But All We Realise The Show Ain’t Nothing – Dmitri on the 2019 Ashes

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Lest we forget – Steve Smith brings up his double ton at Lord’s in 2015

The title is another Public Enemy lyric, from one of their first songs. As they said in the same song,

“Didn’t holler at the dollar we willin’ to spend, But you took one look and wouldn’t let our ass in”

Which sort of sums up the aftermath of the World Cup, the look at the potential support out there, the entitlement of some subscription players who think sharing what they see with their own eyes is something just for those with money, and not for those that can’t or won’t pay. As if access to sport is dependent on whether you earn enough, rather than broaden horizons. So this year those people paying have the premium pricing of England at a global tournament, and the £100 per day bonanza of Ashes cricket.

We are now a matter of three days away from the latest incarnation of the most storied series in cricket. The Ashes. Running for over a century and a quarter, a bellwether for the state of the game in each nation, a proxy for the wellbeing of the sport and the nation. an anchor point on the cricket calendar, the Ashes have always been the series that the people want to see. That’s in terms of demand for tickets, value of TV contracts, public recognition and where heroes are defined. Ian Botham’s record against Australia, certainly in the early 80s is more important to many than his performances against the mightiest of foes in that era, the West Indies.

This, however, feels really really different. Whether this is because the series is now in the position of “after the Lord Mayor’s Show” of the World Cup Final just a couple of weeks ago, I really don’t know, but if the players feel anything like me as a cricket supporter, England are in dead trouble. I don’t know how you top the mountain in that way, and then have to go back and raise yourselves for your marquee series straight after. It was once said that we gave ourselves no chance in the World Cup because it followed the Ashes (while this never stopped Australia), but to me it feels the other way around. I can’t remember an Ashes series I’ve given less of a stuff about, and I can’t remember an Ashes series where I am looking at it and thinking…. am I ready for this?

I’ve felt like that about blogging since the final, too. If you don’t have the energy or the things to say, it’s going through the motions, and I’m not doing that. I couldn’t give a stuff about the event masquerading as a “test match” last week, except to marvel how 85 all out against a county standard attack at best could actually happen, whether the team was exhausted or not. And when Ireland made 38, I have to say the despair turned to anger.

Then there was the last series, where the media managed to make a 4-0 smashing sound like something to be cheerful about as we didn’t get whitewashed, and everyone’s folk hero made a double hundred in a dead rubber to prevent it. We were, basically, told not to care about it. We had not got Stokes, our opening position was shot, the bowling looked old and weak, the batting weak and devoid of hope. We even made 450 in one test, with two great centuries and it still felt we were going to get beat, and yet we were done by a 180 from Mitchell Marsh. This was all to be expected. The series was on BT Sport, so no-one really mattered, and certainly the ECB didn’t give a toss. They cared so much they flogged the team off to New Zealand, and Auckland happened. If we aren’t to care about 4-0 losses, why should we care at all. Nothing to see here. Move along.

This five test series commences on 1 August. It finishes a week before the autumnal equinox. Don’t worry, though, because the next Ashes in England will be in 2022*. Straight after the 2021/22 playing of the series in Australia. Hey, that back-to-back in 2013-14 went down so well, was so popular, so revered, we’re gonna do it again. Who seriously believed these imbeciles have the best interests of the game at heart? At least Qatar have moved the 2022 World Cup to the winter for us.

[*Note – Nonoxcol has pointed out in the comments that the Ashes appear to be in 2023. Some of the articles do state that, and that would be much better. Instead we play 10 tests on the bounce against India.]

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The Ashes Panel

OK, enough of that. The Bogfather has asked me to constitute an Ashes Panel. What is that, some may ask. Well it is this..

https://beingoutsidecricket.com/category/ashes-panel/

We ran these during previous series and they seemed to work well. As usual we will need some willing volunteers. It will entail answering a number of questions and putting your views on the series to us. I won’t be able to get one  up in time for the first test, but will be looking to do one after this test concludes. It takes a half hour of your time, and we do the rest.

Given we won’t be able to organise a panel in advance, in the interests of interactivity, and because it will stop me doing all the work (along with the team), here are five questions you can answer in the comments – and in there, you can also volunteer to be one of our panelists. Come on. It’s fun.

  1. On a scale of 1-10, how much are you looking forward to this Ashes series, and why?
  2. England’s chronic weakness appears to be the top order. Come September, who do you think will be England’s 1-2-3?
  3. Australia come into this series, in my view, underestimated. They look massive favourites to me even though they haven’t won a series in England since 2001. Am I right to think that way?
  4. What do you think the final score will be, and who will be man of the series?
  5. How many centuries do you think England will make in the entire Ashes?

So much to discuss since the World Cup Final, and yet so little time to really breathe. The Ashes should be the pinnacle of the game, but to me they feel like a hastily arranged tribute act to the main event. It never looked right having the Ashes follow a home World Cup and it still doesn’t. That this is followed by three test series in rapid succession this winter, as well as an increase in T20 internationals to prepare for the next incarnation of that World Cup.

What I Think…

This series kicks off at Edgbaston on Thursday with an interesting weather forecast, and a lot of hope pinned on this being England’s venue of choice. England’s batting is going to be the key point of focus the whole series, because it looks exceptionally fragile. The potential line-up looks like Roy, Burns, Denly, Root, Bairstow, Stokes, Buttler, Ali, Woakes, Anderson and Broad. Archer looks a long shot, unless Denly is not the number three and Root is, and there are copious mentions of that in the media. Others on social media are mentioning Stokes up to three as well. It’s an utter mess, and of our own devices. The biggest surprise is that Vince hasn’t been mentioned.

The openers look like an accident waiting to happen. We’ve waited until Burns is out of form to blood him, and now we’ll likely do the same with Dominic Sibley. I don’t care what others think, but Jason Roy is not an opener, and this selection falls into magic beans territory. Joe Denly is not test class, and appears to be an accidental international cricketer. Joe Root should bat three, but won’t. I mentioned this to my brother yesterday, but imagine KP insisting on batting at his favourite position rather than that which could serve the team better, and see how understanding the press and pundits would be. Then we have four number sixes rounding at 5,6,7 and 8, and a number 7 at number 9. The team looks confused. A confused team has excuses. A team with excuses, usually loses.

Meanwhile Australia have their own conundrum, but seem to be figuring it out. The three that “shamed a nation” will be reinstated, so Warner and Bancroft are likely to open, Khawaja at three if he recovers from injury, Smith at four, maybe Travis Head at five, Wade/Marsh or Labuschagne at six, with Paine at seven, then Cummins, Pattinson, Starc, Hazlewood (3 out of 4, and with Siddle, 3 out of 5) and Nathan Lyon. There are options in many slots. The batting has strong players with a fragile underbelly, and the bowling looks strong and will be effective in England. That Burns and Patterson were not included having scored centuries in their last test innings, speaks volumes.

We will probably do some more stuff in the next few days, but that’s enough to be getting on with. Please do answer the questions, please do volunteer for the panel – have a look at the last series to see what it entails – and no doubt, by Thursday, we’ll be up for it and looking at another frenetic home Ashes series.

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We’ve had better days, and better decisions at the toss…

By the way – my answers:

  1. 3 – An Ashes summer was that. A summer that had the Ashes and no real rival. Now it’s crammed in to a short space at the arse end of the summer, after the World Cup. There is only so much emotional energy to give.
  2. Sibley (having played no real first class cricket regularly since beginning of July) and Roy. Burns to have been jettisoned. At three? Pick someone out of the hat. Malan?
  3. Of course I am. They have two of the best three batsman in the contest, their bowling looks to have depth, and pace, and the only weakness appears to be the middle order. In a composite test side at the outset, how many England players would you pick? Root? Stokes? Bairstow? Anderson if fit?
  4. I think Australia avoid losing at Edgbaston and it is goodnight. I am tempted to say 4-1, but I think I am over-estimating Australia’s batting in England, and under-estimating England’s bowling. Let’s say 3-1 to Australia and a rain-affected draw. No way will any of these matches be drawn unless weather wipes out large swathes of play.
  5. Two. Joe Root might play into one, and Stokes could do so too. But if they could collapse in heaps against Ireland, I fear for them against Australia.

Much more to come, so stick with us during the series. We don’t let you down!

Oh, I almost forgot. This is part of the World Test Championship. You didn’t know? I didn’t.

England vs Ireland, One Off Test – The Wrap

So after two days of closely fought cricket, yesterday’s play was something of anti-climax as England rolled over the Irish batting unit for 38, the lowest ever score recorded as Lord’s, in under a session.

For those foolhardy enough to attend the game yesterday (not mentioning any names who decided to give it a miss, TLG), it looked like the sort of day that bowlers dream of. Dark, dank conditions with plenty of rain in the air is always a bowler’s paradise at Lords and having attended Lord’s plenty of times as a Middlesex fan, I’ve seen how these conditions can change a fairly flat pitch into something of a minefield. After Ireland removed Ollie Stone with the first ball of the day, just as I was queuing to get to my seat of course, it was clear that the Irish batting line up had to either knuckle down for a couple of hours until the sun was due to come out or pray that Woakes and Broad bowled too short in the way that they did in the first innings. Unfortunately neither was the case, as both Broad and Woakes much to the surprise of most England fans, bowled with good nip and great lengths ensuring that batting against the new ball in these conditions would have been a challenge for any Test side. It was clear early on that one could easily become two and that two could quite easily end up as a horrible batting collapse for a team playing only its second Test Match with a batting line up made up of mainly ex-county pros. That being said, I have often been hyper critical of England’s ability to read the pitch when bowling with the new ball and especially of Woakes and Broad after the first innings, but they bowled quite superbly, giving very little away and could quite easily have done the same to the Australian top order.

A 143-run victory looks good in the history books, even though it was barely deserved as England without doubt had the luck of the green in terms of the conditions (put it this way, I don’t think Leach would have made 90 odd yesterday!), but considering the position England had allowed themselves to be put in at lunch on Day 1, a victory no matter how underserved, saved some serious blushes from the England camp. The one sour note that came from this victory, aside from the batting, was Roots decision to criticize the pitch at the presentation. Now whether this was just an attempt to take away some of the criticism from his own batsmen or just a snide remark, it is hardly fair to criticize the groundsman after having less than week to prepare a Test wicket after the World Cup final. This is especially true of a groundsman who is in his first year of the job. Was it a great pitch, no it wasn’t, but I’d rather have a pitch that offered some assistance to the bowlers than the type of roads that Mick Hunt used to routinely prepare for both England and Middlesex and in my opinion it was a pretty classless thing to say on television. It may also not help relations in the future when England need a specific pitch prepared at Lords. As for Ireland, this may well be the first and last time that some of their veterans get to play at Lords, which is a crying shame. Ireland might not have the most talented group of players that they have ever had, but as always they played with plenty of heart and no less skill and gave England a huge fright in a game that they were treating as an Ashes warm up. I also want to give special praise to Tim Murtagh, who actually is a remarkable county bowler with a great bowling average and someone who has been a fantastic servant to Middlesex. Murtagh was never ever going to be called up by England as he doesn’t bowl the ball at 85-90 mph and is very much an old fashioned swing bowler, but he once again showed that he is a master of his art and in my own humble opinion, no-one else deserves to be on the honours board at Lords more than Mr ‘Dial M’ for Murtagh.

So with the Ireland Test match ticked off, likely for at least another 4 years, England now get to focus on the Australians and the first Test of the Ashes. We have had the announcement of the squad this morning and I must say, it doesn’t fill me with hope. Roy for me is not an opener in the longer format and never will be, though I could get on board with him as an attacking number 3, Burns looks horribly out of form and Denley is no more than a decent county pro who has been thrown into the England Test set up due to a mix of desperation and insipid selection choices. Put it this way, if I was Dominic Sibley, I would be very disappointed not to have been called up, because Ed Smith wants to try something funky at the top of the order by playing a specialist white ball opener (Roy bats in the middle order for Surrey). It was also interesting that during the presentation yesterday, Root was asked whether the batting unit was a cause for a concern, something he categorically denied. Now Root isn’t going to go on TV and admit it’s a bit of a shambles, but that’s what it is at the moment, hence don’t be surprised if we have a fair bit of chopping and changing at the top of the order as the Ashes progresses. It is also slightly unfair that Jack Leach, who won the ball with the bat was omitted. Put it this way, Moeen needs a very good match with the ball at Edgbaston as his batting has regressed at alarming alacrity.

Oh and on one last note, this Twitter post from George Dobell was very revealing last night:

 

I have a lot of respect for George and do think he’s one of the good guys, who is prepared to stick his head above the parapet and comment on what his views are of the game, rather than what is parroted to him by the ECB comms team. It will be interesting to see if we get more and more coming out publicly against the White Elephant that is the Hundred (even Mike Gatting has written to the ECB to pledge against downgrading the 50 over game). That being said, don’t expect anyone from Sky to provide any sort of analysis of the upcoming format, rather than puff piece interviews with Strauss, Clarke, Harrison and anyone else who can blindly bluff their way through why the hundred will be so great. David Lloyd and the rest know who pay their wages and are more than willing to place their morals at the door and keep their mouths shut in exchange for piles of cash. Ca plus change.

As ever, feel free to comment below on the above piece or on any other thoughts you might have. We’ll have a full Ashes preview coming up next week and if you’re tempted, we may start a new Ashes panel if we get enough interest, just comment below if you’d like to be included….

