Sometimes I Love, Sometimes I Hide – A Review of 2019

There used to be traditions around here. I used to do a readers’ poll.  I used to give out Dmitris to those deserving of praise, and opprobrium. I used to do a media review. I used to do a lot of things on this blog, and now I don’t. It’s part evolution, part necessity, part the way the cricket world is shaping. I thought in 2014 that the attitude of the ECB was alarming to people like me. Now everything I’ve seen since has convinced me I am right. I wrote with anger fuelling me at it. Sometimes it burns stronger than other times. The quiet periods on here reflect a lack of anger, an unwillingness to say the same thing many times over, and time. Lack of time. My job is intensely busy at times, and the blog takes a back seat. It has to. One has to stay relatively sane, and this blog has driven me mad many times. Far fewer this year, it has to be said.

One tradition is I don’t write short posts. So this one isn’t, but covers, I hope, a lot of ground.

2019 On Being Outside Cricket

As I have written over those nearly six years now, I have seen friends come and go, posters surge in their intensity, and then leave to either take their disenchantment with them, or to go to other places where the heat may be less intense, or there may be more comfort in presenting there. I have seen blogs I like die (particularly sad for 51 all out’s demise, as they were a real inspiration at the start of this long run), and others become something I hoped they wouldn’t. At the end of the day you have to make your own choices, based on your own aims and desires for your blog, and any career. I don’t have to like what you do – but then, increasingly like cricket itself, a curmudgeonly blogger, with an angry streak rarely suppressed, wailing at the dying of the light of the game he love(s)/(d) is not the target audience any more – but it doesn’t mean I’m right and you are wrong.

On preparing for the review of the year one thing did really surprise me. We wrote more posts in 2019 than 2018 – 165 to 140 if you include this post. While comments are down, and hits down a little, we have had many more individual visitors – almost up to peak 2015 levels – which indicates that more people visit, but stay for less interaction. I think a lot of the interaction is taken up by our massively increased follow rate on the Outside Cricket feed, which started the year at around 400, and is now at nearly 2000. Much of this increase fed around one post that resonated beyond belief, and is by a long way the most hit post on this blog in its history. More on “Clubbing A Seal” later.

We passed 1 and a quarter million visits this week, in the middle of the test. While test cricket drives the engine of the blog, and our reviews seem really well received, I think some of the other work, outside of “Clubbing A Seal” has more lustre for the writers. We are usually the worst judge of our own perceived best work, but there seems to be specialisms in all four of your writers here that work to a certain audience. Danny’s madcap Hundred Things Wrong With The Hundred is out of this world for diligence, content, thought process and sheer, utter, madness. Sean’s scoop to get Nick Compton’s pieces, and the sheer agony you have to go through to make those things a reality, as well as his rage at stupidity and injustice add fire and brimstone when it is needed. Chris is the sharper, laser implement, written with elan and reason, and without sounding like a fanboy, I’m dead envious. But I know I can’t write like that, even if I wanted to, which I do. I’m me. Slightly unhinged, extremely thin-skinned, moody and insecure, and yet utterly convinced in what I write, and yet willing to accept I’m wrong. I’m also bloody protective of this blog.

So while Chris wrote so brilliantly about club cricket, while Danny tore the Hundred to shreds, and Sean got Nick Compton to open up, my “finest” hour was arguably the time when I got Russell Jackson, Andy Bull and Mike Selvey to slag me off all on the same day – having got Jim Maxwell to tweet approvingly of the same post. It showed I could still do it, if “it” is getting under the skin of journos. I also still do rage, and following this England team, and this administration, and this media, and this attitude of the collective, then there is no place else for me to go.

On The Field

England won the Cricket World Cup and didn’t lose the Ashes series, although they never looked realistically like regaining them. The World Cup was an oddity. England went into it as firm favourites, with our main fear really being the silly collapse game our high-risk tactics sometimes threw up (see one of the ODIs in West Indies as a prime example). What happened was a seat of the pants end to the group stages, where one defeat in the last two group games against India or New Zealand would have spelled trouble, seemed to focus the mind and two impressive wins were posted. The fear that the final four would be England, India, Australia and one other (probably out of New Zealand or Pakistan) manifested itself, but I know I’m in a minority here, I enjoyed the format. There was enough jeopardy here for England, especially.

