England vs. Pakistan, 3rd Test, Day 4 – 599*

England went into today’s play hoping for a couple of things, the weather to stay clear and for Jimmy Anderson to get his 600th wicket with the weather looking pretty dreadful on Tuesday. Unfortunately none of the above happened.

Today was one of those incredibly frustrating days where the weather intervened constantly and nothing much happened on what is a very flat pitch. England’s approach to the day was certainly lackadaisical, somehow how hoping that the Pakistani batsmen would give their wickets away with no hope of winning the game and one eye on the flight home, but this was far from the case. England’s bowlers were too short and too wide throughout the main session before rain ended it and they were even worse in the field, with Jos Buttler shelling a sitter from Jimmy Anderson that might yet cost him his 600th Test Wicket. The Pakistani batsmen also benefitted from a pitch that has just got slower and flatter as this Test has progressed, though that’s not taking away anything from their application and determination not to let this tour end in a 2-0 defeat.

Once the rain halted and the players re-entered the field at 3:45pm, England did at least start to bowl with a little more purpose, with Root adjusting his field having recognised that the pitch was not going to do them any favours. Broad struck early on with a delivery that Masood misjudged and got the merest glance of his pad whilst not playing a shot and was given out LBW. It may have only been clipping the stumps but umpires are never frightened to give someone out when not offering a shot. Anderson then removed Abid with a ball that tailed in with a bit of reverse swing and caught him in front and number 599 was in the bag.

Unfortunately very little happened after that with Bess looking pretty ineffective and Root being forced to bowl before the umpires inexplicably took them off for bad light. Again.

In truth today was one of those days that doesn’t do Test Cricket again good. A flat pitch which isn’t deteriorating, bad weather and overly fussy umpires meant that it was at times a tedious watch. It happens at times, but it is still disappointing when it does. We all know that Test Cricket doesn’t help itself at times especially when the umpires had the opportunity to start the game at 10:30am today and decided to refuse; I guess they like their breakfast in bed.

So we move on tomorrow and the forecast is grim. It is meant to hammer down for most of this evening and tomorrow morning in Southampton and best case scenario is likely for a 3pm start if they can clear the ground of the excess water. Unless something very strange happens, then this game is set for a bore draw, but hey Test Cricket can be a funny beast at times. One thing we can all hope for is that Jimmy Anderson does get the opportunity to bowl and take that final wicket to get to 600. I would hate to be in the shoes of some of England’s slip fielders and the wicketkeeper if the weather fails to play ball or if they drop any more chances off him.

As ever, thoughts and comments always welcome.

 

England vs. Pakistan, 3rd Test – open thread

Naturally we’d like to be able to spend all of our time living rent free and writing previews and blogs for the site; unfortunately life hasn’t dealt us these cards and so at times we’re unable to do just that. Today unfortunately has been one of those times (I did enjoy some nice craft ales in a local pub last night mind, which were very nice and it wouldn’t surprise me if Chris and Danny did the same).

It’s the third Test and final one of the summer, so let’s hope it’s a good one. Mind with winds blowing around 50mph in Southampton today, I’d sure be fighting to bowl with wind if batting wasn’t an option. The fight between Broad and Anderson with which end they get to bowl from could be a classic (if they’re both picked naturally).

Hopefully normal service responds tomorrow with regards to our activity. Comments always welcome.

England vs. Pakistan, 2nd Test, Day 2 – Farcical

I don’t know what it is about our game, you know the one we truly love and cherish, that it keeps wanting to shoot itself in the dick time after time. Today was an absolute farce, no doubt about it, and with the world watching after an enforced lay off from the sport, Test Cricket once again administered self-inflicted wounds to itself. Was the light great? Probably not. Was it dangerous? Certainly not; yet the umpires took it upon themselves to take the players off the field at every possible opportunity. It really does make you despair at times that a sport that is fighting for it’s very survival, can openly make such a pig’s ear of everything that you wonder whether it is actually trying to make itself extinct.

An interesting question has to be asked as to whether the umpires would have made the same decision if there were 15,000 paying punters in the ground? Possibly, possibly not, but even so there are many more of us that pay extortionate Sky subscriptions so that we can watch the game we love. Fans as ever always seem to be an inconvenience to cricket unless we’re paying £90 a ticket or buying overpriced food and merchandise and even then the ‘hoi polloi’ are there to be merely tolerated at best.

