Blame, Babies, Bathwater

The lesser spotted Escape Goat, believed discovered by the Warner family, is only fleetingly seen.  Examples of this rare beast abound, hidden away in museums as examples for the public to view.  New sightings have been rumoured in Australia, where it seems they have their home.  It is a strange animal, whose only evolutionary purpose has been to serve as a diversion for other creatures, generally to be found in St Johns Wood, London.  Usually secretive and ignored by the wider world, they pop up whenever anyone starts asking awkward questions about disasters in Australia in particular.

The shambles of four years ago had an obvious culprit.  Everyone knew it, everyone could write about it.  All other incidentals could be safely ignored, all other factors dismissed.  Just one person could be held responsible for everything, and if only that person was removed, all would be wonderful.  If nothing else, that would buy four years for everyone else to forget, and by the time another trip to Australia came round, everyone could get behind “the boys”, and cheer them to victory, putting the damned colonials back in their place.

That it wasn’t going to happen that way should have been obvious to everyone, yet collective fingers went in collective ears, and a refusal to listen was more than a metaphor, it was literal.  It’s not that a potential whitewash this time around was a racing certainty, for Australia are good but not exceptional, and England modest but not awful, but the distinct likelihood that it will now happen is not overly surprising either.  The ECB deserve credit for one thing, they have managed to make those who have become indifferent rather angry.  This must not be permitted.

Still, the players are always the ones who get the focus, not least because wider issues can be safely ignored.  It’s so predictable.  In the run up to the series it was correctly stated that for England to compete, their experienced players would need to perform exceptionally, and it’s true they haven’t done so.  But it was equally stated that the new players would prove the weak link, and generally speaking they’ve done better than their peers.  That England had managed to get themselves in a position like that was, naturally enough, ignored – the discarding of players who didn’t fit the character parameters is a particular joy of the ECB structure, but let’s not talk about those, after all no one in the media ever does.  And of course the way first class cricket in England has been marginalised in the pursuit of T20 cash must never ever be mentioned, except by those few extremists who have been banging on about it and boring everyone by actually caring about the game itself.

No, those responsible cannot possibly be any of the administrators, who have created the environment in which English cricket exists, and cannot be the selectors who happily built a merry-go-round where cricketing ability is only one factor to be considered.  Unfortunately, this time it can’t be Kevin Pietersen either, that useful idiot who was single handedly responsible for everything bad from the dawn of time, and the only reason for any 5-0 defeat.

Ben Stokes has to be one of course.  Forgive me – that should be “New Zealand-born Ben Stokes”.  His absence is undoubtedly a cricketing blow, and one that can be maximised and extended to be blamed for the poor shots or poor line and length of his colleagues.  Those absent tend to perform incredibly compared to those who are present, and in that, nothing changes.  Had Stokes been there, England would be romping to victory by now.  It’s been a limited line of attack so far, but expect more as time goes on, especially if it gets worse on the field.

Who else can be targeted?  Ah yes, the senior players.  How perfect.  Cook, Root, Anderson, Broad, Moeen – they will do.  Now, it’s clear that of those only Anderson has done well enough to be generally excluded from the firing line, even though any kind of detailed analysis might raise questions over the detail of his performances.  But since the figures look decent enough, probably best not to mention him, that would take proper analysis.

Cook is by far the most interesting name to come up as being culpable.  It’s not that he has played poorly, for that is very obvious. It’s not even that he look technically adrift, for that looked to be the case from the first ball of the series.  It is instead that the editorial line has gone from Greatest Ever to Time To Go with nothing intervening.   Just three Tests.  This blog has highlighted the declining returns from Cook over the last few years repeatedly, to the point it’s accused of being anti-Cook.  Yet it was the reality, and the frustration wasn’t so much with him, it was with the way this was repeatedly denied by those who would write hagiographies at every opportunity and deny what they were so keen to say of others going through the same process in their careers.  Hypocrisy is rarely admitted.

Now, apparently, it is time for him to go.  Yet the point about Cook is the same one that should be about every player.  Is he the best we have in his position?  If so, then pick him.  It really shouldn’t be a difficult concept to grasp, yet apparently is.  Unless England can do better than him, then the calls for him to go are nothing other than jumping on a bandwagon and, somewhat deliciously given the history, meting out the same treatment to him that was given to others.

Then we come to the way Stoneman and Vince have apparently done reasonably well, but Root hasn’t.  To some extent it’s a matter of expectation, but scoring a half century and getting out is not confined solely to Root, yet it is Root that all the focus is upon.  It’s something of which he is acutely aware of course, but once more, differing judgements on the same outcome are as absurd as they always has been.  Root’s conversion rate is similar to that of Cook over the last few years, something never mentioned then, and only mentioned in passing now as an excuse to give Cook an extra kicking.  This is either a problem for everyone or no one – pretending otherwise is preposterous.  Dawid Malan has done well this tour so far, and Jonny Bairstow has done reasonably.  No one else has.

As for Moeen, his batting has been the issue.  Without question.  But his bowling is pretty much what should have been expected in Australia.  English finger spinners don’t do well in Australia – even the exceptional Graeme Swann averaged over 40 there, and Moeen is no Swann.  It’s not been great, and a finger injury hasn’t helped, but the apparent surprise at this is laughable.  England even have a couple of leg spinners, but the one who is there wasn’t picked even when Moeen was supposedly injured, and the one who isn’t – who can even bat as well – has long been thrown on the scrapheap, less for his cricketing skills and more, it seems, because he isn’t the right character.

And finally Stuart Broad.  A bowler who has been exceptional for England over a number of years, one known to be carrying injuries, one who even amongst the wreckage four years ago could hold his head up high.  He had a quietish summer, certainly, and hasn’t been great on this tour.  But now, at 31, he’s done.  Past it.  Finished.  Broad is a spiky character, and not one who has generated much love among supporters, but this is his first genuinely poor trot in a while, and now the knives are out. No mention of playing him injured, no mention of his workload, no mention that there might be reasons of any kind, it’s time to move on, while of course keeping his bowling partner four years his senior.

