World Cup Match 11 – Pakistan vs Sri Lanka

The weather forecast is grim. Truly grim. The chances of any kind of game today look minimal, with a sheet of rain across the south, and a venue that tends to be wet even when the rest of the country is dry.

It’s inevitable of course, and will cause some of the usual suspects to recoil in horror that there is such a thing as rain, but it probably doesn’t do too much harm to either side in the scheme of things given the format.

Yesterday’s game between Australia and the West Indies represented something of a triumph for the Aussies who recovered from 38-4, and indicated that they really are a threat to anyone this time around, without being quite convincing. It was the umpiring that caused the most discussion, Chris Gayle being given out wrongly twice, before a third slightly marginal lbw that should have been a free hit given the huge missed no ball the ball before.

It was poor, but umpires have bad games too, and the West Indies only got into the World Cup on the back of an umpiring error in the first place. Still, there will be two officials who will be unhappy with their own performances alright, even if blaming the umpires is an age old tactic.

Comments on the rain below.

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England vs Pakistan: World Cup Match 6

At the fifth time of asking, we finally got a good game in the shape of Bangladesh versus South Africa.  It’s been an interesting response to it from some quarters, Bangladesh’s victory treated as a major shock, which it surely isn’t.  A small surprise perhaps, and maybe a hangover from the view of Bangladesh from years past.  They’re a reasonable enough side, and more recent quarter finalists than England for a start.  But it was an entertaining, enjoyable game throughout, and one that the tournament needed.  South Africa were rather poor, and are now in a bit of trouble.

England and Pakistan start their second round of matches with India still yet to play, having apparently negotiated a three week gap between the end of the IPL and the start of their World Cup campaign.  It’s a remarkable thing that the World Cup can be manipulated according to the needs of another tournament and constituent country, and while in itself it doesn’t overly matter, it’s indicative of the weight of power that can be brought to bear.  Equally, India have five matches at the weekend to England’s two, which makes no sense whatever in terms of promoting the competition in the host country, but perfect sense financially and in terms of the TV audience.  Strictly speaking, in purely ticket selling terms, it is logical (if counter-intuitive) to have the less attractive games at the weekend, given England matches will likely sell out whenever they’re being played, and others might not.  But it isn’t how it would be done if thinking from a promotional or public relations perspective, to generate momentum within a tournament location.  As ever, there’s the choice between imagining this things happen by accident, or being deliberately planned.  Given how India and Pakistan amazingly always manage to draw each other even if there are groups, there can’t be many who think it’s the former.

As for today’s game, England’s domination over Pakistan in the warm up series (“It’s not a warm-up game. It’s a bona fide series between England and Pakistan in the lead up to the Cricket World Cup” – Tom Harrison) means that sod’s law suggests this is the one that England will stuff up, naturally.  But Pakistan opening game was not remotely reminiscent of the weaker, but competitive side that managed to score heavy runs against England only to have to concede to a stronger batting line up, it was one that was timid and fell apart in the face of hostile West Indies bowling (1983 says hello).  Assuming England play Jofra Archer, and maybe even Mark Wood having seen the West Indies game, it can surely be imagined that they’ll be facing more of the same today.

For England, it’s all pretty serene.  A second win today, and they’re well on their way to the semi-finals.

Comments below!

West Indies v Pakistan – World Cup Match Two Open Thread

England’s rather impressive opening day win over South Africa has the tournament up and running, and for the sake of the competition, Ben Stokes’ extraordinary catch has created a moment that can be played across the news broadcasters. It’s a small thing, and pales in comparison to the obvious equivalent had the wider public seen it as it happened. But to have such a moment on day one can’t but help. A bit.

The second match on the schedule is the one at Trent Bridge between the West Indies and Pakistan. Pakistan come into the game on a superb losing streak which has now extended to their last 10 completed official matches. Yet in many quarters they are still deemed favourites for this one. The West Indies racked up 421 against New Zealand and their batting potency makes them both unpredictable and exciting. In essence, this is one where really anything could happen. That’s a good thing, right?

