now totally forgiven?

  1. Bump in the road or major setback?

A major setback. Absolutely and don’t pretend it is anything else. The aims of this administration, under Empty Suit, the new man in the cupboard and the Comma is to win a white ball world trophy and now two have slipped through their grasps. While the T20 was a total freak, this wasn’t. England had played well, but as the Lord’s game against South Africa showed, there’s a collapse in this team on a semi-regular basis. My hope was it would come in the Australia game, not the semi-final. Now we’ve got all sorts of confused messages / excuses about wickets, home advantage, changing teams and even knockout cricket. England have made considerable strides in the ODI format, becoming a thoroughly entertaining and refreshing team to watch. We are short of killer bowlers. We have a high risk strategy based on the law of averages that someone will come off. It’s a recipe for getting hot in a tournament and winning it, but I’m not sure it’s one for world domination.

It also kept a media, who want to anoint Comma as the saviour of English Cricket, in their boxes. Pakistan winning shows you don’t need a long-term strategy, mass adoption of rigidity, and clearing the decks for world tournaments. Pakistan aren’t quite as off the cuff as the image is put out, but they have shown what can be done without the Comma way. It will be interesting to see if the acerbic line from Vic Marks is adopted by some of the media men. And as for Bayliss and Farbrace? Were they invisible during the tournament?

  1. Biggest disappointment at the CT?

AB de Villiers. It is hard to go off a cricketer like AB, but I am. He played like a drain in the competition and after a few crap hit and giggle games, is going to sit out the test series. If you are going to absent yourself from that form of the game, you’d better be damn sure that you make runs. After a quiet IPL, and now a really poor CT, AB is going to put his feet up while his colleagues try to keep their excellent record in England intact.

I’d also say Jason Roy, but by England getting knocked out, he got to play in the semi for Surrey and made 92. So not that disappointed!

  1. What’s your view on the Champions Trophy? Great or grating?

The format is pretty good, but then I am not overly wowed about “group games”. In fact I’d love it to be 16 teams and a straight knockout with a random draw, but that is hopelessly naïve, doesn’t guarantee an India v Pakistan game, and might mean one of the “Big 3” gets knocked out which, as we all know “ruined” the 2007 World Cup. So we have to make do with this format which gets the gig over with in 17 days. I’m not going to moan about venues, or weather or so forth. Ticketing at major sporting events is, by and large, a fucking joke wherever you go. Now, because India have lost, no doubt, there’s talk of scrapping it. England 2013 is credited with saving the CT, and now it’s seen as its burial ground. What a metaphor for the past four years of world cricket administration.

  1. Your favourite memory of CT17?

A few. For the first time in ages I heard two people, who don’t generally talk about cricket, commenting on the progress of the semi-final between England and Pakistan. That’s something refreshing. The game needs exposure, and it needs people to respond. Something, however small, to cling on to.

I didn’t get to watch a lot of this competition, for reasons explained a little in Saturday’s piece. What I did see wasn’t particularly memorable, so I will pick out being at Guildford on the 9th of June and hearing the news that Bangladesh were on the way to the next round as Shakib and Mahmudullah making hundreds. A great day watching county cricket, a lovely stream of news as Bangladesh made another stride forward. As I said, we need more teams to be at the top table, not fewer.

It wouldn’t be me, though, without a couple of moans. ICC events means the moron quotient when it comes to commentary is accentuated. While Ponting, Athers, Sanga and Brendon McCullum are nearly always worth a listen, the Warne / Slater axis, and the old stagers who don’t seem to be able to get sacked like Ramiz Raja make it a depressing experience at times. However, for all that, there was no Nick Knight, and at least Sky had Ian Ward introducing the highlights. BBC, in their infinite wisdom chose Ed Smith. Good grief.

I also got really bored with Twitter. That’s fine. I’m becoming more of a curmudgeon. Yes, that’s possible. I could go into great detail, offend many, bore most, but the quality of discourse is going downhill. If it weren’t for Innocent Bystander, I could go mad. I’ve muted a few, got annoyed at others.

Finally, the CT will be forgotten very quickly. It’s almost the League Cup of cricket, and I’m not even sure it is on that level. Well done to Pakistan. You may well have killed the competition off. You gave it a fantastic burial. Zindabad, or whatever.