Questions can be asked and questions should be asked.  But we’re here in the same place again.  Only a few should carry the can, and others can be excused.  And above all else, it stops those difficult, awkward objections to the way cricket has been run in England.  The likes of Graves, Harrison, Strauss and the entirely invisible Whitaker cannot, must be questioned.  Ever.  Nothing changes, not on the field, nor off.  If Trevor Bayliss is to be in the firing line, who appointed him?  Who appointed his predecessor?  Who created the English cricket structure?  Is it possible that those people could be responsible, in the smallest, tiniest way?

Gins all round chaps.  It’s only Test cricket after all.



115 thoughts on “Blame, Babies, Bathwater

  1. Andy Dec 19, 2017 / 1:38 pm

    A large gnarled finger needs to be pointed at teh selectors.

    Its not a secret that Bayliss doesn’t know his Fletchers from his Gales (insert any 2 random county pro’s here – not suggesting that those two should, or should not be in), so it is surely up to the selectors to, as you say, “find the best players for their positions”.

    If they can’t do that, then what good are they and it comes back to needing a coach who can point to a player and say he will bring balance (one the one L kind) and ability.

    The fact Anderson came out and said they could have bowled fuller, but the coaches never said anything is mind boggling. Both from a senior pro’s perspective and from a coach perspective… I thought some thinking for themselves had been brought back in after Moores left.

    The fact that again people are being played while injured is mind boggling. How much build up did Woakes have to come back from injury. How injured was Overton is diving in the field gave him a cracked rib (or was it cracked before? Can’t have been fun bowling with that!)

    The distractions around the tour have not helped. Has Stokes been missed, Undoubtedly, would he have made a difference, yes, would we still ahve lost teh ashes – unless Stokes can bat and bowl for others as well as himself then yes we would still lose.

    The whole Bairstow & Duckett garbage are just stupid and idiotic. I don’t know why they did what they did, but in my eyes, the group needs to grow up and act responsibly. I don’t want them locked away, but don’t act like tossers.

    Interesting point about Anderson being VC. Root being new to the captaincy needs to have someone he can bounce ideas off, needs to be able to get a resposne from. Stokes provided that, but Anderson?? but then who else would you choose? Broad was ODI/T20 capt for a while, I don’t remember him pulling up trees, Bairstow, Root obviously knows him best from Yorks, but I know nothing of his leadership / captaincy ability. Ali?

    Where is the difference between being a senior pro and being a VC?

    They will do well to get anything out of the rest of the series and I can see one or two deciding to park their horses (so to speak). Maybe allowing a new opening pair to build and learn together is the way to go after so many faces not fitting to open with Cook.


  2. Mark Dec 19, 2017 / 2:19 pm

    One of the odd things about growing old in this age is the curse of the…….”Best ever……” insert whatever topic/person/title you wish.

    Already I’m hearing a quiet whisper that places Smith with or even ahead of dare I say it….Bradman! And we have our own Don. Don Bradman from Essex, who apparently is the best batsman England have ever produced. Seriously? Think about all the great players that have played for these two countries in my lifetime. Are these really the best ever? Is this really the best standard of cricket ever seen?

    Some are saying the same of the Aussie pace attack. “Unplayable, too good!” Help me out here, are they really that good? I will admit that I think they are the best fast bowling attack in world cricket right now. Be interesting to see them up against SA in a few months time. But are they substantially better than the fast bowlers of the 1970s or the 1990? Are they too good? or are the current crop of batsman not as good as they think they are? How would the likes of Atherton or Thorpe get on against these? Would they be blown away? I am really interested to know what people think because I just can’t believe we have walked into a new age of something we have never seen before. And why can our bowlers not take more wickets? 660 odd? Honestly? 4 years ago we were told we had never seen bowling like it from Johnson. And yet he is now gone, but the result looks the same. The pitches were not even as fast as they have been.

    Malan and Bairstow make me think it is possible to bat against these world beaters. But we simply don’t have enough players who can do it. According to Mark Nicholas Cook really does believe this is the best it’s ever been. Flintoff picked his best ever England team of all time and half of them were in this side. And Shinny toy said before the tour that 7 of England’s team are the best cricketers to ever leave England’s shores.

    Are these men right? They have played at the highest level. I have not, yet am I wrong? Because right now I think they are out of their minds. But maybe it’s me. Maybe I am wrong! Maybe Its me who is just crazy? Help?


    • mdpayne87 Dec 19, 2017 / 2:44 pm

      Dennis Lillee described the Aussie pace attack as ‘one of the best all-round attacks I’ve seen for many a day’, which is high praise from a bowler of his calibre.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Benny Dec 19, 2017 / 3:22 pm

      Excellent questions. What these assessors fail to consider is – the opposition.

      In my book, a century against McGrath & Warne, Holding, Roberts & Garner, Lillee & Thompson, Chandra, Bedi & Venkat, Wasim & Waqar, is worth a double against modern attacks.

      Similarly, it was more of a challenge to get wickets against Greenidge, Haynes & Viv, the 3 Ws, Hayden, Langer & Ponting, Hutton, Edrich, May, Compton & Graveney ……

      The trendy best ever stuff reveals a complete lack of knowledge of cricket history, which is ironic, since one of the most essential facets of the sport is its rich and fascinating history.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Scrim Dec 19, 2017 / 11:21 pm

        What would Ashwin & Jadeja (at home at least), or Steyn & Philander have to do to elevate themselves, in your mind, to the level of those you mentioned?

        Steyn has statistics that are mindboggling. Over 400 wickets at 22 with a strike rate of 41, bowling with as much hostility as anyone you list. Philander’s average and strike rate are similar over around half as many tests.

        ICC rankings came out today and now place Smith equal with Len Hutton, behind only Bradman (and some daylight). He has averaged mid 70s for over 4 years (78 innings), with 20 centuries in that time. With the exception of Bangladesh (2 tests), he averages over 40 in every country he has played in. He has centuries vs Steyn & Philander in South Africa, and Ashwin & Jadeja in India. What would he need to do in your mind?

        Smith is in a period of brilliance sustained over many years that, Bradman aside, has rarely been matched in the history of test cricket.


        • Benny Dec 20, 2017 / 3:52 am

          No argument. I just didn’t want to write War and Peace so listed a few to make my point. Steyn is brilliant, I’d have him before the “greatest ever” Anderson everytime. Missed out Malcolm Marshall too but never intended to include every top performer


        • AB Dec 20, 2017 / 10:07 am

          The problem I think, is that test cricket in general appears to be at a really low ebb at the moment.