England v Ireland, One Off Test*, Day 2 – Same Old Shit, Plus Jack Leach

Wally Hammond. Herbert Sutcliffe. Sir Len Hutton. Jack Leach. Just four of the 28 English batsmen of all-time to have Test career averages above 45 as opener, and Leach is the only one to do so since Strauss’ retirement in 2012. Scoring 92 runs from 162 balls, the opener from Somerset has almost certainly secured his place in the side for the forthcoming Ashes series.

Jason Roy also showed some of his one-day form in this innings, having been demoted to three. Smashing 72 from 78 balls is an impressive feat in Test cricket, and showed how he was probably always better suited for the middle order. England’s issue is that they only have one capable top order batsman in Leach, and seven or eight who would be best suited batting at five.

Not that this should be any excuse for what happened after their talismanic opening bat lost his wicket. When Murtagh finally tempted Leach to edge one to slip, the ball was 45 overs old and the Irish had been fielding in sweltering conditions for half of the day. It was a huge opportunity for England’s aggressive batsmen to annihilate the tourists in great conditions, and instead they folded like a cheap deckchair. From 182/3, they slid to 249/7. Bairstow bagged a pair, although at least he got his pad in the way of one instead of being clean bowled this time. Denly had a comedy run out, although he wasn’t laughing. Moeen Ali edged a short ball to the wicketkeeper. Root failed to convert his promising start into a fifty. It was deja vu all over again.

And so, for the umpteenth time, it fell to the bowlers to put a respectable face on proceedings. The 8th, 9th and 10th wicket partnerships have added 65 runs so far, taking England’s lead to 181 runs. That is already a tough task for Ireland, having been restricted to 207 in their first innings. If Broad and Stone were able to add another 20 runs for the final wicket tomorrow then you might say England were favourites to win.

The day ended prematurely with thunderstorms and rain, which has the pleasant side effect of ensuring a decent amount of play tomorrow (weather permitting). Sean ( @thegreatbucko ) and Chris ( @thelegglance ) both have tickets for day three (although not seated together), so there will likely be in-depth match reports from them in the coming days. Once the hangovers wear off, at least.

Ireland have a real shot of a famous first Test victory at Lord’s tomorrow, and it could well be an exciting climax. No doubt the opportunity to do it against England will make it even sweeter for the Irish.

If you have any comments on the game, or embarassing pictures of Chris and Sean in the stands tomorrow, post them below.

England v Ireland, One Off Test*, Day 1 – Same Old Shit, Just A Different Day

Tim Murtagh is a good but unremarkable county bowler. He has a career first-class bowling average of 25.33. He does not have magical powers relating to the Lord’s pitch. He bowls a medium pace delivery with minimal movement which international batsmen, particularly when they’re being paid what England’s batsmen are being paid, should be able to handle if not absolutely dominate.

All of which is to say that I was both surprised, and yet at the same time totally unsurprised, when Murtagh tore through England’s top order like Ian Austin through a free buffet. England have had a long run of giving thoroughly ordinary bowlers their best career figures. The first example which springs to mind is from a few months back, when Roston Chase took 8/60 on a pitch which was not turning in the slightest. Even after that innings, Chase’s Test bowling average remains well over forty.

There is an undeserved arrogance which England seem to project when facing what should, on paper at least, be weaker opposition. Most of today’s team haven’t played a game in this year’s County Championship, meaning their last game with a red ball was either in the West Indies in February or 10 months ago in the previous home season. The compressed schedule to fit in the World Cup and a five-Test series meant here was no time to add in any warmup games. Not that this mattered to the ECB and the England team, because they (and much of the English media) have treated this Test match as a warmup for the Ashes.

This is not a new phenomenon either. Last year, England played an ODI against Scotland as a precursor to their series against Australia. With no warmups or team practices before the game, the highest ranked ODI team and current World Cup-holders were smashed to all parts of the ground by the Scottish batsmen. England’s Test team are considerably less able relative to to their ODI counterparts, and yet still the expectation that they can rock up to a full international game against a ‘weak’ opposition and win without any preparation whatsoever remains.

The most worrying thing about this batting performance by England is that this is quite possibly their first-choice top five. Buttler and Stokes were rested after the World Cup, but they bat at 7 and 6 respectively. All of the batsmen seemed to play miles away from their pad when driving, both to the front and side. It was absolutely terrible technique. These five batsmen scored a total of 36 runs between them, with their team having won the toss and whilst playing in rather benign conditions. Joe Denly was the best of the lot, contributing 23 runs, but by no means was he good enough.

Since the start of the 2018 season, only two English batsmen in the top five average over 30: Alastair Cook, and Joe Root. Root averages 33.76 in that time. During Cook’s struggles as opener, his continued selection was excused by people declaring that there was no better alternative to take his place. This now seems to apply to every member of their batting unit, including the captain. Ten years ago, an average of 33.76 would have seen any batsman dropped. Now, such a thing would be inconceivable.

Such selection niceties don’t extend to the bowlers, despite their consistent good work with the bat and ball. Olly Stone and Sam Curran took three wickets each plus were the second and third highest-scoring batsmen in the first innings, and yet both are likely to be dropped to make way for the rested Ben Stokes and injured Jimmy Anderson. It is a consistent thread in recent times that England’s bowlers pay the price for the batsmen’s failures.

That England are in this game at all is thanks to their bowlers. Restricting any Test team to 207 runs in their first innings is a great achievement, particularly on what is a flat (if somewhat slow) pitch. They are 122 runs behind, but that is not an impossible margin to recover against a fragile opponent.

England might have been in a worse position at the close of play if there had been 98 overs in the day, as there was supposed to be. Being a four-day Test, the sessions have an extra half hour added. Instead, the day finished with 12 overs lost. This was not, I hasten to add, England’s fault. Ireland were about ten overs short in the first session, in large part due to the rapid succession of English wickets. Because the rules regarding over rates are extraordinarily lax, it is also unlikely that either team will face any penalty for this. Allowances are made for drinks breaks (of which there were six rather than the normal three due to the freakishly hot weather) and short innings such as England’s effort are also given due consideration. We do bang on about it, but this a consistent problem which cheats paying fans out of their money.

England have made one much-needed change to their batting lineup: They have replaced Jason Roy as opener. Jack Leach seems infinitely better equipped to open the Test batting, as shown by his ability to face six deliveries without giving the opposition a chance to take his wicket. Such a solid foundation might help England’s middle order produce a few more runs than they managed in the first innings. I can only assume that Roy will be batting at 11.

If you have any comments about today’s play (and boy, do I bet you do), please make them below.

England vs. Ireland, One Off Test* – Preview

After all of the euphoria of England winning the World Cup, we are back to the nuts and bolts of cricket and the format I love the most. Whilst if you’re English, the recent World Cup will live long in the memory of England finally winning a 50 over trophy, the truth be told that it was a format which was long and often tedious, not overly helped by pitches resembling that of a swamp, which made viewing on the dull side. So with the nation supposedly re-energised in their love of the game, cricket once again slides behind a paywall which only the privileged few are able to watch. The ECB showing once again that they deserve no credit in England’s recent white ball tournament victory.

So on the 24thJuly, a time which has seemed to last forever in many people’s eyes, we are finally greeted by our first Test Match of the summer – at least that’s what those at the ECB will try and tell you. The reason why I put an asterix next to the word ‘Test’ in the title is that whilst Ireland will treat it as a historic occasion and they rightly should, the England camp have barely shown their disdain for this match by making it a four day affair and appear to be at best treating it as a warm up for the Ashes and at worst are treating it as a beer match. Unfortunately for anyone who has followed cricket for some time, this will surprise no-one. The ECB along with their fellow accomplices that make up the big 3 have shown nothing but contempt in their treatment of the smaller Test playing nations and of the Associates. This might be the first time England have played Ireland in a Test Match, but history has shown us time and time again how England viewed playing against their neighbours during one day games in Malahide by sending a few token international players alongside those that should be playing for the England Lions instead. This occasion is no different. England have pretty much picked a second XI for this game except for the inclusions of Bairstow, Root, Broad, Burns and arguably Woakes and as a result, this team looks the weakest team on paper that I have seen for a long time.

The batting looks paper thin unless Burns, Root or Bairstow click or unless Jason Roy is able to transfer his white ball batting skills into the Test arena. I also must admit that thought of Denly batting at number 3 in the Ashes frightens the living daylights out of me. There is an over-reliance on all-rounders with Moeen likely to be asked to bat at 6, even though his batting has deteriorated dramatically over the last 2 years and there is a good chance that Curran and Woakes will be batting long before they would have hoped they had to. As for the bowling, I’m quite surprised that England have included 2 spinners, when the Lords pitch rarely deteriorates, unless England know something that we don’t. I am looking forward to see Ollie Stone bowl though, as it was clear he was highly thought of in the England camp with his call up to the Sri-Lanka tour before injury robbed him of the chance to play (an English quick bowler getting hurt, who’d have thought it!). It will also be interesting to see how Broad leads the attack in English conditions without his long-time partner in crime Sir Jimmy of Burnley, who might be quite glad his calf hasn’t fully healed just yet looking at the weather forecast.

As for the Ireland, whilst this will be a momentous occasion, it will probably be tinged with a bit of sadness that their application to play Test cricket has come when the side is on the downward path. The Ireland side of four years would have given England a real run for their money with Joyce, the O’Brian brothers in their prime and Trent Johnson opening the bowling alongside a fit Boyd Rankin; however this team is a mixture of experienced campaigners who are edging towards 40 rather than in their prime, a handful of decent youngsters and a few county stalwarts who have been phased out in favour of youth. Of course, those at the ICC and ECB will protest that they are protecting the value of the Test Match game and that both Ireland and Afghanistan should be thankful to get Test cricket at all, but as we know these are just white lies, as England certainly would rather just face Australia and India every summer and every winter to cash in. This match is likely to be tokenism in every word as we have seen by the absence of any build up to it on Sky and is likely seen more as an annoyance by the ECB rather than a chance to give our near neighbours the opportunity to develop their game.

As for the match itself, I would imagine that it will pretty much be a batsman’s paradise despite the green tinge on the pitch that George Dobell tweeted about earlier. If the skies are blue at Lords, there will be precious little swing or seam for the bowlers and with temperatures likely to be in the mid-30’s on Wednesday and Thursday, the Irish team might have to spend a fair bit of time in the field if they don’t win the toss tomorrow.

As ever, feel free to share your thoughts on the game below. TLG and I are both at Lords on Friday, though in separate stands I believe, and I’m at least hoping for some sort of competitive game even if the ECB couldn’t care less.

Empty Church’s Bells are Pealing

It’s been a couple of days since England’s extraordinary victory in the World Cup final, and the fallout from it continues to irritate, amuse and entertain. Perhaps most remarkably, for a game of cricket in recent times, the result and the manner of that result dominated the airwaves and print not just in a manner unseen since 2005, but also in a way that few cricket followers could have imagined was possible any more.

It is an interesting counter-factual to wonder – assuming England still won – to what degree the coverage would have been reduced had it not been such a spectacular conclusion, for the sport could not have been luckier in having the first free to air broadcast of English cricket in 14 years be so dramatic. The peak audiences via Channel 4 and the various Sky channels were fascinating, in that nearly 8.4 million people watching cricket at about the same time as an epic Wimbledon Men’s final was concluding showed that the appetite for live sport, broadcast to the nation is not only undiminished, but perhaps might even be increasing. The astounding audiences for last year’s football World Cup weren’t just extraordinary for a multi-channel age, they were extraordinary full stop. In this particular instance, approaching 19 million people were watching cricket or tennis, and while there was doubtless some double counting in the figures as viewers channel hopped, it really ought to put to bed once and for all the idea that live sport is not “consumed” primarily via social media platforms or in bitesize. It just isn’t.

Cricket fluked it.

The average viewing figures are perhaps more indicative, in Channel 4’s case of 2.4 million, and 2.1 million in the morning. These are mightily impressive figures, given on a similar basis to the peaks, it is likely that the various Sky channels were adding maybe another 1.5 million to the total, and when the British Grand Prix averaged 1.8 million on the same day. That the World Cup final could average perhaps twice as many demonstrates a latent interest in watching cricket that the blithe statements of the ECB over the years appear to have failed to factor in. Certainly, that it was a final, with England in it, means interest was bound to be higher than, say, a June Test against Bangladesh (if they’re ever invited again) would achieve, but this is not particularly unusual for any sport where peaks and troughs depending on the attractiveness and meaning of the fixture are routine.

For this cricket fan though, it wasn’t the viewing figures, it wasn’t even the finish to the match itself that resonated most deeply. It was the various reaction videos posted online in the 24 hours following. Fellow England sports teams celebrating are de rigeur, pubs and clubs doing the same following a World Cup football match likewise. Last year I was even in a fanzone for England’s knockout tie against Colombia and the celebrations of that victory and my little video of it even ended up on the news. It’s normal. Some might even say it’s boring and repetitive. But this was for cricket, for God’s sake. Watching Trafalgar Square go berserk, watching pubs doing the same was intensely emotional – not because of the win, not because of the manner of the win, but because the game so many of us love had crossed over not just to the mainstream, but right to the heart of the English nation, even if just for one day. A month ago it would never have remotely occurred to me that this could ever happen, that the outpouring and explosion of joy in numbers that cannot possibly be pure hardcore cricket supporters was in any way possible. It was an affirmation of the power of communal sport watching, and only sport can ever multiply the effect so dramatically. It reached into the national psyche to the extent that EastEnders slipped in a reference on Monday to Ben Stokes and England’s victory in a (presumably) hurriedly filmed scene. Cricket had gone viral.

