Less Is Not Always More

As happens after every England Test series loss, an increasingly common occurrence these days, people have started proposing cutting the number of counties in English cricket to improve the development of Test cricketers.

Proponents of having fewer first-class teams are happy to concede that the County Championship used to be a much stronger competition, which would appear to contradict their argument from the outset as the number of teams hasn’t changed. Likewise, having eighteen teams hasn’t hurt the production of talented English white ball cricketers. In fact, it could be argued that England boasts the greatest depth in terms of T20 players of any country. This would suggest that the number of teams is not a key issue, although this does obviously not prevent people from suggesting it.

The first thing which must be acknowledged is that cutting the number of first-class teams would certainly improve the average quality of domestic red ball cricket in this country. In the short term. This is because it is a statistical trick. Imagine a school expelled the bottom half of its students. Even though the quality of teaching and the intelligence of the remaining children both remain the same, they could argue that their ‘average grade’ had risen sharply. The intrinsic flaw in this approach is that when a new batch of kids comes in, they are back where they started because they haven’t actually changed anything. Indeed, if the school had reduced their permanent capacity by half then there would presumably be half as many students with top grades once the original ones had left.

There are two obvious areas which could improve the number of high-quality county cricketers: Recruiting more junior players with high potential and improving the development of those players in order to meet that potential. At first glance, reducing the number of teams helps neither.

The greatest flaw with trying to adapt the Sheffield Shield format to England is the population density of the two countries. 16 million people, over 60% of Australia’s total population, live in the six cities which have first-class teams there. The number of people who live in the seventeen cities and towns which host county grounds is just 15.7 million, or 26.9% of England and Wales’s population.

In terms of developing Test players, the major effect is the number of children within each team’s catchment area. Looking at the three world-class Test players England currently has: Joe Root and Jimmy Anderson both grew up roughly 30 miles away from their respective county grounds, whilst Ben Stokes had to travel 90 miles each way to the Riverside Ground. This is one factor which restricts working-class kids from playing professional cricket, because they often need a stay-at-home parent with a car and the willingness to spend several hours a week just to attend county age group practice sessions and games.

If the number of teams was halved, that would mean many would have farther to travel and even more potential Test players would be excluded from the professional game. In that it disproportionately affects working-class children, reducing the number of teams might also be considered a diversity issue. Given the focus on that topic at the moment, both within the ECB and from Parliament, it would be a brave move for English cricket to take now.

Once they make their way through the junior teams, the issue then becomes whether these young players would get any opportunities to make the first XI if there were fewer places available. It seems unlikely that promising young cricketers such as Zak Crawley or Ollie Pope would have played as many Championship matches if there were significantly greater competition for places. Increasing the minimum standard of player comes at the expense of allowing youngsters to make their debuts early and gain valuable experience as a result.

The lack of chances to break through into a team was often cited by South African-born players as a reason why they came to England to play cricket, a situation admittedly exacerbated by racial quotas in the country. It is notable that Cricket South Africa have recently reverted from a six-team first-class competition (which ran from 2004 to 2020) to one featuring fifteen provincial teams. It would be interesting to see how those proposing a reduction in county teams explain why it apparently failed to work in South Africa.

So to summarise: Reducing the number of first-class teams in England and Wales doesn’t appear to solve any of the issues regarding developing Test cricketers, and will likely worsen some of them. It is a fundamentally self-destructive and pointless act which will be yet another step towards the end of Test cricket in this country.

The ECB are almost certain to do it then.

As always, please leave your comments below.


128 thoughts on “Less Is Not Always More

  1. Mark Jan 3, 2022 / 1:35 pm

    The combined population of London, Birmingham and Manchester is over 15m, so I think some of your maths needs checking.
    It’s instructive to look at the number of test cricketers each county has brought up through its structure in the last 25 years. For some the number can be counted on 2 or less fingers. So is the money the ECB is handing out annually to counties being best used?


    • dannycricket Jan 3, 2022 / 2:17 pm

      I just checked. The population of London is 8.9m, Birmingham is 1.1m and Manchester is 547k. What you are presumably referring to are the larger urban areas of Greater Manchester and the ‘West Midlands Conurbation’ which include the separate and distinct towns of Bolton, Bury, Oldham, Rochdale, Stockport, Wigan, and the city of Wolverhampton. I did not include these other towns and cities in my maths.


  2. Roy Simmons Jan 3, 2022 / 1:40 pm

    Spot on. Good example. Lewis Gregory. Plymouth go to Taunton. Under the genius Atherton. Plymouth to Birmingham. Parents ain’t gonna bother.


    • Marek Jan 3, 2022 / 2:15 pm

      Mind you, you’d need pretty committed–and well-off–parents to do the 160-mile round trip from Plymouth to Taunton on any regular basis! I’m not sure that example proves very much–except that it is possible to attract some players from outside your strict catchment area despite the hurdles.


      • dannycricket Jan 3, 2022 / 2:21 pm

        Yes. I’m not presenting the status quo as being an example of good practice, only that reducing the number of teams would make things even worse. Ideally there would be more centres for developing young players, maybe even more teams, to reduce the need for this kind of long round trip.


  3. Metatone Jan 3, 2022 / 2:54 pm

    I have a lot of mixed feelings about this.

    On the one hand, we already have Divisions, so a lot of the talk about 18 counties diluting competition is a bit off beam.

    On the other hand, given that it seems in any given 5 year period only about 5 counties break even money wise, I think it’s reasonable to ask whether the balance is right. In particular, is the next level down suffering because of some much beloved counties unable to find financial solidity? If you’re a late bloomer rather than junior star or you don’t live near a county ground, it’s not clear that the pyramid is going to find your talent and funnel it to a place where it will improve the national game.

    So, my conclusion for today is that the whole pyramid needs looking at very seriously.


