The Definition of Madness

So hands up if anyone here thought England were going to chase that 4th innings target down? Anyone at the back? Anyone at all? Nope didn’t think so. Jonathan Liew tweeted that England have been set over 350 to win 15 times in the past (now 16) and haven’t got within 100 of these targets on every occasion, so with a flimsy batting order against the 2nd new ball, this was always going to be make-believe.

Danny & Chris have done a fantastic job of reviewing the last few days of the Test and once again, I am going to try and come in with a different angle around our performances at Adelaide and Brisbane. For me, it seemed a little strange in seeing all the hope and fervor in England’s performance on the evening of Day 3 and throughout Day 4, when we had been comprehensively outplayed at Brisbane and for the first two days at Adelaide. Indeed throughout Twitter and all over my timeline, there were people commenting how this performance would give England confidence in the series moving forward and how we had the Australians rattled and as I read all this, my main emotion was ‘well that’s a load of complete horse crap’. Sure England did play well for a day and a half, but they lost because they played poorly for the first 2 days and you simply can’t afford to do this if you hope to win Test Matches, especially away from home. If we go on to lose 5-0 or even 4-1, no-one at will remember that great bowling display in Australia’s 2nd innings nor will they remember some gritty batting by some of the top order in the face of a good Australian bowling attack (and whilst this isn’t the attack of 2013, it is still a highly effective attack, especially with Pat Cummins bowling as well as he has done over the first 2 games). They’ll simply look at the final score and reflect on another embarrassment and from lessons not being learnt from past tours.

I wrote a piece last week, slating the selectors for the bowling attack that has been selected for this tour and for the neglect that they hold the County Championship in, which has lead to England producing the same sort of bowler 100 times over or for the bods at Loughborough to destroy the confidence of any up and coming quick bowler. As a result, I don’t think that this needs to be reflected on again. My issue instead, is the lack of planning and accountability that has been allowed to fester within the English camp during Bayliss’ and Chuckles the clown’s (Farbrace) reign. It’s almost if unwittingly we have lurched from the complete right, where players had to ask permission to have a piss under Andy Flower (the Lions are lucky enough to have that now) to the complete left, where there is no accountability for the players on and off the field. I made a point about praising England’s 2nd innings performance and I have no doubt that the powers that be and certain parts of the media will be peddling that line until we get to Perth; however why aren’t the coaches and players coming out and telling the truth, that by the time this happened the game was already lost due to our massively below average performance in the first innings. A lack of accountability perhaps?

Instead of patting each other on the back for a decent innings performance, why aren’t the coaches bringing the bowling heat maps to Messer’s Woakes, Anderson & Broad and asking them why they decided not to bowl full in the first innings and that even though they have over 900 Test wickets between them, why does it need a kick up the arse from their coach’s to do something that everyone at home was screaming at them to do. Why aren’t the batting coach’s bawling out the likes of James Vince for playing a wafty, piss-poor shot in the first and second innings that gifted his wicket away. Surely these players might actually learn something if Bayliss was to say that if you bowl/play that shot, you will be dropped from the next game until you learn what the game of Test Cricket is. Then again, why England are picking players that have shown they don’t have the technique (and haven’t changed anything) in the first place, but that’s a different matter entirely. I very doubt however that there were many critical words said in the dressing room this time as there probably hasn’t been for the last 2 years. ‘Oh well bad luck mate, go and play your natural game next time’ even if your natural game is entirely unsuited to the Test arena. On paper there aren’t many too many differences in the make up of each side, though it can be easily argued that Australia has the better bowling attack; however the difference in these 2 Tests is that the Australian bowlers have got their lengths right from the start and that one of their batsmen (Smith in the first Test and bloody Shaun Marsh in the 2nd Test) have assessed the pitch and conditions and changed their technique accordingly to make match winning 100’s. The excuse that I have to play my own game only washes with me if a batsman averages of over 50; otherwise I’m very much of the opinion that ‘your game’ isn’t working in the Test arena. This doesn’t even cover the laughable events that have taken place off the pitch that has confirmed the lack of accountability within the current squad. I certainly don’t mind the players having a drink and unwinding, but when that results in players head-butting each other or breaking other people’s skulls, then surely alarm bells should be ringing? Just imagine if that had been a certain South African born batsman who used to play for England, then I’m sure Director Comma wouldn’t have been so accommodating and willing to sweep things under the carpet.

Australia are without doubt the better side at the moment, but England have shot themselves in the foot once again. As someone far wiser than me said ‘the definition of madness is doing the same thing over and over again and hoping for a different result’ and that is without doubt what England have continued as their modus operandi. For the poor few souls who believed the rhetoric that 2014 was a new start for the England cricket team, then more fool them.

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Feel The Pain, Feel The Joy, Aside Set The Little Bits Of History Repeating – Day 5 Preview

UPDATE AT END OF POST

australia-2006-sim-2-202-02.jpeg.jpegBack in the day, way back in the day, I had an idea to write a blog. I started one up on blogspot, had to close it down (I like threats of violence), opened up another on WordPress, but bored with that and I thought I should specialise. In 2010 I decided to write a new blog, based on cricket. I get these madcap ideas every now and again (still convinced I can do this and an America Sports blog).