The Semi-Final was a joyful romp, and the Final. Well, enough has been written about it and talked about it, that I can’t usefully add to, other than, that, my friends, is sport. It had the occasion, it had the tension, it had the thrilling conclusion, and it would have been great on any stage, but to happen in the Final. Well. You can’t bottle it and release it when you want. It happens. Congratulations to Eoin Morgan and his team, and commiserations to New Zealand. Indian and Australian fans…. you need to get to the Final before complaining about formats. 🙂

The test team have been a bit of a joke, albeit a not very funny one. The first series of the year in the West Indies was laughable, going two down with two shocking displays, and then winning a dead rubber when some of the batsmen decided to turn up, and the West Indies didn’t. The four day test against Ireland was a farce – bowled out for shirt buttons by Tim Murtagh on Day 1, a nightwatchman making 90-odd, and then the visitors being skittled for 38, wasn’t a great advert for test cricket. Sorry, not interested in that sort of cobblers.

The Ashes were entertaining, but in the end we did not make home advantage tell. The first test was classic England. Australia were repeatedly let off the hook, the player we feared took us apart, and then we made an abject effort at batting out time. The second was even-steven until Jofra put the wind up Steve Smith, and Stokes/Buttler made batting look comfortable on Day 5 to ensure the draw, and then a potential win. The lost day’s play will be rued. It should also be an example to the cretins talking about four day tests about how a day’s washout would ruin the games. The third test saw England skittled again for shirt-buttons, just about cling on, and then relied upon a miracle knock, and some keystone cops fielding, reviewing and umpiring, to fall over the line. Theatre of the highest order, test cricket at its best. Sheer, gut-wrenching, gnawing excitement. T20 can’t replicate it. It just can’t.

That result levelled the series, but Australia steamrolled England at Manchester, with Smith taking another double hundred off us. The bowling was relentless, and although England did fight hard, Australia won. The fifth test saw a good England win, but it was a bit after the Lord Mayor’s Show, and still does give us the fig leaf that we haven’t lost at home to Australia for 18 years, even though losing the chance to regain the Ashes should feel like a loss to all England fans, because given form, the next series out there is going to be a whitewash unless something strange happens.

England picked a more progressive looking side for New Zealand, and handed out debuts! The first test was again classic England – let the home side off the hook, let the bottom half of the order run rampant against woeful bowling, and then unable to bat out time to save the game. The second test was hampered by rain, but again, we weren’t really looking like winning it. The first test in South Africa again followed the Edgbaston/Bay Oval formula – get the oppo in trouble, let them off, bat well, then collapse, let the oppo get too many, subside woefully to lose.

I award a Dmitri to the England player of the year, and it’s not a tough choice this summer. Ben Stokes played the two miracle innings, he gave his all, he is the only England player within a sniff of being in a World XI (Root, no). He’s clearly the next captain, he’s the talisman of the side, and I suspect if he were leader his batting would fall of a cliff, he would bowl himself into exhaustion and we’d be wanting him out within two years tops.

You have read my thoughts on the test team, but I’ll leave it at this. We went for a cheap option to replace Bayliss, and he’s looking like a poor imitation of Peter Moores in these early days. Joe Root is not an England captain while there is a hole in my backside, but he’s too important to upset. The decision to prioritise test cricket is a funny one, given it forms the backbone of the TV deal just signed, and the one just concluded, if I were Sky I’d ask why it hadn’t been a priority before (given Australia seemed to balance the two well when they ruled the test world and won three World Cups). 2020 sees us play three more tests in South Africa, two in Sri Lanka, two home series against West Indies and Pakistan, a T20 World Cup, and a tour to India.

The Hundred

I warned you the ECB were like this. I warned you. Convinced of their own magnificence, mistaking diktat for “leadership”, and consensus appears to be if Graves and Harrison agree with each other. Many words have been written on what is wrong with the competition, but that is the red herring here. The issue is your governing body does not give a flying flock what you think about the game. They are evangelical, convinced od their own brilliance, and you, my dear men and women, are mere peasants. You need to be shown the light. That that light will be sponsored by a savoury snack company, will upend the laws of the game, and spend money on advertising that could be going into the grassroots that they are so concerned about, is neither here nor there. This is a power grab by people I wouldn’t trust to turn on a light. The same ethos that ejected Pietersen, popped Cook on a pedestal as a lightning rod, that marginalises the first class game while pretending to revere the sanctity of test cricket, is now selling YOU a pig in a poke, and if it goes wrong, it will be YOUR fault for not buying it, and YOU will be to blame if the game collapses in on itself. Which brings me to Dmitri Number 2….

