England v New Zealand: ODI series review

Just more of the same old problems really.  A static opening batsman, an over-reliance on what the data says, a determination to reach an adequate score that proved totally inadequate.  Square pegs in round holes, a complete unwillingness to try players who have been successful in the short form of the game in domestic cricket, and an approach that looks frankly terrified throughout. Hang on, that’s not what happened at all is it?  England won the series 3-2 of course, but even if they’d fallen short in the final match, it wouldn’t have mattered in terms of them demonstrating progress.  That they did mattered greatly to the players of course, and the joy and delight on their faces was apparent to all. But what it did highlight was the astonishing change in approach for this series and this series alone.  And it raised lots of questions about how England had played before, how they’d been set up to play before, and the management who were responsible for that. As recently as March, Alastair Cook was berating all and sundry for dropping him as captain for the World Cup, stating that the side needed his leadership and criticising Eoin Morgan for how he had led the side.  This is history of course, so why bring it up again?  Well the trouble is that the most striking thing about the change of approach from England is that it has plainly never occurred to the old guard to do it.  When Cook was whining about his omission, he at no time stated his dissatisfaction with the style of England’s play, merely that they didn’t play very well, and that it would all have been so different had he been there.  A penny for those thoughts seeing England play in such a manner Alastair. As for Morgan himself, there are enough indications now coming out that he was deeply unhappy as captain in the World Cup, specifically because of the strait-jacket in which the team was placed.  Whilst he probably won’t win any awards at the Funky Captaincy Annual Dinner, he is clearly a major influence on the way in which England are now approaching the format. One of the most amazing sights about this England team is that they are so obviously and plainly enjoying themselves thoroughly.  The England teams have looked utterly miserable for a long time, and the most basic pleasure of playing sport seemed to have gone completely.  For this team at least, it is well and truly back. What isn’t known is whether that will spill over into the Test side as well.  Of course, it is an entirely different game, but those players who will return do seem to prefer scowling to smiling, berating team mates to jumping on them.  There’s some sympathy to be held here, grumpy, crotchety older players are hardly especially unusual, and particularly so when there’s frustration and unhappiness.  Yet the contrast between Broad and Anderson on the one hand, and Mark Wood on the other, couldn’t be more obvious.  In the last match, Wood playfully pretended to Mankad one of the New Zealand batsman.  He laughed, the batsman smiled, and so did the umpire.  And yet….Wood had rather made the point there hadn’t he?  Don’t push it with the backing up.  All with humour.  Likewise with his sudden sneaky running in before the batsman was ready.  It kept them on their toes, and was all done with a smile, from a player who looks like a kid at Christmas.  What will be fascinating to see is if Wood’s patent enjoyment rubs off on the others.  Because there’s no doubt at all, a team having fun will play better than if they’re not. Wood’s economy rate of 5.23 across the three matches he played was bettered only by Trent Boult on either side, and in a series which was such a run fest, it proved critical to the outcome.  That Boult was injured dealt a huge blow to New Zealand, without question.  But that’s the game, and few series have gone by without injuries to key players.  Where it does become relevant as far as England are concerned is that when Wood first played in the Tests, there were concerns about whether his action made him an accident waiting to happen.  England then played him in the one day series.  This is a difficult one.  England’s bowling coaches mangled James Anderson thoroughly trying to fix a potential injury crisis before it happened, and since he returned to his natural action, he’s remained more or less constantly fit.  It’s probably best to leave Wood alone, and deal with any issues if and when they arise rather than worrying potentially unnecessarily.  But managing his workload is still sensible.  One of the overriding criticisms of England is that they are extremely poor at doing so.  Grinding Wood into the dirt won’t be easily forgiven if they do it. In terms of the selection for this series, it seems that incoming coach Trevor Bayliss requested a young side and the selectors obliged.  That in itself raises questions about how it was done previously.  On tour it’s said that although the selectors choose the squad, captain and coach select the team.  That means that Adil Rashid’s clear success in this series vindicated the selectors who chose him for the West Indies, but rather hang out to dry then coach Peter Moores and captain Alastair Cook for not picking him.  With the ODI series over and eyes turning towards the beginning of the Ashes, quite why Rashid wasn’t tried – and the justification that he’d not bowled well in the nets – looks more and more an aberration, especially given Mooen Ali’s clear and obvious lack of fitness.  Better late than never perhaps, but it doesn’t mean excusing it. A similar circumstance applies to Alex Hales, albeit concerning his absence from the World Cup until it was too late.  Hales didn’t go on to make the big score he would have craved, but he undoubtedly set the tone with his batting, and others carried it on.  That he was ignored for so long because of a supposed weakness to the ball coming in looks ever more bizarre.  And yet it’s exactly how it is with English sport all too often, a focus on what someone supposedly can’t do rather than promote what they can.  Hales was instrumental to England firing from the very top. Not everything England tried came off.  Jason Roy did ok without every looking like he was going to take the world by storm.  Steven Finn took wickets yet still didn’t look the bowler he was.  And of course the final match yesterday had England 50-5.  And yet none of the shots were especially reckless, they just found fielders through slightly awry execution for the most part.  That’s not something to worry about, it can happen and on this occasion it did happen.  It will also happen again.  The recovery led by Bairstow was outstanding, and they still played in the same manner.   On so many occasions England have said they are learning, yet right now with this side, they really are learning.  Some patience with them when they get it wrong is deserved.  It’s only when they use that as a shield to close down discussion and criticism that it’s a problem, I don’t get the feeling with this side that it is. And so New Zealand come to the close of their tour of England, with just a T20 match to come.  They have been brilliant tourists, and that people have been heard to say we should have them every year says everything about how they have played the game.  As well as playing attacking, exciting cricket as a policy, they have some genuinely fine cricketers.  Kane Williamson looks special, Ross Taylor is a terrific batsman, and the seam attack even beyond Boult and Southee looks potent.  Above all else, they have played it in a wonderful spirit, demonstrating beyond all question that playing the game hard doesn’t have to mean sledging, abusing or provoking opponents.  It’s something England could learn from, as could several teams.  Not shouting at an opponent isn’t giving them an easy ride, and never has been. England go to New Zealand in 2018 as currently scheduled.  There are again only two Tests to be played.  It is possible they will look to amend that, but not very likely.  The last tour down there was praised for being beautifully balanced, with three T20s, three ODIs and three Tests.  So of course they are not going to repeat that.  It would be too much to think that the boards could see a good thing and capitalise on it.  Although some things can change on the field, off it very little does.  And while this post has concentrated on the cricket, it doesn’t mean that the ECB are now forgotten for what they have done, not for a single second.  It might be what they hope for, but the news overnight about telling Sky which commentators they can have remains as symptomatic of their ability to make a bad situation even worse as ever. It’s just that the cricket itself sometimes reminds you why we care. @BlueEarthMngmnt


