England vs India: 5th Test, Day 5 – Fin

In a remarkable Test match where Cook and Root both played innings which were reminiscent of days past when England had a functional batting unit (if you can remember back that far), it seemed that India had decided to do their own tribute to a previous era of cricket. At the start of today’s play the tourists were 58/3 and, with Kohli already dismissed, almost everyone expected a fairly quick end to the day. What almost no one expected was for India to take the game down to the wire and almost grind out a draw.

The day began with the press talking about Jimmy Anderson standing on the precipice of greatness, having taken the same number of career wickets as Australian great Glenn McGrath. The notion of an Indian rearguard effort seemingly occurred to no one. It was up to Rahul and Rahane to teach them otherwise.

In fairness to England’s bowlers, the conditions were not anywhere near as bowling-friendly as previous games in this series had been. Stuart Broad was also bowling with a cracked rib, although that shouldn’t have been an issue considering England had five other bowlers in their eleven. Nevertheless, it was impressive and surprising when Indian managed to make it through the first hour of play unscathed. Teams nowadays rarely seem to show any application or resolve when faced with a whole day to bat, and this was a welcome change.

In the end, it was a mishit sweep by Rahane from Moeen’s bowling which created the breakthrough England desperately craved. Debutant batsman Vihari fell soon after a faint edge from a Ben Stokes bouncer (not the one from his trial), and India were shaken going into Lunch five wickets down and facing yet another defeat.

Rishabh Pant has been getting some stick this series, in large part deserved, for his performance as a wicketkeeper. There have been so many byes that it is almost unbelievable. This was somewhat expected, but what he is supposed to be very good at is batting. Having a first-class average over 50, India would have been disappointed with his average of 9.6 going into this final innings. Perhaps batting for his position, Pant stood up and played a tremendous and entertaining 204-run partnership with Rahul.

With the Indians making it past Tea and in sight of rescuing a draw, it will be little surprise to most readers here that it was Adil Rashid who broke the partnership. In fact, he took both centurion’s wickets in successive overs. His delivery to take the wicket of Rahul was possibly The Ball Of The Century, or would have been had he not already earned that accolade two months ago against Kohli. It will also not surprise readers to note that, despite Rashid’s penchant for breaking partnerships, Joe Root bowled him very little indeed. In fact, Root bowled himself for six overs compare to Rashid’s seven by Tea.

With both established batsmen gone (and Rashid taken out of the attack after a mere three wicketless overs), it was finally the endgame. India only had an hour more to survive, but England had taken the new ball and the tailenders were no match for Sam Curran’s swing and seam.

But, as the scriptwriter who has been writing this Test’s storyline no doubt planned, the final wicket went to Jimmy Anderson. Whilst bowling a number 10 is usually fairly anticlimactic, this one took Anderson beyond Glenn McGrath as the highest Test non-spinning wicket-taker. It’s been a long time coming and, although he has a higher average and strike rate than McGrath, there is absolutely no doubt that he is a genuinely great bowler.

Of course, the Player Of The Match (not Man Of The Match, as some pundits would claim) was Alastair Cook. He wasn’t particularly involved today, taking no catches and not having the opportunity to add to his one wicket tally as a bowler, but it’s a deserved honour. 218 runs typically gets you the award in any Test, and allowed it him to have one more goodbye from the podium.

As they celebrated Cook and England’s past, there was also a look to the future in England’s Player Of The Series, Sam Curran. In just his fifth Test, he already seems vital to England’s chances at home. It is saying something that, of England’s four allrounders, it is the ‘world-class’ Stokes who had the worst figures. Woakes, Moeen and the young Curran all had better batting and bowling averages than the New Zealand-born allrounder in this series. With a unit like that, and the continued problems England’s new batsmen have had, it is far from inconceivable that selecting six or more bowlers might become the norm at home.