Harry Gurney

Yes. If I could award a bellend of the year gong, he’d win it. First of all, he’s funny. Just ask him. Secondly he’s right, because he can throw down a few left arm slower balls, and you’re wrong because you want to be him. Thirdly, and this will come as a relief to Piers Morgan and Katie Hopkins, your tweet opinions and views are more important and correct because you have more Twitter followers than the person you are arguing against. Fourthly, what Harry writes as a man earning in his bread from T20 and his left arm slower balls, and needs sustaining to maintain his worldwide lifestyle (and fair play to him – if you get paid, go for it) is definitely NOT propaganda, but views from fans who quite like the long-form game, or club cricketers who don’t want to play T20 each weekend is! I mean, you have to get a long way down the periodic table to find something more dense than that proposition.

While being called a muppet by Michael Vaughan was one of my yearly highlights (alongside Andy Bull telling me how it is), and Vaughan is bellend emeritus for his Shiny Toy, Which Way Is The Wind Blowing, Phoenix Insights, Gurney has had a spectacular year. Harry Gurney gets a Dmitri for being himself, his twitter feed is an example of self love, and he thinks pissing off fans is a long-term strategy. Note how many likes I got for a Tweet highlighting Mitch Marsh taking him apart got. Speaks volumes. It wasn’t many for Harry, but it was a lot for me.

Other Dmitris

A Dmitri is an award for being notable, annoying, the best, the worst, or something that hit a nerve. It can be a person or an event, a team or a concept. We have the Mount Cricketmore for permanent residency (semi-permanent as you can be voted off), so I try to make things new, so we don’t have repeat winners of the media and cricketing awards.

This year I have the following Dmitris:

Overseas playerRohit Sharma, who played superbly in the World Cup, and has established himself in the test team, albeit at home against less than the best, but it is pleasing to see. He has young tyros nipping at his heels, but for now he is the man in possession. His batting is also sublime on the eye. As much as Steve Smith was our nemesis, and Shakib-al-Hasan was a beacon in the World Cup (but not so much afterwards), I think Rohit deserves it for his form in both red and white ball cricket.

Best JournoNick Hoult – Another new recipient. Now, cards on the table, I’ve met him twice this year and he’s a really decent chap. Really decent. He is also a damn fine journalist, and I can’t award it to George and Andrew Miller again because I like to mix it up. He gave us cracking insight into the end of the World Cup for press folk, which actually made me have 1% of sympathy for them rather than zero. So good stuff, and an example of how conversing with us, and being open to it, can pay dividends, we hope, to both sides of the coin without either side “giving up their thing”.

Worst Journo – Christ, this is tough. Here’s who it isn’t. Paul Newman. Not this year. I don’t read so much of the stuff put out now, so it is hard for me to call out too many, and the behemoths of Selvey and Pringle are out to pasture, relatively speaking. As Sam Moreshead of the Cricketer knows, when he gets my monthly DM, I despise everything about the Michael Henderson column in The Cricketer, and I learned this weekend, the old bastard is writing a book. I can’t give it to Andy Bull because he at least came on and had a pop. Simon Hughes made an awful faux pas over Sean Abbott, and is a pretty dreadful journo, but I just don’t have the heart. I’m not a fan of Ronay and Liew, but it’s not the cricket writing per se that gets me there. So, I’m going to cop out and not award it unless I get help from you lot. This one is open.

Kusal Perera’s 153 not out – Those who know, know. The innings of a lifetime, and thrilling to watch as a neutral. It may even be beyond Stokes’s effort because it was away from home, although Stokes has the more difficult attack to face. But in itself this innings should never be forgotten, because it was test cricket at its excrutiating, painful, lovely and artistic best. Power and grace as only left-handers seem to be able to do.

Clubbing A Seal – Self reverential maybe, and maybe slightly embarrassed Chris might be, but stuff it. This was important – this post  holds the record for most hits ever on Being Outside Cricket. There were a number of reasons. It was brilliantly written. It struck a nerve with club cricketers across the country (our Twitter follower surge, and feedback proved it). It answered the ridiculous twaddle coming from Harry Gurney and others, eloquently and powerfully. Club cricket isn’t theirs to mess around with, the recreational game isn’t for pros to sneer at. It is there for people to enjoy the game in whichever way they choose, and for the varied people who want to play to get out of the game precisely what they want, with all specialisms (sort of) catered for, which the T20 format just does not allow. Many good parts from it, but this struck a chord.

