Just Rejoice at that news…Rejoice

Mixed feelings is the lot of most people for most eventualities in life – good things can happen, but with a caveat. Absolute certainty is forever dangerous, the prerogative of the zealot. Thus it is that England’s 5-0 demolition of Australia in the Meaningless Ashes series evokes several different responses and emotions.

To begin with, the pain of realisation that we are barely a third of the way through the white ball international schedule can be tempered with enjoying the clear irritation displayed by Malcolm Conn, as his beloved Cricket Australia Australian cricket team were demolished by the side he gleefully reminded had been beaten by Scotland. Whether fans or press pack, looking forward to the latest surly, childish tweet from him was always a delight.

Equally, England’s batting line up repeatedly fired, and while Jos Buttler deservedly got many of the plaudits (especially for the extraordinary knock in the final match), he was anything but alone. Jason Roy, Jonny Bairstow and Alex Hales were all at different times utterly devastating, while Eoin Morgan, without quite getting the volume of runs of his team mates, destroyed Australia’s bowling when he got going. An England batting line up where Joe Root appears to be something of the weak link has something seriously going for it.

Of course, for various reasons this wasn’t Australia’s best side, but the absence of players through suspension cannot be used as any kind of excuse, any more than it could in the winter when a player was missing from the England side for legal reasons. Injuries perhaps, for Australia lacked their primary pace bowling attack, but even there, justifying heavy defeat by complaining about absence is as pointless as it ever was, while belittling English success on the basis of the standard of opposition remains a curious national obsession.

Nevertheless, it can be said that it wasn’t Australia’s best team, certainly, albeit England too were missing a couple of players in the shape of Stokes and Woakes. The best teams available to both were largely selected, and to that extent it was representative. Of more importance is the relevance of the series itself, shoehorned into the heart of the summer, nominally as part of the preparation for next summer’s World Cup, but since that could have been equally done by extending Pakistan’s stay (and they did win the Champions Trophy last year) the reality that it was down to financial considerations is abundantly obvious. The crowds were largely decent, so the ECB will consider it mission accomplished.

Australia explicitly stated in 2011 that they were prioritising Test cricket, and the decline in their ODI performances since then intriguingly correlate with that, particularly given their Test performances have remained strong – the South Africa debacle notwithstanding. Yet, and here is where the excuses about missing players ring hollow – they have lost 14 of their last 16 ODIs. Pretending that the return of those players will make all well for next year flies in the face of poor performance even when all are present and accounted for, but above all else it makes interesting reading and Daniel Brettig goes into more detail here. When considering England’s alternate strategy of focusing on the white ball form of the game, whatever their protestations to the contrary, it is striking that there appears a connection, though India may raise a hand at this juncture. The marginalisation of red ball county cricket, reduction in Test volumes across the summer and creation of wheezes like The Hundred could be argued to have been highly successful in terms of creating the conditions for generating a strong England ODI and T20 side. To that end, the ECB could claim vindication for their strategy, yet they are unlikely to do so precisely because it’s a strategy that finds little favour with England cricket fans. It is, unquestionably, an irony to see the ECB succeed in their aims yet be unable to truly take credit because of the corollary impact and what it would say about them.

If the stated aim is to win the World Cup, then England are in good shape, with a couple of provisos. No team will be confident of setting England a score for the simple reason that no total seems safe from the destructive capabilities of the batting line up. The world record set two years ago was extraordinary, the pulverising of it in this series simply astounding. That 500 became a realistic prospect is something that seems scarcely credible, as was the rather odd feeling of disappointment when they didn’t get there. It must be said that pitches so flat that bowlers become cannon fodder for batsmen is fundamentally unhealthy, and by far the most exciting game in the series came in the final match, where bowlers had the upper hand, and the century from Buttler had real value because of the circumstances.

The belief of most cricket fans tends to be that these make the best matches, a proper balance between bat and ball and the excruciating excitement of a team limping over the line as true batting peril and hunting packs of bowlers come to the fore. Yet the likelihood is that those cricket fans are wrong. Casual observers probably watch to see the ball disappearing to all parts of the ground, caring little for the skill of the bowler, but enjoying the resounding thwack of willow on leather. This may be something of a depressing thought, yet the sidelining of Test cricket where that balance really does apply suggests there is truth in it, no matter what we might wish to believe. Put it this way, it’s more likely to receive a text to turn the television on because Chris Gayle is going berserk than because Liam Plunkett is rattling through the top order.

