Swim The Ocean In A Hurricane

Hello All. I’ve missed the birthday, the Outside Cricket Day and KP sacking day while cavorting across South America. Hope you all celebrated accordingly. Paul Downton should be our media’s greatest embarrassment. I’ll never tire of reminding them…. Good luck Kent.

A lot of water has flowed since the Alastair Cook 244 not out that made me throw my hands up in despair at both the press and the twitterati and think that the efforts we (I) make to bring some sort of discourse to cricket talk is like throwing shit at the wall. The fact is that the Ashes brought some form of motivation to write that had been missing for quite a while. We threw ourselves into the series, with live blogging, reports and comment. When the series was gone, and the Ashes a dream, that some thought it more important that an individual shove it back down the throats of critics than stop to properly analyse the stuff we’ve been banging on about since the 2013/14 tour shouldn’t really have surprised me.

I have grown progressively tired of cricket. There is something to be said that throwing yourself into something so completely, as I have for the past four years, is bound to leave you in a state of exhaustion or despondency. They call it burn out. Chris’s excellent piece this week about the rain delay, and how cricketing educations were formed in either watching old highlights or listening to excellent discussions on the TMS radio feed, just remind me what we’ve lost. In fact, I keep saying “we” as if I’m talking for a lot of us, when I really mean “I”. I’ve lost the innocent love for the game, the need to watch the sport to enjoy it, and maybe it is being a blogger that does it. That I feel I have a position to justify rather than just to write and comment on what I see. I’ve devoted so much time to this place that sometimes my evenings at home revolved around watching the comments come in and react to them, or to monitor what happens on Twitter. It became a madness, an obsession. You might even call it an addiction.

What drives me is complacency. What drives me is stupidity. What drives me is injustice. What drives me is that I enjoy (ed) writing. What didn’t drive me is any sort of fame. Any sort of recognition from the cognoscenti. Any sort of patting on the back from a respected source. I still think my old stuff is my better stuff. I still think that the pieces like the ones Chris wrote this week deserve the attention because they come from the heart from a bloke who shares the same values as me – writing from the heart, the soul, rather than from some cynical need to be recognised or wanting the glory. But I will be associated with being pro-KP until the end is nigh, and anti-ECB to the extent that I have to employ a cleaner to scrape the bile off the screen.

As these days pass, and I’ve been away for 11 days in Colombia and Peru with work, so about as far away from cricket as you can get (although an England captain was born in Lima), it is worth reminding yourself why cricket, a sport that is doing its best to alienate the people who kept it going for the last 20 years, is something worth saving. Moments picked from the cluttered memories of yore. How I played a Kent Cup Semi-Final, dropped the bloke who scored 80 and won the tie for the oppo, and then being picked up by Dad to tell me Gordon Greenidge had made a double hundred and chased down 340 to win the Lord’s Test in 1984. Or sleeping on a grass bank at Croydon and missing most of the first innings that I would ever see Kevin Pietersen play. Of being there when Ramps made his first class triple century, scratching through the 290s like a man who had never wielded a bat before. Of that walk down Vulture Street in 2002. There was watching the end of Botham’s 149, but loving the 118 at Old Trafford much more, and recalling Jim Laker’s mis-commentary still when he gets to that hundred. There are memories across all formats – how I stayed outside not to jinx the run chase in the War at Edgbaston ODI against Pakistan – or how me and my new student mates stayed up all night to watch the 1987 World Cup Final on my portable colour TV.

As I sit here now, I look across my living room to the bookcase full with cricket books. I’m reading Ben Stokes tome at the moment – it isn’t as bad as I feared and has an interesting take on how teams perform when they’ve clinched series that contrasts somewhat to the insulting bollocks the media and their acolytes put forward to us mere idiots – but there are tons of secondhand books that I’ve ordered off Amazon. I want to know more, I always want to know more. I look at the DVR recorder, which has the ODI series between India and South Africa to watch knowing I can programme it from a Lima hotel, or a Barranquilla airport, to record the cricket just as long as Sky sticks to its schedule. I look at Sky Cricket Channel and think of the missed opportunity from my selfish eye. I’d be replaying the entirety of test matches like Edgbaston 2005, Bridgetown 1999, and more besides, but they prefer pre-made packages of greatest evers and masterclasses. Who prefers practice to playing the game? I’m not a freak of nature like AB, so what can I learn? That might just be me.

As we move forward on the blog, I want to relive a golden memory of cricket. It wasn’t perfect, of course it wasn’t, but there’s now a shroud of defeatism wherever I look, and that includes myself. I have to admit, I couldn’t give a stuff about T20, I have a whopping cold, inherited from some dodgy aircon in Lima, and it’s taking some shifting. I’m hardly likely to be up with the lark to watch something like that Auckland farce the other day. But I’m told that’s what I want to see more of. The tests don’t start until the end of March, and I might be slightly more committed by then. You don’t have to be Einstein to realise that the readership here are not too interested in the T20 stuff either. I’ve tried to work up enthusiasm but I just can’t. A World T20 maybe, but only if it isn’t being used to silence critics of the ECB policy. Does the near 500 runs of the other night compare to Lara’s 153 to win v Australia, to Sachin’s might and majesty, to the obduracy and sheer all round genius of Jacques Kallis, of sitting in the sun watching Colly and KP put 300 on against Australia and we still lose. Not even close.

But what keeps me alive, what will make me post again, what will raise my ire and make me do this to myself is the sheer fucking complacency, and I apologise for the swearing but the blood boils, of people like Simon Hughes. This man is a copper-bottomed disgrace to the people he purports to represent – the readership of the Cricketer and the fans of the game who listen to his punditry. Earlier on I mentioned complacency.

If this had been written by Tom Harrison, we’d be raising hell. It’s risible to call the organisation that insulated itself by throwing its lot in with the Big Three “fearless”. People who stick up for the current county system are “domestic sport’s unruly skirmish” – what as opposed to the perfect order and beauty of the ECB in the wake of the 2013-14 Ashes when the unruly “outside cricket” mob had the damn cheek to criticise the bloody idiots, and when Hughes was one of those in the vanguard protecting the morons. But the tin hat on this particularly stupid introduction has to be “this is the new regime’s diligently researched and meticulously constructed attempt to eradicate [county debt]”. They’ve set up this T20 competition to save the counties. You have to be having a laugh. Let’s leave aside the diligent research and meticulous construction that haven’t really been shared with the “obsessives” that this is meant to save. Hughes has laid down his cloth for the ECB, and whether they care or not, and I suspect they think he’s as laughable as we do, they’ll use it. One of the main organs reporting on the game has spoken. Even in his introduction he’s been sold a pup by the ECB. We don’t know the team names yet, and I’ll bet we’d all have guessed where the 8 teams would be located (maybe a toss up between Bristol and Cardiff).

You know, we’ve been in Wisden, we’ve been contacted by a couple of journos, we are aware a number know about us, we get good traffic, we have a presence online. Did anyone think to talk to us, or to get the views of people on here. I think we’d have dealt with it properly and given all the information due consideration and respect. After all, what unites us all is a love of the game. We want the best for it. We have ideas. We have been told on many occasions to be more constructive. That we have a voice to use but we spoil it by not being obsequious and respectful enough. That’s what those at the top want. People to tell them how great they are. One day they might actually ask one of the most frequented cricket blogs out there what our views might be. Hell, they might even get some constructive responses. There’s as much chance of that as there is of me being editor of the Cricketer. Shame on this stupidity.

