A new season. A new selector. A new era for English cricket.
Or at least that’s what the ECB must have been hoping for after a disastrous winter. In truth, the team sheet from England’s head selector was very similar to the last one prepared by his predecessor in New Zealand. Replacing Vince with Jos Buttler was the only unenforced change, with Buttler playing as a specialist batsman at number 7 and everyone else (bar Stokes) moving up a spot. Jack Leach was also ruled out of the team due to injury, and so was replaced by fellow Somerset spinner Dom Bess. For Pakistan, Hasan Ali was preferred over Rahat Ali. This decision was no doubt aided by Rahat Ali’s inability to take any wickets in the Test against Ireland a couple of weeks ago.
Joe Root won the toss and chose to bat. What followed was very reminiscent of England’s previous era. Of their previous twenty or so ‘new eras’, if I’m being honest. It started with Stoneman being bowled through the gate by Abbas, which is never a good look from an opener. Root and Malan both edged Hasan Ali to the keeper, and England were 43/3. Cook and Bairstow regrouped and managed to survive until Lunch, but England were facing a humiliating start to the summer.
The partnership looked solid after the interval, until Bairstow played inside a delivery from Faheem Ashraf and was bowled. This brought Stokes to the crease, and a second counterattack from England. Together with Cook, he put on a 49-run stand which was ended by Amir bowling Cook. This left England at 149/5. Not a great position, but with the remaining 6 batsmen including two allrounders, a specialist batsman in Jos Buttler and a Test centurion it was hardly the worst possible position for England.
Whilst England’s tail looked very strong on paper, on a cricket pitch they looked abjectly poor. Stokes, Buttler, Bess and Broad fell in quick succession and, within 11 overs, Pakistan had bowled the England tail out. Considering that England had won the toss and chose to bat, 184 was an abysmal total.
It looked a little promising for England at the start of Pakistan’s innings, with Broad trapping Imam-ul-Haq LBW after a successful DRS review. Unfortunately for the hosts, that was almost the only bright spot for them in the evening session. Anderson and Broad seemed to be a bit fuller and straighter than normal, but the Pakistani batsmen were resolute and seemed fairly comfortable facing the English attack. The only exception was an edge by Sohail from Mark Wood’s bowling which Ben Stokes dropped at third slip. Otherwise, Sohail and Azhar Ali made steady progress to the end of play leaving Pakistan on 50/1 and just 134 runs behind England.
Cook was England’s top scorer with 70 runs. As essentially the only member of the England team who did anything close to their job, he certainly deserves praise. Instead, I would guess the press’ attention will be aimed towards Joe Root. He chose to bat first in what many would say were bowling conditions (never mind that this was presumably a team decision involving the coaches and senior players), and he got out for just 4 runs (ignoring that he averages 50.12 as captain).
Perhaps the most worrying thing for England and their supporters is that this doesn’t appear to be a particularly strong Pakistan team. Mohammad Amir, who was heavily hyped in the lead up to this series, was wayward and slow. Their batting lineup seems fragile to say the least. Pakistan are currently 7th in the ICC Test rankings, and you can see why. This is a side which England should be able to absolutely dominate at home. That they can’t is damning. This series could well be the first one Pakistan have won in England since 1996.
As always, comments welcome below.
Given his absence of form, the selection team rather set Stoneman up… which seems an odd thing to say about 20 minutes into a new selection era! Were they expecting him to rock up and score a hundred?
That’s just ridiculous. Surely no one expects any England player to rock up and score a hundred. Even with Root you’d only expect two fifties…
I’m not on Twitter (I just read there occasionally to remind myself why I’m not on Twitter). Cutlriously, England’s greatest living former Test bowler says he knows “three eighths of eff all about most things” and yet often claims to have special escoteric knowledge, the exact nature and provenance of which cannot be shared with the lumpen proletariat. If I didn’t know better I’d say he was a charlatan. Pakistan’s bowlers may have “nailed it” today (it’d be churlish to take anything away from them) but it has to be said they got some very useful assists from several England batsmen playing crap shots.