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So, what do you think? Answer the five questions in the comments below if you feel like it. Have a go at our answers if you feel like it. I couldn’t deal with the formatting, so put the answers individually.

Meanwhile, Chris sent a cryptic message to the questions. As he travels his way around SE Asia, and taunting us in the process, his response “GFRLF” is one I can’t decipher.

The Champions Trophy Final (Don’t Get Your Hopes Up)

Like most things in my life, birth, wedding, even the dog’s birthday, the 7th is a major date in any month. I started How Did We Lose In Adelaide on the 7th of January 2009. I thought I’d start a cricket blog, that my mates could read and agree or disagree. It accompanied another blog, that when I read it back, I wince. Thoughts, words, opinions, beliefs. Change. Constant evolution, constant change.

That’s a rather cryptic intro into the preview for a Champions Trophy Final. A Final the English cricket world now cares about as much as the finals we didn’t play in when the tournament was held in Sri Lanka, South Africa and Kenya, for instance. Jason Roy may have exorcised some demons today with a 92 for Surrey, but no-one else will now really remember this tournament in England, who is an England fan. Sure, some involved closely in the game will give it all that, but the fact is, tomorrow I won’t be watching the Final. I’ll be out with the family on a lovely summer’s day, and let India and Pakistan fight it out without caring one jot what happens.

But 8 and a half years ago I would have cared. I’d have found some excuse to fend off the beloved and sit in and watch it. This is, yet another, “I don’t care” piece from me on the state of the game. On the state of fandom in cricket. On its running. On its marketing. On its meaning. The game is about patience, adaptability, skill, strategy, long-term thinking, short-term skirmishes. The game is test cricket. It is three day cricket, or four day cricket. The shorter forms are taking over and cricketers who made their way in the test era are visibly, audibly contemplating a life without it. You cannot force me to be interested. Good luck to those who care about this piffling trophy, a tournament somehow resurrected because India won it in 2013 and England hosted a half-decent competition that they got to the Final of. Now it is being given added life support because the biggest game cricket can provide makes a Final. It’s not new. It happened before. That Australian World Championship thingamy in 1985. That was a crap final.

As I sit here, on a Saturday night, putting together a half-hearted preview of a game I care nothing about, I have to contemplate what is coming up. I still love cricket. I still love my days at Guildford, the journeys to see a county game at Lord’s or The Oval, and to watch some really good players do really good things. I will probably watch the test matches as well, when I can. But there’s a lot of work on. I won’t be watching or listening to anywhere as near as much as I would like to. The days I look back on, those in 2014-15 when I was a solo show, putting up a piece a day, getting abused by people for actually caring, are like something from an age ago. I would churn out stuff, day after day, and be called out in Wisden for being akin to being bashed over the head by one of KP’s bats. But I loved the game then – both cricket and blogging. I can’t say there’s the level of love for either right now. I’m so pleased that we’ve brought together a cadre of excellent writers and commenters, passionate, angry and most of all, very hard to ignore. We’ve achieved a lot, and will still do so.

This has not, and never has been, about attention. This has been about writing. I love writing. I love cricket. What’s not to love about doing both. Bully pulpit I might be, some would say, but you were always given your say on here. You were never fully stopped from commenting (pre-moderation was the exception rather than the rule). I think the day I knew things were totally effed up was when someone threatened to “Dox” me. That struck me as sickness, not strength. As cowardice, when I was being accused of being a coward. The laughable death threat I got after a row with Agnew, a row instigated by an infamous critic, wasn’t it. It was someone threatening personal exposure because of a sport. You sort of lose a lot of respect for a sport that has that sort of fandom. Just as I did with my football team, when a post I did on an old blog ended up with someone threatening to sort me out.