What should I call it? I always found it difficult to come up with names for blogs that were catchy, but a bit different. What should I call the cricket blog I had some grand visions for, but ultimately I knew would be a failure? Nothing with crap like googlies in it. Nothing about Inside Edges or such stuff. Not for me. No. Think.

When considering a name, I wanted to make it personal to me. I’d been to six test matches overseas, of which we lost all five that I had tickets for all of the days, and won the other where I had just two days of tickets. Of all those matches, one stood out. The exemplar of what a cricket fan has to go through in a five day test. The periods of slow play, laying the foundation, which Day 1 was. The burst of hope as your team takes a hold of the game, which was definitely Day 2. The striving for success, to put yourselves in a winning position, which Day 3 seemed to be. The evaporation of hope, as the opposition grind down a tired team and reach virtual parity, and that, my friends, was Day 4.

Then there was Day 5. Day 5. It still makes me shiver with that awful feeling of despair. It still hurts as I think of those Aussies running over to their crowd in front of the scoreboard, knowing the Barmy Army were to their right, suffering. The time when I saw a cricket team freeze before my eyes, paralysed with the fear of defeat and not knowing what to do. Watching mental disintegration in its most visceral form. Stupid shots, silly runs, shotless innings, hopeless wafts, dodgy decisions, and fear. Pure unadulterated fear. There was no calculation for when the game was safe, and when we lost the 10th wicket we knew that we weren’t safe. This was 4 and a half an over. They had a good batting line up.

And the question was raised, again and again. How could the team that had been so good in the first three days, be so bad on the last? How could the team that had played without fear in England not 18 months before, be paralysed with it on that December afternoon? How could players like KP, who had taken the final day at the Oval in 2005 in his hands and make it his, succumb meekly to a pathetic sweep shot?

How Did We Lose In Adelaide?

I had the name. It encapsulated a seminal event in my life, coming after the death of both my parents in the space of 9 months, becoming a mental wreck, a shot to pieces individual pinning hopes on great holidays, great mates and enjoyment to forget the grief. It reminded me of the sheer beauty, and pain, of sport, of why it is played, why it should never be discounted, why test cricket should absolutely not be messed with. It reminded me that bad times in sport, the real lows, in many ways should be appreciated because if you feel that bad, you bloody well cared enough to hurt. It seemed a perfect name for the blog. So I used it.

How Did We Lose In Adelaide

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England resume tomorrow half way there, with more than half their wickets left. Tomorrow is Joe Root’s chance to emulate Brian Lara in Barbados, Sachin in Chennai, Smith at Edgbaston to name three. To have the innings of immortality at your fingertips, but yet, but yet, so far away. It is a chance for heroes to emerge, for legends to be made, for the Australians to ask the question I have asked so often myself. It is a chance for Woakes to play the nightwatchman role of his life, to surprise us and make us embrace him. If they should be denied it is for Jonny Bairstow and Moeen Ali to take the good fight forward. 178 runs – not a small amount, but not insurmountable. This isn’t Butcher at Headingley, with a series gone, but Lara in Barbados with a series to control. This is the chance we thought we didn’t have, the chance brought to us by a champion bowling performance 72 hours too late.

We could emerge triumphant, we could leave the Aussies shell-shocked, in recrimination, undermine the captaincy of Smith who would never live it down, we could build up the confidence of the men who played a small part in setting this up. We could hit the enemy where it hurts, with a victory when there seemed no chance we could avoid defeat. We could slay the invincibility aura that some have given this bowling attack. We could quiet the Aussie fans and media, in their tracks, make them pay. We could do all this and more with 178 runs. One hundred and seventy-eight runs with six wickets remaining. One century partnership and it is probably ours. We can see it. We can taste it. We want it. A chance to complete the circle dating back to December 2006, to the naming of my most important blog in 2010, to the pain of and pains caused by the whitewash in 2013/14. A chance to exorcise some demons. To laugh and to cry. To feel joy, remembering the pain. What a chance!

220 all out by lunch.

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My Old Header Photo…How Did We Lose In Adelaide

This post is dedicated to Sri Grins! Comments below.

“I’m Flying High, I’m Watching The World Pass Me By”

UPDATE – How Did We Lose In Adelaide? Without much of a fight it seems. I woke up at 4:20, looked at the score on my phone, swore, posted a comment, went back to sleep. Woke up with the alarm at 6:10 and saw the end result. What a shame.

I’m aware Chris and I have hogged the mic, so to speak, for the past few days, so we are handing over the keyboard to Danny and Sean for the next two days. Danny will be carrying out the review of the match / Day 5 and Sean will apply his forensic mind to any issues arising from the last test. Me? Christmas parties.

It’s Dmitri’s season, so got to start thinking of them. We’ve still got Perth. But most of all, we still have each other.

