Dmitri (dangerously referring to himself in the third person) goes a little nostalgic and you will all pay…
England v South Africa at The Oval. It wasn’t that long ago that the day before the Oval test started would be a frantic one. Tidying up loose ends in the office, arranging the meeting places for the ticket collection, determining who was bringing what to eat. The day(s) at The Oval were one of the highlights of the year for me – the Oval test put on the calendar, leave booked early, anticipation rising.
But it was England v South Africa in 2012 that was the final straw – my angst pre-dating the Difficult Winter. I had missed the first day, as prices had increased and the purchasing power of my salary had diminished, so it was Friday and Saturday for me. I saw England collapse on the Friday and watched South Africa lose two wickets in the ensuing five sessions. I’d also left my camera battery in the charger for the Saturday, and was, how can I put it, “in a bit of a mood”. It wasn’t helped by England being smashed, feeling terribly uncomfortable all day in the Ryanair seating, and being surrounded in front and behind by people who annoyed the hell out of me, spilled beer over me, and just plain got on my nerves. With 30 minutes to go, and I never left early unless it was heatstroke, I got up and said to my mates #!k this, I’m off home. And I doubt I’ll ever come back. And I flounced. But I’ve never been back for a test match. The prices appear to have risen greatly, the amount of tickets members could purchase has been curtailed (some might think that a good thing) and the customer experience, piled on top of each other, is a joke. Harrumph!
That day, the last I saw, was memorable for the batting of Hashim Amla, who made 311. He never really looked flustered, and the fear is, linking into the upcoming battle, is that Trent Bridge has put him back into the groove. The partnerships between Amla and Smith, and Amla and Kallis were not thrill a minute joyrides, but 12 or so hours of grinding England into paste. They were there to make 380 odd, or whatever it was, look totally inadequate. It almost seems like a different era of test cricket. That ability to bat long in England seems from a bygone age. In fact, presented with a 637 for 2 wicket, in a game completed in 4 and a bit days remember, we’d probably see a ton of complaints about nothing in it for the bowlers.
From that test in 2012 there are precious few survivors. The rigours of international cricket took many a career, inflicted or decided by themselves. But key cogs remain. Amla is there with Morne Morkel, Cook is there with Broad and Anderson. It says a lot about their staying power that they are all very important parts of the teams, maybe even the most important. Cook made a hundred in that match, which is easily forgotten. While Kallis, through retirement, maybe the seminal figure lacking from the team that won, the Oval 2012 should always be about how Dale Steyn tore us apart on a dead wicket. International cricket well served then, and how Steyn has paid for it through injury.
Tomorrow England need to fight back from a defeat every bit as demoralising as the 2012 reverse at the home of English Cricket (the Original venue….), after the mauling they received at Trent Bridge 10 days or so ago. England have been given a thorough beating before, but this time this one seemed to encourage, if that is the word, the scything criticism lacking from more recent defeats. There seems to be more of an open season on the captain, and especially the coach, than before. This reaction, which should not be a surprise, has actually been one. It is as if the media community has found its voice, its teeth. It didn’t seem to give a steaming pile of crap like Chennai as hard a time as they did the Trent Bridge performance. You know I’m not going to get over Karun Nair getting a triple hundred don’t you?
England go into this match with a lot of questions, and now with two debutants. Mark Wood has failed his fitness test and Toby Roland-Jones is going to play instead. Given there’s been other confirmation that Liam Dawson will play, and boy that’s a lightning rod stuck up, right there, it looks very unlikely that Dawid Malan will make his debut (I think that was an odd choice in the first place). Tom Westley will take his place at number 3 (there you are son, bang in the hotseat for you, good luck). While the Essex media are certainly in paroxysms of delight over Tom finally getting the nod, I have to say that I don’t quite know why he was the slam-dunk selection (and no, I’m not carrying a torch for Stoneman either), but there is no harm in trying, and you never know. I will certainly be watching certain journos for double standards reporting on him.
