Blog Stress

I’m sure many read what Peter wrote earlier, and to be absolutely honest I have nothing whatever to say about that specifically.  That’s not because I don’t care, just the opposite, but it’s because I have far too much respect for him to make any comment on it.  But I will talk about some things generally, and in terms of what we try to do and have tried to do.

Having several of us unquestionably helps.  There are times when you simply don’t feel anything, when you know that if you try and write something it’s going through the motions.  Oddly enough, this is where some sympathy has to rest with the professional journalist – no matter how good they are, there will be days when they effectively phone it in.  But they still need to do it, it’s their job, even if it’s one of those days.  It’s why personally I find it a bit hard to leap on one article from someone who is generally good.  They’ll have some days where they are better than others, and everyone in every role suffers from that, and sportsmen are always a good example, as when they have absolute stinkers it’s rather obvious to a huge number.

But with a blog we can always choose not to write.  Just as if we write drivel people can choose not to read.  But for all of us it’s an unusually stressful hobby some of the time.  Staying  permanently angry isn’t possible (or healthy), and weariness is much the enemy of posting up anything interesting.  

We all feel like it sometimes, and others we feel energised.  Sometimes it’s still terrible of course, and probably the only upside to that is that it really doesn’t matter all that much in the great scheme of things, because most of the time people silently say that to themselves and move on.

I hate writing about the blog itself, it feels dreadfully self indulgent.  But being something of a voice in the wilderness, whether us or the community who read and comment, can get us all down, especially those people who wear their heart on their sleeves.

There’s a game of cricket on, and there are people crowing at some kind of victory, not over Australia, but over fellow followers.  Now above all else, this really does make me scratch my head.  In what way can it be a good thing that people who care passionately about a sport are in despair about it, about the direction their national team has gone and about how the uniformity of reporting and lack of critical thinking have been pushed aside?  That is disastrous whichever side it happened to.

People who buy tickets, who go to games, who live and breathe the damn sport, but who now find it hard to care enough about it because of all that it entails.  The peripheral has become the central.  What kind of win would that be, in a sport that is in some trouble in England, that those closest adherents have had enough, that they can’t put up with the crap any more?   Funny kind of winning.

Many people disagree with many of the posts on here.  Fabulous.  It means they care.  Long live people who care.  Because however anyone feels on a particular subject, there have to be those who hold an alternate view, otherwise what’s the point?

Let’s see how England get on tonight.  And let’s ask how it can ever be that an England success causes English hearts to sink, not because of what happens on the field, but because of the reaction off it.  How on earth does it reach that point?

Comments on day four below

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4th Ashes Test, Day 3 Review

I’ve missed virtually all of the cricket up until now in this game, having been staying with family over Christmas, so it’s been with great surprise that I’ve been following England’s progress every morning. Keeping Australia contained to 327 runs on a batting track and then posting 192/2 on the second day with Root and Cook still in, this game seemed to be fulfilling the Christmas wishes of quite a few England fans.

The day began how the last one ended, with Cook and Root making slow but steady progress against the Australian bowlers. That partnership ended just before the drinks break, with Pat Cummins making the breakthrough. To quote Dmitri from the live blog (I hadn’t woken up yet), “A pretty ordinary shot. Skies a pull shot and doesn’t convert again. Not really sure what you can say about that. Lyon takes a comfortable catch well in from the boundary.”

This brought in Dawid Malan, who should have been in confident form after his 194 runs in Perth. As it was, both Malan and Cook played somewhat nervously against Lyon and Mitchell Marsh. Why was Marsh bowling, I hear you ask. Because the new ball was due in a few over, and in only his second ball with the shiny Kookaburra Hazlewood dismissed Malan LBW.

