4th Ashes Test, Day One

It’s perhaps a measure of the impressive awfulness of England’s tour that the Boxing Day Test, a clear highlight of the cricketing calendar, felt a low key affair.  In Australia it certainly wasn’t, for pummelling the Poms is always going to have a certain appeal.  But from the English perspective, finishing off Christmas Day with a bit of cricket into the early hours has always had a slightly magical quality to it.  Of course, the true highlight of that in recent years was the 2010 match where England skittled the hosts for under 100 and finished the day well ahead and with all ten wickets intact, described at the time as being arguably the most one sided day of Test cricket in history.  Hyperbole maybe, but a special day nonetheless.  

Indeed, it was sufficiently good as a memory that the ECB also thought it worth mentioning in their build up, a reminder of those times when a 5-0 battering was an exceptional event that could be explained by being up against a truly great side bent on revenge rather than normal service.

This time around, fatalism about the likely outcome was exacerbated by Tom Harrison happily proclaiming that all was generally well and the small matter of a likely series hammering was just one insignificant fly in the ointment of the ECB masterplan.  Seven consecutive away defeats are mere bagatelle in this reading of the game and while something is to be said for refusing to panic the clear suggestion that it doesn’t matter overly was astounding, both for what it said about the priorities of the ECB and also for the muted response from the media.  It doesn’t take too much imagination to feel that such a response only a few years ago would have been ridiculed.  And therein lies the biggest problem for English cricket: indifference.  

In terms of the team, suggestions in the press had made about which deckchairs needed to be rearranged but as it turned out, only Tom Curran came in, a replacement for the clearly injured (it often needs highlighting with England that a bowler needs to be missing a limb before they’re considered definitely unfit) Craig Overton.

That meant that Moeen would play, despite being injured and woefully out of form, plus Broad would play, despite being injured and woefully out of form.  To some extent a case can be made that throwing a young player to the lions in a series going dramatically wrong would be grossly unfair, but equally in the case of Mason Crane, it has to be wondered what the point of him being on the tour was.  Putting aside Moeen’s performances for a second, he clearly isn’t fully fit, but England daren’t leave him out because of worries over the batting, while Broad’s ineffectiveness in a place where he has done well even in heavy defeat previously, may be at least partly to do with his health given rumours about knee problems.

Losing the toss on a proper flattie at the MCG wasn’t the ideal outcome, but England had won the previous three tosses without making best use of conditions before, so they could hardly complain.  And in the first hour they were once again poor.  Overall too short (surprise!) they varied that by offering up half volleys and width, allowing Warner to finally get going this series.  It’s repeatedly said that the first ten overs with the Kookaburra ball are vital, and once again England wasted it.  Once again too, they pulled it back somewhat subsequently.  Broad in particular looked better than he has at any time this series, and offered up the rarity of beating the Warner bat.  

Perhaps it wouldn’t have made too much difference, for this surface went beyond being a road, it was more of Bonneville Salt Flats proportions.  England are rather good at drying teams up and restricting the scoring (without looking threatening) and from the second hour onwards for the rest of the day, that was their strategy, one that all bar Moeen seemed able to achieve. 

A century for Warner had seemed a certainty, but England genuinely frustrated him, and on 99 Curran struck for his first Test wicket.  Oh dear.  There are several conflicting issues with wickets overturned for a no ball, firstly that sympathy may be limited for a bowler who can’t keep his foot behind the line (and this was the third England bowler in four years denied a maiden wicket by this means), but also the reluctance of umpires to call a no ball in live play means that a bowler may not know they are overstepping until it gets called when they take a wicket.  It seems hard to believe that he hadn’t bowled one before and not been called because no wicket had been taken.  Curran himself said he had been checking with the umpire on his foot position the previous ball, and it was merely down to putting in extra effort.  Maybe so, but it is a general issue that could really do with being sorted out, it seems unfair on just about everyone, even if it is clearly still the primary responsibility of the bowler.

It didn’t overly cost England, for four runs later Warner was gone, caught behind off Anderson as England appeared to get just a little movement in the air and off the pitch.  Ten overs later, and Khawaja was gone too, the plumbest of lbws to a Stuart Broad in his best spell of the series by far.  It could have been even better too, Shaun Marsh being pinned on the crease first ball for one of those that the bowlers feel aggrieved when it isn’t given, while the batsmen believe they should get the benefit of the doubt. Handily, DRS backs up whichever call the umpire makes, but on such narrow margins can a day rest.

That was the end of England’s success.  They continued to keep it tight, but Steve Smith eased his way to a comfortable, controlled half century, while Marsh too looked in little difficulty.

Given the placid pitch, 244-3 wasn’t that bad a day for England.  They mostly bowled well enough, they certainly exerted reasonable control, and if they didn’t look especially penetrative, well, plus ca change.  A couple more wickets would have made it a very good day for them, but instead they’ll return in the morning to the ominous sight of a well set Smith.

It’s always possible England will grab a few years quick wickets early on, but that has been the case for so much of the series, and not happened.  Should Australia rack up the huge total that appears inevitable, England will be once again under extreme pressure.  Its becoming hard to see it going any other way.


