The 2019 Outside Cricket Power Cut List

The Cricketer Magazine has decided to do another Power List, of the great and the good in the game of cricket and ranking them in order of said power. Once again we appear to have been sadly overlooked on the entirely spurious grounds of being completely irrelevant to anyone of importance. Lists matter particularly to those who think they might have a chance of being included, as they scan desperately up and down upon publication and react with feigned indifference as they realise their name is missing. The magazine has approached it differently this year, by inviting people not completely barking mad to judge it, which is extremely disappointing from our perspective, given that The Cricketer Editor putting himself at number 39 a few years ago (doesn’t time fly) provoked us into doing our own – once we’d recovered from laughing.

So here’s our own Power Cut List, comprised of those who genuinely have influence and have made a monumental balls of everything, those who just annoyed us, and those we really like and have desperately tried to find something to have a go at them about just to be contrary. If you’re on this list, sorry. If you’re not on this list, not sorry. Or maybe the other way around. It’s completely capricious, and is very much a team effort – so you won’t know who to blame except us as a collective.

There is no particular order to this list, just whoever the editors decided to have a crack at first. As before, we fully expect return fire – that is after all the point of it.


This year’s recipients:

Jonathan Agnew – Currently (but for how much longer?) the mainstay of the BBC’s Test Match Special coverage. Has skin thinner than rice paper and is known to respond to any criticism by chucking his toys so far out his pram that they reach orbit. Has an extraordinary command of basic Anglo-Saxon that has yet to reach the airwaves, placing him behind Andrew Strauss and David Gower in the Inadvertent Public Broadcast Swearing league table – though miles ahead in the Twitter DM equivalent. Still has legions of adoring followers who can’t quite bring themselves to believe that delightful Aggers may not be as charming as first appears. Best friends with Jonathan Liew.

Malcolm Conn – Australian “journalist” (stroll on, that’s stretching it) about as likely to be fair to England as the ECB are to invite us over for a cup of tea. Constantly banging on about England players born overseas while going very quiet when Australian examples are quoted back to him. Still in therapy after England won the World Cup but known for upholding his role as a fearless interrogator of Australian cricket through consoling Australian cricketers caught cheating, to the point there was genuine confusion over whether he’d been appointed as Cricket Australia’s media liaison officer / press conference bouncer in the wake of Sandpaper-gate.

Michael Vaughan – Some people are born to lead. Some people are born to follow. Michael Vaughan is one of those rare individuals who manages to achieve both, often at the same time. Frequently speaking on any topic, bravely ignoring any questions about a lack knowledge or forethought. Despite this, somehow not the most annoying commentator on TMS.

CDFB46CF-6283-45BF-A4C6-6799A1B5AB77

Sir Geoffrey Boycott – I’ll be the first to say that the honours system is archaic, random and illogical. Even so, the ennoblement of such an objectionable individual as Boycott really sticks in the craw. Rebel tourist, violent convict, and utterly without empathy for other people. An all-round terrible human being. Despite this, somehow not the most annoying commentator on TMS.

Phil Tufnell – He turned being a mediocre spinner (having a worse Test bowling average than Moeen Ali, Jack Leach, Monty Panesar, James Tredwell to name a few) into being famous. Lacks any kind of insight in cricket commentary outside of possibly how a spin bowler should try to be economical. His bosses apparently overlook this tragic lack of talent, and he will almost certainly be a big part of the BBC’s TV plans next year due to his celebrity status. Despite this, somehow not the most annoying commentator on TMS.

Graeme Swann – The most annoying commentator on TMS, which is saying something. The nonstop stream of forced banter is like an ice pick being stabbed in my ears. No doubt a big part of the BBC’s big plans for their TV coverage next year, which could see Swann become the new Danny Morrison. I do not mean that as a compliment.

CE22F25A-4C4C-4160-862A-7C381A3029B4

Jonathan Liew – One day there will be two people left in a press centre and one taxi. At that point maybe Jonathan will contemplate the bridges he burns. While he’s up there in the talent stakes when it comes to writing, he lapses into Ronay-isms, being more in love with his own work than the job he has to do – in search of THE angle. While picking fights (and yes, having them picked back) with the doyen of the blue rinse set is possibly a public duty, appearing to be a dick doesn’t help. But that’s the place he’s chosen to be, and in some ways its admirable because he does hold truth to power. I wonder, though. If you write for an online-only publication, aren’t you really a blogger in disguise?

Eoin Morgan – England’s World Cup winning captain who happens to share his disdain of red ball cricket and the County Championship as much as his paymasters at the ECB. Led the revolution in the ‘new brand of white ball’ cricket that has proved far more successful than any other previous brand in England’s history but has still remained loyal to the ECB’s ‘dressing room harmony’ mantra. Likely to become a T20 gun for sale in the near future, which is fine unless you want him to perform with the bat in any big game. Former pen-pals with Oliver Holt, who has seemed to go a little quieter now that Morgan is demonstrating his true worth by parroting the ECB’s line in support of the Hundred.

Paul Newman – Being chief cricket writer of the Daily Mail is an interesting place to be – he’s been there a while and shows no signs of moving on. Head of an establishment sport at a snarling outlet like the Mail is going to be tough for a chap who by all reports we hear is a pretty decent fellow – a consistent line we hear from his colleagues. That is until you have a pop at one of his talking points, when he can snarl and spit like, I don’t know, an irate blogger. He’s been less of pest recently, but retains his place on our list for works past. The anti-KP, pro-ECB, Cook fanboy stuff. I have no idea why that rubbed me up the wrong way. He’s on Mount Cricketmore for a reason. Then I realised he isn’t. Oh well.

David Gower – Now ex-presenter of International Cricket on Sky who is keen to blame ageism rather than the fact that he has been mailing it in for the past few years. On his day, Gower is still a joy to listen to and it was a little bit of a tear-jerker watching his final exit on Sky. Why have Sky got rid of him? Well maybe, in his own words, he “hasn’t got a fucking clue”. May be a safe pair of hands to anchor TMS if the BBC tire of Jonathan Agnew’s late night tirades, certainly unlikely to call anyone a c*nt in public. Has a penchant for fine wine, light aircraft and the odd shocking apartheid comment.

The Hundred – The behemoth which is casting a shadow across the next year in English cricket. People seem to be either of the opinion that it will solve all of the game’s endemic problems or destroy half of the professional teams in the country. The truth is probably more bland, but still damning: It’s going to be a bit shit. The level of play will be marginally above that of the better county T20 teams, the coverage will be nauseatingly bad, and the expenditure by the ECB on largely pointless things like fireworks and other gimmicks would make Croesus blush.

img_6007

Elizabeth Ammon – Let’s be clear here, being a woman in such a historically male dominated world as sports reporting isn’t going to be easy, nor should she have to put up with the pretty vile abuse she receives from all too many just because she’s a woman and therefore in their tiny minds incapable of understanding or commenting on cricket. It’s idiotic, moronic and says far more about those knuckledraggers than anything else. But it does not mean there is a general immunity from any kind of criticism whatever, nor that there is much moral high ground in being utterly outraged that other people might hold different opinions to her, especially on county cricket. Has blocked us on Twitter, for something so minor we couldn’t remember what it was, but it’s her right to do that, and was met with a shrug.

The IPL – Seen as the original evil curse in the eyes of the England management team, it has now become ‘the learning place’ for England’s white ball specialists. Somehow the answer to all of English cricket’s ills despite the fact that the tournament has mainly been designed to make MS Dhoni and Virat Kohli look amazing in the eyes of the Indian public. Expect at some point soon for another 10 teams to be added and for the tournament to last almost half a year before the Chennai Super Kings win it again. Known as a haven for some of the most cringeworthy cricket commentators around. Has a propensity to have “exciting” final over finishes on command. You wouldn’t bet on that every day, would you?

Barney Ronay – There is a trend in cricket writing, actually sports writing, where the author is actually writing to be told how dashed clever he is – if they were ice creams, not only would they lick themselves, they’d smear themselves with chocolate sauce before doing it. There are plenty in that genre, but Barney is among the best/worst exponents of this craft. If craft it is. The point of his articles, and his tweets, aren’t to inform, to report, to entertain you, to perhaps give you something to think about. It’s about “how damn good am I” and “look what angle this pseud has come up with”. It’s the over-weening self confidence and attitude that gets me – it’s snarking at those who disagree, bemoaning those who don’t worship his brilliance, and yes, annoying the hell out of a recreational writer who knows a charlatan when he sees one. Have a nice day Barney.

David Lloyd AKA Bumble: The main reason for why the mute button was invented. Bumble likes to cast himself as the man of the people and he has proved his case, if that means endlessly parroting the ECB’s agenda and refusing to answer any questions on anything that remotely matters to cricket fans. Establishment through and through, despite his protestations, and very happy to leave his morals at the door in favour of still clinging onto his Sky gig even if he somehow makes Shane Warne sound lucid in comparison. Desperately trying to appear hip with all the success of a 70 year old heading over to Ibiza in skinny jeans, a glow stick and an LP of Andy Williams. His mascot races, books and Bumble specials (see the Kings Road video if you fancy trying to rip your eyes out of their sockets) are about as funny as genital warts but far more painful.

28D3F8FF-EF72-4C5C-A27A-F2D4073E334F

Andy Bull – Guardian journalist/writer who popped up on our comments this year after some mild comments from one of our number, and it being helpfully pointed out to him by someone. Thanks for coming Andy. It was nice to hear from you. You spent ages on your little self-justifying tome, links and all, but impressions count, and I don’t remember you sticking it to the ECB when they needed it being stuck to. Then we might just have avoided this Hundred nonsense if you, and the rest of the press, had opened their eyes and seen it as the preview for ECB treating the hoi polloi like shit. But you live in your reality and I’ll live in mine. What MFing Side You On?

Sanjay Patel – Chief polisher of the turd that is The Hundred. Speaks like a politician, in that every statement seems to be a combination of wishful thinking, half-truths, and blatant lies. As such, probably the favourite to succeed Tom Harrison if any company would be prepared to offer the current ECB chief executive more than £700,000 per year.

Tom Harrison – I saw the other day someone who will remain nameless say Harrison deserves his £700k because it’s the going rate for snake oil salesman, lying three faced pricks, selling polished turds in Management Speak Bollox (MSB), while alienating pretty much most of the existing customer base, who just happen to be in charge of a sport. It’s especially worrying when that individual not only sticks his snout in the trough with incredible pay increases while his sport shrinks, he believes he’s been placed in this position to save us from ourselves and to save the sport. His modus operandi? 1. To blame and call names – the Obsessive County Cricket fan – they felt his misplaced ire. But if you are the architects of the dire problem…. not a bad word – Giles Clarke and the preceding shit show are not to be mentioned. 2. Think of an idea, run with it, sell it, ignore the peasants, secure patsy interviews and deny reality. Copious mentions of stakeholders, partners, pathways, culture and “the game” do not mean you. Love or loathe the incumbent at Number 10 but the PM gets paid 20% of this rate. Harrison is a liar, a dissembler, a fraud, a charlatan, a zealot, an idiot, a bully, a clown. But hey. £700k is the going rate. Downton must be sick. He would have been worth millions.

Colin Graves – AKA CostCutter Colin. He is still here as Chairman of the ECB somehow. I don’t think even Colin Graves can believe he is still here, but there he is still giving out Silver bats, awarding Ashes Test Matches to Headingley (no conflict of interest what so ever of course) and appearing on high profile presentations. Thankfully, it appears that his contract extension also contained a mute button, so he is unable to insult the counties or any other international opponent England might have to face in the near future. Will probably receive an OBE in the near future from our archaic class system as a forward thinking entrepreneur. Proud owner of a brand new cupboard under the stairs at the ECB’s HQ.

harrison&graves

Paul Farbrace –  If the sky darkens and one of the 30,000 evil characters in the Marvel Cinematic Universe shows up to take over the world (honestly, I can’t be the only person to watch these things saying “Who the hell is that, then?” every ten minutes), good old Chuckles would seek out a camera, laugh a few times and tell everyone that Iron Man just needed to execute his skills a bit better. It’s not a bad approach to life, and given some of what he’s been through probably reflects well on him to point out the inherent unimportance of sport. Even so, just once in a while a serious answer would have been nice.

Dominic Cork – A marginal inclusion, which might upset him if he gave a crap. The former all-rounder who got on everyone’s nerves, and resident of Stoke City’s car park during transfer deadline day (until Stoke got relegated), his most notable achievements this year have been getting Derbyshire to T20 Finals Day, and a Verdict (sorry Cricket Debate) in the wake of the first Ashes test defeat, with Charles ‘n’ Bob where he acted as if Tom Harrison was holding his nearest and dearest hostage. And no, I’ve not forgiven him from his anti-KP outbursts, of course I haven’t.

Mike Selvey – Highly successful ex-International Bowler (with a grand total of 3 caps to his name) and ex-Chief Cricket Correspondent of the Guardian before they finally saw sense and kicked him onto the street, not that he is bitter at all. Well known to have skin which is about as thick as water and a Twitter account in which he is now able to spout the same rubbish as he did when he was at the Guardian, with slightly less adulation than he feels is deserved. Currently enjoying a stellar campaign as President of Middlesex County Cricket Club, who are reversing backwards faster than a Michael Vaughan opinion. He doesn’t make decisions but acts like he does until called on them, and then says he doesn’t. Clear? A marker of cards and well versed in quoting unnamed sources, which naturally the public don’t deserve to have access to, because, well he is the Lord of the Manor and knows better than all you plebs. BOC still mourn the day he decided to abandon the construction of his blog, because it would have been bloody hilarious. Still sending love letters to David Saker when last checked.

Don Topley – Harry Gurney ideas, with a more human face. Not seen anything, ANYTHING, about the Hundred he doesn’t like. Doesn’t seem to contemplate that it will possibly be the death knell for the county he played for, and the county his son currently plays for. But we recognise the sacrifice, Don, and no doubt Tom will thank you someday. Maybe the ECB need your help. And yes, I do remember that catch at Lord’s. Those were the days.

Michael Henderson – There is, in every form of work, the example of someone who is there for reasons you can’t really understand – a totemic reminder of days past maybe? At the Cricketer Michael Henderson is still given writing gigs, still paid for his opinion, still earns from his contemptuous snobbery, and no-one seems to understand why. It is (for my good fortune) the only place I see his work these days, and its not pretty. Whether it’s barely concealed dislike of others (as the last one was), or snobbish references to the right kind of people in his eyes, or some stupid outdated cultural reference that has no bearing, no relevance, other than to act as some “upper being” spouting to the unwashed, it angers nearly every month. Yet it’s still printed. How did he get away with the September piece? If it hadn’t got mass objections, I guess it tells you a lot about the readership of the Cricketer. An anachronism in a world with pretty shitty people writing isn’t a good place to be. Go, in the name of God go, and take your poison pen with you. You can reference some opera singer as you push off out the door.

1286020A-C10E-441F-951D-BD6B95177160

Simon Hughes – He’s always rubbed me the wrong way, from the first time I saw him on Channel 4, being referred to as ‘The Analyst’ when the insights he gave were about of the level I’d expect from club coaches. Still using the name about 14 years after he presumably last provided regular analysis on TV seems like taking the piss, quite frankly. He loves the sound of his own voice, is arrogant without much justification, and is hilariously poor (given his nom de plume) at offering even the vaguest analysis of any tripe the ECB sends him. His editorial policy is questionable to say the least, and his podcast is like being stuck in a lift with the three most boring people on the planet for an hour. Nice guy though.

Nasser Hussain – Ex-England captain and one of the most frustrating presenters in the game. There are times when he can be thoughtful or downright spiky which can really add to viewers enjoyment in watching the game, just look at his piece about Root’s technique with Ponting during the Fourth Test or his series about Cricket in Mumbai, which was fascinating. However there are other times he either feels compelled to spout the ECB’s prologue or is so banal that he makes Botham seem cutting edge. Having a Daily Mail column isn’t helping things much either. Supposedly has a big nose and is tight. Wow. The japes they have in the Sky commentary box are just wonderful.

Robert Key – In life it is all about being in the right place at the right time. As a T20 commentator, he’s tried to balance analysis and bantz. Recently the former has been pants, and the bantz has been rank. For this, it appears promotion as a junior David Lloyd for test duty beckons. I suppose someone has to, but is this really the best we can do? And yes, I am bitter that every time I saw Kent play Surrey, this man made my life a misery.