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Of course it works better with a complete link…
I didn’t get to see any play, but I’ll note in passing that Amir is carrying an injury. If he had been fully fit, this would have been an incredibly bad tactical decision to bat first and give him these conditions to go at the batsman with.
I think they played Buttler in the right place in the batting order – but the overall team score highlights why in Test cricket England right now need a high order grinder more than a low order flasher…
Who would that be? Nick Gubbins appears to be the next England opener cab on the ranks, another player whose first class average is in the mid-30s. Basically undistinguishable from the previous 10 openers between Strauss and Stoneman. Why would we expect him to succeed when the others didn’t?
It’s a tricky one b/c one has to balance class vs form (and crucially, lack of form) – I’d have been tempted to give Burns a go instead of Buttler. It’s a long time since I saw a good innings out of Gubbins, so he’s not on my list…
Longer term, I’d like England to give Buttler a proper go – but a proper go for a batsman of his strengths and weaknesses is not a run of innings coming in at 150 for 5. Yes, it’s something he needs to learn to handle better, but it’s done nothing for his confidence I suspect.
And the way to make that proper go is to keep looking for higher order batsmen who can do the business so we can drop the ones who aren’t up to the job.
(I should make my disclaimer that I think Malan is pretty vulnerable against the moving ball, so I feel like it’s not just that we need a 3 so Root can bat where he is comfortable, it’s also that we need to plan for Malan not panning out.)
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I think there’s a case for Keaton Jennings too. None of them is a “perfect pick” but I think we have to keep looking – and holding Buttler back for a few matches while the higher order is sorted out just makes sense to me.
The thing I don’t I don’t like about Jennings is that he’s left-handed. With Cook, Malan and Stokes, that means England has four lefties in the top 6, which I think leaves the team overly vulnerable to off spinners. Also his career first class average is 34.09, which doesn’t leave me being massively optimistic.
Well, as you note with Gubbins, we’re not blessed with all that many obvious options – at least Jennings is in form, which Stoneman just isn’t, it seems.
Re: lefties, couple of thoughts
1) As we’ve discussed I’m not convinced by Malan, so that’s one way around it.
2) Given how badly our right-handers have played spin in the last couple of years, not sure handedness is the key problem… 😉
But yes, I’m just throwing names around here.
I just don’t think that we’re going to find anyone without trying out some options at Test level.
I suppose we could trust the figures and pick Hildreth, but prob. too late for that.
Oh yeah. Apparently someone from the England setup (Strauss or Smith) was talking about doing more horses for courses picks. In that scenario, you wouldn’t pick Malan at home. Or quite frankly in most places around the world.
A few thoughts on today and the batting issues.
I saw Cook play a few weeks ago. Essex against Worcester. I was never a fan of his captaincy but he was clearly the best batsman in the match played in difficult conditions. Clarke also played a very good knock first dig but Cook was way ahead of everyone else.
Inconsistent bounce, gloomy weather. That showed today. He has been playing county cricket and remains the best test match batsman in the country.
Since Trott unfortunate retirement we have never filled 3. Add to that the merry go round of opening partners.
There is a gaping hole in county cricket to fill those places but I would at least start with Hameed. One he has the technique and temperament to open. Two the last decent opening partnership I can actually remember was him and Cook.
Is there anyone else out there to bat 3?? Wherever we go I would look at who is playing well in 4 day county cricket.
The Buttler selection was plain bizarre. Or funky. One for the elusive new fan. You’ve seen him on TV scoring in the IPL so he will attract the mythical new fan by blasting a 100 off 50 balls. Wrong!
Angus Fraser and Bob Willis were not impressed by that view on the Sky roundup thingy
Well obviously picking players who are good everywhere like Trott, KP, Swann, etc would be better, but that’s not exactly an option right now.
Can’t beat bothered.
Well, I’m totally not upset. Or even surprised.
Pleased for Pakistan, who are my second team except when NZ are playing.
Do you think it’s going to be a low-scoring match, though?
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Yes, but only because both batting lineups aren’t great. I don’t think it’s a tricky pitch, generally speaking.
