World Cup Semi-Final – Australia v England

Morning everyone. It really doesn’t get much bigger than this. A sporting occasion for all cricket fans, a chance to see the old enemies fight it out for a place in the Final. In a repeat of 1975, these two meet at this stage, at Edgbaston rather than Headingley (interesting to note the choice of venue all those years ago, when the Yorkshire venue, I believe, had an automatic right to test matches each year, with the winners meeting New Zealand on Sunday. The only other meeting in knockout phases came in 1987, when England lost the Final. England haven’t beaten Australia at a World Cup since 1992, but in the last three Champions Trophy meetings in England, the hosts have won the lot. What does it all mean? Nothing really. It’s just filler.

I’m sorry, not really, to keep harping on about this, but I am taken back to a conversation a while back when someone from our media friends, a limited group we know, said “don’t you think if England make it to the semis, there will be a build up of interest in the country?” His reference point was the women’s team a few years ago, but the point was probably more to see an enhancement of that. Today’s game is one that could catch the imagination. 2005 is becoming a more distant image in the rear view mirror. The 2010/11 team, although not visible, retained some of those names, and again had people talking about the game. Today England meet their arch enemy in a semi-final of the World Cup, the first time they have been there since 1992, and it’s behind a paywall. What more needs to be said about the crippling decision to hide the game from public view than that? What a missed opportunity to bring the game to people who can’t see it. It’s a matter of great sadness. Today’s players get paid well, much better than their counterparts 15 years ago (probably substantially more when accounting for inflation), out of the Sky contract, but in doing so, the game become hidden, and the consequences are there for all to see.

I don’t think we’ll ever stop banging that particular drum.

The game today will, I hope, feature some live blogging. I am currently on leave, but it is with the little horror that is Teddy. My wife is back in the States and with her Mum (or mom as they say) and I have just me to look after a 9 month old border collie with serious alpha male issues. So I will update as and when I can (and the rest of the gang can join in too, if available). Looking at Rain Alarm Pro, there isn’t much nonsense in the Birmingham area, although. The forecast is for showers later in the day, but tomorrow looks OK if we need to come back.

So sit back, relax and enjoy the day. The best ODI bowler in the world, against YJB and Roy in great form. Will Buttler hit his stride in what has been a mainly disappointing tournament for him? What will Warner and Smith do? Have Australia got too many injuries to repeat their Lord’s triumph? Will Finch make his third ton in as many World Cup matches v England? Will we need free to air on Sunday? All this and more, to be revealed…

The winner will meet New Zealand, who triumphed yesterday because their quicks removed the top three, the Indian middle order got starts but did not go on, and then MS Dhoni played one of those mysterious innings. While Ravi Jadeja, a seriously under-rated, under-used cricketer for India was playing a brilliant innings, fulfilling his 9 runs per 6 balls quota that was required to keep up with the rate, Dhoni was pottering about like he had not a care in the world. While this was happening, I was always sure that the Black Caps were going to win. Especially when Jadeja got out. It was mad to me that the most experienced ODI player in the team dropped down to 7 as it was. To then put all the pressure on Jadeja was mad. That Dhoni was run out just after hitting a six left the legend of the master-chaser intact. It’s horse manure. He makes chases more difficult than they need to be, especially recently, and yesterday it got to the stage that they wanted 32 off the last two overs. And still people act that if a freak piece of fielding hadn’t happened, Dhoni had paced it perfectly. I am so glad I don’t go in for blind fandom these days.

I am going to leave it there, and hopefully update during the day. I have a couple of chores that need doing each day – the Teddy walk is the main one – which I will get in, hopefully, before the start of play.

Your comments below, as always. I’ll add mine in the text of the post. We are also on Twitter too, so hope you can keep up with us during the day.

My prediction? I am yet to be convinced by England’s big match temperament. On paper they should win. Between the ears, have they the belief to slay the dragon? Batting first might help. But who knows. It’s that great sporting contest. It’s what sport is about, despite the gimmicks, the nonsense, the corporatism, the ludicrous authorities that govern the game globally and domestic. Sport to watch. Sport not for all.

LIVE BLOGGING

10:20 – OK, back from walking Teddy. While trying to teach the headstrong pup some basic dog skills, I got the note that Australia won the toss and batted first. No real surprises in either line-up, with Handscomb coming in for the injured Khawaja. However, as the camera pans over the ground, the stadium appears half full. Don’t know about anyone else, but if I have a ticket for this, no way do I turn up after 9:30, let alone 10:30.

10:30 – Warner booed as he comes out. Getting dull. Woakes opens up for England, Clarke opens up on the comms. Dear lord. Warner drives the first ball, a rank half volley, for four. As Scooby would say “ruh-ro”.

10:32 – No further runs from the over. Good comeback. Meanwhile, reasons to be cheerful / fearful.

10:33 – Archer opening from the other end. And strikes first ball, subject to review. Looked a bit iffy to me on first glance. Pad first. Three reds. Dead and a lost review. Hundreds in his previous two World Cup innings against England and now a golden one.

WICKET – Aaron Finch   LBW Archer 0 – 4 for 1

10:37 – Steve Smith in to a chorus of boos. Clarke says “Smith has been crying out for an opportunity” while ignoring that he’s not come in at 3 much (if at all) in this competition. Smith off the mark from his third ball. 2 from the over and it is 6 for 1.

10:41 – Warner looks up for it. Smashes Woakes over his head as soon as he pitches up. 10 for 1. And then a little shorter, and he nicks it off to first slip, and Warner goes. YJB is jubilant. England are off to a bloody flier. 10 for 2.

WICKET – David Warner   Caught Bairstow Bowled Woakes 9 – 10 for 2

10:43 – Peter Handscomb in at number 4, not having had a knock for a long old time. Fail to prepare, prepare to fail, anyone? A man who has a technique opened up in tests. Massive appeal first ball. I thought it looked very close, and Morgan has reviewed. Umpire’s call, so not out. Erasmus, come on, you don’t like the Aussies, do you? Handscomb benefits from a misfield off the last ball to get off the mark. 11 for 2 after 3 overs. Clarke already getting on my nerves.

10:49 – One run from that over, and a play and miss from Smith in it. 12 for 2 after 4.

10:50 – Another close, close one from Woakes as Handscomb gets an inside nick to save him. He looks like an LBW every time, Handscomb.

Clarke doesn’t believe in a paucity of words, nor shying from hyperbole. Smith coming down less than straight and looks a nick-off waiting to happen, but we could wait a while. 13 for 2 from 5.

10:56 – I see Carey is due up next. About time. Handscomb runs the last ball of Archer’s over down to third man for the only run in the 6th. 14 for 2.

10:57 – “Can they build a partnership” says Nasser. Er, no. Handscomb hangs the bat out, he inside nicks it on to his stumps, and Woakes has the third wicket of the match. You feel that they are a Steve Smith away from taking this game away from Australia.

WICKET – Peter Handscomb   Bowled Woakes  4 – 14 for 3

10:59 – Carey in, and first ball he nicks it short of second slip, and off the ricochet, he gets a single to get off the mark. Smith has 1 off his first 14 balls. Make that 17, as there are no more runs from the over and it is 15 for 3 from 7 overs.

