My name is Danny Frankland, and I am responsible for a surprisingly widespread hoax on cricket Twitter (and by now probably several other social media platforms as well). To be precise, I created this image:
It’s the fourth fake statement from the ECB which I have posted on the @OutsideCricket twitter account, but the only one which got out of hand in this way. This is a big reason why the reaction surprised me, as I thought fewer people would be fooled since I’d already pulled the same ‘trick’ three times before. I am The Boy Who Cried Wolf, and yet the villagers appear to keep falling for the same gag. That’s not how I remember the story…
The first fake statement I wrote was in April, after Hampshire’s Lewis McManus managed to dismiss Leicestershire’s Hassan Azad by stumping despite not having the ball in his glove at the time. A clear breach of the ‘Spirit Of Cricket’, and similar to several incidents which have led to lengthy suspensions. On the other hand, Hampshire are one of the counties routinely favoured by the ECB and a cynic such as myself might therefore expect a slap on the wrist. (This turned out to be the case, with a mere three disciplinary points applied to McManus.)
I had recently seen an ECB statement posted on Twitter and noticed that it had a plain background and simple design which would make it child’s play to edit, even with my limited graphic design abilities. I fired up GIMP (Which stands for GNU Image Manipulation Program, and is entirely unrelated to any sexual fetishes) and got to work creating this:
The intent was to satirise the ECB’s expected leniency towards Hampshire by referencing three times where they acted entirely without mercy: The deduction of 24 County Championship points from Somerset for a ‘poor’ pitch, the relegation of Durham due to the county’s financial problems, and the continued unofficial international suspension of Alex Hales after he used recreational drugs in 2019. Clearly the idea that the ECB would punish two teams and a player who were not in any way involved in the fake stumping incident is preposterous and most readers saw it as a joke but it did seem to fool a few people, at least briefly. The official-looking image, the formal wording, plus perhaps not applying their full attention meant that some of our followers missed the joke. The highlight of this was when BBC Radio Solent’s commentator Kevan James started reading it out live on air, only to realise his mistake once he reached the part about Alex Hales.
Most of the reactions to my tweet were positive, enjoying the gag, laughing at those who admitted being tricked, and broadly agreeing with the implication that the ECB doesn’t necessarily treat all teams or players equally. Fun was had by all, and it barely took fifteen minutes to mock up a convincing statement, so obviously I was going do it again. The opportunity came a couple of weeks later when twelve European football clubs decided to try and form their own European Super League. Tweets identifying similarities between the marketing of this nascent competition to the ECB’s The Hundred were flooding my timeline and so I figured, “Surely there’s no better way to explain this than saying that the ECB were behind the whole thing?”
Whilst it was perhaps slightly less improbable than my first effort, I thought the very idea that anyone (much less the ultra-wealthy football clubs behind the ESL) would employ the ECB for their marketing expertise is entirely beyond belief. Nevertheless, this one seemed to catch a few more of our followers out. Perhaps their anger at the ECB or ESL blinded them to the ridiculousness of the situation, or the stunning tone-deafness of the wording. I was particularly pleased with the sentence, “It is no exaggeration to say that the profile of the 12 clubs in terms of social media mentions has never been higher than they are right now, thanks largely to the ECB marketing team.” It really tickled me.
A week after this, the ECB and PCA released a joint statement announcing that they would be taking part in a sports-wide social media boycott in order to protest the lack of consequences for people who post racist and sexist abuse on social media, and in particular those who target sports journalists and players.
This piqued my interest in a couple of ways. First, a joint statement from the ECB and PCA is where this blog got its name. Through clumsy wording, it seemed to suggest that those “outside cricket” (i.e. Anyone who isn’t a professional cricketer, coach or journalist) should not be allowed to criticise the ECB, the England team, nor any of its players or staff. Anything the two organisations do together is going to get my attention. The second, more personal reason is that I absolutely abhor hypocrisy.
Both the ECB and the PCA have a long track record on talking a good game on combatting racism or promoting women’s cricket, often using high-profile tactics like this boycott or flashy videos to promote themselves as champions of equality. Unfortunately, this public facade has no substance to it at all. Every time a racist incident occurs, their reaction is always the same: Hide it, minimise it, (if absolutely necessary) punish the perpetrators incredibly leniently, and then move on with no lasting repercussions for anyone but the people who reported it.
