No Ifs, No Butts

Disaster.  Doomed.  5-0 on the cards…

Ah yes, the usual kneejerk response to any England Test result.  And it might even be that is what transpires; but it should not be deemed inevitable.  A 10 wicket defeat is ultimately something of a hammering, but England did compete for the first three days, and more than that, they were on slightly in the ascendant.  Had they managed to get Steve Smith early, and gone on to win the match, as they surely would have done, then doubtless the press would have been full of thoroughly premature articles about the Ashes coming home.

Of course, it goes without saying that winning or losing colours the coverage completely, it couldn’t be anything else, but a five Test series allows for fluctuations after all – one bad Test doesn’t mean things can’t change.  England’s weaknesses were on full display in this match, a bowling attack that struggled to take wickets without the new ball, a brittle batting order, and sans Stokes, a tail that rolls over in the face of fast bowling.  In contrast, Australia did a good job of covering up their own weaknesses – their less than outstanding tail performed well, the top order batted well in one of the two innings – while making use of their strengths, the fast bowling to some extent, the superior spinner to a greater one.  It’s never the worst idea to look at what went right for the winning side just as much as what went wrong for the losing one, and ask whether that’s likely to continue, especially given Australia’s unusually strong record at the Gabba.

Although England’s inability to take a wicket second time round is troubling, it’s also the case that the primary reason for defeat was failing to set any kind of reasonable target.  The mentality of a run chase is very different when a side is completely confident of success; it’s certainly not terribly surprising to see a team romping to a small target even if they struggled in the first innings.

The difficulty arises in trying to sift England’s structural problems and those that sit in the “one of those things” category, and a single Test doesn’t always offer insight into which is which, and to what degree.  Many of England’s failings in this game aren’t new at all, but the matter of degree might be.

If England were to win this series, so the wisdom went, Cook and Root would have to have successful series given the inexperience of the rest of the top order.  True as that might be, that inexperience is a self-inflicted wound given England have messed around with their batting for so long.  It is entirely their own fault they’ve arrived in Australia with so many question marks around positions 2, 3 and 5; at least two more Test novices than is normal.  Yet as it turned out, those inexperienced ones did reasonably well, albeit without any going on to make a really defining score.  That too has been a hallmark of England recently, and the inability to make big hundreds is always going to make it hard for England to put real pressure on Australia.  Cook failed twice in this Test, which can happen to any batsman, but in his case the greater concern is how he appears to be batting.  He looks adrift technically, much closer to the Bad Cook than the Good Cook of recent years and a live Test series is no time to be trying to put a technique right.  England will certainly be hoping that it is just a small adjustment, or that he merely felt out of sorts, but his recent record is one of diminishing returns – a statement that has been dismissed repeatedly, but which even his media supporters are starting to mention, albeit to to deny it.  There has never been a better time for him to prove the doubters wrong.

Root on the other hand was dismissed twice in similar fashion, lbw to a ball swinging in to him.  This could be a vulnerability, or it could just be getting out to a decent ball on two occasions.  He remains England’s best batsman by a distance, just like his Australian counterpart.  England need him to show that next time out.

Where England are certainly wasting a batsman is in the number seven position.  In both innings Jonny Bairstow found himself with the tail, and on both occasions got out trying to force runs.  It’s obviously the case that England miss Ben Stokes, but that doesn’t mean England have gone from the strongest lower middle order to the weakest overnight – England’s number seven will be a highly capable batsman irrespective. Before the Test England swapped Moeen and Bairstow around, saying that the latter would bat better with the tail, to seemingly almost universal approval from the great and the good.  Perhaps it is the case that such appreciation ought to be a warning sign, for the arguments in favour seemed weak at the time.  Moeen has been quite adept at smashing bowling around the park and farming the strike late on in an innings, in contrast to Bairstow who has been most effective in building longer innings.  He’s never shown too much aptitude as a late order hitter, at least.  It may be a waste of Moeen’s talents to have him throw the bat given minimal support, but it seems an even greater waste of Bairstow’s.  This will surely be corrected next time out, effectively conceding the error.

Whichever way around it might be, runs from the tail are always sought after, but England’s isn’t especially appalling, not with someone as capable at eight as Chris Woakes, nor someone who does score runs (however ungainly they may be) at nine as Stuart Broad.  But few would be talking about the tail if the batsmen had done a better job.  There is one thing that shouldn’t take up any more time, and that’s Moeen’s “controversial” dismissal in the second innings.  The thickness of the damn line is neither here nor there, and no batsman pays any attention to it.  What they do know is they have to keep a part of their foot behind it.  He didn’t, he was out.  Move on.

On the bowling side, first time around at least, Anderson and Broad did reasonably well, maintaining control and taking wickets.  In the second, they didn’t even look like taking any.  The match position may go some way towards explaining that, but not entirely, and certainly they looked far less effective with the old ball than the new in either innings.  But a bowling attack cannot rely on just two bowlers, no matter how good they might be, and England’s support bowling was relatively poor, which creates a vicious circle of making the better bowlers look poor too.  Again, it may be wise not to read too much into a single game – Moeen for one frankly described his bowling performance as “rubbish” when he was asked about it, and raising the performance levels is more than possible for any of them.