And so ends another English summer. Going into it, I would never have predicted the vital part Jos Buttler and Adil Rashid would play. Nor, quite frankly, would I have predicted England beating the number one-rated team 4-1. It is an achievement tempered somewhat by the fact that the only new specialist batsman to excel did so batting at seven. Between now and next year’s Ashes, England need to find at least one opener (and please God, let’s get rid of Jennings too) and a number three. At a minimum.

So thanks from everyone here for reading our posts this season, even those of you who only do it to mock the vitriolic ‘Cook-hating blog’. I’m kidding of course, virtually all of the people criticising the writers and commenters here have read little or nothing from the site and so have (ironically) jumped to their conclusions with no evidence to base them on.

If you have any thoughts on the game, Cook, England’s future, or anything else, please comment below.

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England vs. India: 5th Test, Day 1 – Cook Triumphant. England Not So Much.

I have a confession to make: I like Alastair Cook. At least his batting. I am a natural contrarian, and therefore nothing pleases me more than watching the team I support grinding out a score at less than 2 runs per over. You can keep your flashy drives and slogs over deep midwicket, I’ll take 6 hours of leaves and nurdles every day of the week.

I therefore enjoyed the first two sessions of this game immensely. Joe Root won the toss, as he has in every Test this series, and chose to bat first. This gave Cook’s adoring fans (and our own LordCanisLupus) at the Oval a chance to watch their retiring hero at the crease. The first session of the day was slow-going, with little movement in the air and slow bounce from the pitch. Both openers almost reached Lunch before Jennings gave India’s leg slip some catching practice with a glance straight into the fielder’s hands. Hardly the shot of a player who you might expect to be facing Australia next summer.

Moeen Ali came in at three and, together with the greatest English batsman of all time at the other end, made it through to the Lunch interval. Fortunately they didn’t have to watch or listen to the coverage of Cook’s retirement because it honestly almost put me off my food. I had to turn it off in the end. I’m a fan of his batting, as I said at the start, but the way coverage of the former England captain tends to go completely over the top does make me sympathise with those of you here that dislike him immensely. I assume one of the other writers here will go into this week’s interviews and articles after the game finishes. Something for you all to look forward to.

After Lunch, It seemed like India had managed to switch the ball as they suddenly started swinging it round corners. It had all the hallmarks of an England Test collapse, but instead something incredibly odd and unusual happened: The two batsmen dug in and didn’t throw away their wickets. The session wasn’t without incident with two chances in the slip cordon going down, but given the conditions it was the kind of partnership that England have been sorely lacking in recent years.

As seemed almost inevitable after all of the pageantry earlier in the day, Cook reached his half-century with a drive down the ground for two. The accounts of the crowd’s reaction differ, with ESPNcricinfo calling is a “huge ovation” whilst the Guardian say it was “acclaimed like a double hundred”. Our field correspondent suggests it wasn’t quite as great an outpouring of affection as the press might suggest, although perhaps it should have been. It was the first fifty by either team’s openers in this series and only Cook’s third in the last year. If it wasn’t for Cook’s impending retirement, this level of celebration would seem almost sarcastic. The two batsmen continued to grind the Indian bowlers down, and survived to the Tea interval.

Unfortunately all good things come to an end, and Cook’s penultimate innings was no different. Five overs into the evening session, a quick inseamer from Bumrah caught Cook off guard and he dragged it onto the stumps. It was a good innings though, and had laid an ideal platform for the middle order to capitalise on tiring bowlers with an old ball which had stop swinging as prodigiously as it had in the previous session.

In the most predictable turn of events ever, England instead lost a couple of quick wickets. Root was first to go just three balls later for a duck, trapped in front by Bumrah. Not content with missing a straight ball, England captain also completely wasted one of their precious reviews. The question Root asked Moeen at the other end before taking the review is particularly worrying because he seemed very confident that the ball was heading down the leg side. If it was missing leg stump, it was only because it was heading for middle. Root only averages 24.25 this series, and he appears to have no idea where the stumps are when he’s batting. This brought Bairstow to the crease, but as people who have watched this summer will know he’s been prone to bat away from his body a lot recently. Well, he did it again on just his fourth ball and edged it through to Pant.