More than that, it was confirmation of the power of mainstream broadcasters having sufficient mass to offer that shared experience, and to reach out beyond the keen adherents of a particular game, to those who aren’t just occasional followers, but who aren’t followers at all. Social media is representative of nothing but itself, and should never be cited as wider opinion, but the anecdotal instances of people who have never so much as mentioned cricket before gushing over how exciting it was remains heartwarming and moving. And in its rarity, infuriating.

For while this match was available to the public, it goes back behind a paywall starting tomorrow with the Women’s Ashes Test on Sky, along with the rest of the domestic county programme and England’s entire international one, again. Next summer, assuming the Hundred survives intact the grumblings about it from the professional game, there will be the occasional domestic match on the BBC, and a couple of international T20s. As an aside on this point, it is curious how having two different formats on show is not considered likely to be confusing to the new market the ECB are after. Having made such a big thing of the game being inaccessible and requiring simplification (people seemed to cope on Sunday), to then show different versions of roughly the same length is utterly bizarre. Viewing figures will probably be perfectly passable, at least initially as much due to curiosity as anything else. But the ECB were perhaps playing both ends against the middle of this particular debate; if the viewing figures are strong, they will claim success. If not, they could use that to justify selling the game to Sky by saying there clearly wasn’t sufficient interest. Sunday rather holed that argument below the waterline, but then so have audiences for multiple other sports and still been ignored as precedents.

The ECB’s response to the public reaction has been interesting. In advance of the final with the announcement of it being on Channel 4, they were full of praise for their “partners” at Sky and their willingness to share a once in a generation event with the wider public, yet afterwards, and quick to spy an opportunity, the tone changed to become more self-congratulatory. Colin Graves, never a man to put one foot in his mouth when there is room for two, talked about how it took a while to “persuade” Sky to share the coverage, which may or may not be true, but rather beautifully throws their beloved partners under the bus while claiming the credit for themselves. Graves, of course, did also say a while back that terrestrial television didn’t want cricket, which given the alacrity with which Channel 4 cleared all available schedules to show it on Sunday must represent the best disguised indifference in some time.

Never let it be said that the ECB are slow to claim credit for a positive outcome, even ones where they have been instrumental in lowering the bar to such a subterranean level that almost anything can be considered positive. Perhaps for them the worst part of the explosion of coverage following the final was that it came to much wider attention that the intention from next year is to remove 50 over domestic cricket as a top level competition. The small band of cricket tragics (not a term used by anyone at the ECB yet, but given “obsessives” seems fine, it’s probably only a matter of time) might have been vocal about this for some time, but for the wider public, a sense of puzzlement at learning of the removal of the format in which England have just won the World Cup was delicious to many an angry cricket lover.

Sunday’s success re-ignited the whole debate about free to air broadcasting and the importance of such exposure to different sports. Sky themselves covered this question on their news channel on the Monday, before presenter and correspondent came to the shock conclusion that no, free to air wouldn’t be a good thing for the game and that an entirely unrelated broadcaster called Sky Sports had been hugely beneficial, indeed positively benevolent towards cricket.

This haze of celebration will not last long. The memory will fade quickly for most, being an occasionally referenced event whenever the word cricket is raised in polite company. It might be that a few children pick up a bat or a ball as a result, and it might be that an older person (“fogey” – Nasser Hussain) has an interest re-ignited. This is nothing but good news, and while the ECB’s long standing policies will waste the opportunity presented, it is more than anyone dreamed possible a month ago. It’s just that it was, as Matthew Engel put it, day release from confinement on compassionate grounds rather than anything more substantial.

One other small impact of the final – the politicians got involved. It’s been said that the art of leadership is to work out where the people are going and get in front of them. The large audience and thrilling outcome led those who have been noticeable by their complete uninterest in the game to start pontificating about the importance of widespread access. The chair of the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee Damian Collins invited Colin Graves to attend to talk about participation levels, but Collins was on the same committee in 2016 that talked about summoning Giles Clarke about the Big Three takeover, and that didn’t go very far. The most likely outcome here is that as the circus moves on, the various comments, questions and deeply held convictions will evaporate like a morning mist as they always have. To some extent, this isn’t even something to blame them for – the diminution of cricket’s importance is never more clearly shown than by the complete indifference of our elected representatives towards it. No votes, few angry constituents, fewer still bad headlines. For a hugely unpopular sporting body like the ECB, that normally works out just fine.

Over the next 12 months, this success will be used to justify the introduction of the Hundred. More than that, it will be used as part of the genesis of the Hundred. But it won’t work. All of the contradictions, media spinning and straight out lies have been skewered by the simple act of allowing the public a glimpse of a game fast disappearing into a wealthy self interested niche. It will not change the path on which we are set, but it will provide the most obvious of counterpoints to the already weak arguments made for the hatchet taken to the sport by its supposed guardians.

Harder Than You Think, It’s A Beautiful Thing

The morning after the night before. An exhaustion of emotion akin to any life event you can imagine, a thrill ride which included luck, luck and more luck and a questioning of your own eyes. A conflict of emotions, a turmoil I’ve not experienced with a sporting event ever. Yes ever. I watched a team suffer under the weight of their mental pressures, I saw two rocks battle, scrap and claw their way to a chance of a win, and then scrap some more as lady luck turned up just in time. Then the Super Over. The Super Over. So let me try something with this piece. 50 thoughts plus 2 for the Super Overs. It blatantly steals Danny’s idea, but I’m sure he won’t mind.

Over 1 – Imagine if this event had been on pay TV only. Just imagine if the sheer terror of this finale, the pain and ecstasy had not been made available to all. Imagine a sporting body who thinks that this is acceptable. Imagine.

Over 2 – Many people think Ian Smith’s commentary at the end made the Final, added to the event. I then imagine what the doyen himself, Richie Benaud, would have made of it. I’m not sure he would have approved.

Over 3 – Very noticeable empty seats throughout the day. I can go on and on about ticketing arrangements for sporting events, and the legitimisation of onsale markets which become a ticket tout’s charter. But it’s not a great look to have the prime event of the sport’s four year cycle played to areas of seating not occupied. Those there may have a better perspective.

Over 4 – Martin Guptill’s review proved crucial. Not sure why he decided to review something knocking middle pole out, but I really think we need to keep this in mind when having a go at Erasmus later on.

Over 5 – Kumar Dharamasena has been a decent umpire. No-one would have made any comments on the “errors” today if he had not missed the Jason Roy phantom glove, and Roy not go mad about it. I generally loathe people going at umpires. It’s a cop out.

Over 6 – My next door neighbour has never, in my 40 years living next to her, mentioned cricket. I heard her going mad during the Super Over. I was pacing around in the garden between balls.

Over 7 – Chris Woakes bowled another very good opening spell. Not long ago lots were saying what is he doing playing for England. He’s so vanilla. He’s very decent at his job and that is to open the bowling for England in ODIs. He had a really good competition.

Over 8 – Henry Nicholls played a really sensible innings that set a platform for his team. It will barely be remembered among the hubbub that followed. An important constituent part.

Over 9 – Jofra Archer’s opening spell, and then his closing overs justified his selection. He has a nasty bouncer despite not being up there at Mark Wood pace. It’s really odd that you don’t feel Wood’s short stuff is particularly venemous, but Jofra’s is. He made de Grandhomme look like a club pro at times.

Over 10 – Andrew Strauss will probably get a knighthood out of this. As usual England success will be down to the coaches and the authorities, when really it is the players. No ECB planning gives you the ability to play the game. I’ll talk more about this in due course, because the ECB are going to milk this, and how they do is going to be important to watch.

Over 11 – Liam Plunkett wasn’t even in Rob Key’s squad. In this World Cup he played, and we won, and he played a big part. He has an uncanny ability to look toothless and then take wickets. He doesn’t seem to go for too many. A much underestimated cog in the wheel.

Over 12 – Mark Wood bowled a super little spell including a wicket maiden. He also went off injured, with what looked like a rib injury. I’m sure that was improved by his fruitless dive for the line later in the day!

Over 13 – Adil Rashid had a low-key final, bowled his 10 overs, run out without facing a ball, and scarpering when the champers was opened. His presence in the team is valued by those who matter most, his captain and team-mates. And nothing that is said outside is going to impact that.

Over 14 – Sourav Ganguly’s commentary was annoying in the extreme, especially the bit where he rubbed Isa Guha’s nose in it after the Jonny Bairstow decision. Not good. Trolling England fans throughout isn’t particularly a good look.

Over 15 – Sometimes life just isn’t fair. A cosmopolitan England side, with an Irish captain, two Muslim bowlers in the squad, players born overseas, and you get to see pictures of arch-Brexiteers, cosying up with Piers Morgan, on Twitter. I don’t do politics on here, as you know, but some hypocrisies make me retch.

Over 16 – For all our mocking of Paul Farbrace after the Australia loss, he was right, wasn’t he? It’s always appropriate to recognise when we were wrong. Well, I was.

Over 17 – I hope the tired, lazy tropes about momentum and so on are put to bed, although I know they won’t be, and yes, again, I fall into that trap. The final had no momentum issues. None. Nil. Nada. It was a one-off match.

Over 18 – The Williamson dismissal via a tiny nick was pounced upon by critics of Kumar. I’ve umpired, obviously not to international standard, and hearing nicks on a quiet Sunday afternoon game is tough, let alone at an international final with 25000 or so people not keeping quiet. What do you want him to do? Guess? He couldn’t hear anything, so there are reviews to prove otherwise. If batsman and bowlers weren’t so keen to tell umpires that they don’t know the LBW rules better than the person there to adjudge, then I’d have sympathy for the players.

Over 19 – Then there was Ross Taylor. I’m not going to go overboard here, but credit to Michael Clarke, who immediately called “height”. No-one else did in the box. If you call it when you see it, you can then comment on the error made. Otherwise, bin it. Erasmus has been a very good umpire and is widely respected (I still think Agar was stumped early on in his 2015 innings), and suddenly the angst pivoted to him. I found that amusing. More of this later on.

Over 20 – Have you ever seen a batsman look more out of his depth than Colin de Grandhomme? It was painful to watch. Archer tortured him.

Over 21 – I for one was wondering what the New Zealand game plan was later on. No-one seemed to try to biff it. I wonder if, looking back, New Zealand wished they’d pushed the button a little earlier. But hindsight is an exact science.

Over 22 – England’s bowling really impressed me again, but you do need to wonder about how much the wicket played a part.

Over 23 – Jason Roy was pinned first ball. It looked it to me. It looked it to most. The verdict was about as close to three reds as could be without being given out. Ian Smith went over the top in the comm box, but listen to his commentary. “Missing leg, is it missing leg”. Yeah. Ian, Slam dunk once you watched it on replay. That annoys me no end. As you can tell.

Over 24 – Jason Roy’s innings never got started, and it is concerning that when he fails, England seem to struggle. Certainly in this World Cup. For this to be comfortable he needed to make a quick half century, because he does seem to drag his partner with him. His dismissal made the chase less Australia semi-final and more India Champions Trophy 2015-like.

Over 25 – Who’d have thought cool Joe Root would let the occasion get to him? 30 balls of tortured batting, an inability to master the wicket, a few skittish attempts to whack it and then a windy swipe to nick off. He exemplified the need to just rotate the strike as much as possible. Easy to say from my sofa, but something, notably Jos Buttler, who is a shotmaker, did when needing to restrain his instincts.

Over 26 – Jonny Bairstow played a very sensible knock, having a little luck, but I was entertaining thoughts of him sealing the cup with a century. He then chopped on, as he looked like he could do, sparking Simon Doull and Sourav Ganguly commentating like infants for a couple of minutes. Bairstow’s rant midway through the tournament betrayed the concerns of the England camp, but he, as much as anyone, spoke in content afterwards with his two centuries. His fielding was immense on the boundary.

Over 27 – The opening bowling was decent without being worrying. Yes, England sort of got away with one early, but reaching 30 without loss should have been the platform to ease to victory. The fear really was what would Trent Boult and Matt Henry do. They weren’t really a factor early on. England were scoring nicely.

Over 28 – The vice was applied by Colin de Grandhomme. He dropped Bairstow when he failed to grasp a firm drive back to him. But the Big Man bowled with guile, skill, accuracy and mental pressure as players who thought they should be smacking him, couldn’t. His application meant the target started creeping up and up. I bet the players could sense our frustrations. Somewhere, out there, Ian Austin was saying to himself “if only” and Mark Ealham was thinking of coming out of retirement.

Over 29 – I never believed Eoin Morgan was going to get us over the line. Whisper it quietly but if someone had scored some runs to put pressure on the team, the obvious batsman to drop is Eoin. Now he has his plaudits and critics in the media and on here, and I think he can be a bit in love with his own brilliance, but when someone called him Brearley with runs yesterday, they were part correct. He’s a more valuable batsman than Brearley ever was, and he’s a very good tactician and leader, that is evident. The credit should rest a lot with him, instead of his authorities. But he’s getting weaker against the short ball, and his dismissal showed that. It seems a long time since he flayed Afghanistan.