Escape For Victory

There was almost something poetic about Jonny Bairstow’s knock today. In a nutshell it summed up so much that had gone wrong in the past. That Adil Rashid was there at the end as well, was strangely appropriate. Two talents somewhat unfulfilled at the international level. Two “what ifs”. Two players seemingly relishing their chance to shine.

Today’s win is one of the really good ones. It’s the one dug out of adversity, when you are, to all intents and purposes, dead in the water. You are left 45 for 5. The rocks on which we are building this revival had gone – Hales had failed at the top of the order, Root had gone at three, and then so did Morgan. With no Buttler to fall back on, it was now up to rookie Sam Billings, and fallen young star Jonny Bairstow. As I drove back from Costco in Croydon, in the middle of a rainstorm I heard the two lads put the partnership together to cement the innings and give us a shout. When Billings went, Bairstow piled on. I got back to see the end. Bairstow with cool hitting getting us home, and yes, with a bit of luck too, with the drop by Santner almost certainly costing the New Zealanders the match.

But the symbolism of a talent, abused and ignored by England for so long, bringing a new era home was not lost on me. Bairstow had become the world’s most experience drinks carrier. He was called up rarely, often without much in the way of top class cricket under his belt in the weeks building up to his appearances. He’d come into teams either shot of confidence, or knowing he wasn’t there for long. He’d been over-sold when he made a 95 at Lord’s against South Africa, or that 50 at Cardiff. But he’d be in and out more times than an Hokey Kokey convention and he withered. Today was brilliant. Absolutely brilliant. I’m thrilled for him, and I’ve not said that about a cricketer in ages. I thought it was reminiscent of the KP innings against Australia at Bristol in 2005 – maybe not as violent, but every bit as important because this won a series, this continued momentum, this set down a bit of a marker, and it was against pretty large odds. Good luck.

I’m not going to go into huge detail on the game. I’ll leave that to thelegglance who is going to do a series review in the next day or two. But a series win is important, but in the whole scheme of things not that important. It was the manner in which we played, it was seeing some of our talent set free. I love that more than anything. Adil Rashid was excellent with the ball today. Mark Wood looks like he loves it out there. Jos Buttler is a man with talent to burn. Eoin Morgan and Joe Root are the rocks at 3 and 4. It’s a team to get behind. It’s a team that enthuses.

On to the Ashes. And the return of those who were noticeable by their absence. ABC will return. They have a momentum they have to ride with, not destroy. We’ll be watching. Carefully.

England v New Zealand – ODI #5 – The Decider At Durham

Well, Chester-le-Street, but you get my drift.

The Greatest One Day Series in the history of mankind (containing one remotely close match in four) comes to an end today up north. There appears to be a little bit of rain about, but probably not enough to impact too much on the game – though you never know – but let’s hope the series is not ended with a DLS, or whatever it is called, schmozzle.