That the ECB would demand social media companies ban racial abusers for life whilst they actually employ at least two such people (The head and assistant coaches for Northern Superchargers’ men’s team) is well beyond the threshold of hypocrisy I can countenance. Another example, and the one I chose to use in my fake statement, is that of England and Somerset bowler Craig Overton.
This one appeared to only fool one of our followers, and I was honestly surprised it managed even that. Both the wording and content were wildly out of character with the ECB. No sports governing body in the world would use the phrase “In hindsight, that looks bad.” in a press release, for example. My intent was less to mimic the real statement and more to highlight the 2014 incident. Because it occurred two years before his England debut, most casual observers haven’t heard about it at all. Overton faced almost no consequences for his actions, with him recieving the same penalty for racial abuse (three disciplinary points) that Ryan Ten Doeschate did for disagreeing with an umpire’s decision. Not only that, he’s gone on to play five games for England and is being touted for a recall this summer.
Which brings us to the fourth statement.
Not unlike the first two statements I produced, I intended to satirise the ECB. This time, my target was their greed and lack of principles. They have a long track record of valuing money over the concerns of cricket fans, with the Sky TV deals being the most obvious example. When it was reported that the BCCI wanted to reschedule the fifth Test to make room for the IPL to resume, Sean messaged me to say that this would be a great time for me to do another of my “fake ECB releases”. It takes just a few minutes to churn one out, so I duly obliged.
The first thing I noticed about the reaction was that a lot more were falling for it. I hadn’t expected that. It was the fourth one I had done, and so I thought most of our followers would realise that it was almost a running gag by this point. In particular, people seemed to instantly see through the previous efforts and get the joke or message behind it. This time, many obviously believed that the ECB would screw over English cricket supporters in exchange for the BCCI’s money and support.
Whilst I thought every single element of the statement was ridiculous and absurd, to the point that it would mark it as a clear knock-off, a significant portion of those who read it seemed to think it was genuine. I don’t think the ECB would move a Test match to October, if only because that would presumably anger Sky Sports. I would very much hope that not refunding your customers when you unilaterally change the dates would be illegal in England. Even I, with my very low opinion of the ECB’s general competence, don’t believe that the ECB would trade away part of their valuable summer merely for an agreement to “reconsider” Indian players participating in The Hundred. The response quietened down after a couple of hours with several replies making clear that it was a joke, and that was the end of that.
Except it wasn’t. Whilst it was relatively docile on the @OutsideCricket Twitter account, it was gaining momentum elsewhere. The impetus appears to be users taking the image and re-uploading it themselves, rather than retweeting the original. This had two key ramifications: People seeing the image for the first time wouldn’t know where the image originally came from (i.e. Not from the ECB), and they wouldn’t see the replies underneath which (correctly) called it out as a fake.
It’s hard to track exactly the route the image took since Twitter doesn’t allow you to search for an image, plus several people deleted their tweets once they realised they’d been had, but some high-profile names posted it: Dan Whiting, ‘Sir Fred Boycott’ and Peter Casterton, amongst many others. As well as borrowing credibility from the people who reproduced the image, it seems that someone is more likely to think it is genuine if it pops up multiple times on social media rather than just coming from a single (arguably disreputable) source.
The statement continued circulating, to the point that Wisden Monthly saw fit to post an article on it. We found this hilarious on several levels. It’s such a non-story, I’m amazed a (presumably) paid journalist took the time to write about it, so it must have beeen a very slow news day. We were all amused by the assertion that I am the person “who runs Outside Cricket”. That would technically be Chris (aka thelegglance), although the organisational structure of BeingOutsideCricket is essentially non-existant. Everyone basically does what they want. I was less amused by the suggestion that my fake statement was “fraught with inconsistencies in text and context”, although I did knock it up in about ten minutes so that is probably fair enough.
Even now, I can’t believe people were taken in by such an obvious fake (at least to me). For one thing, it’s made it clear to me that many people have a significantly lower opinion of the ECB than myself. I honestly don’t believe the ECB would even consider the terms I put in the press release, although maybe I’m wrong to think that. It also showed how little fact-checking some people actually do, even with news which they say is “unbelievable”. If a deal between the ECB and BCCI had been agreed, particularly one with such massive consequences for both countries, it would be the top news story in both the Indian and English cricket media. Every cricket website, every cricket magazine, every blue-ticked cricket journalist and player would be talking about nothing else. It wouldn’t just be a single image posted from a handful of Twitter accounts.
