Getting older is crap. It’s better than the alternative, no doubt, but you start to lose people and that’s desperately upsetting. Today I lost a brother, a teacher, an icon – a man I played with, drank with, had fun with. It wasn’t unexpected, but then it wasn’t his time either, it was years before it should have happened.
Here’s the thing: his name doesn’t matter to those who didn’t know him, but it does to those who did. And that matters immensely. So I’m not going to name him. Those that know, well you are honoured. Those that didn’t, you have your own people you honour. Tell them.
The bald facts: there are probably no other cricket clubs in the world but his who can work out their statistics back to the 18th century. Not even the MCC can calculate averages back to 1771 – for the very good reason that they weren’t even formed. But this club can. This club knows its first centurion in the early 1800s, this club had the challenge of analysing 200 year old scorecards to try to work out who wickets should go to in the era where only the catcher was referenced. This particular club has a greater statistical record than any on the planet, and oddly enough, barely anyone realises, and God knows Wisden should be paying attention.
Every club has its greatest run scorer, and its greatest wicket taker. But when that record stretches back 250 years, then people should damn well pay attention. Because this guy holds a record that means something. He knew he wasn’t far off, even before it was worked out, but some few had done the history and organised the spreadsheets. The day he broke that record is one that Sky Sports didn’t cover, nor one that the ECB recognised. But for those in the club, and actually those in the county, they knew they were in the presence of someone who had a place in cricket’s history, because he’d done something remarkable, somewhere that had been there long enough to make it more than just exceptional.
He’s not on Cricinfo, he’s not a Cricketer of the Year, but he’s one of the finest cricketers I ever played with. And more than that, he’s one of the finest people I’ve ever known. The reason his name doesn’t matter is absolutely not because it doesn’t matter to me, because I will treasure it forever, it’s because there are equivalents who matter to you. And that is the name that really counts – the one you played with, or watched, or shared a beer with.
They count. They are our fabric of life, and he was part of the fabric of mine. I am ever richer for having known him, ever better a cricketer for having played with him.
I think that’s the tribute I’d want.
1900 wickets @18. A gentleman. And some are truly blessed to know who this is about.
Dmitri – Good day. By the time you will be reading this three of the four members of the writing council will be in the midst of an editorial board meeting. So we have left the Second Test Ashes Panel with you for your delectation. We’ve lost Danny from last time, which might be just about forgivable if he’d stayed up to watch the end of Day 4 (only joking, he was a stalwart throughout), but we have six of the remaining cast members, including more poetry from the Bogfather. So thanks to Silk, Sri, Ian, Scrim, MiaB and TheBogfather (no space) for their contributions, their rapid responses, and excellent and varied insight. Really enjoyed it people.
Question 1 – So now the Brisbane result is in, what has it shown you about the relative strengths and weaknesses (and some perhaps not highlighted by the mainstream media)
Silk– I’ve not seen anything the media haven’t seen. Though Handscomb’s weakness against Anderson was unexpected (to me). Australia’s batting looks a lot less weak after Day 4 than it did in the middle of Day 2, with Marsh proving a good selection and Bancroft in the runs second dig. Worryingly, Hazelwood appears to have dusted the cobwebs off his bowling after a poor day one. Khawaja and the keeper aside, all looks rosy is Aussie world.
England’s batting was a lot better than I thought it might be. The bowling as ineffective as I feared it might be. The problem is, for England to win I thought we had to knock Aus over, cheaply, repeatedly, as our batting, while capable of 300, didn’t look capable of 500. On this display, Aus have nothing to fear.
Sri – I think the assessment that Oz batting is still Smith and Warner is still true. Likewise OZ bowling was expected to be good and it has proven to be good.
However, Lyon’s impact was underestimated by me and maybe by the english mainstream media as well. He made a big difference by getting critical wickets. Seems to have improved significantly and with England’s Moeen who seems to have been injured a bit, the gap in this department and due to under performance of woakes, OZ could negate the advantage England had when they started their second innings. Lyon makes the OZ bowling stronger and if Moeen continues to struggle with injuries England will be weaker.