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Seems to me the bottom line is we are not very good. I don’t base this on just today, but the last few years. The Ashes and NZ this winter were dire. Today was just more of the same. What is even more embarrassing is that I don’t think the all round standard of world cricket at test level is very strong. (This Pakistan team is not as good as the last one here or indeed the one of the 1990s.) And it will get worse as more players become 20/20 specialists. We can’t find an opener or a number three who can see off the new ball. (Not a skill required in hit and giggle)
Truth be told without a few heroic spells from Broad and Anderson in the last four years we would have been even worse.
What is funny is how much money is spent on this team, the management, the back room staff and the ECB top brass. They must be the most overpaid flops in cricket. Once upon a time I would be angry. Not now, I just find it amusing.
Watching the Sky highlights every time a wicket falls the camera pans round to Ed Smith in a glass booth looking as if he’s pretending to be Pepe.
Yet I wouldn’t bet money on Pakistan still losing this match from here.
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I often find myself agreeing with Mark. Truth is there are no strong Test teams around now and not for a while. I enjoyed watching Pakistan trying so hard today, although I lost interest when Anderson and Broad once again tried to pull it back for England. Guess I have a soft spot for Pakistan and I guess S Africa too, who have given us so many fabulous players over the years. Don’t believe there is any hope for England now. Once again the new era looks remarkably like the previous.
and Dmitri, who once cared, has hardly paid any attention at all.
Hope the mums and kids take my place.
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I think it looks nicely poised… Even interesting. Two mediocre teams 😀
I work from home, knew it was on, have the ability to watch it.
I didn’t bother, really difficult to care, especially after I watched Death Of A Gentleman the other night.
I am attending a test this summer (India in June) but that’s because a ticket was bought as they all assumed I wanted to go.
Remember Giles’s promise about what the Sky money would do for English cricket after that glorious Summer of 2005…well, here it is, right now!!
Two thoughts re Pakistan,
the bowlers were impressively unconcerned by being driven. I had the impression that England mostly scored in boundaries. It was the right tactic on that pitch.
The fragility of their batting is unknown at the very best. Ul Haq, Sohail and the bowlers are totally unknown quantities. I note that you tend to expect a newbie to fail, but no one could possibly know yet. Azhar, Shafiq and Safraz are class acts. They have had a lean time of it since the last tour here, but class is fairly permanent. It seems wishful thinking to assume that Pakistan can’t make 320-370.
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I think it is good that Younis Khan is not playing. It’s a reasonable pitch, a bit of swing and the occasional ball does something after bouncing. If the weather stays dry, which team has the more attacking spinner? If Pakistan bat until Saturday afternoon, how do the odds look?
TBF, Cook looked much better than he did all Winter. He actually sent one down the ground!
To be honest, Stoneman surprises me. Given where he plays, I would imagine that he knows how to deal with swing and unpredictable bounce. But he manifestly cannot. Why is he even picked for Test matches?
Not connected to today’s play, but I was amused by this video of Simon Hughes playing the keyboards himself to record a new theme tune for his Inside Cricket podcast:
And The Cricketer are hosting an Evening with Mike Selvey in a couple of months. Roll up, roll up…
I thought some of our contributors would enjoy reading the full link, rather than being teased:
The early use of the six-letter a-word being a particular highlight. Must be a 1970s/80s Middlesex thing.
Loving that extra s in ‘Daniels’ too, just to fit in with the other three presumably.
Also, I like how #39 gets in there with the “Middlesex legends”, ahead of some reasonably experienced internationals who spring to mind.
What would you like to ask Mike?
When registering you will have the chance to submit a question to Mike.
A quick question on Root Maths. Wasn’t it (the 180 odd) always “discounted” because Haddin dropped a sitter when he was on 3 or something?
Also remember who pushed most strongly for him in the media to be opener. The same one who suggested Vince could do it yesterday….
Couldn’t say for sure; always thought it referred to statistical anomalies regardless of circumstance. That’s certainly how it’s been used.
My great bugbear about the original innings was that Bell’s first innings performance after three early wickets ended up being undervalued, as indeed were Swann’s wickets, and I regard Root’s MotM as one of the poorest, laziest such decisions of recent years. Again, regardless of whether he was dropped early.
