The Ashes 2015: A review

So there we have it, the Ashes are done, the teams are exhausted and now it’s time to look back on the series.

The series got off to a bad start when the Australian team were held at border control at the Severn Bridge on the M4.  Protesting that “but we’re in England, right mate?” only seemed to make things worse, as Darren Lehmann asked the High Commissioner to issue a formal protest over the visa charge of £6.50 per head.  David Warner was seen looking baffled as explanations about the difference between England and the United Kingdom were made, and matters weren’t helped when Alex Salmond somehow got hold of Darren Lehmann’s mobile number.  Steve Smith was briefly detained due to an unfortunate mix up where they found his name on a watchlist, being released only when it became apparent he really did know nothing about rugby.

So it was a petulant team who finally arrived at the Holiday Inn, Cardiff. An annoyed Mitchell Johnson went off to check the pitch only to return after 10 minutes complaining that while very big, the ground was the wrong shape for cricket.  Given such a start to the series, the ECB felt it appropriate to mend some fences, and sent their best diplomat, Giles Clarke, around to smooth things over.  Rumours that Tony Abbott subsequently approached the USA about buying Trident can now be safely dismissed as untrue and entirely unrelated.

The morning of the first Test dawned bright and sunny, catching out Stuart Broad, who assumed the first day would be rained off and turned up late.  A capacity crowd of at least 750 were in the ground eagerly anticipating the toss.  It’s probably after this point that England fans noticed things starting to go wrong.

Certainly being 65-6 at lunch wasn’t in the plan, though journalists were quick to highlight how brilliantly Cooky batted for his 14 runs.  Indeed, Stephen Brenkley received a British Press Award for his 3,000 word treatise on how he played and missed “with aplomb”.  Straussy wrecked any chance of a Pullitzer by calling the committee “c****s” (except in the Guardian, where they printed it in full – Selvey saying it was the “moment of the series”) for their outrageous decision to exclude it from consideration on the grounds of not being American.

Joe Root was exceptionally careless to be timed out, and his protest that he was waiting for that tall South African bloke to go in at four cut little ice with the critics.  England did at least improve a little after lunch, with Jos Buttler skilfully marshalling the tail before being left high and dry on 2 not out.

As would be seen throughout the summer, England were far from out of it.  With hindsight, making Anderson bowl from both ends all day probably didn’t help his longevity in the series, but it wasn’t until Edgbaston that the umpires had to step in claiming that crawling to the crease on hands and knees was slowing the over rate down too much.

Yet with Australia teetering on 372-5, Stuart Broad spoke to the team at length during tea, berating his colleagues for failing to follow the plan.  Thereafter things went much better, as Brad Haddin was in all sorts of trouble to the short ball, finally being put out his misery for a mere 137 with 19 sixes.

With an uphill battle to save the game, Cooky strode to the middle.  A dazzling array of plays and misses and edges through the slips led to criticism that Michael Clarke had failed to learn the lessons of 2013.  Mike Gatting on Radio Five took one look at the wagon wheel of the innings and concluded it was ten past one and went for lunch, wondering why he had such a craving for marshmallow covered in chocolate.

England fought valiantly, and nearly got away with the draw.  Anderson and Wood were left with a mere 193 overs to survive and got 4 balls into that before Wood was wrongly given out lbw off his fetlock – Stuart Broad having blown the reviews claiming that his leg stump wasn’t on the ground at all.

It was a chastened team at the presentation, Trevor Bayliss being seen muttering to himself while reaching for a pack of Benson and Hedges.  Cooky spoke well about not executing their skills, learning from the game and taking the positives – particularly Stephen Brenkley, who he felt was the right kind of journalist with the right kind of newspaper.

In the Sky Sports studio, Atherton confused Shane Warne by saying that England were losing to win, although Warne’s response was sadly edited out by the ECB Media Compliance Committee producer before anyone could see it.

Media reaction was swift and merciless.  Mike Selvey wrote that the main problem was that Adil Rashid was causing discontent in the camp by scoring an unbeaten century and taking 23 wickets for Yorkshire on the same day, while Paul Newman wrote that Kevin Pietersen’s “morning, lovely day” tweet had divided the dressing room, with born and bred Lancastrian Jos Buttler taking particular exception – his reply of “It is, isn’t it” being scanned for underlying hatred.

And so the second Test approached.  With four days between matches, Andy Flower intervened, sending Jimmy Anderson on a walk from John O’Groats to Lands End as a warm up.  It certainly had an effect, and England were an entirely different side. After an unfortunate injury in the warm up, where Ian Bell was shot with a champagne cork from a local miner on his day off, England had to make a late replacement.  A mystery player known only as Kay PeesorryQueueoopsmadeamistake was firstly drafted in, before Director Comma Cricket Andrew “Straussy” Strauss leapt up from his sedan chair, saying the accent was a bit iffy.

Winning the toss, Australia were soon in trouble.  David Warner was arrested for starting a fight with some of the schoolchildren present, his defence that he thought it was Joe Root sledging him not being accepted by the local magistrate.  Anderson ripped through the top order, using the conditions to good effect as the ball rolled down the slope.  Numerous swipes in vain saw the batsmen bowled time and again, while Shane Watson was lbw.

After such a troubled and controversial start, relations between the teams improved thankfully, Ryan Harris crouching low, putting an arm around James Anderson, adjusting his oxygen tank for him and offering him full use of his knees. Alastair Cook then picked up a suspended ban for not completing the 90 overs in the day as an hour’s delay ensued with the crowd helping the two bowlers back to their feet.

With England feeling in the ascendant, they went on the attack with the bat.  Ben Stokes destroyed the Australian bowling, pinging them to all parts for 260 not out – though quite rightly the press focused on Cook’s admittedly fine 84.  Their partnership of 260 was a sight to behold. England’s dominant position was enforced as the tail wagged, and Jos Buttler reached the heights of getting to 4* before the innings closed.

