OK. Time to write.
I have had a pretty tough stretch at work, and as is the way with me, when the stress levels hit high, I have to make a choice to cut something out that might cause me some more. So, after a couple of weeks just looking at the comments, reading the posts and making a couple of observations, I thought I should contribute something. Thanks to Chris, Sean and Danny who kept the show on the road.
I’ve been investing the hard-earned on some new furniture, most notably bookcases. I have also been investing in lots of cheaper books to fill them up. I’ve acquired a number of B&H/C&G Yearbooks as they become available cheap on the Amazon secondhand market. I also cleared out some of the old cupboards, and it was there I came across the contents of the title. A load of pictures from the Ashes tour of 2002/3. Most notably the Brisbane pics I’ve not seen for a while (and also from my visit to the Nou Camp, or Camp Nou, that year too). Back then, pre-parents death and with a bit more disposable income, the dreams of seeing great sporting venues filled my head. I wasn’t a little old 20 year old, but a 33 year old cynic! The excitement was immense, even though we knew we’d get stuffed. The photos are a terrific memory. I’ve now located the video Sir Peter made of the whole adventure and laughing at it again. I’m currently ranting about Day 1 as I write.
Mark , in his comments on the piece below this, sort of strikes the current mood. 2002 was pre-T20 and so much an innocent world where no-one seriously questioned the primacy of test match cricket. Now, 15 years on, no series really seems to matter to the English cricketing psyche like the Ashes, as everything that happened this summer seemed to only matter in that context. The T20 world encroaches on the test scene more and more, where a great West Indies test win is buried under the Caribbean Premier League. The people want it. The cricket fan that sustained the game through the last three decades is cast aside.
This has, from my perspective, been a dull summer of test cricket. South Africa were meant to pose a huge threat to the inconsistent England team under a new captain, but instead capitulated poorly in three of the four games (but absolutely slaughtered us in the other). They seemed a team confused with themselves – a bowling line up that worked a charm when it fired, but a batting line-up as fragile, if not more so, than England’s. All this was played to a backdrop of AB de Villiers egging his team on from home, while sitting out the series to rest for some other appointment at some other time in the future. there seemed something symbolic about the state of test cricket. England, a team in flux, with key weaknesses at 2,3 and 5 were easily beating a team that had a great away record, but who had seen their best batsman sit it out because he needs to make money and T20 will do it for him. I might react to his tweets because it seemed like he was having his cake and eat it, but I don’t blame him for making the choice.
Joe Root got his captaincy off to the best possible start with a win and a big hundred. This was augmented by Moeen Ali taking ten wickets in the game, as the Lord’s surface took spin and South Africa’s batting took leave of its senses. The second test was an almost bizarre role reversal, as South Africa took a big first innings lead after one of the most skittish test innings I’ve seen from an England team – as if we were on a time limit. The third test at the Oval saw one of those great knocks from Ben Stokes that we are going to need more and more of, while South Africa fell away (despite a terrific century by Elgar on the last day) and Moeen took a hat-trick to finish the match. The fourth test at Old Trafford went much the same way. South Africa couldn’t nail England down with the bat, but were brought to their knees by good bowling.
The West Indies series was supposed to be 3-0. Good sides, in fact some not so good, would have hammered the visitors 3-0, but England infuriated us again by mailing in a test match at Headingley, and being done by Shai Hope and Kraigg Brathwaite. As someone rightly said, I’m not on the Shai Hope bandwagon just yet. It takes more than taking a couple of centuries off England to convince me he’s the real deal. He looks well organised, he looks to have the temperament, but he also looked at an 18 batting average pre this tour in 11 tests, I believe. Hope, Blackwood and Holder have made all their test centuries against England.