Also the question of growing the game amongst our youth has to be asked. If I asked my 10 year old nephew to sit through today, I doubt he wouldn’t have held it against me for the rest of my life. How do you explain to someone that is new to the sport that they can’t play because it’s a little gloomy even though there are powerful floodlights in the ground? How can you explain that the light was fine for 9 balls after an early tea but then a bit too dark to play even when Rizwan was hitting a quick bowler over his head for 4? You just wouldn’t get that in any other game on the planet. No wonder football is our national sport.

I could go on all day about this, but for me, this video from George Dobell, ironically at Old Trafford sums it up perfectly:

As for the play that we actually did have, well let’s be kind and say it was hardly a thrill a minute stuff. The beauty about Test Cricket is that it can ebb and flow dramatically from one session to another. You can get a dull session and then suddenly the game explodes; unfortunately this was just a turgid day of cricket. It does amuse me that in other sports like football a 0-0 bore draw would be described as boring yet try and mention the “B” word with regards to Test Cricket and you are suddenly being called heretic. Test Cricket can be wonderful, but at times it can also be dreadfully dull, unfortunately what we got today was a lot of the latter.

England bowled well at times but looked pretty innocuous for most of the day, in fact it was a rare terrific ball that finally got rid of the set Babar Azam. Jimmy got Shah driving and nicking to slip on a pitch where the drive needs to be put away and then we got the classic Pakistani brain fade run out as Shaheen embraced a bit of yes, no, yes, no, oh crap after being dismissed by a direct hit from Sibley. It would be fair to say that the wheels came off for England after that, who time and time again tried to bowl the magic ball and time and time again failed to pull it off. I don’t what it is about the English mindset that when they have a team 8 or 9 down that they forget to bowl decent deliveries to the set batsman in the hope they can dismiss the tailender at the other end. It rarely ends well and today was no different, even if Broad did manage to dismiss Abbas in the 9 balls after tea by actually bowling at the stumps. This is not designed to in any way denigrate the innings that Rizwan played, who looked to have a very solid defence and cleverly picked the balls to go after when batting with the tail, but it was pretty clueless by England. Unfortunately not for the first time.

The result of which is that Pakistan are very much in the game on a tricky pitch with tricky overhead conditions. That is of course dependent of whether the umpires fancy a round of golf tomorrow or just being pampered by the Aegeas Hilton room service, I mean who cares if we get a game on or not??

Test Cricket can be wonderful at times and deeply frustrating at other times, sadly today will not be remembered for the cricketing action on the pitch; instead it will act as a stark reminder that it’s refusal to change is likely to put it’s very existence into question.

Thoughts and comments very much welcome.

 

 

England vs. Pakistan, 2nd Test, Preview – Feeling Hot Hot Hot

So we’re back down to the Bramsgrove bowl for the 2nd Test and thankfully this time none of the players decided to have a little detour. Naturally the headline leading up to this Test has been the withdrawal of Ben Stokes for the rest of the series, which of course is a huge blow, but pales into insignificance when dealing with obviously a serious family issue. I was pleased on the whole with the reaction on social media with the majority wishing him well, which of course they should, cricket is a game that has bought us much joy (and agony too) and Stokes has played a major part in that, but family must and will always come first. I believe I can speak for the collective in wishing the Stokes family all the best whatever they are currently going through. It was also sad to see Dan Lawrence leave the squad due to a family bereavement especially when there was a decent chance he might have made his debut; thankfully there is still plenty of time for that whenever he is ready to re-join the fold.

So with Stokes and Lawrence out, this provides Zak Crawley with an opportunity to try and cement his place in the side, as you’d expect him to slide in at number 3 and let Root go back to his favoured position of number 4. I’ve been a little surprised about how much criticism Crawley has had in absentia, with various people on social media highly critical of him whilst suggesting he shouldn’t be in the squad in the first place. Now of course it’s natural for people to push their own favourites, Gary Ballance and Sam Northeast are names that crop up time and again, but I do find the criticism of Crawley a little baffling. He easily outplayed Joe Denly in the 1st Test against the West Indies and after getting a duck in the first innings of the 2nd Test was then asked to throw the bat in the hope of quick runs in the 2nd innings. Personally I’ve been pretty impressed with Crawley, he looks like he has a natural flow to his game that keeps the scoreboard moving and hasn’t really looked overawed by Test Cricket despite being only 21. I think there is definitely enough there to warrant being given a decent crack in the side and I’d certainly pick Crawley over Ballance, who has shown that he hasn’t the technique or the mental fortitude for Test Cricket, every day of the week.