On a par of stupid the idea that Vince should open the innings is right up there as one of his most idiotic ideas.
How, if Vince has not the technique to bat at number 3 is putting him in to open the innings? Those flashy, extravagant drives will be a fabulous target with a brand new hard ball.
Shinny toy has become a parody of himself. He is his own tribute band.
When he said that what was missing was some cowbell, I had an image of the video going in a whole other direction.
Shame. That might have made it interesting.
I follow Pakistan pretty closely, almost support, even, given the socio economic pressures they face compared to the rest of Test cricket.
Abbas is a better bowler than post ban Amir. Ali was exceptional in the Champions Trophy. Shadab is no Yasir but has made a very exciting start to international cricket, and Faheem does a better impression of Stokes than Stokes himself.
And say what you like about the batting, it dug in last night whilst England mooched around waiting for things to happen back of a length in overcast conditions. Day Two at Lords is usually an unbelievable place to bat. Day Three pretty good too. England are potentially in a hole, here.
I also had the impression, largely from radio, mind, that Pakistan bowled to attack the stumps. England seemed to be bowling for nicks to the slips. Doubly wrong, I think as they needed to attack last night, not tie Pakistan down. The Pakistan bats were not interested in cover driving. It might work today as Pakistan will have to look to score. But mostly Pakistan showed that with the ball nibbling around in the air and off the pitch, players are vulnerable to being pinned on the crease or even beaten on both edges.
You’re right, I don’t like praising Botham’s “insight” usually but he was banging on about how short we were bowling in both his stints last night – correctly. Anderson and Wood the worse offenders in this instance. Usually these conditions at this time of year are Jimmy’s chance to try and boost his average, so it was surprising to see him so negative.
“he was banging on about how short we were bowling in both his stints last night ”
I am SHOCKED. Who would have thought….!
England’s bowling seemed to be mostly a couple of inches above off stump, which were mostly played at. Although nowhere near as good as the Pakistan bowling, it was an improvement over the winter where they bowled everything short and wide.
Pakistan may be ranked 7th but in conditions in England, they are probably one of the teams more likely to succeed. Only sa/Oz can be considered a better chance than pak against England.
I think for example that pak is likely to do better than India in England but worse than India in Oz or sa. Horses for courses when assessing visiting teams.
If the weather is warm, and the pitches are not gerrymandered but flat, I can see India scoring decent runs when they come here later. Of course it’s a big IF, but as we saw in the last year England’s bowling can be toothless, and their batting is very brittle.
I keep hearing about India’s improving fast bowlers. You don’t have to be express fast in English conditions. Just accurate. Look at someone like McGrath,
It will be interesting to see if our bowlers have learned overnight to pitch the ball up a bit. Unfortunately they seem to have to learn this lesson every test match. You would think that bowlers with nearly 1000 wickets would have worked it out by now. Perhaps Broad and Anderson are a bit thick?
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Well, Indian bowlers always seem extremely thick to us when they travel away so perhaps England and India are more alike. ☺
From today’s Guardian OBO:
– reader “and the possibility of England going Ashes to Ashes without winning a test series in between for the first time since the dark days of the mid-1980s”
– OBO author: I think you might mean the mid-1990s?
[Narrator: the reader is correct, or certainly more correct than the author. The last two times, excluding back-to-back Ashes obviously, were 1985 to 1986/87, and 1986/87 to 1989]
Oh I do just love those lazy assumptions about English cricket in the 1990s.
England may well go Ashes To Ashes without a series win. It’s No Game, especially with the ECB led by Scary Monsters (and Super Creeps). They’re only interested in you and your mum watching some hundred ball drivel – Because You’re Young and they think you have the attention span of a lobotomised goldfish. Meanwhile it’s almost as though, for England, winning Tests has gone out of Fashion and will remain so until Kingdom Come. Beating even mediocre teams has of late become like trying to run Up The Hill Backwards. To make matters worse, Cook, Broad and Anderson could hardly be accused of being Teenage Wildlife anymore. It’s enough to make you Scream Like A Baby…
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On the bright side, there won’t be many comments about dropped catches in the media, after Cook dropped a fairly straightforward catch at slip (Babar Azam, who was on 10 at the time, from the bowling of Anderson).