101 thoughts on “4th Ashes Test, Day One

  1. OscarDaBosca Dec 26, 2017 / 2:42 pm

    Having watched the first hours play I went to sleep in despair.
    Did Anderson not get the message from the coaches to pitch it up? You don’t get much from the new ball in Australia so you have to go with the risk/reward strategy, but instead too short again.
    Also why Broad? I hear he bowled well but he hasn’t been in form and if he was a batsman he would have been dropped.


    • man in a barrel Dec 26, 2017 / 5:59 pm

      Why does Woakes, who can swing the ball, not get a chance before Broad with the new ball? It would have been good to see Curran in action before Broad and Anderson used up the shine


      • oreston Dec 26, 2017 / 9:47 pm

        But… But… They’re England’s greatest opening bowlers EVAH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

        Does Root not have the cricketing nowse to change things around? Or is it that he either doesn’t dare to or else doesn’t see the point, given the limited options he’s been presented with? If he were actually a thinking cricketer then I can’t help but think he’d be going through some kind of private hell with things as they are. Or is he just the loyal company man, acting on Harrison’s memo? I’m not really offering an opinion as I don’t know what to think (to be honest there’s probably too much wine and Scotch in my system for that just at the moment…)

        Liked by 1 person

        • Zephirine Dec 26, 2017 / 11:10 pm

          Thinking cricketer, private hell I think. Trouble is, he may be driving the bus but the steering’s gone and at least one of the tyres is flat.


  2. MM Dec 26, 2017 / 2:49 pm

    Happy Xmas y’all. Can’t wait for the one dayers to start. We usually win a couple of them. Maybe we could start doing that aggregate system that the ladies employ. That might get us a bit closer to the Aussies come the end of the tour. If we win all the one dayers and T20s we might sneak home with a draw kinda thing. Hey, how about all international cricket going down that route? Will that save world cricket? Can I have my £1million for this suggestion now? You bigwigs may as well give me the money now, coz it’ll save a costly legal case in the future. You know it!
    Love to all,


  3. Scrim Dec 26, 2017 / 3:08 pm

    Couldn’t agree more on the no ball thing. Bowlers need to know when they’re overstepping and be called for it before they take a wicket. Surely this can be a job for the 3rd umpire. A 3 second job every ball that can easily be made before the next ball is delivered.


    • LordCanisLupus Dec 26, 2017 / 4:29 pm

      A thread for the ages….

      Liked by 1 person

      • oreston Dec 26, 2017 / 9:51 pm

        The love that dare not speak its name…


      • BobW Dec 27, 2017 / 4:43 pm

        Tried to find out if a Selvey ever bowled a no ball in his test career but was unable to do so.


  4. Rooto Dec 26, 2017 / 5:56 pm

    I have an impressive picture on my screen of what looks like the concrete backside of the old Wembley, with the roof supports of the new Wembley. What’s particularly impressive is the way the stadium appears to be presenting itself to the world as “The Home of Bilious…” Excellent photo-journalism or lucky coincidence?


  5. Deep Purple Fred Dec 26, 2017 / 6:06 pm

    Grumblebum Anderson complaining about the pitch, says its unexciting. As the old saying goes, wait until both sides have batted on it.
    The guy really know how to make himself welcome.
    “no one enjoyed it, unless they’re a fan of Warner”. I’ll hazard a wild guess and say there were quite a few fans of Warner at the MCG today.

    Liked by 3 people

  6. @pktroll Dec 26, 2017 / 6:58 pm

    really hacked off England are still picking players who are not fit, as in Broad and Ali. Sure the former has been on the slide since Johannesburg and the latter would probably not been effective even if fit but they are being undermined as players if they have to play while carrying marked injuries that can only further the likelihood of a far less than optimum performance.


    • metatone Dec 26, 2017 / 8:08 pm

      I’ve ranted about this earlier in the series, but it’s an issue that has dogged the England setup for a long time now. I’m getting very fed up of the inability of our vaunted press to notice it.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Silk Dec 26, 2017 / 8:10 pm

        Thankfully we put a fully fit squad together in 2013 only for that nastard kp to ruin it all for everyone.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Sherwick Dec 26, 2017 / 9:15 pm

          I knew it was his fault!


  7. Cricketjon Dec 26, 2017 / 9:16 pm

    Trouble is, if we did start dropping the dead certs from the team when they are injured we would get a touching insight into what the back up bowlers look like at this level and it would lift the veil on the ECB’s outstanding success of the last 12 months.


    • Pontiac Dec 26, 2017 / 11:15 pm

      It would help if they didn’t bring people on tour like this Crane fellow they have no intention whatsoever of playing.

      As Dobell pointed out, if Samit Patel was around he would have played yesterday and been an improvement over who he’d have replaced.

      Imagine a fantasy world where the team that came for the tour wasn’t based on past tenure or future plans and was only focused on winning the Test series.

      Just as England would never get a Lyon, neither would they get a Paine..


  8. Mark Dec 26, 2017 / 11:41 pm

    Evening folks. Hope you’ve all had a good Christmas! I have had a fair amount of good Port this evening so doubt I will stay up too long. Didn’t watch any of yesterday’s cricket. Which will please that moron Harrison who thinks alls well. It certainly pleased me because by all accounts it was another toothless flat effort. I had a good sleep.