As for the rest of the side, the batting line up now picks itself with Buttler remaining at 6; however the bowling line up is one to watch with interest. Despite the heroics of Buttler and Woakes at Old Trafford, our tail looks awfully long against what is a very good Pakistan bowling line up, so I do wonder if England are tempted to pick Sam Curran to shore up the batting and to offer a bit of variety to the attack, but then who do you leave out with Woakes, Broad and according to Joe Root, Jimmy Anderson all set to play. Jofra Archer seems the most likely to be left out, but if so, there must be a temptation to play Mark Wood, to give England a proper pace option. It was interesting that Root has come out already and said that Jimmy is going to play considering the back to back nature of these matches and the fact that a 38 year old Anderson hasn’t played particularly well all summer. Could it be thought of as misconstrued loyalty to a player who has been England’s finest fast bowler for over a decade but perhaps is no longer in England’s top 3 pace bowlers these days? Naturally it would be wise not to write to Jimmy off as he has proved time and time again that he is a quality bowler, but there will certainly be added pressure and scrutiny if he does indeed play at the Aegeas.

As for Pakistan, it will be interesting to see how they respond after losing a match they both dominated and should have won. Certainly Pakistan teams of the past may have let that affect them mentally after such a loss, so Misbah and his coaching staff will have needed to do a lot of work with the team to get them back in the right frame of mind. I have the upmost respect for Misbah, so if anyone can lift this team back up after Old Trafford, then he would be the man to do it. It will also be interesting to see what the make-up of the Pakistan team is in Southampton, as they looked a little top heavy with Shadab batting at 7 and then not really contributing much with the ball. Dependent on the pitch they made decide to go with the extra batsman, a certain Fawad Alam, who despite having an average of over 50 in Pakistani domestic cricket, has consistently been overlooked for selection. It will also be interesting to see if they shuffle their quicks, as playing the same fast bowlers in 3 Tests in such a short period of time is draining. If they do, then I’d expect Naseem Shah to drop out, not because he isn’t a fantastic prospect, more that they don’t want to injure a 17 year old proper fast bowler by over-bowling him. The last thing Pakistan need is for him to pick up a stress fracture and be out for a long period of time.

So fingers crossed that the storms stay away from Southampton, though I’d quite like them to come to London and we get a full day’s play tomorrow. As ever thoughts and comments are much appreciated.

England vs. Pakistan, 1st Test – Day 3 – You Spin Me Right Round, Baby Right Round

So at the end of Day 3, England are still in with a squeak, probably no more than that as a 4th innings score of over 150 has only ever been chased down at Old Trafford twice before, but a squeak nonetheless.

The nature of the line-up that England picked meant that in all reality both Pope and Buttler needed to go on this morning with at least one of them making them a ton; however the Pakistan bowling line meant that this was always going to be a tough ask. Too tough an ask as it proved to be. The morning session was one of those nip and tuck sessions where each of the Pakistani fast bowlers asked some serious questions of the English batsmen, who played and missed at more than a few deliveries. Eventually it took the precocious 17 year old quick, Naseem Shah, to get rid of Pope with a delivery that reared off the pitch and struck the top of Pope’s bat providing a comfortable catch for the slip fielder. I don’t know how and where Pakistan keep finding these young bowling superstars, but it’s a real breath of fresh air to watch someone so young, bowl with such hostility and maturity at this level. Let’s just hope Pakistan provide him with the right support and structure to let him grow and not ruin him like did with Mohammad Amir.

Still England made it to lunch relatively unscathed and with Buttler and Woakes still at the crease there were some hopes that England could somewhere near Pakistan’s total. Unfortunately our ineptitude against leg spin again proved England’s downfall. Buttler, Woakes and Bess quickly fell to Yasir Shah and whilst there was a fun cameo between firstly Broad and Archer and then Broad and Anderson, it was only going to be a matter of time before England were bowled out. The way Buttler got out in particular is a reflection of his time as an International cricketer, failing to pick a straight delivery after a scratchy, but gritty 38. I have been fairly vocal on my thoughts on Jos as a Test player and nothing I saw today has changed that opinion, but I do feel a bit sorry for the guy; I mean he isn’t the one that keeps picking himself. Buttler is a world class white ball batsman, but in truth, even in county cricket, he has never shown much aptitude against the red ball, something that 6 career red ball centuries clearly shows and for me he simply doesn’t look like a Test player. This isn’t to say he isn’t trying as today’s innings showed, where he put away his natural game and tried to grind out a score, but I genuinely feel it’s got to the stage where it’s not doing the player or the team any favours. It naturally didn’t help that Mohammad Rizwan gave him a lesson in how to keep wicket to both the spinners and the seamers, especially considering he gifted Pakistan over 100 runs in the field with his poor keeping in the first innings. Buttler might be a great team man and Ed Smith is definitely a stubborn supporter, but something has to give and now is the right time to take him out of the firing line.