Darren Lehmann, clearly unimpressed with Australia’s efforts, called for a traditional Aussie approach, and certainly Warner’s day release from custody attached to a ball and chain indicated his words had gone home.  Despite the enormous first innings deficit, they attacked.  There was a slight hiatus when Warner hit the ball attached to him into the pavilion by mistake, but since it landed in Giles Clarke’s champagne George Dobell was seen to laugh so hard he had to be taken to hospital.  In his absence, Jarrod Kimber simply added 350 to the Australian score on Cricinfo.  Peter Moores rang up the ECB Sky pointing out that the data didn’t add up, but unfortunately no-one there could remember who he was, and so Australia got away with it.  Malcolm Conn was the first to react tweeting “That’s for Bodyline, you filthy pommie bastards” before writing an article titled “No offence”.

With England set 200 to win, Cooky decided to get out his inner funk.  Graham Gooch had pointed out that he was far more vulnerable to getting out if he batted, and so taking that on board, reversed the batting order.  Channel 5’s highlights included a 24 minute section of Simon Hughes in the tactics truck moaning with pleasure at the genius of the idea.   England scraped home, mostly thanks to Anderson’s 99.  It got tense towards the end as Australia fought back, but fortunately Jos Buttler stood firm, finishing 6 not out as wickets tumbled around him.  The captain scored the winning run, and was promptly knighted by a grateful public.

With the series so finely poised, it was a great shame that the next two Tests were washed out.  No refunds were given to spectators, as it was considered that highlights of the 2005 series on the big screen were now to be assumed as being part of play.  Some complaints were made that the series as shown was incomplete, but the ECB’s PR department pointed out that the last day of the Oval Test had been sadly cancelled in 2005 and they’d not missed anything.

For the denouement there were a few debates to be had in selection.  Mitchell Johnson had made himself unavailable after Brian May had called him up for the forthcoming Queen comeback tour, but Lehmann had rubbished criticism of the timing by stating that Australia had endless stocks of interchangeable Mitches and the side wouldn’t be affected. With England wondering about their batting line up, the selectors were seen in discussions long into the night.  A conclusion was reached when Straussy Strauss was seen carrying a trowel and smiling as plaintive Afrikaans cries were heard behind a bricked up wall.   England had one other question mark over their side, as Wood unfortunately fell at the fourth fence at Haydock two days before the game, but having been given a clean bill of health by England assistant physio Jimmy Herriot he took his place in the stalls for the start.

Alastair Cook scored a fine hundred, causing Aggers to squeak for an hour on air, so overcome was he.  Pope Francis resigned, David Cameron announced to a hushed Parliament that he was giving way to a much better man, with a much better family, and the US Congress passed what became known at the Cooky-wooky Act allowing foreign born Gods people to stand for the Presidency.  Perhaps the greatest tribute of all came from Geoffrey Boycott who stated to a shocked nation that he was nearly as good as his granny.

England were certainly confident having scored over 400 (Jos Buttler 8*) but Australia weren’t out of it by any means.  Chris Rodgers had escaped from the McCarthy and Stone sheltered accommodation where he was staying, and set about clearing the deficit.  There was one flare up when he accidentally trod on the umpires toes going for a second run, and Stuart Broad squared up to him asking if he was having a go at him.  Rodgers quietly pointed out that it wasn’t the square leg umpire and calm descended, but it was an awkward moment.

A mid innings collapse (Shane Watson, lbw 0) left Australia with a small deficit, and England were back in to bat.  A hush descended on the ground, punctuated only by the occasional South African accented “let me out” heard in the direction of the OCS Stand.  Cooky-wooky-woo-wah headed out to the middle and as one, they all rose and sang the oratorio from Handel’s Messiah – fortunately the ECB had been prepared and issued all spectators with lyric sheets as part of the Conditions of Ground Admittance.

Ben Stokes was the star of the innings, having sneaked out to bat when no one was looking.  Paul Downton – special guest of the ECB – was overheard to say that this bloke looked rather good, and why hadn’t he been around when he was MD?  Giles Clarke was equally confused, having seen no reference of Cockermouth in the Independent Schools List.  Joe Root gave valuable support, making Boycott declare unilateral independence for Yorkshire during the tea break, while Jos Buttler’s quickfire 9 not out added to the swelling total.

With Australia set 300 to win, the game and the series was in the balance.  All was going well for the visitors, with England’s bowlers unable to take a single wicket.  Fortunately for them, Shane Watson ran out 6 batting partners and burst into tears in the middle.  With the tension building, Australia 9 down and with victory only a hit away, there came that moment.  And we all know what happened then.




The day after the Downton Dismissal and the chaos of yesterday already seems somewhat distant. Few journalists seem to be drawing the dots, with the trail leading up the line to Clarke so obvious it almost appears in neon lights. Clarke was a major player in the appointment of his MD, and yet today he leaves the ECB not to enable him to prosper more fully in his ventures in Colombia and Paraguay, but, er, wait a minute…… he’s been made President!

We knew this stitch up ages ago, but there is something even more unpalatable about it now, the day after his cataclysmic decision to appoint Paul Downton had been shown to be the abject disaster that it was. People who make appointments like that don’t stay long. People don’t generally beg those sort of people to remain on the ledger. Instead they are shunted aside, sometimes with an added gong to keep their mouths shut, and then we can pick apart their legacy at will.

To me, retaining this buffoon as Chairman is a stain on our organisation in this country. You cannot truly clean house, have a fresh start, if you merely move the dead rat from the living room and shut him away in the attic. It’ll still stink. His ICC role is even more of an insult, as the incident at the Wisden dinner appears to show. This man does not seem to be able to hold back when he has been criticised, or even mildly questioned. This isn’t Clarke’s team. This isn’t even Clarke’s organisation. I think Dean Wilson probably summed it up best:

But along the way he has ruled the game as if it were one of his personal businesses and he is a ruthless businessman.

