The Ashes Panel – 1st Test Aftermath

There are losses, and then there are humiliations

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

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

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

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

So off we go…..

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It’s KP v Swann on Genius…. Never Forget The 5-Nil……

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


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


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

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

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


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

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


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


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


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



The Bogfather

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

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


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


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


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

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


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


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


The Bogfather

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


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


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


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


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


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


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


The Bogfather

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


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


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


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


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


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


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


The Bogfather –

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

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

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


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


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

My team then:-

Bairstow (wk)

Really not a lot of excitement there!

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




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


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


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

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

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

The Bogfather –


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


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


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


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


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


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

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

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

Nurse! I need a lie down.


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

No, he’s not finished…

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

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

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

No, still some more to go…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I might have more on this later in the week.

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

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


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

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

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

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

Indeed. See you later.

Day 5 Open Thread…..

Day 5. 10 Wickets. Rain. 90 Overs. Draw needed. Let’s all pray. If you care about England that is. Australia had the best day of the test and are now in the command seats. A day of tension looks like ensuing, although the weather may well play a role. There is some rain forecast.


Steve Smith became the fifth Australian to make a hundred in each innings of an Ashes test – following Warren Bardsley, Arthur Morris, Steve Waugh and Matthew Hayden (I was there). While the media, the press, the social media and pretty much all of the sentient world has fallen into believing he’s some form of mythical beast that cannot be tamed, Smith has dutifully maintained the rate of average not seen since Bradman, who, of course, had to have short-pitched fast bowling banned to maintain his never-to-be-matched statistics. Smith has had to persuade the world he cannot be dismissed, the Keyser Soze of batting.

His 142 was the equal 106th highest individual score by an Australian in matches against England. His 144 is the 98th equal highest. Both Ponting and Smith have 142 and 144 scores v England, but in the case of Punter, obviously not in the same match. Smith has a 141, 142, 143 and 144 in tests v England – a neat statistical quirk (he has a 138 as well). His was the 315th hundred for Australia against England, his tenth, and Matthew Wade followed soon after with a century of his own. Smith’s is the 16th highest score by an Aussie in the 3rd innings of an Ashes test.

Wade’s hundred ranks 239th equal in high scores for Australia v England. It was the seventh score of 110 by an Australian, bringing him alongside Rodney Marsh in the Centenary Test at Melbourne (the only not out 110), Bill Ponsford (twice), Geoff Marsh (in a losing cause in Brisbane ’86), Marcus North and Chris Rogers (at Chester-le-Street in 2015).

Australia’s innings of 487 for 7 ranks as the seventh highest 3rd innings by Australia in Ashes tests (note this includes Centenary and other assorted match-ups between the teams). The highest this century is the 527/5 butchering the roasted England players endured (as did I) at Perth in 2006. Just the one total above 487 in the third innings has not resulted in a win. This was in a six day test in 1947 at Melbourne, which England started the final day on 91/0 and finished 310/7. The 536 included one of Ray Lindwall’s two test centuries. England’s hero in the fourth innings was Cyril Washbrook, who made 112.


Sing When You’re Winning, You Only Sing When You’re Winning

Shiny Toy Watch

It was Jonathan Liew who said of Robbie Savage “he always have an opinion, and if you hang around long enough, you’ll get one opposite to his original one” (or something like that). We lose if Smith stays in, we draw if we keep left handers away from Lyon (simple).

File this under “only an opinion” as long as it’s mine…

Oh…Greatest Ever Watch


We Read Paul So You Don’t Have To…

Scapegoat Wanted!

The ball pitched outside off-stump, spat off the worn and ultra-dry Edgbaston surface and turned sharply to bowl Tim Paine through the gate. It was the perfect off-spinner’s dismissal but it was the moment that summed up England’s desperate first Test plight.

Even Moeen Ali could barely summon up the energy to celebrate a classic example of his art to dismiss the Australian captain because it was far too little and far too late to stop England facing nothing but a monumental fight for survival at their Birmingham fortress.

If only Moeen had been able to conjure up something similar much, much earlier to the man who has produced one of the great Ashes performances here in Steve Smith, then perhaps this first Ashes episode might have been following a very different script.

Paul’s feeling a bit down…

Any plan for England to capitalise on green pitches in this Ashes with last year’s batch of seaming Dukes balls, just as they did in the 2015 series, has gone up in a puff of dust from an Edgbaston surface that instead has been tailor-made for spin.

It has hardly helped that England have been a bowler down since Jimmy Anderson limped off on the first morning while Chris Woakes was mysteriously restricted to just seven overs as Australia piled on the misery and runs.

There is no mention of Root’s captaincy, and there’s a bizarre claim that Root and Denly both out-bowled Moeen, and some old waffle about Smith and the crowd. It’s a crestfallen piece of what might have been.

Max Edroom

How many times are Sky going to focus their cameras on Ed Smith during the day’s play? It’s getting beyond a joke. I saw very little of the play on Sunday, but there he was, on screen, on three occasions. There with his dutiful little helper, James Taylor, sometimes, but in this test, more often with other of the hob-nob top strata. I would like to be notified by anyone watching when he gets on screen on the final day.

Now count the times James Whitaker, Geoff Miller and David Graveney were on the screens during play. The ego has landed alright. FICJAM. About to be shown the futility of his brilliance.

Comments on Day 5 below.

Day 4 of the 1st Test – Hush My Darling, Don’t Fear My Darling

I’ve been watching this game long enough to know when people are talking in hyperbolic tones. Nathan Lyon is a really, really decent test spin bowler. He has 343 test wickets at an average of 32. He has 14 five wicket hauls in 86 tests. None of them have come in England. None of them have come against England. A wicket has a little bit of turn, and suddenly this is akin to Murali at Galle. Nathan Lyon is a fine bowler who could well be the key tomorrow, but the way some press/media/TV are talking about him, you’d think this is Warne on a viper’s nest tomorrow.

The fact is that this is a pretty normal, old school fifth day wicket coming up, and England should bat out a draw. Australia showed there were few demons in the wicket. Moeen Ali was set up to take a ton of wickets, and he didn’t. Given he’s the whipping boy at the moment, the failure to do so is reason to pick someone else. Remember back in 2009, when on Day 4 Swann spun one through Ricky Ponting and knocked him over? The hyperbole went out, our great offie only had to turn up next day to make it 2-0, and yet, and yet. I don’t think he even took one on Day 5. There’s too much made in the media of having to be in front of the game, make a statement, build them up.

That little rant over with, and it’s the first and possibly last time the great Tight Fit will be lyric-checked in a title, let’s take the day’s play in context. Australia started effectively at 34 for 3. Smith, as I have called him in the pre-amble to Day 5 (to be posted at 9am tomorrow), is the Keyser Soze of batting. He has persuaded everyone that his unorthodox technique, his snake-like eye, his miraculous hand-eye co-ordination, has made him invincible. The bowlers believe it. They talk and act as though they can’t get him out. Smith makes them fear bowling to him – not in the way the Laras, Kohlis, Richards of this world did and getting pasted – but that there is no way through his armour. Commentators talk as if this is a superhuman at the other end. Sport is played largely in the head, and Smith is living rent-free in ours. He’s an amazing player, no doubt, but people are speaking as if we should just give up.

His interview at the end of play was fascinating. Ward was trying to get all technical, and trying to get Smith to admit how he views batting is a little complex, but he said “I know where the field is, and then I watch the ball”. It was genius and yet so simple. So Ward tried again. Smith shrugged. “Where do you think they want to bowl to you with this field” asked Ward. ” I don’t know…. I just watch the ball”. All that technical shit, and Smith was having none of it.

Smith had just become the fifth Australian to make a century in each innings of an Ashes test. The last was Matthew Hayden in 2002 – I was there – and the previous one in England was Steve Waugh at Old Trafford in 1997. Smith had burnished his legend. England looked scared from moment one. Smith would rotate the strike (Ward asked him if this was a key to his batting, and Smith basically said it didn’t really matter), never really tied down. This was exemplified by his attitude on 99. England gave all indications they were going to throw it out wide of off stump and hope Smith wore out of patience. After the first ball, Nasser, I think, said “they are going to make him wait.” Next ball, a wide ball outside off, and Smith just smacked it through the offside field. As easy as ABC. Rent free? England are paying him to stay in their heads.

I was out and about for large parts of today but I saw that. I saw Head look quite solid, and he is not to be underestimated. I missed most of Wade’s century, which looks the bargain bucket variety, but it’s one more Ashes hundred in England than Alastair Cook made (I know, I know…petty). The wheels fell off at the end, with Pattinson smacking England to all parts. England saw out the last 7 overs with few alarms – well Jim Maxwell did his best off the last ball to shit the life out of me while I was driving home – and go into tomorrow with 10 wickets in hand and a match to save. The last time England batted out a full day to save a test was Auckland 2013. It was that long ago. We used to be good at this, but not so much these days. I guess we might need rain.

The Ashes are special, and so the reactions are always augmented, but there are some really strange things going on. The strangest for me, honestly, is what is Joe Denly doing in this team. Is he really our best middle-order batsman who is not called Joe Root? I had an exchange with a journo today to say this dates back to Ed Smith being his team-mate and thinking him to have special qualities. He’s batting in our prime spot – number 4 – and yet no-one seems to care. He’s like the party guest who you think you all know, but can’t quite place, and you’re not sure who invited him. He bowls filthy spin, plays an occasional drive, and I don’t see anyone questioning his place. Not like they are people with track record, like Moeen, or complete rookies in test cricket like Roy. In fact there’s a case to say those two (Roy and Denly) should swap places and it would make more sense. But what must batsmen like Hildreth and Northeast be thinking? If only we bowled filthy legspin?

Today the commenters focused on Joe Root’s captaincy. Again, it’s noticeable that the rumblings aren’t against him. Woakes did not bowl before lunch, and we were told after play that he wasn’t injured. If that is the case, what the hell was he thinking? There wasn’t much in the way of positivity, up and at ’em body language, and instead there’s a hang-dog look and a resignation to fate. It’s one game, but this does not hold out hope.