I’m not the answer. Never pretended to be. I have a voice, a view, and so do you. I’ve lost the desire to raise it, and instead of wondering why people like me, and others, feel the way we do, by asking what ails us, what makes us shrug our shoulders and why we turn off when we should turn on, the powers that be and the majority of the media pay us lip service and tell us what we should like. Sport where results don’t matter, but bodies watching and paying do. Sport where history doesn’t matter, but manufacturing events do. Sport where complexity and ebb and flow are anathema, and don’t matter, but where momentary wizardry, flash pyrotechnics and noise mean we will enjoy ourselves. I don’t call that fear. I call that recklessness.

Ah well. 1700 words on a semi-return. When I said I’d had enough that late December morning, I had. I still have. People who should know better said it was Cook, my hatred for him and my inability to give him due praise was the answer. I know who they are. It wasn’t. It was people who should know better who have let the ECB off a 4-0 drubbing to an ordinary Australia team and put Cook’s excellent innings on a pedestal to do so. I never thought I’d never post again. I just thought that I needed a break. Six weeks or so of not really writing hasn’t refreshed me one bit. It’s just been a gap in my rage. I liked the ODI side, I loved their spirit, their energy, their flaws. Then I remember the Ashes and the anger resurfaces. Maybe it doesn’t matter any more. Maybe it is time to call it quits. Right now, I think we are on a precipice.

All the best.

Peter

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They Made These Feelings Go Away, A Model Citizen In Every Way

It was 10:55 am. In a sleet storm that would freeze the warmest of souls, I sat in the car park at Costco, Croydon, and felt a little different. I’m not sure why it happened, whether there was some epiphany as I saw the line of people poised for the Sunday opening of the bulk buying behemoth, but this was something that had not happened for a long, long time. I actually cared whether England would win the ODI I was listening to. I actually, actively, really wanted them to finish this one on the winning team. Listening as the Australians took a single, when boundaries were required, was met with an imperceptible “come on”. As Rashid got through those two overs without carnage, when only carnage would really do, I even shrugged off the Anderson bon mots about him being less expensive than usual (as pointed out by one of our commenters in the previous post).

While I struggle listening to Norcross and Dagnall commentating, but immediately pointing out that they are much more preferable than Lovejoy Swann, there was a feeling of something being achieved. Not only were we defending a target, we were strangling the Aussies to death in it. The bowlers, a very key man down, executed their plans, to quote that horrible management phrase, and were exceptionally captained by Eoin Morgan. There were specially set fields, well thought through plans, balls “put in the right areas” and England held down destructive players like Mitchell Marsh and Marcus Stoinis. While Smith and Marsh were going, the game was a gimme. Keep at that pace, accelerate in the last ten overs. They couldn’t.

This isn’t about the game though, it is about an England team that wins, that does it with flair and a little bit of luck, and the inevitability that this won’t last, that this is still a team with a howler in it, and a howler at the wrong time in a world tournament gets you knocked out (see the Champions Trophy), but it is a likeable team, Root seems so more at ease within it, Morgan appears a terrific captain, you can fail three times as long as you deliver once, and when you do, make it count, and it has guts. Joe Root had to bowl nearly 9 overs against a team delivered to you out of the Big Bash. That sporting phenomenon that we all aspire to imitate. Joe Root did not let the side down, he stepped up. Rashid nicked key wickets, Mark Wood bowled with energy and vigour, Woakes with calmness and calculation to add to his amazing partnership with Buttler.

ODI cricket is now bemoaned every bit as much as county cricket. It is international cricket’s dull uncle, without the gravitas of test match cricket, and lacking the testosterone of the T20 twaddle. It is neither here nor there. England have got good at it just as other nations treat it as the bit in the middle of most tours, or the subject of a completely displaced visit to play three or five match series, and the overseas tourists come and go in a fortnight. England pick exciting players like Roy and Hales, Buttler and Wood, and keep some of the more uptempo or classy test players. It took us 9 years to figure out it wasn’t the game for Alastair Cook, and when we did, things got better. That’s just a fact of life. How much Bayliss and Farbrace are responsible, who knows?

I’ve been out of the loop for three or so weeks now. Not writing has been a release. It may be that this is all you get from me going forward. The odd thing here or there. I might get the writing bug back, but at this time, it isn’t cricket. The nonsense of the 244 was the last straw, the cynical, contemptuous response to a 4 nil defeat, pinning it on county cricket in particular, was a disgrace. I have no words for the test team, its acolytes in the media, and the people governing the sport allowing it to be marginalised that haven’t been said, or can add to the weight already placed upon the pile of prose. The 2014 Ashes loss and the repercussions invoked fury, anger and passion. This loss provoked apathy, antagonism and atrophy.

But then, there came a spark. Maybe there is life yet.

PS – A terrible signal on EE in Costco. Terrible delay in getting the scores in the last two overs.

I Know I’m Not A Hopeless Case – Day 3 Live Blog

 

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Welcome to tonight’s live blog for as long as it goes for me. Having had a long afternoon sleep with this cold, I am not getting to proper sleep for a good while yet, and it’s always better to blog the England batting than the Australian. We start the day with England 135 in arrears with 8 second innings wickets standing, a twitterati who couldn’t wait to give it all that, a social media cadre too busy fighting four year old battles all too keen to give it back, and so on and so forth. Meanwhile there’s a perfectly good game going on, and a match to win.

England won a so-called dead rubber in 1998/9 (although that bought us back to 2-1 with 1 to play as the Ashes had gone) and it didn’t feel like it when Dean Headley had the spell of his life. England won a so-called dead rubber in 2003 in Sydney, when the Aussies were without Warne and McGrath and it didn’t feel like it. So it’s a bit cheeky to pick and choose that this is a dead rubber. That isn’t particularly fair. It’s a bit cheeky to pick the lack of Starc and a fit Cummins, and use it against Cook. But we have been a bit cheeky throughout the last few years, so why stop now? Or maybe that team we beat in those two “dead rubbers” had all time greats coming out of their ears. Cricket is never a perfect match, a like for like. And attitudes change too.

So join me, Dmitri, if you want for the first hour or two and see where we go. Suffer with me, the blogging antichrist! The only bleep test I’ll be doing is putting 10p in a jar each time I swear in the earshot of the beloved in the New Year! The only cult I’ll be joining is the Paddington Bear appreciation society. The only time I’ll be back to my best is when I’m fighting four year old battles. Love it.

23:00 I don’t know about you, but we’re all a little bit too cocky at the moment. Best exemplified by this Broad wibble…

http://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/cricket/42491916

“I deserved criticism after the Perth defeat,” added the 31-year-old, who has 397 Test wickets and sits second on England’s all-time list.

“Since then, I’ve had one of those weeks where you get your tin hat on, duck down and don’t really see much. I’ve been very unaware of things been written or said.

“I’ve gone to that place where you have to go as a sportsman, where you find something within yourself, get support from people around you and build yourself back up again.”

Broad has been poor this tour and now he’s played well for a day or so. Now he’s got a bit of a spring in his step. Three games too late.

23:07 Interesting Cook interview. But I’ll keep my thoughts to myself.

23:23 Shiny Toy, who said 327 was a good score yesterday, is now saying we should bat the day out today. He’s winging it. Big time winging it.

23:25 In my opinion, with this start, and an Australia dealing with gastro issues, we should be looking at 400 minimum, 500 par. Bat out the day, at a half reasonable rate and it is game on. Let’s see.