 

Australia vs England: 2nd Test, Day Four

Let’s be clear here, Australia should still win this match, and comfortably so.  But England played with skill, tenacity and demonstrated considerable bottle for the first time this series, and gave cause for some small degree of hope that they could pull of the remarkable.  As has been said on so many occasions, it’s never the despair, it’s the hope that gets you.

England needed everything to go right with the ball, and it more or less did.  Anderson post play admitted that England had bowled too short in the first innings – which more than anything else is the reason why England have been in trouble in this match – and both he and Woakes in particular probed away, swung the ball and got their rewards.  Praise for their efforts will of course be tempered with frustration that they didn’t do it first time around, as the position of this game could have been entirely different.  C’est la vie.

So 354 was the target, which would be the tenth highest run chase in Test history.  It was indicative of England’s position that the 85 added by Australia for their last six wickets from their overnight position was both an outstanding performance from England, and still about 50 more runs than they realistically could afford in order to have a decent shot at winning the game.  Still, given where they were, this represented a huge improvement from having no chance at all, to a slim one.

That slim chance improved fractionally further with a decent opening stand between Cook and Stoneman, passing 50 with relatively few alarms and doing the vital work of seeing off the new Kookaburra ball.  Cook got away with an lbw that wasn’t referred by Steve Smith – the beginning of his tribulations with the system today – before falling to Lyon again, playing round one and once more getting too far across to the offside and falling over somewhat.

The dismissal on review did cause a fair few people to query the predictive ball tracking.  The most important point is that if the system is being used, then you go with it.  DRS showed Cook to be out, and that’s the end of that.  However, it doesn’t mean a specific instance can’t raise eyebrows.

Before the ball tracking overlay, the ball looked to be heading far more to the legside than was then shown.  Probably showing it hitting, but on the inside of the leg stump looked like a far greater degree of turn than appeared the case.  Now, the eye can be fooled very easily, and it is certainly possible, even likely, that it was an optical illusion, and some didn’t see it that way at all anyway.  However, acknowledging that doesn’t mean DRS was unquestionably right either, and it certainly doesn’t mean it can’t be queried – not on the basis of some kind of objection to the wicket, but more the reliance on the technology as being somehow infallible.

The problems here aren’t necessarily with the technology, but it should to be noted that “odd” ball tracking decisions are much more prevalent in Australia and New Zealand than in England.  In England Hawkeye is used; it’s a purpose built ball tracking technology designed specifically for this purpose, and a lot more expensive.  In Australia, Virtual Eye is used instead.  That has its origins in a graphical representation software suite, and the designer has said it wasn’t designed for predictive tracking, while the creator of Hawkeye (who would say this wouldn’t he?) has called it up to nine times less accurate.  Now, this was a few years ago, and technology must be expected to have moved on and be better, but it is important to note that all systems are not created equal.

Of course, whenever something questionable arises, the responses tend to be along the lines of pointing out that umpires are more fallible, and that is probably true, but headscratching over one particular decision isn’t to decry the entire system, or wish it scrapped, but it always invites things like this:

Except that it wasn’t designed for this specific purpose at all.  Hawkeye was though, perhaps why there are far fewer occasions when there is cause for a debate using that system.

Ball tracking is right because it says so, and because it says so, it’s right.  There’s no reason to doubt its general accuracy, albeit with the proviso that some systems will inevitably be more accurate than others, but it’s also absolutely the case that as far as cricket goes and the predictive element of DRS, there’s little information available.  There has been a formal test of its accuracy done, by the ICC, but unfortunately they’ve never seen fit to release the results and we simply do not know the outcome.  It’s entirely reasonable to assume that they wouldn’t have gone with it had it been unsatisfactory, but not knowing the detail is always going to leave scope for doubt.

The most vital points of all are that it’s not for a second suggesting the system is wrong, and not suggesting human umpires are better; but assuming all systems are right all the time given the enormous variables in both outcome and in sampling size is as dogmatic as assuming it gets it wrong on a frequent basis, for which there’s no reason to make such a case.  Being puzzled over a single piece of ball tracking doesn’t for a second mean either that the questioner is right, nor that there’s anything inherently wrong with DRS but responses on that basis are simply an exercise in trying to shut down discussion.  Maybe it was entirely correct in its prediction, and it’s most definitely not about Cook’s dismissal per se, not least because anyone objecting to it on partisan grounds would have to note Root being rescued by the same system.  It just looked slightly peculiar.

In terms of Cook himself, he had battled away, but still looks out of sorts, to the point where some of the journalists are now querying whether this might be his last tour.  It is somewhat ironic that he appears to have gone from genius to liability in the eyes of some within two Tests – it surely has to be more nuanced than that.

Shortly after Cook, Stoneman followed, having made another bright start.  For England to be confident of victory, two wickets down was probably about the limit of what they could afford to lose but Vince soon followed, again caught behind as he has been in 10 of his last 12 innings.  It was a poor shot, and not for the first time.