The media landscape has changed dramatically since I started. Indeed it changed dramatically after 2014. Pringle is left to scrape around on second rate journals on a level with his talent. Selvey has retired, and I certainly haven’t missed him. Brenkley, who I didn’t think had the best 2013-14, but who I still quite liked for all that because you sensed he still really enjoyed the sport, and conveyed that, is not on the radar. We still have Newman, Etheridge, Berry, Wilson and Hoult to carry the old torch, to varying degrees of efficacy and effluence. Some good, some bad. But to me it’s the rise of talking heads like Shiny Toy Vaughan, #39 Hughes, and Ed “The Plagiarist” Smith that makes my heart sink. To watch the first set of BBC Highlights of this Champions Trophy and for it to be introduced by a man who Cricinfo blatantly won’t employ any more because he copied, and to have it broadcast as if we were all five year olds who should be grateful for Ed to tell us how it is, was deflating. I wish George Dobell and Tim Wigmore all the best of luck. Imagine a profession where airheads with big heads move seamlessly on, and the talent is stuck out of plain sight.  George Dobell has 37k followers on Twitter. #39 has 74k. Double the exposure, less than half the ability, insight, knowledge and communicative powers for someone like me. No wonder a mate of mine imagines me to be in a permanent state of “shaking my fist at the screen”.

No. I’ve not had a beer. No. I’m not feeling especially moody at this point. I always said that there would be no grand farewell, and this isn’t it. I am not the most emotionally stable person, as the blogging history aptly displays, but I do care. That’s what I want to convey. I don’t care about tomorrow, no matter how much Shiny Toy will tell me to. The fact that me, and people like me, don’t care is a matter that should concern the powers that be. We are the games evangelists. We, well I, feel as relevant as a Sinclair C5.

Comments on tomorrow’s game below.

 

 

 

England vs. Pakistan – Champions Trophy 2017

Going into the first semi final, it’s hard to imagine two more different teams being involved. England’s selection and performances since the 2015 World Cup debacle have been incredibly consistent (“Predictable”, some might say) whilst Pakistan can most charitably be called “mercurial”. England rely on their strong batting to counter their weak bowling and win games, whilst Pakistan’s bowlers keep them in games that their lacklustre batting would otherwise forfeit. England sacrificed a little of their consistency in selection for this game, finally replacing Jason Roy with Jonny Bairstow as their opener. For Pakistan, former guest of the English penal system Mohammad Amir was forced to pull out of the game due to a back spasm.

Pakistan won the toss and elected to field first, a choice which surprised many who thought that Pakistan’s spin bowlers would favour bowling last on a pitch which had already being used twice in recent weeks. All eyes were on England’s new opener Bairstow, who was lucky to survive a second-ball LBW shout. He continued to ride his luck through two dropped chances before finally being caught on 43. A useful partnership between Root and Morgan followed, adding another 48 to the total. At the halfway stage, England were 118-2 and looked to be setting a total near 300.

The second half of the innings was dominated by Pakistan. Unable to deal with Pakistan’s tight bowling or the slow nature of the pitch, England’s run rate slowed to a crawl and whenever they tried to accelerate they inevitably lost their wicket. Ben Stokes managed to scrape together a score of 34 runs from 64 balls with no boundaries, but everyone else fell for 11 or less. England lost their last wicket with one ball left to go with a decidedly sub-par score of 211.

The second innings was a complete contrast to the first. Without facing any kind of scoreboard pressure, Azhar Ali and Fakhar Zaman seemed content to play safe whilst punishing the bad balls. They were helped by England’s bowling, which provided enough bad balls to always keep Pakistan well ahead of their required run rate. Unlike when England were batting, there were seemingly no dropped chances or false shots. Rashid eventually managed to get Zaman stumped on 57, but by then Pakistan were already too close to their target. Even Pakistan couldn’t lose from there, and they didn’t. Pakistan reached their target having lost only 2 wickets and with 13 overs to spare, capping a humiliating loss for England.

And so, like after every tournament exit, there will be a post-mortem by the great and the good of English cricket. And also us. Certainly much has been made during the game of the pitch, for which this was the third time it was being used within a few weeks. It definitely seems puzzling from the perspective of the ICC or ECB since you would assume they’d want batting-friendly surfaces which deliver tons of runs and sixes for TV audiences, particularly in the later knockout stages which attract the most viewers. This shouldn’t absolve the England team from blame, though. The conditions were the same for both teams and England just didn’t adapt well enough. It’s hard to see how this might be remedied, with England’s packed schedule there’s no time for many players to spend in different countries learning how to cope on pitches which don’t seam, or swing, or have uneven bounce.

