One Day We’ll Fly Away

England win the ODI series 3-1, and did this in varying styles. We dug a game out from a troublesome position, we set a middling to good total and bowled well, and we smashed a massive total which was never really under threat. That’s probably the most pleasing point from this series, and lets leave aside just how good, or not so good, the opposition might have been, and shows there isn’t just one way this team can win.

Having said that, our batsmen are going to win many more games than our bowlers. I’m sure that’s not an exclusive revelation, but the bowling is still capable of going for plenty. It did against New Zealand, to a lesser degree (and that might be down to the change in regulations) against Australia, and it may well do again when the human cyclone that is AB DeVillier reaps his storm.

To quote the mystics from May “there does not appear to be any vacancies in the batting line-up” at present. Don’t worry, pearl clutchers, I’m not mentioning him. With Hales and Roy at the top, Root at three, Morgan at four, Taylor at five, Buttler at six, Stokes at seven and Ali at eight (with Rashid maybe at nine), that is an exciting batting line-up. It could do serious, serious damage. If either of our spin bowlers could become regular wicket-taking threats, we’d be in a really solid position.

What you will get with this batting line-up, as you probably will with most, is brittleness. I’ve seen Jason Roy enough, as have most of you now, that he will go early quite regularly. I’ve compared him many times not to you-know-who, but to Ali Brown. If England had stuck by Brown, took the rough with the smooth, and not bowed to the usual staid and boring methods, we’d have had a winner. I’m convinced. I saw him play enough when I was a Surrey member, in county championship and one dayers, to see it. Roy is a talent. But even yesterday, he started a bit dodgily, with two inside edges flying past his stumps. He was out second ball in the first match. It will happen. We need to stick by him. It was brilliant to see a Surrey man make a hundred for England. Not counting who I can’t name, it might be the first international hundred by a Surrey man since The Thorpe in 2004 at Durban. I think!

At the other end Alex Hales also made his first ODI hundred, and without it we might have been in strife in that game. Hales is again going to be hit and miss, but his hundred was pretty mature in many ways. He got himself in then let himself go. Hales is likely to open, we think, in Durban next month in the test team (though I still remain to be convinced they’ll take this mighty plunge) and we should see what happens (although we might not like the answers). It’s tough to get a huge feel of a series I could only watch on highlights shows, but Hales seems to be finding his way. It still beggars belief that we haven’t had that faith in him for longer. But that’s history now. What I would say is I thought the reaction of the England camp afterwards was a bit OTT. Hales has a long way to go, he’s not there yet, but the upside is phenomenally exciting.

Jos Buttler’s hundred yesterday was amazing, even on highlights. Good grief, what a talent. Some of those shots are played only by the true greats of ODI cricket. That reverse sweep when he barely moved his feet and just belted it behind backward point was staggering. Also, when he got the free hit, he just took a look at the ball, and guided it behind square for four when many others would have looked to belt a six. Brilliant shot selection, awesome power, so many weapons at his disposal, a calm head, what on earth is there not to like. It’s lazy to compare him to Gilchrist, just because they are keepers who can bat. I’ve not really seen anyone like him to be honest. The travails at test level are mystifying, but I pray he gets through them. My real fear, and I hope it is not going to happen, is that he’ll be pigeonholed as an ODI player now white ball cricket is a priority. No-one doubts that Bairstow is most likely to keep in Durban.

The other batsmen weren’t needed so much, although Root was his usual solid self with half centuries, and Taylor won the sort of game we’ll need him to win, where his ability to manouevre the ball around with what looks a more solid technique, is going to be important. He’s no slouch when you need to get a move on, but he’s not the unleashed havoc of Roy, Hales, Buttler and Morgan.

The bowling coped without Finn, Wood or the two senior bowlers who may have played their last ODIs (although neither have retired). It remains to be seen if Willey and Topley are the answer, but they aren’t letting anyone down at this stage. Moeen Ali is still such a promising talent, able to make ODI hundreds and to bowl his share of overs that you can’t imagine the team without him at this stage. Rashid is going to be a daisy player. Some days he will go well, some days he will go far. South Africa will be a real test. Woakes seems like a squad player to me, but others really rate him. It’s nice to have a decent player like him in the wings (a little unfair to compare him to a bit and pieces player), but you can’t discount that he can bat (same as you can’t do that with Willey).

It’s promising, it’s pretty exciting, it’s the coming through of new one day talent, meshed to those who show aptitude for the format already. It is important that this is allowed to settle, but also not to be a closed shop. Bairstow is a fine ODI player in my opinion, especially when on form. I am intrigued by Billings, and would like to see him given a go in an elevated batting position (I think he might be the long term answer at test level – just a hunch based on the limited amount I’ve seen).