His success in that part of his life has largely come about by doing what he thinks is best. By calling the shots, making the decisions and swatting away anyone who gets in his way. It works in business and for a time it worked in cricket, but the England cricket team and the ECB does not belong to him, and he doesn’t always make the right call, just ask Allen Stanford.

When it comes to sport and to cricket, you can’t just tell people what they want and what they are supposed to like. You can’t tell them that because you like one person over another, they must feel the same way.

You can’t endorse an England captain because he comes from the right sort of family.

That sort of outlook is what makes our great game exclusive when it should be inclusive. It is what shuts people out and makes them angry, so when you next ask them to dip into their pockets and buy a ticket to your show, they will turn their backs and look elsewhere.

I was beginning to worry about Dean, but this hits a nail on the head more than many of his other colleagues have. Instead of making it about KP, which is a major point, yes, but only one, he captures the essence of why I despise Clarke. The arrogance which comes from some sort of superiority that only a weapons grade pig can pull off. Every interview, every appearance and every word I heard from this individual brought one word to mind. No, not that one. The word is “unpleasant”.

Now many may laugh that a blog (and blogger) described as unpleasant by more than one member of the media should get on his high horse. But just like Newman, if you meet me, I’m really, most of the time, pretty nice. I like people who like me, and want people to. Clarke’s one of those I don’t get. He seems to get off on being loathed. Why the ECB couldn’t tell him to shove off, because all words seemed to indicate he was going to lose an election, I won’t know. While they made that decision, there will always be a stain.

I’d also like to approach one other point this evening, and it is the sudden reduction in the role and scope of Paul Downton’s role over night. To this, I’ll pick up on Jonathan Agnew’s piece on the BBC:

Downton had a difficult time of it. He was briefed that his first job must be to get rid of Pietersen. He took responsibility for that, but it was not 100% his call – it was a broader decision.

So perhaps he was an easy person to target with regards to KP. He has taken a lot of flak for that. And likewise he was not directly hands-on with the England team.

You have to question how much responsibility he actually had on England team matters.

Downton is moved from the key man in matters of England international cricket, to a sock puppet who danced to his master’s tune. So it wasn’t his decision to sack KP, but someone else. That someone else is either Andy Flower or Giles Clarke (OK, it could have been David Collier, but he was so far off the radar, he was in deep space). Both pose crucial questions to the future of English cricket. If it was the former, it appears as though we threw a drowning man, one who had been in charge of a team that imploded on the spot, a life raft. KP’s description in his “nasty” book of a man adept at managing upstairs seems appropriate. I am not an anti-Flower blogger. At this time I’m converting a lot of my Ashes DVDs from 2010/11 and enjoy the way we dismantled that team. We were a really decent team. But he’d lost it. That was clear. If it was Clarke, then we were sold the mightiest of pups by our friends rushing out of the door that spring day when Moores was appointed, to crown Downton with aplomb. Both the people who pulled the puppet strings are still employed at the ECB. That’s not symbolic, that’s insulting.

He was an easy target, Jonathan, because he made himself the target. He hid. Pure and simple, after the announcement. Not a peep in a live setting for a couple of months. I knew, as much as I could, then we had a problem. We call it, in our game, red flags. This was so red, it had a Liverpool season ticket. Read the stuff on the other blog. You’ll see what I meant from those early posts. The hilarity when Downton actually spoke for the first time, on a Waitrose ad. The difficult winter and all that….

I don’t want to pick on Aggers, but I’ve seen this theme more and more today. Except for one glorious exception which had me rolling about with laughter.


After the Ashes whitewash, Kevin Pietersen and head coach Andy Flower are sacked. After days of silence, the official line on Pietersen’s dismissal is that the ECB wanted to ‘create a culture’ in which captain Alastair Cook had ‘the full support of all players’.

From one he was a puppet master, from another he was upholding Flower’s contention that he sack KP. From this article, he actually sacked Andy Flower. He didn’t. He resigned. That author should know the difference between a sacking (KP) and something not quite the same (Flower – resigned, and moved to a job he courted). I don’t think disingenuous quite covers it.
I’ve gone over a 1000 words, and it is late. More reaction including a look at two of our favourite journo’s work (Brenkers and Selfey) to follow. Good night, and thanks for the support.


So. Where were you when you heard the news? Me? I was outside the Shakespeare’s Head pub in Holborn and my good friend had shown up. He was on the phone when I saw the first blog message. Incredulity struck, but it was true. I reacted, then felt a little guilt. Should I be cheering a man’s sacking, when it meant bad news for someone else? I then had what little joy I might have had ebb away to anger. Anger that we’d had to put up with someone so out of his depth for so long. Anger that he’d had that attitude throughout of unchallenged intellectual superiority and his boderline patronising nature. Anger that he’d been seen through after five minutes by many on here. Anger that we’d been sold a pup by the ECB hierarchy and more importantly to me, by the print media. The print media which lambasts this site, and people like me for indulging in “guesswork”, of not being close to the team, of not following them around professionally. They took the you-know-what out of us. Damn them. Damn all those who looked down their noses at us. We were right. He was not up to it. We are right about Moores. We are right about Whitaker. Most importantly of all, we are right about Andy Flower. Yet there he resides.

Now what? The news appears to be that Downton is being moved on and his post has been removed from the ECB hierarchy to be replaced with something called the Director of Cricket. Lord alone knows what that means, but people seem to be indicating that Whitaker is for the chop tomorrow and a whole new structure will replace him. Shed no tears either for the speak your Gary Ballance machine if he goes, as he’s been a laff-a-lympics when he’s had to front up to anything resembling a sentient questioner. I’m not that impressed with this from Harrison if truth be told because the structure is being used as a fig leaf for two utter failures.