One thing that shouldn’t be thrown at them is the problem of the similarity in style of England’s seamers, given was always going to be the case anyway.  Woakes is a first choice seamer, and only Jake Ball is in there in place of Stokes, who even though might be a very good bowler, is still a right arm, fast medium one, just like the others.  The loss of bowling options before the series was a blow, but they were all right arm, fast medium too, even Finn these days.

In contrast, if England’s bowling is not completely hopeless, Australia’s pace attack is not the West Indies circa 1984 either, no matter how much the Australian press want to claim it is so, and nor were they even dramatically faster than their England counterparts in this match.  It was Nathan Lyon who really excelled, and who really made the difference, on a surface surprisingly suited to him.  Moeen’s disgust at his own performance can unquestionably be seen in the context of how Lyon did.

With the 2nd Test in Adelaide a day/night one, much is being made of the potential for England to gain swing, particularly James Anderson.  This may prove a vain hope, for recent matches there in the same conditions have been high scoring and with a flat pitch, but it is also quite probably England’s best chance of winning. At 1-0 down, there’s nothing wrong with targeting this one, and backing themselves to get more out of it than Australia do.  The alternative is to assume Australia would beat England in all conditions, which seems unduly defeatist, even for England supporters expecting the worst.

What can be said is that the 2nd Test is pivotal.  Lose that one, especially if they lose it badly, and a hammering is well and truly on the cards.  But win it, and we have a proper series.  England can undoubtedly play better than they did in Brisbane, Australia can undoubtedly play worse.  The nagging worry is the obverse is equally true.

 

 

 

 

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117 thoughts on “No Ifs, No Butts

  1. metatone November 27, 2017 / 6:45 pm

    I’ve said numerous times when England were winning, so only fair to say it when they lose: In the post T20 era, a lot of the “margin of victory” numbers (like 10 wickets) don’t really tell you much more than “short chase on a batsman friendly pitch.”

    I’ll even go so far as to say I’d back England to make 173 against this Aussie attack with few scares if the positions had been reversed.

    Of course, that low target was where the problems start…

    Like

  2. man in a barrel November 27, 2017 / 6:56 pm

    The fact that Australia got 170 for none in the second innings is real cause for concern – you would expect an attack to get someone out before they reached the total – I doubt if there are too many cases of a side getting such a high winning score without losing a wicket (standing by to be proven wrong!). The Aussie opening bowlers did their job – 10 wickets in the match versus 5 to Anderson and Broad.

    The thing is that most of us thought that Bancroft, Marsh and Paine were odd choices and, of the 3, I guess only Bancroft can be sure of continued selection. The way Marsh got out after playing so well was a reminder of just why he has been in and out of the side so many times. Paine made a stumping but dropped a chance that most international keepers would think to take and scored not many runs. So Australia can probably get better but it is not clear about England.

    The back-up bowlers are all untried and everyone in the top order made some runs apart from a certain man with a steel backbone. The fact that the leading spinner went into the match without a sufficiently calloused spinning finger is either criminal or evidence of remarkable stupidity. Didn’t Moeen realise that he might have to bowl a few overs? I don’t see how England strengthen either the bowling or the batting – although swapping Moeen and Bairstow is rather obvious – and another culpable error in my book. If Anderson is carrying an injury, things look bleak for England. In the past, England sides have made remarkable recoveries – 1954 perhaps the most so – but that took the discovery of an extraordinary bowler and the blossoming of 2 young batsmen in May and Cowdrey. Quite how England managed to change the mood of the camp then after a massive defeat at Brisbane is hard to tell from the surviving accounts. Although I am on record as saying that Stokes ought not to be missed much as most people were wailing, he might have had a key role to play in boosting morale. I can’t see Bayliss as a cheer-leader – but maybe that is the skill that he keeps so well hidden.

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    • thelegglance November 27, 2017 / 7:02 pm

      I’ll put it this way – if Australia were chasing 280 I’d have expected England to take a fair few wickets before they got past 170. In a game where the result is so likely to go that direction, not so much. But I take your point, I just tend to think it’s not as huge a thing.

      There are a few whispers that Moeen’s spinning finger was quite badly hurt, but for what reason I don’t know. I’m not sure it’s a matter of not being prepared sufficiently.

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      • dannycricket November 27, 2017 / 8:12 pm

        The reason I heard for Moeen’s injury was that in both innings he started bowling early (around the 10 over mark) and the fresh seam caused a blister/cut which troubled him through the game.

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        • man in a barrel November 27, 2017 / 9:05 pm

          That was what I heard too. It’s like kremlinology with England and with the same result. We lose and make a positive effort not to learn from mistakes.

          If Moeen’s finger is cut, it cannot heal before the next test. So since Moeen is a much better batter than any of the back up bowlers, and they will surely not pick Crane at Moeen’s expense, it gets interesting.

          A torn finger needs 10 days, as I recall. Even then it is a gamble to go into a match and bowl 40 overs. Perhaps someone could ask Swann before his next brain dump of twaddle

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          • thelegglance November 27, 2017 / 9:20 pm

            No, I’d think for Ball. Strengthens the batting for sure, the bowling, arguably.

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          • LordCanisLupus November 27, 2017 / 9:21 pm

            Is this even him? Today?

            I’m at Heathrow early in the morning. I’ll ask around.

            Note – the Red Adair tweet has been taken down.