The final match also highlighted the potential flaw in England’s side, particularly when the ICC get hold of pitch preparation next summer – that England have a tendency to fall in a heap quite spectacularly from time to time. Some context is needed for that, for no one day side, no matter how strong, wins every game. England are defeated rarely, and if the semi-final last summer can be perhaps put in the category of a one off, it doesn’t mean that some caution about their prospects isn’t in order.

Perhaps for that reason the victory at Old Trafford was particularly impressive, for despite the collapse England still found a way to win. Or more specifically, Jos Buttler did. He is in an extraordinary run of form, whether at the IPL, in this series, or indeed in Test cricket. Whether this is just a purple patch, or whether he has found his feet in the wider game of cricket is a moot point, for this can be said of any player suddenly thrust to the fore through sheer performance. It is enough for the present to enjoy his extraordinary run and to hope that it continues.

The arrival of India will perhaps answer some of the questions underlying England’s level of performance, but it seems beyond question that they are among the favourites for next year. Buttler’s supreme displays have overshadowed players who in any other circumstances would be in receipt of unqualified praise – Roy and Bairstow actually scored more runs this series for a start.

This series was also played out in the backdrop of a football World Cup, which has deliciously highlighted both the appetite for watching event sport, and the invisibility of cricket to the wider public. The two England football matches have attracted extraordinary viewing figures – over 20 million for the game against Tunisia, and while the totals were lower for the beating handed out to Panama, the 83% of total television audience (when the cricket was on, note) is one of the highest on record.

Cricket isn’t football of course, and a World Cup is a seminal collective experience, but there are some observations that can be made from that. Firstly that a likeable team whom the public believe are deserving of support receive it, and secondly that the claims of the ECB over the years amount to so much nonsense. The near 10 million who watched the climax of the Ashes in 2005 were specifically discounted as a future factor when justifying the move to pay TV on the grounds that the digital age meant that such community viewing was no longer possible. Young people in particular apparently no longer consumed sport in such a manner, too distracted by social media to sit and watch a game.

The huge audiences for the football demonstrated that this was so much drivel. All ages watched the England football team, all ages cheered the goals. The cricket team could never hope to match those raw numbers, but it is beyond question that were they to move to the latter stages of next year’s World Cup, both the interest, and the audience would climb dramatically if it were widely available, not least because it would be promoted across all media, social or otherwise. Instead, even if England were to win the thing, it will remain a niche occasion. It is this in particular that remains unforgivable, that the ECB blew the opportunity offered to a sport that had captured the public imagination as on few occasions previously. Cricket is not football, but the shared national experience when our team does well is something beyond price, and really does inspire a generation.

The football team may not have beaten anyone of note yet, but kids across the country were kicking footballs afterwards, just as in 2005 they were taking a bat and a ball to the park. For all the protestations about the viability of the professional game without Sky’s money (how on earth did they survive before 2006?), this fundamental importance has been ignored. The argument these days appears to be an almost apologetic one, that ok yes, perhaps they have destroyed the game in national consciousness, but it’s too late now and they can’t survive by changing tack. It is weak, defeatist nonsense driven by self-interest.

Buttler should be a household name. Roy should be a household name, Hales should be a household name, the captain Eoin Morgan should be a household name. Children should be trying to emulate Adil Rashid and make their friends look foolish with one that grips and turns. But they aren’t, and after a series where whatever the caveats, England were both exceptional and thrilling, this is the most disappointing part. Forget for one moment the debate about red ball and white ball cricket, when England really do have a team that can inspire a nation, hardly anyone saw it.

It is that, above all else, that can never be forgiven.

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England vs. Australia 3rd ODI – Open Thread

As England prepare to face Australia for the third of five ODIs, they stand on the cusp of a series victory. Not only that, but it would apparently be the first time since 1977 that England have won two consecutive ODI series against Australia. The gloss on that achievement is tainted somewhat by the fact that the two series have been less than 6 months apart, and Australia’s ODI form is particularly dire. They have lost 13 out of their last 15 ODIs, and are currently missing several stars due to injury and suspension.

England fans might be concerned about the fitness of several players, with Jonny Bairstow’s knee and Ben Stokes’ torn hamstring both under the spotlight. It would seem bizarre for the England team to risk two three-format world-class cricketers in a largely meaningless ODI series, but bitter experience also tells us it is almost certain to happen.