But, despite all this, I don’t get that sense of excitement that compares any way to test cricket by people out there. Sure, no-one can be anything but enraptured by Buttler’s hitting, and our two openers making hundreds, but it’s a fleeting thing. That was the point of the two pieces over the previous weekend on white ball cricket. No doubt if this team continues to perform like this, there will be a lot of excitement, and perhaps the new ODI team will capture the imagination. It’s probably sad, but true, that this team will face a firm examination in 2017 when the Champions Trophy returns to these shores, and a failure at that will have much wailing. England and its media don’t particularly like stability. Thus far stability has paid handsome rewards, as Strauss’s backing of Morgan shows.

The test squad raised some comments, and if time permits, I’ll be commenting on that. But well done to the ODI team, there’s something to hang on to, they’ve beaten what was put in front of them, and that’s all they can do. That it’s an exciting batting line-up (and I’m biased towards batting) is something to look forward to. See them all again in January.

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Duel In The Desert #3 – This Time It’s Sharjah

You lot don’t know what goes on behind the scenes. WordPress have changed the post drafting interface again. Jeepers. Leave it alone, peeps.

Anyway, enough of the moans, here’s your comments space for the third one dayer to be played in the venerable old stadium in Sharjah, scene of famous triumphs of the past, and an unimpeachable reputation.

The series is level at 1-1 as England revert to glorious inconsistency. The glimpses of something are there, almost tangible, but not quite. Alex Hales made his first ODI hundred in the second match in Abu Dhabi, while Jason Roy made a half century. We’ve rather been here before with Hales, when that T20 century against Sri Lanka made his future selection almost irresistible (but resist we did for six months), but the England man he reminds me most of, Ali Brown, made a century in his third international and it was, with a couple of exceptions, all she wrote.  Hales will certainly be backed for much longer than Brown, and we should wait for Roy too. But as I noted on a separate Twitter feed on another subject, Quinton de Kock has eight ODI hundreds and isn’t 23 yet, while Hales is 26, and this is his first. I love watching Alex play, but the press have over-reacted again, pumping up his tyres, asking us to sort of forget some of his early struggles.

Bowling was also a concern after game one, but those extra runs and the early wickets certainly made the task easier. These guys have Wood and Finn to compete against in the not too distant future (Broad, I think, won’t be tried again) so competition is there, which is good.

Pakistan? Well who knows which team will turn up. They are like England at the moment, rather unpredictable.

We also have Day 5 of the Australia v New Zealand test, which looks nailed on a draw. There is Day 4 of the water polo match between India and South Africa.

Some upcoming news. TLG is nearly back from his manic workload and is working on a major piece, or pieces, on the cricket media – a subject we know nothing about. It’ll be broad in scope and take some work, so keep checking in. I’ve written up an introductory piece, with the interaction between the blog and the media its focus, while also finally announcing the top 10 worst journalists, as voted by you (and me).

I’d also like to thank all of you who contributed to the ODI pieces at the weekend. I’ll do a couple more bringing the pieces together, and perhaps one on T20s to coincide with the Pakistan v England series. And, I know you all want to see this, The Bogfather has written one of his poems (not the filthy ones he puts on Twitter) and it will be coming (oooo er) to you soon.

Double century watch – well Ross Taylor and David Warner, of course, but also Natraj Behera, who made 255* for Odisha against Haryana in the Ranji Trophy. He’s 27 and this is his career best.

So, comments on all the cricket below, and your white ball views too….

 

ODI #1 – Duel In The Desert…. Pakistan v England

Obsession alert. I’m surprised they didn’t chop the picture to erase him from the back right of the team photo.

Easy how you forget, isn’t it?

OK, enough of that and onto the upcoming series. A spectacular Best of 4 (I mean, really, you can’t poke fun at that, can you?) series to be played in front of better crowds and day night cricket. The first game is tomorrow in Abu Dhabi. England’s line-up is a matter for speculation, especially as the key cog in the middle order, Ben Stokes, who bowls of course, is out with injury. The selectors have resisted the temptation to call up Ravi Bopara, and the early indications that the opening pair of Hales and Roy will keep their spots, with Moeen coming in down the order after Taylor, Root and Morgan. The fear here is that if Buttler is six, we have the plain five bowlers, and Root, who has not bowled much recently (with the guess being the back is a bit more worrisome than we thought).