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          • man in a barrel November 27, 2017 / 9:18 pm

            A five man pace (English fast medium) attack, if Moeen plays. There must be a term for that but somehow shit sandwich comes to mind.

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          • SimonH November 27, 2017 / 10:44 pm

            Lyon’s taken 3/78 and 4/105 in the two Adelaide D/N Tests so spin still has a role to play there. Or it should have….

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      • man in a barrel November 27, 2017 / 9:27 pm

        Is it a good sign if the bowlers give up so early? Certainly a certain batsman on début will feel a lot more settled than Stoneman, Vince, or Malan. An 80 not out is good for morale

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  3. man in a barrel November 27, 2017 / 7:17 pm

    I just checked. 114 instances of winning a test without losing any wickets but only 8 instances of the score being more than 100. This winning score is the highest without losing any wickets! If you rank them, 100 times the winning total was less than 89, which shows how odd it is to take no wickets in a chase of 170 runs

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    • thelegglance November 27, 2017 / 7:27 pm

      Got to be a touch careful with that. Had they taken one at 165, then it would have vanished from that list, and taking none or taking one is neither here nor there to me.

      Again, take your point totally though!

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  4. Silk November 27, 2017 / 7:58 pm

    I’m concerned about the bowling, particularly if we are relying on Anderson to have a very good, or great, series in order to regularly knock over Australia. His record away from home is not all that.

    To not have blooded a proper spinner by now, particularly given we have Stokes at 6, is criminal in my view. I’ve said it for a while now. Having Ali and Stokes in the same side is one all rounder too many and one bowler too few (unless Ali bats at 5, which he could do).

    Without Stokes, we need Ali to take wickets. How was he so brilliant against the saffers this summer?

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  5. SimonH November 27, 2017 / 8:23 pm

    I’ve been a bit surprised by Malan’s slow scoring in his Test career so far (current SR under 40), especially given what a dasher he is in the white-ball stuff.

    Anyone (particularly any Middlesex CC watchers) have any thoughts on how he’s going? Is he batting like he does in red-ball cricket usually?

    I wonder if there might be a bit of a case for him saying “sod it, I’m going to give this a go” (which would admittedly be easier if the top order were doing their job and doesn’t excuse brainlessly falling into obvious traps)?

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    • man in a barrel November 27, 2017 / 9:07 pm

      Could it be the Tavare /Ramprakash effect? Free scorers for their counties but seemingly compelled to grind out runs for England, like a character in a Beckett play

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  6. Benny November 27, 2017 / 8:48 pm

    In my dinosaur mode: Leeds 1981, Australia needed 130 to win. England tore into them and won. OK different circumstances, different conditions but I certainly felt this England lacked the same will to win.

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    • man in a barrel November 27, 2017 / 9:10 pm

      I remember when Phil de Freitas (!) was leading the attack for England against Pakistan and, chasing 80 odd, we took 3 or 4 wickets and felt a little less thrashed.

      Wondering whether to resort to cricinfo again… They have made their stats very hard to find for some reason

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        • OscarDaBosca November 27, 2017 / 9:22 pm

          am I allowed to change my Twitter handle to @andycronk_boc_hdwlaa

          😂😂

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          • LordCanisLupus November 27, 2017 / 9:25 pm

            HDWLIA. I know not of the other thing you mention.

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          • OscarDaBosca November 27, 2017 / 9:28 pm

            Gah I knew I misspelt it but I couldn’t think why
            Because I cannot bear to think about it still…

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    • Mark November 27, 2017 / 9:27 pm

      Stokesy?

      No bias here. So called journos using players nicknames. And as always with England it’s just a matter of adding a y or sy. Never heard of Phil Walker. Won’t be bothering with him in future. Another fan boy by the sound of it.

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      • LordCanisLupus November 27, 2017 / 9:35 pm

        Memorable Phil moments.

        He got the gig on Cricket Writers as one of the few non-journos. He turned up a la Holty and Samuels on Hold The Back Page.

        He is the one in all the All Out Cricket publicity shots looking like he’s just got in from the night before. I mean that part never gets tired.

        Oh, and the Selvey leaving the Guardian moment on Cricket Writers. Oh yes indeed. If you saw it, you’d remember it.

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        • Mark November 27, 2017 / 9:43 pm

          Thanks for giving me some background. A star is born.

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  7. man in a barrel November 27, 2017 / 9:13 pm

    Haha hope he has a visa or is he relying on a kiwi passport?

    If this is true, doesn’t this imply that the team is a bit crap? It only took KP to destroy the team in 2013 /14, but not even Alastair can save us now…

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      • LordCanisLupus November 27, 2017 / 9:37 pm

        Even in that tweet I want to hate him more. #fact indeed. I bet he couldn’t wait to put that tweet out, the vain cockwomble.

        #youtrasherofyourownlegend #fuckwit

        I’m really grumpy today. Sorry.

        Liked by 2 people

        • OscarDaBosca November 27, 2017 / 9:49 pm

          How was he such a good captain? Was it all Nassers ground work, a soupçon of quality bowling, a flash of KP and massive amounts of luck?

          The more he opens his mouth the more he tarnishes my memories of that team

          #fact

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          • Silk November 27, 2017 / 10:29 pm

            Kp’s an eejit, but he knows his cricket, is passionate about it, and wanted England to win. I doubt I’d want him round at Christmas, but by golly, I wish he was still in the side.