Joe Root at least was batting well, if not without lbw related alarms.  He padded up to one far too close to leave and was given out on the field, only to be reprieved by the ball tracking showing it going over the top.  Thereafter, Australia’s determination to get him out led them to burn both their reviews on highly speculative appeals, much to the delight of the Barmy Army who gestured for a review each time subsequent lbws were turned down.  He received valuable support from Dawid Malan, who batted maturely for a 29 that in other circumstances would have been perceived as infinitely more valuable than it will probably be.  His late dismissal to a superb ball from Cummins was a blow England could not afford.

Four days down, and a superb fifth day in prospect.  As ever in these circumstances, it’s worth highlighting that there are some who would wish to make Tests a four day game.

Only one captain in history has lost a Test after failing to enforce a follow on, South Africa’s Dudley Nourse in this game and it remains highly unlikely England will add to that very short list.  But they have at least properly competed at last, and if it requires Joe Root to make a big century, and for everyone else to support him, then that’s still a situation England would have taken before play started today.   Unlikely is not impossible, a slight chance is vastly better than no chance.

It is most likely that waking tomorrow will see the last rites of the Test being performed.  England need to get through the first session without loss, and then, well just maybe.  And sometimes that’s enough.

Tell Me About Your Childhood – Preview of Day 4 at the 2nd Ashes Test

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Why Optimism Should Be Banished…..

As I walked to work today, having dropped the beloved border collie off at my brother’s house, I walked down the hill to the station, contemplating the problems England were facing, as at the time we had just lost Woakes. As I strolled to the nirvana of Grove Park Station, the Gateway of Dreams, the Portal to Pressure, so I passed the Favourite Chicken and Ribs fast food emporium on one side of the road. Hmm, glad I’ve never been in there. As I crossed the busy Baring Road, I noticed that the locksmiths were just about to open, and thought, has that always been there? And then it struck. I should use these thoughts in something more constructive. What would Martin Samuel do?

Well, England have proved themselves more than Chicken in this game, even when the ball isn’t tickling their Ribs on what should be their Favourite conditions of the series, and after consuming this, there’s a pain like indigestion at the outcome. And they’ll need a locksmith to get them out of the handcuffs the first innings batting, and their lamentable bowling has put them in. They’ve tied themselves up in chains, and the Ashes will be locked in Australian safe custody if they don’t. Martin would be proud.

OK, I’ve got the Martin Samuel bit out of my head. Let’s do this as I usually do. Or try.

Chris has adroitly summed up the predicament England face in this test match. Unless there is something utterly out of the ordinary, or a ton of rain, England are going 2-0 down. No dressing this up any other way. England will not, in all likelihood, chase down the current lead, let alone the 350 that is much more likely, or the 400+ I suspect we’ll have to. So what tonight was is the equivalent, somewhat, of the moment on the ultimate gameshow, Bullseye, where Jim Bowen shows the crestfallen finalist what they could have won… and we got a bleedin’ speedboat. Sorry, Martin Samuelitis is affecting my brain.

Once again, the batting was a sad state of affairs. Overton top scored with 41 not out, providing some green shoots of new promise, but we all really believe, deep down, he’s another fast-medium trundler who won’t get more than 10 tests. Test match batting is quite often more about temperament than technique (something that should be remembered more often) and Overton and Woakes showed it while their top order colleagues didn’t. The evidence from Brisbane, seized upon by the experts, that our tail would be blown away time after time was made to look the jibberish it was. These are good bowlers, but they are not all time great bowlers. It’s Lyon that’s the difference, the big difference.

The problems with the batting aren’t new. Players come in, are given a few games, and then dropped without any of them sticking. The prettier your shots, the easier on the eye that you are, the more chances you are going to get. See James Vince. England have not produced a batsman that has stuck since Joe Root. Yet he has now gone six tests in Australia without a ton. Alastair Cook remains the best opener in England, but it is now 17 Ashes tests since his last century, or put another way, 33 innings without an Ashes hundred. These are our two “rocks”. We need them to be more igneous and less porous (Samuel, stop it).

I didn’t see the bowling, and nor will I catch the highlights before this goes up. I don’t care much for our bowlers, if truth be told. Stuart Broad can bowl “that spell”. We know, except every time he takes a wicket early in a spell, the twitterati seem to want to think we are at the beginning of one of “those spells”. Word to the wise, wait until he’s taken at least three or you’ll be a Shiny Toy before you know it. Jimmy Anderson has never been my favourite cricketer and seems not to perform far too frequently overseas lately to be given the reverence he has been. Tonight he bowled tightly and nicked a couple of wickets. 48 hours too late. Moeen is the liability with spin we always thought he might be, Woakes has improved for the run out (remember, he missed most of our domestic season) and Overton is this year’s Roland-Jones, even if Roland-Jones is this year’s Roland-Jones. There’s room for more than one.

As always, we really look forward to receiving your views as the day’s play unfolds. There’s the overnight shift from the Tundra and India, aided and abetted by a random insomniac. Then there’s the waking hours, as we react to the horrors that have unfolded in our sleeping hours. I catch up with them all on the commute to the office, and then dip in here and there on the relatively few opportunities. Once play is over, we try to get a report out to comment on the events we’ve seen and react to the comments from those outside our Outside Cricket bubble. An afternoon to digest, and then a preview piece to send you to sleep with all the joys of spring.