I hope that those who were fooled, either momentarily or for a little longer, learn from their experience and become more questioning of news in the future. Even supposedly reliable sources of information, such as professional journalists or the ECB, often put out misleading or incorrect statements. It honestly feels like around half of the posts I have published on this website, excluding match reports, are on that very topic. Many journalists are in fact stenographers, people who will simply copy what others tell them without engaging in any critical thought. It might be due to deadline pressure, or a desire to maintain access, or plain stupidity which causes it. Regardless, I would love it if people were more cynical about what they read.
As I have no doubt caused several people at the ECB at least some mild discomfort with my little joke, it only seems fair to give them the final word:
Great stuff Danny. Personally found it hilarious and relevant too. Keep them going.
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Personally, I don’t do any social media because, well, because of this. Someone actually puts up something funny and clever, and it’s exceptional to the point of people not believing it could be just and simply that. But come on: the Hales/Somerset/Durham gag was perfect, and what I wrongly presumed some years ago the whole point of social media would be. Nice one, Danny. It’s better to make some laugh and others confused rather than neither.
Thanks! It certainly won’t be the last one of these I make, although I’m also not going to do one straight away just for the sake of doing it either. I’ll wait for the ECB to provide me with an appropriate target, which probably won’t take too long.
Apologies for being the one who ‘passed on’ the first to Kevan James – I just had a feeling he’d (almost) fall for it 🙂
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No problem at all! We all enjoyed it, so much so that we extracted the video of him saying it. I was amazed that he made it as far through the statement as he did.
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The fifth one is definitely a hoax: if it was real, the link allowing you to post feedback would be broken!
Well done Danny–I hadn’t come across them, but they’re fabulous. I think you’re selling yourself short a bit though: as you point out in the tweet that Wisden quoted, the whole damning nature of them is that they’re plausible enough to get people reading.
Especially the one that went viral-ish. After all: Test in October? Not yet, but it’s only four years since a ODI on Sept 29th, only one since scheduling (admittedly in more difficult circumstances) one of its showpiece events on October 3rd, and only two after they were playing a home international on May 5th. Hosting the IPL in England in September? Already suggested, albeit not by the ECB. Vouchers in place of refunds? Not heard of the ECB doing it yet, but many other organisations do (hello Ryanair, but see also some of the posts on county cricket threads about how some counties have dealt with 2020 membership). The BCCI will reconsider its stance on the Hundred? Exactly the sort of vague, vacuous, insincere promise that corporate behemoths have got down to a T.
As for Wisden–the state of that article! If the “journalist” was paid, they bloody well shouldn’t have been. It effortlessly combines some of my biggest pet hates about contemporary journalism. Vacuous, childish non-story that mistakes the entire readership for a bunch of ADHD-riddled eight-year-olds (“look, 35 people have said something on Twitter and that makes it a story”)?–tick. Semi-literate murdering of the English language?–tick. (No, incredulous doesn’t mean the same as incredible, an inconsistency is not the same as an error, and heaven knows what an inconsistency in context is!) Failure to check basic facts?–tick. (Even if they’re not sure who runs shadowy BEING Outside Cricket, you’d have thought they could have got the name of the blog right, given that it’s on the first page and also in the address) Sloppy proofreading?–tick (I know it’s only a definite article missed out, but has no-one told them that if you put something in quotation marks, that means you’re…erm, quoting, meaning verbatim). Forget about journalism, if they’d been doing stenography in WW2 they’d have been reporting the threat of Rommel doing something offended in a dessert!
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I suspect that the reason the last one was your biggest hit, is precisely because people hold the ECB and the BCCI in utter contempt. I will not explore how justified that is for the BCCI (and many people in the UK seem to forget that the ECB was pretty okay with the BCCI doing things their way, as that meant more money for cricket in England).And we should not forget that the stitch-up was a non-story according to the lead cricket correspondent of the Guardian. Let alone forget how financial disparities have ruined many of the poorer cricketing nations.
