CT 17 Review – One Of Our Writers Is Missing

We have decided, well Danny, Sean and I have, to recreate a panel of sorts, and write up our views on the Champions Trophy.
First Up…. Danny
1. Pakistan winning the competition. What’s not to love?
I know I am probably in the minority here, but I’ve still not entirely forgiven the Pakistan cricket team for the fixing scandal in 2010. People who know more about Pakistan cricket than me say that it’s clean now, but I can’t help thinking about it. Of course this feeling is not helped by the fact that one of the people convicted in 2010, Mohammad Amir, is still playing for them. If I was able to pick a team I’d have wanted to win the Champions Trophy (after England, obviously), it would have been Bangladesh or Sri Lanka.
Despite all that baggage, I’m still glad Pakistan won. Given the choice between India and any other team, I’d pick any other team every time. If world cricket was a film, India would clearly be the villains. They have significantly more money than everyone else and they use that to get their own way and screw over other countries whenever they can, especially Pakistan. My only disappointment with the result is that India even made the final.
2. England. Bump in the road or a major setback?
The Pakistan game showed everyone how far England still had to go before they could claim to be a world-class limited overs side. Right now they are flat track bullies; great at batting on quick flat pitches, but they fall apart on anything else. You would imagine that the ECB are working hard to make sure that England play on fresh pitches in every game of the 2019 ODI World Cup, but that shouldn’t disguise just how bad they were with bat and ball in the semi-final.
It often feels like the ECB trains its players to follow the coaches plan to the letter rather than think for themselves, so when the plan isn’t working they panic rather than adapt. The other problem is that England seemingly lack the skills to play on slow pitches. It’s hard to see how that can be remedied quickly though, many of the players are in all 3 formats for England so don’t really have the time to go away and work on their technique or play abroad in different conditions.
3. Biggest disappointment at the CT?
That England v Australia at Edgbaston wasn’t a washout. The sheer amount of whinging this would have generated from the Aussies if they had been eliminated without completing a single game would have been *exquisite*.
4. What’s your view on the Champions Trophy? Great or grating?
Great, for the most part. It’s short and sweet, so doesn’t overstay its welcome. Of course there didn’t seem to be much interest in the wider British public, even with highlights on BBC, but that’s a broader issue for English cricket rather than the Champions Trophy.
5. Your favourite memory of CT17?
I’d have to say Jason Roy’s review on the second ball in the game against Australia. Pitched in line, hit him in line and was going to hit the stumps with the full ball. He didn’t even check with his partner Hales, just reviewed it straight away. I’d go as far as to say it may even have surpassed Shane Watson at his best. Bravo, Jason Roy.
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Second Up…. Sean
  1. For me, it is impossible not to love Pakistan cricket even with the retirement of two of my favourite cricketers, Misbah and Younis. No one (including myself) gave Pakistan a hope in hell of winning the Champions Trophy 3 weeks ago and especially after their tonking by India in the first game, but then Pakistan did what they have done in the past and suddenly raised their game in a big tournament. They comfortably beat the 3 best teams in the tournament based around a strong and balanced bowling attack that was able to both squeeze the opposition and take wickets at regular intervals. Now I must admit that I was no great fan of Mohammad Amir being allowed to return to international cricket, but his opening spell against India in the final is one of the best bowling displays that I have seen in the last 20 years and one, which India never recovered from. They even managed to drop Kohli and take his wicket the next ball, which in my opinion is peak Pakistan and the reason why they are impossible not to cherish. My only slight disappointment was the lack of comedy run outs, though they again provided one in the final. Magnifique.
  2. It’s a bump in the road and as much as I would love to bury Director Comma, to compare where England are in ODI cricket now to where they were after the World Cup in 2015 is like trying to compare apples and oranges. That being said, I think it’s only right that we should be bitterly disappointed, as the trophy was there for the taking. My main issue with England now is that they only have a Plan A, which is to try and hit every ball out of the park. This is absolutely fine on flat pitches, but we all knew that the Cardiff pitch was a used pitch, so surely the brains trust should have been a bit more sensible about the way we approached the game. I’m not saying 270 would have been a winning score, but it would have been a lot closer. Whilst this is not a fatal blow for Director Comma, there certainly will be more attention on the upcoming Test series.
  3. The easy answer would be England’s failure in the semi final, but that’s not the one I’m going to plump for. For me, the most disappointing aspect was the performance of the South African batting line up. On paper they had the best batting line up in the tournament, yet Hashim Amla aside, they performed terribly once again on the big stage. De Kock looked in woeful touch, David Miller looked like he’d never seen a white ball before and ABDV must have been tired from all that cricket he hasn’t been playing, though to be fair to him, there wasn’t a £million pound reward for him, so it must have been hard to motivate himself to perform. South Africa have been known as chokers for many years, but in this tournament they weren’t even close to that, they were simply abject.
  4. I actually quite like the format of the Champions Trophy, it’s relatively quick and the condensed nature means there are few meaningless games. It is certainly something that the World Cup could learn from, as it always seems like it lasts for an eternity and for all I know, the 2015 World Cup could still be going. Am I a big fan of white ball cricket? Well no, but at least a tournament that only lasts a couple of weeks might just about keep me interested to the final.
  5. This is a difficult one. There were a few great moments of the Champions Trophy, like the rare times that Atherton and Ponting were on commentary together, which was a blessed relief from the nonsense that the other commentators were spouting (yes I’m especially looking at you Michael Slater). Then there was the comedy South African run out, which summed up their performance in the tournament; however I’ll probably have to go with the obvious one, which was Stokes’ century against the Aussies. For me, beating Australia in any format of cricket always brings more than a smile on my face, this coupled with the clean and brutal power that emanated from Stokes’ bat on that day was a pure joy to watch. We all know that Stokes is incredibly talented; however we all know that he is at best inconsistent, therefore to put on that display after we had lost 3 early wickets was just superb. The thing that grips me when an in form Stokes bats is the sheer brutality in which he hits the ball, he is not a classic elegant batsman like Ian Bell or Joe Root, but he makes up for that by regularly depositing the ball into the second tier. It was especially sweet for him to do it against Australia as a number of their supporters essentially think he is an average player (yes Dennis I’m talking about you), so for him to ram that down the throats of his Australian detractors was a special moment, hence why I’m listing this as my favourite memory of the tournament. Actually scrap that, I’ve just seen that South African run out again, which has to be the purest piece of comedy gold that I’ve seen on a cricket field for a very long time. Funny cricket >> Good cricket in my opinion.