  4. Mark Jan 3, 2022 / 3:37 pm

    With a population fast approaching 70 million, 18 counties is not the issue. The problem is the governing body doesn’t want test cricket in the long term. They are embarrassed by it even though it accounts for a huge amount of revenue through ticket sales and more importantly tv revenues.

    The audience for test cricket is older and will die out over the coming decades. The ECB is not doing anything to counter that. In fact they seem to want to speed up the whole process. Their solution is to push ever more white ball cricket with the hope of finding a new audience who in time will make up the loss of revenue lost by the reduced test audience. It’s why they have created the 100 and told people like me to keep away.

    The problem for the ECB is their policies of destroying red ball cricket are now killing the test cricket golden goose before they have the new audience in place. Sky didn’t want the test series of England touring Australia or India (the other so called big three countries) in the last year. That tells you everything. As England get worse how can they keep charging the prices for the shitty product they are offering for home tests? In my view more fool England fans who pay hundreds of pounds for tickets or Sky subscriptions. The money won’t be used to improve red ball cricket.

    Not unless there is a revolution from the counties and they rise up and remove pretty much everyone at the ECB. Problem is the bigger counties are also hypnotised by the white ball game. They see themselves as potential self contained business entities. Eventually as revenues for test cricket fall, and many smaller counties are shut out of the white ball game they will go bust. So the reduced counties policy will happen anyway.

    County cricket does not make any money on its own. It’s red ball function has been purely to produce test cricketers who will generate revenue from test matches that will be ploughed back into the counties. With the likelihood of test cricket dying out (often with the helping hand of governing bodies) most counties will be pointless. Most of the grounds will be bought up by franchise owners to put on endless white ball cricket and create white ball cricketers.

    There is no will to save Test cricket, so there is no will to prioritise red ball cricket. At least not under the current cricket administrators.


  5. Paul H Jan 3, 2022 / 4:41 pm

    I really don’t like the narrative of clubs ‘maki g a profit’ with ECB ‘handouts’

    It is part of the financial make up of cricket within this country. The ECB pay money to counties as part of the development of the game and the players. It isn’t a charitable handout.

    Imagine saying that football clubs didn’t break even without the sky revenue stream. You would not say it because it’s part of the financial structure in place. Despite this 63 clubs have gone into administration since 1983. The ECB funding is not a handout, it is simply the financial construct that exists. If the counties owned the rights to test cricket and distributed as such then it wouldn’t be a discussion at all (much like the premier league distributes the cash to its clubs)

    We need to stop that narrative of clubs making a profit. The ECB don’t own the game, they are just one of the stakeholders in this country and currently are the financial distributors.


    • Mark Jan 3, 2022 / 6:25 pm

      “If the counties owned the rights to test cricket and distributed as such then it wouldn’t be a discussion at all (much like the premier league distributes the cash to its clubs)”

      Yes, I agree but the counties have failed to be more assertive in the running of the professional game. They have the grounds, facilities, the memberships, and many of the best players, both existing professionals, and young players under contract. Yet they have allowed the ECB to completely take over and run the game. Their lack of unity and clear objectives have allowed the ECB to now completely destroy red ball cricket, and set up the hundred. The ECB even gave the counties a sum of money (handout, bribe?) and they went along with it.

      Therefore I’m inclined to believe they are either happy with what is going on or unable to offer an alternative. If the counties withheld their facilities and players the ECB would have nothing but men in suits.


    • dannycricket Jan 3, 2022 / 7:16 pm

      At the same time, teams who haven’t developed any Test players recently (Derbyshire, Glamorgan and Worcestershire, for example) receive the same money as one which have (IE Durham, Somerset and Surrey), so there’s no obvious financial incentive for counties to do so. It is easier, and more profitable, for them to do the absolute minimum rather than scour their region looking for the players with the highest potential.


  6. Stephen Williams Jan 3, 2022 / 5:16 pm

    One of the problems in bringing players on is a lack of 2nd X1 cricket which has become reduced.

    Going back many years Warwickshire would send up and coming talent i.e Gladstone Small Paul Smith Trevor Penney to clubs in the Birmingham League to play weekends to give playing time towards development – that no longer happens to the degree it did.

    Same applied to Worcestershire – the players mentioned turned into quality cricketers thanks to this system adopted.

    More you play more you gain experience.

    At the moment the governance of the first class game is to say the least pitiful – all about money and I fear for the future of the game.


  7. dlpthomas Jan 4, 2022 / 5:35 am

    Off topic – fantastic effort from Bangladesh.


    • dannycricket Jan 4, 2022 / 7:00 am

      Yep. It makes me wonder where England actually rank in terms of the best Test teams in the world right now. Their official ICC ranking is fourth, but that feels a little high…


      • dlpthomas Jan 4, 2022 / 11:37 am

        Probably best not to think about stuff like that. On the bright side, Sydney weather forecast is a bit shit.


        • dannycricket Jan 4, 2022 / 11:48 am

          Weather had a really good chance of being England’s player of the series.


          • dlpthomas Jan 4, 2022 / 12:34 pm

            Australia only need about 3 days play to win so the weather may not make much difference. Boy, South Africa’s batting is crap (that is what is known as “throwing a dead cat on the table” – a trick much loved by the Australian PM)


          • dArthez Jan 4, 2022 / 12:49 pm

            Crap? You insult England by comparing England to South Africa. South Africa’s even worse.

            Surprisingly, Bavuma has actually batted quite well in all his three innings. But South Africa are basically batting without a middle order, though it was probably strengthened (at least against India) by de Kock’s retirement.

            As an aside, how come “spending more time with the family” never leads to retiring from short form cricket, which is actually the biggest time drain on that?


          • dlpthomas Jan 4, 2022 / 1:03 pm

            I was thinking of you (not in a creepy way) whilst watching Bavuma bat. I was about to post a comment on him batting well when he got out.