Nor will there be many complaints about the umpiring in the media, after Azhar Ali was sent packing on umpire’s call (height, the same factor that saved Cook yesterday). Never mind that the umpiring decisions have not been the best, to say the least.
I am guessing all the blame will fall on Bess, for not bowling like the mature Swann or something of the sort. Never mind that Pakistan have batted well up to now (at least), and that England at times seem to be bereft of ideas. To be fair to England here, it is hard to keep your spirits up, when the opposition realize, that if they don’t do anything funky, and bat time, they’ll get a massive first innings lead, with plenty of time left to bowl England out a second time.
Because obviously, when mistakes are made by the selectors, or if the ECB is outright lying to the cricket community at large, those cannot be held to account by the English cricketing media (barring a few notable exceptions of course).
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Quick thought on Cook. He batted very well – and thank goodness he did. There is a lot going on with Cook before the ball is bowled and when he’s struggling it looks simply too much. His front foot doesn’t get near the ball, and his balance can be back behind his hips when playing forward. However, when he’s on top of his game, he looks that crucial bit more settled at the crease, and he gets his weight transfer well past his hips towards his front knee.
Pakistan’s strategy of bowling full and at the stumps meant plenty to drive, and while this is not usually Cook’s bag, because he was in good shape, he managed to drive very well. Efficient off his legs and pulling the shorter ball, he looked the class of the field.
But then something strange happened – he missed a straight one. And don’t let the Cookists have it their way: it was a straight one. Angled in, for sure, but there was no deviation in the air or off the wicket. Now, Jonny B got a brute of a ball, snaking in from a little wide of the crease, pitching almost on middle, but seaming hard to hit off. Jonny may have played it a little early (and he usually is good with swing as he has the ability to play late), but essentially he got done by a beauty.
Cook? Missed a straight one. When set. When playing his best game. On 70. I don’t remember that happening before.
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The senior player had a senior moment 🙂 He had a pretty good day yesterday, but one swallow does not a summer make. Given he’s been on a downwards trajectory for the last few seasons he’d need to string together a few performances to make me reconsider my impresssion that he’s in long term decline. Clearly though he’s putting a lot of work in to try to revert to Cook v1.0. Is Mark Ramprakash helping? Is Mark Ramprakash acheiving ANYTHING as batting coach?
I just wonder whether that was his double ton moment of the summer gone.
As for Ramps, I think your questions are rhetorical.
Q, we need to be optimistic that cook will score in the second innings too.
The Ramps questions were certainly expressed in a rhetorical msnner (guilty as charged) but are, I feel, nonetheless somewhat pertinent.
He does, after all, still get paid.
Hasn’t Ramprakash now taken over the Andy Flower “ruin the next generation of mediocre county trundlers” role now that Big Bloom has become Director, Comma?
It all reminds me of the kind of Cabinet reshuffle you get when the government is heading for defeat at the next election, the PM has no authority and most of the candidates for promotion are half-witted automatons who got their current positions by saying as little as possible and not rocking the proverbial boat.
No reflection of any current political situation intended.
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Like most, this is my first look at Dominic Bess. I must say, I’m not too impressed. The flight and trajectory of the ball seem very odd to me. The ball travels almost straight out of the hand very much like a part timer. The ball rotates sideways at 90° rather than at a more classical, 45° with some loop and dip. Maybe it’s harsh to judge him in these conditions. I dare say no finger spinners would have got turn out there so far. There’s just something about the ball flight that doesn’t look right.
The trajectory reminds me of the great Jack Simmons of Lancs. “Flat Jack” they called him. I never saw him get any delivery to turn but he loved fish and chips
On a completely unrelated topic there has been a magnificent article in the Cricketer in which serial arsehole Michael Henderson vents his spleen at Ed Smith. It is absolutely remarkable. Nick Freestone of this parish told me on Twitter that Henderson absolutely despises Smith, and this article proves it, and then some. The Cricketer has allowed Henderson to carry on his personal vendettas ad infinitum, and the editor thought this was a good thing to read. He was right in one respect. I was in bits on the train into work.