However, the problem for England is really the support bowling and I certainly didn’t expect woakes especially to be so ineffective.
I still think England can outbat Oz. Their batsmen have got starts except cook and anyway my expectation was that cook would score around 210 runs if he plays all the tests.
Scrim – Bowling depth seems to be England’s problem, not Australia’s as was (and still is) claimed by many in the media. Depth both in terms of quality, and diversity. There is no feeling that any Australian bowler is weaker than another, and between them they have tools at their disposal that England didn’t: genuine pace, a left armer, some reverse swing, and a spinner bowling brilliantly.
Despite having an omnipotent deity coming in at 4, there are still some question marks over the Australian batting line up. Khawaja and Handscomb will be desperate for runs.
MiaB– We knew already. Brittle batting. A pair of good batters on each side but Smith and Warner comprehensively did for Cook and Smith. The English bowling is useless without a Selvey green seamer track
Ian– Weaknesses in both teams but more in the England team. Steve Smith who is used to the pressure of captaincy is able to not let it affect him whilst of course the change bowling is a big strength for Australia too.
Rhyme Time from TB…
But the ‘roos fought harder than team Root
Was it battle plans pre-scored or radical idyllic thirst
A close shave became full beard fear, however hirsute… Lack of forethought and testing preparation Sent England to an eventual slaughter A Stokesless fire, soon died in chilled perspiration Spent pop-gun attack, enduring hid injuries, became pure plasticised mortar…
(Don’t know what he did with the formatting, but I’m not messing about with it after midnight)
Question 2 Adelaide at night? In favour of day-night in the Ashes, or are you a reactionary old fuddy duddy?
Scrim – 100% in favour of day-night tests. Given the importance of getting bums on seats and high TV ratings, both commercially and because ultimately cricket is played for spectators, it makes perfect sense to play when people aren’t at work. Can you imagine the Premier League scheduling Chelsea vs Arsenal at 1pm on a Thursday afternoon?
I love that they are being played at my home ground, Adelaide Oval. I haven’t been home for a day-night test yet, but from what mates tell me, the atmosphere is amazing. The evenings are usually beautifully balmy in Adelaide in December, as opposed to oppressively hot during the middle of the day.
In terms of the on-field action: as long as there is a statsguru filter for it, who cares? Test cricket is played in all sorts of weather conditions, with all sorts of different balls, on all sorts of surfaces and that is one of the most fascinating things about it. Artificial light isn’t that much of a stretch. The best players will exploit and adapt, as they would to any other playing condition.
MiaB– As reactionary as they come. Only on a 1938 Durban track or 1930 west Indies track do you want dew to influence the result.
Ian – I like the concept of D/N test cricket but more as a television viewer than somebody attending the test. Depending on your timezone I think its great to get home from work and have a few hours test cricket to watch. Although I wouldn’t be massively keen on attending a test in the UK or Australia that didn’t finish until late evening.
Silk – Fuddy duddy, if it changes the balance between bat and ball. The toss is already too big a factor in Tests. If day/night makes it more of a lottery, well, effectively you’ve got 2nd tier tests, which no one ‘properly’ wins, because of the lights.
If it’s just as easy to play under lights as it is without them, I’ve no problems with it.
Sri – In Favor. Loving T-20 can’t call myself a fuddy duddy 🙂
TB with the formatting nonsense, in prose..
My reaction is nary a thought now considered
As Test cricket is left to seek a reason for being By the moneyed moguls of short-term, cash-cowed, highest-bidders Bereft of history, a cleft wreaked by the me, me, me, unseeing And once pink balls become coloured clothing I will lose my true love, be in complete loathing.
Not a clue what he’s done..
Question 3 – Put that Steve Smith innings into context. Tell me an Ashes ton you thought was better.
MiaB– Maybe Greg Chappell’s 112 at Lords in 1972, the Massie match. Or Cowdrey’s 102 at Melbourne in 1954. Both innings head and shoulders beyond what anyone else managed.
Sri – Mark Taylor’s performances in England especially the century he made in the second innings in a losing cause when everyone had given up on him because of his poor form which then turned the ashes around.