23:30 Jackson Bird opens the bowling and Cook gets a single off the second ball of the day. Root is on 49 and has just one slip with some short fielders straight (ish). A dab to point off the last ball of the over gets Root to 50. 194 for 2.

23:34 Hazlewood on from the other end. Root clips him off the hip to midwicket for one off the first ball. 22 overs to the new ball. Hazlewood comes around the wicket for Cook. Probing line first up. Mitchell saying he (Cook) takes pride in coming out of the well, with no recognition that his place in the team is totally solid and has been for ages. Edges the last ball of the over into the ground and over finishes at 195 for 2.

23:39 Bird getting some shape. Conversion rate Klaxon from Mitchell. Bird’s 5th delivery is whipped off his legs by Root who hustles for 2. Over finishes at 197 for 2. Back in 2 minutes!

23:45 I suppose we have to put up with the eulogies for Cook. I’ve genuinely never heard the like of it for many a year. A bit of a streaky drive through backward point gets Cook 3 and it is 200 for 2. First betting advert is Ladbrokes tonight. The fishing celebration that if it happened in my day, someone would be getting lamped afterwards.

23:47 Bird carries on. Last ball was under 80 mph. The commentary is full Cook tribute at the moment, as the talismanic, well respected opener bats out a maiden.

23:50 Hazlewood gets Root to edge into the ground first ball of the 63rd over. The speedo says he’s at around 86mph at the moment. Appeal for a legside strangle after the third  ball, but not reviewed, but it smashed the thigh pad. 4th ball getting a bit of shape into the batsman (Root), as Hazlewood might be getting a little reverse? Another maiden keeps it at 200 for 2.

23:55 Shiny Toy on now. Cook starts with a lovely drive for no runs and a nice whip off his legs straight to the fielder. Another lovely shot into the V off the third, but again no runs. Warner was rotating the strike with shots like that. And again off the fourth ball. A leg whip to fine leg gets the first run for three overs. Cook 109, England 201 for 2.

00:00 Happy 28th December in the UK. Hazlewood continues, around the wicket to Cook. A drive slightly uppish through the covers gets Cook two runs. Actually wasn’t that uppish. Hazlewood getting a little bit of reverse again, bowling very tightly. Reminds me of my nephew, facially, if a bit older (my nephew is 7). 2 off the over, 203 for 2, Cook 111.

00:05 Root strokes Bird through the covers for 3 off his second ball of the over. Lovely shot. Cook gets a wide one and cuts it behind point for 4. 210 up. Off Nelson. Geoffrey isn’t going to recommend Bird signing for Yorkshire! Cook prods the last ball for 2 and it’s 212 for 2. Cook on 117. Up to his 23rd highest test score (early in his career he had a lot of low hundreds).

00:09 Here is Pat Cummins, a day after the illness.  First ball was 80.5 mph. Another really good hit day yesterday, we’ve been blessed in the last month. Thanks to you all. Cummins’ third ball (85 mph) whipped through the legside for a single by Root. Fourth ball, left alone, was a click under 84 mph. Cook knocks one behind point for a single, and moves on to 118. Root on 57. Last ball played back, and was nearly 87 mph. 214 for 2.

00:14 Here comes Nathan Lyon. England imploded to him on Day 3 last time out, if I recall. Cook whips one to midwicket, hitting it cleanly but no run off the second ball. Not leaving a lot, is Alastair. Bit “splicey” on the 5th ball, but no harm done. Maiden completed. 214 for 2. 22 runs in 46 minutes so far. But no wickets.

00:18 Cummins for his second over. Anyone at work tomorrow? Is it Thursday tomorrow? Root plays a gorgeous late dab through backward point for four off the second ball of the over. Root into the 60s. Third ball of the over slightly hurries Root with an 87 mph delivery. The next one is 87+ too. Is Shiny Toy following this blog – when I mention the speed, he does too?

WICKET – ROOT  Caught Lyon Bowled Cummins 61.  218 for 3

A pretty ordinary shot. Skies a pull shot and doesn’t convert again. Not really sure what you can say about that. Lyon takes a comfortable catch well in from the boundary. 218 for 3. In comes Malan.

00:24 Lyon back to bowl to Cook. Cook cuts for a single to go to 119, which I always remember as a Hilditch (he made it at Headingley in 1985). This wicket is as different as you get from Perth for Malan. Plays the rest of the over out. 219 for 3.

00:27 Root has made two hundreds in his first 11 test matches as captain. Cummins continues. Cook really wants to feel bat on ball, he’s leaving very little. Malan nicks through the slip into the ground for a lovely boundary to start his knock. Cummins now up to 88 mph. Bouncer off the fifth ball. End of the over, and it is drinks. So I can have a couple of minutes off. Enjoyed it so far. Cook looking really good, but Root has to be livid with that shot. Be back soon. 224 for 3. 32 for 1 in the first hour.

00:34 Lyon back to bowl to Cook who nurdles the second ball for a single. The irony of Swann saying Broad pulled up with an injury before Abu Dhabi. Malan dabs a single to leg to move on to 5. 2 off the over, 226 for 3. This is now Cook’s 18th highest score.

00:37 Optimistic appeal by Cummins against Malan which is ignored off his second ball. God Lovejoy is a prick. I can’t abide this clown. Volume down. Fed up with the dull bantz. Fifth ball and Malan hits one to a wide third man straight through gully / fifth slip in the air. Four for Malan, and then gets another boundary with a slightly more convincing prod to a finer third man. 8 off the over, and it is 234 for 3.

00:42 A sharp single for Cook off the first ball and he is on to 122. Malan uses his feet but pushes the ball back off the second ball. He’s keen to try that, but stays on his crease for the third. I make it 00:50 when Lovejoy leaves the box. End of the 74th and it is 235 for 3. And here comes Ray, missing nuffink.

00:45 Cummins carries on, as does Cook who nudges a single to backward square leg. Just passed the 122 he made in Mumbai in 2012 for his 17th best. Next target is 127 made at Old Trafford in 2006. Just realised it’s Mitchell Marsh bowling. Ooops. The future Surrey legend being used up until the new ball. Still managing 82 mph. Volume back up as Lovejoy is gone. One off the MM over and it is 236 for 3.

00:50 Cook pushes another slightly wide Lyon delivery through point for two. Some interest off the 4th ball, off an inside edge which did not go to hand. Cook puts that behind him with another single. Up to 126. 3 off the over. 239 for 3.

00:53 Come on Smith. I’m sick and I’m doing this. Get on with it. Terrific straight drive from Cook for 4. Up to 130. He’s been out on that number twice in tests. Goes past this after a load of twaddle from Marsh is helped down to long leg for a single. 133 against Sri Lanka at Cardiff is next. End of the over 244 for 3. And here comes the Paddy Power ad.

00:59 Maiden from Lyon. I missed it.

01:00 Marsh throws one wide in what is probably his last over for a while, and Malan goes at it. No harm done. Nondescript filth thus far including a short wide one. 244 for 3.

01:04 Lyon bowls the 80th over. Cook takes a single off the first ball. Malan dabs one onto the legside for his 14th run. End of the 80th and it is 246 for 3. New ball being taken.

01:06 Back comes Josh Hazlewood. Second ball with the new ball, and Malan is LBW without a review.