“Is Smith really a “cricket man”?
That’s your headline….
“Michael Atherton, a man of whom the University of Cambridge may be rather more proud”
“A teacher who served on the staff at Tonbridge, where Jonathan Smith, the selector’s father, was a highly regarded head of the English department, once put it neatly “He was a precocious adolescent, and that quality is not always attractive in adolescence, or later in life.”
Insight. Get the kid’s former teacher involved.
“Would Smith the selector have chosen Smith the cricketer?”
Er, and? (That summer, when he was scoring mountains of runs, possibly yes).
“But he was never a collegiate man”
Ed getting the KP treatment here. I don’t get the feeling Henderson is that collegiate either, unless it’s in other snobby company.
“Where Paul Downton persuaded the committee to make him skipper. It was, as Middlesex folk unhappily recall, a disaster.”
People kept that little snippet quiet, didn’t they? Aplomb.(You can make your joke, Chris, if you want).
“He is a dull, one-paced writer.”
Physician heal thyself.
“As a commentator he defies established practice by talking (often about himself) as the bowler is releasing the ball.”
This comment is baffling. “He comes in, he bowls, and……” The least worst thing about Smith was his TMS commentary.
“In his Kent days he was asked by a local reporter for contact details, and offered this chap a card. A blank card.”
This rap sheet is great.
“He might also put away that absurd mockney voice”.
LOL. He thinks that is Mockney!
“Going to public school and Cambridge does not necessarily make you a toff.”
But it’s a dashed fine start. And what has this to do with anything?
“They may kick you out, Evelyn Waugh wrote of the public schools, but they will never let you down.”
Was he the other brother to Steve and Mark? And, again, where is this going?
I’ve pinched some, not all, of the best bits. I’m no fan of Smith, but base it on evidence. Yes, you mention he plagiarised, with some relish. All the rest was about Ed Smith’s Schooldays and irrelevant twaddle, Dismantle him with the evidence, not some personal screed about class, school ties, and a journo with no cricket career, asking someone in the game, whether we like it or not, and who played to a very good standard and stayed with it (leave the motives out for now) is a “cricket man”?
Jeepers. With people like this making me semi-defend Ed Smith, you have to wonder how they still get gigs.
It’s fun times.
And Downton. Always Downton.
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What is interesting is why Henderson has chose now to launch this attack. The majority of the media has, as usual suppprted Smith, and claimed that Butlers selection was the right one. I think if Smith had picked Mo Salah to bat at number seven the media would have backed him.
However, fascinating insight into Smith and Downtons role yet again. The jobs for the boys, right sort of school culture goes to the heart of everything that’s wrong with cricket in England. It appears Smith was given the job for reason not completely to do with cricket talent. Is it the same with this new job of selector?
Makes you realise what a pile of shite Smiths copy was when he was writing about sports stars like Federer. He is clueless about real moves to greatness. How would he know when the old boys network keep giving him jobs.
Monthly publication. So first chance to unload.
But that Downton snippet is pure gold.
Also, the quality of spam in our comments section (you don’t get to see this) is going downhill. In among the ludicrous Japanese and Chinese rubbish, offers for all sorts of stuff we don’t want, or can’t say we want, and the people offering to get us more hits if only we do some google search I have just cleared 30 comments which said just:
The life of a blogger is filled with such glamour.
Anderson to Shadab Khan, no run, dropped! Straight to Cook this time, into the hands… and then out again! This Bizarro Test continues to play against type; that was a straightforward, if low, outside edge to first slip
If we count his drops, does that invalidate the number of catches he has taken for England?
I’m gibbering waiting for my train. I know.
Looks like Cook will be top scorer in the first innings for both sides (almost guaranteed if Babar does not return to bat after the fall of the ninth wicket). And yet, England’s total may be doubled by Pakistan. That can’t have happened too often before.
Fine discipline from the Pakistan batsmen as a whole. There was no X factor at all in the bowling but I guess we knew that.