It would also be churlish of me not to give Yasir Shah some rightful praise. He can look innocuous at times and does bowl some absolute dross, but he always seems to have an impact in the game and regularly takes wickets. It just shows the different mentality both sides have with regards to their spin bowling options with Pakistan happy for their spinner to concede runs if he can bowl wicket taking deliveries often and England happy for their spinner to keep it tight and take the odd wicket. Unfortunately that’s always been our mindset and I can’t see it changing anytime soon.

So with a deficit of 107, England needed wickets and quickly and for once they actually got them. Broad strangled Masood down the leg side for a duck, a sobering reminder of the fickle nature of the Cricketing God’s after his first innings and then Bess had Abid caught on the boundary with the sort of hoick that even Shannon Gabriel would have been embarrassed with. Woakes then continued his fine form by removing both Babar and Azhar quickly leaving Pakistan wobbling at 63-4 before a decent partnership between Shafiq and Rizwan steadied the ship. Indeed they looked to be taking the game away from England before a typical suicidal run synonymous with the Pakistani team removed the former before they could do any more damage. Indeed England should rightly be disappointed that they didn’t have Pakistan in a worse position after yet more sloppiness in the field with both Abid and Shafiq the beneficiaries of dropped catches, though one could easily argue that the Anderson drop was a mighty tough chance. Still England will look back at those drops with more than a tinge of regret after Rizwan and Shadab benefitted from some poor bowling from both Bess and Anderson before England desperately turned to a half fit Ben Stokes who did what Ben Stokes does and trapped Rizwan LBW in his 2nd over. Broad then removed Shadab and a visibly limping Stokes removed Shaheen but a few lusty blows from Shah allowed Pakistan to take the lead to an improbable but not impossible total of 244 with 2 wickets remaining.

Pakistan are without doubt in the box seat and England need to take the last remaining 2 wickets in double quick time if they are to stand any chance of winning this match on a pitch that is taking serious turn. This should be Pakistan’s game to win but it’s not quite a done deal yet. We should have those answers on which way the game is going pretty early on Day 4.

As ever thoughts and comments are much appreciated.

England vs. West Indies, 3rd Test, Day 2 – Is Broad Batting

The rain did us all a favour today by deciding to head South rather than sit at its normal location which normally is right above Manchester and to be fair we’ve had a bonus day of good cricket, even if it was cut short abruptly by the Umpires.

England will naturally be the happier team right now even if they were hoping for a bigger score than 369 all out, though they would have bitten your hand off for that score at 280-8 after a significant collapse against the new ball. It is always hard starting again when the bowlers are fresh and have a new ball in their hand and it has to be said that the West Indies bowled superbly for the first half hour; however that being said it was a real shame that neither Buttler or Pope could go on and make a match winning hundred after the graft they put it yesterday. When Woakes and then Archer also went cheaply, the former is really struggling for form with the bat and the latter looks more and more like a number 11, the hearts of most England fans would have sunk. Enter Sir Stuart Broad.

This was not an innings for the purists to say the least and the time when Stuart Broad could be potentially viewed as an allrounder are long gone, but on my was it effective. Whilst Dom Bess played patiently as a proper batsman, Broad was given licence to have a swipe and swipe was exactly what he did with some great and then some fairly fortuitous shots to the boundary. It’s a real shame that Broad is unable to replicate the batting talent he had as a young cricketer, after all he has a higher Test score than a certain Mark Waugh; however when he bats, people watch. He may come off only once a series, but when he does, it certainly is compulsive viewing. England are just mighty glad that it was in this game that Broad managed to come off with the bat otherwise they’d be rueing another costly collapse.

So the West Indies, who had originally thought they’d be chasing under 300, looked pretty deflated when they came off the field and it showed in their batting. The sad thing is that I don’t England bowled all that well, except for Broad’s and Anderson’s spells after tea, which is a weird thing to say when they have a side 137-6. After getting the dangerous Brathwaite out early, England bowled far too short allowing the woefully out of form duo of Hope and Campbell to settle in nicely. Ironically it was a nasty bouncer by Jofra Archer that finally got rid of Campbell and allowed England to open the door. Anderson and Broad then took charge straight after tea, with the former bowling 2 unplayable deliveries that the batsmen did well to nick and the latter celebrating an LBW with an outrageous celebrappeal and probably a trip to the Match referees office too. Blackwood and Holder then looked to gain some semblance of momentum back for the West Indies before the former decided to go for an overambitious drive from a good ball from Chris Woakes that nipped back off the seam.