    I have to say his cretinous remarks have made me more angry, not less. First of all why is he even put up to speak? He is a marketing man who just happens to be employed by the ECB. Next week he could be working for a chesse biscuit company or next year a light bulb company. While I realise Strauss has family problems and can’t be expected to front up why is this non entity given prime billing? Where is Colin Graves? Does he say anything?

    The real sadness of course is that the bullshit of the last four years has resulted in this situation. Essentially no accountability for this fiasco, and make no mistake this is far worse than what happened four years ago. All those traitors in the media who put their careers and their free tickets ahead of calling the governing body to account can go fuck yourselves. This is your masterpiece. Your version of St Pepper. A day in the life of Englamds crixket journos, and all the other brown noses. This is your achievement. Drink it in. You own it. And all the fans who could not understand the bigger picture, and who thought it was all about Pieres Morgan and his mate, this is your destiny. You own it. Lock stock and barrel.

    Perhaps in future we might try sending a “horses for courses” team to Aus. One that has bowlers who can get the ball to spin of the straight, or can bowl fast. So what if they are not able to bowl dry? Maybe we could pick some players who can play on flat wickets. Sure, we will probably still lose but who might just bowl a ball that gets out some batsman. Who knows we might have got Smith out in the early tests and the game might have come to life. Last time I looked the point of bowling in test matches was to get wickets. Sometimes by giving something you tempt your opponents to make a mistake. We will never know because England are a one trick pony. Of course we will see how much of a road this is when we bat on it.


    • "IronBalls" McGinty Dec 26, 2017 / 11:59 pm

      Port is nice..I had a good drop yesterday..well done Mark! All the best!


      • Mark Dec 27, 2017 / 12:07 am

        All the best to you sir!

        I always have to remind myself that it’s double the strength of a nice red wine. And goes down smoother!!


    • Mark Dec 27, 2017 / 12:13 am

      And it’s ECB leak free!!

      Liked by 1 person

    • Gareth Dec 27, 2017 / 1:08 am

      I asked a question of Etheridge on the last Cant Bowl Cant Throw and he claimed “good journalism” as his answer


      • Scrim Dec 27, 2017 / 7:17 am

        I listened to that, brilliant! I wondered if it was asked by someone from here.


  9. Sri. Grins Dec 27, 2017 / 1:13 am

    318/6. Not too bad from England. If they can get Oz out for less than 400 and bat really well for once, it would help


  10. Sri. Grins Dec 27, 2017 / 1:34 am

    325/8. More progress for England. Have to bat well. Root has to show up and make a hundred plus


  11. Sri. Grins Dec 27, 2017 / 2:47 am

    327 all out. Much better than I anticipated. Hope from sleeping in despair, you guys will wake up with hope ☺😀


    • LordCanisLupus Dec 27, 2017 / 3:06 am

      It’s why we call him Shiny Toy. It was a “Good day to have a bat in your hand” before play.


      • nonoxcol Dec 27, 2017 / 7:09 am

        Chill, It’s just an Opinion!


  12. Sri. Grins Dec 27, 2017 / 4:12 am


    Q, we need optimists to rally around.☺


  13. Rooto Dec 27, 2017 / 5:38 am

    Woke up to a great surprise. The only clue as to how that the commentators have given so far is “very slow pitch” and “3 chop-ons”. Seems a bit grudging from McGrath, not much praise for the English from him! Anyone see it?


    • metatone Dec 27, 2017 / 7:26 am

      I read an OBO and looked at a few clips.
      Smith lost concentration – I’m tempted to put it down to dead rubber syndrome.
      The other two chop ons were rank bad shots and show how if you can put this Aussie lineup under pressure they are a bit brittle (much like England.)
      England bowled well to create some of the pressure – although I’ll note it is wickets, especially Smith’s, much more than economy that created the pressure.

      Liked by 1 person

    • OscarDaBosca Dec 27, 2017 / 9:39 am

      Yep, stayed up for an hour.
      Bowling was fuller but didn’t look dangerous and didn’t beat the bat.
      Curran comes on, first ball short and wide, Smith left.
      2nd ball short and wide, Smith’s eyes lit up, same again! He was through the shot too early and inside edge on to his stumps.
      Mitch Marsh was out the same way to Woakes (too early, rank short and wide delivery)
      Went to bed hoping for a good innings from someone and it turned out to be Cook


  14. veturisarma Dec 27, 2017 / 5:59 am

    Couldn’t this have been the Third Test instead of the Fourth?


  15. @pktroll Dec 27, 2017 / 7:00 am

    Wish it was. After the Lord Mayor’s show.


  16. nonoxcol Dec 27, 2017 / 7:24 am

    Ah bollocks, it’s going to be One Of Those Days BTL, isn’t it?

    I wonder what Melmouth and his crew would say if other people made hundreds only after 18 barren Ashes Tests, on a slow pitch, with the leading Australian wicket taker out injured, after the series had been decided, after 83 runs at under 14, after ten innings without a fifty?

    Liked by 1 person

    • sidesplittin Dec 27, 2017 / 7:31 am

      You seem well p1ssed that Cook’s finally scored some runs.