            Meanhwile, it now raining in Sydney (just a passing shower though, I suspect)


  8. StaffordshireKnot Jan 4, 2022 / 2:53 pm

    The tenet is right – taking a scythe to the structure of the CC is probably NOT the answer……this relieves me, because I would not want to see this ‘ancient’ competition altered any further.

    There are two way to improve ENG cricket

    A. Stop selling out – the Hundred does NOTHING for development of talent. Mark Ramprakash the other day that an MCC coach told him that all the kids wanted to do is belt it……..how can this possibly help the long game. The Hundred may make money in the short-term, but put this against losses of crowds for Test cricket if ENG continue to lose inside 3 days – that’s two days lost income, and a malice creeping into the fans who will stay away.

    B. Play long-form cricket all season – on week-days……..weekends for short-form.

    Playing a full season of long-form cricket will do a number of things

    1. It will improve players’ techniques.

    2. It will train captains – is it any surprise that Root lacks nous when he has learnt how to skipper in tests matches.

    3. Giving the CC more prominence will increase its prestige, and more people may go and watch it, even on week-days…….who on earth wants to watch cricket in cold weather in April and September anyway?


    • Mark Jan 4, 2022 / 4:27 pm

      County cricket (red ball cricket) should continue all through the summer. Right through the 100 event. Many county grounds are not involved in the 100, neither are most of their players. For the big counties with test grounds used by the 100 franchises red ball cricket should continue at some of the out grounds.

      Let the public who want to watch red ball cricket be able to do so. The ECB won’t allow it because they want to monopolise all cricket £ for the hundred. There are players who are best suited to red ball cricket and will never be super stars in the twenty twenty format. The chance to play test cricket is a way they can earn a decent living.

      Improve the pitches, and try to get some consistent bounce into them if possible. Consistent bounce gets rid of most mediocre bowlers, and mediocre batsman. I heard Rob Key say that some of the Aussie players playing in county cricket have a WhatsApp group who make fun of the fact that there are county bowlers who only bowl at 70 miles and hour who are impossible to play because of the nature of the pitches, and you have to smash a quick 30 because sooner or later you will be out.

      Consider abandoning the Duke ball and replacing it with something with a lesser seam. Or ask the Duke ball manufacturer to reduce the seam.

      Failure to try and do some of these things just shows the ECB is not serious about red ball cricket and therefore not serious about test cricket.


  9. Miami Dad's Six Jan 4, 2022 / 3:10 pm

    Ignoring the structural woes just quickly to look at team selection for this one Test tonight. England have punished their woeful batting line up by replacing their number 9 bat with a number 11. The fact that Robinson is averaging 26 with the ball in this series (Broad is averaging 50), and averaging 21.16 after his 8 Tests (Broad in his last 8 Tests is averaging 36.06) has been ignored in favour of some vague platitudes about Broad “champing at the bit” like “a caged animal”. I mean, there have been very, very few positives coming from this tour – but surely Robinson was one of them.


    • dannycricket Jan 4, 2022 / 3:26 pm

      All the more reason not to run Robinson into the ground for a dead rubber? Save him for the West Indies series instead.


      • dArthez Jan 4, 2022 / 3:33 pm

        A series in the West Indies which England last won in 2004. Pretty much every other team has won there in at least one of the last two series they have played.


      • Miami Dad's Six Jan 4, 2022 / 4:27 pm

        I don’t particularly get the impression that you can be “run into the ground” when you’re losing by an innings. He only bowled 19 overs in the last Test, which finished a week ago. A 78mph seamer shouldn’t need a rest even if he’s bowled.

        I think England are desperate to avoid a whitewash – but they are even more desperate to stick with their crappy plans that they decided upon 2 months ago, in spite of the evidence against doing so.


        • dannycricket Jan 4, 2022 / 8:40 pm

          England’s fitness and medical staff manage to run players into the ground when they don’t even play at all. Have a little more faith in them.


        • Marek Jan 4, 2022 / 9:29 pm

          This is an interesting one MD6. It seems the official word is that Robinson is carrying a slight shoulder injury….but I think you’re also right that there’s some weird stuff around having to play Broad because he’s made a bit of an issue about not being selected. Not for the first time in recent history, it comes across as if pandering to Broad’s ego is influencing selection–although to be fair to him it may have been partly (or completely) blown up by the media.

          One thing that I think comes out of it is that it would be a good idea to ban ghostwritten columns by players actively involved in a series.


    • Mark Jan 4, 2022 / 4:11 pm

      The decision making in this series has been so bad that it is getting to the point when you have to question if it’s being done on purpose? When you have the England batting practicing in full view of all the media before the Melbourne test by batting on one leg you have to ask if they are now just taking the piss out of the fans?

      If not the management and coaches have gone insane.


  10. Marek Jan 4, 2022 / 9:53 pm

    I do love chains of responsibility.

    Review into the Ashes tour to be carried out by the man who created some of the personnel structure which has at the least made it worse, overseen the appointment of some key members of that structure and who must have been at least part of the decision-making in relation to other issues (whose decision would it be to send the Lions back to England if not the DoC?)

    Review to be reviewed (oh, and I love processes too!) by the man who set up the structure the imbalance of which is THE key reason for this disaster. One press report with classic understatement calls him “a little compromised”.

    Surely this should be a Board issue, and they should be looking at the futures of almost everyone, from Harrison to Giles to Silverwood to Thorpe to Bobat to Root.


    • dannycricket Jan 4, 2022 / 11:29 pm

      The board doesn’t currently has a chair though. It makes it awkward to unseat Harrison and make other long term decisions, I think.


    • Marek Jan 4, 2022 / 11:55 pm

      It has an acting chair though. He needs to…well, act like an acting chair!


      • dArthez Jan 5, 2022 / 1:43 am

        you mean, bend over and go on all fours, to allow Harrison take a seat?

        Seriously the structure of the ECB is heavily compromised. Not entirely dissimilar from CSA’s in the recent past.