As I went up into my loft yesterday to retrieve my Christmas decorations, I noticed on the shelves my parents built up there a whole bunch of those weekly magazines you keep to make up a pseudo encyclopaedia. Mine was the Illustrated History of Aircraft. Also, I opened a box to find some unexpected Halloween decorations. Today’s cricket starts at 3am, or near offer. Will it be a fright night that haunts us all, spells being woven, demons in the wicket, with a horror of an ending? Or will we be flying high, on a jet pace, soaring machine towards the ultimate prize of Ashes glory, a jumbo sized explosion of joy, a Dreamliner of enthusiasm.

Doctors appointment for Samuelitis is at 12 noon. Wish me luck.

Comments below.

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What happens when you are optimistic……

Ashes 2nd Test: Day Three

When it’s all going hideously wrong, the temptation to cling grimly to any floating wreckage nearby is a strong one, and four wickets for England’s bowlers in the evening session has given rise to curious assertions that England are back in the game, a triumph of hope over experience.  In reality they are, taking the kindest, most sympathetic view possible, not totally out of it.  Since Australia’s lead already far exceeds England’s miserable first innings total, this is taking blind hope to unprecedented levels.

England weren’t in the worst position at the start of play, and a good batting day would have begun to transfer some pressure back onto Australia, with the usual third innings jitters a possibility.  Instead, England collapsed hideously to 142-7, and only got even close to saving the follow on thanks to Craig Overton making an unbeaten 41.  Irony of ironies – the England tail wagged this time around.

The batting order’s insistence on doing the same things and hoping for a different outcome is magnificently stubborn (perhaps the only way that adjective could be used about them) and once again it was poorly executed shots that did for them rather than brilliant bowling.  The pitch didn’t do much, and in the daylight there was little swing.  Only Malan could be said to have been got out, and whatever the merits of Australia’s bowling attack, the same level of carelessness that’s been present in England’s batting for a long time was once again to the fore.  When they come off, it’s certainly thrilling, but an inability to play the situation is becoming a real hallmark of this team and there’s so little evidence they are learning.

It is perhaps this, more than anything else, that justified the pessimism before the start of play, and highlights the increasing fear that this tour could get truly ugly.  Again.

Smith’s decision not to enforce the follow on was perhaps understandable given the time left in the game, but the principle of doing what the opposition would like least must surely apply – England would not have wanted to bat again, under lights, under the pump, and under pressure.  In defence of the decision, it’s unlikely to make that much difference to the outcome either way, for by the close of play a lead of 268 with six wickets remaining is the kind of marvellous position teams dream about, but it did at least offer England the chance to give Australia a bloody nose.  And yet even with the wickets taken, the same old flaws were there:  England still bowled too short, still bowled too wide.  At 53-4 it might seem a peculiar criticism, but both Anderson and Broad were consistently shorter in length than their Australian counterparts, and while it hardly went too badly on the field, it doesn’t suggest that the plans are either thought through, or alternatively that the bowlers want to apply them if they are.  There is no doubt at all that when Broad, Anderson and Woakes kept the length full, they looked extremely dangerous.  They usually do – which is why so much hair is pulled out at their continuing refusal to do it on a consistent basis.

Apparently, tomorrow morning is another “vital” first session.  It really isn’t.  It would need to go catastrophically wrong for Australia to allow England to have any kind of realistic sniff of a win.  It is of course just about possible that England will skittle the hosts and then bat out of their skins to chase down a total almost certain to be in excess of 300, but that’s barely enough to encourage even wildly unreasonable optimism, let alone genuine confidence.

The worst part about England’s predicament is that so much of it this series to date has been self-inflicted.  Australia are some way from being a really good side, but they have, to use the appropriate cliche, executed their skills well so far.  England haven’t.  Assuming they do, and in spades, it means that Australia will be bowled out for around 100 in a magnificent display of attacking bowling, while the English top order compile a couple of centuries to take them home in one of the top 20 run chases of all time in Test cricket.

That’s the miracle scenario.  And that says it all.

 

 

Did You Think I’d Crumble? Did You Think I’d Lay Down And Die – Ashes, 2nd Test, Day 2 Review

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Memories, of the way we were

As usual, the problem with writing a match review when you’ve not had a chance to catch up with the highlights, and you’ve slept through most of the morning, is a difficult one. We’d expect you to have done some of that work yourself, and if not, you can always read the always accurate, always agenda-free newspapers for your daily update. Of how England could not take all of the remaining five wickets despite getting rid of Handscomb early; of Shaun Marsh, he of four test centuries previously, unexpectedly made a fifth; of England not being able to shift Cummins until he made another 40 odd; and of how England lost Stoneman as the sun went down and the pace went up; and for the one piece of fortune England have had all tour, a shower that came up from the south as a piece of drizzle, but dropped a lot more and ended the night session.