WICKET  MALAN LBW Hazlewood 14   246 for 4

And it looks like he has bloody well inside edged it. What the hell is going on? Bairstow off the mark with a lovely push for three. Cook no doubt ran each run more efficiently. End of the over 249 for 4. I’ll bet my house if there’s an LBW against Cook he’s reviewing it. See also, Stuart Broad.

01:14 Jackson Bird to YJB with the new ball. An innocuous over ends with a glorious extra cover drive by YJB and the score moves to 253 for 4. I really think I knew when I nicked balls, but I’m not going to go mad about it. My good friend Johnny Mitch still has the hump about one I thought  I didn’t hit..

01:19 Cook takes a single off the third ball of the over to move to 133. Crisp on drive by YJB for none off the fourth ball. Tucks the fifth ball for three to get Bairstow into double figures and it 257 for 4. Cook leaves the last ball well alone.

01:22 Bairstow tucks a couple off Bird’s first ball. Hello Q. Nonsense shot off the third ball and lucky not to drag it on. Then he nicks the fourth ball through the gap and gets a boundary. 263 for 4.  That is the end of over score.

01:27 Possibly the last over before lunch when I’ll be calling it a day. Keep the comments coming throughout the night if you want. It’s been fun. Hazlewood is the man with the ball for this over, the 85th of the innings. Cook leaves a ball on height and possibly width off the second. A lot resting on Cook now. Pulls the third ball to long leg for a single, and moves to 134. Bairstow leaves a couple quite close to him, but that is lunch.

Two wickets lost in the session, with England making 72 for 2. Cook added 30 to his total, and looked pretty solid. Hazlewood is the main threat, though Cummins is looking back to himself. Well poised. Good night everyone.

With My Undying, Death Defying, Love For You…. 4th Test, Day 2

Cook Love Letter

Alastair Cook made a test hundred. Against Australia. I’m not sure anything else is really needed, is it?

No. I’m not going to let you off that lightly. I have a bit of the old head cold at the moment so I didn’t watch last night. I’m watching the highlights now to see how it went. I’ve also got the whole of the day’s play on the hard drive so anyone who wants a copy of the hundred, please let me know!

I woke up this morning, having followed the action through broken sleep, to see Alastair Cook had completed a century, England are 192 for 2 chasing 327, and that Root is one more run from entering the conversion zone. I am sure there are many out there who think this has me clenching my fist in rage, anger that Cook has “proved me wrong” and that there is still life in the old opener yet. Anger that I can’t quote the no hundreds in 36 Ashes innings or whatever it is. That I’ve been shown up yet again by the master England batsman. I genuinely didn’t wake up feeling like that. I was genuinely pleased we’d bowled out the Australians for a wholly inadequate score, and that we have got a great base to take on a big first innings lead, put the Aussies under pressure and avoid a whitewash. For me, as it is for Alastair, it is all about the team position. England had a magnificent day.

It started with Tom Curran getting Smith to drag on for 76. That opened the floodgates a little. Marsh M, this winter’s Karun Nair, followed soon after, dragging on. Tim Paine went a bit later, dragging on. We can go on about bowling dry in a negative sense quite a lot but England applied a lot of pressure to a sporting team that have to attack, and the run rate was stagnant for long periods, so they can get impatient and wish to impose their will. It’s in their sporting psyche to do so. England stuck to their guns, took out the tail, kept Shaun from making a big one, and having not taken a wicket on a road yesterday before lunch, we took 10 for just over 200 in the intervening period (checks – 205 runs). That was an outstanding performance of discipline, persistence and a little bit of good fortune that we were probably due.

The good fortune extended to the afternoon and evening sessions. With Starc out and Bird replacing him, the Anderson jibe that the bowling strengths in depth in Australia weren’t all they are made up to be could be being proved right. That Pat Cummins wasn’t right was also a fair result too. No sympathy is given to England when this happens and this should certainly not be reciprocated. The point then is that with advantages like this, with a flat deck, with a lovely outfield, an ailing bowling attack is to cash in. Really good players do that. Alastair Cook, when he pulls his technique together, is a really good player. He cashed in. Joe Root is a really good player, and he’s off to a very decent start. England need them both to cash in for a really big one. As I write this, Cook has passed 50 on the highlights, and it is pointed out that it’s his first 50 of the series. More on this a little later.

Stoneman got a start again, looked decent against the opening bowlers, and then gave it away to Lyon. Vince got a decent start, and was then out LBW when it looked like he nicked it (and he didn’t review). Cook got a piece of fortune on 66 when Smith dropped him off Mitchell Marsh. Cricket is a game of fine lines and fate many times, and you grab this with both hands if you are good enough. Stoneman may be running out of chances, Vince is going to be the man who promises you the world, but will let you down, and Cook is the one who can make you really pay. He scored at a really fluent rate, he looked so much better, with so much more confidence and aura. Chris thinks he’s seen some major technical shift – he can explain – but this was a good, important hundred.

So tomorrow will start with England in a good position but with a lot of work to do. Can Cook make it another double, another big one? Can Root convert? Will Malan carry on his Perth form on a polar opposite wicket? How about YJB? Can Moeen save his tour with the bat. One thinks we might need three or four of these to happen. England need a lot more than a 100 run lead in my view.

So that’s the cricket. We should be pleased if we are England fans. We should relish the chance to stick one to the Australians at their biggest test match. While it is perfectly reasonable to point out the limitations of the attack, the possibility the Aussies have eased off the gas, that the series is a dead rubber, we must also recognise in previous incarnations we haven’t lifted ourselves, players deserted or were injured, and England got whitewashed. So while the article headlined “Nice of you to turn up at last” is harsh, it isn’t entirely fair. But I have to say when I see absolute rot like this tweet, you wonder why I (and others on here) get angry:

He scored the square root of nothing on this tour thus far. He hadn’t scored an Ashes ton since January 2011. So if you weren’t a doubter I would suggest that there’s something amiss in your statistical analysis. This came from nowhere. Instead of enjoying it, this lot, and others had to make a point.

For the haters and naysayers. That’s what we’ve become. You are either with him or against him. If you criticise his performance, his captaincy, his role in the debacle four years ago and its aftermath, may you be slapped down. May you be damned, you haters. May you never speak again, May your view never be aired again. He’s made a hundred now. Shut up.

That’s it. A few days ago Tom Harrison, in an interview covered in detail by George Dobell, basically said there was nothing to see here when it came to this Ashes. That winning in Australia is difficult because of home advantage. That because the money is now taken care of, and we aren’t a national embarrassment at white ball cricket any more, we are in a safe place, a nice place, a place to build upon and make hay when the sun shines. The complacency was immense, as teeth itching as Downton calling the 2013-14 series a “difficult winter”. The media fell asleep at this wheel. Nothing to bother their pretty little heads about, concerned more with what he didn’t say about Stokes than what he did say about how great Tom Harrison was while we lost the main test prize we seem to care about.

An Alastair Cook ton when the series has gone is the cricket pundit equivalent. It’s a wonderful moment for him, to end a barren run, to end a personal nightmare. It’s come in a cause for the team, and they’ll be delighted. It’s lifted the fans out there, who have paid good money to go there and have a great day. It’s been a super day. It doesn’t paper over the cracks. Today the media did what they always did. Always do. Team Alastair. Love letters. Personal feelings. If you have the temerity to disagree you are the haters. You are the naysayers. You have been proved wrong.