11:03 – Archer to continue, as we say goodbye to Nasser and Clarke, with Ian Bishop on the mic now. Carey punches down the ground for three, and the return is met with the duclet tones of Kumar Sangakkara on the comms. These two are like velvet, compared to the sandpaper we experienced for the first half hour. And there’s your only sandpaper reference for the day. Promise. Smith takes a quick single and gets away with it, from the fourth ball. The last ball is a vicious bouncer, and Carey catches his helmet before it can do any damage to his stumps. Actually great reactions from Carey, although he’s worn one. End of the 8th. 19 for 3.

11:10 – Carey has a nice plaster on his chin. After a few minutes of running repairs, we are back in action. Woakes with his fifth over. The last ball of the over is a wide half volley which Carey creams through the covers, and it is 24 for 2. Smith has 2 from 21 balls.

11:16 – Three runs from the 10th over, a pretty quiet one, and 27 for 3 after 10.

11:19 – Takes years of watching the game, playing it, and commentating on it to come up with analysis like this:

Woakes in his 6th over, and possibly his last for a while, concedes just one run to Smith and it is 28 for 3 after 11.

11:23 – Stokes replaces Archer. 1 run from the over. 29 for 3.

11:27 – Wood replaces Woakes. A bit rough and ready with two wides. Brilliant work on the boundary saves two leg byes. Carey’s cut still bleeding, and his other cut (shot) is half stopped by Stokes. A third wide off the seventh delivery is making this a pressure releasing over, but the last two balls were much better. 36 for 3.

11:34 – Malcolm Conn Watch. Crickets. Chirp Chirp Chirp Chirp.

Carey has some repairs, and now has a huge plaster. Stokes to continue, and Carey takes a single from the first ball. Smith pulls an ugly four, the first boundary for a while, and the first in his 35 ball stay. Mel Jones has been on for five minutes and made two errors – it was McCosker, not Gilmour, who broke his jaw, and the West Indies were not at the peak of their powers in 1995. 9 from the over, and it is 45 for 3 from 14. Building a recovery, maybe?

11:43 – A better over from Wood, and just two from it. 15 overs up and it is 47 for 3.

11:45 – Lovely.

Jonathan Liew would approve.

11:47 – Plunkett replaces Stokes, and his first ball is driven straight by Smith for four. Fifty up. 8 from the over and it is 55 for 3.

11:54 – Smith takes a boundary from the last ball of Wood’s over. 7 runs from it, 62 for 3 off 17.

12:02 – Rashid on for the 20th over, and Slater enters the Comm box for his stint. 72 for 3 at the start, and he’s bowling to Carey. A lofted drive off the fifth ball goes through the gap for four. Six from his first over, and it’s 78 for 3.

12:09 – 21st over yields two runs. 80 for 3 from 21. Inexorable feelings that England are letting Aussie off the hook a little.

12:24 – 103 for 3 at half-way. Got to take a bit of a break now. Looking like 250-280 on the cards unless wickets get taken.

12:33 – From absolutely nowhere Carey flips an innocuous Rashid delivery straight down James Vince’s throat (on as a sub) at deep midwicket and the partnership is broken. England needed that, and although the home fans are worrying, let’s face it, we’d be saying get a move on if this was England.

WICKET – Alex Carey – Caught Sub, Bowled Adil Rashid 46 – 117 for 4.

Smith brings up his 50, and accompanied by boos.

WICKET – Marcus Stoinis – LBW Adil Rashid 0 – 118 for 5

That looked outside the line, and with Finch blowing the review, Stoinis could not review. Stoinis played back and got done by the googly, but the appeal won Dharmasena over and I’ll be interested to see Hawkeye. Stoinis goes second ball. Maxwell time. Two umpires calls, so a little fortunate. Would not have been overturned. 118 for 5 at the end of the 28th over.

12:41 – Smith is looking in ominous form for the Ashes. Another driven four. Without him, the Aussies would be sunk. 127 for 5 at end of the 29th.

12:43 – Rashid induces an edge from Maxwell, but Root can’t nab him at slip. 2 runs ensue. 3 from the Rashid over, who has 2-34 from his 6 overs.

12:48 – Archer returns, and Maxwell nails a pull shot in front of square for 4. 5 from the over, 135 for 5.

12:51 – Maxwell hits the first six of the day over long-on off Rashid. But with only another single from that over, the damage isn’t that bad. 142 for 5 and it is drinks at the end of the 32nd over.

13:08 – Perils of solo live blogging. Missed the Maxwell wicket while taking the dog for a quick stroll and giving him his lunch. Archer makes him prop one up to cover and the catch is taken by Morgan.

WICKET – Glenn Maxwell    Caught Eoin Morgan, Bowled Jofra Archer 22 – 157 for 6

13:11 – Rashid finishes his 9th over, and the 36th of the innings. 161 for 6. Archer back for the 37th, and his 9th. 4 from that over and it’s 165 for 6 with 13 to go. Smith still there on 67.

13:16 – A beautiful googly somehow induces an edge/steer to Joe Root at slip, and Cummins goes. Rashid has his third wicket, proving his importance to this team, if indeed, it still needs saying. Mitchell Starc in to try to play the Nathan Coulter-Nile role. Rashid finishes with 3 for 54.

WICKET – Pat Cummins   Caught Joe Root, Bowled Adil Rashid  6 – 166 for 7

13:20 – Archer bowling out. Three singles from the first three balls. Woakes still has four to bowl, with the other 7 remaining due to come from Stokes, Wood and Plunkett. Archer finished with 2 for 32 and it is 171 for 7 from 39.

13:26 – Mark Wood bowls over number forty, and it goes for four runs. Entering the last ten overs, Australia are 175 for 7.

13:29 – Plunkett bowls over number 41. Four dot balls to start to Mitchell Starc. Make it five as he swishes at a wide one. A single off the last ball stops the maiden, but England will be pleased with that. 176 for 7.

13:33 – Mark Wood again. 2 single leg byes, followed by a single in his first three balls. Another whip to fine leg for a single off the fifth ball, and another off the last. Five in total off that and it is 181 for 7. 8 remaining.

13:37 – Plunkett again. Three singles, including a misfield/run out attempt from the first four balls. Clarke babbling on incessantly. Shut up. 2 off the last ball from a cut, and it is 186 for 7.

13:40 – Wood on for the 44th over. Starc smashes the second down the ground for four. I make it that Woakes won’t bowl his 10 now.  No runs from balls 1,3 and 4 in this over. A wide from the next delivery. A single to Starc off the fifth, and he moves on to 14. Six from the 45th and it is 192 for 7.

13:44 – Second six of the innings (?) from Starc as he reads the first ball of Plunkett’s oval and plonks it over long-off for 6. Adds a single from the next. Smith moves to 78, and brings up the 200 off the third ball. A wide, a single, and another vile looking pull for four round out a pretty rubbish over from Plunkett. 14 from it and it is 206 for 7.