Pakistan are looking to the future, with Azhar Ali leading the team but also Younus Khan recalled. Interesting messages! Wahab Riaz will be the danger man up front, the giant Mohammad Irfan will desperately sought to be in the same frame as James Taylor, Yasir Shah is in the squad, and an array of names largely new to us will display their skills and talents. Yes, I’m admitting that the names Aamer Yamin (three ODIs), Babar Azam (three ODIs), Anwar Ali (17 ODIs), Bilal Asif (two ODIs) and Zafar Gohar (no internationals) are not familiar to me. It’s good to see what is coming through.

I would like, at some point this winter, to see England give a run to Sam Billings. We need to see what he is capable of, and we got a sniff in that partnership with Bairstow that clinched the New Zealand series. I wonder too, how Adil Rashid will go, given he’ll be targetted by the nominal home side. The effectiveness of Willey or Topley will also be very interesting, because I’m not sure there’s a lot more to learn about Woakes or Jordan, for instance.

This should be a decent series of ODIs and then T20s. The four game series is a nonsense – make it five or three – or make it overall a best of 7 for the two formats and have a trophy after that. Of course, we have a T20 practice match with UAE in between, and we can have our debate all over again….

Comments on the game below.

While I am at it, I thought I’d say a few quick words on the Hong Kong Ding Dong. I’m glad it’s over.

Good night.

The Desert Drats

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What to make of that series? A closely fought campaign or one where there was a clear winner. An unfortunate team meeting a fortunate one? I have to say, I’m not really sure.

So while I’m reading some ultra-defensive pieces about the team, and also some coruscating attacks on county cricket and the players we have, I find myself somewhere in the middle. I had a twitter discussion with Innocent Bystander before this series where he made a point that he thought England were perhaps transitioning earlier than other teams, and that there is a distinct lack of top class international test cricketers compared to a few years ago. I agree to a degree. Let’s look at Pakistan. There were key batting contributions in the tests by their old guard – Shoaib Malik in the first test, Misbah and Younus in the second test, Hafeez in the final game. But alongside them there is some youthful batting promise, that is becoming increasingly battle hardened. This blog, when it has been bothered to update Century Watch, notes that Asad Shafiq and Azhar Ali make test runs regularly. Safraz Ahmed is a more than interesting prospect as a keeper-batsman (and he’ll need to be because Kamran Akmal seems to be making runs in domestic cricket – three centuries in four matches). Their bowling was always interesting. They have some top spinners, and in Yasir Shah a star. Shoaib Malik had a glorious swansong, while Babar is a really good number two spinner (as he showed when being the lead in Abu Dhabi). Wahab Riaz is a really exciting bowler, while Imran Khan and Rahit Ali gave good support. Lurking in the wings is the man to split world cricket, Mohammed Amir, taking wickets for a Gas Company.

Pakistan’s bowling was better than England’s. The results of the last two matches suggested that we were found wanting a little when the heat rose. England’s inability to make more of their position in the first innings at Sharjah was ultimately fatal to their hopes of drawing the series. The fingers were pointed at our spin bowling as if England’s score of just over 300 was acceptable. Maybe Alastair Cook’s monstrous 263 in Abu Dhabi was an outlier, but top players need to be making hundreds against good bowling in difficult conditions. Root did it at Trent Bridge for example. It wasn’t the abomination that was 2012, but it wasn’t a quantum leap forward either. 50s, 60s, 70s and 80s are all well and good, but they need to be your second best score in an innings rather than the highest. Williamson, McCullum, Warner, Latham (twice) and Ross Taylor have scored tons in the UAE in the past three years. Alastair Cook is our only man to score over 90 in six attempts!

Anderson and Broad can’t really be faulted. I saw that some thought this was back to the days of bowling dry, but they took wickets and kept control, which meant exerting pressure. Sure, there were frustrating times when the spinners were hammered, and that’s where the fingers are pointed.

I think the key issue from a series like this is whether England are moving forward, and that is what is so confusing here. We have a winter in India and Bangladesh (I’m not so sure that’s going to happen) next year so our all round development has to be in our thoughts as well as the here and now.

We still don’t have an opening partner for Cook. Many have tried, none have truly succeeded. The least worst have been Compton and Carberry, the oddest was Trott, the most expedient was Moeen, and the two that were given the post and failed to last were Robson and Lyth. Now what? Hales? Yeah. Good luck with that. He looks a test number 6 to me, at best.

Number 3 is currently the residence of Ian Bell. He had a nearly series, but the frustrations of his critics have hardly been calmed by his output here. He’ll bat here against South Africa (unless he jacks it in) and I’ve a feeling we will be saying the same thing as we are now. Is he ever going to be prolific again? Is this the slot James Taylor eventually lands in.

