Guest Post – Man In A Barrel Gives Us The Numbers

Just before this latest test match MiaB, before his metamorphosis into Shane Warne on steroids (and not his mum’s diuretics) when it comes to declarations :-), did some interesting, unsolicited analysis of batting trends for England’s key players of the past and present. I found it interesting anyway. Please note this was written before the last test, so if there are any amendments MiAB wants to make, I’m sure he’ll let you know.

I’ll let Man in a Barrel take it from here…many thanks for the time and effort sir. It’s fascinating stuff. As always, comments welcome, and be nice. Well, as nice as you can be!

A New Way….

For a while, I have been trying to think of a better way of assessing batsmen than their career average.  It has some very real disadvantages to counteract the fact that it is widely used and understood and that it does tend to winnow out who the best performers are – no one, for example, disputes that Bradman was the greatest ever and nor can anyone dispute the fact that WG Grace was much, much better than any of his contemporaries, at least when he was in his prime.  However, it does have its problems.  For example Victor Trumper has a Test average of 39.04 and yet most commentators who watched him state that he was the best of his era – 1899-1912.  His average for that period is in fact bettered by, among others, Clem Hill, Jack Hobbs, Ranjitsinhji, George Gunn, RE Foster, and Aubrey Faulkner of South Africa.  For me, though, the real problem is that it gives undue emphasis on a big innings – if you make a score such as 364 or 294, it certainly helps to boost your average although, of course, its impact is mitigated the longer your career extends.  The career average also gives little information on your value to the team at a particular point of time.  Is it better to make a lot of 50s and the occasional daddy hundred or to make a series of 30s and a lot of small hundreds?  Those questions cannot be answered by inspecting your career average because the information simply isn’t contained in that single figure.  Nor does it contain any information about the way your career is trending – are you in decline or on a rise?  To some extent, you can gauge that by common sense and watching how the career average is moving but those are fairly blunt instruments.

To overcome some of those problems, I have been investigating the use of a moving average, as widely used in the investment community to discern underlying trends in noisy data.  The question immediately arises as to how many innings should be included in the moving average.  I looked at a number of options.   An average over 30 innings seems to flatten out the data too much.  A 20 innings’ average looks about right.  Broadly it should cover 10 Test matches – essentially a year’s worth of data – and it is long enough to let a batsman move in and out of form, to show the impact of a major innings and yet not allow it to have too much effect on the new data as it arrives.  For convenience, I will call this measure the Twenty Innings Moving Average – TIMA.

To put it to the test, I put Geoff Boycott under the microscope – 8114 runs at 47.73 in 193 innings.  Obviously these are very distinguished figures especially when you consider that he played to the age of 42, in an era of uncovered pitches, no helmets for the most part and inadequate gloves – in the first part of his career he was often incapacitated by broken fingers.  If you graph it it makes for interesting viewing but I don’t think it will come out in WordPress.  So to present the results, I will use a histogram.  The moving average breaks a series of data into chunks of 20 innings, over which I calculate an average.  Each successive TIMA drops one innings from the start and adds a new innings.  This is repeated until you get to the end of Boycott’s career.  So I have calculated 174 averages.  These I have summarised into how many of these averages were between 10 and 20, 20 and 30, 30 and 40, etc.  And the results are very much as you might expect:

Boycott

10-20

0%

20-30

2%

30-40

24%

40-50

36%

50-60

18%

60-70

17%

70-80

3%

80-90

0%

I think this gives a sense of just how consistent he was.  His TIMA was below 40 for only 26% of his career.  However, if you could see the graph, you would also note that he was in decline towards the end.  His TIMA was above 40 in the Oval Test against Australia in 1981.  Then he went to India and it moved into the 30s apart from a blip up to 42 when he scored 105 in the third Test of that dismal series – does anyone remember Tavare’s 147?  The last time before this that his TIMA was below 40 was the Mumbai Test of 1980, when his figures still showed the effect of his dismal Ashes tour of 1978-79.  He ended up at 37.05, rather below his career average.

Given what I thought was a successful trial of the method, I then moved on to the current team, starting with the obvious comparison, Alastair Cook.