Feel free to join the conversation below!

England vs Pakistan: T20 match

Given the upcoming World Cup, and the five ODIs scheduled between these sides as part of the warm up for it, this particular encounter seems rather pointless. Still, that doesn’t usually make any difference, and at least this format of the game will be played in England in future.

The downgrading of the domestic 50 over competition to a “development” one from next year is one of those idiotic ideas that we used to be derided for on here as wildly exaggerating when we suggested the ECB would do it to make room for the Hundred. In future, players will only be exposed to 50 over cricket as youths, or when they play for England. What could possibly go wrong?

These days, the ECB are defended from accusations that they are deliberately malignant, that they aren’t really trying to kill cricket as a game in favour of a cash cow of 16.4 over thrashes. It’s probably true as well, they aren’t out to wreck the game on purpose. The problem is that it’s hard to tell what they’d do differently if they were.

We’ve had something of a break on here over the last couple of months, but as the cricketing summer gets under way, we’re back in the saddle.

Comments on today’s knockabout match below.

England vs Pakistan, 1st Test Day 3

If there are two people who are happy at the result of today’s play, it’s MCC President Ian MacLaurin and England’s new head selector Ed Smith. This is because the MCC seem unlikely to have to refund any of people’s Day 4 tickets, as the play tomorrow should last more than 30 overs, and both new players selected by Smith have finished the day not out with a half century to their name.

Things didn’t look quite so good for England early in the morning. Pakistan managed to add another 13 runs for their last wicket, and then Abbas trapped Alastair Cook in England’s second over. Stoneman was bowled soon after by legspinner Shadab Khan with a delivery which spun out of the rough and kept low, which left England in the precarious position of being two wickets down and still 148 runs behind.

Joe Root and Dawid Malan steadied the ship somewhat beyond Lunch, until (quelle surprise) Malan lost his wicket to a swinging delivery by Mohammad Amir. Amir also bowled Bairstow two balls later with a vicious swinging delivery between bat and pad, which heralded the third Englandbattingcollapse of the game as Stokes and Root also fell in quick succession. Stokes hit a loose shot to midwicket, perhaps mistaking the situation for an IPL game rather than a Test match, whilst Root was trapped LBW in the crease by Abbas.

This brought the Somerset (or Lancashire/Somerset duo, if you prefer) duo of Jos Buttler and Dom Bess to the crease with England still 69 runs behind and only 4 wickets left. At this point, the most England fans were probably hoping for was a quick finish followed by the traditional blame game. Instead, Buttler and Bess batted through to the end of the day whilst scoring 125 run.

This leaves England 56 runs ahead and with the distant hope that they might set a target which at least allows for the possibility of a win. Obviously a quick collapse tomorrow morning is more likely, particularly with the new ball due for Pakistan after two overs, but it is England’s best position in the game so far.

Ed Smith’s supporters are likely to be crowing over this scenario. The two new members of the squad which he selected have both scored crucial fifties (and are still going). The head selector himself might be more circumspect for two reasons. The first would be the example of James Whitaker, who continually cited the success of Gary Ballance in interviews as justifying his approach until Ballance lost his form and became unselectable. At that point, Whitaker became something of a laughing-stock. The second, assuming that Ed Smith is mathematically minded, is that he no doubt knows the dangers of making assumptions from a small sample. Two innings is hardly enough to judge a player, especially when you consider that in recent times Westley, Dawson, Jennings and Hameed all made half centuries or better in their debut.

To follow on from thelegglance’s point yesterday, another 5 overs were lost today due to slow over rates. With 6 lost in the first day as well, it may well be beyond the point where the ICC and match umpire will forgive the bowling teams. Pakistan appear to have been slower of the two teams, and captain Sarfraz Ahmed must be in real danger of being suspended for the next Test match at Headingley. This might be a blessing in disguise for Pakistan, as Sarfraz has been in poor form recently and only averages 31.63 over the last two years.