The main criticisms coming out of Trent Bridge was that England had not shown enough respect to the test format, but quite frankly, by the end of it, I’ve no idea what Shiny Toy was up to, and Geoffrey, is well, Geoffrey. This was met by quite fierce return fire by the England team, and Stokes has relit that fuse with his comments. I’m not sure it’s respect for the format that’s the problem, but rather, funnily enough, ability. This just doesn’t look like a very good England team. So if you are going to go down, go down playing your shots, eh? I’m not sure this team can block it out, they certainly couldn’t when they’ve been asked to do it in recent years, and probably with better teams than this. We’ve tried to compensate for lack of true star power in depth (reading Trott’s book at the moment, and we went through a golden spell then with players, so we could accommodate Collingwood, by and large) with the bat. Stokes is a classic. All the talent, inconsistent delivery. I think that’s the message (if you had present day Stokes, and 2005 Freddie, who would you select?). I mean, Shiny Toy thinks this is one of the most talented England teams ever. I don’t.
So if the players are a bit of a moving target, what with all that talent and such, it therefore must be someone else, and now we come to Trevor Bayliss. We interrupt this message to point out that losing at home to South Africa is something Andy Flower did, Peter Moores did, Duncan Fletcher didn’t, David Lloyd didn’t and Ray Illingworth didn’t. Bayliss can be questioned, of course he can. Is he getting the most out of the team? Is he doing enough to find talent, if, indeed, that is in his job description? Can he do more? Can he do something different? Yes. They can all be answered and there can be critical evaluation of it. But in my view, and that’s where this could be really fun, any criticism of Bayliss draws a direct line to the man who appointed him, sets his job spec and acts as his line manager. After all, Comma, shouldn’t be above reproach and if you look at cold, hard, results the 2017 team plays with a lot more verve, but the 2013 team actually got to World Number 1 (Trott mentions this a fair bit in his book). Also, as we are never shy to point out, Farby seems exempt from all this. Good old Farby.
So 1-1. Perfectly poised for the 100th test match at The Oval. I went to quite a few, from 1997 to 2012 I went to at least one day of each test there, and as with the days you select to attend you do hit and miss. Here are five of my favourite days (a bit biased towards England)…
2003, Day 3 – England v South Africa. Thorpe makes a century on his return to the team. Emotional. Trescothick makes his highest test score of 219. Alec Stewart plays what would turn out to be his last innings in an England shirt. And so did Ed Smith! A terrific day from start to finish.
2005, Day 1 – England v Australia. Andrew Strauss plays one of the best innings no-one really remembers. Without him we would have been toast. Flintoff also plays a terrific hand and England finish the day relatively even. It was just the pure tension, the weight of expectation and anticipation of the match that made it a great day.
2011 Day 2 – England v India. Watching a 300 partnership is special, and I’ve seen two. You know who was the common denominator. His 175 was overshadowed by Ian Bell’s career best (completed the following day) but it was total domination against a poor attack. Still great fun to watch.
2009 Day 2 – England v Australia. Days 3 and 4 weren’t bad, but watching Stuart Broad demolish the Australians in one of those spells he is capable of was magnificent entertainment. I still recall, with us 3 down at the end of the 2nd day that we were still talking of how we could lose even though we were nigh on 300 in front.
1997 Day 2 – England v Australia – Nothing like your first day at test cricket. I saw lots of wickets (Tuffers took 7) and a tense battle as England tried to recover from a first day collapse. The atmosphere, the tension, the battle, the action was like no other cricket I had watched in the flesh. Oh to go back to the 1997 me.
Just missed out included a glorious Shiny Toy ton in 2002, the infamous walk-off by Pakistan in 2006, Herschelle Gibbs on day 1 of the 2003 test, Steve Waugh’s hundred on one leg in 2001 (just to prove a point), my brief glimpses of Murali and Jayasuriya in 1998 on Day 2, the rain-affected tension of Day 3 in 2000 against the West Indies.
Happy century of tests for the Oval, and as usual, after 1500+ words of waffle, comments below if you have any on the points raised, views on great Oval moments (you have been to, or witnessed – could have popped off another 1000 words) and more importantly on the action tomorrow.
Devon Malcolm’s 9-57 at the Oval was probably the spell of bowling that sealed my love of cricket. Wasn’t actually there but remember the wickets clear as day, particularly the ball that got Cronje. Glorious.
Great piece, LCL. Thanks for sharing the memories.
A small memory of my own: Great 2 days at the Oval in August 91 (approx) for the Northants-Surrey NatWest semi-final. I was still a shy country-raised teenager and my prime memory was thinking all the Londoners were calling Waqar Younis a rude name. Accents, eh?