Boycott

Cook

10-20

0%

0%

20-30

2%

5%

30-40

24%

23%

40-50

36%

40%

50-60

18%

21%

60-70

17%

7%

70-80

3%

2%

80-90

0%

3%

A slightly higher percentage below 40 and more time averaging between 70 and 90 but pretty comparable to Boycott.  However, his early career was much more consistent.  After the Ashes tour of 2010-11 and his feats against India in 2011 the swings in his TIMA become very noticeable.  The last period of time his TIMA was above 60 was in the wake of his 263 at Abu Dhabi and only lasted until the Sharjah Test.  The last time it was above 50 was in the recent Mohali Test against India, after his last century to date.  It bears out the importance of LCL’s focus on the number of big scores he has made lately: there have not been many.  By the end of that tour his TIMA was at 41.68 and it has continued to go south.   TIMA also highlights the prolonged period when he averaged less than 40 between the 2nd innings of the Chester-Le-Street Test of 2013 and the 1st May 2015 match against West Indies when he got his first century since the 130 against New Zealand at Leeds in 2013.  After the recent Oval Test, he is hovering in the mid to low 30s.  It has dropped from 54.53 at the end of the first innings of the Mohali Test to 33.50 today, in the course of 11 innings.  The decline in comparison with his career average, which is still 46, is marked.

Turning to Joe Root:

Boycott

Cook

Root

10-20

0%

0%

0%

20-30

2%

5%

0%

30-40

24%

23%

7%

40-50

36%

40%

30%

50-60

18%

21%

35%

60-70

17%

7%

8%

70-80

3%

2%

13%

80-90

0%

3%

6%

These are impressive figures by any criterion.  The only times his TIMA was below 30 was during the 2 Ashes series of 2013.  It hit a pinnacle of 84.75 in the Lords Test against New Zealand in 2015 – after innings of 98 and 84.  More recently, since the Sharjah Test of 2015, his TIMA has bounced around between 57.39 and 43.17.  More worrying is that his overall time series shows a declining trend but that is probably because he hit such a peak so early in his career.  He is just reverting to a more “normal” level.  Another point of interest is the really low amount of time he has spent below 30.

With these 3 batsmen, the results just confirm what we know already, I suggest.  Now let’s see what we learn about the more controversial selections.  Jonny Bairstow for example:

Boycott

Cook

Root

Bairstow

10-20

0%

0%

0%

0%

20-30

2%

5%

0%

30%

30-40

24%

23%

7%

14%

40-50

36%

40%

30%

16%

50-60

18%

21%

35%

22%

60-70

17%

7%

8%

14%

70-80

3%

2%

13%

4%

80-90

0%

3%

6%

0%

The sample size is smaller – only 50 data points.  But 44% is a lot of time to spend averaging under 40.  The point of concern is that since the Dhaka Test last year, his TIMA has gone into steep decline, from 71.24 down to 41.05.  I am sure that LCL will remind us that it is 25 innings since his last century.  However, it has stayed in the 40s for his last 6 innings, against his career average of 40.86, so I believe he justifies his position.  If your TIMA is above your career average, it does suggest that you are making a real contribution.

Boycott

Cook

Root

Bairstow

Stokes

Moeen

10-20

0%

0%

0%

0%

0%

0%

20-30

2%

5%

0%

30%

14%

45%

30-40

24%

23%

7%

14%

62%

17%

40-50

36%

40%

30%

16%

24%

28%

50-60

18%

21%

35%

22%

0%

11%

60-70

17%

7%

8%

14%

0%

0%

70-80

3%

2%

13%

4%

0%

0%

80-90

0%

3%

6%

0%

0%

0%

Stokes and Moeen have quite similar records.  Stokes has 2120 runs at 34.19 from 63 innings; Moeen has 2090 runs at 34.26 from 68 innings.  But the TIMA shows a very different picture.  Stokes has been below 40 for 76% of his career and has never climbed above 50.  Moeen’s figures are, in one sense, far superior in that he has spent more time above 40 but it must also be said that he has also been in the 20s more than Stokes.  If you look at Stokes, you would expect the 258 to have a massive impact on his TIMA.  In fact it raised it from 27.15 to 35.45, so poor had his record been over the previous 20 innings.  At the time it dropped out of the TIMA computation, it dropped from 46.37 to 34, which highlights his real lack of consistency.  This happened a mere 7 innings ago and he has stayed in the mid to low 30s. In his last 20 innings, he has been in the 40s nine times, ten times in the 30s and once in the 20s, with a highpoint of 46.47 after Mumbai.  These are disappointing figures for a #6.  In comparison, Moeen’s last 20 innings have shown TIMA in the 40s and 50s, with just one blip down to 35.17 when his 155 against Sri Lanka fell out of his moving average.   But it immediately went back above 40 when he scored 146 at Chennai.   As a result of the Oval Test, his TIMA has dropped to 33.  Moeen’s TIMA has dipped below his career average and Stokes has blipped above his: perhaps the selectors have the right batting order.