The first test was an embarrassment to test cricket. England piled on a ton of runs against a Division 2 county attack at best. The batting crumpled in a heap. It was over inside three days. That Headingley was a remarkable turnaround, and we could actually watch much of the play over a Bank Holiday weekend (it will never catch on), had some of us reaching for our memories and hoping for the best. But like those old photographs, they are just that. Nice memories. The amazement that the West Indies could chase down 300 in a day at Leeds of all places was a chimera. It was nice to have a pop at idiots who want 4 day test matches, two divisions et al, but those voices are listened to, and ours are not. We go to Lord’s, we get a test lasting 2 an 3/4 days, where a larrup stand between Broad and Roland-Jones made the lead meaningful enough after the Ben Stokes show, and the same old problems manifest themselves.
This is an era missing a great team. This is an era where if you have some level of talent you can accumulate some decent statistics. Jimmy Anderson, who has done superbly to reach 500 wickets, just to last that long to play all those games, was, at the beginning of the year a player who looked in terminal decline. He had pretty much fallen apart on the unforgiving surfaces of the sub-continent, but back home, probably a bit fitter, he made hay. But he wasn’t exactly up against the South Africa of Smith, Kallis and DeVilliers (and I would say an Amla not in terminal decline), nor the West Indies of a Chanderpaul being a constant pain. Jimmy does not need weak batting to feast – he used to have a lovely knack of getting out Sachin – but averaging 14 (?) this summer does seem to indicate the quality he was facing. A great bowler, and he is, feasting on the scraps.
England’s oddly organised team, comprising a brittle top and middle order anchored by the current and ex-captain, need to be rescued by a ton of all-rounders and a lower order that can cause some havoc. In the absence of top order batsmen, it is a plan that has to work. There’s not a lot else we can do. We really are putting our hopes in magic beans, that we can pluck a batsman out of our domestic game who may actually be better at test cricket than he is at the county level. It’s a bit like the alchemy sketch in Blackadder II, or Rodney suggesting to Del that they try to make money out of nothing. As SimonH has pointed out in the comments on the end of the test, there’s not a lot to go on, inspector. I look at the Surrey team, and I hear people say Jason Roy. A man dropped from the ODI team for technical problems. He’s not pulled up any trees in his return to Surrey.
To me, though, the test summer of 2017 will be the season I fell totally out of love with the social media side of the game. By that, I mean Twitter. It’s a very strange medium at the best of times, but this summer it has been rank. Utter garbage. People seem to want to take shots at each other, to be the smartest smart-arse in the room. Some have fully moved on to the journo side when they were fellow travellers not so long ago, and in some instances, forgotten where they’ve come from. Others just wind me up all day long with their need to be clever. I’ve muted more accounts this summer than in the past few years combined. People get irate when I say 5 out of 97 or 6 out of 103, when it’s a fact. People raved more about a 80-odd by Cook, as genuinely good as it was, than the 99 by Bairstow that played every bit as much of a role in a series clinching win. Cook has made one ton this summer. It was a mighty one, a long one, the first player in my memory to make four double hundreds for England. But we need a lot more from him as an all-time great.
There will be more on Alastair later in the piece, as we have an Ashes series coming up, but he is symptomatic of the schism that still, really, exists. It’s moved on now to those who seem to live in a world where 2013/14 never happened, or at least the ECB and its nonsense needs to be forgotten, and those who can’t, or won’t forgive. The former seem to have gone back to being calm, observers of the game, only rising up when one of their own (a fellow England fan) has the gall to question. Blind obedience, or at least a recognition that you need to be in with the in crowd, is more important than critical evaluation. You have a point, and I will listen to it, and discuss. I won’t if you say my blog, and that of the team, has been put together solely to have a go at Alastair Cook. I don’t do blind obedience. I don’t do the “in crowd”. IMVHO, it’s a bit silly.
Instead what do those on the other side of this schism do? We fade away. We post less. We certainly care less about England. We worry about test cricket. We worry that T20 hasn’t come close to maximising its destruction of the long-form of the game. We see no-one giving a crap about what we say. In many ways we, and our ilk had more a voice post-2014 Ashes that got heard. Now we don’t matter, if we mattered at all. Other than a place where we can lick our wounds, remember the better times, and hope for a saviour or two who place the test match at the heart of the sport we love.