David Warner – For Australian cricket to make such a pig’s ear of the Sandpaper affair that it caused twinges of sympathy for Warner in this parish was quite exceptional. That he’s managed to make himself about as popular as an itch down below is rather beside the point. The mood lighting, arm around the shoulder (literally) poor ickle Steve and Cameron press conferences contrasted wildly with the way Warner was thrown in to a barely disguised hostile one. He then confounded expectations by refusing to dish the dirt (dammit) but instead acting contrite and providing the waterworks fully expected of Australian cricketers caught with their hands in the cookie jar. New gentle Davey didn’t last particularly long, though longer than all of his innings lasted in the recent Ashes series. Last seen trying to get out of Stuart Broad’s pocket.

65AE47FC-2410-47EB-8CE3-0CD5FA08E225

Geoff Lemon – A number of things amaze me. Michael Henderson writes articles for the Cricketer. Martin Samuel thinks he can write about cricket. Today’s rap artists compared to Public Enemy. Jason Roy as a test opener. You get the picture. Geoff wrote a book. It won lots of awards. Never shy to march out of step from received wisdom, I thought it was (for large parts) utterly atrocious. A Jarrod Kimber tribute band, playing tired old metaphors and similes, attempting to be Gideon Haigh. But everyone else loved it. His excoriating takedown of Channel 9 was a career highlight – but that was a long time ago. I didn’t think Steve Smith’s Men was a highlight. I make no apologies. Perhaps Rusty might tell tales on me for saying so.

Jonny Bairstow – England stalwart who is known to throw his toys out of his pram every time anyone suggests that he isn’t quite a good enough keeper and has a gap in his defence so large that you could fly a jumbo jet through. Currently trying to do his best impression of James Vince by making 20 odd before attempting a shot that Stuart Broad would be embarrassed with. Known to be about as bright as nightfall in the Sahara Desert.

Ed Smith – Someone from a public school who inexplicably gets a job for which he has no experience or track record, despite being banged to rights for plagiarism in his former role. You can tell if England are ahead in a game or not by whether Sky’s cameras can pick Ed Smith out in the crowd. In fact, it’s arguably more accurate than WinViz. His one shining success in terms of Test selection was Jos Buttler, who averaged 24.70 this summer. Generally speaking, a lot more misses than hits in his selections so far.

41842608-1104-4467-95DF-B6066D7E7E7A

James Taylor – Someone from a public school who inexplicably gets a job for which he has no experience or track record. On the plus side, no one seems certain about what his role actually is, apart from almost always being pictured with Ed Smith. About as interesting as watching paint dry in interviews.

Sir Andrew Strauss – Strauss appears to be the man getting all of the credit for the men’s World Cup victory. He hired Trevor Bayliss, he was in the selection meetings, he explicitly made it the priority for English cricket. That’s fine. But it also presumably means that he’s responsible for the bad things too. England’s Test team, for example. Their lacklustre T20 record. The backsliding of the women’s team from the heights of 2017. Aside from all that, it’s difficult to forgive him for his disastrous launching of The Hundred. It’s genuinely incredible how inept it was. Essentially telling existing cricket fans that it wasn’t for them because “mums and kids” were the priority. Insulting those mums and kids by saying that the only reason that they didn’t already like cricket was because they were too stupid to understand it. Truly, this belongs in a textbook teaching students how not to promote a new product.

Harry Gurney – Started out at Leicestershire and yet wants to get rid of or demote the lesser counties so that ‘top’ players like him can get more money. Not awash with self-awareness, bless him. I had to check to make sure he didn’t attend Radley College, because his approach to winning friends and influencing people is remarkably similar to that of Andrew Strauss. Has more Twitter followers than you or I, so there.

Martin Samuel – Putting Martin Samuel on cricket duty is a public affront to decency. It would be like your humble author being tasked to write about ballet (a load of skinny people dancing on their tippie-toes to some god awful tosh music). When the Ashes comes round, old Martin pulls the Oiliver (deliberate typo) Holt stunt of saying “I’m a SPORTS writer, dammit” and gets to unleash some putrid shite onto the Mail website; a forum awash with the stuff. What the proper cricket writers must think of this oaf, the cricket equivalent of the hippos in Fantasia, or any hippo actually, being let loose is anyone’s guess. I await the “Samuel on Stumps” anthology book or live tour announcement any day now. It’ll be a ripper. Cricket writing needs Samuel like a fish needs a sunbed.

FB76CF9A-5E76-4F0D-989E-64F1096E4FFF

John Etheridge – Chief Cricket Correspondent for the Sun. I genuinely don’t think there’s any more I need to say. After the events of this week, I wonder how he can remain. I suppose getting paid a small fortune travelling the world watching cricket is, as Chicago once sang, a hard habit to break.

Shane Warne – Aww mate, you’ve got to be prepared to lose in order to win. Warne is like one of those individuals in the pub who keeps banging on about the same opinion for as long as anyone will let him. I reckon even Warne tires of his own voice at times. Used to be known as the best leg spinner ever, but now more synonymous with plastic surgery, terrible banter and frequently bedding younger women. The bastard. Soon to become the head coach of the new Hundred franchise at Lords, which will no doubt massively upset many of the MCC members. A small win for us fans who will have to put up with this turd of a competition.

Virat Kohli – A character that divides opinion. In India they adore him, but not like they adored Sachin and still do Dhonut. Outside of India, most appear to think of him as a flash, gobby, unsporting oik. Me? I am worried about his neck. He hurt it instead of playing for Surrey. I still wonder, to this day, how Guildford would have coped. Will probably end up with 80 ODI hundreds, we’ll remember none of them, and no-one will care.

MS Dhoni – AKA Dhonut. Is to run chases as I am to work deadlines. Whereas in my younger days I had the stamina to pull rabbits out of hats, deliver work from nowhere and get the job done, now the sands of time have prevented me and I have to start the task earlier or fail. There’s a lesson MS. Unfortunately when I fail, I get a bollocking from my bosses. When Dhoni fails, his fanboys and girls threaten anyone who dare question the great god Donut with fates worse than death. Like watching Dhoni ramp the run rate up to 12 an over, and manufacture T20 games to go to the last over. I have absolutely no reasons to question anything here. Really I don’t.

Tim Paine – Has a reputation as a nice guy, but this is very much relative to his predecessors. Still allows gobby shits like Wade and Lyon to mouth off at the opponents, and still cheats if he can get away with it. The most annoying thing for me was his insistence on handshakes before games. His team gets caught cheating, everyone else piles in about all of the (objectively worse) other stuff Australia had been doing for years, so why did they think they could force the opposition teams into a PR exercise like that.

Nick Knight – In keeping with his status as the most vanilla of broadcasters, I had to go and check what I’d said about him last time. It mostly consisted of him saying “would you believe it?” repeatedly, and that’s absolutely dandy, because since Knight just repeats “would you believe it?” all the time, it seems appropriate to do the same to him. Would you believe it?

Angus Fraser – Grumpy former England and Middlesex bowler and now even grumpier special guest on the Verdict. Spends most of his time looking like he’d rather be anywhere else than on TV and responds to any questions he’s asked with the look of someone who has been asked to recite the first 200 numbers of PI with someone standing on his testicles. Currently overseeing the complete demise of Middlesex as Director of Cricket, which has proved to be a veritable banquet of mirth for 2 of our editors and yet has made another of our editors very sad indeed.

Ian “Wardy” Ward – “Great question Wardy”. If you are looking for a point where the scales tipped from my eyes, that was it. The arch-enemy, the zealot with not-a-lot, the establishment money guzzler, with so much to defend (Tom Harrison), treating his TV interviewer with contempt by using his nickname – and the interviewer smiling away. Pat Murphy, for one, would not have stood for that crap. Wardy’s post-match interview technique has turned from probing and incisive, to “why are you so great”. And now he’s reportedly moving into Gower’s seat as presenter. While good with Masterclass, the perils are there, the warning signs are flashing, the whispers of being too close to the players are louder and louder. Let the new era, or error, begin.

img_6010

Steve Smith – One of our number proudly points out that as far back as 2010 he insisted to all and sundry that Smith was destined to be a Test player of repute while everyone else was laughing themselves silly at his bowling being smacked around the park and his batting was all over the place. His batting is still all over the place of course, but with the difference that no bugger can get him out any more. This startling insight and genius punditry would be more notable were it not for said writer also insisting that David Warner wouldn’t last 15 Tests. Has infuriated everyone all summer for managing to have a technique similar to a drunken crab while selfishly refusing to get out to anyone. Eventually won around the English fans to the point that he got a standing ovation as he walked off after his second innings dismissal at the Oval, which at least had the benefit of shutting up the more sanctimonious short memory Australians who treated booing as though it was the worst crime since Bodyline. Which they’re still whining about 90 years on come to that.

Joe Root – What happened to you Joe? Just a couple of years ago, you were a young cheeky chappy with a grin fixed on your face and the enviable problem of scoring too many fifties. Now you look like you’re ten years older, you’re more likely to get a duck than reach a half-century, and your captaincy is almost making us long for the halcyon days of your predecessor. What have the ECB done to you?

E4910855-CB5A-4CBE-8735-504F5A0D2A30

Trevor Bayliss – Ex-England Head Coach who had as much interest in county cricket as the rest of the editors do for Kabbadi. Played a key role in changing the mentality of our white ball approach and deserves credit for helping to win the World Cup; however Test Cricket always seemed a bit of an after-thought for him. Likely heading for a career coaching various T20 franchises across the World. Liked very much by the England players but don’t ever try and pull his shorts down as Mark Wood found out. Should be knighted for services to scented candles, whale music and yucca plants.

Kevin Pietersen – Officially branded a “genius” by Sky TV, five years after said “genius” was sacked so we could pick Gary Ballance, and keep a crap captain in power. I haven’t been as offended by a replacement since Technotronic turned up at a PA, and neither of the two main protagonists showed up. Anyway, said genius still has all the media etiquette skills of the animal he is trying to save and sometimes he should can it, but hey, he’s interesting, annoying and you’d still watch his greatest innings over any other English player not named (possibly) Bell or Gower. And I annoy my wife no end with the “Because they’re my mates” impression from that Sky documentary, which amuses only me. Rumours are Tom Harrison wants to appoint him as PR head to convince sceptical county fans that the Hundred is great. If Carlsberg did piss-takes…..

KP Birthday

Stuart Broad – Fantastic Test bowler and even better comedian on the pitch, Test cricket would be a lot poorer without his various celebrappeals and complete lack of understanding of how DRS works. At one point, he was considered England’s next all-round great, but was in decline before getting hit in the face by Varun Aaron and since then his batting has looked like it has been based around the Devon Malcolm school of batting (he has a higher test best than Mark Waugh!). Has finally learnt how to pitch the ball up after 10 years of trying and now has his own rental space in David Warner’s head.

Jimmy Anderson – Legendary England swing and seam bowler who has transformed himself from wild tearaway to metronomic grumpy wicket taker par excellence. Has an end named after him at Old Trafford which probably represents the greatest achievement any male could wish to obtain, though I may have slightly misunderstood what that’s about. Has reached the point where his cricketing prowess allows the great and the good to defend him even when he’s not behaved particularly well on the field, a privilege reserved to a very few. Subject of complaints that he hasn’t had a knighthood when batsmen are queueing up for them. Made an observation in the documentary The Edge that had one of our number falling off his chair at the known for certain brazen hypocrisy of it.

Glamorgan – One of just three counties not to develop a single men’s England Test cricketer in the past 10 years, but the only one which hosts international games and a men’s team in The Hundred. It would benefit English cricket immeasurably if they split off to become the Welsh national team. It probably wouldn’t damage the development of Welsh cricketers either, to be honest.

Sir Alastair Cook – It has been a contention of mine that the single most divisive figure in English cricket in the past decade hasn’t been that batsman who was sacked, but rather a batsman that was extraordinarily backed. In being forced to be the face of a regime who treated the supporters as the bien peasants, Cook took up the cudgels and milked it, and in turn got the love of an entire media gang. The Cook era is a key one for English Cricket. It’s not about his stats, it’s about what he stood for, either intentionally or not. Backing Alastair Cook became a matter of faith, a matter of your applicability to be a real CRICKET fan. You had to love him. Or else. I can’t be humorous, or wise crack about this. This was a cult, with the dullest leader imaginable. As long as Outside Cricket has breath, Cook will be here. The handsome prince of English cricket. The cult leader of the insipid. The face of the ECB. Jonathan Agnew’s BFF. Records be damned.

2A002065-E8C9-4D3C-8DC2-834C5554CD94

The T20 Blast – So called mediocre tournament that the ECB is desperately trying to get rid of despite growing crowds and fan affiliation. Supposedly can only attract mediocre white ball players such as AB de Villiers, Aaron Finch, Glenn Maxwell, Rashid Khan, Michael Klinger, Mohammed Amir and Faf du Plessis to the tournament. Likely to eventually be phased out for something the ECB management team designed on an empty packet of fags between lunches, because they know better than the fans after all. Still not enough women and children for the ECB’s liking.

Somerset – Lesser county somewhere near Wales that was last in the national headlines for King Alfred burning some cakes. Worth pointing out that he went to Somerset to hide from an entire army looking for him. And succeeded.  In more recent times the 14 residents of this backwater have not only discovered Twitter, but have launched a takeover, leading some to the mistaken impression that they’re important. Currently playing Minor Counties, probably.

Cricket Highlights on 5: I reckon a highlights programme with commentary from Michael Vaughan, Graeme Swann and Mark Nicholas would probably make kids have nightmares about the sport and certainly not want to pick up a bat unless they were able to use it to hit said commentators. Certainly not one for the casual fan as it’s the first and last programme I will probably ever watch on that channel.

New Zealand cricket team – On this list primarily because they’re so damn likeable, even in the cruelest of defeats. Imagine the howling from the England camp and press if we’d have lost in such a manner.

Russell Jackson – For one day only, this man made himself look an idiot. But he didn’t keep it to himself.

pexels-photo-413195

Dean Wilson – Poor old Dean, he so desperately wants to leave his position as Chief Correspondent of the Mirror to become the next ECB head of communications. So much so that he is happy to trot out any old rubbish the ECB gives him. Was referred to as a journalist during lunch in a gathering at the 5th Test, which is probably the first time that has ever happened. It is well known that being the Chief Correspondent of the Daily Mirror is more akin to be deputy train manager of the Island line in the Isle of Wight. Likes a free lunch or five.

Piers Morgan – Unaccountably left out of the last Outside Cricket list due entirely to the ineptitude of the writers. Chief cheerleader for Kevin Pietersen, which is about as useful as having Katie Hopkins appear as a character witness. Acknowledged in the KP documentary that this may not have been entirely helpful, which is probably the only occasion he’s ever come close to an apology. The blog will be forever grateful to him for infuriating those Inside Cricket sufficiently that they responded by giving us our name, and then leading one idiot to publicly say that we were his online agents. One of our number has played cricket against him on a couple of occasions, where he increased the sense of outrage by coming across as a fairly pleasant bloke. Totally unacceptable.

Gordon Hollins – Ex-Chief Operating Officer of the ECB and now Managing Director of County Cricket (haha), Hollins is still there owing to the fact that he now resides in a small basket next to Tom Harrison’s bed and has stopped soiling the carpet. Over qualified for the role as an ex-Commercial Director at Durham CCC, which naturally didn’t stop him from taking a steaming dump on his former employer. Wheeled out when either Tom Harrison or Sanjay Patel have more important things to do like meet a sponsor or count their money.

A1F0BE78-6A80-47C2-9BB3-555AA8B09ECB

Sam Morshead – Erstwhile digital editor of the Cricketer, who has shown exceptionally poor judgement by failing to include himself in the Cricketer’s own list, breaking all convention and tradition, and thus showing himself to be far less of a man than Simon Hughes. Has feet of a type last seen in the Lord of the Rings, and looks a bit like Frodo too, come to that.

Jim Maxwell – Legendary Australian radio commentator who is a welcome visitor to these shores every four years – or more frequently as the ECB and Cricket Australia determine for financial cricketing reasons. Has rarely put a foot wrong on air and is a pleasure to listen to. Makes this list by virtue of the fact that he quite plainly cares vastly more for the health of English cricket than most of his English colleagues, and is not shy of saying so, and he liked and commented on one of our tweets (we’re so shallow). Good on him, but while it says a lot about him, it says far more about those others that this is the case, and that’s pretty scandalous in itself.

Middlesex – Every single Middlesex player and member seems to be a champagne-quaffing, tweed-wearing, Waitrose-shopping stereotype who looks down on Jacob Rees-Mogg for being too common. Despite their ostentatious demonstrations of wealth, including their own official diamond merchants and Porsche dealerships, they still can’t afford their own ground and have to rent one from someone else. This is fair enough, considering London prices, but you would think that they would be able to find one which was at least level. I would certainly complain to my landlord if I was living in a property with a lopsided floor. That a professional (and international) cricket ground has this issue is, quite frankly, embarrassing. More worringly, ex-Middlesex players seem predisposed to finding other jobs in cricket once their playing careers end. They tend to be jobs which they lack the experience and talent required to do it fully, which means that people (including us) notice them: Administrators, selectors, coaches and journalists. No sector of English cricket is untainted by Middlesex. Of the forty-ish ex-cricketers in this list, at least ten played for them. One of our editors is slightly less than impressed with this entry.