And just because I am a controversialist, guess this batsman:

Boycott

Cook

Root

Bairstow

Stokes

Moeen

?

10-20

0%

0%

0%

0%

0%

0%

0%

20-30

2%

5%

0%

30%

14%

45%

0%

30-40

24%

23%

7%

14%

62%

17%

14%

40-50

36%

40%

30%

16%

24%

28%

44%

50-60

18%

21%

35%

22%

0%

11%

37%

60-70

17%

7%

8%

14%

0%

0%

5%

70-80

3%

2%

13%

4%

0%

0%

0%

80-90

0%

3%

6%

0%

0%

0%

0%

Yes….KP

Thanks MiaB. Any excuse for a KP shot…

cropped-wp-1500506510756.jpg

 

 

Day 2 of Test 2 – Asserting Dominance

Back in 2010, when England last met Pakistan on these fair shores, the tests were of dubious quality, and eventually of dubious intention. But although England won the series 3-1, they always had that control of the series, thanks, we tend to forget, for a magnificent hundred that saved our bacon at Trent Bridge by…..*

Anyway, he’s not in our test team any more, and by the end of that series Saeed Ajmal had him fidgeting about like a cat on a hot tin roof. But England’s frail batting in that series, and the awesome, at times, nature of the visitors bowling always kept tests on the edge.  They won a close battle at The Oval. When we saw another such test at Lord’s, those of us on here who worry that such a frail batting side as England are (with two top order places, at least, and possibly three, up for grabs) could ascend to the top of the pile, placed world test cricket’s travails towards the back for a while. This test has them back, front and centre. In Antigua, India are walking over a mediocre West Indies. Here, we are doing the same in this test to Pakistan.

England have done what good test sides do, of course. They’ve taken their opportunity to bat on a great wicket, piled up a massive score, and then knocked off half the top order in no time, with Woakes, yet again, having a terrific day. That two of the more reliable men, or at least billed as reliables, in Hafeez and Younus are struggling is a real concern for the visitors. They simply have to bowl sides out for manageable totals and hope their batsmen can keep them in clover, but I don’t see this Pakistan team topping 500 in English conditions. I may be wrong, and The Oval might be the surface to do it, but it doesn’t look to be in form enough for me. So when England racked up 589/8 in their first innings, the pressure to score nearly 400 just to force England to make a decision looks daunting. Misbah and Shafiq are going to need to play out of their skins.

England were ruthless. Root eschewed risk early, and took the morning session very steadily as Woakes took advantage of his promotion up the order to remind us how good his batting was when he’s 150 wickets into his test career and faded like Stuart Broad! Bairstow and Stokes played their part, and kept the train on the tracks, while Root expanded his game a little more and got past 200. Then, in something I love seeing from England players and always lamented we didn’t do enough of it, he got past the 200s, the 210s and the 220s and piled on. In my days of watching cricket only Gooch and Cook (twice) have made larger scores for England, and of course, almost forgetting Stokes as well – silly me.

Some little nuggets? His is the third 254 in tests, the others by Bradman at Lord’s in 1930 and Virender Sehwag in Lahore in 2006 (his coming in a Sehwag-esque 247 balls). If he’d made 252, he would have been the first person in tests ever to do so. It’s the 5th double hundred of the year, with England having the top two scores so far. It was two short of the English record at Old Trafford (Ken Barrington) and the third highest individual test innings in Manchester.

Oh, and I must not doubt @norcrosscricket stats ever again (x100)

So while England’s mastery is obvious in this match, and Pakistan’s route to survival will need the intervention of weather in some ways, this feels to someone not wedded as strongly to this England team like a disappointment. I want a scrap. I want a match which is won with fight and tenacity. This is a steamrollering and it doesn’t please me any more. Joe Root is a super player, a brilliant talent, temperament to die for, an all round game that one can only marvel at, but….. I can’t put my finger on it. As with Woakes, who is coming good (and yes, I doubted him as well, of course I did) you feel great for people like this. I really do. But it’s the bigger picture. Azhar Ali appears a fine player in the UAE, but he’s like a fish out of water in this series. Why?