And you wonder why we find it hard to support England. Look at a day like today. I woke up feeling pretty pleased for Cook. Now I feel he’s the useful tool again. That’s the current England set up. You might want to come back inside? You aren’t allowed. This is Cook’s world and if you doubt him, you aren’t allowed in. Once again, he’s the lightning rod. Those who hate us, who feel we are disloyal will never understand. Just when you thought the schism was potentially going to be healed, it had to be spoiled. It’s just the way these days. Forget him, it is Cook who divides English cricket down the middle.

Comments on tonight’s play below. If I feel up to it, with this poxy head cold, I might live blog the early exchanges. I quite like watching England bat. Maybe we need to turn down the Twitter feed. Maybe someone should have a word with the person who put that GN tweet up.

Mr Telephone Man, There’s Something Wrong With My Line

The clock is winding down towards Christmas, and the Boxing Day Test at the now decided Ashes. While there are remarkable similarities in the way both this and the last series has progressed, there is, of course, for UK viewers one very key change – the broadcaster is now BT Sport and not, as it has been since 1990, Sky Sports for an overseas test tour.

As someone who has Virgin Media (because trees prevent a satellite dish) this has meant I can watch the play (albeit about 5 seconds behind on HD) fine and dandy and with no worries about the service being interrupted through snowstorms and high winds. I am also the kind of sad person who records most of the cricket put out there, mainly in highlight form, but for some reason decided to emulate 2010/11 and 2013 by recording the Ashes in its entirety. This means I get to see the whole of BT Sport’s production at varying times.

My first impression is on technical skills, following the play, not missing a ball because you are late back from adverts (a cardinal sin that one), BT have not done a bad job. They haven’t sought to introduce stupid innovations or jazz coverage up to the max. They have concentrated on putting out a decent product that does what it needs to do. As a viewer youngish at heart but oldish of hue, I don’t mind that one bit.

BT also sought not to be too innovative in their commentary team either. All of those selected to present cricket to you have been in the broadcasting game for a while, either on TMS, Channel Ten’s coverage of BBL, or BT Sport before. It is a little bit of  a shame that a newbie wasn’t given a shout, but that’s a minor quibble. Three regular Australians – and I’m not sure who replaces them in Melbourne as I think they might all be off to the Big Bash – might be one too many but when two of them are the brilliant Ricky Ponting, and the “he’d be brilliant but he has to compare to Ponting” Adam Gilchrist that is nothing to moan about. As I’ve said, if I’m starting a TV station, and I have the pick of all world cricket commentators to choose from, I’d pay Punter what he wants and the rest can do it for free.

Much was made last year of the recruitment of Radio 1’s Greg James as the host of BT Sport cricket. He was about as vanilla as they come except for those awful checked shirts. He didn’t pull up any trees, but then again he didn’t exactly convince me. James then pulled out of doing the anchor role for the Ashes and it was handed to Matt Smith. I always quite liked Matt Smith, but it has to be said that it was a bit of a journeyman choice, having been one of those guys who seemed to turn his hand to anything.

The presentation is fine. The highlights are slightly longer than Sky’s and they don’t feel the need to bother with a version of The Verdict, which was only really the Colvile and Willis Show when boiled down to its constituent parts. I’m all in favour of that, there’s too much “analysis” which in the end is really only a load of ex-cricketers riding their favourite hobby horse. Sky’s cricket highlights were around 48 minutes long after adverts are removed, BT’s are around 1 hour, up to 1 hour 10. I think BT actually do this better.

The one thing that has struck me, and judging by the comments attached to the “Leave Out All The Rest” post it has some of you, is the incessant tide over after over of betting adverts. Now I’m not a gambler, and never will be. It gets a bit much after a while. Kwiff, Paddy Power, Bet 365, Betfair, Ladbrokes, Coral, William Hill, and I’m sure there are more. It hits you that the only thing sport seems to exist for is to allow us to lose our money in many varied ways. BT are not the only ones to do this, I know, but it just seems more egregious. The first 20-25 minutes are ad free, and then they come at you. Wave after wave. More free bets and boosted odds. More ways to tie gullible people in.

The presentation before the start of play is relatively standard, loads of people standing around a table talking a lot, and me not remembering a lot of what they said. This happens at the end, but I delete it before watching it most days. Which leads me on to the assessment, and grades, of the various presenters.

RICKY PONTING – A+. The best in the business because he is there for two reasons – he is a great ex-player, certainly the best on the TV rotation I would contend, and I’m pretty sure he’s not a regular journalist. He informs you without patronising, is enthusiastic without it coming out as being forced, and is engaging in his delivery and his knowledge. He can be humorous without labouring jokes, he can be deadly serious when he needs to be. He clearly absolutely adores the game, making this sound like a calling, not a job. I do not enthuse about many media folk, but I do Ponting. Which is funny, because I hated him as a player. In my view he knocks Atherton for six, and does the Nasser job a darn sight better than Hussain does.

ALISON MITCHELL – A- – Now let me confess my sins. I thought this move was one to tick boxes but in many ways I was so wrong. Mitchell is a professional broadcaster and it shows. She is brilliant at her job. I do not want to enter the debate that poisoned the water here, but when you put experienced, professional, engaging, capable individuals in a position when they can shine, it is all power to the female commentator elbow. The best tribute you can pay to Alison is that when she comes on to her spell you go “oh good, she’s going to describe to me what is happening, and she is good at it”. Has great rapport with nearly all the commentators – keep Lovejoy away from her – and if you’ve got Geoffrey’s respect, you’ve earned it. A terrific, pleasant surprise from someone who doesn’t listen to TMS a lot to know how good she really is.

ADAM GILCHRIST – B+ – Gilchrist again has that knowledge but tries a little too hard for me. It does sound a little forced. He should not, for example, be allowed to talk about Premier League football at all, just as a cross-promotion. But what Gilchrist does well is much more important than what he does badly. As time went on I found he seemed to flow off the Ponting approach. He might try to over-reach a bit, which is why he’s not up there in Punter’s stratosphere. He’ll say something a little too pants on fire enthusiasm, or make a bit more of a hyperbolic statement. But he’s been an outstanding choice as Australian commentator for BT Sport, and I for one, would love to hear more of him. When you are the legend he is, and you clearly love the sport like he does, then more power to you, and you’ll be given the benefit of the doubt in my eyes.

GEOFF BOYCOTT – B – You would think Sir Geoffrey would be like marmite, you either loathe him or hate him, but I’m actually quite ambivalent towards him. There’s a ton of good with Geoffrey. He clearly, again, absolutely loves the game still and cares for it to his core. This is conveyed in every stint on the mic. He also speaks his mind, and in some ways doesn’t care who he upsets. Sometimes I suspected he did this for effect, but whereas I thought he did that in the past, I’ve not got that here. He’s shown his soft side over Malan, for instance, who you can hear him urging on. He dovetails well with most commentators (not all), and while his manner does upset some, he has been absolutely worth it for me.

DAMIEN FLEMING – B- – Mr Fleming has a little bit of a problem. He does not carry the legend status of the two other Aussies on the team so he has to show out a bit more. This leads to some of his Aussie nomenclature coming over to a BT audience that could not give a stuff if he’s the Bowlologist or not. When commentating on the game he is absolutely fine. He’s not pulling up trees, but he’s not making me scratch my eyes out. No team is going to be perfect, but again, he clearly sees this as more than a job, and conveys that. I know this view is not shared by all my fellow writers!