Joe Root is a fixture at 4, and his lack of hundreds on this tour, while a concern, also show how much we rely on him. His output is crucial, perhaps too crucial. I see many saying why doesn’t he bowl more, and I’ll say we need his back spared for batting, not bowling.

At number 5 we had Bairstow and Taylor. Bairstow is going to get the gloves for South Africa, one would imagine, and I thought I saw some development on this tour with the bat. But the question remains over whether he is really good enough. He’s never been given the sort of run he has now, and I think it essential he gets the first two or three tests in South Africa, and if it isn’t a total disaster, stick with it. While I would have stuck with Buttler (but a close call), this role is his now until he loses it,

Ben Stokes is a frustrating talent, but we know that. He’s not the problem, so it’s something we can pass by. But he’s got to get better against spin. His bowling will reap rewards on other days.

The one thing you can’t get away from is that the middle order is a total mess. While we can all look back and laugh to those six months ago who said there were no middle order vacancies so you KP fanboys can go whistle, the fact is if this team were being picked on merit, the spectre from Kwazulu Natal would be looming large. It’s too late now, of course it is, and his record in the UAE last time was dreadful (but he came back to form with that magnificent hundred in Colombo soon after) but that middle order misses him. It….just…..does.

The bowling was odd. Broad couldn’t take wickets early, but then kept the runs down and tooks some scalps. He batted pretty well (his disasters of a year ago seem a thing of the past) too. He’s an unappreciated player, and he’s a superb player. Let’s hope he stays fit. Jimmy bowled very well, of course, and we take him for granted. While I know we all get fed up with the hyperbolic press, making him into the “greatest ever” or the “best in the world”, he’s a world class performer, one of the best around, and he’s on our team. He’s not my favourite player, but that’s irrelevant. He’s a treasure for England.

The spinners were thrown under the bus (the batsmen are as culpable) and to a degree it is deserved. The Adil Rashid that bowled out the Pakistanis in Abu Dhabi must have been fed up with being told how many bad balls he bowled, how he bowls too slowly and those little dog whistles about his commitment carrying over from Lord’s last summer, that it must get to him to a degree. We do focus on what he doesn’t do. His batting in the second test showed he has something to give. I do hope we don’t give up on him. Moeen is being ruined by this team – he’s neither here nor there. A spin bowler asked to open. A middle-order bat asked to spin. A spin bowler batting at 8. He’s not an all-rounder, he’s a utility player. I’m absolutely clueless about what they want from him, what they expect. This is as curious a test career as I can think of. The only player I can think treated anywhere near like this is Shane Watson. That’s not a precedent to be set. Samit Patel won’t play for England again, I suspect. Zafar Ansari will have that sort of place next time, and we might watch England wonder what the hell to do with him, when (or if) they pick him.

So what do we do now? I have absolutely no idea. The Durban test starts on Boxing Day. England will line-up like this, maybe? Cook, Hales, Bell, Root, Taylor, Stokes (if fit), Bairstow, Ali, Broad, Wood and Anderson. Anything else will be down to injury or a shock selection. Who knows if it will be good enough, because we won’t be facing green seamers, but pacier, better wickets, perhaps. There seems some confidence that we will do better on those wickets. I’m not so sure.

I’m really not sure what to make of this. It was better than 2012, maybe the same as 2005. There are calls to reform county cricket. There are cries about the state of spin bowling. There are questions over team selections. I’m at a loss. Probably best to just appreciate an interesting, testing series, with some good cricket and some not so good. It was more appealing than watching green seamers and 60 all out. I don’t think England were bad. They just weren’t as good as Pakistan. Maybe it’s the simplest way to look at it. England to me are a team of confusion, and without an Ashes win, the pitchforks might be well and truly out. Maybe those green seamers saved more than Alastair’s skin; they bought him some time, and his team some time.

I’d be interested in any other thoughts.

Sharjah – Day 5 – The Final Act

He's got us by the......
He’s got us by the……

This won’t be a long piece (it is). I’ve not had the best 48 hours (and thanks for those who have sent kind wishes, but the real sympathy must go to my cousin who lost her mum, and to mine and my wife’s friend who is about to lose hers), and added to that terrible stuff having a raging migraine and head cold is not the stuff to make you want to blog.

So let’s get that self-pitying stuff out the way before someone gets all prissy about it and I flee to some grotty South London boozer to avoid the flak.