That’s enough for tonight, and please keep the comments coming tomorrow. Somehow it doesn’t still feel right having a Day 2 on a Saturday, but I realise I’m an old fuddy duddy now. Day 3 tomorrow, have your say in the usual place. I’m off to read what the “highly respected Cricket Correspondent” ( (c) Charlie Sale) of the Mail has had to say. It’s sure to be enlightening.

* Eoin Morgan, of course…..

Day 1 of Test 2 -The Big Two

COOKY

Evening all. Pleased to know, no doubt, that my laptop appears to be in its final cycle of life for reasons best known to itself, so it has taken a while to get up and running. Add to that my little appointment this afternoon, and cricket has been on the periphery. So the round up will be brief.

314 for 4 after winning the toss is a very good position. Joe Root took the honours with a very impressive 141 not out, and must be looking to convert this one into a super daddy century tomorrow. Virat Kohli, a man he is compared to in this new breed of top test batsmen, has been filling his boots with a double in Antigua and it would be nice to match. I heard Vic Marks say on the radio that this sealed the issue with him at number three, which is a little premature given in 2013, when he played his second test as opener at Lord’s he made a 180+. We do seem to be in an awful rush to anoint changes as successes. Joe is a fine player, I still think he’s better suited at 4, but that doesn’t matter at the moment. What does is that he made a century, has taken England into a strong position, and 314 for 4 seems even stronger knowing he’s back tomorrow.

Of course there was a century for Alastair Cook. These are now greeted like Christmas Day – of course, the birthday of our captain – by children. The punditerati fall over themselves to celebrate his genius. They compare his records to the greats – he matched Bradman’s 29 centuries today, don’t you know, and also the most hundreds by an England captain too – and give off the effect that his hundred today is a return to some normalcy. Well, it isn’t, is it? It’s his second test hundred at home since May/June 2013. Since then he has gone home series against Australia, Sri Lanka, India, Australia and Sri Lanka again without making a century, with just the excellent 162 v New Zealand in there to break the duck. It was Cook’s first first innings ton at home since his century v South Africa at The Oval in 2012. Cook’s centuries are becoming more spaced apart – his last was 11 test matches ago – and yet we are constantly reminded of his record. I know, people will think this is just me nitpicking because I am anti-Cook. I’m anti people telling me incorrect assumptions, that’s what I am. Cook has played a very good innings today, and one that may have taken the initiative back in this series. Well done.

I noted the Manchester humourists were crying out no-ball whenever Amir bowled. You pay your money, you are entitled to have your say as long as it isn’t abusive or offensive. Amir took a couple of wickets and was viewed as the pick of the bowlers, while Yasir Shah had one of those days, and now seems a lot more human.

Chuntering will start over Alex Hales and James Vince. The latter is going to get it first, no doubt. James Vince has never convinced me he’s remotely test class, but I’ve also got to caveat that by saying I’ve not seen a lot of him. Vince was one of those guys that came with a reputation, but George Dobell said last year, or even the year before, that he scores runs off bad balls fine, but has real difficulties with good ones. His penchant here seems to be nicking off after playing a couple of glorious shots. Pringle has been a staunch advocate, but he’s selling his shares now, as once again he invokes Ramprakash (what did Mark do to him to make him invoke him so) in the “he looks nice but doesn’t have the temperament” piece. England are in a quandary now with Vince. Boot him out and what do you replace him with? Keep him, and know that one score could be the outlier that Robson and Lyth (two other discards) scored rather earlier in their truncated test careers. The knives were doubly sharpened for Compton, both this and the first time around, whereas the arms are ready to be put around Vince’s shoulders. There there. Meanwhile, Hales is not starting the innings well for us, and those whispers are going to start.

OK, enough from me. This was a good toss to win, and England have made hay. They find themselves in a strong position, and Root going on will make that stronger. Still Bairstow, Stokes and Moeen to come after Woakes too. Let’s all go off and read what Newman has had to say to complete a wonderful day.

Comments on Day 2 tomorrow, and wishing Chris a safe evening and return to England after the events in Munich. Keep as safe as you can, sir.

The First 2015 Dmitri – Joe Root

P1060695-01
Joe Root – Lord’s 2015 – A Dmitri Pic

It needs to be stressed up front. These “awards” are not to be confused with “Player of the Year” awards because there’s an additional unquantifiable criteria that I want to bring in. That said, you’d need to put a pretty good case against Joe being our player of the year. He’s vital across all formats, he has a joy about him when he’s playing the game, he’s a right royal pain in the arse for the opposition, and no person can deny that he has a rock-like temperament. The main problem, if it is one, is that Joe Root is taken for granted.