This place has always had something going for it. Never Being Boring. The cache of old photos still bring a smile to my face, as do my rants on Sir Peter’s video (the one about the bloke behind me and the Michael Bevan Asia XI v Whatever XI knock). The sport has given us joy. It still can do so. But it’s tough to love at the moment.
Always leave ’em laughing.
“Someone said if you’re not careful
you’ll have nothing left and nothing to care for”
As someone who does a bit of photography, I enjoy seeing your photos.
Reading your perceptive article, I’m of a like mind with most of what you say – again. I always claimed I could never fall out of love with cricket but nowadays I’m more can’t be bothered. Haven’t given up but there’s little to get me rushing to a match or even the telly. I believe much of it is to do with the dearth of great players and therefore special performances. Yes, Anderson got to 500 but, as you rightly suggest, in an era of batsmen who aren’t that difficult to get out.
The social media thing saddens me. Having been an early participant in the internet world, when it was mostly occupied by computer people, I was excited by how much was possible. Now the great unwashed have joined in – bozos who think they’re smart running down KP (still) and others. I very much suspect these are sad people desperate for some sort of peer acceptance. On the plus side, it does enable us to discover and link to people, with whom we can have a sensible chat. This blog is a great example.
Hope your work situation improves. I often found that work intruded too much on real life. I offer one discovery I made – things always change, especially at work.
Sure I owe you a beer. Hopefully next season. It looks like November outside now.
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Yes. But he’s talking a lot more nonsense these days.
It has been mad since the promotion. Reinforcements are on the way (interviewed some last week). Get home later so less inclined to write. Might go to the Oval next week but wouldn’t bet on it.
So let’s try next year. Got to get down to Hove.
This was much better written than my rant Dmitri but many of the issues are the same. Glad you feel like writing again.
A falling out of love for a game that has been part of our lives since childhood. I have said before that Test cricket Is being managed into decline. This summer has been the best evidence yet for my theory. We wasted the first part of the summer (with the best weather) with the CT. I even went to one of the matches. Where the sold out ground was full of empty seats. The SA series was a joke with their best player deciding to bat on Twitter. I took some stick from some for my dismissal of the WI series. Leeds was an anomaly. A giant anomaly. As you say, the averages of the WI batsman gave nothing to suggest that they could chase down 300 on the final day. Yet they did, and they did it against the two leading wicket takers in English history. Pardon me if I laugh into my beer. This is why I’m a little sceptical about their greatness.
In this current team we have the two greatest wicket takers, and the greatest run scorer in English history. Ha ha ha ha. Sorry, I can’t take it seriously. I really can’t. I don’t believe in the product anymore. (I thought I would use the word “product” as that is what the empty suits are selling) I’m not buying any more.
The nonsense of 2014 revealed a split not just over one player, but a whole world view. It also revealed an ugly side of some of the people who cover English cricket. It was a revelation to listen to these people lie with impunity. I haven listened to TMS for the last 2 years. I haven’t read a single cricket report either. Not interested in them.
39 ,who is the editor of the a so called leading cricket magazine just parrots the official line of the governing body. It’s sickening to watch. Test cricket for him is the Ashes. That’s it. And an endless diet of 20/20. And he calls himself the 39th most influential person in cricket. No wonder it’s a product I don’t want to buy any more. With the removal of KP England as a cricket team has become something foreign to me. The journalists (so called) are cheer leaders, and the fans are more and more like football fans. The same moronic one eyed clap trap you hear on the terraces. “Support the shirt.” Even Arsenal fans are more sensible these days,and won’t buy the cool aide.
I know what you are thinking. Come on then Mark, what is your solution? I haven’t got one. The game is now set on a course that is Unchangeable. Even if the powers that be wanted to change (and they don’t) the world has moved on. People have no time anymore in a just in time society for a game that lasts for days, and is difficult to learn the skills.