So what now? Downton gone leaves a huge hole for me to fill, but there’s plenty more where he came from. The replacement list is full of holes, but I think we need to know what the role is before people are put forward. I’ve not had time to read this exercise in shifting sands.

Here’s what I do know. We handed the keys to the kingdom to Paul Downton. His first major move was to speak to Andy Flower. Before we knew it, Flower had gone as coach and been shunted into a role he appeared to be lobbying for. Then he sacked Pietersen and entered into a ridiculous confidentiality clause, which he broke a few months later. He held a press conference where he came across to me as a buffoon, but to some of the agape media as a latter day seer. If the warning signs weren’t flashing then, they had to be after his Agnew interview. But no. After a period in hiding, he re-surfaced in a Sky hack-piece, and was then hidden under the stairs. We then had to endure his backing of a lame duck captain, especially in the ODI game, and his disastrous intervention in the ODI series in Sri Lanka was the crowning glory. Or so we thought. Because then came his post-World Cup media blitz, which was staggering. By then, most of the media had seen the light. I say most.

Because some still don’t. We know their names, we know why they don’t. Their enemy’s enemy has always been their friend. Pietersen was banished by this man. For many this seems enough. They get to keep stirring the pot, getting the clicks on their website, yet still get to be the offended patron at KP’s misdemeanours. If any of them actually think a man who didn’t have a clue what social media was when he took on the job (his words) is still a fit and proper man to be in charge of our team, well….

I hope Harrison undertakes a review of ALL his key decisions. The appointment of Moores actually being more of a priority than Pietersen. The maintenance of a role for Flower arguably being more than that. To sack a man after a year indicates you have no confidence in him at all. So look at his key decisions and act on them.

In tabloid style let me go through some of Downton’s best moments:

  • Sacking KP. Oh yes. For reasons unclear, but something to do with being disconnected. You make a big decision like that, you need to explain yourself. Constantly avoiding the question makes you look a fool.
  • Outside cricket. Given he used that phrase in a 1985 Q&A for Cricketer’s Who’s Who, it seemed to be something he would have said. Way to get a meme started.
  • Difficult Winter – Oh yes. Losing 12 out of 13 to your main foe is just “difficult”
  • The press conference – Alastair Cook being told that he wasn’t strong enough to captain KP seemed rather amusing. Of course that was our spin. Other saw aplomb.
  • The interview – SO good I got multiple posts out of it. Where do you start? Read this. The read this. Then read this. And then there is this. Once you’ve done that, read my conclusion.
  • Who can forget his interview round in Sri Lanka. Backing the captain, then presiding over his sacking a few days later, all the while refusing to answer any questions on KP. Good lord.
  • Then there was the side to be reckoned with going into the World Cup. That went well.
  • Then the media blitz post elimination which struck all the wrong notes, had him wondering how T20 cricket had impacted, and played “it weren’t my fault” cards all over the place.

There’s enough for this evening. No background research, no looking at other things, just an instant reaction. Have your say, read Maxie over at TFT, read the papers/online news columns, and we’ll reconvene.

Speak tomorrow.


So many of you have picked up on the George Dobell / David Hopps piece on cricinfo. Paul Downton’s future appears in the balance. There are rumblings afoot. It comes as little surprise to me that if this meeting was meant to be held in secrecy that information has come out in advance. As it’s George we’ll call it good journalism.

I’m not going to be dancing any jigs, whooping that I told you so, or any of that. This catastrophe could have been written last year. The warning signs were going off all over the place. When, as an administrator, you are the story, and if you don’t have a “terrific year”, you are going to be in trouble. The ECB made their stance clear about this World Cup. It would present us with a great chance to do well, and from a long way out the decks were cleared. It was a disaster. Much was not in our gift, but a hell of a lot was.

This is a sad time for English cricket. It’s not the time for joy or crowing. It’s the bloody time to unite behind a team we can believe in, and with no petty administrative spats. I’ll only believe this is for real when Andy Flower’s shadow isn’t cast over the proceedings. We do have a lot to thank him for, but just like the presence of Ferguson loomed over Moyes, it isn’t doing anyone any good him remaining on site.

Pietersen has been the symptom, and now, finally, we might be coming to a more realistic diagnosis. We may have a very interesting time to watch this play out, but things look to be moving. Given this is the ECB, don’t expect them to do the expected.


Although I am not, and never have been, a Chelsea fan, I thought I’d use one of their buzzwords for the title of this post in honour of another edifice with a reputation based on perception rather than reality. Much like the Premier League’s vainglorious battle cry that it is “the best league in the world”, the machinations and spinning of England’s cricket team approach to tournaments and series as being the most advanced, the most professional and the most thorough is becoming as laughable a mantra. Work hard and the results will come. Everything comes through hard work. Perspiration rather than inspiration.

It seems, from the tone of some (not all) of the articles that I have read, and I have most certainly not read them all, is that although this is a calamitous World Cup, and another opportunity gone begging, (a) it doesn’t matter; and (b) if we win the Ashes, who gives a stuff. This sort of attitude drives me round the bend. It is not, and it has never been a quid pro quo. Let me take you back to the year 1987. Australia had been on the end of some chastening test losses, including losing at home to New Zealand and a beating in the Ashes both home and away. Lore is that Border got sick of it, and turned it around by being nasty. I contend that winning the 1987 World Cup was the real start. They stuck with players that had disappointed, believing in their talent (Steve Waugh, David Boon) and started to build on that. What they needed was a boost, and winning the World Cup was it. They did not look back.  They came over in 1989 and thrashed us to pieces – without rain helping us in tests 3 and 6, it would have been 6-0 – and our complacency was matched by our Dexterian stupidity. Australia have never thought in terms of either/or, yet we sit here watching people say that only the one thing matters to us. Who the hell do we think we are?