The Joe Root story goes back (for me) to his county season before he broke into the team. The ageing World #1 outfit were going to need fresh blood to put pressure on the middle order. But the most urgent need, as Andrew Strauss was struggling for form, was for an opener. Yorkshire appeared to have one. A young kid banging out big scores at the top of the order for his county, playing on the mythically difficult Headingley wicket. It was second division cricket, which wasn’t used against him, but 700+ runs at an average comfortably over 40 indicated a real talent. A 222 not out at Southampton, out of a score of 350 for 9, indicated an appetite for big runs, and especially when the pressure was on him. He was on the radar.

His debut for England came under intense pressure. Brought in for the 4th test, with England 2-1 up, it was not an easy position for him to enter the fray. It might have been a good wicket to start you career – a road that tested the batsman’s patience rather than technique – but it was 119 for 4, and he was to lose KP very soon after. No worries – 130-odd for 5 on a dead deck, trying to keep the series in our hands. The temperament shown was exemplary. He dug in, he put on 103 with Matt Prior, and made a hugely impressive 73 in 289 minutes. In his first game, he’d played a massive part in saving a series. After the match Vic Marks wrote of his selection:

Root knew that he was going to play 24 hours before the match began. The day before that the England think-tank had watched him carefully in the nets, noting that he played an assortment of respectable Indian spinners exclusively with the middle of his bat. That net may have convinced them to take the plunge and to select Root for this vital Test – ahead of Samit Patel, Jonny Bairstow and Eoin Morgan. Having come to their decision against the expectation of all those on the outside, what did they say to him? “They just said I was playing,” explained Root. “They didn’t say why.

He has had travails since then (all players d0), over the 10 tests against Australia he was moved up to open, then dropped to three, before being dropped entirely, and a 180 apart (which is the anchor point for Root Maths because he was let off very early by Haddin) at Lord’s, questions were asked. But a return to the side in 2014 brought a double hundred at Lord’s, more big scores against India (all three of his hundreds that summer were unbeaten) and suddenly the man we were questioning was now the anchor of the middle order, batting at 5. Given another go at Australia overseas, I think most people believe he’ll be a much finer player than the one on the 2013-14 disaster.

This summer his contributions in the middle order were vital. In fact, I’m not sure “vital” does it justice. His 98 and 84 at Lord’s kept England afloat in that tumultuous first test at Lord’s, with the 98 impressive because of the enormous pressure England were under (and why I rate Stokes’s innings in the first better than the second -although I realise that’s a personal choice) in the match. Without that Root and Stokes fightback, the summer may have turned out totally differently. His 134 in the first innings at Cardiff played a part in laying the Johnson bogeyman to rest (allied with the wicket) and allowed England to post an extremely competitive score, and his 60 in the second innings allowed us to post a large target. His 63 in the first innings at Edgbaston was important to allow England to post a sizeable lead when his cheap early dismissal may have put us in strife. His 38 not out to take us home against a small target was also not to be underestimated. As Joe went so did we. His innings of the year candidate at Trent Bridge, on a wicket Australia had been dismissed on for 60, when he made 124 by the close in quick-fire style had pretty much sealed the Ashes. It was fitting that it should be him to do so.

Joe is also a fine part of an attractive ODI team, playing the role of the relentless accumulator with the big shot, in amongst the pyrotechnics of Roy, Hales, Morgan and Buttler. You almost take him for granted now, yet we would not want to be without him. He’s a T20 player of some class too and will be a part of our World Cup line-up. As I’ve said, he’s easily taken for granted. His 182 not out was largely forgotten in Grenada due to Jimmy’s last day heroics, but was immense, class, ruthless and brilliant. 8 test hundreds before he is 25, 6 ODI tons in the same period, a 90 not out in a T20 showing he can take to international attacks in that format. Even his UAE experience wasn’t too shabby. No hundreds but two good matches in Abu Dhabi and Dubai where he wasn’t dismissed below 70, was followed up by a poor one in Sharjah. That his standards are so high meant we were disappointed.