So we will have a day 4, which means that LordCanisLupus will get to do a report (whether he wants to or not). Whichever way tomorrow’s play goes, at least we have that to look forward to…

As always, feel free to comment below.

England v Pakistan, 1st Test Day 1 Report – “A New Era”

A new season. A new selector. A new era for English cricket.

Or at least that’s what the ECB must have been hoping for after a disastrous winter. In truth, the team sheet from England’s head selector was very similar to the last one prepared by his predecessor in New Zealand.  Replacing Vince with Jos Buttler was the only unenforced change, with Buttler playing as a specialist batsman at number 7 and everyone else (bar Stokes) moving up a spot. Jack Leach was also ruled out of the team due to injury, and so was replaced by fellow Somerset spinner Dom Bess. For Pakistan, Hasan Ali was preferred over Rahat Ali. This decision was no doubt aided by Rahat Ali’s inability to take any wickets in the Test against Ireland a couple of weeks ago.

Joe Root won the toss and chose to bat. What followed was very reminiscent of England’s previous era. Of their previous twenty or so ‘new eras’, if I’m being honest. It started with Stoneman being bowled through the gate by Abbas, which is never a good look from an opener. Root and Malan both edged Hasan Ali to the keeper, and England were 43/3. Cook and Bairstow regrouped and managed to survive until Lunch, but England were facing a humiliating start to the summer.

The partnership looked solid after the interval, until Bairstow played inside a delivery from Faheem Ashraf and was bowled. This brought Stokes to the crease, and a second counterattack from England. Together with Cook, he put on a 49-run stand which was ended by Amir bowling Cook. This left England at 149/5. Not a great position, but with the remaining 6 batsmen including two allrounders, a specialist batsman in Jos Buttler and a Test centurion it was hardly the worst possible position for England.

Whilst England’s tail looked very strong on paper, on a cricket pitch they looked abjectly poor. Stokes, Buttler, Bess and Broad fell in quick succession and, within 11 overs, Pakistan had bowled the England tail out. Considering that England had won the toss and chose to bat, 184 was an abysmal total.

It looked a little promising for England at the start of Pakistan’s innings, with Broad trapping Imam-ul-Haq LBW after a successful DRS review. Unfortunately for the hosts, that was almost the only bright spot for them in the evening session. Anderson and Broad seemed to be a bit fuller and straighter than normal, but the Pakistani batsmen were resolute and seemed fairly comfortable facing the English attack. The only exception was an edge by Sohail from Mark Wood’s bowling which Ben Stokes dropped at third slip. Otherwise, Sohail and Azhar Ali made steady progress to the end of play leaving Pakistan on 50/1 and just 134 runs behind England.

Cook was England’s top scorer with 70 runs. As essentially the only member of the England team who did anything close to their job, he certainly deserves praise. Instead, I would guess the press’ attention will be aimed towards Joe Root. He chose to bat first in what many would say were bowling conditions (never mind that this was presumably a team decision involving the coaches and senior players), and he got out for just 4 runs (ignoring that he averages 50.12 as captain).

Perhaps the most worrying thing for England and their supporters is that this doesn’t appear to be a particularly strong Pakistan team. Mohammad Amir, who was heavily hyped in the lead up to this series, was wayward and slow. Their batting lineup seems fragile to say the least. Pakistan are currently 7th in the ICC Test rankings, and you can see why. This is a side which England should be able to absolutely dominate at home. That they can’t is damning. This series could well be the first one Pakistan have won in England since 1996.

As always, comments welcome below.