Mike Selvey’s article posted last night, and which was summed up beautifully by SimonH as a “continental-sized piece of dung” is an example of our condescension to ODI cricket in particular, and to fans as well as it insults our intelligence. It talks about how fate was cruel to England in terms of the run-out. If Jordan had stayed, if he’d seen us home with the impressive Woakes, and if we’d beaten Afghanistan (notice how this was just assumed) and we got to the Quarter-Finals then anything could happen is not clever. It really, really isn’t. A lot of money goes into the game through Sky and our ticket fees. This, in turn, is used to set up all sorts of facilities and amenities to the top level that their predecessors could only dream of. Increasingly, I’m seeing more of this “if only….then this” philosophy permeating English cricket. I see it in the thoughts around the Ashes. If only Australia’s aged players break down like ours did last time around, then we have a brilliant opportunity. Seriously, is there anyone out there who thinks Australia aren’t going to beat us handily. Since 2013-14, we lost a test series at home to Sri Lanka, and yes, beat India, who we all blithely assume checked out once the going got tough in Southampton. Australia lost in UAE, yes, but they won in South Africa. They then comfortably saw aside India who had Kohli in form. There’s this assumption that this 3-1 win against India is some sort of indication that the test team is flying. It isn’t. It hasn’t faced high pace yet. That elephant in the room is never really mentioned.

I can’t make people care about ODI cricket, but I’ll bet these players really care. If anything they may care too much. I don’t know, but the fact that this winter was all ODI cricket and the only focus was the World Cup may have hindered our chances. The format of the game we are least worst at is test cricket, and a good number of the ODI squad play for our test team. Perhaps there was an opportunity to have a quick two test series against Bangladesh, or maybe stick a test in somewhere against Sri Lanka, but we chose not to. We were the only full test nation, I think, to take this clear the decks approach. Every media man or woman thought this was a good idea. Hindsight will probably show that instead of formulating a team ethic, a viable game plan and a familiarity with the game, it entrenched a cosy squad with little to be cosy about, downloaded and installed a flawed game plan which seemed to actively discourage innovation and flexibility until specific moments, and our familarity turned into a inability to adapt. Nothing screamed that more to me when that waste of vocal chords, Paul Downton, cited as an element of progress that we’d “made 300 a couple of times”.

The writings of George Dobell throughout this debacle have been interesting as they strike a different tone. There is always a suggestion, a comment, a positive proposal gained through his love and interest in county cricket and his observing the game. We don’t see this anywhere else. Mark is always on here going on about the cosy cabal between the ECB and the press, and these stories about Downton speaking to various members of them to get back in line and back the boys is worryingly backing up our Mark! The theme of this blog, and it’s angry fore-runner (HDWLIA is still available from the links on the right) has been to hold those in authority to account. It is also to hold those who report on it to similar account. That sounds pompous, but it isn’t.

I’m also not fooled by this turning on Moores by certain elements of the press. These are not new men, persuaded by the evidence just presented to them. They are following not leading opinion. Downton was toast ages ago in the eyes of many. I was getting messages from people who had that view privately but were not expressing it in public. To many the machinations and deliberations in the corridors of power are an arcane irrelevance to the public, those “outside cricket”. But they aren’t in this modern age of social media and blogging. Everything is under scrutiny. The one thing an individual with the hide of a rhino like Giles Clarke brings is the convenient pantomime villain, who shrugs off this stuff like it is normal to him, and doesn’t care a jot. So the media push and prod him, but the executors of his plans stay under the radar. This blogger was at Downton from Day 1. Yes, because he fired KP, but more because he hadn’t the balls to come out, in public, and say why while I was being told how damn great he was by members of the media. I noted the other day Selfey said he wasn’t part of the plan to bring Downton in, but he certainly wasn’t missing an opportunity to big him up when he was appointed.

This carefree attitude to ODI cricket, to those inside the halls of power and towards the people who pay for it has shown in the spin after the event. The players must be sick as dogs, but all I hear is how nice they are, how they are a group of men who you can’t help to pull for. Lovely. We have nice losers. Nothing sums our country up more than that when it comes to sport. Don’t be a single-minded winner, an obsessive, a freak, a natural talent, a boat-rocker, because we find those uncomfortable in sport. Funny how those are always the ones in business though…. If only we turned the tables.

Carefree about ODIs once we’ve lost, carefree about people in power, carefree about our attention span. The selectivity is what grates.

Just another moan on my day off. What’s new….


I am currently in a bit of turmoil. Personal reasons to some degree, also been told I’m moving positions in my work life to a newly created post which I want no part of but have no choice, it seems. So unhappiness is not uncommon in those that have followed my path, and nor are the ups and downs of moods. So it is with this in mind that, other than my rant at Downton the other day, I’ve taken a back seat to watch all those follow the words I said at the start of this wonderful adventure car-crash and that resonated with so many of you.

Downton with aplomb - brenkley

However, let’s do what I used to do, and fisk some load of old twaddle. I’ve selected Brenkley. That should come as no surprise. I don’t know who has been saying he’s seeing the other side because this load of old establishment shite isn’t giving the game away.

England refused yesterday to buckle to the demands of the mob. In many ways, it was an admirable stance, which did not exactly ignore the  evidence but tried to lend it balance and perspective.

