The 2017 Dmitris – Number 1 is Ben Stokes in 2017

It’s December and time for the Dmitris. This is my eclectic mix of stuff that I give an intangible award to and write a long-winded load of nonsense to back it up. There’s one for the best and worst in journalism, a couple of player ones, and some other things. Last year we had Tim Wigmore, 6 6 6 6, Eoin Morgan’s 2016, Virat Kohli and others (I never did get around to writing out the Paul Newman one for worst journo).

Before I start on the citation for the first of this year’s Dmitri Awards, let me explain to the uninitiated, or those who don’t recall, what they try to achieve. It’s more a question of what they are not, than what they are.

Most importantly they are not, necessarily, a merit award, although some will be.

They are not necessarily a worst in class award, although some will be.

It’s not about a greatest ever, or a worst ever.

They ARE about the issues, people, events and anything else that have shaped 2017 for me. For example, last year, one of the awards was 6 6 6 6 to reflect the Carlos Brathwaite salvo that won the World T20. Brathwaite did pretty much the square root of eff all for the rest of the year, but the repercussions of that over flowed out like ripples in the water – for the media, the ECB, the players, the blogging world etc.

I’ve not determined a number, have just a couple of definite winners in mind as I start, but here we go with number 1. Ben Stokes in 2017.

Ben Stokes Spotted In Ashes Action

Ben Stokes hangs over the Ashes like a spectre. The Sunday night shenanigans outside a Bristol night club have loomed around the England team like a Feroz Shah Kotla fog, not allowing England to field their best team, without arguably their best player, but with the tantalising prospect that he might be allowed to play at some point.

This piece is not to discuss the merits or wherefores of the incident. The law of the land takes its course, and it should not be done any more quickly or more slowly because our cricket fortunes require it. What it has done, like a number of incidents before, has been to cause a massive ripple effect across the England team, and to a degree, social media.

I’ve not really discussed this much on the blog or on Twitter. Firstly, funnily, because I don’t feel strongly enough about it. Among England cricket fans, not the first time, this make me odd. Some on here are passionately against him playing in this series, and some on Twitter are passionately against him ever playing for England again. A number believe he should be playing because it is innocent until proven guilty. Many believe the Sun video invalidates that premise. In the midst of this, we have an ECB stooge in the Comma being put in a very difficult position, and his choice, the one I wouldn’t want, is hindering our Ashes campaign. Good luck Comma!

The reason this is such a big deal is Stokes had had a pretty decent 2017. His test hundred at The Oval has been given some of the highest plaudits by social media people I think know the game pretty well. Good enough for me, because highlights never truly reveal the greatness. There is no doubting he is a more than useful bowling asset, and has a key attribute in being a “presence” in the field. People may not like that he is, that he can be too provocative, but in reality Australia is no place for the boy scouts when it comes to the Ashes. Root needs him out there, and it’s not easy to replace a character like him, let alone his performance.

Stokes is not as divisive a character as Kevin Pietersen, but there is the same form of dramatis personae in them both. They walk the walk better than any England players I’ve seen. Stokes was not destroyed by 6 6 6 6 , but took it on the chin, dusted himself down, recovered and took his place.

Ben Stokes is England’s main man, the bloke who gets people out of the bars as they used to say, but in one stupid, filmed, moment, he became its curse. It will certainly damn Comma in even more eyes, whatever he decides. It will be used as an excuse for England if/when, they fail, with the irony being the larger the defeat, the less impact one man could have had on proceedings. Stokes will be invoked on every occasion this series is discussed – yes, but would it have been different with Stokes in the team? – will be the oft quoted question. Then, when he returns, will it really be with “open arms” or will teammates think he’d absented himself from a tough test through a moment of lack of self-control.

As a blogger, how did Stokes impact? He isn’t one of my favourite players, it has to be said, so there’s no emotional response, like there is with a Kevin Pietersen or a Graham Thorpe. He isn’t a figure of hate, or even a figure of media protection, so we don’t really have a Cook problem either ( media protection applying with this example, please). If I don’t have an emotional driver, then opining on a medium that seems to thrive off it is tough. Stokes isn’t seen, I believe, as a sympathetic figure on this blog, even before the Bristol Bash Up. It makes writing about it hard. It is, believe it or not, that I don’t care enough. There are two sides to the argument. There may be context to the brawl. Was I horrified? No. I wasn’t. Maybe where I’m from and some of my life experiences did that. And I’m not a fan of moralising. The most massive story of the year and I couldn’t really be bothered. Greavsie might have said “It’s a funny old game” and he could have been talking about me and blogging.

Ben Stokes made four international centuries in the English summer. He was the middle man in the batting and the bowling. He is a tremendous fielder. He had a magnificent IPL. He had the world at his feet and one massive incident and the world looks a lot stranger now. His impact on the cricket media, agenda, and Ashes fall out is going to be ongoing, immense and very interesting. There’s more to this, and we might even comment on it ourselves. But undeniably, meeting the criteria that you have to have an impact on the blogging world/social media / media, Eoin Morgan’s tumultuous 2016 has been followed by the 2017 of England’s “New Zealand born” all-rounder. Dmitri Number 1 is Ben Stokes’s 2017.

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Feel The Pain, Feel The Joy, Aside Set The Little Bits Of History Repeating – Day 5 Preview

UPDATE AT END OF POST

australia-2006-sim-2-202-02.jpeg.jpegBack in the day, way back in the day, I had an idea to write a blog. I started one up on blogspot, had to close it down (I like threats of violence), opened up another on WordPress, but bored with that and I thought I should specialise. In 2010 I decided to write a new blog, based on cricket. I get these madcap ideas every now and again (still convinced I can do this and an America Sports blog).

What should I call it? I always found it difficult to come up with names for blogs that were catchy, but a bit different. What should I call the cricket blog I had some grand visions for, but ultimately I knew would be a failure? Nothing with crap like googlies in it. Nothing about Inside Edges or such stuff. Not for me. No. Think.

When considering a name, I wanted to make it personal to me. I’d been to six test matches overseas, of which we lost all five that I had tickets for all of the days, and won the other where I had just two days of tickets. Of all those matches, one stood out. The exemplar of what a cricket fan has to go through in a five day test. The periods of slow play, laying the foundation, which Day 1 was. The burst of hope as your team takes a hold of the game, which was definitely Day 2. The striving for success, to put yourselves in a winning position, which Day 3 seemed to be. The evaporation of hope, as the opposition grind down a tired team and reach virtual parity, and that, my friends, was Day 4.

Then there was Day 5. Day 5. It still makes me shiver with that awful feeling of despair. It still hurts as I think of those Aussies running over to their crowd in front of the scoreboard, knowing the Barmy Army were to their right, suffering. The time when I saw a cricket team freeze before my eyes, paralysed with the fear of defeat and not knowing what to do. Watching mental disintegration in its most visceral form. Stupid shots, silly runs, shotless innings, hopeless wafts, dodgy decisions, and fear. Pure unadulterated fear. There was no calculation for when the game was safe, and when we lost the 10th wicket we knew that we weren’t safe. This was 4 and a half an over. They had a good batting line up.

And the question was raised, again and again. How could the team that had been so good in the first three days, be so bad on the last? How could the team that had played without fear in England not 18 months before, be paralysed with it on that December afternoon? How could players like KP, who had taken the final day at the Oval in 2005 in his hands and make it his, succumb meekly to a pathetic sweep shot?

How Did We Lose In Adelaide?

I had the name. It encapsulated a seminal event in my life, coming after the death of both my parents in the space of 9 months, becoming a mental wreck, a shot to pieces individual pinning hopes on great holidays, great mates and enjoyment to forget the grief. It reminded me of the sheer beauty, and pain, of sport, of why it is played, why it should never be discounted, why test cricket should absolutely not be messed with. It reminded me that bad times in sport, the real lows, in many ways should be appreciated because if you feel that bad, you bloody well cared enough to hurt. It seemed a perfect name for the blog. So I used it.

How Did We Lose In Adelaide

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England resume tomorrow half way there, with more than half their wickets left. Tomorrow is Joe Root’s chance to emulate Brian Lara in Barbados, Sachin in Chennai, Smith at Edgbaston to name three. To have the innings of immortality at your fingertips, but yet, but yet, so far away. It is a chance for heroes to emerge, for legends to be made, for the Australians to ask the question I have asked so often myself. It is a chance for Woakes to play the nightwatchman role of his life, to surprise us and make us embrace him. If they should be denied it is for Jonny Bairstow and Moeen Ali to take the good fight forward. 178 runs – not a small amount, but not insurmountable. This isn’t Butcher at Headingley, with a series gone, but Lara in Barbados with a series to control. This is the chance we thought we didn’t have, the chance brought to us by a champion bowling performance 72 hours too late.

We could emerge triumphant, we could leave the Aussies shell-shocked, in recrimination, undermine the captaincy of Smith who would never live it down, we could build up the confidence of the men who played a small part in setting this up. We could hit the enemy where it hurts, with a victory when there seemed no chance we could avoid defeat. We could slay the invincibility aura that some have given this bowling attack. We could quiet the Aussie fans and media, in their tracks, make them pay. We could do all this and more with 178 runs. One hundred and seventy-eight runs with six wickets remaining. One century partnership and it is probably ours. We can see it. We can taste it. We want it. A chance to complete the circle dating back to December 2006, to the naming of my most important blog in 2010, to the pain of and pains caused by the whitewash in 2013/14. A chance to exorcise some demons. To laugh and to cry. To feel joy, remembering the pain. What a chance!