Mark Robinson – He deserves enormous plaudits for taking the England women’s team to the heights of success, culminating in a thrilling World Cup win in 2017 at a packed Lord’s. Thereafter the team went into reverse faster than an Italian tank, and by 2019 Australia weren’t just beating England, in England, but were handing out a a thrashing game after game. Another lauded when successful by Lord, but excused when the wheels fell off (the players fault, natch). Resigned his position as a result, thus demonstrating a degree of integrity scarcely ever seen in ECB circles and certainly not from those who slashed the investment in the women’s game and sacrificed the successful and growing Kia Super League on the altar of the Hundred.

Remember him? We have tried to forget…

Mark Ramprakash – Former England Test Player and England batting coach, who managed to make a huge mess of both jobs. His main achievement as coach was to bring down the England batting unit’s average to around his career Test average and whose mess is now being tended to by Graham Thorpe. Firm believer in accountability, as long as it is not his accountability being questioned. Likely to end up in ‘I’m A Celebrity, Get Me Out Of Here’ this year.

Jason Roy – I understand that professional sportsmen have a lot of self-confidence. That it may even be part of the job. Would any great, unlikely, unbelievable sporting moment if the people involved weren’t absolutely convinced that they were 100% certain to triumph? Even if the chain of events to get there was so improbable that their belief was verging on delusion. But, even acknowledging this, how on Earth did Jason Roy think he could be England’s Test opener?

4FBBEB4D-1F9E-406D-B3D0-9629CCAFAF74

Pavel Florin – Romanian superstar cricketer who managed to move from figure of fun to cricketing icon faster than a Jofra Archer bouncer. His enthusiasm for the game is boundless, the faint whiff of condescension from those approving of his efforts mere moments after laughing at them unmistakable. Undoubtedly a welcome voice in terms of spreading the word of cricket beyond its traditional boundaries, which is one reason the ICC wouldn’t dream of making use of him. Cannot be forgiven by any club cricketer anywhere around the world for having a Cricinfo profile when we do not.

Andy Nash – Most akin to a reformed smoker lecturing all around him on how appalling it is that other people are partaking. Former Somerset Chairman and ECB board member whose trenchant opposition to the Hundred would be slightly less confusing had he not been part of the group that passed the idea in the first place. It may well be that this is an entirely unfair reading of events, since the opacity of all ECB decision making is such that voting records don’t necessarily mean agreement. Nash is now reduced to shouting from the sidelines about how terrible it’s going to be while absolutely no one Inside Cricket engages him. He is (of course) correct, but he is now experiencing the kind of cold shoulder to his views experienced over many years by that tiny, unimportant group of people called cricket fans.

AB De Villiers – Like the guy who turns up at your annual Christmas Party unannounced after having left the company 8 months ago, AB did exactly the same at the World Cup as there weren’t any 20/20 leagues going on at the same time. Well known for bouts of extreme tiredness that can suddenly be cured by a large wedge of cash being waved in his face. Expect the same thing to happen at the next World Cup unless the Albanian Professional T20 league are offering big money.

Mr Maximooo – AKA Vinny Sandhu, the hugely excitable commentator of the inaugural European Cricket League. Took to shouting “Maximooo!” extremely loudly when a six was hit, which was highly amusing at first, but started to grate somewhat in a tournament that turned into a real life version of Stick Cricket, with virtually every ball disappearing out of the park. To his credit, he acknowledged that point afterwards, and his clear love of what was going on endeared him to a small but increasingly dedicated audience watching cricket being played purely because the players loved the sport, and so did the commentators. A Celebrity Death Match with Danny Morrison beckons.

Nope. Still not a clue. The halcyon days of the ECB!

DAB Radio – Needs a particular entry in here simply because for years we’ve been told that digital radio is the future, that we all need to chuck our analogue receivers out, and that having DAB in the car is far better than some crackly old signal on 198 LW. But here’s the problem: It’s shit. It’s monumentally, utterly shit. Any journey undertaken that involves travelling more than 50 yards beyond Broadcasting House involves more drop outs than the first year of a media studies course. On one occasion, I managed to miss two England wickets in the period while it was searching madly for a signal while driving on the motorway, which says a hell of a lot about England’s batting, but even more about the utter pup we’ve been sold as a viable means of listening. I don’t know who was responsible for this complete shambles, but I’m going to find out and write a strongly worded letter – mostly because if I say it on digital radio they’ll only hear the first two words before it cuts out again.

World Cup Super Overs – Anything that is designed to be finite and then fails to be so, thus making the decision of the winner on the number of boundaries scored is always going to get on our goat. Interestingly enough those who whinge about it most aren’t our Kiwi friends but legions of Indian and Australian fans, who didn’t actually make the final. Ca’ Plus Change.

Lawrence Booth – Glory-hunting Manchester City and Northants fan (possibly a unique combination) who occasionally writes nasty things about the ECB in his sideline as Wisden Almanack editor. Has a fairly routine Daily Mail column that still looks like Shakespeare next to Martin Samuel’s cricket forays, but disappears between January and April on a long holiday.

BOC Rushmore v2

Kumar Dharmasena – ICC World Umpire of the Year 2018, which is about the most damning statistic about the health of umpiring in our international game. More known now for giving shocking decisions and a complete lack of understanding of the rules of cricket. Somehow makes us pine for the days of S.Ravi, who he has miraculously made to look like a competent umpire.

Ricky Ponting – Sometimes in life, you get to meet your heroes. And all too often they show that they have feet of clay. Disappointment is often the result, a bad memory to taint the good ones you have. Imagine then the even more acute disappointment to be found when Ricky Ponting decided to go entirely the other way. He had been a monumental pain in the arse as batsman and captain of Australia, partly because he was so bloody good, and partly because he was combative, fantastically bad tempered and insistent that he defined where the line was while the rest of the world rolled their eyes. His appearance in the commentary box this summer was therefore a massive disappointment – not because he was bad, far from it. Instead he was engaging, witty, brilliantly incisive and came across as a thoroughly all round good egg. This. Is. Not. Good. Enough. We want our Australian enemies to be the bastards we always expected them to be, not to turn out to be delightful. That Mitchell Johnson had rocked up and been equally engaging merely made it worse.

Derek Pringle – Why me? Why do I have to write about this person? What have I done? Other than the wikipedia article, which we talked about last time, and the fact he’s written a book that I’ll wait until it gets to £0.01 on Amazon secondhand to buy, and that he’s some bon viveur now used for those talking head pieces on Sky, and that he’s the Chief Cricket Writer at the Metro, what else is there to say? I’m warming to him? That I shouldn’t have been mean about him? Hell No. HELL NO.

Ellyse Perry – You could say that she was the female equivalent of Steve Smith in terms of her complete dominance over the England team this summer, but it’s not quite true. She is better at bowling than Smith. Has done absolutely nothing wrong and is a powerful standard bearer for women’s cricket. Unfortunately, she’s both a bloody good player and Australian, which in itself is grounds for excommunication.

Sheldon Cottrell – Ok. We get why he does the salute and, as reasons go, it’s not a bad one. The only problem is that it’s been done before (and in an infinitely funnier manner) when Marlon Samuels did it to Ben Stokes and got away without having the bat wrapped around his head. There’s merit in it as long as you’re first, and he wasn’t.

Kumar Sangakkara – A batting career similar to Steve Smith but with attractive shots already marked him out as a cricketing great, but in retirement he’s managed to improve his standing even further. Firstly by doing Sky masterclasses that are so impressive Sky daren’t repeat them 30 times a day, and second by quite pointedly doing commentary that ignores David Lloyd’s banter and talks about the game itself. Has a delightful habit of pausing for a few seconds after a fellow commentator has talked about wicket-keeping to make it abundantly clear he thinks they’re talking bollocks. Sangakkara then goes on with all the skills of a diplomat to explain why. At this stage the suspicion is growing that this is all too good to be true, and at some point he’s going to rip his face off and reveal he’s the leader of an alien invasion.

Innocent Bystander – Bestriding Twitter like a gambling colossus. Friend of the blog (we think) and all round top contributor to social media. If there’s an irrelevant, gobshite T20 league in the world, and it’s playing, he’ll be on it, making the readies – watch out for the Kazakhstan regional T20 any day now, and IB will be on the Almaty Matters, while his bete noire will be favouring the Astana Stammers. Very convinced of Australia’s position as self-appointed arbiter of world cricketing etiquette, he doesn’t, at all, go on about it.

Michael Clarke – One of the list of Australian cricketers who highlight the difference in approach between Cricket Australia and the ECB when dealing with the “shit bloke” problem. In the wake of tragedy he conducted himself with a dignity and sense of leadership that caused many cricket followers of all nationalities to assert with awe that they’d happily follow him to the gates of hell, and has since then steadily eroded the goodwill by the simple medium of absolutely refusing to shut the fuck up in the commentary box. In decades past Richie Benaud used words sparingly and when he felt there was something worthwhile to say. Clarke observed and learned from the example of Benaud, but unfortunately by misunderstanding the brief and assuming that every single one of the silences needed to be filled. It is deeply impressive to be so much the anti-Benaud that grown men have been known to weep, or worse still, turn over to TMS to listen to the witterings of Graeme Swann instead.

Ben Stokes – England’s best player across all 3 formats who has basically piggy backed the rest of the England team this summer in the Ashes and in the World Cup. Victim of a horrendous piece of gutter journalism from the Scum, which he handled both intelligently and maturely. Still barred from enjoying the bright lights of Bristol’s glorious nightlife due to a small misunderstanding.

img_6008

Mo Bobat – The ‘behind the scenes’ driving force of Ed Smith’s currently highly successful selection policy. After all, it is mandatory to have such a resource to rely on to pick a successful white ball opener who has never batted for over 2 sessions in a red ball game and a plucky, if not quite talented enough 33 year old county specialist for the Test team; That’s why he is paid the big bucks after all. Well known to do a “chuckles’ in that he suddenly appears in the papers when all is going well, yet suddenly goes missing in action when they’re not. Last seen in Teesside building a wooden canoe for reasons not currently known.

Ian Smith – There was a period fairly early on in the World Cup final when Smith was on commentary with Michael Atherton and Michael Holding. There followed half an hour or so of cricketing nirvana, as the three of them talked with intelligence, humour that didn’t veer into slapstick, and deep insight into the game of cricket that was an unadulterated pleasure to listen to. His calling of the super over was commentary brilliance, and made everyone regret his departure at the tournament’s conclusion. So what is he doing on this list? Well he still can’t pronounce fish and chips properly and I’m sorry, but that’s enough reason for anyone.

Simon Kuper – Have you read that Ed Smith interview? Have you? Any pretence of remaining a hard hitting journalist evaporated in the opening stanza. “Ed Smith, England’s chief cricket selector, has been irritatingly over-blessed by the gods: brainy, courteous, a former England batsman, admired author and well-dressed man. This morning he strides into a King’s Cross café in sunglasses and a wound scarf that scream Saint-Tropez, 1963.” But it gets better when he asks the startling naive: “Today is day four of the fourth Ashes test. Shouldn’t he be in Manchester watching England-Australia?” The correct answer is “Because they were about to lose the Ashes, and he didn’t want the cameras on him,” you pillock. The easiest answer is usually the best one, Simon. Call your next book Cricket Against The Plagiarists. Instead of worshiping one.

Peter Lalor – The fact that everyone knows about Lalor for the fact that he got wrongly charged an exorbitant amount for a beer at the Malmaison in Manchester rather than for anything he has ever written about says a lot about his journalism. I mean who has $99,000 AUS in their account? My card would have spontaneously combusted at 1/10th of that cost.

Matt Prior – Cycling guru who used to be fairly handy with the willow and gloves for England. Has kept a fairly low cricketing profile since retiring from the game, low enough to avoid making an appearance on the KP documentary because he found it too difficult, though The Edge was apparently worthy of his input.  Resurfaced recently to quite gloriously provoke Shane Warne into a fantastically Australian response that reasserted their national obsession with telling everyone else where the line is and (even better) managed to get Chris Adams caught in the crossfire.

Denis – Cricket “writer”, shit stirrer and now a government spokesman for Pakistan. The world of cricket writing takes you to curious places, curious situations and curiouser outcomes. Does he still write a blog? I have absolutely no idea. We might spell his name wrongly one day, too.

Bob Willis – It remains the case that England having a bad day or (better still) a catastrophic day gives cause to wishing to tune into the Sky Cricket review just to see how Uncle Bob will respond to it. He rarely disappoints, providing significant entertainment with a generally epic rant that causes no end of amusement. Tends to be less comfortable when Charles Colville asks him a difficult question or (worse still) reminds him of something he’d said previously that contradicted it entirely. Given the ruthless culling of Gower and Botham, his time in the chair may be somewhat limited but he remains worth having just for the baleful sneer usually aimed at England batsmen who fully deserve it.

Scyld Berry – There is a place in cricket and in journalism for the gloriously bonkers hack who switches between acute insight and the most unadultered bullshit, seemingly at will. His player ratings are the stuff of legend, particularly during the Cook era where the sainted one managing to put his shoes on the right way around was generally worthy of an 8. Hasn’t quite got the hang of Twitter where people have been known to answer back to his tweets.

Andy Flower – I honestly thought he had left the ECB but he has instead being maintaining a “dignified silence” ( © Paul Newman). One might infer that he was staying quiet until there was a single English cricketer who had been improved by their time at Loughborough or the Lions team under his tenure. Zero successes in five years is a pretty remarkable statistic. Perhaps he’s enjoying his new celebrity after the release of The Edge: A documentary about his time in charge of the England men’s team and how he drove several players to their physical and/or mental breaking points. Still inexplicably employed by the ECB to prepare young and promising players for international cricket. Still waiting for that first success story too.

img_6006

Gary Ballance – It’s ironic for Gary to be blessed with such a surname when balance and poise are the two things he severely lacks at the crease. If you believe Twitter, you’d have thought that England had left out the new Brian Lara rather than a chubby Zimbabwean whose foot movement looks like he has 2 bricks attached to each boot. Dropped twice owing to the fact that his pads are an even bigger target than Shane Watson’s.

Chris Silverwood – Has somehow managed to persuade Stuart Broad and the rest of the English bowlers to pitch it up in useful conditions, which is something that many have tried and failed before. Naturally this is totally unacceptable behaviour and will harm his chances of becoming England’s Head Coach massively despite leading an un-fancied Essex team to the County Championship. Will probably be let go in the next England revolution for a bowling coach who wants to put the wind up the opposing batsmen.

Wisden Cricket Monthly – Here’s a funny thing. During the World Cup, the bulk of the writing staff for this prestigious magazine appeared to have been seconded to the ICC’s own official World Cup site. Let’s just say that their reporting on the ICC’s machinations in future will be treated with considerable caution.

Mexican Waves – Probably one of my biggest bugbears. Just watch the bloody game that you’ve bought overpriced tickets for and drunk ridiculously expensive pissy beer. Anyone who is found starting one of these should have the choice of facing Jofra Archer in the nets for an hour without a helmet or becoming Simon Hughes’ full time secretary. That should cut them out in next to no time.

Twitter Pseuds – You know how this works. A player strokes a cover drive off a reasonably decent bowler, in a televised match, and it’s not enough, by heaven it isn’t, to say “cracking shot”, it’s “I want to take that cover drive for dinner, wine it, dine it, and take it to a luxury spa for a three week getaway in a tropical paradise”. That sort of shit. That sort of nonsense. There are many culprits, BR isn’t just the former initials of our national railway and VE isn’t just the day the world celebrates the defeat of Nazi Germany. Yeah. At least our Twitter feed is funny!

Guardian Below The Line – BTL. A haven for the unaware, over praised, self assured, convinced of their own brilliance, and masters of fawning over Lord, Victor and any other writer who gets their well-heeled juices flowing. While some of this parish still venture into this land of one-eyed, where the blind is king, it has been avoided for many a day by those keen to maintain sanity. Blogs are for ruffians they say. Scoundrels. Bilious Inadequates. Non-county cricket fans. There are no think tanks in Southern Ireland, ECB fanboys can speak and thrill themselves, and the beat goes on.