I like to start off with a positive Dmitri and I have nothing but praise for the way Root keeps that England middle order afloat. In the ODI team he is a part of the puzzle, in the test team, he’d be the missing piece if he wasn’t there. We’ve put a lot of weight on his shoulders, look to put more on him by making him test vice-captain and FEC, and ascending to the top post has had bad long-term effects for all who take it on. His off spin is not to be taken lightly, but his back may restrict how many times he is able to turn his arm over. He looks the popular leader on the field, the leader of the foot soldiers rather than pure officer class. He’s had off-field run ins with oppo players. He’s a pest on the field. Without him, certainly in tests, we’re bang in trouble.Look at five of our six losses this calendar year – 33&1 in Bridgetown, 0&1 at Leeds, 1&17 at Lord’s, 6&11 at The Oval, 4&6 at Sharjah (only Dubai, with twin 50s saw him succeed in a losing cause) – where his failure has played a key part in losses. In tests England did not lose this calendar year, the lowest score he was dismissed for was….59!!!!!

But he’s our man. And he is the first of this year’s Dmitris.

Ashes 4th Test, Day two review

And that is pretty much that. Still 90 runs adrift, only three wickets left, short of a cricketing miracle for Australia, or the arrival of a freak hurricane, England will go 3-1 up sometime tomorrow, probably in the morning and regain the Ashes.  After the carnage of day one, to all intents and purposes the game was already up.

Being bowled out for 60 more or less guarantees defeat anyway, so today was in some ways a fairly normal panning out of the situation as expected from the end of day one.  Australia did bowl a little bit better, though that’s not especially unusual when a day has been as bad as that, it would be hard to imagine Australia could do any worse. Yet such was the total dominance of England’s position, they could happily play their shots safe in the knowledge that it mattered little.

Mitchell Starc got just rewards for a bowling performance that was a cut above those of his colleagues, but with the game already pretty much gone, it will hardly be a successful set of figures he will look back on with too much pleasure. Once again, Moeen and Broad showed they like batting together. Moeen is simply gorgeous to watch when in full flow, reminiscent of David Gower, to the point you want him to succeed simply because of that. His batting this series has been a major plus point, the debate over him will certainly continue, but his performances at key times with the willow have been the least of the issues.

As for Broad, some time ago it started to look as though he was just beginning to get his batting back. It’s not entirely there yet, but he is staying in line, and looking to play shots, rather than desperately slogging. A Broad who plays like that is a serious asset in the lower order.

Australia couldn’t possibly have batted as badly as they did in the first innings, and the opening stand from Warner and Rogers restored both a little respect and a fair degree of sanity to proceedings. Yet the problems were still there, Rogers never looked entirely comfortable, while Warner was consistently squared up.  England have clearly identified that his strength to the short ball is also his weakness when he’s cramped for room, hence coming around the wicket. His arms don’t extend and the ball can only go up. Other teams will be watching.

From a promising start, Australia collapsed horribly yet again. In each case it was a grim shot, even allowing for the two lives provided when England bowlers overstepped; Smith looks completely at sea at present, which is remarkable when only four innings ago he looked imperious at Lords. His idiosyncratic technique was always going to be examined in conditions where the ball moves in the air and off the pitch. He’s more than good enough to work that out, but it’s far too late for this series, and not alone in having serious difficulty against the moving ball. Clarke too was hopelessly out of touch, while Marsh’s dreadful shot did little to change the minds of those who simply don’t think he’s good enough for Test cricket.

As previously mentioned, it is never quite evident that a team has lost it until it actually happens, any more than anyone expected England’s hammering last time out. The signs were there after the first Test of a team showing signs of distress, and only a pitch that couldn’t have been better prepared to entirely nullify England’s bowlers got Australia back into it. Yet the abject, spineless capitulation of Australia’s batting in the last two Tests has been every bit as shambolic as anything England produced in 2013/14.

Well as England have bowled, time and again players have been dismissed playing attacking shots that are exceptionally high risk, with no evidence of a willingness to graft in less than perfect batting conditions. These are not bad players, to be getting out in this way repeatedly betrays minds that are completely shot, a team that has no idea how to arrest the slide. There is always a temptation when England win to limit the praise to them by pointing out the faults of the opposition. Yet in just the same way as the most recent 5-0 said more about England’s abysmal surrender than it did a great Australian side, so this almost certain series victory is less about England being outstanding than Australia being dire.

That doesn’t mean that there aren’t plenty of things to praise England for, the catching has been excellent, the on field direction has simply been far better than anyone could possibly have expected from the captain given his performance to date, while Joe Root in particular is starting to look the real deal, and Ben Stokes might still be inconsistent but is a major talent in the making with both bat and ball. Yet when Australia keep being bowled out to self inflicted calamity rather than England brilliance, that praise does need to be tempered by a recognition that England haven’t suddenly become a great side.