People are tired of corporate bollockese. People see through that. And obviously the Durham / Somerset / Hales thing is outrageous – but it is based on well-documented arbitrary decisions made by the ECB. So people not only see the humour in that, but they see the humour in it precisely because of the arbitrary nature of the decisions taken.
Overton and racism. The treatment in the media of Adil Rashid. Azeem Rafiq. They may seem disconnected to those speaking corporate bollockese, but to people (especially those affected / identifying with the victims), they are anything but.
Be truthful, people actually appreciate it. “Fake news” thrives due to corporate bollockese. And the sooner organisations realize that, the better. In principle, there is nothing wrong as an organisation to admitting stuffing up a few things. Mistakes are bound to be made, and are almost natural. Problem is, that suits are averse to own up, and blame everyone but themselves for mistakes (case in point CSA). In the case of the ECB, admit to the problems in terms of participation, cricket becoming more invisible due to the paywall, and release the damn research for the Hundred, in a belated attempt to try and persuade (rather than coerce) cricket lovers to not simply loathe the concept of the Hundred.
Persistent denial / creative wording to absolve oneself from blame just damages credibility to supporters – and those are ultimately the people who pay for everything. Suits care less about that, as long as the money keeps coming in (brand toxicity only becomes apparent to them, when sponsors don’t want to be associated with the toxicity – by then the damage has already been done ten-fold – and yes, CSA will also discover that the hard way).
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Marvellous work, Danny. Keep it up.
Unless of course it’s a hoax…:-) is it just me or is the selection of Sam Billings for the NZ tests a rather curious one? He’s surely not considered to be England’s best reserve middle-order batter, even with Stokes, Buttler and Bairstow missing and even though the field is worryingly thin. But these days he’s also not a red-ball keeper–at all, let alone a prospective test keeper: Ollie Pope has kept in a test match much more recently than Billings has kept in a f-c match. Inexperienced as the alternatives are, I would have thought they would have done better to go for someone younger who actually keeps for their county as an emergency option if they’re not prepared to use Pope–which I would guess means Robinson, Alex Davies or maybe (if they can get past his size) Rossington. If they’re looking for a decent batsman who occasionally keeps, surely Vasconcelos would be a much better option–I think he should be qualified now.
Are you suggesting yet another South African for the England side? Surely not …
England vs New Zealand could actually be contested by 22 South African players on either side. That would be too hilarious not to consider 😀
11 a side of course. But yeah, in theory it would be possible to have 22 South African born players in the side for that series.
Simon Harmer would have been a good one to get for England, although someone told me he went home over the English winter and therefore doesn’t qualify for UK residency despite having spent over 3 years with Essex.
Who would be the New Zealanders? I’m struggling to get anywhere near eleven, especially if they’re to be South African in any meaningful sense of the word, rather than having been born there and moved as small children, for example.
Re Harmer–according to the interviews I read with him, the issue seemed to be the other way round: that the Home office wouldn’t give him a visa which gave him any chance of ever become legally resident in the UK. Most if not all of the players who’ve become England-qualified seem to have been EU (Bosman) players rather than “true” Kolpakers.
Although if we’re talking keepers, there is of course another English-born Test-match keeper playing for a county at the moment…but he’s not qualified for England…:-)
They already have Conway, Wagner, Watling, Phillips.
de Grandhomme is born in Zimbabwe. Munro is only playing T20s, but also South African by birth. Admittedly Philips actually made his FC debut in New Zealand, as did Watling. The other two however, made the FC debuts in South Africa.
It has gotten to the point that in case of wicketkeepers since 2012, only a handful of Tests were played by a New Zealand born wicketkeeper since 2012. 5 in total, one of which was by McCullum, 3 by Blundell. One by Ronchi (who was born in New Zealand, but represented Australia before representing New Zealand later in his career). The South African born ones (Watling and Kruger van Wyk) account for 74 out of the last 79 Tests.
Also there are a bunch of South African ‘rejects’ that have moved to New Zealand, and are now starting to qualify for residence. Conway being a prime example. Not all of them will necessarily go on to represent New Zealand, but my point was that it is entirely possible to pick a South African born XI for New Zealand. And given the shenanigans at CSA, I honestly would not be surprised that in a few years time such a SA-born XI from New Zealand would actually beat whatever CSA can put on the field.