We’re off to a flyer. Those that have pointed out the failings at the start of this gruesome twosome are “a mob”. Nice one. And by ignoring those who are being proved right every day this is “admirable”, and by doing so they are showing “balance” and perspective”. Taking the opposite view those of us who have pointed out the failings are contemptible, we are unbalanced and lacking in perspective. Good start. I’m looking forward to the rest of this…. (unless Brenkley is taking the piss, and frankly, if this is satire, it’s good, because I’m not getting it)

In short, it seems that as nobody expected much from the World Cup campaign and despite the fact that it has gone much worse than anybody could possibly have imagined in their most horrific nightmare, everybody can carry on regardless.  No one will be sacked, or asked to resign or pushed conveniently aside.

Downton thought we’d be a bit of a force to be reckoned with, didn’t he? You giving him a free pass? So this it what it comes to. Go in with a defeatist attitude, lose, and it’s all OK. Those who put the structures in place, those who cleared the decks, those who focused on ODI cricket and those who planned our campaign should stay. Because we’ve always been crap. That’s the attitude that gets you to the top of the pile. I do hope Brenkley is taking the michael here.

Because if he is, I’m missing the gag.

A review is being launched….

Do stop it Aggers.

as soon as England return home next week after completing their programme with a fixture against Afghanistan on Friday. But it is seeking reasons for the failure so they will not be repeated – a mantra heard often before – not heads that should roll.

Those reasons will not be the MD who set this course, or the greatest coach of his generation. I see 1999 referred to a lot as our worst ever performance. Let’s remember we beat Sri Lanka and Zimbabwe in that competition and finished 4th in the group thanks to a bit of a freak result in the South Africa v Zimbabwe game. Here we are 5th in the group. This is the worst ever. Seek a reason for the worst ever World Cup performance after the worst ever Ashes performance last year when a review was deemed unneccessary other than to fire one of your marquee players and give the old coach a nice domestic number. I don’t trust these people to review a Janet and John book.

The loss of four matches from five in the tournament, which has led to England’s elimination, is a matter for grave disappointment, but no more.

Who is saying this? Brenkley? Is he mad? Or is he doing this in an ECB voice, because it’s bloody hard to tell at this point…. In a sense he is right, it is sport, and that isn’t life and death. But it’s not an old boys club either, and the rest of the world don’t seem to be so matter-of-fact oh-well about it.

Peter Moores was the right man when he was re-appointed as head coach 10 months ago and he remains the right man now.

I’ll let that statement stand for the ridicule it deserves… I’m sure I heard that about Alastair Cook about a billion and one times.

Whether the public will be appeased by that, or whether they expected precisely this sort of return and will put up with anything, will gradually become clear as the summer unfolds.

Public appeasement? Nice. We want to see the best for our team. Very few people believe that is represented by Moores and Downton. I feel a little for having a pop at Moores, but you know, Bunkers, many of your colleagues in the press box (and Etheridge doesn’t hide his views) are in our camp, not some ECB “don’t give in to the great unwashed” camp. Many think Moores needs to go. It is nice to be joined by them after this time, when we haven’t exactly been proved wrong, have we? You carry on, old fruit….

To rely on survival on the grounds that we don’t give a flying one about ODIs is contemptuous, and seems to indicate this mob that is invoked in the early part doesn’t actually exist. Make your mind up.

It would seem certain that England cannot go on losing after performing so poorly in a tournament for which they specifically prepared over a period of five months.

Because, as the mantra goes, we only give a shit about the Ashes.

Paul Downton, the managing director of England cricket, who calls the shots, was calm and unflustered yesterday when he dealt with a string of questions in a  conference call.

Obsequious. I like that word. Think it applies to both you and Downton. Personally I thought he made himself look even more of an incompetent, out of touch, should never have been appointed imbecile in the interviews I saw, but hey, you make your own mind up.

He was in London, his interrogators were in Sydney. For all we knew he might have been pulling faces into the telephone but much as he might have felt like it, that is not his style.

No. I call it misplaced arrogance. That’s his style. Incompetent buffoonery. More his style. Out of his depth that he’s below fish with lights (thanks Andy), is more his style. You keep kissing his arse.

“I’m not saying everybody’s job is safe and I’m not saying that everybody is going to be sacked,” he said. “It feels as though, from your perspective, there needs to be a scapegoat. There needs to be a target.

Do stop it Aggers.

“All I’m saying is we’re in a position where we’re a transitioning side and that will take time. We have to take the right decisions to ensure we do that as quickly and smoothly as we can. But it’s too early to say yet in terms of any definitives: he’s going or he’s not going.”

Meaningless business-speak, unmeasurable, aspirational cock-waffle. May I also point you to this tweet by your’s truly on Sunday.

I’m actually worried that I can predict this shit. By the way, regretfully, this was not “all I’m saying” from Downton. When he does appear from the cupboard under the stairs, you can’t stop him.

Downton backed Moores continuing in his role. It would be easy to say that he had to do so considering he was instrumental in his reappointment 10 months ago. But there was something oddly reassuring in his comforting words. This was not a man who would be easily swayed from his course, whatever the accusations of misguidedness.

Because nothing screams “fucking incompetence” like bad appointments prolonged, just to prove how god-damn awful they really are. You, Bunkers, might find that “oddly reassuring”. I call it complete insanity. “Hey, I can’t drive an F1 car, and I’ve just totalled it. I tell you watch, let me drive another one…and for kicks, stick a load of people in the way. I’ll be fine…..”

“The first thing to say is that whilst we’re hugely disappointed with our performance let’s put it into context again,” Downton said. “Peter was appointed only 10 months ago and as I said on TV yesterday whoever was appointed to that position was always going to have a bit of a job.

Well, it was 11 months ago, but I’m being picky. Downton’s as good with numbers as he is picking England coaches. I’d have expected a bit more from the “greatest coach of his generation” than this. I mean, really I would. I’m sure a team to be reckoned with was also on your mind as well Paul, but hey, you cherry pick what the hell you want. It’s transition time (as if he and his appointment had absolutely no influence at all…. all those players they “bigged up”, all the illusory “progress”) and that’s the message. Scoundrels.