          There are no great teams, there are barely even any good teams. West Indies and Sri Lanka have fallen away badly and are now barely test-class. Most other teams seem significantly weaker on paper than they were in the early 2000s.

          Its never been easy to make comparisons with the distant past, but right now, I don’t think you can validly even make comparisons with a decade ago.


    • AB Dec 19, 2017 / 3:24 pm

      Its ludicrous hyperbole. If you transplanted this Aussie attack to the 90s, when Pakistan had Wasim and Waqar, Mushtaq and Saqlain, Aus had McGrath, Gillespie, Warne etc, South Africa had Donald, Pollock, Kallis, etc, West Indies had Ambrose and Walsh etc, this attack would be seen as below par.

      The problem is that England have 2 test class batsmen, one of whom was batting at 7 and the other who was saddled with a captaincy he wasn’t really suited for. Our team of jobbing county pros made the Aussies look like the reincarnation of Lillee and Thommo. They’re not.

      Liked by 1 person

      • BobW Dec 19, 2017 / 4:49 pm

        I was thinking Max Walker and Lennie Pascoe surely? Both you and Benny are absolutely right.


  3. northernlight71 Dec 19, 2017 / 2:38 pm

    I guess one of the problems we might all struggle with, even those in the media who might be coming around to a version of reality almost approaching the truth, is that it will be difficult to have much of a go at Strauss in the short to medium term. Much of the blame can easily be laid at the door of his decisions and his version of priorities but it would seem rather inappropriate to give such things a thorough outing at the moment.


    • thelegglance Dec 19, 2017 / 2:40 pm

      Very true, and entirely understandable. Yet highlighting administration doesn’t need to be a hatchet job on one person.

      You’re right though, we’ve even talked about that internally.


  4. AB Dec 19, 2017 / 3:02 pm

    ” English finger spinners don’t do well in Australia”

    I really hate this excuse. The most successful English spin bowlers in Australia have all been finger spinners.

    Underwood took 50 wickets at 31 in Aus. Emburey took 35 wickets at 32. Rhodes took 42 wickets at 28, Verity 21 at 34, Laker 15 at 21. All pretty good figures considering Australia tends to see high scores.

    Its just that recently, a) Australia have had very good batting lineups, and b) England have produced very, very few decent spin bowlers since Underwood. Emburey and Swann probably the pick – and Emburey bowled with a low arm that didn’t suit Aussie pitches, and Swann simply underperformed.

    If you don’t rate the finger spinners, name a single English wrist spinner who has had success in Australia.


    • thelegglance Dec 19, 2017 / 3:06 pm

      An excuse? The only outlier there is Emburey. Otherwise you’re talking about the best spinner we’ve had in 60 years having an average well above his career record, and players up to a century ago.

      In other words, they don’t do well in Australia, and Moeen is not remotely of that kind of level. So, the point being made was why be surprised he hasn’t done well, nothing more or less. And for the legspinners, specifically that there’s no reason to assume they would be a panacea.


      • AB Dec 19, 2017 / 3:32 pm

        Just take it on the chin. You repeated a factually inaccurate statement without fact-checking it. Just fess up and move on. Don’t be so obviously defensive, its not befitting of an author on this otherwise decent site. How can you make accusations against the ECB when you can’t admit to your own mistakes?

        Good English finger spinners have historically done very well in Australia. Bad ones have done badly in Australia. Of the best English finger spinners in the past century, almost all of them have good records in Australia. Its only really Swann who has a poor average – and we know that actually he had a very good tour in 10/11 and it was only because he was forced to play when totally unfit in 13/14 that his figures were ruined.


        • thelegglance Dec 19, 2017 / 3:35 pm

          If you want to take things that happened up to 100 years ago when England had exceptional spinners as relevant to the present time, may it profit you.

          Swann’s “very good” tour in 10/11 was 15 wickets at just under 40. You were saying about fact checking?

          I stand by exactly what I said, and that surprise that Moeen hasn’t done brilliantly is misplaced. You are free to disagree without casting aspersions.

          Liked by 1 person

          • AB Dec 19, 2017 / 3:52 pm

            so what you’re saying is, if we deliberately limit ourselves to a period when England hasn’t had very good or successful spinners, and then exclude the ones who actually did quite well in Australia (eg Emburey) then its true that those generally unsuccessful finger spinners were also not particularly successful in Australia, except of course for the ones who were, who we’re excluding?

            Is that your argument? Just so we’re clear.


          • thelegglance Dec 19, 2017 / 4:00 pm

            England have produced only two truly high quality spin bowlers in the last 50 years. Of those, one has a reasonable record in Australia, one has a fairly poor one – even for the series where you said (factually incorrectly) he was “very good”.

            Apart from that you’ve managed to identify John Emburey as having a reasonable enough record, a player who last played 30 years ago.

            So within that last 30 years Swann is most successful with 22 wickets at 52.59, while Tufnell has 19 wickets at 41.42, Hemmings 18 at 42.66, Panesar 13 at 48.92, Such 11 at 29.36 (surprising, that), Giles 9 at 50.33, Dawson 5 at 50.33.

            So yes, I would be pretty clear that over the kind of modern history that’s actually remotely relevant, England have not only not produced good spinners, which I’ve said many times before, but also that their spinners tend to struggle in Australia.

            And thus it shouldn’t come as a great surprise that Moeen Ali, who isn’t a great spinner, as I said, hasn’t done well there.


          • AB Dec 19, 2017 / 4:22 pm

            So we have one bowler who was good in Aus, and good in general (Underwood)
            one bowler who was good in general, but poor in Aus (Swann)
            one bowler who was poor in general but good in Aus (Emburey)
            and a whole load of bowlers who were just poor.

            and from that you think you can make a definitive statement? Ludicrous. Embarrassing, frankly.

            England spin bowlers average 32 overall and 35 in Australia. Hardly a history of underperformance.

            Swann’s “very good” tour in 10/11 was 15 wickets at just under 40. You were saying about fact checking?

            I was saying you need to do more of it, seeing as you appear to be pretty bloody ignorant about cricket. Were you not aware that the entire reason we won that series was because Australia were forced to prepare green pitches to try to neutralise the threat of Swann, thus playing straight into Anderson’s hands? Apparently not.