England look to be without Jos Buttler, who has split the webbing on his hand, and there is an emergency call-up for Jonny Bairstow. I’d have thought we’d have allowed the other keeper in the squad, Sam Billings, a chance to carry out the duties, so have England just called Jonny up for another chance to carry the drinks, for which he’s undoubtedly the Don Bradman of in terms of proficiency. With Buttler out, does it mean a place for James Taylor, and if so, will it be at 6 or will he take 5 from Stokes?

As for the bowling, it’s getting to the stage that the quicker bowlers should sling their names in a hat, and the first three are pulled out. This has been a lamentable series for all the bowlers (perhaps I’m being harsh on Wood) and there’s no indication that’s going to stop.

Anyway, I look forward to all your comments as usual. Once this is out of the way, and the T20 game on Tuesday is in the books, this blog will be dominated by the one series that truly matters to all cricket fans in this country. So while the press and ECB TV are waxing lyrical over how great this series is, and what a shame it was just the two tests, all the promos, including that bloody song, and a renamed channel are on the way and filling our screens. We may not be having the “phoney war” as one poking journo (!) called it quite rightly, but it’ll be made up for. Or maybe, just maybe, we are a teeny weeny bit fed up that this is the third Ashes series within 24 months, and that overkill is in play?

Now Alex, when you get in that position again, you know, 60-odd by 10 overs, don’t do that again. There are massive tons in your horizon….

England v New Zealand: 4th ODI review

At least in the one day series we get the decider that all that has gone before merits.  And given how this sequence of games has gone, who knows what will happen.

England will of course be praised heavily for an astonishing run chase, exceeded in terms of runs only four times in history.  But it was more than that, it was that England plainly could have chased down another 50, 75, or even 100.  They were that in control they had 7 overs and 7 wickets still in hand.

It’s not so long ago that New Zealand setting 350 to win would have made the second half of the game academic, and by not too long ago, we can say about 10 days.   The turnaround has been astounding; not the turnaround in results, it is 2-2 after all, but in attitude and approach.

Amid the delight at seeing England play like this, it cannot be overlooked how much of an indictment this been of various previous managements of the England team.  Peter Moores will certainly be shifting uncomfortably at what he’s seeing (in truth, given that he’s that kind of man, he’ll probably be absolutely delighted because it’s England), but it isn’t and shouldn’t all be laid on his shoulders.  One day cricket has been like this for a number of years, and at no point until this series have England even attempted to play this way.  A whole bunch of them should be looking at themselves in the mirror.  And not just coaches either, the people above them, the selectors, some of the players, all of them carry the responsibility for the wasted years of trying to get just enough and hoping it will do.

Alastair Cook led that side, and led it in a way incompatible with how the game is now played.  It is completely inconceivable that England would be playing in this style under him.  Throughout the build up to the World Cup, those who pointed this out on a regular basis were dismissed as know-nothings, bilious inadequates, fools and knaves – even anti-England.  But they were right.  They were absolutely, incontrovertibly right.  An acknowledgement from the self-appointed great and good of that reality wouldn’t go amiss, and nor would a realisation that maybe, just maybe that even if you don’t agree with them, they have an opinion which has value.

I’m not going to hold my breath it’ll ever happen.

By way of contrast, some credit has to be given to those selectors who insisted on retaining Eoin Morgan, when he was in a dreadful run of form, and many were calling for his head.  They backed him, and to the surprise of many, re-appointed him as one day captain.  You see, when credit is due, it is given.  Another thing for them to learn.

In amongst the pleasure at seeing England play like this, there cannot but be a feeling of anger at the missed opportunity the World Cup represented.  These players are by and large the ones that were called for, to give England a chance of competing.  They haven’t suddenly become a great side, and there will still be ups and downs ahead.  The point is that allowing the team to have a chance was the thing.  They didn’t give England a prayer.  And that is not acceptable on any level.

During the World Cup, some people went as far as hoping England would lose.  Some people?  By the end I suspect it was a lot of people.  They didn’t do so because they liked seeing England get hammered, they did so out of despair that anyone would actually get out of their stubborn, ignorant, antiquated mindset and pay attention to what was going on in the world game.  This change is precisely because the World Cup was such a shambles, that it shocked even the ECB out of their complacency.

It remains to be seen whether Morgan’s clear desire that England continue to play without fear survives the inclination to conservatism that remains.  Today England set about the target with furious, but controlled aggression.  It’s only a few days since England were bowled out for 302 batting first and the conservative sirens were telling them that if only they’d been more restrained, they’d have got 340.  Their attitudes are obselete.

In defeat, New Zealand once again showed themselves to be a class act.  When Morgan was dismissed they were quick to congratulate him, likewise Root at the end of the game.  Perhaps the most thoughtful, kindest and most considerate action was at the conclusion of the match.  It was Steve Davis’ final game as an international umpire, and to remember that and invite him to lead the New Zealand team off the pitch said a lot about how they play the game.