            Vaughan may well be a mouthy git with a chronic lack of self-awareness, but he understood the ebb and flow of a cricket match, and could get the best out of his side. I don’t think it’s contradictory. Look at Mourinhio. It shouldn’t work. He’s a muppet. But it does (or did).

            Liked by 2 people

          • nonoxcol November 27, 2017 / 10:53 pm

            My memories remain resolutely untarnished, whatever the provocation. I don’t expect ever to love and live cricket as madly and deeply as I did for those two years.

            It was mainly England, obviously, but there was something magical about Test cricket in general – just bloody look at the quality of players everywhere. I recall sticking Australia v India on while getting ready for work – it would have been the series after Kolkata, i.e. the 1-1 in Australia – and, even then, just marvelling at how lucky we were to see all this at once. I think Richie Benaud said it was one of the greatest eras of Test cricket he’d lived through. And he’d know.

            If you wanted to date it, I’d say roughly from the Kolkata series to the retirements of Warne, McGrath and shortly afterwards Lara. Certainly to the inaugural World T20 at the very latest, because nothing was ever the same again after that, for reasons that go way beyond the quality of players and intensity of sporting competition.

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  8. man in a barrel November 27, 2017 / 9:14 pm

    He’ll get into an argument with someone and get deported to New Zealand… 😁

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  9. man in a barrel November 27, 2017 / 9:24 pm

    [Ahhhhhh, no, you absolutely can’t imply that!! Sorry. TLG]

    It’s like a return to the old days, when Lord Harris had to beat off locals with his bat after an odd decision

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    • dannycricket November 27, 2017 / 9:28 pm

      “Lord Harris had to beat off locals”

      Fortunately I don’t think you can libel the dead…

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  10. Mark November 27, 2017 / 9:32 pm

    Englands recent record away from home against the so called other big 3 teams.

    Last tour of Aus 5-0
    Last tour of India 4-0
    New tour of Aus after 1 test 1-0

    11 test matches played, 10 lost, one drawn. But the cricket standard is a s good as it as ever been. Not from this England team it hasn’t.

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    • Silk November 27, 2017 / 10:30 pm

      To be fair, the win in SA was very impressive.

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      • OscarDaBosca November 27, 2017 / 10:34 pm

        Agreed

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      • Mark November 28, 2017 / 1:28 am

        Yes, but they are not part of the big 3. That’s all that matters as far as the money men at the ECB are concerned.

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  11. man in a barrel November 27, 2017 / 9:35 pm

    Has Moeen ever asked Ashwin’s secret? He seems to open the bowling on a regular basis.

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  12. thelegglance November 27, 2017 / 9:35 pm

    Ah well.

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    • LordCanisLupus November 27, 2017 / 9:38 pm

      But wouldn’t they want to sneak him in, away from the prying eyes of the Aussie media? Perhaps it’s a smokescreen. #probablynotfact

      Liked by 1 person

      • Zephirine November 27, 2017 / 10:38 pm

        However, it is understood Stokes is heading to New Zealand to practise and spend time with his family, rather than meeting up with his England team-mates.

        …The New Zealand-born 26-year-old has yet to hear whether he will be charged by Avon and Somerset Police.

        Ah, yes, New-Zealand-born,….

        Liked by 1 person

        • Grenville November 28, 2017 / 9:14 pm

          Good spot.

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  13. man in a barrel November 27, 2017 / 9:44 pm

    One comparably low point springs to mind, 1973. Illy beat New Zealand but was then mullered by West Indies. The Lords test where Kanhai and Sobers both got 150 (I think) was amazing,while the English batting was torn apart by Keith Boyce.

    The captaincy passed to Mike Denness! They were steam – rollered in the first Test over in the West Indies. But the team regrouped. Amiss made an astonishing 262. Greig triggered an international incident but turned into a match winning off spinner. Along with Sir Geoff, he won the last match and all was square. Maybe Stokes can learn off spin?

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    • SimonH November 27, 2017 / 10:22 pm

      Didn’t Boycott say to Greig something along the lines of “you realise all we’ve done is keep Denness in the captaincy”?

      I’m sure no England players who’ve “won” games for England in the last couple of years have had any such thought!

      Liked by 1 person

      • man in a barrel November 27, 2017 / 11:46 pm

        Exactly!! I’m glad someone other than me remembers the context, just before Bumble got 214 of Boycott’s runs and Thomson arrived

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  14. Maxie Allen (@MaxieAllen) November 27, 2017 / 9:52 pm

    An elegant analysis, Chris.

    My thoughts are that this match went broadly as expected. Neither side are very good, really, but Australia have the prosaic but hefty advantage of being at home (the home side has won all but one Ashes series since 2002/3). Consequently they were able to edge in front and then capitalise.

    Cook contributed nothing (funny how other players are excoriated for playing shots like his second-innings hook) but this is unsurprising in that apart from 2010/11, his Ashes record is very modest.

    ‘England’ would be better off batting Bairstow at five: as the team’s second best batsman, he is wasted at seven.

    From what I saw (I didn’t have TV access in the summer), Ball looks too raw for test cricket while it’s hard to see Woakes being nearly penetrative enough to make any difference.