            Its a shame because the other authors on this website are quite knowledgeable. You seem to be the exception.


          • thelegglance Dec 19, 2017 / 4:32 pm

            I see no reason to respond further to insults. Have a good evening.


          • AB Dec 19, 2017 / 5:42 pm

            fantastic. Better yet would be if you didn’t talk bollocks in the first place. then no-one would need to correct you.


          • Quebecer Dec 19, 2017 / 8:12 pm

            Jesus, steady on. There’s no modding here and you can say what you like, but really, a little self restraint might be in order.

            Liked by 1 person

          • Sean B Dec 19, 2017 / 8:23 pm

            Yep my thoughts exactly. Should I shudder about putting my piece up tomorrow??

            Liked by 1 person

          • Sean B Dec 19, 2017 / 8:57 pm

            I may have to amend my ‘why English fingers struggle in Australia’ piece mind…

            Liked by 1 person

          • LordCanisLupus Dec 19, 2017 / 9:16 pm

            I kept out of this because Chris can handle himself.

            I think you can guess what I think about it without having to write it out. I would have modded the last couple of posts because attacks like that are the things I think should be modded, but thought better of it. Disagree, yes. Great. There was some debate to be had. But, well, you know.

            I have a billion thoughts running around my head about the last three weeks, and can’t find a way to distil them. TLG has done it superbly.

            Liked by 1 person

          • BoredInAustria Dec 19, 2017 / 9:08 pm

            I for one have been enjoying the bollocks that TLG has been writing on these pages. But then that probably outs me as not quite knowledgable.

            Liked by 1 person

          • BobW Dec 19, 2017 / 9:18 pm

            Me too. I for one appreciate the effort of TLG on here. This is one of the best blogs going.
            Keep up the great work.


        • northernlight71 Dec 19, 2017 / 8:32 pm

          You could make your points a little more politely. We come here to get away from Guardian-esque slanging matches, AB.

          Liked by 1 person

          • Silk Dec 19, 2017 / 9:28 pm

            *$*%*$*! you, you Selvey acolyte! 😉

            Liked by 1 person

          • AB Dec 20, 2017 / 9:22 am

            There was me thinking we came here to get away from lazy, sloppy, inaccurate journalism that includes repeating idiotic slogans like “English finger spinners don’t do well in Australia” and overly-defensive journalists who begin to get sarcastic and antagonistic should a mere commenter have the temerity to point out the inaccuracy of their statements. Clearly I’m just outside being outside cricket and therefore my opinion or knowledge is irrelevant.

            And how does he respond? With integrity, good grace and a willingness to discuss? No. With sarcasm and more inaccurate claims.

            “may it profit you”

            “You were saying about fact checking?”

            “Apart from that you’ve managed to identify John Emburey as having a reasonable enough record, a player who last played 30 years ago. ”

            All completely unnecessarily antagonistic and aggressive comments. I reserve MY right to defend myself from unprovoked attacks like this.

            Perhaps it would have been better if LCL had had the balls to remove TLGs sarcastic replies and replace them with an apology. But alas, its cliquer than a dinner party hosted by Selvey and Saker in here.


      • Miami Dad's Six Dec 19, 2017 / 3:42 pm

        I’m not saying it is an excuse, but Lyon gets wickets there, Warne got wickets there, even someone like Nathan Hauritz, who I would have down as being pretty mediocre, averaged 29, and part-timers like Simon Katich and Michael Bevan both have excellent bowling averages in Australia..!

        Yet Vettori, Murali, Ashwin, Kumble and Swann (and everyone else, more or less) struggle.

        Maybe playing on only 6 pitches from the time you get to State B team/youth level, means you get to know them pretty well and are just accustomed to tuning yourself to exactly what line, length, revs and pace you require on each? You would have thought that someone else would have cracked it too, though. So maybe it’s unique batting in Australia, and the quality of batsmanship to spin bowling in Australian conditions is just really high from the home side – which might explain Lyon’s First Class average being higher than his Test average…

        Liked by 1 person

        • AB Dec 19, 2017 / 4:04 pm

          since the turn of the century, opposition bowlers have returned a bowling average of 46.52 against Australia, with spinners going at 53 and pace bowlers 44, showing that it has been a very, very difficult place to visit as a bowler – due to flat pitches and generally very, very good Australian batsmen over that time period.

          So, for example Kumble taking 44 wickets at 32 in that period is actually pretty damn impressive.


          • BobW Dec 19, 2017 / 11:26 pm

            But surely you have to split the figures between covered and uncovered wickets? Two totally different types of wickets.


          • AB Dec 20, 2017 / 9:37 am

            If you start cutting down the time-period, you lose all hope of a valid sample size and any hope of making any kind of general statement at all about English finger spinners in Australia, because instead you are really just making a statement about the most recent batch of (generally useless) English spinners against the recent (record-breaking, all time great) Australian test team, which is a completely different statement, and should not be interpreted as a general statement about the record of English finger spinners in Australia, either by accident or by design.


        • Scrim Dec 19, 2017 / 11:40 pm

          Kumble is easily the best visiting spinner we have seen in Australia in my lifetime.

          And given that he was a wrist spinner, he kind of backs up TLG’s point that visiting finger spinners struggle in Australia. Australia has, up until Lyon, never really had a finger spinner worth very much at all – Ashley Mallet maybe as good as it got. Warne, McGill, Benaud, Grimmett, O’Reilly… the Australian conditions tend to encourage wrist spin.

          Obviously Murali had some other things to deal with *cough* Darrell Hair *cough* but if the greatest finger spinner of all time has a horrible record in Australia it proves the point pretty well too.

          Best finger spinner in Australia in the past decades? Maybe Paul Harris. He didn’t take too many wickets, but I would say he should be the visiting spinner others model themselves on. He played a defensive, containing role. Very accurate, didn’t spin it much, and caused a bit of trouble with his height, getting a bit of bounce. Australia felt obliged to attack him as well since he was a bit easier to get after than Steyn & Ntini, and threw away a few wickets in that manner too.

          In theory, this means that Ashley Giles should have been useful in Australia, but he wasn’t, so maybe my theory is bunk.