“The central theme of Gurney’s argument that all club cricket should be T20 or Hundred provoked a strong reaction, and one that he first tried to defend, and then became progressively more sneery about contrary opinion while stating it was just a view. But what it did highlight was a complete lack of connection or empathy with those who play the game for pleasure, and an inability to separate his own career from the wider game. This isn’t terribly unusual, sportsmen who have reached a professional level often have a sense of superiority over those amateurs and a lack of awareness that cricket may not be the central activity in another person’s life – or to put it another way, success in cricket isn’t more important than success in life just because it is their life. It is an odd social phenomenon, and hardly a new one, but the belief that this extra ability allows both greater insight and a position of authority is downright weird. “

In the words of Carly Simon, Nobody Does It Better.

Tom Harrison – It takes a special kind of person to enrage me to such a degree that I record his interviews on TV to enable me to undergo a 15 minute hate session to prep me to write articles on here. I’m only half joking. He’s an evangelical, self-centred, preacher, a man unable, it appears, to brook no counter-argument, no factual evidence to the contrary. If Tom believes it, then it will happen. And if it doesn’t, well we just didn’t understand. If there was one moment that summed up my rage it was the “Well, Wardy” start to a set-piece interview. In two words we knew a number of things. This was going to be soft toss stuff, and Wardy being on nickname terms was intended to show that Wardy had ECB approval to ask the questions. You knew who wore the trousers from then on. Secondly, Harrison knows he as to soften down the rough edges for media consumption, but he can’t stop meaningless management gobbledygook, about pathways, culture and other third rate bullshit. It’s not new. He’ll do it again. He’ll carry on doing it. Graves is stepping down as the boss this year, so let’s hope the new boss gets shot of the CEO, or whatever the hell he is. The Hundred is his folly. He may win the audience war, but was it worth the bad faith, the ignorant besmirching of existing loyal fans to do it? Only time can answer that.

This is more than enough for you to be getting on with, so it leads me to the end of this piece. As usual I would like to thank all those who comment on here, unless they don’t listen to friendly advice, who make the blog what it is. I know fewer of you comment, and it can seem our output is a little bit more sparse, but we all remain committed to write while you read what we say. That’s why we aren’t so discouraged by the hit level, when we see the number of unique visitors each day. I have said many times that I write because I enjoy it (not all the time, but mostly) and that there are people who want to read it. I used to namecheck you all, but I just don’t have that time any more. So thanks to all of you, and hope some of our long lost friends, or those who now comment only on The Full Toss, return.

On that note, and I received an email from him this morning, thoughts out to our commenter in Hawaii, Tom, on the loss of his partner of 21 years. Tom, take your time to grieve mate, and we’ll still be here. It is a sense of pride that we can reach the other side of the world with our posts, and I hope my best wishes (and those of all of us here) can reach too. Take care, mate, and I’ll get back to you on e-mail. I hope you don’t mind, but this was the best way of letting others who have conversed on here with you know.

My thanks also to all the contributors this year, those who wrote guest posts, or who signed up to our Twitter feed, or who just lent us support. I think we still matter, if we ever did. I don’t know how we’ve done nearly five years on here, six including the kick-off with How Did We Lose In Adelaide, but we have. Content drives it. My thanks go to Sean, Danny and Chris. We might not agree on much. We might not like doing that night’s report on the test match. We might wonder why someone else isn’t writing. We may even fall out from time to time. But we keep going, and proud to call them friends and colleagues. I still think we’re the best blog out there, and while I do, I’ll still keep on going on.

So, finally, best wishes for 2020. I’ll do the best of the decade stuff at the end of next year, because that is the end of the decade. We will keep trying until we have no more to give.

33 thoughts on “Sometimes I Love, Sometimes I Hide – A Review of 2019

  1. thelegglance Dec 30, 2019 / 2:24 pm

    Amen.. Apart from the self-interested bit on me, obvs.

    Like

  2. LordCanisLupus Dec 30, 2019 / 3:22 pm

    For information – in reverse order, the top 10 posts by hits this year:

    10

    https://beingoutsidecricket.com/2019/07/15/harder-than-you-think-its-a-beautiful-thing/ – My reaction to the World Cup win

    9

    https://beingoutsidecricket.com/2019/02/15/inside-cricket-annie-chave-in-barbados/ – Annie Chave’s guest post on her experience in Barbados. File under “very envious”.

    8

    https://beingoutsidecricket.com/2019/05/09/dissecting-the-ecbs-the-hundred-talking-points/ – Danny is a master of forensically taking apart the Hundred. This is an appetiser, or dessert, to the main piece.