MICHAEL VAUGHAN – D- – Do you notice what I’ve said about the five commentators / pundits above? They clearly love the game, they see it as more than a job. What strikes me between the eyes with Vaughan is this is his job. I’m not convinced he loves doing this at all. The whole aim of this Ashes tour appears to have been the self-promotion of one MP Vaughan. He’s on BT Sport, he’s on ESPN Cricinfo, he’s on any media outlet that will have him. And what we get is reactive talking points. He’s not explaining anything, he’s concentrating on which reaction will get the most play. For a former captain of some repute, he seems very reticent in bringing his experience in the role to bear in his commentary. You’d thought he’d be dying to. He’s not all bad, but his first commentary stint in Brisbane was very nervous – he would not shut up. He has improved on that score, but there’s too much baggage, too much exposure, too much working out how he’s going to insert himself into the story and not let the story speak for itself.

GRAEME SWANN – Z- – I have no words. Really. But let me say this. If this man could just talk about cricket, and not try to be funny, witty, the smartest guy in the room, the court jester, the ra-ra we can do it type we might have something to work with. No. I’m not giving him credit for the times he talks about spin bowling. There should be more to commentating than besmirching your one specialist topic with a tide of self-loving. Just truly dreadful. I’d seriously reconsider, BT.

So, what do you think, if you care? Have I been too harsh, too generous. I actually have quite enjoyed something different, even if it means swallowing some pretty awful medicine here or there. It’s not as polished as Sky, but in many ways, it’s not as jaded or cynical. Replace a Swann with a Nasser, who I still like despite everything, a Vaughan with an Atherton, and Matt Smith, who did well, with Ian Ward, who can do it better, and you’ll be very well served.

We may have other posts before Christmas, but they may not be mine! We’ll see. If not, let me wish all of you a happy Christmas and see you on Christmas Night for a live blog of Melbourne if any of you can be bothered (for the first session at least).

Leave Out All The Rest

Beware folks, it’s one of those posts….. (but as a teaser I list this year’s Dmitri Award winners and the second nominee to Mount Cricketmore).

I look at that counter at the bottom of the right hand column and see 927,000 plus hits in the past 2 years and 10 months, and think what is this monster I created? I looked back last night at some of the stuff I wrote on How Did We Lose In Adelaide, to prepare for a piece I intended to write on the Ashes, and reflected on a time when I was talking to no-one by myself. There’s a post I wrote the day after the Outside Cricket press release (still one of my best posts was on that, in my opinion, called “Know Your Place”) and it’s theme is one of worrying because I had received 260 hits that day. Worried that I’d unleashed a whirlwind, and how would I cope? I did it by writing post upon post upon post. Much of it missing the target, in hindsight inaccurate, in the light of history missing some of the key clues. But it was from the heart, spoke to a few, and gained traction. I proceeded with a mixture of excitement and fear.

It was also interesting to see how I reacted in the immediate aftermath of the defeat in the Ashes series. I went silent for a whole month. I did not post on cricket between the end of the Sydney Test and the day KP was sacked. I was massively disappointed, had a lot of anger, but felt no need to write. I had plenty to say but couldn’t bother saying it. Then the storm came, the dam burst and off I went. And I’m still going.

Now, as we sit 3-0 down in this series, I feel the same. I am hugely disappointed because, in my view, this team has massively underperformed. But I can’t really fathom what to write about. I can go off on one about Cook, but you’ve heard it all before. I can have a pop at the media, but what’s the point, because although there’s been a little change there, it’s not enough. I can have a go at the bowling, and if KP’s record last time around is scorned, then taking 5 wickets in Adelaide when it was much too late, and cleaning up the mess after 550 runs were on the board needs a little analysis, but to do so is to reinforce messages, and talking about spin bowling is fraught with danger. I can talk about social media, and what grinds my gears about it, and most of all, I can talk about the ECB, but they don’t care for the likes of me, and what I might have to say. Also, Chris, Sean and Danny have covered it. So instead I do what I do a lot. Talk about myself, what it means to me to be a blogger, and to reflect.

Over the past four years I’ve had insults, a death threat, an attempted doxing, people ascribing agenda to me that I never had, being called a Piers Morgan acolyte, had a late night Twitter row with Etheridge, a fall out with Agnew, journalists block me (it’s up to them) and a lot of attacks. I asked for them with the combative stance, but it does wear on the old soul. With the help of friends I’ve managed to see this through. I’ve never found that I’ve gone to the writing well when the cricket needs to be written about (it does if you are writing a blog) and found nothing. Today, I can’t find anything to say about what has just happened. Other than I take absolutely no pleasure in it, I feel bereft when it comes to the future of test cricket, I hate much of what the game is becoming, and for the people around it who purport to be on the side of the loyal, weather-beaten, stuck by it through the lean times cricket fan, with very few exceptions, you aren’t. So stop insulting our intelligence.

Chris, in particular, knows how moody a sod I can be. I’ve had about five “breakdowns” of a blogger’s insecurity sort in the past four years. It has cost me more sleep than I care to think about. It has caused me more stress than I would ever want to contemplate. And when I look in that box on the bottom of the right hand column, and add that to the 300k hits I got in 2014, what does it matter? We’re just cricket fans, caring about the game. We don’t do it for a living. I do not do this for a living. So what if I’ve had over 1 1/4 million hits in 46 months? It’s for nought, except “enjoyment”.

The Ashes are the pinnacle of the sport for me. It is what I look forward to the most. The history. History means a lot for a generation like mine. The tales of derring do between the two teams, when for many of those we were up against a superteam. Winning the Ashes was vital to me, still is. But it only matters if it is treated as the pinnacle, and it’s not any more. Without us even competing in an Ashes series is a sign that maybe the time is nearing the end for me and cricket. Or at least devoting endless hours to keep this show on the road, monitoring the spam pages to make sure all your posts that might get caught in there are allowed through, keeping an eye on the conversations, trying to nip conflicts in the bud, admitting my mistakes, and trying to debate if there is an issue to be had.

A cricket blog like this is not just a case of write something down and leave them to it. It is a labour of love. It is something you have to enjoy. It could also be doing with someone a little more stable than me running it! I’m responsible for the vast majority of the photographs on here, including all the random header pics. I want someone, one day, to say to themselves, when they see the header “I’ve not seen that one before”. If even one of you did that, it would make my day.

Conflating the Ashes and some of the stuff that leads me to despair about being a blogger is appropriate. Test cricket is the greatest sport in the world, in my opinion. Like all sports there can be bad games, but something miraculous can happen. It doesn’t often, but it can. No sport can put you the wringer that the Edgbaston test did for me in 2005. That includes my team hanging on for 70 minutes in an FA Cup Semi-Final! Those days seem long gone. Long gone. The media seem impervious to it, the public oblivious to it, the players just seem to want to be paid, and the authorities appear to care little about anything other than good publicity and maximising revenue. You’ve heard all this from me for just under 3 years (or thereabouts) on here, and another on HDWLIA.

AWARDS SEASON

Before the finale to this piece, I would like to advise you that given the Melbourne test, I’m not going to get the chance to do the full Dmitri Award honours on a post by post basis by the end of the year. I have decided that the awards are:

  1. Ben Stokes’s 2017 (you’ve seen that)
  2. Kumar Sangakkara (for his amazing county season)
  3. Jimmy Anderson (England player of the year)
  4. Hope and Brathwaite at Headingley
  5. Nick Hoult (for being the best journo not to win the award – Dobell and Wigmore having won before)
  6. Simon Hughes (as worst journo)
  7. A day at Guildford
  8. The Overexposure of Michael Vaughan
  9. Tom Harrison

I would also like to inform you that the second nominee to Mount Cricketmore is Simon Hughes. He joins Giles Clarke on our virtual monument of shame. The next nominee will be in the Autumn of 2018, enthusiasm and pieces permitting! Well done to #39 for his achievement, gained in a tough year with massive competition from Andrew Strauss and Tom Harrison. Odds on one of those two joins Clarke and Hughes next year.

