Christmas Repeats

As I was watching the Morecambe and Wise 1971 Christmas Special for the umpteenth time, I was struck by how familiar the television schedules seem over the holidays. Even death has failed to keep Eric and Ernie off our screens for any Christmas in over 50 years. There’s The Snowman on Channel 4, as always. The Queen’s Speech, of course. People love the traditions of watching the same thing over and over again.

The same could be said about the England Test team. You could be forgiven for thinking you were watching a repeat last night, as England yet again collapsed with bat and failed to impress with the ball. With only a minor changes in the cast, it followed broadly the same plot as the previous two Tests, and the recent series against India and New Zealand, and the previous series in Australia.

But where people welcome the traditions of watching the same things every Christmas, at least most of them have uplifting endings. Even EastEnders isn’t unrelentingly grim in their Christmas episode. England Test cricket fans haven’t been so lucky, as the last month has been a constant succession of misguided hope and failure.

So here I am, begging the England team to change the script. Not by winning, that is clearly unrealistic at this point. Rather, just playing somewhere near their potential. Not gifting their wickets to the opposition, or allowing the Australian batters to get their eye in with a barrage of short and wide deliveries. I can take them losing to a better team, as Australia undoubtedly is. What I can’t take is them capitulating without even the smallest measure of resistance or intelligence.

I have seen that show too many times before.

38 thoughts on “Christmas Repeats

  1. dArthez Dec 26, 2021 / 1:46 pm

    Surprised that the ECB have not offered reruns of the 2013/14 series as ‘entertainment’ instead of actual cricket as a cost-cutting measure. Hey, those bonuses don’t pay themselves, do they?

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  2. dArthez Dec 26, 2021 / 3:08 pm

    As an aside, anyone still here thinking South Africa has a Test side in more than name only?

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    • dArthez Dec 28, 2021 / 11:16 am

      32/4 in 13 overs with the top 4 dismissed and ‘no better than a bowler batting’ Bavuma has to somehow resurrect the innings. Sure it is a spicy wicket, but you can reasonably expect a bit more from a supposedly Test quality side.

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  3. Marek Dec 26, 2021 / 4:20 pm

    They ARE playing to somewhere near their potential though, Danny. That’s precisely the problem!

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    • dannycricket Dec 26, 2021 / 4:36 pm

      I can’t believe that’s true. Surely any adult can be trained to leave deliveries not close to the stumps, for example.

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    • Marek Dec 26, 2021 / 5:12 pm

      Well, that’s surely where the “cricket is played 90% in the head” comes into play, isn’t it? If that were really true then you and I would be out there at the MCG taking fifties off Pat Cummins!

      But I was also thinking of their f-c averages–which also reflect the mental side of the game. If these players were better at doing things like leaving fourth-stump deliveries then they’d have higher f-c averages, end of story.

      It seems reasonable to assume that at test level any given player will average five or ten runs below their f-c aberage. There’s a reason why they’re callled tests, after all. And this is a side where three of the top seven have f-c averages of 32 or less, another two between 36 and 38, one in the low forties plus Root. Logically that would equate to three players with averages around 25, two with averages in the low 30s, a sixth averaging around 35 plus Root.

      They’re actually better than that: by that measure Stokes and Buttler are significantly over-performing because their f-c and test averages are essentially the same. The only one who’s significantly under-performing from that point of view is Pope.

      You might argue that the openers here are on dodgy ground becasue they have really poor f-c averages for potential test players–but then the openers they’ve tried in the last few years who have significantly higher f-c averages (Burns, Roy, Sibley) also haven’t averaged more than 30.

      This also–worryingly–suggests that there’s no better to come from outside this squad. Foakes probably won’t average much more than Bairstow or Buttler but at least he’s a better keeper and he may well not average much less. It’s worth trying Bohannon on the basis that his record is significantly better than virtually all of his contemporaries–but also worth bearing in mind that he’s not the new Pietersen, because his record is way worse than Pope’s!

      But apart from that what you’ve got is a bunch of county journeyers with averages of 38, and some Lions players who’ve essentially been selected on a wing and a prayer (Brook’s average is 27, for example, Yates’s is 32 and neither of them averaged 40 in the Championship this year despite it being their “breakout” season).

      The system is really, REALLY fucked!

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  4. Mark Dec 26, 2021 / 5:42 pm

    At least the tv repeats of old comedies were trying to be funny. Unless the England cricket team is laughing at their fans, they are deadly serious when they say they are trying to win the Ashes. They even say they have planned for the last two to three years for this fiasco.

    The ECB are busted now, You can’t expect good test cricket and good results when you don’t produce test cricketers anymore. Time for the ECB to acknowledge this. But they won’t because no one with any sense will pay their ludicrous ticket prices anymore.

    My hunch is the ECB are getting ready to play the final card which says we might as well just play white ball cricket as we are so useless at red ball cricket. You just keep lowering the standards, and expectations year by year. It’s a fait accompli!