  11. Mark Jan 4, 2022 / 11:12 pm

    I seem to remember a certain former England captain, then placed into a nice retirement job at the ECB lecturing us about “TRUST.” How can anyone trust this absurd process? Or the personnel involved? They all appoint each other, and laugh their way to the bank to deposit their ludicrous salaries and bonuses.

    English cricket is now controlled by a bunch of charlatans who run the game for their own best interest…. not the fans…. or the game itself. As Giles has said there is no point sacking him or the coach or the captain unless you are going to make fundamental changes to the structure of English cricket. How very convenient, because that ain’t happening. Because the sauce of their power and money is to force almost permanent white ball cricket on us to the detriment of red ball cricket.

    Change will only come when the public rise up and cancel their Sky subscriptions, their BT subscriptions, and stop buying tickets. I know people don’t want to face this extreme solution, but as long as you keep paying up, you will keep these chancers in position. And don’t expect the media to help you out…. most of the cricket journalists are equally compromised. They get too many freebies and access.


    • dlpthomas Jan 5, 2022 / 1:29 am

      Looks like a pretty good batting wicket and the ball isn’t doing much. Englands bowling has looked, to my amateur eye, to have been too short once again but according to the “pitch map”, they have actually bowled a bit fuller so far. But only 4 out of 55 balls would have hit the stumps. Stokes on before Wood – maybe Wood will bowl from the other end.


    • dArthez Jan 5, 2022 / 1:44 am

      Brlliant from Bangladesh. Which makes England drawing a cricket game in Australia on merit (not washout) probably the most unlikely result not to be achieved in 2022.


      • Miami Dad's Six Jan 5, 2022 / 3:55 pm

        Bangladesh played good cricket. Holding NZ to 320odd in the first innings, then racking up 450 with contributions throughout the team. No nervy weirdness, did the basics well, took their chances and deserved the win.

        SA doing likewise, although I still, just about, make India favourites. If Elgar gets through the first hour though, there’s every chance.

        England on the other hand…


  12. dlpthomas Jan 5, 2022 / 3:09 am



  13. dlpthomas Jan 5, 2022 / 2:22 pm

    0130 and belting down in Sydney……


  14. dlpthomas Jan 6, 2022 / 7:13 am

    Nice to see Broad get 5. Also nice to see Khawaja get a century. A little bit of variable bounce now so batting is going to be hard, especially given how good Australia’s attack is.


    • dArthez Jan 6, 2022 / 7:34 am

      England survive the day unscathed.


      • dlpthomas Jan 6, 2022 / 8:32 am

        There could be carnage tomorrow. On the other hand, as Janis Jopllin once siad “tomorrow never comes”.


  15. dlpthomas Jan 6, 2022 / 7:34 am

    That was a fun little 5 overs – Starc picks up Crawley off a no ball so England 0 – 13 at stumps. Baby steps.


  16. Aden Biddle Jan 6, 2022 / 10:06 am

    Loved the Twitter Chat in this and including my other main interest of being a massive Geography bore into the topic 🙂

    There are huge centres of population like Sheffield, Liverpool, Dudley, who in theory are part of the counties of Yorkshire, Lancashire and Worcestershire respectively but to get to their various county grounds and training for a young player is a massive journey. Worcester training used to be in Evesham (not sure weather it is or not now) my mom drove us in the dark on winter evening for training, we once had to craw home in thick fog taking over 2 hours, when at Stourbridge there were times when either young players were either not send to trails knowing they couldn’t make this evening journey or in my view I can’t help but think some were not selected at trials knowing this would happen (cynical view which I hope isn’t right). Baby steps in the right direction would be possibly more teams at the county age groups conurbation teams who play the major and minor counties in the Under 10’s to 17’s games.

    My other idea is using the Prem League Darts format of “the Challenger” in The Hundred you have a Challenger league maybe Sheffield, Liverpool, Bradford, Central Belt Scotland, Black Country, East Anglia, South West, Newcastle some games on TV maybe using the likes of Freesports and the ever improving streams they have to field 4 players from their ECB Premier Leagues (Scottish West and East Prems) and 3 under 21’s but they could make the side up from remaining county players not in the main tournament, there would be fewer games (play each other once or not everyone twice). It is baby steps but it might help unearth more players who are not currently in the system who might progress into red ball cricket also.

    I am so passionate about club cricket and although I am not good I see to many talented cricketers who don’t even contemplate cricket as a future apart from picking up a few quid on Saturdays, I firmly believe that this translates into the County and international cricket if you have a sport where most of the kids who play it will never be a professional, its still should be tough just like football where most fall by the wayside but the pathway is there the amount of cricketers England and Wales has and how popular it still remains (something the ECB seem to activity try and disprove) at amateur level means England International side has absolutely no excuse in my view for being below half way in any ICC ranking.


  17. Grenville Jan 6, 2022 / 6:56 pm

    I think that there are major structural problems with English cricket most of which are the ECB’s and counties’ fault. Most of them boil down to their furious desire to keep the great unwashed, especially the non-white section, outside cricket. Indeed, Danny’s excellent argument could be strengthened by the observation that the kneejerk desire to further shrink the player pool springs from the same source.

    What I do not accept is that changing the coaching set up will change nothing. Tottenham, for example, are a much better team under Conte than Espiritu Santu or Morhinuo (I don’t know much about football, but it’s obvious). There are loads of other examples.

    The England coaches are crap. I would make Peter Moores the Lions coach. He seems to know how to develop a player, cf Root, Taylor and Hameed. I’d want Grant Flower as batting coach. He did a fantastic job with Pakistan. If Sussex won’t let him go, I’d beg KP. He taught himself to bat and did a great job with England’s lower order. I don’t know about head coach. If we can split roles, Waqar did a great job with Pakistan’s test team. Gillespie would be a good bet. I don’t know, anyone but an Englishman (except maybe Colly)


    • Mark Jan 6, 2022 / 7:13 pm

      I agree with you about the coaching. I think you could sack most of the back room staff, and not replace them with anybody and you would be hard pressed to notice any difference. It can’t get much worse. When extras is your third best batsman for the year.