There’s also the matter of personnel. Winning the Champions Trophy would have secured a lot of people’s jobs at the ECB, even if they lost the upcoming Ashes series. Following today’s result, I’d be surprised if Trevor Bayliss could survive losing the series down under this winter. That would in turn increase the pressure on the ECB’s Director Comma England Cricket, Andrew Strauss, as the man who hired him. In the short term Paul Farbrace, England’s specialist coaches and the selectors might be in trouble if the ECB wants to make an immediate change.

As for the players themselves, that’s a tougher one to work out. There doesn’t appear to be much debate about this England XI being the strongest team available. None of them are old enough that they might be out of contention for the next major ODI tournament in 2019 either, so I would guess that England will stick with them all. Certainly this game shows that England players as a whole need to spend more time playing in different conditions. Whether that means letting them play in T20 leagues (and not just the IPL), or more Lions tours, or training camps, something clearly needs to be done.

As always, please comment below.

England vs. Pakistan – Champions Trophy preview

So now we get to the real nitty gritty of the tournament. England have looked imperious during the qualifying stages of the Champions Trophy and as a bonus, instead of being drawn against a high quality South African side, they instead face the unpredictable enigma that is Pakistan. Seriously it is impossible to predict what Pakistan will actually turn up in Cardiff, will it be the one that bowled so well against South Africa or the meek side that got hammered by India, there’s just no point in trying to guess. One thing that Pakistan will need to do to be competitive is improve on their batting dramatically from the past 3 games, as they haven’t anywhere near threatened a score of 300 in the tournament so far and have seemed to take the old England approach of having one aggressive opener and a number of accumulators in the middle order to try and get them to a decent score before they open their shoulders in the last 10 overs. We have seen from past painful experiences with England that this really isn’t a formula for success in the ODI arena, so one would hope that Pakistan will throw off the shackles with their batting tomorrow. We shall see.

As for England, it’s more of the same please, but with one exception; that being that poor old Jason Roy looks like he has finally been dropped from the team tomorrow (it was reported that Bairstow netted today and Roy didn’t, which seems about the biggest hint possible). It’s hard not to feel some sympathy with Roy as he has been an integral part of the white ball set up under Bayliss & Morgan and I do think his presence at the top of the order allows Hales a bit of time to settle into the game; however sometimes you have to be cruel to be kind. Roy has just happened to fall into one of the worst trots of form in his England career at the worst possible time; his head looks scrambled and his technique looks all over the place, that coupled with a reserve batsman in prime form waiting in the wings meant that a change was going to be inevitable. There had been talk from Morgan about backing Roy for the whole tournament but I would guess the manner of his dismissals added to the fact that this is a tournament that Director Comma really needs to win to lend credibility to his white ball focus, meant that Roy is now in the firing line. Some may point to the fact that Roy didn’t do himself any favours by sitting on the bench throughout the IPL and I agree that could have possibly been a factor; however young HH has been playing county cricket all season and has a top score of 38, in my opinion, sometimes you are just out of nick irrelevant of circumstances. I’d be shocked if there were any further changes for England, despite Ball not exactly pulling up trees with his bowling. The one thing that could be interesting tomorrow is that this pitch in Cardiff will have been used three times before the game, hence don’t be surprised if it’s a bit two paced and conducive to spin. 300 might not be the par score everyone is expecting  and hence the team batting first will quickly need to assess conditions especially if par is around 275. Misjudge that and 215 all out could beckon.

Then of course, we come to the ticket farce, with as much blame storming flying around as a Tory cabinet meeting. Our good friend shiny toy has naturally waded into the debate now that he has stopped advising everyone on how to deal with the threat of global terror, and naturally he starts off with blaming the fans for not attending:

https://twitter.com/5liveSport/status/874525506468696064

https://twitter.com/MichaelVaughan/status/874542158178639877

The fact that Vaughan has used the ticket price as justification for the fans not attending again shows that he is on a different planet to everyone else. So to make it easy for Shiny Toy and #39 to understand, I’ve carefully explained things below:

  1. Many matches are on a weekday and guess what people have to work or look after children, if only it was that easy to drop all commitments for a jolly at the cricket then we’d all be there.
  2. There are very few £30 tickets with the majority being in the £40-£60 bracket. When you factor in travel and food costs you’re probably around £80 lighter at least. In case you hadn’t noticed the economy isn’t exactly in tiptop condition at the moment and many can’t afford the outlay.
  3. Stop holding tournament matches in Wales, give it to Lancs or Yorks if you want bigger crowds to come. The Swalec is a lovely ground and really central but if the surrounding communities are a bit meh about cricket (since they can’t watch it on TV), then why expect people in their droves to turn up to Bangladesh vs. New Zealand.