13:48 – Woakes comes on, to bowl three of his four remaining overs – can’t help thinking Morgan gave Wood one too many, or Liam two too many. Starc dabs a single – there really do not look to be too many terrors in this wicket, this is going to be a purely mental challenge when it comes to the chase – and moves on to 23. Smith mishits another for a single from the second ball. Dot ball from the third. A mishit from Starc, and another dot ball from the fourth ball. Something might give here. No. Starc pulls a ball to deep backward square for another single. Big LBW appeal off the last ball of the over for Smith, which is turned down but reviewed. No real hope on this one, I don’t think. Height. Going to be umpire’s call at best….and it is. There was a leg bye, four from the over, and it’s 210 for 7. Clarke has a little laugh and I want to throw my mouse at the screen.

13:54 – Wood bowls a full ball, which Smith inside nicks for a single. Starc dabs a ball into the legside, and gets a smartly taken two runs. A good save by Plunkett means just two from the third ball. Starc on to 28. Dot ball from the fourth. This is the 47th over, so just 20 balls to go. Starc top edges the fifth ball but it doesn’t reach Plunkett, and he gets a single. 50 partnership up. The last ball brings another horrible looking pull, but Smith gets a single, keeps the strike and it is 217 for 7 with three to go.

13:58 – Buttler nails the stumps and runs out Smith after he tries to get through for a short legbye – brilliant from Jos. Taking off the glove he hits the bowler’s end stumps and Smith is marginally short of his ground. A vital knock if aesthetically like walking past a sewer. We’ll need to get used to it, I’m afraid. He’s just too good, even when he’s bad. Big wicket.

WICKET – Steve Smith  Run Out (Jos Buttler) 85 – 217 for 8

Woakes then gets a nick off an expansive drive from Starc, and he’s got to walk now. Thin nick to Jos Buttler and England feel a little better about life.

WICKET – Mitchell Starc   Caught Jos Buttler  Bowled Chris Woakes 29 – 217 for 9

Nathan Lyon in at 11 for the team hat-trick. Blocks the first ball. Risky single off the 4th ball of the over, and gets away with it. Behrendorff would have been out by miles. Dot ball from the 5th, one from this over so far. Dot ball from the 6th too, and one from the 48th over. Not going to matter, but we should have brought Woakes on one over earlier. End of the over, 218 for 9.

14:05 – Mark Wood bowling his 9th over, the 49th of the innings. Lyon fishes at the first, but misses. A run off the second, not sure if it was a leg bye or a single. I think given as the later.  Behrendorff dabs a ball to third man for a single off the third ball. Clarke saying it’s not Smith’s day because the ball went between his legs. He didn’t exactly bat with fluency, Clarke. Two more singles off balls four and five. Final ball and Mark Wood yorks Behrendorff and England will need 224 to win and make the Final.

WICKET – Jason Behrendorff    Bowled Mark Wood  1 – 223 All Out

So – Woakes 3/20, Rashid 3/54, Archer 2/32 and Wood 1/45.

OK. We would have settled for that at the start, no doubt. Smith made batting look hard, but in his own way, and while you may think from above that I’m having a go, I’m not. He doesn’t give his wicket away. He just doesn’t. It could be a long Ashes summer. There are not those devils in the wicket, but Starc is a danger. It appears a bit of a short of a length wicket, as most boundaries appeared to come from pitched up deliveries. But that’s a nothing score, and England will be livid if they can’t chase this down. This run chase will be 90% in the head. Don’t panic and it will come to you. See you after the break. Hopefully.

 

14:38 – Negative vibes, bad precedents, worrisome stats, fears pervading. This should be comfortable but we know that it won’t be. Roy to face the first ball from Jason Behrendorff. First three balls all good. Roy plods one down to third man to get his account under way off the fourth ball. First ball to YJB and he crushes it through point for 4. Exhale. A little. 5 for 0 after the 1st over.

14:42 – Mitchell Starc time. Holding my breath here, no idea why. I’m not as invested in this team as others. Four dot balls, the last one at 92 mph. Roy getting in line at the moment. Fifth ball a bit shorter, hits Roy in the midriff, timed at 94 mph. The sixth ball is a wide. So still no maidens. Solid behind the final ball – 6 for 0.

14:50 – Win predictor says that Australia have a 7% chance of winning. Does it feel like that to you? No runs off the first four balls, and then a beauty that goes the other way to YJB, who doesn’t quite nick it. A maiden. 6 for 0.

14:53 – A sensational drive off Mitchell Starc’s first ball of the fourth over by Jason Roy goes for 4, and then clips one through wide mid-on for two more. Then came a knock on the door, and back for the last ball of the over and it’s another magnificent drive through extra cover for four. 10 from the over, one parcel for someone I’ve never heard of, and Teddy has been woken up by the knock on the door. I bet the Guardian and Cricinfo never have that. 16 for 0 from 4.

14:58 – Behrendorff keeping it tight to YJB since that first ball. He appears a little frustrated, but off the third ball of the over he shovels the ball into the leg side for a single. Teddy laying down again. Roy plonks one through midwicket and the two openers scamper two runs. A little dance from Roy to the last ball yields no run. Three from the over. 19 for 0 from 5.

15:02 – Starc gives up a wide from his first ball to YJB. The next is a massacred square cut from the red headed raging Yorkie, and another four. Demolished. The ball screamed for mercy as it raced along the carpet, picking up friction burns before smashing into the boards. Two dot balls follow, the second seeing YJB hurtle down the wicket, but Roy giving it the No No No No No.  A glide down to third man off ball four brings up a single. Oh, we’re one ninth there….  Roy then hits an amazing six as he flips a leg side ball far too close to fine leg for comfort, but it sails over for a maximum. Hussain’s heart has been extracted from his throat. Roy blocks ball six, and there’s a lovely dozen from that over. 31 for 0 from 6.

15:07 – Pat Cummins comes on for Behrendorff. Two dot balls to start to YJB. Cummins being talked up. Teddy now moving on to his bed. No idea he has to remain in the same position. A bit of a false shot third ball, but no harm done. Sways out of the way of a shortish ball for the fourth of the over. Nice drive off ball five for no run, as it goes straight to cover. The final ball is mis-timed through extra cover for two runs, thus preventing a maiden, adding on another 1%ish of the total required, and making the score 33 for no loss after 7. Teddy moves again. He does have some Australian in his bloodline. I think it’s his grandad. Someone tell Conn.

15:12 – Behrendorff replaces Starc. Roy does one of his wanders and plays and misses, then blocks ball two. LBW appeal for ball three, which England get a legbye, and Finch ignores the appeal as it pitched several miles outside leg. Bairstow clips the fourth ball to deep backward square for a couple more. A little uppish drive, quite close to Behrendorff is timed superbly, and goes for four straight down the ground. A guide to gully off the last ball gets no run, and England are now 40 for 0 at the end of 8 overs.

15:16 – Cummins again. Roy on 19, YJB 18. Two dot balls to start. Third is short and Roy ducks underneath. Another dot for ball four. No rush, chaps. We’re all breathing really well right now. There’s a real lobby for Jason Roy being selected for England’s test team, which I still think is mad. The last ball of the over is another gorgeous shot as he whips a ball through square leg with a majestic piece of timing and it races for four. Maiden thwarted, another 3.6% of the total required knocked off, and England move on to 44 for 0 after 9.