          • quebecer Dec 20, 2017 / 3:44 am

            The other thing that favoured Kumble in Australia was the bounce he got. He was never the biggest spinner of the ball or a trickster like Qadir, but that bounce, on those wickets? Killer.


    • Silk Dec 19, 2017 / 4:12 pm

      The point TLG is making is that you have to be an absolutely bloody brilliant offspinner to take wickets in Australia, and Moeen isn’t even a good offspinner, merely a competent one.

      Therefore it was unrealistic to expect Moeen to be effective in Australia.

      If you can provide me with an example of a ‘workmanlike’ off spinner who has prospered in Australia, against Australian bats, I’ll be impressed.

      Moeen was never going to be a threat. Never. So being surprised that he wasn’t is idiocy.

      Liked by 2 people

      • AB Dec 19, 2017 / 4:23 pm


        Any more daft questions?


        • Silk Dec 19, 2017 / 4:39 pm


          78 is nearly 40 years ago. And doesn’t count due to Packer. That was the worst Australian test side of all time, wasn’t it?

          Emburey did alright in 86/87 (18 wickets at 37). Given that Emburey was a signifcantly better bowler than Moeen, and that this was more than 30 years ago, I hardly see how it invalidates the point.

          The fact that Ashwin, to pick a name at random, got smashed in Australia suggests it’s a graveyard for offies.


          • dlpthomas Dec 20, 2017 / 12:07 am

            Can we stop saying things like it was 40 years ago? Your making me feel very old.


    • Silk Dec 19, 2017 / 4:19 pm

      Indeed, I’ve done it for you.

      Only 5 visiting spinners have taken more than 10 wickets at less than 40 in Australia in the last 30 years.

      4 of those were all time greats (Kumble, Saqlain, Such and Mushy), and 3 of them were leggies (Kumble, Chandana and Mushy)

      Visiting off-spinners, unless as great as Such and Saqlain, simply don’t do well in Australia.

      So Moeen was never going to do well.

      Liked by 2 people

      • AB Dec 19, 2017 / 4:28 pm

        A part time spinner with an injury to his spinning finger? No, I don’t think anyone here thought he was.

        However, that still doesn’t make the statement “English finger spinners don’t do well in Australia” correct. That statement is ignorant bollocks.


        • Silk Dec 19, 2017 / 4:40 pm

          How about “Over the last 3 decades /all/ finger spinners with the notable exception of Saqlain, an all time great, have done very badly in Australia”?

          Liked by 1 person

          • AB Dec 19, 2017 / 5:41 pm

            I’m sure if we keep casting around and moving the goalposts, we will eventually come up with a statement that isn’t clearly bollocks.

            Your statement above is clearly erroneous, as it misses the success of Lyon and Tim May for example.

            But don’t worry, we will get there in the end.


        • SimonH Dec 19, 2017 / 4:50 pm

          Geoff Miller took 36 wickets at 22 in Australia (half of his Tests were against the Packer-depleted 78/79 team although they still had some decent batsmen – like Hughes, Yallop, Border and Wood – and half of his Tests were against the full-strength team).

          Swann didn’t take his wickets cheaply – but his ER gave the team control in the field.

          I’m somewhere between the two extremes here. It’s hard to generalise as Australian pitches have varied enormously in the last half-century.

          More relevant to me is that the home spinner has been effective (and, good as he is, he isn’t a GOAT like Warne). Last year Yasir Shah was clattered – but Lyon wasn’t that effective either. This year all of the pitches have had a little in them for the spinner. Half of Australia’s top eight are LHBs. Ali was never going to take a stack of wickets at 25 but perhaps 10 wickets at 35-40 would have been about par.


        • northernlight71 Dec 19, 2017 / 8:33 pm

          You really do have a bit of an attitude issue, I think. Is it something personal against TLG?

          Liked by 1 person

          • Mark Dec 19, 2017 / 9:59 pm

            I’m keeping well out of this one. It’s usually me who has managed to annoy someone!

            Liked by 1 person

          • AB Dec 19, 2017 / 10:27 pm

            No need for personal attacks like that.


          • Sean B Dec 19, 2017 / 10:50 pm

            AB, if you would like to post a piece about this, please feel free, you’re welcome to. We will post it without any comments from the Editors. to send it across to.

            In the meantime, we’re not journalists, just 4 blokes trying to cover the cricket aside from our day jobs. Disagree, please do, but let’s cut the profanity out, we are all adults after all.

            Liked by 1 person

          • AB Dec 20, 2017 / 9:31 am

            Look, we all make mistakes. No-one is claiming otherwise. But for gods sake, tell your authors that should they say something that is clearly factually wrong, and someone in the comments kindly takes the time to point it out to them, it is NOT the done thing to go on the attack against that commenter! This is supposed to be a friendly website. Just say, “ah yes, you know what, that phrase isn’t actually strictly accurate, you’re right, but what I meant was this….” and then we can all get along.


        • Elaine Simpson-Long Dec 19, 2017 / 9:13 pm

          Please amend your attitude and your language. This blog engages in healthy debate. Stop being so didactic and stubborn

          Liked by 1 person

          • LordCanisLupus Dec 19, 2017 / 9:17 pm

            Looks up didactic. Was that the former Princess of Wales’s small mint / orange sweet flavour company?


          • Mark Dec 19, 2017 / 10:35 pm

            Didactic……Isn’t that what was tipped over Jimmy Anderson?


      • dlpthomas Dec 20, 2017 / 12:10 am

        Herath in Australia: 12 wickets at an average of 33 and a SR of 67 (only played 3 tests). I Like the way you snuck in Such.


  5. Sherwick Dec 19, 2017 / 3:42 pm

    “and the entirely invisible Whitaker”

    Yes, what has happened to Whitaker?

    Has anyone seen him?

    I haven’t heard anything since ‘Gary Ballance, Gary Ballance, Gary Ballance, Gary Ballance’.

    Does Whitaker exist anymore?


    • SimonH Dec 19, 2017 / 3:58 pm

      He flew into Australia between the Second and Third Tests. Didn’t you notice how the boys were inspired?

      On a different tack, I’ve been thinking there may be a few pissed about Vince’s second innings in Perth. He’d been set up as the lightning rod and then the vacant No.3 would have been another stick to beat Root with.

      Vince spoilt it with a fifty.