Sky Cricket Channel Subscribers – Not all, but you know the kind. The one who pays THEIR subscription, and when a world-scale event gets to a Final, and is put on free-to-air for long-term benefit, complains that they have paid their subs, so “Why should those who don’t pay when I do, get to experience what I have paid MY MONEY for”. They proliferated on the Guardian which, as self-awareness goes, is either miles ahead of your time or you are a weapons grade idiot. They think the bigger picture is their Sky bill, and THEIR sacrifice for English Cricket. After all, “it’s only a cup of coffee a day to subscribe”. Really. I have two espressos a day, and they cost 60p. Where the hell are you buying your brew, you gullible twits? And that’s not a day pass on Sky, I can assure you. I don’t hear the moans about Sky not picking up all available overseas cricket, endless repeats of Masterclass and their own series, and Legends of Cricket. No. Don’t let the hoi polloi in, whatever you do. I PAID for this.

Sky Subscribers who don’t have access to BT Sport:  The last away Ashes highlighted a particular breed, the smug tossers who have a Sky account, but who don’t have a BT one. All of a sudden they started complaining and whining about having to pay for cricket, even though it was, to use their above justification, just a coffee or two a day. It wasn’t just ordinary people on Twitter either (you can always find someone to complain about something). It was journalists and even the ECB piling in to object to a broadcaster other than Sky daring to show England play cricket, and finding that they might have to spend a bit of their own money to do so. The lack of self-awareness was astounding, as though the aristocracy had been denied their particular wine supplier because Laithwaites (oh my, shudder) had hoovered up the contracts. Some might say that being that wedded to thinking Sky were the good guys was somewhat instructive about where their loyalties lie, but we couldn’t possibly comment. Oh, ok we will – it was frankly embarrassing.

Miss Me Yet

Paul Downton – We simply couldn’t have an ‘outside cricket list’ without the man who helped give us our ‘nomme de guerre’. Sorely missed for his press conferences, interviews and any other time he was on TV as he made the rest of us look like Professors of Classics from Cambridge University.

Marnus Labuschagne – Labooscayne, Labuskakne, Laboochange, Laboochanya….oh sod it.

Near Misses:

Isa Guha – Erstwhile commentator who has managed to break up the laddish banter on Sky. Announced that she will be the lead presenter on the BBC’s Hundred coverage – Why Isa? Why?

Ali Martin – Chief Cricket correspondent for the Guardian who has restored the their cricket coverage to something resembling normality after his predecessor got moved on. Still won’t meet us for a beer mind and definitely needs to do something about that beard.

Matthew Wade – Australian gob-shite whose mouth is far more talented than his ability on the cricket field. England allowed him to score 2 centuries in the Ashes to cement his place in the Aussie squad. You’re welcome Australia.

Giles Clarke – The original cockroach who has finally been turfed out of the ECB. Responsible for many of the ills befalling English Cricket.

A Simply Charming Man – Still My Favourite GC picture…

Jofra Archer’s Twitter account – It’s all getting a bit tedious now isn’t it.

Michael Holding – Often seems more interested in what is going on in the horse racing than on the cricket field; however he brilliantly put the execs at Sunset & Vine in their place during the World Cup. One of our number met him at Lords this year and can confirm he is a top guy.

Peter Moores – Former two time England Head Coach with a penchant for nicking the best players from smaller counties. Hasn’t stopped him from being relegated twice mind. So much for the English coach of his generation. Likes data.

Ashley Giles – New Director, England Cricket. Given the benefit of the doubt as he is still new in post. Nailed on to make the list should we ever do another one.

Andrew Miller – Only to remark that one of our editorial board thinks the sun shines out of his rear end and that he should write more. Have we forgotten someone?


This list is arbitrary, unfair and the result of the four of us having to wait a few years before we could have our views expressed on certain individuals (outside of our tremendous Glossary, of course).

If you’re on the list and are offended, then good, our work is done here. If you aren’t, you are either too good, too dull or now too irrelevant for us to write about.

The Editorial Team….

Advertisements

A Little Trailer…

Outside Cricket Day 9 Feb

A number of you may remember the Cricket Power List that the Cricketer Magazine ran a couple of years ago.

You may remember that we did our own thing.

The new Cricket Power List is out tomorrow. I can exclusively reveal that Simon Hughes has not included himself this year.

Your editorial team thought it high time to update our Outside Cricket list too. Here is our previous iteration – https://beingoutsidecricket.com/the-outside-cricketer-list/.

Coming tomorrow. The Power Cut List!

 

Tell Me To Relax, I Just Stare – Alas Smith and Roy

I have had a post on my mind for a while, and it’s never really presented an example by which to convey it accurately, (and having written the piece now, I’m still not sure I did – but stick with it). There’s a lot of stuff, random cricket stuff, that floats in the flotsam and jetsam that is now my brain. But this one has stuck with me. I have always hated the kneejerk reaction of fans – the sort that has one bad run from its football team and the manager has to go. Sport has always had winners, but for it to have winners, someone has to lose. Every time I criticise, I comment, I bemoan my team’s fortunes, am I not the same as those people. Yes, those people. As if I am not one of those people.

On my former football message board dalliances, I was always the one preaching caution and patience, of not wanting to sack the manager just as he was sacked, of knowing our place in the football firmament, at a time when there was still hope, just about, in the game. I wasn’t the impatient one with England football teams. I thought the 90s cricket team, the legendary bad years for England supposedly, mainly saw the team picked on merit, and players given opportunities, other than when Illingworth bought some half-baked, old fashioned out of date thinking to the position. I was passionate about sport, but didn’t get massively angry about it. I would not even contemplate airing opinions outside of a small cadre of like-minded supporters. and found the conflict I did encounter on that message board as something bloody scary. I didn’t think I was one of “those people”.

The stigma of being associated with kneejerk and loud opinions is that it is expected of you, and you need to play to the crowd. What’s your schtick if you aren’t coming in with some “hot take” explained at high pitch and with little to back it up? Why is my opinion the right one, and why is the man or woman being paid to make decisions always wrong, in my eyes? In the eyes of the one reacting. You don’t have the font of all wisdom, I don’t.

And you aren’t allowed to forget it. You aren’t inside cricket, so you can’t know. You don’t know the finances of the football club and how the manager works with the players he’s lumbered with, so how can you comment? What do you know? Who do YOU think you are? I genuinely thought about it like that every day of How Did We Lose In Adelaide’s existence (for those new here, or who don’t know, that was my previous blog on cricket, and was the personification of Mr Angry!). Why should I be angry? What do I know that others don’t?

This is a long intro into one selection this summer that should expose the myth that we don’t have a clue, while those highly paid experts are the font of all knowledge. Just like us, the experts are winging it, on the back of received wisdom, strategic leaks, a bit of cricket knowledge, and being a bit inside cricket. That myth was exposed in the selection of Jason Roy as a test match opener.

Jason Roy as a test opener was always a “magic beans” selection. Anyone with eyes knew he had technical difficulties against the moving ball, a decent issue with his technique and no track record of playing long innings in first class cricket. What was going to be inevitable was  “experts” citing two cases. The first would be David Warner, who came into test cricket on the back of limited first class experience, and if, I recall correctly, played a T20 for Australia before he’d played for NSW. The second would be Virender Sehwag, a dashing opener, who, when conditions suited, could flay attacks to all part. These two, of course, came into test cricket on flat, batting friendly playing surfaces and reasonably benign conditions. They are also freaks. Other limited over kings like Chris Gayle or Sanath Jayasuriya were playing the long form of the game at the same time as their white ball pomp. It would be disappointing if a selection was made purely on the comparison of the two recent examples. You’d expect people paid to be pundits to just do more than that.

If Jason Roy wants a template on which to base his Test match career, he should look to his opposite number in England’s Ashes opponents this summer – David Warner.

Like Roy, Warner went from T20 cricket straight into the Test game and has made a stunning success of it – precisely because he adapted his game to the longer format. Watch Warner in a Test match now, and he doesn’t just try and whack everything. Instead, he takes his time, assesses conditions and plays the ball on its merits. Yes, he is still an attacking player, but that attitude is tempered by common sense.

Virender Sehwag was the same for India, taking the positive mindset which had served him so well in one-dayers into the Test…

Oh well. What do you expect? I’ll give you two guesses who wrote this. No analysis of Roy’s technique, no acknowledgement that when the ball moved around in the Champions Trophy, and indeed the Final, he looked lost. I love Jason Roy in one day cricket, and when he gets in on flat decks in the county championship. I really, really wanted Jason Roy to be a success, but I knew he wouldn’t be. All evidence pointed to him not being one. What possesses experts to write and speak this nonsense?

This neatly segues into the cracking piece by Simon Kuper on Ed Smith last week. There are many excerpts we could take from it. Let’s leave aside acknowledging Ed Smith’s intelligence, his confidence in himself, and his wide-ranging sources of inspiration. Let’s look at these statements in the context of selecting Jason Roy.

Anyway, he has never claimed to have the answers to selecting a winning team. All he tries to do is think hard about questions that torment the growing number of modernising decision makers in all sports. How do you select, manage and drop people? How and when to use the new mountains of data? How to build team spirit? Most basically, how to improve performance?

 

All this went out of the window in selecting Jason Roy. This was the ultimate “gut feel” and “ignore your eyes” and “analytics” selection. Now this is Kuper’s commentary on the interview, not Smith’s view, so let’s give him the benefit of the doubt, eh?

Smith says: “If you ask, ‘What is selection?’ What are the moments when your judgment diverges from what would have happened anyway? That’s what selection is.” The temptation for a clever person taking a new job is to assume that all past conventional beliefs in the field were mistaken. Dominic Cummings, adviser to prime minister Boris Johnson, embodies this approach. Smith avoids it. He quotes his friend Howard Marks (the American investor, not the late Welsh drugs smuggler): “Just because most people think it’s a bad idea to stand in front of a bus and you’re a contrarian thinker, it doesn’t mean it’s a good idea to stand in front of a bus.” Smith adds: “If you rate yourself as someone prepared to challenge conventional wisdom, you also should know the moments when conventional wisdom is right.”

The truly interesting part about this is that who were the “most people” in the Jason Roy example? Was it the voices he was hearing from inside the camp, and from key pundits and talking heads that we’d tried “traditional” openers with no success, so we should try more attacking ones (and forget about Alex Hales and his trials). Was he the bus, or the individual standing in its way? Those who really thought about it, people like us, and took the evidence we’d seen, the way he played, the “when he comes off” feast or famine, the utter talent and bravado at ODI level he has shown no signs of reining in with success even if he could, and thought “this ain’t going to work”. Especially against a really top bowling line up the Australians possess.

Smith doesn’t mention the deeper problem: England’s squad isn’t prodigiously talented. To solve the puzzle of beating India last summer, England picked decent bowlers who could bat well enough to score runs at number seven, eight or nine. Smith says: “Lower-order runs made the difference. The solution didn’t derive from statistics. It derived from problem-solving. It was a resources question: what do we have and how can that add up to getting 20 wickets and more runs than them?” Then there’s team spirit. Smith, who is dismissive of motivational buzz­words, prefers to sit in the stands watching teammates interact. “A bit pretentious, but: ‘Trust the tale, never the teller’ — DH Lawrence. The truth is in the game.

Again, this countermands any thinking behind selecting Jason Roy. What do we have and how can that add up to getting 20 wickets and more runs than them. Let’s select a batsman, who has rarely, if ever, opened in first class cricket, who has a glaring technical issue against the moving ball and a quite ineffective defensive technique going hard at the ball, who will also just try to hit out of major corners, and hope he’s Marcus Trescothick, or heaven above, Sehwag or Warner (keep quiet now). Trust the tale, never the teller. What tale did Ed Smith trust? Or, heaven above, is he just bluffing?

Yet it wasn’t enough. Arguably Smith & Co made selectorial errors, such as picking Jason Roy as an opening batsman.

Kuper leaves this little nugget to the end, and Smith does not, or was not asked, to comment.

Throughout this summer I’ve bemoaned the team we’ve had. In the middle of the piece Smith points to the structure of the Australian team of the early 2000s – six batsmen, one wicketkeeper-batsman, three seamers, one spin bowler. He then says selection then became a rank order. Was the fourth best middle-order batsman a better selection than the next cab on the rank. Was the third best seamer better than who could come in – as Lee did for, say Bichel or Kasprowicz. Here Smith gives his ideas as being getting the best players and making it work. It’s a theory, but it isn’t a particularly new one – akin to the “why don’t we pick all the great Liverpool players qualified for England in the 1980s and fill in with out other top talent.” It isn’t particularly innovative, it’s just other received wisdom, but because you wear a cravat or something. As if it damn well matters/:

This morning he strides into a King’s Cross café in sunglasses and a wound scarf that scream Saint-Tropez, 1963.

There’s a great interview with Roy Keane on youtube, when he goes through how players bad mouthed him when he was Irish assistant manager. Roy Keane did not sugarcoat his contempt at all for them. He called one a “bluffer”. Great in the media, a great talker. While Keane is not without blemish, I listen to him. He comes across as someone who doesn’t sugarcoat his views, whether you like them or not. When it comes down to it, and I’ve only time to give a couple of examples, most of those out there as pundits are “bluffers”. They know as much as we do. They try to persuade you we don’t know. I’ve taken a ton of words to say your view is every bit as worthy as Michael Vaughan, who is the ultimate bluffer (and it’s his quote about Jason Roy above), and the rest. So while I’ll never lay claim to knowing the game, or knowing what it’s like to face 90 mph bowling, but knowing what it’s like outside my technical comfort zone, I won’t bluff. I’ll give my opinion, honestly held. And so should you.

I thought I’d offer a brief personal comment on the Sun and Ben Stokes. The piece today, which I know the contents of but not read, has no merit. It has no shame. It has no thought of consequence. It is not in the public interest. It is very noticeable that in Ben Stokes’ book, I don’t believe it is mentioned (if it mentions his mum being married before, I can’t recall – I read it a while back). It is an extremely horrific thing, and I can’t for the life of me understand what possessed anyone to think this was a piece that should be published. When I think of the stick given to me by journos, and yet there is a large silence by those same people on this to their colleagues, it makes me sad. I’m not comparing myself in any way to Ben Stokes’ situation – before I get some clown who thinks I am – but at reactions.  It’s a complex argument, the Sun isn’t the only scumbag paper out there, but it only really has one rival for the top of that podium, but I hope that there’s an apology and a massive donation to a charity of Stokes’ choice. I shake my head at humanity, and the lack of it. I really do. Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.

Up to others whether they think this is enough.

 

England v Australia – 5th Test, Day 2 – Jofra Was My Son And Today Is His Birthday

cropped-the-oval-2011-day-2-125-01.jpeg

Welcome to Camp Blood.

I am going to try something, writing the piece as I go along and then summarising the events at the end.

Ten minutes in and the Aussies appear to have slept in late and not had their coffee. Buttler and Leach both with impressive boundaries on the offside, and then a massive five wides as Jos outjuked Pat. It took 20 minutes for Cummins to get himself alive, before he bowled Jos Buttler for 70, with a combination of inside edge, pad and puffs of dust before hitting the stumps. Marsh then took his fifth by bowling Jack Leach, who is the current media darling, to end the innings on 294. I was 19 out DLP.

I’m a messenger of God. You’re doomed if you stay here?

So. David Warner. What you got? Answer was a prod for one, a nick through the slips for a boundary and then an edge from a wide one off Archer. This edge being a cause of some consternation. I was about to go on a rant about wasting reviews on edges that not even the bowler or keeper were keen on, when after an age snicko revealed a slight noise. The ball looked to have passed the bat with a fair gap, but we are looking at this in 2 and not 3 dimensions, but still. Technology trumps sight. Warner left for 5. Harris didn’t last much longer nicking to Ben Stokes at second slip, off the bowling of Archer. 14 for 2.

Kill Her Mommy! Kill Her!

And out walked Steve Smith. A batsman that has made us lose our collective minds. It’s not unprecedented. I remember how Mohammed Yousuf had us on toast for a couple of series. But there are clever people who need clever lines to disseminate to their clever readers to prove how clever they are. Smith was kept in check, with Sam Curran providing a different challenge. Labuschagne gave a quarter chance through the slips, but Australia lunched at 55 for 2.

I took time out during the afternoon to sort stuff out with the cricket on in the background. Labuschagne was the first to depart, with Archer the bowler, as he was given LBW – stone dead. Matthew Wade was the next man in, and it was Sam Curran this time around. A lot of time was taken over the decision, but he was given. Wade reviewed and the tracking element did not say the ball missed (is that the technically correct description). It felt a little like a gift, but hey, not one England would turn down.