So despite England’s top order functioning as it should (for once!), England were still in a hole and needed rescuing by their allrounders yet again. India kept the pressure on the hosts by keeping things tight, and Ben Stokes was given LBW by a quick full delivery from Jadeja. Moeen Ali reached his own half-century a few overs later, then got a very faint edge on an Ishant Sharma outswinger. He had played and missed several times in his innings, and was maybe a little lucky to have lasted as long as he did in all honesty. Two balls later and Sharma induced another feather from Sam Curran as the allrounder was trying to pull his bat out of the way.

Jos Buttler and Adil Rashid struggled through to the end of play, although not entirely without incident. Buttler was given out LBW after Shami managed to hit him on the pad with a quick inswinger, and Jos reluctantly reviewed it in hope rather than expectation. To everyone’s surprise, including apparently the batsman, it turned out that he’d hit it. It’s often said that batters know when they’ve hit it, but surely the review system has disproven this quite conclusively.

So England, in spite of a strong start, are probably well under the par score on this pitch. At least the England fans in the crowd (including LordCanisLupus and a few others from the comments section, I think) have been able to watch 90 overs’ play today. A rare treat in this series.

As always, please comment below.

England vs. India: 4th Test, Day 4 – Victory

England confirmed victory in this Test and series, and through the day it rarely seemed in doubt. A good day then for the English bowlers, although not entirely without incident.

The day didn’t get off to a great start for the hosts, with Broad edging a wide ball to the keeper. Curran and Anderson eked out a few more overs before Curran was run out by Ishant Sharma. This was England’s second run out of the innings, and may point to something that needs sorting out of the training ground before the next Test. That wicket ended the innings, leaving India with 245 to chase.

That target didn’t sound impossible to reach for the visitors, but a terrible start soon put them on the back foot. Rahul, Pujara and Dhawan fell in quick succession to Broad and Anderson’s opening overs, with swing and variable bounce causing significant issues for the batsmen. Rahul’s wicket was particularly unfortunate. KL Rahul is the only Indian batsman to average less than England two openers and, as is common for players in that kind of form, he got a genuinely unplayable ball which shot low and quickly towards the stumps.

Not long after, Kohli survived a close LBW shout and the following DRS appeal. Whilst Hawkeye clearly showed the ball hitting the pad in line with the stumps and predicting that it would hit the wicket with the full ball, the controversial decision by the third umpire was that the ball hit the bat on its way through. The pictures clearly showed that Kohli’s bat had hit his pad at the same point the ball was close to the edge, but the official seemed to ignore this whilst making his deliberations. Had India managed to claw their way to victory, this would no doubt have been the main talking point for the game.

Kohli and Rahane managed to weather the initial storm through to Lunch, and not long after Root brought Ali and Rashid into the attack. Continuing his great form from the first innings, it was Moeen who looked the most threatening of the two. Bowling offspinners into the footholes left by Ishant Sharma outside the right-handed batsman’s off stump, Moeen was getting balls to shoot up and cause lots of problems for Kohli and Rahane. It was one such delivery which did for the Indian captain just before the Tea break, when he was found to have gloved a delivery to short leg, despite a forlorn DRS appeal. That left India still needing 122 runs, with their somewhat weak tail to come.

Pant was clearly at the crease for a good time rather than a long time, choosing to go for boundaries rather than the safer singles. Perhaps it was the right decision, with variable bounce meaning that an unplayable ball could come at any moment, but it didn’t work and he holed out to deep cover. Rahane, India’s last remaining batsman, didn’t hang around much longer either as he was adjudged LBW off Moeen’s bowling despite a vanity DRS appeal.