So we head onto Day 3 with a decent forecast and already talk of declaration speculation, especially as Monday could well be a total write off with the weather. I suspect England will bat again even if they do bowl the West Indies out short of the follow on target, but they probably won’t be hanging about knowing the forecast for Monday and wanting at least a day to bowl at the West Indian batsmen a second time.

One major moan though has to be the continued insistence of the umpires coming off for bad light at around 6pm each night. I even joked that they must have room service booked for 6:15pm every night. The light was murky but no way was it dangerous and we have also invented these crazy new things called floodlights to keep the game going. It’s crazy that in this day and age that we allow cricket to keep shooting itself in the dick and if the light is going to be a problem, start the damn Test half an hour earlier! The umpires are probably grateful that there aren’t any fans in the ground, because if you’d have paid the best part of £70 for the day, you’d be mighty pissed off at seeing the players trudge off the ground with the floodlights standing there. Anyway, slight rant over.

As ever do feel free to share your thoughts on the game or anything else below:

England vs West Indies, 2nd Test, Day 2 – Application

Well ladies and gentlemen it certainly looks like we have a decent game on our hands, especially if tomorrow’s predicted rain holds off.

England managed a more than respectable 469-9 before they declared much to the chagrin of those that have missed Stuart Broad batting more than anything else, but on a slow wicket on which runs are hard to score, it was a refreshingly decent performance from most of our batsmen. The day belonged to both Dominic Sibley and to Ben Stokes who both converted hard earned starts into hundreds, indeed the latter looked like he might take the game away from the West Indies, when he decided to flick the switch. It has been a long while coming that an English batsman not named Ben Stokes knuckled down and scored a hundred in conditions that were not at all easy, yet somewhat predictably but still somewhat mystifyingly, there were a number of people queuing up to have a pop at Sibley for batting too slowly. It all smacks of ‘have your cake and eat it’. We’ve all been rightfully criticising the English batting line up for being too flaky and too aggressive, yet when an individual digs in and makes a century, albeit one of the slower ones in recent history, he is accused of ‘batting for his average’ or hampering England’s chances to win the game. It’s like people have forgotten the Jason Roy experiment last summer. Personally I’d be happy if Sibley plays like that every day if he continues to churn out big scores at the top of the order and sets a platform for our more fluent batters.

Stokes on the other hand has really become the talisman of our batting unit, who has the uncanny knack of knowing when to defend and when to attack. This coupled with the fact that he is skilful enough to be able to flick the switch between attack and defend means that he is an incredibly dangerous batsman to bowl at. The one thing I also really like about Stokes batting is that his set up is incredibly simple. There is no big trigger movement, no scratching around the crease, but instead on most occasions his bat comes down at a perfectly straight angle. I’m certainly no expert on batting (much like Simon Hughes, though I’ve decided not to release a book) being a bowler when I still played the game, but I just don’t see him suffer the same sort of technical issues that many in this team still have. If only batting was as easy as Stokes makes it look at times, though his reverse paddle to get himself out is something I can relate to, except that we needed to bat out 7 overs at the time.

The rest of the batting was a bit of a mish-mash as England tried to put on some quick runs that would enable them to have a crack at the West Indies this evening. Pope looks a bit out of touch at the moment, Woakes dollied a wide one to slip and Buttler played the sort of infuriating innings that he has been accustomed to in Test Cricket, eventually holing out to the only fielder within 50 yards on the onside. Of course, this was never going to be a winning situation for Buttler to bat in as he would either be accused of scoring easy runs against a bowling attack running on empty or get out cheaply again playing a silly shot. In the end, he performed somewhere in the middle, which sums up his Test career – simply a bit mediocre.

The West Indies stuck manfully to their task in the field, obviously battling fatigue and a number of injuries to their fast bowlers. The pitch although difficult to score on, hasn’t really helped any of the quicks with a lack of pace and a lack of sideways movement and the best they could really do was to try and dry up the runs. It was left to Roston Chase again, so often the tormentor of England to take the majority of the wickets. Chase did manage to get a fair bit of turn out of the pitch, which should have Dom Bess licking his lips at the chance of having a long bowl on it. Whether it’s just the fact that he has the wood over England or due to a lack of technique against spin, Chase once again made one or two of the English batsmen look a bit silly. Not bad for a supposed part-time bowler.