Over 30 – Lockie Ferguson’s catch was as good as his tache is bad. His cheeky “soft signal” was, to this contrarian, one of the moments of the Final. I was a hopeless fielder, hated the ball coming to me. I admire anyone who takes a catch above the ordinary because I know I couldn’t. To do that knowing if you miss you might cop a mouthful of rock hard red ball gets my thumbs up. Then Ian Smith called it one of the “greatest ever” and my heart sunk. Really?

Over 31 – Four down and Buttler came in. Stokes had struggled to get going, but as was accurately mentioned on comms, the ball makes a different sound on Jos’s bat. What Jos did which was so damn good was he rotated the strike. Whereas Stokes kept hitting fielders, Jos kept avoiding them. He got the wicket early, knew it wasn’t one for his pyrotechnics, and played the situation. He would hit the shot when it came to him, but he let the game flow naturally knowing that a partnership needed to be built. He was the calm to the Stokes energy.

Over 32 – The run rate kept climbing. My brother asked me, via text, who I thought was going to win. I said New Zealand. This was not a pitch to score more than a run a ball on. New Zealand’s last ten overs reaped 62,

Over 33 – The Stokes/Buttler partnership saved England, no doubt. But was it a touch too slow? I’m not sure what Stokes’ issues were early on, but he was scoring at Root rates early on. I can only guess how hard it was for him to temper his natural game, but he was getting leading edges, bunting it into gaps where it wasn’t intended to go. Stokes has been the rock of the middle order, and it is hard to question him in hindsight, but the accelerator was always going to be tough to push.

Over 34 – Buttler got to 50, but the 40-42 overs all came in at much less than required, and at that stage I was convinced it was New Zealand’s. I said so on the blog. Especially when Buttler got out.

Over 35 – Jos Jos Jos. What was that shot? It’s easy to pop from your sofa, but you played a shot to a ball that wasn’t there and you’d been almost perfect up to then. While you were there I believed, hoped. When you were out, I felt that feeling in the pit of my stomach. I recognised it. It was the one when Simon Jones dropped Kasprowicz in 2005. At that point, I knew how far along the spectrum I was in the England love-o-meter. I couldn’t say I didn’t care. I know I did. I wanted them to win. Very badly. Oh, and it was a fine, fine catch by Tim Southee.

Over 36 – Woakes was overmatched, and departed to a skier. I noticed Tom Latham’s little photographer’s dive after taking the catch! A big plus to Nasser’s pretty cool commentary during this time. Concentrating on the dot balls, the number of balls and targets rather than wickets. I made a note to mention it.

Over 37 – Liam Plunkett put bat to ball better than most, but he was faced with having to do it from the start and with no time to adjust. His catch given to long off was inevitable. Liam had a good World Cup, and 10 off 10 balls doesn’t sound much, but it gave us hope when there wasn’t any.

Over 38 – Jofra Archer came in in front of Rashid, and promptly got bowled going for glory first ball. I have yet to see Jofra the bat, and he can according to many, but his was a minor part in the overall proceedings with the bat.

Over 39 – Went out of order.. the batsman crossed from the Plunkett steepler, and Stokes smashed the next ball from Neesham to long on. Boult was under it again, he took the catch, stepped back, knew he was going over the boundary, threw it to Guptill, and I put my head in my hands. But wait. Guptill is signalling six. What? Why? How? Oh my god, he’s stepped on the boundary. Is our name on the trophy? 16 off 8 sounds better than 22 off 9. A moment to say well done to Guptill. Of course, it would have been proven to be six, but he signalled it, knowing what the replay would show and not trying to pull a fast one (as Morgan, perhaps, could be accused of with the Ferguson catch). It says a huge amount for the way New Zealand play the game. I think it sounds patronising to keep patting their heads, but they are a fine team and do not compromise it by cheating. I wish it was like this everywhere.

Over 40 – So we are now down to 15 off the final over. Stokes in the position to be the man again, like the T20 Final. Irony not lost on me. Two dot balls were not in the script. Stokes might have been able to take a single but he thought he was the only one who could score the runs. The third ball was in the slot, down low he got under it, and belted it over midwicket, a long way back for 6. Great, but it is still 9 off three.

Over 41 – The moment of the match. Stokes hits the ball to midwicket and they were always going to go for two. It was a 1 3/4 run. Stokes steamed, head down, for the crease knowing the only chance of staying in the hunt would be to get there. Guptill’s throw was quick, hard, accurate. Stokes stretched and the ball appeared to ricochet away. It diverted past Latham and kept running, on and on, to the boundary. What? How? What? That’s six runs, isn’t it? Stokes sticks his arms out to say sorry. But it is going to be six runs. Suddenly it is 3 off 2. We have to win this now. The luck has been going our way.

Over 42 – There is something quintessentially English about feeling guilty about profiting from luck or mistakes, yet we are the first to moan about our ill fortune. England’s 1966 win is prefaced with us going on and on about the third goal. Do you think Germany, who in their guises have won the competition three times since give a shit now? Argentina don’t asterisk their 1986 triumph about Maradona’s Hand of God. I watched the 1992 Final, and honestly never remembered the Pringle LBWs until he made a thing of it a bit later – I was more pissed off at Botham not nicking it and being given out. Pakistan don’t give a shit, it’s all “cornered tigers” BS. Yet here we are – we should have let them win, it was only five runs, it should have been just two, it should have been this, been that. It’s sport. It wasn’t dishonest. It was luck. I am sure the rule will be changed as a result, but just do one with this asterisk shit. Why bother if the sport is to be cleansed of any element of chance. It is why I hate VAR. If your motivation for this is an anti-England feeling, then that’s your choice. I recognise it for what it was, a massive, enormous, huge slice of luck.

Over 43 – Three off two balls, but Stokes mishits one to long on, and there’s barely one and a half runs in it. The ball is thrown to the bowler’s end and Rashid is miles short. Out not facing a ball, note how Adil, when he walks off, tries to encourage Stokes. The thought, under all this pressure, was were New Zealand playing it safe getting the non-striker out, and not going for Stokes, who would have been out in all likelihood because he had a slow start given he’d got so low in hitting the yorker. In that cauldron, better to play safe.

Over 44 – The last ball, two to win, one for a Super Over. What will Stokes do? Go for glory? Make sure of the one if he can and gamble for a second. Mark Wood isn’t the fleetest of foot at the non-striker’s end. Boult bowls a full toss on middle stump, the ideal ball to whack, but Stokes bunts it to mid-on area. We have the single, they turn, the throw is deadly accurate at the non-striker’s end, Boult gathers and takes the stumps. The replay confirms he had ball in hand, nothing untoward, and it is a Super Over. At that point, I think I inhaled some air for the first time in 15 minutes. This is crazy. But this is sport. Meanwhile, at Wimbledon, the Men’s Final goes into that competition’s equivalent of the Super Over, a fifth set tie-break at 12-12. Sport.

Over 45 – The Super Over rules, and another chance to de-legitimise the victory. It is clear, if the score is tied after 50 overs, wickets are irrelevant. It has been for about 20 years so bloody well spare me the angst over that. There’s an Irish guy I follow on Twitter who is banging on and on about this (and the Super Over) and all he ever does is complain about sport. I genuinely ask why he watches it any more if he hates it that much. Yes, coming from me. So it is clear. Super Over – most runs win, and if it is a tie, who hit the most boundaries in combination. It’s in the bloody rules of the game. You might not like it, but it is clear. I still hate penalty shootouts. It still doesn’t mean I don’t count Millwall knocking Chelsea out of the Cup in 1985 because we won on one. Don’t be daft.

Over 46 – It had to be Buttler and Stokes. Never did find out who was number three (was it Roy?). First ball squirts for three runs down to third man. Second is a well hit single to mid-wicket by Jos. The third finds a gap between the two leg-side boundary fielders to give Stokes 4 runs. 8 from 3. What is safe? The next ball Stokes carves straight to cover for a single. Buttler hits a yorker for two, and then smashes the last ball over mid-wicket for four. Is 15 any good? I can’t process basic thoughts. It sounds good. Archer is warming up. Good god. We’re trusting a kid, relatively, to bowl that last over. Really? Really? And this did not help:

Over 47 – Don’t bowl a wide. Don’t bowl a wide. Don’t bowl it in the slot. Don’t bowl a no ball. Don’t bowl a long hop. The first ball passes over the blue tramline. It’s a wide. Was it harsh? I thought so. Would I have gone on about it if we’d lost? Probably not. Thin margins.

Over 48 – Neesham squirts the next ball for two. The Black Caps got their skates on. At this point the comms were questioning whether Neesham was the right man for this. Next ball he takes a good length Archer ball and belts it into the Mound Stand. We’ve lost. 7 from 4. Neesham hoicks the next one to mid-wicket, Roy misfields, and it is another two. Five from three. Next ball, yorker, Neesham repeats the shot, it is better placed and there’s another two runs. Three from two. It has to be three, because England have hit more boundaries. Next ball is a slower ball bouncer. Neesham pulls it into his body. Guptill gets a motor on and makes it easily. Two from the last ball.

Over 49 – Time stands still. Utterly still. Only sport can do this. Spellbinding. Two to win, and the man tasked to score them was out at around 11:30. He hasn’t faced a ball in the Super Over. Archer is a rookie. On their heads the game rests. The field takes ages to set. The tension building. I’m absolutely numb. I know that a win is what I truly, totally want. It feels good, but it also feels like I’ve been a bit of a fraud. My last five years of agnostic, almost loathing of elements of this team. But damn you Stokes, damn you Jos, damn you Jofra, you’ve brought me back. Archer bowls full on leg stump, Guptill gets a great bat on it, you can’t smack that and gets it to deep mid-wicket. The fielder, heaven knows who it was at the time (the irony being Jason Roy who misfielded earlier) threw in, Jos gathers, smashes the stumps. Guptill looks well short. I am screaming yes, yes, yes. Jumping around the living room. Teddy looks scared, so I hug him and give a non-plussed border collie dying for his walk, a big old kiss. I feel that wave of elation, it lasts not as long as it used to, but that is what sport, and excitement, makes you do. I try to focus on what needs to be done, but I’m numb.

Over 50 – I am genuinely, totally uninterested in anyone else’s reaction. I don’t care in the immediate aftermath. I don’t want to hear pundits, I don’t want to hear people tell me what I think about it. These memories are mine, not yours “experts”. I want to react the way of the natural order. I take Teddy for his walk. I am buzzing. England have won the most exciting game of cricket I’ve seen, certainly since 2005, and up there with the best finales you could ever wish to see. And as sport fans, what more can you ask for?

Super Over 1 – From a personal standpoint I was trying to reference this match with other great sporting events I’ve watched. Personally, nothing can match the tearing up of my insides that was the second half of the FA Cup Semi-Final in 2004, but in hindsight that was meaningless, even if it didn’t feel like it at the time. The obvious cricket reference point is Edgbaston 2005. I think it is really similar to that, but a little different. England had that game won, and couldn’t finish off the team. Here England never had that won, and indeed, to be fair, didn’t win, but the miracles it took to get there made it exhausting. I am trying to remember an event where I actually shed tears during it. I did after that ball hit the bat and went for the boundary for the four “overthrows”. I actually couldn’t breathe. The winning moment was greeted with huge excitement, but I think I’ll remember the richochet more. Sport is amazing. Utterly amazing.

Super Over 2 – The time to talk about the ECB is in the next few days, not really now. But let this be said. They have been given this blessed gift from the gods. For a long time this was a dull ODI, played on a dog of a pitch, with no pyrotechnics, and only lifted because of the occasion. It finished in a maelstrom of total, utter, excitement. Think Wilkinson’s drop goal, Jones catching Kasper, the Aguero winner/Thomas winner of the league with the last kick of the season. Think Liverpool and Spurs on successive nights. Think how that can catch a country’s imagination, bring them together. The ball is in your court. I’ll wager you’ll congratulate yourselves and ignore the signs of what can be. Or as one of our number just said in this tweet:

There will be more, and I’m sure I missed some key moments too. I hope this conveys my thoughts adequately. I have the whole game recorded. I’ll be committing it to digital copy this afternoon. It’s not often a whole confluence of emotions are concentrated on half an hour of sheer sporting drama. I can’t do the flashy words. I’m more visceral. Yes. Yes. Yes. Get In There!

 

ADDITIONAL….. Maxie is right to raise the following:

For a long time this was a dull ODI, played on a dog of a pitch, with no pyrotechnics, and only lifted because of the occasion.

For someone coming to the game for the first time in ages, the match might have appeared dull, the same way a taut Cup Final with no goals can be to those not emotionally involved. It’s amazing how many big football matches my team played that were 1-0 or 0-0 never seemed boring to me. It wasn’t a dull game, it was tight one, but this was meant as a reflection as to how someone new to this might look at it. This isn’t T20….

Also, and totally remiss of me, I want to thank Chris, Danny and Sean for the coverage of the whole of this World Cup. I am biased, but it has been brilliant. Chris did the end of the live blog last night when I could barely think, let alone write. Danny and Sean put the hard yards in during the interminable group stages, and brought their own perspectives to the blog. I love what we do, I am honoured to write this blog with them, and even in those times when none of us are up to it, the BOC thing still resides in our heads. We are nothing special, we are just cricket fans. When we speak, we speak from our hearts. We care, care so much that it hurts some times. We can be brutal, but we are never trolls. We can call people out, but we do it through our own frustrations. The blog and the community we have, both here and on Twitter live for moments like this. There is no correct reaction. It is personal. All four of us show that in our writing. Thanks to all of them. I don’t say it enough.