Karl Marx once said that “Every step of real movement is more important than a dozen programmes.” (and you don’t know how many deadly dull Marx quotes I had to go through to get to that one) and despite some of the more doom-prone members of my lovely comments section, I have seen some steps of real movement. I think James Taylor’s first innings was very promising. I think Jonny Bairstow hasn’t done at all badly with the bat. I think we’ve seen, in Mark Wood, a bowler who will do well on the sub-continent. It’s not all doom and gloom. But it’s not all sunshine and light either. Tomorrow, we’re going to need something special to pull this off, and hope is in short supply. This won’t be a draw. 240 in a day to level a series does not indicate that we’ll be trying to avoid defeat. They will deserve untold stick for that.

Now, I’ve got to be honest, and say that I’ve seen very little of the last three day’s play because I have a job. Following the game has come from comments here, and various people on Twitter. In a theme I’m going to adopt a bit more as the weeks go on, the tendency for extreme reactions in the press is getting tedious. This is, at one time, the worst display by spin some people have ever seen. Really? Is it? Richard Dawson? Simon Kerrigan? Ian Salisbury? Come on, people. I’ve seen England cough up 600 on pitches like this, and yes, they had good pace attacks too. I’m not saying our spinners are the world’s best, but we are a bit hanging judge here. If it’s not the worst ever, it’s the greatest ever, and yes, we’ve heard that about Broad and Anderson. There was an article I linked from Awful Announcing, which people have picked up here, about the Kardashianisation of Sports Reporting. These are good people (and not so good) resorting to this pants on fire, I don’t remember yesterday type stuff. It’s ADHD reporting and ex-pros are the worst at it. I’m looking at Shiny Toy Vaughan in particular.

This has been a series to appreciate stuff we’ve missed. Younus Khan, Misbah, Cook’s 263, Root’s consistency, the tantalising flair, if just for one afternoon, of Adil Rashid. There’s the two Khan’s Yasir and Imran, different in approach, in reputation, in appreciation of their talents. The left arm fury of Wahab on a mission, or the metronomic consistency on pitches with little assistance by Anderson and Broad. To lose this series 2-0 would not be a disgrace. They have come on some way for the experience, but lost key parts to it. More of this is for review if I get the chance, but this has been a series to savour, when I’ve seen it. It’s not the breakneck, madhouse that is Ashes cricket, but what test cricket was like when I was younger. Wickets were hard earned, but so were runs. Chances had to be taken, because they were few and far between. Hafeez has probably sealed the series, but is there one more chapter to be written. One more story of derring-do to finish this contest.

I still have hope…

It was noted that Kevin Pietersen made 115 this evening for Sunfoil Dolphins. I’ve not seen the strength of anti-reactions I usually see, which indicates that the print media have now sought to leave this be. Maybe. I saw some made a case, which any sensible person would back, that he should be in our World T20 team. I saw some doubt the class of opponent. It is what it is. He still is a damn fine player. That’s not the issue, and I wish people would stop that pretence. It’s personal. The end.

Australia host New Zealand in the first test at the Gabba (reminding me of my trip down that way in the same week in 2002 – oh those memories). Personally, I think Australia will win pretty comfortably, probably 2-0, maybe even whitewashing them. They are playing on the three wickets that would suit the hosts the most, and while it will be entertaining, it may bring the Aussies back up to their confident best/worst. There are huge question marks, but Aussie seems to regenerate better than most.

India v South Africa tomorrow as well, I believe. In Mohali. Again, a fascinating series, and will depend on the pitches put up for the games. South Africa are resilient on all surfaces, and I fancy a drawn series. Maybe 1-1?

Kusal Perera. You poor thing. Something about 99s.

A couple of things I saw from domestic cricket around the globe. How about those Sui Southern Gas Corporation guys who torched (geddit) Hyderabad in a pretty one-sided affair, with a particularly inflammable subject taking 5 for 29 in the first innings. He even added 60 to SSGC’s first innings pouring oil on troubled waters for the hosts. Enough of that.

We could be on the brink of another double ton early on tomorrow……

Comments on all the international cricket, a hope that Nathan Lyon’s #1 fan makes a seasonal reappearance, and that we can all enjoy the valedictory pieces of our press-men, as many come home after the test series.

As tradition dictates……”comments below”

Sharjah Day 3 – Short On Detail, Long On Hope (and a couple of 200s)

Sharjah Racing
If that had been number 5 in front, the picture would have worked!

Well, I have to be honest. I’ve not seem much at all of today’s play. A bit of a problem when you have a cricket blog! You also have to say that the highlights are not going to give you a great sense of the rearguard action and accumulation that Taylor undertook, in concert with Johnny Bairstow (who, I’m chuffed to say, is making me eat my words). But the sense from Twitter, if FICJAM allows me to source that, is that these two played compactly, sensibly and within their limits. They have put England in a good, but not unassailable position. Tomorrow needs to be more of the same, with the best outcome being two new centurions. England need them.

