England v Ireland, One Off Test*, Day 2 – Same Old Shit, Plus Jack Leach

Wally Hammond. Herbert Sutcliffe. Sir Len Hutton. Jack Leach. Just four of the 28 English batsmen of all-time to have Test career averages above 45 as opener, and Leach is the only one to do so since Strauss’ retirement in 2012. Scoring 92 runs from 162 balls, the opener from Somerset has almost certainly secured his place in the side for the forthcoming Ashes series.

Jason Roy also showed some of his one-day form in this innings, having been demoted to three. Smashing 72 from 78 balls is an impressive feat in Test cricket, and showed how he was probably always better suited for the middle order. England’s issue is that they only have one capable top order batsman in Leach, and seven or eight who would be best suited batting at five.

Not that this should be any excuse for what happened after their talismanic opening bat lost his wicket. When Murtagh finally tempted Leach to edge one to slip, the ball was 45 overs old and the Irish had been fielding in sweltering conditions for half of the day. It was a huge opportunity for England’s aggressive batsmen to annihilate the tourists in great conditions, and instead they folded like a cheap deckchair. From 182/3, they slid to 249/7. Bairstow bagged a pair, although at least he got his pad in the way of one instead of being clean bowled this time. Denly had a comedy run out, although he wasn’t laughing. Moeen Ali edged a short ball to the wicketkeeper. Root failed to convert his promising start into a fifty. It was deja vu all over again.

And so, for the umpteenth time, it fell to the bowlers to put a respectable face on proceedings. The 8th, 9th and 10th wicket partnerships have added 65 runs so far, taking England’s lead to 181 runs. That is already a tough task for Ireland, having been restricted to 207 in their first innings. If Broad and Stone were able to add another 20 runs for the final wicket tomorrow then you might say England were favourites to win.

The day ended prematurely with thunderstorms and rain, which has the pleasant side effect of ensuring a decent amount of play tomorrow (weather permitting). Sean ( @thegreatbucko ) and Chris ( @thelegglance ) both have tickets for day three (although not seated together), so there will likely be in-depth match reports from them in the coming days. Once the hangovers wear off, at least.

Ireland have a real shot of a famous first Test victory at Lord’s tomorrow, and it could well be an exciting climax. No doubt the opportunity to do it against England will make it even sweeter for the Irish.

If you have any comments on the game, or embarassing pictures of Chris and Sean in the stands tomorrow, post them below.

Advertisements

England v Ireland, One Off Test*, Day 1 – Same Old Shit, Just A Different Day

Tim Murtagh is a good but unremarkable county bowler. He has a career first-class bowling average of 25.33. He does not have magical powers relating to the Lord’s pitch. He bowls a medium pace delivery with minimal movement which international batsmen, particularly when they’re being paid what England’s batsmen are being paid, should be able to handle if not absolutely dominate.

All of which is to say that I was both surprised, and yet at the same time totally unsurprised, when Murtagh tore through England’s top order like Ian Austin through a free buffet. England have had a long run of giving thoroughly ordinary bowlers their best career figures. The first example which springs to mind is from a few months back, when Roston Chase took 8/60 on a pitch which was not turning in the slightest. Even after that innings, Chase’s Test bowling average remains well over forty.

There is an undeserved arrogance which England seem to project when facing what should, on paper at least, be weaker opposition. Most of today’s team haven’t played a game in this year’s County Championship, meaning their last game with a red ball was either in the West Indies in February or 10 months ago in the previous home season. The compressed schedule to fit in the World Cup and a five-Test series meant here was no time to add in any warmup games. Not that this mattered to the ECB and the England team, because they (and much of the English media) have treated this Test match as a warmup for the Ashes.

This is not a new phenomenon either. Last year, England played an ODI against Scotland as a precursor to their series against Australia. With no warmups or team practices before the game, the highest ranked ODI team and current World Cup-holders were smashed to all parts of the ground by the Scottish batsmen. England’s Test team are considerably less able relative to to their ODI counterparts, and yet still the expectation that they can rock up to a full international game against a ‘weak’ opposition and win without any preparation whatsoever remains.

The most worrying thing about this batting performance by England is that this is quite possibly their first-choice top five. Buttler and Stokes were rested after the World Cup, but they bat at 7 and 6 respectively. All of the batsmen seemed to play miles away from their pad when driving, both to the front and side. It was absolutely terrible technique. These five batsmen scored a total of 36 runs between them, with their team having won the toss and whilst playing in rather benign conditions. Joe Denly was the best of the lot, contributing 23 runs, but by no means was he good enough.

Since the start of the 2018 season, only two English batsmen in the top five average over 30: Alastair Cook, and Joe Root. Root averages 33.76 in that time. During Cook’s struggles as opener, his continued selection was excused by people declaring that there was no better alternative to take his place. This now seems to apply to every member of their batting unit, including the captain. Ten years ago, an average of 33.76 would have seen any batsman dropped. Now, such a thing would be inconceivable.