So with runs on the board and a tired West Indian side at the crease, England went in search of wickets to really open up the game. The fact that they only managed one, a really nice delivery from Sam Curran that was eventually given out on review, will be a slight disappointment. This was even further compounded by Root not choosing to review an LBW shout against Joseph that both looked out in real time and was going on to hit middle stump. This isn’t to say England bowled badly, Broad in particular can feel unlucky that he didn’t manage to find the edge, but it does highlight the slog England will have in taking 20 wickets on this pitch, especially if Bess doesn’t bowl well.

So Day 3 is nicely set up for tomorrow and fingers crossed, if the rain holds off, we could have another intriguing day’s play ahead.

As ever, thoughts and comments are always welcomed.

England vs. West Indies, 1st Test, Day 4 – Absence

Unfortunately life does get in the way of blogging at times. My laptop is desperately trying to recover stuff on life support mode, Chris is out infecting West Sussex with a pub crawl (probably) and Danny has gone fishing in the North Sea for Haddock (probably)…

Unfortunately this means we can’t easily do any reviews this evening. In short, England played well at times, threw away some soft wickets, played well again and then collapsed. You could time your watch to it, as if it’s not something we’ve seen before repeatedly.

So all in all, unless the English tail miraculously wags or Jimmy Anderson somehow rolls back the years, then the West Indies must be favourites to chase down a score likely under 200, despite the pitch taking spin and being a bit up and down.

Still Hugh Jardon 😂

England vs. West Indies, 1st Test, Day 3 – Deja-Vu

I think that it’s more than fair to say that England have made a colossal pigs ear of this match over the first 3 days. From their mystifying choice of bowling attack to choosing to bat first with dark skies and rain in the air to the lack of application in their batting. This has been a chastening experience so far. This however, should not take away any credit from the West Indies who bowled superbly in favourable conditions and whose batting has been disciplined and intelligent on the most part, though I’m sure that innings by Jermaine Blackwood would have had even the most patient of coaches reaching for the whiskey bottle.

England needed early wickets at the start of the day but found themselves facing a steadfast Kraigg Brathwaite, who can feel a little unlucky to be dismissed, alongside Brooks and Chase who simply refused to give their wicket away. Whereas the former 3 were disciplined and at times obstinate, Shane Dowrich came in and played a gem of an innings, one that could well have taken the game away from England with the West Indian tail doing enough to frustrate England. I’ve watched a decent amount of West Indian cricket over the past couple of years and Dowrich is the guy who has improved the most with the bat. He is aggressive but isn’t reckless and has improved both his defence and his technique against the fast bowlers. He reminds of a batsman in the style of Matt Prior and I can only see his average keep improving as he becomes more and more accustomed to performing at International level.

Much has been discussed about the make-up of the England attack and in the main they are completely correct. It is a sad indictment when a 37 year old Jimmy Anderson, who hasn’t played for almost a year, is your only real threat amongst the main seam attack. I didn’t get the selection at the toss and I really don’t get the selection now. It seems like clever Ed got seduced by having two 90mph quicks in the team and then forgot to read the pitch conditions and the overhead help from above. To say it has backfired would be a massive understatement. Jofra Archer has bowled poorly and his lack of match practice shows, especially when given the 2nd new ball, as all he could muster was a number of leg side half volleys at a jot over 80mph. Mark Wood has bowled with fire but has been wayward and as the first innings showed, this pitch was never going to be suited to tear away quicks rather than tall bowlers who could get some movement off a sluggish pitch. As a result of both Wood and Archer’s ineffectiveness, Stokes was forced to overbowl himself and even if he didn’t bowl brilliantly, he still managed to take 4 wickets and prevented a West Indian lead becoming insurmountable. The fact that he seems to aggravated a foot injury will not music to England supporters ears.  If only we had a 6’5 bowler who had averaged a jot over 23 and was the leading wicket taker over the summer and the winter. Oh…

Speaking of Stuart Broad, it was refreshing to see a player actually speak their mind rather than the normally contrived media speak that we normally get. Broad in his interview with Sky said he was angry, frustrated and gutted to be left out and I imagine that is the pre-watershed version of what he is thinking.

Personally, I can’t disagree with a word he said and if I was in Broad’s shoes I’d be mightily pissed off too. How many times has a batsman been dropped when he has been top scorer the winter before, unless you count those that look out of windows. Broad led the England attack manfully in the winter in the absence of Jimmy Anderson and was our best bowler by far, so to be left out on a pitch that would’ve been perfectly suited to his bowling, must feel like a massive slap in the face by our hapless selectors. Ed Smith is known for being a bit funky with his selections and is known for picking certain players for certain pitch conditions, but he has made a cock up of the highest order in this Test.