Silk – The 235* was very, very good. England were under the hammer, and it needed fight. On every other tour we’d have lost that Test by tea. But the pitch was very very flat that day, as the other batsmen showed. Smith had batsmen falling around him, and stood tall.
Obviously for sheer panache, history, soaring while everyone around you stutters, etc., the 158 was remarkable.
Ponting at Old Trafford (158 I think I recall) was brilliant. I saw all of that one live. England bowled with genuine threat that day, and Punter saw them all off until very near the close.
Smith’s is up there with KP and Ponting of the ones in Tests I’ve followed. Butcher’s 173 doesn’t really count, does it? Dead rubber and all that.
Ian – Great question, I’m trying to think of similar hundreds in similar circumstances where somebody batted the whole way through to finish unbeaten or was last out and the best I could come up with was Trott’s debut hundred.
Scrim – Maybe Ricky Ponting’s matchsaving 150 in 2005 at Old Trafford, falling just a few overs short of stumps and leaving Lee and McGrath just a few overs to bat out to keep the series level? I almost cried when he was given out.
It’s hard to put Smith’s innings into historical context just yet. It was brilliant. But it might not even be his best century this year – his 2nd innings in Pune still edges this one, I think.
TB – The formatting alien…
Relatively dismissive except for Steve Smith’s missive To bat, to score, to crush and endure He may not remotely excite the eye But his results are team and Test batting so pure. Now for an Ashes innings you ask Such a flashback of winning memory task I could go for Botham, either ton in ’81 Or KP 158 in ’05, edge of seat fear and fun Yet my longest standing memory of a ton v Aus Was not in an Ashes, but the Centenary Test, because… Twas my first experience of radio under the bedcovers
McCosker, jaw-strapped and bold, daddy Marsh ton as game did unfold Randall 174 v Lillee, Melbourne ’77, e’er since been a TMS lover From doffed cap and backward roll to Knott lbw and 45 run loss, 100 year story told…
Question 4 – Lots mentioned that Alastair Cook’s form may be in decline. What are your thoughts on this Damascene conversion?
Ian – I have thought it for a while and your 7 in 110 or whatever it is highlights this.
Silk – It’s obviously in decline, as I think you, and some others, may have mentioned once or twice previously. That it’s being mentioned now as because (a) it’s too clear to pretend away now and (b) pretty obvious to continue throughout the series. What isn’t being said is that he’s only once had any sort of form in Australia, so this is hardly a remarkable turn-up for the books. No punter with any knowledge would have bet on him averaging more than 35 in this tour, even if on form.
MiaB – My TIMA method showed it quite clearly. Just glad that folks are catching up with the new cricket guru
Sri– Reality cannot be staved away for too long. Even hardcore supporters have to comprehend that cook is great against pace attacks that are mediocre but not against genuine pace and swing. Can’t blame the fans much. The english media? the less said about media the better. Most are highly biased and have their own pot to stir.
Scrim – Unsurprisingly, mainstream Australian opinion on Cook is rather different to mainstream English opinion. We remember English players pretty much solely on Ashes performances, and apart from one two month period in his career that we all try to forget, he has been a walking wicket vs Australia, home and away. My thoughts on the change of tune? I wouldn’t mind if he is there in 2019, can’t they keep blowing his horn a bit longer?
TB – Poetry causing mayhem..
I do believe we’ve heard this somewhere before? (here, and how!)
Tho’ unbelievably, never from the MSM floor (until, vague hints, now…) We’ve discussed this and been cussed by those insiders so devout
Perhaps the ECB web weaved now sussed, as Cookie hooks or snicks, so all will be out?
Question 5 – I was quite underwhelmed by the Aussie pace attack for much of the test match, yet now they “blow teams away”. What were your thoughts?