I was there on the Sunday for the Pakistan walk off in 2006.
No one really knew (or were too pissed to care) what was happening. If my memory serves me right, it was over an hour before there was an official announcement; meanwhile those with radios were parlaying information in some sort of giant Chinese whisper Test.
Needless to say, the ECB still couldn’t organise a Piss up in a brewery…
It was outrageous that that ball was never made available for public scrutiny.
The only Test I’ve ever seen in the flesh at the Oval was the last day of the Pakistan Test in 1995. Mushy and Wasim triggered a collapse from about 130/1. It was a heck of an attack they had.
Favourite Oval Test on TV will always be 1976. A time machine to watch the 1882 and 1902 Tests would be good too!
LikeLiked by 1 person
The most memorable part of that was the great unwashed putting together beer snakes across several blocks as the stewards were more worried about pitch invasions. When the game was abandoned they then threw the snake at the stewards. Well I laughed.
Fight the powers that be!
LikeLiked by 1 person
I saw Graham Pollock and Sobers in tandem in 1970 flaying Ray Illingworth’s attack in a tough fought series that was more like Test cricket than some I have watched
Illy had a decent attack but this was batting on a different level
” I mean, Shiny Toy thinks this is one of the most talented England teams ever. I don’t.”
its a staggering statement. If he says this England team is talented, then fine. But he inserts the dreaded word “ever.”
But then Cook thinks this era is as good as it has ever been according to Mark Nicholas.
Although I was ten years old, I thought the burgers were not up to scratch
You’ve eaten at the Oval? Do you live in a palace? Or won the lottery?
LikeLiked by 1 person
“Cook made a hundred in that match, which is easily forgotten.”
Possibly because since then his record against SA is as follows:
Not out 0
Highest score 76
But it will be interesting to see how many mentions the hundred gets in the press, compared to this “curious” record.
Conveniently, the hundred at The Oval came in the first innings of the ninth match of his career against SA, so the midpoint in terms of available innings, if not actual innings – he played no second innings in the McKenzie yawnathon match, or at Durban in 2009. His record against SA immediately after that Oval hundred was:
Not out 0
Fifties 6 (including at least one in each of his first four matches, and at least one fifty or hundred in six of his first seven)
So yes, it’s *really* curious, that overall average below 35, isn’t it? A real mystery. Given that certain batsmen had entire articles devoted to how their Test average fell from 50 to 44 (the horror!) after they were seduced by the bright lights of the IPL, I wonder why we haven’t seen a similar piece about a decline from 49 to 22.
When I said his ton was easily forgotten, I did mean in the context of the match! Just to be clear😁
By the way, I hope all office-bound Test cricket followers enjoy their first England match on the re-designed Cricinfo as much as I will.
There may be hitherto unplumbed levels of irony in that remark.
I caught the end of the England ladies on the new cricinfo page and struggled for example to find ” runs required”. I also missed knowing some minor details as to how the wicket fell… I feel like a grumpy old man.
It’s a pile of shite. And I find the site is constantly reloading with all the adverts. It will be unreadable soon. Funny how the bigger the corporate owned site the more unstable it is.
LikeLiked by 1 person
For last night’s piece I had forgotten how far into the 5th day the 2012 test had gone. Also wanted to know the end of Day 3 score. Good luck getting that info as easily. Used to be on the scorecard unless my computer has some issues with tabs that I can’t see.
The archived Test scorecards were one of the best parts of the site and are now a shocking mess. There is literally no redeeming feature of the re-design I can see (except that Statsguru seems to have been left alone).
I shook my head at it last night thinking “what fuckwit thought this was a great idea?” How does making the content poorer quality enhance your corporate image? Did Gerald Ratner have a part in this?
LikeLiked by 1 person
Mobile first. Gawd only knows what market research led them to believe that mobile obsessives and people with goldfish attention spans were more important to Cricinfo than desk-bound office workers.
Because it’s an absolute joy on my mobile.
I’m going to cricbuzz at 11am I think. Really quite disgusted with it.
Why would you go ‘mobile first’ when for that they constantly push the Android and iOS apps?
Either the app is rubbish (it is) or you create a site that renders either mobile or desktop. That’s not hard. I mean, our own bloody site shows different versions depending on whether it’s mobile or desktop.
LikeLiked by 1 person
If you aren’t changing, you’ll be overtaken. Stability is road kill. Innovation is all.
