Posted by: tootingtrumpet | June 28, 2015

From the desk of Darren Lehmann?

Cheers Dizzy. I'm glad they didn't give you the job.

Cheers Dizzy. That should be plenty to get Adam and Gary back to Yorkshire for you

Having speculated on what might be sitting on the desk of Trevor Bayliss, what might one find on that of his opposite number – aside from a ashtray of course?

Alastair Cook

Bowl neither short nor wide, making him play with a vertical bat at all times. Expect a game of cricketing chicken outside off stump, but do not blink first – let him chase one on a fifth stump line rather than bowl too straight. Have short leg remind him that this kind of scoring rate got him sacked from the ODI side. Occasionally ask the team’s highest available soprano to sing a phrase from Pie Jesu as a requiem for his captaincy “seeing as it’ll be finished off at The Oval”.

Adam Lyth

Full on fifth maybe even sixth stump with three slips and two gullies. Have the keeper hiss “Hit me” repeatedly like the Danny DeVito character in One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest. Shout, “Just like Dizzy told us he would!” when he gets out.

Gary Ballance

Aim at the off bail or fuller with a 7-2 field early on when he doesn’t like to play shots. Use two gullies to catch the edge if he tries to release pressure with a square drive but still has his weight on the back foot. Shout, “Here comes the pound store KP” when he comes out to bat.

Joe Root

Full, but not too full on a fourth stump line, to make him come forward and slightly reach for the ball. Use Ryan Harris immediately he comes to the crease as the nearest thing to a Glenn McGrath, whose method would have been ideal for Root. Blank him completely at all times on and off the field – eventually he’ll probably try to strike up a conversation with the umpire just so he can hear his own voice.

Ian Bell

Bowl wide to get him used to leaving the ball, then deliver one on off stump to test if he knows where it is. Ask him if he’s enjoying all the public interest in the 2005 series.

Ben Stokes

Bowl full and straight with a long off, cover sweeper, third man and long leg to avoid him scoring the boundaries he craves. The big inside edge on to the pads is always in play, so use a silly point but not too close. Make sure every member of the team knows at least three playground insults from this list and have them whisper them to him at every change of ends – that should be plenty enough to wind him up into a locker punching rage.

Jos Buttler

Bowl a tight line and above all else, do not let him free his arms and start timing the ball on the offside. Ask him why he can’t spell either his first or second name. Tell him to admit it – he’d rather be an Australian wouldn’t he?

Moeen Ali

Just short of a length on a fifth stump line with three slips and a gully to catch the one he chases. Ask him why a specialist batsman is in at Number Eight and whether he finds the adjustment from Division Two to Tests tricky. When he bowls, have the non-striker shout, “Kerrigan Time!” and after the first four, tell him that Broady doesn’t look very happy. After his second over, shout “Broady – get loose. You’re on again this end”.

Stuart Broad

Bounce him and york him with nothing in between. When he’s bowling, ask him what 78mph is in kmh as you want to know exactly what the speedgun is showing. Say that you enjoyed the adverts he did with Hardy’s Wines and had he thought of doing that stuff full-time?

Mark Wood

Cover the off stump and watch for the one that straightens from wide on the crease. Tell him that he sounds like Steve Harmison, but he’s slower and shorter.

Jimmy Anderson

Leave as much as possible of his new ball spell – which could be as many as five balls per over – and seek to attack his second and third spells. Tell him that you agree that the sledging has gone too far, so when he comes out to bat, ask him to get ready for a nasty bruise on the arm.