Future opponents will not be anything like so meek. That isn’t meant to be grudging, more a reflection on an astounding collapse in morale and stomach for the fight from Australia. England can certainly take pleasure from the way they have pressurised Australia – unforced errors are rarely entirely unforced when it afflicts the whole team – but there can have been few tours where Australia have been so appallingly inept on such a regular basis.

This has been a truly bizarre series, no match has even had the resemblance of a close contest, and this fourth match has been even more one sided than the three previous.  Australia are shot to pieces.   Quite why that is, will be a debate for the future. For now, they deserve every bit of the kicking they are getting from their own media who at least seem to recognise a team shambles when they see one.

@BlueEarthMngmnt

The Ashes Mumblings – Day 1 Review

Well, what to make of that?

England, I think, would probably have taken the position they are in at the end of this day. It’s not dominant, but it’s not disastrous either. The first thing that England needed to do was convince us, and themselves, that this opposition isn’t some sort of unrelenting tide of aggression and superior skills. This was a day that England found themselves three down early, recovered, and made 343/7. That’s not too bad at all.

It’s too tough to gauge really how things went while you are in the office and not able to watch. I got to see a little of the play after lunch, and I saw a pudding of a pitch and a team with positive intent. I like the latter. This is a team that needed to have a result for that attitude today. If they’d gone all guns blazing and been bowled out for 150, it would have been horrendous. And who knows what would have happened had Haddin held on to that catch from Root.

Joe Root was amazing, once over his let-off. He’s making a lovely habit of making hundreds regularly. They are usually very watchable, and his reliability is massively important.

I’m going to hand it over to you lot who have commented away and kept me informed all day. Did Australia bowl badly (I thought Johnson looked decidedly unthreatening when I watched and Starc appeared to be floating it up at too full a length too often) or did England wrest the intiative? What do you think about Ian Bell’s alarming lack of form? What was the coverage like? Who or what caught your eye?

I leave you with Martin Samuel. A man who makes me almost pine for Paul Newman:

And then there was Alastair Cook, the captain’s rhythm expertly broken not by Australia’s bowlers, but by the practice of knocking off for a round of refreshments every hour, no matter the weather.

This meant that on a chilly morning when most were regretting not packing a second jumper, rather than sun cream, spectators had to sit through the arrival of the drinks tray roughly 55 minutes in. Maybe they were dispensing hot toddies.

Cook had batted like a dream until then but lasted just two balls after the interlude, before clipping one to Brad Haddin off the bowling of Nathan Lyon. The distractions were proving as valuable as Australia’s bowlers, and Test cricket has plenty of them these days.

Fire away…..

England v New Zealand: 1st Test 5th Day – Open Thread

England 389 & 429/6 (Cook 153 not out, Stokes 101, Root 84) lead New Zealand 523 by 295 runs.

England have, it seemed, turned the game around. From a position of weakness two contrasting centuries have put the home team in the position to win this match, if things go our way. Alastair Cook’s epic knock, one that he played on a fairly regular basis a few years ago is the “welcome return to form” that we hoped from for our opening batsman for a while now. He looked better from the start, scored at the pace we are used to from our opener (around 120 runs in a day) and laid the foundation for the others to express themselves.

My main take from the day is that it was a joy to see Ben Stokes and Joe Root play their games and not the game. Too many times when England face difficult situations, they revert in on themselves. They seek to defend their way out of trouble. I sometimes believe it is because they are frightened to get out playing attacking shots. Somehow, in England, it is always worse getting out to a positive shot because you make a mental error, or hit it too well and it carries to outfielders, than having your technique undressed. Always worse to be the talent not “fulfilling themselves” rather than the “grafter” who isn’t good enough to score. So beware all those lauding Ben Stokes today for the way his attacking game turned the match, for many of them were lining him up and calling him all sorts last year. Stokes is going to infuriate me every bit as much as Freddie did with the bat, but you have to get over it. When he clicks, as he has twice now in this match with the bat, he’s going to change a match. He bailed us out in the first innings, and turned it in the second.

Joe Root’s role must not be underestimated either. With Ian Bell falling to the third ball (I was walking the dog at the time), he came in at a time of real danger with a wicket then being the recipe for perhaps a BlackCap win today. With Cook looking solid at the other end, Root got himself in and kept the score ticking over (Cook was actually scoring at a decent pace by his standards) and then he accelerated. He’ll be kicking himself that he never went on to three figures in both innings, but he’s our middle order rock, and while I think 5 is one spot too low for him, it looks like that’s where he will stay.