The reason I mention the failed DRS appeals by Kohli and Rahane is that they could have ended up being vital. England’s bowlers rounded up the last three wickets fairly cheaply, but two of those wickets were LBWs which would have been overturned had India not wasted their reviews earlier in the innings. It is massively unlikely that Ashwin, Sharma, Shami and Bumrah could have combined to score 90 runs in such bowler-friendly conditions, but you never know in cricket.

And so England ended up winning the game, and the series, quite convincingly. Amazingly so really, considering the performance of many players. England’s top 5 have scored 94 less runs than the bottom six in this series, with a collective batting average over 5 runs lower. England’s top order has been shockingly bad.

Indian fans might also point to the fact that Kohli lost all four tosses, meaning that India typically had to bat and bowl in the more difficult conditions. The visitors certainly seemed to have improved significantly from their tour four years ago, to the point that they were genuinely in with a chance of winning the series.

Which brings us to the next Test, starting on Friday. With little pressure on the England team with the series in the bag, it will be curious to see which direction they go in with their selection. They could see it as an ideal opportunity to blood some replacements for an underperforming opener or two before the winter tours, rest the two senior bowlers from a dead rubber, or mess around some more with the batting order. On the other hand, they could take the entirely reasonable view that they shouldn’t change a winning team, although that didn’t work out so well for India in the end.

Either way, India have perhaps surprised a lot of people with how well they have performed. Kohli laid to rest the idea that he wasn’t the world’s number one batsman because he couldn’t play the swinging ball, whilst India’s fast bowlers showed a great aptitude at bowling the swinging ball. I certainly wouldn’t bet against them winning the final game at the Oval.

As always, please comment below.

England vs. India: 4th Test, Day 1 – Here We Go Again…

…Same old s*** dog, just a different day.

After watching two of the three sessions today, I’m honestly not sure I can muster the enthusiasm to do my job for today. This is clearly something which I share with England’s specialist batsmen.

After England won the toss and chose to bat, anyone who follows cricket could guess how the day went. England’s top order collapsed, and they only avoided an embarrassingly low total thanks to the efforts of a lower order batsman or two. This time it was Moeen and Sam Curran.

It is amazing to me how much better India’s bowlers seem when they’re bowling at Cook, Jennings and Root. Yes, they’re facing the new ball, but when Buttler and Stokes come in to replace them it seems like they’re playing on a different pitch. What was a minefield instantly becomes a normal, flat, first day surface. What was a hand grenade crossed with a homing missile transforms into an ordinary cricket ball. What was the greatest seam attack since the West Indies in the 80s suddenly resembles a solid but not remarkable Test-quality attack. It’s not the conditions, it’s not the ball, it’s not the opposition. All four remaining specialist batsmen look shot.

Sam Curran obviously batted well to bring England towards an almost respectable score, with the other bowlers chipping in, but that’s not the point. The batting output from 6 onwards is supposed to be the icing on the cake. It appears to be England’s plan to produce, on a very regular basis, cakes which are approximately 90% icing. THAT’S NOT HOW YOU MAKE A CAKE!

There has to be a case now for dropping all of England’s batsmen. This isn’t hyperbole. This isn’t me being a devil’s advocate. I’m sick of it. Game after game, series after series, season after season. Cook has had an atrocious year, Jennings averages 17.57 in his latest run in the side, Root has resolved his problem of not converting his half-centuries in an unfortunate way, and Bairstow is inexplicably still being selected with a broken finger. I fail to believe that England’s batting lineup wouldn’t be improved by picking any four good county batsmen. Not Vince, obviously, but four other batsmen.

Not that I think the blame should solely be placed at the feet of the batsmen. It’s notable that no players who have debuted in the last four years or more have secured their place in the side. Now you could take the view that all 26 (or more, depending where you draw the line) debutants weren’t good enough for international cricket. Honestly, that seems unlikely to me. What seems more likely is that at least a handful could have played at that level, but something went wrong.