Posted by: tootingtrumpet | June 28, 2015

The Final Over of the Week in County Cricket – 28 June 2015

The view south from Chester-le-Street as Durham prepare to welcome Yorkshire

The view south from Chester-le-Street as Durham prepare to welcome Yorkshire

Ball One – Gale blows Notts away

With leaders Durham having a week off, defending champions, Yorkshire, had the opportunity to close the gap on the pace-setters and, despite having first choice players away with England, ee bah gum did the Tykes take it. Jason Gillespie’s side plotted their route to maximum points in the 21st century way – Andrew Gale won the toss and let loose his phalanx of pacers who shot out half the Notts side for less than 100. Gale himself and the prolific Jack Leaning then got a partnership going, eventually adding 255, before handing back to the bowling unit who ran through Notts again to win by an innings. It was a hugely impressive three day win for the champions, but they know that this week’s opponents, Durham, won’t fold like a Scarborough deckchair in the showdown at Chester-le-Street

Ball Two – Franklin scores with the bat but not with his tactics

Middlesex missed their chance to close on Yorkshire when they could only draw at home to lowly Worcestershire in a match that the batsman James Franklin may remember more fondly than the skipper James Franklin. At the crease when Middlesex’s fifth wicket fell with just 102 on the board, the New Zealander dug in to be dismissed off the last ball of the first day for a splendid 135. When Tom Fell played a similar innings for the Pears, Middlesex found themselves 76 behind with a day and a half or so to play. Four more hours at the crease for Middlesex’s stand-in skipper secured the five points that comes for a draw, but his attack had only bowled 128 overs in a match affected only a little by weather (Franklin faced 144 overs himself). Sometimes boldness and imagination are required to give bowlers the time to take twenty wickets – sometimes risk too.

Ball Three – Somerset edge towards mid-table as Hants remain pants

Somerset took the traditional route to victory to jump out of the relegation dogfight with a nine wickets win over Hampshire, now barking and snarling in eighth place. Marcus Trescothick won the toss and got his side off to a positive start with a quickfire fifty before watching his top order post 200 for the loss of only one more wicket. Craig Overton then led the seam attack in shooting out Hampshire twice in not much more than four sessions, allowing the ex-England warhorse to enforce the follow-on and cruise to a win late on Day Three. Hampshire have only two Championship centuries in eight matches and only two bowlers (Fidel Edwards, now back playing T20 cricket in the Caribbean, and stalwart all-rounder Gareth Berg) taking wickets at less than 30. Captain, Jimmy Adams, needs players to find form quickly, starting with himself.

Ball Four – Edgy Essex eventually get over the line

Essex’s top eight bristles with talent but there’s a reason why they are mid-table in Division Two – and they were at it again almost throwing away a match in the last 20 having been ahead for more than 230. After James Foster had enforced the follow-on, Essex needed just 114 to close out the victory, but lost the highly rated Nick Browne, Alastair Cook, Ravi Bopara and Ryan ten Doeschate for 26 (and the skipper too with 41 still required and Gloucestershire fans suddenly interested). The reliable Tom Westley and Jesse Ryder (hidden at Number Seven) saw them home to a third win of the season and a platform for a late assault on the second promotion slot.

Ball Five – T20 Blast Group Stage needs simplifying

The T20 Blast continues to gather decent crowds, with Surrey in particular hoping that the midsummer weather holds for its two matches later this week at The Oval. With most fixtures taking place on a Friday evening, marketing the product – yes, I know, urgh – is more straightforward, but another problem has now bubbled to the surface. Can anyone understand the tables? With big variations in the numbers of games played by each club, few fans exactly sure how many matches the league stage of the season comprises and the two groups feeling a bit arbitrary (if convenient for derbies), a narrative (as we enter the tournament’s third month) remains elusive. Might three conferences of six teams and a traditional home and away system work better? Then the top two in each conference progress into the quarter-finals to be joined by the two teams with the best records from those finishing third. Each club would play two fewer matches compared to the current formula, but would that be so bad? Better still, invite Scotland, Ireland and Holland, make three conferences of seven and retain the current guarantee of 14 fixtures!