I watched a bit of 20/20 finals day last weekend. Seeing as this is the brave new future of English cricket. A packed house live on Sky. it seemed to be more about commentators dressed up as Elvis and Johnny Cash pretending they could sing. They couldn’t. Cricket reduced to Karaoke. Actually cricket reduced to slapstick as Flintof dressed as Elvis fell over backwards and everyone agreed this was the highlight of the day. Cut to the studio where a mascot looking like BTs Busby sat between Nasser and Rob Keys was given the job of judging the singers. He couldn’t even that right. Even Nasser looked like he had woken up in parallel universe.
15 years ago they told us that the Karaoke would be to just pay the bills, now the Karaoke is the bill. Frank Sinatra is not required when you can have the fake version headlining. It’s over folks. Either get with the programme or leave.
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What you said and what he said. I have watched less than an hour of test cricket this summer.
I was one of your correspondents during the last home ashes and that was really the beginning of the end.
I have fallen out of love with both Cricket and Football, not even going on the annual pilgrimage to a test match (one was arranged but I took my family on holiday instead).
The rampant commercialism, the cheerleading that passes for journalism and the social media echo chamber just leaves me cold.
For the first time in 20 years when my current deal is up I will be removing sport from my Sky subscription as I can no longer even bring myself to care about the ashes.
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Maybe we should do one last rodeo? The “We are passed caring Ashes”? Come on. It’s worth losing sleep over.
Any way. Hope things are good OdB.
I still have Sky for the Ashes so I may well be up for that. The benefits of working for myself and from home do allow silly late nights.
I am well thanks Lcl
BT have the Ashes this winter don’t they?
Oh, that just shows my lack of interest.
Annoyingly when we moved house earlier this year BT did me a deal to keep me so I have that until January so I can still watch
As an aside, when Freddie was on T20 it made it unwatchable. For all the technological developments in sports coverage could we have one where we muted the commentators and watched it just with crowd noise. Or would all commentators and pundits fear for their jobs? I watched England v Slovakia with the sound down. You can draw your own conclusions. You don’t have to listen to smug Clive Tyldesley (my hatred for him goes back to Uni days). And you don’t listen to Hoddle (my favourite player as a kid).
Try it Sky. Try it BT Sport.
The Beeb did it years ago via the red button.
Congrats. The 40000th comment on BOC belongs to Benny !
What’s the prize?
There used to be a time where I would have TMS on while watching sky. Not any more though. TMS seems to have followed Sky down teh ‘personalities’ not presenters approach
Sky used to alow you on the old Sky boxes to mute the commentators. You were offered 3 options.
2 No commemtary with just crowd noise.
3 Or the worst possible option……of two supporters of the two teams playing….. sitting side by side, screaming at each other. I always avoided that option.
In many ways it was a fore runner for their 20/20 coverage.
They also had something called player cam in which you could just watch one player for about 15 minutes regardless of where the ball was. I’m asuming nobody used the option because that option seemed to disappear.
Don’t get me started about either Glen Hoddle or Clive Tyldesley. I remember back in the early years of the Premier league in the 1990s, and Man U in the Champions league with Tyldesley and Big Ron. If it was Wednesday night… it was Man U and Clive & Ron. I swear to God if I had owned a gun I would have got through 100s of TV sets.
Tyldsleys finest moment was during the football lesson we received from the Germans in 2010. ‘How many of this German team would get into the England team, one, maybe two’ utter deluded codswallop. This is Stevet on his mobile
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Oh. I go back to Liverpool’s local radio station in the 1980s. Radio City. One eyed. Churlish. Rubbish. Stunned he is where he is now. Could be world’s best impersonator. He did a wonderful impression of a Liverpool fan. Brilliant for a Mancunian.
And that came about 9 days after he presumably watched England v Algeria, still the single worst football match and second worst England performance* I have seen in 36 years, culminating in a grotesquely overpaid mercenary gobshite lump who did absolutely f**k all in any major tournament after the age of 18 shouting down the camera at paying travelling fans with the temerity to express their opinion in the time-honoured fashion of booing.
Outside cricket since 2014, outside football since 2010.
*after the one in Oslo in 1993, for which I only have to look up the team sheet to shudder in horror and break out in a sweat. Iceland was third, but only because we actually scored a goal. The Iceland game does however have the honour of being the worst performance I’ve seen from the mercenary gobshite lump.