15:21 – Behrendorff starts his fifth over, and YJB pushes one through square leg for a single. A repeat, slightly better timed, brings Roy another run. YJB repeats again, slightly in front of square for a third single. Two through the covers for Roy, as the two nearly collide when they run. Another single, as England take a run after it hits YJB’s bat. Conn starts to froth at England cheating, but up comes the 50. YJB plays out the last ball, and it is 50 for 0 from 10. A very decent start.

15:25 – On comes the Mouth of Adelaide, Nathan Lyon. Jason Roy facing. I feel sick. Then Roy smacks his first ball straight over long-on for 6 – there was a fielder on the boundary that it sailed over . Dear lord. He’s going to be KP ain’t he? Misses the second ball after a little fiddle outside off. Roy gives himself room to hit the next ball out to the sweeper on the offside for a single. Bairstow sweeps ball four for a single. Now Roy reverse sweeps for four. Good grief. A leading edge, a pirouette, and a single makes it 13 from the over and England are 63 for 0 after 11.

15:29 – Cummins to bowl his third over as he changes ends. Second ball, Roy hoiks it down to fine leg for a single and moves to 40. Hopeful appeal from the third ball to YJB, but Finch knows that’s a load of dollop and doesn’t review. Talking of dollop, Cummins bowls a short pitched load of rubbish, sails over Carey, and add a very welcome 5 to the total. Another short ball brings two balls as this time it is on the offside, but the bad news is YJB goes down in some pain as he slipped turning for the second. We’ll have a little break here. 71 for 0. On resumption there’s a shortish ball which hits YJB on the hip. No harm done. A firm drive, for no run concludes the 12th over. 71 for 0.

15:40 – Lyon bowls again, Roy makes room, hits it to sweeper, and gets a run. Now we have Slater and Clarke in tandem on the mic. Lord help us. YJB tries to sweep ball two. Nothing. Slaps the next to square, no run. Clarke burbles. A horrible wipe skews over third man and somehow gets four, as Starc’s dive is in vain. YJB plays straight to ball five. Straight to backward point off the last, no run. 76 for 0.

15:43 – Cummins induces an inside edge from Roy but it thuds into his pads and no run. A little surprised by the bounce from the second, and no run. A wonderful fine hip flick from Roy crashes into the fine leg boundary for four off the third. Short for ball four, but not deemed a wide. No run from ball five. Bunts ball six in the air, falls short of mid-off. 80 for 0.

15:47 – Over number 15, and the Lyon experiment ends. Mitchell Starc is back. YJB smashes the ball over mid-off first ball for four. A single down to third man, and I need to take a Teddy toilet break! As I open the door, Roy wallops one over mid-off for another four. A well-timed square cut is stopped, and that’s followed by a wide. Roy on 49. Given width, he smacks the next one through extra for another four, 53 off 50 balls. Conn will no doubt refer to his birthplace. A single off the last ball, and it is 95 for 0 off 15 and drinks. Teddy is now livening up. You feeling it, people? Fighting like cornered TV companies behind a paywall.

15:55 – Steve Smith coming on. Interesting. Someone puts an umbrella up. Roy smears a single first ball. Wide second ball. Brilliant fielding saves a boundary from the second legitimate delivery, and keeps it to a single. Roy gets hold of the next, clears Maxwell, and even though he doesn’t get all of the full bunger, it goes for 6. He hits the next one straight for 6 as well. File this under “not a great idea“. The next one went absolute miles, air-mailed to London, it may never come down. Finch is shopping at Louis Vitton here. And he still can’t afford it. That’s the metaphorical white flag folks. 21 off the over, the last six being 100 metres. 116 for 0.

15:59 – Stoinis on, and YJB clips for a single. A diving stop keeps Roy to two instead of four as he pulls a short one to mid-wicket. It’s going to rain a little bit, judging by my radar software but it won’t last very long. A couple of dot balls, and I get my first message saying that he’s waiting for the wheels to come off. There’s a wide to bring up the 120. Roy murders the last ball with a sort of swivel shovel for four to bring the total to 124 for 0. Hundred to go people.

16:04 – Mitchell Starc, 0/38 off four, is back. This is just the 18th over. YJB is nailed on the crease, and is given LBW. YJB reviews instantly. He’s not hit it. Looks dead. So he takes the review with him as well, which is a bit silly.

WICKET – Johnny Bairstow  LBW Mitchell Starc 34 – 124 for 1.

Joe Root in. First ball is short, hits Root’s glove, avoids Carey and goes for 4. Luck with Root there. Into line for the next one and plays it well. Starc’s 27th wicket. Record. Root glides a leg side ball very fine again for another four. Starc shopping at Harvey Nicholls at the moment. Wide outside off stump next, and Root smashes it through point for another boundary. A wicket, but 12 off the over. 136 for 1 from 18 overs.

16:10 – Roy belts Stoinis’s first ball for four through mid wicket, then dabs the next to third man for a single. Jason now on 84. A couple of dot balls. No tweets from Malcolm Conn. Another dot ball to Root. A sedate five from that over. 141 for 1.

16:13 – Roy nurdles the first ball from Cummins down to fine leg for a single. Joe Root then smashes one through backward point for 4, and the total needed is below 80. The next makes a lovely sound, but finds deep square for another single, Actually, it’s his first single, but another to the total. Roy is given out down legside, and is caught by the wicketkeeper. He believes he never touched it, and is furious. Save your rage for YJB. He has missed that by a mile. Roy goes for 85.

WICKET – Jason Roy  Caught Alex Carey Bowled Pat Cummins 85 – 147 for 2.

I told you YJB’s review was a nonsense. That’s what happens when you let your ego get in the way. Roy missed that by a mile. A shocking decision.

Roy shouldn’t have stayed around to argue. Morgan in. He’ll be up before the beak afterwards.

16:20 – Kumar’s got the memo on the umpires. Starc back on. This would be a hell of a choke from here. Root gets a couple from the fourth ball of the over. Off the last ball of the over, Root brings up the 150 with another couple. 151 for 2. 21 overs gone.

16:24 – Cummins on, and Morgan gets off the mark with a glide to fine leg. 72 to win. Root takes a single off the first ball he faces in the over, down to backward square. Cummins bowls a short one, Morgan sways out of the way. Morgan is like a jittery man at the crease, all movement. Lets another short one go by, dropping his hands. You feel he just needs to nail one to ease any thoughts. Wears the last one. Two from the over. 153 for 2 after 22.

16:29 – A bit more peace and quiet. Good fielding saves a single off the second ball. Starc in his 7th over. A nudge from the fourth brings a single to Root, who is on 23 from 21. Aaron Finch is now fielding at backstop, short ball outside off, Morgan flips it over square cover for four. Morgan is like a cat on a hot tin roof, but prods the last ball out. 158 for 2. 66 to win. 27 overs left.

16:34 – Cummins to Root, who gets a sharp single, aided by a misfield. Comes round the wicket to Morgan, who nearly spoons one up to Cummins off glove and splice. An edge gets the captain another run – a single to third man. A wide, harmless delivery to Root is pushed to sweeper for another run. Another bouncer to Morgan is too high, and is given wide. A fuller ball for the last one of the over is pushed over mid off for four, and heads drop just a little more Down Under. 166 for 2.