Someone got paid a lot of money for that and they still say we live in a meritocracy!
When you load the home page there used to be a live score box so you could just get a quick update on all live games going on. Now you have to go to another section called “live scores.” And even then they seem to put the India regional scores a head of the county scores even though you have it set to England out of the choices block.
I tried to look up the 20/20 tables the other day, and it took a while to find.
Mobile first is such a crock. Too often the sites that push that model are unstable because of all the bloody adverts. Which of course are needed to pay Ed Smiths wages.
Is it me or was the Internet a lot more stable 15 years ago before the desire to sell gazillions of adverts? Some sites now are just unreadable. The Radio Times site is the biggest crock of shite I have ever seen. It constantly refreshes and jumps around. The BBC sold it off I believe to some cheap outfit.
LikeLiked by 1 person
Don’t get me started on that relaunch.
Selfey sits in wonder why a team of such talent, some the best we’ve had, can’t string together consistency.
How about three of them are ageing, with so many miles on the clock in addition to their relatively advanced years that they are not the players they were.
But then that might point the finger at the schedule and Selvey ain’t doing that.
And the up front analogy was so strained it could have doubled up as KP’s calf muscle.
LikeLiked by 1 person
I blew a gasket on that Selvey garbage on the previous thread yesterday!
Meanwhile, we have no Switch Hit for Tests, #39 goes on holiday during a Test and there is zero publicity for the very good crowds these Tests are attracting.
Test cricket gets driven a little closer to destruction all the time.
He’s wormed his way into Sky quite nicely hasn’t he? All the snide put downs of people who wanted free to air cricket, and why he didn’t seem to want cricket back on the BBC seems a bit more obvious now.
The most memorable day I attended at the Oval was day 5 in 2013 and Clarke’s declaration that almost backfired on him if it wasn’t for the dark.
Begging for bad light. That and, if I recall correctly, Mitchell Starc doing a Rabada to Ian Bell and wishing him a pleasant journey to planet fuck were the highlights of that day.
Of course. I was in self imposed exile!
I remember a couple of times Starc starting his run and then aborting his run as he reached the crease so desperate to waste time were the Aussies. The umpires did their best to keep everyone out there and it felt like they had stayed out later than they should.
The lead up to this match has been dominated by the very obvious attacks on the English captain. This only highlights the last 4 years as being really weird. . The press, in their desire to pile in on Root have only revealed what charlatans they have been in the Cook era. By the way, The coverage of the Cook era looks more riddiculous by the passing day.
As usual the SA attack seems to have caught the idiot pundits off guard. But they have constantly ignored SA and down played their strength. When SA beat England in 2012 they became number 1 in the world and stayed there fore quite a while. Yet to read the Selveys of this world you would be forgiven for thinking England were the greatest on the planet.
The ECB strategy was to just not play them much. Yet again we have only 4 test matches instead of the routine 5 against India. Which are mostly as dull as ditch water.
If England lose this match the knifes will be out. And watch for the growing momentum for the Flower redemption tour down under. (Which will be a national disgrace, and confirmation that England is a clique of jobs for the boys.)
Malan plays Instaed of Dawson.
Good luck to the guy, and I hope he scores a hundred, but I find this selection slightly odd. We relplace Rashid with Dawson who we now replace with Malan. Is Malan the next taxi off the rank?
As Simon likes to say……… there is the smell of rodent about this selection.
The main whiff I’m getting is a lack of confidence in their batting.
Batting first after leaving out a spinner also seems pretty muddled thinking.
Sky’s Oval montage hasn’t turn Kevin into a complete Un-Pietersen – but they’ve made sure they finished with an image of Strauss celebrating in mid-screen.
The lack of Billy Joel pastiche soundtrack is a plus.
We talk about the Essex Mafia, in the media we also have a Middx Mafia as well. Bring them together and you have The London Mafia.
England win toss and bat.
Tufters handing out the the caps. Gawd knows what is speech will be like. Will he do his Michael Barrymore impersonation as documented in Mike Athertons autobiography……
Why do they have these huddles? As they could do them in the dressing room it strikes me as all for show. The camera can zoom in. The captain can look as if he should be in the Dunkirk film. Is it a requirement by the broadcaster for compulsory huddles?