World Cup Final: England vs New Zealand – Live Blog

It’s 9am, and cricket is about to start on Channel 4. Anyone can tune in, it doesn’t need a day pass, it doesn’t need a subscription. Just turn the television on, or if you’re one of those millions the ECB insist don’t “consume content” this way, use the 4OD app and stream it. Either way, the England cricket team are there to be watched by everyone for the first time in 14 years.

It’s a treat of course. A special occasion, a one off. And the sheer delight at cricket opening itself to the masses is tempered by the absolute fury that it can have been 14 years since this was last the case. For a sport, any sport to have hidden itself away for so long, as a deliberate strategy, remains extraordinary, and extraordinarily stupid.

The way the ECB have been banging on about “engagement” in the last few days is the mark of an organisation desperately trying to justify its own actions, using every possible matrix to try to deny the consequences of its own conduct. It’s a common tactic of course, the same kind of adding up that led Manchester United to claim they had 659 million fans, through amongst others sleights of hand including all those who support other clubs but who play United and thus count as being interested in them, but with cricket, the numbers are so frighteningly low to begin with that the exaggerated numbers are more terrifying than reassuring.

Still, today is a chance, a rare opportunity, for someone to stumble across the game that we love, and be hooked by it. It’s a common memory for so many of us, to have played in the back garden or the street, and to discover it shown on tv and be drawn in. Times have certainly changed in the world of broadcasting, but a central tenet of sports adherence has not – in order to fall for a game, it has to be seen, it has to be watched. Today can only be beneficial. But the sad part, the desperately sad part, is that instead of being a foundation on which to build, it is instead a one off, a quick glimpse through the palace gates at the riches beyond and little more. Celebrate this instance, but remain furious that it is all we get.

It will be intriguing to see what kind of viewing figures are gained, and it’s not hard to imagine that the ECB’s worst nightmare is if they are strong. They’ll certainly be higher than anything gained on Sky over the last few years, but a strong latent interest will shine a light on their policies like nothing else. Naturally, they’ll protest that it justifies their Hundred approach of showing the odd game to the public, and how they intend to capitalise on reaching non-cricket fans in future. That’s the trouble with the ECB – you can write their responses yourself, if you can bear to continually write sentences including the words stakeholders and engagement.

Of course, this is an ICC event, and the granting of free to air coverage is entirely the decision of Sky, so the ECB claiming credit would be laughably misplaced, but it is unlikely to stop them.

But this is an unqualified “good thing”, an unexpected bonus for those who might well be able to afford a Sky subscription, but who care enough for the health of a sport that they want to see everyone exposed to it, who want everyone to get the chance to appreciate it. Of course Channel 4 are going to switch to the Grand Prix, they’ve had that scheduled for ages, but it is not like the early years of the century – everyone, and I mean everyone, now has digital television and can switch. Perhaps just as importantly given cricket’s absence from the wider airwaves, some who tune in for the motor racing might just hang around for the cricket afterwards as well.

It’s sunny, it’s exciting, and we’re all going to watch cricket. What a fabulous day, and there will be a new winner of the Cricket World Cup. What’s not to like?

As for the game, England are warm favourites against a New Zealand team that epitomises the cliche about them being more than the sum of their parts, but who have some outstanding cricketers in their ranks too. There seems little doubt the team winning the toss will wish to bat first, and that the pitch will be a batting friendly one for such a showpiece occasion.

We’ll all be joining in with the live blogging and commenting during the day, so the usual reminder that auto-refresh is a plug in that we’ve not come across yet, so you’ll need to manually refresh the page. Oh the hardship…

09:10 – 5 Live have started the build up, Sky have started the build up, and half the Channel 4 audience are seeing for the first time that a World Cup has been on for the last 6 weeks.

09:17 – I remember the 1992 World Cup, getting up at 3am to go down to the student union to watch the final. My mate Jason was going to come with me, but overslept the little shit, so I was stood outside his house cursing his name as he drifted. He eventually turned up at about 9 I think.

09:30 – the irony of the Sky feed showing bits of the 2005 series on Channel 4 but with the Sky commentary.

09:50 – interesting watching the interview with Eoin Morgan. Some in the media have been falling over themselves to praise people behind the scenes, like Strauss. It surely can’t be too difficult to give the bulk of the praise to the bloke who has been in charge of the team for the last four years. He’s the one, not a suit.

09:55 – toss delayed to 10:15. So presumably a delayed start too.

10:16 – New Zealand win the toss and bat. Probably not an easy decision given the overhead conditions. Same side for New Zealand. Morgan says he’s not bothered about losing the toss and that it was a 50/50 call. England also unchanged.

10:29 – “I got a duck in the World Cup final, it’s not that bad!”. Brendon McCullum is great – all the pontification about pressure and so on, and he offers a healthy dose of perspective.

10:38 – is it just me who really, really hates anthems before a cricket match?

Ok here we go. Not really nervous, not like before the football or rugby World Cup matches. Odd in many ways, I’d like to be.

10:45 – having said that, it’s worth England being in the final for the sheer bitterness of some of our Australian friends in particular. Marvellous.

Massive wipe at the first ball by Guptill. Fantastic to see, and what I’d hope to watch down the local club.

It’s a World Cup final and we’ve got Michael Clarke on comms. Did we deserve that?

Boy that pitch looks green. 5-0 after 1.

10:53 – great decision from Erasmus not to give a catch behind, and a good one from Morgan not to review it. Have to say, first instinct was it was out. Nope, hit the back leg.

10:55 WICKET! Nicholls lbw to Woakes. It’s been reviewed…oh this looks stone dead. Wow, going over the top. Must be going blind. So overturned, as you were. 8-0 off 2.3

11:00. 10-0 from 3. There’s movement for the England bowlers out there, but surviving the first half hour is going to be key.

I’m absolutely certain that my (abysmal) bowling arm came over at the same speed as Jofra Archer’s. But the ball dribbled out for me and goes down the other end like an Exocet for him.

11:03 – 22-0 from 4. Decent start.

How come I always get the promotion email about World Cup matches from the ECB well after the game is underway?

11:06 24-0. England have started reasonably, there have been a couple of alarms, but no more than ought to be expected.

Archer is perhaps bowling a bit short. The speed is starting to crank up though.

11:10 WICKET! Probably anyway – Woakes bowls full to Guptill and pins him in front. It’s been reviewed, and yep, that’s out. New Zealand also lose their review. 29-1.

Woakes has been good this morning, looking much the more dangerous of the opening attack. Kane Williamson arrives at the crease…

A general thing about reviews. Dharmasena hasn’t had a great tournament, but his error in giving Roy out in the semi-final would have been overturned had England not burned their review on a desperation attempt to prevent Bairstow’s dismissal. So it is here with New Zealand, by hoping for a miracle, they’ve now put themselves at risk of a mistake later. For all the criticism about a wrong decision, teams bring a lot of it on themselves with Hail Marys on ones where it’s a fair enough decision. My sympathy is in short supply.

11:20 bit of short pitched bowling from Archer to Williamson. A fast bowler pinging a batsman is great stuff. As long as you’re not the batsman. 30-1 from 8

Nicholls is struggling a bit here. 10 runs off 26 balls and looking a tad fretful with it.

11:28 Always easy to slate the commentators, and some are woeful. But it’s Atherton, Bishop and Smith on currently. They’re bloody marvellous. Can we have them on for the rest of the day?

1135 40-1, given it’s not easy out there, New Zealand will be pretty pleased with this start. Could have easily lost the final in the first hour, but they’re in the game.

1142 Bit of an iffy first over from Liam Plunkett, but everyone knows this entire game is about watching him bowl, and particularly watching him bat.

1148 50 up, in the 14th over. Been a bit of a struggle, but it’s fine. They’re in the game.

1150 Kane Williamson 4 not out off 24 balls. Which says above all else that people can get too stressed about the early part of an innings, because if he’s still there in 20 overs time, he’ll have a big score. Mark Wood into the attack.

1155 Mark Wood is getting more (away) swing than anyone else. Swing hasn’t been a big part in this tournament, it’s a pleasant surprise to see some.

95mph from Wood. That’s rapid.

1156 and that’s drinks.

1159 Hmm Stokes is limping a bit. Seems to be ok now, ran around the boundary well enough just now.

1202 68-1 from 16, and here’s Danny to take over.

1206 Tight over from Wood. New Zealand seem to be targeting 250-270, which has to be too low against this England team?

1210 Seven from Rashid’s first over, with not much spin off the pitch. It might be worth bowling Stokes a bit early on and seeing if the pitch if more receptive to Adil later on…

1214 Seven again from Wood’s third over. New Zealand are accelerating, and the English bowlers aren’t seeming very threatening in these middle overs so far.

1219 Another seven runs from Rashid’s over, and again no real threat.

1223 Seven runs from Wood’s end too. Since Woakes finished his 7-over spell, New Zealand are scoring at 6.4 runs per over, which could lead to them scoring over 350 altogether. Very worrying…

1226 Better from Rashid, only four of this one, but nothing to worry the batsmen. Ominous.

1230 WICKET. Williamson given not out edged behind, but that decision was by Dharmasena so England have reviewed. Huge spike on the UltraEdge and Plunkett has got Williamson out. Huge wicket from nowhere!

1242 A couple of tighter overs after the wicket and the pressure is back on the New Zealand batsmen. Losing Williamson could have cost New Zealand 50 runs or more from their total.

1248 WICKET No need for Dharmasena to fret about this decision. Plunkett bowls a full ball and an inside edge rips out Nicholls’ off stump. Amazing what happens when you bowl full.

1302 Three tight overs from Plunkett and Rashid, New Zealand’s wheels are spinning but they’re going nowhere fast. Stokes has apparently recovered and is bowling his first over.

1306 Stokes keep it tight, conceding four, and now it’s DRINKS.

13:08 – Dmitri taking over now. Teddy permitting.

13:10 – Rashid bowling his 8th over, with no wickets. Four singles from the first four balls and then two dots. Think they aren’t really taking a chance here, putting their eggs in a 250-270 basket. There’s not a lot in this wicket, so I’m not sure that’s a top idea.

13:12 – Ben Stokes on for his second over. All quite low key so far. Latham pulls the second ball firmly for a single to backward square. Ross Taylor does pretty much the same to the next ball, but just a single. No getting away from the lack of boundaries. Another nick for a single off the fourth ball. Two leg-byes off the fifth ball as it flicks off Taylor’s hip to fine leg. Wide off the sixth ball which went right over the blue line. Kumar being a bit harsh. Guided down to third man for a single off the last ball. Seven off it – 141 for 3.

13:18 – Not sure this will be enthralling the nation. Mark Wood replacing Adil Rashid, to bowl his fifth over. First ball he nails Taylor in front, and with no review he has to go. Is that New Zealand’s last chance to post a big total? Erasmus is fireproof at the moment. Has he got this right?

WICKET – Ross Taylor LBW Mark Wood 15 – 141 for 4

Our band sings (well I do) this song, and our guitarist plays a damn sight better guitar solo than this. Neesham in. Is the game gonna go his way? LBW was too high, so congratulate Guptill for blowing the earlier review. And let’s see Erasmus get some grief (I don’t mean that, but Kumar got stick for some stuff earlier today on the back of a bad decision on Thursday). No runs from the next four balls. Make that five. A wicket maiden from Mark Wood – 141 for 4 from 34.

13:24 – “Funny How the Missus Always Looks The Bleedin’ Same” – How am I ever going to get that lyric into a blog post title? Stokes on again. One from the first, full bunger not dealt with for the second. Two left-handers in now. Stokes strays on to leg stump and Neesham clips it through mid-wicket for a rare boundary. First in 15 and a half overs according to Bishop. Follows up with a wide. Neesham clobbers the short ball through wide mid-on for another four from the fifth ball. A driven single makes it 11 off the over and the score with 15 overs to go at 152 for 4. Are we seriously expected to pay £20 extra to watch Dillian Whyte?

13:28 – Wood gets smacked first ball by Neesham but no run. Blocks the second, with Wood registering 92 mph on the speed gun. Evades a short ball third up, but connects with the fourth – Woakes dives to save three runs on the boundary. Jimmy giving it big lash early on. Play and miss on the fifth. Blocks the sixth, with just one run from Wood’s sixth over. 153 for 4.

13:33 – Stokes removed, and Liam Plunkett back on. First ball to Neesham who hit straight to backward point first up. Drop and run on the second ball. The Barmy Army trumpeter plays, whether you like it or not. Dot ball. Michael Clarke doesn’t remember much about the 2015 Final. Just like I don’t recall the early days of this blog. Plunkett goes short, and Latham goes for a pull, for four. Bounced before the “rope”. Quick single next ball. Dot ball off the sixth ball. Six from the over. 159 for 4 from 37.

13:37 – Latham times a ball through the covers for four from Wood’s first ball, but follows up with a play and miss to a pitched up delivery. Lovely to see the ICC dignitaries enjoying the cricket. Latham to third man for a single. Let’s see those ICC characters again. The public demands it. Dot ball to Neesham off ball four. Nothing from the fifth, a short ball Neesham ducks under. A squirted dab into the offside gets Neesham a single. 6 runs from the over, 7 from Wood’s last three, and it’s 165 for 4 with 12 overs left.