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    • OscarDaBosca November 27, 2017 / 9:58 pm

      I’ve never got the fuss about Woakes, bits and pieces to me (maybe I’m being harsh but if I am right I witnessed his England debut at the Oval, and lucky for him Kerrigan also debuted and got all the brickbats).
      A touch of the Ealham/Irani about him, ODI yes, test match – I don’t think he is quite at the appropriate level.
      I am probably being incredibly harsh, but he doesn’t seem quick enough or skilled enough.

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      • OscarDaBosca November 27, 2017 / 9:58 pm

        Hmm multiple harshes, must review before posting

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      • Silk November 27, 2017 / 10:35 pm

        I didn’t watch the series against Pakistan last summer, at all. So I think there are two schools of thought here

        – Those of us who didn’t watch the Pakistan series, or don’t read much into it, thing he’s a very fine English swing bowler who’ll take stacks of wickets in England and NZ, and bugger all elsewhere. His international stats to date (ODI and Test) back this up.
        – People who watched every Test against Pakistan swear he;s bowling a good 8 mph quicker than he was on debut, is England’s fastest bowler and basically comparing him to debut Woakes, or looking at his record is meaningless, as he’s massively improved

        I didn’t come off the fence before the Ashes started, because, like, I didn’t watch him bowl last summer. But if you go by stats alone, Woakes being blunt as a porridge knife is hardly a turn-up for the books.

        The fact his batting has fallen to bits as well is a grave disappointment, mind.

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    • man in a barrel November 28, 2017 / 12:01 am

      Bairstow’s batting is in free-flow. He is a shadow of the batsman he could be

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    • thelegglance November 28, 2017 / 11:21 am

      Bairstow is good enough to bat five, the problem in this England team is that if he did, he’d be in after 100 overs keeping wicket, then getting padded up 10 minutes later.

      Keeper has to have a bit of a break.

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  15. Mark November 27, 2017 / 9:59 pm

    Tuffnel on 5 live. The grandad version of Lovejoy.

    So far……

    1 Bairstow incident is a non story. It’s the ashes, who cares?(He had a similar view about Stokes.)
    2 No big deal we lost, because we always lose at the Gabba. Nothing to see hear.
    3 Cook’s match just a blip. Probably tired in his second innings. ” It fell lovely for the Aussies, 20 overs to attack him.”
    4 Praised Smith’s batting. (Don’t need a IQ over 80 for that piece of wisdom)
    5 We were 20 minutes from the Aussies cracking in our first innings. If Stoneman and Vince hadn’t got out.

    They have gone for the news now. Can I stand another 30 minutes of this?

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    • Mark November 27, 2017 / 10:13 pm

      This is quite Pythonesque now. We have Andrew Strauss giving an interview in which he defines what is……and what is not a head butt.

      This is what they teach you at those posh schools. A bit like Prince Charles and his “whatever loves is?”

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      • Mark November 27, 2017 / 10:24 pm

        We’re on to Glasgow Kisses now. This is surreal!

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      • oreston November 27, 2017 / 11:18 pm

        One for the older members of the congregation…

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  16. Silk November 27, 2017 / 11:03 pm

    Stats. Cook’s run target for the series is 174. If he gets fewer than that, he’s in trouble.

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    • dannycricket November 28, 2017 / 7:43 am

      Sean has made available bet via Twitter that Cook will average less than 24 this series. Meanwhile, I’ve bet that no England player will manage a score of 160 (in reference to Bayliss saying they need 160s and not 60s). Both bets looking good so far.

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  17. Sri.Grins November 28, 2017 / 1:39 am

    @thelegglance,

    very nicely written and a balanced article..

    Lyon was the difference and That is what I have said in the response to questions from the Lord. I underestimated him (probably because Indians don’t give much credence to spinners from outside the sub continent 🙂 ). The surprising thing was that even the media and analysts underestimated his impact.

    He seems to be in a Swann like zone now and needs to be considered a proper threat.

    I wonder whether the pitches will continue to be spin friendlier considering that Oz has a crucial advantage over England in this department.

    Cook & Root would be crucial in handling Lyon. Cook is one of the better players of spin but of course he needs to survive the opening spells to get to play Lyon

    Like

    • Pontiac November 28, 2017 / 2:56 am

      I suppose here is as good as any a place to co-sign; I’m a big Lyon fan.

      Nathan Lyon was underrated before. I think he’s probably underrated now, even though he’s more highly rated generally. In the last trip through India and Pakistan he really put a lot of things together.

      This year he’s got about 25 or so wickets from right handers at 28 or so, and about the same number from left handers at 17 or so.

      In my view it is /clear/ that Lyon and the quicks have a hammer-and-anvil thing going on. To some degree this was true last time ’round; I paid attention to what Mitchell Johnson had to say about it at the time.

      Furthermore, I think it is a matter of some significance that M. Ali wound up getting stumped. This is for two reasons. First, given that he’s the one who had the most inclination to leave the crease and was scoring for a while, it’s obvious there is risk. Second, it shows he’s getting together with Paine.

      Anyway, Lyon is now I believe 26 wickets short of 300 and there are 80 possibly left to take. I always felt that bowling milestones were different from batting ones simply because if someone else on your side gets 200 it doesn’t mean you can’t do so – whereas in bowling it matters if you’re on it at the same time as a teammate.

      But: I think there’s a decent chance he might roll the odometer in this series.