220 all out by lunch.

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My Old Header Photo…How Did We Lose In Adelaide

This post is dedicated to Sri Grins! Comments below.

“I’m Flying High, I’m Watching The World Pass Me By”

UPDATE – How Did We Lose In Adelaide? Without much of a fight it seems. I woke up at 4:20, looked at the score on my phone, swore, posted a comment, went back to sleep. Woke up with the alarm at 6:10 and saw the end result. What a shame.

I’m aware Chris and I have hogged the mic, so to speak, for the past few days, so we are handing over the keyboard to Danny and Sean for the next two days. Danny will be carrying out the review of the match / Day 5 and Sean will apply his forensic mind to any issues arising from the last test. Me? Christmas parties.

It’s Dmitri’s season, so got to start thinking of them. We’ve still got Perth. But most of all, we still have each other.

 

Tell Me About Your Childhood – Preview of Day 4 at the 2nd Ashes Test

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Why Optimism Should Be Banished…..

As I walked to work today, having dropped the beloved border collie off at my brother’s house, I walked down the hill to the station, contemplating the problems England were facing, as at the time we had just lost Woakes. As I strolled to the nirvana of Grove Park Station, the Gateway of Dreams, the Portal to Pressure, so I passed the Favourite Chicken and Ribs fast food emporium on one side of the road. Hmm, glad I’ve never been in there. As I crossed the busy Baring Road, I noticed that the locksmiths were just about to open, and thought, has that always been there? And then it struck. I should use these thoughts in something more constructive. What would Martin Samuel do?

Well, England have proved themselves more than Chicken in this game, even when the ball isn’t tickling their Ribs on what should be their Favourite conditions of the series, and after consuming this, there’s a pain like indigestion at the outcome. And they’ll need a locksmith to get them out of the handcuffs the first innings batting, and their lamentable bowling has put them in. They’ve tied themselves up in chains, and the Ashes will be locked in Australian safe custody if they don’t. Martin would be proud.

OK, I’ve got the Martin Samuel bit out of my head. Let’s do this as I usually do. Or try.

Chris has adroitly summed up the predicament England face in this test match. Unless there is something utterly out of the ordinary, or a ton of rain, England are going 2-0 down. No dressing this up any other way. England will not, in all likelihood, chase down the current lead, let alone the 350 that is much more likely, or the 400+ I suspect we’ll have to. So what tonight was is the equivalent, somewhat, of the moment on the ultimate gameshow, Bullseye, where Jim Bowen shows the crestfallen finalist what they could have won… and we got a bleedin’ speedboat. Sorry, Martin Samuelitis is affecting my brain.

Once again, the batting was a sad state of affairs. Overton top scored with 41 not out, providing some green shoots of new promise, but we all really believe, deep down, he’s another fast-medium trundler who won’t get more than 10 tests. Test match batting is quite often more about temperament than technique (something that should be remembered more often) and Overton and Woakes showed it while their top order colleagues didn’t. The evidence from Brisbane, seized upon by the experts, that our tail would be blown away time after time was made to look the jibberish it was. These are good bowlers, but they are not all time great bowlers. It’s Lyon that’s the difference, the big difference.

The problems with the batting aren’t new. Players come in, are given a few games, and then dropped without any of them sticking. The prettier your shots, the easier on the eye that you are, the more chances you are going to get. See James Vince. England have not produced a batsman that has stuck since Joe Root. Yet he has now gone six tests in Australia without a ton. Alastair Cook remains the best opener in England, but it is now 17 Ashes tests since his last century, or put another way, 33 innings without an Ashes hundred. These are our two “rocks”. We need them to be more igneous and less porous (Samuel, stop it).

I didn’t see the bowling, and nor will I catch the highlights before this goes up. I don’t care much for our bowlers, if truth be told. Stuart Broad can bowl “that spell”. We know, except every time he takes a wicket early in a spell, the twitterati seem to want to think we are at the beginning of one of “those spells”. Word to the wise, wait until he’s taken at least three or you’ll be a Shiny Toy before you know it. Jimmy Anderson has never been my favourite cricketer and seems not to perform far too frequently overseas lately to be given the reverence he has been. Tonight he bowled tightly and nicked a couple of wickets. 48 hours too late. Moeen is the liability with spin we always thought he might be, Woakes has improved for the run out (remember, he missed most of our domestic season) and Overton is this year’s Roland-Jones, even if Roland-Jones is this year’s Roland-Jones. There’s room for more than one.

As always, we really look forward to receiving your views as the day’s play unfolds. There’s the overnight shift from the Tundra and India, aided and abetted by a random insomniac. Then there’s the waking hours, as we react to the horrors that have unfolded in our sleeping hours. I catch up with them all on the commute to the office, and then dip in here and there on the relatively few opportunities. Once play is over, we try to get a report out to comment on the events we’ve seen and react to the comments from those outside our Outside Cricket bubble. An afternoon to digest, and then a preview piece to send you to sleep with all the joys of spring.

As I went up into my loft yesterday to retrieve my Christmas decorations, I noticed on the shelves my parents built up there a whole bunch of those weekly magazines you keep to make up a pseudo encyclopaedia. Mine was the Illustrated History of Aircraft. Also, I opened a box to find some unexpected Halloween decorations. Today’s cricket starts at 3am, or near offer. Will it be a fright night that haunts us all, spells being woven, demons in the wicket, with a horror of an ending? Or will we be flying high, on a jet pace, soaring machine towards the ultimate prize of Ashes glory, a jumbo sized explosion of joy, a Dreamliner of enthusiasm.

Doctors appointment for Samuelitis is at 12 noon. Wish me luck.

Comments below.

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What happens when you are optimistic……

Did You Think I’d Crumble? Did You Think I’d Lay Down And Die – Ashes, 2nd Test, Day 2 Review

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Memories, of the way we were

As usual, the problem with writing a match review when you’ve not had a chance to catch up with the highlights, and you’ve slept through most of the morning, is a difficult one. We’d expect you to have done some of that work yourself, and if not, you can always read the always accurate, always agenda-free newspapers for your daily update. Of how England could not take all of the remaining five wickets despite getting rid of Handscomb early; of Shaun Marsh, he of four test centuries previously, unexpectedly made a fifth; of England not being able to shift Cummins until he made another 40 odd; and of how England lost Stoneman as the sun went down and the pace went up; and for the one piece of fortune England have had all tour, a shower that came up from the south as a piece of drizzle, but dropped a lot more and ended the night session.

I hope you appreciated the Live Blog this morning which was set up to take us all through the stress and strain of the opening part of the England innings. We thought, well I did, that we’d be witnessing a wake. That England would be a lot down for not a lot. But there are a couple of things we need to discuss here. First up, this is Adelaide – the wicket is a little more spicy and the conditions a little different, but Adelaide doesn’t misbehave unless it is damp, or it has had repeated 40 degree heat on it. This looks like an OK wicket to bat on to me – a tailender staying in untroubled sort of confirms this. The game is about temperament and technique, and England have few excuses not to make it through tomorrow’s play without a collapse. Of course, pretty much all of the England cognoscenti on here and on social media believe a collapse is inevitable. Let’s have some faith (fool).

This is an especially key passage of play for Alastair Cook, who looked much more stable than previously. No-one is confusing him with David Gower, but it’s a start. Stoneman looked pretty good before getting done by a full one – noticeable that the Aussie pacemen concentrated on it being fuller than their England counterparts – and although there aren’t whispers yet, the Surrey/Durham man needs to cash in because he looks like he flows when he gets going (as he did for his county this year) and has more about him than some of his predecessors.

The rain, which we should never celebrate (!) came just after Stoneman’s dismissal, and wiped out a potentially awkward hour or so. England will definitely trade the half hour in mid-afternoon for one in the night. James Vince faced a rocket yorker first up which he played very well (as a really average club player, imagine facing that, at night, at 90+ mph first up – we can be over-critical) but not much else.

The word on the street was that England bowled too short, again. The word on the street was that they also had no luck, again. The word on the street is that Woakes is a popgun on these sort of surfaces. The word on the street was that Overton wasn’t bad, but that Moeen was. The word on the street is that England’s body language sagged as Shaun Marsh took control and no wickets looked like falling. The word on the street is that England are in dead trouble.

Let’s see if there are better words on the street when we all wake up tomorrow.

On an admin tip, I doubt very much we’ll have a live blog tomorrow as it is a working day (and I’m not going to get away with that at work). The Adelaide Day/Night test may be a spectacle and bring more people’s attention in Australia but it is a pain in the rear for us cricket bloggers. We’ll do what we can to update as and when. But as usual, feel free to comment below on the cricketing action as and when you can.

A little self-congratulation

Eagle-eyed visitors may notice that we passed another milestone. At the bottom of the right hand column on the front page we have a hit counter (it discounts our hits as admin) and we’ve passed 900,000 in our third full year as Being Outside Cricket (we started in February 2015). We’ve seen a number of our old faces return as an Ashes series takes place, and welcome back to you all. We also had an uplifting editorial last week, where we were positive about how the blog will progress. As usual, your energy feeds ours.