I posted this on Twitter at around 9:20 (actually I was on the train coming in to work – still can’t figure out how to get Sky Go on the tablet via Virgin Media – does my head in) and it did reflect the sense of pessimism I was seeing:

Hey. A rare time I can say, I was right!

I’ll say nothing on the cheap lines that have been put on the internet regarding the “relationship” between Taylor and some former batsman who didn’t rate him. OK. I will. Those who thought that remains a salient point are muppets. The end.

Just checked up on the Independent – Bunkers wrote a piece yesterday, but today it’s agency staff? Not sure what’s going on. Thought he’d mention you-know-who. I’m all disappointed now. Newman did, but I actually didn’t have a problem with how he did it.

But, Dean Wilson, please. Tut Tut…

Despite putting on 147 together against South Africa, Kevin Pietersen told then England coach Andy Flower that he ‘didn’t think Taylor was up to it’ at Test level, and somehow that view stuck for longer than it should.

Pietersen also had an issue with Taylor’s height. At five foot, six inches tall, he is one of the smallest players in the game, prompting team-mates to have a joke on him with ‘youth’-sized equipment earlier on the tour.

I am very disappointed.

No-one can ever be certain that a player will do well for his country, and it is easy to appear clever after the event. But you always felt he should be given another go. The jockey has his nose in front…

Comments on Day 3 below.

UPDATE:

Hello…

The paradox of successful traditions, however, is that they rely on constant adaptation and subtle change. In The Invention of Tradition, the English historian Eric Hobsbawm showed how apparently iconic national traditions were, in fact, skilful constructions, creations of opportunism and salesmanship as well as the stock of collective memory.

 

Double Century Watch…

Paras Dogra - 209 not out for Himachal Pradesh
Paras Dogra – 209 not out for Himachal Pradesh

I’ll try to feature every double hundred I come across…Paras Dogra, a 30 year old middle-order batsman, made 209 for Himachal Pradesh v Tripura at the lovely looking ground at Dharamsala. It wasn’t his career best – that is 230 not out. He completed his 200 yesterday and HP went on to win by an innings.

Another double hundred to report…..

239 and a carerr best - Mominul Haque
239 and a carerr best – Mominul Haque

Bangladesh test batsman Mominul Haque made a career best 239 for Chittagong Division against Barisal Division. It contained 37×4 and put his team almost on terms.

Sharjah Day 2 – With Some Bits And Bobs

Remember Sharjah Stamps As A Kid
Remember Sharjah Stamps As A Kid

The Leg Glance has had his say on the day’s play, so please read his review. Little to add to the mix myself, except that if we win this game from here, many hats need to be tipped. We will need to bowl Pakistan out with a seamer almost certainly out of action, and with the spinners so far not really living up to expectations. This will be a tremendous win, if they can pull it off. Broad and Anderson were remarkable today. They’ll have to be when we bowl again.

There are other reviews available from today.

Selvey. I would say it’s OK, but then I don’t know anything about cricket so it’s probably rubbish.

Newman. I really don’t know what to make of this. Someone help.

Bunkers. Tough for me to get through the first paragraph.

Berry.

The batting needs to come to the party now, and in many ways let us hope someone other than Root or Cook plays the major role. We do need to find someone else to do the work.

Other bits. Ajantha Mendis hit a six to win an ODI by one wicket against the Windies. Someone post the video link if they can find it. I can’t.

Steve Smith is dropping to bat at 4 in the upcoming series against New Zealand. I’ll give Cook his due. He didn’t rock back in the armchair of lower middle order cosiness.

Also, we may have several guest posts this week. We may also have none. Let us see…

Comments on a potentially thrilling Day 2 below.

TLG Report – Pakistan v England – 3rd Test Day One

Dash, Damn and Blast...
Dash, Damn and Blast…

The lot of the England cricket supporter is to imagine in great detail the impending disaster which is to follow, and so it is that having bowled out Pakistan for 234, on a pitch that certainly offered far more life than expected given the series position, the fear is that Pakistan’s superior spin attack will skittle England for far fewer.

That is always possible, for certainly England are going to have to bat superbly in order to get into a position of strength, but there’s no reason why they shouldn’t and a lead of even 50 would be like gold dust on a surface that is taking considerable turn on day one.  Safe to say that we’re unlikely to find out how much it turns on day five, for this very much appears a result pitch, and England could have asked for nothing more.