Tea came with Smith building another of those inexorable innings. It’s the equivalent of the construction of a skyscraper. The early iffy moments where you hope the foundations and groundwork are conducive to a large superstructure, and then an utterly tedious process until you get to the impressive conclusion. All the aesthetic beauty of a building site, a style only his mother and hipsters could love, got to be slightly mad to watch it, and participate in it (imagine being a crane operator on top of one of them things) but at the end, there are big numbers and we aren’t really sure how they got there (how do they get those massive cranes off the top of those buildings).

I digress. Mitchell Marsh came in, and the commentators blabbed on about love and diets. Tea came at 147 for 4.

Either That Or It’s A Very Short Clone

During the tea interval David Gower had some shill from Cricket Australia on for a chat. Within a couple of minutes, it was stakeholders this, lessons learned that, culture here, and mums there. It was like a cross between Tom Harrison and Dame Edna. I have no idea what this waste of oxygen was doing with his load of old twaddle, but he was there long enough to opine on the Hundred, and that was enough. Having done his part for Sky, this oxygen thief can go back to Australia and opine about how everyone in Australia was beside themselves with excitement that the final stages of the BBL will be with five teams not four. Imagine, all those games to eliminate THREE teams.

The Crocodiles Are In The Cabin

After tea Mitchell Marsh, no doubt eschewing the cream cakes, lost his place and flopped a ball down to fine leg from Jofra, and Jack Leach held the catch. No doubt some fraud mentioned KP and laughing stock on the Twitterverse, but I’m not looking. Still Smith ground on, but two in two balls from Sam Curran, nicknamed PLC by my Middlesex supporting friend – the middle word is Little – turned the tide. Captain by default Tim Paine, and I am laughing at the thought that Aussies popped at us for picking Brearley, nicked off, and Pat Cummins was nailed bang in front for a first baller.

Commentary went into hyperdrive, about what Smith would do, but after a couple of shots, and ensuring a modicum of strike, he missed a straight one from Chris Woakes, and he was out for 80. Australia were 187 for 8. Surely England had Australia on toast. Steve Smith is carrying more passengers than Queensland And Northern Territory Arial Services.

Calm down Sam.

Warne has remarked that Archer is bowling at a decent average. 87 mph is just 1mph faster than his slowest, and 1 mph slower than his fastest. He’s babbling nonsense on his birthday.

It’s 5:45 as I write this and there are 18 overs remaining. We bang on and on, and I even like Innocent Bystander’s idea of a counter of how much of people’s money they are being robbed of. So let’s assume they bowl another 10 overs tonight. They will be 8 overs short, which is 8.89% of the day’s play. Let’s assume that there are 24500 customers, which is the capacity, but let’s take an average ticket price of £100 – which is incredibly charitable. £217k, multiply that by 4 for say, four full days at each test, discount 5 days off for weather issues (this isn’t scientific) and early finishes, and we are looking at 15 times that number. Let’s say this is costing English cricket fans £3 million for the pleasure of the players taking their time. Turnover for the ECB is £170m. I know they don’t get all the revenue from tests, but this amount is unearned.

Now the perennially annoying Nathan Lyon is having his fun. Jack Leach has just dropped him. Can KP fans now quote the laughing stock tweet in the interests of fairness?

Archer collected his fifth wicket with a cunning act of deception to dismiss Lyon. This gives Jofra his second five-for in four tests. Four tests in where he’s done us proud with the ball, but already been accused of not being up for all fights at all times, of relying on natural ability, and only bowling quick when he fancies it. He has just taken his sixth as Rory Burns takes an amazing catch to dismiss Siddle with a a dive to his right in the gully. Jofra finished with 6 for 62, his second six wicket haul (Ponting says it after me!)

Stats – 31st time a bowler has taken 6 wickets in an innings at The Oval in Ashes cricket. Jofra’s is the 24th best. Best by an English bowler is 7 for 36 by George Lohmann.

Australia were dismissed for 225, and England hold a lead of 69. The openers came out at 6:10 pm, and there are 12 hours remaining in the last 20 minutes of play. Burns glances one off his body for four leg byes second ball, and the third hits Burns on the helmet. I’m sure England will investigate the structural integrity of this helmet in minute detail, and then go through the concussion protocol, with a potential new helmet needed to be purchased from the club shop, and oh my, it is creeping on to 6:30.

No. Same helmet, same silly strands of hair. Cummins keeping the short stuff going. Tension. England in front. David Lloyd being a muppet. He’s not funny. The first over took 6 and a half minutes.

Well Hi, What Are You Doing Out In This Mess (Pamela Stabs Him)

Joe Denly, fresh from fatherhood (congrats to all concerned), has to face Hazlewood (he of the moody child face, the big old sourpuss).

I am interrupted by a certain commenter who has linked a piece for me. I don’t know about you but this intro is not good for blood pressure:

Ed Smith, England’s chief cricket selector, has been irritatingly over-blessed by the gods: brainy, courteous, a former England batsman, admired author and well-dressed man. This morning he strides into a King’s Cross café in sunglasses and a wound scarf that scream Saint-Tropez, 1963. But hang on: today is day four of the fourth Ashes test. Shouldn’t he be in Manchester watching England-Australia? “Ninety-five per cent of the time I’m at the ground. When you’re at the game, you’re at an event, which improves your behaviour. When you’re at home you’re just a middle-aged man shouting at a television.”

Ed Smith, a man who sounds intelligent but blatantly thieved a least one piece, looks like an upper class twit. It screams pretentious plagiaristic ponce. He watches cricket, picks the team, and virtually everyone in a normal pay or education group thinks he’s a muppet.

I’ll read the rest later. Burns survives Cummins over, and Denly has the last one from Hazlewood. Off the third ball, Denly nicks, it goes to gully and Harris missed the catch – by missed, it split the webbing on his hand because the hands were not in the correct place. Marcus Harris not having a great tour. Denly takes a single, Burns nudges a four after the penultimate ball. Dharmasena gives Burns LBW out off the last ball – Hazlewood celebrappealed. Did it pitch outside leg? Is it slightly high? It pitched outside, as I thought and the day ends at 9 for 0. The series in microcosm.

The day ends with England nicely in front, wickets in hand, an Aussie team not on their mettle, an incentive to post a challenging total, and having got Smith out for fewer than a hundred. England have the upper hand, and tomorrow they’ll need to capitalise. It was a decent day’s entertainment, Jofra and Sam bringing youthful verve to proceedings. The fielding wasn’t faultless, but it was good enough. We go into Day 3 with England in the ascendant and not a lot to rage about.

You Know, You’re Beautiful When You’re Angry Sweetheart.

This has been Friday the 13th at the Test Match on Being Outside Cricket. I am Dmitri Old and it has been my pleasure to serve. And Sky accompanies the ending with a musical montage. A perfect day.

Comments on tomorrow below…..

England v Australia – 4th Test 5th Day – With A Slack Jaw, And Not Much To Say

I am starting the report of the day with England just having lost Jack Leach, and the start of the last hour. The NFL season starts today (although my team are going to do well to win 2 games) and there is plenty else going on. But England have fought, and fought hard today, in direct contrast to their performance at Edgbaston, for example. It has been gritty and doughty, and everything that the first test wasn’t.

Starting this paragraph and there are 14 overs remaining. England started the day with two down, and while Roy, in particular, did not look to be suggesting permanence, as Chris put on the Twitter feed, Joe Denly, for all his faults, sold his wicket dearly. Jason Roy stuck at it, got to 30, then got undone by another beautiful ball by Pat Cummins. I thought last night, that if Roy got out to a similar ball to the one that got Root, would there be such understanding. Answer was, of course not. Of course there are differing circumstances, differing careers, and yes, differing agenda, but Root can be excused for losing his wicket three times for a duck this series.

And as I write, Overton has been given out LBW to Hazlewood. He’s reviewed it, but it looks out. There’s a pause for ball tracking, and it’s three reds. It’s all over.

There went the Ashes. Australia retain the Ashes. They’ve won by 185 runs.

Let’s run through the rest of the play. Stokes nicked behind, didn’t wait for the decision and walked. A review would have given him out, but there’s no guarantee Australia would have called for it! Not with their form. But well done Stokes for not hanging around.

Denly went soon after lunch, Bairstow hung around a while before being nailed LBW. Buttler and Overton then dug in, with Jos batting over 100 balls. England just seemed to be two wickets too many down at any time, and although the Somerset boys worked really hard, Jos leaving a straight one wasn’t in the script. Jofra didn’t last long, falling LBW to Lyon and things looked truly hopeless.

Enter Jack Leach. Again Somerset stood between England and losing the Ashes. Again there was resistance, but just too many overs to face. Paine rotated the bowling, brought on the leg spin of Marnus, and he got one to bounce a little more to Leach, who gloved it to short leg. A couple of overs later, Overton was pegged LBW, and it was all over. Just under 14 overs from saving the game. They fought hard, but that’s the minimum expected. This is an Ashes series, if not lost, has seen Australia retain the urn.

Warne babbled some old nonsense at the end that these were two evenly matched teams, but that is patent nonsense. Australia are a much better team than England. Their world class, historically so, number 4 has been the massive difference. Stokes has played well, and Burns has done the best of a bad sextet of openers, and Archer has some promise (no doubt) but the Australian bowling is good, has good replacements, and the rest of the batting (Labuschagne being a real find in these conditions) has done enough. England missed their chance by not cashing in at Edgbaston when they had the Aussies where they wanted them after two days. England missed a chance due to weather at Lord’s, but that was sort of known a long way out. England took a chance, with a little luck, at Headingley, but as I posed at the start of this match would we have momentum from a miracle win, or would relying on a miracle really be a fools errand. The latter applies.

What’s the point in being angry? The collective media didn’t give a toss when we lost 4-0 Down Under in 2017/18. They were more pleased that their hero batted out a boring test match to prevent a whitewash, and just said it was utterly inevitable that we would lose – no biggie. Then this Ashes were a lower priority than winning the World Cup. While Australians would throw their hands up at this either/or attitude, this is seen as perfectly acceptable for England fans. Now there’s been a bit more chippiness from media sorts, but what did they expect? This is a madman’s idea of a batting order, which he’s stubbornly refused to change the personnel. George Dobell called him Ed Myth. He’s going to face some attention.

Then there is Bayliss, who is off in very short order. His test management has not been one to savour. We await his replacement, who I presume is going to be in place before the New Zealand tour next month. Heaven only knows who is going to take his place.

Root’s captaincy should be up for scrutiny. He’s not the batsman we once knew, as his average is well below 50 now. He’s not impressed, but one wonders how else he could captain this exercise in stupidity imposed on him by a selector in love with himself. I presume the next skipper is Stokes, and I’m not sure that’s a great idea either.

We can take a look at the rest of the team in the days ahead. But in a summer where England won a World Cup and then went straight into an Ashes series, and then face 8 test matches before the end of the winter, including two against New Zealand, with the first on 20 November (we have a ton of T20s before that), before rolling in to a four test series in South Africa, there’s no rest. I watched The Edge last night (it’s included with Prime) and the focus in the second part of the film is of the breakdown of the team. It was clear burnout. The Jonathan Trott retirement piece was tough watching. It showed how much it took to get to the top, and how the toll is immense. (I hope Vaughan saw that part).

The hierarchy in this country give not one shit about this. It’s why we have the Ashes back-to-back like 2013-14. It’s why we have the Ashes straight after the World Cup. It’s why we have a brand new competition that the top players are going to need to promote. It’s why the test schedule is ridiculous, and yet the format has been neglected. It’s why the County Championship is marginalised to the cold ends of the season. It’s why Tom Harrison is still in his position despite alienating core support and angering pretty much every fan in the country.

As the support at the Ashes shows, if they put it on, at any cost, people will turn up. They are counting on that same blind loyalty for the Hundred next year. I hope the fans turn their back on it. Only when they do, will the ECB get the bloody message. Stop pretending that test cricket is the prime format, when you neglect it. Don’t run premature victory laps. Losing the Ashes to our greatest foe, who played well enough, but hardly the greatest team to visit these shores, is not necessarily the worst thing, but it hurts. It makes the next series even more important. It’s hard to tell how England get good enough, quickly enough, to compete down under in a couple of years time, but the time should be spent wisely.

Instead we’ll have all manner of distractions. That’s where we are.

I’m not angry. I’m disappointed. What’s the point of losing your rag with this team, this organisation, and hell, the media and the know-it-all social media paragons? It’s not my place any more to be Mr Angry. What’s the point?

Congratulations Australia and Steve Smith. This has been the Fag End Ashes, an adjunct to the main event. We are World Champions. Enjoy the rest of the summer. Priorities and all that.

England v Australia – 4th Test Day 4 – Wows Are Few, Frustration More Common

 

What can I say?

I’m not surprised, let’s be honest. I’ve said during the summer that this is a mad scientist’s experiment of a cricket team, and while a freak compound came together for a day and a bit at Leeds, as I said many times in the past few years, pretty little half centuries, or grinding 70s aren’t going to win test matches. Double hundreds on good surfaces that decline do. So while we raised Steve Smith’s pedestal yet further, we see Joe Root pale in comparison. Stuart Broad and Ben Stokes must be absolutely livid at what they are seeing. Both are near, or close to, the top of their game, but we persisted with this twisted, mangled wreck of a batting line-up and the rewards are shown for all to see this evening.

Tomorrow Australia will wrap up the Ashes for another couple of years, and given we travel about as well as English wine, probably another four before we get a crack again at our old foe on home soil. That would be another crack at test cricket, because Australia are over here next year for some hit, giggle and white ball contest again. It’s what we want. An hors d’oeuvre for the Hundred.

Back to the start of the day, and England started on 200 for 5. Bairstow got cleaned up pretty early on, and it’s hard to argue with the reaction of one of this parish…

Stokes couldn’t repeat the miracle of Headingley, nicking off to slip, and Archer did not detain us for too long with another low score. Dobell is getting a little impatient, thinking Jofra should bat at number 11. Stuart Broad did his best, which is far from what his best used to be, but he’s bloody trying, and stuck with Jos almost up to the follow on mark, before some blows got England past the follow-on, but not much more. Jos has not yet made 100 runs in 7 digs for England in this series and is played as a specialist batsman. Not much use when he’s coming in at number 8, due to the nightwatchman, but hey, I’m not a Dean of Sports History, so what the hell do I know?

Broad and Archer bowled superbly to start with, removing Warner for a duck, Harris soon after, and then Marnus for fewer than 50 for the first time this series. Head didn’t last too long. But despite looking more vulnerable than nearly any time in this series, Smith wasn’t out, and he accelerated the pace of the innings in an 82 that allowed Australia to declare and set England 383 to win. Or more reasonably a full day and a half an hour to bat out time and take the series to the Oval.

BOOM! Cummins induces a poor legside shot attempt from Rory Burns and the ball skewed off the leading edge to mid-off. Third ball, 0 for 1

CRASH! Root gets a decent one first up and has his off stump pegged back by Cummins. His second first ball duck of the series. Root’s average drops to barely above 48. After a dodgy spell captaining after tea, where he clearly needed to balance bowling workloads, but allowed Smith to get free, is his captaincy under pressure? It should be.

Jason Roy (and I wonder what would have happened and what the comment would have been if he’d had fallen to Cummins ball to Root) came in at 4, in the first over. He’s faced his first ball later in the innings opening the batting! He and Denly saw out the day and the game finished the day with England 18 for 2.

We won’t bat out tomorrow. I’d be surprised if England get to tea, and not be surprised if they are done by lunch. They took the momentum from Leeds, bowled and fielded poorly, lost it to the human spirit sapper Smith, and found themselves in their area of weakness, chasing a big score. England can’t make these without miracles aligning, and so they proved, scraping over 300, which is a rarity these days, so I suppose it was a success of sorts.

England’s test cricket is unfathomable. It can align and beat India 4-1, it can unravel, and but for miracles and mis-steps, it should really be 3-0 tomorrow. All through it I’ve watched as much as I can, taped as much as I can, reviewed as much as I can, but the spirit isn’t there. This is ADHD test cricket and I’m not a fan. Paul Hayward, a journo who should really know better, was eulogising how this series has transcended sport, but to me it is a crap series, with one man dominating, and when he didn’t play, we got an extraordinary finish. One great theatrical contest. The third test was Highlander, the rest has been Highlander II. I’ve just not been into it at all. I wasn’t that keen to write tonight’s opus.

So, onto tomorrow. The Inevitable End, as Royksopp named their final album. I hope we put up a fight, but the two in at the moment have been almost walking wickets, and then we go to the expansive all rounders and their gates and swishes. We’ve got a slightly longer tail as well. If they survive….. oh stuff it. Don’t get your hopes up.

Ashes to Ashes. Dust to Dust. If the hope is there, well I admire your trust.