There has never really been a culture of responsibility at the ECB, but when you see poor batting, bowling, and fielding in the Test team you have to wonder what the coaches are doing. More importantly, you have to wonder how they can justify their positions. Take Mark Ramprakash, for example. He’s been England’s batting coach for almost four years, culminating in this series where the top order batsmen collectively average below 25. Rather than being sacked, which is the fate for most employees exhibiting this level of failure, he appears to be failing upwards. In light of Andy Flower’s temporary promotion he took control of the England Lions team, and he now is considered a top candidate for the vacant head coach role of Middlesex. Why?

Sam Curran’s exploits have at least given England an unlikely chance of winning this game, but they’ll need to bowl extraordinarily well tomorrow. Maybe they could follow India’s example and bowl at the stumps every once in a while. Or maybe they won’t, in which case it will almost certainly be another embarrassing defeat at home.

England vs. India: Fourth Test Preview

The question all week for England has been whether Bairstow can bat with a broken finger, and whether he can keep wicket. According to Joe Root’s pre-game press conference, the answers are “yes” and “no” respectively. Bairstow’s inclusion in the team was a relief to most English cricket fans, since the alternative would presumably have been James Vince having yet another attempt at being a Test batsman. No one (apart from James Vince, Michael Vaughan, and people supporting India) wants that.

The fact that Bairstow will play tomorrow puts into stark relief the lack of depth in English batting right now. That a serious hand injury (which the Indians have declared they will target) isn’t enough to force a player out of the team shows a massive lack of confidence in the people England could call in to replace him. That lack of confidence is fully justified, unfortunately. Haseeb Hameed is the only batsman who has debuted since Bayliss became coach in 2015 and averaged over 30. 30. The gap in quality between Bairstow batting one-handed and his potential replacement James Vince is vast.

In other injury news, Chris Woakes is ruled out with an issue with his quadriceps whilst Ben Stokes was apparently bowling with heavy strapping on his knee in training. With this in mind, it isn’t surprising that England have elected to bring Sam Curran and Moeen Ali in to replace Woakes and Ollie Pope. Whilst it might be a little harsh on Pope, who only had two games to try to cement his place in the team, his low average of 18.00 means that England could justify his replacement with an allrounder as improving the team’s batting overall.

The fact that England have replaced a specialist batsman with a bowling allrounder means that England will have 6 bowlers tomorrow (although Stokes may be used sparingly), which I suspect will test Joe Root’s captaincy in the field somewhat. It also probably suggests that Stokes and Buttler will both bat a place higher than normal, which could be a problem if England’s top order collapses.

Speaking of top order collapses, many people will be watching Alastair Cook closely in the next game after he sustained what was (for him at least) an unprecedented number of questions about his position in the team. His supporters have pointed to his strong record at the Rose Bowl, where he currently averages 110.00 in Test matches, as cause for optimism. I think it is worth pointing out that he has only played three innings there which means it is a very small sample, and his last Test in Southampton was four years ago. He has arguably declined significantly as a batsman since then.

England’s opposition have no such problems. With no reported injuries or selection headaches, it seems likely that India will name the same XI. The only surprise in this is that it would apparently be the first time in Virat Kohli’s tenure as Test captain that India have picked an unchanged team. The tourists have a great opportunity to claim a second win in England, which they haven’t managed in a Test series since 1986.

In lighter news, the ECB are apparently looking for a new President to take over the ceremonial duties from CEO Tom Harrison (who dislikes the spotlight) and Chairman Colin Graves (who seems to cause problems every time he speaks in public). The position is unpaid, and the ECB have made it clear that the new President won’t be allowed to make any public statements without the express consent of the board. Personally I’m hoping Graeme Swann gets the job. Or Michael Vaughan. Or Geoffrey Boycott. Or David Lloyd. Or…

As always, feel free to comment about the game (or anything else) below.

England vs. India: 2nd Test, Day 2 – The First Day

At the end of the first day’s play, with just 33 overs bowled, I think I can say with certainty that England have the upper hand in this Test match.