      Who coaching “extras?” The answer is no one. And he’s third best in the teams averages.

      However, I think modern players are used to being protected, and fawned over, and have someone do everything for them. Rumour is Ed Smith got sacked because the players didn’t like him dropping them. So they gave the coach the job of selecting the team.


  18. Marek Jan 6, 2022 / 11:13 pm

    In relation to England’s ranking feeling a bit high—they’re now officially bottom of the current WTC!

    Liked by 1 person

    • dlpthomas Jan 7, 2022 / 1:31 am

      And that’s still too high a ranking.


    • Pontiac Jan 7, 2022 / 2:11 am

      Does this count the over rate point deductions?


  19. Pontiac Jan 7, 2022 / 2:11 am

    How about that Scott Boland…


    • dlpthomas Jan 7, 2022 / 2:23 am

      He has actually improved his bowling average. Unbelievable.


    • Pontiac Jan 7, 2022 / 2:25 am

      And again.


  20. dlpthomas Jan 7, 2022 / 2:33 am

    Hmm, looks like we’re heading toward another innings defeat.


  21. dlpthomas Jan 7, 2022 / 4:02 am

    Can this day get any weirder? First our belove prime minister scott morrison goes into the foxtell commentary box and says “this is Australia living with the virus and this is Australia taking wickets with the virus”, then Green slams one into Stokes off stump, the bails stay on and he is given out LBW. (overturned on review).


  22. dlpthomas Jan 7, 2022 / 5:10 am

    Gilchrist claiming that since ball tracking was introduced in 2006, this Australian attack has been the fastest (at an average of 138 km/h) as well as the most accurate on record. I think he meant for the whole series rather than just this match. He also didn’t define how they measure “most accurate”. Impressive if true.


  23. dlpthomas Jan 7, 2022 / 7:38 am

    Great effort from Bairstow but what a frustrating cricketer he is. Speaking of frustrating can we finally admit Buttler is not a test cricketer?


    • Metatone Jan 7, 2022 / 8:55 am

      I feel like the irony is that Bairstow is the WK the England coaches wanted all along, they just messed it all up.

      He’s not as good with the gloves as Foakes, so he’s not my choice, but he’s better than Buttler behind the stumps and if he’d been allowed to develop a career as a Test 6 I think he could have done a lot for the team over the years.

      Of course, part of the reason the England set up got it wrong with Bairstow is that we’ve been so short of higher order batsmen they got tempted to push him up the order… but it was the wrong choice.


      • Metatone Jan 7, 2022 / 8:56 am

        And yes Bairstow thought he could play higher up the order, but it’s the coaches job to know when that’s realistic and when it isn’t and be firm with a player for the good of the team.


        • dannycricket Jan 7, 2022 / 9:06 am

          I think Bairstow wanted to be wicketkeeper more than a specialist batsman, but got forced into that position because England selected Buttler who is pants at fielding.


    • Mark Jan 7, 2022 / 9:10 am

      Yes, Bairstow has been wasted in my view although I also have to say he hasn’t always helped himself. But a wasted Test talent by England.

      I see even today extras is still England’s 4th best batsman of the innings. And better than any of the top 4. Root gets a pass as he can’t be expected to score runs every innings.

      England still struggling to score 300 in the first innings of test match in this series.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Miami Dad's Six Jan 7, 2022 / 12:11 pm

        I actually don’t give Root a pass on this one as it was such a wanky shot.

        Bairstow – there’s nothing new here. Had white ball cricket not existed he’d certainly have the talent to be a good red ball cricketer. He’s not played a t20 or 50 overs games for 2 months – I don’t know when the last time England avoided those formats for this long (combined with him not playing in some crap overseas franchise tournament), but I doubt this is a coincidence. Sadly there’s another T20 World Cup this year so I expect by the summer he’ll be clearing the front leg and getting bowled through the gate in no time again.

        Liked by 2 people

        • Mark Jan 7, 2022 / 1:05 pm

          I think Root has to be allowed to fail now and again. He has carried this teams batting on his shoulders for the last twelve months. Without him England would be bottom of the rankings.


    • Marek Jan 7, 2022 / 11:46 am

      Yes, of course we can admit that Buttler isn’t good enough–now. They’ve sourced another journeyman county keeper with a f-c average of 34 from the BBL rather than the really good keeper with an average of 38 who’s been left at home due to a selectorial “oversight” and who’s currently walking his dogs somewhere in frosty Woking.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Mark Jan 7, 2022 / 1:02 pm

        Butler is seen by the management as a superstar who at some point will bring his white ball batsmanship to test cricket. It hasn’t really happened apart from a few sporadic innings.

        He has been given way more chances than most other players, and if he was only being judged as a keeper he would have been discarded by now. It’s not that he isn’t trying, I just think his batting is very hit and miss for test cricket. Unfortunately it’s going to be a problem for all batsman going forward brought up on mostly white ball batting. We can’t find a decent top three let alone a wicket keeper who can bat.


      • Marek Jan 7, 2022 / 5:24 pm

        Press reporting now that Billings not unlikely to make his test debut next week. So–a player who’s very far from the best keeper in the country and who in fact is no longer his own county’s regular red-ball keeper (he can’t blame anyone for that–he’s the captain!); who seems to have only played more than half a season twice in a nine-year Championship career and who’s played ten games in the last three seasons put together, who’s played four matches for the Lions, in three of which his total aggregate was 41 runs; and who hasn’t played a f-c game since September and has been playing T20 tp prepare. While the aforementioned best keeper in the country etc…..

        So much for this two-year planning then.