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Finally, Dmitri / LCL / Misery Guts

  1. Pakistan winning the competition. What’s not to love?

There is a lot of goodwill out there for Pakistan, but as is usual with the twitterati, it has to be a bit overboard. Pakistan can be a capricious beast when it comes to the game, but they have good players, and we’ve all known that pointed in the right direction, getting a bit of momentum going, and a couple of players surprising us all can work wonders. We saw it with Sri Lanka in the 1996 World Cup. We saw it with West Indies in the 2004 Champions Trophy and last year’s World T20. We saw it with Pakistan in 1992. The “love” for Pakistani cricket is probably reflective of the need for us all to have a top tier of the world game with more than the Big 3 and South Africa putting up top class performances. The fear is that this won’t do anything other than paper over the cracks, like the West Indies wins in 2004 and the T20 tournaments. Oh, and is Mohammad Amir now totally forgiven?

  1. Bump in the road or major setback?

A major setback. Absolutely and don’t pretend it is anything else. The aims of this administration, under Empty Suit, the new man in the cupboard and the Comma is to win a white ball world trophy and now two have slipped through their grasps. While the T20 was a total freak, this wasn’t. England had played well, but as the Lord’s game against South Africa showed, there’s a collapse in this team on a semi-regular basis. My hope was it would come in the Australia game, not the semi-final. Now we’ve got all sorts of confused messages / excuses about wickets, home advantage, changing teams and even knockout cricket. England have made considerable strides in the ODI format, becoming a thoroughly entertaining and refreshing team to watch. We are short of killer bowlers. We have a high risk strategy based on the law of averages that someone will come off. It’s a recipe for getting hot in a tournament and winning it, but I’m not sure it’s one for world domination.

It also kept a media, who want to anoint Comma as the saviour of English Cricket, in their boxes. Pakistan winning shows you don’t need a long-term strategy, mass adoption of rigidity, and clearing the decks for world tournaments. Pakistan aren’t quite as off the cuff as the image is put out, but they have shown what can be done without the Comma way. It will be interesting to see if the acerbic line from Vic Marks is adopted by some of the media men. And as for Bayliss and Farbrace? Were they invisible during the tournament?

  1. Biggest disappointment at the CT?

AB de Villiers. It is hard to go off a cricketer like AB, but I am. He played like a drain in the competition and after a few crap hit and giggle games, is going to sit out the test series. If you are going to absent yourself from that form of the game, you’d better be damn sure that you make runs. After a quiet IPL, and now a really poor CT, AB is going to put his feet up while his colleagues try to keep their excellent record in England intact.

I’d also say Jason Roy, but by England getting knocked out, he got to play in the semi for Surrey and made 92. So not that disappointed!

  1. What’s your view on the Champions Trophy? Great or grating?

The format is pretty good, but then I am not overly wowed about “group games”. In fact I’d love it to be 16 teams and a straight knockout with a random draw, but that is hopelessly naïve, doesn’t guarantee an India v Pakistan game, and might mean one of the “Big 3” gets knocked out which, as we all know “ruined” the 2007 World Cup. So we have to make do with this format which gets the gig over with in 17 days. I’m not going to moan about venues, or weather or so forth. Ticketing at major sporting events is, by and large, a fucking joke wherever you go. Now, because India have lost, no doubt, there’s talk of scrapping it. England 2013 is credited with saving the CT, and now it’s seen as its burial ground. What a metaphor for the past four years of world cricket administration.

  1. Your favourite memory of CT17?

A few. For the first time in ages I heard two people, who don’t generally talk about cricket, commenting on the progress of the semi-final between England and Pakistan. That’s something refreshing. The game needs exposure, and it needs people to respond. Something, however small, to cling on to.

I didn’t get to watch a lot of this competition, for reasons explained a little in Saturday’s piece. What I did see wasn’t particularly memorable, so I will pick out being at Guildford on the 9th of June and hearing the news that Bangladesh were on the way to the next round as Shakib and Mahmudullah making hundreds. A great day watching county cricket, a lovely stream of news as Bangladesh made another stride forward. As I said, we need more teams to be at the top table, not fewer.