Ball Six – Turned out all Wright for Sussex

Performance of the Week in the Blast came at Bristol, where Sussex were 27 runs behind Gloucestershire at the 15 overs mark, still needing 82 to win. Cue Luke Wright, then on 44 off 37 having hit just four boundaries, to smile that goofy smile and start smiting. There was even time to push five singles in one of those five overs, but the other four disappeared for 79 runs as Sussex got up with a ball to spare. Wright’s share of the carnage was a De Villiersesque 67 off 19, the opener carrying his bat for 111* in a total of 188-7, the next highest score being 18. A captain’s knock from the Sharks’ skipper.

 

Posted by: tootingtrumpet | June 28, 2015

From the desk of Trevor Bayliss?

file stackTrevor Bayliss knows the Aussies well, so what will he be telling the England boys between the sangrias and the sunbeds in Spain this week? Here are some thoughts of mine.

Chris Rogers

Bowl full on a fourth stump line and block his push drive scoring options for singles with a 7-2 field, a sweeper and Third Man cutting off boundaries if the ring is penetrated. Make him chase a wide one as the scoreboard dries up. Make sure Silly Point offers him his sunglasses on an early play and miss. Ask him if his father knew Captain Cook.

David Warner

Bowl over the wicket, stump to stump and look to get the ball up and under the right armpit. Push the occasional one across him and post a gully, backward point halfway to the fence and a deep fly slip and seek to catch him off his slashing cut. Chat about his last England tour and whether he thinks that his chinning of Joe Root cost his team a crack at winning the Ashes in England for the first time since Aus had a really good opening pair of lefties in Hayden and Langer. Have one of the drinks carriers wear a wig.

Steve Smith

Bowl a fifth, even sixth, stump line and ask him to fetch the ball round his front pad to score on his favoured leg side. Ask him if he thinks his technique works with the ball swinging in England – because nobody else does. Remind him that on the next tour, he’ll be Number Three and captain just like another three time Ashes loser Ricky Ponting.

Michael Clarke

Top of off stump early on to exploit his stiffness in the back. Bowl the odd loopy full toss late in the day just for old times sake. Give him at least one short one per over to make sure he doesn’t get comfortable pushing forward. Ask him if he knows that he’ll be the only Australian to lose four Ashes series in England, but at least only two of them will be as captain.

Shaun Marsh

Ask him if his dad is the only Australian who doesn’t know that he averages less than 36 in Test cricket – and ask him how he stopped him finding out.

Shane Watson

Full and straight with a nice big gap at midwicket to tempt him (not that he needs it). Tell him that you’re looking forward to his really cheap hundred at the Oval with the series gone. Show him a leaflet from company that hires golf buggies as he looks like he needs one when he “runs” in to bowl.

Brad Haddin

Keep feeding his hook until he mistimes one and is caught by Long Leg or Deep Square Leg. Ask him if he’s older than Adam Gilchrist, because he looks about ten years his senior and plays like it too these days. Give him a nice Werther’s Original to keep him going in the field.

Mitchell Johnson

Look to take him into a third spell in the day and then go after the wide ones and the short ones to work on his confidence. Tell him you were surprised to learn that he hadn’t played in 2013 and why was that? Ask him if he’s hurt by all those Barmy Army songs.

Mitchell Starc

Go after the short ones and the wide ones from the start, not allowing him to settle. Ask him when he thinks he’ll get his Test average below 30 – or whether he’s happy to remain a white ball specialist.

Ryan Harris 

Watch the ball, keep him out and look to score off the others. Tell him you’ve got 80 – 100 overs in the sweep for the number he’ll bowl in the series before breaking down and that you’ve already turned down offers to buy your ticket.

Nathan Lyon

Go after him in the first innings to get him rattled by the second. Congratulate him on becoming the leading Australian off spinner of all time – it’s something akin to winning a tallest dwarf competition.