(actually though, I think it was Guy Mowbray who made the comment about the German team, come to think of it)
My partner and I watched the Iceland game in a little pizzeria in Sicily. All the locals offered their commiserations
I stand corrected if that’s the case. They all sound the same after a while. It’s still the worst piece of commentary I’ve heard for many a year
Like you I’ve been really busy at work recently and I’ve also had a few things that have made me leave town over the last few weeks so I’ve not much been about. I have really only caught snippets of the 1st and 3rd test and only watched the first and last day of the 2nd test.
This summer’s test cricket has been a bit of let down, given that we waited 7 months since the end of the India series to the start of the South Africa series. I didn’t really expect too much of the Windies series and I guess the 2nd test did prove a beacon of hope (see what I did there!) it didn’t really alter the impression that England haven’t really gone anwhere but sideways in the last couple of years. In fact you can think of the 1st few tests of the 2015 Australia series where the likes of Lyth, Ballance and a rapidly declining Ian Bell opening up obvious holes in the batting line-up then. If anything this has only been enhanced with the perpetual turn-over of batsmen. Then for me, the lack of long term quick bowlers seemingly being likely to break through is a concern too as the team embark on a tour to a destination where they are likely to need more firepower then they mainfestly possess when the ball doesn’t move off the straight.
Cheers PK. Actually the test summer was marginally more interesting than I thought it would be. A combination of low expectations and the West Indies providing better opposition than expected.
England’s test team wanders around in the same way the Premier League does. Thinks it’s a lot better than it really is and confuses unpredictability with quality. I miss the days of any one of our top five being capable each match of getting 150+.
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Thank you for taking time – always very good to read your thoughts.
One of the main issues (and it has oft been repeated) is that teams don’t have ‘sticking’ power to see out a test match. They don’t or can’t bat for days anymore. For every Cook, there are 5/6/7 ‘white ball’ specialists who cannot do it. This is the very essence of why Strauss has still not been replaced.
Heaven help us when Cook starts the decline….. 😉 But you know what I mean.
The County Champs is obviously not a sufficient breeding ground for people to step into test cricket. The players cannot adapt quickly enough and their confidence gets shot – then its a downward spiral.
Hales, Compton, Jennings, et al all got the bullet but did they show enough consistency? Test matches are not the place to learn your technique, but that is what players are having to do – which brings into questions the specialist coaches they have.
Back in the day, players used to play league cricket overseas. Look at teh number of WI players who played in the NW leagues. This was all part of a players development. It allowed them to learn how to play a full match on a foreign wicket. Playing t20 in teh IPL does not give you a grounding to play a test match in India.
Last year and this I have found myself watching less sport overall. This is partly driven by changes at home (2 yr old…) but a big part is I just can’t be arsed.
I’m not connected to sport any more. I don’t care for teh ‘start’ players. At best I might have something on in the background, but if I find myself just watching, I start to think about what else I could be on with.
I have a to do list of jobs that include things I want to do as well as things I don’t want to do (but still need doing). And these are all starting to look more tempting whenever I have down time.
Just an update. This should have been the 5 th day of the Test match. No, we didn’t get any play yesterday either.
And nothing to do with the weather.
I get what you’re saying, but this test did make me feel a bit nostalgic for the 2000 Eng v WI series, which consisted of a three-day match at Lords and a two-day one at Headingley. I’m under no illusions and know that this 2000 WI side was hardly a prime WI side, but that was still a really fun, thrilling and entertaining series IMHO.
It was nice to have a low-scoring test for once and whilst you knew England were probably always going to come out on top at the end of it, I preferred it to the ‘scoreboard pressure’ stuff we’ve seen recently where one team piles on the runs then the next collapses twice. You can place England or their opponents in either of those two places – boring!
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From Ali Martin’s report on the International XI matches that are about to start:
“Lahore remains volatile, such that just last month a bomb in the eastern part of the city claimed 26 lives. Accordingly the matches at the Gaddafi Stadium, starting on Tuesday, are being played amid a vast military presence, with more than 1,000 commandos protecting the hotel alone”.