My five favourite Oval Tests in order (I go back to 1981):
2003, easily – probably one of my five favourite England Tests ever
1997, beerily (climax at the Hermitage, Sheffield, after watching Sheff Utd v Portsmouth)
Special Proust award for 1985, days 1-2.
2009 misses out because of the media obsession with Flintoff and the runout, and 2011 because India had fallen to bits.
It seems they are getting a lot of feed back on cricinfo.
Here’s Phil: “I was very disappointed to read your comment, in response to Sean, about your new website: ‘…we’d best get used to it. Are you with me?’ I agree with Sean, and would go further: in my view, your new site is grossly inferior to the old one. Perhaps you should conduct one of those surveys (like the ‘Who should be next captain of…’) you often do, and see what the majority view is.” I suspect we’re beyond that stage, Phil. We know it’s far from perfect – and are chiselling away at it every day – but hope you’ll stick with us.”
So they know it’s shite, and are tring to fix it. But it didn’t need fixing in the first place. Anyway, like most changes it wasn’t brought in for the customers (as they always claim) but the owners…. so you will just have to suck it up.
LikeLiked by 2 people
not updating automatically …
The situation with the new Cricinfo site is a repeat of what happened with the sportinglife site a few weeks ago. A perfectly good easy to use site replaced by a complete dog’s breakfast, all in the hallowed name of progress. People complained there about features being missing, got the stock answer that these will be restored over the next few weeks. Three months down the line, no improvement. Plus ca change
LikeLiked by 1 person
Rather than admit that the idiots they hired to redesign the website were wrong, they’d rather pursue the argument that the user is wrong.
That is certainly not a well-known winning strategy. I already dub the new website NoInfo. Other than Statsguru, I avoid the new site as much as possible.
LikeLiked by 1 person
Your comment about wondering how England could still lose it in 2009 after Stuart Broad Day is so true. But I also remember an Australian colleague up in the posh boxes texting me all day. Pretty sure the last reply I sent was ‘Are they keeping you away from sharp things?’
They have allowed Ian Ward to have a go on Test match commentary. Just as long as they don’t elevate Selvey.
Cook saved by ultra edge there.
Not just Snikco anymore, but “ultra edge.” They always have to give it a stupid name.
How long before we get…… “Wafer thin edge? Or “Extra improved sharp edge?”
Still can’t get the overs in by 6pm though.
The only game I’ve ever watched at The Oval was last summer, Day 3 vs Pakistan. Younus Khan got a double ton. The main problems with the England team were at the top and middle of the order. Plus ca change…
What a great innings that was.
I believe the stump microphone picked up Jimmy swearing at Joe in the dressing room for deciding to bat..
Serious question to those watching – how is Cook’s batting? It seems very tricky out there…
Extremely well. It’s not easy and he’s holding the innings together.
Absolutely! This is old school test cricket, and Cook is playing well. It’s a great shame he couldn’t have just been left to be an opening batsman, and not all the idiocy that was placed on him.
Anyway, England would be in the shit without him today.
Good stat that Malan is England’s oldest debutant specialist batsman since…. Steve James in 1998.
An afterlife writing fawning books about coaches and Tweeting pompously about send-offs obviously beckons.
Welcome to test cricket, Mr. Westley and Mr. Malan.
Not sure two dismissals could be better examples of why it’s hard.
Hi All, I’m off to the Oval for the first time tomorrow, any advice on what to watch out for? Are any of the bars, food stalls etc better or worse?
Have a good day, hope the weather is good and enjoy. The pubs are rubbish now the Roebuck is closed. You’ll need to sell a kidney to pay for the food so take your own.
Maybe I’m not the person to sell this to you?
Thanks LCL, Weather is looking a little better than today so fingers crossed we should see some good cricket, I’m hoping batting will be easier so we might get some fireworks from Stokes, YJB and Moeen if they can get going, I’m interested in seeing Philander up close too. As someone who’s bowling has slowed down so much over the years that it now barely makes the other end of the pitch it’s always pleasing to see someone who relies on precision rather than pace, although these days I’ve pretty much lost the precision too 🙂
Got the makings of picnic (shame we can’t take any booze in!) so hopefully the kidney can stay unsold but after a few pints who knows
Guardian BTL alert!
goto100 is once again comparing Root and Cook. I do believe he means what he writes, this is too often to be a coincidence or trolling…
Quite extraordinary stuff.