So, we have a batsman inside our heads, are told to be frightened of a spinner who has taken four wickets in an innings twice in England, and lost both those matches, and with a batting line-up that gives the definition of disjointed, and just looks plain odd. Following England is rarely boring, often odd. It’s even more strange that this will be the sixth successive Ashes test to go to the fifth day. England face a really important day. It was said before today that only one side could afford an indifferent session. They didn’t mean England. In Steve Smith, the force is strong. Whether it’s strong enough to get a result tomorrow, then the Ashes are halfway back to Aussie (It has been pointed out that the Ashes already are with Australia – so let me correct. If England lose tomorrow, the outcome of the series is likely to be seriously skewed in favour of the visitors, who only need to draw the series to return home with the “Ashes”). England face a massively important test.

See you tomorrow.

England v Australia – Day 4 Open Thread

Welcome to Day 4. Australia lead by 34 with 3 wickets down and one of them isn’t Steve Smith. England fans are in panic mode, Smith having taken on the cricketing form of Thanos, turning English bowlers to dust by his very presence. His immortality at the crease threatening to conquer England singlehandedly and there is nothing anyone can do about it.

I don’t think we’ll be live blogging today’s play, as we do have lives, but we will do what we can.

Panel Prep

1. Moeen Ali had one of those dismissals that gets people talking. What should be done?

2. Australia playing just four bowlers looks a mistake in hindsight. How would you change the team for Lord’s?

3. How many is too many to chase in the final innings?


I did most of the StatWatch for Burns’ century yesterday in the live blog. Rory made the 35th score of 133 in test matches. The previous 133 was by Cheteshwar Pujara in 2017 against Sri Lanka, the last one for England was by Alastair Cook, also against Sri Lanka, but in Cardiff back in 2011. The last 133 in an Ashes test was scored by Adam Gilchrist in the 5th Test at Sydney in 2003, while the last one for England in an Ashes test was by Mark Ramprakash at The Oval in 2001. It is the first 133 in tests at Birmingham. The first 133 in test matches was scored by Monty Noble in 1903.


Well you lot put him through it with your piety and need to be seen to be above questioning. Oh well. If it makes the press happy.


Mike was (rightly in my view) defending the umpire over the Warner dismissal – a wicket that Stuart Broad, that well known shrinking violet, did not appeal for. He got a little flustered in his responses..

I Can See You Paul…

Well, actually not. It appears he does not write for the Mail on Sunday. Lawrence Booth and Richard Gibson get the honours. We are also spared Martin Samuel, but instead we get Oliver “Olly” Holt, the King of Sanctimony himself, shinning up to a world class sporting gig he thinks he’s entitled to comment upon. His piece, I’m not linking to it is a comment on crowd reaction and song, more than a cricket report. It’s the sort of stuff we could churn out in our sleep, but we aren’t revered for it. I wonder what justifies the Mail employing about 7 different people to comment on the same event. Did Paul Newman have to pay to get in for his day off work?

Or was he watching in a Birmingham hotel?

Sorry it is a bit shorter this morning. But life and all that, and the start of the football season is going to hit resources even more. We will try to live blog some of the play, but I’ve promised to take Teddy for a long walk this morning, and I know TLG is at another sporting venue today. Let’s see what we can do. This is a very good test match, and the stakes ride on whether we will see Smith fail to convert this start, and how well his team-mates support him. I think Australia fancy this position. 200 will be a lot too many in front for this exceptionally flaky England batting line-up. It will take something special for England to win, in my opinion.

UPDATE – I missed Shiny Toy Watch. Here’s a gobshite classic from this sherbert dip.

Let me tell you the reasons I despise this tweet.

1, If Australia are bowled all out for 220, and Smith is 100 not out, are you saying England will lose?

2. If Steve Smith is out at 12:10 for 60, and Australia finish 180 all out, are you saying we will lose?

3. If Steve Smith gets out, and the rest of the Australian batsmen stick on another 200, are England still dead certs?

4. You are employed as an analyst, a pundit, a man with insight – not as some carnival barker shouting out the first thing that comes into your head?

5. It’s Shiny Toy.

Comments below.


England v Australia – Day 3 Open Threading…And Live Blog

Day 3 – Live Blog

10:50 – We are going to live blog some of the day, as much as we feasibly can. So it’s Dmitri to open up, speaking in the third person again, as England resume 17 behind.

10:52 – Isa Guha already with the “first half hour is crucial” klaxon.

11:00 – Remembering when we had a good day 2 in 2002 at the Gabba. My mate, Sir Peter, interviewed me for the video where England, starting at 160-odd for 1, chasing 490 ish were doing well. I said we’d collapse and lose within four days. So I don’t do optimism. England to be bowled out for 320, Australia to be 200 for 4 tonight.

11:02 – Trumpeter, Jerusalem, self-regarding round of applause. Worse than booing. First runs of the day from a Pattinson ball that swung through the gap between 1st and 2nd slip. A bye. All Paine’s fault, that one. Burn’s first ball reduces his “control percentage”. 268 for 4 at the end of the first over.

11:07 – First runs from the bat as Stokes drives a full ball from Cummins, which is half-stopped in the covers. Just the one from the second over of the day. 269 for 4.

11:11 – Pattinson pitches one short, and Stokes cuffs it through square leg for a couple. Stokes moves into the 40s. Plays a lovely on-drive next ball and straight to Siddle. Big appeal after the last ball, but Stokes hit the ground with his bat. Replay confirms he missed the ball by miles. 271 for 4.

11:16 – Burns being careful, not yet added to his total halfway through the second Cummins over of the day. Checking Cummins’ speed, and he is just under 90 mph on that last delivery, which also reduced Burns’ control percentage. A maiden. 271 for 4.

11:19 – Pattinson comes around the wicket, and Stokes punches him down the ground with a glorious drive for 4. Moves on to 45. Then goes for a drive and misses a wide one. No more runs from the over, and it is 275 for 4.

11:23 – Rory Burns current score of 125 puts him joint 2029th in the highest test innings. The single nudged into the legside, lifts him to 1972nd equal . Stokes glides one through third man for another boundary and moves on to 49. End of the over and it is 280 for 4.

11:29 – Pattinson in to Burns, and looking at his pace, he is in the mid-80s. From the third ball Burns runs a single down to third man. Stokes bunts a ball straight, sets off, scampers through and brings up his 50. His 18th according to Nasser. Well played vice-captain. Burns moves up to 1921st equal with that single earlier. End of the over and it is 282 for 4.

11:34 – Botham “England have been playing nicely”:

WICKET – BEN STOKES  Caught Tim Paine  Bowled Pat Cummins 50

282 for 5

New batsman is Jonny Bairstow. Stokes went for a cut slightly too close to him, and got an edge off the top of the bat for a regulation catch to Paine. Bairstow off the mark with a quick single to the off side for his first test runs of the summer. 283 for 5.

11:40 – After a delay, Bairstow hits a leg-stump half volley for four. England go into the lead. Off the fourth ball of the over, Bairstow nicks but it falls well short of the slips. Another ball on leg stump is clipped through square, but there is a boundary fielder and a single is the result. 288 for 5. Burns denied the strike again.

11:47 – Peter Siddle on. Last ball (fourth of the over) and his pace is 79.8 mph. Remember pace being king two years ago? Gets Bairstow to play and miss from ball five. Maiden. 288 for 5.

11:52 – Nathan Lyon on. Prodigious turn, but Burns gets off strike hitting a short ball to deep point for a single. 1876th equal, if you are interested. Botham and Warne in full 13 fielder attack mode. End of the over. 289 for 5.

11:56 – Siddle on to bowl to Burns. Plays and misses again from the second as he tries to drive. Wide one and Burns smashes it through cover for four. That puts Burns up 147 places in the highest innings table to 1729=. Just the four runs from the over. 293 for 5 and drinks.

12:02 – 26 runs in that first hour for the loss of Stokes. Bairstow looking jittery. Burns playing and missing but still there. Lyon to continue after refreshment. A maiden.

12:06 – Burns takes a single from the first ball of Siddle’s over and moves on to 133 (1695th=). Bairstow gets one on his pads from the second ball and knocks it to deep backward square for 2. 296 for 5.

12:10 – Burns goes.

WICKET – RORY BURNS  Caught Tim Paine  Bowled Nathan Lyon 133

296 for 6

Perilously close to a no-ball, but Lyon’s slightly quicker one catches the edge of Burns’ bat, and Paine holds on to it after quite a deflection. Burns didn’t have a lot of the strike this morning, but his luck, such as it was, ran out.

12:13 – Moeen Ali faces his first ball, and it goes for four (what? legbyes or byes) to bring up the 300. Fired down leg side and Siddle’s slide could not prevent the boundary.

WICKET – MOEEN ALI  Bowled Nathan Lyon 0

300 for 7

Oh Dear. Moeen Ali leaves a straight one and off pole is knocked out. Dear oh dear. Sanga obviously didn’t teach him that pre-game. England are not looking likely for a decent lead here.

12:17 – Chris Woakes joins Jonny Bairstow, Siddle continues. Cracking straight drive from the third ball is well stopped by Siddle, and Woakes’ bat.

WICKET – JONNY BAIRSTOW  Caught David Warner  Bowled Peter Siddle 8

300 for 8

Bairstow tries to force a delivery close to him, but nicks hard and chest high to David Warner who takes a pretty decent catch. Might have been a bit optimistic with 320 earlier on. This is very much game on. England 33 for 4 this morning. 3 wickets in 11 balls. Wicket maiden. 300 for 8

12:23 – Lyon continues. Woakes uses his feet and drives it down to mid-on for a single. Leaves Broad with two balls to face in the over. Your annual reminder that Broad has a better test best innings than Mark Waugh. He sees off the over. 301 for 8.

12:28 – Cummins returns to the attack. Harsh on Siddle who will give these two little to hit and has just taken a wicket. Interesting shot from Woakes who somehow pulls a single with a swat which he took his eyes off of. A single. Isa Guha is trying too hard in commentary. You are following the Attack Attack Attack brothers, just let it flow. Broad hip flicks it through where leg gully had been for a single. End of the over 303 for 8.

12:33 – Broad sweeps Lyon for three, thanks to some good teamwork on the boundary. Someone has the (lack of) thought to play that shot against received wisdom. Woakes bat pads one for a single behind square from the fifth ball of the over, out of the despairing reach of the big headed one. Four off the over, 307 for 8.

12:38 – Oh, we have a pillock dressed as inflatable Baby Trump. Who has the joy of sitting behind that? Bet they are thrilled. That’s what I mean about caring about other supporters. Anyway, Woakes takes a single first ball. Broad holds out his bat, guides it to wide third man for two. Cummins goes around the wicket and Broad drops it into the offside for a single. Over concludes with the score 311 for 8.