England were magnificent today.  I can’t remember the last time I wrote that.  Long may they give themselves the chance to be magnificent – even if they sometimes fall short.


England v New Zealand 3rd ODI: Review

Not very many days ago, for England to be 2-1 down after three matches would have been considered something of a triumph, given how low the expectations were. It’s curious how quickly expectations rise, and given the football team have just won their sixth straight qualifying match and finished the season unbeaten, it’s quite likely that the same sort of thing will happen there.

England – the cricket variety, though it’s true of the football team as well – did a fair bit wrong today in all three disciplines of the game, but there’s far more they continued to do right, and a degree of acceptance and understanding is arguably fitting.

From 288-5 to 302 all out is certainly a collapse, yet the disappointment at only getting 300 was remarkable to see.  It’s the first time England have ever scored 300 three matches in succession, and we’re disappointed.  Not just the supporters either, England themselves were plainly extremely unhappy with the way they fell away.  Good.  So they should be.  But it’s anything but a disaster. In the first match England were 202-6, and went for it.  On that occasions it came off, and the score rocketed to over 400; on this occasion it went wrong.  If we’re to praise the buccaneering spirit that allowed them the freedom to attack on that occasion, we do need to accept it can go wrong sometimes.  That doesn’t mean that they can’t learn from it, because there are many things they could have done better.  But what mustn’t happen is that they are criticised for recklessness, because it was no more or less reckless than it was at Edgbaston, it’s just that on that occasion it worked out and this time it went wrong.

It might have horrible echoes of “executing their skills better”, but sometimes it is about the execution and not the mindset.  A gentle reminder to try and hit that particular ball over long on rather than across the line to deep midwicket for example is approving of the intent completely, but trying to better the specific way in which it’s done, and definitely not making anyone scared of trying it or getting out.  For the reality is that teams who are capable of scoring 400 and who are looking to reach that kind of target do sometimes screw up.  To screw up and still score 302 isn’t all that bad – if we go back to the omnishambles of the World Cup, England patted themselves on the back for a total like that.  This time they’re unhappy with it.  Perhaps that’s the most promising thing of all.

There is always a temptation to be wise after the event, and judge on outcome rather than intent.  When a batsman clears long on, just over the head of the fielder stationed there, then the cry of “great shot” goes up.  If he fractionally mistimes it, and it lands in that fielders hands, then often it’s called irresponsible with the fielder there waiting.  Yet if it’s irresponsible then, it’s just as irresponsible when it goes for six – it can’t only be irresponsible based on the outcome.  But few would ever say that when it sailed into the stand.  For many of the late dismissals, if you were to freeze frame it as the shot was played, it’s not necessarily the wrong shot, it’s just not been played that well.  You have to ask, in that freeze frame, if it sails for six who is going to say it was the wrong thing to do?  The answer is no one.  It’s still a bad shot of course, but often the right shot played badly, which isn’t quite the same thing.

Now, none of that means you absolve England of any blame, but it does highlight the very narrow margins that are there when playing a high risk, extremely attacking game.  England are just three matches into this kind of approach, and they are going to get it wrong sometimes at this stage.  So should they have decided to be more conservative when half the side was out?  Had they taken that approach at Edgbaston, they’d have ended up with around 300, and that’s what the old England would have done.

What England do need to do is do exactly what they are doing, but just look to do it better.  The judgement about what a good score is on any given pitch will come, and as they get more used to the way they are playing, so will the shot selection.  If we want them to shoot for the moon, then we need to show a little patience when they don’t quite manage it.  Especially when playing a side like New Zealand, who we must remember are more than a bit useful.

Having said that about the batting, the catching is something that unquestionably will have to improve.  England had their chances in this game and didn’t take them.  It can happen in any game, but there’s been a worrying propensity to shell them in all formats of the game.   As to why that is, it’s one of cricket’s mysteries quite why dropping catches seems to be a communicable disease, but it’s one that self-evidently needs curing rapidly.  Switching confidence on is the only way of doing so – and here is where the coaches earn their pay.

The bowling is a much more uncertain area than the batting.  Mark Wood was the pick of the seam attack, and worries around him are more about a fear of England overbowling him than anything he’s doing on the field.  The rest are having good moments and bad moments.  Some of them won’t be good enough, but we can’t be sure who that is true of just yet.  Having said that, Finn just doesn’t look the bowler he was, and as more time goes by, the fear that he won’t be getting that back grows ever stronger.

For New Zealand, they did what they do in One Day Cricket.  Williamson and Taylor played superbly throughout.  Their stand of 206 set a new record for the Black Caps for the third wicket, and by the time it was broken, the game was largely won.  Sometimes the opposition play extremely well and you have to doff your cap.  The question of how much is inadequate bowling and how much superb batting is always an open one.