It started before the start of play, when England won the toss and chose to bowl first. With cloudy conditions and showers forecast through the day, it was an easy decision to make. Anderson took quick advantage of the situation, bowling Vijay with a spectacular outswinger. On one hand, it’s a ball which would have got many (perhaps most) batsmen out. On the other hand, the way that the Indian opener got squared up trying to clip the ball on the back foot into the leg side was positively Malan-esque. Not great technique for an opener, or indeed any batsman in English conditions.

What followed was a testing, if short session for the Indian batsmen. Pujara and Rahul hung in there, but only just. Anderson’s bowling constantly tested the outside edge, and Broad was also bowling from the other end. As is almost always the way, England made a breakthrough just before the players went off for the first rain delay of the game. Rahul edged Anderson to the keeper, and two balls later the rain began.

There was a brief respite from the showers after Lunch, which allowed the game to continue for a few overs. Whilst the bowling didn’t manage to threaten the Indian batsmen, the visitors still managed to lose another wicket before rain forced them off yet again. This time it was a mix up between Kohli and Pujara, with both batsmen going for the run before the captain made an abrupt u-turn and left Pujara stranded at the other end.

What followed was the kind of downpour normally associated with large boats and two of every animal. Standing water everywhere, the kind of picture in years past which would have would have had everyone going home and coming back the next day. Instead, the Lord’s drainage system did its near-miraculous job and play was able to resume with Indian needing to survive another 28 overs in the day.

The last session started quite well for the tourists. They managed to fend off Anderson’s first spell, and it wasn’t until Woakes and Curran were bowling that England were able to break the crucial partnership between Kohli and Rahane. Kohli edged a full outswinger from Woakes to Jos Buttler at second slip (who has missed a sharp chance the ball before), and that felt like the end of India’s chances in this game. Woakes got Pandya out the same way two overs later, and Curran bowled Karthik the over after that. Anderson returned to clean up the tail, and Broad finally got a delivery aimed at the stumps to account for Ashwin.

And, as if the day couldn’t have gone any more perfectly for England, they took the last wicket late enough so that Cook and Jennings wouldn’t have to bat until tomorrow. India managed just 107 runs in their first inning, and honestly that flatters them a little. The next two days should be rain-free, and it’s hard to see anything but an England victory. But then I remember that India have picked two spinners and England are fully capable of collapsing hilariously in this situation.

As always, comments about the game (or anything else) below.

 

England vs India, 1st Test, Day 2

I’ve written this on my phone because my computer is apparently taking a few hours to update, so please excuse the brevity.

It’s been an up and down day for England. If you had offered Root a 13 run first innings lead this morning, he would almost certainly have snatched it gratefully. As it is, he is likely disappointed that England aren’t at least 100 runs ahead.

There are three broad themes for the day. The first was England’s very good bowling performance. Surprisingly good, in all honesty. Whilst the first spell by Anderson and Broad was a bit tame, Sam Curran soon changed that and took 3 wickets in quick succession. Stokes continued this after Lunch, and India were on the ropes at 100-5.

Which brings us to the second theme of the day: missed chances. Cook and Malan both dropped fairly simple slip chances, including one from Kohli when he was on just 22. Hardik and Kohli steadied the ship and, although wickets kept falling at the other end, Kohli guided India’s tail until they were almost level with England.

The third the of the day was Kohli’s brilliance. Particularly at the end of the day, when the ball had stopped swinging, Kohli dominated the English bowlers who were utterly unable to keep him off strike. Much has been written about Root’s conversion rate ”problems”, but one genuine weakness is his (and the other England batsmen’) inability to bat with the tail. They either fail to shield the tailenders from the strike, or play so aggressively that they throw their wickets away. Kohli did neither, and so India scored another 124 runs for their last four wickets.