It wouldn’t be me, though, without a couple of moans. ICC events means the moron quotient when it comes to commentary is accentuated. While Ponting, Athers, Sanga and Brendon McCullum are nearly always worth a listen, the Warne / Slater axis, and the old stagers who don’t seem to be able to get sacked like Ramiz Raja make it a depressing experience at times. However, for all that, there was no Nick Knight, and at least Sky had Ian Ward introducing the highlights. BBC, in their infinite wisdom chose Ed Smith. Good grief.

I also got really bored with Twitter. That’s fine. I’m becoming more of a curmudgeon. Yes, that’s possible. I could go into great detail, offend many, bore most, but the quality of discourse is going downhill. If it weren’t for Innocent Bystander, I could go mad. I’ve muted a few, got annoyed at others.

Finally, the CT will be forgotten very quickly. It’s almost the League Cup of cricket, and I’m not even sure it is on that level. Well done to Pakistan. You may well have killed the competition off. You gave it a fantastic burial. Zindabad, or whatever.

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So, what do you think? Answer the five questions in the comments below if you feel like it. Have a go at our answers if you feel like it. I couldn’t deal with the formatting, so put the answers individually.

Meanwhile, Chris sent a cryptic message to the questions. As he travels his way around SE Asia, and taunting us in the process, his response “GFRLF” is one I can’t decipher.

The Champions Trophy Final (Don’t Get Your Hopes Up)

Like most things in my life, birth, wedding, even the dog’s birthday, the 7th is a major date in any month. I started How Did We Lose In Adelaide on the 7th of January 2009. I thought I’d start a cricket blog, that my mates could read and agree or disagree. It accompanied another blog, that when I read it back, I wince. Thoughts, words, opinions, beliefs. Change. Constant evolution, constant change.

That’s a rather cryptic intro into the preview for a Champions Trophy Final. A Final the English cricket world now cares about as much as the finals we didn’t play in when the tournament was held in Sri Lanka, South Africa and Kenya, for instance. Jason Roy may have exorcised some demons today with a 92 for Surrey, but no-one else will now really remember this tournament in England, who is an England fan. Sure, some involved closely in the game will give it all that, but the fact is, tomorrow I won’t be watching the Final. I’ll be out with the family on a lovely summer’s day, and let India and Pakistan fight it out without caring one jot what happens.

But 8 and a half years ago I would have cared. I’d have found some excuse to fend off the beloved and sit in and watch it. This is, yet another, “I don’t care” piece from me on the state of the game. On the state of fandom in cricket. On its running. On its marketing. On its meaning. The game is about patience, adaptability, skill, strategy, long-term thinking, short-term skirmishes. The game is test cricket. It is three day cricket, or four day cricket. The shorter forms are taking over and cricketers who made their way in the test era are visibly, audibly contemplating a life without it. You cannot force me to be interested. Good luck to those who care about this piffling trophy, a tournament somehow resurrected because India won it in 2013 and England hosted a half-decent competition that they got to the Final of. Now it is being given added life support because the biggest game cricket can provide makes a Final. It’s not new. It happened before. That Australian World Championship thingamy in 1985. That was a crap final.

As I sit here, on a Saturday night, putting together a half-hearted preview of a game I care nothing about, I have to contemplate what is coming up. I still love cricket. I still love my days at Guildford, the journeys to see a county game at Lord’s or The Oval, and to watch some really good players do really good things. I will probably watch the test matches as well, when I can. But there’s a lot of work on. I won’t be watching or listening to anywhere as near as much as I would like to. The days I look back on, those in 2014-15 when I was a solo show, putting up a piece a day, getting abused by people for actually caring, are like something from an age ago. I would churn out stuff, day after day, and be called out in Wisden for being akin to being bashed over the head by one of KP’s bats. But I loved the game then – both cricket and blogging. I can’t say there’s the level of love for either right now. I’m so pleased that we’ve brought together a cadre of excellent writers and commenters, passionate, angry and most of all, very hard to ignore. We’ve achieved a lot, and will still do so.

This has not, and never has been, about attention. This has been about writing. I love writing. I love cricket. What’s not to love about doing both. Bully pulpit I might be, some would say, but you were always given your say on here. You were never fully stopped from commenting (pre-moderation was the exception rather than the rule). I think the day I knew things were totally effed up was when someone threatened to “Dox” me. That struck me as sickness, not strength. As cowardice, when I was being accused of being a coward. The laughable death threat I got after a row with Agnew, a row instigated by an infamous critic, wasn’t it. It was someone threatening personal exposure because of a sport. You sort of lose a lot of respect for a sport that has that sort of fandom. Just as I did with my football team, when a post I did on an old blog ended up with someone threatening to sort me out.

The media landscape has changed dramatically since I started. Indeed it changed dramatically after 2014. Pringle is left to scrape around on second rate journals on a level with his talent. Selvey has retired, and I certainly haven’t missed him. Brenkley, who I didn’t think had the best 2013-14, but who I still quite liked for all that because you sensed he still really enjoyed the sport, and conveyed that, is not on the radar. We still have Newman, Etheridge, Berry, Wilson and Hoult to carry the old torch, to varying degrees of efficacy and effluence. Some good, some bad. But to me it’s the rise of talking heads like Shiny Toy Vaughan, #39 Hughes, and Ed “The Plagiarist” Smith that makes my heart sink. To watch the first set of BBC Highlights of this Champions Trophy and for it to be introduced by a man who Cricinfo blatantly won’t employ any more because he copied, and to have it broadcast as if we were all five year olds who should be grateful for Ed to tell us how it is, was deflating. I wish George Dobell and Tim Wigmore all the best of luck. Imagine a profession where airheads with big heads move seamlessly on, and the talent is stuck out of plain sight.  George Dobell has 37k followers on Twitter. #39 has 74k. Double the exposure, less than half the ability, insight, knowledge and communicative powers for someone like me. No wonder a mate of mine imagines me to be in a permanent state of “shaking my fist at the screen”.

