All I Got Was Cigarettes And Alcohol – The 4th Test Preview (of sorts)

Welcome to the 4th Test match to be played at the Wanderers, Johannesburg. Been there!


I really enjoyed my time there, back in 2005, when I saw a badly rain affected Day 2 (where Vaughan batted very well and I got my first look in the flesh of the great Dale Steyn) and then Day 3, when Herschelle Gibbs made a century. I flew home that night and missed that match’s conclusion – you know, Trescothick, Hoggard, the South African coach smashing a ball at Smith’s head. That sort of thing. I’m not bitter.

But even recalling these days, a more innocent time in my cricket and life experience, is melancholy. Test cricket was the thing. Test cricket mattered. Two strong teams battling out a thrilling series. England in their pomp, on the crescendo up to the 2005 Ashes. South Africa in a little turmoil, but with players coming through, none more exciting than Steyn. T20 was an embryonic entity, just started in county cricket, with other versions similar to it in other countries. No-one worried about the future of test cricket – strong teams, great competition, many, many great players.

This series, for all its feel good moments in the last two matches for England, has not got that lustre. England are middle of the pack, inconsistent, with some match-winning performers, but all the while bedding in players, with a thinner reserve base to pick from. If the exit of the U19 team from the World Cup isn’t a canary in that particular gold mine, I don’t know what is. Sport doesn’t need to be top class to be entertaining, but an occasion does need to have top class performers. So while this is enthralling sport, it doesn’t have that sense of occasion. England are winning against a team being rendered from inside and out, and with, what looks to be, a bleak future. Yes, three weeks ago after winning in Centurion there were optimistic noises. They have evaporated now, with talk of Faf retiring, of Bavuma coming back despite not establishing himself on form, the bowling about to lose Philander, and whoever a county might want to take on a Kolpak. So while we have a crisis in confidence in England about the future of test matches, South Africa are staring down the barrel of a long wilderness, to mix a metaphor or two, and that’s not good. It really isn’t.

I thought I’d refer to the title of the piece here for some reflection. I’ve written many, many times about how my love for the game is ebbing away. Of how a test match devalued is a sport destroyed. Of how people in power only seem to care about the monetary side of the game, and not the future. They are not the same. A lot of my writing in the past six years, hell 11 since I started How Did We Lose In Adelaide, has been about my concerns, even hatred, at what has been going on. After 2014, writing became an addiction. HDWLIA was an addiction. Like the time I was a smoker, I enjoyed it, it was something I liked, even though I knew it was doing me harm. 2014-16 especially was like starting smoking. But then you realise what a toll it was taking. So you try to give up, but you can’t for long, and you start again, saying you’ll cut back, but then you go back to where you were. You get the tortured analogy. I finally stopped when I was coughing up blood in an overseas hotel, but in blogging terms, I’ve not had that moment!

Days like the last three, though, make me wonder what’s the point? There was the KP interview with Martin Samuel. I’m not sure if you’ve read it, but you know, many of the points we made here about the scandalous briefing against him, how he was the symptom, not the disease, are now entering the mainstream. You know how Flower’s regime was actually a destructive one at the end of the day. You know how the ECB leaked like a sieve, not being paranoid about it. And about how whether we liked it or not, KP was not going to constrain his earnings and now all follow behind him. There’s a lot wrong with KP, of course there is, but he blazed the trail others follow and yet don’t seem to want to acknowledge that. Many of the wounds are healing it seems, but for the Daily Mail, of all rags, to print that and for KP to give an interview to it (even with the sumptuous dig at “other writers at that paper”) is maddening. They did the most to get you out, and now you talk to that? I really do wonder.

Then there was this today.

He didn’t address him directly, but this is in reaction to Michael Vaughan saying Tom Banton should get first class experience and then be fast tracked into the test team, to bat at 6. To do this, he would need to not play in the IPL. Gurney, of course, turning rapidly into the Katie Hopkins of Cricket Twitter, thought he’d make one of his pointed observations about this, and in the process, slagged off county cricket fans once again. Whether it is being funny, or in this case, not, Gurney is being crass. We get it, big shot. There’s a market for your left arm seam in T20 cricket, with your changes of pace and so on. Some days it works, some days it doesn’t. You are more than entitled to earn your crust in the way you see fit. But you start this with supporters. Not us. You can’t have a pop at the pensioners, when they supported you in your early days, and then get wounded when they pop back. To claim the tweet is in response to Vaughan, a person we hold in the deepest contempt for his views post-playing career, is one thing. But when it comes to one moron having a pop at another, we aren’t required to take sides. We can, and do, think you are both morons who seem to have contempt for those that paid for tickets, played your game, and love it from before. Gurney doesn’t bother with the likes of us, and evidently wouldn’t give a shit if he does. But maybe, Harry, just maybe, show some class. You could have made your point without denigrating fans in the process. But you just can’t help yourself.