With a slight lead and almost half an hour left, England will have wanted to just see out the day without losing any wickets. Cook unfortunately couldn’t manage that, falling to an almost exact copy of the ball which dismissed him in the first innings. On one hand, it was a very good ball. On the other, Cook is (by reputation at least) England’s best player of spin, so him getting out in this way is pretty troubling for the rest of the team.

The umpires didn’t have a great day either. There were several successful reviews, plus another two decisions which would have been overturned if they had been referred. In all honesty, I can’t think of any day I’ve seen with more overturned decisions.

As always, feel free to comment about today and tomorrow’s play below.

England vs. India: 2nd ODI

I’m on holiday, but it seems like no one has put up a post so here one is.

I missed the first ODI too, but it sounds like England’s issues with spin have spread from the Test team. It’s been a very dry summer, so you’d expect this to continue. England also still have issues batting first, which hopefully they’ll address in the next year.

As always, feel free to comment on the game below.

England vs. Australia 3rd ODI – Open Thread

As England prepare to face Australia for the third of five ODIs, they stand on the cusp of a series victory. Not only that, but it would apparently be the first time since 1977 that England have won two consecutive ODI series against Australia. The gloss on that achievement is tainted somewhat by the fact that the two series have been less than 6 months apart, and Australia’s ODI form is particularly dire. They have lost 13 out of their last 15 ODIs, and are currently missing several stars due to injury and suspension.

England fans might be concerned about the fitness of several players, with Jonny Bairstow’s knee and Ben Stokes’ torn hamstring both under the spotlight. It would seem bizarre for the England team to risk two three-format world-class cricketers in a largely meaningless ODI series, but bitter experience also tells us it is almost certain to happen.

Elsewhere, English football fans were cursing VAR (football’s version of DRS) for almost costing them a win over Tunisia whilst Aussie football fans were largely cursing their government due to the World Cup mostly not being on free-to-air TV, nor on the streaming service which had the rights but which was apparently unable to handle the strain. It is somewhat unusual for the UK to have sport freely available on television when it isn’t in Australia, so I must admit to feeling a bit of schadenfreude.

As always, feel free to comment on the game (or anything else) below.

Mansplaining Cricket

Women are pretty stupid, it seems. They can’t count to six. They can’t fathom how to use a velcro fastening. They can’t even understand the most basic laws of cricket.

These are not my personal views, I hasten to add, nor the views of any of the other writers here at Being Outside Cricket (as far as I’m aware). They do however appear to quite accurately describe how the ECB sees women.

There are a few clear examples of this thinking in recent weeks. The first was the launch of the 100-ball format in April. When Andrew Strauss was talking about the rationale for the new competition on BBC Radio 5 Live, this is how he described it:

Well very simple. I think what we’re trying to do with our new city-based tournament is really appeal to a new audience. So people that aren’t necessarily traditional cricket fans, and in particular looking at mums and kids during the summer holidays. So, what we’re trying to do is find a way of making the game as simple as possible for them to understand and, you know, if you imagine that sort of countdown from 100 balls down to 0 and the runs going up, I think that’s a pretty simple way of playing the game.

This was a bad statement in a number of ways. Firstly, it concedes the rather ridiculous point that cricket is complicated and hard to understand. For an attention-seeking idiot like Stan Collymore to say it is one thing, for a sport’s own national board to state it as a fact is quite another. Secondly, it insults non-cricket fans by suggesting that the only reason they don’t like the game is because they’re too stupid to understand it. I don’t like football, but I feel confident that I understand it. Since people who aren’t already cricket fans are apparently the target market for the ECB’s competition, it might be wise not to insult them all. Because Strauss prefaces it by saying that the new competition was targeting mothers, the ones who bore the brunt of this insult were women.

But some clumsy wording in a live interview isn’t really enough to warrant sitting down and writing a full post about. For that, you’d need something more premeditated. Something that dozens of people at the ECB will have worked on and not seen a problem.