      I like Ali and I think he’s about as valuable a cricketer in isolation as Lyon. But Lyon is a much better bowler and fits in well with the team around him. England’s problem is that while Anderson and Broad can explode, there is absolutely no need for anyone to score off them. The danger period is overs < 12 mod 80. Then feast.

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      • dannycricket November 28, 2017 / 7:21 am

        That’s why I was so impressed when England were so economical through the whole Australian first innings, bowling dry isn’t an ideal strategy but possibly the best case scenario in the circumstances.

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        • Pontiac November 29, 2017 / 1:31 am

          I thought they were on top of the game after the first innings to be honest. Certainly ahead up to when Lyon got Stoneman. Root getting out before lunch was a big deal.

          Australia’s bowling is stronger but also fragile in how it is constructed, in that if the batters start making Lyon start giving up 4 an over *without any threat in return*, then simply by taking that and being very defensive at the other end it won’t take much more than a session to empty the magazine at which point the feasting may begin.

          Like

      • Sri.Grins November 28, 2017 / 1:10 pm

        Top comment on the relative fit of a spinner in the Oz team vs English team. Lyon’s edge over Moeen in bowling is giving the Aussie team a massive advantage.

        They either have to get Ali to bowl better or choose another spinner on Oz tracks and play Ali instead of Malan. India tend to play 5 bowlers nowadays despite weakening their batting considerably to ensure that they get 20 wickets. England’s bowling has come up short in the first test and maybe it is time to go with 3 pace bowlers and 2 spinners. A leg spinner is surely of help in OZ tracks especially given that Oz are only marginally better than England in playing spinners.

        Like

        • thelegglance November 28, 2017 / 1:30 pm

          As ever, only if they’re any good. England play five bowlers too, and six if Stokes is playing. The one point about Moeen whenever he gets criticism is that there’s little evidence anyone else is any better. Moeen fits around the average for an English off spinner. And in Australia, even Graeme Swann was pretty poor, averaging around 40.

          Like

          • Sri.Grins November 28, 2017 / 2:03 pm

            In that case, probably drop ball and play crane. You are certainly not going to do too badly given that Anderson, Broad and Woakes can do well in Adelaide if they get helpful conditions.

            Though I know that Ali has a knack of taking wickets and has not done too badly in his bowling career, I am not convinced that he is the best spinner around for England.

            Like

          • Silk November 28, 2017 / 10:20 pm

            We’d know if Leach was an option if we’d tried him in the summer. We could have rested Anderson or Broad or Ali against the Windies and let Leach have a go.

            Or, if Crane’s a better bet (he isn’t) given Crane a go.

            Like

  18. Sri.Grins November 28, 2017 / 2:50 am

    The NZ jaunt for Stokes maybe a way of keeping him fit and ready for Oz. Possible he could be called up if the Adelaide test goes well for England.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Scrim November 28, 2017 / 5:20 am

      Not to mention in the right sort of time zone and just a 4-5 hour flight away (more for Perth)

      Liked by 1 person

  19. Scrim November 28, 2017 / 6:56 am

    https://i.stuff.co.nz/sport/cricket/99314205/ben-stokes-heading-for-new-zealand-to-visit-family–reports

    So it seems he’s going to play for Canterbury. The best part:

    “If Stokes did play for Canterbury, he would be filling the void of young batsman Ken McClure, who has stood down from representative cricket after pleading guilty on Friday to one count of injuring with reckless disregard.”

    You couldn’t make it up! Anyway, I’d say the chances of him playing the third test are very high.

    Like

    • dlpthomas November 28, 2017 / 8:34 am

      If Stokes isn’t charged, the ECB could argue that missing the first 2 tests is punishment enough and, as you say, pick him for the third test.

      Like

    • Deep Purple Fred November 28, 2017 / 9:17 am

      How come the police let him out of the country? What if he decides he’s a kiwi after all and decides to never return to England?

      Like

      • Mark November 28, 2017 / 9:39 am

        It’s beginning to look as if they have got him oit of the country before the police make an official announcement. There were rumoirs last week by a journalist that he has been cleared. But no official announcemet has been made by the authorities.

        If true…..once again it shows a case conducted in a way that would not be the same if this was Joey Smith of no fixed abode.

        Like

        • SimonH November 28, 2017 / 10:12 am

          Stocks –

          “the board’s decision to grant Stokes a No Objection Certificate (NOC) last Friday, which cleared him to play in New Zealand, suggests a softening on their stance…. However, the fact Andrew Strauss, England’s director of cricket, refused to mention the fact that Stokes had been granted his NOC when he sat down with English journalists in Brisbane on Monday afternoon is interesting. Strauss would have had to sign off on that decision yet didn’t even give reporters an off-the-record steer”.

          http://www.cricket.com.au/news/latest-ben-stokes-heathrow-airport-australia-england-ashes-new-zealand-canterbury-allrounder/2017-11-28

          Like

          • SimonH November 28, 2017 / 10:21 am

            Not changed his position – except by nearly 12,000 miles?

            Rigorous scrutiny is obviously anticipated by Tim O’Sock-Puppet and his ECB disciplinary committee. Harrison announced about ten days ago what’s expected of them so I guess Stokes doesn’t need to appear in front of them.

            Like

          • Mark November 28, 2017 / 12:40 pm

            To be fair, Strauss is quite busy at the moment. Explaining what the definition of a head butt is!