Next stop 1 million hits (combining BOC and HDWLIA since the last Ashes – 246k for that year – we are well over that already). Coming from nowhere, it’s something I,and the team, are proud of. One of the rules of blogging is never divulge your stats, but stuff it. We ain’t going to make any money out of it!


For all Day 3 comments, use the usual method below. If you are interested, in 2006 we had Australia 28 for 1 in response to our 551/6 declared, and we all know how that ended up. I know, different times, different teams, different games. It’s what keeps us interested.

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Picture from the old main stand…..

 

Ain’t That A Hole In The Boat? – The Second Ashes Panel

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Round 2

Dmitri – Good day. By the time you will be reading this three of the four members of the writing council will be in the midst of an editorial board meeting. So we have left the Second Test Ashes Panel with you for your delectation. We’ve lost Danny from last time, which might be just about forgivable if he’d stayed up to watch the end of Day 4 (only joking, he was a stalwart throughout), but we have six of the remaining cast members, including more poetry from the Bogfather. So thanks to Silk, Sri, Ian, Scrim, MiaB and TheBogfather (no space) for their contributions, their rapid responses, and excellent and varied insight. Really enjoyed it people.

 

Question 1 – So now the Brisbane result is in, what has it shown you about the relative strengths and weaknesses (and some perhaps not highlighted by the mainstream media)

Silk – I’ve not seen anything the media haven’t seen. Though Handscomb’s weakness against Anderson was unexpected (to me). Australia’s batting looks a lot less weak after Day 4 than it did in the middle of Day 2, with Marsh proving a good selection and Bancroft in the runs second dig. Worryingly, Hazelwood appears to have dusted the cobwebs off his bowling after a poor day one. Khawaja and the keeper aside, all looks rosy is Aussie world.

England’s batting was a lot better than I thought it might be. The bowling as ineffective as I feared it might be. The problem is, for England to win I thought we had to knock Aus over, cheaply, repeatedly, as our batting, while capable of 300, didn’t look capable of 500. On this display, Aus have nothing to fear.

Sri – I think the assessment that Oz batting is still Smith and Warner is still true. Likewise OZ bowling was expected to be good and it has proven to be good. 

However, Lyon’s impact was underestimated by me and maybe by the english mainstream media as well. He made a big difference by getting critical wickets. Seems to have improved significantly and with England’s Moeen who seems to have been injured a bit, the gap in this department and due to under performance of woakes, OZ could negate the advantage England had when they started their second innings. Lyon makes the OZ bowling stronger and if Moeen continues to struggle with injuries England will be weaker. 

However, the problem for England is really the support bowling and I certainly didn’t expect woakes especially to be so ineffective.

I still think England can outbat Oz. Their batsmen have got starts except cook and anyway my expectation was that cook would score around 210 runs if he plays all the tests. 

Scrim – Bowling depth seems to be England’s problem, not Australia’s as was (and still is) claimed by many in the media. Depth both in terms of quality, and diversity. There is no feeling that any Australian bowler is weaker than another, and between them they have tools at their disposal that England didn’t: genuine pace, a left armer, some reverse swing, and a spinner bowling brilliantly.

Despite having an omnipotent deity coming in at 4, there are still some question marks over the Australian batting line up. Khawaja and Handscomb will be desperate for runs.

MiaB – We knew already. Brittle batting. A pair of good batters on each side but Smith and Warner comprehensively did for Cook and Smith. The English bowling is useless without a Selvey green seamer track 

Ian – Weaknesses in both teams but more in the England team.   Steve Smith who is used to the pressure of captaincy is able to not let it affect him whilst of course the change bowling is a big strength for Australia too.

Rhyme Time from TB…

But the ‘roos fought harder than team Root

Was it battle plans pre-scored or radical idyllic thirst

A close shave became full beard fear, however hirsute…
Lack of forethought and testing preparation
Sent England to an eventual slaughter
A Stokesless fire, soon died in chilled perspiration
Spent pop-gun attack, enduring hid injuries, became pure plasticised mortar…

(Don’t know what he did with the formatting, but I’m not messing about with it after midnight)

 

Question 2  Adelaide at night? In favour of day-night in the Ashes, or are you a reactionary old fuddy duddy?

Scrim – 100% in favour of day-night tests. Given the importance of getting bums on seats and high TV ratings, both commercially and because ultimately cricket is played for spectators, it makes perfect sense to play when people aren’t at work. Can you imagine the Premier League scheduling Chelsea vs Arsenal at 1pm on a Thursday afternoon?

I love that they are being played at my home ground, Adelaide Oval. I haven’t been home for a day-night test yet, but from what mates tell me, the atmosphere is amazing. The evenings are usually beautifully balmy in Adelaide in December, as opposed to oppressively hot during the middle of the day.

In terms of the on-field action: as long as there is a statsguru filter for it, who cares? Test cricket is played in all sorts of weather conditions, with all sorts of different balls, on all sorts of surfaces and that is one of the most fascinating things about it. Artificial light isn’t that much of a stretch. The best players will exploit and adapt, as they would to any other playing condition.

MiaB – As reactionary as they come. Only on a 1938 Durban track or 1930 west Indies track do you want dew to influence the result. 

Ian – I like the concept of D/N test cricket but more as a television viewer than somebody attending the test.  Depending on your timezone I think its great to get home from work and have a few hours test cricket to watch.  Although I wouldn’t be massively keen on attending a test in the UK or Australia that didn’t finish until late evening.

Silk – Fuddy duddy, if it changes the balance between bat and ball. The toss is already too big a factor in Tests. If day/night makes it more of a lottery, well, effectively you’ve got 2nd tier tests, which no one ‘properly’ wins, because of the lights.

If it’s just as easy to play under lights as it is without them, I’ve no problems with it.

Sri – In Favor. Loving T-20 can’t call myself a fuddy duddy 🙂

TB with the formatting nonsense, in prose..

My reaction is nary a thought now considered

As Test cricket is left to seek a reason for being
By the moneyed moguls of short-term, cash-cowed, highest-bidders
Bereft of history, a cleft wreaked by the me, me, me, unseeing
And once pink balls become coloured clothing
I will lose my true love, be in complete loathing.

Not a clue what he’s done..

 

Question 3 – Put that Steve Smith innings into context. Tell me an Ashes ton you thought was better.

MiaB – Maybe Greg Chappell’s 112 at Lords in 1972, the Massie match. Or Cowdrey’s 102 at Melbourne in 1954. Both innings head and shoulders beyond what anyone else managed.

Sri – Mark Taylor’s performances in England especially the century he made in the second innings in a losing cause when everyone had given up on him because of his poor form which then turned the ashes around.

Silk – The 235* was very, very good. England were under the hammer, and it needed fight. On every other tour we’d have lost that Test by tea. But the pitch was very very flat that day, as the other batsmen showed. Smith had batsmen falling around him, and stood tall.

Obviously for sheer panache, history, soaring while everyone around you stutters, etc., the 158 was remarkable.

Ponting at Old Trafford (158 I think I recall) was brilliant. I saw all of that one live. England bowled with genuine threat that day, and Punter saw them all off until very near the close.

Smith’s is up there with KP and Ponting of the ones in Tests I’ve followed. Butcher’s 173 doesn’t really count, does it? Dead rubber and all that.

Ian – Great question,  I’m trying to think of similar hundreds in similar circumstances where somebody batted the whole way through to finish unbeaten or was last out and the best I could come up with was Trott’s debut hundred.

Scrim – Maybe Ricky Ponting’s matchsaving 150 in 2005 at Old Trafford, falling just a few overs short of stumps and leaving Lee and McGrath just a few overs to bat out to keep the series level? I almost cried when he was given out.

It’s hard to put Smith’s innings into historical context just yet. It was brilliant. But it might not even be his best century this year – his 2nd innings in Pune still edges this one, I think.

TB – The formatting alien…

Relatively dismissive except for Steve Smith’s missive
To bat, to score, to crush and endure
He may not remotely excite the eye
But his results are team and Test batting so pure.
Now for an Ashes innings you ask
Such a flashback of winning memory task
I could go for Botham, either ton in ’81
Or KP 158 in ’05, edge of seat fear and fun
Yet my longest standing memory of a ton v Aus
Was not in an Ashes, but the Centenary Test, because…
Twas my first experience of radio under the bedcovers

McCosker, jaw-strapped and bold, daddy Marsh ton as game did unfold
Randall 174 v Lillee, Melbourne ’77, e’er since been a TMS lover
From doffed cap and backward roll to Knott lbw and 45 run loss, 100 year story told…

 

Question 4 – Lots mentioned that Alastair Cook’s form may be in decline. What are your thoughts on this Damascene conversion?

Ian – I have thought it for a while and your 7 in 110 or whatever it is highlights this.

Silk – It’s obviously in decline, as I think you, and some others, may have mentioned once or twice previously. That it’s being mentioned now as because (a) it’s too clear to pretend away now and (b) pretty obvious to continue throughout the series. What isn’t being said is that he’s only once had any sort of form in Australia, so this is hardly a remarkable turn-up for the books. No punter with any knowledge would have bet on him averaging more than 35 in this tour, even if on form.