      • nonoxcol Dec 27, 2017 / 7:35 am

        I am not an England fan and do not like the way he is treated by the media. I should have thought this was screamingly obvious after four years on this blog and its predecessor.


    • metatone Dec 27, 2017 / 7:44 am

      Cook is living all the accusations levelled at Bell over the years about only doing it when the pressure is off.

      Bowling flattered by dead rubber party feeling I suspect too.

      Harsh of me perhaps, but senior players performing when the pressure is off really doesn’t do it for me.

      Liked by 1 person

      • nonoxcol Dec 27, 2017 / 7:56 am

        No, what in fact you are witnessing is “abnormal levels of mental strength and dignity” (Rob Smyth, OBO). Do not apply rigorous analysis. Do not invoke comparatives. Gush like the dam wall has broken. Gush for your life. Again.

        Liked by 1 person

      • nonoxcol Dec 27, 2017 / 9:45 am

        I have to say, judged by the same criteria I used on Cook last week, Bell’s last few years as an England batsman were statistically very ugly indeed. On reverse cumulative average, you literally have to go back 56 matches (almost half his entire career!) to get him over 40. Even the 2013 Ashes isn’t enough; even the 2011 series v India (235 and 159) isn’t enough. You don’t get there until the first Test v Sri Lanka in May 2011, some four and a half years before his final axing.

        After his last hundred, there is a sequence of nine innings without a fifty in 2015 that goes 11, 1, 0, 0, 1, 29, 12, 1, 1. An average of 6.22. The innings after he finally makes fifty he makes 1 again. He has two more fifties (one unbeaten) in his next three innings… then he makes 1 again, passes fifty once more in his next six completed innings and then finishes with a duck. His average after his last hundred is 20.85.

        I don’t see how even Thepoetseye could make a case for his staying in the side.


  17. man in a barrel Dec 27, 2017 / 8:42 am

    I don’t know what to think about Scyld Berry this morning. Is this self-parody?

    What strength of character. What joy and relief. Alastair Cook, after scoring 83 runs in the first three Tests, and after enduring the longest fallow period of his Test career, bounced back to score his 32nd century – an unbeaten 104 out of England’s 192 for two.

    It was two days after Cook’s 33rd birthday but it was still the best of presents: to know that he can still do what he does best.

    As if this was his golden tour of 2010-11, Cook wore Australia down and set up the innings – perhaps even a victory – for his country. National Treasure status now surely awaits him, as English cricket’s David Attenborough.

    Liked by 1 person

    • nonoxcol Dec 27, 2017 / 8:50 am

      No, it’s just normal service. Which is the problem.


    • Mark Dec 27, 2017 / 9:14 am

      You need strength of character to read such yellow journalism.

      REJOICE REJOICE England’s greatest living Englishman has finally pulled his head out of his arse and contributed something. The media will be beside themselves because for them Cook is England, and England is Cook. This makes the tour for most of them worthwhile, it doesn’t matter what the result is. The tour is now officially a success. Hooray!

      METATONE said that this was an Ian Bell innings. Runs scored when it didn’t matter. Or at least what the media claimed about Bell. It will be different of course because Cook lives by a different set of rules. Every player will now be wheeled out to say how great he is, and how much he means to them all, and how helpful he has been behind the sceenes. It will be a cringing, sickening spectacle of deference.

      Flat track bully in a meaningless Ashes test match….. your starter for ten?

      Liked by 1 person

      • OscarDaBosca Dec 27, 2017 / 9:43 am

        It’s a sub continental wicket, slow and low, perfect for Cook. No Starc, Cummins ill.
        This context has been ignored to all the paens to the Shrine of Saint Alistair


        • mdpayne87 Dec 27, 2017 / 9:46 am

          So Anderson was right about the depth of Australian bowling stocks, then?


        • Mark Dec 27, 2017 / 10:15 am

          Ha ha ha…..It’s Christams…so it’s pantomime time!

          This is a reflection of what Cook is. A sponsors dream. It’s all about the sponsors, and Cooks own milestones. Remeber when they accused another player od slelfishness?


        • Mark Dec 27, 2017 / 10:24 am

          Actually, that is truly shocking from a sponsor.

          Is Cook the only test player Gray Nichols have these days?


          • LordCanisLupus Dec 27, 2017 / 11:20 am

            It’s genuinely not shocking at all. It is what I expect these days. Malan makes 140 in a live rubber and gets slated by some for getting out. Cook gets to a hundred when the series is gone and pundits demand surrender. Again. That a fanboy chips in isn’t shocking. And Yes. Fanboy. It’s a crap insult isn’t it?

            England did brilliantly to bowl out Australia for 327 on that wicket. Excellent. But it’s still only really about him. It keeps us going I suppose. Kim Jong Cook.

            Liked by 2 people

          • Mark Dec 27, 2017 / 11:33 am

            I guess what I meant by shocking was how the sponsor does not just congratulate Cook, they make it all about the critics. Even using words like “haters.”

            How odd! The power of the cult I guess. It makes everyone not a,fan but a cultist!

            Liked by 1 person

        • Riverman21 Dec 27, 2017 / 10:42 am

          Heavens. OTT. Just a bit???

          I used one all my cricketing days. Souring my double dugout memories.