    7

    https://beingoutsidecricket.com/2019/07/14/world-cup-final-england-vs-new-zealand-live-blog/ – A combined effort, but also a great record of the emotion as it happened, and Chris being left to the denouement.

    6

    https://beingoutsidecricket.com/2019/08/30/the-english-test-opener-from-another-era-an-interview-with-nick-compton-part-two/ – Someone talked to us. Well done to Sean for editing and producing this insightful piece. More to follow….

    5

    https://beingoutsidecricket.com/2019/06/12/world-cup-match-18-india-v-new-zealand-but-lots-more-on-other-stuff/ – Ah yes. Andy Bull. What MF-ing side you on? Also, liked by Jim Maxwell.

    4

    https://beingoutsidecricket.com/2019/08/28/the-english-test-opener-from-another-era-an-interview-with-nick-compton-part-one/ – I was in NYC when this went up. I went “WTF”!!! Sean (and Chris) kept this from me. Excellent work.

    3

    https://beingoutsidecricket.com/2019/03/24/a-hundred-reasons-why-the-hundred-wont-work/ – Call it many things, mad being one of them, but Danny laid down his own gauntlet, and tore the Hundred a new one. I’m sure Tom Harrison has read it.

    2

    https://beingoutsidecricket.com/2019/09/20/the-2019-outside-cricket-power-cut-list/ – This was fun to do, and judging by the reaction, enjoyed by many. If you ain’t on it, you ain’t trying.

    1

    https://beingoutsidecricket.com/2019/03/02/clubbing-a-seal/ – Said enough. Makes Gurney look like a blinkered idiot, and explains what club cricket means to those who play it. It resonated.

    Loads, loads more great stuff, one example as a guest post was Rpoultz’s opus that, shall we say, elicited a reaction:

    https://beingoutsidecricket.com/2019/03/16/guest-post-club-cricket-a-player-writes/

    Enjoy….

    Like

  3. dArthez Dec 30, 2019 / 4:00 pm

    Kusal Perera did not have the luck of dropped catches, or incompetent umpiring to save him. And the SA attack was not that bad either (although the captaincy was atrocious, but that probably happens all the time in these situations).

    And he was batting with a real rabbit. Unlike Stokes. Needless to say, those elevating Stokes’ innings as the best ever, can’t even be bothered to pretend to have seen the best Test innings of the year.

    As for most terrible journalist, I honestly have no suggestion. I avoid paid journalists’ like the plague for most parts in matters relating to cricket (and I can’t even remember the last time I used Cricinfo for anything other than looking up a scorecard and Statsguru – if they are happy to cater to lobotomised squirrels, that is fair enough. But that does not mean that I have to become one).

    In a real sense you could just burn something and call it Journalists’ Ashes, since they seem to have collectively and deliberately failed their duties. The odd exception notwithstanding.

    Like

  4. Mark Chapman Dec 30, 2019 / 4:01 pm

    Think the Agnew v Liew Twitter spat deserved a mention. Both coud get worst journo for that episode.

    Like

    • Mark Chapman Dec 30, 2019 / 4:02 pm

      *could

      Like

    • LordCanisLupus Dec 30, 2019 / 4:06 pm

      True. Sean suggested Agnew for the award about 15 minutes after I posted. You obviously don’t remember everything, and I try!

      Have a good one, Mark.

      Like

  5. Mark Dec 30, 2019 / 4:19 pm

    My appeal to traditional county, and test cricket fans for next year is please give the 16.4 a wide berth. If it does well you will get even more crack pot ideas. It needs to be drowned at birth,watched by empty stadiums. Don’t be fooled by claims that the money will be passed on to the grass roots. It is a full blown attack on county cricket.

    Perhaps the solution to Test cricket is to return to the days of the amateur? And leave Gurney and his like to the role of unloved mercenary!

    Like

    • dArthez Dec 30, 2019 / 4:39 pm

      Unless I am mistaken, the ECB have form in that respect. The Sky deal was necessary for grassroots. And exactly zilch was actually invested in that. In fact they are piggy-riding on Chance to Shine (among others) who do not even get (most of) their funding from the ECB.

      Like

      • thelegglance Dec 30, 2019 / 4:44 pm

        I’ve always felt the ECB’s taking the credit for Natwest Cricket Force to be one of their most brazen examples of that.