MiaB – My TIMA method showed it quite clearly. Just glad that folks are catching up with the new cricket guru

Sri – Reality cannot be staved away for too long. Even hardcore supporters have to comprehend that cook is great against pace attacks that are mediocre but not against genuine pace and swing. Can’t blame the fans much. The english media? the less said about media the better. Most are highly biased and have their own pot to stir.

Scrim – Unsurprisingly, mainstream Australian opinion on Cook is rather different to  mainstream English opinion. We remember English players pretty much solely on Ashes performances, and apart from one two month period in his career that we all try to forget, he has been a walking wicket vs Australia, home and away. My thoughts on the change of tune? I wouldn’t mind if he is there in 2019, can’t they keep blowing his horn a bit longer?

TB – Poetry causing mayhem..

I do believe we’ve heard this somewhere before? (here, and how!)

Tho’ unbelievably, never from the MSM floor (until, vague hints, now…)
We’ve discussed this and been cussed by those insiders so devout

Perhaps the ECB web weaved now sussed, as Cookie hooks or snicks, so all will be out?

 

Question 5 – I was quite underwhelmed by the Aussie pace attack for much of the test match, yet now they “blow teams away”. What were your thoughts?

Scrim – It wasn’t the 13/14-style carnage that was promised, but on what was a slow pitch by Australian standards, I thought they did really well. They bowled them out twice for a combined 500 (with a fair bit of help from Lyon). Once the pitch quickened up a bit, the last 15 wickets fell for 250 runs, including 10 from short or shortish bowling. Hazlewood, in just his second first class game back from injury, found his rhythm in the second innings. Cummins was a constant threat. Starc struggled a bit, but still picked up wickets and did actually blow the bottom half of the English team away twice, and rocked Root with one in the grill. There’s more to come.

Silk – Starc is over-rated. He’s impressive, but he likes tail-enders, not batsmen. But Hazelwood is just an excellent bowler, not relying on pace, so he’ll be dangerous at any stage (as he showed against Root), and Cummins has something about him. Able to raise his game suddenly, just as it seems England might get away.

You can’t turn off. And England, Cook aside, switch off far too much. Ali does. Bairstow does. Root’s poor conversion stats show he does. Vince did, first innings. Say what you like about Cook (I’m not a fan of the man, though I don’t think he’s an awful person) but Cook the batsman stays switched on, once in. That’s his greatest strength, I think.

Plus, Australia have Lyon, and I told Mike Selvey, when Moeen Ali came on the scene, that he was not the answer to England’s loss of Graham Swann. He ignored me, but I had my say. For once, I was actually right. If you’ve got a spinner who can keep you in the game, you are, well, in the game.

Ian – It isn’t a vintage attack but its certainly good enough to do the job.  Hazlewood will take more of the top order wickets whilst Starc can finish the tail quickly.

Sri – Good attack given the poor quality of bowling attacks in the world now but not great. With Lyon, Starc, Cummins and Hazelwood they have a great balance and have to be one of the better attacks around. On their day, any bowling attack can blow teams away at home. India have often done so. The test for the Oz attack to be considered great would be away in England or India.

MiaB – The opening bowlers ripped out the English top order in both innings. They fulfilled the job description. 10 out of the 20 went to them. Compare the English attack.

Unaligned Bogfather..

The mind games were set by the press beforehand both there and here
The Aus attack was at last fit to blast as one, so Eng did fear
And even tho’, the pitch was slow, their plan did unfold
Stifle the upper order, bounce the tail into disorder, so over did England roll….

 

Question Six – If you have BT Sport – what did you think of their coverage. Try not to focus on Lovejoy.

Sri – No clue. I like Swann’s bowling but never liked his character off the field. Considered him a big hypocrite.

MiaB – Pass

Silk – Nup. TMS only for me. (I like Tufnell. In small doses, at least. Am I weird?)

And to those who watched it…..(Ed)

Ian – I made do with watching BT sport on the app and thought it was ok    Pleased to hear Ponting but I wish that they showed a bit more originality in their choices because of how many commentators they share with TMS.   If I’m bored of TMS I want to turn on the TV to hear somebody else not somebody I heard 5 minutes ago.

Scrim – Pretty good for a first try. It was good to have an even balance of Australians and English to keep cheerleading in check, and to commentate from the perspective of both teams. They picked three good Australian commentators. This was the first I’d heard of Alison Mitchell and she was really good. I don’t think Vaughan is as bad as many here think. Swann was unbearable at times.

I don’t like Boycott, never have. He has some good insights, but as one BOC reader perfectly put it, he always sounds like he’s in an argument with a neighbour. He also didn’t seem to appreciate having to commentate with a woman (or maybe it is because Mitchell isn’t a former player). He commentated together with Mitchell on day 1. It seemed quite awkward. Boycott was disagreeing with her at every turn, and I don’t remember them paired together again after that. Maybe Danny or someone else who watched a lot can comment on whether they did and whether they improved together.

Finally, TheBogfather

No BT, but am thankful for their choice
Of LoveJoy and ShinyToy, expending their voice
Leaving TMS with only occasional interruptions
Of their verbal self-loving commentary corruptions…

 

That’s all folks. We will run a panel for the third test, which will also be a little more relaxed as I think there is a small gap between the two tests. Apologies if the formatting is a little awry – it did not scan over to Word as well as the previous panel. There are a couple of numerical errors which I’ve not totally rectified, so be gentle with the respondents who reacted to these questions in a remarkably short time. My heartfelt thanks to the contributors. We will no doubt delight in the responses at the quarterly Editorial Board meeting this evening.

Comments below, as always…

Standing At The Limit Of An Endless Ocean

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From 2006, not 2002. Pre-digital camera in 2002…..

Dmitri here. I wrote a blatant filler post (actually lifted from How Did We Lose In Adelaide in the early days) about the visit to Brisbane in 2002. Given we have analysed the last test in great detail, and Sean may well have more to say tomorrow, I thought I’d put on the metaphorical pipe and slippers, sit back in the proverbial armchair and do my best impression of Rowley Birkin QC and give you my memories of the 2002 test in Adelaide.

But before I do, can I remind those that filled out the Ashes Panel question last time that if they want to do it again, can I have the answers by mid-evening tomorrow. I would have chased up today, but I’ve been on a day trip to Madrid. As you do. And as I had to get in because one thing today and 2002 have in common is genuinely how amazed I am at my fortune in life. But, the questions were on one of the posts on Monday, so pick them up and have a go. And if you didn’t participate, feel free to send me answers on dmitriold@hotmail.co.uk .

OK. Memories of Adelaide 2002. Self-indulgent but I hope you enjoy them:

  • Accommodation – That was fun. We were due to be in Adelaide for just the first three days of the test before flying home, but I managed to wangle a few extra days off and so we were going to try to see the whole test. Thing was, we hadn’t booked anywhere in Adelaide. Three days before we sat in an internet cafe, and no luck. The nearest was Mount Gambier. A phone call at a tourist office and we found somewhere in Glenelg. We had to do all sorts to get the key as we didn’t arrive in Adelaide until 10pm the day before the test. The cab driver was brilliant. The accommodation, less so. We wandered down to The Jetty Bar, karaoke was on, and a local was signing Gary Glitter. Not cool, even then.
  • Tickets – We then were due to pick the tickets up from, we thought, the ticket office at the ground. We got there 45 minutes before the day’s play, and found out that we were actually meant to get the tickets back in the city centre. Then, in a brilliant piece of customer service, they let us in without tickets, and someone then collected the left behind tix and brought them to our seats. We missed the first 15 minutes.
  • We didn’t miss the Langer “catch” off Vaughan. Absolutely bleedin’ hilarious, made even more so when Andy Bichel claimed one off at least the second bounce a little while later. England started well, but lost Trescothick before lunch.
  • We had a walk around the ground, and as you do, I started talking to an Aussie called Michael (and his less talkative mate Bernie, and it wasn’t the Winters) and found a great rapport on talking cricket. I ended up meeting them both by the same floodlight for each of the four days (when I returned in 2006, I went to the same place, to see if he was there – no joy). On the third day he said he really rated Harmison and said he’d win us tests some day. I laughed. He knew more than me.
  • On day 1 we had four blokes with 4x shirts sitting in front of us. When they weren’t spouting nonsense they were playing cards. The nonsense got too much. That night in the Jetty, I got talking to a local and said I was sat behind some absolute muppets in 4x shirts, playing cards. I think you can fill in the rest. We made our excuses and left.
  • It’s a great shame that Vaughan has chosen the low road of being the reactive, go with the wind moron he is now, because the 177 he made was stunning. Sure Langer can moan, but the shot making, the sixes, the domination of the attack was amazing.. His dismissal off the last ball of the day was cataclysmic.
  • We heard Great Southern Land by Icehouse at lunch. And then Beautiful Day by U2. By the end of the test I never wanted to hear them again.
  • The second day was less memorable for the cricket, but Sir Peter still raises the lunchtime interview. I had not had a cigarette (I was a smoker then) for all of a couple of days and I was feeling spectacularly grumpy. England had collapsed, I’d been surrounded by even more idiots, there were jokes falling flat, and I had had enough. Sir Peter set his video off, and I just ranted. Yes, unbelievable. After it was finished, I stormed round to the floodlight, begged Michael for a cigarette (and he provided the strongest ciggie I’ve ever had) and then we settled in for the Australian reply.
  • The Saturday was to be the last day in the flea pit in Glenelg. We had booked the Holiday Inn for the Sunday and Monday. That was because we’d got our flights changed, at no cost, out of Adelaide on the Wednesday, not the Sunday. Watching Australia give us a pasting was not particularly fun. Ponting made 150-odd, Martyn 90-odd and Hussain trolled Steve Waugh. But we conceded 500+ and had a dodgy end of day to end it three down (I believe, not checked the score).
  • That Saturday was the hottest day I have ever encountered. 41 degrees C. Jeepers. I fried. And then, during the tea interval, there was a race taking place on the field (it is on the tour video, with a local, who clearly knew one of the runners, calling him a a maggot. Must be a term of endearment) and it was the stupidest thing I’d ever seen.
  • That Saturday night we found out what thongs were in Australia. It was hot in herre.
  • Sunday was an interesting day. The forecast was a shocker. Rain was due, and when it came, it would set in for a day and a half. England needed to survive. We did rain dances. Extend your holiday and want it to rain. Love being English.
  • “Was this the greatest catch of all time?”     https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SWqOAMlAFF8
  • Stewart made a half century but post-lunch the rain started, and with England 8 or 9 down, they went off. We rejoiced. We should not have done so. Steve Bucknor wasn’t going to let England get away with this. While the drizzle eased a little, it didn’t stop, but Bucknor brought them out. Then they went off again – but no, out we came again and Australia sealed the win. Within half an hour the heavens opened. It absolutely hosed it down all day the following day. There would have been no play. We were 30 minutes away (if you were there and remember it differently, please tell me).
  • I’ve never watched Hard To Kill again. It entertained us that Sunday night.
  • Monday was the Bradman Museum / Exhibition. We also booked a Barossa Valley tour the day after although I’m a beer person rather than vino. The Bradman museum was dull. Kept wanting to say he was the best player of medium pace bowling of all time, but that might be like going to the Vatican and saying eff the Pope. We made our excuses and left.
  • The Barmy Army do that night at the Prison was an eye opener. We were in and around them at times, and watched the end of the game with them, but the do was everything I feared. We did have a lovely picture taken with Dermot Reeve though. A career highlight.
  • A night in a 5* hotel in Adelaide to finish our stay was somewhat melancholy. It had been the holiday of a lifetime – Brisbane, on to the stunning Port Douglas (I sent an e-mail home saying now I knew what true relaxations was) and the Barrier Reef, then staying with Sir Peter’s friends in Sydney before Adelaide was top stuff. I wonder if cricketers know what joy that brought to me even though we were losing. That’s why the heart is in it, even when we get told to do one by the powers that be. When a day’s cricket at the SCG, to see a New South Wales team with lots of top players, is an afterthought it tells you how much I loved what we did.
  • The test at Adelaide also brought my favourite ever photo. It has me in it, so you can’t see it, but it is shortly after we have lost. The people around me, in all shapes, sizes and actions, with the scoreboard. It’s on my system as “We’ve Lost”. It’s cracking (in my eyes).

OK – that was my walk down memory lane, and as a little break from the 1st test analysis. Hope you enjoyed it and I’ll do one for Perth 2006 for the 3rd test. I think I’ve written enough about Adelaide 2006 to last a lifetime.

The End of The Road – Preview and Possible Live Blog – 5th Day

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Day 5. In a new world this won’t exist, so I suppose we had better appreciate them while they are still here. This Day 5 comes to us with very little in the way of suspense. 56 runs to win, 10 wickets in hand, a bowling attack that never looked like taking a wicket, an off field controversy, and all around the England team are naysayers and doom-mongers wittering on about the wheels falling off. Welcome to the Ashes, welcome to the tumult that follows it around.

So, for another four year we can put away the tedious cliche that is Gabbatoir. This was a wicket England could certainly work with and for three days, give or take a session, they were well in the game, putting up a competitive, even at times, leading display. There were plaudits being thrown around for Joe Root’s captaincy, how innovative and proactive it had been. Today I heard Lovejoy effectively say he wasn’t cut out to be captain and should never have been given the job (and, I presume, the pay rise that comes with it).

There was a moment last night on commentary that Lovejoy said that there wasn’t anyone out there leading them in the field. There weren’t enough voices. Bairstow is in’t the most vocal of keepers; Moeen Ali is too laid back; Stoneman is an introvert; Vince is quite; and best of all “Alastair Cook wouldn’t say boo to a goose”. I don’t know, I read too much into things, but if you could put into microcosm what has gone wrong with English cricket since the final days of the Flower regime, this was it. It was his gang that no doubt made all newcomers feel welcome (and others, I know), and if you were particularly vocal in this your face didn’t fit and you were briefed against or sacked. Lordy, I would keep my gob shut in that atmosphere. When the time comes for you to be vocal, who is going to take any notice if you are new or been quiet for years. In the main, not always, England have won a test match since the last Ashes when in front from the start. If we fall behind, there have been a couple of fightbacks, but we fold. It was said about the last tour that this was a team at the end of its tether, with itself, and the individuals that composed it. This is a team which seems to be slightly fearful. They responded well to the early exchanges but as the game went on, they got worse. A lot worse. Not Karun Nair worse, but bad enough.

There will be a lot to chew over in the next few days, and you know we are very responsive to defeats, with plenty of constructive comment, and also poking fun and pointing out the inadequacies of fanboys/girls who somehow think that not cheering hard enough causes this, while the media reaction will be fascinating. Management and the players allowed low expectations to fester last winter as some sort of reason for failure being fine and dandy, but it doesn’t wash when most of the pundits think Australia has two batsmen and a load of filler. Chris Woakes, by acclaim, was the most improved cricketer of the last 18 months, but he’s now back in the spotlight after one anonymous game. Jake Ball was thrown in, more in hope than expectation and now there isn’t a pundit who thinks he will play in Adelaide.

So when David Warner and Cameron Bancroft come out to bat in a couple of hours time, it will be interesting to watch how England play. A display of fight, getting in their faces, trying to inflict a wound or two would signal intent. Just turning up, hoping it is all over in half an hour will be a disappointment.  Lovejoy believed the team never thought for one minute that they could bowl out Australia for fewer than 170, and it came across in their body language (what a load of old bollocks – if they nicked a couple of wickets early no-one would have mentioned how they came out on the field – confirmation bias at its worst) from the start.

I haven’t yet got the chance to see the highlights of yesterday. I’ll load them up onto my phone for the flight to Madrid on Tuesday (a day bloody trip to Madrid) and perhaps comment afterwards. So I’ve not seen the stumping or YJB’s shot. I’ve read enough about them. But between Brisbane and Adelaide we will recover some energy, comment on what we see and hear and importantly, get the second Ashes panel convened.

For those who filled it in, and want to participate the questions are as follows:

  1. So now the Brisbane result is in, what has it shown you about the relative strengths and weaknesses (and some perhaps not highlighted by the mainstream media)
  2. Adelaide at night? In favour of day-night in the Ashes, or are you a reactionary old fuddy duddy?
  3. Put that Steve Smith innings into context. Tell me an Ashes ton you thought was better.
  4. Lots mentioned that Alastair Cook’s form may be in decline. What are your thoughts on this Damascene conversion?
  5. I was quite underwhelmed by the Aussie pace attack for much of the test match, yet now they “blow teams away”. What were your thoughts?
  6. If you have BT Sport – what did you think of their coverage. Try not to focus on Lovejoy.

Please DO NOT answer the questions in the comments, but send them to dmitriold@hotmail.co.uk . If we get too many, I’ll pick the best of them. I don’t expect too many.

Now to the Live Blog. I’ve not spoken to Danny, who might run it tonight. I have to pack the border collie off to my brother very early tomorrow and had very little sleep last night, so I’m going to bed before the day’s play. If we run a blog it will be below. If not, please put your comments below. Our thanks for our friends, old and new, for making the Live Blog and Review such a success. We are glad we can provide such an outlet. Hope you enjoyed it too.

Pray for a miracle.

0004 Broad bowls the first over, Warner scores 3 and Australia only need 53 more.

0009 Anderson from the other end. Warner gets a single and Australia need 52.

0016 Another 2 overs gone, another 6 runs scored. 48 required.

0032 Woakes and Ball have taken over now, 37 needed.

0047 Slow going, 30 more runs needed.

0050 Bancroft edges a Jake Ball delivery through a vacant second slip. Another 4 runs on the board, and that’s 25 more required.

0102 Single figures needed now…

0109 And that’s it. Cameron Bancroft hits a looping drive straight over a short mid off to the boundary, and AUSTRALIA HAVE WON BY 10 WICKETS.

0131 Bayliss: England need to score hundreds. Stunning insight there.

0132 Overton next in line in the squad it seems, and he’ll be watching Mark Wood’s progress in the Lions.

0133 Bayliss says the Bairstow incident is blown out of all proportion but also that he needs “a stern talking to”. A bit muddled.

“Day 3 At The Gabba….” – LIVE BLOG and Preview.

 

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It’s a parallel universe, and in that wonderful place it is Day 3 at the Woolloongabba and England are batting. They are 165 for 4, with Joe Root on 64, Dawid Malan on 44. Australia have posted 302. The pitch is not easy to score on and the bowling side has two opening bowlers with 900 wickets between them.  In that parallel universe the headlines on the Courier Mail would be “Pommies Holding On For Life”. Or something much more crude.