Elsewhere, English football fans were cursing VAR (football’s version of DRS) for almost costing them a win over Tunisia whilst Aussie football fans were largely cursing their government due to the World Cup mostly not being on free-to-air TV, nor on the streaming service which had the rights but which was apparently unable to handle the strain. It is somewhat unusual for the UK to have sport freely available on television when it isn’t in Australia, so I must admit to feeling a bit of schadenfreude.

As always, feel free to comment on the game (or anything else) below.

Is It An Horrific Dream, Am I Sinking Fast – The 4th ODI

Another ODI, another piece masquerading as a preview. We’ll get to the 4th ODI later, to be played at the home of English international cricket (accept no substitutes, there can only be one first venue). We need to consider other matters before then. So first, a list.

Gary Ballance

Alastair Cook

Mark Stoneman

Rory Burns

Liam Livingstone

Ben Foakes

Ollie Pope

Tom Westley

Jason Roy

Dan Lawrence

Nick Browne

Sam Robson

Alex Davies

Jonathan Trott

Dawid Malan

Jimmy Adams

Steve Davies

Ian Westwood

Stevie Eskinazi

Ian Holland (An Australian born in America but with a British passport)

 

All of the above have, at the beginning of this set of fixtures have better averages than James Vince, who has suddenly become the consensus pick for the Ashes squad. Obviously some are already in the squad, while others are a bit on the young side, and not obviously overseas players. James Vince averages 34.82 in the CC Division 1. But there’s more. Good players play in Division 2. The standard is lower so….

Let’s give the cut-off point at least 5 runs per innings more in Division 2, so basically anyone over 39.9. Those in bold average 10 runs more than Vince.

Luke Wells

Samit Patel

Joe Denly

Sam Northeast

Daryl Mitchell

Riki Wessels

Paul Collingwood

Alex Hales

Chris Dent

Chris Cooke

Darren Stevens

Joe Clarke

Cameron Steel

Steven Mullaney

Ben Duckett

Andrew Salter

Jack Taylor

Jofra Archer

Matthew Critchley

David Payne

James Weighell

Billy Godleman

 

I might need to check a couple of those to check they are England qualified. It’s a long list, and with some test reclamation projects and multi-faceted cricketers in there.

According to Nick Hoult, James Vince has earned his place because “Trevor Bayliss likes him”. James Vince is our Marcus Trescothick. James Vince is our Michael Vaughan (and no, let’s not go there, although you sometimes wonder). Our punt in the dark. Which would be great, except we’ve seen him before and it wasn’t all that. A flashy little cameo and night night outside the off stump. Vaughan showed resilience in an iffy first series, Tres hit the ground running. Vince did neither.

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Back again – but with four more test centuries and a CC1 batting average than James Vince

I’ve heard it said, by pundits and outside cricketers alike, that the Ashes is no place for rookies. Those wet behind the ears would be shark bait for the baying Aussies, the partisan crowds, the pressure that comes with it. Pity no-one told Ben Stokes that last time down under, eh? Sure, it would be lovely to have a settled team, and with pressure for places based on form and run accumulation. But we seem to be really keen on the magic beans approach to picking players. How Haseeb Hameed has been talked up when making just 513 runs at 28.50 this season, and that’s an improvement due to a couple of late season half centuries. But James Vince hasn’t even had the test career Hameed has had, where at least the young lad’s temperament and innings building had international quality. Hameed is a better punt than Vince, even if they play different roles. The selections, almost 20 years ago of Vaughan and Trescothick are always held up as examples of outside the box thinking. It’s like an inveterate gambler, always telling you about the big wins, and not the mass of losses he incurs day in, day out.

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Better CC1 average than James Vince

By the time the 4th ODI starts at The Oval, the Ashes squad will have been announced. I’m actually quite excited for it, and want 23 November to come around pronto  (that is also Thanksgiving which means I get a day off! We might do an OBO that night, for at least the first session) as I still love test cricket and I think we’ve had a nice two years without an Ashes series. The teams are interestingly matched, both with flaws, but with home advantage it is going to be tough to beat Australia. I think, weather permitting, we’ll get five results. The selection will dominate talking points while the fag end of the English season plays out with two ODIs that I’m not even sure the players care too much about.