England vs. Pakistan – Champions Trophy 2017

Going into the first semi final, it’s hard to imagine two more different teams being involved. England’s selection and performances since the 2015 World Cup debacle have been incredibly consistent (“Predictable”, some might say) whilst Pakistan can most charitably be called “mercurial”. England rely on their strong batting to counter their weak bowling and win games, whilst Pakistan’s bowlers keep them in games that their lacklustre batting would otherwise forfeit. England sacrificed a little of their consistency in selection for this game, finally replacing Jason Roy with Jonny Bairstow as their opener. For Pakistan, former guest of the English penal system Mohammad Amir was forced to pull out of the game due to a back spasm.

Pakistan won the toss and elected to field first, a choice which surprised many who thought that Pakistan’s spin bowlers would favour bowling last on a pitch which had already being used twice in recent weeks. All eyes were on England’s new opener Bairstow, who was lucky to survive a second-ball LBW shout. He continued to ride his luck through two dropped chances before finally being caught on 43. A useful partnership between Root and Morgan followed, adding another 48 to the total. At the halfway stage, England were 118-2 and looked to be setting a total near 300.

The second half of the innings was dominated by Pakistan. Unable to deal with Pakistan’s tight bowling or the slow nature of the pitch, England’s run rate slowed to a crawl and whenever they tried to accelerate they inevitably lost their wicket. Ben Stokes managed to scrape together a score of 34 runs from 64 balls with no boundaries, but everyone else fell for 11 or less. England lost their last wicket with one ball left to go with a decidedly sub-par score of 211.

The second innings was a complete contrast to the first. Without facing any kind of scoreboard pressure, Azhar Ali and Fakhar Zaman seemed content to play safe whilst punishing the bad balls. They were helped by England’s bowling, which provided enough bad balls to always keep Pakistan well ahead of their required run rate. Unlike when England were batting, there were seemingly no dropped chances or false shots. Rashid eventually managed to get Zaman stumped on 57, but by then Pakistan were already too close to their target. Even Pakistan couldn’t lose from there, and they didn’t. Pakistan reached their target having lost only 2 wickets and with 13 overs to spare, capping a humiliating loss for England.

And so, like after every tournament exit, there will be a post-mortem by the great and the good of English cricket. And also us. Certainly much has been made during the game of the pitch, for which this was the third time it was being used within a few weeks. It definitely seems puzzling from the perspective of the ICC or ECB since you would assume they’d want batting-friendly surfaces which deliver tons of runs and sixes for TV audiences, particularly in the later knockout stages which attract the most viewers. This shouldn’t absolve the England team from blame, though. The conditions were the same for both teams and England just didn’t adapt well enough. It’s hard to see how this might be remedied, with England’s packed schedule there’s no time for many players to spend in different countries learning how to cope on pitches which don’t seam, or swing, or have uneven bounce.

There’s also the matter of personnel. Winning the Champions Trophy would have secured a lot of people’s jobs at the ECB, even if they lost the upcoming Ashes series. Following today’s result, I’d be surprised if Trevor Bayliss could survive losing the series down under this winter. That would in turn increase the pressure on the ECB’s Director Comma England Cricket, Andrew Strauss, as the man who hired him. In the short term Paul Farbrace, England’s specialist coaches and the selectors might be in trouble if the ECB wants to make an immediate change.

As for the players themselves, that’s a tougher one to work out. There doesn’t appear to be much debate about this England XI being the strongest team available. None of them are old enough that they might be out of contention for the next major ODI tournament in 2019 either, so I would guess that England will stick with them all. Certainly this game shows that England players as a whole need to spend more time playing in different conditions. Whether that means letting them play in T20 leagues (and not just the IPL), or more Lions tours, or training camps, something clearly needs to be done.

As always, please comment below.

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.

Dmitri #5 – Pakistan

salute

You can probably guess that the individual world player award is going to go to a non-Pakistani player given this collective award, and you would be right. Misbah-ul-Haq, Yasir Shah and Younis Khan all played really well, as did Azhar Ali and Asad Shafiq (Ali making a double hundred as I write this piece), but I’ve decided to go elsewhere for that particular Dmitri. However, for an “award” founded on the influence and debate-stirring on a blog, to ignore the tourists of 2016 would be remiss. The good commenters on this blog showed plenty of excitement and happiness at the style of play, the quality of the matches and a somewhat unexpected tight contest. So for Dmitri #5 I am awarding this highly prestigious and awe-inspiring gong to the Pakistan team.