16:39 – Starc again. No point dying wondering. Three dot balls to Root. The fourth is full on Root’s legs, and another glance for four. A single to mid off off the last, and five from the over. 171 for 2. After 25 overs. Australia were 103 for 3.

16:43 – Bairstow and Roy to open in tests says Drug Cheat. Yes. YJB is our keeper, that will work. Lyon now on and Roy hits through square leg for a single to open up. 52 to win. An attempted reverse sweep from Morgan is missed. Morgan does try again, and he gets four to backward point / backward square leg. He then edges the next delivery for two, and it is 178 for 2. 46 to win.

16:47 – Behrendorff back, and Root gets a single straight away. Morgan gets done by a slower ball and gets lucky as it just evades Finch at mid-off. It’ll say 2 in the book, and there aren’t any pictures in there (Smith’s would be interesting). Morgan pulls a lolloping long hop for four behind square. Just a single pulled off the last ball and it is 186 for 2. 38 wanted.

16:51 – Morgan chops one late from Lyon down to backward point for a single off Lyon’s first ball. Root milks a single to long on second ball. Morgan sweeps fine for four third ball. Exhalation all round. They’ve got this. Morgan backs away and then drive/cuts in front of square for four, and by far his best shot. Gets away with the 5th delivery as Morgan dances down the wicket, and then glides just short of backward point. He takes a single off the last ball, 11 from the over. 197 for 2. 28 overs gone.

16:55 – I’m sure Aussie have won an ODI at Edgbaston since 2001, haven’t they? Anyway, Behrendorff continues. Morgan miscues the first ball. And the second. Doesn’t play a shot at the third. Defends the fourth. Both Root and Morgan are on 33. Nothing from the fifth, and nothing from the sixth. Bills have to be paid, so we take an early drinks interval.

One thing we should observe in the run up to the final. The old mantra that success has many parents, but failure is an orphan. Let’s see that rush for credit.

17:01 – 197 for 2 from 29 overs. It’s brilliant to watch. I thought there were no demons in the wicket, and there haven’t been. The bowlers have won this game for England. No doubt. Root takes a single from the first ball of Lyon’s over. Morgan belts a shot over cover for four, and brings up the 200. Count them down. A shovel in front of square brings Morgan two more, so it’s now 20 to win. A single off the fourth ball. Root reverse sweeps for another boundary. 15 to win. Single off the last, 210 for 2. I’m thinking the ODI that they might have won was rained off (2005), but the Aussies belted us in a couple of series after that.

17:05 – Behrendorff’s eighth over. Those five wickets he took last time seem a long long time ago. Wide from the second ball. 13 to win. Root swats, as Nasser called it, a four in front of square from a lolloping long hop. 9 to win.  Root hits a full bunger down to fine leg for a single. 216 for 2. 8 to win. Root on 44.

17:09 – Before the end of the game, I would like to thank Teddy for being a wonderful dog this afternoon. He’s been calm and sound, and helped me to do this live blog. Thanks all to those who have followed it as well. We’ll do the final. Starc on, Root drives through the offside for a majestic four, and it’s down to two to win. They’ve been amazing. Root pulls to midwicket for a single. He should finish on 49 not out. Starc to Morgan….takes a single. Scores are level. Miscounted. 2 to win. Root on 49. Starc bowls, no run. 1992 was the last time, so they say, and there’s been nonsense since then. Just took common sense, picking the right players, changing the way they play. Root denied the winning runs by Maxwell. Over ends on a Richie – choo choo choo for choo. (222/2)

17:14 – Morgan smacks it over mid-on. Game over. Dame Edna, Paul Hogan, Skippy, Malcolm Conn, Rod Laver, Paul Keating, Men at Work, Icehouse, Guy Pearce, Boomer. Your boys lost. For once. Let England enjoy it.

Cheerio. Someone can write up the match report. England v New Zealand on Sunday at Lord’s. I have been Dmitri Old, and it has been my pleasure to watch an England team play like that.

 

 

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World Cup Semi-Final: India vs New Zealand

After 45 matches, and into the third calendar month of the competition, we finally reach the semi-finals.  Three games to go, the secret tournament gets to the business end amid a frenzy of indifference in the host country.

The semi-final stage really ought to be the one where the anticipation is huge, and where the wider audience is tuning in far in advance ready to view a showpiece occasion.  In New Zealand, Australia and India, that could well be the case.

This has been repeated in numerous quarters ad nauseam, but it doesn’t make it any less true, or less concerning, nor is it a dig as Sky Sports, no matter how sensitive their employees are or how “outrageous” they consider articles on a blog lamenting the invisibility of the game to be.  That they are so touchy tends to re-inforce the truth of the complaints – no one gets so irate unless it has touched a nerve.

Still, while the viewing figures for today will be as miserable in this country as they usually are, it is a World Cup, it is a semi-final, and a big event for the cricketing world.  And the two teams involved today have had sufficiently contrasting recent form to make India overwhelming favourites.  Despite their defeat to England, they have looked every inch potential winners of the competition, whereas the Black Caps three successive defeats have resulted in them stumbling into the knockout stage on net run rate.  The outcome of this one ought to be obvious.

But underdogs though they might be, New Zealand’s malfunctioning batting order do have enough to cause problems, and have the bowling attack to make any opponent queasy.  Their slump has been a rather surprising one given the quality on offer, even if player for player, the Indian team would be reckoned superior overall.  New Zealand embrace their underdog status at the best of times, and with this one, when someone as notable as Sachin Tendulkar wishes MS Dhoni all the best for “the next two games” it will certainly provoke a wry smile in the Kiwi camp.

India should win.  New Zealand have been poor.  But it could be fun if they decide to show up for it.

Comments below.

 

World Cup Matches 44 & 45: Sri Lanka vs India, Australia vs South Africa (and a bit of TV, FTA and the ICC)

And so we arrive at the end of the group stage, and more by luck than judgement, there is even a little bit to play for in the last two games. Not in terms of qualification though, after Pakistan’s always likely to be vain attempt to gatecrash the top four ended in victory, but not by enough, against Bangladesh.

Thus, it’s merely the order of the top four that is in question, and the incentive, such as it is, of who plays whom in the semi-finals. The most likely outcome is that Australia will play New Zealand at Old Trafford, and that India will play England, once again at Edgbaston. It’s probable that India and Australia would prefer to play New Zealand, both because of their recent stumbles, and also because England are unquestionably a side everyone else fears somewhat, even if they would certainly feel they can be beaten. But it’s hard to see beyond victories for both the Big Three members playing tomorrow, and that the semi-finalists includes them plus England is unsurprising, if somewhat depressing. But then, the whole structure of cricket at a global level is intended to allow them to maximise their income and power, so it is exactly as desired in the corridors of power. In most sports, an unexpected outcome in a tournament is something to be celebrated, only cricket responds by trying to ensure it doesn’t happen again.