“Tickets are bought in local banks and then redeemed at the stadium using biometric testing to confirm identities, while roads will be closed. The number of security personnel has been reported as more than 10,000 – around a third of supporters expected for each of the sellout matches”.
“A £75,000-a-man tour fee is being paid to the World XI players”.
(On that last point, I reckon that’s about three-quarters of a typical central contract for a non-B3 FM that the ICC has managed to find for three T20s).
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Selfey as self appointed security expert for Sir Giles in Pakistan now has the pick of the limousines…
I really don’t know what to make of all of this.
I do hope he is not going to start campaigning for test cricket to return to Pakistan. He is not qualified to make those judgements, and I hope we won’t have another Bangladesh situation where players are harangued, and hectored by a complict media acting in cahoots with the governing body to intimidate players to go to places that they don’t want to go to.
Selvey can take pride in his work out there, and that is fine, but I fear where this is all leading.
Pakistan won the first match comfortably helped by the visiting coach’s decision to go into a match in Pakistan with a battery of mediocre seamers and leave out his second spinner (Samuel Badree – what’s he ever done in T20s?).
Not that it probably made much difference because I have a feeling there’s no way Pakistan weren’t going to win this game.
Ed Smith plagiarises himself and cashes another cheque by writing about Arsene Wemger for the hundredth time:
“The understandable determination to avoid inconstancy calcifies into the opposite problem – a bunker mentality in which dissenting views are automatically categorised as problems. Mental strength becomes defined too narrowly: not listening is a badge of honour”.
He then goes on to use a past England cricket coach as his example. Guess which one…..
Warning: don’t attempt this while drinking a cup of tea. Half of it may end up over your keyboard.
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There is of course another explanation for the problems at Arsenal that our intrepid writer would not see. Namely…… that Wenger hasn’t changed at all in his entire 20 years as manager. Instead, football has changed around him.
He inherited a very good back four defence, and a fine goalkeeper. His knowledge of French football at a time when most Premiership managers were British gave him a head start, and his only real financial opposition was Man U. He was able to bring in players like Henry and Overmars and Viera.
Slowly the world changed. His defence grew old and broke up. Foreign managers started to come into the English game with an equal knowledge of the transfer market in Europe. And big money, first at Chelsea, and then at Man City made his stadium plan redundant. What Arsenal make in gate receipts are good, but nothing the owners at Chelsea and Man City can’t find in the loose change box.
All of this will passs our great writer by because he can’t see the wood for the trees. In everything he writes about leadership he always manages to miss the barn door. It has become a great ilness. A man searching for something. An obsession for the perfect leader, but missing all the relevent points.
“a bunker mentality in which dissenting views are automatically categorised as problems. ”
You could make the same case for Andy Flower. But Our Buckingham professor would never spot it even with the Hubble telescope set to maximum.
Some of us will love this assessment of TMS, I’m sure….
Actually I see some of us have already commented (not me, yet).
The truth be
I love it, listening so intently
For as my own 40th TMS Anniversary has passed this year (Centenary Test)
Like so much sport commentary, it’s way past its best…
Tho’ the alternatives on radio, on-line or TV
Still, on the whole fail to remotely reach parity…
(I did proffer a post earlier this year on radio/tv commentary/commentators from a personal perspective… I will put one together ‘tween end of season and Ashes….beware, it’ll be off my long run of my youth and how! …and my grumpy old git as of now 😉
Everything you need to know about Blofeld that Bull doesn’t think worth mentioning:
I couldn’t stand him but then I can’t stand TMS and haven’t for a long time.
Have you seen the Twitter mob unleash hell backed by Piers Moron (remember some deluded fuckwit thinks we are a front organisation for him) and Shiny Toy?
It really beggars belief. I have my problems with Liew but he’s too smart for those numpties.
I hadn’t seen that footage Vaughan linked.
Vaughan’s allowed to stand up for a workmate of course – but the contrast with that and how Arlott and Benaud departed is painful.