So what is there to say about this series that Sean hasn’t already said in his third ODI preview, or I have banged on about in the past few days? This is not cricket with context, it is cricket to fulfil a contractual obligation. It is cricket to give a channel something to show, that they have paid for. It is cricket to perhaps buffer your stats, and with little consequence in failure (although Eoin Morgan might not be a secure as he thinks – the ECB don’t forget Eoin). It is cricket for cricket’s sake, and there is no bad impacts on defeat for England. You’ll have to ask the West indies about their commitment to the cause.

You have to laugh at the double standards of many of those commenting in our media etc. If an English player treated fielding and running between the wickets like Chris Gayle we’d be seeing “good journalism” all over the place, “his cards being marked” and “disinterest” in abundance, and yet he’s treated like a deity and a clown by those interviewing him and commenting on his play. Jimmy Anderson, in his commentary stint, wasn’t standing for it, and for that he gets a plus mark from me.  Aren’t the West Indies supposed to have the same standards as England? Gayle is a brilliant batsman – two test triple hundreds, remember – and while at the crease a fearsome presence, an amazing talent. But off field behaviour is nothing now. On field lack of commitment is part of the circus. I’m not going any further. You know where I’m going and I can’t have those old timers rolling their eyes and saying “not him again”.

So enjoy the 4th ODI, if you like that sort of thing, We’ll be back to take you through the Ashes squad, with a couple of guest pieces, and all sorts of other things in the run-up to the end of November. Oh, I forgot, and something for the 5th game at Bransgrove Dome. On finishing 28 hours from October. It’s progress. It’ll be a four day test in October before you know it.

(Song lyric title – honestly, the next song on the Ipod Shuffle as I was writing this).

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Better average than James Vince

And after I put this piece to bed, packed off, completed and scheduled for publication, the news broke about Ben Stokes. Instant reactions are not much of a help, but you do have to wonder what happened to the “no dickheads” rule, eh? I’ve just stuck Sky Sports News on and they’ve said he will be packed for the Ashes. Fine, and no problem with that, but I don’t want to hear any moral high ground stuff from the ECB or Team England in the future. They might do something meaningless but moral in stripping him of the vice captaincy, showing some “strength” but it’ll just be funny watching Comma squirm.

Oh – and it’s funny how that story never broke, eh?  Shows they don’t leak when they don’t want to.

Comments on the game below which gives Jason Roy a chance in place of Hales. Good luck Jason.

I Don’t Talk In Terms Of Sense – The Second ODI

Nottingham Weather Forecast:

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That’s hopeful.

With the faint hope that West Indies would need to qualify for the World Cup if they won this series 4-0, or something like that gone, now (yes I know it is a 5 game series) any relevant motivation on the context scale is gone. Attention turns to a ground where runs flow, big innings ensue and the real meaning of ODI cricket is on show. Heck, if it’s not raining it might even start on time. Will the visitors come out blazing and set a massive score if they bat first, or will they rely on just one or two gun batsmen to do the work (assuming Universe Boss can be arsed)? Thinking of putting a random quote from “Six Machine” every day until the end of the series. Opened the book and came to this…

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Obviously not a reader of the Andy Flower Cook Book. (Yet again – I got this book for 1p plus p&p from Amazon. I have not read it yet. Just by the size of the font, I don’t think it is going to take long. Tom Fordyce of the Beeb ghosted it. Interesting.)

Back to tomorrow. England will probably be unchanged – Bairstow now has that top slot nailed down. I think the next name on the list to face a challenge might be David Willey – I really don’t think he’s international class – but that would be being picky. And late September is not a time to be overly bothered. We rarely play this late in the year, and there is nothing for it but to watch what we see, and yearn for two months time and the Ashes.

Comments below. Got things to do tomorrow on my week off, so may not be around for the whole of the game. Or I might with this forecast!

Too Much Of Anything, Is Never Enough – The First ODI

Can you believe we are STARTING an international series on 19 September. I haven’t seen anything so stupid since the T20 series against West Indies in 2011. Look it up. England open up their ODI campaign against the Caribbean Select XI at Old Trafford with the four subsequent matches at Trent Bridge, Bristol, The Oval and finally BransgroveDome. The international series ending in the dark at the home of the ECB stooge who kept his team up and filled it with Kolpaks. I find that fitting.