12:43 – Broad sweeps from way outside off, and gets a single to deep square leg. Second ball, appeal, did Woakes get an inside nick? But Aussies don’t review. Third ball, Woakes comes down the pitch, hits it straight to Bancroft, but Woakes gets back as he tries to run him out. Gower did that to Wessels in 1985, if I recall. Or was it Boon? Definitely in the 4th innings. Woakes steers a ball turning onto the stumps into the offside for another single. A bit of action here. Until last two balls. 313 for 8. It was Wessels.

12:47 – Siddle back into the attack. That Cummins experiment didn’t last long, nor did it seem to be for any purpose. Camera goes on Ed Smith, AGAIN. How many times did you see previous Chairman of Selectors on screen during games? Drives me mad. Camera goes to Hoggard, in an interesting get-up. Not a lot happening this over so far. This is just the 22nd over today, and we are 10 minutes from lunch. I could have had a ticket for today, but turned it down. Last ball of the over brings out a good shot for no runs for Woakes. Maiden. 313 for 8.

12:51 – Another sweep middled for a single by Broad. Woakes uses his feet and squirts one through the onside for another single. Lead at 31. Broad got rid of the short leg who drops to make Broad think twice about the sweep.  He’s got to be a little pleased that he got the Aussies to move one away. Then he plays a little dab sweep to fine leg for another single – he’s a batting troll! Into double figures. And a nice little Bye Bonus as Woakes gets bamboozled, Paine freezes and four byes results. Nice runs. Should possibly have been leg byes. 320 for 8.

12:55 – A single dabbed into the offside by Broad, who moves on to 11. Lead up to 37. 322 for 8 as Woakes took a single in my absence.

12:59 – Woakes slog sweeps Lyon’s first ball for 6. I missed it going to the lav! That’s all she wrote for that session. It is lunch and England made 61 for 4 in that session (as Gower says it) and are 328 for 8. Hope you followed the morning play on here. England’s lead has moved from insignificant, to small. A lead of 50 and England have something to work with.

13:41 – Pattinson to start after lunch. Sky showed a piece on the 1981 series, again, but they are always nice to watch. Love how Gower took the stick and went “think something special is coming soon”. Anyway, Broad to face. Broad clips one to square from the third ball. The next squares up Woakes, who gets an edge down to third man for another single. Two from the over, 330 for 8.

13:48 – Nathan Lyon on, and Woakes clips his second ball for a single behind square on the leg side. 320 was too pessimistic. Broad plays and misses at ball three. He then plays a brilliant lofted slog sweep through mid-wicket, and collects a boundary. He nudges a ball behind square for a single next ball. Lead now over 50. 336 for 8.

13:52 – Broad stays leg side of a ball from Pattinson and plays and misses. Broad collects another single as I receive a sad tweet from Innocent Bystander which might become more clear in the next days or so (not going to share it as yet). Woakes gets two from the last ball, and it is 339 for 8.

13:57 – Broad collects another single through point. Woakes adds another from ball five. Two runs from the over. 341 for 8. If England were bowling now, we’d be going incandescent with rage.

13:59 – Woakes gives the second ball from Pattinson a good old spank, but well fielded by Lyon. He guides ball three to long leg for another single. Partnership is a handy 42 at this stage. Broad stabs another into the offside for a single from ball 5 and moves onto 20. Woakes takes another single from the last ball, and also moves onto 20. 344 for 8 and a lead of 60.

14:04 – Lyon continues as David Lloyd implies that Steve Smith is really captain of this team. Woakes drives through mid-on for a single from Lyon’s second ball. It does appear as though Smith has a lot of input into the field placing. Lyon bowls a little legside, Broad sweeps, you wonder how that didn’t bowl him. So he sweeps again, but for no run. Over finishes at 345 for 8.

14:07 – Pattinson continues. 68mph slower ball was clipped by Woakes through square leg for a single. Broad guides one through the slips for another single down to third man. Teddy stretches out on the living room floor and tries to sleep, while the Aussies try to change the ball again. “Same Old Aussies, Always Cheating” rings around Edgbaston. Then Woakes plays and misses and the crowd appeal. Bantz. Teddy moves to under the window. Woakes gets the edge, the ball goes down through the two slips, and he collects another single. Sanga thinks Mitch Marsh’s dibblers could make all the difference. Pattinson tries to york Broad on the last ball, but he keeps it out. 348 for 8.

14:13 – Not sure Sanga is supposed to introduce the female commentator as “lovely”. There’s a bit of a silence. No ball called for three behind leg, according to Botham. Still no Isa. Woakes dances down the pitch and brings up the 50 partnership. Still no Isa Guha. A standing ovation for the partnership. Isa speaks! Broad sweeps again, collects a single, and the crowd suddenly seem really into it. Woakes dabs down for another single. Little by little. This is the highest 9th wicket partnership for England v Australia at Edgbaston. 352 for 8 at the end of that over. Has Sanga been given a little “training”.

14:17 – Cummins on and Woakes shovels it through leg again for another single. Broad collects another single to third man. End of the over 354 for 8.

14:24 – Steve Smith on and a single from the first ball. Woakes takes a single from the fifth ball and then Broad plays and misses at the last. Two from the over. 356 for 8.

14:26 – Another single from Woakes from the first ball of Cummins’ over. End of the over, 357 for 8.

14:30 – Full bunger from Smith, and Woakes works it through mid-wicket for a single. Another single. Broad gets a bottom edge, nutmegs Tim Paine, and collects four to backstop. This is getting seriously annoying for the Aussies now. A single follows, and Woakes adds another. Lead up to 80. 364 for 8.

14:34 – Woakes guides the ball down to third man for yet another single. Lovely for England, but not exactly the stuff live-blogging is made of. One from the over. 365 for 8.

14:39 – Lyon is back after the Smith experiment. Maiden over and drinks. 365 places 120th on England’s all time innings against Australia. 380 gets you into the top 100. DLP wanted 50 more at lunch. Well he’s not far away from his wish. 37 for no loss since lunch.

14:44 – Cummins to resume after drinks. Load of short stuff, Broad looks less and less comfortable and:

WICKET – STUART BROAD  Caught James Pattinson Bowled Pat Cummins 29

365 for 9

He shovels a short one up in the air, Pattinson stabilises, and takes a comfortable catch. The end of a 65 run partnership. Could this be vital?

14:50 – Anderson on strike to Lyon as the batsmen crossed during that dismissal. A reverse sweep and a few blocks means a maiden. 365 for 9.

14:55 – Cummins to continue. The game appears to have got a little stuck.  Woakes turns down a single from the fourth ball. Did he just turn down a single from the 5th ball as well? Confused on England. Cummins bowls a wide one, no run. Maiden. 365 for 9.

15:00 – Appeal first ball for LBW. Nothing doing. Anderson slog sweeps a single. Hallelujah. Woakes flips one over the keeper for a single too. Two from the over. 367 for 9.

15:04 – Game not moving. Woakes drives and could get an easy two, but they don’t run. Doesn’t look good for Anderson. A big thick edge does go for 4, so I suppose it might be something that works. Nothing else doing from the over. 371 for 9.

15:07 – Cummins on again, now bowling at Anderson, which makes turning down long singles a little strange. Anderson nearly gets a boundary, but it’s saved and it is two runs. Anderson looking pretty injured here, but sticking at it. 373 for 9.

15:08 – Lyon back on and Woakes takes another single.

WICKET – JIMMY ANDERSON  Caught Pat Cummins Bowled Nathan Lyon 3

374 All Out.

England’s number 11 skies one, and Cummins collects it at short mid-on. A lead of 90. And I can now take a break!

Right, TLG here to take over from a presumably knackered Dmitri.  And the first discovery is that that are different coloured fonts available.  Well bloody hell.  I can see this annoying everyone in no time at all.

Decent effort from England there, a lead of 90 is more than handy.  We’re going to have a very long evening session, with tea having been taken early for one thing, and (naturally) because they are bowling the overs pathetically slowly and we’ll be using the extra half hour and still won’t get them all in.  But apparently the scoreboard is showing they’re only 1 over behind the rate, given how the ICC couldn’t give a rat’s arse about spectators getting the overs they paid for.

Anyway, as the afternoon went on, the Hollies stand appeared to be getting ever more well oiled, so it’ll doubtless be the 16th most hostile welcome for the Australian openers.

1535: No Anderson on the field, which shouldn’t really surprise anyone.   Big appeal from Broad for one that was going over the stumps by the distance of a low flying aircraft, followed up with a good one past the outside edge.  Good start from him.

1540: Woakes to share the new ball.  You’d think this was very much a pitch it up kind of surface now, there’s little in it in terms of pace.

15:50 WICKET!! 13-1 Warner goes caught Bairstow bowled Broad.  Plenty of incident that over, as Warner punches down the ground for four, and then tries to leave one, but the ball took the edge.  Given not out, so another umpiring error, but Broad didn’t appeal for it, it was the keeper and slips who were absolutely certain.  Huge wicket for England, and Broad’s 450th in Test cricket.  It’s fair to say the crowd enjoyed that one too.

15:56 Pretty routine quiet over from Woakes.  Back to Broad, who is looking dangerous.

16:02 This is one of those periods where it seems little is happening, but England are carrying a threat here. 

16:10 Interesting, an early bowl for Moeen Ali.  A rather defensive field set, four on the boundary, which is rather negative.  Moeen turns one between Bancroft’s bat and pad, just missing the off stump.  Promising!  Equally, the deep set field allows runs to be picked off for the rest of the over.  26-1, and England seem to want to sit in and preserve the lead and build pressure more than trying to force wickets.

Good to see us still causing trouble:

16:20 WICKET!!  Moeen strikes to remove Bancroft, 27-2.  Moeen is bowling beautifully, and gets some bite off the surface to take the inside edge of Bancroft’s bat, on to the pad, and into Jos Buttler’s grateful mitts.  All of which means Australia are in some trouble, so fortunately for them the man coming in (to boos) is Steve Smith.  If England can get rid of him cheaply…Nearly a second wicket in the over, as Khawaja edges to slip.  It just about carried to Buttler, but was far from easy.  Rash, all over, and England – rearrange as needed.

16:26 For someone who has bowled so well, that’s a woeful over from Broad, overpitching on Khawaja’s leg stump, then bowling a half tracker.  Thirteen off the over, and it’s 46-2.