So with a deficit of 114 and batting line flimsier than a wicker house, it was imperative that England didn’t lose any wickets before the close of play. They somehow managed this but it did involve a large element of luck with Roach, Gabriel and Holder bowling some beautiful lines and lengths. Sibley in particular looks to be struggling with his technique and he’ll really need to tighten that up to stand a chance of scoring runs this series against this very good bowling attack.

So we roll onto Day 4, with England still facing a 99 run deficit and once again the morning session will be vital to the outcome of this Test. If the openers can see off the new ball and get close to wiping out the deficit then we could have an interesting game on our hands; however if the West Indies can take a few early wickets then this game might not last the day.

As ever, we appreciate your thoughts and comments below.

England vs. West Indies, 1st Test, Day 1 – Preview & Live Blog

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Well the day is finally upon us, the chance to watch to live cricket again, which many of us doubted might even happen this year. Naturally this pales into the context that many people have lost their lives or their livelihoods from this awful pandemic, but as someone much wiser than me said ‘Sport is the most important, least important thing there is’ and I certainly feel excited that we can finally see some live cricket again, albeit in slightly strange surroundings.

A massive debt of gratitude must go to the West Indies for coming over and participating in this series especially when it would have been easier for them to look at the ECB’s call for help with total disdain. I would hope that their administrators (though they are just as bonkers as the ECB) kindly reminds our administrators that they have dug them out of a financial crater of their own doing. Many of us refuse to let the disgraceful actions of ‘The Big 3’ be swept under the carpet now that they themselves are facing some tough financial decisions, but I sure hope that anyone of the sides who tour and help them out, make sure they get rewarded both financially and in the political landscape of the game.

England will have an interesting choice with regards to their fast bowling attack, especially if the pitch at the Aegeas Bowl resembles anything like that of the ‘Intra Squad’ game. In past times, Jimmy and Broad would be the first 2 on the team sheet; however father time still remains undefeated and it would surely be a risk picking both players without any real overs under the belt; indeed it does look like Broad won’t feature, which is a blow for us fans of comical batting. The same could be said for both Wood and Archer, who are recently coming back from injuries and whom I think it would be difficult to pick together in any England side, especially with the horrendous injury catalogue of the former. Although far from a big fan of his, I’d be picking Chris Woakes for this game, especially with our batting line up looking less than convincing.

The batting will pick itself with Root missing this Test and Lawrence being pretty unlucky not to make the final 13. Root will return for the games at Old Trafford, so this does seem a straight shoot out between Denly and Crawley, with the former surely needing a big score if he isn’t going to be the one jettisoned in favour of youth. This is also a mightily big series for Jos Buttler, who has looked anything but a Test Match batsman in the last 12 months.

The West Indies will naturally be hoping for a bit of pace and bounce in the pitch, as their fast bowling is easily their strongest suit. The batting looks vulnerable on paper and it will be an interesting choice if England win the toss with suitable cloud cover on offer.

Naturally, just to piss on our chips, the weather looks less than ideal for the first 2 days. This is especially galling as April and May were so hot weather wise when we were in proper lockdown, but it seems that 2020 isn’t ready to stop toying with us yet. I have a feeling that both Wednesday and Thursday might be stop start affairs, but fingers crossed that we do get a decent amount of play for all of our sanity.

We will be live blogging for most of the day, if and when there is action, so do join in by commenting below. Unfortunately we don’t have the budget of the BBC, so you will need to manually refresh to see the our latest musings or rants dependant on the action..

10:32 – It’s raining, well of course it bloody is. Toss has been delayed.

10:52 – Very powerful interviews with Michael Holding and Ebony Rainsford-Brent on Sky. Uncomfortable viewing at times, but fair play, they haven’t held back on this.

11:11 – For a brief moment the covers were off and it looked like we could have the toss, but unfortunately the weather has intervened again. It could be one of those frustrating day’s of cricket.

11:30 – Whilst the rain continues to fall, I’d absolutely recommend watching the BLM piece on Sky with Michael Holding and Ebony Rainsford-Brent. Really powerful stuff:

11:46 – We’ve had the umpires out for a quick inspection and they’re currently trying to clear any excess water off the ground. Maybe some hope of play in the near future.

11:57 – Maybe not as promising as first thought!

12:04 – Early lunch being taken with another inspection at 1:10pm. This was not the start that we had hoped for.

13:15 – Covers are coming off. Might play be around the corner?

13:30 – England have won the toss and will have a bat! As predicted Broad has been dropped and England will go with Wood, Jimmy and Jofra as their main seamers.

13:32 – That sound your hearing is TLG throwing his phone out of the window somewhere in deepest, darkest, West Sussex.