        Like

  6. LordCanisLupus Dec 30, 2019 / 4:48 pm

    A number of things I couldn’t understand, believe, or whatever this year. I most certainly am ploughing a lone furrow on some of these:

    How Geoff Lemon’s book, Steve Smith’s Men won all those awards. I really don’t understand. It was especially bad in the first half.

    How Michael Henderson is allowed to spew his bile, or psuedo-drunken rambles each month in The Cricketer. And then it was explained to me that it is one of the more popular regulars in that magazine, and now I hate many cricket followers.

    How David Gower allowed himself to get so lazy that Sky fired him, only for him to so up his game in the second half of the summer that we will now miss him when he’s gone. Even with that “haven’t got a f***ing clue” hot-mic drop (which made me like him more).

    How Ian Smith’s scream-a-thon is “loved” so much at the end of the World Cup. It couldn’t ruin it, but he needed, in my view, to dial it down. What would Ritchie have done? (Answer – watch the end of Edgbaston 2005 – even Botham’s call is pretty good for that). Richie would have spelled his name correctly, for one thing….(deliberate error)

    How anyone thought Jason Roy would work as a test opener. I’m a fat, bad club cricketer, who watches less and less these days, and I could see how that would work out. I’ve been wrong about players (Harry Kane) before, but was certain about this one.

    How the ECB had the chutzpah to pat itself on the back for getting the World Cup Final on C4, while being responsible for it being hidden from view in the first place. You don’t get to take a lap of honour after drowning puppies just because you donate to Battersea Dogs Home.

    How Jonny Bairstow played in this latest test match. I can understand if you hadn’t dropped him in the first place, and told him to go away and make some runs….

    How Jos Buttler gets a free pass for his test form. Being the least of the problems 40 matches in speaks volumes. Because he comes across as a super bloke, and plays wondrous shots, doesn’t make him a test player.

    How anyone connected with the game can pretend 4 day test cricket will (a) have 98 overs in a day; (b) cope with a day rained off, especially, perhaps, the 2nd day and (c) will work in areas with limited natural light (unless they plan to play at sunrise). Or pretend it isn’t anything other than a time and money grab for T20.

    How the penalties for not bowling your overs in test cricket only apply if you are not one of the big three (or if you are, you have a meaningless ODI or T20 series straight after).

    How Ed Smith persuaded Simon Kuper, which led to this…..https://www.ft.com/content/60b74166-d494-11e9-8367-807ebd53ab77 – the classic piece of the year.

    Ed Smith, England’s chief cricket selector, has been irritatingly over-blessed by the gods: brainy, courteous, a former England batsman, admired author and well-dressed man. This morning he strides into a King’s Cross café in sunglasses and a wound scarf that scream Saint-Tropez, 1963.

    I’m sure there are more. I’ll add to them as I go along. I did miss the Hundred auction, and I also missed the whole of the 4th day at Headingley due to work travel. I’m due to miss Day 5 of Joburg for the same reasons…..

    Liked by 2 people

    • Mark Dec 30, 2019 / 5:14 pm

      It seems to me the Aussies are liking day night test matches a little bit too much with the pink ball. Haven’t they asked to play even more? As hardly anyone else plays it, and with the advantages of a swinging pink ball we can look forward to even more one side home series down under.

      The ever moving white line of Austrailian exceptionalism!.

      Like

      • Deep Purple Fred Dec 30, 2019 / 6:10 pm

        The pink ball swings? Damn, that definitely should be outlawed.

        Anyway, Australia has promised to give up the sandpaper, so that should make it easier for you. They also promise to play only in winter, to serve scotch eggs for lunch, and to not swear too much. You’ll be fine.

        Like

        • Mark Dec 30, 2019 / 7:38 pm

          A bit naughty I will admit Fred…..

          But I had the right bait on my hook. I knew I would catch myself an Aussie.

          Like

    • Pontiac Dec 31, 2019 / 2:09 am

      Dobell’s latest article indicates that Buttler and Bairstow will be playing in the next one too.

      This whole setup is de-(human)-capitalizing. It’s all they know how to do. Any talent like Archer shows up, the knives come out even before the golden egg is laid.

      On the other side, England’ll never have a bowler like Lyon. They fundamentally don’t understand the role.

      Like

    • Marek Dec 31, 2019 / 3:25 pm

      Part 2–how a player who hasn’t played any competitive cricket for three months has suddenly leapfrogged a player who was a first-choice selection for the tour.

      I can see how Parkinson’s displays in the warm-ups might not have made the England management too eager to pick him, but Bess wasn’t any better during the county season and they don’t have any more recent information about him.