Anyway rant over on that score, if you are in the Wales vicinity tomorrow there is a good chance of getting a ticket to the game as around 38% of available tickets were bought by Indian fans hedging their bets that have since decided to return their tickets. Hasten to say, it would not surprise me one bit if there are plenty of empty seats at the game tomorrow, however I’m not going to even start on the ICC ticketing procedures….

In other news, there’s also been the announcement of the T20 squad to face South Africa after the Champions trophy with five new debutants in the squad for the three games. It would be nice to see Malan given a go as he has been supremely consistent over the past two years, Liam Livingstone looks like he could be something special and it would be also interesting to have a proper look at Mason Crane, who despite having limited playing time for the Bransgrove lot at the start of the season, still looks a fine prospect. Will anyone actually care about the series after the glut of white ball cricket well that is another matter completely.

Lastly, England have announced the England Lions squad for the one off 4 day game against South Africa A, I wonder if you can spot where England’s focus might be? Anyone else would’ve laughed if they’d included Chef as well?? 

England Lions squad: Keaton Jennings (Durham, capt), Mark Stoneman (Surrey), Haseeb Hameed (Lancashire), Nick Gubbins (Middlesex), Dan Lawrence (Essex), Ben Foakes (Surrey, wk), Sam Curran (Surrey), Jamie Overton (Somerset), Tom Helm (Middlesex), Jamie Porter (Essex), George Garton (Sussex), Jack Leach (Somerset), Dominic Bess (Somerset).

Anyway thoughts on the game and anything else below:

Champions Trophy – The Final Group Game

OK. Time for me to write something. I’ve been here, I’ve been there. Cologne on Wednesday, Guildford on Friday. Sleep has been a stranger. But that’s life. I’ve been on the sofa for large parts of the weekend watching the two group games that sealed the fates of Australia and South Africa. Yes, if you remember I tipped Australia. I love being wrong. I’ve had a lot of practice.

Today’s game, and I’ll review it if I have to, was a poor old show. South Africa started out at a sedate pace, as they did against Sri Lanka last weekend, but then collapsed into a heap. Nasser has been banging on about how the big players have come forward, but AB de Villiers was the exception. He hasn’t been at the races in this tournament and will now be able to rest up for the summer while his team-mates undertake the test match heavy lifting. I wonder what South Africa’s version of Oliver Holt or Paul Newman would make of that.

Once South Africa had been dismissed for under 200, it was always going to be a walk in the park. They lost two wickets getting there, but there was never really any alarm. Rohi Sharma’s dismissal to Morne Morkel, however, reminded me of a game I saw 10 years or so ago, when Morkel, who was, I think, a bit quicker then embarrassed James Benning in a T20 game as his bounce caused mayhem. Benning ended backing away a little and losing his composure. Sharma is in a different league, of course, but that wasn’t his finest hour. Food for thought?

India will, in all likelihood, meet Bangladesh in the semi-final, while England, who have been incredibly impressive so far, will meet the winners of tomorrow’s clash between Pakistan and Sri Lanka. Frankly, your guess is as good as mine. Pakistan took advantage of dismissing South Africa cheaply but looked woeful against India. Sri Lanka’s batting looked frail against South Africa and then chased down a large total set by India. Strengths and weaknesses….

In other matters I went to Surrey v Essex at Guildford on Friday. I’ll probably put some pictures up in due course. It was a very entertaining day out, even if Kumar came and went in a very short time. I had visited just one session of play previously this season – the opening day – where I saw Mark Stoneman finish his 165. This time I saw him score 181 not out, and he looked magnificent. Sam Curran was also a pleasure, making a breezy half century. All the while though, the presence was too much for me to concentrate on the game. I was too close to the genius, to the aura. I was not worthy seated under the tree.