        Second issue making me want to scream–Root bowling a seamer into a long injury layoff for the second time in two years AND the management still thinking it’s a good idea for him to bat in his normal position when the series is already lost, so that he exacerbates it further.

        Sure there are structural issues but the level of intelligence and foresight (or planning) that the combined wisdom of Silverwood, Giles, Root, Thorpe, Lewis and Bobat can come up with is shockingly low..


      • Marek Jan 7, 2022 / 6:31 pm

        Number of f-c matches in which Billings has kept since mid-February 2019: one (or less than Ollie Pope!) He’s played 11 matches in that period (and even the one could be a Cricinfo mistake because Kent’s regular keeper was also playing in that game….)


  24. dlpthomas Jan 7, 2022 / 11:13 am

    I wondered if they’d drop Buttler and give the glove back to Bairstow for the 5th test. However, there’a story Billing’s has been added to the squad in case Bairstow can’t play due to his thumb injury.


    • Mark Jan 7, 2022 / 11:29 am

      I think they will only drop Butler if they really can’t continue with him because of form. He’s one of the dressing rooms stars. He does press conferences and interviews. Management like that.


      • dlpthomas Jan 7, 2022 / 1:25 pm

        It is hard to escape that conclusion.


  25. man in a barrel Jan 7, 2022 / 1:26 pm

    Given their educational background, it is interesting to hear how badly most of them communicate. Cook is emblematic – he doesn’t come across as possessing any intelligence


    • Grenville Jan 8, 2022 / 3:45 am

      So very true


  26. dlpthomas Jan 7, 2022 / 3:09 pm

    The rain has been belting down for hours. This will test the drainage at the SCG.


    • Mark Jan 7, 2022 / 3:36 pm

      And Steve Smiths umpiring ability!


  27. Marek Jan 7, 2022 / 5:32 pm

    On a different tangent–is it only me that’s serously worried by the interviews that Will Pucovski is giving? It’s almost like nobody has had the courage to tell him–or the Australian selectors–that the problem with repeated concussions (especially the number he’s had) is not mainly that it affects your confidence, it’s that it’s physically very very dangerous.

    This is starting, sadly, to look like a tragedy waiting to happen. At what point should CA assert their authority as the responsible body for the health and safety of their players and refuse to register him for a state team?


    • dlpthomas Jan 8, 2022 / 4:01 am

      Couldn’t agree more. He’s really talented and it would be a huge shame if he retired. On the other hand the thought of him facing Pakistans fast bowlers really worries me. (and this kid only has to fall heavily in the field to get concussed) This could end very badly


    • dlpthomas Jan 8, 2022 / 7:36 am

      40 off 68 for Melbournei n grade cricket.


  28. Pontiac Jan 8, 2022 / 5:36 am

    Very kind to bring in Malan again.


  29. Mark Jan 9, 2022 / 9:54 am

    Not sure sneaking a draw thanks to the weather is good for England in the long run or not? If it helps the ECB put lipstick on a pig it’s not good for English cricket going forward. (Delays the required measures needed.)

    On the other hand yet another 5-0 score line would have done more damage to Test cricket as a spectacle. So avoiding that is a good……However, only if the authorities pull their heads out of their backsides and start learning some lessons. (I have zero confidence in that happening)

    And despite my loathing of the ECB….. seeing Australia fail to win always makes me smile. Can’t help it I’m afraid. It’s in the DNA. It’s just a shame the ECB doesn’t share that, and doesn’t do more to insure England are better placed to compete.


    • dannycricket Jan 10, 2022 / 9:35 am

      Apparently the last session was the most watched part of the series so far. Unsurprising, but also welcome as you’d suspect viewing figures were down with the one-sided nature of the contest. The last thing we want is TV companies demanding less red ball cricket in Australia.


      • Mark Jan 10, 2022 / 10:22 am

        It’s is amazing how governing bodies don’t understand the need for a competitive contest. In the case of the big 3 they seemed to think that as long as the home side was winning easily they could sell home tv rights and people would tune in to watch a pretty much guaranteed result over in three days. Perhaps one of the reasons Sky seems very uninterested in buying the rights for England’s over seas tours of late?

        Sometimes a three test series against say NZ has been more competitive (cricket wise) than a home Ashes or India.

        But if England become poor at home perhaps the money will dry up. Although no sign of that at the moment with Sky looking to buy more home rights.


  30. Fred Jan 9, 2022 / 3:31 pm

    Damn. Anyway, always a good day for Australian cricket when the English Captain starts taking about character. Cook and Flintoff used to go on about it all the time. Runs are better than character.


    • dlpthomas Jan 9, 2022 / 8:23 pm

      Khawaja’s got both


    • Marek Jan 10, 2022 / 10:12 am

      See also: “showing what it means to play for this team”, ie running yourself into the ground and quite possibly a much longer injury layoff than necessary in order to compete in a dead test and prove….what, exactly?


  31. Peter Walsh Jan 9, 2022 / 9:39 pm

    Great to see Khwaja do this. Always looked a class act. Michael Clark v2. Bloody sydneysiders.


  32. Mark Jan 10, 2022 / 9:53 am

    Pundits saying how well England did considering they had so many coaches having to isolate.

    Could it be that maybe England would be better off without half of these people permanently? Make the players take responsibility for their own game and their natural instincts. We live in a world of endless coaches and stats and a group think that says players can’t take one foot in front of the other without a coach or a statistic to back it up.

    Probably best not to make too much of one test match that was rain effected, but there was more fight in this performance than the whole tour put together up to this point. I do wonder if there are so many coaches for so many things that players become confused and drone like. They lose the gut instinct to just play, compete, and rely on their own ability and talent.

    Liked by 1 person

    • dannycricket Jan 10, 2022 / 10:29 am

      Or, are the coaches bad at coaching? It is noticeable that Test batters get consistently worse the more time they spend in the England squad. It makes me wonder if there was a shift in English coaching methods 10-15 years ago which might be contributing to the malaise in red ball batting not just in the England team but also county cricket.