Today Sky Sports announced that if England reach the World Cup final, it will be broadcast free to air. At present it isn’t quite clear what “free to air” would mean, but it appears highly unlikely it will be via a mainstream channel with a large reach. This isn’t so surprising, there are other major sporting events on the same day, such as the men’s Wimbledon final and the British Grand Prix (another outstanding piece of scheduling for cricket), and clearing the decks for six hours of cricket at short notice is somewhat impractical, albeit it would be amusing to see the response if a main broadcaster expressed interest in doing so. What seems more likely is for it to be on something like Sky Mix, or even online via Youtube or Sky’s own app and website – the BT approach to screening the Champions League final.

Such an initiative is to be welcomed, but the focus and pressure on Sky to allow it to be shown free rather lets the ICC specifically, and the ECB more generally given this tournament isn’t in their purview, off the hook. The World Cup is behind a paywall because the policy of the ICC, as instructed by its members, was to maximise revenue in their TV contracts. The moment that was the intention, pay TV was always going to be the only outcome. The principal contract for England, India and Australia is held by Star Sports, who paid $2 billion back in 2014 for the rights to ICC tournaments up to 2023. It was for them to then sub-contract to national broadcasters and, naturally as a business, to maximise their revenue accordingly. Everything stems from that, the drive for revenue at every stage, and the reason why such tournaments not only won’t be on free to air, but effectively can’t be.

This isn’t Sky’s fault, they too are a business trying to make money, but it is the ICC’s for making the financial aspect the key one. To suggest, as some notable employees of Sky have done, that this is down to the free to air broadcasters failing to bid is a specious argument – they simply cannot financially compete on the same level as pay TV, and see little point in spending money preparing bids, or even considering preparing bids, for something they cannot win. It almost certainly is the case that the kind of wall to wall coverage required is now only in the purview of the satellite broadcasters here, but it’s still a matter of justifying the status quo by pretending that the creation of this situation is entirely separate from the bidding processes in the current market.

Where it does get more interesting is in the argument as to whether some cricket on free to air would benefit Sky themselves. This is one of those that only those inside broadcasting (we’re outside that too) can answer, but holding expensive rights to a sport in major decline cannot be a healthy financial position for them either, even if the fear in the future is that cricket sinks so far that Sky will be able to buy all the rights for a song as no one else cares. It seems unlikely this will happen for as long as there is more than one pay TV broadcaster, for cricket is a boon for them, filling lots of screen time for comparatively little cost compared to, say, drama. In any case, to say no one else cares about cricket is a weak defence. Firstly, the single positive of the Hundred, that there will be some shown on the BBC, implies otherwise to at least some extent, but more than that, if more cricket is of no interest to the terrestrial broadcasters, it’s because cricket isn’t of sufficient interest to them. But it was, at one point. And now it isn’t. For the ECB to have failed to nurture their broadcast partnerships over the last 15 years has been an abrogation of their responsibilities to the game. At another time, a World Cup the majority were unable to watch would have provoked howls of outrage. Now it is largely indifference whether they can or they can’t, and limited awareness that it’s even on.

Equally, there is the wider argument about the role of the various governing bodies. It is simply wrong to argue that all the ICC can possibly do is sell the contracts to make as much money as possible, because it isn’t what other sports do at all. Wimbledon could certainly make far more from selling off their event to the highest bidder, but refuse to because they value the exposure they get on the BBC. More pertinently, World Rugby, for their own showcase World Cup, specifically talk about finding free to air partners. Indeed, their wording is very precise:

“Securing deals with major free-to-air broadcasters who are passionate about sport is central to World Rugby’s mission to make rugby accessible in a global context. With each Rugby World Cup we are broadening the sport’s reach and appeal through a broadcast and digital strategy that is aimed at reaching, engaging and inspiring new audiences within existing and emerging rugby markets.”

This is completely alien to the approach taken by cricket, to the point that it is diametrically opposed in almost every clause in that paragraph. Very few people are so single minded as to believe that everything should be on free to air, irrespective of contract value, and given World Rugby’s activities and attitudes in other areas, it’s hardly that they can be held up as notable supporters of the common man and woman in every aspect. But it is a striking difference in strategy, to intend the widest possible audience for their blue riband event.

It is highly noticeable that Sky appear to feel they are on the defensive about this whole subject. It’s not necessarily why they’ve made the decision to offer the final conditionally free, but also how some of their staff appear to be spending considerable time messaging cricket supporters and blogs with impassioned defences of their position. It’s a different approach, certainly, and perhaps not a coordinated one, but the righteous indignation, when it isn’t even them who are bearing the brunt of the annoyance, is interesting.

What the viewing figures might be for any final, broadcast for free, with England in it will be interesting. It really isn’t just the free aspect either – buried away on a minor channel that only subscribers are aware exists is not going to cause a dramatic change, although in a perfect scenario, a very tight, exciting final might just allow word of mouth to spread, and for non-adherents of the game to seek it out.

For this is a positive, without any question. How big a positive is more debatable. If the stars were to align, then just maybe it could grab attention, even with all the competition. This is what every cricket fan surely wants.

One other small item. It’s been reported that the other counties are displeased with Warwickshire for offering guaranteed contracts with the Birmingham Phoenix franchise in an effort to lure them to the county. This is the kind of esoteric, obscure item that barely anyone notices, but has a big impact. For the Hundred franchises are meant to be entirely separate to the counties. But what did the other counties expect? That this would be adhered to? That it wasn’t really going to go down the route of concentrating power and wealth in the hands of the chosen ones? We get accused of being cynical too often, but to not see this coming is extraordinarily naive on the part of those upset by it. It’s more likely to have been a deliberate strategic approach by a governing body that has long disliked having 18 counties to deal with.

Update: the article concerning the recruitment for the Hundred has been pulled, and according to George Dobell, a retraction sought. Curioser and curioser.

Comments as ever below.

World Cup Match Number 43 – Pakistan v Bangladesh (Not Free To Air)

We are nearly there. The first phase is coming to an end. There are six matches left. And breathe.

The end of the league stage is nigh, and in theory all three games have something riding on them. Yet even the most diehard of fans has to struggle with the remnants of this phase. On Saturday we decide who the semi-final match ups are, with Australia playing South Africa and India playing Sri Lanka and the combination of results supposedly matters. If Australia win, they play New Zealand; if they lose and India win, Australia play England. Be still your beating hearts, but the theory out there is that England would rather play the team they beat at Edgbaston than the one they lost to at Lord’s.

Tomorrow (today if you read this on Friday) will see a theoretical chance for Pakistan to qualify. To do so they must not bowl first, and if they bat, they have to win by over 310 runs (and more the higher score they get). It’s not going to happen. Any supposed excitement is possibly over at the toss. It might be true Pakistan to win and stick Bangladesh in. Imagine. Just imagine.

There are historical connotations with this match, of course. Having visited Bangladesh a couple of years ago (in an aside, I met with the owner of the Dhaka Dynamites this week), I know they are captivated by the sport. Having had political briefings on the market, I know that a lot of their politics are framed by their partition from Pakistan. So I suppose this might matter a little bit. In cricketing terms they are near neighbours in the table. Bangladesh are hopefully here to stay.