16:32 Very odd.  England are leaking runs at quite a rate, with Australia going at 4.33 an over, but the visitors are losing wickets too. 52-2 and that’ll be drinks.

16:38 I love watching Steve Smith.  He looks completely at sea at the moment, Woakes is causing him no end of trouble.  But he finds a way to survive and then punishes bowlers hour after hour.  Some players you feel can win matches on their own – he’s one.

16:49 These two are ticking things over, 64-2.

16:55 73-2, and Australia are rather comfortable, and closing in on the deficit.  The question is at what point the pressure starts to shift from Australia to England.  Any target approaching 200 will be tricky, but that’s also a long, long way away for Australia. 

17:01 WICKET!!  Khawaja c Bairstow b Stokes 40.  Out of nowhere really, though Stokes had just come on.  Khawaja has been positive, and rather elegant, but Stokes got one to nip back just a touch and take the inside edge through to the keeper.  A rather useful delivery to end a promising innings.  Travis Head the new man, and Stokes looks up for it, bowling rapidly – 88mph to greet the new man.  And then one at 90 mph.  Blimey.  75-3, and still 15 runs in arrears.

17:08 Moeen comes back on after a solitary over from Root.  And then Stokes doesn’t quite reach the levels of his first over and it’s 85-3.

17:17 Australia draw level and England will have to bat again.  But obviously Australia are in effect 0-3, or as they would put it, 3-0.  Either way, there’s a lot of batting to be done.

17:24 Household comments on the cricket are always useful, and presumably “get the annoying little runt out” isn’t referring to Travis Head.  It all seems a bit subdued out there, and after an indifferent start, Smith looks in command.  And as I write that, one from Moeen turns sharply, prompting an appeal, but he’s outside the line, comfortably. Jofra Archer has come on to the field as 12th man, for Anderson, and at 98-3, that’s drinks.

17:32 Missed run out opportunity, straight after drinks.  Head didn’t react to the call, and Burns shied at the stumps.  Had he hit, he was well short.  But he didn’t, and on we go.

17:35 Australia’s hundred comes up, and they lead by 11.  It’s all pretty serene, brain fade running aside.  England are trying to force Smith to play through the offside, and Moeen goes around the wicket, and Smith absolutely crunches it through the covers for four.  Yep, he can play that one too. 

17:44 Stokes is causing Smith what problems there are, and he has a nice optimistic appeal for lbw for one that rather stopped in the pitch.  He pleads with Root to review it, claiming the ball was on its way back down.  Which would certainly amend the laws of physics somewhat.    Ah, Root back on.

17:49 Short ball from Stokes and Smith (for once) gets his hook shot all wrong, the ball cannoning into the side of his helmet.  Maybe he was unbalanced, but he looked a trifle unsteady on his feet in the moments immediately after.  It was a nasty blow.  As is necessary and right, the doctor is out on the field to check him out.

17:54 Thankfully Smith seems to be ok, but England are certainly trying to alternate between full and short to him.  They look like a team who just can’t work out how to get him out.  111-3

17:56 About a tenth of a chance, maybe, if that.  Head goes for a cut shot off Root, edges it and flies past Stokes before he can get his hand up.  It probably had to hit him to be at risk of being caught.

18:00 Weather closing in a bit, with the floodlights now on.  Sky appear to have given up complaining about the over rate, confining themselves to saying that they probably (!) won’t get them all in.  Given there are 13 overs left in the day, and about 25 minutes to go, we are going to be a long way short again.  Five overs lost yesterday, it’ll be even more today. 

18:03 Umpires having a bit of a chinwag about the light, and seem to be saying that Broad can’t bowl as it’s too dark.  Instead of Broad, it’ll be Joe Denly.  Nope, that’s it, they’re off, and off for the day as it’s past 6pm.  The issue about not playing even when spin bowlers are on remains fairly ridiculous, but so much in cricket is.  The last people ever considered are those who have paid to be there. 

Close of Play – Australia 124-3, leading by 34 runs.

A good day for England overall, after a stutter in the middle order.  That 90 run lead is sizeable, and while Australia have scored at quite a lick (over 4 an over), the three wickets they’ve lost leave them in a precarious position.  Smith is, as ever, the key, but only one side can afford to have an indifferent session in the morning and still have hopes of winning.  This is an intriguing Test, and if England do have the upper hand, they’re by no means home and hosed.

Hope you enjoyed the live blog, we may be back in the morning for more!


Welcome to the open post for your comments on the third day of the Ashes test. England start 17 runs behind with six first innings wickets in hand. The immediate goal will be to set a substantial lead, take out a large swathe of the day’s play to do so, to avoid the stretched bowling resources having to go into tomorrow over-cooked.

You don’t need my review; Chris did his one last night and it pretty much covers all the bases.

Panel Prep

Your morning questions.

  1. Rory Burns follows Sam Robson, Adam Lyth and Keaton Jennings as centurions opening the batting since Strauss retired. (Not counting Root and Cook). Tell me if he’s different to them?
  2. If 1 is all the luck in the world, rate Nathan Lyon’s day from 1-10?
  3. How many runs would you be confident England chasing down in the 4th innings?


Rory Burns became the 168th different England player to make a test hundred. He is the 97th England player to make an Ashes hundred. It was England’s 242nd century in Ashes cricket (please note, I am going to refer to all series as Ashes cricket even though Centenary, Bicentennial and one post-Packer series weren’t for the Ashes). 125 not out is currently the 126th= high score made by an England player. Only one England international was dismissed for 125 in Ashes cricket – Allan Lamb with his only hundred at Headingley in 1989. 135 gets you into the top hundred innings.

This was England’s 10th century in Ashes cricket at Edgbaston – three of them were in one innings (1985), two more in another (1997). Burns follows David Gower, Nasser Hussain, Ted Dexter, Tim Robinson, Johnny Tyldesley, Graham Thorpe, Raman Subba Row, Colin Cowdrey and Mike Gatting. This was England’s first Ashes hundred at Edgbaston in 22 years. Tyldesley’s hundred in 1902 was interesting. He made 138. Australia batted next and were bowled out for 36!

England have not lost an Ashes test at Edgbaston when an England player makes a century.


He’s very tame at the moment. Any ideas if 9Gem is a different channel, our Aussie based friends?


So rare, it is needed to be pointed out.

Shiny Toy Watch

Blocked by Paul, Watching Paul

Your Headline is wrong… (at 8pm on Friday night).

Rory Burns hits maiden Test ton on day two of first Ashes Test to bring England within just 17 runs of Australia’s first innings total with four wickets intact

It’s six wickets intact, not four.

Obligatory Cook mention..

Just a week ago Rory Burns looked more like a jumble of moving parts rather than an opener with the technique and temperament to make an Ashes century for England.

Now, glory be, someone other than Alastair Cook has finally reached three figures at the top of the order after Burns cemented his place for this series with a good old-fashioned display of Test match application for England.

Glory Be!

And at the centre of it was an opener with the most idiosyncratic of methods who looked so out of his depth even against Ireland at Lord’s last week that his selection for the Ashes looked simply like a futile exercise of blind faith.

You want more Cook (Home Ashes Centuries = 0)

Burns may be short of style but he is not lacking in character and he needed it here with England desperate to find someone, anyone, capable of making the runs at the top of the order that have eluded them ever since the glory days of Cook and Andrew Strauss.

He had made two half centuries before now but kept on getting out in somewhat soft fashion, not least when he missed a straight one from unlikely West Indian spinning hero Roston Chase when on 84 in Barbados last winter.

Glory days!

It added to the nerves being displayed, too, by Burns who spent 37 minutes on 92 and then played out nine balls on 99 before scampering a single off Lyon and taking the acclaim of another raucous crowd who continuously chanted his name.

Then followed some of the most fluent batting of the day as Ben Stokes joined Burns in an unbeaten stand of 73 that ensured day two belonged to England and a Surrey captain who has now carved his name into Ashes folklore. 

Moment of the Day Tweet

Comments on Day 3 below. We may even do some live blogging. Maybe.

I missed the classic genre of Martin Samuel at the Ashes. You can read his two lamentable efforts if you dare. Yesterday’s on the umpiring would have been rejected on this blog for being absolute shit. Today’s, on Joe Root’s conversion rate, is better, but we are talking a low bar. Why the Mail do this when they have a cricket staff, for better or worse, I will never know. Cricket writing needs Martin Samuel like a fish needs a bicycle.

England v Australia – 1st Test, Day 2 – The Non-Live Blog Thread

Miller Catch
What’s This Got To Do With Anything? Read on……

Day 2 at Edgbaston beckons after a fascinating opening day of the Ashes series. As I indicated in my introduction piece on Monday, I wasn’t feeling the vibe of the latest incarnation of the oldest series, but you know, Stuart Broad, England playing an unfit bowler who breaks down, England letting the opposition off the hook, Tom Harrison being interviewed, top quality umpiring, Tom Harrison being interviewed again, various Tweeters getting on my Tweets, and a day sifting job applications in between talking at length to lawyers who earn in an hour what I do in a week sort of raises the temperature. Man, that was a long sentence.

Panel Prep

So, to prepare those we are going to ask to be on our panel, we thought we’d give you a couple of questions to opine on before play:

  1. 284 – good, bad or indifferent? Let’s ignore the eighth wicket going down at 122 (alright, don’t) but as play stands now is this a winning score for Australia?
  2. Steve Smith – best test batsman at the moment, or is this bubble going to burst (or both)?
  3. On a level of 1-10, with 1 being chilled, your reaction to your premier bowler getting injured after four overs, having been injured in the run-up to the test?

We won’t be able to live blog today – or if we do, it will be intermittent, but please keep checking in to see if we do provide updates. That said, it was great to see the in-play comments from you, and also thanks to Sean and Danny for all the efforts yesterday. We will try to live blog when the occasion merits it.

Boring Stat Watch

Steve Smith made the joint 99th highest score for Australia in meetings between the two countries. He joins former captains Don Bradman, Greg Chappell and Ricky Ponting in making 144 in Ashes tests. It was the 314th test hundred by an Australian against England.

Stuart Broad took the 254th five wicket plus haul in an innings for England against Australia. These were the joint 207th best figures for England v Australia (Broad has the best figures by anyone not called Laker, of course). Geoff Arnold took 5/86 at Sydney in 1975.