And we were 13 overs short. Who gives a shit that the paying public, probably shelling out £100 for a ticket, get 15% of their play taken away because the players don’t give a stuff about getting a wiggle on. We can go on about this, but no-one gives a shit in authority. No-one.

Comments below on the final farce.

Dmitri

There’s No Getting Over You – Not Really A Preview, But A Preview of the 4th Test

In the words of a song by Bob Moses, “let me tell you about a little situation, that’s been testing my patience”. I’ve had my patience and faith tested this past week or so. Unlike the song, it isn’t about being led astray by a taken woman, but it is how, after five and a half years of cricket blogging, when the day came that could be the culmination of all my work, the crescendo to end the varied, rambling musical piece that this blog, or my contribution to it, has been, I was absent. And I mean totally absent. I played no part, was not engaged, was adrift. In this multimedia, connected world, I was cut off. You lot had a life experience, a sporting drama to match few others, and I got to experience it like a dream sequence in a bad soap opera. Imagining the pain, terror, hope, outrage, excitement, fear, wonder, and any other emotion you care to mention, that undoubtedly that final hour brought with Ben Stokes swinging from the hip. Indeed, what the lead up to it brought to you. Remember YOUR feelings. Remember how YOU watched or listened to it. Then imagine not being able to. At all.

Imagine that. Imagine being a devoted cricket fan and missing it all, every effing ball of the final day. I didn’t get to experience sport in its most visceral form. I didn’t get to scream at the sixes, go ape at the failed run out, laugh hysterically at the LBW review because they’d blown it the over before. I didn’t get to holler that massive YES when Stokes got the winning boundary and let out his own scream. I wasn’t a participant. I wasn’t even a watcher. I was cut off, flying over the northeastern United States, with no access. Like a non-Sky subscriber who never knew what cricket was, is, will be. I missed it ALL.

Yet Chris asked me write the preview to the next test! He’s a cruel one.

A brief aside as to why I didn’t see it, as if any of you give the combination of a single you know what about that. On Saturday I was due to fly to New York with work. Yeah, yeah, yeah, first world problems. I was on the plane, enjoying my drink, when the stewardess snatched it off my tray. “Oi!, I hadn’t finished that” I exclaimed, I got the drink back, necked it, and passed it back to the stewardess. Before I knew it, there were announcements, acrid smoke in the back galley, dumping fuel, circling and emergency landing at Shannon. There were examinations of aircraft, milling around in a mostly closed airport, a flight back to Gatwick, various Keystone Coppery at 2am, transfer to Heathrow at 3am, a 1 and a half hour stay in a hotel, and back on the 9:35 flight the following morning. When I landed at JFK at 5:15pm UK time, I switched on the phone and saw the result. I exclaimed a little “yes” and then concentrated on cultivating the migraine from lack of sleep and flight terror into a 4D yodel in the taxi to the hotel. I wasn’t exactly in great shape. At least that aeroplane lunch had been actively recycled.

But hey, this is a preview of the next test, right? Well how can I comment on trends and shit when I missed the best thing in English test cricket for quite a while – probably 2005. I get to miss out on the “greatest ever” debates I find absolutely immensely tedious at the best of times. I get to not share on the “how great was this….” that all of you who got to watch it live shared. I feel like I did when Charlton signed Allan Simonsen and I got a ticket to one of his first games, only to get in to the Valley and be told he would be replaced by Dave Mehmet. Now I liked Dave (as he was a Deptford Park alum) but it’s not European Footballer of the Year material. Disappointment haunted all my dreams.

Watching the whole thing on Friday was watching a great mystery thriller and knowing the ending. Who Shot JR after the great reveal a few months later? No radio. No TV. No internet. Nothing. Just a migraine and misery. The blogging equivalent of spilling your recycled lunch over the hotel lobby floor – a trick that endeared me to the reception staff on 47th Street. My travelling companion was a German fellow, who kept banging on about tennis. Nice guy, but no-one English to talk the whole damn show through with.

What I did see of the 3rd test was not pretty. I left home for the ill-fated leave the oven on flight at 1pm, and we had just bowled out Australia to leave us wanting the record total. Ouch, that hurts. I missed a record as well. Roy and Burns had just seen off a couple of overs before lunch, before both wickets were lost by the time I had boarded the Piccadilly Line. I sat in Heathrow Airport as Denly and Root ground out the partnership, with Denly sounding all at sea but perfecting the art, until 50, of not getting out. I settled in to my aircraft seat, not realising food would be elusive for another 15 hours, with England whatever it was for 3. Needing 200 more. I hate British Airways.

This test now becomes very important. Instead of the Ashes being done and dusted, we have more mentions of Momentum than post-2017 Labour General Election readouts. Instead of England Brexiting the Ashes, very much on a no-deal, no-good basis, we are poncing about, hoping to remain. And that’s all the politics we are allowing here. They’re more tiresome than the ECB. Spend a week in Trump World, and you might even believe Tom Harrison is a paragon of truth and virtue.

So after all that, and what threads I have are cast into a Dorian-like maelstrom, I conclude that after the drama wot i did not see, the next test can be looked at two ways:

One – England are carrying such momentum that Australia are broken by being so near and yet so far from retaining the Ashes on English since, topically (from my viewpoint) and sadly, there were two towers in lower Manhattan and not the very photogenic one that has replaced it. That Australia’s errors of judgement and execution have so destroyed them, that there remains a hulking carcass, broken and dismayed, flayed of emotion and drive, casting themselves to the inevitability of the upcoming few weeks. England have crushed their spirit, and all that remains is good weather and an inevitable triumph over an emotionally vanquished rag tag and bobtail outfit; or

Two – It takes a miracle for England to win. And miracles may happen twice in a season on big occasions, but three times, or even four, is asking too much. Isn’t it?

This England team, and it is unchanged save from taking the hammock from around the swimming pool, and the deck chair from underneath the mock palm tree (I’ll let you decide which one is Roy, which one is Denly), unless someone makes a change (Curran for Woakes? I really don’t see it, but by the time this goes up, the England brains trust will do something), got bowled out for 67 10 days ago. And not for the first time this year has it been bowled out for a dismally low total in double figures. It’s a habit not usually coinciding with victorious outcomes, even though England have somehow managed to turn the last two sows ears into silk purses. I wouldn’t create a long-term pathway to success.

Jofra Archer may have had a rest, but he’ll be over-bowled, Stuart Broad is no spring chicken and while his bowling may seem to emanate from the fountain of eternal youth, his body is doing well to hold together. Old Trafford can benefit pace and spin, and Leach may well need to come to the party. It’s all very well being the Graham Dilley to Ian Botham role, but Dilley didn’t make the next test match, and Leach needs a defining bowling performance to cement his place. The batting may well benefit from a Root stay at the crease at Leeds, but it needs Jos Buttler to deliver on his promise, and not promise to deliver. England are a deeply flawed team, and Ben Stokes won’t be there every time.

Australia may fiddle with their bowling – I would presume James the Tats Pattinson is most vulnerable to recalling Siddle or Mitchell Starc – and Steve Smith will return to the number four slot, with all sorts of batting decisions spinning off from that, and they will know that they’ve had the whip hand for 75% of the series so far. They know that they are the better side, I think even England might know that, but that doesn’t always translate to success. I have a feeling that they will be on their game here, and England may need to bowl them out cheaply on Day One to get on top. I can’t see England’s batting setting an imposing total. Let’s see.

I’ll be found in my chair, rocking back gently, muttering to myself about the day I missed. How I would have kept up with it in NYC, I won’t know, but I would have. I think the phone bill might have been higher. It may be karmic justice that for all the anger and opprobrium I have spent on the England cricket team meant when there was something to watch to get me out of my seat, I was stuck in Row 13A. The check-in guy even asked me if I was superstitious. I’ll have that rancour of the man who bought all the seats for the Ashes 2005 test at the Oval and being passed over for the Day 5 ticket that remained. We’re still friends.

This isn’t a preview. Who gives a stuff about team news and that nonsense anyway? You want pain and anger, and I have it. You want me to rant at all those who ran to the social media and TV outlets proclaiming “greatest ever”, when arguably there was a better knock earlier this year by Kusal Perera and half the numpties who ran for the superlatives wouldn’t have know who he even played for. It’s the Ashes and it’s just better, so there. A team bowled out for 67 can’t hide the lack of quality.

The Ashes exists in this febrile environment. The KSL finished yesterday and will be replaced by a competition the women don’t want, and yet those who hail the brave new Hundred world were extolling test cricket’s virtues like converted TV evangelists. Don’t be in a rush to donate them your life’s savings. There were tedious moans about DRS, but the debate begins and ends with “don’t waste your reviews on total utter f***wittery”, which, marvellously, was effectively how the great Ricky Ponting summed it up. We had Nick Compton talk us through what’s wrong with the game, how he would address it, and even some spice on his playing days, and it was good to see the media react to it as if we never exist. We know you read us chaps.

I’m in a fury, and it’s not my fault. To English cricket, the media, the ECB and those enabling sycophants who deride people like me as pensioners and stick in the muds, know that missing last Sunday was painful. Really painful. A knife to the shoulder blade, kick in the nuts painful. I turn to Bob Moses (it’s a band not a person) for closure:

I’m trying to tell your intention
when you lie, you’re tearing me up
If you don’t want my affection
you won’t mind, you’re tearing me up

Cricket. Test cricket. F*** you. I loved you, and you did that to me. Let my critics laugh away.

Play starts on Wednesday. No Ashes Panel. Sorry. Let’s try after this one.

Comments below.

Ashes 3rd Test, Day 1 – I Blame You For The Moonlit Sky

It was a day when nothing seemed to go quite according to plan. I booked a day off, knowing I had a load of things I needed to do, and thought to do the report justice I’d need to watch the early exchanges, and perhaps do all the other stuff later in the day. Of course, the plan should have been reversed. I saw one of the wickets to fall live all day – the first one – and missed the whole of the last session. So this report of the day is on catch-up. Also, most of you will have seen more of the play than I have. Still, I bought some nice shoes, and got to get pissed off at Warner making a 50.

First up, apologies for no Ashes Panel this week. On Sunday I came down with a naughty bout of manflu (I’ve lost a good chunk of weight this week due to it, so out of every negative comes a positive) and by the time I was in any shape to do things, it was too late. Thanks to the team for covering the preparation for this test. Yes, I saw the reactions to the pieces over the weekend, and will say what I always say – we are not a team of writers who agree, we welcome differences, we don’t take many editorial lines (politics is definitely one we don’t want) and yes, things can get tetchy. I’d be surprised if they didn’t. So play on people. More that keeps us together than tears us apart, as it were.

So to today. I’ve never much liked Headingley tests, dating back to when I was a kid. Whenever one was on, it was always the one that seemed to be badly rain affected, it had that pavilion that looked like a council office, and that electronic scoreboard was dreadful. It has those sightscreens with people popping up above white boards, like they were working in a call centre. Today took me back to those days. England won the toss and put Australia in. Harris came in for Bancroft, but did a decent impression of the opener by falling early. Archer bowling, perhaps within himself if the pace gun is to be believed, around the wicket inducing a thick edge to YJB leaving for 8…. and then they all followed off due to rain.

90 minutes later and the players returned – I was working from home a little during this time so didn’t really follow play – and within 20 or so minutes Broad got Khawaja to strangle himself… a flick off the bat, well in front of the pad, carried through comfortably to YJB, and it was 25 for 2. Khawaja becoming immediate bookies favourite to be replaced when Steve Smith returns, and Marnus better get used to number 3! Presumably, as he belted the damn cover off it, and didn’t walk, there will be mass condemnation as a “shit bloke” for Usman. And my tongue is only slightly in my cheek.

Through the rain and the bad light – oh my lord, they took them off for bad light when the floodlights were on, yet again – Warner and Marnus took Australia from peril to comfort. Warner fighting himself, dug in, took toll of what he could, and made his first half century of the series. Marnus looks fit for test cricket (although he has a face of a man who looks as though he’s about to shout “WHY ME!!!!) showing a good deal of courage and application. He’s booked himself in for the rest of the tour.

The Aussies reached 136 for 2 – and in a position of real strength, when Warner nicked a full one from Jofra Archer. In the following over Broad claimed the important scalp of Travis Head, who has been an understated piece of Aussie resistance in the preceding two games, by bowling him with a naughty little cutter – one of the greatest balls he’s ever bowled, according to the increasingly silly Nasser. Head’s duck was followed by a similar contribution from Matthew Wade. Wade could consider himself unlucky in a couple of regards – first the ball took that odd carom off the thigh pad that sends the ball back towards the stumps, rather than the natural line down the leg side….. and the ball hit the stumps with a gentle thud AND the bail fell off. If this were the World Cup, when an earthquake AND tsunami would not remove the bails, Wade would be continuing the resistance.

Paine and Labuschagne kept the England bowlers at bay, as the ball carried on moving, but it couldn’t last (I’ve taped the whole day’s play and watching key moment as I write this). Yes, there was an amusing moment when the captain copped one at half mast, which was shared widely on Twitter while I wandered around Bluewater, and which all club players can share in the agony of the moment. My worst wasn’t while I was batting – I got one four square in the bollocks from an off drive. I recovered, and the oppo paid as I made my then highest ever score in the second innings of the match, and hit my first two sixes. Tim Paine made 11. Woakes pinned him LBW to overturn Chris Gaffaney’s decision of not out. Chris has said to me on the Whatsapp that it didn’t look right. Oh dear, how sad, never mind (in the words of the late great Windsor Davies).

As the clock approached 7pm, Jofra got Pattinson to nick an 86mph delivery and Joe Root took a catch at 1st slip that appeared to come to him quicker than he thought. 173 for 6 at 7pm ended up being 179 all out by close as Jofra brushed up the tail in a manner we haven’t seen for a while. Pattinson was followed by Cummins who gave the thinnest of edges through to Bairstow (before the thin spike came up, Pat and Marnus were chortling away, but that soon disappeared, and Cummins looked gobsmacked), giving Archer his 5th.

Stokes then chipped in with the old fashioned full bunger swinging in to pin Labuschagne LBW for 74, a weird ending to a gutsy knock, and he looks nailed on to be the number 3 when Smith returns. The commentators said he appeared to be moaning about the bad light, and that he might have lost it in the gloom. I’m minded to quote Windsor again. Archer took his sixth to finish the innings with his first ball of the 53rd over, when Lyon was plumb LBW for 1. 179 all out, and Jofra Archer taking 6 for 45.

Some early statwatch results. 103rd time an England bowler has taken 6 wickets in an Ashes test, the third time 6 for 45 has been recorded by an England bowler (Johnny Briggs and Derek Underwood the other two) – the 54th equal best for England in all series v Australia. It was the joint third best figures at Headingley in Ashes match-ups (Underwood again, in 1972), and the best since Bob Willis in 1981. It was the best 1st innings figures by an England player against Australia at Leeds. Only Ian Botham, with 6 for 95 in the first innings against Australia in his wonder test, has taken 6 wickets in the 1st innings of the match at Headingley, for England, before today.

The game itself is advanced. Australia had the whip hand when taking 70 runs off the first eleven overs after tea, but England came back with favourable conditions towards the end of the day. There is much to discuss, but on a day when I couldn’t watch a lot, a lot happened.

Finally, alongside the “comments below” invitation, for the Day 2 play, let me give a round of applause to the BOC contributor – not me – who put this Tweet up.

Hope the link works.

To Day 2…..

The Ashes Panel – 1st Test Aftermath

cropped-ashes-humiliation.jpg
There are losses, and then there are humiliations

Welcome back to the Ashes Panel, and the comments of some of our regulars, and not so regular, correspondents on the events of Edgbaston. There are five guests, and given I will be in a bunker interviewing people for the next two days, before jetting off to a work assignment in New York in 12 days time, I thought I’d vent too.

Usual format, five questions, answered in differing styles, differing lengths and with their own views by five guests (the five who sent their responses to my hotmail account!). If any of you have sent responses, please let me know and I will add them. The five guests are The Bogfather, who loves this so much he writes poems about it; MM, a former regular commenter, who is either living under another pseudonym, or is so royally peeved with the sport that he can’t be bothered to rant on the comments anymore; there is Growltiger, a great name, and some really good comments too; Alex, who was incredibly keen to get on here, and thanks so much that he did. This is his Jason Roy opening stint, and let’s hope he can grow further from a high base. Finally there is Gareth, who has done this before, and I hope will do it again.

Then there’s me, who has one man in his sights, and he’s not a player.