No. I’ve not had a beer. No. I’m not feeling especially moody at this point. I always said that there would be no grand farewell, and this isn’t it. I am not the most emotionally stable person, as the blogging history aptly displays, but I do care. That’s what I want to convey. I don’t care about tomorrow, no matter how much Shiny Toy will tell me to. The fact that me, and people like me, don’t care is a matter that should concern the powers that be. We are the games evangelists. We, well I, feel as relevant as a Sinclair C5.

Comments on tomorrow’s game below.

 

 

 

England vs. Pakistan – Champions Trophy 2017

Going into the first semi final, it’s hard to imagine two more different teams being involved. England’s selection and performances since the 2015 World Cup debacle have been incredibly consistent (“Predictable”, some might say) whilst Pakistan can most charitably be called “mercurial”. England rely on their strong batting to counter their weak bowling and win games, whilst Pakistan’s bowlers keep them in games that their lacklustre batting would otherwise forfeit. England sacrificed a little of their consistency in selection for this game, finally replacing Jason Roy with Jonny Bairstow as their opener. For Pakistan, former guest of the English penal system Mohammad Amir was forced to pull out of the game due to a back spasm.

Pakistan won the toss and elected to field first, a choice which surprised many who thought that Pakistan’s spin bowlers would favour bowling last on a pitch which had already being used twice in recent weeks. All eyes were on England’s new opener Bairstow, who was lucky to survive a second-ball LBW shout. He continued to ride his luck through two dropped chances before finally being caught on 43. A useful partnership between Root and Morgan followed, adding another 48 to the total. At the halfway stage, England were 118-2 and looked to be setting a total near 300.

The second half of the innings was dominated by Pakistan. Unable to deal with Pakistan’s tight bowling or the slow nature of the pitch, England’s run rate slowed to a crawl and whenever they tried to accelerate they inevitably lost their wicket. Ben Stokes managed to scrape together a score of 34 runs from 64 balls with no boundaries, but everyone else fell for 11 or less. England lost their last wicket with one ball left to go with a decidedly sub-par score of 211.

The second innings was a complete contrast to the first. Without facing any kind of scoreboard pressure, Azhar Ali and Fakhar Zaman seemed content to play safe whilst punishing the bad balls. They were helped by England’s bowling, which provided enough bad balls to always keep Pakistan well ahead of their required run rate. Unlike when England were batting, there were seemingly no dropped chances or false shots. Rashid eventually managed to get Zaman stumped on 57, but by then Pakistan were already too close to their target. Even Pakistan couldn’t lose from there, and they didn’t. Pakistan reached their target having lost only 2 wickets and with 13 overs to spare, capping a humiliating loss for England.

And so, like after every tournament exit, there will be a post-mortem by the great and the good of English cricket. And also us. Certainly much has been made during the game of the pitch, for which this was the third time it was being used within a few weeks. It definitely seems puzzling from the perspective of the ICC or ECB since you would assume they’d want batting-friendly surfaces which deliver tons of runs and sixes for TV audiences, particularly in the later knockout stages which attract the most viewers. This shouldn’t absolve the England team from blame, though. The conditions were the same for both teams and England just didn’t adapt well enough. It’s hard to see how this might be remedied, with England’s packed schedule there’s no time for many players to spend in different countries learning how to cope on pitches which don’t seam, or swing, or have uneven bounce.

There’s also the matter of personnel. Winning the Champions Trophy would have secured a lot of people’s jobs at the ECB, even if they lost the upcoming Ashes series. Following today’s result, I’d be surprised if Trevor Bayliss could survive losing the series down under this winter. That would in turn increase the pressure on the ECB’s Director Comma England Cricket, Andrew Strauss, as the man who hired him. In the short term Paul Farbrace, England’s specialist coaches and the selectors might be in trouble if the ECB wants to make an immediate change.

As for the players themselves, that’s a tougher one to work out. There doesn’t appear to be much debate about this England XI being the strongest team available. None of them are old enough that they might be out of contention for the next major ODI tournament in 2019 either, so I would guess that England will stick with them all. Certainly this game shows that England players as a whole need to spend more time playing in different conditions. Whether that means letting them play in T20 leagues (and not just the IPL), or more Lions tours, or training camps, something clearly needs to be done.

As always, please comment below.

England vs. Pakistan – Champions Trophy preview

So now we get to the real nitty gritty of the tournament. England have looked imperious during the qualifying stages of the Champions Trophy and as a bonus, instead of being drawn against a high quality South African side, they instead face the unpredictable enigma that is Pakistan. Seriously it is impossible to predict what Pakistan will actually turn up in Cardiff, will it be the one that bowled so well against South Africa or the meek side that got hammered by India, there’s just no point in trying to guess. One thing that Pakistan will need to do to be competitive is improve on their batting dramatically from the past 3 games, as they haven’t anywhere near threatened a score of 300 in the tournament so far and have seemed to take the old England approach of having one aggressive opener and a number of accumulators in the middle order to try and get them to a decent score before they open their shoulders in the last 10 overs. We have seen from past painful experiences with England that this really isn’t a formula for success in the ODI arena, so one would hope that Pakistan will throw off the shackles with their batting tomorrow. We shall see.