13:41 – Wasted. That’s a tune for the MCC members. Might be about the 2005 legacy, eh? Dot ball first up from Liam, just missing off stump. This is Plunkett’s ninth over. Dab down to third man for Neesham. Ah the Women’s world cup winners. What a legacy they’ve built since, aided and abetted by the ECB. Single to Latham, then two for Neesham. Not fireworks by any means. Neesham hits the next ball for four, an offdrive off the back foot that Woakes couldn’t reach. Then Liam gets his revenge, fooling Neesham who lofts it straight to mid-on and it is caught by Joe Root.

WICKET – Jimmy Neesham Caught Joe Root Bowled Liam Plunkett 19 – 173 for 5

A key wicket for England as in comes the Big Man. I’ll call him CdG for the purposes of this live blog. It is easier.

13:47 – Wood gives up a single to Latham first ball, and CdG now faces. He takes two to wide third man to get his score going as those lags, the Barmy Army, sing Livin’ On A Prayer. No more comment offered. Nothing doing from a misjudged shot third ball for CdG. A full ball on leg stump is beautifully timed, but Bairstow dives and the ball goes in clean and is returned rapidly. Still two runs, but great fielding. Dot ball from another 92 mph delivery. Wood is rapid at the moment, so no way he stays fit this summer! Single from CdG – 179 for 5, with six from the over. 10 to go. dum de dum dum dum dum.

13:51 – Lovely to see the full ICC box again. Half expect to see that Infantino chap turn up. Last over from Liam – two dot balls to start the 41st. What the public wants is more ICC freeloaders on screen. Single to deep midwicket for CdG off the third ball. Short ball clopped to deep midwicket for a single by Latham, who is onto 25. Oh, it’s our PM. For at least another week. Play and miss off the penultimate ball, so Liam has one more. 3 for 42 at the moment. It’s how he finished, a dot ball. 181 for 5. Here’s Ray Winstone. I miss him “having a bang on that”.

13:56 – Archer back on, and a single for Latham to start. Archer has 5 to bowl. Play and miss to the 85mph second ball. A total miscue from a short ball for CdG gets a single as it balloons off his helmet over backward point. I now get a two minute break. Latham strokes a single from the fourth. Sharp single from the big man, which would have been tight if hit. Wide from the sixth ball. Bouncer off the last ball. 186 for 5. 8 overs remaining.

14:01 – Single off the first full pitched delivery from Wood, as it goes down to fine leg from CdG. Single off the second. A run a ball gets New Zealand just around 230. 4 leg byes as the ball flicks CdG, a nice and nasty bonus. Two runs for CdG as he takes on Adil’s weak arm and gets home. Chopped down to third man for a single off the fifth ball of the over. Latham miscues a short one for a single. 10 off the over, and it is 196 for 5. I see Naylor has cheesed off some of the parish. Ah yes. One of my early blogging inspirations. And another of my regrets.

14:06 – Single from the first ball of Archer’s over. Another leg bye off the second. No, Simon, it hasn’t gripped the country. Stop telling nonsense. Short ball flapped for a single by Latham. Wide given for the next bouncer. 200 up. Miscue doesn’t carry to cover from CdG. Had a few of these through the innings. They’ll get ’em in leg byes as CdG is through early and it ricochets for a single. Wide off the supposed last ball of the over. Still six off the over so far. Wide again. Short and wide of leg stump. Single off the last, pictures of MCC eccentrics and 8 from the over. Pip Pip. 204 for 5 with six to go.

14:11 – Wood’s final over. No run from the first ball. Swing and a miss from the second. Lovely shot for six over mid-wicket by Latham as he picks up a straight full delivery from Wood. Wood hits Latham a midships the next ball. Top edge falls short of Archer who pings in a return to prevent a second. Buttler gathers and slings the stumps down, it is being reviewed and CdG is just in. A lot closer than it looked. One run. Bouncer, not given wide off the last. Wood done. 1 for 49. 7 from the over. 211 for 5. Five overs left.

14:16 – We are the army, the barmy army, we are mental and we are mad. Single for Latham from the first ball. Single for CdG from the second. Slower ball dabbed for one by Latham again. Wood clutching his rib at the end of his spell. Three weeks from the Ashes. CdG gets tied up with another short ball. Dot. Slower full ball means CdG mis-times. No run. Slow ball bouncer (78) and CdG waves what looks like a stick at it. 3 from the over. 214 for 5. 24 balls remaining.

14:19 – We interrupt the generic pap music to say Woakes is coming back. Wood wanders off. Hurry up and bowl Chris, that tune is dreadful. Latham pushes a single first ball. Slower ball is tucked behind square for 2 off the second. Single from the third ball. Latham cross bats a single. Slower ball is chipped in the air by CdG and he loops it to mid-off.

WICKET – Colin de Grandhomme Caught Sub (James Vince) Bowled Chris Woakes 16 – 219 for 6

James Vince gets his name on a World Cup Final scorecard. More than KP and Sir Al ever did! In comes Mitchell Santner, but Latham is on strike. Stroked to midwicket for a single. 220 for 6. 6 runs from the over. 3 overs remain.

14:26 – Archer to Latham. Single down to deep backward square. Single to Santner for the first run of his innings. Dot ball from a short ball third up. Driven single for Latham on the fourth ball. Single to Santner. Single to Latham. Dull. 5 from the third last over, and barely a chance taken. 225 for 6.

14:29 – Appeal, Woakes for LBW against Latham. Review. Missed run out. Need the lav. Ted’s asleep. Doesn’t look out, although he did wander. Pitched outside leg. A run taken. Santner clumps one to midwicket. Single. Lazy cricket gives New Zealand five runs. Short ball bouncer, wide, boundary. Muppets. Wide full toss, slow ball, chipped up, and Woakes gets another wicket. Horrid cricket.

WICKET – Tom Latham Caught Sub (James Vince) Bowled Chris Woakes 47 – 232 for 7.

Vince becoming a legend here. The catchmaster. Wonder if Vaughan can leverage that into an Ashes place. Someone shoot the guitarist. Woakes bowls a beamer to Santner, no ball and a free hit, which Santner misses (a slower ball telegraphed by second class post). Quick single again, a direct hit is missed, but probably safe. Vince not quite the legend. Woakes last ball to Henry is slower, and Matt massacres it over cow corner for a one bounce four. 238 for 7. 13 from the over. Last six…

14:37 – First ball, Santner move across, ball goes over leg stump. Dot. Another quick single second ball. Throw misses. One run to Santner. Bouncer third ball is adjudged as a wide. McCullum ranting on about 240. Full and straight next, and it smacks into off on the full.

WICKET – Matt Henry Bowled Jofra Archer 4 – 240 for 8

Next man in is Sweet Child Of Mine (not so sweet with this clown on the guitar) Trent Boult. Three balls left. Slow yorker. Dot ball. Boult drives the penultimate ball for a single, and scampers down the other end. Last ball to Santner who has five from eight balls at the tail end of the innings. It’s a bouncer and Santner ducks!!!!! A dot ball without a shot being played. Curious and even more curious. Innings over 241. Just 242 to win. New Zealand going to need early wickets. I think this is England’s to lose. It’s not a great wicket, but it isn’t 241 in 50 overs. England never took their feet off New Zealand’s throat.

We have a half hour break.

15:09 – Sean on the decks for the upcoming passage of play. How is everyone’s nerves? The Sky commentators seem to be confident of an England victory, i’m not so sure mind!

15:12 – This new ball is going to be crucial in the outcome of the final. If England can see off Boult and Henry and be 40-0 off 10, then they become overwhelming favourites

15:14 – Roy is a lucky boy. Boult raps him on the pads and NZ review, umpires call saves England from the worst possible start. Must admit that looked dead in real time. Just the single from the over.

15:21 – The ball is doing all sorts at the start of the innings, i’m glad i don’t have to face Boult and Henry on this. Roy connects with one sweetly down the ground. England’s first boundary.

15:27 – Steady from England here with Roy keeping hold of the strike. The Kiwi bowlers still looking dangerous mind, they need a wicket in the few overs though.

15:32 – Bairstow joins the party with 2 boundaries off Trent Boult. Are the Black Caps getting a little desperate now?

15:36 – OUT: Well they’re not getting desperate anymore, Henry gets Roy with an out swinger that is caught by Latham. Root comes to the crease and England will need something big from the Test captain.

15:43 – This has been a fascinating passage of play and kind of resembles the morning of Day 1 at a Test with a good old fashioned battle between bat and ball. ODI cricket is so much better to watch when there is something there for the bowlers as well as the batsmen.

15:50 – Bairstow playing Boult very sensibly here, leaving the one that goes across him and then a lovely pull for 4. Oh look, Tom Harrison is in the crowd, desperate to jump on any successful bandwagon no doubt. I hope Bairstow hooks one into his mush.

15:53 – Henry bowls a maiden over, he has bowled a very fine spell here, much fuller than the England bowlers. The Big Man is loosening up and coming on to bowl, the conditions could certainly suit De Grandhomme’s type of bowling.

15:56 – Many people commenting how flat the atmosphere is at the Final. It’s pretty much like every Lords international i’ve been too.

15:57 – CHANCE – The Big Man drops a relatively straight forward catch of his own bowling from Bairstow. How costly will that drop prove to be??

16:06 – Tense. The squeeze is on here from the New Zealand, England have to be a careful not to get bogged down here. 2 boundaries from Bairstow, the first a nice push of his legs and then nearly chops on next ball relieves a bit of pressure. Meanwhile:

16:12 – New Zealand bring on Ferguson for his first bowl of the game. England didn’t face him during the group game, so it will be interesting to see how they fare against him and that tremendous moustache.

16:16 – Root is getting bogged down here, not his fluent self by any means. An ambition LBW shout from De Grandhomme and then an ugly swipe from Root.

16:17 – OUT! A horrible innings from Root comes to an end with another ugly swipe and a tickle behind to Latham. New Zealand are most definitely still in this.

16:19 – Drinks and a good time to handover the reigns to the ice cold TLG. I’m going to hide behind the sofa meanwhile

16:20 – well now, TLG here and this is interesting. Tight and nervy all round. You’d say objectively that England ought to win from here, but there’s that nagging doubt and the pressure is on.

16:26 – A quick switch across to the laptop, as this blog has now got so long the WordPress app is struggling to load it properly.  I mentioned the tension with this game, and the cynical old sods writing this are all a bit tense.  Which is strange, considering it’s a feeling that’s been absent from all of us for quite a few years now.  Which just goes to show that once this ridiculous game has wormed its way in, there’s no stopping it.  Oh it’s 65-2.

16:31 – A gorgeous cover drive from Jonny Bairstow, but which is then followed by WICKET! As he chops on to his stumps from Lockie Ferguson.  It’s been coming too, he’s cut a few past his own stumps, with his bottom hand being overly dominant today.  England are in a bit of strife.  72-3

16:37 – Anyone wishing Moeen Ali was in the batting order today yet?

16:39 – Just two off that over.  Funny thing with England, if they go after the bowling, you back them to pull off a run chase, but the moment they get hesitant and cautious, you can almost see the nerves.  That’s not to say they should be having a slog at it, they’re probably approaching it the right way.  But it doesn’t half look as if they’re worried.

16:44 – 82-3.  You know, it’s almost like England on free to air tv hasn’t gone away, I’m pretty sure we left it in 2005 with England in a tense tight sitution.

16:47 – You’re thinking you don’t mind really if New Zealand win the World Cup, aren’t you?  Decent bunch of chaps, not Australian, underdogs, punching above their weight, a victory for cricket and all that.

16:49 – Checking our stats page, it seems we had a visitor to the blog who searched for “cricket for posh people”.  You what?

16:50 – WICKET! Oh drama.  Is Morgan caught?  Yes he is.  Pretty poor shot, and a fine catch from Lockie Ferguson.  England are in trouble here.  86-4 is not a promising position, and Ben Stokes is going to have to try and pull the fat out of the fire once again this tournament.

16:56 – 24 overs gone, 89-4.  Two new batsmen at the crease, both destructive, and with a target that’s modest enough it can be whittled away quickly.  But England have little room for manouevre now, the batting quality remaining is good, but we’re very much into the all rounders.

17:00 – How are the fingernails?

17:03 – Extremely unimpressed with Arron in the comments for drawing the England/Jimmy White parallel just as I was thinking about it and before I could write it.

17:04 – 98-4.  It’s interesting seeing people think the pitch is not up to scratch.  There’s something in that, given it’s not rewarded stroke play.  On the other hand, if this goes to the wire, then irrespective of anything else, the viewing figures are going to soar, and the chewing of fingers is going to reach cannibalistic levels.  For that’s the point, it can be certainly stated that fours and sixes might drag in the uninitiates (T20 suggests exactly that), but drama is what really does it, whether high scoring or low scoring.

17:09 – Stokes eases the pressure a bit with a crunching straight drive to bring England’s hundred up.  The required run rate is just starting to climb a bit, up to 6.22.  Manageable certainly, a problem if a wicket or two falls.  And just to expand that earlier point, I’m not convinced that this is a poor spectacle right now.  Earlier in the day that could be said, but you don’t have to be a county member or a club player of 20 years standing to understand this is very tight.

17:15 Nelson up!  111-4.  These two are starting to look more at ease now.  You know what’s going to come next…

17:21 – A few singles here and there.  Nothing is happening but everything is happening.  Cricket is so good.