      • Mark Jan 10, 2022 / 10:41 am

        I’m a believer that the best coaches are required at a much younger age outside of test cricket to get players in good habits and good techniques. The foundations if you like. Then players should really only need to have to tweak their game at the top level.

        You shouldn’t be learning how to bat or bowl during a test series. But there is so little good quality red ball cricket that many of these players are learning on the job.

        As to the quality of the coaches, well, when you see England players trying to bat on one leg as in the last test match practice session you don’t know whether to laugh or cry. Smacks of back room staff having to justify their jobs and salary’s.


  33. Marek Jan 12, 2022 / 9:33 pm

    Ah, so it seems to be official now.

    Running a county club on the bedrock of institutional racism IS worse in the ECB book than running a county club which is a financial mess.

    Good to clear that one up. My god, if I was a Durham fan I’d be preparing the Molotovs!!


    • Marek Jan 12, 2022 / 9:45 pm

      D’oh! That should read ISN’T, of course!


      • Darthez Jan 14, 2022 / 5:31 am

        Institutional racism at the ECB confirmed, by effectively giving Yorkshire a pass. Beyond pathetic, but then again the same Giles Clarke who insisted on ‘the right kind of family’ had no problems hanging out with military strongmen, who may well have been heavily implicated in war crimes; the right kind of person knows how to deal with uppity colonials – soat least the ECB has maintained some consistency.


    • dannycricket Jan 13, 2022 / 7:39 am

      Yep. Yorkshire CCC shouldn’t be punished because they are/would be in financial hardship, but Durham CCC and Glamorgan CCC had to sell their ability to host Test matches for £2m/£2.5m when they had problems.


  34. Marek Jan 12, 2022 / 9:44 pm

    Quick “aaagh!” about England not learning their selection lessons for the millionth time.

    Playing not one but two injured players in a dead rubber…..which means that England have to go in without a spinner AGAIN to accommodate the injured all-rounder who can’t bowl.

    Playing your ultra-fast bowler in three back-to-back tests for the first time in his career, in a dead rubber, which also means he’ll be playing four matches in a season and in a series for the first time since 2015. It’s not even as if the pitch sounds like one that will be especially helpful to Wood or where his speed will be as necessary as on some of the pitches this series. How many fast bowlers’ careers do this team management want to wreck?!

    How many times do they need to be shown that Woakes is not an option outside England. This is getting like Groundhog Day–we were here in the same test of the same series four years ago…although luckily he was injured then. What conceivable reason is there to choose Woakes over Overton?

    And of course a special selection award for the series which was two years in the planning and which is culminating in a test debut for England’s fourth choice keeper at best who no-one even considered might be a test option even at the start of the last England season…and which makes it five different keepers for England in their last twelve tests.


    • dannycricket Jan 13, 2022 / 7:36 am

      It’s definitely something. I seem to recall that substitute fielders aren’t allowed for pre-existing injuries, making the selection of Stokes and Bairstow even more of a gamble. They could be taking the risk of playing with 9 fielders rather than playing Lawrence, Pope or, as you mention, Overton. It would also seem to rely on Root as your main spinner again, which puts even more pressure on him. Maybe he can drive the bus too?


      • Mark Jan 13, 2022 / 12:22 pm

        Stokes seems to have long term injury problems. Which makes Roots decision to bowl him into the ground completely insane. He seems to be also bowling into the ground Mark Wood who also has had injury problems. Perhaps that’s what happens when you are carrying two over 35 year old fast bowlers? You give the donkey work to others. Not helped by Roots lack of trust in a spin bowler.

        As far as Stokes is concerned he seems prepared to constantly play carrying various injury issues. Not sure he is being well advised for the longevity of his career. Unless of course the injury is not that serious? Who knows? But to me Root’s handling of injured bowlers is either insane or perhaps they think the injuries are not that bad. If I was the bowler I would get a second opinion.

        Let’s face it this test match is the least important of the series. The Ashes went in the first three test matches, and they have now avoided the dreaded 5-0. Who really cares if it’s 4-0 or 3-0?

        Liked by 1 person

        • dlpthomas Jan 13, 2022 / 2:08 pm

          I can forgive Root being tactically poor but he seems determined to break players and that is unforgivable.


          • Mark Jan 13, 2022 / 3:36 pm

            It is unforgivable, but I’m assuming the players are happy to go along with it. Problem is……when you see the coach and captain make so many selection errors it doesn’t give any confidence they know what they are doing regards injuries.


        • man in a barrel Jan 14, 2022 / 7:06 pm

          Stokes is looking in pain every time he bends over. He is not even throwing the ball over arm He really should not be playing unless he wants to damage himself permanently


    • man in a barrel Jan 14, 2022 / 7:03 pm

      Sadly, Billings looks like the best keeper England have had this series


  35. dlpthomas Jan 13, 2022 / 2:07 pm

    Nice knock by Rishabh Pant. Could be an exciting finish.


  36. dlpthomas Jan 14, 2022 / 5:09 am

    Batting is going to be very hard on this track. The commentators keep rabbiting on about Robinson not being quick enough and he just keeps on taking wickets. Reminds me a bit of Philander in that respect.


  37. dlpthomas Jan 14, 2022 / 5:19 am

    3 for 12 and Robinson bowling with 5 slips. It won’t be a long game but it will be fun to watch.


    • Darthez Jan 14, 2022 / 5:31 am

      Told you all that the test moving to Hobart was good news for England.


      • dlpthomas Jan 14, 2022 / 6:12 am

        Australia may already have enough runs


        • Darthez Jan 14, 2022 / 9:13 am

          Seriously a broken clock would be right more often than the england team management.