284 is the equal 500th highest score in England v Australia matches. On the five previous occasions the score has been made, the team making 284 has won twice. Australia in 1895, and memorably, England at the MCG in 1982. On the three other occasions, the team making 284 has lost (England at the MCG in 1921, Australia at Lord’s in 1934 – the only time 284 was made in the second innings of the test and England at The Oval in 1972).

In 1982, Australia replied to 284 with 287. In 1972, Australia replied to 284 with 399. In 1934, England had made 440 before Hedley Verity did his thing. In 1921 Australia followed 284 with 389. In the only other time Australia scored 284 in the first innings of the test match against England, we followed up with 65 and 72.

Too Many Tweeters

OK. Statwatch done. Let’s look at ConnWatch…


Now for Shiny Toy…

Hyperbole Watch..

Four day tests

Birds of a feather

Did Selfey have anything to offer?

Blocked By Paul, Watching Paul

Paul Newman watch…

If there was any concern the Ashes might for once be forced to play second fiddle this summer to an extraordinary World Cup then we need not have worried.

This was a superb and eventful opening day to the biggest Test series of them all from the moment David Warner and Cameron Bancroft, two of the three members of ‘The Banned’, walked out to the most hostile of Edgbaston welcomes.


There was a totally hapless display from umpires Joel Wilson and Aleem Dar that was only partially rescued by the Decision Review System and, frankly, was simply not good enough for the highest level of the game.

There was an atmosphere like no other at any English ground, with the Hollies Stand loudly but never too nastily taunting the disgraced Australians and their captain in Tim Paine who had goaded them on the eve of this always epic contest.

But, above all, there was the controversial figure of Steve Smith, the captain sacked in disgrace in the aftermath of sandpaper-gate, defiantly and brilliantly rescuing his side from the brink of disaster and inspiring them to what looks like a highly competitive score.

and he’s not letting up…

And at the centre of it was the man who haunted England during the last Ashes with his idiosyncratic but world-class batting before his world fell apart when the poisonous culture that had infected his captaincy unravelled spectacularly in Cape Town.

This was Smith’s first Test innings since that cheating scandal 18 months ago but how he made up for lost time with an exceptional 144, more than half their score, that puts Australia on top in this first Test and could well have set the tone for the whole series.


Sadly, no Martin Samuel this time around.

Oh No, Not Him Again

Tom Harrison was on Sky and TMS this lunchtime, presumably because doing the rounds at a mere “warm up” against Ireland to bask in the glow of the World Cup victory wasn’t significant enough. I listened to it this lunchtime, well the TMS bit, and it was every bit as depressing as you would have thought. He did virtually everything he could to avoid mentioning the Hundred by name, but did mention Sky at every opportunity. There will be a massively enhanced partnership next year – I’m not sure what Sky will be doing to enhance it, more repeats of Masterclass? – and somehow in his haze of bigging up Sky, he said 13 million watched the World Cup and of all outlets Sky had the most. Can’t offend the chief partner. According to Tom we will be getting 100 hours of free to air cricket next year. If BBC have 10 matches of 3 hours duration and a couple of other games, where is the rest coming from? Someone tell me. There was more. Much more. But not much new. I saw Gower congratulate Harrison on the World Cup win. We are absolutely stupid. Partners indeed.

So, on to Day 2. Please fire away, please answer the day’s panel questions, please keep the fires burning. It’s going to be an interesting day. I leave you with this on the booing of the Sandpaper Gang..

I was at the Gabba that day. I heard Aussies around me tell him to stop being soft and get up, but then change their tune when he was stretchered off. However, I will never forget the weapons grade bell-end who spent almost the entire day calling Matthew Hoggard a wanker all day. The problem with us being sanctimonious about booing, pretending we’re a moral paragon, is that we’re not. Neither are England fans a bunch of scum, as those who tut tut in the comm box about this sort of thing make them out to be. Like everything, you pays your money, you takes your choice. I feel it is unwise for any ex-pro to criticise supporters on how they support the game.

Enough of that. Hope you enjoyed this mish mash. Comment away on Day 2.

But All We Realise The Show Ain’t Nothing – Dmitri on the 2019 Ashes

Lest we forget – Steve Smith brings up his double ton at Lord’s in 2015

The title is another Public Enemy lyric, from one of their first songs. As they said in the same song,

“Didn’t holler at the dollar we willin’ to spend, But you took one look and wouldn’t let our ass in”

Which sort of sums up the aftermath of the World Cup, the look at the potential support out there, the entitlement of some subscription players who think sharing what they see with their own eyes is something just for those with money, and not for those that can’t or won’t pay. As if access to sport is dependent on whether you earn enough, rather than broaden horizons. So this year those people paying have the premium pricing of England at a global tournament, and the £100 per day bonanza of Ashes cricket.

We are now a matter of three days away from the latest incarnation of the most storied series in cricket. The Ashes. Running for over a century and a quarter, a bellwether for the state of the game in each nation, a proxy for the wellbeing of the sport and the nation. an anchor point on the cricket calendar, the Ashes have always been the series that the people want to see. That’s in terms of demand for tickets, value of TV contracts, public recognition and where heroes are defined. Ian Botham’s record against Australia, certainly in the early 80s is more important to many than his performances against the mightiest of foes in that era, the West Indies.

This, however, feels really really different. Whether this is because the series is now in the position of “after the Lord Mayor’s Show” of the World Cup Final just a couple of weeks ago, I really don’t know, but if the players feel anything like me as a cricket supporter, England are in dead trouble. I don’t know how you top the mountain in that way, and then have to go back and raise yourselves for your marquee series straight after. It was once said that we gave ourselves no chance in the World Cup because it followed the Ashes (while this never stopped Australia), but to me it feels the other way around. I can’t remember an Ashes series I’ve given less of a stuff about, and I can’t remember an Ashes series where I am looking at it and thinking…. am I ready for this?

I’ve felt like that about blogging since the final, too. If you don’t have the energy or the things to say, it’s going through the motions, and I’m not doing that. I couldn’t give a stuff about the event masquerading as a “test match” last week, except to marvel how 85 all out against a county standard attack at best could actually happen, whether the team was exhausted or not. And when Ireland made 38, I have to say the despair turned to anger.

Then there was the last series, where the media managed to make a 4-0 smashing sound like something to be cheerful about as we didn’t get whitewashed, and everyone’s folk hero made a double hundred in a dead rubber to prevent it. We were, basically, told not to care about it. We had not got Stokes, our opening position was shot, the bowling looked old and weak, the batting weak and devoid of hope. We even made 450 in one test, with two great centuries and it still felt we were going to get beat, and yet we were done by a 180 from Mitchell Marsh. This was all to be expected. The series was on BT Sport, so no-one really mattered, and certainly the ECB didn’t give a toss. They cared so much they flogged the team off to New Zealand, and Auckland happened. If we aren’t to care about 4-0 losses, why should we care at all. Nothing to see here. Move along.

This five test series commences on 1 August. It finishes a week before the autumnal equinox. Don’t worry, though, because the next Ashes in England will be in 2022*. Straight after the 2021/22 playing of the series in Australia. Hey, that back-to-back in 2013-14 went down so well, was so popular, so revered, we’re gonna do it again. Who seriously believed these imbeciles have the best interests of the game at heart? At least Qatar have moved the 2022 World Cup to the winter for us.

[*Note – Nonoxcol has pointed out in the comments that the Ashes appear to be in 2023. Some of the articles do state that, and that would be much better. Instead we play 10 tests on the bounce against India.]


The Ashes Panel

OK, enough of that. The Bogfather has asked me to constitute an Ashes Panel. What is that, some may ask. Well it is this..

We ran these during previous series and they seemed to work well. As usual we will need some willing volunteers. It will entail answering a number of questions and putting your views on the series to us. I won’t be able to get one  up in time for the first test, but will be looking to do one after this test concludes. It takes a half hour of your time, and we do the rest.

Given we won’t be able to organise a panel in advance, in the interests of interactivity, and because it will stop me doing all the work (along with the team), here are five questions you can answer in the comments – and in there, you can also volunteer to be one of our panelists. Come on. It’s fun.

  1. On a scale of 1-10, how much are you looking forward to this Ashes series, and why?
  2. England’s chronic weakness appears to be the top order. Come September, who do you think will be England’s 1-2-3?
  3. Australia come into this series, in my view, underestimated. They look massive favourites to me even though they haven’t won a series in England since 2001. Am I right to think that way?
  4. What do you think the final score will be, and who will be man of the series?
  5. How many centuries do you think England will make in the entire Ashes?

So much to discuss since the World Cup Final, and yet so little time to really breathe. The Ashes should be the pinnacle of the game, but to me they feel like a hastily arranged tribute act to the main event. It never looked right having the Ashes follow a home World Cup and it still doesn’t. That this is followed by three test series in rapid succession this winter, as well as an increase in T20 internationals to prepare for the next incarnation of that World Cup.

What I Think…

This series kicks off at Edgbaston on Thursday with an interesting weather forecast, and a lot of hope pinned on this being England’s venue of choice. England’s batting is going to be the key point of focus the whole series, because it looks exceptionally fragile. The potential line-up looks like Roy, Burns, Denly, Root, Bairstow, Stokes, Buttler, Ali, Woakes, Anderson and Broad. Archer looks a long shot, unless Denly is not the number three and Root is, and there are copious mentions of that in the media. Others on social media are mentioning Stokes up to three as well. It’s an utter mess, and of our own devices. The biggest surprise is that Vince hasn’t been mentioned.

The openers look like an accident waiting to happen. We’ve waited until Burns is out of form to blood him, and now we’ll likely do the same with Dominic Sibley. I don’t care what others think, but Jason Roy is not an opener, and this selection falls into magic beans territory. Joe Denly is not test class, and appears to be an accidental international cricketer. Joe Root should bat three, but won’t. I mentioned this to my brother yesterday, but imagine KP insisting on batting at his favourite position rather than that which could serve the team better, and see how understanding the press and pundits would be. Then we have four number sixes rounding at 5,6,7 and 8, and a number 7 at number 9. The team looks confused. A confused team has excuses. A team with excuses, usually loses.

Meanwhile Australia have their own conundrum, but seem to be figuring it out. The three that “shamed a nation” will be reinstated, so Warner and Bancroft are likely to open, Khawaja at three if he recovers from injury, Smith at four, maybe Travis Head at five, Wade/Marsh or Labuschagne at six, with Paine at seven, then Cummins, Pattinson, Starc, Hazlewood (3 out of 4, and with Siddle, 3 out of 5) and Nathan Lyon. There are options in many slots. The batting has strong players with a fragile underbelly, and the bowling looks strong and will be effective in England. That Burns and Patterson were not included having scored centuries in their last test innings, speaks volumes.