“We’re in the middle of a very significant rebuilding phase. We offered six new central contracts during the summer. My first job when I came in here was to try to re-establish a Test side which we made progress with in the summer. The next job was to get to the World Cup with as competitive a side as we could. We always knew we were coming from behind, we haven’t won back-to-back one-day internationals for well over a year now. All I will tell you is that there are no quick fixes in this situation. Look through  history, look at any very  successful side which has broken up, how long it takes sometimes to rebuild again.

India recovered in a fortnight. We have more players returning to a World Cup (6) than India (4) and Australia (5). Beware of false prophets spouting codswallop. Also, who has presided over this lamentable ODI run?

“I am very confident that in a year’s time, in two years’ time this group of players will be battle hardened and will be more competitive.”

Jam tomorrow. Blah blah blah…. They may even be a team to really be reckoned with. Did you let him get away with this unmeasurable cock-rot?

Downton is seeking to buy time. The trouble is that sport demands results and this is the sixth World Cup in succession in which England have played badly.

Oh, we are so picky. They set the quarter-final as a low bar target and they couldn’t even meet that. We don’t have a right to demand something better than that? Really? REALLY? We are so damn unreasonable…. It’s such a trouble that we might expect a bit more bang for our buck. Such a nuisance…. After all, who targeted this tournament or are we supposed to forget this?

For this one, they moved Ashes series, to ensure players were not turning up drained after a tough series against Australia, and concentrated solely on one-day cricket for almost six months. The result was still calamity and worse a side that did not lack skill but was intimidated by the event.

Nothing to do with the coach then? The management who prepare them for this?

If Downton is supported by his own bosses at the England and Wales Cricket Board, and all the indications suggest he has their faith that corners will be turned, it would be presumptuous of him to expect two years. That is an eternity in any walk of life and he should know from his former career in the City  that fortunes can be won and lost five times over in that sort of period.

“all the indications suggest he has their faith”. Well, I’d suggest they check faith at the door and check that uncomfortable thing called evidence. Read HDWLIA. There’s plenty there. Listen to Geek and Friends podcasts, read Twitter feeds, read BTL from those not suffering from Stockholm Syndrome. Hell, start reading some of the press, even NEWMAN. They should go now. If they don’t, then they are treating the fans with contempt. Even those that don’t think they are. If I cock up my new role in the first year so badly that we lose tons and tons of money, it wouldn’t be another two years, I’d be gone. This bloke has no track record in cricket management at international level and he’s failed. The coach has a failed track record in international cricket, and he’s failed again. I see one trend. You believe in faith, ECB. I know who is probably right. I have evidence, you have hope. That’s worked for Cook’s ODI form, the KP saga et al…

The Ashes this summer will take on a different hue.  England were a laughing stock in Australia and New Zealand yesterday – and more. In two separate appearances on radio programmes in both countries, trying to offer some excuse for the poor beleaguered Poms, the presenters in both cases called England spineless.

That’s ok. No doubt they are a mob too. Damn colonials. You see, they don’t suffer fools down there. We don’t mind them if they are the right kind of bloke, or the right kind of family, or former cricketers employed by JPM.

Moores wants desperately to prove himself as a capable international coach. He would regret it forever if he left now with not only business unfinished but also because he has never quite yet shown he can cut it internationally as he so patently has at county level.

When I was younger, I was desperate to prove that an overweight, asthmatic, low-income clerical worker could convince Elle MacPherson that I was Mr Right. Sadly, I had to look at her calendar instead. Elle, I have unfinished business, but don’t tell my lovely Missus, eh….

Jesus, this sounds like a love letter. He so wanted to succeed, but leaving this business unfinished would be of regret. This is putrid.

“Clearly he said yesterday that as head coach he feels responsible,” Downton said. “We all feel responsible frankly because we feel we have let the country down and nobody wants to do that.

You don’t feel responsible, Downton. Your entire interview round has been to put forward why you aren’t responsible. This, above all, sickens me. He doesn’t feel as if it is his fault at all. Inexperience, transition, programme not set by him, not aware of T20 impact (I mean, for heaven’s sake, I’d sack him on the spot for that shite) etc. It’s excuses as to why it isn’t “their responsibility”. You let him get away with this.

“As far as his ability is concerned I still feel he is a very high quality coach, so, no nothing has changed since we appointed him 10 months ago. You don’t become a bad coach overnight but the scale of the issues we have got to deal with are significant as everybody has seen.”

It took him his next bit to say he (and Moores) weren’t responsible with these pesky “significant issues”. Many of us believe one of these “significant issues” is your serial incompetence, Downton.

Downton somehow brought to mind the daft wisecrack  in a Carry On film from 50 years ago. “You’ve stood on my Indian dress,” said Barbara Windsor. “Sari,” said Kenneth Williams. “Don’t  mention it.” Everybody’s sari and that makes everything  all right.

No? Me neither…. Tell me I totally missed the point of this article. Tell me I’m wrong. Tell me this is one joke I just didn’t get.

Have a nice evening.



I have just sat through Paul Downton’s appearance on The Verdict.

Now, you know what I think of this clown. Please tell me if I’ve been proved wrong at any step. From the decision, to the outside cricket (which is a phrase he used in his own bio in the Cricketer’s Who’s Who in 1985), to the interview with Jonathan Agnew which blew a coach and horses through the confidentiality agreement, to his silence, to his being buried in the ECB during the summer, to his handling of Alastair Cook both in the summer and then his all-too-late dismissal from the ODI side, to his utterances in the lead up to this competition and then to today. This man is a walking incompetence. If he had one shred of dignity, one shred of personal pride he would resign. His presence is toxic, his pronouncements are teeth-itching and his appearance today, which no doubt will be painted as “bold” in ECB’s Ivory Tower, was as welcome as a jester at a funeral.