Once they get over their excitement let’s look at why. All through my cricketing life there’s been a special sort of loathing for Pakistan – they were the ones who were quite clear in calling for neutral umpires as they considered David Constant (and others) to be biased. However, we could call their umpires anything under the sun, and did, especially in 1987! They also had players who could be called abrasive – Javed Miandad, I’m looking at you – and would not take a step back, as they showed when winning here in 1987 and 1992. Then there was reverse swing, so lauded in our press now as a skill Anderson and others possess, but at the time of Pakistani mastery, was seen as cheating and ball tampering. There have always been murmurs, and louder, of corruption, match fixing et al, as well as the nonsense at the Oval in 2006. Relations between England and Pakistan have always been “difficult”. Then 2010 seemed to prove all the naysayers right. They were up to their eyes in spot fixing, and three big players were booted out. When their premier spin bowler was effectively booted from the game for chucking, it seemed as though Pakistan were dead in the water. Where was there to go? No home. No throughflow of players despite the talent, the regurgitation of the Akmals, and the presence, always of Shahid Afridi, for good or bad. Within their ranks, they had a true leader. He was just, well, old.

Under Misbah-ul-Haq Pakistan briefly reached the status of world number one in test cricket. Given the team plays no series in its home country, this is possibly the most remarkable achievement in recent times. Of course they are formidable in the United Arab Emirates, and play very well in those conditions, but they have taken some of their form outside of the cosy confines of Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Sharjah to be able to top the rankings. While they are not unbeatable on their travels, as New Zealand showed, and Australia are going someway to doing so, they are capable of exciting and dashing cricket. They also have that steel in them as well. Azhar Ali has scored a triple hundred and double hundred this year, while converting from a number three batsman to an opener to fill a vulnerable position. Bookending the top order is unsung hero Asad Shafiq, a gutsy, game fighter of a batsman who has given England more trouble than they would have liked. They have another punchy keeper, Sarfraz Ahmed, who is threatening to become a front-line level batsman, capable of match turning knocks.

The bowling is a bit hither and thither. It can look good on its day, but also veer well of tangent. This applies to the seamers, who on paper look a more than useful battery of quickish bowlers, and with decent spare capacity in case of injury. The spin of Yasir Shah is lethal in suitable conditions. He is a clever bowler, not a massive turner of the ball, but constantly at you – more your Kumble than your Warne. They do seem to go through massive dry spells without wickets, perhaps allowing too many games to drift.

Which leads us to the old duo in the middle order – Younis Khan and Misbah-ul-Haq. They cannot go on forever, and undoubtedly this will be the last time we will see them playing tests on English shores (or should I doubt that). For long spells of the test summer, Younis looked like someone had him on remote control and was playing him around like an idiot. He couldn’t keep still, got himself in dreadful positions, looked totally awful. Then, when his team needed an innings to punish England for their lax batting at The Oval, Younis came through with a double hundred. At times it wasn’t pretty, but the old stager wasn’t to be denied. Combining with Asad Shafiq, he took Pakistan to a dominant position, over 200 in front, and let Yasir Shah do the rest. Pakistan walked away with an honourable 2-2 draw and put to bed the rubbish emanating from some of the press corps about how fortunate they might have been to win at Lord’s.

Because it was at Lord’s that Pakistan made massive headlines with their play, and their celebrations. For most, the sight of Misbah doing press-ups after his hundred was a joyous one. It was a “I can still do it” moment (in my circle of mates we call this a Spacey, after his role in American Beauty), and most bought into it. When they repeated the celebration as a team at the end, in front of the Lord’s position, some wanted to make a point that it was “rubbing our noses in it”. I don’t know who could have thought, that, or why. But some did. Sport has a lot of growing up to do, and also needs to shed itself of its damn self-righteousness. Pakistan had been a joy for the four days, England contributed to a really good game of cricket, and the game was the winner. What might have been lost was the credibility of the 7-0 merchants prior to this summer’s test matches.

