The Ashes Panel – 1st Test Aftermath

There are losses, and then there are humiliations

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

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

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

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

So off we go…..

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

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


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


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

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

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


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

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


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


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


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



The Bogfather

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

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


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


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


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

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


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


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


The Bogfather

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


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


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


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


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


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


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


The Bogfather

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


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


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


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


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


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


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


The Bogfather –

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

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

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


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


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

My team then:-

Bairstow (wk)

Really not a lot of excitement there!

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




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


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


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

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

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

The Bogfather –


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


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


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


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


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


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

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

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

Nurse! I need a lie down.


Picking over the Bones: Final Ashes Panel

In the early hours of tomorrow morning, the One Day series between Australia and England will get underway.  For all the protestations about how vitally important the short form of the game is, it’s hard to believe many will remotely care about the outcome.  Even mischievously using the women’s Ashes rules, England are currently 18-2 down, which does at least make the point that winning the ODIs and T20 by a landslide still doesn’t make up for the thrashing received thus far.  Should England do reasonably, doubtless that will considered evidence that all is well; should they do badly, then England will finish the four year cycle exactly where they started it in the one day rankings.  Exceptional work all round.

With that in mind, we have the final Ashes panel drawn from the members of the blog.  Our contributors are Gareth, a long time supporter of English players, but not necessarily the England team – being from Edinburgh may explain that.  He can be reached on Twitter @G_Funk81.  Joining him is CricketJon, and Silk who also contributes frequently in the comments section.

So gents, I have some questions:

  • How do you feel about the outcome of the series? Did you expect it, or has it surprised you?

Gareth: The outcome itself did not surprise me, I had predicted 5-0, however the manner of the defeat was not what I expected. If I think back on the series, with the possible exception of the evening session in Brisbane (I think) when Root and Stoneman were given a working over, and perhaps England bowling under lights (albeit with the game gone) I cannot really think of a gripping period of play that really had that edge-of-the-seat Ashes feel. Rather than being blown away (as is often the case) it was more a case of being ground down, inexorably and inevitably, at the hands of Steve Smith. Death by a thousand depressing, tedious cuts, drives, pulls and whips through midwicket.

Silk:  Please. I’ve blanked it out of my mind already. I’m sure the NZ series, with a refreshed squad and a new vision will do fine.

CricketJon: I saved this question until last. The outcome of the series fills me with sadness. Not because a team lost 4-0 because that can happen in sport. Its life. No…..its the missed opportunities, the promises made after the last Ashes tour and the sheer lack of self awareness from the people running the English game. In other sports and business (and never the twain shall they meet…ah wait) the buck stops at the top.

Did I expect it? Well I wasn’t surprised. I would now class this team as a group I would be happy to idle away a summers day on (on the telly) but gone are the days of losing several hours sleep (and the consequences of doing so) to watch an away Ashes series.

  • Who is to blame, primarily?

Gareth: I predicted 5-0 the moment I saw the squad. Therefore I would say it is the fault of the selectors. Now, that being said, I do not think there was a squad they could have named that would have won the Ashes, but I’m sure there were several  possible squads that could have been less predictably dire. Any follower of English cricket could have predicted James Vince’s batting average and modes of dismissal before he got on the plane. Why couldn’t the selectors?

I notice in the aftermath of (and often during) the series that county cricket took a lot of stick from pundits and journalists. Certainly those top-performing county cricketers such as Leach, Robson, Northeast, Porter, Collingwood et al should be ashamed of the fact that the circumstances of their upbringing, choice of county or “character” (the go-to word when they just don’t like someone) led to them combining for a disappointing total of no runs and no wickets in the series. Moeen Ali exceeded that on his own (barely)!

Silk: I don’t really want to think about that. It’s just too depressing.

CricketJon: To answer this objectively one has to look at selection, coaching and the gap between the four day county championship and test cricket.

The selections raised eyebrows for me not for the first time because of the public endorsements of players by Michael Vaughan and his “interest in ISM”. The press, such as they, are do very little to entertain the myth regarding conflict of interest on this matter. It suggests that Whittaker listens to so called pundits, some of whom change their mind far too frequently or make it up as they go along. This may be a generational shift in how the press operates but I cannot see why that should apply to selectors.

The coaching set up at Bluffborough is more concerning. We hear stories of great athletes at the input stage (Bunbury week) and observe over coached bowling dry partially injured players unfit for 5 day cricket at the output stage. [ Maybe that’s why they want to reduce to 4 day Test cricket? The gap would be less exposed. ] The sheer lack of upcoming talent to replace Broad and Anderson is stunning given the huge financial resources. I do not know if the volume of inputs has reduced substantially because fewer teenagers watch cricket now (and we all know why that is) but the output is unequivocally poor.

The four day county championship now suffers from an identity crisis. Once a fiercely fought  competition for over 100 years in the pre-digital era to that of a feeder to the Test team  (2000-c2015) it has now become a background element shunted into disparate fragmented components of the season that would be imaginable in the days when Richard Hadlee and John Lever would take 110 wickets a season. It is not difficult to see how this fails to prepare players for Test matches even in English conditions.

The governing body are responsible for all three aspects.

  • Which players did better than you expected, and who did worse?

Gareth: Dawid Malan managed to do something that the other batsmen all singularly failed to do and adapted his batting to suit the circumstances. I’ll be honest and admit that I really didn’t think he had it in him, but I take my hat off to him and really hope he can kick on from here and establish himself as a fixture in the middle-order. He seems a phlegmatic sort of fellow, and I like the cut of his jib (and the flow of his cover drive). I’m already hearing talk of moving him to three, so I look forward to our collective suicide by face-palm in five Tests time.

The list doesn’t so much taper at this point as combust into flames and hurl itself into an abyss screaming “bring back Martin McCague”. I had high hopes that Chris Woakes would cement a long-term spot but he was ineffectual. I don’t think eight and nine-over spells did him many favours though.

I’m continually perplexed by pundits who express surprise at Broad and Cook’s lack of effectiveness. Had they not been watching for the last twelve months?

I know we should be getting stuck into James Vince, but he really didn’t perform worse than expectations, and an average of 26, with two half centuries, is actually a lot higher than I expected. He should never have been picked in the first place, and probably wouldn’t have made my own personal squad if I was purely picking a squad of sixteen English cricketers called James.

But Vince’s tour’s is akin to a silver feather run lovingly down the brow of a sleeping Baby Jesus when compared to the catastrophe that was Moeen Ali’s tour. An absolute disaster, but he’ll survive because he’s “a free spirit” and English cricket has invested too much in him, and spent too much time besmirching alternatives (Leach is a chucker and soft, Rashid bowls too slowly and is soft etc) to drop him.

Silk: You don’t really want me to answer that, do you?

CricketJon: Malan did better than I expected and Bairstow did worse than I expected. It was a struggle for Moeen but the inflexibility of the Master Strategists made provision for him to be picked even when injured. How ridiculous. If someone is unfit such as he was in the first two Tests then someone should replace him. Alas there was no Plan B.

  • Which players should be moved on, and who should replace them?

Gareth: If Broad is going to bowl cross-seam, then take the new ball off him. Too valuable, especially abroad, to waste. If he’s not happy being first-change, bin him. I’d give Woakes a go with the new ball in NZ. Toby Roland-Jones will hopefully be available to fill that vacant “fourteenth right-arm FM bowler” slot.

I’d personally take Moeen out of the firing line for his own good. If they want the (conservative) batsman-who-bowls option, I think Samit Patel would have done no worse. Adil Rashid took thirty wickets last winter, which I thought would have been enough to say “let’s work with him and try to build him up” but his time may have passed. I think Crane may have to wait until Stokes returns to provide that balance England crave. If they think Patel is too fat and Adil is too Rashid, there’s always Scott Borthwick for the batting part-timer role.

In terms of batting, I think they should tell Root to bat three, Bairstow to go to four and drop the gloves, and tell the pair of them that England are now in the business of winning Test matches, not Making Sure Joe And Jonny Get To Do What They Like Best.

Bairstow is probably the second most likely batsman to make a hundred. You diminish his chances of doing that by batting him at 6/7 and making him keep for two days. Foakes seems like a real blue-chip prospect, so let’s see what he can do.

As for Root – get him in at a 12-1 stumble rather than a 30-2 crisis.

My team for NZ – Cook, Stoneman, Root, Bairstow, Malan, Livingstone, Foakes, Woakes, Broad, Anderson, Crane

Livingstone makes it purely because he can turn his arm over (as can Root and Malan to be fair) a bit. I’m keen on Joe Clarke also, I’d take him as spare batsman. With Hameed and Gubbins in the wings, Stoneman needs a score. I’d tell Crane not to worry about the first innings – he’s there to mop up the tail, get overs and hopefully bowl well on days 4 and 5.

Silk: I almost think we are all of us ghosts. It is not only what we have inherited from our father and mother that ‘walks’ in us. It is all sorts of dead ideas, and lifeless old beliefs, and so forth. They have no vitality, but they cling to us all the same, and we cannot shake them off.

CricketJon: Vince is not a number 3 and given his selection for NZ I direct you to part of my answer to question 2. I do not know who should replace them because I have a full time job and do not have the time to analyse talent. I should point out however that Mr Bayliss does have a full time job but he, by his own admission, knows very little about county cricket. We therefore, in light of this worrying news, defer to Mr Whittaker and his line of engagement with pundits who change their mind (“it’s just an opinion, Mr Vaughan?”) too regularly. This does not have the molecular structure of a successful operating model. If there were shareholders involved in this as a private enterprise, then action would be taken. It does not apply here which I shall detail in the last question.

  • How did BT do with the coverage?

Gareth: If I never hear Graeme Swann again it will be far too soon. You can just tell he thinks Tim Lovejoy’s stint on Soccer A.M was the cultural highlight of all mankind’s achievements. Boycs was awful too.

Silk: No idea. I was listening on Radio 4 LW.

CricketJon: Whilst it made a refreshing change not to have to listen to Sir Horseshit talking about golf, alcohol, bbq’s, DK Lillee and how the best road in London is the one that leads out of it, it was significantly more toe curling listening to Graeme Swann constantly rehearsing for some hitherto unknown stand up. The Australians, Gilchrist and Ponting were unsurprisingly erudite and generally factual and objective (something which is only possible if they don’t work for Channel 9) whereas Boycott either became a bore or I had forgotten just how boring and dogmatic he was. Alison Mitchell was very credible and Matt Smith was an ok frontman. No material problems with Damien Fleming. I despise Michael Vaughan on the grounds that he simply makes it up as he goes along and caveats this M.O. with “it’s just an opinion”. He is nothing more than a 2017/18 lounge lizard. Cant believe I once adored him.

  • Were England that bad, or were Australia really good? 

Gareth: I thought Australia’s bowling was as good as we expected. Smith was outstanding, and most of their batsmen chipped in at key times. As I said previously, there was a grim inevitability about the way they ground England’s attack to dust. You cannot help but respect their preparation – they clearly saw what happened in the sub-continent last year where you can patiently accumulate 600 plus against England’s attack.

Silk: Stop asking me these questions. Why do you torture me so?

CricketJon: When Shaun Marsh spooned the ball to mid off at Brisbane, I was chuffed with just how well England stayed with Australia bearing in mind this was quite a few guys first tour. Brisbane isn’t easy. Its 30 years since anyone won there. It was the high point of the tour in terms of the outcome of the series. The rest of the match is history.

What really boils my piss is that two guys with 2.6m Test wickets between them were entrusted by a young captain upon winning the toss to take advantage of the conditions in Adelaide. The correct decision. Root was let down. They bowled the wrong length and if any proof was necessary look what happened throughout the match when they altered the length. We keep being told they are experienced warhorses and similar claptrap. Where does this rainbow end? I can understand human error, it happens, they are not robots but lack of concentration and application? The match was lost there and it was galling to see when Malan and Root batted so well in the fourth innings on the fourth evening just what might have been possible.

We have 4000 backroom staff or whatever the current number is. With the amount of time that gets forever lost in Test cricket (what other sport are you allowed to just piss off after 83 overs and short change the punters?) there was ample time for someone to send a message to the bowlers in the first half hour. Maybe they did and the bowlers weren’t listening? As David Brent would say “They wont remember”. I do.

  • How do England make sure it doesn’t happen again in four years’ time?

Gareth: Sack KP again?

I think they have to identify what was lacking and look at a group of about 8-10 players that they feel, in 4 years time, will, with careful nurturing and gradual integration into the side, provide the necessary tools to overcome Australian conditions. And look at skill levels alone, not what a nice bloke Liam Dawson is in the dressing room or claptrap like that. The skills? Pace bowling, reverse swing, skilful spin bowling and nous, ability to bat and concentrate for long periods and adapt.

Sounds simple doesn’t it? But isn’t that what selection is about?

Some of the short-termism of some selections made by England in the last 18 months (hello Liam Dawson!) shows just how non-existent the planning process was. Dawson (and Ansari before him) was never going to make the Ashes. Was he just there to have a dig at Rashid?

Silk: There is no health left within me. I am bereft.

CricketJon: Tear up the operating model and bring in people that have no conflicts of interest, are not obsessed with 20 or 10 over cricket and the money it brings and sadly bring it down to 3 Tests which is where it is eventually heading anyway.

  • What about the home Ashes? Who will win that?

Gareth: I have it too close to call. It really does depend on if James Anderson maintains his standards – England have little else but Jimmy remains a master of his craft. If Aussie can keep those three quicks fit they will be a handful on any surface (bar Melbourne!).

Silk: Please, make it stop.

CricketJon: Much rests on the pitches and overhead conditions. Please note that in 2015 the two tracks that were most like Australian conditions resulted in Australian victories.

  • England have a tour of New Zealand next, should they be worried?

Gareth: Very much so; they’re not Starc, Cummins and Hazlewood but Southee, Boult and Wagner are no pushovers, and if I were any of those three I’d be looking forward to getting stuck into Vince. New Zealand also have their own superstar batsman, and a good settled team ethos. They are consistently more than the sum of their parts.

Silk: ARGH. <thud>

CricketJon: Yes without a doubt.

  • Any Other Business?

Gareth: I know we give Peter Moores absolute pelters and rightly so. But he did identify Liam Plunkett as someone who could bowl bouncers with an old ball on garbage surfaces (Headingley 2014 etc). I was thinking about that as I watched Tom Curran run in. Using the old ball is a skill in itself, and one which England have lost sight of.

Silk: I would very much like to thank everyone at BOC who have put some much effort into following this crap, and writing about it. To write so well, and with such effort, about such crap is a magnificent effort. The long-suffering England support deserves you, but those Inside Cricket do not. More power to you.

CricketJon; Yes. I have said it already on this website. The debate should be opened as to precisely who the game belongs to. Furthermore the following (and previously written) questions need considering. It applies to any form of democracy and governance and the source of the five questions is the late and remarkable Tony Benn:

1, What power have you got?
2, Where did you get it from?
3, In whose interests do you use it?
4, To whom are you accountable?
5, How do we get rid of you?

Any difficulties arising from answering those questions raises an enormous red flag.

My thanks to all for their time and effort in answering my questions, and as always, comment below is very welcome.

The End of The Road – Preview and Possible Live Blog – 5th Day


Day 5. In a new world this won’t exist, so I suppose we had better appreciate them while they are still here. This Day 5 comes to us with very little in the way of suspense. 56 runs to win, 10 wickets in hand, a bowling attack that never looked like taking a wicket, an off field controversy, and all around the England team are naysayers and doom-mongers wittering on about the wheels falling off. Welcome to the Ashes, welcome to the tumult that follows it around.

So, for another four year we can put away the tedious cliche that is Gabbatoir. This was a wicket England could certainly work with and for three days, give or take a session, they were well in the game, putting up a competitive, even at times, leading display. There were plaudits being thrown around for Joe Root’s captaincy, how innovative and proactive it had been. Today I heard Lovejoy effectively say he wasn’t cut out to be captain and should never have been given the job (and, I presume, the pay rise that comes with it).

There was a moment last night on commentary that Lovejoy said that there wasn’t anyone out there leading them in the field. There weren’t enough voices. Bairstow is in’t the most vocal of keepers; Moeen Ali is too laid back; Stoneman is an introvert; Vince is quite; and best of all “Alastair Cook wouldn’t say boo to a goose”. I don’t know, I read too much into things, but if you could put into microcosm what has gone wrong with English cricket since the final days of the Flower regime, this was it. It was his gang that no doubt made all newcomers feel welcome (and others, I know), and if you were particularly vocal in this your face didn’t fit and you were briefed against or sacked. Lordy, I would keep my gob shut in that atmosphere. When the time comes for you to be vocal, who is going to take any notice if you are new or been quiet for years. In the main, not always, England have won a test match since the last Ashes when in front from the start. If we fall behind, there have been a couple of fightbacks, but we fold. It was said about the last tour that this was a team at the end of its tether, with itself, and the individuals that composed it. This is a team which seems to be slightly fearful. They responded well to the early exchanges but as the game went on, they got worse. A lot worse. Not Karun Nair worse, but bad enough.

There will be a lot to chew over in the next few days, and you know we are very responsive to defeats, with plenty of constructive comment, and also poking fun and pointing out the inadequacies of fanboys/girls who somehow think that not cheering hard enough causes this, while the media reaction will be fascinating. Management and the players allowed low expectations to fester last winter as some sort of reason for failure being fine and dandy, but it doesn’t wash when most of the pundits think Australia has two batsmen and a load of filler. Chris Woakes, by acclaim, was the most improved cricketer of the last 18 months, but he’s now back in the spotlight after one anonymous game. Jake Ball was thrown in, more in hope than expectation and now there isn’t a pundit who thinks he will play in Adelaide.

So when David Warner and Cameron Bancroft come out to bat in a couple of hours time, it will be interesting to watch how England play. A display of fight, getting in their faces, trying to inflict a wound or two would signal intent. Just turning up, hoping it is all over in half an hour will be a disappointment.  Lovejoy believed the team never thought for one minute that they could bowl out Australia for fewer than 170, and it came across in their body language (what a load of old bollocks – if they nicked a couple of wickets early no-one would have mentioned how they came out on the field – confirmation bias at its worst) from the start.

I haven’t yet got the chance to see the highlights of yesterday. I’ll load them up onto my phone for the flight to Madrid on Tuesday (a day bloody trip to Madrid) and perhaps comment afterwards. So I’ve not seen the stumping or YJB’s shot. I’ve read enough about them. But between Brisbane and Adelaide we will recover some energy, comment on what we see and hear and importantly, get the second Ashes panel convened.

For those who filled it in, and want to participate the questions are as follows:

  1. So now the Brisbane result is in, what has it shown you about the relative strengths and weaknesses (and some perhaps not highlighted by the mainstream media)
  2. Adelaide at night? In favour of day-night in the Ashes, or are you a reactionary old fuddy duddy?
  3. Put that Steve Smith innings into context. Tell me an Ashes ton you thought was better.
  4. Lots mentioned that Alastair Cook’s form may be in decline. What are your thoughts on this Damascene conversion?
  5. I was quite underwhelmed by the Aussie pace attack for much of the test match, yet now they “blow teams away”. What were your thoughts?
  6. If you have BT Sport – what did you think of their coverage. Try not to focus on Lovejoy.

Please DO NOT answer the questions in the comments, but send them to . If we get too many, I’ll pick the best of them. I don’t expect too many.

Now to the Live Blog. I’ve not spoken to Danny, who might run it tonight. I have to pack the border collie off to my brother very early tomorrow and had very little sleep last night, so I’m going to bed before the day’s play. If we run a blog it will be below. If not, please put your comments below. Our thanks for our friends, old and new, for making the Live Blog and Review such a success. We are glad we can provide such an outlet. Hope you enjoyed it too.

Pray for a miracle.

0004 Broad bowls the first over, Warner scores 3 and Australia only need 53 more.

0009 Anderson from the other end. Warner gets a single and Australia need 52.

0016 Another 2 overs gone, another 6 runs scored. 48 required.

0032 Woakes and Ball have taken over now, 37 needed.

0047 Slow going, 30 more runs needed.

0050 Bancroft edges a Jake Ball delivery through a vacant second slip. Another 4 runs on the board, and that’s 25 more required.

0102 Single figures needed now…

0109 And that’s it. Cameron Bancroft hits a looping drive straight over a short mid off to the boundary, and AUSTRALIA HAVE WON BY 10 WICKETS.

0131 Bayliss: England need to score hundreds. Stunning insight there.

0132 Overton next in line in the squad it seems, and he’ll be watching Mark Wood’s progress in the Lions.

0133 Bayliss says the Bairstow incident is blown out of all proportion but also that he needs “a stern talking to”. A bit muddled.

Ashes to Ashes – The Ashes Panel, 1st Test, Part 2


Continued from yesterday, the second set of questions, answered by the Super Seven.

Question Four – What do the Ashes mean to you as a cricket supporter?

MiaB – As a cricket supporter of English nationality, the Ashes are still the major event in the calendar.  But, if you look back, it is interesting how few series there have been where both sides were packed with star quality.  They tend to be rather one-sided – eg 1928, 1948, 1956, 1974 and just about every series between 1986 and 2005.  Most of them have been about ordinary teams with one or two stand-out players – 1970, 1972, 1978, 2010, 2015 particularly come to mind.  The Ashes tends to produce absorbing rather than exciting cricket.

Ian – I try not to think of them as the be all and end all but I just cannot help it.  Ashes series have been constant through my cricket watching life starting in 1989 and so many of my most memorable cricket memories good and bad involve the Ashes.

Scrim – I was born and raised in Adelaide. All my Ashes memories up until I was 19 years old were huge wins for Australia sprinkled with some dead rubber losses. It had been drummed into me that beating England was really all that mattered but I didn’t realise how true this was until that winning feeling was finally taken in 2005. I was there under the scoreboard, Day 5 in 2006, probably about 30m away from Dmitri, when they were as good as won back. That was a day of cricket spectating that will probably never be matched.

I live in Norway now. A beautiful, but cricket-free land. I follow English cricket a bit more given that it matches with my time zone. “Knowing my enemy” a bit better, and being starved of cricket only makes me want it more. My 2 year old alarm clock of a son and I will be watching as much as possible.

Danny – Historically, it was a chance for England to measure themselves against what was almost certainly the best Test team in the world. Now? It’s still the highest profile Test series here, so it’s something I can talk about with people who don’t normally follow cricket. Apart from that, it’s nothing special.

Sri – Good to follow as a person with interest in the game wherever it is played but obviously not critical to me.

Silk – Everything?

And….TheBogfather in rhyme….

Slightly away from the question, as to write my true feelings about the Ashes would take many a while and lines, so here’s more a view of why I love Test Cricket as a whole…

In my dreams…
all cricket is played in creams
no emblazoned added ad
or name and number so sad
just ‘whites’…

On my screen…
test matches reign supreme
a battle of wits and skill
not a formulated drill
five-day delights…

On boundary I’m sat…
watching intrigue ‘tween ball and bat
how I desperately yearn
for pace and turn
not flat-track bullying and all that…

On my mind…
supreme contests of skill and thought
every game within a game
no two, ever the same
mind games and beauty combined…

On the field…
chances taken then some spilled
with boundaries and dot-balls
loud silence then some roars
intensities follow being bestilled…

then it rains, on come the covers
no duckworth-lewis to smother
still time for a result here…
for the brave to advance
with skills true and askance
final over, final ball, we cheer…

a drawn Test, but what a game
The Ashes would never be the same again
If the idiots that rule our game have their way
Never seen again, another edge of seat last day…


Question Five – A brief outline of how you expect the series to go. Who will win? Who will make the runs? Will it be a rout? Fire away.

Silk – There are so many uncertainties. I can genuinely see 5-0 either way. I can imagine a series where Khawaja, Bancroft, Marsh and Paine all average less than 20 with the bat, Woakes and Broad are all over them like a rash, and the Aussies collapse. I can also imagine a series where Khwaja and Handscombe absolutely put England to the sword, alongside Warner and Smith, Anderson shows his age, Woakes proves he can’t cut it, Ball and Coverton are disappointing and Broad, well as he bowls, can’t stem the flow.

I can see England bowling a perfect Australian length and bundling Australia out on day 1 at Brisbane. I can also see England bowling too short, and completely losing it once the shine as gone off the ball. I can see Ali bowling all you can eat run buffet and Joe Root brought on as ‘a partnership breaker’ when Warner is on 191.

Obviously one can imagine Starc and Cummins destroying England in a session, but one can also imagine both going down with knee injuries on the first day, and England winning by an innings.

Ian – I keep switching my mind between an optimistic 3-2 defeat to a pessimistic 5-0 so lets go for 4-1 Australia.   Runs from Warner,Smith and Khawaja.  England’s runs probably won’t be as prolific and could be shared around.  Root might be affected if it isn’t going well and I worry about Bairstow contributing if England are kept in the field for days.

I expect like a lot of tests involving England lately that they won’t be particularly close games.

Danny –  5-0 to Australia, I fear. For England, I expect Root and batsmen 6-8 score the majority of the runs, whilst Cook gets a couple of fifties and everyone else struggles. For Australia, I think Warner, Smith and Khawaja will all average 50+ in the series, as Australia regularly post 350+ scores which England can’t quite match.

Sri – 3-2/3-1 in favor of England. I expect Oz to win in Adelaide and maybe 1 of Perth/Gabba if they win.

MiaB – Two flimsy batting line ups and two injury-prone attacks: it will be about which team stays fit.  If injuries do not intrude, I think Australia will shade it.  However, because these are not sides who are good at attritional cricket, I think each match will have a result.  So, like the last series, I expect 3-2, but this time in favour of Australia.

Scrim – Australia will win. Home conditions and too much bowling firepower, and too many things that have to fall into place at the last minute for England. If Australia win the first two, they’ll win the next three. This is the most confident I’ve felt about an Australian win before a ball has been bowled since 2005. 

Adelaide could be a bit of a shootout. It will be low scoring, and the ball will swing. It is a must win for England if they are to have any hope.

Telling you that Smith will get some runs is like informing you about the Pope’s religion. Apart from Smith, Khawaja looks in good form – close enough to 300 runs at 100 in two low scoring matches at the Gabba in the past couple of weeks. Forget about any weakness vs spin. He’s been a monster on fast pitches for the past few seasons.

TB, Take It Away….

Not expecting a rout but definitely a defeat
3-1 to Aus with one saved by a storm
Frenetic batting mixed with non-moving feet
Inability to take 20 wickets the norm..

Root our top scorer, Cook one score above 50
Mo’ and Bairstow will erratically flow
Woakes with the wickets, Jimmy nulled but thrifty
Broad goes in the fetlock, Crane’s future value grows…


Question Six – Finally, and a specific one for this test, Brisbane…. too much emphasis on it, or a real indicator of the series to come?

Danny –  I think England’s best hope of confounding my expectations and actually winning the series is by somehow winning at Brisbane. Right now the Australian fans and media are largely focussed on the England side (and their own selectors), and that pressure could force England players into making mistakes during the game. If England do manage to beat Australia in the first game, the Aussie press will start attacking their own players and management instead of the poms and that might push them into even worse errors than picking Paine.
In terms of the series, I think the day/night game in Adelaide is probably the more significant one. The pink ball, twilight hours and what will probably be a relatively lush pitch could all potentially help England’s bowlers compensate for their batsmen’s inadequacies. If England leave there with the series 1-1 (or even 2-0 up), they at least have something to play for in Perth beyond survival. As it is, I fear the series will be over before the Boxing Day game in Melbourne.

Scrim – Definitely an indicator. If England are able to get a foothold in the Brisbane test, as they did in 2010, then things will be very interesting. However the last couple of Ashes series have disappointingly been full of thrashings one way or the other and I feel there is a good chance England might be on the wrong end of one here.

MiaB –  It is not the same ‘Gabba so I would not read too much into the result of the first test.

Sri – Too much emphasis. It is a 5  test series and thus a first test loss will not hurt england but a first test draw/loss will hurt Oz.

Silk – Huge, huge test. Huge, huge Test. Good toss to lose, I think. Batting on both sides is brittle. You’d be mad to bowl first at Brisbane, but if the side that does bowl first makes early inroads, I think that could be the series, right there. If either batting lineup fails, and let’s face it, there are huge doubts about both, I think heads could go down. Right now, Australia have more to lose. England are a mess, but Australia have picked 1, 6 & 7 on a hunch and will be under huge pressure if they all fail and bring the rest down with them.

I’ll go out on a limb here and at, at a risk of repeating 2003, Root should bowl first if he gets the chance. Get Bancroft, who failed in County Cricket, early doors and the Aussies will be very nervous indeed. If Marsh is batting before lunch on day 1, I think England will win the series.

Ian – I think Brisbane is vital,  England draw or win then they might just do ok in the series but if the Gabba is a heavy defeat then it will be here we go again and 5-0 might just be inevitable whatever moves England make to try and ensure this isn’t the case.

For the last word, or prose, it’s our main man, the Cricket Laureate, Boggy…

Definitely an indicator of how the series will unfold
Depends on how easily England will fold
A close defeat with confidence intact?
Or a complete humbling, some early bags packed?
We need the old 1, the new 2 and 3
To give us hope up front
Or maybe come May we’ll see
Selfey calling for the recall of some old CNUT…


There you have it. If you like what you see, and want to take part in the Adelaide test panel, leave me a note below or by e-mail, otherwise you seven get the gig again. My thanks for all their efforts, and I don’t know about you lot, but I’m quite up for this.

We’ll be talking about what we intend to do tomorrow night, and also details of a new way of accessing our posts, in the next 24 hours. In the meantime, comments below and remember, these are volunteers, so play nice!


Ashes to Ashes – The Ashes Panel – 1st Test, Part 1

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Just A Little Piece Of History Repeating?

In the build up to the Ashes I sought participants for the Ashes Panel. When we did this in 2015 we had a good number of respondents, keen to answer a set of questions on the upcoming series. 2015 is a lot different to 2017. The petrol of anger we felt on here isn’t there, so much. The temperature surrounding the series isn’t there, it just isn’t. You can see it in the posts, the responses, the build up. Pietersen is in the rear view mirror. We’ve got to accept the Cook we have because there is no-one better in England. We have the media we have. But what I love about the blog is that this has always been a participatory experience. We like to hear from you, but wonder if you’ve got the time and inclination.

I was pleasantly surprised after the post yesterday to receive answers from people who didn’t indicate they wanted to play a role. So now I have too many responses (I usually want 5). We have 6 from commenters and one from one of our writers. For that reason I am doing this in two parts. Questions 1,2 and 3 today and 4,5 and 6 tomorrow. I would also like to hear from those who didn’t comment Above The Line in the area reserved for you.

Chris, Danny, Sean and I will do our best to keep up with the events of the Ashes. This is the first time we’ve had the Ashes overseas on the blog and so we know how big an event it can be, and how it can involve us all. What we want to be is honest, direct and interesting. That’s what we’ll give to you – and I think you might well give it back.

So, without further ado, let’s get some of the questions up. Our respondents are:

  • Man in a Barrel (MiaB)
  • TheBogfather (with no spaces)
  • Ian
  • Danny – our scribe, co-editor and all round top contributor
  • Sri Grins – from a neutral perspective
  • Silk
  • Scrim – our Australian exiled in Scandinavia


Question 1 – Australia have thrown a surprise with dropping Renshaw, bringing in Paine and recalling Shaun Marsh. From an England perspective does that make you more hopeful / or if Australian make you more pessimistic?

Scrim – More pessimistic, definitely. It gives the feeling that whatever plans were in place have fallen apart. I do sympathise with the selectors. There is very little batting or wicketkeeping depth in Australian cricket at this moment.

The glass half full perspective is that SMarsh at 6 can’t do much worse than every other number 6 since Mike Hussey retired 5 years ago, and Paine is a good keeper who can’t contribute any less than Nevill or Wade with the bat. Australia has managed some pretty good results while getting next to nothing out of 6 & 7 for quite a while.

MiaB – Dropping Renshaw is an odd thing to do.  Wade was not doing so well either as keeper or batsman so if there is wicket-keeping expertise on the Aussie selection panel, then it seems fair enough to me to bring Paine in.  A bit of a risk but a reasonable one.  Bringing back Marsh is frankly deranged.  I cannot understand why they have dropped Maxwell.  However, given that Khawaja is potentially in the mix, with a great record against an English-style attack on home soil (no turf available down-under) the Aussie team is probably a little stronger as a result.

Ian – About the same to be honest, Renshaw averages 36 as does Marsh but over a longer period but Marsh has never nailed down a spot so not much difference here.  The keeping was a question mark for Australia whether they went for Wade, Paine or anyone else so again I don’t see much difference to the outcome here.

Silk – Far more hopeful.Marsh has never been good enough, and Paine isn’t even considered first choice keeper by his State side. Baffling.

Sri – No change. I think the selections are not too way off. Unlikely that other wicketkeepers would have one significantly better. Shaun Marsh is not too bad a call either. He tends to make runs in 1/2 tests before he starts failing.

Danny – Yes. More so with Marsh and Paine’s inclusion than Renshaw being dropped, although having an Australian opener born in Middlesborough would have been fun. I think at least once or twice in the series that England will manage to break through Australia’s top order, and I can’t see Marsh and Paine successfully fighting back the way England’s lower orders have done so often.

And…TheBogfather, in true form, in poems…

I suspect Paine may become a middle order pain
Marsh no more than bog-standard once again
Not sure by dropping Renshaw that they’ll ensure any gain
But still think the Ashes, Australia will regain.


Question Two – England’s batting line-up have done OK in their warm ups, but are you at all reassured / convinced that they have it in them to post the large scores?

Danny – Not really. The conditions in the warmup games were particularly conducive to batting, and the bowlers very inexperienced. Obviously it’s better that they played well, and there is an argument that Australian conditions with little seam or swing might help them, but I find it hard to believe in a batting line-up where three of the top five have sub-40 career first class averages.

Silk – They’ve done well enough to convince me that scores of around 300 are not beyond them. In a normal Ashes in Australia (think 2006/07) totals of that kind are nowhere near enough. But this Aussie line-up looks brittle as hell. I am not sure we will need many to win 3 tests.

Sri – Yes. I feel quite confident that they will post scores in excess of 350-400 (10 innings 7/8, 9 innings 6/7, 8 innings 6, 7 innings 5/6, 6 innings 4/5)

MiaB – To post big scores, Root has to be on top form, Cook and Bairstow have to recover some form and Ali has to knuckle down a bit.  They might do it once or twice but it is hard to see them doing it consistently.  Stoneman and Malan actually look as if they might be able to make it – Malan looked particularly encouraging.  Whether they can do it against the extra pace of the Aussie attack is another matter.  In other words, I don’t see this English team doing the steam-roller that Strauss’s team did.  They will be more akin to Nasser’s team in 2002-3.

Ian – I think we can get the large scores sometimes but think we might still be 40-3 far too often for my liking so as usual if England post a decent score it will be because of a late middle order effort rather than from a solid start at the top.

Scrim – I am somewhat convinced. I’m sure Stoneman, Vince and Malan have taken some confidence out of the games. Any batting line up with Root only needs one or two others to stick around a while to build a competitive score.

However apart from 10 or so overs from Nathan Coulter-Nile, they haven’t faced anyone genuinely fast, and they haven’t batted on a pitch as fast as the Gabba or the WACA will be. If the Australian fast bowlers are on song, it probably doesn’t matter what kind of confidence the English rookies have built up to now. 

Take it away TBog

I think we can be assured
We’ll be consistently 50-3 on the board
Our top order undernourished in class
A tall order for our mid-order to 500 pass
And if Root has a poor series (he’s due…)
Then 300 may be the best we can do
Then with scoreboard pressure, 2nd innings
I don’t see us in a position to be winning…


Question Three – How do you think the respective bowling units will go? Is this Anderson’s redemption tour? Can Starc lead the line? Who is the surprise package?

Sri – Starc will do well. Anderson will be average. Not too bad a tour but unlikely to have an excellent tour.

Moeen Ali [as the surprise package].

Silk – Completely impossible to tell. There’s simply not enough info. to go on, particularly given the recent injuries suffered by the Aussies, and the massive inexperience of half of the English attack.

If fit, the Aussies have as good as an attack as they’ve ever had (albeit with only 4 men – 4 being usually enough for them). But impossible to say how Hazelwood will go, and whether Starc and Cummins can last a series. And, indeed, what fresh idiocy Hohns and co have up their sleeves? Chadd Sayers in Adelaide?  Barking. Jhye Richardson would worry me. Not Sayers.

For England, I expect Broad to do well, Anderson to do not so well (but still average in the low-30s), Moeen to go very badly, Crane not to play (unless we’ve lost the series by Sydney) and then …. what?

Woakes, for me, is the crux of the entire series, bat and ball. His batting could well be the difference between 250 a/o and 370 a/o. He’s got scores in him, and can bat with Bairstow or Root to get us to big totals. But he’s never batted in Tests in Aus, so no idea whether he can translate form from other tournaments into the Ashes.

Bowling I rate him similarly the Massie and Alderman. Unplayable in England. Cannon-fodder elsewhere. But his pace is certainly up on what it was earlier in his career. If he bowls well, I think England will win the series. Perhaps comfortably. If he bowls as he’s done on previous tours … England are in trouble.

I don’t rate Ball. Coverton will go alright, if given the chance.

Scrim – Australians have been dreaming of this bowling lineup for a long time, and it’s great to see it finally coming together just in time for a home Ashes. Even if Starc can’t do a Johnson, Hazlewood is world class, and the glimpses of Cummins that we have got are so exciting, even on slow subcontinent pitches. Throw in Lyon coming off great tours of India & Bangladesh and you’ve got a well balanced attack. Even if there are injuries, I’d love to see Chadd Sayers play under lights in Adelaide, Jackson Bird always plays well, Jason Behrendorff is finally fit and is a test-ready player, and Peter Siddle at 8th or 9th choice is still bowling well and always brings out his best vs England. Woakes’ comment that Australia lacks bowling depth was either ignorant or daft.

From an England point of view, I feel like Woakes will be important. When he played that dead rubber test in 2013 he looked like a bits and pieces all-rounder. When I saw him again in the 2016 English summer he looked like a real bowler. He’s started his tour well and might surprise Australian fans. Broad’s form might be a bit concerning for England. Anderson will find conditions will suit him in Adelaide, but apart from that he is unlikely to get the assistance he needs to thrive.

Ian – Australia will take 20 wickets more often than England as they will get more opportunity to do so,  Starc will go well as there is weaknesses in the top order to exploit and I think he can gain plenty of cheap wickets against the tail.  Anderson will go ok in that I think he will do better than 06/07 and 13/14  but I don’t see him having a redemption tour.  I’m not sure about being a surprise but I think Moeen will go well as he will be attacked and away from the subcontinent thats probably the best thing for him.

MiaB – I strongly suspect that Broad will not last the full series.  Beyond Broad and Anderson, the English attack does not pose much of a threat in Aussie conditions.  If Ashwin did not manage to contain Australia in Australia then it is hard to see a less accurate bowler such as Moeen playing the containing role.  Which means that Anderson will have to do his full share of the overs as a stock bowler.  I imagine that Anderson will do well in the day/night match but gradually lose potency over the series. This is where Stokes will be missed – he has that element of threat that eludes Woakes.  If Starc stays fit and gets his line right against Cook, he could get 30 wickets.  I want to see Cummins in action.

Danny – I think England’s batsmen will make the Aussie bowlers look like superstars. As for England’s bowlers, I don’t think any of them will do particularly badly. I expect them to average 25-40, with maybe the 4th bowler (Ball/Overton/Whoever) to go for a bit more.
Anderson will do okay, I think, but I doubt he’ll be anywhere near as effective as he has been at home. He averaged 14.10 this summer but with a Kookaburra ball on Australian pitches I think he’ll be more of a containing bowler who relies on batsmen getting themselves out, particularly with an older ball. Starc I suspect is being overhyped, and I wouldn’t be surprised if Josh Hazlewood actually took more wickets. Which isn’t to say that Starc isn’t very good, just that I don’t think he’ll cut through England like a hot knife through butter. At least, I hope not.
As for the surprise package, I think there’s a chance Stokes might play in the last two or three games of the series. The press seem to think he might not be charged, in which case I reckon England will fly him over and after a token suspension  of 2-3 games (like Warner in 2013), he’ll be back in the side.

Boggy finishes off the first instalment of this Ashes Panel…

I expect bowling to hold the key
As much from a survival of the fittest view
If Starc and co remain in full flow
Then sufficient runs we’ll fail to accrue
England will have magic spells or bowling dry hell
Our samey seam strategy may gift a run spree
Our back-up bowlers may get cricked necks as well
As Smith’s eyes light up with glee…

Part Two will follow tomorrow. My thanks to the participants who put great effort into responding and producing some food for thought. We might even have a go at the questions ourselves, following Danny.

We’d be interested what you want to see from us during the series. We will endeavour to carry out the usual match reports, and also we’ll try our hand at a live blog on certain days / sessions. This will commence with the first day of the series (I have the day off for Thanksgiving the day after). There’s always something about the first day of the Ashes. Been there for two – Days 1 at Brisbane 2002 and Lord’s in 2005. Both memorable, both ending with England on the wrong end.

Enjoy, let us know your thoughts and suggestions. And we’ll do our best despite all our challenging schedules!


Death of an Ashes Panel – The Final Goodbye To A Much Loved Collective

Not, no more....
The Last Time We See This…..

The final panel of the Ashes summer is upon us. My thanks, as always, to all of you for your help, both in writing the answers, and in commenting on the posts. The Ashes already seem to be quite distant in the rear-view mirror, as I think many have realised after the warm afterglow they felt in victory, that both the Oval performance and the future tours in front of us are a little bit concerning.

But that’s for the commenters here, and for me and TLG later, so let’s get this final panel on the road.

Six questions, splendid respondents.

  • Our man from the land of unpronouncable names, Paul Ewart (PE)
  • Our man in a land far far away, via Barbados, Colonel Blimp (AKA David Oram) (CB)
  • Our man in somwhere I’ve not determined, but a CricketJon he is (CJ)
  • Our man in Oz, our man who supports that lot in the East of London, Martin Payne (MP)
  • Our man in Yorkshire, so listen to what he says, Metatone (Meta)
  • Our man in Birmingham, and if he isn’t, he’s a liar, AndyinBrum (AiB)
  • Our man who had been abroad, Oscar de Bosca, who wrote his stuff in the air (OdB)

So, with apologies for the tardiness, here we go.

1. There’s been a noticeable divide – those that have said “stuff it, it’s the Ashes” and those who’ve gone “It was a woeful series”? What’s your view? Is it an either / or?

ODB – It’s the Ashes, beating Australians at anything is great so I am happy to win.  However there is a big but (I like big butts and I cannot lie) the series was terrible, as both an advert for test cricket and a competition.  So much so that for the first time in 15 years I am considering downgrading my Sky subscription and removing the sports (football has left me cold for about 5 years and cricket appears to be going the same way, everything is hyped up to the extent that your expectations are never going to be met). Only at Cardiff was the result in doubt going into the 2nd day, in every other match it was obvious after day 1, which team were going to fold like a cheap suit.

It’s test cricket Jim but not as we know it.  We knew our batting had frailties, guessed that Australia had less, but they were much, much worse, once you dismissed their top 3 you knew you were not more than 100 runs off the end of their innings.  At least we had Ali and Broad.
It is neither either or, but both, yay we beat the Aussies, but it wasn’t difficult and both sides when they were bad were absolutely abject.
In 2009 the tension started in Cardiff and ended after a dismal headingley showing with a tense match at the Oval where Broad had one of his great Ashes spells (and the Aussies moaned about pitch doctoring (plus ca change) whilst stupidly forgetting to pick a spinner).
2013 Trent Bridge and Durham were close (the Aussies should have won after the start Rogers and Warner gave them in the second innings at Durham) and at Old Trafford we were fortunate (but it still could have been a draw).
A test match should be difficult, adversity needs to be faced and overcome, but both sides almost gave up after one innings.  I remember Strauss and Trescothick scoring 200+ in a second innings rear guard in South Africa (Durban I think),  I don’t think either of these teams could contemplate this, and the fact that neither team could last 3 days shows that we are appearing to lose the raison d’être of Test Cricket, which is that it is (excuse my French) supposed to be a fucking test.
CB – It is certainly not an ‘either’/ ‘or’. It also depends on your definition of the word ‘woeful’.


I think if we accept that the quality of cricket (mainly the batting) was of a very low standard – and that is what is suggested by ‘woeful’ – then I think it would be hard to disagree. But it is all relative to who the spectator is! 
For the one-eyed supporter, it is rarely about the quality of the match, just the outcome: 
“It’s not the taking part, it IS the winning’. 
Any of us who’ve ever gone to watch our football team in a FA Cup Final will concede that they couldn’t give a stuff if it was a ‘feast of football’ as long as ‘our boys won’. 
“I’d rather an awful, scrappy, comfortable 3-0 cruise to victory than a thriller with a late-winner for the oppo. Great for the millions of armchair fans at home, comfy in front of their TVs – but bollocks to them! We haven’t traveled all this way to go home empty-handed. Look in the record books – it says we won. Who cares if it was a crap game. No-one will remember.” 
That of course is what many of us feel as England cricket fans right now. Not all, but I dare say most. Neutrals will have been disappointed – but oddly enough more at the lack of 5 day contests – but excited by the thrill and spectacle of Australia’s cataclysms, while the Aussie fans will want to forget the whole experience – and are likely to be haunted by memories of that first morning in Nottingham for the rest of their lives. 
The corollary to all of this of course is that the VERY BEST way to win is to triumph inspite of thrills, spills and setbacks along the way. That’s partly why the 2005 win was such an incredible, memorable victory – because it was a roller-coaster AND because this was against not just the best cricket team in the world, but possibly the BEST CRICKET TEAM IN THE WORLD EVER. 
This time around the opposition were fair, and we were only slightly better, but it was the Australians who were well-past their ‘best before’ dates – and some were on the verge of their ‘use by’ dates. So the win was satisfying, but not as fulfilling as 2005. 
But it, the 2015 series itself, was not woeful – merely some of its cricket played was. But I bet you that 10, 20, 50 years from now this series (certainly Edgbaston & Trent Bridge) will still remain sharply in the memory far more clearly than 2009 (which is already fading) and 2013 (all but forgotten!). 
This was a series of crap cricket at its scarcely believable best/worst that none of us will ever forget.

PE – Well I didn’t watch as much as usual, to be honest. A combination of living in Finland and a complete sense of disenchantment with the ECB, Cap’n Cook, Sky, the media and all the usual stuff discussed here. It does seem to have resembled two bald men fighting over a comb but you still have to beat the team in front of you and I don’t think any of us expected England to do that this summer. So congratulations are in order, but the usual overreaction by our friends in the media is not. I wish the youngsters a bright future and have no beef with Bayliss and Farbrace who seem to be doing a good job. Cricket’s been complicated for me, sadly. What was once a simple, uncomplicated joy has been tarnished.

CJ – For me an 80/20 that it’s still the Ashes but with an increasing eye on the decline in quality, the overfamiliarity of the teams lining up against each other and the attitude of the SkyComms over selling its authenticity, the same authenticity they have a hand in diminishing.
MP – I don’t think this series will live long in the memory for most. Whilst I’m pleased we have won the Ashes back both teams have major flaws that need correcting if either are to become a side to be reckoned with. Despite the series not being of the highest quality I will never tire of seeing the Aussies dismissed in the manner of Trent Bridge.
Meta – It was a woeful series – but I’m happier winning 3-2 than losing 3-2 because I remember a lot of years of Aussie dominance. And, to be undiplomatic, my years living in Aus didn’t endear the typical Aussie sports commenter to me. However, as much as I’m relieved that we didn’t crumple as I feared, the one-sided nature of the games adds up to a woeful series. That’s all I can say. Others have said plenty in the comments to the last panel about just why it should be classified as woeful.
AiB – Both, it’s been brilliant in its utter batting ineptitude but also it feels unsatisfactory because of how poor the batting has been. Still, 60 all out, snigger
2. A lot of focus has been on England winning on the wickets that did something, but getting hammered on those that didn’t. Any explanations?

OdB – Yep, see most of Metatones posts for the past year.  Broad aside (who bowled well in Australia, and bowled well in the UAE last time we were there) our main strike bowlers aren’t quick enough and rely on movement in the air to take wickets.  County cricket pitches apparently (not a massive follower but I read what other people who’s opinions I respect say (but not wctt)) are not conducive to spin, and encourage medium pace swing bowling.  Well that’s great for county cricket but most wickets worldwide (apart from a few) require more than that, and an 80mph swing bowler is not going to take international batters wickets.  we don’t have a Fraser, or a Hoggard line and length bowler (Hoggard was more than that, but when it didn’t swing he knew how to bowl the right lengths for the pitch) to keep the runs down.  Anderson did it in Australia in 2011 but reverted to type in 2013/14.  We seem to lack variety, and apart from Harmison I don’t ever remember England having a genuine pace bowler (a la Johnson, who isn’t even that quick compared to the great West Indians).

So to sum up we don’t have many spin bowlers in CC, we don’t seem to ever produce genuine pace bowlers, and don’t get me started on what the ECB do to ‘mystery’ bowlers, Rashid is being briefed against, there was a chap (can’t remember his name and am in Napoli airport without wifi, but Google ‘Dobell espn mystery spin and ECB’ and the sorry tale of his exclusion will appear).  I think it is too easy for CC bowlers to take wickets on green tops and therefore we don’t have bowlers ready for flatter wickets.  Rant aside, on both flat wickets our batters should have done so much better.  As I alluded to above on question 1 when Australia got a big score our batters seemed to think crikey we can’t make that, oh well give it a whack.  Test cricket should be hard, and require application, as the Australians (didn’t) learn at both Edgbaston and Trent Bridge if you apply yourself in the morning, it gets easier in the afternoon and after tea even easier (assuming weather conditions are consistent).  We should know this, but I don’t think Cook and Root aside we do, Lyth was trying to play shots way too early (sorry Adam you aren’t Brendan McCullum).  Unless a major sea change in attitude occurs we will struggle in the UAE and SA if the pitches are flat.

CB – Even the so-called experts have been struggling to make sense of this series. Very view could see anything other than a hefty Australia win in the series, and even now are unable to come to terms with the outcome. 

It’s been like a science experiment where 90% of the professors are standing with their jaw hanging to the floor because they couldn’t possibly conceive of the results. 
But then again these are the same twits who before we went down under in 13/14 said the result of that was a foregone conclusion too. We really shouldn’t listening to these people – most of the time they just guess anyway. The fact they played 100+ Tests does not make them more prescient than you or I – it just means they are paid thousands/millions for their opinions which we have to listen to. 
The narrative of this series was always likely to include the relative upward/downward age curve of the two sides (as it did down under last time) – and on both occasions this was a huge factor (though not the decisive one) in deciding the winner of the Ashes. THE greatest factor was home conditions – and the ability to exploit them (bowlers) or counter them (batsmen). In Aus the hard, fast pitches were expertly utilised by a rampant Johnson and a brilliantly persistent Harris who both bowled at their peak. Their performances were GREAT. England’s batsmen were not up to the task (to put it mildly), and the aging side did not have the stomach for the fight.
Here in England, Broad in particular made the most of those pitches which offered a great deal of lateral movement, supported at various times by Anderson, Finn, Wood & Stokes. Australia’s batsmen were not up to the task, and the aging side did not have the technique for the fight.
Where that deviated from the norm was Lord’s and The Oval. The Lord’s pitch was a disgrace to cricket – and thank Heavens Australia had some genuine pacemen to make something of that benign surface. I know we batted spinelessly, but I think without Johnson & Starc’s extra ‘zip’ we’d have seen a high-scoring bore draw. Day 1 I was there – it was the most boring cricket I have ever seen.
The Oval was an aberration. We didn’t turn up. I’m not saying we would have won if it’s been 2-2, but we would have ‘switched on’. 
And let us not undervalue the importance of the toss in this series. 
Many have said we should give the option to the visitors each time. What nonsense! 
The toss in this series PROVED the value of it – if only because of the eternal likelihood of skippers (and pundits) getting it wrong! 
In the 1st Test (an important toss to win) Cook got it right and batted. In the 2nd Test (a vital toss to win) Clarke got it right and batted. In the 3rd Test (a crucial toss to LOSE – they’d have both batted) Clarke got it wrong and batted (Cook would’ve done the same – probably with similar results). In the 4th Test (an important toss to win) Cook got it right and fielded (though I doubt very much we’d have seen the same ’60 all out’ outcome if Clarke had won the toss). In the 5th Test (an important toss to LOSE) Cook got it wrong and fielded. Clarke would have done the same. This was the biggest nonsense of them all. The Oval is ALWAYS a bat first ground. And yet even the well-paid pundits said ‘field’. I doubt very much there was a single knowledgable Surrey member at the ground that morning saying anything other than ‘BAT!’ But both sides had got carried away by the first innings of the previous two Tests. But then this was a series in which ‘good cricketing practices’ were either largely forgotten or disregarded.
To answer the question: the pitches were important; and so was the toss in each case; but ultimately it was the two sides’ ability to master the prevailing conditions. If we’d had 5 hard, flat pitches we’d have been thrashed. But then again, if the Aussies had provided nicely watered grassy surfaces 18 months ago we might still be watching Trott, Swanny & KP in an England shirt.

PE – It’s all been said hasn’t it? I’m no fan of doctored pitches. If there is an explanation then it has to do with pace. England aren’t very good against it, and we don’t have bowlers who can bowl with it, hence the greentops that ruined England’s competitiveness in the 70s and 80s.

CJ – There are international teams other than England that know how to bowl on flat wickets. There are some that struggle where there is lateral movement and Australia is amongst them. The irony is that it is the Big Three teams with the least variety and application.
MP – More down to the woeful Australian batting for me. The biggest surprise of the series has been the rank ineptitude of the Aussie middle order, I thought their batting line-up was far superior to England’s pre-series when in fact it has been worse. Only on flat wickets have they been able to muster up a decent total.

Meta – We have two bowlers great in seaming conditions. Stokes is also much better when the ball moves. Wood and Finn have more about them on flatter pitches, but didn’t show it that well. Ali is still developing. Throw in that the Aussie batting style has gotten hardened into a less flexible one and we win in those conditions.

When the conditions look more like Australia – well the Aussie batsmen piled up big runs. Not only is our bowling weak in that situation, their batsmen perform better. I’d throw in that we’re weak under scoreboard pressure.
All this fits a pattern that goes back to the last time we were in the UAE, and the “text gate” tour of England by SA. We’re a side very dependent on conditions. (Shows through in our old “win a low score game” philosophy of ODIs that came unstuck so badly at the WC.)

AiB – Australia seem to think anything that moves off the straight is UnAustralian & against the spirit of cricket. Therefore they never usual face those pitches, the atmospherics or skilled bowlers, let alone all three at the same time.

At the oval Aus managed not to edge balls they had the last 2 games, they could have been easily 4 down by lunch.
As for England on flat pitches, lords showed their bowlers need some assistance & the batsmen couldn’t cope with accurate, confident quick bowling after 5 sessions in the field
3. The next Ashes is over two years away, thank heavens. How do you feel this series will link in to that one? Do England have the makings of a good side?

OdB – Hmmm, I have considered this over 2 days and I still don’t know.  I think Australia have a lot of work to do (but I don’t know the state of their game well enough to comment on who may come in, they need at least 5 new players over the next few years, however England also need some major surgery in my opinion).  Cook has improved as a captain and he is a proper opener, if we can find him a suitable partner and start getting 50-100 runs on the board then a platform is set.

I love Root, think Stokes is worth persevering with (he seems better than Freddie was at a similar stage in his career), Broad should still be around.
I think Anderson and Bell will be gone, Ali needs to improve either batting or bowling, Buttler needs to rediscover his game (hopefully the upcoming ODI series will remind him how he needs to bat) and Wood if managed well could be the quickest bowler we’ve had since Harmison.
I’m not convinced about Bairstow, I think Finn is hope rather than expectation, Lyth hasn’t the temperament for test matches.
We need therefore to find an opener, two batters, a strike bowler and a spinner (if Rashid doesn’t meet our expectations).  For Australia away we have the time to do this, but some harsh decisions need to be made, and I personally think Anderson should not be picked for the UAE and I think SA may be his last away series.

CBBut the scars of previous encounters will be there for both teams. England do have a young and exciting side, and many from this series may well make the journey, while some may not – but will be replaced by other youngsters. Hales is surely likely to be part of the set up sometime soon and other emerging names may well make the trip. Of the current team you’d think that Cook, Root, Stokes, Ali, Broad, Finn and Wood are certainties, fitness allowing. I’m not so sure about Buttler, or Bairstow – though one of them will doubtless be there. 

As for Australia, only Warner, Smith and Mitch Marsh look to be part of the continuity in the batting – but their bowlers will give us the hurry up again – and I think they have a group of quicks with the potential to be awesome: Starc, Cummins, Patterson, Hazlewood – plus Coulter-Nile, Bird etc. England do have the makings of a good side but if those Aus seamers stay fit and mature as cricketers then I think they will beat us over there and come back to England and beat us for the first time in the UK since 2001.

PE – I can’t see a link to be honest, unless it relates to psychology: Australia won’t hold any demons for the younger players. As for the second question: hard to say, really. Root looks world class, Buttler and Stokes look to have real potential. Bayliss and Farbrace seem to have instilled a positive attitude. But there’s a lot of holes to fill and Buttler and Stokes will need careful management if they’re to fulfil their potential.

CJ – Australia will be a pretty different side. What Bayliss makes of this “group of players” in England remains to be seen. I now hear Bell isnt retiring but the fact that it was under consideration tells me it will be very much sooner than later (sadly as I am a fan).
MP – Yes, I’m thankful we have a bit of a break to the next one. By the time it comes around Australia will virtually have a new side so it will be intriguing to see who comes in in the next few months. As an Australian resident I will be watching more of their upcoming Tests than England’s so will be observing with interest their development. As for England I think they have the nucleus of a good side. Their problems are well documented – a lack of a decent spinner and a long-term opener are their immediate questions to answer.
Meta Not sure I even want to think about the next Ashes. England of course have the makings of a good side. Root, Broad have shown top class performance, Finn, Stokes, Buttler and Ali all have talent and could develop into very assured performers in two years. On the other hand, that leaves 5 slots still open to question. So they could equally be a team that goes Down Under and loses 5-0 again… All the more so because the England setup and CC seems to have specific weaknesses for Aussie conditions.

AiB – I can see Cook & broad being the only survivors of the glorious 2010/2011 tour, but I can see the rest of the team doing well, ballance will be back & better, Stokes & butler should be well ensconced & know their game & hopefully Rashid will be allowed to play.

England have the chance to be a very good side, I’m not sure Aus will have the batsmen, but they’ll have plenty of excellent quicks, but no Johnson
4. What was your favourite moment of the series?
OdB – Brad Haddin dropping Joe Root, we all thought it and it was true, he dropped the Ashes.  He was the glue in Australia in 2013/14 and he is an Australian of the Hayden/Warner mould (I.e. Unlikeable). Couldn’t happen to anyone more deserving. (I am sure he is a lovely man, and I respect him putting his daughter first, but he is an Aussie therefore in a purely sporting sense I am gloating).
CB – Unquestionably the first morning at Trent Bridge. Those 18.3 overs will be with all of us for the rest of our lives.
PE – Churlish I know, but I did enjoy Cook’s failure to make a century. Finn’s comeback was a highlight as he seems such a decent fellow.

CJ – Michael Clarke in a response to Jimmy Andersons injury at Birmingham, something like “obviously you dont want to see a player get injured”   Excuse me but where does this rainbow end? This will be the same Michael Clarke of course that said with one wicket remaining at Brisbane in November 2013 “get ready for a broken ****ing arm”

Clarke would have known at the Gabba that the stump microphones were only inches away and the fact that it was with one wicket remaining. This was nothing to do with a Gabba victory, the match was already won. It was a thinly veiled message for the rest of the series and a message for his success hungry fans to hear that he was the man for this fight. The press have done a fine job of attempting to deconstruct the myths about Clarke in the last month but I feel looking back that was a deliberate attempt by him in Nov 2013 to let the fans know he was the big man, the fair dinkum Aussie that they constantly feared he wasnt.

Dont get me wrong, Im not keen on our captain as you know but I rather go out for a pie n mash with Ponting than Clarke and that says it all.

(Lets not get confused either with the Phillip Hughes aftermath. That was LIFE, I am talking about SPORT the usual stuff. Of course he handled that with dignity but only hours earlier he was facing an apex with Cricket Australia)

As for on the field, need I say more than 8 for15. Its value increases as each day passes. Thank God I took the day off work that day.

MP – Stokes’s catch at Trent Bridge to dismiss Voges and Broad’s reaction to it. Fantastic stuff.
Meta – Can’t go past Broad at Trent Bridge. I’m not actually in favour of big batting score games – I much prefer bowlers to dominate. This was gripping stuff. Honourable mentions go to Root’s centuries and some of Ali’s rearguard action.


Courtesy of AiB
Courtesy of AiB
5. Your chance to pick the England team for the first UAE test, and any changes you might make for the first South Africa test? (Note that answers were given before squad announcements)
OdB – Cook, Compton, Asari, Hales, Root, Stokes, Buttler, Ali, Broad, Rashid, Wood
Cook:  probably captain for the foreseeable future, part of me is glad that Root hasn’t been burdened with this, but he is at best a workmanlike captain.  Bayliss has seemed to loosen the shackles and he has improved, but it was from such a low base that a blind singing monkey may well have done better than what was loosely referred to as his ‘captaincy’ during the Ashes in Australia and summer 2014.  Still a very good batsman (a great accumulator of runs to damn with faint praise).
Compton: was poorly treated (apparently he was hard to get on with ffs).  He did well in India, plays spin well, and you never know we may reach 30 before losing a wicket.  Plus he scores slowly (the job of an opener is to take the shine off the ball for the middle order dashers).
Asari: has got 39 wickets this season and is an opener, it is a Trott style punt, but a spinner that bats might be a good thing, he can’t do any worse than Bell did in the UAE last time.
Hales: deserves his chance but I think he is too flighty to open in test cricket, I also think he will do well in SA.  I think he will blossom at 4.
Root: can bat anywhere but I like him at 5
Stokes: needs to be 6 as above is too high, and 7 is too low.
Buttler: needs to go back to how he batted before, but he is a great prospect and as long as the UAE doesn’t destroy his confidence he should prosper on the true pitches of SA.  Bairstow as backup keeper (he should be able to keep to Rashid well)
Ali: looks good at 8, his bowling needs to improve but with two other spinners it isn’t all on his head.
Broad: man of the series for me this summer,  think he will excel in both UAE and SA. FEC (as if they would let a chippy bowler be captain)
Rashid: we should have seen him by now, if we don’t see him in this series then Selfey et al and their snide campaign is victorious.  I think he will do well in Test cricket if given a chance.
Wood: If he is fit (and the schedule isn’t back to back tests, probably is but I can’t check and hope springs eternal) he is fast and will hopefully cause the Pakistani batters (and subsequently SA batters) difficulties.  Finn as backup, he will do well in SA and we need to think of the future.
For SA I would bring back Anderson for either Ali or Ansari (depending on who played best in the UAE). Would also have James Taylor on standby, because we always do!

CB – Funnily enough my team to play Pakistan would look something similar to the one I picked for this panel for the first Test in the Ashes. I advocated then picking 6 bowlers and batting Moeen at 5 to accommodate Rashid – and do the same now:

1. Cook
2. Hales
3. Bell (last chance!)
4. Root
5. Moeen Ali
6. Stokes
7. Buttler (or Bairstow)
8. Rashid
9. Broad
10. Finn
11. Anderson
I wouldn’t be looking ahead to the make-up of my side to face South Africa until the UAE tour is over.
PE – They’re different teams, surely? I’d be minded to give Hales a run as Cook’s latest victim/patsy. I wouldn’t change much else. Pietersen would obviously improve the middle order but it won’t happen. I’d like to see a quick decision on Buttler. Imagine how many runs Kumar and Brendon would have scored if they’d given up the gloves earlier.

CJ – Cook, Carberry, Bell, Root, Ballance, Ali, Stokes, Buttler, Rashid, Broad, Finn       Squaddies: Footit, Anderson, Bairstow, Wood, Hain (to get used to all that dressing room banter and acclimatise to Wardys interviews)

If Bell has a bad UAE tour, he might not make the SAF trip but apart from that the only change will be one spinner not two. Maybe Woakes will get a gig.

MP – For the UAE, Hales deserves a chance at the top of the order and Rashid should play. Longer term, if Bell doesn’t come good James Taylor must be in with a shout. As a Kent supporter would love to see Daniel Bell-Drummond in an England shirt at some point but probably not for a few years yet!

Meta – So which team would I pick for the first UAE game?

Compton, Hales, KP, Root, Bairstow, Stokes, Buttler, Ali, Broad, Rashid, Finn.
Logic: I’m choosing to rest Anderson and Wood to try and prolong their careers, so that makes the seam attack: Broad, Finn, Stokes. This is 2-spinner country, so Ali and it’s time to give Rashid a chance. I once calculated that Rashid has spent over a year of cricket carrying drinks for England.
Batting: It’s for me to choose, so I choose KP to come in at 3, since Bell may retire. (I think KP is the obvious choice for a problem 3 position.) Cook would refuse to play with him, so I’d bring in Compton. Hales is the obvious current choice to try for the other opening slot. Root is the banker. Bairstow I’m almost inclined to drop, but he deserves a couple more Tests to show some quality.
If Bell isn’t retiring I’d have to rethink.
In SA I wouldn’t play 2 spinners. I’d be guessing Anderson comes in – and Wood’s chances depend on how well Finn is bowling.

AiB – Cook, Hales, Root, Bell, Ali, Stokes, Butler, Rashid, Broad, Jimmy/Wood, Wood/Finn

BONUS Question
6. You could make one change to the current England set-up. Management, players, administration…. What would it be? Again I’ll open that one out to all the readers as well.
OdB – (Two things both related), One I would renegotiate the Sky deal to allow at least two home test matches a year on free to air TV.   This coverage will be an extended advert for Sky as they will still be the host broadcaster and provide the commentary and analysis but it will be in terrestrial TV. This will reinvigorate the game amongst our youth. At Edgbaston my mate commented that when we saw Steve Waugh’s Aussies in 2001 we represented the average age of the crowd, in 2015 we were still about the average age.  This is a ridiculous situation.  The second thing (which is related to the first), all tickets for under 16s for any day of an England test will be £10, one adult accompanying the under 16 will be able to purchase a ticket for £25, and at least 10% of tickets will be available under these terms.  The cost will be underwritten by Sky and they will be able to retrieve this by what they sell the live test matches to the free to air broadcaster for.  Everybody wins!!
CB I honestly don’t know. There’s so much that needs changing, but you give me ‘only one’. I think to make any REAL effective change we’d need a genie to grant us three wishes. And that still wouldn’t be enough. If I could make one change, it would be for the UK government (of whichever political persuasion) to ‘nationalise’ our national sports. They should be governed as a service industry to the British people, and that SERVICE should be the over-riding principle – not profit, nor even a commitment to international growth of the game. The commitment should be to us. And out of that should come a dedicated BBC ‘free-to-air’ National Sports Channel, which would broadcast those events which are part of our lifeblood, heritage and national psyche. And that of course would include Test cricket. And by that I mean uninterrupted ball-by-ball coverage. No pissing off to the 4.10 from Chepstow when the England captain is 299 not out! Or ‘heading to the newsroom to join Moira’ 2 overs before lunch on the first morning of the Test. God that used to fuck me off!! (Calm down, just think of Broad’s face at that Stokes catch). Ah, that’s better! 🙂
PE – What New Zealand did. Out with the old, in with the new.
CJ – Whittaker has been lucky to survive but it is more about continuity now after the Trott, KP, Prior, Swann period ending and Flower/Moores “seamless handover”  Saker has now gone thank God. No – lets assess things in 18 months.
MP – The removal of the odious Giles Clarke from anything to do with the ECB or the ICC would be my choice, although that’s unlikely to happen. The Big Three carve-up was a disgraceful decision with serious implications for the long-term future of the game and his bullish response to any questioning of that decision makes my blood boil. Getting some form of cricket on FTA TV is another must. Would also like to see England playing more games against associates in an attempt to grow the game – a Four Nations style tournament biannually with Ireland, Scotland and the Netherlands would be great, in my opinion.
Meta – Not sure where the line is drawn between administrators and management. But assuming management is Bayliss for sure and maybe Strauss, then as much as I’d like to get rid of Strauss,  it’s the admin that really is the long-term problem. We need FTA coverage, we need better pitches in CC (the Durham strategy of green result pitches is a good way to avoid draws, but does nothing to develop true pace or spin), we need improvements in the calendar, we need better grassroots engagement (not just Sport England money!) etc. etc. Admins for the chop!

AiB – Other than Giles Clarke being publicly humiliated, striped of his position & hopefully arrested for crimes against suits, or having them apologise about KP & the outside cricket stuff.

I’d like the ECB to make a concerted effort to make cricket a game for the fans & players again. Both nationally & internationally, some FTA games, lots more Internet streaming of none televised games & reducing prices for internationals.
Oh and to leave T20 finals day a fucking lone. It’s a great day & great value for money


That is that. Thanks to all who contributed in the latter half of the summer. It has worked brilliantly and the responses have covered a wide range. It’s been great fun.
Thanks also for many of the nice words written by you on the e-mails. It has been a pleasure. Sorry this has been a little late in coming. It is, in some ways, better that way…

The Ashes Panel – Picking The Bones Out Of That

Not, no more....
Not, no more….

I reconstituted the Ashes Panel for one last go around. The first set will give their immediate responses, and the second set, which I’ll send out in the next couple of days, will have had a little longer to contemplate.

Once again, thanks to everyone for the spirit they entered into this, the excellent contributions and the success of this format. I think it’s worked really well, and we’ve also encouraged a couple of the panel members to write pieces (see Chappers piece below on batting, which had me and TLG debating last night over copious Krusovices).

The panel is large, the answers are large. So for this airing we have Mr North London, Sean B; the Batting Guru, Chappers; the quickest off the draw, Dr. Melf; one of the limited number on here to have met me, KeyserChris; Our Man on The Cote D’Azur, Rooto; and the Agent Provocateur, the meltdown Man in a Barrel. We may be joined later with some poetry from The Bogfather….

This time I asked five questions, with a bonus one that was voluntary. I’d actually like all of you to comment on the last one if you can. It paints a picture.

So, fire away, with six of the best answering six of the best.


1. First up, your reaction to the series as a whole. What do you think of the five tests played?
Dr.Melf – A truly extraordinary series, but not in a great way. It’s like the two teams agreed who would win each match in advance (possibly through paper-scissors- stone) and made little effort to make it look like a context thereafter. On the whole games were won by who played least badly, rather than most well. We got the Ashes back but there was little to drive engagement with Test cricket. There was more excitement in two tests with the Black Caps than this whole series. Poor stuff.
Chappers – This has been the hardest panel to answer.

Much like the Pointer Sisters, when it comes to an Ashes series, or any test match series, I prefer a slow hand and for it not to come and go in a heated rush.
Frankly the tourists were terrible for three tests and we were pathetic at Lord’s then suffered from dead rubber syndrome at the Oval.
We performed without an opening batsman and a keeper who looked muddled as to his role with the bat. No number 3 and Joe root digging us out of hole after hole.
Hard decisions need to be made with our batting. More on that below.
The bowling has some talent, but I worry about the lack of pace in some of the later spells from both Finn and Wood – for that I have very little answer, although I am not sure how much cricket they will get in the UAE.

Rooto – I’m very glad I didn’t pay any money especially to watch them. I can appreciate the thrill of lesser-quality, rollercoaster cricket when I’m reading, listening to or streaming it for free, but I feel a little sorry for anyone who handed over hard-earned folding stuff expecting to revel in the thrill of Test battles. It was more thud-and-blunder than blood-and-thunder. Conclusions: First, forget Sky, and stick to TMS and insightful writing where I can find it (particularly here). Second, don’t expect many 4 or 5-day pitches in future summers.

KeyserChris There’s been one “normal” Test – Cardiff, won by Root’s ton. The rest of the series has been some below-par cricket punctuated by a handful of good innings & some brilliant bowling spells. I won’t be rushing out to buy the DVD…
Sean B – I think my overwhelming feeling is one that includes a little bit of antipathy, a little bit of hollowness and a lot of ‘meh’, England may have come out on top and won the Ashes, but these were two average sides each showing their clear weaknesses for all to see; indeed this was not a series that was anywhere near high on quality and will probably go down as one of the poorest “close series” in recent times. Compared to what was on offer in 2005, which I believe was the pinnacle of Ashes cricket, and to a lesser extent in 2009, where England squeaked through despite generally being outplayed in most of that series, this series rather resembled two portly men arguing over the last sausage at a BBQ. I’m still not quite sure why neither team were unable to rouse themselves when they were up against the wall or to at least launch a rear guard defence and show some fight, but what is undeniably true, is that the team who were able to exert pressure in the first innings went on to easily win the match. Naturally, I’m happy that we won the Ashes and there were sterling performances by Root and Broad, but my first feelings about this year’s Ashes are that this has been a case of complete overkill, purely designed to feed the ECB coffers, with this being the third Ashes series in the last 3 years; Indeed I think the phrase “over-familiarity can breed contempt” was made for this series. This is something that I seriously worry about in future (now that the big three have carved up international cricket between them) that test series’ will be played not for sporting endeavour or for any attempt to spread growth and equality in the game, but instead series being played purely for the financial gain of the big three. Now that is a truly depressing thought.
MiaB – It was a mediocre series.  I  normally think a series is mediocre when the bowlers on both sides dominate the batting but you tend to get some batsman who can handle things, which makes for interesting viewing.  However, there has been very little quality batting on display – some resolution from Rogers, some class from Smith, Root and Ali, some enterprise from Johnson, Broad and Starc, and in the case of Warner, someone oft-derided as a one-day player, a serious attempt to fashion a method of handling the conditions.  If the English attack had bowled against England’s batters, how would they have fared?  The only one with a reasonable return is Root.   I hate greentops because they destroyed English cricket in the 60s and 70s….any bowler can bang the ball down just short of a length and get unplayable movement.  I remember how Peter Lever, Mike Hendrick, Chris Old, Geoff Arnold and co would seem unplayable in England and then get whacked all over the place in Australia and West Indies.  I still carry the scars.  If Mohammed Asif, who got movement on Pakistani pitches, had been bowling at Edgbaston and Trent Bridge, what would his analyses have been? 
2. The clear narrative is that England have a young team that will have its shares of ups and downs. Pretty much everyone believed we’d lose this series. Should there be such worried noises?
Dr. Melf – It’s a young talented team who will make errors as they learn their craft.  With the right guidance and leadership I think they have the potential to be really exciting. Experience will temper their current bursts of over-excitement. I would really like to see our best ex-players involved in coaching and mentoring.
Chappers – We need a team of consistent hardened performers. That won’t happen overnight, but it will help of we can get some batting which is less flaky and gives our bowlers more time with their feet up. This is vital. Selection and time will help this. Choose the right players and persevere with them. Buttler, Stokes and Root are, Bell and Lyth are not, I don’t know about Bairstow. Rashid is a colossal gamble.
Rooto – I think the ECB and England Team Fans should be delighted. Enough of them have performed above expectations, or been allowed to overperform – no not overperform, justoutperform the Aussies – this series. Job done, rejoice, nothing else to see here. There is still potential for growth and for a bit of dead wood to be removed (BTW that’s not wishing any harm on Wood, in case of deliberate misunderstanding by some…). 
We, Supporters of Cricket, are the ones who should be worried, by how easily the media narrative has been infantilised, dissenting views attacked without scruple and wider issues swept under the carpet – issues which will grow to an unsightly lump under the carpet in the coming years. Short-term, the ECB can celebrate ‘the beginning of a cycle’. Long-term, they’ll go down with the rest of the ship.

KeyserChris – Yes. Opening is still a major issue. Cook had two good knocks, but yet again his partner has failed. Ali replacing Lyth is a cute solution, but only for the UAE. It doesn’t fix the issue for SA & beyond. The middle order needs to improve, but doesn’t need personnel change necessarily. Buttler needs to improve, but the fast bowling is OK. In terms of spin, we are still nowhere. Ali should only be a secondary spinner at best

Sean B – Yes there should, and although we won, it was hardly a glorious victory and this is highlighted by some of the batting and bowling averages which show we should not kid ourselves into thinking we’re a top team yet. We beat an Australian team who were not as good as they thought they are, made some terrible selection errors and couldn’t bat on swinging/seaming pitches (after all, they thrashed us both times the pitch didn’t offer any lateral movement). We can’t keep relying on Root to score runs by the truckload or for Jimmy or Broad to blow away the opposition batsmen, especially away from home where sides will look to play on our weaknesses. The truth is we can’t find an opener for love nor money, our number 3 (who used to be our number 4) may be in terminal decline and may retire and we don’t have an international class spinner (Moeen, for me, is still a batting allrounder). Add this into the fact that Bairstow hasn’t been convincing, Buttler has been in terrible nick and Captain Fantastic isn’t pulling up any trees (nor has he for the past few years), means more than a headache or two for Mr Bayliss & Co, in the face of two very challenging away tours. If I look on a more positive front, I think the seam bowling attack has good potential, Root is a world class player and I do think Buttler will come good, but I think we are at best a mid-table team in the grand scheme of things at the moment.

MiaB – The strange thing is that this young team could not handle the good conditions at Lords and the Oval.  The bowling lacked penetration and imagination – look at what Siddle achieved compared with Finn and Stokes.  The batting lacked application.  If you take Root and Ali out of the series, the England batting was terrible.  Only three times did they get more than 300 runs in an innings and Australia were  not much better.  The problems that we had at the start of the series have not been solved.  The openers are an issue – I think the reason why Cook wants to continue as captain as that is the only way he can rely on being picked.  His batting returns are not so remarkable, especially if the guy batting with you is scoring even less than you.  However, if he can be an opener averaging 37 then Bell should be allowed to continue at #3, averaging 36.  The middle order batting is an issue.  perhaps Ballance should come back in at 5, because I do not think Bairstow is the answer.  He does not look significantly more robust technically than he did when he was dropped.  It is worth sticking with Stokes.

The spinner is still an issue – neither Ali nor Cook have much idea what to do when the opposition target him other than to take him out of the attack.  He is unable to take on the holding role even when he is not targeted.  The lack of a holding seamer – the Mike Hendrick, Matthew Hoggard, Angus Fraser kind of bowler – is a real issue given that Anderson, Broad and Wood all need nursing because of age or chronic injuries.  Management of injuries is a real issue for me.  I know some deranged people think I want Wood to be injured but I am extremely concerned about his long-term health, since he is only 25 and already had at least one cortisone.  I think the current ideas are that you should only have 3 such injections in your lifetime.   I really do not want him to get to the age of 30 and be unable to walk properly because his ankle has been turned to chalk.  Obviously guys like Broad and Wood want to play all the time but, in baseball, they rotate the pitchers to ensure that they are not overworked and injured.  Unless England go down that path – a strict rotation policy – then I am very concerned that we will end up with a bunch of limping wounded who are unable to bowl properly, given the schedule that the team faces.  Wood’s effectiveness was markedly reduced by the time of the Oval – he got 9 wickets in 4 innings against New Zealand and 10 in 7 against Australia.

3. What was your highlight of the series?
Dr.Melf – It’s a toss up between the true emergence of Joe Root as a world class player or Cooky taking one in the nuts. On balance? I go nuts.
Chappers – In reality it was Stokes’ catch at Trent Bridge and the look of astonishment on everyone’s face.

But I want special mention to go to Ali Cook learning how to captain in the field. For three years he has been dismal, Farbrace and Bayliss have said the right things to him and well done them. Doesn’t reflect well on Flower or Moores.

Rooto – Broad and Finn in the wickets. Ali outscoring most of those batting ahead of him. Listening to Blowers losing all sense of proportion, again, at Trent Bridge.Other elements that pleased me to a greater or lesser extent: Cook revealing doubts and humanity in a couple of interviews; no snotty, in-yer-face behaviour on the pitch – despite the press informing us that the Aussies weren’t capable of behaving themselves; Ed Smith eating “derrière sur une assiette”, served à la Kimber, for lunch on day 1 at Trent Bridge.

KeyserChris – Broad’s 8-15. Sensational bowling.

Sean B – There were a number of highlights worth mentioning, Root maturing into a world class player, Broad learning to pitch the ball up with the rewards that come from it, the atmosphere at Edgbaston on the final day (best atmosphere I’ve ever witnessed in England) and of course laughing at Shane Watson being caught LBW (again and again); however my own personal highlight, and this is very much through my Middlesex tainted eyes, is the emergence of Steven Finn as an international test cricketer again. At the end of the last Ashes series, Ashley Giles commented that Finn “was simply unselectable” – not that I attach any blame to Ashley, the real perpetrator has thankfully left these shores since, hopefully for good. I remember when Finn burst onto the scene in 2010 against Bangladesh and Pakistan and there was genuine excitement that we had a bowler who could bowl at 90MPH with the height to trouble even the most adept of batsmen, so to then hear that he had been reduced to bowling throw downs at a single stump was extremely worrying. Indeed I heard through the grapevine that it had affected him so badly that he was thinking about chucking it in at that stage, so to get off the canvas and be able to not just play test match cricket 2 years later, but to contribute as he did, is testament to both Finn and to Richard Johnson, who has worked tirelessly with him throughout the last couple of years through the good and bad (I will give a small amount of credit to the ECB and Raph Brandon for helping him with his run up, but in the main it should go to the Middlesex team). Finn seems like a very approachable and likeable individual and I genuinely think 99% of the cricketing public had a smile on their face when he got that “five-fer” at Edgbaston, yes there are improvements that can and will be made, but I’m genuinely chuffed for him that he is back playing test cricket again.

MiaB – Either the Stokes catch at Trent Bridge or Mitchell J’s bouncer to Bairstow at Edgbaston.

4. And, also, what annoyed you the most about this Ashes series?
Dr.Melf – The complete absence of any tension. Every game was so one-sided that no drama or excitement was created. It’s great that England won and the young players know the feeling of beating the Ozzies, but it was pretty boring stuff.

Also have to mention anyone suggesting that winning back the Ashes justifies the total ‘arsehattery’ the ECB made of running English cricket for the last two years.

Chappers – Two things: 1 is Ian Bell not scoring any runs. We are used to it now. But rubbish. I wouldn’t take him to the UAE where he averages 8.5. Give him the tour off and see where we are for SA.

The second things are (!) people being patronising about Nathan Lyon who is a very fine off spin bowler and people slagging off Moeen for not being as good as Swann, give him a break. He is as good as we have and won’t ever be as good as Swann, he is also a quality batsman, which Swann was not.

Rooto – That what we heard on TV and read in the newspapers bore increasingly little resemblance to what we saw.

KeyserChris – The crap batting, Simon Hughes taking any opportunity to spruce his book on batting (the sheer chutzpah), any attempt to make hype the quality of the series up, but the award goes to Ed Smith on TMS. An unbelievably smug, sanctimonious self-proclaimed know it all who turns listeners off in droves.
Sean B –  I again could point out a number of things – the MSM lauding the team as world beaters one day and then clueless the next day (see the same for Alastair Cook and Andrew Strauss without the balance of any form of negatives), the dimwits on Twitter who see this blog and any individual that refuses to swallow the ECB rhetoric as the whole truth, as an Anti-English curse that must be rid for good; however I’m going to comment on this from a purely cricketing point of view. My biggest annoyance is that in a series of 5 games, with two supposedly excellent cricket teams, that we could not produce a single match that was in anyway close or genuinely exciting (some of the cricket was exhilarating yes, but not genuinely exciting, that comes from an intense session of high quality cricket where bat vs ball is an event in itself). I don’t want to repeat what I have said in question 1 in any great depth, but this series was not a patch on the New Zealand series earlier on in the summer that displayed all of the traits of a fantastic series, with the added bonus that both teams genuinely had great respect for each other (surely the days of giving NZ a two test series at the start of the summer must be addressed ASAP, though the ECB won’t make as much money, so they probably won’t).
MiaB – Two things really.  First, it would have been great for Bell and Lyth to make a statement at the Oval on a good pitch.  They both failed in their usual ways, which makes it hard to justify their re-selection.  Second, media coverage – the bizarre gloating after Cardiff, the way Simon Mann, Botham and Hussain kept harping on about Smith’s technique (he scores runs, boys), everything written by Ed Smith or the words from him that I had the misfortune to hear on TMS, the fact that Cook was praised to the skies for scratching his nose or putting in 4 slips on a green pitch, Nasser Hussain’s belief that the series victory was Cook’s redemption.  Redemption from what?  He has not proved anything.  He scored no runs to speak of in the victories and he needed some inspired spells of bowling.  What did he do to inspire them? 
5. What would be your test team for the first test match in the UAE?
Dr.Melf – I assume you mean with current ‘banishments’? I also think Bell will rightly call it a day, so it will be slightly changed line up.

Chappers – I have gone for a bit of a horses for courses team – based on the likely pitches. Anderson and Broad were both fantastic in UAE last time – I worry about their longevity. I have ignored the merits of having an experienced player with SA heritage in the team with 100 + caps because he just wont get picked so it isn’t worth any further breath. He would play otherwise at 4 in my team. 

Hales – should have been playing for the last 2 years. A much better foil for Cook.
Root – man up and bat at 3.
Davies – experienced county player who has toured with England. Currently the next best batsman in our game (not just Surrey bias I promise).
Ali – not an opener and not a number 8. 5 is his best spot, regardless if “he bats well with broad” which is a BS argument – he has been poorly treated.
Stokes – going to be better than Flintoff let him play. I really hope he can play spin mind or this will be a chastening tour for him. More likely to do well in SA.
Buttler – going to be better than prior.
Ansari – best spinner in county cricket at the moment – also a foil for all the dashers in the team with the bat
Rashid – can bat and field and offer something with the ball. Not a first spinner, but in this team there is room.
Yup 3 spinners and 3 seamers – a balanced team for the UAE. Also batsmen who can play shots and batsman who can bat time. I can see the request to get Ballance back in the team, but I wouldn’t, he has said he isn’t going to change the way he plays. So he isn’t going to score runs against decent fast bowling. Yorkshire (adopted) stubbornness is rubbish sometimes.
Also batsmen who can actually play spin – Root, Davies and Ali are all excellent against spin bowling, as is Cook. Hales, if he can get in will do a decent job – so long as he is allowed to play himself in and doesn’t try to smash everything first up.
Harsh on bairstow, but he can’t play spin, but I would take him on tour as a back up keeper, other tourists are Finn (and Wood above) and another spinner, no idea who.
Rooto – My team is:
Cook, Hales, Compton, Root, Ballance, Ali, Bairstow(+), Rashid, Plunkett, Broad, Anderson. (squad members: Stokes, Wood, Taylor, Buttler, Bell, Ansari.)

Or is this a trick question, and I’m meant to say “Pakistan” ?!

KeyserChris – Cook Hales Bell Root Ali Stokes Bairstow (wk) Rashid Anderson Broad (10 men, we’ve only got 10 men – Ed.)

Sean B – Team I think they’ll pick – Cook (c), Moeen, Bell, Root, Bairstow, Stokes, Buttler, Woakes, Broad, Tredwell, Anderson. Team they should pick (IMHO) – Hales, Cook, Moeen, Root, Ballance, Stokes, Buttler, Rashid, Broad, Wood, Anderson. A caveat I would add is that this team is for the UAE only, naturally I wouldn’t have Moeen batting at 3 in South Africa, but we need to find a way of shoehorning 2 spinners into the team without running Jimmy into the ground on unresponsive pitches.
MiaB – I think Lyth has to be dropped so I would punt on moving Ali to open – hoping that he can handle the pace on a UAE track.  Cook is obviously there because of his great record in the UAE.  Rashid to come in.  Maybe Footit or Willey in place of Wood or whoever the bowler most in need of rest is.  If Bell decides to call it a day, then Taylor.  Bairstow needs to make a score in the next match or else I would bring back Ballance.
6. If 1 is so outside cricket you want the opposition to win, and 10 is this England team and set-up are bang on, where would you put yourself on the scale, and why (voluntary answer question)?
Dr. Melf – Mmm? There is lots to like about this current team. The new crop of players have a great attitude. Cook has improved his approach. Not much (still) to like about the ECB though. Lots not to like about certain elements of media. Personally? Their attitude & approach and makes it harder to be excited about England. It’s a 6 from me.
Chappers – I get unreasonably upset when England lose. which puts me at an 8 as a supporter (not a 10 because I don’t go to every day of every test match I can) however I am knocked down a few points because I am fed up and remain fed up with the way the game is run – not helped by Aggers tweeting that because of Government Cuts the BBC may not do as much TMS (note to Aggers, BBC is funded by a licence fee which wont get cut and which we all have to pay. TMS given the size of audiences as well as the County coverage is more important than either F1 or athletics so should be a priority for the BBC sport)

Final score a 7.
Rooto – I’m more interested in what you or others think I am. How others see you is often more accurate, if they’re paying attention (and not malevolent). But that would involve reading through all my inane postings, so I’ll save you the trouble and say 3.33 recurring.Positive feelings towards the players in the team? Generally, Yes.

Support for the body they represent and promote? No.

Belief in their methods and leaders? No. I fist-pumped Cook’s wicket, but not the others.

Empathy with those around you? No comment. Depends who I’m talking to, so I’ll call it 1 out of 3.

KeyserChris – Probably about 4.

Sean BFive out of Ten – I would never willingly wish an England team to lose despite the clowns running English cricket; however I have genuine anger at the way the ECB has run cricket over the past few years and trampled over those individuals who are genuine fans of the game of cricket whatever their views on the game (KP gate, Outside Cricket comments, the increasing cost of being able to support my country and deciding to plough ahead with the most selfish, egotistical and genuinely harmful reform of the game in known history with the carve up of international cricket between the big three to name just a few). These are all topics that have been discussed to death both here and on Twitter, and they are still as divisive as they were 2 years ago and hence I’m not going to repeat many of the views that have been elicited; however this has definitely contributed to my current slightly hollow and disenfranchised attitude towards the current England team. Dave Tickner managed to express my exact thoughts on this subject on Twitter, when responding to a BBC poll on cricket myths, and naturally in a far more eloquent way than I ever could – “England winning the Ashes justifies any or all of the assorted ECB clusterfucks in the last two years. #cricketmyths“. Perfect.

MiaB – About 4.  The main reason is Cook and the media/ECB narrative around him.  He is doing a job which he is not particularly good at and he doesn’t enjoy but he stubbornly persists in doing it.  The runs he is capable of scoring would be a lot more valuable than his captaincy – I cannot think of any close games where his captaincy has been vital to the result and he does not seem able to coax performances out of bowlers who are struggling.  He just purses his lips and puts on Joe Root.  I can see that so why do Sky and TMS insist on trying to proclaim him as a world-beater and insist that he is a really nice chap?  
My thanks to all who contributed to this panel. It’s full of really interesting, and sometimes contrasting views. Feel free to comment below, and as usual, keep it polite. These folk give up their time, and quite a bit of it.
The final, final panel will be up within the week, so keep ’em peeled.

Ashes Panel #010 – Bucko Kicks My Arse… I Am #StayHumble

australia-celebrate-the-ashes-whitewash_10piscrajeyf61qj64a1ovgr5r (2)

Sean B, aka the Great Bucko, kicked my arse on Twitter last night. Feeling a bit sorry for myself, he prompted me to raise an Ashes Panel #010, and despite the shortness of time, a number of you came through for me, and here it is. A million thanks, people.

We have Sean B, Hillel (big thanks, I know how busy you are), PGP Chapman (sans end of piece rant – I’m sad), Paul Ewart and Colonel Blimp (David Oram). And at the last knockings, it’s Man In A Barrel too!

We put this together at short notice, so forgive errors and maybe the questions, but let’s play ball….

1. Michael Clarke’s form? A permanent dip or just temporary? And do you think it is the difference between the two teams?
Philip – Firstly England have bowled very well at Clarke in this series. Secondly, class is permanent and as we have seen from Ian Bell, it only takes one really good innings to turn it around. What I would say is that he is more upright in his stance than previously (seems to be a bit of a current trend) and while this is fine and symptomatic of a player with a bad bad – think Athers in his later career, it means that his head is starting from a marginally different position, which through the delivery will a batsman’s alignment with the off stump. This is emphasised by the moving ball – the way to counteract this is by moving guard across half a stump – but for an experienced player that may also feel a bit wierd. I also suspect he is trying a bit too hard. Who knows what is going to happen – but I don’t believe he is the difference between the sides – actually I think that is Moeen – who is quietly bowling ok and scoring lots of important runs with the tail in a way that is demoralising the Aussies. In most cases Eng have also cleaned up the Aussie tail pretty well – which we have struggled to do in the recent past.

Clarke clearly also has issues with the teams he is being given – I am not sure that is because he doesn’t get on with Lehman or the selectors or what that is all about – that is hurting his (and the team’s) mental state.

Hillel – Michael Clarke’s dip in form is certainly temporary; it is flippant to suggest a batsman of his calibre has been found out, and neither (as with Tendulkar’s eyesight) does there seem to be a sign that he has lost his touch. His two vital 50’s in the World Cup is testament to the latter. Let us also not suggest he is by any means the difference between the two teams, for if Australia have been hosting an out-of-form batsman in every Test this Ashes, so too have England in the form of Adam Lyth. Nonetheless, I worry for Clarke: he looks morally beaten by years of being underappreciated by so many of his country for his efforts. There is also evidence that even if he recovers, the Australian selectors may not see a future in which he plays a part. I fear that even though this is a temporary dip in form, Michael Clarke’s time is up.

David – Hard to tell. But Clarke’s lack of runs is a symptom not a cause of the Australian ague. Form and fitness oscillate for all cricketers, and he may yet reach the heights again. I just hope not in this series! Interesting how sharply he is reputed to have rebutted the question about his ‘hunger’. Methinks the lady doth protest too much! Isn’t it amazing though how in a short period, and after a couple of bad results, the man’s entire playing and captaincy career is being reevaluated? A great batsman can become a bad one overnight if he’s out of form or unfit – but career wise we’ll always acknowledge he was a mighty fine player. But a great captain can’t become a poor one overnight. The point is Clarke’s only ever been a decent one, good not brilliant, with a few innovative field placings, and some bloody awful bowling changes. And he never completely had the dressing room. Wins in the next two Tests may yet elevate his status even higher than those who have previously (unrealistically) lauded his ‘genius’ – but defeat and I think his time, and maybe even his legacy, could well be done.
Paul – Who knows? It feels like he’s coming towards the end but I’d imagine he’s still got a couple of good innings in him. Big game players tend to come good even when their body’s giving up on them. Remember Steve Waugh’s one-legged century? I’m not sure it’s the difference between the teams. This has been a crazy series. I wouldn’t single Clarke out: what about no’s 5 and 6?
Sean I think it’s semi permanent now, which despite not liking the guy, is sad because he was a very good batsman (though I wouldn’t say he was one of the greats). It’s been clear for sometime that he has been hampered by his back and this has affected both his movement towards the ball and ability to sway the short ball. His footwork also seems to be hesitant, which is another reason why he has struggled this Summer. It reminds me a bit of when Vaughan returned after his knee injury – he still knew what he wanted to do but didn’t have the body to do it. I’m not sure it’s the difference between the teams as some of our batsmen aren’t exactly pulling up trees, but a fit and in form Clarke would add value to any side; however don’t be surprised if he pulls himself together for one last hurrah.
Barrel – I hope it is a temporary dip simply because he is such a graceful batsman to watch when on song.  If he were in form, the Aussies would surely be well ahead by now because we know that he has the skill and determination to graft on a difficult pitch against an attack which is short of true greatness.
2. I can’t abide discussions on pitches, but popular demand suggests we need to talk about it. What do you think we’ll get at Trent Bridge?
Philip – I think it will have some grass on the pitch – so similar to Edgbaston. here’s hoping for a similar result!!

I think it will be a good toss to lose on Thursday (much like in the previous game).

Hillel – England seem to have realised that swinging pictures work to their advantage, especially with an in-form Steven Finn returning to the attack. To change the formula that won England the last Test would be dangerous, not to mention highly unnecessary. Furthermore, the momentum (dare I breathe the word) is with England, and even the ECB will realise that to prepare negative pitches now (pitches that detriment Australia, rather than advantaging England), will be inexcusable. The pitch will a traditional English pitches, Trent Bridge will swing as usual and that should suit Mark Wood perfectly.

David – Not so keen on pitch discussions myself! I’ve never ever met or seen on TV someone who genuinely could read a pitch accurately ahead of a game. And once the game is underway many experts still manage to make the wrong guess. “This’ll take turn on days 4 and 5” and it doesn’t.  “This pitch will deteriorate” and it flattens into a road. Likewise groundsmen. I’ve thought for over 30 years that Mick Hunt is an appalling preparer of cricket pitches, but does manage a beautifully maintained lawn. He has no idea what sort of track we will eventually get for a Test, regardless of whatever the weather has done (but never fails to use it as a handy excuse) but occasionally ‘Mike’ does get lucky – but mostly it’s crap. I have just as much faith in the other Test grounds. I hope Trent Bridge is something similar to Edgbaston because Rogers apart, they are hopeless against the moving ball.
Paul – Talk is it’ll be like Edgbaston. As long as there’s something in it for both bowling attacks I’m happy. I don’t like doctored pitches and Cardiff was doctored.
Sean – You’ve discovered my real bug bear, as I on the other hand, hate to see doctored low and slow wickets designed to nullify the opposition rather than play to your own strengths (I could go on all evening about this, but fear not, I won’t). They would literally be batshit crazy to produce another wicket like the one against India last year, as then it’s a win the toss, win the game scenario and I also think Stuart Broad would spontaneously combust! I think the wicket will have a bit in it, especially if there’s cloud cover overhead but equally it’s not going to be a raging green seamer either. If the pitch is similar to Edgbaston then that would suit me fine.
Barrel – I guess it will be a slow Trent Bridge pitch with a bit of grass on it to appease the journos, Nass and Strauss(y).  It won’t have the bounce of Edgbaston so it will just be a tricky pitch which doesn’t help anyone really.
3. The loss of Anderson. A crucial blow or one we can get over?
Philip – Well he will stop playing at some point. So we have to get over it. Yes we will be fine. If Finn hadn’t bowled so well in the last game I would be much more nervous, but we will be fine (if I tell myself enough times we will be fine, I will eventually believe it). Whether Wood, Plunkett or Footitt play they all have extra pace and will do well at Trent Bridge – what we do need is smeone who doesn’t go at 5 an over to bowl with broad – we have to accept that Finn is likely too as is Moeen, so who ever plays has to be able to do the dot ball holding roll.
Hillel – On the surface of it, a terrible blow – despite all of Finn’s heroics, Anderson played a huge part in victory at Edgebaston. However, scratch a bit deeper and England should (the famous last word) be alright. Broad has been bowling superbly, and has until now gone largely unrewarded for his efforts; it is almost certain wickets for him are imminent. I need not go into detail about just how well Finn is bowling at the moment. There is room to suggest Mark Wood’s record at Trent Bridge means that he can replace Anderson there as well, despite the fact that he is not a like-for-like replacement as someone like Jack Brooks might have been. Where England will be hurt is if Anderson remains injured for the final Test; with England unlikely to go with the experience of Jack Brooks, they could find their attack rather depleted.
David – Yes and yes. It may well be fate that Finn has come of age just as Anderson has acquired his free pass bus. We only see the pivotal moments for what they are in the rear view mirror. I hope Jimmy comes back at The Oval, but we really need to be thinking hard about life after Jimmy. How all that effects this Test though is anyone’s guess. And we’ve all been doing a hell of a lot of guessing in this series!
Paul – Could be a McGrath moment, could be nothing of the sort. I’ve given up predicting anything in this series. It’ll give the Aussies a boost, that’s for sure, but it’s up to them to take advantage. I’d expect them to bounce back but, like I say, it’s a crazy series.
Sean – It’s a massive blow if the pitch has something for the swing bowlers (but not if its a featherbed). We don’t have another bowler like Anderson in county cricket that doesn’t bowl at late 70 mph (Rushworth as a prime example). I think they’ll go with Wood if fit and he does have a good record at Trent Bridge in his first class career, so I’m taking some solace in that. The unknown is how much of a boost that has given to the Australian dressing room knowing they won’t have to face Jimmy on one of his favourite grounds.
Barrel – I suspect it will be crucial.  Although Broad is bowling well, Finn is only one match into his “comeback”, Stokes is variable, and it looks as if Wood has had a cortisone.  Given that you should only have 3 cortisones in your career – learned from Simon Jones’s memoir – this is a very bad sign.  I suspect Wood will struggle in this match to fill Anderson’s workload.
4. I’m a bit concerned about Jos Buttler’s batting. Are you? 
Philip – Yes I am concerned, but I think Jos is a massive superstar and will score runs. At the moment he doesn’t seem to have a clear plan of how to play, plus, I suspect, he is lacking some form. Personally I would swap him and Johnny B in the batting order and play him just as a batsman (as said previously) and tell him to treat the match as if it was a one day game. Focus on the ball and not the match situation.

Jos, like Root and Moeen is just one of those players you have to back.

Hillel – Not particularly. Jos Buttler did score good runs against New Zealand (only three Tests ago!), and stick with him for long enough, he’ll do so again. It’s worth mentioning as well that whilst Jos should be performing, England’s success will not (or should not) be decided at the number 7 position.

David – Very. He’s looked a hapless shadow of himself. And his thinking has been wobbly too. Not reviewing (however OUT he thought he was, it was an obvious tactical necessity with his LBW with only the tail to come) was schoolboyish. If there hadn’t been more obvious guys to drop he might have been axed by now. Get out and play your natural game Jos. Hit the bloody thing!
Paul – Not especially. Better judges than I say he’s the real deal. If so he’ll work it out. It might be that he should be moved up the order in the longer term.
Sean – Yes it’s a concern, like a number of our other batsmen, though he has been noticeably better with the gloves. They’re not going to dump Jos (yes Ian Healy, that’s Jos not Josh) as he has been identified as the heir apparent and without doubt is a talented batsman (his test batting seems to mirror his county batting in that he blows hot and cold) but I still think we’ll see a significant score from him before the series is out. One thing I’d be tempted to do would be to send Moeen in ahead of him, as Moeen has looked in form with the bat this series and it seems a waste to have him continuously batting with the tail.
Barrel – Yes – he hangs his bat out to dry when there is any pace directed at him.
5. Your prediction for this match coming up?
Philip – England to win – no idea why. probably in 4 days. England play well at Trent Bridge and it is Broad’s home ground – he is due a hot streak and I think he will be MoM
Hillel – I’m not sure even the Oracle of Delphi would dare voice a prediction on the next Test, in light of how the previous three have gone. At a push, I’d suggest England.
David – Defeat. It’s obvious isn’t it?
Paul – I’d be surprised if Australia don’t bounce back at Trent Bridge: they’ll be hurting. I can’t help feeling that they have a deep well of confidence that England sides, 2005 excepted are unable to match. That may, however, be nothing more than mental scarring as a result all those defeats in the 90s and the subsequent whitewashes in Oz.
Sean – Seriously, who knows, such has been the inconsistencies of each side during the series. My heart says England due to the dreaded M worded being bandied about by the pundits, but head says Australia will get it together and perform well at Trent Bridge. I do think whoever bats the best in the first innings will win the game as neither side’s batting line up has been able to cope with scoreboard pressure. On the other hand I am hoping for a number of Celebrappeals, a terrible Broad review in his first over, Mitchell Johnson to injure his ankle by stepping on a cricket ball and Moeen to mankading Michael Clarke, but that just might be me…
Barrel – Draw – rain-affected

Thanks to the contributors, once again, and to Sean for unknowingly rising me from a bit of a stupour. Great answers, showing that this gang aren’t some sad pathetic bunch, but passionate about the game. I might be a broken record on this, but until those arrogant little —— think that cheerleading is not the only way to follow this sport, and actually stop and read some of this stuff, then I’ll keep banging the drum. Well done all. Of all the things I’ve put on this blog, getting you to participate in the panels is one of the best. I thoroughly enjoy them!


Ashes Panel #009 – Through Tired Eyes, And Scrambled Brains….

australia-celebrate-the-ashes-whitewash_10piscrajeyf61qj64a1ovgr5r (2)I hope you appreciate this. A quick summary. At mid-day yesterday, I developed an awful headache. Pain right behind my eyes. Had them before, and they take a couple of days. I’ve been popping pills and at the moment I feel OK. But my job incurs a lot of laptop time, and the eyes don’t recover and the pain returns. At the moment it is tolerable. I’m sticking up the Ashes Panel results for the latest round.

Due to my limitation on laptops during the evening, I won’t be pursuing the remainder of you not in this loop for a panel session until after the Trent Bridge test now. If those of you who are on the panel (and those who haven’t volunteered) and would like to answer the five questions then feel free in the comments, or you can e-mail me them at .

I sent the latest out to seven panellists, and I think I have a full house. I have Oscar De Bosca, Andy In Brum, CricketJon, Metatone, MD Payne (ironic name given how I feel), Dr Melf and Keyser Chris. As always, many thanks for their time and effort. There are some superb answers coming your way….

1. What the hell is going on? Your views on Edgbaston 2015.
Dr. Melf – No idea! This series is playing out like the Rocky films. Expect an enormous Russian to be prominent in the next test.
MDP – It was certainly the most unpredictable Test match I can remember. I’ve been surprised at the ineptitude of the Australian middle order and Michael Clarke being a walking wicket at the moment. Very pleased for Steven Finn after his well-documented troubles and Jimmy Anderson proved that in the right conditions he is very hard to handle.
Meta Oddly enough, in some ways the insanity fits a long-standing pattern. Very few Ashes Tests are close results. Somehow whoever wins seems to do so by quite the margin. Possibly due to the psychological pressure of the contest. (Although the pattern is also increasingly evident in other Test matches too.) Still, gratifying for an England fan of my generation that for once it wasn’t England doing the batting collapsery. It was weird just how bad Steve Smith looked after looking so good at Lords. I guess lateral movement really is a foreign country. Also weird (but gratifying) is that Johnson and Starc couldn’t do an Ambrose & Walsh and pull the game back after being let down by their bowlers. Again, this was a home pitch and the Aussies didn’t look comfortable…
Andy Brum – 2 very weak batting line ups, with England having 4 batsmen who got some luck & played conditions better, and England’s 3 main seam bowlers bowled better & used the conditions better.

Plus edgbaston has an atmosphere conductive to supporting England, not the smug up its own arse Lords. That’s due to the type of fans who go & also I think the ground is fantastic when it comes to keeping & reflecting sound in the ground.
Keyser Chris –  Absolutely no bloody idea! It seems more down to individual form (or lack of) from both sides, as opposed to bad tactics & captaincy. I still don’t think the pitches have had anywhere near as much impact as is being made out. Edgbaston was good, but really only a bog standard English seamer, nothing more.
Cricket Jon – Firstly what a wonderful advert for entertainment. After all, we are, are we not in the entertainment business? (This reminds me of Downton stating post WC that he was not aware of social media. Stop and imagine the Chief Executive Officer of Disney Pixar et al uttering the same? ) I digress but not for an impetinent reason. The last knockings of Flower, Saker, Cook,Bowling Dry, Big Cheese and all that have been exposed. Firstly before this summer and now even more so during this summer.

It was a great Test match in that the crowd genuinely gained the team some home advantage. Birmingham Tests are unique in that it is the only insight for an Australian cricketer to see how it is for England players at ALL five venues in Australia. I have lots to say about the game but I shall confine it to the following for this queston – in most circumstances you do not come back from 136ao after winning the toss.


Madness.  My one test a year live and I get those first two days (we genuinely thought when Warner went that we may see the denouement within 2 days).   Two bald men fighting over a comb springs to mind..

There are issues with both sides, our openers cannot seem to put on more than 50 exposing the #3 too early, but we have a middle order prepared to (or forced to by circumstance) counter attack and each member (barring Buttler) has put their hand up so far and responded well.  Their top 3 is excellent but their middle order is woeful.

I thought their bowling was better before the series, but Starc appears to be the same Starc that was dropped in 2013 after Trent Bridge, and whilst his ODI form is excellent, he appears to lack the consistency for the longer format.  Hazelwood looks like he could be a great bowler, but appears to be a bit too slow to trouble batsmen in form.  Lyon is excellent.  Johnson was worrying me until day 3 at Edgbaston, where he appeared to let the crowd get to him…More of that please Trent Bridge crowd.

Our bowlers appear to be equal (or a little better) in our conditions, Broad has bowled excellently since the start of the NZ series, none of this faux ‘enforcer’ nonsense, good lengths, good pace, the occasional short ball.  I was worried about Anderson (see last Ashes panel), but that was because I felt he had lost a bit of his nip, his brain remains the same, and that pitch with those conditions shows that you don’t need to hoop it round corners, just a smidgen of movement one way or the other and you create doubt.  Finn was a revelation, before he took his first wicket I noted to a friend in the stands, how smooth he looked coming into the crease, and his action seems nicely geared (and more importantly repeatable).  Ali has regressed to bowling darts (or at least 3-5 mph too fast), we were behind him on Thursday, and I noted that not one delivery got above the batters eyeline, so whilst he gets good spin, it doesn’t seem to be in the air enough to drift and subsequently grip.  However he is a batsman who bowls, and he just needs to gain more experience bowling (so that he worries more about taking wickets than conceding runs).  It was a great game of cricket, but it didn’t seem like a test match until day 3.

2. Ian Bell to three has been a move many have been crying out for. Is this a semi-permanent feature or just a blip before loads of people turn on him again?
Dr. Melf – I think it’s now number 3 until he retires or is dropped. I liked his aggressive approach at Edgbaston and I hope he can continue this for the remainder of the series. Even though his scores were not huge, he had a big impact in both innings.
MDP – I would hope it’s semi-permanent. His positive intent in the second innings took away any lingering doubts of defeat and hopefully his performance in the match will be the start of better things.
Metatone – I hope it’s a feature for at least a year. Bell looks a better bet than Ballance and he has the experience too. What’s not to like? Still, people will turn on him the moment the going gets tough – he’s too prone to strange concentration lapses for that not to happen – not to mention that he’s a convenient target for the “Cook above all” brigade to point to when things aren’t going well for the Deer Hunter. That said, I think England has gone too far with central contracts – Bell might well have gotten more out of being in CC than in some Tests this year. We’ve made “being dropped” too big a thing and there’s no way for players to get the game time to get back into form.
Andy Brum – The sledgehammer of internal justice, I Ron Bell, is a giant amongst men, however, he does get out to stupid infuriating shots, so yes he’ll always get the brickbats, but we’ll miss him when he’s gone
Keyser Chris I think he is at 3 for a while now, certainly until the start of the series in the UAE. And he should be. I hope he doesn’t get turned on, but if Cook doesn’t score many more runs & we lose the next two Tests, I can see unnecessary pressure being heaped back on him in the press (if you know what I mean…!)
CricketJon – I am still seeking clarification as to whether Bell actually did volunteer for no3 after Trott went home from Brisbane. For all the criticism he attracts, he seems to comes up trumps when his place is at stake. Whether he was a tad down after losing the vice captaincy and it affected his form, that is in the past and he responded here with the responsibility. I respect the way he took the attack to the Aussies in both innings. There is positive and there is reckless and he was positive. I think he will always have critics until he hangs his boots up but as a Midlander and an appreciator of his technique, I know I shall miss him. A bit like Gower, you cannot have scored c8000 runs if you are not uber tough (we are talking the top 0.1% of professional sportsmen) although to be fair Gower faced better attacks, had a better record and was burdened with captaincy in very difficult series.
Oscar – Bell should have been at 3 since Trott retired.  He wanted it, he deserved it and he is probably the ideal player for it.  He has a lovely technique, complete range of shots and knows how to defend as well as counterattack.  He will also always get out playing silly shots, for me the classic Bell dismissal is a chip to cover and him then looking at the bottom of the bat.  To steal a Jarrod Kimber line, Bell is the beautiful woman who you know you shouldn’t love as she’ll let you down.

I think we have to accept that it is ‘just the way he plays’, I accepted that regarding another England #4, I will accept it with our new #3.  I am glad to say that I was wrong regarding his eyes, and it was just a run of form as it was quite dark even with floodlights on day 1 and he seemed to see everything (apart from the fielder when he mishit off Lyon).  Ironically Bell at #3 would allow a ‘Compton’ like opener (if Lyth were to be dropped for the next series), as the problem with Compton and Cook is that they took so long to score, you could be 20/1 after 15 overs.  Bell at 3 negates that concern.

3. Who do you think should come in for Jimmy Anderson, and by the time you reply to this you’ll probably know who has, so what do you think?
Dr. Melf – I think Wood has to come back. It would knock his development and confidence if he was replaced.
MDP – I think the replacements chosen were probably the correct ones. Footitt has been knocking on the door for a while so his inclusion wasn’t unexpected. I’d be surprised If anyone other than Wood is picked, though.
Metatone – Wood is apparently coming in – and if he’s fit I think it’s the right choice. Once upon a time Onions might have been the correct replacement, but we never really gave him a proper chance. We’re crap at developing bowlers. Test cricket is a step up and Wood has at least a bit of experience to come into this match with. He bowls faster than Jimmy, but does get some shape. Of course, as in so many positions, we failed to use the WI series to look at alternatives (Footitt springs to mind) so really we don’t have much choice.
Andy Brum – I’m guessing wood as he’s next off the rank. I haven’t followed County cricket enough this year to make an informed decision on Footit and woakes would be my first choice if he’d played one or two more CC games, he’s very very good at red ball bowling, plus more batting,
Keyser Chris – My first thought was Onions as he deserves the shot (caveat – I haven’t a clue if he’s getting wickets or even fit at Durham at the moment. I know Rushworth & Stone were getting plaudits though). If not Onions, then pick the best opening bowler in the CC, so Finn can be left as first change. A bit of pressure for that player, but try to keep replacing like for like should be the thinking. As it stands, Footit & Plunkett have got the call. Plunkett seems to be selected on pace. I’m guessing England are hedging bets in case Trent Bridge is low & slow yet again. Footit I am glad to see. Left-armed & in form. About time a lesser county player in that form was looked at. But it will be Plunkett.
CricketJon – Wood for me. Lets not get funky. There’s two Tests to go in a critical series and there will be plenty of opps for the newbies in due course unless Moores comes back(!) There is less swing thesedays at Notts (post new stand) and we need bowlers of international class even if they dont swing it as distinct from hoopers at county level who may freeze at the opportunity when TB doesnt swing. Let the Lehmann/Sutherland/Conn axis who continue to attempt to hold the moral compass propogate the funky stuff and then they can fly home without the urn uttering whatever they like. We aint falling for the 2013 media campaign this time, well, I hope not.
Oscar – Wood if he is injury free, otherwise Plunkett (with the proviso that they tell him not to bowl short and to forget every conversation he ever had with David Saker).  I don’t watch enough/any CC to know whether Footit is the answer, but I heard Woakes mentioned, and my first thought was ‘If Woakes is the answer, the question must be, which bowler would Australia most like to see bowling at them?’.  It appears that Anderson will stay with the team at Trent Bridge and that can only be a good thing, it is unfortunate timing, but we always had to see what an Anderson-less England team would be like, and now we have the chance.  If we win at Trent Bridge, I would like to see Rashid given his chance (in a dead rubber), however my solution would be to drop Bairstow for Ali which would be unfair on Bairstow but we would have potentially 6 bowlers to choose from, which can only be good for a captain.
4. Are these just two really poor batting teams, with the less poor one as a result of home advantage?
Dr. Melf – I think both teams overall have weaker batting lineups than previous years. This weakness is compounded with some players who are woefully out of form. To go back to the Rocky analogy, it feels like each team is just going for the knockout punch and is willing to be smacked in the face. Time to try some jabbing….
MDP – Sounds about right to me. Both teams certainly are having problems with the bat. England’s batting line-up is looking the stronger at the moment, despite Cook, Lyth and Stokes not in the greatest form. The Australians look in trouble the moment they go two wickets down – their middle order look devoid of confidence and their back-up players don’t instil much fear, either.
Metatone – I think it makes sense to look at Lords and Edgbaston as two tests where conditions heavily favoured one team. In each case the “home conditions” team dominated with the ball. The difference is that in dry conditions if you don’t dominate with the ball you concede 600. At Edgbaston if you’re under the cosh you concede about 280-300. However, in each case the “home conditions” bowlers scrambled the minds of the opposition. The Aussies did it with pace and we did it with lateral movement. As such, while both sides are flaky and prone to collapse, I wouldn’t call them “poor batting sides.” Rather, given the teams involved, each pitch was a poor pitch to make a contest…
Andy Brum – Yes, plus advantage of not being full of over 30’s who haven’t won a series in England.
Keyser Chris – Quite possibly. England have got their wins with their bowling, plus crucial runs from the Middle order. Australia used weight of runs & extra bowling rest to blast us at Lord’s. How Mitchell Johnson didn’t keep the bombardment up on day 2 at Edgbaston may have cost them – he won’t make that mistake again. Get the chest guards out, England! Australia seem to have the better openers & tail, England have a better all round bowling attack & middle order. Home advantage will probably just get us over the line at the Oval.
CricketJon – In a word yes. Both teams appear to have no more than two batsmen who apply themselves and the rest is like a random-numbers-generator. Interestingly the 2009 series was a 3-2 victory to Aus in “batting collapses”. Aus collapsed at Lords, Brum and Oval whereas Eng thankfully confined their two collapses to one Test, the infamous defeat at Leeds.
Oscar – Yes, see answer to 1.  Australia have a great top 3 and nothing else, England have 3 top players (Cook, Root and Bell) but the capacity for the others to improve (Stokes, Ali and Buttler).  Not sure about Lyth, whilst I agree with LGL regarding his dismissals being nothing to do with technique, I think some players have the character/mental strength for test cricket and some don’t.  I fear Lyth is more Hick than Trescothick, he may be excellent in CC, but his shot selection belies scrambled thinking.  Only M. Marsh and Nevil are young enough to improve for Australia, Rogers is retiring, Clarke appears shot, and Voges has done nothing to suggest he will be there for a long time.
5. So, to Trent Bridge. I’ve given up trying to guess what might happen. Help me out here……
Dr. Melf – For no understandable reason Australia will win by a huge margin. Everyone who played well previously, will have a shocker. Those who have yet to show up, will have an absolute blinder. It may be done and dusted in a day, or maybe not.
MDP – The loss of Anderson is huge for England, his control will be badly missed. I wouldn’t expect the Aussies to bat so poorly two Tests in succession, Smith will come back strong and Voges, Marsh could be due a score. I wouldn’t mind betting England’s win/lose sequence will continue, leaving the series all square going to the Oval.
Meta – I started banging this drum from before the series, but events since then have only confirmed my belief – I can’t tell you what is going to happen until we see the pitch.

The Aussies will come back strong, they are not a team who is going to lay down and die because they are 2-1 behind. Add in that England’s other bowlers didn’t look very scary in the period where Anderson had gone off injured. Add in the way England under Cook seem to lose concentration after every win – the WLWL pattern. All that points to an Aus victory.
And yet the result depends on whether the pitch favours bounce or brings lateral movement. If it’s a good seamer I’d be prepared to bet on a close England win. (Close because of the upheavals in the bowling attack.) If it’s dry and flat, Aus will win by a big margin, bouncing us out along the way. But it’s hard to see either team mastering the other’s conditions in time for this Test.

Andy Brum – A pitch more shitter than the Indian test.
Keyser Chris -Trent Bridge will be low & slow for the 3rd year running, especially if they haven’t insured against loss of earnings. Surviving the Johnson bombardment & keeping Smith and Clarke out of the runs will be the likely route to victory. I think one of those two will get big runs though, and we will sorely miss Anderson’s great record at TB. Australia to win by 3 wickets… So it will be down to a nail-biter at the Oval.

 (disclaimer: I have Oval day 5 tickets, so this may cloud my thinking…!)
CricketJon – I havent the faintest idea now! Winning the toss and, separately, having the momemtum appear to be dismissed now as peripheral advantages so all I can say is lets wait and see. What will add some extra spice is the scrutiny of the “lose to win” propoganda that Aus media were trumpeting as they went nearly 4-0 down in 2013. Clarke could be under a lot of pressure. Personally, I cannot wait.
Oscar – Who knows, as long as we don’t get the same pitch we had last year I will be happy.  I don’t believe in momentum, it is a concept that hacks in the media use to describe something that they don’t comprehend fully enough to analyse and explain.  England now know that on a flat pitch, the current bowlers will struggle against the Australian top 3, they also know that on a more ‘traditional’ English wicket that has movement off the seam, the Australians will be all at sea, so that should give them confidence if the pitch suits.  For Australia this was a crushing defeat (made worse by the manner in which Bell and Root cruised to the total), they know that they could have lost within 2 days, but England were abject at Lords, so Australia should be able to pick themselves up.  A lot of talk about the loss of Anderson being a 2005 McGrath moment…hmmm in 2005 England had lost at Lords (but had crucially taken 20 wickets), and were 0-1 down in the series, here we are 2-1 up so whilst the loss is crucial, I would back Finn, Wood, Broad and Ali to take 20 wickets if we have a good test wicket.  For the series (and the sequence of WLWLWLWLW) an Australia win would be great, however I don’t give a shit about the series, I want to win 4-1 if possible.


Ashes Panel #009 is in the books. With that. Good night.
I won’t be around tomorrow as I’m participating in my office Fantasy League competition and it’s auction night. I used to be the champion manager, but lost my way, and now doing this for sentimentality’s sake for one year. It’s great, because I despise the Premier League.
Hopefully I’ll feel better and we can do some previews for the 4th Test. Or maybe just the one.
Cheers all.
Dmitri, Lord Canis Lupus or just plain stupid…..

Ashes Panel #008 – Jonny Be Good, Chris Be Well

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First of all, I’d like to echo TLG’s tribute to Clive Rice. The 1980s were my formative time when it came to cricket, and Clive Rice’s Nottinghamshire loomed large on the scene. As someone put on the comments, he used to win those all-rounder competitions that were the rage in the 80s if memory serves. He was a fine cricketer and that’s all I need to know.

It’s been another funny day. Lovejoy has been on Aussie media doing a no doubt hilarious impression of Kevin Pietersen. I’ve read the transcript and I’ve just got back from A&E to sew up my sides. Needless to say, those who adore to hate Mr Pietersen think it’s really funny and that we don’t get the gag. I’ve been here before. We’re as mad as the moonies. Classy.

So, on to the main business, and that is Ashes Panel #008. First up an apology to Dr Melf from Twitter land as I left him out in error (and I wasn’t well yesterday so didn’t e-mail him the questions) while asking the Great Bucko to go twice. If Sean would like to contribute that would be fine by me.

So who do we have? We The Bogfather for the poetry, we have Rooto, we have Oscar da Bosca, we have Colonel Blimp (David Oram) and paulewart. Legends all, panelists to be revered, and comments to read. As always, my huge thanks for their participation, and for the time and effort they put in, including waking up before the kids to contribute their efforts. It’s seriously amazing. A bit like the Moonies!

Fire away:

1. I’ve asked all the panelists so far, so why not you too? Your reactions to the 2nd Test result and the way the match went.
Colonel – Awful. I was there for all 4 days, and being an unrepentant one-eyed English optimist it was painful – but I also thought it was a poor advert for cricket. The first day was the most mind-numbing I’ve witnessed in person since Day 1 of Nottingham 1989 (Aus 301-0). Subsequent days were more interesting and I enjoyed our fightback for the most-part of the first 2 sessions on the Saturday. Sunday’s capitulation was abject, although not boring in the way the Thursday had been. I had a super time at the Test catching up with family and friends and boozing heartily, but the cricket was a major disappointment. Australia were thoroughly professional; England weren’t. I hope they’ve got it out of their system quickly like a dodgy biriani and return to the rude health of Cardiff.
Oscar – Awful, just awful, I work from home and tend to watch the first hour or two of the test before the guilt takes over and I start working with TMS on (and the SKY feed handily a few seconds later so that I can turn and watch the delivery)… I watched for about 6 overs.  Rogers tried to hit the cover of everything and looked vulnerable, but the bowling was so ordinary from Anderson that any pressure from Cardiff was gone in an hour.  Broad bowled well throughout the match, but was the only one of 5 bowlers to do so.  Warner gifted his wicket in such a manner that it showed the placid nature of the pitch and only a mistake was going to get a batsman out.  Smith has clearly decided to milk Ali which doesn’t help as no pressure is created by him if the fast bowlers are bowling well at one end….
That said, if England had won the toss I am not convinced that Australia would have done much better in terms of runs on that day, (but probably for 5 or 6 wickets).  Scoreboard pressure is real, and the collapsibility of our top order just adds to the pressure on a decent middle order.  It was abject, but this England side post no 1# status has shown they are capable of really abject matches let alone sessions or days.

Sometimes they collectively appear to give up….Perhaps a captain should be a leader of men and capable of inspiring with words as well as deeds, it would appear that if the deeds aren’t done by either the captain  or the FEC at number 5, then the rest of the batters give up.   The bowling is more complex, whilst I don’t agree with Metatone completely, we do struggle on flat pitches as we haven’t ‘mystery’ or pace (although I think Wood has potential, but he clearly cannot maintain his pace over back to back test matches).

PaulEwart – Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose. The ECB press and their acolytes look more and more foolish by the day. If Captain Dimwit identifies a pattern before you do, then you really are in trouble. How can anyone take these people seriously?

The 1st Test was a pleasant surprise, but I fully expected a snarling response from a wounded Australia and they didn’t let me down. The selectors identified a weakness and rectified it without ceremony as I suspected they would Talk of a crisis in the camp was, as usual, overplayed. I found the contagion here more perplexing: some of you lot engaged with it! Happily normal service was resumed last week both on and off the field.

As for the match itself, well it was a pretty spineless performance wasn’t it? And the media’s response to our best player was predictably mean-spirited. I’ve got a bad feeling about Ben Stokes’ future given how every misstep is scrutinised by relentless churls, curmudgeons and deracinated medium pacers.

The only worry, from an Australian perspective is Pup’s form. Then again Steven Smith’s record as captain’s none too shabby. I’d expect a more competitive England this week, but I’d still expect Australia to win and if the pitch has any pace in it, it could turn nasty. Strauss’s e-mail shenanigans suggest that all may not be well in paradise. Let’s hope the nauseating honeymoon’s over. I’m still not comfortable with either his role or his ubiquity. There’s a real sense of lines being crossed/blurred at the moment.

Rooto – The second test unfolded predictably (for a pessimist). I was pleasantly surprised by … no, sorry, nothing there. On the other hand the second innings collapse was less surprising, and showed how little Rodders has managed to instil any steel core into the team. He really does captain for himself. I’m inclined to be indulgent about the under-performance and say “these things happen with young teams”, which perhaps helps to explain the over-performance in the first test a little bit too. The team doesn’t have to be so young, but that’s not the players’ fault.

Poetry Corner With The Bogfather…

Trampled underfoot from day one

Caught in the pace-place headlights

Crumpled in a heap, as pressure won

Fraught thinking, courage an oversight

Rankled with me, so tactically undone

Day four, no resistance, no fight…

2. Ballance paid the price, and the second panel had their say in #007. Let’s look at his replacement. Any thoughts on Jonny Bairstow’s selection and views on how he would do?
Colonel – Bairstow should have been picked from the start of the series. THE form batsman in England, with the renewed confidence of his match-winning ODI innings behind him should have played ahead of one of the 3 passengers in our top 6. I hope he will succeed in the 3rd Test, but this will be as much a test of his character as his technique. I think he’s up to the task – but we shall see.
Oscar – We are paying the price of Cooks awful form last year and the decision not to blood Lyth in the West Indies.  We are also doubly paying as if Trott was going to come back into the side it should have been in his position at 3.  A lot of judges better than I thought Ballance had a technical issue last year, and that better bowlers would expose it.  This has happened since the WI tour and the decision to drop Taylor just before the WC and rely on Ballance at 3 in an ODI side without any form whatsoever is now biting us.

We may have known whether or not Lyth has the temperament for Test cricket.

We would have had an experienced no 3 (who may or may not have done well, but we ended Trott’s test career in the WI by making him open).

We have a problem with the top order but we are bringing in another middle order batsman.

I hope Bell succeeds at 3, but I fear his eyes may be going (it may be form, but he reminds me of Vaughan’s last days, lovely strokeplay, but missing straight ones).  As for Bairstow, well I would have bought in a more experienced no 4 (with a great record against Australia) and left Root where he is, however I wish him well, he is scoring bucket loads in the county championship and probably deserves his another chance (particularly after that innings in the ODI v NZ).

PaulEwart – I haven’t seen enough county cricket to comment (don’t tell wctt), but in KP’s absence he seems to be the next cab off the rank. He, like so many others, has been treated shabbily by England thus far. Let’s hope he’s ironed out his technical difficulties and can make a go of it. Whilst its always good to see successful county cricketers rewarded, I do sometimes yearn for Duncan Fletcher’s left of centre hunches (though he had a much better record with batsmen than with bowlers!). I liked what Jason Gillespie had to say about Bairstow, but am reminded of Geoff Boycott’s noting that he saw himself as a wicket-keeper batsman rather than a frontline batsman. Time will tell. It may be that he and Jos Buttler swap roles in the long term.

Rooto – I’m happy with the batting rejig, as I’m a Bellophile. I remember getting up at 3 just to watch the last rites of the Perth test 2010, purely because Bell was still in overnight. Of course he got out straight away. I think this Bellophilism may be closely connected to my pessimism. Anyway, Big Johnny B. I wanted him in the team, as I’ve followed the county scene from afar, and he is without doubt its star this year. I hope he will walk out with enough confidence to belligerently turn around any 30-4 situations, in much the same way as Stokes has done twice already this year. If he can’t thrive now, at the top of his form, no-one can. I’d be interested to see if a successful Bairstow puts pressure on Buttler to score more runs, too. (And if there’s pressure, how he responds to it).
Poetry Corner from The Bofgather –

To pick a player in form is so rare

Yet to replace a 3 with a 5 shows panic

With Bell promoted to next man hanging

Selectorial nonsense seemingly manic.


Where is the middle order solidity?

If Root fails at 4, where’s the glue?

Will Bairstow dig-in’ for a day?

Or will we still swing without a clue?


Shifting the deckchairs is not a plan

Nor is it fluid or organic

Captain Cook may seek his Bounty

But sadly he skippers the Titanic…

3. I really worry about the way Jimmy Anderson has started the series. Do you share my concerns, or should I just relax?
Colonel – Absolutely! Anderson has been a shadow of himself for 18 months. I entirely agree with those who felt that mammoth performance in the 1st Test of 2013 was the final drawing from his well of quality, and if he can’t raise his game in the last 3 Tests than his time has come to retire. Having said that, he bowled with more purpose, zip, fire etc in the 1st 2 overs of the 2nd innings at Lord’s than I’ve seen in a while. Viewing from a mid-on angle at the ground, he briefly demonstrated an extra yard of pace and energy. England had had a quite intense huddle as the took the field 2nd time around and were busy and purposeful – they were clearly determined to give it a ‘real go’ – which disappeared immediately when until Adam Lyth dropped that catch. It was the 2nd time in 2 innings that abysmal cricket from Lyth entirely deflated the whole team. With the debilitating effect Lyth’s 2 moments had on England’s mindset I’m surprised he wasn’t dropped. But I think his card is marked.
Oscar – Nope, whilst I admire Dennis Loves Cricket I think the arrant nonsense that he has spouted about Jimmy for the past few years was undeserved.  I am not so sure it is anymore as something has gone awry, he seemed to lurch towards 400 wickets (I am sure they were talking about it when India were playing last year, but that might be my memory).  He seems to have lost a bit of zip and doesn’t seem to gain the swing he used too.   Hopefully the wicket at Edgbaston will suit him.  I fear that he was (alongside Swann) bowled into the ground during the last years of Flowers regime and we are now paying for the 4 bowlers “give it to Swanny/Jimmy” mentality of those years.  People commented on this at the time, people commented on this after the fact… we are now seeing what 3 years of a ridiculous schedule with only 4 bowlers does.
PaulEwart – He’ll succeed if conditions suit, he won’t if they don’t. He may have lost the capacity to threaten without the right conditions. Wasn’t Selvey grumbling about his being down on his speed in the Caribbean? It could be the dreaded “loss of nip”. Again, time will tell. It’s not as though anyone’s banging at the door.
Rooto – The acid test is coming for Jimmy. Edgbaston and Trent Bridge should suit him more, or at least people expect them to suit him more. Therefore if he doesn’t get the wickets, there will be media pundits and fans wanting him to make The Oval some sort of swansong. But he’ll play all three tests. I can’t comment on any technical problems, as I’m mostly just listening.

Poetry Corner With The BogFather…

The slow decline continues

No longer able to lead the attack

Still carrying an injury?

A slight action change, stiff backed

Becoming a one trick/track pony

Without a plan B, he lacks

The pace to worry a batsman

Or the skills to thrill, alack.

4. Both test matches have surprised in the gap between the two winners. Do you see another one-sided match or is this going to be closer (let’s ignore the weather reports for now)?
Colonel – God knows. I’d hazard a guess at a closer contest, but after the relative unpredictability of the first 2 games it’s anyone’s guess. I suppose most will predict another emphatic Aussie victory – so I’ll be contrary and predict an England win. But if I were putting a bet on it would be a rain-affected draw.
Oscar – I think that Australia are the stronger team both on paper, however I do think if England bat first in any match and score 400+ it allows the bowlers to create pressure and Australia’s middle order is slightly suspect for me.  Voges and Marsh remind me of Marcus North, good players but not frightening, and if Clarke continues to score 30 and then get out we can win matches.  The problem is if Australia bat first and do the same thing I think the pressure will get to us more.  I do think that the series is evenly balanced in that a coin toss may decides the destination of the Ashes (especially if we get more flat pitches).
PaulEwart – I can see Australia dismantling England if the pitch has any life in it. They opened some old wounds at Lords, despite what Moeen may say. I can’t see England doing the same, the 1st Test was just the kick in the pants Australia needed. Let’s just hope we’re competitive after the mauling at Lords. Still, we are a very odd team at the moment, and Root, Stokes and Buttler can take the game away from any team. I don’t think they will, though. The Aussies have rediscovered their collective mongrel/ticker (delete as appropriate). A draw is the best we can hope for.
Rooto – I feel that England’s chances will depend on the performance of the pitch. We have seen that Australia have brought out their best game, and can take 20 wickets inside 2 days of bowling. England will need some assistance to do the same, so (assuming not more than 1 day lost to weather), if it’s flat, it could be a similar style of result to Lord’s – not necessarily of the same magnitude – but if it’s spicy then we have a puncher’s chance, and the match will definitely be short enough to reach a finish.
Poetry Corner from The Bogfather

We don’t do close anymore

As the results since ’06 show*

So the gap is no surprise

Winning margins continue to grow.

Is this first day initiative?

Or just a period in time

Or perhaps it’s just because

They’re no longer able to bat time…

Has ODI and T20

Led to a loss of application?

It seems a world problem

Not just for these two nations.

Yet the quality of bowling in general

Is lower than 20/30 years ago

So when true pace or spin arrives

Technique is the first thing to go…

5. Chris Rogers would be a great loss to the Australian batting line-up, wouldn’t it? Do you think it might potentially cost them dear?
Colonel – Yes and maybe. But then again in the medium term Australia will have to move on from Rogers, so why not now? Many England supporters were delighted to see the back of Harris, Haddin and Watson – but then look at how well Hazlewood, Nevill and Mitch Marsh have done. Shaun Marsh is unlikely to match up to Rogers’ runs, but I think the injection of younger players into their side, even though enforced by injury, are actually working in the tourist’s favour. A few fresh faced Pikes in place of seasoned soldiers like Corporal Jones, Frazer and Godfrey is bringing Dad’s Army renewed energy.
Oscar -Ireally like Rogers, he is a perfect counterpoint to Warner (who knew a dasher and someone solid as an opening combination would put pressure on the opposition??).

I think potentially he could be a big loss, because whilst Warner will probably get a lot of runs, his style makes him suspect to getting out early.  Marsh is an odd one, great heritage, but he has been knocking on the door for a long time and I think he is in his early 30s.  To me, given that Watson has opened, Warner was picked in 2012/3 from T20 with very little FC experience, I have to presume he isn’t the answer long-term for Rogers.  On a good pitch (with a good toss lost!!) they could be 30/3 before they know it and suddenly under pressure.  That’s why cricket is such a brilliant game, because 30 minutes in 6 hours of play can turn a game.  I still remember sitting at Edgbaston behind the bowlers arm with Freddie bowling to the greatest allrounder the game has ever seen (Kallis – I thought I would stir a debate btl that isn’t Ashes related J).  For a two over spell the game almost stopped and became just a duel between two men, the atmosphere at the ground was so intense it was eerie.   Plus Collingwood got a place saving century with a 6 (Pieterson was criticised the previous day for trying to do the same (plus ca change)), I also like to forget that Graham Smith batted for the whole of the last day to save the game.

Enough digression, Rogers is a big loss for Australia, their middle order’s suspect…what could possibly go wrong (I am betting it is called Mitch).

PaulEwart – He would, he’s in sparkling form. But so is Shaun Marsh. The middle order is looking a little vulnerable with Clarke and Voges yet to catch fire, but Mitchell Marsh looks promising and Mitch, Warner and Neville look in good touch. He will be a loss, but I expect a strong performance from an Aussie side on a roll. It must be that ‘deep momentum’ or is it that mysterious but vitally important ‘luck’ thing…….

Rooto – Warner’s been surprisingly quiet so far. Rogers’ form has put him in the role of junior opener. He was warming up at Lord’s, though, and if he becomes senior partner to Shaun Marsh, then this could be a big influence on the match. Aus would miss Rogers, but there could be compensations. Boom!
Poetry Corner from The Bogfather –

A player well versed in our conditions

Providing solidity at the crease

Who bats for the team and his partners

Allowing them freedom and release

He’d be a loss to any team

And though It pains me to say

I hope he’s passed fit and well

And is able to play…

So, there you have it. TLG’s excellent match preview, an Ashes Panel, and tomorrow, weather permitting, Act 3 in the 2015 Ashes.