This sort of thing makes me sad. It makes me, in some way, long for the day when the addiction to blogging will go, and a normal life not getting angry at these people can take over. Where I can just sit back, and watch the 4th Test, hope England win, hope I can see a special performance, and yes, hope to see one or two from South Africans too. Where I hope England resist the temptation and play a spinner. Where Jofra Archer might return, or have people briefing against him that the elbow injury is in his head. Where Sibley and Crawley make runs. Where Denly might get that elusive hundred to get the yoke off his back. Where Root or Stokes might take to the skies, run amok in Joburg, backing up their talent. Where Jos gets his mojo back, Pope flows like Bell Mark 2. Where Mark Wood bowls like fire, where Stuart Broad reprises the last time at this venue. And where we can enjoy cricket, and not the ceaseless rubbish that accompanies it. Of Crisp-less Hundred Shirts. Of talking about whether a suspension catered for under the rules is merited. Of anything but the game.

I was looking for some action, of magnificent shots, and fantastic bowling. It don’t scan, but who the hell cares?

I am away from Day 4 onwards, having a work trip to South East Asia, (much of which will be spent in legal offices), so I will be leaving you in the capable hands of Sean, Danny and Chris. As always, comments on the first day’s action below. Thanks as always to the readership who keep me going, and are the equivalent of my 20 Silk Cut. Do they still even exist?



24 thoughts on “All I Got Was Cigarettes And Alcohol – The 4th Test Preview (of sorts)

  1. jennyah46 Jan 23, 2020 / 10:01 pm

    Please don’t go!


    • LordCanisLupus Jan 23, 2020 / 10:50 pm

      Feeling a bit down, and that’s not uncommon. Not every day your role is pilloried on national news. Never mind.


      • BoredInAustria Jan 24, 2020 / 9:21 pm

        I saw some of that – I know what else you are wanting to do, athough it did not quite work for us … yet 😉

        I have not been on here a lot, sorry – a lot happening in my life, not much space or time for cricket
        Always a pleasure to read your views

        Greetings from Vienna


        • LordCanisLupus Jan 24, 2020 / 10:07 pm

          Sir, you have my email. Never hesitate in sending me anything. Plus. Vienna is in my sights….


  2. dArthez Jan 24, 2020 / 8:09 am

    Looks like Day 1 will be a washout, so we’ll have a 4-day Test.


    • dannycricket Jan 24, 2020 / 8:20 am

      Yeah, I’m pretty sure Sean checked the forecast before he offered to do today’s report.


    • LordCanisLupus Jan 24, 2020 / 9:04 am

      Which, needless to say, would be better than a 3- day test as certain pundits would like.


      • LordCanisLupus Jan 24, 2020 / 9:25 am

        Meanwhile, is this contrition…


        • dArthez Jan 24, 2020 / 9:46 am

          Michael Vaughan syndrome.

          If it happened in the last 5 minutes, it is the ‘greatest ever’, if not enter ‘spout any string of words that are grammatically correct’ together, and wait for the responses.

          a) no response –> follow up with something more outrageous, because you’re desperate for attention
          b) negative response –> claim that whatever you said is not what you meant. Anything that you might have said more than 5 minutes ago is forgotten or already irrelevant as opinions change as often as umpires are supposed to call over in a day’s play; eg. every 4 or 5 minutes
          c) positive response –> “I am the greatest ever, and don’t you forget it!”

          Then the feedback loop kicks in, and the whole thing can start all over again.

          Liked by 1 person

          • Badger Jan 26, 2020 / 1:00 am

            On leftbook it’s called schrodinger’s douchebag. Say something outrageous and if you get a negative response, claim it was satire.