I hope you appreciated the Live Blog this morning which was set up to take us all through the stress and strain of the opening part of the England innings. We thought, well I did, that we’d be witnessing a wake. That England would be a lot down for not a lot. But there are a couple of things we need to discuss here. First up, this is Adelaide – the wicket is a little more spicy and the conditions a little different, but Adelaide doesn’t misbehave unless it is damp, or it has had repeated 40 degree heat on it. This looks like an OK wicket to bat on to me – a tailender staying in untroubled sort of confirms this. The game is about temperament and technique, and England have few excuses not to make it through tomorrow’s play without a collapse. Of course, pretty much all of the England cognoscenti on here and on social media believe a collapse is inevitable. Let’s have some faith (fool).

This is an especially key passage of play for Alastair Cook, who looked much more stable than previously. No-one is confusing him with David Gower, but it’s a start. Stoneman looked pretty good before getting done by a full one – noticeable that the Aussie pacemen concentrated on it being fuller than their England counterparts – and although there aren’t whispers yet, the Surrey/Durham man needs to cash in because he looks like he flows when he gets going (as he did for his county this year) and has more about him than some of his predecessors.

The rain, which we should never celebrate (!) came just after Stoneman’s dismissal, and wiped out a potentially awkward hour or so. England will definitely trade the half hour in mid-afternoon for one in the night. James Vince faced a rocket yorker first up which he played very well (as a really average club player, imagine facing that, at night, at 90+ mph first up – we can be over-critical) but not much else.

The word on the street was that England bowled too short, again. The word on the street was that they also had no luck, again. The word on the street is that Woakes is a popgun on these sort of surfaces. The word on the street was that Overton wasn’t bad, but that Moeen was. The word on the street is that England’s body language sagged as Shaun Marsh took control and no wickets looked like falling. The word on the street is that England are in dead trouble.

Let’s see if there are better words on the street when we all wake up tomorrow.

On an admin tip, I doubt very much we’ll have a live blog tomorrow as it is a working day (and I’m not going to get away with that at work). The Adelaide Day/Night test may be a spectacle and bring more people’s attention in Australia but it is a pain in the rear for us cricket bloggers. We’ll do what we can to update as and when. But as usual, feel free to comment below on the cricketing action as and when you can.

A little self-congratulation

Eagle-eyed visitors may notice that we passed another milestone. At the bottom of the right hand column on the front page we have a hit counter (it discounts our hits as admin) and we’ve passed 900,000 in our third full year as Being Outside Cricket (we started in February 2015). We’ve seen a number of our old faces return as an Ashes series takes place, and welcome back to you all. We also had an uplifting editorial last week, where we were positive about how the blog will progress. As usual, your energy feeds ours.

Next stop 1 million hits (combining BOC and HDWLIA since the last Ashes – 246k for that year – we are well over that already). Coming from nowhere, it’s something I,and the team, are proud of. One of the rules of blogging is never divulge your stats, but stuff it. We ain’t going to make any money out of it!


For all Day 3 comments, use the usual method below. If you are interested, in 2006 we had Australia 28 for 1 in response to our 551/6 declared, and we all know how that ended up. I know, different times, different teams, different games. It’s what keeps us interested.

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Picture from the old main stand…..

 

Australia vs England: 2nd Test, Day One

It seems to be a tradition these days to make definitive statements after the opening salvos as to who is on top and which way a game is going.  It’s obviously somewhat dull and trying to repeat almost every game that at this stage no one really knows who has the upper hand, but it’s nevertheless still true much of the time, and it’s true here too.  209-4 is a nothing sort of score that could be a good foundation, or it could fall away to as little as 250 depending on how the “crucial” (yes, again) first session goes.

Of course, if you put a side in to bat, you’re hoping for better, but this was a marginal decision either way, and it’s at least possible Australia would have batted anyway, in which case they’d hardly be shouting their delight from the rooftops at this point, particularly when the two most obviously dangerous batsmen – Warner and Smith – are already back in the hutch.

England took only four wickets, one of them a run out,  but they also maintained decent control, with Australia managing only 2.5 runs an over.  Clearly the Australian media will be piling into their batsmen for being negative.  Then again perhaps not.  England definitely bowled poorly early on, and given the limited shelf life of the Kookaburra ball, red or pink, they probably threw away their best chance of making serious early inroads.  It’s an age old story of England bowlers being at their most effective when they pitch it up and keep it tight on off stump, yet instead bang it in short and wide.  Given the 900 Test wickets between the two attack leaders, it is ever the most inexplicable weakness of England in the field.

Post rain break they were much better, forcing the batsmen to play, and inviting them to drive rather more often, and thus looking vastly more dangerous.  England lacked a little luck, beating the bat often, turning around Smith in the crease before, finally, taking wickets.  They could easily have had more too; Marsh looked reasonably secure late on, but Handscomb led a charmed life, and it is immensely to his credit he survived to the close while looking all at sea.

There is some swing, but not a prodigious amount, and there is some lateral movement, but it’s not jagging about by any means – in other words, a not untypical Adelaide wicket.  England have slightly missed an opportunity to really put a dent in Australia, but they’ve not had an appalling day, and a good one tomorrow will put them in a strong position.