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  5. dArthez Dec 27, 2021 / 1:34 am

    It may come as a shock to everyone, but England are (accidentally?) trying to make a contest out of this. 110/4; with Smith, Labuschagne & Lyon gone.

    Still ahead by 75 runs – Leach still has not bowled (and while it is justifiable, it makes the idiots in charge look ridiculous for not picking him the previous Test, but picking him for this one).

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    • dlpthomas Dec 27, 2021 / 3:58 am

      They’ve bowled well – especially Jimmy.

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      • dannycricket Dec 27, 2021 / 7:09 am

        They’ve bowled well before, in fairness. The difference is that they have caught well too.

        Of course, they may have caught something else as well…

        Liked by 1 person

    • dArthez Dec 27, 2021 / 6:58 am

      Although, within 5 overs, Root is at the crease. Crawley more successful than anticipated. 17 runs for the loss of his wicket twice this match.

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    • dannycricket Dec 27, 2021 / 7:01 am

      It certainly surprised the hell out of me when I woke up!

      Although, then they started batting…

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      • dArthez Dec 27, 2021 / 7:25 am

        On the bright side, surely England can’t lose 7 more wickets in 6 minutes, can they?

        If they lose another one before stumps, they’re only batting on day 3 to avoid an innings loss in all likelihood.

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        • dannycricket Dec 27, 2021 / 8:14 am

          If Root was out, Australia could have asked for the extra half hour.

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          • dArthez Dec 28, 2021 / 4:01 am

            Not 6 minutes, but seriously, how long did that procession last?

            But I guess England supporters should be thankful for Covid. Can you imagine having spent 1000s of pounds to travel from England to Australia and be served this tripe?

            Liked by 1 person

  6. StaffordshireKnott Dec 27, 2021 / 9:17 am

    Some interesting stats here – https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2021/dec/26/duck-duck-lose-numbers-behind-england-cricket-batting-collapse-australia-ashes

    What I think we have to realise is just how good England’s batting was in the Vaughan, Strauss and first bit of the Cook era…….ENG fans have been spoilt, and are now going back to the 1990s.

    Trescothick/Strauss
    Cook
    Vaughan/Trott
    Bell/Pietersen
    Root
    Stokes
    Prior
    Swann – could bat well initially
    Bresnan/Broad – ditto
    Harmison/Finn – could swing a bat effectively
    Anderson – obdurate and occasionally played strokes

    Now we have only Root.

    Hameed and Burns really are the best openers we’ve got.

    Crawley, Pope and Lawrence………then who?

    The 2020s is going to be a long decade.

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    • dannycricket Dec 27, 2021 / 9:26 am

      Yep. When England beat India in 2012/13, six of England’s team had Test batting averages which were over 40: Cook, Trott, Pietersen, Bell, Prior and Root (who made his debut in that series). This year, Joe Root was the only one in the whole squad.

      Like

    • Mark Dec 27, 2021 / 9:59 am

      The England batting of the likes of Atherton, Stewart, Thorpe, Nasser, …..even Hick and Ramps couldn’t do any worse than this lot. I would happily take the 1990s batting line up today.

      It will be some sort of bizarre achievement if England manage to lose by an innings in a match where the opposition only made 267.

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      • StaffordshireKnot Dec 28, 2021 / 6:39 pm

        Agree

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  7. man in a barrel Dec 27, 2021 / 4:02 pm

    Has Stokes been watching videos of Ken Barrington batting? There must be some more middle ground between solid defence and whacking a huge six. Maybe, try to work the odd single?

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    • Marek Dec 27, 2021 / 5:36 pm

      That’s been my main (probably only!) worry with Stokes’s batting ever since his trial. It’s like he’s watching videos of Barrington randomly interspersed with videos of Sehwag!

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      • man in a barrel Dec 28, 2021 / 12:02 am

        Good God! The idiot has done it again. The media were all over KP against left arm spin, where are they for this moron?

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        • man in a barrel Dec 28, 2021 / 1:06 am

          I think this was about Stokes getting cleaned up by a straight ball but… Who knows. A series of clueless dismissals. Why bother to play these matches if you are not going to play cricket?

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  8. Pontiac Dec 28, 2021 / 1:00 am

    Well. That was pretty weak.

    But amusing. Root two runs short of Viv. 54 ducks in a year. 2021.

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  9. dlpthomas Dec 28, 2021 / 1:17 am

    I slept in and it was all over when I woke up. All things considered, that was probably for the best. What a fucking shambles

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  10. Marek Dec 28, 2021 / 1:38 am

    I had a bath and missed seven overs…:-) I’m sure it was 60-odd for five when I left!

    Reminds me a bit of Headingley in 2000 where I walked five minutes from one part of my work to another and when they told me the score after I arrived I thought they were winding me up.

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  11. dArthez Dec 28, 2021 / 3:54 am

    How do you even gift 6 wickets for 7 runs in 4 overs in a Test match? Such figures must be ridiculously rare even in FC cricket.

    I really think clown attire is more appropriate than whites for this England shambles. Although knowing how organised people are, clowns would probably object to being compared to this cricket ‘team’.