England are in a really decent position, having reduced the hosts to 76 for 4 but seeing the late session play go the way of the home side. At this point they are in front, not by far, but ahead. Day 3 is set for a terrific contest in an interesting test match. One little aside, amazing how Trent Bridge 2013, played on a slow, low surface, was slated as a terrible wicket to diminish the terrific game that unfolded, yet the Gabba gets a pass. We’ve missed attritional, fighting cricket so much that when we see it, we go mad. This is classic test cricket, fascinating, enjoyable and slow to unwind. Great.

The Editorial Committee discussed what we would do about tonight’s proceedings. We are concerned for Danny’s wellbeing as he has stayed up all night for the first two days’ play and we can’t commit that he will do a third – even though he has told us he will (he has been promoted to Editor this week, I’m sure he is thrilled!). While there is no work for us tomorrow, I’ve got a bloody Heathrow run so won’t be up all night. Others may be in late from their evening’s entertainment. It’s a tough life.

But we also note that the Live Blogging went down quite well despite everyone else seemingly doing it. We can’t bring the corporate heft of ESPN Cricinfo, the legendary voices of TMS, the pageantry and self awareness of the Guardian or the ever so enjoyable Guerilla Cricket, but we can bring our own brand of, well, whatever our brand is, to the Ashes cauldron caukdrib  ( Puts on Frank Muir voice – a caukdrib is a pot used to cook liquids at low temperatures….). So we’ve decided to live blog tonight, for as long as we stay awake.

FOR AS LONG AS WE STAY AWAKE.

It might catch on as a motto.

So, you know the form. Chip in with your comments below, and one of your loving, charming hosts will be updating you from here.

So for post number 1, Dmitri is kicking it off….

2121 – The latest weather radar from the Bureau of Meteorology….

Brisbane Radar 24

21:28 – A couple of things. Who is the person who has his/her hits from Santa Caterina province in Brazil? Always mystified me that one. And secondly, if your column is a regular dose of snark, make sure you get his name right in the photo caption.

Cook

This never happens to John Cena.

2201 – We’ve solved the Brasilian conundrum – welcome Mark. We’ve also got the first of Oliver Holt’s Holiday Snaps for today.

Read Martin Samuel’s nonsense in the Mail as well. He won’t be happy with a 1-1 draw at home to Leicester. Shame.

22:41 Been editing the live coverage for transfer on to my records. So…. many….. betting….. adverts. I am a nerd and I keep a lot of cricket. Broke my heart that I didn’t get the VHS all onto DVD as I had tons of Lara, Thorpe, Sachin (though he wasn’t my fave) and others. Up to date now and feel a bit better.

22:44 While we are looking at our viewers from afar, who is the one in Santiago, Chile? And the Dallas Metro area. Everyone very welcome. It really amazes me our little old blog has this reach.

23:01 Day 3 in Brisbane on my visit. Hungover from a long day in the sun and lots of beer. England capitulated, not totally, but enough to allow the Aussies a big lead, and then they accumulated for the rest of the day. The Saturday night was the Manchester derby. Watched it in an open air bar with a bloke who came from Deptford, like me. City won 3-1. Feeding goats or something or other.

23:04 Day 3 in Brisbane on the 2010/11 tour. Hussey and Haddin completed their 300+ stand after one of the unluckiest bowling sessions I’ve ever seen England have. Australia post big lead. Strauss has our hearts in mouths with a very close LBW shout leaving it. The next two days went down in legend.

23:07 Day 3 in Brisbane in the book I have out – the 1982/3 tour. Kepler Wessels had completed a century on debut the day before and almost carried his bat, making 162. England trailed by 122 runs, but Graeme Fowler dug in, we lost just one wicket in getting to 71 and England had half a shout.

23:30 Day 3 last time out in Brisbane. We’d been skittled. Warner and Clarke made tons, set us five hundred and plenty, and we were two down at the close, including Johnson getting Trott. Meanwhile Shiny Toy and Lovejoy are on the screen together, with the latter saying Woakes’s shot is “the worst of the Ashes so far”. My eyes roll.

23:42 The KP ESPN advert is drivel. He’s becoming a worrisome parody.

23:57 Game ready to resume, darker clouds above, James Anderson bowling, Dmitri on the keyboard for a bit. Danny is awake, and the first ball of the day goes for two.

0:00 No, not a clue.

0:02 Broad at the other end. Gilchrist finding out bantz with Boycs isn’t a long-term plan. Marsh square cuts Broad for four to get off to decent start.

00:07 Boycott getting on my nerves already. OK, we get your point. We don’t need to hear it every ball you frightful old bore. Marsh gets three behind point and completes a half century. Not sure why people thought he was a dodgy selection. He’s hit and miss, I know, but he does hit.

00:17 Anderson gets Smith to woosh at a shot outside off stump. First legit play and miss today? Meanwhile a usual suspect on Twitter goes all pseuds corner re Adam Gilchrist. It’s me. I find it if I was an ice cream I’d lick myself stuff. 175 for 4.

00:21 WICKET – Out of the blue Marsh checks a drive and lobs up a catch to Anderson at mid-off for 51. Broad gets the wicket, Marsh looks at the pitch with some disgust implying it held up for him. Marsh, Caught Anderson, Bowled Broad 51 – 175 for 5

00:24 Broad induces a thick edge from Paine, but no hint of a chance. Paine looks edgy, trying to push a single the following ball. Wicket maiden completed.

00:31 Woakes on for Broad after his wicket maiden. New ball due soon so sort of understand it, but isn’t the moment now? Woakes gives up a single to Smith first up, but then keeps Paine on 0 for the remainder. Vaughan does the Lehmann has scored a ton more recently than Paine stat as if no-one has heard of it. Jake Ball into the attack.

00:37 Jake Ball gives Smith a cracking ball at his throat and the captain is lucky to survive as the ball drops into no man’s land. He gets off strike with a single next ball. Paine gets a chance and plays a lovely cut shot for 4 to get off the mark.

00:43 Woakes and Ball now bowling short to Smith and Paine. It’s dull to watch, there’s funky field placings, and this sort of thing gets the pundits salivating. Smith, despite that one iffy little moment, really looks like he doesn’t give a toss. “Test match cricket at it’s finest”. Cut out the bloody hyperbole, Shiny Toy.

00:48 No slips. I can hear Botham chuntering. Shiny Toy moans about Aussie papers not being balanced. Should have seen the report of your ton in the lead up to the 2002 Ashes, Vaughan. They belted you for being rubbish, scratchy, all over the shop.

00:50 5 minutes to The Leg Glance. And we have Lovejoy. Says something to do with Bodyline. I want to cave my ears in for hearing it. Poor Alison Mitchell. Now a Tufnell joke story. Lord heaven above. Doing a Tuffers impression. Paine moves on to 6 during this low-grade variety act masquerading as cricket punditry.

00:55 And as Lovejoy completes his first over by at last concentrating on the action, I complete my stint and hand over to the incomparable Leg Glance for the next however long he stays awake period. Dmitri signing off…

01:00 TLG here.  Well now, in common with half the country, Friday night is “wander to the pub night”, and you know what?  Ashes cricket is made for that – head out, amble back, turn the cricket on.  Oh and then England take a wicket a few moments later.  Perfect.

Since you ask (you haven’t) the chicken wings were fabulous.  Oh yes, cricket, I should mention that.  So far Tim Paine is failing to go anywhere, while Steve Smith is clearly going to be That Player England Can’t Get Out this series.

01:05 I need to point out the total absence of any cricket when I’ve been on writing duties so far.  If there’s a tropical downpour in the next 10 minutes, don’t be at all surprised.  So, where are we?  England are keeping decent control here, but they could really do with another wicket to put Australia under real pressure.  I’d fancy England would be thrilled with a lead of 50. Especially given Australia have to bat last – but 5 wickets down means a lot of work to do, and the naturally pessimistic England fan has the phrase “tits up” going through his (Or her.  Hmm, on reflection it probably just is “his”) head.

01:13 Graeme Swann and Alison Mitchell on commentary together is like listening to Joe Pasquale and Eric Morecambe doing a double act.

01:18 Joe Root slips in for an over as England await the new ball.

01:24 WICKET! Anderson strikes in the first over with the new ball.  A typical Jimmy dismissal really, a touch of swing, the outside edge, and Bairstow does the rest.  Tim Paine on his way, and it’s 202-6. 100 between the teams.

01:30 WICKET!  Broad nabs a sharp caught and bowled to remove Starc for 6.  Doesn’t even begin to describe it as two balls before the latest assorted Mitchell plays an extraordinary shot – straight driving Broad back over his head for six to get off the mark.  Broad got his revenge quickly, so the Brisbane crowd will thoroughly appreciate that no doubt.  209-7

01:35 England had kept the lid on nicely this morning, but hadn’t looked especially threatening, at least not until the new ball.  Then two quick wickets and all of a sudden it’s all happening.  Smith is still there though, and while he is England still have a problem.  While we’re at it, Australia are scoring at 2.52 an over, compared to boring negative England’s 2.58 an over.  We all love the Brisbane Courier Mail.

01:48 Steve Smith is playing a completely different game to anyone else.

01:57 Some concern over James Anderson.  He certainly reached for his side, and he’s been replaced by Jake Ball after a short spell.  He’s not gone off the field, but there are only  a few minutes to lunch.