We will probably do some more stuff in the next few days, but that’s enough to be getting on with. Please do answer the questions, please do volunteer for the panel – have a look at the last series to see what it entails – and no doubt, by Thursday, we’ll be up for it and looking at another frenetic home Ashes series.

We’ve had better days, and better decisions at the toss…

By the way – my answers:

  1. 3 – An Ashes summer was that. A summer that had the Ashes and no real rival. Now it’s crammed in to a short space at the arse end of the summer, after the World Cup. There is only so much emotional energy to give.
  2. Sibley (having played no real first class cricket regularly since beginning of July) and Roy. Burns to have been jettisoned. At three? Pick someone out of the hat. Malan?
  3. Of course I am. They have two of the best three batsman in the contest, their bowling looks to have depth, and pace, and the only weakness appears to be the middle order. In a composite test side at the outset, how many England players would you pick? Root? Stokes? Bairstow? Anderson if fit?
  4. I think Australia avoid losing at Edgbaston and it is goodnight. I am tempted to say 4-1, but I think I am over-estimating Australia’s batting in England, and under-estimating England’s bowling. Let’s say 3-1 to Australia and a rain-affected draw. No way will any of these matches be drawn unless weather wipes out large swathes of play.
  5. Two. Joe Root might play into one, and Stokes could do so too. But if they could collapse in heaps against Ireland, I fear for them against Australia.

Much more to come, so stick with us during the series. We don’t let you down!

Oh, I almost forgot. This is part of the World Test Championship. You didn’t know? I didn’t.

Harder Than You Think, It’s A Beautiful Thing

The morning after the night before. An exhaustion of emotion akin to any life event you can imagine, a thrill ride which included luck, luck and more luck and a questioning of your own eyes. A conflict of emotions, a turmoil I’ve not experienced with a sporting event ever. Yes ever. I watched a team suffer under the weight of their mental pressures, I saw two rocks battle, scrap and claw their way to a chance of a win, and then scrap some more as lady luck turned up just in time. Then the Super Over. The Super Over. So let me try something with this piece. 50 thoughts plus 2 for the Super Overs. It blatantly steals Danny’s idea, but I’m sure he won’t mind.

Over 1 – Imagine if this event had been on pay TV only. Just imagine if the sheer terror of this finale, the pain and ecstasy had not been made available to all. Imagine a sporting body who thinks that this is acceptable. Imagine.

Over 2 – Many people think Ian Smith’s commentary at the end made the Final, added to the event. I then imagine what the doyen himself, Richie Benaud, would have made of it. I’m not sure he would have approved.

Over 3 – Very noticeable empty seats throughout the day. I can go on and on about ticketing arrangements for sporting events, and the legitimisation of onsale markets which become a ticket tout’s charter. But it’s not a great look to have the prime event of the sport’s four year cycle played to areas of seating not occupied. Those there may have a better perspective.

Over 4 – Martin Guptill’s review proved crucial. Not sure why he decided to review something knocking middle pole out, but I really think we need to keep this in mind when having a go at Erasmus later on.

Over 5 – Kumar Dharamasena has been a decent umpire. No-one would have made any comments on the “errors” today if he had not missed the Jason Roy phantom glove, and Roy not go mad about it. I generally loathe people going at umpires. It’s a cop out.

Over 6 – My next door neighbour has never, in my 40 years living next to her, mentioned cricket. I heard her going mad during the Super Over. I was pacing around in the garden between balls.

Over 7 – Chris Woakes bowled another very good opening spell. Not long ago lots were saying what is he doing playing for England. He’s so vanilla. He’s very decent at his job and that is to open the bowling for England in ODIs. He had a really good competition.

Over 8 – Henry Nicholls played a really sensible innings that set a platform for his team. It will barely be remembered among the hubbub that followed. An important constituent part.

Over 9 – Jofra Archer’s opening spell, and then his closing overs justified his selection. He has a nasty bouncer despite not being up there at Mark Wood pace. It’s really odd that you don’t feel Wood’s short stuff is particularly venemous, but Jofra’s is. He made de Grandhomme look like a club pro at times.

Over 10 – Andrew Strauss will probably get a knighthood out of this. As usual England success will be down to the coaches and the authorities, when really it is the players. No ECB planning gives you the ability to play the game. I’ll talk more about this in due course, because the ECB are going to milk this, and how they do is going to be important to watch.

Over 11 – Liam Plunkett wasn’t even in Rob Key’s squad. In this World Cup he played, and we won, and he played a big part. He has an uncanny ability to look toothless and then take wickets. He doesn’t seem to go for too many. A much underestimated cog in the wheel.

Over 12 – Mark Wood bowled a super little spell including a wicket maiden. He also went off injured, with what looked like a rib injury. I’m sure that was improved by his fruitless dive for the line later in the day!

Over 13 – Adil Rashid had a low-key final, bowled his 10 overs, run out without facing a ball, and scarpering when the champers was opened. His presence in the team is valued by those who matter most, his captain and team-mates. And nothing that is said outside is going to impact that.

Over 14 – Sourav Ganguly’s commentary was annoying in the extreme, especially the bit where he rubbed Isa Guha’s nose in it after the Jonny Bairstow decision. Not good. Trolling England fans throughout isn’t particularly a good look.

Over 15 – Sometimes life just isn’t fair. A cosmopolitan England side, with an Irish captain, two Muslim bowlers in the squad, players born overseas, and you get to see pictures of arch-Brexiteers, cosying up with Piers Morgan, on Twitter. I don’t do politics on here, as you know, but some hypocrisies make me retch.

Over 16 – For all our mocking of Paul Farbrace after the Australia loss, he was right, wasn’t he? It’s always appropriate to recognise when we were wrong. Well, I was.

Over 17 – I hope the tired, lazy tropes about momentum and so on are put to bed, although I know they won’t be, and yes, again, I fall into that trap. The final had no momentum issues. None. Nil. Nada. It was a one-off match.

Over 18 – The Williamson dismissal via a tiny nick was pounced upon by critics of Kumar. I’ve umpired, obviously not to international standard, and hearing nicks on a quiet Sunday afternoon game is tough, let alone at an international final with 25000 or so people not keeping quiet. What do you want him to do? Guess? He couldn’t hear anything, so there are reviews to prove otherwise. If batsman and bowlers weren’t so keen to tell umpires that they don’t know the LBW rules better than the person there to adjudge, then I’d have sympathy for the players.

Over 19 – Then there was Ross Taylor. I’m not going to go overboard here, but credit to Michael Clarke, who immediately called “height”. No-one else did in the box. If you call it when you see it, you can then comment on the error made. Otherwise, bin it. Erasmus has been a very good umpire and is widely respected (I still think Agar was stumped early on in his 2015 innings), and suddenly the angst pivoted to him. I found that amusing. More of this later on.

Over 20 – Have you ever seen a batsman look more out of his depth than Colin de Grandhomme? It was painful to watch. Archer tortured him.

Over 21 – I for one was wondering what the New Zealand game plan was later on. No-one seemed to try to biff it. I wonder if, looking back, New Zealand wished they’d pushed the button a little earlier. But hindsight is an exact science.

Over 22 – England’s bowling really impressed me again, but you do need to wonder about how much the wicket played a part.

Over 23 – Jason Roy was pinned first ball. It looked it to me. It looked it to most. The verdict was about as close to three reds as could be without being given out. Ian Smith went over the top in the comm box, but listen to his commentary. “Missing leg, is it missing leg”. Yeah. Ian, Slam dunk once you watched it on replay. That annoys me no end. As you can tell.

Over 24 – Jason Roy’s innings never got started, and it is concerning that when he fails, England seem to struggle. Certainly in this World Cup. For this to be comfortable he needed to make a quick half century, because he does seem to drag his partner with him. His dismissal made the chase less Australia semi-final and more India Champions Trophy 2015-like.

Over 25 – Who’d have thought cool Joe Root would let the occasion get to him? 30 balls of tortured batting, an inability to master the wicket, a few skittish attempts to whack it and then a windy swipe to nick off. He exemplified the need to just rotate the strike as much as possible. Easy to say from my sofa, but something, notably Jos Buttler, who is a shotmaker, did when needing to restrain his instincts.

Over 26 – Jonny Bairstow played a very sensible knock, having a little luck, but I was entertaining thoughts of him sealing the cup with a century. He then chopped on, as he looked like he could do, sparking Simon Doull and Sourav Ganguly commentating like infants for a couple of minutes. Bairstow’s rant midway through the tournament betrayed the concerns of the England camp, but he, as much as anyone, spoke in content afterwards with his two centuries. His fielding was immense on the boundary.

Over 27 – The opening bowling was decent without being worrying. Yes, England sort of got away with one early, but reaching 30 without loss should have been the platform to ease to victory. The fear really was what would Trent Boult and Matt Henry do. They weren’t really a factor early on. England were scoring nicely.

Over 28 – The vice was applied by Colin de Grandhomme. He dropped Bairstow when he failed to grasp a firm drive back to him. But the Big Man bowled with guile, skill, accuracy and mental pressure as players who thought they should be smacking him, couldn’t. His application meant the target started creeping up and up. I bet the players could sense our frustrations. Somewhere, out there, Ian Austin was saying to himself “if only” and Mark Ealham was thinking of coming out of retirement.

Over 29 – I never believed Eoin Morgan was going to get us over the line. Whisper it quietly but if someone had scored some runs to put pressure on the team, the obvious batsman to drop is Eoin. Now he has his plaudits and critics in the media and on here, and I think he can be a bit in love with his own brilliance, but when someone called him Brearley with runs yesterday, they were part correct. He’s a more valuable batsman than Brearley ever was, and he’s a very good tactician and leader, that is evident. The credit should rest a lot with him, instead of his authorities. But he’s getting weaker against the short ball, and his dismissal showed that. It seems a long time since he flayed Afghanistan.

Over 30 – Lockie Ferguson’s catch was as good as his tache is bad. His cheeky “soft signal” was, to this contrarian, one of the moments of the Final. I was a hopeless fielder, hated the ball coming to me. I admire anyone who takes a catch above the ordinary because I know I couldn’t. To do that knowing if you miss you might cop a mouthful of rock hard red ball gets my thumbs up. Then Ian Smith called it one of the “greatest ever” and my heart sunk. Really?