As for England, it’s more of the same please, but with one exception; that being that poor old Jason Roy looks like he has finally been dropped from the team tomorrow (it was reported that Bairstow netted today and Roy didn’t, which seems about the biggest hint possible). It’s hard not to feel some sympathy with Roy as he has been an integral part of the white ball set up under Bayliss & Morgan and I do think his presence at the top of the order allows Hales a bit of time to settle into the game; however sometimes you have to be cruel to be kind. Roy has just happened to fall into one of the worst trots of form in his England career at the worst possible time; his head looks scrambled and his technique looks all over the place, that coupled with a reserve batsman in prime form waiting in the wings meant that a change was going to be inevitable. There had been talk from Morgan about backing Roy for the whole tournament but I would guess the manner of his dismissals added to the fact that this is a tournament that Director Comma really needs to win to lend credibility to his white ball focus, meant that Roy is now in the firing line. Some may point to the fact that Roy didn’t do himself any favours by sitting on the bench throughout the IPL and I agree that could have possibly been a factor; however young HH has been playing county cricket all season and has a top score of 38, in my opinion, sometimes you are just out of nick irrelevant of circumstances. I’d be shocked if there were any further changes for England, despite Ball not exactly pulling up trees with his bowling. The one thing that could be interesting tomorrow is that this pitch in Cardiff will have been used three times before the game, hence don’t be surprised if it’s a bit two paced and conducive to spin. 300 might not be the par score everyone is expecting  and hence the team batting first will quickly need to assess conditions especially if par is around 275. Misjudge that and 215 all out could beckon.

Then of course, we come to the ticket farce, with as much blame storming flying around as a Tory cabinet meeting. Our good friend shiny toy has naturally waded into the debate now that he has stopped advising everyone on how to deal with the threat of global terror, and naturally he starts off with blaming the fans for not attending:

https://twitter.com/5liveSport/status/874525506468696064

https://twitter.com/MichaelVaughan/status/874542158178639877

The fact that Vaughan has used the ticket price as justification for the fans not attending again shows that he is on a different planet to everyone else. So to make it easy for Shiny Toy and #39 to understand, I’ve carefully explained things below:

  1. Many matches are on a weekday and guess what people have to work or look after children, if only it was that easy to drop all commitments for a jolly at the cricket then we’d all be there.
  2. There are very few £30 tickets with the majority being in the £40-£60 bracket. When you factor in travel and food costs you’re probably around £80 lighter at least. In case you hadn’t noticed the economy isn’t exactly in tiptop condition at the moment and many can’t afford the outlay.
  3. Stop holding tournament matches in Wales, give it to Lancs or Yorks if you want bigger crowds to come. The Swalec is a lovely ground and really central but if the surrounding communities are a bit meh about cricket (since they can’t watch it on TV), then why expect people in their droves to turn up to Bangladesh vs. New Zealand.

Anyway rant over on that score, if you are in the Wales vicinity tomorrow there is a good chance of getting a ticket to the game as around 38% of available tickets were bought by Indian fans hedging their bets that have since decided to return their tickets. Hasten to say, it would not surprise me one bit if there are plenty of empty seats at the game tomorrow, however I’m not going to even start on the ICC ticketing procedures….

In other news, there’s also been the announcement of the T20 squad to face South Africa after the Champions trophy with five new debutants in the squad for the three games. It would be nice to see Malan given a go as he has been supremely consistent over the past two years, Liam Livingstone looks like he could be something special and it would be also interesting to have a proper look at Mason Crane, who despite having limited playing time for the Bransgrove lot at the start of the season, still looks a fine prospect. Will anyone actually care about the series after the glut of white ball cricket well that is another matter completely.

Lastly, England have announced the England Lions squad for the one off 4 day game against South Africa A, I wonder if you can spot where England’s focus might be? Anyone else would’ve laughed if they’d included Chef as well?? 

England Lions squad: Keaton Jennings (Durham, capt), Mark Stoneman (Surrey), Haseeb Hameed (Lancashire), Nick Gubbins (Middlesex), Dan Lawrence (Essex), Ben Foakes (Surrey, wk), Sam Curran (Surrey), Jamie Overton (Somerset), Tom Helm (Middlesex), Jamie Porter (Essex), George Garton (Sussex), Jack Leach (Somerset), Dominic Bess (Somerset).

Anyway thoughts on the game and anything else below:

Champions Trophy – The Final Group Game

OK. Time for me to write something. I’ve been here, I’ve been there. Cologne on Wednesday, Guildford on Friday. Sleep has been a stranger. But that’s life. I’ve been on the sofa for large parts of the weekend watching the two group games that sealed the fates of Australia and South Africa. Yes, if you remember I tipped Australia. I love being wrong. I’ve had a lot of practice.

Today’s game, and I’ll review it if I have to, was a poor old show. South Africa started out at a sedate pace, as they did against Sri Lanka last weekend, but then collapsed into a heap. Nasser has been banging on about how the big players have come forward, but AB de Villiers was the exception. He hasn’t been at the races in this tournament and will now be able to rest up for the summer while his team-mates undertake the test match heavy lifting. I wonder what South Africa’s version of Oliver Holt or Paul Newman would make of that.