02:01 And that’s lunch.  Australia are 213-7, still 89 adrift.  And perhaps the most notable thing about this match so far is that unlike the last two series, we’re into day three and we don’t know where this game is going.  It’s competitive, hard Test cricket.  Marvellous.  Steve Smith scored just 17 off 66 balls that session, while losing partners at the other end.  England get loads of stick for bowling “dry” but sometimes it’s exactly what is needed, and that was fine bowling.

02:09 My travel advice is to steal the mini-duvets off Emirates.  They’re so warm.

02:16  Just the 48 runs in that session.  Test cricket, absolutely.  Amusing given Australian whining about England’s run rate?  Oh yes.

02:17 Typically in a Test match, the side batting second need to have a runs advantage going into the second innings.  So England are currently in a very decent position.  If they can get a reasonable lead, especially so.  But equally the third innings of the match is full of pressure, for a side can lose the game in a session.  How this pitch will play is as open a question as it was on day one, for if it gets better then England have an issue.  If it gets worse then Australia have a crisis.  And how good is it not to know?  Test cricket.  You jut cannot beat it.

02:40 Jake Ball opens up after lunch.  Not exactly putting to bed those James Anderson fitness concerns.

02:47

Not sure what’s more unlikely – England fibbing or the English cricket press being cynical about what they’re told.

02:55 Let’s call this a quiet start to the afternoon session.

03:03 Aside from 4 overthrows via Cummins’ back (accidental), and one Steve Smith straight drive, it’s still quiet so far.  But not terribly threatening from England either.  It might be time for Moeen.

03:06 I’m a captaincy God.  The Bearded Brummie is on.

03:13 England have let Cummins play himself in.  Danger.  In other news, the Rugby League World Cup semi-final is little over an hour away – the titanic battle between England and Tonga to decide who has the privilege of being stuffed by Australia.

03:23 Australia aren’t exactly rattling along, but this partnership is becoming  problem.  The gap is now down to 61, and England simply don’t look like taking a wicket.  Smith is closing in a 100 and looks serene, and Cummins looks secure. Anderson has gone off the ground – for bowling boots?  Let’s hope.

03:29 Anderson is back on the field.  And that’s my lot too – handing over to Danny who hasn’t seen the sun in several days.

0331 Danny here. Sad and almost completely true comments from thelegglance. Almost an hour after lunch, Broad finally gets the ball back.

0336 And Anderson from the other end, all eyes looking to see if there’s any sign of injury from the highest rated Test bowler in the world.

0352 Still nothing to report, although Broad & Anderson have at least kept it tighter than the other bowlers. The ball is now 25 overs old and I worry about England finishing off the tail…

0403 Smith drives through the off side for four, and brings up his century. That’s his 21st century, and his 6th against England.

0417 Still awake. Still no wickets in the session.

0431 WICKET About 10 minutes left in the session, and England finally take a wicket. Cummins plays a loose drive to a wide, full ball from Woakes and he edges it to Cook at first slip. A very useful 42 runs from the Australian bowler, and Hazlewood comes in.

0442 TEA Australia are 287/8, just 15 runs behind with 2 wickets remaining, and crucially with Smith still at the crease.

0518 Quiet start to the evening session, 7 runs from the first 4 overs and England’s lead is just 8 runs.

0528 WICKET Moeen Ali bowls left-hander Josh Hazlewood, who was trying to hit it on the leg side but completely missed it. Australia 298/9 and 4 runs behind England’s score.

0539 Smith whips a short delivery from Jake Ball to the fine leg boundary and Australia go into the lead.

0605 WICKET In the first over after the drinks break Root is bowling to Lyon, who inside edges a ball to leg slip. Smith finishes the innings on 141* and Australia have 328 runs with a lead of 26 runs.

0630 WICKET Hazlewood bowls a quick bouncer to Alastair Cook, who top edges it to Starc at long leg. England are still 15 runs behind.

0642 WICKET And Vince has gone as well, squared up on the back foot by a quick Hazlewood delivery and edging it to Smith at second slip. England still 9 runs behind, and 2 wickets gone.

0649 Fast bouncer from Mitchell Starc and it hits Joe Root on the helmet, breaking a piece off. England’s doctor comes out and gives him the concussion test, but Root dons a new helmet and carries on.

0713 Root turns Lyon behind square for a single, and THE SCORES ARE LEVEL with England already 2 wickets down.

0720 Cummins works Stoneman over with an over of short bowling, 10 minutes left for England to hold on.

0732 STUMPS England survive the last over against Nathan Lyon, and finish the day on 33/2 with a lead of just 7 runs.

Ashes 1st Test Review – Day 1

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First of all, I hope you enjoyed the live blog. A special thanks to Danny who stayed up the whole night to bring you his wry observations on the second half of the day’s play. A magnificent effort. I lasted until lunch….

Having watched the highlights and listened to the varying feedback from punters and journos, yes, journos is that the view is we are very evenly placed. 196 for 4, in 80 overs does not, on the face of it, set the pulses racing, but it was a pretty intense, but somewhat odd opening day. England were thankful that Stoneman, and perhaps more surprisingly Vince, stood up to be counted. In the opening session the Surrey/Durham man showed the same aptitudes he had for his county – he has great temperament and has an impression of technical solidity. He can be much more fluent – I saw him make a magnificent 180+ against the county champions this year – but he did a great job. That ton may still be elusive but we were glad to have him today.

James Vince was the surprise, and if the England management genuinely thought this would happen, they can give me the lottery numbers. Vince played his lovely shots, we know he has those, but seemed a little more selective, waiting for the fuller length at times. I saw him up to lunch, although he struggled a little against Lyon, he was just what England needed. Well done, James. The shame, of course, was the suicide run that stopped him getting to a century. Let’s hope he doesn’t live to regret that.

Malan and Moeen will need to get through the new ball before we can start feeling as though we are in with a decent shout. Bairstow and Woakes will follow with the tail being a little more of concern. If England post a 350+ score they are well in the game, but we’ll only be able to judge when we bowl on it. If England do this despite the failures of Cook and Root, it will be a massive boost. 196 for 4 is neither here nor there. Remembering back to Adelaide in 2002, we finished that day at around 280 for 4, and collapsed in a heap. Brisbane in 2010 saw the Aussies five down for not a lot and then Hussey and Haddin put on 300! Many games, many ways. It’s why we watch.

Over the years we have been accused, well I have, of running an anti-Cook blog. It has to be said that our record run scorer does divide opinion, and neither side has the monopoly on accuracy. But there are some stats that stand out for me. As much as his fans revel in his 2010/11, that magnificent one series does not erase what has happened since. In 30 innings since his 180-odd in Sydney he has not posted a hundred. Now, in innings against the two premier pace attacks in the past six years (Australia and South Africa), Cook has an average of less than 30 in 27 test matches, with the one hundred (back in 2012). There has been a lot of responsibility, and not a little praise, heaped upon Cook in advance of this test, but the anticipation of a successful series is based more on the hope than on the expectation. I, once again, must stress, that of course he should be in the team. His dismissal today was something that could happen to any batsman early in a test innings. But when does this become a worrying trend?

And then there is the skipper. He looked a little out of sorts. Until Root makes test runs in Australia there has to be a little bit of doubt – 207 in 9 innings at an average at just over 25, with one score over 26, is a little blemish on his record, albeit with a small sample size. It’s early days, of course it is, but his dismissal plonking his leg in front of off stump and being beaten by Cummins was not something we are that used to. One game, one innings, but again, a little trend that he could do well arresting. His 87 in Adelaide last time out will need to be repeated, and then some.

I wasn’t overly impressed by the Aussies much vaunted pace attack. I have to say I didn’t get to see a lot of Cummins, but many have said how well he bowled. The dismissals seem to vindicate that. Lyon got the ball to turn on Day 1, which might interest Moeen who likes a little bounce in a wicket (and some of Lyon’s balls got some of that) and the pitch is due to speed up according to our pundits. Hazlewood wasn’t anything to write home about, and Starc flattered to deceive. The wicket wasn’t quite what was expected, but this was hardly trial by fire that we were promised.

I think I’ll reserve judgement on BT Sport’s coverage. Except Lovejoy. BT Sport will have to live with giving this man a commentary gig. The two sessions I endured were teeth-itching. He need strong direction from a producer to stop the laddish bantz, the smart arse one liners, and the desire to be the wittiest in the room and do what he’s being paid to do – commentate on the game. Swann always came off as the sort who fell in love the moment he looked in the mirror, and who thought the funniest person was himself. Shiny Toy has a lot of issues with commentary (conflict of interest, the fact it isn’t radio) and BT have got to stop it becoming the Michael Vaughan Show, but Lovejoy just inspires anger around these parts, and beyond. That’s a dangerous combination. I saw many say how much they miss Athers, Nasser, Michael Holding et al, but do you really miss Bumble, Botham and Gower? Really. A pale comedy act, this generation’s Trueman but without the research, and a former rebel turned Establishment stooge who has mailed it in for a few years now? As a debut, BT did OK. They’ve just set a low ceiling, and they are lumbered with Lovejoy – it’s not as if they weren’t warned.

Not sure what we’ll do tonight, but I imagine we’ll do a live blog on the 1st session tomorrow night (Friday), weather permitting.