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  12. Pontiac Dec 28, 2021 / 4:51 am

    I connect the way that Archer was handled with Yorkshire, and therefore, in some sense, all this is tragic just deserts w.r.t. English cricket.

    (This statement may be viewed as provocative, and I’m just a USAian hyena, without any particular insight or perspective beyond that coming from distance in culture and species. But I’ve been dropping in here and the predecessor site for more than a decade and I’ve been thinking it over, so I’m not saying this just to troll.)

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    • dArthez Dec 28, 2021 / 5:29 am

      I don’t think you are completely off the mark there.

      Research has also gone into how Black footballers are represented in English football (in terms of non-offensive language, with regards to playing ability and all that) – and yes it highlighted some concerning issues (more physical, experiencing less pain after injury etc) – which may also help to explain how England have managed to bowl Archer into the ground. And obviously, what Yorkshire has shown is that the issues with regards to minorities playing cricket in England run far deeper.

      If properly nurtured Archer could have been a real game changer in Australia with his speed. But rather than doing things properly, English cricket seems all to be about protecting a few old blokes, and minting money for those who run it, to the detriment of everyone and everything else.

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      • Metatone Dec 28, 2021 / 8:15 am

        I’d add, as a Yorkshire fan – although not sure I feel like a fan these days – of S. Asian descent, that a lot of talent and interest has been wasted over the years (and not just in Yorkshire). And part of what we see (looking at the Jarrod Kimber newsletter Marek linked to) is that eventually if you keep turning talented and interested kids away, narrowing your pool, the quality at the peak suffers.

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        • Metatone Dec 28, 2021 / 8:38 am

          Just to add on to this. Lot of structural problems caused by the ECB, but talent pool does feel like the key. England Football is still not “world beating” but it’s not a coincidence that it’s finally doing a bit better and more consistently now as we’re getting footballers coming through an academy system that went through a lot of changes. There’s a much bigger piece to be written about this, but finding talent and treating it well matters.

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          • dArthez Dec 28, 2021 / 8:50 am

            In football there is a requirement for home grown and developed-at the club players (at least for European football). So there are strong incentives in football, certainly among the bigger clubs, to actually nurture your own talent, rather than poach whatever the wallet allows. Also if your average buy among Premier League top tier teams is 50 million, that is the kind of money that you can save by having a single success story in your academies.

            Such a system of course cannot be implemented in FC / Test cricket. Probably would need franchise cricket model for that, andwe all know that that won’t be to improve Test cricket.

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        • Marek Dec 28, 2021 / 12:13 pm

          And that is, I think, an aspect of the racism issues that hasn’t been mentioned nearly as much as it should have. We keep being told that 30% of club players are South Asian Britons, but I think that something like 10% of county players are–and you can count the number of Black British players on your hands these days. Even with my terrible maths, that’s clearly a lot of potential professional players that we’re ignoring.

          Not to mention the players who actually do make it into the professional game but don’t fulfil their potential becaiuse they find it too unwelcoming an environment in some way, and the potential coaching talent that’s been ignored. It beggars belief, for example, that Mark Alleyne–who was an astonishingly successful and pretty inventive white-ball county captain–hasn’t had a head-coaching job since 2007…and that Steve Snell sounded so ambivalent recently when he talked about continuing Alleyne’s involvement with Glos from last summer, despite it seemingly being clear from Alleyne’s own interviews that he wanted it to continue.

          Like

          • Metatone Dec 28, 2021 / 4:43 pm

            Yes, agree – both Alleyne and DeFreitas have obliquely referred to not getting chances at coaching positions – and when you look at some of the people given chances, you do wonder.

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  13. Mark Dec 28, 2021 / 9:51 am

    An innings defeat in a must win Test match,when your opponents only made 267, takes some kind of special planning. Two years in the making apparently? with enormous bonuses & salaries for those who presided over this triumph.

    The only thing that can save English cricket now is complete bankruptcy. Only then will the vultures leave as there is no more meat on the carcass. Perhaps the Premiership will welcome them and their stupid ideas. If the counties and their members don’t demand change then they deserve what they will get. Within 25 years most will be housing estates and shopping centres.

    Like

    • Marek Dec 28, 2021 / 12:03 pm

      Interesting that lots of people are talking about sacking almost everybody involved but there are so few voices advoacting withholding Harrison’s bonus (and/or sacking him completely, although that one may be because the counties seem to have given him the message already that he’s not wanted).

      Like

      • Mark Dec 28, 2021 / 12:21 pm

        It’s pointless sacking players for players of sameish quality. The coach is useless, but that has been obvious for some time. The captain was chosen as captain because his face fitted.

        The people to blame are the people running the sport and making the above decisions. The media won’t touch this issue as many of them are compromised. They like the close connection and access they get for staying loyal to the governing body. Too many of them have been cheerleaders for the ECB. So they are not going to bite the hand that feeds them.

        Only when the whole sport collapses will change happen. But by then it will probably be too late. Oh, and the media will then claim they knew this all the time.

        Like

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