        • Elaine Simpson-Long Dec 19, 2017 / 9:14 pm

          And what exactly does that mean? Did he whistle in the dressing room or look out of windows?


          • Sherwick Dec 20, 2017 / 7:48 am

            Basically, yes.


  6. SimonH Dec 19, 2017 / 4:13 pm

    The future takes a little more shape:

    England to play the most Tests 2019-23. Well done Giles! Can’t have those Sky schedules with no product. India to play the most white-ball (except WI, oddly enough). The squeezing of Tests outside the Big Three is obvious.

    I wouldn’t be at all confident that all these matches will be played – but that’s another matter.


    • LordCanisLupus Dec 19, 2017 / 6:12 pm

      There was a time when a number of promising players were battering massive scores in white ball cricket, and Flower was getting a fair bit of praise.

      One of those was Duckett. Oh well.

      Another was Bell-Drummond. He’s gone a long way, stuck in Division 2.

      The players don’t come on through the Lions. Stoneman never came through the programme, and I see, belatedly, they’ve given Northeast a chance. It’s not exactly a wonderful track record.


    • Julie Dec 19, 2017 / 9:27 pm

      Ha ha ha ha. That was ECB’s way of having him disappear while they destroyed KP and it was the job he wanted. Talk about cutting their throats.His training had destroyed the England team so they then gave him the young ones to do as he would.


    • Rooto Dec 19, 2017 / 8:34 pm

      Two good things in that article. Firstly, he explicitly says the blame goes higher than Bayliss (obvious but still good to read in the MSM). Secondly, he outlines some definite ideas to improve things (again, fairly simple and obvious ones, but I still prefer to see some programme, or manifesto that people can get behind). If the ECB blusters and we are just aimlessly angry then it becomes diffuse and wasted energy. We need a programme to direct the chatter and set the agenda ATL in the papers.


  7. metatone Dec 19, 2017 / 5:38 pm

    I’d really like to note, once again, how it seems no questions ever get asked of the medical team.
    Until we stop making excuses for them, we’re not going to get to the bottom of some of our bowling troubles.


    • metatone Dec 19, 2017 / 5:46 pm

      Alongside this, I’m seeing elsewhere quite a bit of antipathy towards Broad. I don’t know if he is carrying an injury, but I do know he’s bowled more this year than just about any other international seam bowler. Broad’s best performance have largely come off the back of injury enforced breaks. I really do feel we need to look at the medical setup.

      I had an argument about this with a prominent (and annoying) cricket writer. He claimed “you can’t stop players playing hurt, they want to protect their place in the side.”

      It’s time to stop that nonsense. It’s not just a question of having a good medical team that players trust (which I suspect is lacking) it’s also about trusting selectors to take the long view on injuries and it’s about giving a good med team the right to pull players, even when the players are “up for it.”

      Liked by 2 people

      • metatone Dec 19, 2017 / 6:22 pm

        And just to get my goat on this even further – headline in The G: “England’s Craig Overton desperate to be fit for fourth Test against Australia”

        Oi, England, no!

        The series is gone. Don’t set up a young bowler for a permanently bad heal to an injury which could reduce his effectiveness for the rest of his career.


      • Rooto Dec 19, 2017 / 8:40 pm

        Absolutely right. Becoming aprofessionall sportsman is incredibly tough, and the people involved must become innured to criticism and strengthened by incredible self-belief. However, if you’re crocked, you’re crocked. It’s no good “trusting the guys to know their own bodies”, the medical staff must have the definitive say about whether someone’s injuries will inhibit 100% optimal performance.
        Steve McQueen didn’t endanger the operation by telling Donald Pleasance that if he said he could see perfectly, then that was fine, get digging.


  8. LordCanisLupus Dec 19, 2017 / 5:45 pm

    If I were an examiner, and you were taking an O Level (GCSE etc) on Cricket Blogging, this would be my exam question for you. I would expect 1000 words in 30 minutes.

    Critically evaluate the following statement:

    “Be careful what you wish for, when he’s gone and he’s getting loads of runs for Essex next summer people will be saying ‘oh, did we get rid of Cook too quickly?’ Alastair Cook has been through these periods but only he will know that you can only go to that well so often and dig deep, especially with his technique that has not always been perfect, and get the runs.”

    Carefully contrast this with “Only a fool would doubt Alastair Cook” mentioned by the same author not 8 days ago.

    If you can’t turn that into an article you need to pack the game in.

    This article, frankly, is lazy jollop.

    Root needs to concentrate more on his batting. So who sets the fields and changes the bowling and determines on-field tactics? This from a former England captain.

    Mention an England captain not being Brearley? Yes sir.

    150 tests, 11000 runs, Oh yes. Make sure we don’t forget.


    • metatone Dec 19, 2017 / 5:51 pm

      England need to be ruthless about building a good team. That includes taking some short term lumps while we find the right players with a future. And even if you think Cook is better than I think he is, I see no way to pretend he’s going to be good enough to face Starc et al in 2 years time, let alone 4. So let’s give Stoneman a run and start trying out some new faces at the other end.

      Apparently we could do it when someone’s face didn’t fit (KP) despite the runs they were scoring. So maybe we can find the courage to do it now. (as if…)


      • LordCanisLupus Dec 19, 2017 / 6:00 pm

        I’m not sold on Stoneman yet, nowhere near. Sure he’s shown some grit and determination, but he’s not looked like a century maker at the top of the order. Which makes this really difficult because he’s playing twice as well as Cook! You can’t drop Stoneman and leave Cook be. That would be laughable.


        • metatone Dec 19, 2017 / 6:24 pm

          That’s the bind that giving Cook’s previous efforts too much weight has put us in basically for at least year though. We’re not convinced by the new boy, but you can’t in justice drop him as he’s doing better than Cook. And so, we still haven’t found someone.


        • Quebecer Dec 19, 2017 / 6:41 pm

          I get your view of Stoneman, certainly. I think the MCG is a very important game for Stoneman. The WACA gave him a good opportunity for runs given it always gives good value for the kinds of shots that are in his wheelhouse – but he did get a bit of a going over. There’s plenty of runs to be had in Melbourne and again, plenty for him with his game. So, I think we’ll see what we’ve got in Stoneman here. Does he have the strength to play his game and go and get those runs?