This blog appreciated the series, loved its competitiveness, including an excellent win from behind at Edgbaston by England, and had real empathy for the team’s characters and characteristics. So to Misbah and his team, thanks for a cracking series, and for the entertainment you gave us.

Dmitri #6 will be the International Player award. Coming soon.

England vs Pakistan: 2nd ODI

No form of cricket can guarantee close matches or excitement, and the first game somewhat petered out in a drizzly mess.  But even though England’s win was ultimately confirmed by Messieurs Duckworth Lewis and Stern, there was little doubt which way the match was going anyway.  It was a curiously old fashioned game, at least as far as Palistan were concerned, as their innings brought back memories of England under Flower and Moores as much as anything.  260 may even be a “winning score” as far as the statisticians are concerned (probably not) but England were in complete cruise control throughout.

The second match therefore will be interesting to see how the visitors look to approach it, for England look a real force in the one day format, one who seem quite capable of reaching another hundred on top of that.  That’s not to say they can’t fall in a heap, for the shorter the game, the higher the level of risk, and the greater the opportunity for collapse.  One of the more pleasing things about this England side is that when that does happen, they regard it as an occupational hazard, shrug it off and continue in the same vein.

Yet if the batting is doing well, it was the bowling, or more specifically, one element of the bowling, that caught the eye.  Mark Wood has shown he has ability and pace before, but his entire England career to date has been while labouring with the presence of an ankle problem.  Having been away for quite some time getting it sorted, he is now back – and my, how he is back.  His pace is right up there with anyone, and it was startling to read that he feels he’s not fully there yet and could get quicker.  It may yet be the best news of the summer providing he suffers no reaction.

In the days between these matches England confirmed that they will tour Bangladesh this autumn.  The ECB rarely earn praise from anyone – well, apart from one or two for whom they can do no wrong no matter what – but while it is impossible to judge the rights and wrongs of this particular decision, they do deserve praise for at least trying wherever possible to ensure these tours go ahead.  It’s not the first time, back in 2008 after the Mumbai terror attacks, England returned to the country, ensuring that normality was restored in sporting terms.

Again, we must trust the Foreign Office and the ECB’s own advisors that this particular decision is the correct one, but assuming it is so, it would still have been easy to use the security situation to cancel it.  Indeed, there must be a suspicion that other countries may well have done so, and thus with the proviso that we do not know the reality of the decision, the ECB do deserve credit for not using it as an excuse to avoid going.  Notwithstanding Pakistan’s wonderful rise to the top of the Test rankings, it would have been crippling to Bangladesh had it got the go ahead.

The ECB have told England’s players that they can drop out of the tour with no effect on their careers, but whilst this is a good thing to say, the truth of the matter is that for all but those absolutely certain of their place, it means nothing.  Players who do well are always going to be in pole position, the man in possession has the advantage.  It means that for some, there will be some soul searching about whether to make themselves available or not.  It is hard to think how else the ECB could have done things, they may be many things, but they are not fools, and they will be as aware of this as anyone.

Finally in other news Somerset have announced the prices for the T20 international between England and South Africa next year.  It is the first time they will host an international in 30 years, and they seem determined to make the most of it, by announcing ticket prices of between £60 and £80.  It’s not the biggest ground, it is a big event for them.  But it is still an outrageous price.  There seems little doubt they will sell out, and therefore in commercial terms it’s justifiable.  Yet once more it is those who support the game being used as a cash cow and nothing else.  Commercially sensible yes.  Grasping and greedy, also yes.  I trust they’ll use the financial bonanza wisely.

2nd ODI comments below