It was highly noticeable that England piled in to Australia verbally all day.  Good on them too, Australia have been quick to sledge England both on and off the field, so England giving it back is exactly the right approach, and one the hosts shouldn’t be surprised at.  It indicates that England have been genuinely annoyed by how much has come their way.  It may yet become unedifying, but unless England are to supinely accept the so called banter that’s intended to undermine them then this is exactly what’s going to happen.  Any handwringing about it should have happened at Brisbane, and since it appeared to cause Smith some discomfort, more will unquestionably follow.

The new ball is only one over old.  England do need to strike early, and strike hard, but they are quite capable of doing that, and if they do then Australia will find themselves under pressure.  That’s not being over-optimistic, it’s a recognition that England’s position is far from the disastrous one some would have people believe.  

It’s game on, and it’s fairly even.  It could have been better, but it could have been worse.  Test cricket: it’s not played over one day.

Day Two Comments from all Insomniacs Below

Australia vs. England, 2nd Test Preview (ish)

Well, I believe we’ve covered the extensive fall out from the Brisbane Test, so much so, that I think there is very little to add on that front. In the build up to tomorrow mornings very early Test, we’ve had the shy waif that is James Anderson, complain about bullying and intimidation from the Aussie bowlers, because naturally butter wouldn’t melt in his mouth (just ask Ravi Jadeja). It also gives the Aussies a little more motivation to bowl short at the tail, so cheers Jimmy, way to go. We’ve also had the fun and games of the YJB alleged friendly headbutt, not that any of us has been remotely interested, in what was a complete non-story (save watching Director Comma squirm a bit).

There are rumours that Moeen might not be able to bowl with his finger injury, which being reported by the media, means he’ll be a batsman only and that spinning duties will be handed to Joe Root, which rather begs the question around why Mason Crane was called up in the first place. Still it sounds like he should come back with a nice tan at least. As for the make up of the bowling unit, I’d still be surprised if Overton replaces Ball. England are praying and hoping this day/night game allows ample opportunity got the ball to swing even if it’s the kookaburra ball. If not, and the pitch is predicted to be as quick as the Aussies say so, then England’s hopes of an Ashes victory could evaporate before our eyes.

As for us, I’m afraid there won’t be much of a live blog, unless Danny is mental enough to get up at 3:30am to lead the charge. We may well try to post in the morning if any of us fancies an early start on Saturday.

For those watching the game, please do comment below and hopefully one of us will be up early enough to add our own views….

Unsung Hero

Getting older is crap. It’s better than the alternative, no doubt, but you start to lose people and that’s desperately upsetting. Today I lost a brother, a teacher, an icon – a man I played with, drank with, had fun with. It wasn’t unexpected, but then it wasn’t his time either, it was years before it should have happened. 

Here’s the thing: his name doesn’t matter to those who didn’t know him, but it does to those who did. And that matters immensely. So I’m not going to name him. Those that know, well you are honoured. Those that didn’t, you have your own people you honour. Tell them. 

The bald facts: there are probably no other cricket clubs in the world but his who can work out their statistics back to the 18th century. Not even the MCC can calculate averages back to 1771 – for the very good reason that they weren’t even formed. But this club can. This club knows its first centurion in the early 1800s, this club had the challenge of analysing 200 year old scorecards to try to work out who wickets should go to in the era where only the catcher was referenced. This particular club has a greater statistical record than any on the planet, and oddly enough, barely anyone realises, and God knows Wisden should be paying attention. 

Every club has its greatest run scorer, and its greatest wicket taker. But when that record stretches back 250 years, then people should damn well pay attention. Because this guy holds a record that means something.  He knew he wasn’t far off, even before it was worked out, but some few had done the history and organised the spreadsheets.  The day he broke that record is one that Sky Sports didn’t cover, nor one that the ECB recognised. But for those in the club, and actually those in the county,  they knew they were in the presence of someone who had a place in cricket’s history, because he’d done something remarkable, somewhere that had been there long enough to make it more than just exceptional.

He’s not on Cricinfo, he’s not a Cricketer of the Year, but he’s one of the finest cricketers I ever played with. And more than that, he’s one of the finest people I’ve ever known. The reason his name doesn’t matter is absolutely not because it doesn’t matter to me, because I will treasure it forever, it’s because there are equivalents who matter to you. And that is the name that really counts – the one you played with, or watched, or shared a beer with. 

They count. They are our fabric of life, and he was part of the fabric of mine. I am ever richer for having known him, ever better a cricketer for having played with him. 

I think that’s the tribute I’d want. 

1900 wickets @18. A gentleman.  And some are truly blessed to know who this is about.

The English Attack? I’m not that bowled over

First of all, apologies about the length of time that I have been absent from writing, I have been absolutely snowed under at work and at times, much to my chargrin, writing does have to take a back seat on such occasions. TLG and Danny (who assures me that he has returned to normal sleeping patterns) have both covered the fall-out from the Gabba Test in some detail and as a result, I don’t want to cover in too much detail that which has already been written. That being said, it is unavoidable at these times not to touch on the events in Brisbane as this could well prove to be a pivotal Test in the series.