          If this is what social media is used for I’ll stay out.


      • Mark Dec 27, 2017 / 10:10 am

        With the first two sentences I guess. It’s vomit. It’s Berry laced vomit.

        I wonder if he can twirl a baton, and wear tight shorts? because he is simply a cheerleader.


        • jomesy Dec 27, 2017 / 1:20 pm

          It’s not just the rubbish from the journos (what has “dignity” have to do with his sodding century?) that does my head in, it’s the damage that this must do the other players. As LCL points out re: for example Malan, there is and will never be a level playing field. Quite how that fosters good team spirit is beyond me. I rarely use the phrase but now you’ve sponsors putting tweets like that out, this really is batshit crazy.

          Liked by 1 person

  18. nonoxcol Dec 27, 2017 / 9:18 am

    No surprises at the angle here:


    • Mark Dec 27, 2017 / 9:32 am

      The media will be delirious this morning because it keeps Cook in the team for another year, and for Selvey that is ALL that matters. This tour will now be re written as a triumph. It’s why I have come to loath England because the media have turned me against my own country such is their double standards and dishonesty. I hate the Englsin cricket media even more than the ECB. I have seen what frauds and liars they are.

      For Selvey test cricket is all about his mates. And he plays both sides. If Aus win, he claims it was all down to his mate the Aussie bowling coach. (Sorry, assistant coach) If Cook scores runs he is happy too.

      The funny thing is they said we were only about KP. Thruth is……they were all about, and only about Cook. They still are. They accused us of what they are. It’s projection on a grand scale.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Riverman21 Dec 27, 2017 / 10:43 am

        Great analysis in your last paragraph Mark.


  19. Cricketjon Dec 27, 2017 / 9:26 am

    English crickets David Attenborough. Where does this rainbow end? I’m thinking that David Atto is probably more bearable in the 90s than Cook.

    National Treasure. FFS. Up there with Ena Sharples, Harry Potter and Ironbridge. Without the Inner Steel of course.


  20. Sri.Grins Dec 27, 2017 / 9:31 am

    interesting day. The old guard with less than perfect reputations over the last few years in terms of behavior and occasionally performance and are thus unpopular with a lot of knowledgeable English cricket lovers stood up and delivered for England.

    It is good that England have a chance in this test. This of course will prolong the careers of the old guard. So kind of a mixed blessing i guess.

    Still, wonderful of cook, anderson and broad to have done so well. Jimmy does not appear so far off the mark once one of the three pace bowlers for Oz crocked up.


    • Mark Dec 27, 2017 / 9:36 am

      “This of course will prolong the careers of the old guard. So kind of a mixed blessing i guess.”

      Which is all that matters to the English media. The Englamd team is simply a vehicle which Cook can us to advance his own personal milestones.


  21. pktroll (@pktroll) Dec 27, 2017 / 10:22 am

    This tweet came up on my timeline via a retweet, the poster is called James Knight whose username is @MFoxx2. I do like the second sentence in particular………..

    “Fine, but he’s proved the doubters wrong in approximately zero ways. Because it’s Cook we have to do extreme mental gymnastics to prove that he’s as good as ever despite all evidence to the contrary”


  22. Nicholas Dec 27, 2017 / 10:43 am

    On one level, I’m pleased that the England team are offering some competitive cricket to Australia, and – who knows – now the pressure is off, we might hold on and win this one. (I’m still sticking to my 4-1 series prediction)

    But I do worry that we now have another year of sub-par Cook and Broad performances to be justified.

    Liked by 2 people

  23. "IronBalls" McGinty Dec 27, 2017 / 11:24 am

    Oh good grief!! It’s the 95 all over again! “Redemption for Cook” “National treasure” “proved the naysayers wrong”…on a flat track, against a crocked attack, and with the urn already lost…is a more succinct summation!

    Liked by 1 person

      • Mark Dec 27, 2017 / 11:38 am

        I would say a lot of truth. But the English media are not journos anymore so you won’t see a headline like that in England. They are fan boys. Not of the team but one player.


    • oreston Dec 27, 2017 / 12:23 pm

      It’s the nightmare scenario inasmuch as it enables another twelve months’ worth of excuses from the usual quarters when he underperforms against good pace and/or spin on surfaces that offer any assistance at all to the bowlers. My view that he’s still a capable flat track bully but severely compromised otherwise has not changed one iota.

      Liked by 1 person

  24. Ian Dec 27, 2017 / 11:31 am

    The close of play segment on BT today could not have been more cringe. Swanny couldn’t hide the love in his eyes for Anderson and the way that Broad just happened to be passing by and pulled into interview made me wonder if the score was 3-0 to England.


    • Mark Dec 27, 2017 / 11:40 am

      Swann normally pisses off home after the teams 3-0 down. Why is he still there?


      • Rooto Dec 27, 2017 / 12:07 pm

        Last time he was protecting his average. This time he can only dream of being average…


  25. RufusSG Dec 27, 2017 / 12:36 pm

    Of course the pitch isn’t excessively challenging, of course the series is already lost, of course Cook hasn’t has a great year in general, of course some of the press reactions are a bit over the top (Scyld Berry’s in particular had me cringing). But it’s still a perfectly commendable innings from Cook that deserves some credit in the context of the awful series he’s had up until now.