As always, I’m fair game, so have a pop at me all you want. You’ll lose. For the others, remember they aren’t regular bloggers, they did this in their own time, they are cricket lovers like all of us, I’m sure they can fight their corners, but I for one am absolutely humbled that they take the time to do this, that they feel enough for the blog and what we are to put the effort in, and before I get too soft, and I’ve not been drinking, it brings a little lump in the throat that we get these inputs into the blog

So off we go…..

australia-celebrate-the-ashes-whitewash_10piscrajeyf61qj64a1ovgr5r (2)
It’s KP v Swann on Genius…. Never Forget The 5-Nil……

Question 1 – A brief summary of the first test. Most importantly, they key moments England lost the game?

 

Gareth – Disappointing from an England perspective, but certainly an engrossing Test Match. It was one where the strengths and failings of English cricket were realised over the course of five days. Helpful conditions and a motivated Broad/Woakes saw Aussie down to 122-8 and then lack of options, poor captaincy and brilliant batting saw Aussie get back into it. Day 3 also swung when England’s much-vaunted middle-order sloggers failed to deliver and it was left to Broad and Woakes to scrape together a lead. Finally on Day 5, onlookers were astounded when a batting unit that has collapsed repeatedly…erm…collapsed.

 

Alex – Two key moments for England were Jimmy Anderson’s injury and Ben Stokes’ first innings dismissal. To lose your bowling talisman and still one of the best seam bowlers after they bowled four overs is huge. He probably would have finished Australia off earlier in the first innings and challenged them more early in the second.

As for Ben Stokes’ dismissal in the first innings. He had just reached 50 and he and Burns had the game in their hands and then he edges a cut and then Bairstow and Ali are exposed and potentially a 100+ run lead is gone and perhaps more pressure on the Australian top order and Smith.

Overall, England had the game in their hands twice only to have it taken away superbly by Smith twice. Given the circumstances with Anderson that is probably to their credit but they needed the remaining ten players to all step up and two or three of the rest just didn’t get going at all.

 

MM – As soon as Siddle got to 40 I thought ‘it’s 1993 again’. In my heart I didn’t think we’d get a lead, so I was surprised by that. But I never doubted we’d struggle in the fourth innings. Like you said, draws are a dead entity.

I was very angry about Anderson’s injury. Whether it never healed, has reoccurred, or is a fresh injury, surely someone has to play a competitive match prior to a Test. That’s gotta become a necessity henceforth.

 

Growltiger – The match was always likely to end with a rearguard action on the fifth day, given the pitch.  This was dry, slow, with a bit of variation in bounce to be expected with wear.  So the toss was important, and Australia won it.   Selection was also important, although mainly negatively;  England decided to play Anderson, who broke down after bowling four overs. They also dropped Leach while retaining Moeen Ali  as their main spinner.  On the fourth day, this selection looked extremely ill-advised, as Ali bowled without control and without threat. As a result of the Anderson selection, they were down to four bowlers,  the same number as Australia had chosen to go with, but on the fourth morning this appeared to be an overestimate, as Woakes  did not bowl, although officially uninjured.   Other poor selections (as seen from before the start) were Denly, Bairstow and (arguably) Buttler.

 

Surprisingly,  England started well, reducing Australia to 120 for 8 before the wicket flattened out on the first afternoon.  Broad and Woakes bowled well  (and, in the case of Broad, significantly faster than against Ireland at Lord’s).  However, once the underlying character of the wicket had emerged, gritty batsmanship got decent rewards on both sides, including the Australian tail in their first innings, and the underrated but eccentric Rory Burns in England’s.  Burns succeeded in batting from the end of the first evening well into the morning of the third day,  an innings of unusual durability compared with recent England openers, and some character.  It was, though, not entirely a surprise when a promising and careful start to the innings translated into a lead of less than 100, even after some pleasing runs from the tail.  Not for the first time, the fabled England middle order delivered very little, and did it very unimpressively.

 

Even at this stage, it seemed likely that the lead was insufficient to compensate England for having to bat on the fifth day pitch.   Smith’s second 140 of the match made it morally certain that this would be the case, enabling Australia to declare seven wickets down and setting a massively impregnable target.  With runs to bowl at, Paine (in the field a sort of sock-puppet for Smith) was able to set attacking fields and allow Lyon to bowl for the inside edge.  There were, in fact, no turning points in the England innings, except, possibly, for the very short bouncer that failed to rise and cramped Burns for room, thus taking the first wicket.  Roy was berated for launching himself at Lyon, but this was not a pivotal moment; getting himself dismissed playing an ambitious shot was predictable, although the fact that Roy had batted longer than any of the rest was not (and not much noticed by the press).

 

 

The Bogfather

Our one-day wonders wandered into a wonderland at tea on day one…
Before being cast asunder by the Smith from down-under, twice bar none…
Our batting a mess, few balls to caress, game-plan undressed, sans Anderson…
Mo’ was plundered, his Spedegue’d myth a blunder, Roy swung for fun.

Dmitri – Letting Australia get 280, or whatever, when they were 122 for 8 was the big moment, and utlimately kept Australia in the game. Chasing down anything near 200 was always going to be a challenge, so when England’s 260 for 4 became 320 for 8, the writing was on the wall. This isn’t a test match batting line-up, it’s a mad scientist’s experiment. Sure, losing Anderson was massive, but let’s not just assume Jimmy has to turn up and wickets are bound to fall. I also suspect, for the series, letting bang average players like Matthew Wade make runs is going to be soul destroying.

—————————————————————————————

Question 2 – Jason Roy has copped a lot of stick for being Jason Roy. Your views on the selection of opener, and what would you do for this, and the next few tests?

 

Gareth – For my money he shouldn’t have been picked as an opener in the first place, so it’s harsh to throw too much shade his way, daft though his dismissal was. They’ve put too much stock in him in now for him to be discarded so soon, and as he has never batted for two sessions in his FC career (stat from BBC) he is very much learning on the job. I don’t see his short-term future being as an opener, nor his medium-term future involving red-ball cricket. I wonder if this selection, more than any other, becomes the one that will define Ed Smith’s approach to selection.

 

Alex – It would not be where I pick him, but I understand why they have gone for it. They clearly don’t feel there is another opener out there ready for the step up now, particularly as its now the middle of T20 season and think it is better to pick someone who could turn one or two sessions in the series in their favour.

I think he is probably better at 4 or 5 if he has a long term Test future but wouldn’t be surprised if he finishes the series as an opener and then they re-evaluate over winter.

 

MM – I ain’t a Surrey fan so I know little about him. I understand he’s not a red ball player recently? But I love watching him in limited overs. If Jos Butler gets to play in Tests then Roy shouldn’t really be denied. I think he’d be better off down the order.  Probably in Butler’s spot to be honest.

 

Growltiger – The elevation of Roy to the Test team was bound to happen at some point, and his role in winning the World Cup dictated that it would be now.  He is a fine player, with devastating power of attack.  In white ball cricket,  where the ball doesn’t move and the fields are defensive, his contribution has probably been maximised by getting him to open.  The partnership with Bairstow has been a remarkable success – the heaviest scoring and fastest opening partnership in the history of ODIs.    But it was always a leap of logic to view him as any sort of solution to England’s post-Strauss opening vacuum (Burns now being, at least for the present, our solution to the post-Cook vacuum). Unfortunately for Roy,  the selector saw that there was a gap and decided that it gave him an opportunity to play Roy. Roy worked hard on his defence to the quicks in this game, but hasn’t the soft hands or the compactness for this to be a rewarding use of his talent.  He deserves some sort of run in the team, and perhaps can be retained if Buttler or Bairstow or Denly are not.   But we need to find another actual opener to partner Burns.  None of those already tried merit another look, including Denly.  Perhaps Dominic Sibley has done enough, as a red-ball opener who plays long innings regularly, to be given a look at the post-Strauss slot.

 

The Bogfather

Let’s get Ed funky
Find another opening flunky
While wearing the coolest of shades
Our white ball heroes
May swing and get zero
Or a ton, so let the blades
Of Roy and YJB flow
(there’s worse ideas, I know…)

 

Dmitri – Rod Marsh once assessed Scott Newman on an England A tour. It is reported he said “you won’t be an international player while there’s a hole in your arse”. While Jason Roy is no Scott Newman, obviously, he’s a man with a thin first class record. To stick him in as an opener and hoping he’s Sehwag or Warner is not the move of a thinking Chairman of Selectors, but, frankly, a chancer. Because he played a dicey shot to get out in the second dig is neither here nor there, he’s not a test match opener. Sure, he’ll have the talent to make a score one day, but he’s not a test match opener. Just in case you are in any doubt where I stand, Ed Smith is a fucking chancer, and Jason Roy is being messed about because he’s not a test match opener. You might as well stick Jos Buttler there. How about playing an opener that was in form a month ago when we had county games on – like Sibley. It’s checking the averages and picking a player, but it makes more sense than the up himself imbecile currently pretending to have a strategy about selection.

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Question 3 – Nathan Lyon was very very good on the fifth day. Great skill, or bad play?

 

Gareth – Combination of both. I have two Aussie buddies who are perpetually amused at how England always play Lyon like he is bowling grenades, but that ties in to just how poor English batsmen are at playing spin. It’s either poke around in defence, or charge down the wicket and take absurd risks. Who is the best English player of spin? It’s not beyond the realms of common sense to say the man batting at number nine looks better than most. Lyon has a significant edge over both Jos Buttler (in 2015) and Moeen Ali (in this life and the next).

 

Alex – Hard to be too critical in the circumstances. Yes Roy’s dismissal was bad but otherwise on that pitch on the final day Lyon was always going to be a handful. Damage was really done on Day 4.

 

MMHe’s an international spinner on a wicket that helps spin. He’s pretty much just doing his job. You’ve got to bowl well nonetheless, and he did so. That doesn’t excuse a capitulation, and it was a capitulation. As was the first innings, in part. So, to answer the question, I’d go 50:50… I think!

 

Growltiger – [Nathan Lyon] …is a decent international spinner, but no genius.  The truth is that he is pretty good at putting the ball on his chosen spot, and spins it enough (although not a lot).  The tendency to overspin gives  him dip rather than drift,  so on slow wickets he can be played off the pitch.  I doubt if he would have got Smith in either innings of this match, even if he bowled 100 overs.  Unlike Moeen, though, as the pitch got older he did what it said on the tin.  It was decent bowling, making decent use of the predicted conditions.  It wasn’t great batting, but mostly not completely incompetent either.   If Australia had lost the toss, Lyon would not have appeared in the role of match-winner, although he would surely have done better than Moeen in the third innings.

 

The Bogfather

We played into the Lyon’s den
Let him settle, Roy swung, and then
The rest of our mix of goldfish and gazelles
Decided to be divided as their wickets fell
Rather than apply their minds, were divest within
They fell farther into blindness at his best spin

 

Dmitri – Nathan Lyon was talked up and talked up. As I pointed out, he wasn’t exactly a proficient matchwinner, but he’s taken a stack of wickets. But sure as apples are little green apples, he rolled his arm over, got a few to turn, and our Frankenstein batting order shorted out, as if asked to translate Esperanto into Swahili. Lyon bowled well, but then we fell over in a heap to Roston Chase a few months ago, something the media don’t really seem to recall when bigging up someone for dismissing this line-up of Ed Smith’s follies.

>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>><<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<

Question 4 – Steve Smith is being portrayed as a run-making machine. A product of his environment, as test match cricket diminishes in quality, or a freak of nature, who would have thrived in any era?

 

Gareth – Again, combination of both. I wonder as to whether he would have been afforded the opportunity in previous ages, and certainly if we go back to Boycs “uncovered pitches” heyday then I’m sure he would have struggled. That being said you just have to marvel at his application and appetite, whilst praying to whichever deity you hold dearest that he just bleeding nicks one.

 

Alex – He may have been less successful on uncovered pitches (like most) but if you look at his fundamentals, his hand eye co-ordination, temperament and technique then you have to say he probably would have succeeded in any era. That said, the pitch did negate much of England’s seam attack in the second innings and Moeen was no threat so perhaps some bigger tests lie ahead patticularly if Archer plays.

 

MM – Steve Smith was at Worcestershire a few years back. He weren’t much cop at all, from my admittedly-poor memory. Wasn’t he just a leg-spinning allrounder back then? He’s batting like Border, Waugh, and Ponting all rolled into one right now. So what is freakish to me is his transformation. Has he modified his approach at the crease or has he undergone some kind of mind-transferal? Jeebus. As a Worcestershire fan, I thought he was almost as duff an import as Shoaib Ahktar was, some years earlier, and Brett Lee’s brother years before that. I still can’t believe what he has since become. Can someone become a freak of nature, having been really rather average? If yes, then there’s hope for us all.

 

Growltiger – Steve Smith is not pretty,  but he is the most impressive run-maker  of the age.  He has now been doing this for so long, on so many different types of wicket, against very variety of attack,  that it is has to be accepted he is very difficult to get out.  Period. He would have given Bradman a run for his money, statistically (and it would be fascinating to even out all the environmental factors, mostly favouring the Don, I would guess; nobody bothered to save the fours in his day, for instance).   Smith’s judgement of length and angle is such that he never has any difficulty keeping the board ticking over.  Of course, he has statistical soft spots.  It would be sensible to get one or two left arm bowlers into the side, and also to favour swing against sheer pace (his stats degrade quite badly when there is movement, but pace means nothing to him).

 

The Bogfather –

He knows his game, his limitations too
He’s come through shame to become the glue
That can’t be erased by sanding sheets
His concentration and play is unique

Because he has the will and desire
To be the best, he’ll ever aspire
So in those days of vastly better attacks
He’d work out a way to improve what he’d lack
It’s not the quality, nor the way he plays
He’d probably thrive in most era’s anyway.

Dmitri – I so want him to be a product of his environment, so that the reason he makes all these runs is because the bowling is nonsense. I imagine what the great West Indian line-up would have done to him, wonder what Waqar and Wasim would have dealt with that dainty dancing in front of the stumps, wonder what Hadlee would have done with his brilliant late movement. But Smith is undeniably a freak. And he’s living inside our heads, rent free, and the media reinforce his invincibility so we’re talking about “if” we can get him out. He’s human, he’s fallible, and he will make mistakes, but he’s also damn good, and a cut above anything England can offer in this mad scientist’s LSD trip of a team.

*******************************************************

Question 5 – Your England team for the second test. Your changes and why?

 

Gareth – Ah. Well I just don’t know. People are clamouring for Sibley/Crawley but I haven’t watched either bat. I think Burns has pencilled himself in for the series (your mileage may vary on how much of a positive that is) and they are unlikely to dispense with Roy.
My theory on Denly is that he’s there because Ed cannot pick himself, and I imagine he will get another go. Buttler and Bairstow need runs but are both high-profile enough to avoid the axe for now. I would drop Bairstow and bring Foakes in but I believe he also has a niggle. I personally like Woakes and his record at Lords and a decent performance at Edgbaston should keep him in the side (I often wonder how he would fare if he dropped bowling and focussed on batting).
Archer will surely feature and I would drop Moeen for his own good at this point.

My team then:-

Burns
Roy
Root
Denly
Stokes
Buttler
Bairstow (wk)
Woakes
Archer
Leach
Broad

Really not a lot of excitement there!

Alex – No surprises and don’t think the batting order will fundamentally change and Leach for Ali and Archer for Anderson are probable. If I was being adventurous I would consider Curran for Denly with Stokes up to 4 as strengthens bowling without hugely weakening the batting but can’t see England going for it.

 

MM

 

  1. Sibley
  2. Burns
  3. Root
  4. Roy
  5. Bairstow
  6. Stokes
  7. Foakes
  8. Woakes
  9. Archer
  10. Broad
  11. Leech

 

Proper openers; Roy down the order to attack an (ideally) older ball; a real wicketkeeper to allow Bairstow to concentrate on batting alone; 3 players in the middle whose names rhyme (only joking); a frontline spinner. I’d be telling Bairstow he’s gotta knuckle down. This is Test cricket and he’s done enough of it now.

 

Growltiger – Some of the principles of my selection for the second Test have already been stated:   the balance of our attack at Edgbaston was wrong (four right arm medium pacers would have been better then three, but was not the right balance anyway);  our batting needs an overhaul;  we need a proper opener.  In addition to this, we are carrying a number of players who are being asked to perform roles for which they are not suited, or are deeply out of form.   On grounds of form, we need to drop Moeen (although he is one of my favourite recent England batsmen, and I say this with regret), but this gives us an opportunity to play a left arm spinner – Jack Leach – against Smith.  Bairstow is a hopeless wicket keeper, and seems incapable of batting in Tests nowadays with any sort of calmness or effect;  he should be dropped, with the gloves going to Foakes (if fit) or Buttler.   Denly was selected to open, and should possibly be given one more go at this, but otherwise should be dropped in favour of Sibley.  Roy can drop down to four or five (perhaps ideally coming in below Stokes).  If Foakes is fit,  I would drop Buttler, who seems generally quite ineffectual in Tests, thus making room for Curran, who brings left-arm swing, and is generally someone who ought to be in the side on guts.  Archer comes in for Anderson, so long as his outing for Sussex 2nds hasn’t sprung another injury. Broad and Woakes stay in the team (subject to Woakes actually being fit, otherwise Stone).   So my line-up,  which will not be the one selected by Ed Smith,  is:

Burns, Sibley, Root, Stokes, Roy, Foakes, Curran, Archer, Woakes, Broad, Leach.