Scrim – It wasn’t the 13/14-style carnage that was promised, but on what was a slow pitch by Australian standards, I thought they did really well. They bowled them out twice for a combined 500 (with a fair bit of help from Lyon). Once the pitch quickened up a bit, the last 15 wickets fell for 250 runs, including 10 from short or shortish bowling. Hazlewood, in just his second first class game back from injury, found his rhythm in the second innings. Cummins was a constant threat. Starc struggled a bit, but still picked up wickets and did actually blow the bottom half of the English team away twice, and rocked Root with one in the grill. There’s more to come.
Silk – Starc is over-rated. He’s impressive, but he likes tail-enders, not batsmen. But Hazelwood is just an excellent bowler, not relying on pace, so he’ll be dangerous at any stage (as he showed against Root), and Cummins has something about him. Able to raise his game suddenly, just as it seems England might get away.
You can’t turn off. And England, Cook aside, switch off far too much. Ali does. Bairstow does. Root’s poor conversion stats show he does. Vince did, first innings. Say what you like about Cook (I’m not a fan of the man, though I don’t think he’s an awful person) but Cook the batsman stays switched on, once in. That’s his greatest strength, I think.
Plus, Australia have Lyon, and I told Mike Selvey, when Moeen Ali came on the scene, that he was not the answer to England’s loss of Graham Swann. He ignored me, but I had my say. For once, I was actually right. If you’ve got a spinner who can keep you in the game, you are, well, in the game.
Ian – It isn’t a vintage attack but its certainly good enough to do the job. Hazlewood will take more of the top order wickets whilst Starc can finish the tail quickly.
Sri – Good attack given the poor quality of bowling attacks in the world now but not great. With Lyon, Starc, Cummins and Hazelwood they have a great balance and have to be one of the better attacks around. On their day, any bowling attack can blow teams away at home. India have often done so. The test for the Oz attack to be considered great would be away in England or India.
MiaB– The opening bowlers ripped out the English top order in both innings. They fulfilled the job description. 10 out of the 20 went to them. Compare the English attack.
The mind games were set by the press beforehand both there and here The Aus attack was at last fit to blast as one, so Eng did fear And even tho’, the pitch was slow, their plan did unfold Stifle the upper order, bounce the tail into disorder, so over did England roll….
Question Six – If you have BT Sport – what did you think of their coverage. Try not to focus on Lovejoy.
Sri – No clue. I like Swann’s bowling but never liked his character off the field. Considered him a big hypocrite.
MiaB – Pass
Silk – Nup. TMS only for me. (I like Tufnell. In small doses, at least. Am I weird?)
And to those who watched it…..(Ed)
Ian – I made do with watching BT sport on the app and thought it was ok Pleased to hear Ponting but I wish that they showed a bit more originality in their choices because of how many commentators they share with TMS. If I’m bored of TMS I want to turn on the TV to hear somebody else not somebody I heard 5 minutes ago.
Scrim– Pretty good for a first try. It was good to have an even balance of Australians and English to keep cheerleading in check, and to commentate from the perspective of both teams. They picked three good Australian commentators. This was the first I’d heard of Alison Mitchell and she was really good. I don’t think Vaughan is as bad as many here think. Swann was unbearable at times.
I don’t like Boycott, never have. He has some good insights, but as one BOC reader perfectly put it, he always sounds like he’s in an argument with a neighbour. He also didn’t seem to appreciate having to commentate with a woman (or maybe it is because Mitchell isn’t a former player). He commentated together with Mitchell on day 1. It seemed quite awkward. Boycott was disagreeing with her at every turn, and I don’t remember them paired together again after that. Maybe Danny or someone else who watched a lot can comment on whether they did and whether they improved together.
No BT, but am thankful for their choice Of LoveJoy and ShinyToy, expending their voice Leaving TMS with only occasional interruptions Of their verbal self-loving commentary corruptions…
That’s all folks. We will run a panel for the third test, which will also be a little more relaxed as I think there is a small gap between the two tests. Apologies if the formatting is a little awry – it did not scan over to Word as well as the previous panel. There are a couple of numerical errors which I’ve not totally rectified, so be gentle with the respondents who reacted to these questions in a remarkably short time. My heartfelt thanks to the contributors. We will no doubt delight in the responses at the quarterly Editorial Board meeting this evening.