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Catching a day’s county cricket at an out ground is always fun. Guildford is well worth a visit, with the beer served up of excellent quality and at £4 a pint. It will never catch on. As I said, more on this during quiet periods and when I’ve got my photo-editing software on to some of the pics.

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I did like this one – Dominic Sibley dances down the track and I get the ball at point of impact (almost)

Other heads up for pieces in the future – and you know these aren’t guaranteed – is I’m reading a lot of old books I’m snapping up on Amazon “Used”. I’ve read Bob Willis on Test Cricket. I read Mike Brearley’s regaining the Ashes book from 1977. I am now reading John Snow’s book. It’s tremendous dipping into these old books, because they are anything but andoyne. They are full of forthright opinions, not written with anyone other than their own accuracy and views in mind. I’ve picked up a load of these recently, with books by Tony Greig and a couple more by Brearley to read. I also got Stuart Broad’s recent effort for a couple of quid, as well as the Simon Jones book. Also snapped up the Wisden Anthologies, a few missing B&H Cricket Years from my collection, and now I just have to read them! Any recommendations, let me know.

Finally, not to blow my own trumpet, but more of an explanation. I recently got a promotion at work, which is going to mean that the time I can devote to the blog maybe more restricted than before. I know we are all busy people on here, but given where life has taken me in the last few weeks, I’ve not been able to write as much as I would have liked. It’s life. We’ll do what we can.

Comments on the Sri Lanka v Pakistan game below.

 

England vs. Australia – Champions Trophy 2017

Going into the last game of Group A, the situation was clear: If Australia won, they would go through to the semi-finals; If Australia did not win, Bangladesh would progress to the knockouts. Arguably it didn’t matter to England, who had already booked their place in the next round. That said, most observers consider Australia the more dangerous team to face and so there was some value in knocking them out.

England named an unchanged team, with Roy getting yet another chance and no rest for Stokes or Wood. Australia were put in to bat first, and the first innings followed a similar pattern to England’s bowling in their previous game against New Zealand. At the 30 overs mark, Australia had managed to get themselves into a commanding position with a score of 172/3 and Smith still at the crease. Ball, Stokes and Plunkett had all taken a bit of a hammering, and Australia seemed likely to post a score in excess of 350.

Instead, Steve Smith chipped a ‘slow’ (85 mph) Mark Wood loosener to mid off, and the whole complexion of the innings changed. Rashid and Wood, who had both bowled economically in the first half of the game, sliced through Australia’s middle and lower orders like a hot knife through butter. Australia barely managed to stagger to the end, finishing on 277/9.

Even with a score that was decidedly short of what was required, Australia weren’t out of the game (and competition). The second innings started with the familiar spectacle of Roy’s wicket falling, this time to an LBW from Mitchell Starc. He went beyond his now regular performance by going full Shane Watson and wasting England’s only review. Hazlewood was bowling incredibly well from the other end, taking the wickets of Hales and Root in his first three overs. He should have had three wickets, as wicketkeeper Matthew Wade dropped a chance from Eoin Morgan on the leg side from Hazlewood’s bowling. Two balls after Root’s dismissal, the rain started falling with England standing at 35/3 from 6 overs.

The rain moved on, and when England came back out to bat it seemed like a different game. Instead of being on the ropes, England dominated the Australian bowling. Stokes and Morgan seemed able to score at least a boundary every over, and often more than that. They both rode their luck at times, but fortune favoured the bold and they smashed England into a winning position. The only negative moment for them was when Morgan was run out after Adam Zampa lit up the wickets with a direct hit from mid off. Buttler came in and continued the dismantling of Australia’s bowlers, while Stokes cruised to his 3rd ODI century. One ball after Stokes reached that landmark, the heavens opened and the game was abandoned with England 40 runs ahead according to DLS calculations.

So Bangladesh go through at the expense of Australia, a result which I’m sure no one here enjoys immensely. From England’s perspective, they are unbeaten in the tournament but Roy’s form continues to worry many fans and pundits. The most worrying aspect for the ICC and ECB is that rain continues to affect the competition, and I’m sure they’ll be hoping that the erratic English weather suddenly becomes dry for the remainder of the event.

As always, comments on the day’s play or other topics welcome below.