Once South Africa had been dismissed for under 200, it was always going to be a walk in the park. They lost two wickets getting there, but there was never really any alarm. Rohi Sharma’s dismissal to Morne Morkel, however, reminded me of a game I saw 10 years or so ago, when Morkel, who was, I think, a bit quicker then embarrassed James Benning in a T20 game as his bounce caused mayhem. Benning ended backing away a little and losing his composure. Sharma is in a different league, of course, but that wasn’t his finest hour. Food for thought?

India will, in all likelihood, meet Bangladesh in the semi-final, while England, who have been incredibly impressive so far, will meet the winners of tomorrow’s clash between Pakistan and Sri Lanka. Frankly, your guess is as good as mine. Pakistan took advantage of dismissing South Africa cheaply but looked woeful against India. Sri Lanka’s batting looked frail against South Africa and then chased down a large total set by India. Strengths and weaknesses….

In other matters I went to Surrey v Essex at Guildford on Friday. I’ll probably put some pictures up in due course. It was a very entertaining day out, even if Kumar came and went in a very short time. I had visited just one session of play previously this season – the opening day – where I saw Mark Stoneman finish his 165. This time I saw him score 181 not out, and he looked magnificent. Sam Curran was also a pleasure, making a breezy half century. All the while though, the presence was too much for me to concentrate on the game. I was too close to the genius, to the aura. I was not worthy seated under the tree.

P1080144

Catching a day’s county cricket at an out ground is always fun. Guildford is well worth a visit, with the beer served up of excellent quality and at £4 a pint. It will never catch on. As I said, more on this during quiet periods and when I’ve got my photo-editing software on to some of the pics.

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I did like this one – Dominic Sibley dances down the track and I get the ball at point of impact (almost)

Other heads up for pieces in the future – and you know these aren’t guaranteed – is I’m reading a lot of old books I’m snapping up on Amazon “Used”. I’ve read Bob Willis on Test Cricket. I read Mike Brearley’s regaining the Ashes book from 1977. I am now reading John Snow’s book. It’s tremendous dipping into these old books, because they are anything but andoyne. They are full of forthright opinions, not written with anyone other than their own accuracy and views in mind. I’ve picked up a load of these recently, with books by Tony Greig and a couple more by Brearley to read. I also got Stuart Broad’s recent effort for a couple of quid, as well as the Simon Jones book. Also snapped up the Wisden Anthologies, a few missing B&H Cricket Years from my collection, and now I just have to read them! Any recommendations, let me know.

Finally, not to blow my own trumpet, but more of an explanation. I recently got a promotion at work, which is going to mean that the time I can devote to the blog maybe more restricted than before. I know we are all busy people on here, but given where life has taken me in the last few weeks, I’ve not been able to write as much as I would have liked. It’s life. We’ll do what we can.

Comments on the Sri Lanka v Pakistan game below.

 

England vs. Australia – Champions Trophy 2017

Going into the last game of Group A, the situation was clear: If Australia won, they would go through to the semi-finals; If Australia did not win, Bangladesh would progress to the knockouts. Arguably it didn’t matter to England, who had already booked their place in the next round. That said, most observers consider Australia the more dangerous team to face and so there was some value in knocking them out.

England named an unchanged team, with Roy getting yet another chance and no rest for Stokes or Wood. Australia were put in to bat first, and the first innings followed a similar pattern to England’s bowling in their previous game against New Zealand. At the 30 overs mark, Australia had managed to get themselves into a commanding position with a score of 172/3 and Smith still at the crease. Ball, Stokes and Plunkett had all taken a bit of a hammering, and Australia seemed likely to post a score in excess of 350.

Instead, Steve Smith chipped a ‘slow’ (85 mph) Mark Wood loosener to mid off, and the whole complexion of the innings changed. Rashid and Wood, who had both bowled economically in the first half of the game, sliced through Australia’s middle and lower orders like a hot knife through butter. Australia barely managed to stagger to the end, finishing on 277/9.

Even with a score that was decidedly short of what was required, Australia weren’t out of the game (and competition). The second innings started with the familiar spectacle of Roy’s wicket falling, this time to an LBW from Mitchell Starc. He went beyond his now regular performance by going full Shane Watson and wasting England’s only review. Hazlewood was bowling incredibly well from the other end, taking the wickets of Hales and Root in his first three overs. He should have had three wickets, as wicketkeeper Matthew Wade dropped a chance from Eoin Morgan on the leg side from Hazlewood’s bowling. Two balls after Root’s dismissal, the rain started falling with England standing at 35/3 from 6 overs.

The rain moved on, and when England came back out to bat it seemed like a different game. Instead of being on the ropes, England dominated the Australian bowling. Stokes and Morgan seemed able to score at least a boundary every over, and often more than that. They both rode their luck at times, but fortune favoured the bold and they smashed England into a winning position. The only negative moment for them was when Morgan was run out after Adam Zampa lit up the wickets with a direct hit from mid off. Buttler came in and continued the dismantling of Australia’s bowlers, while Stokes cruised to his 3rd ODI century. One ball after Stokes reached that landmark, the heavens opened and the game was abandoned with England 40 runs ahead according to DLS calculations.