Their long run of futility in the international game has seen two World Cups where they’ve taken new scalps, and to defeat Pakistan would be a big deal. They have given really decent shows of themselves in the matches they have lost, have shown they have top quality one day players, and will never be taken for granted in this competition, the 50 over format, again. They get their chance to play an ODI at Lord’s and I hope they play really well. Pakistan will also want to show that at their best they are up there with the rest, but once the toss is over, and if Bangladesh bat, I hope we still see a decent game. The so-called dead rubbers have not been too bad so far. I don’t think the competition has been that bad either. But there are other views available.

So as there is little real tension in the weekend fixtures, the focus is once again on the FTA v Paywall debate. Sky have said they will not be sharing the live coverage with free to air TV, but there are thoughts that the Final will be on Sky One, or one of their other non-sport mainstream channels. The final is on 14 July, which in case anyone hasn’t noticed, is the same day as the Wimbledon Men’s Singles Final (BBC free to air) and the British Grand Prix (Channel 4 free to air). If you don’t fancy that free to air coverage of sport, there is also the Tour de France live on ITV 4 if you are struggling for something to watch. Who is supposed to carry these free to air event? Why would the old major channels want to go up against their long contractually engaged events (and in the case of Wimbledon, BBC’s crown jewel) for a sport that turned its back on them years ago. The question really is will Sky put it on a channel everyone can watch, and share it as widely on their own platforms, and can they attract anyone who might be busy watching something else.

But this didn’t stop Liam Plunkett being, it appeared, forced to issue a hurried retraction to some comments which, on the face of it, seemed innocent enough. I’m taking Lawrence Booth’s copy of the comments made to Radio Five as the evidence.

‘It would obviously be great to have as many people watching as possible – we feel like we’ve built something special here as a team. It would be nice to go all the way and to have big numbers watching that final if we get through and win.’

Asked whether he would like Sky to put the final on free to air, he said: ‘I’m not sure they’re going to do it but it would great for everybody to be able to watch that.

‘Playing for England, you’re the pride of the country and you want people to be able to access that and watch that.

It is hardly gob-smackingly out of line, is it? He wants the maximum exposure for a once in a quarter century experience (potentially of course, England have a semi to play), so that the nation can at least have the chance of watching the team play in a final. It’s not massively controversial. But, in something that speaks volumes of the culture in English sport these days, one dare not say a single word PERCEIVED to be against the narrative, and Liam had to take to Twitter to clarify….

The tweet’s content is not the problem here. It’s what happened behind the scenes. Praise the broadcaster who supposedly pays their wages (never forget, it’s your subs and advertising revenue that pays it, and Sky take the difference between cost and income), and make sure they are paid homage to. If Sky asked them to do this, more shame on their thin skins. I imagine it was more the ECB and their press team who are so terrified of the perception of offending one of their strategic partners, they wanted to make sure that there was a “clarification”. Interesting how they react to their TV partner in a heartbeat, but ignore domestic grass roots fans when it comes to upsetting them, tangibly, over the future of domestic cricket. You can eat platitudes. Sky have grovelling homilies.

Liam is a millimetre from “I was taken out of context” but his words, if as reported by the widely respected editor of Wisden, who is hardly some keen intern, are correct, what’s he got to be worried about? He’d love the audience to perform in front of. He would like to see the bandwagon, however remote, be created. He wants the country to be behind them in larger numbers, if possible.

But someone is so scared of Sky, that Plunkett has to put out this Tweet. The headline may draw a conclusion that is the logical extension of his thoughts, but those aren’t bad things to say. You have an England hierarchy more scared of their TV paymaster than they are the future inspiration a win could bring. I can’t say I’m surprised. I may be drawing conclusions, but they are obvious. Far worse to upset a TV company than it is your fans. File another success for the ECB custodians. A hundred cheers all round.

Anyway. To Lord’s. I hope it’s a good game. On Sunday I enter my 6th decade, and tomorrow I’ll be leaving the 5th with a good old do, so I hope to see you all sometime later in the weekend. I am on a break from work from then on, so hopefully will be live blogging the semis and the final (I have Sky). Until then, comment on the match tomorrow, and see you soon, my strategic partners!

Comments below.

World Cup 42 – Afghanistan vs. West Indies (and reaction to the England game)

So England have qualified for their first World Cup semi-final in 27 years and without doubt the most relieved people won’t necessarily be the players but more likely those who are in charge of running English cricket. After the various pronouncements after the 2015 World Cup and the change in emphasis from the red ball game to the white ball game, which many of us still fiercely disagree with, anything less than reaching the last four would have been disastrous and another sad indictment on the ECB. That they have managed to qualify for the knockout stages of their own home World Cup is a relief for all concerned or at least those who have access to Pay-TV anyway.

England went into this game knowing that the only way they could guarantee qualification was with victory and that the knives were sharpened in case they didn’t. They immediately had some fortune by winning the toss and electing to bat on what at first looked like a belter of a pitch, but one that became considerably slower and more two paced as the game went on. Roy and Bairstow once again showed their class at the top of the order by registering another century stand and scoring the bulk of the runs, with the former scoring a run a ball 60 and the latter hitting another ton before falling for 106. I can’t emphasize enough how important the return of Jason Roy has been to the team and not just the fact that he has replaced James Vince. Roy and Bairstow complement each other perfectly with the former often hitting his straps straight away to put the opposition under pressure, which then allows Bairstow to take his time at the start of the innings and then accelerate once he has got the feel for the pitch.

The rest of the side then faltered somewhat on a pitch that became more difficult to score on and all of a sudden, a forecasted score of 350+ became a bit of a slog. The finally reached 305-8 at the end of the 50 overs thanks to some inventive hitting from both Plunkett and the ever-maligned Rashid and there would have been more than one or two nervous England fans biting their fingernails during the interval. Thankfully any cause for alarm was quickly extinguished during the early part of the New Zealand chase.

New Zealand knew that to chase this score down they needed to finally have a decent opening stand rather than relying on Williamson and others to dig them out of a hole, this though, was exactly what they didn’t get with Nicholls getting a rough LBW decision, that he chose not to review, from the ever hapless S. Ravi. Guptill who also looked pretty out of touch this tournament quickly came and went, leaving Williamson and Taylor as the last vestiges of hope for the New Zealand team. Both these batsmen looked in decent touch and having weathered the early England storm, were hoping to kick on, before they were both run out in very different fashions. Williamson was incredibly unlucky to see a return drive from Taylor clip the fingernails of Mark Wood and cannon onto his stumps when he was out of his ground, whereas Taylor had a complete brain fade and took on Rashid arm for a run that wasn’t there and found himself short of his crease. From there it was a case of when rather than if, even with a battling half century from Tom Latham, and New Zealand quickly subsided to 186 all out. I doubt England were expecting as comfortable a victory as they got when they turned up to the Riverside this morning, but some good all-round performances alongside getting the best of conditions, meant they got just that.

So England officially qualify for the World Cup semi-finals and another trip to Edgbaston and unless something seriously strange happens in the Pakistan vs. Bangladesh game (and I mean ICC investigating strange), New Zealand will face the first placed side at Old Trafford. It is likely that the England will come across their favourite nemesis India once again, whilst New Zealand face their antipodean counterparts Australia, though a loss for Australia against the Proteas and a resounding victory for India vs. Sri Lanka could mean a switch at the top of the table.