      I don’t see why he’s ahead of Parkinson other than by applying the “looking good in the nets” theory or the “you improve when you’re not in the team” theory…especially if they really are thinking of dropping Anderson. If they were thinking of dropping Curran for a spinner it might make a bit of sense because Bess is so much better a batsman, but Anderson…..?

      Or has he performed a Dawson/Vince style “impressing the coach with his attitude” trick? Please let’s not go back there.

      Like

      • LordCanisLupus Dec 31, 2019 / 3:27 pm

        Could you please write the next test preview, Marek? You are doing all our work for us!!!!

        Like

      • Marek Dec 31, 2019 / 3:50 pm

        Too much time off over the holidays, obviously….!!

        Sorry, didn’t mean to steal anyone’s gags….:)

        Like

  7. Deep Purple Fred Dec 30, 2019 / 5:57 pm

    Two comments:

    I don’t see why Bull coming onto your blog (and being defensive and petulant) should exclude him from your award. Let him have it.

    The standard of writing here is good to excellent, but Chris is above that. Brilliant writing, combining logic, knowledge and compassion.

    Like

  8. Sean Dec 30, 2019 / 8:34 pm

    Who was that idiot from the Liverpool Echo that came on here a while back proclaiming he knew everything about cricket?

    He should get the journalist ‘Dmitri’ in my opinion…

    Like

      • Sean Dec 30, 2019 / 8:35 pm

        An award in absentia??

        Like

      • Marek Dec 31, 2019 / 12:04 pm

        Didn’t he provide a brief encore this year, in the same style? Tom Evans, wasn’t he?

        Like

        • LordCanisLupus Dec 31, 2019 / 1:46 pm

          According to a search, his last contribution was on 3 June 2018. I’m not trying too hard to verify that.

          Like

        • Marek Dec 31, 2019 / 3:17 pm

          …:)

          I think he popped up somewhere else this year then with something in the same vein….

          Like

  9. LordCanisLupus Dec 31, 2019 / 1:53 pm

    My first post of 2020 might be on 4 day test match cricket. I can’t read the whole of Shiny Toy’s piece, but here’s the intro….

    I have said for two years we need to try four-day Tests. I’m massively for it because in the 21st century the average overs that Test matches have taken to get a result has been 318.

    There’s obviously those great occasions where teams bat out for a draw or there’s been rain and you get some high tension on the last day. But the game has to be realistic that most matches now last for four days.

    If you actually dissect a five-day Test match, the fifth day is costing the game a lot of money. As long as that money is spent in the right way – on grassroots, on marketing Test cricket, on growing the sport around the world – that would be a good thing.

    I’m a traditionalist – I loved playing five-day…

    That last full paragraph sums up cricket today. Money. Purely money. Nothing to do with the sport, but money.

    Also the average test takes 318 overs. Given the current test matches barely scrape 85 overs a day (and I’m presuming MIchael is leaving out the six overs lost for three changes of innings), his average test would end near the final hour. OOOOOOOHHHHHH that sounds good?

    Not going to spoil the post by my arguments now, but Vaughan is a money-grabbing shyster, and nothing persuades me otherwise.

    Like

    • thelegglance Dec 31, 2019 / 1:55 pm

      Thats English cricket he means isn’t it? Pretty sure the “most matches now last for four days” just isn’t true outside England.

      Like

    • dArthez Dec 31, 2019 / 3:11 pm

      318 overs on average. When we have had plenty of substandard pitches, and contests barely hitting the 200-over mark. In short, 4-day Tests will increase the draw rates massively. How massively? I am guessing, with the same incompetent batting that we see pretty much the world over these days, to about 50%. 50% draws despite clearly incompetent batting …

      Never mind the difference between batting out 170 overs and 80 overs for a draw is a massive one. If teams pack it in late on Day 4, that is because there are still 100 overs remaining, not just 5 or 10.

      A day of rain and it is a three day Test. You need epic incompetence to lose that, provided the conditions and pitch are reasonably fair (lots of cloud cover or a subpar pitch and you might still get a result. But on say those pitches in New Zealand last month? Just shake hands the moment the first raindrop falls).

      Basically, with the rules as it stands, it just promotes old-ball bowling much more, since taking the new ball twice is already pretty much a guaranteed draw or loss (because if you have to bowl at least 170 overs to get 20 wickets on about the 360 a 4-day Test will last without lost overs due to rain and other delays, what can you expect?).