The fourth match is Nottingham on Wednesday, and what will happen is anyone’s guess.  But if England play with the same intent, they have a chance.  And a month or more ago, who would have thought that?  So there we have it.  An optimistic, favourable, forgiving view of England’s performance even though they lost.  There must be something in the water to be so controversial.  I do note that Derek Pringle disagrees with me, and Nasser Hussain agrees.  I think I’ll take that.


England v New Zealand – ODI #3 – The Ageas Bowl

After the day-night nonsense on Friday, there’s a very short turnaround for game 3 of this compelling series. The teams will do battle at the Ageas Bowl and England won’t want to remember the last time we met at that venue….


This game was just before the Champions Trophy, and the score of 359 was an asbolute blockbuster for this country. Now it seems around par. What the hell is going on? I seem to recall Jonathan Trott getting a bit of stick for his century at just over a run a ball, but then again, we sort of blamed him for most things in ODIs when he was a decent performer. But with the euphoria of the last two matches, Jonathan Trott appears to be the Betamax to this team’s VHS. It’s odd how things have turned in two years.

There also was the clue for Guptill’s double ton in the World Cup writ large in that fixture. He went off in the last 10 overs. It was a great batting wicket, he got in, he cashed in. Also, it can’t be helped, but Jade Dernbach posted some mighty fine numbers in that game.

So to the game at the Ageas. England will be forced to make a minimum of two changes. Chris Jordan being ruled out was no surprise as he was shunted down the order, clearly inhibited by his injury, but Liam Plunkett’s absence falls into the “oh damn” category. While his bowling has been no worse than the others, his punchy hitting in the last two games has shown a real liveliness, and he gave England hope when there was little on Friday. Damn. Craig Overton has already been called up, and there’s speculation on the wires over the other, with many wanting Footit to have his day.

As it is, tomorrow might see two of the squad members play, with Mark Wood and David Willey surely in line to play (otherwise, why are they in the squad?) There then remains the question over whether Sam Billings keeps his place. It would appear slightly strange to drop him as his replacement would need to be James Taylor and he’s not a number 7. Or he shouldn’t be. We don’t want Buttler coming in at 7, nor Stokes, so there is a logjam there. I’ll let them call that one.

After a hammering in Game 1, the New Zealanders showed their batting class, and had the real difference maker on the day, Trent Boult, in their line-up. McCullum might be due a big one if he can just cut out the 100% give it a lash approach, but that’s the joy with this team; they can hurt you in so many ways.

Here’s hoping for another belter. Comments below.

It was good to see the people coming out of the ether to discuss thelegglance’s piece with us today. It was an excellent discussion and gave us some food for thought. There’s a key point not to treat the print media as a homogenous unit, but the old guard are certainly in the firing line. One read of Pringle’s article in this month’s Cricketer which speaks again of KP’s propaganda machine and of Strauss calling him a c–t being quite endearing, is just embarrassing. I’ve been advised by more than one source to stop letting this sort of thing wind me up. Well, if I didn’t, you lot wouldn’t be here………

Set your alarm clocks. Bunkers at 8:30 am.

All the best.

@DmitriOld @collythorpe @outsidecricket

The Rapid Reaction – ODI #2

2nd ODI – New Zealand 398/5 (Taylor 119*, Williamson 93, Guptill 50) beat England 365-9 (Morgan 88, Hales 54) by 13 runs on DL Method.

Dmitri on duty tonight as thelegglance is having a break from the match reviews for the evening.

I did not get to see the first innings of the match. I missed Ross Taylor’s century, the hitting, the accumulation, the posting of the second highest score in ODI history in England. 398 for 5. I will leave it to others to describe the bowling, which judging by the commenters on here, wasn’t up to much, with the inability to take wickets still a major concern. The Oval clearly put up a road for the day’s entertainment judging by what I’m watching as I start the match report.

Now England’s chase is something we’ve wanted to see. They’ve gone for it. You know that it hasn’t been reckless, but it’s been focussed, it’s been a study in hitting and technique, and it is an even better example of the change of mentality that this ODI team seems to have in these early days of full reconstruction. They set the highest score that England have ever made in the second innings of an ODI. They did it with decent contributions down the order.

I can only really comment on what I’ve watched. The best sign was the innings of Eoin Morgan. He’s taken a hell of a lot of stick over the winter, even though he made an ODI hundred in Australia which his predecessor as captain hadn’t looked like doing for years. Sure, he wasn’t in top form, we knew that, but his 88 today was brilliant. It looked almost “risk-free” but if he’d continued he’d have beaten Buttler’s record. It’s back-to-back 50s for him, the first being mightily undetected in the last match which was crucial in the rebuilding of the innings.

The openers showed great promise, although Jason Roy’s dismissal annoyed me a touch. Fact is, that I’ll have to get over it with the way this team looks like it is setting up to play. Alex Hales made a decent half-century, but left you wanting more. One day I see that bloke clicking, being the sort you cannot bowl to, and beating Robin Smith’s record. Good grief, that needs to go, even remembering how much I liked Judge. Joe Root was a bit daft. I’m saying this early, I know, but all but one of his ODI tons came batting first, and while the other was a winning effort, it was in a chase of 240-odd. He’s our Kane Williamson. But you don’t come off every time.