At the start of play, having lost the toss, England would have bitten an arm or two off to be batting by the close, so whatever happens tomorrow, day one couldn’t have gone much better than it did.

Sure, there were quibbles, as there always are: the spinners didn’t exert control, or perhaps weren’t allowed to exert control, but the seamers were outstanding, particularly Anderson and Broad who took six wickets between them for just 30 runs in almost as many overs. Given that the most startling thing was the turn from the beginning, for those two to perform as they did was both astonishing and highly praiseworthy. How England’s batsmen perform is a matter for tomorrow, but unquestionably Broad and Anderson have given England a chance of squaring the series.

Not that Patel, Rashid and Moeen bowled especially badly, there were just too many freebies, which really shouldn’t come as that big a surprise given that England’s spin attack is markedly inferior. But they will have to bowl better in the second innings for England to truly have a chance.

In fact the only really sour note of the day came with the injury to Ben Stokes. It didn’t look at all good, but it’s very hard to tell with shoulder impact injuries. If he’s fortunate it’ll simply be a matter of popping the shoulder back in and putting up with some bruising. If it isn’t, then it could be months and with an uncertain prognosis. Undoubtedly a serious blow, and for the game position at least, his batting will be missed too.

And so on to tomorrow. The old story of judging a pitch after both sides have batted on it is as true here as anywhere, but that England have created an opportunity for themselves is equally true, it’s just a matter of whether they take it or not.

We’re going to get a result. That in itself England would have taken before the start.

Sharjah Day 1 – And Bits Of Other Stuff

night_sharjah_23_by_amirajuli-d4ipmv5

So we move to the Third Test of this fascinating series. Both the first two tests have gone down to the wire, both in unlikely circumstances. In the former, the spinner derided by the journo who tells us know-nothings what’s what, nearly won us a game, and in the latter the spinner derided by the journo who…., nearly saved us when all seemed lost.

But we are where we are, 1-0 down. There’s stuff about we deserve to be level, etc. but that’s just the stuff of hopes and dreams. Winning a test match, as the Pakistanis found in Dubai, is about sealing the deal, closing the match, and sometimes it is bloody hard to do so. Clearly, a win in Sharjah by this team would be up there with Mumbai 2006, Colombo 2001, Karachi 2000 in the pantheon of great, unexpected, away wins. I don’t include either of the two in India in 2012 as that was an experienced, road-tested, England team out there, great as those wins were.

England will make changes. One is forced – Mark Wood’s ankle problems are being managed (and please God, not by another cortisone shot…) and so he steps down. While the wickets column isn’t totally his friend at the moment, he is developing rapidly as a test bowler and has tremendous promise. I fear for his injuries. Fingers crossed for him.

Also, widely trailed, is the “resting” of Jos Buttler. The replacement keeper will be Jonny Bairstow which, in my view, is cripplingly unfair to both of them. Bairstow has shown a bit of stickability in the middle order and is trying to nail down a place. Having to do that while keeping wicket in a one-off test is ratcheting up the difficulty level. Also, will dropping Jos Buttler do him any good? There’s a school of thought that he’ll get his confidence back in the ODIs – that didn’t happen in England.

James Taylor may well be getting the nod for this game, but I’m also seeing others floating someone else opening (Bell – WTF?). I’m pretty sure they’ll stick with Ali for this test, but who knows? Bayliss doesn’t seem the type to chop and change without due thought and process. With the press confirming that Taylor and Bairstow are playing, we have to believe that with Plunkett for Wood, we have our XI. If this tweet is anything to go by, it’s looking good for James. All the best to him.

KP isn’t happy at the dropping of Jos. His article is very insightful though on how to come to terms with spin bowling, and for that, I think it is well worth a read. Haters will hate, though.

Pakistan are without Imran Khan. Will Azhar Ali come into the team? Will we solve the Yasir conundrum? A fascinating contest is in store.

Some statitude….

There have been 15 test centuries in Sharjah. Brendon McCullum’s 202 is the highest. Mohammed Hafeez (197) and Kane Williamson (192) made the next two highest scores in the same test match in November 2014. The next hundred by a Pakistani will be the 10th by a “home” player there. Azhar Ali, Asad Shafiq and Younus Khan (2) all have hundreds there.

New Zealand’s 690 there in 2014 is a major stat outlier which will be tough to beat. The next best innings total is 493 by Pakistan in 2002 v West Indies.

Of 7 test matches played in Sharjah, there has been one draw.

In those 7 tests, there have been hundred partnerships for each of the first 7 wickets. Most vulnerable? 125 for the 4th by Misbah and Mohammad Hafeez? 116 for the 3rd by Taylor and Williamson for New Zealand? Record partnership is for the 2nd between Williamson and McCullum.