I know that there are issues that arise around players moving country, and that some of the people you and others are using as examples of this in NZ show it very well–Wagner for example, as does (going back to my original post) Vasconcelos in England.
But my point was that I’m not sure what the experience of players like Watling and Phillips–who moved aged 10 and 5 respectively and have played their entire professional careers in NZ–exemplify about this. Isn’t that like using the fact that Imad Wasim and Matt Renshaw aren’t playing f-c cricket for an English county evidence of a malaise affecting English cricket?
Presumably nationality means little these days. Which is fine by me. In fact the problem with nationality in cricket is that a wrong one destroys your career before you even started (most other sports are far less affected by that).
And I certainly would not claim that SA lost out on those two after substantial investments were made by SA. They were too young for that. And obviously, it was their parents’ decisions to relocate. For many reasons – I am extremely sceptical of White flight narratives.
But even then, they probably would have had the right to play for either team; and we have seen plenty of instances, where despite being taught a game in country B, players opt to represent country A, for financial and other considerations. Again in the case of South African cricketers, CSA is at least partly responsible.
Some countries have resorted to buying sporting talent. Most blatantly Bahrain, who basically buy athletes to represent them in major international competitions. But it is happening ore and more; just the other week there was a story in the newspaper how several Kenyan runners are now representing Romania. But one can argue that scholarships are also a method to attract talent from outside the national borders.
When nationality becomes a restriction, then it becomes a huge issue for the international game / sport. You could have 10 different nationalities in a marathon, but if they all are Kenyan-born, then the national achievement rings a bit hollow. Nothing against the athletes, but if the Kenyan ones are that good, would it not make more sense to allow more than 5 athletes from that country in such international races?
There is no easy fix for that – Australia (Ronchi, Labuschagne, and a few others; though most of those seem to have been taught the game in Australia)), New Zealand, England, South Africa (with Tahir), and the West Indies (Brendan Nash) have in the last 15 years or so imported (quite a) bit of talent from other nations. In the past, the countries that they came from were still competitive.
I really don’t see how anyone can classify West Indies as competitive (last away series win against a major team is more than 26 years ago), or South Africa in the near future; then it feels more like the sport going down due to organisational incompetence, both on the national as well as the international level. Honestly, I don’t see how 4 or 5 nations can sustain Test cricket, since the standard outside of Pakistan, India, England, New Zealand and Australia, does not even aspire to dismal these days, despite the occasional outbreak of competence among the other side (Afghanistan play too little to make a call on that, they seem to have the talent, but can’t get the fixtures).
Obviously, despite T20 leagues blossoming, cricket is still organised around the international game. And with the social and financial disparities as they are, more and more countries’ players to just focus on the money – if you get paid more per ball in a T20 game than for a full international game (Chris Morris, and just about any Zimbabwean who can land a CPL contract), then yeah, there is little incentive to play international cricket, other than for making a name for oneself. f by an accident of birth, the sole nationality you can claim is Kenyan, you might as well not bother with cricket.
But even the T20 leagues discriminate. Whether you are from Nepal or England, you count the same way in say the IPL, the BBL, the Blast or the Hundred (if you can actually get a work permit to play cricket, if you are from a non-Full Member nation). Thus effectively shutting out talent that gets less opportunity due to an accident of birth, rather than innate ability. And that is before we even think of marketability. Try marketing a player from PNG, when the alternative is say a player from Bangladesh or England, and then you see that even the hiring decisions are biased in favour of bigger cricketing nations.
Sorry for the detour in my thoughts. I am struggling to remain even slightly hopeful that there will be meaningful cricket played in 2030.
As an aside, I see that the good people at Cricinfo have butchered the site even further, for no real reason other than being deliberately obnoxious.
Re your “joint statement”: Craig Overton hasn’t exactly covered himself in glory in relation to this in today’s interview for Wisden–and, given that he denied using the offending words in his evidence at the time, why he should use the strange formulation “I don’t believe I said it” is anyone’s guess!
Rereading Ali Martin’s contemporary expose of it, Matthew Maynard doesn’t exactly come out of it looking great either.
Rebel tourist Matthew Maynard vigorously defended one of his players from accusations of racist behaviour, with absolutely no evidence to support it? I’m shocked. Shocked!
Well, we’ve only got some bloody cricket on today.