Something like this:

Soft Ball Cricket

The first thing to note is that it is a sponsored tweet from @EnglandCricket, or in other words a targeted advert. So let’s look at the target, @LydiaJane13: She’s a woman, she lives in England, and she’s a pretty big fan of cricket. In other words, exactly the kind of person that the ECB should be trying to attract to their local cricket clubs (assuming she doesn’t already play). Certainly, it would seem pointless trying to attract non-cricket fans to attend a cricket festival.

So having correctly found their audience, how should the ECB entice them to their events? Evidently, their answer to this question was to call them all morons. Cricket fans, regardless of gender, rarely find the laws of cricket “baffling”. Nor are cricket pads particularly difficult to put on for an adult. They might be expensive, cumbersome, and in the case of old ones belonging to a club probably not in great shape, but they aren’t “fiddly”. Certainly, as several people have remarked on Twitter, cricket pads aren’t more fiddly than bras, necklaces, and other items women routinely wear.

The most annoying thing about the ECB’s missteps in this advert is that, as is often the case, there is actually a decent idea behind their inept execution. As a middle-aged man who left my local cricket club around the age of 13, I’ve never been particularly tempted to go back. It was around that point where the focus of training shifted from ‘having fun’ to ‘winning games’, and I simply wasn’t good enough to compete. If I did want to return, I can’t say the idea of facing a hard ball or paying hundreds of pounds on a bat and pads really enthuses me. So, whilst I wouldn’t seriously consider playing ‘proper’ cricket, I might play a soft ball version if my friends or workplace formed a team. It’s a good format to promote to adult cricket fans, male or female. In fact, I genuinely think that it could become cricket’s equivalent to five-a-side football with enough promotion and support. Or, if not support and promotion, at least choosing not to insult your target demographic.

Something that perhaps makes the ECB’s oblivious sexism seem even worse is the ascent of England’s women cricketers in recent years. They won last year’s World Cup (a feat the men’s team have failed in emulate in 11 attempts), comprised three of Wisden’s five 2018 Cricketers Of The Year, and drew their most recent Ashes series in Australia rather than losing it 4-0. They are, as the kids might say, crushing it.

But even here, amidst this almost unqualified success, there are major problems on the horizon. Whilst England have benefitted from four years of their senior squad having professional contracts, most other major international boards are now at least matching that commitment. Australia have gone several steps further by giving many domestic players professional contracts. As England’s coach Mark Robinson said earlier this year, “We have to broaden our talent pool. Australia have 92 pros, we have 18.” To put that number into context: according to StephenFH’s research, there are 338 England-qualified men in county cricket first team squads. Virtually all of them will be on full-time professional contracts.

There may also be a sense that the ECB are letting this unique opportunity to market women’s cricket in England slip away. Last summer, over 26,000 people at Lord’s and 1.1 million people at home watched England’s victorious World Cup final performance. Today, in what was the team’s first game back on home soil since beating India at Lord’s last July, not much more than a thousand people went to New Road to watch them play against South Africa. It seems unlikely that over a million English fans of women’s cricket disappeared into the ether over just 10 months, so why so little interest? I suspect that the answer lies largely in a lack of promotion by the ECB and others.

If you were looking for a reason why the interests of women cricketers and cricket fans are dismissed so easily, you only have to look at the lack of female representation at the ECB. The 41 members of the ECB consist of 39 major and minor county chairmen plus the chairmen of the MCC and Minor Counties Cricket Association, As far as I’m aware, all of them are men. Not only that, but the organisations they represent cater almost entirely to men’s cricket. It gets a bit better on the ECB’s twelve-person management board which has four women, but of those four only Lucy Pearson has any official responsibility for women’s cricket. All four are also independent directors which means, as Andy Nash’s recent experience shows, they can easily be ignored or even not informed about things the ECB is doing. Considering these problems, I am dubious that these endemic issues can be resolved quickly or easily.

So, in conclusion, all men are bastards.

Discuss.