17:26 – Buttler cuts just out of reach of Guptill, and it races away for four.  Naturally, it gives the commentators the chance to talk about what would have been the catch of the tournament for the thousandth time.

Expect much, much more of this kind of thing if New Zealand win.

17:31 – 136-4.  Starting to tick over nicely.  And up comes the 50 partnership, that to channel my in Ronay is as welcome as a Green and Black’s ice cream on a hot day ooh aren’t I a clever one.

17:34 – time for a Powerade Hydration Break*.

*Just fuck off.

A masterclass in “I don’t know what the hell to say because I’m nervous, so I’ll state the bleeding obvious”.  We’ve all been there.

17:40 – 35 overs gone, 141-4.  A healthier looking scorecard, but still on a bit of a knifedge.  Those dull middle overs eh?

17:43 – Big lbw appeal against Buttler, Dharmasena says no, and we go to a review…looks to be heading down the legside though.  Yep, missing leg completely according to Hawkeye, so that’s New Zealand’s bowling review gone.  And since he’s had such a kicking from so many people, a good decision from Dharmasena, albeit not the hardest he’ll have had to make.

17:47 – Don’t bowl there.  Short and wide to Buttler who crashes it past point for four.  Stokes is the more conservative of his pair, with Buttler looking to be the aggressor.  Runs required is now under 100.

17:50 – The pressure is beginning to switch around.  New Zealand are now starting to badly need a wicket.  Required rate 7.24 though, and rising.

17:53 – Gorgeous straight drive for four from Buttler off Neesham.  Seven off the over, just what England need from here.

17:55 – Stokes in on the act, hooking Ferguson in front of square for four.

17:59 – 5-5 in the final set in the tennis by the way.

18:01 – Of course, if England do win this, they will be the only country to have won cricket, football and rugby World Cups.  It doesn’t matter much, except that it’ll cause an outbreak of fury amongst Australians and comments about it being a United Nations team.  It’s worth it for that alone.  166-4.

18:02 – Ah the Buttler ramp shot.  How good is he at that?

18:03 – Into the last ten overs, 72 needed, six wickets in hand.  You’d say England really ought to do it from here, or at least you would in a normal JAMODI.  In the World Cup final?  Feels a bit more fraught than that.

18:05 – Three balls gone this Ferguson over.  Three dots.  Pressure…And a wide follows.  But a fine over with just three off it.  Required rate edges up to 7.66

18:09 – New Zealand are putting the squeeze on here.   Just four runs off that over.   177-4, eight overs to go.

18:13 England probably need that one big over.  But they’re struggling to score at the moment.  Lots of singles, not many boundaries.  Creative from Buttler, almost scooping it, changing his mind and running it down to fine leg.  But only for a couple.  Six off that over.  OK, but no more than that.  8.42 an over needed.

18:17 Trent Boult returns.  Buttler crashes it over extra cover for four and goes to 50.  And Stokes joins him with a single down the ground.

18:23 – 53 runs needed from 36 balls.  Fantastic shot from Buttler, again over deep extra cover.  48 from 34.  Followed by a, well, a hoick, that heads down to third man.  Fine piece of fielding on the boundary saves a couple of runs.

18:26 – WICKET!  That’s huge.  Buttler skews it off the outside edge out to deep point, and the sub fielder Tim Southee runs in and takes another fine catch.  The game takes another twist as Woakes comes to the crease.  196-5.

The ECB have all the luck.  They do everything in their power to hide the game away from as many people as possible, and then when they fluke a game being shown on Free to Air, they get a thriller to remind everyone what is missing.

18:29 – Woakes gets off strike at the second time of asking.  England need a boundary or two, and it’s all on Ben Stokes.  The pendulum has swung dramatically with that wicket, and New Zealand might well be favourites here.  Four!!  Stokes somehow pings it through midwicket off the back foot, lacking any kind of finesse whatever.  But it’s unlikely anyone cares at this stage.

18:34 – WICKET!  Woakes has a massive heave at Ferguson, and it goes straight up in the air.  Latham makes an awful meal of it, but clings on, just.  And at this stage, no runs off a ball is a nice bonus.  All of which means it’s Plunkett time.  203-6

Plunkett can’t get his first couple of balls away, which is hardly surprising given the situation.  But it all adds to the ever spiralling required run rate and the pressure.  But wait, he then responds by belting it through midwicket for four.  But that’s it for the over, and again England are short of what they needed.  They have a chance, but it’s getting harder and harder.

Hussain is on commentary talking about the pitch dying and what a clever and brave decision it was to bat first.  Not so sure that was said by too many at the time.

18:40 – Right, 34 needed from three overs.

Four!!  Again over midwicket from Stokes.  30 from 17 balls.

Next ball through square leg for one.  Five off the first couple of balls is just what was needed.

Lads – get me a drink will you?

Plunkett too goes towards cow corner, and picks up a couple of runs.  Good over so far for England.

Dot ball.

Down the ground this time, the pair scamper for two.  217-6

And a single to finish the over.  24 runs needed from 12 balls.

18:44 – We’re all perfectly relaxed aren’t we?  Indifferent.  Calm.  Utterly chilled, right? Neesham to bowl the penultimate over, and England really need it to be a big one.

Single for Plunkett.  23 off 11.

Single to Stokes.  22 from 10.  A super over has been mentioned – I think England would take that right now.

18:47 WICKET!!  Plunkett goes down the ground, but doesn’t get the distance.  England are falling short here.  The one positive is that Stokes is back on strike, but this is now needing something spectacular.  22 from 9 as Archer comes in.

Six!!  Wow, that’s extraordinary.  Stokes goes big over deep midwicket, and Boult catches him, but his foot treads on the boundary rope.  Guptill is quick to signal it was six as well.  16 from 8.

Single from Stokes.  Archer has the last ball of the over to face.  WICKET!!  Archer has a slog, misses and is bowled.  England are 8 down, and it’s going to be entirely down to Stokes to pull off a miracle.  15 needed from the final over, or 14 to take us to a Super Over.  Which would be fun, wouldn’t it?

18:52 – Right, the final over, to be bowled by Trent Boult, who has been excellent as ever.

Stokes declines the single.  15 from 5 balls.

And again.  15 from 4.

Six!!  Bloody hell.  Stokes absolutely smashes a slog sweep for six over midwicket.  9 from 3.

Well that is accidental, but probably controversial.  It counts as six runs, as Stokes hits a couple, and as the throw comes in it deflects off him for an additional four overthrows.  Completely accidental, but this puts England right in the box seat.  Never seen anything quite like that.

I need a drink.  So do the umpires it seems, as they have a chat, but it went for four overthrows, there’s nothing anyone can do about it.  Sheer good or bad luck.

3 from 2

WICKET!! More mayhem.  England go for 2 runs to try and get Stokes back on strike.  Rashid is run out by a mile, but Stokes is back on strike.  2 needed off the last ball, but 1 for a super over.  What drama.

Here we go:

WICKET!! It’s a tie!!  Surely!  England go for two, but Wood is run out, and we have a super over.  Jesus Christ.  That was the most extraordinary final over I’ve ever seen – the six caught on the boundary, the accidental four overthrows, the two run outs.  What a finish.  What an incredible finish.

Fantastic innings from Stokes.  What a magnificent bowling and fielding performance from New Zealand.  Who the hell do the teams pick for a super over?  How big is Channel 4’s audience right now?  Where the hell is that drink?

19:08 SUPER OVER

Stokes and Buttler come out to bat for England.

Outside edge from Stokes, over third man, and they sprint three runs.  Buttler on strike…

A single.

Four runs!  Another slog sweep from Stokes, that goes flat through midwicket and beats the diving fielder.  8 runs off the first three balls and it’s a fine start from England.

Single.  9-0 off 4 balls.  Buttler back on strike.  A six would be nice…instead it’s a fine yorker, that Buttler screws out to deep extra cover.  Nicholls doesn’t pick the ball up and they get two.

Four!  Buttler goes over midwicket!  That’s a big total in one over, and New Zealand need 16 to win.

It’ll be Archer to bowl for England.  If the scores are level, it comes down to who hit the most boundaries, and that’s England.  So New Zealand do indeed need 16, if they get 15 then England will win.  Which is kind of a pity, because I was thinking we might have super overs for the rest of eternity, in a glorious, never ending arm wrestle for the title.

Guptill and Neesham come out to bat.  This can’t be easy, it’s been seemingly years since they batted today, and to have to come out, fresh and tee off for one over is a bit of a challenge to say the least.  England have the advantage already, even without having scored 15 runs off theirs.

Archer bowling from the other end to that he’s been bowling from.  Interesting call.

Starts with a wide.  15 from 6 now.

Fine yorker second ball, but it’s drilled down the ground by Neesham for two.  3 off the first ball effectively.

Six!  Huge over midwicket from Neesham.  And suddenly New Zealand are almost there.

Two runs.  A misfield from Roy allows a second run.  5 from 3 needed.

Two again.  3 from 2.  England really need a wicket.

A single.

And here we go, two runs needed from the last ball.  Not only did it go to the last ball of the normal game, not only did it go to a super over, it’s gone to the last ball of the super over.  What a game.

England have won the World Cup!  And even at the last, it was extraordinary, a run out going for the second run.

Collecting thoughts from that finish is going to take a little while.  Sport is just the most incredible thing, and that was the most extraordinary possible finish.  Undoubtedly this will be shown again and again over the years to come, and please God the TV audience on Channel 4 was enormous.  I’m sure it would have been, because word would have gone around about the utterly incredible conclusion.

England finally get their hands on the World Cup, New Zealand, have the consolation which is no consolation at all of being the unluckiest runners up they could possibly have been.  It can’t be said England deserved the win, because it can’t be said that New Zealand deserved to lose.  But someone has to win, and someone doesn’t.  The deflection off a diving Stokes to go for four overthrows was probably the margin between the sides at the end, and that probably says it all.

After such events, the “Greatest of All Time” comments come out of course, and usually cause eye rolling, but in white ball cricket, that might be hard to argue against.  This one really might well have been.

England have been gracious in their interviews, New Zealand are understandably crushed.  At this point, I’ll call time on the live blog, and go and get something to drink.  Thanks for the company, and of course the comments are still open.  TLG.

 

 

 

World Cup Final 2019 – England vs. New Zealand – A Preview and Much More

Well here we are, one day away from England’s first World Cup appearance for 28 years, at the Home of Cricket against a talented and clever New Zealand side. Firstly though, if you have read Dmitri’s heartfelt, ‘on the money’ piece from yesterday, please do so here – https://beingoutsidecricket.com/2019/07/12/things-are-much-better-now-and-just-the-nagging-doubts-remain/, it has helped me to focus down on some of the areas that I want to cover whilst reminding me why I joined BOC as a fellow writer a few years ago.

The biggest irony about tomorrow’s game is not that India didn’t make it through the rain at Old Trafford, nor is it that England didn’t lose their nerve against Australia, a team who normally prevails in tight semi-final contests. Nope, not even close. It’s the fact that England are playing a World Cup Final at home, one which the media and those at the ECB have maintained has been their consistent focus for the last 4 years and one which will symbolise the last truly professional 50 over match for a format that those wise bods at the ECB have determined is now not fit for purpose. It sort of feels like spending 5 years rebuilding Big Ben, only to decide at the last minute to replace it with a Mickey Mouse alarm clock. If you were a new supporter of English cricket, though those are harder to find than ever, you would imagine that someone was playing a joke on you if you were told that the 50 over game was no longer to be played at the professional level in England (except for bi-lateral international series); Unfortunately those who have followed English cricket for a long time are only able to let out a small sigh of despair at an administration that much prefers cold hard cash in their coffers and to be seen to be ‘doing something’ rather than focusing on re-building the bridges to the ordinary fan, who has been left behind since 2005.

As Dmitri mentioned in his above piece, many people who like to deem themselves as “Inside Cricket” have regularly sneered at those fans who complain that their game is being run into the ground or at blogs like ours, that are seen as more of an annoyance than anything else. Every so often one of the big or not so big behemoths comes along to dismiss us in the comments as ‘bilious inadequates’ or ‘social media zealots’; I mean the fact is we are just 4 blokes who do this in their own time for the love of the game, who have followed and played cricket for most of our lives, who have spent large amounts of money watching England, going on tours to see them play, and who dare to criticise the work of those ‘who know best’. It was this, especially after the KP incident in 2014 that made me turn to cricket blogs and eventually led me to be a writer of one, as one by one, those in the establishment or in the press, told me ‘it was not by business’ and to quietly jog on and listen to those in the know. That’s why I find it amusing in one sense and deeply worrying in another that many in the media have finally woken up and smelt the coffee and don’t agree with the route English cricket is being led down. But they are not being listened to by the ECB either. Of course, those who are deemed both worthy enough or seen as subservient enough are granted an interview with Tom Harrison, on the grounds that they don’t ask any difficult questions and there will always be a few who are either determined to secure a seat inside the ECB’s offices (yes I’m looking at you Dean Wilson), but even those who BOC have both agreed with (Dobell, Hoult etc) and have vehemently disagreed with over the years (i.e. Newman) are now on the outside looking in. It seems fate has a sense of irony after all. Anyway I digress….