So Bangladesh go through at the expense of Australia, a result which I’m sure no one here enjoys immensely. From England’s perspective, they are unbeaten in the tournament but Roy’s form continues to worry many fans and pundits. The most worrying aspect for the ICC and ECB is that rain continues to affect the competition, and I’m sure they’ll be hoping that the erratic English weather suddenly becomes dry for the remainder of the event.

As always, comments on the day’s play or other topics welcome below.

England vs. Australia – Match Day Thread

With everything that is going on outside of the cricket world, none of us have managed to find the time or inclination to do a full match preview in what is essentially for England at least, a dead rubber.

That being said, the game is against the Auld enemy with a chance to send them packing from the Champions Trophy, so motivation shouldn’t be a factor, but England and dead rubbers rarely go well together from past experience. The weather whilst changeable doesn’t look at this moment that it will wipe out the game and whilst many of us would heartily laugh if the game was a wash out, I’m not sure I can take any more whining from certain Australian fans about the British weather (yes it rains in England, get over it). I think we would all much prefer England to win in without any rain affections.

I’d be surprised if England named anything but the same team that played against New Zealand, despite the fact that they have already qualified, as the dreaded ‘M’ word seems to be emanating from the team and MSM – Momentum. As for the Aussies, I’m not sure there will be any changes for them either, although Chris Lynn from what I have seen of him looks unlucky to have missed out so far.

Anyway for those with the inclination to do so, do add your thoughts on the game below.

State of Play

Two rounds down in the Champions Trophy, and for all the talk about the “arrangement” of the groups and the relative strengths therein, it is Group B that has been the surprising one.  With one match to go, it’s now effectively in knock out territory, following Sri Lanka’s marvellous run chase to defeat India this afternoon and Pakistan obliterating the South African top order yesterday.

The last two days have been when the tournament has come to life.  There has certainly been endless whining about the weather from some quarters apparently unaware that firstly Britain is an island located in the north Atlantic, and secondly that rain is not unknown elsewhere either.  But the incidence of the poor weather has also been somewhat unlucky, and there’s no reason to assume that the rest of the tournament won’t be absolutely fine.  For this is the point about the location – no one really has any idea what the weather will be like next week.

England are sitting pretty, the only team definitely though to the semi-finals (remarkable in itself that only one has qualified thus far), and almost certain given the net run rate equation to be playing either Pakistan or Sri Lanka in Cardiff.  The game against Australia for them has little on it, except that knocking Australia out would certainly aid their chances of winning the trophy, and there’s the no small matter of the pleasure that would be derived from doing so.  With a sense of timing that Giles Clarke could only dream of, Cricket Australia chose the build up to the match to send out their latest divide and rule attempt concerning players’ pay and conditions, prompting David Warner to publicly ask if they were attempting to undermine their challenge.  It’s doubtful that it will have the slightest impact when play gets under way, but it’s unhelpful timing to say the least.  Of course, the more cruel types might enjoy the prospect of the game being rained off, just so Australia might go home without actually completing a match.

For New Zealand and Bangladesh, they must also hope England win, for they cannot go through if they do not.  It’s a trifle harsh on New Zealand, who were strong favourites to defeat their trans-Tasman rivals before the rain came, but that’s the nature of tournament cricket, and their defeat to England was in their own hands.

The real interest though is in the two matches between South Africa and India, and Pakistan and Sri Lanka.  The first two nations were thought to be the ones likely to go through at the start, and now one of them will be going home.  Uncertainty is the key to any competition, and while the ICC will certainly be gnashing their financial teeth at the prospect of India not making the semis, jeopardy is essential for any tournament to be in any way meaningful.  It’s why the Champions Trophy is a far better watch than the World Cup, where missteps are recoverable.  Not here.  Calling the outcome of these matches is a fool’s game, and the one thing to be hoped is that they are at least played and don’t suffer weather related disruption.

And finally a housekeeping note:  I’m off travelling (work!) from Saturday for the best part of a month.  It’s Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and India this time, and as usual you can follow the trip on my other blog I use for those: http://www.thoughtsonatrip.com

Enjoy the rest of the tournament, I’ll pop in from time to time and see you all when I get back.

TLG

 

 

 

 

England vs. New Zealand – Champions Trophy 2017

On a cool, windy, damp day in Cardiff, England beat New Zealand by a massive 87 runs after dismissing the antipodeans with 33 balls remaining. This result means that England are the first team to qualify for the semi finals, and will also finish at the top of Group A. This is because the first tiebreaker after points is games won, and whilst Australia could potentially match England’s 4 points they couldn’t match their 2 wins.

New Zealand won the toss and chose to field first, perhaps thinking that showers would shorten the game and give an advantage to batting second. The game started cagily, with New Zealand bowling tightly to restrict England’s openers, eventually forcing Jason Roy to take some risks to get the strike rate up. Unfortunately he isn’t in great form and was bowled behind his legs after stepping too far into the off side. From this point to the end of the match followed a very simple pattern: England would score roughly a run a ball, and New Zealand would take regular wickets which stopped England gaining any momentum or accelerating.  Fifties from Hales, Root and Buttler helped England reach 310, typically a pretty high target, but somehow it seemed a touch below par.

In the previous game against Bangladesh Jake Ball conceded 81 runs and took 1 wicket, and several people (myself included) wanted him out of the side. Instead he opened the bowling and managed to bowl Ronchi on his fourth ball. This brought in world-class batsman Kane Williamson, who with Martin Guptill and Ross Taylor built a solid foundation for the New Zealand innings and dealt well with a slightly slow pitch, strong winds and a few instances of uneven bounce. After 30 overs, New Zealand were 156/2 and seemingly cruising towards England’s total. It took a cross-seam delivery from Wood which reared up on Williamson and glanced off his glove to dismiss New Zealand’s talisman. From that point, England’s bowlers took a firm grip on the game and never let go. Bowling with impressive economy, the bowlers forced New Zealand’s batsmen to play increasingly risky shots just to keep up with the required run rate. New Zealand finished 87 runs short of their target after their tail collapsed playing big shots with little success.

The notable thing about the second innings for England was that there wasn’t a single weak link in their bowling unit, something which we probably haven’t seen in a while. Each of the 5 bowlers used took at least one wicket, had an economy rate below 6.00 and gave Eoin Morgan no reason to call on either Moeen Ali or Joe Root. In the first time for a few years, I would say that England’s bowling was better than their batting. Jake Ball won Man Of The Match, but the other 4 bowlers had almost equal claims to the title.

With England topping the group, they can potentially rest players in their game against Australia at Edgbaston on Saturday and keep them fresh for their semi final in Cardiff on Wednesday 14th. Alternatively they might not want to disrupt a winning side, which is certainly what New Zealand and Bangladesh will hope for as their future in the competition relies on Australia not winning their final group game. England’s bowling performance in this game will certainly worry the other teams, because if their bowling becomes as strong as their batting has been over the past two years then England might be virtually unbeatable.

On a sidenote, New Zealand finished bowling in the first innings 28 minutes after they were supposed to. This was very close to the 4 hours Sri Lanka took to bowl against South Africa, an over rate which saw Sri Lanka’s stand-in captain Upul Tharanga summarily suspended for two games. Several people have commented that Kane Williamson was lucky to escape a similar punishment, as he was given a fine and warning, and it certainly seems to show that banning a captain has not acted as a deterrent for other teams. Hopefully the ICC or MCC will look at other ways of guaranteeing innings finish on time in the future.

India vs. Pakistan – Champions Trophy 2017

The most hyped contest in this year’s Champions Trophy ended in a damp squib with Pakistan never seriously challenging India at any point in the game. It was certainly damp, with three interruptions caused by the rain in Birmingham. There are many fans around the world asking why a country with England’s climate is hosting an international competition at all, and particularly in June and not August.

Having won the toss and chosen to bat second, Pakistan were outplayed virtually from beginning to end. The game started promisingly, with Pakistan only conceding 15 runs from the first 5 overs. After that point, unfortunately for Pakistan’s fans and most neutrals, India never looked like losing the game for a second. Pakistan’s bowling was abject, with Wahab Riaz taking particularly heavy punishment. Only teenage legspinner Shadab Khan and former Portland Young Offenders Institute resident Mohammad Amir finished the innings with respectable figures. They certainly weren’t helped by the Pakistan fielders, who dropped two clear chances and were generally poor in their ground fielding.

It’s often said that teams can only beat what’s put in front of them. India certainly did this with a dominant batting display. Rohit Sharma laid the foundations with a slow and steady 91 from 119 balls whilst Dhawan, Kohli and Yuvraj all contributed quick-fire fifties to take India’s score well over 300. This was a really strong team batting performance which will worry a lot of teams going forward in the competition.

If the first innings was bad for Pakistan, the second was somehow even worse. Whilst Azhar Ali did a reasonable job providing the platform like Sharma did for India, at the other end it was slow-motion carnage. India’s bowlers did a great job keeping the Pakistan batsmen’s scoring below their required run rate, eventually making them go for risky shots or suicidal runs. If one thing might disappoint the Indian team, their fielding was the equal of Pakistan’s and that is certainly not a compliment. They dropped two relatively simple chances, and their ground fielding was also very poor. Of course these mistakes weren’t punished by Pakistan, but they will want to improve before facing any stronger teams.

If anything, only losing by 124 runs (adjusted by DLS) is a result which flatters Pakistan who were never competitive. The massive Net Run Rate differential from this game makes it seem like it’s virtually impossible for Pakistan to make the semi finals, and virtually impossible for India not to. The ICC will no doubt breathe a heavy sigh of relief that India seem destined to make the knockout stages and will keep all the Indian TV viewers (and broadcasting companies) happy.

Elsewhere, England have announced the replacement in the squad after Chris Woakes was sidelined by a side strain. His place will be taken by Steven Finn, which always seemed the most likely choice the ECB would make after revealing it was a three-way contest between Finn, Toby Roland-Jones and Tom Curran. If Roland-Jones or Curran were to actually play, it would be their second and first ODI caps respectively. With 69 ODIs under his belt, Finn is clearly seen as a safer choice.

Of course this puts an end to the rather amusing speculation that Stuart Broad would be brought into the team. To put this into context, the last ODI he played in England was against India in the 2013 Champions Trophy Final. To say that his selection would be seen as a panicked move by England’s selectors would be an understatement, and it’s not really clear how the groundswell of support for the idea in the England press box might have started.

As always, comments are welcomed and appreciated. It’s my first official post on the site after two guest appearances, so be nice! Or don’t. I’m pretty sure I can delete comments and ban people now.