13:36 – Meanwhile the West Indies have gone for 4 seamers. Could that hurt them in the long run as the Aegeas Bowl is known to take spin the later the game goes on.

13:50 – Quite why we needed a half break between the toss and play starting really is beyond me. If it starts raining again at 2pm, I might have a little cry.

13:59 – Right here we go with the first delivery of the match. TEST CRICKET IS BACK, I REPEAT, TEST CRICKET IS BACK.

14:00 – After the players all take a knee in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter campaign. Roach to bowl the first delivery to Burns.

14:02 – First delivery……….safely defended by Burns.

14:04 – Huge LBW shout against Rory Burns, who misjudges a leave. West Indies review.

14:05 – Umpires call. A bit of luck for Burns early on.

14:07 – Powerful and unified message.

14:09: – WICKET – Sibley bowled by Shannon Gabriel. Sibley shoulders arms to a delivery that nipped back and sees his off stump disappear. Not the start England would’ve hoped for.

14:16 – First run on the board for England. Hang on though, the umpires don’t look to happy with the light. Let’s hope they don’t take them off.

14:17 – Boooooooo. Bit of rain and some dodgy light and the players are off again.

14:22 – 3 overs, 1 run, 1 wicket, some technical difficulties from Sky and then off for a rain break. Yep English cricket is back.

14:34 – Restart in 10 minutes if the rain holds off….IF

14:40 Gerron wi’it. Meanwhile, I didn’t realise how potent Kemar Roach has been against left handers. Yikes.

14:45 – Nervous times for the English batsmen as Joe Denly miscues a pull shot that lands just short of mid-on.

14:51 – The rain is really starting to take the piss now. 1 over, 2 runs and then the rain returns. 2020 do you not have any mercy?

15:03 – The rain looks to be set in for now and hence I’m off for a cup of tea. Danny will be on the decks when the rain finally clears. Lets hope he has more luck than me. Sean

15:10 – Danny here. Sean has decided to step aside after 25 deliveries, just over four overs. What a slacker…

15:11 – Restart at 15:30, assuming no more rain.

15:28 – They’re back on the field. Roach to resume his third over…

15:38 – Roach bowls a maiden. Gabriel bowling round the wicket to the left-handed Burns. Every ball going on the legs or wide of off.

15:41 – Another maiden from Roach. He’s conceded one run off his first four overs. I’m sure England’s batsmen are thanking Stokes for sending them in.

15:46 – Gabriel has been a lot less economical. He gifted a wide halftracker to Denly who gratefully cuts the ball to the boundary.

15:47 – This marks 4.1 overs after I took over. I think it might be Sean’s turn again…

15:50 – Another maiden over from Roach. He’s been tighter than [insert your own joke]!

15:54 – Denly dispatches another loose ball from Gabriel for four, then edges one in the air through fourth slip. There is a lot of swing in the air and, thus far (10 overs in), the ban on using saliva on the ball doesn’t seem to have had an effect.

15:59 – Roach conceded another run! England have now scored 2 off his 6 overs to date. Joseph replacing Gabriel at the other end.

16:04 – 7 runs from Alzarri Joseph’s first over, off two loose deliveries on the legs and wide, but I think it still looked better than Gabriel.

16:08 – Captain Holder replaces Roach, and he’s got two balls to jump off a good length. Well played by Denly.

16:13 – The swing appears to be dying down, although that may be the new bowlers rather than the ball.

16:22 – A couple of comfortable overs for the English batsmen. Economical, but not threatening bowling from Joseph and Holder. Maybe Roach can come back for a second spell?

16:28 – Bad light stops play. England are 35/1 off 17.4 overs with Burns and Denly still at the crease. I can only assume that this was, somehow, Sean’s fault.

16:36 – They’ve taken an early TEA.

16:46 – Play can apparently be extended to 19:30 today. That would be interesting, since the BBC Two highlights programme starts at 19:00.

16:50 – It may be raining again, with the umpire in the middle using an umbrella.

16:55 – Yep. The full square is covered now and they’re moving to cover the bowlers’ run ups.

17:55 – I can’t see play restarting now. An incredibly frustrating first day of the English cricket season, with barely an hour’s worth of play all day. Fingers crossed that tomorrow will be better, although the forecast isn’t fantastic. One item of interest might be the new highlights programme on BBC Two, starting in an hour. Obviously there won’t be much in terms of highlights themselves, but it might give us an idea about how cricket coverage will look on the ECB’s new free-to-air TV partner.

18:16 – Play abandoned for the day. Sorry we tried our best.

So thanks from me and Sean for reading this. If you have any comments on the game, feel free to post them below.