Before we get on to the main man, I thought I’d say I was disappointed with what I saw from the BlackCaps bowling today. It was a tough morning, but I wasn’t buying the narrative that it was THAT tough. Sure, it was decent enough, but maybe this attack has been a little over-rated, maybe based on ODI form rather than tests. As for the spinner, Craig, I’ve been really disappointed. He appears to have been easily dominated at times. Still, that would be nit-picking.

Now to the main matter of the day. Alastair Cook has made 153 not out. I am not going to churlish, nor am I going to be a hypocrite. I think the way he has been projected, the way he has acted, the way he has been protected and the way he has been canonised has been every bit as big a disaster in its handling and its duration as the KP saga with which he is intertwined. If it is true that he is keeping you know who out of the team for whatever personal reasons he cannot tell us, then the opprobrium I have for him, and others here, is well deserved. That said, you cannot argue with the facts. That was an excellent innings today. An excellent innings. I can sit back and say that without any fear, nor any rancour. I’ve been hard on him for his protected status and I was not wrong that his form at times last year did not mean he should be the automatic choice he was. Those who tell us to do one today are the short-termists, not me.

So, to repeat, that was an excellent knock today, it’s what we need him to do, it does not make him a great leader of men, it did not merit the widespread sychophancy eminating from the press and Sky Sports box for how much his team loves him. As I said, I’m more neutral towards this team than I would like – I can’t help it, sorry – and so I look at these things more dispassionately, and Cook’s knock was one of his best given the context of the match. But I couldn’t cheer it to the rafters. Rather appreciate it for what it was – a very good openers knock – rather than those who oppose KP, who seem to spit blood every time he did anything any good, and disparage him at every turn.

I know others here are more passionately against this team, and I can understand that. I will not condemn that. Because when you see those bastards in their box, no doubt believing this vindicates their tough choices, I get it. But today was a good day to look to the future, with the rock opening and allowing them to express themselves. We’ve shown less fear in this game. That I welcome.

Comments for Day 5 should follow below. Century Watch will follow this test match.

2015 Test Century Watch #14 – Joe Root

Joe-Root

Joe Root – 182 not out v West Indies at St. George’s

You’ve read all the stuff about over 150 scores for Joe Root, but the century watch is for my statistical buffoonery, and not those boring old stats. We’ll be talking DBTA and all sorts.

Joe Root’s 182 not out is his first century overseas, and adds on to the five made at home. It his second highest score in test cricket, nestling behind his double ton against Sri Lanka last spring at Lord’s.  His DBTA now stands at 184.5, which is rather good and reflects he has a Steve Waugh propensity to make 150s and stay unbeaten in doing so. This is, of course, a small sample size, and will come down with time, but still amazing.

This was the 17th score of 182 in tests, and the sixth unbeaten score. I actually saw the start of the last 182 not out in tests – I walked out of the match because I was fed up – which was made by Jacques Kallis at The Oval in 2012. The last 182 in tests was made a few days after Kallis’s efforts, when Alviro Petersen made that score at Headingley. Root is the third Englishman to make 182 in a test match – CP Mead and MC Cowdrey being the others. Of the 17 scores of 182, two each have been made at The Oval, Sydney, Georgetown (Bourda), Headingley and Kolkata.

For me there is one score of 182 seared on my memory, and it is this one. It is one of the best innings I’ve ever seen (but then I loved Richie Richardson):

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uouZo1lUZx0

Greg Chappell has two scores of 182. 182 links two other West Indian greats – Lara and Richards. It’s a venerable old score.

This was the 4th century at St. George’s and the second highest. The record is held by Chris Gayle who made 204 against New Zealand at this venue in 2009. Samuels was the third century maker, and we have the fifth to come… It was the second by an overseas player, and the highest (obviously) beating Scott Styris who made 107 in 2002. Not many tests are played at Grenada (this was the 4th) so there isn’t a huge track record to go on.

This was England’s 12th highest score against the West Indies. The best is by Andrew Sandham who made 325 in Jamaica back in 1930, and is, along with Bob Cowper and John Edrich, one of those frequently forgotten on the list of test triple centurions. The last double made against the West Indies is by current fan favourite Kevin Pietersen, who made 226 against them at Headingley in 2007. Three of our top ten scores were made at Sabina Park. Root’s 182 was the fifth highest score made in the West Indies by an England man.

Joe Root’s century came up in 125 balls with 13×4 and 2×6. His innings consisted of 229 balls with 17×4 and 4×6.