Except, and this is almost unbelievable, he edged the ball onto his pad and yet failed to review it. If the replays and Hotspot are to believed, it was a huge edge. Colossal. Basically off the middle of the bat. For the second time in a single innings, England had failed to review a clearly false LBW call. If we were the kind of Cook-hating blog we are sometimes characterized as, I might take this moment to also point out that Cook was at the bowler’s end for both dismissals and could have told both batsmen to review it. Malan might even have been hit outside the line of off-stump. I’m not saying that both wickets were Cook’s fault, but…

Bairstow looked to play aggressively, with both boundaries and missed shots in equal measure. Eventually he top-edged a delivery from Nathan Lyon to the Australian wicketkeeper, and he had to go. Remarkably, this was only the third time Lyon has dismissed a right-hander in the whole series, having taken 17 wickets in total.

The loss of the fifth wicket has typically heralded the beginning of an EnglandTestCollapse, and Moeen Ali didn’t disappoint in that regard. Perhaps taking the view that his T20 batting form was better than his Test batting form, Moeen took the attack to the Australian bowlers. He scored 20 runs off his first three overs, but drove on the up from Nathan Lyon and Shaun Marsh caught it at short cover.

And from there, the promised collapse failed to appear. Chris Woakes mainly blocked the ball whenever possible whilst Cook progressed at his usual pace. Cook had a lifeline just before the midway point of the day, as he pulled a short ball from Cummins to the right of Steve Smith at square leg. The Aussie skipper got his hand to it but couldn’t keep it in his grasp, and for the second time in the innings he had dropped England’s opener. A few overs later England passed Australia’s score of 327, and the partnership progressed fairly smoothly though to Tea. Woakes was probably a little lucky to still be in though, after edging a ball between keeper and slip.

Cummins managed to get Woakes out shortly after the break, with the England allrounder gloving a bouncer from Pat Cummins to Tim Paine. This brought debutant Tom Curran to the pitch, but not for long as he got a fine edge. It was given not out by the umpire, but the Aussies reviewed and Hotspot showed a clear mark and he had to go. On a sidenote, Hotspot in this game has been much better than in the past few games. I seem to remember several instances where the thermal images showed nothing and the umpires had to rely on Snicko instead. Maybe they messed up the calibrations or something up until now?

This brought Broad to the crease, where he received his traditional welcome of bouncers. Lots of them. He looked nervous, wearing one on his shoulder and edging a few over the slips. He somehow survived though, and Cook’s steady accumulation carried on as he passed the double century with a drive down the ground for four. Broad was clearly waiting for his partner to pass the milestone, as he suddenly started swing at everything with at least some success including hitting Lyon for a six.

A few overs before the end of play, Broad got a top edge on a wild slash outside stump which just about reached Usman Khawaja running in from third man. The umpires gave it out, despite the Australian fielder indicating that he had bobbled it and that it should be reviewed. The soft signal appeared crucial, as the replays suggested that the ball had probably hit the ground at some point but there was no conclusive shot of it doing so. As with most reviews, the decision favoured the umpires’ original decision and Broad had to go.

Cook and Anderson both held on until close of play, with England’s opener hitting another milestone in the last over for a second day in a row. This time he overtook Brian Lara on the all-time Test runs leaderboard, taking him to 6th overall. England finished on 491/9, a first innings lead of 164 over the Aussies.

This is, remarkably, Cook’s second double century this year. It’s dragged his series average up to 54.50 (although that may fall if he loses his wicket tomorrow) and he’s now England’s top scorer. Looking at England’s batting statistics over the past year, you can see a marked difference between Root and Cook. In his 19 innings, Root has reached 50 ten times including 2 centuries, making a contribution in virtually every game he plays in. Conversely, Cook has only managed to pass 50 four times but on two of those occasions he went on to pass 200. The debate is like the one comparing Anderson and Broad. Anderson is reliably good in most games, whilst Broad is great in a few games but often innocuous.

On a personal note, whilst great for the England team and of course as fans we’re happy, Cook’s innings has meant that both Sean and I have lost our bets with cricket trader James Fenn. I bet that no England player would pass 160 in an innings, whilst Sean bet that Cook would average less than 25 in the series. Let this be a lesson to you all, never bet with a cricket trader!

As always, feel free to comment on the game or almost anything else below.