      Not saying that old ball bowling is not important, but who wants to take up the specific skills for bowling with the new ball, when old ball bowling comes at a premium? Would a bowler like Anderson be that valuable to a side, since at most he’d get three goes with the new balls (across two innings) before draw or defeat is all but assured.

      As for the batting, get an opener that averages 120 balls / innings (which in the olden days would roughly result in an average in the high 40s / low 50s), and you pretty much can’t lose from there, unless you have an English middle order.

      Another thing is, if a team ends Day 1 on say 270/4, the draw is almost guaranteed for the side ending the day 4 wickets down. Shortening the format will just end up killing the narrative, unless of course you’re playing on substandard pitches and 270/4 is already above par for all 10 wickets spent.

      Like

    • Mark Dec 31, 2019 / 4:12 pm

      Probably nobody has disappointed more than his transition from England captaincy Ashes success to rent a quote pundit.

      “I have said for two years we need to try four-day Tests.”

      Why, seriously WHY? For the love of god can someone tell me why we have to try it?

      “I’m massively for it because in the 21st century the average overs that Test matches have taken to get a result has been 318.”

      What has the 21st century got to do with the price of fish? Three days of 90 overs each gets you to 270 overs with two days left. ( don’t tell me they will bowl more than 90 overs a day) Add in another 48 overs to get to his irrelevant and meaningless 318 overs, and you have almost reached tea time on day four, You only need one session to be rained out and that’s the test match up a creek without a paddle if you have four day cricket.

      “There’s obviously those great occasions where teams bat out for a draw or there’s been rain and you get some high tension on the last day.”

      Translated into English means he is happy to shit on 2005, his crowning glory

      “f you actually dissect a five-day Test match, the fifth day is costing the game a lot of money.”

      So we finally get to the meat of the sandwich…..money. The price of everything, and the value of nothing. They should make this the motto of the current ECB.

      “As long as that money is spent in the right way – on grassroots, on marketing Test cricket, on growing the sport around the world – that would be a good thing.”

      That sounds like a threat to me. If you don’t do what we want we may have to take more money from the grass roots, Because they are never going to cut the salaries of the people at the ECB. Officials of players.

      I repeat what I have said before. Never in human history does a sport have a governing body and pundit class then loaths the very fan they rely on.

      This last decade of cricket destruction ends with more folly and bat shit ideas from people who should know better.

      Liked by 2 people

      • Miami Dad's Six Jan 1, 2020 / 8:09 am

        It strikes me that there would be far, far more draws. If a batting side is chasing 350 with 2 days to bat, they go for it and end up being silly about their shots. If it’s over one day, they’ll simply block it out. A draw becomes so much easier to attain.

        First side hits 400 in a day and a half? You now cannot win. Shut up shop. Block away to 250 in response, kill the game.

        On tour and underdogs? Bat first, kill as much time as possible. Get to 300 but take 4+ sessions out the game. Can you lose? Yes, but by the time 450 is made in response, there’ll only be a session or two to bat out…

        I’m not saying I didn’t rate Compton, but the likes of he and Cowan etc would be played as negative players, not to win but to avoid losing. What a game.

        Happy New Year all.

        Like

        • Mark Jan 1, 2020 / 10:29 am

          Exactly! I think there will be a lot of draws. Some of the games that have been won inside four days that he talks about have had an entire day washed out.

          Also the game will completely change, there will be no point batting for a really big score of 550-600 because you will only have two days left to bowl out the opposition twice. The whole of cricket test cricket will change substantially. I wish they would stop picking at it.

          I think those who want shorter test cricket are really admitting that the standard of batting is so poor that the modern player can’t justify five day cricket because they don’t have the skill to bat five sessions.

          Happy Nee Year everybody!!

          Like

  10. Zephirine Jan 1, 2020 / 3:46 pm

    I realised this morning that we’re now in the year T20. I’ve been trying to think of a good joke about this but have so far failed.

    A Happy New Year to all, keep blogging on!

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Grenville Jan 1, 2020 / 4:19 pm

    Pace Mark Chapman above, Agnew has to get the worst journalist award. His faux bonhomie, cake and excruciating schoolboy ‘humour’ is bad enough. Call the game and spare me the TMS nostalgia crap. It’s compounded by his thin-skinned, entitled petulance, but to cap it off his tirade at Liew for calling out his prejudices should see him frequenting the same cafe off the North Circular as the dearly departed, equally pathetic Mike Selvey.

    Liked by 1 person

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