Mark Craig has the best ever bowling figures at Sharjah in tests; 7 for 94. Other five wicket hauls have been from Shoaib Akhtar, Shane Warne, Chanaka Welegedara and Rangana Herath.

England have made 20 hundreds in away test matches against Pakistan. Cook has the two highest scores for English players in the UAE – 263 and 94.

Elsewhere we’ve seen the conclusion of the day-night round of the Sheffield Shield. All three matches ended in results:

Tasmania v Western AustraliaScorecard here. Double century watch – Michael Klinger made 202 not out in the first innings

Victoria v QueenslandScorecard here. Including a massive performance by Travis Dean who was on the field for the entire match (unless he nipped off for a call of nature, of course)

South Australia v New South WalesScorecard here. Steve Smith and Ed Cowan with hundreds. Mitchell Starc with 8 wickets.

Of course, double hundreds for Aaron Finch (288*) and Ryan Carters in the warm-up match were buried under the stories over the pitch. Australia are getting a bit of a rep for preparing stupid surfaces for warm-up games. Going to be an interesting test series. My mate in Adelaide has been saying there has been a ton of complaints, but this seems to indicate batsmen can make scores, and bowlers can take wickets. A balance is important. There have been a few 150s, and some decent bowling performances. There will be more news to come.

Some house news. You will note we’ve changed the domain name. Using the old domain still works, but it might be best to update your bookmarks. beingoutsidecricket.com is ours……

Sad to see The Full Toss reaching the end of the road. We were aware something was in the wash as Maxie has a new baby and freelance work to get to grips with and had said to us over a beer in the summer that he thought he would step down after the Ashes. James has a hell of a task widening his remit on the new venture, but we wish him all the best. It may be that we get even more attention than before, now that Maxie, who was increasingly becoming a punchbag for certain posters, will now not be available to have a pop at. Us sinister lot!

On the matters of yesterday, where according to the usual supsects I was part of some conspiracy with Maxie, I am gobsmacked. I had no part in it other than to say to Tregaskis that he still had “it” and saying I was watching while munching popcorn! To be honest, I knew nothing about the golf game, who played with who, or why. Frankly, I don’t care. I’ve been on the end of hospitality before, and I’m not influenced other than I like people who have done it. If they ain’t VFM in what they supply, they don’t have a chance. I think that goes anywhere. I thought the reaction was more interesting than the substance, to be fair. I spoke to some of the contributors during the day but barely touched on the golf. I’m just too busy at work, and enjoying myself with mates after work to be conducting some grand plan. Some people need to look at themselves, frankly.

OK. Test cricket. Sharjah. Game on. Comments below.

The Tenacity Of Hope

England's cricketer Adil Rashid tosses aI’m going to be brief. It is tough to comment on a day’s play when I have been pretty much out of the loop. I sneaked a look during my 11:30 meeting and saw that Wood and Rashid were putting up a hell of a fight….. then a few minutes later, the vibration from the phone signalled a wicket. Another duly followed a bit after. England had lost. They’d lasted almost to my lunch break. Adil Rashid had been the reason.

Rashid has had a whispering campaign against him, most notably by one particular member of the media entourage. He has shown some guts, first in the Abu Dhabi test by getting over a horror show in the first innings, by almost bowling us to victory in the second; and then here by playing a really poor shot in the first innings and making a rearguard half-century in the second. But because he played a loose shot in getting out (being caught at cover), one muppet even called him a “villain”. Oh Degsy, do we miss you?

Because Rashid tried to score runs and play his own way, something deemed crucial in any rearguard according to the “experts”, he has received some admonition for his error.

http://tune.pk/video/3949961/matt-prior-110-match-saving-performance-vs-new-zealand-3rd-test-auckland-2013-hd

Look at the shot (and his reaction) that Prior took to get to his hundred in that clip (about 6 or so minutes in). Prior rode his luck, but also went down in our history as the man who saved a series. That wasn’t a truly defensive knock, but one where he balanced attack and defence.

Well played lads. I am saying that now. I was mightily disappointed that Rashid, Broad, Wood and Anderson didn’t save us. I don’t feel any shame or problem in saying that. They played their hearts out, and they did so on an alien surface against fascinating opposition. This is test cricket, and I’m loving this series more than the Ashes or any home series against India. It has been enthralling, and I include the Abu Dhabi match in that, which saw us respond to scoreboard pressure.

On to Sharjah. We’ll discuss who should, or shouldn’t play, in due course.