It will be interesting to see how the media react to this victory and whether they are going to pronounce them a saviours already. For me, I still think they are outsiders to win the World Cup after India and Australia who have looked to be consistently stronger. This side still isn’t playing at its peak and is far too heavily reliant on Roy and Bairstow at the top of the order. There are definite concerns about Buttler’s form (though he might well make me eat my words here) as well as Rashid’s from with the ball and Morgan’s habit of going missing in the big games. I hope they remember that reaching the semi-finals was an absolute bare minimum and that England have had some luck reaching them. That being said, I won’t be surprised if I read an article from Shiny Toy or the like proclaiming them to the be the best ever One Day team, it comes with the territory especially from known idiots like Vaughan who will say anything then happily contradict himself the next day, to try and stay in the limelight. It certainly will be an interesting few days in the build-up to the semi-finals for the small majority who have access to the games at least.

As for tomorrow, we have ourselves another dead-rubber with Afghanistan playing the West Indies for nothing else than pride. Will we see another decent game like we saw on Monday or will either or both of the teams be mentally checked out and ready to head to the airport? And yes, I’m looking at you West Indies!

Feel free to comment on your thoughts about today’s game, tomorrow’s game or anything else you’d like to get off your chest, below:

World Cup Match 41 – England vs New Zealand – Must-Win Part 2

It perhaps shows the ODI fatigue of ourselves at BOC that it wasn’t until 9 o’clock this morning that someone even thought to ask “Is anyone writing today’s post?” Having the day off today (as part of my normal rota, rather than actively making sure I could see an England game), I drew the short straw.

With Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and the West Indies falling by the wayside over the past week, the arithmetic is now quite simple for England. If they win today, they go through. If they draw or tie today, they will almost certainly go through on Net Run Rate. If they lose today, then they will still go through unless Pakistan beat Bangladesh on Friday. New Zealand are also technically vulnerable, although they would have to lose by a very large margin today to allow Pakistan to catch them on Net Run Rate.

The stories this morning about the teams’ fitness seem to be playing into England’s hands. Roy and Archer have both been declared “fully fit”, which must have surprised the Indians after Roy was considered physically unable to field a single ball just three days ago. For their opposition, New Zealand’s dangerous fast bowler Lockie Ferguson is being rested as a precaution due to having a tight left hamstring.

In other news, Sky have completely ruled out any possibility of airing the final on Freeview, even in the event that England are playing. This would seem to make a mockery of the claims Sky and the ECB made when the latest TV deal was signed, when both declared themselves partners in trying to increase participation and interest in cricket. Or, to quote Sky Sports’ Managing Director Barney Francis:

“[This TV deal] extends our partnership with the game into a third decade and will see us work with the ECB to excite and engage cricket fans of all ages.  We will continue to innovate in our coverage and make it accessible across our channels, products and services.  And drawing on our experience of getting millions on their bikes with our successful 8-year Sky Ride initiative, we are committed to working with the ECB to help grow the game at all levels.”

Back to today, with a close loss for New Zealand still virtually assuring their place in the semi finals it seems unlikely that the Black Caps will bat with the same intensity that they might in a more important game, so England really should be able to win this game against a team who are already looking forwards to their own semi final. But, as any English cricket fan will tell you (particularly after the last few weeks), England have a tendency to make things difficult for themselves and their supporters at times and you can take nothing for granted.

As always, please comment on the game or anything else which catches your attention below.

World Cup Match 40 – India vs Bangladesh

The funny thing with dead rubbers is that they normally go one of two ways, either they are a complete procession with one team already mentally checked out or they prove to be a very different kettle of fish with both teams playing without any pressure of needing to win the game. The Sri Lanka vs. West Indies game looked like it was going to be the former but, in the end, it turned out to be a close game between both sides, with only decisions at key times leading to a close Sri Lankan victory.

It certainly didn’t start that way with the West Indies bowling attack showing all the urgency and intent of MS Dhoni’s innings on Sunday; indeed it would have been fitting if they’d brought their beach towels and a small BBQ to grill some shrimp on. Sri Lanka made the most of the West Indian inertia with the ball as Perera and Thirimanne helped shape the innings around a wonderful century for Avishka Fernando. I certainly hadn’t come across this young lad before today, but the poise at the crease alongside some varied stroke play means that there is some hope for the Sri Lankan fans to grasp as for their team’s success in the future. I can certainly see some flaws in his technique, and these will undoubtedly be tested in the future, but it is always heart-warming seeing a 21-year kid make some runs on the international stage.

It seemed doubtful that a checked out West Indian team would get near the 339 that they needed for victory and to no-one’s surprise they slipped to 84-4 and then 199-6, with many of the so-called big hitters in the side once again getting out cheaply. Nicholas Pooran and Fabian Allen had other ideas and they brought the West Indies close to a world record run chase and victory before both perishing in the end as the run-rate climbed higher. Pooran has been around for a while now and has been in and out of this West Indian batting line up, but he played an innings which was just as good as Fernando’s and hopefully will now be given a longer leash to prove his credentials. As for Allen, he didn’t have the best time with the ball, but showed that he could be a dangerous batsman lower down the order and deserves time in international cricket to hopefully improve some areas with his bowling. All in all, it proved to be an entertaining game for fans in the North East who have starved of international cricket by our appalling administrators.

Tomorrow’s game sees India play Bangladesh in what is a must win game for the tigers. I have been very impressed by Bangladesh all tournament (I saw their game against South Africa live at the Oval) and it is clear that they have benefitted from playing international cricket more regularly. Though this seems at odds with the current ‘modus operandi’ of the ICC who are determined to keep international cricket as an old boys’ club. It would be refreshing to see Bangladesh perform well against a strong Indian side tomorrow, but I just don’t see them winning unless MS Dhoni decides to have another ‘strange moment’. As for India, you would guess they will be fired up after some of the criticism they received after their defeat to England and a win would secure their place in the semi-finals leaving 3 teams fighting for the final 2 slots. Here’s hoping to a close game at least, but I can see India winning comfortably.

Away from the World Cup, Ali Martin retweeted a piece that I totally missed last summer (and apologies if this has been covered elsewhere on the blog, my memory isn’t quite what it once was) about the possibility of showing one Test a summer live on FTA:

Now it’s a lovely idea and one that every cricket fan would surely embrace, but there is just one major issue, Sky would never allow it to happen. Sky’s model is all around paying their sporting content and only showing it on their platform (hence why they chose not to bid for Champions League rights), so why on earth would they suddenly become so charitable when they really don’t need to be? Sky have also paid an enormous amount of money to secure cricket rights up until 2024, which is the very same cash that is currently lining Tom Harrison’s pockets each year, whilst being squeezed by other providers who are chipping away at Sky’s stranglehold on the sports market such as the rights for Spanish Football and coverage of the Australian cricket summer amongst others, have been snapped up by rival Pay-Tv firms. So for them to offer to show one of the premium Tests for free on FTA TV would be totally unviable for them from a commercial stand-point. It’s a nice idea, but in the real world, I’m afraid it will never happen, and cricket will once again remain behind the paywall.

Feel free to comment with any thoughts on the above or on tomorrow’s game below: