Dmitri’s Review Of The Year – The Year of Peaceful Antagonism

hh-review-globe

It’s not exactly original, I know, but the end of a year brings forth a time to reflect, to review and to write tedious end of year pieces looking forward to the next. Good grief, I know I am guilty of that more than most! Be warned, this is a long one……

How will I look back on 2016? It has been a challenging year for blogging, it has to be said. From a personal perspective I’ve found this year quite tough. I’ve not had the pure motivation of previous years, and for quite lengthy periods have not been bothered to write. That’s probably a product of two things.

  • The first is that with a few glorious exceptions, the authorities have upgraded themselves from Keystone Cops to Dad’s Army, and thus haven’t really pushed the buttons. Combined with somehow finishing the KP for England (in the T20) debate despite none of us thinking it was ever an option they would undertake, the ECB mainly steered clear of self-made obstacles. Then they raised their T20 plans and banished Durham, and they gave us some gifts to work on. However, the ECB had a quiet year (by recent standards) it has to be said. The rumblings of old perennial flowers in the garden may give portents to future growth of enthusiasm.
  • The second is blogging burnout. I have said on many occasions how unprepared I was when How Did We Lose in Adelaide took off. Not just the time and effort to write and write and write, but also mentally how draining it can be, especially on top of a very busy job. The whole thing took a lot out of me. Writing the blog became borderline obsessive. Content, no matter how it was derived, mattered. I started feeling the pace during the 2015 Ashes. Having moved from HDWLIA to the new blog, it had become established and even had a new writer to help out (which greatly undersells what Chris has brought to this blog – but that’s how he worded his first offer, “helping out”), but I was thoroughly pissed off by the cricket, the media, the idiots throwing bricks at us, and probably culminated in the Twitter meltdown with Etheridge. I was knackered. At times during 2016 that has resurfaced. I have a life outside of here and work. I have a lot of other interests. It is time I paid attention to them. But, this is like an addictive drug. It keeps pulling me back. I’m sometimes not sure if this is good or not!

For me 2016 was a year when the campaigning, more vociferous (shall we say) blogging was put a little back in its box. This hasn’t been the year for it, although it may have ended a good deal more tetchily than it was in the middle months. That’s not to say I don’t think Being Outside Cricket is declining in relevance, such as we have. There’s still something on here you will not find anywhere else, and that’s a lot of cricket tragics putting forward angry points of view, without fear or favour. The voice is still heard, if a lot less acknowledged in public, and that we have retained a very healthy hit rate and visitor count despite a decline in the number of articles, in conjunction with a test year which, on paper, wasn’t the most attractive in pure media terms, and a lack of major controversies speaks volumes. At the end of 2016 I feel better than at most parts of the year. I do recognise, though, that the next four or five months are going to be absolutely brutal with a lack of England test matches, and only patchy instances of ODI cricket to sustain us. The one thing learned is that test matches drive traffic. Well that and KP and/or Alastair Cook. With an absence of those factors, all of us here are under no illusions how tough the barren lands of early 2017 will be. In contrast, the next year from May 2017 will be absolutely off the charts.

Outside of Being Outside Cricket, I am sad that people like Maxie (totally) and Tregaskis (to a lesser extent) are not rumbling around as they used to. Both are inspirations to me over the past few years, writing in their own styles, and attacking their foe with precision and not a little flair as well. If they are the guided missiles or sniper’s rifle, I’m a big hefty cannon! Maxie in particular is a grievous loss to our cause and to that of cricket blogging. Maxie drives traffic when he writes. You may not agree with him, but you read him. You may argue with him, but you listen to him. He has that skill to get under the right people’s noses. I have said that he will always have a place to write if he ever wanted to “come back” and that stands. Without him, and with the different direction I think The Full Toss has gone, it does feel quite lonely out here, being angry and keeping the fires burning!

That’s because others who were equally vociferous during the tumultuous times are much less so now. That is the writer’s choice, of course, and I don’t want to criticise them for it. Each cricket writer / blogger has to be true to themselves. I have said, many times, that if I wasn’t true to what I believed in you’d see it a mile off, and I wouldn’t be able to write for any length of time. I have a couple of individuals in mind (and not the Full Toss before people put 2+2 together and make 5), and they need to realise that playing both sides of the fence is taking much of their readership for granted. They are still capable of great things, pieces I read and enjoy. But there are other times I think “are you being, have you been, totally honest with your readers?” That’s for them. Call it friendly advice.

It would not be a review of the year without mentioning the madhouse that is Twitter. Contact with the media has fallen off a cliff this year as obviously we don’t need to be acknowledged as we were post-KP. Now that’s a dead issue the media, those who bothered, don’t need to know how the great unwashed feel. That’s no more evident in the recent Cook incidents. The press don’t need to protect him now, because there’s no combined angry backlash if he was to be sacked coming, other than from a couple of diehard pillocks the world can ignore safely. After KP there was an angry backlash from a number of blogs, new and old, and the reporters had to recognise this. Now there’s nothing to get angry about, there’s nothing for them to worry about. I’d be a little bit concerned, if I was a journo, about some of the key big beasts being put out to pasture. They weren’t, in the main, the ones who had the foggiest idea about “social media”, despite being on it.

Twitter has been a lot less confrontational. The odd arsehole that got on my nerves as always – some who follow KP’s twitter feed to have a pop strike me as particularly “obsessed” – but nothing like the rubbish I’ve had to put up with in the past. After the early issues this year with one, we’ve had a spell where we’ve managed, I think, to not get mad at each other, which suits me. The other one I have had constant issues with showed their nasty side by threatening to out my name in a particularly lovely Tweet, but even if they do, no-one cares. Then there was the remarkably odd parody twitter feed. I’ve blocked that old bollocks. Other than that, it’s all quite quiet, and that can only be a good thing for your health, I suppose.

So to the cricket. What, really? If I must? Let’s focus on England.

The year started with the Ben Stokes blitz in Cape Town. This incredible knock didn’t get England a win, but it did set the tone for some high octane stuff during the year. Almost, but not quite, unnoticed in that innings was the magnificent first hundred for Jonny Bairstow, which would lay the table for his year. England actually finished Cape Town on the back foot after a double hundred by Amla and a century by Bavuma, and a last day wobble, but returned magnificently on top at Johannesburg when the stars aligned for another of those Stuart Broad spells. Joe Root’s masterful century on a surface that Broad made hay on is conveniently forgotten by those wishing to criticise him now, and it laid the foundation for the series win. England then went on to lose a one-sided, we don’t give a stuff test, at Centurion. Funny how, when we lose these matches, we don’t give a stuff because we’ve won the series. I suppose it makes us feel like the 1990s Australian team if we think like that.

The ensuing ODI series with South Africa started with England’s attacking play dominating. The first two matches were taken in some style, before the tide turned, and England’s devil may care approach came unstuck in the decider. If one lesson was learned it was not to say we would win a series 5-0 when we hadn’t actually won the series. Maybe we’ll learn. Also, Adil Rashid dropped a catch and copped a ton of blame. That set a tone.

The World T20 competition was greeted with little hope, given it was being played in India and “we never do well in the sub-continent”. England lost to the West Indies in a Gayle tour de force, but came back to win the rest of their group games, including a phenomenal run chase against South Africa that was a much a trait of our new attitude as the loss in the ODI decider in South Africa had been. People, it’s two sides of the same coin. It just isn’t a tuppence, but a nice shiny new £2 one. England qualified for the semi-final, and overcame New Zealand, and when they got to the Final were relieved to be facing West Indies and not India. We all know what happened then, and we also know how important a moment in the cricket year for attitudes going forward in the media and the blogs that was.

The good feelings from the World T20, despite the tumultuous ending, and the start of the new county season seemed to beckon a bright summer. But the first half was low key, and in many ways just dull. The home series v Sri Lanka, both in tests and ODIs, lacked a certain something. There were exciting moments, none more so than Liam Plunkett’s last ball six in the first ODI, but Sri Lanka’s game approach was not matched by results. England won the test series 2-0, with a rain-affected draw the other “result”, and got through the two limited overs portions of the somewhat less than Super Series unbeaten. It was job done for England, but judging by attendances at the test matches, the level of interest on here, and my own (lack of) attempts to keep up with fixtures while on holiday in the US, it raised a number of very awkward questions about the quality of the product on show. This was the first time I had to listen via Guerilla Cricket. A useful service, but really not my cup of Earl Grey. After that it was Cricinfo (and my first question on Polite Enquiries which was met with George saying “I don’t think Dmitri is being totally serious”.

The second half of the summer was covered in my 5th Dmitri for the year. From England’s perspective it was a series that possibly got away. There was much rancour and discord over the omission of Anderson and Stokes from the first test, which grew when the whispers that they were fit were married up with a defeat at the hands of a vibrant opposition and around the same time Andy Flower broke his “dignified silence”. There was a distinct smack of “good journalism” about it all. The second test at Old Trafford was one way traffic once Cook and Root set about the task at hand, with Root becoming only the second domestic player since 1990 to pass 250 in a test match. England took the wickets they needed within the time allotted for a comprehensive win. A tight third test that ebbed and flowed went the way of the hosts when Pakistan failed to survive Day 5 (heard that one before), but any resting on the laurels was rudely awakened when a lax first innings at The Oval was at least 150 runs short (despite a Moeen masterpiece) and Younis Khan’s double hundred pointed the way to a series levelling victory. In both wins Yasir Shah had applied the bowling coup de grace. Yasir was lethal in London, undone up north.

The ODI series that followed had some magnificent performances, most notably the breaking of Robin Smith’s 23 year old record for the highest ODI score by an England player. Hales had 200 at his mercy but had to settle for 171. That new record might not last 23 months. England also made the highest ODI score of 444 for 3, Wahab recorded figures of 0 for 110 (second only to the legend of Mick Lewis in ODIs), Jos Buttler took 22 balls to reach 50 (an English record) and so on and so forth. We also had a number 11 make a 50 in the response! Pakistan rallied towards the end of the series, winning the last game, and then winning the T20 as well, but overall, sentiment towards the white ball team was in the ascendant. They were/are genuinely fun to watch.

The problem with England, its media, and many of its fans, is that there is too much emphasis placed on “doing what is perceived to be the right thing”. Looming at the end of the series was the trip to Bangladesh, where international teams were less keen to go, especially after the early July terrorist attacks at a bakery in Dhaka that was frequented by overseas visitors. After a very thorough review, itself indicative of the tricky nature of the decision, and backed by a host government prepared to throw a shedload of money at security, the tour was deemed safe to proceed. Players were given, by the ECB, keeping in mind the security issues, a choice whether they would go on the tour or stay. Eoin Morgan and Alex Hales said they did not feel comfortable and withdrew, just as Andrew Caddick did in India many years ago. The results were a widespread condemnation of Morgan, an Oliver Holt expedition so shallow that it barely merited being a puddle of a piece, and the generation of nonsensical heat and light about duty, loyalty, courage and leadership. A 2-1 ODI series win, under some interesting and tetchy leadership by Jos Buttler, was greeted like a huge triumph, and now the same heat and light is on whether Morgan should be in the team on merit, or whether we should just throw in the young guns, like, er, Ben Duckett (that went well in the test team). Morgan is a great captain of an ODI team and keeps his place on merit. Cook wasn’t a great captain of a poor performing test team, and was in poor nick for quite a while, and the press could barely mention it. We are a funny bunch.

Once the ODI series and the all the old cobblers that came with had been got out of the way, so we went into the two match test series. Alastair Cook had come back from the UK after the birth of his second child, and assumed the reins of the team, as they sought to hold back the hosts on some very spicy, spinning wickets. Both tests were filled with drama. Batting was perilous, but England got enough to win by a narrow margin at Chittagong, with Stokes being the difference, but the cracks did not hold at Dhaka, and Bangladesh romped to a famous victory. There was lot of great spin in evidence, with the English representatives coming from the media, and the hosts from the team, and especially the exciting talent that was Mehedi Hassan. The media tried to make it look like this was a valiant drawn series against a talented foe. Most of us thought this was a recipe for disaster with India looming, and no-one was being called for it except the three spinners. Batsmen weren’t to blame, they rarely are (unless you should not have been picked in the first place, Gary Balance). Those of us with long memories will recall the over the top reactions to a hit out or get out 50 by Ben Duckett for a while to come. It took all of two matches for him to become “unselectable” after that.

Then on to India. The result was pre-ordained according to the press and other experts. I’m listening to an old Switch Hit where Mark Butcher basically said that anyone with any cricket knowledge should have known that was going to be the result. I am really sorry, but I am not buying it, will not be buying it, and won’t be buying it any time soon. England were competitive, so they said, but lost key sessions and lost 4-0. Because this was the bar set at the start, then it was almost acceptable for it to be the end result. I was half joking when I said anything other than 5-0 would be painted as a success.

But you know, and I know, that this isn’t really what is going on. For the media to, almost as one, indicate that it’s time up for Alastair Cook suggests he’s not really thought of as totally without blame for this one in the same way David Gower wasn’t for the Blackwash of 1984. The captaincy was abject at some points – and all captains go through abject moments – but he seemed to be unable to rouse anyone, to get them enthused or excited. At times it was going through the motions. Karun Nair has a test triple hundred to his name, for heaven’s sake. Gavaskar, Tendulkar, Dravid, Viswanath, Hazare et al have not made one, but Karun Nair has. Jayant Yadav may be a very talented cricketer, but he has a test ton to his name too. Yet this was seen to be almost “expected”. I’m scratching my head.

England played well at Rajkot, batted with discipline, made a massive first innings total, dictated terms, and played with good sense. The declaration caused some ructions, but I wasn’t overly fussed about it. A decent performance after Dhaka was what was needed. Of course, some went silly over it, and then found out why you shouldn’t when we were handily beaten at Vizag. Kohli’s masterful 167 being the key batting difference, and while some were still saying the signs were really encouraging, most of us thought that unless the bleeding was stopped we were in real trouble. Of course, the toss was “crucial” there, and the result might have been different had we won it. When we won the toss at Mohail, we were promptly dismissed for 283 and dead in the water. Of course, this ignores the fact that India were 204 for 6 in reply and were totally let off the hook, as the tail wagged. A 124 run lead for India was enough. England never got back into the game.

At this point Haseeb Hameed had sustained a broken finger and was out of the rest of the tour, which meant his almost legendary start could benefit more from not playing in the final two test matches. Hameed is a talent, for sure, but I do like to see my talents make massive scores before anointing them as the heir apparent to Kumar Sangakkara, even if that means I’m bloody unreasonable in so doing. English sport is littered with kids built up before they are due, and cast aside when they don’t live up to the hype. Let’s hope HH is an exception to the rule.

The last two test matches followed similar patterns. England won the toss, thus gaining an advantage, but still found themselves batting last as they made on the face of it decent totals, but totally inadequate when you neither appeared to have the clue or the sticky hands to constrain Indian batsmen. Are you really telling me that Mumbai was a 631 wicket? I’ve just heard Mark Butcher call England’s second innings as being inevitably below 200, because the deck was doing everything. Yet we couldn’t get shot of the Indian lower order? They were 34 runs behind us when the 7th wicket went down and walked away with a 231 lead! As for Chennai, that was a road. A road we couldn’t be arsed to stick it out on to get a draw.

Look, I recognise, as someone who has watched the game enough that winning in India is tough. I am not bloody stupid. What got me with this is the almost reticent attitude of those following, who seemed to take more time explaining away our failures rather than getting stuck into players who underperformed, unless their name was Adil Rashid. It was quite strange, having lived through some disastrous tours where the press declared open season, even at times when we were expected to be thrashed (every overseas Ashes series it seemed). Now everyone wanted to be ever so reasonable about it. As the beloved says “beware a change of behaviour”.

The year ends with England, touted as possible world number 1s after their win in South Africa in a state of flux. I think most people, in their hearts, know Cook should go. Some have known it a lot longer than others. There is almost ludicrous expectations on Hameed, while Keaton Jennings may have a debut test ton under his belt, but still appears to have a bit to prove. The batting order is a mess, we are playing a wicket keeper batsman as a batsman, and a batsman wicketkeeper as the keeper. Moeen Ali doesn’t know whether he is coming or going. Adil is on the one hand a fragile, catch dropping liability, and within a fortnight our number one spinner. The seam bowling looked worryingly ineffective once the wickets got flat, and James Anderson appears to be an injury prone, too many miles on the clock, up and down bowler (has he lost that nip) on wickets that don’t help him. That doesn’t even mention the coaching staff. Trevor Bayliss got too much praise when things were going well, and pushed off a day early when they weren’t. He’s either managed the press well, or there is something going on. There are a number of grumblings about his test coaching ability, but nothing serious yet. Maybe there’s a nice herbaceous border around him with lots of pretty flowers? As for Paul Farbrace, who knows? Everyone still seems to be in Camp Farby. Nothing to seems to stick to him. If we are doing well, he gets lots and lots of praise. When they go badly, he gets lots and lots of praise. I’m not entirely sure why! Maybe it’s because he’s a cheeky chappy, chirpy and upbeat, a lovely assistant, creating a good environment. 2017 has many many tests – the Champions Trophy had better go well. South Africa won’t be pushovers, and we might freeze West Indies to death by the end of September, while our players will be on their knees. And then….The Ashes!

So to the media. We’ve seen the loss of some of the behemoths of the reporting game. Stephen Brenkley was dispensed with when the Independent went online only, and now is the home of any jobbing freelancer wanting to sell copy. There’s the case of spreading yourself too thinly as a couple of the hardy perennials of the up and coming crew are doing. While Brenkley wasn’t my cup of tea, and to be fair, I’m not really sure who is, I found him more the unthreatening scribe, clearly in love with what he was doing because of the sport and less because he appeared in love with himself. In some ways I miss Bunkers.

Then there was the well trailed removal of Mike Selvey from the Guardian. It is never nice to see a man lose his job, and it is important that this isn’t jumping on his misfortune, but he needed to read the runes and he didn’t. Like Pringle before he gave off the impression the game owed him a living, and the reverence he received BTL in The Guardian often enforced that. The lachrymose tributes on his demise were OTT. His view of embracing social media was to put what he thought out there and slag off anyone who disagreed. As a newspaper man, you can’t do that. Engage, debate, even try to get to know your accusers. Some have done it and found it, I think, of mutual benefit. For Phil Walker to almost cuddle him on Cricket Writers was the last straw for me with AOC. Selvey had no truck with the likes of us, independent of mind, as acerbic in print as he could be. He didn’t want to read views contrary to his, or at least, he might if you’d played the game at the highest level. But he might ask himself why we have a decent relationship with certain journalists and not him while he sups his pint and pines, of course, for a job lost. There were a lot on here who really liked you Mike. Maybe ask why they ended up being on the other side of that line at the end.

Meanwhile the same old correspondents plod along, touring the world, filing copy, being read by fewer people as the game gradually disappears. It’s a bloody shame. Again, to those who block me, namely Paul Newman and Simon Wilde, ask yourselves why we got so damned angry at some of your copy – well that’s Newman, I don’t have the first clue why Wilde blocked me, I quite liked him – because a number of your colleagues did. Think about how the fans are consuming their cricket writing these days. Think beyond scoring a few cheap hits and stupid BTL twaddle, and more about the sport itself. Try not to use your columns to settle other people’s scores.

On TV the new kid on the block, BT Sport, has made a middling start to its coverage. Speaking for myself I think it has a decent panel, even with the odious Lovejoy on it, and it made a splash with the early prominent names of Ponting and KP, knowing these were for a short period of time. This is a practice run for their Ashes coverage next year. Let me give you a number of pieces of advice based on what I have seen of their test and ODI coverage.

  • A highlights show is to watch cricket first, hear you lot jabbering on later. The amount of actual play shown is laughable. When the Ashes are played next year, more cricket and a lot less bunny.
  • Greg James is a promising host but he appears to be limited in what he knows. Now either he is being constrained by the format and the talking heads, or he is limited in what he knows.
  • As for the live coverage, please stop the silly little inserts during the coverage. It’s bad enough with Channel 9 cramming in their imbeciles, without adding to the number of voices. Let it breathe.
  • Separate the action and the chat as much as possible.
  • If you want any more advice, dmitriold@hotmail.co.uk

I have the week off to follow the Sydney test next week, and might provide some more views. It’s good that there are different avenues to watch, but not so good when you have to pay more. The world will, must, have a dedicated cricket viewing source soon, or else it is going to lose revenue and customers.

There’s a bigger piece on domestic cricket to write, and how it interacts with TV. At the moment we have an almighty mess with the ECB and the counties being accused of all sorts by everyone. Until something truly crystallises – ha ha, playing in Beckenham – it’s all heat and light. And dull to watch.

So a year that began with a bang, ended with a dud. There’s too much here already to give a world view of the game, so maybe that’s something I can look into in the New Year. I’ll also be encompassing another aspect in another of the Dmitris, but for now, with cricket, media and blogging in here, it should be enough to be going on.

Happy New Year. One more piece to come.

 

Advertisements

Unconsciously Decoupling

Title inspired by Gwyneth and Chris…..

So that was the first leg of the “summer”. England pretty much wiped the floor with an over-matched Sri Lanka side, bereft of established star talent, incapable of mastering early “summer” English conditions. England did what they had to do. They took advantage of their home superiority in two comfortable wins in the Northern heartlands, while being on top in the London match-up only for the opportunity of a whitewash to be denied by rain. England won the ODI series 3-0 with one tie and one no result, and comfortably won last night’s T20 international. The Super Series, in its inaugural incarnation ended, let me work it out now, 10-2, plus 8-2, plus 2-0 – so 20-4 – and that was that.

And I’ve never been less interested.

Take last night. I went supermarket shopping after work, and forgot to take my phone with me. I completely forgot the game was on, so never kept up with what was happening. At 11pm I noticed the highlights were on Sky, so sat down to watch them, not knowing the score. When it became evident that Sri Lanka were not going to post 200, and the wicket was as flat as anything, I decided going to sleep was a better option and looked up the score. I’ll commit the highlights to disc, stick them on my laptop hard-drive and likely never watch it. Another T20 with context, another international fixture, eroding away the special nature of the international (i.e. top level) game in an orgy of money accumulation and TV schedule filling. Pile ‘em high.

There are many on these pages that decry the fact that we play Australia and India too much, and not enough attention is given to the so-called “smaller nations”. And you’d be right. But series like these arm the holsters of the powers that be and the TV masters, rather than us. Sri Lanka were, for vast swathes of this series, outclassed. England won the test series without major contributions from their three and their five, and with Joe Root, Alex Hales (although he had a good series) and the Captain failing to make a hundred. Jonny Bairstow had a terrific series with the bat, and so my commenters tell me, a less than terrific series with the gloves. Moeen Ali made a hundred, but will always be a source of contention as to his place in the team. The bowling was sound, brilliant at times, but we know that in home conditions. England don’t look, by any means, the complete article in the way their 2011 team, or even, Bell’s travails aside, the 2005 one. We still get to 50 for 3 too often. We still need the lower middle order to save our bacon too often.

With the problems with Compton, the stuttering starts, the bedding in of the unconvincing Vince, we still gave the Sri Lankans a hell of a beating. This points to a worrying lack of strength in the opposition and not necessarily our over-riding power. The gold standard for a world class, all-time great team in the modern era is Australia of the late 90s, early 2000s. It carried no passengers. It had people queuing up to replace them. It won with authority and power – huge batting totals, scored quickly, and aggressive bowling with brilliant spin. Go back to the 1980s and the West Indies. Their bowling had depth, with great fast bowlers playing very few tests. Depth in the batting was much more of an issue.

England 2016 has some really solid pieces, but it lacks key cornerstones of success which intimate that it isn’t up there yet. What may be more concerning is that in the 2005-2011 eras there were players constantly coming in to test cricket and being ready for it. Nick Compton is probably a really good indicator of where we are. He wouldn’t have sniffed test cricket in 2005. Nor, probably, in 2011. But in 2012 onwards, after the retirement of Strauss, he was the next opener on the rank. We’ve followed with a number of players that exuded promise, but weren’t consistent enough. Alex Hales has had seven tests and while he is promising a lot, he isn’t cemented in there. If the Pakistani opening bowlers are on the form they were in 2010 then he’s in for a really tough time. Remember how Strauss started his test career? KP? Ian Bell (a very good 70 on his debut)? Matt Prior? Alastair Cook? They came in as if they were ready. James Vince has come in, against gentle opposition, and not produced. Sure, we must give him a run, but those that start badly have a high correlation with those that finish like it.

From my own personal perspective, and by extension the blog, this has been a trying summer. Blogs run on enthusiasm and energy. Producing piece after piece takes effort, will and a desire to opine. I try to not repeat myself over and over again, but know that I fail! It is also true that the blog runs when there is an engine being driven, and to do that you need fuel. The ECB, England and the media have done much to deprive us of fuel. It’s true to say that I really don’t have the energy or will to write more at the moment. Non-competitive cricket, where it’s obvious that nations like Sri Lanka are in serious trouble, do that to me. This isn’t the Murali Sri Lanka we are beating. This isn’t the 2014 Sri Lanka we are beating (we couldn’t do that), it is a weak side, regularly turned over on the road. They may have some talent to build upon, but it is a way away. Coming to our shores next is Pakistan, another set of notoriously poor travellers (away from UAE), and we hope that there is more of a contest. Mohammed Amir on 2010 form, minus the obvious, will be a treat to watch. Lost in that spot-fixing horror was the fact he bowled an amazing spell at Lord’s, undressing fine players’ techniques, and it will be interesting to see if he still has it.

 

(Note here – I can’t stop you discussing the merits of whether he should be playing or not, but I find the debate tedious. He’s served the designated time, paid off his debt to cricket as opined at an international level, and the rest is conjecture. It won’t stop people, of course. It never does.)

The title of this piece is directed towards my feelings about cricket. I feel less engaged, less connected than ever before. A dull series, uncompetitive, unsurprisingly so, played out to a context of self-congratulation and wonderment by our media, while all around the distress signals are being let off has that effect. I’ve been the Jeremiah too long. I can’t care until the problems the international game has now are really, truly resolved. Top players are burned out in no time, and for that the test game is weaker. Lip service can be paid when only T20 can bring the massive bucks, and even that isn’t guaranteed. The issues surrounding my anger for the last two years have not gone away, and nor are they likely to. Potentially England will play 27 international matches next year. Potentially 55 days of international cricket. It’s madness. You don’t make top quality cricket better by playing more and more of it. But that’s what we are doing. Day night ODIs in late September, a test series starting in late August, giving players little rest but lots of match fees. It’s mad. They complain of lack of context, then pile on added games. The one thing this series proved is that dead rubbers remain dead rubbers despite the Super Series.

I used to go to every Millwall game. You could not have found many more diehard fans. I even went to dead Anglo-Italian matches (we never qualified for the Italy bit). Then I started missing the odd away game in midweek or a long distance away. Then it would be nearer and nearer.  Then I missed West Ham away because I couldn’t be bothered with the hassle. Then I stopped altogether. I then started missing the odd home game. Then more than the odd one. I finally decided to stop going altogether. Two years after that we got to the FA Cup Semi-Final. You couldn’t have paid me to be there. I still love the team. They’re still my club. I love what, ironically Neil Harris (our manager) has done this season, and yet I still feel no compulsion to return. I unconsciously decoupled from attending football matches. Maybe that’s what happening with cricket. Because if you don’t care, you stop having a reason to persevere. It means I don’t read FICJAM, don’t get irate with Newman, can’t be bothered with TCP and the Get Out A Compton band, and don’t feel the need to watch the games. Which isn’t a recipe for longevity.

Pakistan. We need you. Big time. Let’s show the world test cricket has a future. Be great opponents.

Super Series Conclusion – T20

I’m getting this one in early. The T20 international at the Ageas Bowl of Roses is being played on Tuesday and really, I don’t give a monkeys. If this is a desperate search for context with a Super Series ended at more or less the earliest possible time given the weather, and an international calendar so crowded we are already talking about giving our Australian Head Coach a month off, then you’ve lost me. A T20 match added to the programme in a way a blind kid pins a tail on a donkey at an old birthday party. This is cricket for money’s sake. A match that speaks “no context”.

I saw someone on Twitter say “I usually say to anyone who complains about the schedule, design a better one”. He has a point. Of course he does. England’s running costs are so high, subsidising a loss-making county structure that puts the early 80s nationalised industries to shame, and the wages of international players so rewarding to prevent further temptations, the assets have to be soaked to pay for the largesse. The TV companies want their pound of flesh, devalued as markedly against the $ as it is (didn’t I go the States at the right time), so we get this insanity. We want four tests, at least, against South Africa, but one can’t help but think that this was the sort of series we needed in 2012, not now. Then to lob three tests in late August/early September against the West Indies is insulting and mad in equal measures. September can be a nice month for cricket. It can also be bleedin’ horrible, the later it gets. That’s why the ODIs, being day-nighters, coming in the last week of September is amazing. How long before we are playing home games in October? Also, aren’t the IPL thinking of filling in that little spell in September for some mini-IPL (what, runnings four weeks instead of two months?)? I know we have the Champions Trophy over here, but really? Do the assets need to be so soaked?

I really haven’t read a lot about cricket recently. I’ve just not been bothered. I watched much of England’s batting performance yesterday, but then the Tour de France started and I love a bit of that. The European Championships are on, of course, and there’d be less time still if I were a fan of Wimbledon tennis. Cricket is competing with this at the moment and it is taking a back seat, even with someone who blogs as regularly as I do. This series has shown how Sri Lanka have regressed, how England are putting together a more than decent ODI team, and the test top order for England is still a bloody mess. I missed two test matches on my holidays, where I couldn’t watch them even if I wanted to (I’m not dealing with illegal streams), and I’ve not really got into it since. It’s come that far that I’ve been offered a ticket for the first test v Pakistan and I’m not sure if I can be arsed. Be really careful what you wish for, ECB. I’m not the only one thinking like this.

I have Jason Roy’s 162 on highlights to watch (catching up, watching 1st day at Lord’s at the moment) and it just left me puzzled. That 162 could capture the imagination. It could inspire kids to go, wow, I want to bat like that. Isn’t it fun? It could have been a marketing dream, a have-a-go hero, battering a massive score. I really don’t need to draw you a picture. No-one talked about it to me. No-one. It’s disappearing without trace.

Sky. CWOTV. What the hell have you done? 25 minutes tops?

Simon has been keeping his eye on the ICC stuff, and for that, many thanks. But one can’t help but feel this is a bit too late. The core punters anywhere other than India are drifting away, aren’t they? I wasn’t fearful for test cricket until recently. Now I’m convinced it doesn’t has a lot left other than “big countries”. But many won’t care as long as England win.

It did amuse me that England’s loss in the football to Iceland was greeted with the sort of anger that only our football team draws. The manager didn’t wait an hour before resigning. There were no journalists I know, saying we needed to keep him because he’d managed a 100% qualifying campaign. No prominent voices pointing out how he’d brought younger players through. No begging for the captain to stay because he is our record goalscorer. You draw your own conclusions. 🙂

Comments for the T20 money earner here. It’s all yours.

Can We Go Home Yet – ODI 5, SS8

And the beat goes on. On a day when it is announced that we’ll be playing at least 23 international fixtures next Summer (and let’s hope Summer 2017 is a darn sight better than this one), including an ODI series in late, late September including three day nighters, we are getting set for part 8 of the Super Series against Sri Lanka. The ODI series is in the bag, courtesy of Jason Roy’s pyrotechnics on Wednesday, so there’s not a lot riding on this one in Cardiff. Yes, it’s Saturday, it must be Cardiff.

Obviously you will have noted a curtailment in my output. My thanks for the hardy souls keeping the comments going. Fact is, life with England is quite serene at the moment, there’s a pretty major football competition on, there’s a bit going on in the real world, and well, cricket blogging has had to take a bit of a back seat. I’m sure my many anti-fans are delighted.

I was mildly amused to find that Jade Dernbach has blocked me on Twitter. I was scratching my head wondering why. I’ve never followed him. I wasn’t particularly mean to him over his England travails. And then I remembered…. It was an ancient post on HDWLIA! Lordy. He got the hump with me before it was fashionable to do so!

Comments on the game, weather permitting in this excuse for a Summer, below. I have the Cricket Paper to read this weekend, and wondering if any of their delightful Essex mafia have stuck the boot into Compton this week.

Have a great weekend folks.

Not A Preview Of The 2nd ODI

One more point and we can’t lose the Super Series. Pray for rain.

After the tumultuous finish to the first ODI at Trent Bridge, courtesy of celebrating too early, a first List A 50 by Woakes and the Honey Monster mullering a maximum off the last ball to tie, we move to Birmingham for the first post-Referendum ODI. Will it be Isolated England or EU England suiting up? If the London Mayoral count is anything to go by, the result will be in by the time they’d switch the floodlights off. If we’re lucky. But enough of that.

So while the selectors discharge themselves from hospital for patting themselves on the backs too hard and causing multiple bruising (for the faith in Woakes – Lizzy and Dobbs still remain under observation) the top order travails can be put aside for another day (Root is in need of some confidence, because getting it back against Pakistan can be tough). The stage is clear for this game as the Euros are on a two day break, Wimbledon hasn’t started yet and Jamie Vardy spoils all the fun and signs a new contract.

I’m glad some of you are enjoying it. I quite enjoyed Buttler and Woakes and the finale, and I’d be lying if I said otherwise, but it’s fluff. It’s good fluff, but fluff nonetheless. I’m much more thrilled that Surrey won a Division One game before Noah parked his vessel at the OCS Stand End.

So comment away on the second match. I have heard from Chris, who, in homage to Alan Whicker, will be jetting away somewhere else next week. With this bloody weather, who can blame him? The Cricket Paper is out tomorrow as well. Let’s have it.

Fire away.

 

Not A Super Series Update / Preview

Absence Makes The Vision Wander

If a sport loses traction in the public eye, it is devilishly hard to get it back. This was always going to be a tough summer to keep the game relevant in the mass media. The European Championships, with three host nations and Ireland involved, were always going to grab the media spotlight, at least for June. Once they are done with there is the pre-season signing merry-go-round to fill the back pages, and with the top gossip clubs having new managers – Guardiola, Mourinho, Conte – the fictions and facts will block out much other sport. Then, when the test series against Pakistan is reaching its conclusion, we have the Olympics. Given we have two less “glamorous” opponents visiting these shores, the ECB have pretty much no chance of garnering media attention, even if they were the most enlightened, sharp, media-savvy organisation in sport (which they are not). Hell, even I can’t be arsed to write about the game that much. And I’m supposed to be a diehard supporter of it.

There’s the rub. I’ve been back from the States for the best part of a week, and I’ve written nothing on cricket. There are no international fixtures going on in England, a joke series in Zimbabwe, a tri-series of ODIs in the Caribbean, and a hotch potch of formats played here when not dodging the lamentable weather. I do a lot of this blog based upon the media output, and there’s been nothing to rail against. Sure, I could go on about Chris Stocks having another pop at Compton in The Cricket Paper, or I could comment on the new-look Cricketer (I actually quite like the look, it’s the writers I have a problem with) but it would be going through the motions. I think I’ve read just TCP and TC since I’ve been back, and not even in great detail. It just seems that in the middle of June, when we should be doing something to capture the public imagination during a football competition, there’s nothing. So Switzerland v Albania it is!

Writing this blog is not a job. I earn no money from it. I get more grief than I should have to put up with from it. I do it, as I’ve said many times, because I love the game, and I love writing. Throughout all your relationships, if that is the right word, with a sport, there are going to be times when you blow hot and cold, and the blast is straight out of the arctic right now. I have a team I can’t give my all to because of how it originated and who leads it. I have a sports body I still hold in complete contempt, feeling a self-congratulatory Trump-esque feeling of having grave suspicions about the current ECB chairman, while having nothing but fears about Super Series Strauss and Tom Harrison. The international game looks in poor shape, with Sri Lanka’s abject displays in the first half of the series laying bare the lie that the test game can go on as it is. Then there’s the attempts to influence us all in making us love a team some of us don’t feel we ever can until certain people have gone. The Essex Media Mafia have been in full effect over the ascension to 10000, and the tedious debate over “greatness”. This has been augmented by the victorious, smug “KExit” campaigners making no attempt to disguise their contempt for us, by taking over the Guardian BTL with their witless offerings.

I have no idea, nor do I care, how the T20 Blast is going. I’ve tried to follow Surrey’s wins and losses, but that isn’t because I can watch each game on a live stream, as I might if it were available, but laughably we don’t think we can do that due to our TV contract. As for the One Day cup? Well, if you want to finish a competition off, just do this. Split it in half, and see what happens. Make it be played in April to ensure its final complete annihilation.

It’s just Dmitri, once again being negative Nigel, always complaining, never offering anything. Well, I’ll tell you this. I listened to Colin Graves’s wonderful interview prior to the Sri Lankan series. I might be going too far to say it made me pine for Giles Clarke, but it certainly didn’t have me thinking he’s on our side. The problem with test cricket isn’t whether the damn thing is four or five days, or whether it has context or not. It’s the effing quality of it, there’s too much of it, and players are either knackered, injured or so fed up with it, that they don’t produce of their best. There’s little ebb and flow in our matches – we either run over a team on a pitch helping us, or we struggle – while India in their last series against South Africa might as well have rubbed each wicket with industrial strength sandpaper and they’ve have been more subtle than what actually happened. Australia remain dominant at home, and good on batting wickets. Pakistan are anyone’s guess, the rest are also rans. Anyone with the temerity to compare this nonsense with the 1990s oppositions we faced, where even Zimbabwe could run out a Flower or two, with Streak et al to back them up, is in need of some awakening. But Graves wants four day tests. Given some of the wickets we produce, this is aspirational all the wrong way round, but if he thinks making it four days will mean 100+ overs in a day, then I seriously suggest he reconsiders. The current lot don’t give a crap about getting 90 in most days.

When is the ODI series? Is it soon? Oh, it’s tomorrow! How did I miss it?

How is cricket going to survive in the long run? The issue remains pretty simple to me. No matter what I hear or see, the fact is our top players are being paid well enough, but county pros are paid too much to justify the revenue they bring in (otherwise why are these clubs in crisis). Whether this is because the revenue isn’t there (maybe not enough conferences for your conference centre adjunct), or is being held back by a TV/media contract that stops clubs from exploring possible additional media revenue is for those that know to tell us. The top players won’t be giving up yet more money to keep their brethren in clover, otherwise it’s off to the T20 leagues and all that, so you have an impasse where a sport that needs to attract players with money, isn’t going to make enough money to pay them, and certainly won’t get it through money at the gate. When the interest sustaining the current level of international expenditure dries up, as it surely will on this path, I can bet very good money it won’t be the international players, or the administrators at the ECB, cutting back their wages. Only then might we have a county game that is sustainable on its own accord, but I highly doubt it. This is why you’d rather keep with the devil you know – paying the bills, limiting the access – than break free and see what you can do. In a number of ways, it mimics another decision being made this week.

I know. It’s downbeat. It’s me being me. I keep singing the same old tune. But those who criticise need think of this. I still care. But not as much. And not as much equates to not as much revenue through the gate, or on merchandise, or over-priced food and drink than before. And that equates to not watching on TV, or perhaps, giving up my subscription. Of not making the effort to go to a T20 game. And I started from a high base. Lord knows what those who dip in and dip out make of it.

Glad to be back? Maybe. ODI #1 tomorrow. A chance to clinch the Super Series. And they’ll be rejoicing in the streets.

One tiny piece of cross-promotion. In case you missed it I’m doing a blog on US sports. This may, or may not, be of interest but the link is www.dmitriamericana.wordpress.com – if you like it, let me know. If you don’t, don’t!

England vs. Sri Lanka, 3rd Test – The Wrap

In the end the predicted rain reared it’s head and ensured that there would be no meaningful play on the 5th day, thus ruining the ECB’s desperate sales pitch that all FOUR results were possible today, so come and spend some money please. Whether England could have bowled Sri Lanka out on this pitch or whether Sri Lanka could’ve mustered an unlikely run chase for the victory became a moot point and in my opinion the draw was always the favourite to win out. As I’ve been out at a client event for most of the day and am currently writing this having just got home, it was a little bit of a relief that I don’t have to hunt about to try and watch the highlights this evening to write something a little more substantial about the day’s play itself.

As for the series itself, I’m not sure we learnt anything that we didn’t know before the first ball was bowled. Sri Lanka, like many subcontinent team aren’t great against the moving ball in May, Anderson & Broad continue to perform excellently when presented with these type of conditions and we still don’t have a convincing answer to the number 3 & 5 positions in our batting line up, nor do we have a convincing spinner. Also it also pays for every England player to make sure you’re firmly in the ‘inside cricket’ camp otherwise Newman, Pringle or Selvey will be set loose to attack both you as a professional cricketer and as an individual. That seems depressingly familiar, right? Oh and definitely don’t write a blog that might challenge the combined pearls of wisdom that our traditional press regally hands down to us from upon high, after all we’re the worst of them all, the bilious inadequates. Ca plus change….

On the plus notes from the series, you could clearly argue that Hales has had a decent series and improved enormously from his travails in South Africa when he looked anything but an international batsman. He still isn’t totally convincing as I mentioned last night, but there does seem to be something to work with as we continue to search for a foil for Cook. Woakes also had an encouraging series both with bat and ball and was England’s most potent looking bowler when the pitches at Durham and Lords flattened out. I wrote in my 2nd Test preview that I felt it was now or never for Woakes to show that he can perform at International level and all in all, he did not let himself down. Whether he can become a potent opening bowler for England is still very much open to debate, but he showed glimpses that he can be a reliable first change; Steven Finn will be under the most pressure when Stokes is fit to take his place in this line up.

The final praise must go to Bairstow the batsman (his wicket keeping has been discussed plenty, and despite taking a record number of catches behind the stumps this series, a major rick never seems too far away). Bairstow has been one of the few players to take his county form, where he blew away most county attacks this season and last, into the Test arena and scored the big runs that England have so desperately needed him too. I shudder to think what might have happened had Bairstow not been in the form of his life (coupled with the complete ineptitude of the umpires on show, Aleem Dar excepted) and genuinely feel that we could have been reporting on a completely different series otherwise. Bairstow has without doubt benefited from the positive approach of Bayliss and Farbrace and seems to back his own ability rather than the slightly unsure, technically deficient player that we saw under Flower and Moores. If the England camp does decide to take the gloves off Bairstow (and I’m torn by both arguments), then I hope they continue to give him the olive treatment, as he seems a player that benefits from an arm around the shoulder and a few words of praise in his ear.

As for the white ball part of Andrew Strauss’ SUPER Series (nope still not excited), the 50 over team was pretty much as expected bearing in mind current injuries; however it was heartening to see a couple of new names in the 20 over format. Malan has deserved his call up through sheer weight of runs over the past couple of years and has found some consistency to go alongside the natural talent that he undoubtedly has; whereas Mills is something we haven’t had for a long time, a bowler who can run up and bowl seriously quickly. I really felt for Tymal Mills when I heard that he had been forced to give up most forms of the game due to a congenital back condition, as he seemed like a bowler that had been earmarked for the National team; however he has got on with things and worked on his T20 skills (which were a weaker part of his game) and has genuinely looked like a really threatening bowler in the T20 Blast this season. I hope both go well, if they get the chance.

LCL and TLG will soon be back from their respective jaunts across the other side of the world, so with them back in the saddle, I’m sure it will be business as normal for the blog…..

England vs. Sri Lanka – 2nd Test, Day 2

Well that was about a one sided day of cricket as you could possibly have wished for. Sri Lanka undid all of their good work in the field on Day 1 by dropping 2 dolly’s in the opening hour and then unfortunately the wheels truly fell off. Mooen played beautifully for his century and Anderson & Woakes in particular bowled extremely well, but this was quite horrible from Sri Lanka. They looked like a beaten team going through the motions and wanting to be off the cricket field and back at the team hotel as soon as they possibly could. Whereas you could have some sympathy with the tourists at Headingley when the ball was swinging round corners, there can be no sympathy here, the wicket is flat, the sun was out and there was hardly any swing, just a procession of poor shots from their batsmen.

Angelo Matthews was synonymous of this laissez-faire attitude and he can’t have had too many worse days as captain. From the 2 atrocious reviews in the field (and the equally atrocious review when he had clearly edged it) to the quite baffling field placements when Moeen was batting with the tail. Matthews looked absolutely lost on the field and it brought back memories of Day 4 of the Headingley Test back in 2014 when Cook absolutely lost the plot against the very same opponents. The fact that this Sri Lankan team has regressed so quickly is a sad indictment of the lack of talent they have coming through their domestic system and also clearly shows how much they relied on the superb Sangakkara and Jayawardene. With this Sri Lankan team stripped of these two talents, it looks a long and arduous road ahead for them.

As for Moeen, it was genuinely pleasing to see him convert a score into three figures, which is something he hasn’t done enough based on the talent he has. There is something bewitching about watching him bat from the languid covers drives to the stunning straight sixes he unfurls. Yes, he is slightly inconsistent and yes, you always feel that he could quite easily get out next ball (I don’t think he knows the word leave), but one thing I do know is that he is an entertainer with the bat, and we don’t have too many of them in this current England team. It is interesting that he has made both his century’s from number 7 (which I feel is probably his best position) as he didn’t have to spend most of his innings batting with the tail, the only problem being where do you fit Bairstow and Stokes in this batting line up when they are all fit? I’ll leave that one to the selectors, but in a way it’s a nice problem to have.

It was also good to see Chris Woakes have a positive impact with both ball and bat, though the former was the most important thing in my opinion. I wrote in my preview that Woakes really had to stamp his authority on the game to avoid being branded a ‘county trundler’ and I thought he bowled with decent pace and good rhythm and deserved the wickets that he got. It is clear that he has bulked up from when he first came onto the international scene and he is was the quickest of our seamers today. One swallow doesn’t make a summer and he needs to kick on now and start performing regularly on the International scene, but it was certainly a good to step in the right direction.