    I’ve made my own views on Cook perfectly clear before: he’s absolutely done stuff worthy of criticism and his declining record deserves greater scrutiny. Whether he’s a genuine great is still an ongoing debate. He wasn’t a particularly special captain. But he’s still had a brilliant career by most people’s standards and that deserves at least some modest level of respect, if not gushing admiration. I don’t care if the media want to kneel at his altar, I don’t want to let hot takes blindly impact my opinion (although I guess everyone says that) – I believe Cook deserves some acknowledgment independent of that.

    I certainly wouldn’t tell anyone they’re obliged to like or warm to any player, or that you’re not blindly cheering loudly enough or whatever, whether through stuff they’ve done directly or through resentment at how the media portrays and uses them, where I think at least some, if by no means all, of the distaste for Cook here originates from. I believe that’s a fair assertion, tell me if otherwise.

    But if Cook is going to get even more flak now when he’s actually done something right, then all the other grievances about him – for me – just get lost in the soup. I know we can argue until the middle of next week about what grievances are and aren’t legitimate, but there’s often more contempt towards Cook here when he actually does well than when he’s been stuck in the middle of poor runs of form. The feelings of discontent towards him are a bit relentless – I understand what this blog is and what Cook is supposed to represent, and that it’s not all about KP, and I can’t and won’t force anyone to change. Doesn’t mean it all sits right with me though. I’m here not because I agree with everything said but because I want to keep my mind open, and that means questioning stuff I don’t think fair.

    I see the argument “x opinion might be harsh on Cook, but the media were just as ruthless of KP’s shortcomings as we are on Cook’s, so they in fact are the obsessed ones” repeated here constantly. Sure, it’s totally true that KP got slagged off relentlessly, regularly in extremely unfair ways, and had his modest record in his final year of test cricket brought up more often than the holes in Cook’s record are. And I completely agree that calling people “obsessives” or whatever for simply bringing up any criticism whatsoever of a player or whatever is deeply patronising and disrespectful, especially when coming from media figures or those in higher authority. But I firmly believe that two wrongs don’t make a right. Criticise Cook’s record all you want, but if it’s coming from a place of getting back at Mike Selvey or Derek Pringle et al. for their obvious contempt towards KP, (no, I’m not saying it always is) then I can’t agree that that makes the argument stronger or more noble. The argument should stand on its own two feet.

    That might not be popular, but it’s my opinion, and unpopular opinions are allowed. I’m in a good mood today so feel free to debate/call me a concern troll/question my sanity/whatever.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Rooto Dec 27, 2017 / 1:09 pm

      Only slightly connected to Rufus’s perfectly reasonable post, but having had a look around the Guardian comments section, it seems that the hagiography from certain tweets and sections of the press is not the general mood. Of course westcork is ploughing on with posts about character and dignity, but it’s a fairly lonely furrow. Most posters seem to be torn between “nah, too late” and “it was good, but the bowling attack wasn’t at its peak” (with one guy saying “England’s best batsman ever”, but not sure if his tongue was in his cheek).
      If the media fanboys (who no longer dominate as they did a few years ago) are not able to dictate the general mood then that’s hope for humanity!
      If Cook is allowed to be judged fairly in the wider world, then I think he’ll get more slack from those of us here who hate what he represents. I admit I’d have preferred anybody else in the England team to have made that hundred today. (They couldn’t, and he could. Well done him.) That’s not a personal grudge against Cook though – just as long as nobody mentions that hunting photo!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Zephirine Dec 27, 2017 / 1:31 pm

        I think Ali Martin’s [iece in the Guardian is very fair coverage. He mentions that Starc was injured and Cummins below par, plus the advantages of the pitch for Cook. But he also says this:

        The urn may have gone but three such sessions of English dominance suggest that the current side are sticking together far better than four years ago and can avoid the disintegration of that generation’s epoch-ending whitewash. Cook and Stuart Broad, who earlier picked up four wickets, have admittedly turned up at the end of the party clutching slabs of tinnies under their arms, but for the sake of Root’s infant reign, it was still a case of better late than never.


        We have a very new captain who is having a baptism of fire, and whatever else you think about Cook and Broad, this must have helped.


        • LordCanisLupus Dec 27, 2017 / 2:07 pm

          This is precisely my point. But it’s not enough. It never will be enough. It’s something I’ve seen only with Boycott and to a lesser extent Gower. I don’t know why. That you had to acknowledge something else. Or you were a heathen. I’ve been on both sides now…


    • Grenville Dec 27, 2017 / 1:18 pm

      I quite agree (although I am a petulant obsessive who would rather Cook failed than England do well).

      It takes some strength toput in a performance when you are so hopelessly outbof rhythm and inthe public eye. I always felt that Harmison should have received more praise for his battling through a similar nightmare in 2006.


    • jomesy Dec 27, 2017 / 1:36 pm

      Hi Rufus I normally like your posts and you raise some reasonable points but when you say:

      “Whether he’s a genuine great is still an ongoing debate” and “He wasn’t a particularly special captain” I do have to question whether there isn’t a little more cookie-loving in you than you claim. He was a god-awful captain and, no, there’s no debate about whether he is (or was) a “genuine great”.