Such selection niceties don’t extend to the bowlers, despite their consistent good work with the bat and ball. Olly Stone and Sam Curran took three wickets each plus were the second and third highest-scoring batsmen in the first innings, and yet both are likely to be dropped to make way for the rested Ben Stokes and injured Jimmy Anderson. It is a consistent thread in recent times that England’s bowlers pay the price for the batsmen’s failures.

That England are in this game at all is thanks to their bowlers. Restricting any Test team to 207 runs in their first innings is a great achievement, particularly on what is a flat (if somewhat slow) pitch. They are 122 runs behind, but that is not an impossible margin to recover against a fragile opponent.

England might have been in a worse position at the close of play if there had been 98 overs in the day, as there was supposed to be. Being a four-day Test, the sessions have an extra half hour added. Instead, the day finished with 12 overs lost. This was not, I hasten to add, England’s fault. Ireland were about ten overs short in the first session, in large part due to the rapid succession of English wickets. Because the rules regarding over rates are extraordinarily lax, it is also unlikely that either team will face any penalty for this. Allowances are made for drinks breaks (of which there were six rather than the normal three due to the freakishly hot weather) and short innings such as England’s effort are also given due consideration. We do bang on about it, but this a consistent problem which cheats paying fans out of their money.

England have made one much-needed change to their batting lineup: They have replaced Jason Roy as opener. Jack Leach seems infinitely better equipped to open the Test batting, as shown by his ability to face six deliveries without giving the opposition a chance to take his wicket. Such a solid foundation might help England’s middle order produce a few more runs than they managed in the first innings. I can only assume that Roy will be batting at 11.

If you have any comments about today’s play (and boy, do I bet you do), please make them below.

England v Ireland – The Opening ODI

Welcome to 2017’s international cricket season. Welcome to the longest international season any of us will remember here in England. Welcome to the summer that really matters for 50 over white ball cricket. It’s the Champions Trophy at the beginning of June, and we’ve put half our chips on this one. The other half we’ll hold back until 2019. Building. Always building.

Now I know that the 50 over game doesn’t exactly float the boats of all of the punters on here. Sometimes I feel the same, but for all that, I still prefer this to the fluff that is most of your T20 cricket. There are all sorts of games of 50 over cricket, and although it gets a bad knock now because of its youthful, more irritating little brother, there are always things to watch. At least I hope so.

Tomorrow we kick off against Ireland in Bristol (now I know why Lawrence was moaning about a quiet carriage this morning) with, what I believe, is our first ODI v Ireland in England. We’ve been over there a couple of times, lost hilariously in the World Cup in India to them, and there was a game in the West Indies World Cup which, according to some wags, is still going on. There’s plenty of feeling as Eoin Morgan plays against the country of his birth while Ed Joyce plays against the country he once made an ODI ton for. The weather appears to be OK, if a little on the cool side, and there should be a full match. England are without Jos Buttler, Ben Stokes and Chris Woakes. Sam Billings has come back from the IPL and appears to have caught some sort of ailment where he’s speaking twaddle, but he’ll keep wicket, and there are rumours Moeen Ali may well be left out.

I could go on, but I’m trying to watch a dreadful play-off match with my team in it, and really it feels like a bit of a pre-season friendly, but no doubt any good England performances by a “fringe” player will get lauded beyond the stars, and any loss to Ireland, or even a duff performance, will be over-analysed.

Here on BOC we’ll try to set up and report on each day’s play this summer, but it’s a difficult task for us to do with three of us. If anyone fancies doing it for us for some of the days this summer, please let us know.

So, in the age old, time honoured tradition on BoC…..

COMMENTS BELOW!!!!

2015 World Cup – Game 24 – South Africa v Ireland

After the stupidity and rancour of the last 36 hours, let’s get back to cricket. Tonight’s game looks like a walkover, with AB the Unstoppable in prime form, and with Ireland looking a little over-matched. But this Irish bunch is a resilient team I think we all get a lot of fun from watching, and who we want to see a lot more of. Canberra can mean runs……lots of them.

Any comments from those who can should be left here.

If anyone is interested, John has followed up my blog post with a comment. You can read his views. I’m not particularly interested in responding, if truth be told. I made my point. He made his. Would I prefer restraint in the comments? Probably. Do I moderate? As little as possible. I’m not The Guardian BTL, that’s for sure. I would, actually, prefer if you all just left it where it is, and didn’t chip in now. But I won’t stop you. Keep it clean.

Enjoy the game, for those who can get to watch it.

2015 World Cup – Game 16 – Ireland v UAE

The Gabba hosts this battle of the associates in a game with a lot of meaning, especially for Ireland, fresh from their win against the WIndies, who, since then, have bashed two more scores of over 300.

I’m not feeling overly enthused about writing at the moment. I saw that throwaway line by Andy Bull in The Spin, and just feel as though these people are maliciously misrepresenting many people’s line. Then there is the reinforcement of Giles Clarke in a position of power, meaning those people who actually feel like Andy Bull’s mythical beings, have every right to be angry. How else can the refuseniks lash out at these people? Oh, of course, we all want KP back….

Any comments on this more refreshing, more enriching match-up should be added below. Keep being strong outside cricket, people.