BOC Rushmore 2017

THE END PIECE

Back to the cricket and the blog. Whenever there is an incident of any kind on here, I immediately get nervous. This may be ammo to those who want to not partake in the way I hope, but it’s the truth. I hope the one thing that shines through on here is I try to be honest. I’ve failed a couple of times – most notably not tearing Lawrence Booth’s piece on Paul Downton a new arsehole because it allowed Downton to talk utter bollocks – but not often. The blog is now run by four of us, so I am not the sole decision maker, nor am I the writer on which this place depends. I’m immensely proud to have brought many good people together on here. I’m immensely proud that at times we’ve been listened to. I’m immensely proud of growing the blog from nothing but a personal journal to a place I know a lot of you visit many times a day. We have a liberal moderating policy, but we are also clear – we make the rules. You are all very welcome visitors, you can argue away, but do not abuse the trust placed in you. And yes, AB, this is the main acknowledgement you will get from me, do not ever dare call this a clique. I call them friends.

I know it is bad for mental and physical health to worry. I am writing this on the year anniversary of one such mental health issue. That I can’t find much to say about the Ashes is a concern, ameliorated by the excellence of all my co-writers and friends. That they are acquiring great hit rates for excellent work is testament to what we do and how we do it, more than picking over the carcass of what we write. We generally put our thoughts down very quickly and discuss / correct later. We are all busy people. They have been magnificent.

Firmly Outside Cricket. More than ever.

What Will You Do When Your Systems Fail? – Day 3 at Perth

australia-2006-sim-3-376-01.jpeg.jpg

There comes a time in a person’s life when you really have to make the decision about a series like this. Is it actually worth sacrificing anything to invest your heart in it? I had a Christmas do yesterday, and came home well oiled, without having hit anyone or poured a drink over someone (although I did have a beer with an MP, so maybe that’s as bad a sin). I wasn’t feeling very festive during the middle of the night, so sleep was always going to win the day, but there were days when I might have stayed up to watch.

As I also sleep quite lightly I wake up and look at the phone. For most of the day the figure on the right was 4. The number 4. All night long.

All morning long.

Until the end of play long.

I made the correct choice.

On our WhatsApp group this morning there was a strong desire for me to do a “Dmitri” on it. What’s the bloody point? What’s the point of investing any more of my heart and soul into a team that looks to be absolutely cooked? We’ve been rubbish in the past, beaten by an all-time great team on many occasions at Perth, but there’s been a spark of a fight in the field. This was the test match you could watch with your breakfast and listen to on the way to work. I’ve not switched on the TV or bothered to listen on the way in. Malan may have given us some enthusiasm, the joy of the first hundred, but since then we’ve had very little to cheer.

The day ended with Australia 549 for 4. The suspicion now is if England make 400, it is a 650 wicket. The suspicion is if England don’t have any movement off the pitch or in the air, they are absolutely stuffed. The suspicion is that they are told this so much they believe it. While Steve Smith is always capable of a double hundred, and so we should expect this on flat wickets where it is brutally hard to get top players out, but Mitchell Marsh is sitting there with 181 not out. 181.

I thought Chennai was bad. I thought letting a jobbing pro like Karun Nair make a test triple hundred was embarrassing. But that series was dead. It was 3-0 and we were about to fly home. Anderson missed the match. The captain was in the dying embers of his career. You could almost understand why the team was bereft. Today the series was still, in theory, alive. We could still win this test with a really good session or two, and although not likely, we might stay in the series going in to Melbourne. But no, Mitchell Marsh is sitting on the brink of a double, Smith could well make a triple here, and Chuckles comes out with the rubbish he does at the end? Mark Waugh played 128 test matches and never made more than 153. Steve Waugh played 168 tests, 89 of them at home, and his highest score in his home country was 170. The standard of play is dropping, you can see it before your eyes. We don’t live in a vintage time for test cricket and jobbing pros are making historic scores against England. It’s all the more frustrating that we’ve kept Warner in check just to let a couple of Marshes take us to the cleaners.

I’m obsessed by that Karun Nair triple century. It’s chastening watching your team cough up 700 plus, and they might be looking at that again. It’s even more chastening watching average players do it to you. It gives off distress signals. It intimates that you are intimidated. You have sub-consciously given up. That the end is nigh. I’ve heard the words “body language” too much today. Body language doesn’t take wickets. Ability and a bit of luck does.

As I type this I have Smith getting to 200 on the highlights. He’s an assassin. He will not only put his foot on your throat, he’ll stamp on you. He’s ruthless. We get a player like that and we apologise for it? Alastair Cook, sadly, is the poster child. You ever see him give it like Smith did when he got to 200? You know how we apologise for the 3-0 win in 2013 as if benefiting from the weather in a couple of games, and winning the close ones was something we should be ashamed of?

We’re forced to listen to commentators who hyped up the series, even tongue in cheek saying will Aussie be able to give us a game when they had a wobble against South Africa last year, now telling me this is inevitable. How Mark Wood might have been the answer here so why didn’t we give him a go? How the fielders weren’t into it. Jesus. What have you been doing to help the situation Shiny Toy? Bottling an application to put your money where your mouth is? You might get a chance if Andrew Strauss is held accountable (and given the news about his wife, which I’d wish on absolutely no-one, it’s not time to go into that aspect) and a vacancy arises. Will you stand up or is it too cosy being the annoying voice of venality on BT Sport and every other media outlet that gives you the oxygen of publicity?

We suspected Cook is past it. Nothing to change our minds. No-one was saying that pre-series. We were worried about the middle order fragility, and that’s not exactly been assuaged just because Malan made a good pitch hundred. We all gasped at Vince, but were told he had the game for Australia. One nice 80 and the rest is the same old same old. We pointed out that Anderson and Broad might not have the legs for this series, and one purple spell when the game was more or less dead in favourable conditions doesn’t change that. We worried about Ali taking wickets. We worried that this fragile team doesn’t make enough runs. And all I hear is “we don’t have extreme pace or mystery spin”. It’s like Southeastern trains blaming broken down trains for the delays – it’s your problem, fix it.

There will be a lot more, a lot more to come on this. But let’s see this test match out. England will have to bat for 4 and a bit sessions if Australia score another couple of hundred runs to try to not have to bat again. Then we’ll be in the realms of batting out time which we’ve shown plenty of aptitude for in recent times. On roads we collapse under pressure. We are the most mentally fragile team I have seen wear England colours for many years. We are up against a decent foe, but not all time great by any manner of means. There is no excuse for not putting up a decent fist of the second innings.

Which brings me back to the start of the piece. We need something to make us invest our heart and soul in this team. Maxie may well not be able to forgive and forget, but part of me wants to. It’s not bandwagon hopping for a winning team. It’s for someone to do something that makes me think this is worth it. That blogging about this lot is something I should invest my time in at a point in my life when time is something I am short of. I might have got past anger, which at least meant I cared, to resignation that we pay a lot of money to watch this absolute shambles and no-one seems to want to do anything about it. I love Ramps, but how can you justify extending his contract when the test batting is laughable? Those sort of decisions put my back up, but it’s typical ECB so why be angry?