            Like

          • thelegglance November 28, 2017 / 4:13 pm

            Oh we should do that. “BOC understands…”. Think of the stuff we could make up!

            Like

          • LordCanisLupus November 28, 2017 / 10:39 pm

            BOC understands that the muppet who wrote the review of BT Sport’s coverage in The Times should be fired for saying David Gower is irreplaceable as the anchor man of cricket coverage. Even Sky don’t believe that, BOC understands, because Ian Ward did it for some of last year!

            Like

          • LordCanisLupus November 28, 2017 / 10:47 pm

            Let us play a little game. Let’s play guess the media scruffs.

            Guess The Scruffs....

            Like

          • SimonH November 29, 2017 / 9:04 am

            Hoult and Liew on the near right; Etheridge and Ali Martin on the far right?

            Are Strauss and Dean Wilson about to start smooching?

            Like

      • oreston November 28, 2017 / 1:35 pm

        He hasn’t been charged with a criminal offence (and despite the video it’s beginning to look like he’s not going to be. Hmmm…) so the Police can’t prevent him from travelling. Apparently there’s a rumour he might be playing some competitive cricket in NZ, which would help get him match ready for the later stages of the Ashes, while being only a couple of hours’ flying time away. I really don’t think he’s about to jump ship and become a Black Cap.

        Like

        • thelegglance November 28, 2017 / 1:43 pm

          You can be prevented from leaving the country before being charged, it depends on the police bail conditions. However, there’s also a 28 day limit on police bail, and that would have expired by now. Equally, that can be extended by three months if a senior officer authorises it – but I haven’t seen any reference to that in the press.

          Like

          • Tregaskis November 29, 2017 / 6:27 pm

            As I understand it, the 28 day limit applies if you are released on police bail. But Stokes was not on bail but “released under investigation” and the statutory time limits do not apply. Police increasingly and controversially use this procedure to avoid the restrictions attached to police bail.

            Like

        • Deep Purple Fred November 28, 2017 / 3:54 pm

          “There remain many moveable parts that first hinge on both the timing and the outcome of the police investigation into events in Bristol on 25 September, with a recent delay understood to have arisen due to a new witness coming forward.”

          New witness later identified as a certain C. Bancroft, recently arrived in the country, and with a large red mark on his forehead, stating ” I just thought it was strange way to say hello”.

          Like

    • oreston November 28, 2017 / 4:05 pm

      Oh. Didn’t read this earlier. Sounds like Bruiser Ben will be a natural fit for the Canterbury team culture. YJB wouldn’t get in. Friendly non-head butt head butts just wouldn’t cut it.

      Like

  20. northernlight71 November 28, 2017 / 3:05 pm

    The pathetic way that the ECB, according to the nods and winks they are clearly giving their obedient media servants today, are tripping over themselves trying to get Stokes back into the side only fills me with more contempt for them.
    They are simultaneously showing how little faith they have in the players already in Australia combined with an ability to close their eyes to, criminal charges or not, behaviour which really should merit a whole Winter off and some serious lifestyle interventions for one of their players.

    There really does seem to be a bit of a brainless thug culture around this team at the moment. As Fred Trueman might have said, what on earth is going on?

    Liked by 2 people

  21. SimonH November 28, 2017 / 4:01 pm

    Fifties in the Lions’ game for Jennings and Foakes – but it sounds like the bowling took some hammer in the last session.

    Like

    • Silk November 28, 2017 / 5:03 pm

      Doesn’t sound like Mark Wood is going to ride to England’s rescue judging by the scores in that match.

      Like

  22. quebecer November 28, 2017 / 6:51 pm

    As a summary of the situation, it really comes down to us playing better. Possibly on Stoneman could be said of scoring par in the first test, which leaves a lot of room for improvement from everyone. The Aussie attack didn’t blow us away at all, and perhaps we can take confidence away from this test, with players knowing they can handle this, can do it, and press on. However, I am concerned about the points being made on these threads about our batting techniques and coaching.

    As was well stated, you should never practice errors. Immediately stop, correct, and never be afraid to reduce that action down to its simplest form to make sure. Is Ramprakash doing this for our players? We’ll see in Adelaide. If Bairstow and Root drive between the bowler and mid on, then yes.

    Clearly, our 3rd and 4th seamers were not good enough in Brisbane. The Aussies knew they could simply see off Anderson and Broad with absolutely no pressure to score off them. But Woakes and Ball doing better is hardly beyond the realms of possibility. Conditions might suit Woakes in particular, and we can give Ball the benefit of the doubt i terms of it being his 1st test in Australia and expect a better performance going forward.

    Jesus. This is sounding incredibly positive, and I don’t feel it at all. It’s interesting, that laid out in black and white it isn’t nearly as bleak as my feelings about it.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Silk November 28, 2017 / 8:18 pm

      Allow me to be bleak (just for the sake of argument. I agree that drawing conclusions from a single Test, when both sides have known issues, is not guaranteed to lead to the correct conclusions. I also note that the last Ashes was extremely see-saw. But that said…)

      David Warner was completely, utterly, totally untroubled by our bowling. His dismissal in the first innings was awful. He threw it away against a nothing ball. He learned his lesson and put us to the sword second dig.

      Bancroft, 2nd dig, batted with more conviction than any of the English batsmen.