Over 31 – Four down and Buttler came in. Stokes had struggled to get going, but as was accurately mentioned on comms, the ball makes a different sound on Jos’s bat. What Jos did which was so damn good was he rotated the strike. Whereas Stokes kept hitting fielders, Jos kept avoiding them. He got the wicket early, knew it wasn’t one for his pyrotechnics, and played the situation. He would hit the shot when it came to him, but he let the game flow naturally knowing that a partnership needed to be built. He was the calm to the Stokes energy.

Over 32 – The run rate kept climbing. My brother asked me, via text, who I thought was going to win. I said New Zealand. This was not a pitch to score more than a run a ball on. New Zealand’s last ten overs reaped 62,

Over 33 – The Stokes/Buttler partnership saved England, no doubt. But was it a touch too slow? I’m not sure what Stokes’ issues were early on, but he was scoring at Root rates early on. I can only guess how hard it was for him to temper his natural game, but he was getting leading edges, bunting it into gaps where it wasn’t intended to go. Stokes has been the rock of the middle order, and it is hard to question him in hindsight, but the accelerator was always going to be tough to push.

Over 34 – Buttler got to 50, but the 40-42 overs all came in at much less than required, and at that stage I was convinced it was New Zealand’s. I said so on the blog. Especially when Buttler got out.

Over 35 – Jos Jos Jos. What was that shot? It’s easy to pop from your sofa, but you played a shot to a ball that wasn’t there and you’d been almost perfect up to then. While you were there I believed, hoped. When you were out, I felt that feeling in the pit of my stomach. I recognised it. It was the one when Simon Jones dropped Kasprowicz in 2005. At that point, I knew how far along the spectrum I was in the England love-o-meter. I couldn’t say I didn’t care. I know I did. I wanted them to win. Very badly. Oh, and it was a fine, fine catch by Tim Southee.

Over 36 – Woakes was overmatched, and departed to a skier. I noticed Tom Latham’s little photographer’s dive after taking the catch! A big plus to Nasser’s pretty cool commentary during this time. Concentrating on the dot balls, the number of balls and targets rather than wickets. I made a note to mention it.

Over 37 – Liam Plunkett put bat to ball better than most, but he was faced with having to do it from the start and with no time to adjust. His catch given to long off was inevitable. Liam had a good World Cup, and 10 off 10 balls doesn’t sound much, but it gave us hope when there wasn’t any.

Over 38 – Jofra Archer came in in front of Rashid, and promptly got bowled going for glory first ball. I have yet to see Jofra the bat, and he can according to many, but his was a minor part in the overall proceedings with the bat.

Over 39 – Went out of order.. the batsman crossed from the Plunkett steepler, and Stokes smashed the next ball from Neesham to long on. Boult was under it again, he took the catch, stepped back, knew he was going over the boundary, threw it to Guptill, and I put my head in my hands. But wait. Guptill is signalling six. What? Why? How? Oh my god, he’s stepped on the boundary. Is our name on the trophy? 16 off 8 sounds better than 22 off 9. A moment to say well done to Guptill. Of course, it would have been proven to be six, but he signalled it, knowing what the replay would show and not trying to pull a fast one (as Morgan, perhaps, could be accused of with the Ferguson catch). It says a huge amount for the way New Zealand play the game. I think it sounds patronising to keep patting their heads, but they are a fine team and do not compromise it by cheating. I wish it was like this everywhere.

Over 40 – So we are now down to 15 off the final over. Stokes in the position to be the man again, like the T20 Final. Irony not lost on me. Two dot balls were not in the script. Stokes might have been able to take a single but he thought he was the only one who could score the runs. The third ball was in the slot, down low he got under it, and belted it over midwicket, a long way back for 6. Great, but it is still 9 off three.

Over 41 – The moment of the match. Stokes hits the ball to midwicket and they were always going to go for two. It was a 1 3/4 run. Stokes steamed, head down, for the crease knowing the only chance of staying in the hunt would be to get there. Guptill’s throw was quick, hard, accurate. Stokes stretched and the ball appeared to ricochet away. It diverted past Latham and kept running, on and on, to the boundary. What? How? What? That’s six runs, isn’t it? Stokes sticks his arms out to say sorry. But it is going to be six runs. Suddenly it is 3 off 2. We have to win this now. The luck has been going our way.

Over 42 – There is something quintessentially English about feeling guilty about profiting from luck or mistakes, yet we are the first to moan about our ill fortune. England’s 1966 win is prefaced with us going on and on about the third goal. Do you think Germany, who in their guises have won the competition three times since give a shit now? Argentina don’t asterisk their 1986 triumph about Maradona’s Hand of God. I watched the 1992 Final, and honestly never remembered the Pringle LBWs until he made a thing of it a bit later – I was more pissed off at Botham not nicking it and being given out. Pakistan don’t give a shit, it’s all “cornered tigers” BS. Yet here we are – we should have let them win, it was only five runs, it should have been just two, it should have been this, been that. It’s sport. It wasn’t dishonest. It was luck. I am sure the rule will be changed as a result, but just do one with this asterisk shit. Why bother if the sport is to be cleansed of any element of chance. It is why I hate VAR. If your motivation for this is an anti-England feeling, then that’s your choice. I recognise it for what it was, a massive, enormous, huge slice of luck.

Over 43 – Three off two balls, but Stokes mishits one to long on, and there’s barely one and a half runs in it. The ball is thrown to the bowler’s end and Rashid is miles short. Out not facing a ball, note how Adil, when he walks off, tries to encourage Stokes. The thought, under all this pressure, was were New Zealand playing it safe getting the non-striker out, and not going for Stokes, who would have been out in all likelihood because he had a slow start given he’d got so low in hitting the yorker. In that cauldron, better to play safe.

Over 44 – The last ball, two to win, one for a Super Over. What will Stokes do? Go for glory? Make sure of the one if he can and gamble for a second. Mark Wood isn’t the fleetest of foot at the non-striker’s end. Boult bowls a full toss on middle stump, the ideal ball to whack, but Stokes bunts it to mid-on area. We have the single, they turn, the throw is deadly accurate at the non-striker’s end, Boult gathers and takes the stumps. The replay confirms he had ball in hand, nothing untoward, and it is a Super Over. At that point, I think I inhaled some air for the first time in 15 minutes. This is crazy. But this is sport. Meanwhile, at Wimbledon, the Men’s Final goes into that competition’s equivalent of the Super Over, a fifth set tie-break at 12-12. Sport.

Over 45 – The Super Over rules, and another chance to de-legitimise the victory. It is clear, if the score is tied after 50 overs, wickets are irrelevant. It has been for about 20 years so bloody well spare me the angst over that. There’s an Irish guy I follow on Twitter who is banging on and on about this (and the Super Over) and all he ever does is complain about sport. I genuinely ask why he watches it any more if he hates it that much. Yes, coming from me. So it is clear. Super Over – most runs win, and if it is a tie, who hit the most boundaries in combination. It’s in the bloody rules of the game. You might not like it, but it is clear. I still hate penalty shootouts. It still doesn’t mean I don’t count Millwall knocking Chelsea out of the Cup in 1985 because we won on one. Don’t be daft.

Over 46 – It had to be Buttler and Stokes. Never did find out who was number three (was it Roy?). First ball squirts for three runs down to third man. Second is a well hit single to mid-wicket by Jos. The third finds a gap between the two leg-side boundary fielders to give Stokes 4 runs. 8 from 3. What is safe? The next ball Stokes carves straight to cover for a single. Buttler hits a yorker for two, and then smashes the last ball over mid-wicket for four. Is 15 any good? I can’t process basic thoughts. It sounds good. Archer is warming up. Good god. We’re trusting a kid, relatively, to bowl that last over. Really? Really? And this did not help:

Over 47 – Don’t bowl a wide. Don’t bowl a wide. Don’t bowl it in the slot. Don’t bowl a no ball. Don’t bowl a long hop. The first ball passes over the blue tramline. It’s a wide. Was it harsh? I thought so. Would I have gone on about it if we’d lost? Probably not. Thin margins.

Over 48 – Neesham squirts the next ball for two. The Black Caps got their skates on. At this point the comms were questioning whether Neesham was the right man for this. Next ball he takes a good length Archer ball and belts it into the Mound Stand. We’ve lost. 7 from 4. Neesham hoicks the next one to mid-wicket, Roy misfields, and it is another two. Five from three. Next ball, yorker, Neesham repeats the shot, it is better placed and there’s another two runs. Three from two. It has to be three, because England have hit more boundaries. Next ball is a slower ball bouncer. Neesham pulls it into his body. Guptill gets a motor on and makes it easily. Two from the last ball.

Over 49 – Time stands still. Utterly still. Only sport can do this. Spellbinding. Two to win, and the man tasked to score them was out at around 11:30. He hasn’t faced a ball in the Super Over. Archer is a rookie. On their heads the game rests. The field takes ages to set. The tension building. I’m absolutely numb. I know that a win is what I truly, totally want. It feels good, but it also feels like I’ve been a bit of a fraud. My last five years of agnostic, almost loathing of elements of this team. But damn you Stokes, damn you Jos, damn you Jofra, you’ve brought me back. Archer bowls full on leg stump, Guptill gets a great bat on it, you can’t smack that and gets it to deep mid-wicket. The fielder, heaven knows who it was at the time (the irony being Jason Roy who misfielded earlier) threw in, Jos gathers, smashes the stumps. Guptill looks well short. I am screaming yes, yes, yes. Jumping around the living room. Teddy looks scared, so I hug him and give a non-plussed border collie dying for his walk, a big old kiss. I feel that wave of elation, it lasts not as long as it used to, but that is what sport, and excitement, makes you do. I try to focus on what needs to be done, but I’m numb.

Over 50 – I am genuinely, totally uninterested in anyone else’s reaction. I don’t care in the immediate aftermath. I don’t want to hear pundits, I don’t want to hear people tell me what I think about it. These memories are mine, not yours “experts”. I want to react the way of the natural order. I take Teddy for his walk. I am buzzing. England have won the most exciting game of cricket I’ve seen, certainly since 2005, and up there with the best finales you could ever wish to see. And as sport fans, what more can you ask for?