Jos, even when he’s not in miracle mode, played well until nicking off. There’s the itch you can’t scratch that maybe he’s one or two places too low? Obviously not everyone can bat in the top 4 slots. If he did, he’d threathen that record too. Ben Stokes will also come off.

Then came Rashid and Plunkett. Then the rain. Then cricket being cricket.

There can be just two reasons for the equation of 13 balls to score 34 balls. Rigidity of rules so that the game finishes at a specified time, which is nonsense if all you are giving yourself is half an hour. London Transport, when it works, does run past 21:20. If it’s the Resident’s Association of Kennington, the sort that moaned when Surrey planned to build a hotel where the old relic Laker and Lock stands are, but seem to look out of their windows a lot when play is on, then stuff them. Their property values aren’t going down for 20 minutes play. Oh, I’m sure there’s plenty of rules is rules muppets out there, but get over yourselves.

Before the rain Rashid and Plunkett rode their luck but hit some superb shots. They kept a dead game alive. They are the reason we can get back to liking this team, those of us who need more than just Chef platitudes and to be told that the test team is now back in the fold. Rashid appears a totem for the past regime. A higher risk pick in a low risk management structure. Plunkett’s 44, completed in the farcical 13 ball period, was a brilliant sight. He’s a lost talent, through injury and other things, but we remember his batting being not bad stuff first time around. Rashid then fell to wonderful fielding. This game could have had such a great finale.

In defeat this England team won more admirers. That speaks volumes. We’ll forgive, always, those that give it a go, a reall good go. Not reckless abandon, but positive intent. Not fear of failure, but being positive, attacking, aggressive with the bat. This is something I can get behind. I don’t usually do “heroic failure” but we can all see progress here.

Lastly, I thought I’d address some of the stuff I had this morning. Frankly, if you read my Meantime London Lager fuelled riposte to the Pringle “irrelevant” jibe, and the main point you took out of it was that I resented business travel, then there’s not a lot I can do. I thought the piece was framed, even in my alcohol-induced blind rage, to say we pay our way, we feel the pain not only personally, but financially, and it isn’t our job to follow the team, but our passion. Now, I am not saying the hacks are not equally as passionate, but they are the envy of many by getting paid to travel the world to watch the game. Therefore, when those in that fortunate, privileged position decide that those who pay their wages are irrelevant, is the point that all but a few seemed to grasp. Thelegglance has a think piece on this which we’ll release over the weekend.

Oh, it’s not about me being criticised. I dish it out, so I have to take it. But it doesn’t mean I won’t defend myself.

England v New Zealand – 2nd ODI

OK, got that Pringle stuff off my chest. Now on to the cricket.

We were all gobsmacked at that batting performance on Tuesday, and now the importance of this game is paramount. Can we follow that style up? What if we need to chase a big total? How will that go? Can the relative rookies take a grip of the game and show their talent?

Again, sadly, I’m in the office so won’t get to see a lot of the match. I also know Vian isn’t going to be in contact with the game but we’ll do our best to cover the action and bring you our reactions.

Irrelevant as they may be.

Comments below, as usual.


Thanks for thelegglance for filling in the match report duties last night. I got home quite late (this work stuff is getting a pain) and by the time I did, the match was all over. Quite good to have a couple of other cricket lovers around me in the office following the scores surreptitiously on cricinfo and passing updates. Think it might be a bit blatant to lop out the old Tablet and watch SkyGo in the office!

I saw the highlights and caught some of the reaction. It was a brilliant performance. Absolutely no doubt about it, but it should be noted that the new breed went 3 for 4 in terms of “failure”. Roy, who I have a real sneaking suspicion is not going to cut it at the top level (I think when you saw him face Steven Finn in the T20 last year gave you a clue), obviously copped a first baller. Hales also hasn’t delivered in the top spot, and must do so soon, while Sam Billings, who I think should play so that we have a ready-made replacement if Buttler gets injured if he proves himself, also didn’t do well. The most experienced of the new breed, Adil Rashid, of course had an absolute blinder. I’m sure all those who slagged him off for a performance in the nets in the WIndies are saying sorry now…… [sound of crickets]

The established players, Root, Buttler and Morgan were magnificent, and yes, as Vian says, it’s that attitude and approach we want to see. I don’t buy the “no fear” codswallop, actually. It’s rather easy when you’ve been given a clean slate to create a new “brand” (and hell do I hate that phrase) to play without fear. I don’t doubt Buttler plays pretty much without it, but let’s see Joe Root make a ton chasing a big total, rather than setting one. Let’s see how we react chasing 300. Let’s see how we react chasing 250 and losing three wickets for 50. I’m interested to see how we do in those scenarios. But yes, yesterday was a remarkable day. To go from 200 for 6 to 408 for 9 was amazing. Absolutely amazing.