The one worry in our bowling unit is Steve Finn, who again looked out of rhythm and un-threatening. When Finn is bowling well, he bowls around 86 mph and hits the wicket hard (I’m afraid the injuries coupled with a certain David Saker have meant that the 90 mph bowler we once had, is sadly no more); however today and to an extent at Headingley, Finn was operating around the 82 mph mark and the ball seemed to be looping out of his hand, making him totally ineffective against what was shell-shocked Sri Lankan batting unit. Finn does seem to be the ultimate confidence bowler and when on form he has the ability to be as good as anyone out there, as he showed with some extremely good bowling displays in the Ashes last year; however when he is slightly out of form or low on confidence, the bowling action seems to fall apart a bit and he becomes almost docile. What you do with Finn at the moment is a tough one for Farbrace & Bayliss, drop him and you risk denting his confidence further or stick with him in the hope he comes good at the risk of carrying a passenger in the field, it’s not a call I would particularly like to make.

As for tomorrow, if England roll out the final two wickets early, then you would expect them to ask Sri Lanka to bat again and there beckons another 3 Day Test, which will also ensure a hefty loss for Durham. Whatever your thoughts on this England team or on Test Cricket in general, days like today are not a good advertisement for the longer form of the game. The reason I fell in love with Test Cricket was the duels and sub-plots of the longer game, the fair battle between bat and ball, not to see a match where one side continues to absolutely hammer another side. Perhaps I am being ungracious and maybe I should be over the moon that England are so in the ascendency in this Test series, but I personally think that rather misses the point.

Anyway Day 3 comments below (and just for WCTT’s information, I have not been paid for this article)…..

England vs. Sri Lanka – 2nd Test, Day 1

I’m writing this with the caveat that I’ve only seen a few of the highlights of the day’s play, so it perhaps won’t be as comprehensive as some of the Test match reports on here!

I think England will reflect on it as a decent but not spectacular performance. Hales, Root and Bairstow all played well but no one was able to go on and make that big hundred that would have batted Sri Lanka out of the game. This is a criticism that I have had with the English batting unit for some time as they’re frustratingly consistently inconsistent. When looking back at many of our victories over the past couple of years, it has generally been our bowling that has won us the game with the odd decent support act from one of the front line batsmen (usually Root). If England do have real ambitions to get to the number 1 test position, then our batsmen will have stand up and be counted on a more consistent basis and that starts with converting those 60’s & 70’s into big hundreds.

Cook and Compton both failed again, with the latter falling to a fantastic catch and the former playing a fairly ordinary shot. I don’t like to ratchet up the pressure on any of our batsmen, but you do feel that Compton needs to score some runs in the second innings to prevent the ‘sack Compton’ campaign going into overdrive, however even then it may prove to be too late. It seems that England on average give our batsmen 15 games to prove themselves as an Test player – Morgan, Ballance and Buttler are all stuck on the 15 game mark (though I hasten to say the latter two still have realistic chances of representing England in the Test arena again). This is Compton’s 15th game today and unfortunately it seems it may be his last. As for Cook, the ‘all praise our hero’ media bandwagon has again had to be tucked away ready for another day.

As for Sri Lanka, they seemed to bowl fairly well as they did at Headlingley and the catches that they took to dismiss Compton and Hales were absolutely top drawer. The pitch doesn’t seem to be doing as much as it did at Headingley and if they can bowl out England for 350 and apply themselves sensibly, then we might actually have a fairly even contest on our hands. I think the morning session of tomorrow’s play will probably be the one that defines this Test Match.

On a final note, do try and listen to Jonathan Agnew’s interview with Graeme Fowler on TMS around cricket and mental health. I thought it was a truly superb interview and Fowler was extremely candid about his experiences of poor mental health. It was also heartening to see Monty Panesar coming out in the press about the challenges he faced with his mental health and how he feels in a better place now. The fact that he has been made an ‘Ambassador for Mental Health’ by the PCA hopefully shows that cricket is finally taking this issue seriously and that players will hopefully have the right structures in place should they find themselves in a similar position rather than being branded as ‘difficult individuals’.

I did say this would be a brief post – Day 2 comments below:

The First Test – Quality Street

England did what England needed to do. They recovered well from a tenuous position, got themselves up to nearly 300 and let two experienced world class bowlers do their thing. We genuinely feared for Sri Lanka coming into this test, and arguably this was worse than we thought. Their bowling looked OK, they didn’t let themselves down, but the batting was woeful. Well, what I saw of it was.

Test matches like these are easy to review. England are a very good side – I’m not convinced they have it in them to be the world beaters that Ian Botham does – and pretty unstoppable in favourable conditions. There’s nothing to be ashamed of in that. I think the great sides win test matches on flat decks in alien conditions (Durban and Joburg weren’t flat but they were top wins) and this team’s batsmen are still too creaky to be considered a truly vintage side. England needed to get enough runs, they did. They needed to bowl sensibly and with skill, they did. Jimmy took 10 wickets, much to the chagrin of Dennis Does Cricket, and England by and large held their catches. It was as routine as routine could be. It reminded me of the effortless steamrolling of Bangladesh and Zimbabwe when Giddins or Johnson picked up wickets.

But this is Dmitri. I’m always down on England. You never give them credit. You want them to lose.

I want to see entertaining cricket, and a fair contest. I get absolutely petrified if this is the way Sri Lanka are going. We’ve seen how West Indies have gone. They’ll concentrate more and more on white ball cricket. Last time over here Sri Lanka were competitive, they fought, they outplayed England at key moments, and held on by the skin of their teeth on other occasions. This year they came in on the back of two lack lustre displays, and without the aura of a Sangakkara in their midsts. It was grim, it was cold. England won. They’ve given me two days off, and on the brink of a break, that’s most welcome!

The heads turn towards a test in Durham next time out. Will England keep the same team, Stokes fitness permitting, or will the media rumble for Compton’s axeing be persuasive? That’s about as interesting and exciting a talking point that has come out from this test. We have two top bowlers, and that was too much. We had a wicket-keeper batsman in super form and feeling secure, and he played superbly. We had Hales show he’s not a one-trick pony. Above that, we learned nothing. Except we have another few days of 10000 mania.

Test cricket is in trouble. But at least we have a 4-0 lead in the Super Series. That should make you all delighted. Puts this one-sided win in the vital “context” I know everyone loves!

Finally, thanks once again for Sean’s piece yesterday. Delighted he’s taking up the role of writing for us on a more regular basis, and he’ll be the eyes for the next two matches as both Chris and I won’t be able to watch them. Hopefully, I won’t even be missed!