Of course we are building towards the 2019 World Cup and not, absolutely not, trying to squeeze the fruit so hard the pips squeak. When is too much just too much? Are Sky really demanding that we have to resort to Autumn Internationals? Is this nonsense absolutely necessary. Where are the players complaining that this series comes around one month before we travel to Australia for the only series that seems to matter to anyone these days? Where we define our status in world cricket, regardless of whether India are number one, or anyone else for that matter. Win the Ashes and you erase everything else for a while. But no. Joe Root, Ben Stokes, Moeen Ali, Jonny Bairstow and Chris Woakes will be dragged around England, risking injury on cold damp evenings to satiate television’s need for any form of international cricket to prevent their newly devoted channel being just masterclass, cricket’s greatest, endless repeats of their lunchtime features and a couple of ICC tournament reviews.

I think this is disrespectful to the visitors, the paying spectator, who is just expected to keep turning up for this (and they do) and the cricket fan. The County Championship has been decided so we aren’t in the embarrassing position where a TV company that has exclusive rights to the sport in this country for another 2 years is forced to ignore the conclusion when it was most likely to happen. Talk about catch a break. But then, who really cares about country cricket except the diehard cricket fan who is now treated like some circus freak show by the powers that be and that paragon of integrity (#39 in top arslikhan form) Empty Suit.

But we have a series to comment on, and this blog tries to keep up with all that is happening. I don’t really have a feel for who is playing, and what England are up to. Will Roy reclaim his place at the top of the order after a disastrous Champions Trophy and a first baller in the T20, or will Jonny keep the slot. Can Hales maintain his run of white ball form that has him among the most dangerous players in world cricket at the moment? Whispers are circling about Eoin Morgan – certainly at T20 level – and you know he has no capital in the bank with the ECB or media – those three ODI tons this year will soon be forgotten. Will Rashid be the ODI force he is now limited to? Can the bowling keep the scores down? And possibly most importantly, will England still play with the same ethos which makes them a good team to watch which, given the world’s predilection for meaningless, context-free, here today gone tomorrow T20 should be all that matters, right? It is, after all, the “entertainment business”. Who cares about winning when it’s the entertainment that matters. That’s what TV stations pay for. That’s what YOU want. Stop dragging out dull 280s. Only 350-400 matters now.

This is just the second ODI played between England and the West Indies at Old Trafford since the Viv Richard’s tour de force in 1984. I know many of our readers are of a certain vintage and will have no trouble recalling the greatest ODI innings I have ever seen, and will be ever likely to see, but for those that aren’t, you are the unlucky ones. So instead of going into an in-depth preview of an ODI game most of you on here don’t give a flying one, let’s indulge some nostalgia and enjoy…

People who say to me that the game has moved rapidly forward have a bit of a point, but only a bit of one. Watch the shots Viv plays in this innings. These are long boundaries, these are not the bats used in the modern game, and there weren’t fielding restrictions like today. This 189 was made on the back of a horrendous West Indies collapse, where Viv not only had to keep a decent pace up, but also had to marshall the tail. When Joel Garner was 9th out, the score was only 166. With this magnificent effort they got to 272 in 55 overs. With modern bats, possibly shorter boundaries, and the inability to put the field exactly where you want, this could have been well over 200. Yes, I know he had 5 overs more than the modern game, but still. Note – a three game series, played as an appetiser for the tests, in the height of summer.

Viv was the scariest batsman I have ever seen. I remember, vaguely, his double hundreds in 1976, and yet he scored just two test hundreds after that in four subsequent tours. This 189 was a gem, but once he’d made his 100 in the first test in the Blackwash series, he never made another international century in England. It didn’t matter. He was the masterblaster, the man you absolutely positively had to get out. He made yo want Gordon Greenidge and Desmond Haynes to stay in for fear of what he might unleash. If Lara is the best I’ve ever seen (when on top form, I’ve seen nothing like him – so can it Sachin fans) then Viv is the one I’d most like to see in this era. I’m truly frightened what he could have achieved.

So while I indulge in nostalgia, it’s funny to compare the eras. The 1984 team, intent and completing world domination with a fire so strong, that no-one came close to putting it out for a number of years, compared to the current crop of traveling mercenaries run by a board so incompetent, Birmingham City are asking them for tips. Viv Richards was their icon, Chris Gayle this. Yes, Gayle has two test triple centuries, but you do have to wonder what Viv thinks about Universal God, or whatever it is he calls himself these days. Viv went off to Packer, that’s true. But his legend lives on, while Gayle’s is as a T20 gun for hire. In the interview with Sky on Saturday you did get the hint that Gayle still might regret slagging test cricket off, recognising that he might need to go back to that format. For that’s where true legends are made. Legends like Viv.