I now know how far I am behind on century watch. Ben Stokes (Lord’s), Adam Lyth (Headingley), BJ Watling (Headingley), Adam Voges (Dominica) and today Shikar Dhawan (Fatullah) need to be documented. No promises when. but I’ll catch up (another early start tomorrow means I’m off to bed soon).

I’m sort of reading two books at the same time – one an old paperback picked up in Hay-on-Wye and the other on the Kindle. I’ll do a book review of both when I’ve finished them, but there’s something remarkable about both. Put To The Test, by Geoffrey Boycott, is a frank view of the Ashes tour of 1978-9 – the Packer-decimated Australian team – when Boycs himself had a pretty poor tour. The frankness is in his comments on his teammates. He praises, and he criticises when he sees fit. It’s the sort of book we would never ever see now.

The other is The Plan, by Steve James. What is remarkable is the thing that seems to be lacking throughout this book is, well, a plan. It’s a series of anecdotes and events bundled together to tell the reader what, I don’t know. There are interesting bits, of course, but I’m befuddled by it, to be honest. I’ve actually no idea what it is trying to achieve. It’s all over the place.

I know I’ve promised, and the Bogfather reminds me, a press hall of shame piece. The fact is, I’ve really cooled on the idea for now. I wrote numbers 1 and 2 on holiday and then just lost the will, to be honest. I’m thinking of putting it to bed now until the annual readers awards at the end of the season, when you lot get to contribute to the voting. I don’t know why I can’t be arsed, but it just happens. For the record, though, my top five were:

1. Mike Selfey

2. Paul Newman

3. Derek Pringle (yes, old habits die hard)

4. Simon Hughes

5. Stephen Brenkley

Jim Holden had an Andy Ganteaume effort to pierce the top 5 on the back of one putrid article but would have been number 6. Henderson was in the running, thanks to detritus in the WCM. Ed Smith was also a live one, as FICJAM angered in his own patronising way. You know it is a tough field when John Etheridge is falling down the rankings, and the tenth was a pick from Chris Stocks, who I think may not really qualify for this, Malcolm Conn (for future crimes) and Aggers himself. Have I left anyone out.

Here is the citation, as written for number 1, back in May.

1. Mike Selvey – This has been a close fought battle, with at times Pringle and Newman edging ahead. But Selfey’s twitter contributions just about nail it, and he sealed the deal with the tweet that anything he said on there wasn’t an invitation for a conversation etc. In other words, unless I “respect” you, sod off. He’s not exactly got social media to a tee.

It’s the arrogance I can’t stand. The “I’ve been there, I know what’s going on and you don’t” approach. You are a journalist for crying out loud. You should be duty bound to tell us. I’m not a journalist, don’t want to be one, and therefore if someone tells me something in confidence then it remains that way because I have no responsibility to anyone other than myself. You have a responsibility to the people you report to.

Every column Selfey writes is met with increasing howls of indignation. It’s not so much now that we are banging on about KP, but it’s the closeness he appears to have to the hierarchy in charge. Selfey was on Moores before anyone else when it came to the selection of the new coach – many might interpret that as a scoop, most of us interpreted it as a Flower/Downton plant. If Selfey has criticised Cook at any length, I’ve missed it. If Selfey has criticised any of his favourites, then, again, I’ve missed it. His writing on international cricket is driving much of his audience mad. It’s made worse when we see the start that Ali Martin, fresh from The Sun, has made, and we can see the potential.

However, what clinches it is the way the negative views of Selfey below the line are moderated. There’s clearly difficulty in accepting that the people you write for are turning on you, and I am sure that’s tough to accept. Instead of listening to some of the more well-meaning stuff, Selfey has seen this as an excuse/reason to become more indignant, more churlish and even more set in his ways. I think he’s past the point of giving a hoot about who he writes for.

It’s funny, because Selfey’s writing has little impact on me any more. He doesn’t raise the levels of anger that Newman or Pringle, or to a lesser extent Brenkley do. But it’s the sneering contempt he appears to have to people who love the game and are incredibly frustrated by his reporting that clinches it. The suspicion is that Newman is doing much of what he does because of who he works for. Selfey doesn’t have that excuse. That’s why he’s numero uno.

Oh go on, I wrote Newman’s one as well….

Paul Newman – It would be tempting to rank Newman number 1, but I won’t. He still has a way to go to match the champion’s sneering contempt for those he is informing. What Newman does worse (or better depending on how you see it) is to provide copy that is so skewed, and at times so batshit insane, that you sit there and think “someone’s telling him to write this, they must be”.