      • Mark Dec 27, 2017 / 1:52 pm

        Rufus has always been a Cook supporter. ( nothing wrong with that if you feel that way.)

        But Rufus has always done it in a concern troll way. (Not saying he is a troll) but it’s always along the lines of trying to be ever so fair to Cook at every eventuality that you would never give to anyone else.

        Maybe, just maybe the threat of Cooks career going tits up was the kick up the arse he needed to finally put in a performance. This idea that he will decide the fate of his retirement is clap trap and should not be taken seriously by serious sports writers and pundits. And particularly ex players. If he isn’t performing he has to go.

        Perhaps he got the message. Whatever it was he turned up. Pity it was three test matches too late.


        • RufusSG Dec 27, 2017 / 3:16 pm

          Believe it or not, I do enjoy reading your posts Mark – they’re entertainingly forthright even when I don’t always agree with everything (and sometimes I do!). You’ve called me a concern troll in the past, but hey ho, we’re probably never going to meet and you’re much older and wiser than I so I doubt I’ll be able to convince you otherwise. Also, I like to think I treat Cook like I treat any other cricketer I talk about – I’m not saying I’m above biases and don’t make mistakes, I’m just some guy with a laptop, but I’m not going to waste my life defending Cook beyond the point of reason, I’ve got better things to do.

          If I’m some deluded Cook supporter in your eyes, then it’s only in relation to the prevailing opinion here. Most of the other cricket fans I’ve spoken to in real life at least grudgingly admire his achievements, even if they don’t warm to him as a person or what he’s done off the field.


        • Grenville Dec 27, 2017 / 6:17 pm

          I suspect Rufus phrases things the way he does because expressing mild pro Cook or pro Press views gets the attack dogs going. Dissent is not as well received round here as the authors would like. It is also, I think, hard to debate contrary views online. Nuance gets lost. You have to be a very good writer. Zeph and Q. do it well. Dimitri has the amazing ability of coming across as impassioned and forthright and responsive. I know that I can’t so I put lots of qualifiers in like ‘in my view’ to soften the blow.


          • LordCanisLupus Dec 27, 2017 / 6:38 pm

            The hard to debate line is one that does concern me a bit. Things can get a bit forceful on here, I know. I don’t want this blog to be a “have your say” open house per se. The line is set in the articles and you can agree or disagree, and I welcome comments on the posts themselves. I know this can seem a bit of an echo chamber, but it’s sort of going to happen as we come at it from the view of an angered party on many occasions. So you are going to attract a certain cricket fan. I have no problem at all with Rufus’s post and glad he comes on here. In many ways I wish it were so that we can just take a Cook ton for what it is. But it never can be that now. You’ve got people sticking the knife in. People who should know better.

            As I’ve said many times the question on Cook should be “is he in the top two opening batsmen in the country”. If the answer is YES, then he plays. I’ve never actually moved from that position. You would be given to believe that the only time I would be happy is if Cook is dropped. But pointing out his paucity of test tons against Australia and South Africa in recent times is treated as heresy. Bet few people mention he’s averaging 1.5 per innings less than the great nemesis. Yet the nemesis’s form was a constant snipe in the last year of his career.

            There’s always a place for debate on here. So good on RSG for his comments as far as I am concerned. If there’s a perception of what we are, what this place is, then we can look at it. But we’ve been doing this thing for a while now.


      • RufusSG Dec 27, 2017 / 2:52 pm

        I’ll clarify my own feelings, since I was trying to phrase that neutrally. 1) He was generally a poor captain who relied more on the individual performances of Anderson, KP, Broad, whoever bailing him out for his success than his own tactical nous. 2) I think he’s an had a fine career, but on balance I don’t think he’s a genuine great (and certainly not the greatest England batsman of all time as some claim). I said there’s ongoing debate because there are clearly loads of people who do think he’s a great and loads that don’t.


    • nonoxcol Dec 27, 2017 / 1:45 pm

      The thing with the comparisons to Pietersen is simply this: they started it, and they hate the same standards being applied the other way round.

      And so they come up with stuff like “opening in English conditions” (Tres is several runs better), and the idea a man like Cook has no interest in personal milestones (utter nonsense for any sportsman).

      Liked by 1 person

      • Mark Dec 27, 2017 / 1:55 pm

        This a million times!!

        It’s their rules, and they don’t play by their own rules when it’s one they love.


      • Zephirine Dec 27, 2017 / 6:50 pm

        Speaking as someone who actually read Cook’s autobiography all the way through, I can assure you that it consists of very little except personal milestones. They appear to matter to him a great deal.

        Liked by 1 person

        • LordCanisLupus Dec 27, 2017 / 6:54 pm

          There is absolutely, and I mean absolutely NOTHING WRONG WITH THIS.

          That clip the England Cricket mob put out today of the bleep test with Alastair winning is symptomatic of a competitive bloke who cares deeply about personal achievement. If he didn’t care about personal milestones, targets, testing himself, I’d be deeply worried. He wouldn’t be winning bleep tests. And he wouldn’t have made nearly 12000 test runs with a shonky technique that makes him look awful at times.