      We haven’t dismissed Smith yet. Sean Marsh didn’t look overwhelmed at all, despite coming in in a situation where I would have bet my house (and lost) that he’d fail.

      Most worryingly, Lyon comprehensively out-bowled Moeen Ali, and Hazelwood looked to have shaken off the rust in the second innings. There’s no reason to /expect/ Woakes and Ball to suddenly offer a threat in Adelaide (seems to me that they /might/ but that’s possibly wishful thinking). There’s absolutely no reason to think Hazelwood, Starc, Cummins and Lyon won’t offer the same threat in Adelaide. And if Woakes can improve, so can they.

      If I were Australia, I’d be confident that if we played well, bowled with discipline and didn’t make any silly mistakes batting. we’d beat England 9 times out of 10 in these conditions.

      England, batting and bowling, have a lot of ground to make up.

      Liked by 1 person

    • dlpthomas November 28, 2017 / 11:33 pm

      “The Aussie attack didn’t blow us away at all”

      I’m not having a go but can you define what you would consider being blown away? We lost 6 for about 40 in the first innings and 4 for 4 in the second innings. We only made 195 in the second innings whilst Australia chased down 170 without loosing a wicket. Maybe we weren’t “blown away “but I suggest out hair was more than just a little bit ruffled.

      Like

      • quebecer November 29, 2017 / 12:07 am

        I was referring to the much vaunted pace trio/trial by fire etc. not having the effect on our batsmen some predicted (with scars of Mitch to the fore). I wasn’t that clear, sorry.

        Like

        • dlpthomas November 29, 2017 / 12:40 am

          I know what you mean. I expected to see our batsmen ducking and dodging thunderbolts, especially after the way Cummins bowled on the flat wickets in India. (To be honest, I was a bit disappointed – I miss the days when fast bowlers rules the world. None-the-less, they got the job done)

          Like

          • quebecer November 29, 2017 / 1:24 am

            I’m with you on that.I’ve been waiting for Cummins in the test arena for years – has to be good for the game, and there is nothing like watching a true fast bowler. I’ve also had nightmares about him.

            Let’s perhaps hope he takes this series to get his feet underneath himself, and then immediately after starts bestriding test cricket in the way only great fast bowlers can.

            Like

    • Sri. Grins November 29, 2017 / 1:32 am

      Bangalore influences the tundra? 😀

      Like

      • quebecer November 29, 2017 / 1:48 am

        I’d imagine this is the first time Bangalore has put so much effort in to the tundra, but yes, seems like it. Chapeau, mon ami, chapeau.

        Like

  23. man in a barrel November 28, 2017 / 9:50 pm

    Maybe Stokes should grow a long beard and go the full WGGrace

    Like

    • SimonH November 29, 2017 / 9:32 am

      Hoult –

      “The England coaching staff are understood to be desperate for Stokes to be allowed to rejoin the squad… It means Andrew Strauss, the team director, has a tricky balancing act. There are members of the ECB’s board that do not want Stokes anywhere near the Ashes tour fearing the bad publicity it would attract”.

      Like

      • LordCanisLupus November 29, 2017 / 12:44 pm

        Stop it. Stop it now. Too funny. ECB worried about bad publicity. Best joke of the year.

        Like

    • LordCanisLupus November 29, 2017 / 12:20 pm

      This is hilarious. The press carried their water for them and then they emptied it over their heads.

      Get the popcorn. This could be fun.

      Like

      • Mark November 29, 2017 / 1:01 pm

        Both teams are coming off as having distinctly un attractive human beings. England have built up a reputation as a drinking, loutish team who, whatever the truth and extent of their actions this has now come back to cost them.

        Stokes should have touched down with the England team in Aus a month ago. He didn’t because of what happened in Bristol. Whatever the truth is, those actions have caused him to miss the first test, and maybe the whole tour. On the back of this the players created their own code of conduct. And almost immediately they have created another incident however mild and innocent.

        I have never in my life wanted to head butt someone I have only just met, and I find it utterly bizzare (especially on the back of everything that has gone before) you would do this to an Aussie player) It smacks of stupidity even if it was harmless fun. You have given the enemy the ammunition to uses against you. It’s brainless stupidity.

        Having said all this The Aussies come out of this as nasty sneaky wimps. Teachers pet types who run to mummy (the Aussie media which is the same thing) and blab about a completely harmless business. People in glass houses and all that. Perhaps England players have a few stories of the wrong doing of Aussie players? Perhaps some of them have been cheating on their wives? Perhaps it’s time to leak some of that into the media. What’s good for the goose?

        The Aussie sides of the past would not have resorted to such wimpish behaviour. Remember the nerdy kid at school who would run to teacher and say……”Please Miss! little Johnny has done something naughty.”

        Everybody hated the nerdy kid no matter what little Johnny had done. The Ausies are the horrible cowadly nerdy kid that eveyone hates.

        Like

        • Silk November 29, 2017 / 5:17 pm

          I suspect still peeved about the Root/Warner incident, where the boot was on the other foot.

          Like

    • LordCanisLupus November 29, 2017 / 12:24 pm

      Jonny Bairstow left ISM. Sure it’s not connected to Vaughan being OTT.

      Also I’m sure he wouldn’t advertise a beer linking it to after a match. That would be hypocritical.

      Like

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