Newman’s 2015 hasn’t been that bad, to be honest. But he wins his place this high because of the occasional lunacy that he concocts and the historically awful stuff he wrote about Pietersen and the book, which even some of his travelling colleagues thought a little bit odd. There is a constant dig on here that we see everything through a KP lens, as if all that I write is predicated on the “KP should be returned to the England fold” line to take. I’d suggest that Newman is much, much worse in this regard. Just look at what he wrote at the end of the Barbados test re Moores. That Moores should get the Ashes gig because he was stopped before by another KP-induced controversy. What the hell has KP got to do with the loss in Barbados and the World Cup except the morons in charge explicitly excluded him?

Newman can’t let Pietersen go. There are constant assertions of “fact”… that KP’s sacking was wholly justified, without ever detailing why. When challenged on Twitter, he resorts to attacking the questioner with “if you don’t know why, you’ll never know” type comments. It’s another example of contempt for the readership. It does create a question in my mind, and I’ve discussed this with Maxie, as to whether this is an editorial line and Newman is working it to the hilt. It would make sense, although I have no doubt there is massive personal antipathy there towards Pietersen, and he appears the journalist that most gets under KP’s skin.

Of course, working for the Mail renders him at a disadvantage from the get go. Blocking me on Twitter when I’ve never tweeted him abuse, or much of a comment, is just childish. Supporting Jim Holden’s article was an act of such expected density that it didn’t shock. Having a little dig at your’s truly for being “nothing important” in a Twitter exchange with Simon Hughes was lovely, actually.

However, it is the bending of the message to suit the prevailing anti-KP rage that is hilarious. Before and after the World Cup, Newman was all for burying Moores. According to Newman, dropping Cook on the eve of the World Cup would result in a make-or-break competition for the unprove new regime. In the same article he then says they have 12 months to prove themselves, but also that a failure in the World Cup followed by stuttering form in the Caribbean and beyond would claim more victims due to the rancour that envelops them. Yesterday despite a World Cup that didn’t even reach “mediocre” on the Newman scale, he’s backing him to continue.

Because, the suspicion is that despite his clear disregard for Moores over the last few months, and the laughs at us for being obsessed with KP, Newman is close to Cook and much is written through that lens. That’s not on. It really isn’t.

I picked up some old Wisden Cricket Monthlys a while back, when Newman had the County beat for the SE of England. He was good. People tell me he’s a really good bloke. But this current stuff is wretched, easily fiskable, and lacking in critical thought, and driven by ant-KP dogma, inserted at every opportunity, relevant or not. But he’s not number 1…..

Until the next time. Hope everyone is well, and let’s see the ODI team keep the show on the road.

England v New Zealand: 1st ODI review

In truth, not many of the forecasts or expectations for this opening match of the series included the possibility of England battering New Zealand completely, and once again, the potential for going completely over the top on the basis of a single result in the mainstream media is more than a distinct possibility.  Yet there is also nothing wrong with enjoying an unexpected success, particularly when it is done with such style.

A single match is no basis to proclaim the brightness of the future, we have seen plenty of false dawns before, yet as an expression of intent (providing it doesn’t prove to be an outlier), this one does rather startle and grab the attention.  A 210 run margin of victory is the kind of thing that happens to England, not the other way around.

No question that the stars of the show were Root, Buttler and Rashid.  All three batted beautifully at different points of the innings, showing aggressive intent, excellent shot selection and perhaps most importantly a complete lack of fear of getting out.  It’s something England supporters have cried out for for years, the complete antithesis to the safety first approach in a form of cricket that rewards those prepared to back their own ability.

And therein lies the problem.  Despite it being abundantly obvious that this was the way to go, England persisted for years with their conservative, insular approach of trying to get to around a par score that the data confirmed would give them a decent chance of victory.  It’s not a cynical view of how they did it, Graeme Swann confirmed that this was how it was done.  Above all else, this performance is an excoriating verdict of England in One Day Cricket for many years.  The whole World Cup debacle actually looks worse after today than it even did at the time, not because England succeeded today and failed then, but because they didn’t even try then.

Of course, it is better late than never, and if this is indeed the new England, then we will have a side who may or may not succeed, but who won’t die wondering – and that would be a significant step forward.  At 202-6 there is absolutely no chance that the old England would have carried on attacking, there would have been an aim of around 300 if possible and a view that it was then “competitive”.  The point here is that Buttler and Rashid could have perished in pursuit of their aim of a high target, and England would then likely have fallen well short of 300, but even then it is still exactly the right way to go.  It remains to be seen if it is seen that way when it goes wrong, as most assuredly it will at some point.  Mike Atherton – who could defend himself by saying it was a legitimate question – asked that very point, only to be swiftly put down by Adil Rashid in response, quite rightly.  There lies the test.  England will be bowled out from promising positions in some matches adopting this approach, and they must be granted the latitude for that when it happens.

It’s a single match, and a single win.  But making over 400 and the way in which they did so is a marker for a style of cricket that the rest of the cricketing world adopted some time ago.  New Zealand won’t change, it remains to be seen if England do. Let’s hope not.