          Liked by 1 person

        • nonoxcol Dec 27, 2017 / 7:06 pm

          Exactly. See also that Wikipedia page.

          And LCL is right too. My objection is to the very notion that he is so selfless and superior a human being that he’s somehow above caring about stuff like that, or that he does not have an ego. It is total horseshit. There is surely no successful world-class sports person without a pretty large ego. Yet, on top of everything else, the cult demands that we believe this of St Al.

          Not a chance.


          • LordCanisLupus Dec 27, 2017 / 7:17 pm

            Just heard Lovejoy on commentary say Cook has steel in his eyes.

            How does he get through the metal detector at airports with all that steel and iron inside him?

            Liked by 1 person

  26. metatone Dec 27, 2017 / 1:57 pm

    So here’s the thing: I read somewhere “not sure Hameed would have done much in the first 3 Tests and not sure he would have scored big in this one” – the problem with this line of thinking is we never ever blood a player who might develop into someone who would have done something in the first 3 Tests. (and of course I take on board the argument that right now Hameed might not be the choice, but the point is Cook is just blocking up a slot.)

    Incidentally, I was raging about this in WI series too. When the stars align, Cook can put in a great innings. (The stars being largely: a blunted attack, often due to injury and a really lifeless pitch.)

    The problem is, it gets you no further down the track of actually winning the big games.

    If Cook was young and starting out, you could hope he might develop. But it’s not going to happen.

    The analogies from other sports and teams are out there, but there’s one even closer to home. The ODI team had to make serious decisions about personnel and strategy, because the old way just wasn’t good enough. Here we are again…

    Liked by 1 person

    • Grenville Dec 27, 2017 / 6:31 pm

      Hameed with never play for England again, my prediction. He won’t have a season where he can’t be ignored. There will always be someone else who is the next white hope.He will be a could have been and people like me will say it’s because he is black.


      • LordCanisLupus Dec 27, 2017 / 6:42 pm

        I don’t agree. Hameed was given a go a little too early, and what we saw, importantly, is the kid had the temperament and to a lesser degree, technique. But he didn’t get the runs in the early season and had a pretty bad 2017. I had furious rows with a mate of mine over this, who thinks he should be picked. I don’t, but think he should when he strings some scores together. I like him a lot. The problem was we anointed him the king without waiting and English sport is littered with people who showed great signs early and failed along the way.


        • Grenville Dec 27, 2017 / 8:09 pm

          I think that your analysis of Hameed and the reaction to his debut is spot on. I also think that he will never play for England again. I thinkthat because in my view England always find a reasonnot to pick Asian orgin players (Moen being the exception that undermines my paranoid rule). Hameed is not so stand out brilliant that he will make himself unignorable. It will be Robson’s go and then that other lad from Essex and then the new Yorkie wunderkind and so on until Hameed never quite made it. That is my guess.

          PS. I think that you do well to steer this place away from being an echo chamber given that you are rightly writing in part for the right sort of cultural change. I am sorry that that didn’t come across in my last post


          • Cricketjon Dec 27, 2017 / 10:13 pm

            So why was Hameed picked in the first place?


          • Zephirine Dec 27, 2017 / 10:39 pm

            Moeen just makes himself impossible to drop by being prepared to play any role in the side. I await the day when he keeps wicket.


          • Grenville Dec 27, 2017 / 11:17 pm

            In reply to CricketJon, I think because when the stars align Asian origin players get a chance to fail. They aren’t totally excluded from the first class set-up, obviously. Rashid is a good case in point. Despite his impressive returns for Yorkshire (especially at the beginning of his career), it took an absolute dearth of other spinners before he was selected to play in two spinner mandatory conditions. He out-performed every other option without tearing up trees and was dropped. Compare and contrast with Mason Crane who they are itching to get into the side. Also consider Samit who should have been on this current tour after his season. Nothing, barely even a whisper in the press.

            Predictions are a mugs game, so you can laugh at me when he’s the anointed successor to HH. Cooky-Wooky


  27. man in a barrel Dec 27, 2017 / 3:09 pm

    You just feel that at some point the big calls have to be made and the English way tends to be to wait too long. The dropping of Gower was, in my view wrong, but if it helped Gooch get a team that really worked for him then perhaps it was the right call. On the other hand, sending Gooch and Gatting to Australia under Atherton was a misguided attempt to turn the clock back and should have been resisted.

    Sending injured bowlers to Australia in the hope that they will recover is a mistake our selectors keep on making, though. They even did it last winter. When will they ever learn?

    Going on tour without adequate reserves is another unnecessary mistake that keeps being made. There is no reserve batsman. There are no reserve bowlers.

    I heard Swann talking about Root’s captaincy in, shall we say, a nuanced way the other night. The statement that intrigued me was his insistence that “there is no alternative” is an inadequate rationale for giving him the job. Where we was Swann during that difficult winter? Was I dreaming that this was the entire reason for The Deerslayer being captain?

    Also, tempting as it is to proclaim 192/2 as the second coming of Christ, the opposition were in a very similar position. It looks like a tricky pitch for most batsmen if the bowlers aim to dry up the runs. It is not easy to force the pace or attack for either bowlers or batters

    Liked by 1 person

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