Makes the international gravy train, with its more is less culture seem rather puny to me. Enjoy the game. I’ll be online for most of it. Too much of anything is never enough. Not for the powers that be.

Comments below.

England vs. New Zealand – Champions Trophy 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

India vs. Pakistan – Champions Trophy 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

England v South Africa – 3rd ODI Intro

It was a good game on Saturday. England made what looked like a par score, or maybe that’s me just assuming we are going to make good 300+ scores these days. The visitors lost their key men with the winning line a little way away, but Morris and Miller brought them close before the curious / brilliant final over. England took the series, found a death bowler, and then pronounced injury worries.

I’m not going to go into a massive preview as the main event starts in a few days time. We will welcome any comments on the game tomorrow, as we always do, below, but realise that the interest is not there for ODIs. We hope it comes back for the Champions Trophy and the test matches. Great games, like Saturday’s, will not be remembered long. As I said, I hear the stuff about test matches lacking context, but an ODI series like this is so context-lite that it barely exists.

Here’s where I am these days. Work is busy. Life has limited spare time. There is a ton of sport out there. And I feel as those of us as cricket diehards are pretty unappreciated right now. Maybe there is a chance to enjoy the cricket for itself, but it’s hardly likely. It’s great we have a fresh pair of eyes to write more regularly for us, and a formal welcome to Danny from me, but I can’t even be bothered to read the press these days. Well, I do a bit:

Newman:

There was a time last winter when Morgan, who refused to lead his side in Bangladesh because of security concerns, was under pressure. But he has responded in style. This was his third one-day century in eight innings, after he had gone 24 knocks without one, and Morgan will go into the Champions Trophy at the top of his form.

Just how long is he going to go on about this?

OK. Enough. It’s late on Sunday, and I want to take the dog for a walk. Have a good one, and any comments on the game, leave below.

England v South Africa – 2nd ODI – Preview of Sorts

 

We’re hot-desking in the office at the moment, which means as a relatively late starter I have all the fun of the fair in securing a desk. On Wednesday I sat next to a cricket supporter. Not a die-hard by any stretch of the imagination, but someone, ideally, who should be following the game. As Eoin Morgan completed his hundred, and Moeen Ali was attacking the Proteas, I turned to him and said “Morgan’s got another ton for us”. He looked at me in a facade of confusion. “What are you talking about?”.

He had absolutely no idea England were playing an ODI against the World’s Number One team. They say test cricket lacks “context” but this series is being played in advance of a major tournament as some form of glorified warm-up. England aren’t messing about with anyone at this time, and I am no doubting that their intensity is necessary, but this is a series with preparation in mind. England won’t, and can’t, make many changes in the next week and nor will South Africa. England are getting decent reps from the pundits, but there’s still this nagging doubt that the batting will collapse into a heap, or their bowling won’t staunch the runs. We might have a lot better prospects than the “puncher’s chance” of 2015, but it’s important not to peak too early.

But back to the visibility of this series. We know on BOC that ODI doesn’t FYB. But it is an important part of the ECB’s Mission Statement, and Strauss has a lot riding on this Champions Trophy and the 2019 World Cup. It’s certainly an impressive trick of the light to be able to charge £89 for Compton Upper tickets on Monday for what is a preparation event, but should we be worried that floating cricket fans had no clue this series was on? In a slightly related development, BBC were announced as the Champions Trophy highlights channel, which will improve some visibility, but not a knockout one. The game is drowning in ignorance, and it is doubtful a long run in the Champions Trophy is going to halt that.

One sage is not convinced the BBC will help the visibility at all…

You have to laugh. On so many levels.

Tomorrow sees the second ODI at Castle Greyskull, the international venue in England that is about as inaccessible as could be. That it’s a Bransgrove hosted event is also particularly lovely. There’s not a lot of love on here for him. The game itself is important only to see if England can maintain the momentum. It’s been a very high scoring ground in the past for ODIs and if the threatened storms don’t materialise, it should be tomorrow too. Jason Roy could do with a hit, Mark Wood needs miles under the clock, and Jos also needs to show a little form. But these are minor quibbles. England are playing an ODI on FA Cup Final day. On Rugby Union Premiership Final Day.  The PGA Championship is on at Wentworth. It’s a Bank Holiday weekend.

Will anyone notice another ODI with this talented exciting team? Another one of my colleagues is off to the Sponsor Bowl tomorrow. So I suppose people are. But enough of them?

You tell me.

Comments 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!!!!