Frankly,  I don’t see Root as any kind of captain, but the drama and tears of that can wait until the Ashes have been lost.

The Bogfather –

 

My team in batting order, and if they must continue to flirt
Is this list of ECB/Sky/MSM, with 1 to 11 on their shirts

 

  1. Empty Suit – let him feel the heat of the boos
  2. Andrew Strauss – for his personal trust abuse
  3. Shiny Toy – Once a Captain, now just crap refrains
  4. Joe Root – because he wants and should bat four again
  5. Paul Newman – for his agenda so often bitter
  6. Ben Stokes – our fiery street-fighting hitter
  7. Jos Buttler – to compose and swing our late order song
  8. Lovejoy – banter for those who wing it in a thong
  9. Jofra Archer – our killer of 2nd XI bowlers and batters
  10. Barmy Army – trumpets, dire songs and mad hatters
  11. Stuart Broad – for comedic appeals and being Aggers mate
  12. Selfey – the loneliest ex-swinger in town…that must grate?
  13. Giles Clarke – let him run out with towels, bats and gloves
    …then field at short leg and feel a hard ball in his, with all our love…

 

Dmitri – This utter buffoon allowed to indulge his whims as England selectorial genius – he is just ask him – has got us into a position where there are so many problems, I don’t know where to start. I will hate any team I pick because it is a product of the environment we are in now – a god awful mess, made by a moron, who listens too much to pundits and their hobby horses, and his own voice inside, probably from the classical era. Anyway, if you struggle for a three, pick an opener. Two of them might work. So in the absence of evidence and thought, let me do just as crap a job as the charlatan with the shades, and come up with this.

 

Burns, Sibley, Roy, Root, Stokes, Buttler, Foakes (Bairstow needs to sit), Woakes, Archer, Leach, Broad.

 

Denly’s possession of the number four slot should be enough to get the stripey-tied fop sacked without a moment’s thought, but in looking at this team, I think Root needs to play where he feels comfortable. Roy at three is a compromise. Buttler at six is borrowed time. Sam isn’t quite good enough at either discipline to merit a place. I would think Northeast should be the next cab on the rank, but they’ll go some other way, no doubt. Crawley looked half decent when I saw him. Foakes is the best keeper to replace Bairstow who needs to sit. The rest are on borrowed time.

()()()()()()()()()()()()()()()()()

OK. That’s the first Ashes Panel of the summer. If you want to have a go, please let any of us know. It will be a quick turnaround between Lord’s and Headingley, so you will need to answer the questions we set within 24 hours or so, because it is a horror to format this! (I had the responses in all pretty colours from Word, and it’s not bloody worked). But once again, many thanks to all who contributed. Sean will be doing a test preview tomorrow, so we are back in the saddle for more content.

I’m not content, but then I never am. Ed Smith out. FICJAM, Foxtrot Oscar.

Number of times the camera pans to Ed Smith in the crowd over the 2nd Test? 20 if there are four days.

Nurse! I need a lie down.

Listen To The Propaganda, Listen To The Latest Slander – My First Test Review

For an Ashes Panel update, please go to the end of the post. This is my first take on the last Ashes test, but I do want to set up the Panel for a preview post for the Lord’s test which starts next Wednesday. Questions are at the end of this. Please do not answer them in the comments. Please. Now, on to my very long first thoughts……

There’s a lot less cricket coverage “free to air” these days. The Telegraph and Times are behind paywalls, and I can’t be bothered with the Mirror’s website because it acts as though it hates its customer. So the first three articles I read on yesterday’s debacle were from George Dobell on Cricinfo, Martin Samuel of the Mail (I hate my eyes and my brain) and Paul Newman of the same parish. Dobell critiques the results of yesterday as an inevitable consequence of the first class cricket strategy from the ECB over the past few years. That if you have desperate selections, desperation is probably the likeliest result. That if you pick a player for attacking intent, that when he attacks and gets out, you shouldn’t be that surprised. That Denly was a walking wicket because he knew he couldn’t defend Nathan Lyon. That this team isn’t made to save tests, they’ve given that aspect up. This is going down in flames or winning in a blaze of glory. There’s not been a drawn test for many years in England.

So while Dobell was as measured, but in his own way very damning of where England are now, let’s sample some of Samuel and Newman. For them, this was on Jason Roy.

Martin Samuel goes on, and on, and on, and on, and on….

Few minds scramble as fast as those of England batsmen under Antipodean pressure on day five. Any number of vignettes could represent how swiftly hopes of survival faded: Rory Burns losing his wicket with the score on 19; Joe Denly’s ludicrous review when the entire ground could have told him he’d hit it. Yet Jason Roy summed it up. Roy by doing exactly what his detractors suspected he would; Roy by conforming to stereotype; Roy by refusing to bend to the demands of the match.

Roy epitomised the reason there was so little hope for England, once it became obvious the weather wasn’t going to come to a flaky batting side’s rescue. He went, clean bowled by Lyon for 28, just at a point in the game when even those who had suspected his temperament as an opening Test batsman were beginning to remark on his discipline.

Yet Roy’s dismissal was desperate. He was not so much outwitted as undone, dancing down the wicket, needlessly looking to knock the spinner into the confectionary stand, and bowled through a gap of the type more usually reserved for delivery drivers.

It summed up an English malaise in these condition, the confusion of purpose and intent. Roy has been encouraged to play his normal, white-ball game. And that involves taking risks.

Yet those risks are calculated, shaped to the situation. Roy has to move the scoreboard along, yes. But that doesn’t mean he swings at the first ball of the day; or the next one; or the one after. He plays the game, as necessary, and Monday’s game demanded patience.

So to try what he did against Lyon was more than foolish. That he almost hesitated before breaching the dressing-room door after it had happened suggests he knew this, too. The argument is that Roy might one day win England a match playing in this manner, but that isn’t true. No batsman wins a game going completely against the demands of the situation. Even those who advocate aggression from the openers – and Trevor Bayliss, England’s coach, certainly does – appreciate the need to balance that with the state of play. Roy didn’t.

No, he’s not finished…

He treated the task as if England were chasing victory, which they were not – at no time was there an attempt to post the 398 required – or that the mission was the same as on day one.

Had Roy got out this way in England’s first innings, it would have been frustrating and his critics would have been furious, but those who supported his selection would have understood. That’s what you get when you pick an attacking opener: attack.

The least that can be hoped, however, is that the same opener recognises when the best, the only form of attack is defence. It wasn’t just that Roy played a lousy shot for Test cricket.

No, still some more to go…

It would have been a shocker in any form of the game: 50-over, Twenty20, it might not even past muster in The Hundred, unless runs are awarded for the breadth of swing plane when missing the ball. And don’t put it past them until they’ve focus-grouped it.

Yet it precipitated one of those middle-order collapses that are as English as cream tea, motorway roadworks or the proroguing of parliament. England lasted two and a quarter hours during that horrid spell and were 86 for nine.

So it is to Paul Newman we look to for a moment of sanity, a cricket writer’s perspective, a calmer head rather than a football writer (and a crap one at that, in my view) guesting on cricket for reasons not known.

When Jason Roy came charging needlessly down the wicket in an attempt to hit Nathan Lyon out of Birmingham and instead missed a wild slog, it became clear England were going down floundering rather than fighting.

Yes, Roy has been chosen for this Ashes on the big-match temperament and attacking game that has made him one of the most destructive batsmen in white-ball cricket.

Those were paragraphs 2 and 3. Jason Roy. All Jason Roy’s fault. He “set the tone”. It was, as always, much worse getting out playing to score runs, to try to dominate, than it is to have your technique undressed. A man playing his second test plays a horrible shot, and it’s on him. A shot we all knew, deep down, Jason Roy was going to play. At some point. You lot wanted him, now you lot bury him? It’s fun watching this press and media corps, it really is.

And, yes, if England are going to put their faith in him in the ultimate form of the game they will have to put up with some overly positive shots and brain-fades made in the name of imposing himself on Test cricket.

But not this. Not such a reckless and headless slog that it offered Lyon the first of his six wickets in England’s woeful last day collapse not only on a plate but gift-wrapped and labelled ‘To Garry, with love from Jason.’

At that stage of this fifth day England had lost only Rory Burns and could still entertain realistic hopes of at least making Australia work hard for their victory on a ground where they had not won since the halcyon days of 2001.

Yet once Roy had departed, running off the pitch and away from the scene of his crime almost in embarrassment, an England team that appear to be struggling to recover from the mental and physical exertions of winning the World Cup, crashed spectacularly.

Be positive, be attacking, don’t get out. Jason Roy didn’t need to be told it wasn’t a good idea, but as always, if that wild slog had netted him a four, a six, or even a harmless squib out to leg, no-one would have remembered it. But it’s always worse getting out when trying to hit out, we know that. We also had a clue that Jason Roy wasn’t or isn’t a test opener, and he certainly isn’t when you need to get out of jail on a turning fifth day pitch, or to defend. It’s like picking Lionel Messi for your football team and sticking him at centre-back against a team who like to lump it high and long. If he gets caught dribbling it out of defence, or playing an ambitious pass, would you slate him? OK, Roy isn’t Messi, but it’s sort of the same thing. It’s the selection that’s the problem, not the player.

Meanwhile, Paul, the man you worshipped Ed Smith for selecting, Jos Buttler, had another horror game against Australia. He averages 12.8 against them. I know many said last time out that the Aussies played on his weaknesses, tying him down, making him take risky shots, but as much as I like Jos, he’s averaging in the mid 30s in his career, and he doesn’t look like a test batsman, as much as I really, really want him to be. You aren’t going to get Paul supporting that case when there’s a Jason Roy to berate. Instead, although Roy played in the World Cup and has no excuses, Bairstow, Buttler and Moeen (who didn’t play every game) are shot.

I don’t think we need to talk about Joe Denly. I said he looks to be a bloke who has turned up to an event, and no-one is quite sure why, and it would be rude to ask him to leave too early.  But if you don’t think he’s test class now, and you haven’t for the majority of his career, what’s the point. The England team is not supposed to be a supper club. Look at the county championship, look at who has made a persuasive case to be given a go, whether he has played Lions cricket or not, and do it. Give him five test matches if you must, you’ll have a good idea after three. (Rory Burns didn’t disgrace himself in Sri Lanka, played a decent knock in the Caribbean and scored a hundred on an iffy-ish pitch against a very decent attack here). Those men are Sam Northeast – 815 at 62.69 – and Dominic Sibley – 940 at 62.67. They may benefit from some nice surfaces, but they have played long innings and made good runs in the First Division. One of them is an opener, the other is a middle order bat. But, I suspect, that’s too vanilla for Ed Smith. It took them long enough to pick Burns, trying virtually everybody else, and then they have the gall to go straight to Smith on the cameras when Burns brought up his hundred as if the selection was a masterstroke.

Australia clearly have the best batsman on either side, but we knew that. Joe Root is much closer to the third best (arguably Warner) than he is to Smith at the moment, and we all know that. He is also incredibly hard to get out, and we know that too. However, talk of Bradman, talk of his immortality, of it being pointless trying to get him out, of just hoping he will make a mistake is folly. He can, and will fail. There are always ways to get him out, and many times he’ll make runs. I look back to the 2001 team, for instance, with a line-up of Hayden, Slater/Langer, Ponting, Mark Waugh, Damien Martyn, Steve Waugh, Adam Gilchrist. These are all players who averaged well over 40, some over 50, back-to-back-to-back-to-back-to-back-to-back-to-back. A murderer’s row. Imagine starting the day out against that lot. Here we have an opener who can hit form, a solid number 3 who finds ways to get out when going well (Khawaja must be so frustrating as an Aussie fan), a number five who is game, with potential, and Matthew Wade at six. Come on. Don’t be scared. If you give in, mentally concede ground, do you think that will work. Did the great Aussie sides see Sachin, or Lara, and especially Kallis, and say “no, we can’t get them out”. Smith is in blazing form, has been for ages, but he is human. We’re treating him, talking about him as if he is not.

I’m nearly 2000 words in (many of them the Mail’s) and yet I still can’t quite understand anyone in authority’s thinking. There’s so much wrong, that I can’t quite get to the point where we need to start. It’s a team full of muddled thinking, with a pretend genius at the helm. Merely speaking of prioritising red ball cricket isn’t enough. We have a coach looking at other job applications having met his main performance objective, and knowing he’s leaving. We have a guardian authority taking the plaudits for the World Cup and acting like messiahs, while ignoring the core support in England over the lack of red ball cricket in the summer months, the new franchise competition set to dominate the landscape during test season next year, and downgrading the format we are world champions in. It’s hard to think of a bigger muppet show. But Tom did his lap of honour with the media on Day One, and I doubt will be seen again this year if this goes even more pear-shaped.

This is a team put together by a mad scientist. It manages to be much less than the sum of its parts. It flogs its best players to exhaustion, then puts its hand up and says what else can we do? (How about scheduling three test tours the winter after this summer, that should work) It has a team with one opener, and a one day opener, a captain who doesn’t want to bat three, but then does. It has a number four who was picked to bat three, but was deemed not to be good enough there, so he can fail at four. Our number 5 can’t buy a score against Australia. Our number six is run into the ground bowling, but you suspect is the best of the bunch at the moment. The number seven is a wicket-keeper batsman who rails against the slightest thing that demotes his status, and as he’s not part of Phoenix, you know who will steam right in. The number eight is a spinner / batsman on a lousy trot, who needs to go back to county cricket to recover his form, only to have to return to the T20 Blast until September, by which it is too late. Our number nine, who had a good match, is a bad bowling spell away from being labelled benign, and yet doesn’t appear to be as exhausted as the batsmen, who, you know, don’t have to run steaming in 100 times a day. Our number 10 has probably had his one good spell, and one decent innings of the summer. And our number 11 turned up recovering from injury, got injured, is out injured for the next game, and probably the one after that, and yet we still believe in our medical staff.

I might have more on this later in the week.

Finally, I want some volunteers for an Ashes Panel* in the lead up to next week’s test. PLEASE DO NOT POST ANY ANSWERS TO THESE IN THE COMMENTS. Please e-mail dmitriold@hotmail.co.uk or any of the e-mail addresses in the “contact us” tab above with your answers. I will need to have them by close of play on Sunday.

  1. A brief summary of the first test. Most importantly, they key moments England lost the game?
  2. Jason Roy has copped a lot of stick for being Jason Roy. Your views on the selection of opener, and what would you do for this, and the next few tests?
  3. Nathan Lyon was very very good on the fifth day. Great skill, or bad play?
  4. Steve Smith is being portrayed as a run-making machine. A product of his environment, as test match cricket diminishes in quality, or a freak of nature, who would have thrived in any era?
  5. Your England team for the second test. Your changes and why?

As I said PLEASE DO NOT POST ANY ANSWERS TO THESE IN THE COMMENTS. PLEASE. PRETTY PRETTY PLEASE.

*An example of an Ashes Panel post can be found here. I do it as a full blog post. The first five, presuming I get five, will be published, and possibly more. You know you want to….

I feel like I’ve left a lot to say on this previous test, so may be back later this week with some more comment. Any comments on this are welcome. The Ashes mean so much to so many that defeats leave an out of proportion sense of anger and despair many times. But this one feels bad. We were conditioned, at least some were, to expect a stuffing Down Under last time so that some journalists and pundits who should have known better allowed a free pass because the team wasn’t whitewashed. Now it’s the World Cup hangover as a reason / excuse. Didn’t stop £100 tickets being charged. Didn’t stop players raking in large salaries. Didn’t stop coaches staying on for one last hurrah/raspberry. Didn’t stop the ECB from shoehorning an Ashes after a World Cup, when having one before a World Cup was deemed as counter-productive to a successful campaign.

While Newman and Samuel pull their swords out and thrash at Jason Roy, George Dobell finishes his article with the words that should really resonate… less the grinding of axes, more the finesse of true swordsmanship.

But cracks are appearing up and down this England side and it feels, for perhaps the first time, as if instead of building toward something, they are starting to crumble and fall apart. Nothing that happened at Edgbaston was a surprise. And that should worry England.

Indeed. See you later.