And a good, likeable team touring to boot – I wouldn’t want to pick a favourite out of these sides in England, but I’d guess whoever wins the toss will prevail – bat all day in glorious sunshine today, bowl intermittently tomorrow in “muggy” conditions between thundershowers, bat as long as you can on Day 3 – then 2 days to bowl the other side out on a degrading Lords pitch.
England don’t have a gun home conditions bowler in Woakes – or one of their few settled top 6 batsmen (and 4th seamer) in Stokes. Probably a blessing that dear Jonny Bairstow comes under the category of “rested”, mind.
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Wot? No BEING OUTSIDE CRICKET Test match preview or anything? Is this the Death Of Four Gentlemen (coughs) 🙂
I was thinking the same thing. I demand a preview.
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I’d imagine a preview would consist of a justifiable whinge about the scheduling.
As it happens, all of the NZ contingent bar Boult are available – had the IPL worked out differently, this could practically be NZ “B” – which, without knowing stacks about the depths of NZ’s playing reserves, I’d imagine would be pretty limp (not in an offensive way to any visiting Kiwi’s, as I’m more than aware that England without Root, Stokes, Anderson and whoever else makes up our “best players” would probably be crap too).
I read somewhere that this series was arranged as a “thank you” to “the broadcasters” after the “difficult last year” (is that the same as a “difficult winter”, I muse?). I understand that there weren’t huge income streams available to the sport last year – but didn’t our favourite “partner of cricket” prove exactly how interested in cricket they actually are, when they didn’t bother to bid for the rights to show the India series?
Anyway, debuts for Robinson, Bracey, plus Devon Conway for NZ. England have opted to have no spin option at Lords with decent-ish weather forecast, which suggests Silverwood might be on crack. Ah yes, Silverwood – now that the plagiarising nerd that was Ed Smith has been shown the door, we finally have a real county cricket backgrounded leader to blame when our 80mph trundlers look blunt this winter.
Slow start, as you’d want the first day of Test cricket in a summer. Pitch looks so immaculate that it almost looks CGI generated. Not much swing, but decent enough carry given that our opening bowlers wouldn’t look outta place in the members area today. Can’t wait to see Mark Wood falling over trying to bounce out Kane Williamson later.
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“we finally have a real county cricket backgrounded leader to blame when our 80mph trundlers look blunt this winter.”
Great line – wish I’d written that. I think I’ve already seen enough of Robinson to conclude he isn’t going to worry the Australians too much (in Australia)
I get the impression that many cricket fans in the UK aren’t that excited about this series. I’m really looking forward to it – I love sitting up to the early hours watching a test match in England (even though it is starting to get bloody cold in Sydney)
Thanks – I don’t actually mind an 80mph bowler, so long as they’re pretty good. “Glenn McGrath was quicker than you remember at times” doesn’t detract that he was an 82-85mph metronome for the uber-prolific second half of his career. Even looking beyond that dastardly caricature of an Australian all-time-great, we’ve seen plenty of others – Stuart Clark, Chris Tremlett, even the human potato Tim Bresnan – who have decent records in Ashes in Oz despite bowling low 80s.
I didn’t see the wicket of the bloke you’ve written off already – unfortunately working from home does, occasionally, mean “working from home”. I think NZ will be delighted with the start they’ve made, 85-1. Lords does occasionally look green on the first morning of a Test – it didn’t today – but given the lack of a “preparation” tour match against Northamptonshire seconds (or whoever) I’m sure they’ll be pleased to have eased themselves into the series.
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Robinson has bowled well today and you make a good point about Tremlett and Bresnan – they played a big part in England winning in 2011/11. On the other hand, I’m a firm believer that you need pace on the “corporate wickets” that most Australian grounds produce these days, especially with the kookaburra ball.
I definitely don’t disagree – hence why Archer’s fitness battle already seems so important for there to be any chance at all this winter.
Meanwhile at Lords – 144-3 at tea. Root and Wood were bowling in tandem last time I was watching. How can one bowl at 94mph and yet be so innocuous?
Conway is already making South Africa supporters irritated. They have to contend with Temba ‘Passenger’ Bavuma in their Test side, probably for the next few years …
If it’s any consolation Darthez, then the first time I saw Bavuma against England he too scored an unbeaten ton.
That must date it extremely precisely….!