As TLG so succinctly put, it only takes one glance on Twitter or in the media to see that many fans are divided into those who think that we’re going to collapse to a catastrophic 5-0 defeat or those that feel it is but a blip and this ‘new and young’ English team will turn it around spectacularly. I must admit that I am more on the pessimistic side than the optimistic side and have been ever since the Test squad was announced, though this is also probably due to experiencing 2 whitewashes out of the last 3 Ashes series in Australia. As someone said who is much wiser than me “it’s not the losing that hurts, I can deal with that, it’s the hope that kills me”.

From the little bits that I have read in the media, the main gripe of many of the journo’s has been around the batting, which is undeniably weak. Indeed many of Katie Price’s numerous marriages have looked less flimsy than our middle order at times. This however, is not exactly a surprise, we have had the same issues since the expulsion of a certain famous South African born batsmen, and no matter how many times Director Comma may have tried to gloss over this, very few people are fooled any more. Alastair Cook has been in what feels like terminal decline for the last 3 years. Root, although without doubt England’s best player, has seen his conversion rate from 50 to 100 decline alarmingly over the past 18 months. Moeen and Jonny B are just as capable as scoring a quick ton as they are getting out cheaply to a ropey slot. James Vince has spot at second slip with his name on it and Stoneman & Malan are pretty new to International Cricket. As I have mentioned, this has been mentioned many times before, so shouldn’t really be a surprise to anyone and as such I want to move the focus away from the batsmen and over to the bowling unit.

The bowling is where myself and TLG differ in terms of our assessment of our bowling attack. For me, the English selectors (and they merit a lot blame here) have got this horribly wrong again. The folly of choosing 5 right hand over, medium pace seam bowlers on pitches that historically don’t tend to swing is right up there with picking 4 very tall, sometimes quick but not very good fast bowlers as England did in 2013/4. The bowling attack looks anything but balanced, it looks slow, ponderous and pretty predictable. Now I’m fully aware that there might be the odd howl from individuals that these are the best bowlers that England have and we don’t have any other options, and I agree to an extent in the spin department (although I really wouldn’t have picked Mason Crane); however I think they’ve again missed a trick with regards to our fast bowler make up. It can be rightly argued that Jimmy, Broad and Woakes are the best overall bowlers that England has, but this again misses my point as only Stuart Broad has a decent record in Australia, if you remove the 2010 Ashes series, which any bowler worth their salt would have made hay against that particular batting attack. Jimmy struggles when it doesn’t swing and Woakes has looked pretty toothless in all his Test matches away from home. As for Curran and Jake Ball, they are the A-typical English medium pacers who have limited success in anything but helpful swing conditions. It confounds me massively that one of our quickest bowlers in Liam Plunkett, seems to have been to consigned to the dustbin that is white ball cricket, when he is someone with the pace to trouble what is a mediocre Australian batting line up once you take away Steve Smith. This would not certainly be a long term pick, but it fits in with my personal opinion that it is vital to have a balanced attack in Test Cricket (be it a left armer, a pace bowler, a swing bowler and someone who hits the pitch hard) just to add some variety to the attack when the ball isn’t swinging.

I also feel it is quite pertinent to ask why an older Liam Plunkett (and a young lad from Sussex who has only played a handful of County games) are the only true fast bowling options that we have in our system right now? Do you remember when Steven Finn could bowl fast before David Saker got his hands on him? Or Mark Wood before the England medical department got their hands on him? Can you remember anyone else who has been in contention in the last few years that has been a truly quick bowler? I’m struggling. So what is it that is preventing our system from developing quick bowlers that aren’t of a certain type – is it Loughborough? Is it the counties who would prefer to play a medium pacer on a stodgy pitch? Is it the pitches in England, as the two historically quick cricket pitches at Old Trafford and the Oval are anything but quick these days. My guess that it is a mixture of all three. I wouldn’t trust the guys at Loughborough to make a cup of tea let alone manage our new crop of fast bowlers, which combined with a horribly long county season (which is about to get even longer) means that there is a very real issue of burnout and injury for anyone young quick pounding in and bowling at 90MPH. The ECB also have to take a fair share of the blame too. There have been too many occasions where either a green seamer has been prepared for Test Matches to provide England with the competitive advantage or a road of a pitch with little bounce has also been prepared to ensure the Test lasts 5 days (yes Mick Hunt, I’m looking at you). The result of this? Well you can see it in our bowling attack for the first Test Match at the Gabba, a group of hardworking individuals who are great in English conditions but do not have either the skill or the know-how to bowl effectively on different wickets were completely out-bowled by a far superior Aussie bowling unit.

I hadn’t actually meant for this piece to be that negative, so apologies for this, but I absolutely feel that this will be a recurring theme until something is done about it. I believe that in a series where both teams have flakey batting line up and which I believe would be decided with the ball prior to the series beginning, the England selectors have once again not learnt from their previous mistakes.

It might turnaround in Adelaide, where the ball should certainly swing under lights and where perhaps the English bowling attack has the best chance to make inroads into this Aussie line up; however if we end up losing in Adelaide this could be a long and painful series. Something we have all endured before…