Comments on tonight either below, or in a live blog if we set one up.

Dmitri.

Ashes to Ashes – The Ashes Panel, 1st Test, Part 2

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Continued from yesterday, the second set of questions, answered by the Super Seven.

Question Four – What do the Ashes mean to you as a cricket supporter?

MiaB – As a cricket supporter of English nationality, the Ashes are still the major event in the calendar.  But, if you look back, it is interesting how few series there have been where both sides were packed with star quality.  They tend to be rather one-sided – eg 1928, 1948, 1956, 1974 and just about every series between 1986 and 2005.  Most of them have been about ordinary teams with one or two stand-out players – 1970, 1972, 1978, 2010, 2015 particularly come to mind.  The Ashes tends to produce absorbing rather than exciting cricket.

Ian – I try not to think of them as the be all and end all but I just cannot help it.  Ashes series have been constant through my cricket watching life starting in 1989 and so many of my most memorable cricket memories good and bad involve the Ashes.

Scrim – I was born and raised in Adelaide. All my Ashes memories up until I was 19 years old were huge wins for Australia sprinkled with some dead rubber losses. It had been drummed into me that beating England was really all that mattered but I didn’t realise how true this was until that winning feeling was finally taken in 2005. I was there under the scoreboard, Day 5 in 2006, probably about 30m away from Dmitri, when they were as good as won back. That was a day of cricket spectating that will probably never be matched.

I live in Norway now. A beautiful, but cricket-free land. I follow English cricket a bit more given that it matches with my time zone. “Knowing my enemy” a bit better, and being starved of cricket only makes me want it more. My 2 year old alarm clock of a son and I will be watching as much as possible.

Danny – Historically, it was a chance for England to measure themselves against what was almost certainly the best Test team in the world. Now? It’s still the highest profile Test series here, so it’s something I can talk about with people who don’t normally follow cricket. Apart from that, it’s nothing special.

Sri – Good to follow as a person with interest in the game wherever it is played but obviously not critical to me.

Silk – Everything?

And….TheBogfather in rhyme….

Slightly away from the question, as to write my true feelings about the Ashes would take many a while and lines, so here’s more a view of why I love Test Cricket as a whole…

In my dreams…
all cricket is played in creams
no emblazoned added ad
or name and number so sad
just ‘whites’…

On my screen…
test matches reign supreme
a battle of wits and skill
not a formulated drill
five-day delights…

On boundary I’m sat…
watching intrigue ‘tween ball and bat
how I desperately yearn
for pace and turn
not flat-track bullying and all that…

On my mind…
supreme contests of skill and thought
unrefined
every game within a game
no two, ever the same
mind games and beauty combined…

On the field…
chances taken then some spilled
with boundaries and dot-balls
loud silence then some roars
intensities follow being bestilled…

then it rains, on come the covers
no duckworth-lewis to smother
still time for a result here…
for the brave to advance
with skills true and askance
final over, final ball, we cheer…

a drawn Test, but what a game
The Ashes would never be the same again
If the idiots that rule our game have their way
Never seen again, another edge of seat last day…

 

Question Five – A brief outline of how you expect the series to go. Who will win? Who will make the runs? Will it be a rout? Fire away.

Silk – There are so many uncertainties. I can genuinely see 5-0 either way. I can imagine a series where Khawaja, Bancroft, Marsh and Paine all average less than 20 with the bat, Woakes and Broad are all over them like a rash, and the Aussies collapse. I can also imagine a series where Khwaja and Handscombe absolutely put England to the sword, alongside Warner and Smith, Anderson shows his age, Woakes proves he can’t cut it, Ball and Coverton are disappointing and Broad, well as he bowls, can’t stem the flow.

I can see England bowling a perfect Australian length and bundling Australia out on day 1 at Brisbane. I can also see England bowling too short, and completely losing it once the shine as gone off the ball. I can see Ali bowling all you can eat run buffet and Joe Root brought on as ‘a partnership breaker’ when Warner is on 191.

Obviously one can imagine Starc and Cummins destroying England in a session, but one can also imagine both going down with knee injuries on the first day, and England winning by an innings.

Ian – I keep switching my mind between an optimistic 3-2 defeat to a pessimistic 5-0 so lets go for 4-1 Australia.   Runs from Warner,Smith and Khawaja.  England’s runs probably won’t be as prolific and could be shared around.  Root might be affected if it isn’t going well and I worry about Bairstow contributing if England are kept in the field for days.

I expect like a lot of tests involving England lately that they won’t be particularly close games.

Danny –  5-0 to Australia, I fear. For England, I expect Root and batsmen 6-8 score the majority of the runs, whilst Cook gets a couple of fifties and everyone else struggles. For Australia, I think Warner, Smith and Khawaja will all average 50+ in the series, as Australia regularly post 350+ scores which England can’t quite match.

Sri – 3-2/3-1 in favor of England. I expect Oz to win in Adelaide and maybe 1 of Perth/Gabba if they win.

MiaB – Two flimsy batting line ups and two injury-prone attacks: it will be about which team stays fit.  If injuries do not intrude, I think Australia will shade it.  However, because these are not sides who are good at attritional cricket, I think each match will have a result.  So, like the last series, I expect 3-2, but this time in favour of Australia.

Scrim – Australia will win. Home conditions and too much bowling firepower, and too many things that have to fall into place at the last minute for England. If Australia win the first two, they’ll win the next three. This is the most confident I’ve felt about an Australian win before a ball has been bowled since 2005. 

Adelaide could be a bit of a shootout. It will be low scoring, and the ball will swing. It is a must win for England if they are to have any hope.

Telling you that Smith will get some runs is like informing you about the Pope’s religion. Apart from Smith, Khawaja looks in good form – close enough to 300 runs at 100 in two low scoring matches at the Gabba in the past couple of weeks. Forget about any weakness vs spin. He’s been a monster on fast pitches for the past few seasons.

TB, Take It Away….

Not expecting a rout but definitely a defeat
3-1 to Aus with one saved by a storm
Frenetic batting mixed with non-moving feet
Inability to take 20 wickets the norm..

Root our top scorer, Cook one score above 50
Mo’ and Bairstow will erratically flow
Woakes with the wickets, Jimmy nulled but thrifty
Broad goes in the fetlock, Crane’s future value grows…

 

Question Six – Finally, and a specific one for this test, Brisbane…. too much emphasis on it, or a real indicator of the series to come?

Danny –  I think England’s best hope of confounding my expectations and actually winning the series is by somehow winning at Brisbane. Right now the Australian fans and media are largely focussed on the England side (and their own selectors), and that pressure could force England players into making mistakes during the game. If England do manage to beat Australia in the first game, the Aussie press will start attacking their own players and management instead of the poms and that might push them into even worse errors than picking Paine.
In terms of the series, I think the day/night game in Adelaide is probably the more significant one. The pink ball, twilight hours and what will probably be a relatively lush pitch could all potentially help England’s bowlers compensate for their batsmen’s inadequacies. If England leave there with the series 1-1 (or even 2-0 up), they at least have something to play for in Perth beyond survival. As it is, I fear the series will be over before the Boxing Day game in Melbourne.

Scrim – Definitely an indicator. If England are able to get a foothold in the Brisbane test, as they did in 2010, then things will be very interesting. However the last couple of Ashes series have disappointingly been full of thrashings one way or the other and I feel there is a good chance England might be on the wrong end of one here.

MiaB –  It is not the same ‘Gabba so I would not read too much into the result of the first test.

Sri – Too much emphasis. It is a 5  test series and thus a first test loss will not hurt england but a first test draw/loss will hurt Oz.

Silk – Huge, huge test. Huge, huge Test. Good toss to lose, I think. Batting on both sides is brittle. You’d be mad to bowl first at Brisbane, but if the side that does bowl first makes early inroads, I think that could be the series, right there. If either batting lineup fails, and let’s face it, there are huge doubts about both, I think heads could go down. Right now, Australia have more to lose. England are a mess, but Australia have picked 1, 6 & 7 on a hunch and will be under huge pressure if they all fail and bring the rest down with them.

I’ll go out on a limb here and at, at a risk of repeating 2003, Root should bowl first if he gets the chance. Get Bancroft, who failed in County Cricket, early doors and the Aussies will be very nervous indeed. If Marsh is batting before lunch on day 1, I think England will win the series.

Ian – I think Brisbane is vital,  England draw or win then they might just do ok in the series but if the Gabba is a heavy defeat then it will be here we go again and 5-0 might just be inevitable whatever moves England make to try and ensure this isn’t the case.

For the last word, or prose, it’s our main man, the Cricket Laureate, Boggy…

Definitely an indicator of how the series will unfold
Depends on how easily England will fold
A close defeat with confidence intact?
Or a complete humbling, some early bags packed?
We need the old 1, the new 2 and 3
To give us hope up front
Or maybe come May we’ll see
Selfey calling for the recall of some old CNUT…

 

There you have it. If you like what you see, and want to take part in the Adelaide test panel, leave me a note below or by e-mail, otherwise you seven get the gig again. My thanks for all their efforts, and I don’t know about you lot, but I’m quite up for this.

We’ll be talking about what we intend to do tomorrow night, and also details of a new way of accessing our posts, in the next 24 hours. In the meantime, comments below and remember, these are volunteers, so play nice!