  3. Mark Jan 24, 2020 / 10:24 am

    We don’t have to accuse you of anything. Just read your supercilious pompous posts. You sneerered at the idea of playing in 8 degrees in front of 200 pensioners.

    I blame TV deals for this.It has broken the link between fan and player. Not just cricket, but football too.Most players think they are paid by a distant TV company who are completely detached from the fan. It’s not Sky who are paying the players wages, but the customers (fans) who pay Sky. Which is why I have cancelled my Sky contract so I don’t give any more money to the likes of Gurney.

    And most of those fans, who are funding cricketers wages are not paying to see Gurney play hit and giggle. They are paying to see footballers kick a ball around.

    Gurney sounds like the rare tambourine player in a rock band who only plays one song at the concert. Few give a shit if he’s there or not.


  4. dArthez Jan 24, 2020 / 11:04 am

    South Africa trying for a new record. Most Test tosses losses in a row. Nasser (with 10) must be feeling the heat now.


    • Metatone Jan 24, 2020 / 12:07 pm

      Both teams have played so badly at times that I’m wary of putting too much emphasis on it, but I did note that so far every game has gone with the team that batted first.


      • dArthez Jan 24, 2020 / 12:15 pm

        Since 2009:

        The only England – South Africa (home or away) game where batting first have lost were Durban 2009, Johannesburg 2010 (don’t ask me why Strauss elected to bat then), the Oval 2012 and Johannesburg 2016. Everything else was at least a draw, if not win.

        Meanwhile the 2008 series in England saw 3 such instances.


        • dArthez Jan 24, 2020 / 12:18 pm

          In fact, the last 8 games between these sides have been won by the side batting first (in England or South Africa). This could be game #9 in such a streak, if England win in the next few days. I expect them to.


  5. man in a barrel Jan 24, 2020 / 1:22 pm

    Is this looking like a bat first, bat once sort of pitch, or is it another welcome chance for England to bat with much of the pressure off? We won’t really know how good England are till we see them batting second, facing 500


    • Mark Chapman Jan 24, 2020 / 1:30 pm

      Plenty of pressure on these two openers to cement their places in the team. Nice composed partnership so far.


  6. dArthez Jan 24, 2020 / 1:43 pm

    So South Africa play 5 bowlers, and can’t even take a single wicket in the opening session when it was not the most terrible thing imaginable to lose the toss. And people still think the bowling is good …

    Good to see that Crawley is alright after being hit on the helmet.


  7. pktroll (@pktroll) Jan 24, 2020 / 3:20 pm

    England doing their best to let SA back into the match after SAs dreadful bowling performance in the first session and yes D’Arthez it was dreadful. I certainly don’t think Hendricks or Patterson look or are test class for two.


    • dArthez Jan 24, 2020 / 3:26 pm

      My thoughts exactly. Hendricks was the fifth debutant this series. Which is a reflection of
      a) cupboard is bare
      b) selectors are just picking and praying that whoever they pick works out. So far, the success rate of pick and pray is eerily reminiscent of England in the good old days …

      Add to that Hamza (5 Tests now), Phehlukwayo (okay he did not play this series, but veteran of 4 Tests), Petersen (not made his debut yet) and Nortje (in his 6th Test) are on the bench, and you get the picture.


      • dArthez Jan 24, 2020 / 3:32 pm

        And obviously, Nortje is actually playing.


      • pktroll (@pktroll) Jan 24, 2020 / 3:40 pm

        Losing Rabada for this test and Ngidi having been injured won’t have helped this. In theory Rabada, Ngidi and Nortje would be the makings of a decent fast bowling attack.


        • dArthez Jan 24, 2020 / 3:49 pm

          Ngidi has played all of 5 Tests himself. So not that much experience there. Potential, yes, but on top of his 5 Tests he has played just 12 First Class games. So I’d be wary too call him the next messiah, since it might simply have been a good start to a FC career, being picked too soon, and then struggling forever with all kinds of injuries.

          But that may well mean that after this Test, the pace attack has 50 caps between them, with 43 of those held by Rabada.


  8. dArthez Jan 24, 2020 / 3:31 pm

    So out of a 15-man squad 9 players now share 25 caps between them, in other words less than 3 Tests / player worth of experience (and before play started it was 19 caps between 9 players).

    The last side that might have achieved such a feat might have been Zimbabwe in 2005? (Obviously discounting Ireland and Afghanistan for obvious reasons).


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