          • LordCanisLupus Dec 19, 2017 / 6:53 pm

            He took the champion Essex attack to the cleaners at Guildford.


          • Rooto Dec 19, 2017 / 8:47 pm

            Did you see his second innings, q? I didn’t, I was listening on the radio, but it sounded like the roughing up he got in the first innings was in his head. Twitchy, nervous, going back as the ball was bowled, fucked up. I hope that was only temporary, but I think he has a lot to prove after Christmas, unfortunately.


      • Elaine Simpson-Long Dec 19, 2017 / 9:17 pm

        My only worry about Cook retiring is that Sky will hire bim as a commentator……


        • Sherwick Dec 19, 2017 / 9:26 pm



        • Sherwick Dec 19, 2017 / 9:27 pm

          Can we somehow get Cook to keep playinf for another 5 years at least??


          • Sean B Dec 19, 2017 / 9:42 pm

            You’re not going to like my next post in that case 😆


          • BobW Dec 19, 2017 / 11:38 pm

            My guess is Cook will be fast tracked into being an international umpire. With a reputation of triggering any English batsman who gets anywhere near his 11,000 run record.

            Liked by 2 people

    • Mark Dec 19, 2017 / 7:18 pm

      If you listened to 5 live cricket last night between 9pm and 10.30pm J Agnew was saying that he thought Cook should not have stayed on as the captaincy after India so that he could see us through to this Ashes, and protect Root from what has now happened. (So Root would be able to score lots of runs without the burden of captaincy.) Im not buying it. I doubt it would have made a scrap of difference. We still would not have been able to take 20 wickets. And what about next summer? Does Cook stay on to protect Root from India?

      The show was very good apart for that, probably because Mark Butcher was on and not shinny toy. They then had a section on how to coach/find fast bowlers which was interesting. Worth a listen if you have a spare hour. Even Tufnell was pretty reasonable.


      • Benny Dec 20, 2017 / 4:13 am

        My wild guess is that sometimes top batsmen don’t get a lot of runs. For Root, it unfortunately coincides with an Ashes series. Conversely, for Cook it coincides with the past couple of years.


    • LordCanisLupus Dec 19, 2017 / 6:05 pm

      As the Chair stands for one term, this means Graves has to go in 2020?


  9. jomesy Dec 19, 2017 / 8:17 pm

    Can I just say that after about three hours of not getting it, I finally get “Escape goat”.

    (Turns to Metro cryptic crossword for first time in hope).


    • Deep Purple Fred Dec 19, 2017 / 9:14 pm

      Ah, but do you know the origin of the phrase?


      • jomesy Dec 19, 2017 / 9:28 pm

        Of an “escape goat”? No! Of a scape goat? Yes.


        • Deep Purple Fred Dec 19, 2017 / 9:40 pm

          Another innovation to the world of cricket from Australia.

          When Warner took a swing at Root in a pub a few years ago, he was banned for several matches, and sent away to Zimbabwe to play with Aus A.
          Warners brother, back in Sydney, thought this was unjust, and told the press that Davey was being used as an escape goat.

          I’ve always hoped this phrase would catch on. It sort of works.


  10. LordCanisLupus Dec 19, 2017 / 9:58 pm

    From Sale…

    Sports Agenda revealed last week that 10 counties have written to ECB chairman Colin Graves complaining at being marginalised by the way the eight-city T20 competition which is being set up.

    And the expectation among the already disgruntled counties is that the next ECB financial report in May will reveal between £7million and £9m spent on the recreational game, a huge increase with little obvious result.

    This will only ramp up the pressure on Graves, who is staying on in Australia until February rather than fighting the fires burning on the home front.

    The counties believe that the pressure on ECB finances will lead to a number of jobs being lost within the ruling body.

    An ECB spokesman said: ‘Money spent on the recreational game is always money well spent. Those who play the game are more likely to watch it.’

    They’ve just got a massive TV contract upcoming, the next two summers include the financial windfall of an India tour and then the World Cup / Ashes combo the year after (although the former is an ICC event, I know, but with the ole revenue “sharing” as a result…). So why job losses?

    The recreational game means naff all to all of them. Chris has been down that road before.


    • Mark Dec 19, 2017 / 10:09 pm

      “will reveal between £7million and £9m spent on the recreational game”

      I would love to know how much the combined salaries of the ECB executives are , and England’s enormous backroom staff (including the Lions) Day trips to Sandhurst for square bashing, and hospitality to keep on side tame journalists.

      Probably about the same.


      • AB Dec 20, 2017 / 9:56 am

        Between £7m and £9m has spent on setting up systems to more fully monetise the recreational game.

        The previous situation, in which parents paid negligible amounts of money to receive excellent coaching for their children by entirely voluntary club coaches was clearly not satisfactory – from now on, parents will pay non-negligible sums directly to the ECB to excellent coaching for their children by entirely voluntary club coaches. Much better.


  11. SimonH Dec 19, 2017 / 10:44 pm

    Well, stone the crows, Sportsmail reports last week that Duckett is going to be dropped and this week he’s dropped:

    Good journalism? Bloody amazing journalism! If the incredibly anal ECB were a duck, they’d sink.

    It is good to see the Lions have some proper red-ball cricket scheduled, albeit about two years too late. Quite why TRJ is going escapes me.


    • LordCanisLupus Dec 20, 2017 / 7:54 am

      As one wag commented… If he’d fractured someone’s eye socket he’d get a place in the ODI squad.


  12. quebecer Dec 20, 2017 / 3:03 am

    The articles yesterday and today, the discussions on them – admirably started by Andy here – cover the absolute horlicks of the situation completely. But it is still absolutely astounding when you think about it.

    I suppose one starts with the players whose performances in the first three tests mean their places are not in question: Malan, Bairstow, Anderson (in that order). Then the next rung who’ve done enough: Stoneman and Vince (sorry Coverton: prop for moxy, dropped on figures and a broken rib). Root plays, obviously. It’s shocking really that this means 5 players actually deserve to be dropped – and with two dead tests to go, those five should all be feeling very insecure about the young bucks banging down the doors, just itching to get a crack at the lineup.

    Obviously, sarcasm isn’t clever, so the fact that there are precisely no players even knocking politely (as lamented and examined above) means working out what to do for the last two tests is rather difficult.