  38. Marek Jan 14, 2022 / 9:01 am

    Wake up and what a surprise! The knackered fast bowler is going at eight an over (quick sweepstake on how long he lasts before he’s taken out of the game injured…) and the seamer who’s never been good enough abroad is going at five. Colour me shocked!


    • Darthez Jan 14, 2022 / 9:15 am

      And the thing is if they had properly planned, england winning the toss here could have made it really challenging for Australia. Has the ECB in all it’s greed taken on the role of twelfth man for Australia?


    • Marek Jan 14, 2022 / 9:26 am

      Oh, and now we find out that the reason England’s part-time spinner has bowled ten of the first 52 overs of the game on a bright green pitch is also partly because the England bowler whose fitness issues have been rather exposed by this tour has a stiff back after one session of the game. So England have picked five of their seamers in this game and it seems that by mid-afternoon on the first day there’s one who’s not really a bowling liability in some way or another.Maybe the sweepstake ahould be which of Wood and Robinson go first.

      I’ve also been thinking a bit in the last couple of days…I’d be quietly furious if I was Ben Foakes.


      • dlpthomas Jan 14, 2022 / 9:42 am

        Yep – we have royally fucked this


  39. Miami Dad's Six Jan 14, 2022 / 12:49 pm

    Congratulations to South Africa. Not so long ago a home series vs India would have been seen as a formality, but given the raw look of the SA side that’s two impressive 4th innings run chases in a row against a top attack.

    England… Ffs.


    • Mark Jan 14, 2022 / 1:07 pm

      Yes a good win again by SA. And it shows how poor England are becoming when they have increasingly struggled to win at home in the last year. As you say SA had to chase down a score just over 200 in the fourth innings again , and did it comfortably.

      If England don’t win or lose in the WI their ranking will surely be one of the worst test nations at the moment.


      • Darthez Jan 14, 2022 / 4:55 pm

        England are just about the only side that haven’t won a series in the Caribbean in the last 15 years. And sure the west indies are not great, but the must be fancying their chances. Especially if england decide to keep going like this.

        Also a shout put for Bangladesh. Sure they won a test in New Zealand. But they also managed to lose a test against Pakistan, who were still batting on day 4 to declare the first innings of the match at 300/4d. The talent is there, but the consistency is lacking. Which is in a way nottoo different from England at the moment.

        Was actually shocked by South Africa. Bavuma really stepped up this series and most of the order contributed meaningfully this series. Marco Jansen also did well with the ball.

        But other than elgar, bavuma and radaba, the side is extremely light on experience. So a promising result, but they desperately get some of the new faces to stick around, and get a few decent results. That would also help to increase domestic interest and support.

        But it is probably also fair to say that India was let down by some questionable batting in the last two tests.


  40. dlpthomas Jan 15, 2022 / 4:24 am

    Maybe Wood should test out Lyon with a yorker.


  41. Darthez Jan 15, 2022 / 4:30 am

    When Lyon is hitting sixes for fun against Wood for fun, fair to say something has gone horribly wrong.

    I am fairly confident that england taking the last two wickets will be used to paper over the chasms in terms of srlectorial incompetence.


    • dlpthomas Jan 15, 2022 / 5:14 am

      Speaking of incometence, Burns getting run our for a duck was terrible cricket.


  42. dlpthomas Jan 15, 2022 / 6:59 am

    Been 2 possible nicks today that England have got away with – one they didn’t review and one they didn’t even appeal.


  43. dlpthomas Jan 15, 2022 / 11:10 am

    Lovely short ball from Wood to get Khawaja and they sen out Boland as a night watchman. could be a fun last 20 minutes.


  44. dlpthomas Jan 15, 2022 / 11:16 am

    Billings has a good game.


  45. Marek Jan 15, 2022 / 12:26 pm

    Stats watch:

    Only two England batters average more than 29, and one of them has only played two tests.

    Of those who’ve played more than two tests, England’s second best batter is…Chris Woakes, and no-one averages 35.


  46. Pontiac Jan 16, 2022 / 3:57 am

    Over 24.

    Wood bowling to Smith.

    No slips.

    Really, Joe? Really?


    • Pontiac Jan 16, 2022 / 4:18 am

      Well, ok, I guess so!


  47. dlpthomas Jan 16, 2022 / 4:18 am

    AUstralia 6 for 63 ans Wood on fire – maybe been a bit lucky this morning but if anyone deserves some good luck its Wood.


  48. dlpthomas Jan 16, 2022 / 4:55 am

    Seriously, how hard is it to keep your bloody foot behind the line?


  49. dlpthomas Jan 16, 2022 / 5:52 am

    3 decisions overturned on DRS this morning so not a great session for the umpires (though to be fair they were all pretty close)


  50. dlpthomas Jan 16, 2022 / 10:37 am

    Good opening partnership but “normal service has been resumed.”


    • Darthez Jan 16, 2022 / 11:40 am

      Mass or a requiem for batting?


      • dlpthomas Jan 16, 2022 / 12:03 pm

        Definitely a requiem. Englands batting was awful all series and loosing 10 – 56 today was a very appropriate way to finish the tour. I expected to loose 5 – 0 but it was still really hard to watch.


  51. Mark Jan 16, 2022 / 1:13 pm

    An altogether totally appropriate end to a disastrous tour. (One of the worst in English cricket history.) Not once did they manage 300 in a first innings. On pitches that before this test match England had only bowled out Australia in two innings.

    If the coach and captain survive this then the people running English cricket are also not fit for purpose. (We already knew that) Basic selection decisions are too much for this bunch of chumps.

    And now the rumour is that Andrew Strauss might be in the running for a top ECB job. How utterly predictable! English cricket is run by a select group of insiders who rotate jobs for themselves and essentially mark each other’s homework. The ECB needs root and branch reform. Which means bringing in some people from outside the select priesthood.

    Oh, and can we start selecting Test captains on the ability to captain on he field not as ambassadors of the field for the ECB? Shambles and laughing stock!


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