Day 4 is an important day for England. Do they have it in them to put up a fight or is our bowling attack now really like the Zimbabwe and Bangladesh of yore, there for average players to make distinctly un-average scores? And do they have the fight in them to bat time on a flat deck? If you have faith, I’d take you back to last Christmas. And Karun Nair.

I’ll leave you with Danny’s take on the day…

​If I wrote it, it would be a very short post:
Woke up at 4am. Saw Smith was still in. Decided to go back to sleep.
Woke up at 5am. Saw Smith was still in. Decided to go back to sleep.
Woke up at 7.30am. Saw Smith was still in. Decided to go back to sleep.
Woke up at 9am. Saw Smith was still in. Decided to catch up with my Twitter feed.
Got out of bed after 10am. Saw last 2 overs. Felt pretty good about getting a full night’s sleep rather than watching this crap.

Maybe this would have been a better post.

Someone might be back to preview this. I will mostly be listening to the 4th day’s play on my way to Heathrow to pick up the Missus. She’s missed all this. Lucky her.

Together, We Will Work And Strive – Day 2 at Perth Intro….

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAHaving spent a thousand or so words on a day’s report having not watched a ball, I am now introducing the second day’s play in the likely knowledge I won’t see a ball of that either! At the moment I have Rohit Sharma’s double hundred playing on the DVR (not VHS Jomesy), and will watch the test afterwards. So maybe there might be some insight later. But not likely.

With England just over 300 and four wickets down it is vital that we get as near to 500 as possible. That sounds like a statement of the bleeding obvious, but the team need a platform to put pressure on the home team. We made these middling 350-450 scores against India last winter and succumbed when the likes of Karun Nair, I mean Karun effing Nair, made triple hundreds to send us to defeat. The Aussies could very well go big, but they could also trip up. Sometime on Day 2 we are likely to see David Warner give it a red hot crack, and that is going to test our mettle. He has a record of going off at Perth. There is also a recent record of big double tons at the WACA. This isn’t the rocket pitch of days of yore. (Wait a minute, Rohit scored 80 runs in the last 8 overs, on his own?)

England’s highest individual score at the WACA is 162 by Chris Broad in 1986. In many ways that innings was as big a surprise as Malan’s yesterday. Day 2 then saw Gower and Richards put a demoralised Australia to the sword. What we wouldn’t give for a repeat.

http://stats.espncricinfo.com/ci/engine/stats/index.html?class=1;ground=213;team=1;template=results;type=batting;view=innings

I am not going to put too much more into the preview for tonight’s play. Sean has said he’ll take care of tomorrow’s report, but in the meantime the nightshift of Q, P and Sr can comment away, and us early risers can join in when we wake up. Let’s hope optimism pays off.

Me? 350 all out and them 250 for 1. It’s the hope that kills you.

Comment below.

I’ll also add a couple of pictures from 2006 as well. Because I can. So there!

All from Day 2 in 2006.

And a little bit of Malan….

I Can See It In Your Walk, Tell ’em When You Talk – 3rd Test Day 1

There’s an issue when you run a blog and the action is taking place either overnight or during work hours – how do you write a day’s report? I think we’ve done this a few times before, but with four of us you’d think we’d have it covered.

The bigger problem is when thee play merges across sleep and work! All four of us are unable to really follow the action in any way other than via score updates on cricinfo. This leads to us providing you with a match report based on, well, our own imagination, and interpretation of the numbers and social media reactions. To put it mildly, this is not the most reliable of reporting sources. That said, we never pretended we were/are reporters.

So what that leads to is a discussion on the bald facts of the day. England have finished it on 305 for 4, which represents a fantastic recovery from 131 for 4, and also a magic moment for Dawid Malan. That England are in a very solid position is very nice. We might lose from here, but we really shouldn’t. The descriptions of the wicket are that it is very flat, has nice, but not electric, pace and is good for batting with a lightning outfield to give values for shots. There have been double the amount of boundaries today compared to the other first days at the Ashes tests this year.

What I have always loved about test cricket is a player’s first test ton. Is it a harbinger of success, of a career to be fulfilled and blossom, or the one cry of defiance in a pool of mediocrity. The hit and miss of our selections have seen several people make tons and disappear – Robson and Lyth come to mind, Compton made two, Ballance four – while Moeen, Stokes and YJB since the last Ashes have gone on to make their second hundred and stay the course. By all accounts it was a proper test match hundred. Watchful determination combined with good shot making. Malan is 30, so not a young pup, and his window is obviously narrow (Cook is only just coming up to 33 and people are saying he’s finished), but today he made the place his own at least until the end of the winter. There was a rule of thumb when I played Fantasy Cricket that if you made runs for Western Australia, I’d stick you in my team for the English season (yes, Michael Hussey!) and there’s a very limited number of players to have made three figures for England at the WACA recently. It bodes well.

But what Malan also needs to be aware of, and I’m pretty sure he is, is that 110 is not enough. Yes, he’s done his bit, but we need him to turn that into 150+ for this to be the telling innings. Yes, a lot of store, perhaps wrongly, is put on three figures, but the innings we remember, certainly in first innings, are the big ones. Dawid is key to our fortunes.

So is Jonny Bairstow, and his promotion up the order to alternate the left and right handers appears, on this small sample size, to have worked. He is 25 runs away from a maiden Ashes ton and again, by all accounts looked in good touch. Bairstow is a little bit of an enigma, and while he tantalises us with the bat there will always be talk of how good he could be if he were played as a pure batsman. Also there are mumblings about a batsman as good as him batting at 7. I remember Adam Gilchrist copping the same flak (no I didn’t). Again, Bairstow adding another 50 will be very handy.

I’m a bit of an oddball, in that I keep a lot of old cricket recorded off the TV, and for some reason I’ve decided to tape this series in its entirety. I think today’s recording will be really pleasant viewing. Will Australia start feeling the pressure? Well, it depends on how many England make, and if they get off to a Warner-assisted flyer. England should make 400+ and then we get to see how Aussie react to a reasonable score. That should be fun.

And so to Alastair Cook. You knew I’d have to mention him. I’m not going to comment on a dismissal I’ve not seen, but if every time Cook was out LBW to a opening bowler was cause to question his eyes, then I’m staggered. When Nasser put that only a fool would right Cook off, he’s using his heart over his head. There’s nothing intrinsically wrong with that. It’s sport. You have those you pull for and those you don’t. I’m not a Cook fan, but I actually think the way the media and some of the social media I see have turned on him is ridiculous. Yes, you read that right. He has not made an Ashes hundred since Sydney in January 2011. That is 34 innings of not getting to three figures. At the other opening end, off the top of my head, there’s been 1. The RootMaths hundred at Lord’s that spawned a meme so tiresome, it was boring by tea time. Alastair Cook’s “demise” is not a sudden one, as these people give the impression of it being, but one over time. I see mentions that we should now move on from Cook, which again, I think is a little premature. The main question to be asked is “Is Alastair Cook one of our best two openers?” If the answer, in the view of the selectors, is yes, then he should play. If Cook himself doesn’t want to, then that’s for him. But if you are awaiting a century from him, then the fact he hasn’t managed one against the Old Enemy or South Africa in around 50 tries now might give you a clue. Who knows, he might be due?

Anyone who has seen today, please feel free to carry on the comments below. Hopefully we’ll put up a lead in piece for tonight too. If not, you know what to do.