Super Over 1 – From a personal standpoint I was trying to reference this match with other great sporting events I’ve watched. Personally, nothing can match the tearing up of my insides that was the second half of the FA Cup Semi-Final in 2004, but in hindsight that was meaningless, even if it didn’t feel like it at the time. The obvious cricket reference point is Edgbaston 2005. I think it is really similar to that, but a little different. England had that game won, and couldn’t finish off the team. Here England never had that won, and indeed, to be fair, didn’t win, but the miracles it took to get there made it exhausting. I am trying to remember an event where I actually shed tears during it. I did after that ball hit the bat and went for the boundary for the four “overthrows”. I actually couldn’t breathe. The winning moment was greeted with huge excitement, but I think I’ll remember the richochet more. Sport is amazing. Utterly amazing.

Super Over 2 – The time to talk about the ECB is in the next few days, not really now. But let this be said. They have been given this blessed gift from the gods. For a long time this was a dull ODI, played on a dog of a pitch, with no pyrotechnics, and only lifted because of the occasion. It finished in a maelstrom of total, utter, excitement. Think Wilkinson’s drop goal, Jones catching Kasper, the Aguero winner/Thomas winner of the league with the last kick of the season. Think Liverpool and Spurs on successive nights. Think how that can catch a country’s imagination, bring them together. The ball is in your court. I’ll wager you’ll congratulate yourselves and ignore the signs of what can be. Or as one of our number just said in this tweet:

There will be more, and I’m sure I missed some key moments too. I hope this conveys my thoughts adequately. I have the whole game recorded. I’ll be committing it to digital copy this afternoon. It’s not often a whole confluence of emotions are concentrated on half an hour of sheer sporting drama. I can’t do the flashy words. I’m more visceral. Yes. Yes. Yes. Get In There!


ADDITIONAL….. Maxie is right to raise the following:

For a long time this was a dull ODI, played on a dog of a pitch, with no pyrotechnics, and only lifted because of the occasion.

For someone coming to the game for the first time in ages, the match might have appeared dull, the same way a taut Cup Final with no goals can be to those not emotionally involved. It’s amazing how many big football matches my team played that were 1-0 or 0-0 never seemed boring to me. It wasn’t a dull game, it was tight one, but this was meant as a reflection as to how someone new to this might look at it. This isn’t T20….

Also, and totally remiss of me, I want to thank Chris, Danny and Sean for the coverage of the whole of this World Cup. I am biased, but it has been brilliant. Chris did the end of the live blog last night when I could barely think, let alone write. Danny and Sean put the hard yards in during the interminable group stages, and brought their own perspectives to the blog. I love what we do, I am honoured to write this blog with them, and even in those times when none of us are up to it, the BOC thing still resides in our heads. We are nothing special, we are just cricket fans. When we speak, we speak from our hearts. We care, care so much that it hurts some times. We can be brutal, but we are never trolls. We can call people out, but we do it through our own frustrations. The blog and the community we have, both here and on Twitter live for moments like this. There is no correct reaction. It is personal. All four of us show that in our writing. Thanks to all of them. I don’t say it enough.

Things Are Much Better Now, And Just The Nagging Doubts Remain

I thought I’d take a song lyric from the song that was on Now 80s as I’m sitting indoors looking after my border collie while the beloved is in the States. When I started the week, I thought this would mean a lot of time on my hands, some work I could get done, enhance the living environment and all that. Instead, it’s been knackering. Hence a post I was tasked to write last night ends up being written on this Friday afternoon.

A common theme of my blogging the past 5 and a half years has been the falling “out of love” with the England cricket team. To some extent that is still very much the case. What those 66 months have done to my views of the game in this country has opened my eyes to how I, as a fan, was treated, and when I was cheeky enough to put my thoughts from my pulpit, how I was degraded in some eyes, and treated by others. Fandom has never been blind loyalty to me. I pick my team, I stick with them. It’s why I stick with the Chicago Bulls and Miami Dolphins. It’s why I will never be anything other than a Millwall fan. I can’t not be a Surrey fan, and believe me, when I was picking them, they were rubbish. This was more Duncan Pauline, Graham Monkhouse era, rather than the Hollioake and Brown days. I was, am, also a huge national team fan, and football especially as it gives me the chance to watch a team I support at the top level. But the team I spent the most money on, nationally, was England cricket. For those new to this blog, I went on three tours, all self-planned, self-catered, self-ticketed, to Australia in 2002 and 2006 (two tests) and South Africa 2004-2005 (Cape Town and two days at Joburg). I went to the Oval test for 16 years on the bounce. I was a diehard England fan,

This context is necessary because I found after 2014 I couldn’t divorce the boots from the suits, because during that aftermath, the boots were a little bit too cosy with the suits, as were the scribes. The Hundred appears to have changed some of that thinking, with members of the media openly hostile to the ECB over this drivel, but for me it was more a matter of “about time”. When I was impertinent enough a few weeks ago to call out Andy Bull for his lack of perceived support for “my cause” I got impertinence times a hundred back. Almost as if I’d touched a nerve. I don’t set out to do so, but if the cap fitted at that time, then you needed to wear it. I’m minded to cite Public Enemy once more…

Some people accuse some people of crimes
Some people get away wit’ losin’ my rhyme
They don’t like where I’m comin’ from
So dey play dumb
Dumb diggetty dumbb diggetty dumb
But I’m tellin’ you what they do
Play a fool
While the real thief cools in a pool

A bonus of being on leave this week is that I got to watch nearly all of the semi-final yesterday. Now I confess, I wasn’t fully cheering England on at the start. Part of me thought this team were paper tigers. They had beaten up teams on the equivalent of pre-tournament friendlies, on pitches at home that resembled airport runways, and had earned a billion plaudits. But in the back of your mind was the Champions Trophy flop in 2017, when they lost their mind and nerve in the semi-final when conditions weren’t all in their favour. Those fears, doubts, scepticism were augmented by the losses to Pakistan and Sri Lanka (not so much Australia, as they were in decent nick at the time). I then had a number of doubts about the, shall we say, veracity of the contest between England and India. The resounding win against New Zealand, where a good start threatened to be undone by a middle order wobble, was overcome and England qualified. I think England need to earn support again, and I freely admit it is personal and many other views are available, and so yesterday gave them a chance to put things partly right in my eyes.

And they did.

They did it by playing brilliantly. By playing with amazing confidence. The bowling of Archer, Woakes and Rashid won that match, make no mistake. The opening bowling was top notch, and got the big hundred threats of Warner and Finch out early. This almost immediately stopped a potential score of 300. Then the temptation and then skill of Rashid ending the partnership of Carey, seeing off Stoinis, and then Maxwell, made the potential total smaller and smaller. England keeping Aussie to 223 was the game over in all but name. The name being “mental”. There wasn’t anything that horrific in the wicket. The bowling attack was Starc plus some others, really. What did not need to happen was for England to limp to victory. They had to play the way that they had the previous few years. Enter Jason Roy. The man who won the previous ICC semi-final England had succeeded in when he scored vital runs to break the back of a total. A couple of extra cover drives off Starc calmed the nerves. One, he wasn’t going to back down, and two, that was their champion he was belting. Stuff you.

When it was all over, and England basked in the glory of their success, I was exhausted from live blogging the match. As the innings goes on, if you read my “at the time” thoughts, you’ll see the belief flowing through me. My brother texted me at 120 for 0 or such like saying “when will the wheels fall off”. I replied “they won’t. They’ve packed it in”. Mentally that Steve Smith wicket, attempting to buy a wicket, being smashed for 20-odd was England saying “don’t bring that nonsense to me, it’s not bloody worthy”. Where many of us would sit there and say “don’t fall for it, Jason” I thought, “No, smack it miles”. And yes, I know, I had a go at Roy for getting out against Bangladesh when he had a double hundred for the taking, but that was different. That was silly, this was sending a message. I loved it. And in a way, I felt a little re-connection again.

Some may say it is me jumping on the glory bandwagon after tough times. I really don’t give a stuff if you do. This is the ODI team, and separate from the test line up which still needs some re-connection, and may never get there. This team has something else, and yesterday was it in clear focused reality. England may still lose to New Zealand on Sunday, and the doubts and comments will return, but that was great yesterday and it was a privilege to watch it.

Barney Ronay, a journo I’m not going to start up a fan club for, wrote a fascinating piece last week asking the question that if England do win the World Cup, do we, as a nation, deserve it? Will all it end up doing is reinforcing the ECB’s decision making “prowess” and allow them to continue to ride roughshod over the county game and continue treating the fans lamentably. Will it justify them hiding the game behind a paywall as the game becomes increasingly invisible, safe in the knowledge they have won the World Cup (or got to the Final) with the current structure? Will they get even more big-headed? Will this be the justification? We, I think, know the answer. A resounding yes. Two years ago England’s women won the World Cup. In the last two weeks they’ve been defeated 3-0 in the 50 over series, the last a beating so severe, it set records. Laurels are never to be rested on. Success is short-lived if the basics aren’t right. That England’s wobble came when Roy wasn’t there, or failed, speaks volumes that the depth may not be there. Players may be knocking on the door, but once through the portal, lose their nerve. Be careful, ECB.

All eyes on Lord’s for Sunday. I’m not a tennis fan, and the Grand Prix season is a bit of a procession this year. The game is on Channel 4, and More 4, and it’s time to turn on to watch that to prove there is a market out there. I care about this game, and I care about this sport. Cricket is part of my life. I want it to succeed. Sunday is the true legacy. I hope people care enough to watch, or the game is not that invisible.

One of my jobs is to take Teddy for an evening walk over the fields. There used to be a park cricket pitch on those fields. The sort you never really wanted to play on as a player, but in London, you played on to, well, play a game. No-one has played cricket on that field for many years. As I walk over there now, the football pitches and goals are permanently installed. Teams are doing their summer training for the long recreational game season. Those pitches aren’t used as much as they used to be. The fields in summer were used for golf practice a couple of decades ago. Like cricket, golf has shut itself off, and has participation issues in the UK. I reckon they’ll be chipping and putting there before anyone will use those fields for cricket practice. The game is invisible. The match on Sunday has a chance to get some of that back, before international cricket (some T20s excluded) disappears again. That’s the truth.

We will live blog the final, and have a lot more to say in the run-up, I hope. Hope you enjoyed the live blog yesterday, as it got more self-indulgent. Beating the old enemy in a big game does that to me, and English cricket should be relieved that for people like me, it still can. Despite everything.