This World Cup has been a strange affair, with a bloated format consisting of the big 3, some other teams and plucky Afghanistan who the ICC probably reluctantly decided to include in the tournament. Though there hasn’t been that many dead rubbers, it has felt since week 1 that it would be 4 out of 5 who would have a chance to actually qualify, which has made watching some of the matches rather tedious. I must admit I’m still furious that the ICC (with the help of the BCCI, ECB, ACB) for deciding that a 10-team tournament was the way forward. In every other sport, the governing body seems to be committed to growing the game across the world, but here we have cricket’s premier tournament only open to the old boys. The associates, who have genuinely given the tournament some great entertainment over the years and many a shock too, have been forced to watch from the outside looking in as world cricket deliberately shafts them in as many ways as they can. This is simply unforgivable, but the sad thing is that the ICC, now a subsidiary of the money-making machines of the BCCI, CA and ECB, either don’t care to or most probably won’t dare to do anything that prevents those boards from making the most money out of the damn thing. The only glitch being that no-one told New Zealand that they weren’t allowed to beat India to reach the final, so expect some weird IPL playoff style knockout in 2023, to ensure that those that teams who qualify for the tournament will have a chance to play India in the final. I’m not sure whether I should laugh or cry!

As for the game itself, England will go into the final as favourites after their thumping victory against Australia, but do not count out New Zealand for one moment. I am an unashamed England supporter, despite what the ECB has put us all through over the past 15 years and believe it would be unfair on the players who are just trying to do their best and to finally win a 50 over trophy, to be anything other than that. However that doesn’t mean that I don’t empathise with those who are either torn or have given up on English cricket altogether due to the disgraceful actions of our administrators over the past few years. I watched the semi-final in a state of some sort of Stockholm syndrome, waiting for English sport to crumble again at the semi-final stage and I must admit it was only when England needed less than 10 runs to win that I started to relax – I’m sure watching English sport has prematurely aged me! When England lost to Australia in the group stage, I must admit that I thought England had thrown it away again, but they have played some of their best cricket in the last 3 games and I am very happy to be proved wrong. Now though is the final, the ultimate ‘arse nipper’ time and we’ll see how England handle themselves as overall favourites at a ground, which has not traditionally been that kind to them in the one-day format. One would expect that barring any last-minute injury hiccups both teams will be the same as in the semi-finals, though Jason Roy did his best to be suspended for the game, even if he was rightly outraged by another poor decision by the hapless Dharmasena. You would imagine that the toss will play a large factor in the outcome of the game and if there are no clouds in the sky then whoever wins will bat first and try to squeeze the opponent through scoreboard pressure; however if it is dank and overcast, then maybe one of them will take the risk to bowl first, as Lords is a ground where you look up at the sky rather than down at the pitch and both teams have strong bowling attacks to make early inroads. Mind you, England will have to bowl a damned sight better than they last did at Lords, where they continued to hammer the centre of the pitch rather than using the conditions and pitching the ball up.

I also wanted to say something about New Zealand, who despite the advantages the Big Three have in terms of cash at their disposal, have once again played above the sum of their individual parts and fully deserve their place in the final. They are wonderfully led by Kane Williamson, who in my opinion is one of the best players in the World across all 3 formats and someone who doesn’t get quite the adulation he deserves compared to others across the Big Three. This New Zealand group is a tight-knit team and one who many who have had the chance to interview have remarked what a pleasure it is to be around this team. Williamson undoubtedly holds the key to their batting, and he will need to fire again in the final in order to win it, but the English batsmen cannot overlook their superb bowling attack for one minute. If there is some movement early on, Boult, Henry and the brilliantly moustachioed Ferguson will be incredibly dangerous. As much as I would like England to win the World Cup and I will be massively disappointed if we lose, there are not many other teams out there other than New Zealand who would deserve it more.

On a final note, tomorrow sees the return of an English cricketing national side return to free to air television for the first time in 14 years. At the end of the fourth Test in the 2005 series over 8.7 million people were watching the game on Channel 4 and as someone who was in his mid-twenties during that series, I remember virtually every pub having the game on and people who had never really followed cricket cheering loudly every time an Australian wicket fell. Yet here we are in 2019, with a World Cup being held in England and there has hardly been a murmur from those who don’t follow the game, especially with it being shown behind a paywall. I am still appalled by Giles Clarke, who not only did the exclusive deal with Sky but also managed to convince the Government to relegate cricket’s status from the “A Group’ with the likes of Wimbledon, the Six Nations, the FA Cup and the World Cup, to the ‘B Group’ which meant that it now longer had to be shown on FTA TV. 2005 was exactly the right time to build on the huge interest that the Ashes had garnered, yet those at the ECB decided that they wanted the money above all else instead of reaping other rewards such as growing the game and there it has stayed for the last 14 years, behind a paywall that only a select few can watch. Now this isn’t a pop at Sky who have bought in some great innovations for those that are able to watch to it (though the quality of their commentary remains mixed) and no doubt some of that money has helped the county game survive, but much of it has remained in the domain of the administrators allowing them to pocket obscene amounts of money whilst they slowly destroy the game from the inside. The fact still is that whilst English cricket is far healthier cash wise than they have ever been before (naturally just before they punt many millions on a doomed format with no legs), there is an argument that by making a better deal with Sky that would have allowed some of the international game to remain on FTA, would have served many more millions far better than the chosen few who have made their cash. The fact that they are now desperately hunting around for ‘new and innovative ways’ to attract more fans, which the rest of us can see as a desperate final throw of the dice, is something that should have never been allowed to happen. To this day, that decision to put short term wealth ahead of long-term growth saddens me deeply.

Of course, this didn’t stop the ECB’s empty suit and ‘Chief Bandwagon’ climber declaring that the tournament has been a massive success for growing the game in England and providing massive engagement with the English public:

The fact that we are able to watch the final on Channel 4 and More 4, gives us a rare chance to show the administrators that there is far broader interest if for once you make it open to the general public and just the select few, and I would ask that even those who have Sky watch it on FTA. It perhaps won’t make any difference in the long run, but if it least makes a couple of hundred kids pick up a cricket bat or a ball, then it will be worth it. It will also highlight how the ECB have failed both the fans and the so-called ‘new generation of fans’ in every single way possible over the last 14 years.

On that note enjoy the game, we’ll be doing our best to live blog the action during the whole of Sunday. As always, please feel free to comment below:

Things Are Much Better Now, And Just The Nagging Doubts Remain

I thought I’d take a song lyric from the song that was on Now 80s as I’m sitting indoors looking after my border collie while the beloved is in the States. When I started the week, I thought this would mean a lot of time on my hands, some work I could get done, enhance the living environment and all that. Instead, it’s been knackering. Hence a post I was tasked to write last night ends up being written on this Friday afternoon.

A common theme of my blogging the past 5 and a half years has been the falling “out of love” with the England cricket team. To some extent that is still very much the case. What those 66 months have done to my views of the game in this country has opened my eyes to how I, as a fan, was treated, and when I was cheeky enough to put my thoughts from my pulpit, how I was degraded in some eyes, and treated by others. Fandom has never been blind loyalty to me. I pick my team, I stick with them. It’s why I stick with the Chicago Bulls and Miami Dolphins. It’s why I will never be anything other than a Millwall fan. I can’t not be a Surrey fan, and believe me, when I was picking them, they were rubbish. This was more Duncan Pauline, Graham Monkhouse era, rather than the Hollioake and Brown days. I was, am, also a huge national team fan, and football especially as it gives me the chance to watch a team I support at the top level. But the team I spent the most money on, nationally, was England cricket. For those new to this blog, I went on three tours, all self-planned, self-catered, self-ticketed, to Australia in 2002 and 2006 (two tests) and South Africa 2004-2005 (Cape Town and two days at Joburg). I went to the Oval test for 16 years on the bounce. I was a diehard England fan,

This context is necessary because I found after 2014 I couldn’t divorce the boots from the suits, because during that aftermath, the boots were a little bit too cosy with the suits, as were the scribes. The Hundred appears to have changed some of that thinking, with members of the media openly hostile to the ECB over this drivel, but for me it was more a matter of “about time”. When I was impertinent enough a few weeks ago to call out Andy Bull for his lack of perceived support for “my cause” I got impertinence times a hundred back. Almost as if I’d touched a nerve. I don’t set out to do so, but if the cap fitted at that time, then you needed to wear it. I’m minded to cite Public Enemy once more…

Some people accuse some people of crimes
Some people get away wit’ losin’ my rhyme
They don’t like where I’m comin’ from
So dey play dumb
Dumb diggetty dumbb diggetty dumb
But I’m tellin’ you what they do
Play a fool
While the real thief cools in a pool

A bonus of being on leave this week is that I got to watch nearly all of the semi-final yesterday. Now I confess, I wasn’t fully cheering England on at the start. Part of me thought this team were paper tigers. They had beaten up teams on the equivalent of pre-tournament friendlies, on pitches at home that resembled airport runways, and had earned a billion plaudits. But in the back of your mind was the Champions Trophy flop in 2017, when they lost their mind and nerve in the semi-final when conditions weren’t all in their favour. Those fears, doubts, scepticism were augmented by the losses to Pakistan and Sri Lanka (not so much Australia, as they were in decent nick at the time). I then had a number of doubts about the, shall we say, veracity of the contest between England and India. The resounding win against New Zealand, where a good start threatened to be undone by a middle order wobble, was overcome and England qualified. I think England need to earn support again, and I freely admit it is personal and many other views are available, and so yesterday gave them a chance to put things partly right in my eyes.

And they did.

They did it by playing brilliantly. By playing with amazing confidence. The bowling of Archer, Woakes and Rashid won that match, make no mistake. The opening bowling was top notch, and got the big hundred threats of Warner and Finch out early. This almost immediately stopped a potential score of 300. Then the temptation and then skill of Rashid ending the partnership of Carey, seeing off Stoinis, and then Maxwell, made the potential total smaller and smaller. England keeping Aussie to 223 was the game over in all but name. The name being “mental”. There wasn’t anything that horrific in the wicket. The bowling attack was Starc plus some others, really. What did not need to happen was for England to limp to victory. They had to play the way that they had the previous few years. Enter Jason Roy. The man who won the previous ICC semi-final England had succeeded in when he scored vital runs to break the back of a total. A couple of extra cover drives off Starc calmed the nerves. One, he wasn’t going to back down, and two, that was their champion he was belting. Stuff you.

When it was all over, and England basked in the glory of their success, I was exhausted from live blogging the match. As the innings goes on, if you read my “at the time” thoughts, you’ll see the belief flowing through me. My brother texted me at 120 for 0 or such like saying “when will the wheels fall off”. I replied “they won’t. They’ve packed it in”. Mentally that Steve Smith wicket, attempting to buy a wicket, being smashed for 20-odd was England saying “don’t bring that nonsense to me, it’s not bloody worthy”. Where many of us would sit there and say “don’t fall for it, Jason” I thought, “No, smack it miles”. And yes, I know, I had a go at Roy for getting out against Bangladesh when he had a double hundred for the taking, but that was different. That was silly, this was sending a message. I loved it. And in a way, I felt a little re-connection again.

Some may say it is me jumping on the glory bandwagon after tough times. I really don’t give a stuff if you do. This is the ODI team, and separate from the test line up which still needs some re-connection, and may never get there. This team has something else, and yesterday was it in clear focused reality. England may still lose to New Zealand on Sunday, and the doubts and comments will return, but that was great yesterday and it was a privilege to watch it.

Barney Ronay, a journo I’m not going to start up a fan club for, wrote a fascinating piece last week asking the question that if England do win the World Cup, do we, as a nation, deserve it? Will all it end up doing is reinforcing the ECB’s decision making “prowess” and allow them to continue to ride roughshod over the county game and continue treating the fans lamentably. Will it justify them hiding the game behind a paywall as the game becomes increasingly invisible, safe in the knowledge they have won the World Cup (or got to the Final) with the current structure? Will they get even more big-headed? Will this be the justification? We, I think, know the answer. A resounding yes. Two years ago England’s women won the World Cup. In the last two weeks they’ve been defeated 3-0 in the 50 over series, the last a beating so severe, it set records. Laurels are never to be rested on. Success is short-lived if the basics aren’t right. That England’s wobble came when Roy wasn’t there, or failed, speaks volumes that the depth may not be there. Players may be knocking on the door, but once through the portal, lose their nerve. Be careful, ECB.

All eyes on Lord’s for Sunday. I’m not a tennis fan, and the Grand Prix season is a bit of a procession this year. The game is on Channel 4, and More 4, and it’s time to turn on to watch that to prove there is a market out there. I care about this game, and I care about this sport. Cricket is part of my life. I want it to succeed. Sunday is the true legacy. I hope people care enough to watch, or the game is not that invisible.

One of my jobs is to take Teddy for an evening walk over the fields. There used to be a park cricket pitch on those fields. The sort you never really wanted to play on as a player, but in London, you played on to, well, play a game. No-one has played cricket on that field for many years. As I walk over there now, the football pitches and goals are permanently installed. Teams are doing their summer training for the long recreational game season. Those pitches aren’t used as much as they used to be. The fields in summer were used for golf practice a couple of decades ago. Like cricket, golf has shut itself off, and has participation issues in the UK. I reckon they’ll be chipping and putting there before anyone will use those fields for cricket practice. The game is invisible. The match on Sunday has a chance to get some of that back, before international cricket (some T20s excluded) disappears again. That’s the truth.

We will live blog the final, and have a lot more to say in the run-up, I hope. Hope you enjoyed the live blog yesterday, as it got more self-indulgent. Beating the old enemy in a big game does that to me, and English cricket should be relieved that for people like me, it still can. Despite everything.