    The only player selectable is Sam Curran, and a straight swap with Woakes is appropriate. But injuries mean surely both have to play. Ali also deserves to be dropped, but we’re really going to throw Mason Crane in now? At he MCG?? In what has to be a four man attack??? Bloody hell. Good luck, son. Still, I think they might do it. That leave one spot at #7, and only one person to fill it: Gary Balance. Kidding, It’ll be Ben Folkes – as a batsman, because they won’t take the gloves away from Bairstow.

    They will never, ever drop Cook, so unless Broad and Coverton are forced to play injured again, if changes are made, only Ali can actually be dropped. Thus:

    Bairstow (wk)

    Bloody hell.

    P.S I know all this post was the bleeding obvious to everyone (including the bloody hell bit at the end), but I think it was worth going through step by step nonetheless. The true reality of the dog’s dinner gets exposed so quickly, and the inevitable crushing loss utterly apparent.

    P.P.S. However, I for one am optimistic.


    • Quebecer Dec 20, 2017 / 7:14 am

      Apologies to Ben FOAKES who along with DaWid Malan and Gary BalLance, as they have an enmity with autocorrect I just can’t seem to fight.


  13. SimonH Dec 20, 2017 / 9:31 am

    Interesting comments from Alex Tudor:

    For all the lamenting about whistling down the pits for a fast bowler, England’s fastest bowlers this decade (Finn, Tremlett, peak Broad) have not exactly been from working class backgrounds. It’s easy to imagine at least two of them as rugby lock-forwards if it hadn’t been for their family connections to cricket.


    • metatone Dec 20, 2017 / 10:02 am

      Very interesting.

      The rugby talent set up has been a lot more focused in previous years than the ECB.
      It’s also a lot more of a school-year sport. Cricket’s best months weather wide are during the school holidays.

      Interesting to me as well that Tudor stands up and says it – loss of terrestrial TV has had a big impact for potential players from his old school. I know I beat this drum a lot, but so many of the people who underestimate the impact of this are from a different income bracket.


    • BobW Dec 20, 2017 / 10:19 am

      I have said this on this blog and elsewhere too. The English rugby set up is very efficient in extracting talent these days. I am not sure the cricket set up is the same. Talent doe not seem to rise to the top. I’m not a coach at a junior level so cannot really comment but I do hear stories through my club of talent being ignored or not pushed enough.


      • AB Dec 20, 2017 / 10:35 am

        I don’t know about junior rugby, but the county cricket set-up is incredibly narrowly oriented to middle-class private school kids – largely unconsciously, of course.

        Club coaching depends on the club, and on the coach. Most clubs do the absolute best they can with extremely limited resources – but I’ll admit, even at our club the focus is on quantity rather than quality. We see our role as purely trying to instil many kids as possible with enough interest and skill to want to play cricket as an adult. I don’t have the time or energy to attempt to produce the next generation of professional cricketers – I’m focused purely on trying to produce decent amateur cricketers.

        My opinion is that producing professional players should be the job of the county system and the junior pathways. Unfortunately, the only kids that have access to these pathways are middle class kids whose parents can afford private one-to-one tuition or whom know the county coach (because he is also their school coach).


        • BobW Dec 20, 2017 / 10:44 am

          I knew your coached AB and was wanting to hear your thoughts. I know the senior rugby clubs (Saracens, Harlequins etc in my area of South East London/North West Kent) will send scouts down to the junior clubs and look at the youth sections and invite players for trials. It is a pain for the junior clubs who can lose talent but from the young players point of view it is a pathway to the top.
          I’m sorry to say it but I always felt cricket was more about whether your face fitted or not. It seemed that way when I was a kid, having seen some very good youngsters from comprehensive schools not get a sniff of representative cricket. Of course that may have changed somewhat now.


          • AB Dec 20, 2017 / 10:55 am

            As I say, my experience is that it is not conscious discrimination. I worked in the county system for a few years and it was staffed by good people generally trying to put out the best teams they could. But the whole system seems to be set-up with middle-class kids in mind.

            For example, games would often be scheduled for a weekday, 50-100 miles away, and the parents were expected to provide their own transportation for their kids – and 90% of parents would turn up in a land-rover with a picnic and a deck-chair and sit and watch. Kids were also expected to have ALL the kit, including white and tracksuits, and these were not cheap.

            What if a parent can’t drive or can’t afford a car or to buy the kit? What if a parent can’t just take a Thursday off at short notice?

            If a parent couldn’t provide this, they were seen as “uncommitted” and the kid would eventually be dropped.


  14. SimonH Dec 20, 2017 / 10:02 am

    The narrative is “England lack pace” and so the DM spontaneously and dutifully reveal that the talent pipeline is functioning just fine:

    Firstly, a medical bulletin:

    “ECB research suggests bowlers who develop stress fractures should return to action much sooner as the body must learn to cope”.

    Get those shirking bastards on the field at once so their bodies “learn to cope” – we can’t have our assets sitting on the sidelines not earning any money! Let’s have a medical survey saying what we want to hear! Pat Cummins’ rehabilitation took so long he was able to get a degree during it. Who do you trust?

    So on to the individuals:

    George Garton – “Garton has been used mainly as a limited-overs bowler”. (He also hasn’t been picked for the red-ball Lions’ matches in WI despite some wanting him in the Test team two weeks ago).
    Tom Helm – “His repeatable action and nagging accuracy saw him compared to Angus Fraser…. Helm was tipped as a four-day bowler in his youth but topped the club’s T20 averages in 2017”.
    Olly Stone – “The Norfolk-born paceman can maintain speeds around the magical 90mph mark in T20 cricket. Now the challenge is to sustain it for longer in red-ball cricket”.
    Saqib Mahmood – “Mahmood, with four wickets for England Lions in a T20 versus Perth Scorchers last week”.
    Josh Tongue – “He is not express speed”

    So, that’s what the 18 counties and Loughborough can manage to come up with? Good luck to all of them, and I’m not getting at the individuals (of course), but it consists of players whose achievements are nearly all T20 based or who aren’t genuine speedsters (I’m not against quality RFM but the article is headed “The Fast Show” so, wonderful as the next Angus Fraser would be, I’m not sure what he’s doing in there). By all means ration young quicks’ f/c bowling but they should have some achievements in that department.

    Liked by 1 person

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