But not Downton. The interview wasn’t a mea culpa, it was a shrug of the shoulders. It wasn’t an admission of failings, but a promise of better times. Well, sorry. The Ashes, and a pretty decent England team, were jeopardised and in the case of the latter destroyed for this. The best prepared team (or it was supposd to be) ever had a man complaining that the team they put up to perform was inexperienced (note – England had six players from the 2011 squad – inexperience in World Cups was claimed by one of Moores/Downton – while Australia have five (Warner, Finch, Starc, Maxwell and Faulkner are newbies) and India four). There was focus on things going forward, more jam tomorrow, and what could I have done inheriting an ageing side shrugs. This is beyond the point of rage for me now. It’s coming closer to the point where it’s time to walk away while this buffoon appears unchallenged.

I don’t like doing this. I’d much rather be here today hoping we’d win against Afghanistan and the team might “click”. I make a confession here, in that I feel a bit for Moores, who took on this poison chalice and is now held up as the poster boy for the Flower failings as he does his desperate best not to look out of his depth. He has no credibility really, but he is an honest broker and I don’t like kicking people like him when they are down.

Sure, the players may not be good enough to win, but they are better than this. Much, much better. Downton making excuses for poor performance is a clear attempt to distance himself. There’s a penchant for cheap words, and no buck stopping with him.

There were those who painted this as a dream team. Moores and Downton. Those defenders in high positions need to take a good look at themselves. They need to watch that car crash interview (which I have, and I will burn, and I will keep for posterity) and ask themselves “what did I do?”

Downton must go. Moores probably should. Whittaker should. Saker should. Ramps needs to show some results. Flower must be disconnected asap. A clean house. A vision for the future with hope. Get them to enjoy the sport, not become Waitrose drones.

Repercussions will be long and tough. England need to pick themselves up for 17 test matches in 10 months. They need to do it without Downton. Sadly, he shows no sign of leaving. All you need to know.

Time to scapegoat the man who did the scapegoating.

If you feel up to it, read the Selvey review from WCM last year….

“…it is blindingly obvious that the ECB has found someone with a mass of credentials which could not be matched: successful Test and county cricketer; successful businessman for even longer; lawyer; qualified coach; influential committee man at Middlesex, MCC and ECB; and although not a part of the job description, a thoroughly decent man. There cannot be anyone who has a bad word to say about him.”


“But the ECB has found a man who is just not eminently qualified and intelligent but enthusiastic, determined and discreet. He understands the demands of the game at the highest level and is an excellent empathetic listener who can sift information and make solid judgements.”

There will be more, a lot more…..


Ah, with that off my chest, let us turn to the latest by Dmitri #1 George Dobell:

England have lost 16 of their last 21 ODIs against Full Members. The last four of those have been thrashings. In the last five-and-a-half World Cups they have won five and lost 17 matches against Full Member nations. They have not won an ODI series for a year; when Ashley Giles was coach, Stuart Broad was captain and Michael Lumb made a century on debut. They have dropped several chances in recent games, including Aaron Finch before he had scored in Melbourne and Lahiru Thirimanne on 2 in Wellington. Both went on to make centuries. Sunday’s result was not an aberration.

Root, of course, was in an impossible position.

Joe Root was put up as the interview person for the day or so after the loss to Sri Lanka. Many are questioning why Moores wasn’t fronting up. I made many of those same accusations in Sri Lanka (how he came out when we won a game, then didn’t speak until we’d lost the series) and was told I was being unfair. OK. But come on. Root was emotional after the game. This can’t be right, can it?

The man who, at 24, had just become England’s youngest World Cup centurion deserved a better fate than being wheeled out to explain the team’s latest calamity. The ECB might as well have thrown out a piece of meat.

I concur, George.. now to the pay-off.

But their logic was simple. They no longer trust some of those in management to defuse situations – Paul Downton was originally pencilled in to take this press conference and every time Colin Graves speaks he undermines his executive team – and they hoped that, by producing one of the few men who has performed well in recent days, they might distract attention from the wretched performance of England’s most senior cricketers in the field.

Well I never. That’s just so out of character. A trait we were mentioning, what, a week into his tenure?

That’s “guesswork”.

It was a desperate ploy. The ECB knew full well that a report leading with Joe Root’s century would be like leading a report into the sinking of Titanic by noting that the band played beautifully.

It’s why we like you George. You tell us things we don’t know, and you do it as if you are our eyes and ears.

Ladies and Gentlemen… Mr Mike Walters

Downton has been pottering around in New Zealand scolding accomplished ex-England captains with “agendas” to lay off Moores and get behind the boys, which only goes to prove he hasn’t got a clue.

Win a few cricket matches, and the hounds will be kept on a leash. But don’t expect the travelling media corps to stage a line dance in grass skirts and pom-poms as cheerleaders for garbage, mate.

Read more here….

Sounds just like him, doesn’t it?

But Mike is coming in off the long run…

You cheerfully sacrificed England’s record scorer in all forms of the game, Mr Downton, and you appointed this bloke as coach. The day of reckoning is near when you will have to justify your abject leadership.

To date, your regime has produced a home Test series defeat by Sri Lanka when England should have won 2-0; an atrocious performance at Lord’s against India (when Alastair Cook’s bowlers squandered first use of a pitch greener than a stag night hangover); a fine comeback to win the series 3-1, although the Indians played like a side who couldn’t have cared less at Old Trafford and The Oval; firing your one-day captain days after publicly promising to stand by him; and this nuclear blow-out at the World Cup.

Don’t forget, the England and Wales Cricket Board drove a coach and horses through the fixture schedule, and heaped back-to-back Ashes series on their players, to accommodate six months of build-up to the World Cup in Australia and New Zealand. It’s worked out well, hasn’t it?