 

 

Posted by: tootingtrumpet | June 21, 2015

The Final Over of the Week in County Cricket – 21 June 2015

Plane awful

Plane awful

Ball One – Local hero delivers right on time

Durham’s sixth win of a remarkable first half of the season means they can put their feet up this week secure in the knowledge that their 29 points cushion will ensure that they start next week’s crunch match against Yorkshire perched on top of Division One. As usual, when skipper Paul Collingwood needed a man to stand up, one did. John Hastings was in the runs again, Chris Rushworth chalked up another fivefer, and Scott Borthwick turned back the clock with a fourth day four wicket haul. But Durham’s top scorer in each innings, with a match aggregate of 196 runs for once out, was Gordon Muchall. He has been in and out of Durham’s first choice XI, but in a small squad with England calling for Ben Stokes and Mark Wood, he’s just the sort of player to come in and do a job. And, in an age of franchise cricket when even journeymen can pick up contracts for some very exotically named teams, it’s pleasing to note that Geordie Muchall’s major teams are listed simply as “Durham”.

Ball Tw0 – Barker bites again

Warwickshire’s innings victory over Worcestershire tucked Varun Chopra’s men into second place with Ian Bell’s welcome hundred deservedly catching the eye. Though, and not for the first time, Warwickshire were grateful for the work churned out by their all-rounders, Rikki Clarke and Keith Barker, both of whom made fifties with the bat and, though Clarke went wicketless, Barker had match figures of 7-91 – few sides keep both of them out for long. Barker’s name is a regular in these columns, but that doesn’t diminish what he offers: a left arm opening bowler with 28 wickets at 27 this season, who also averages 42 with the bat, makes balancing a side very simple. At 28, it’s not too late for the Test call-up (especially as he only started playing first class cricket at 22) but will it ever come? Adam Voges must once have asked himself the same question.

Ball Three – Carter the unstoppable spin machine

Not many matches are won from a position of 257 runs behind with two first innings wickets left, but that’s what Somerset achieved at Taunton against a Nottinghamshire side who have dropped into one of the relegation slots. It’s a debut that teenage off-spinner, Matthew Carter will look back on with bittersweet memories, his ten wickets including a first innings 7-56, the best Championship debut return by a spinner since the War. That augurs well for the long term future of Notts (and, perhaps, England) but the next three months are of more concern to captain Chris Read, who cannot come back from injury soon enough.

Ball Four – Wagg wags Glamorgan tail

In Division Two, Lancashire’s sixth win of the season sent them sixty points clear of third placed Glamorgan in the race for the two promotion slots. The Welshmen are there courtesy of an extraordinary match played at Guildford, an outground that offers batsmen short boundaries and a flat pitch. That is not to diminish the feats of two men who have not enjoyed the smoothest of career progressions, but who reached highs last week. Arun Harinath’s scores for Surrey seconds in June were 7, 28, 0, 11, 2, 2, and 20, but, so stretched were Surrey’s squad after the terrible accident that saw Rory Burns and Moises Henriques hospitalised, that he was called up to the firsts and responded with twin tons, a fine reward for a popular player in an emotional match for everyone connected to Surrey. Glamorgan’s Graham Wagg has always had the talent but it’s never quite come together for him and, at 32, time is running out. But, having posted his third first class century late on Day Two, he came out on Day Three and smashed eight sixes to raise the first Championship double hundred by a number eight since Dominic Cork back in 2000. In ten years time or so, both players will look back on their careers and wonder about what might have been – but both will always have Guildford 2015.

Ball Five – DI Stevens gets on Surrey’s case with a fine all-round display

Thirteen counties still hold legitimate hopes of qualifying for the T20 Blast quarter-finals with only Derbyshire and (curiously) the two well-supported London counties looking too far back. Performance of the Week came from the Englishman fifth on the all-time T20 runs ladder, Darren Stevens, whose 172nd match (more than eight of his opponents could muster combined) saw him smash 90 off 39 balls as Surrey went for a round 100 off the last seven overs. Not finished with bullying the kids, the old bruiser then chipped in with four wickets to show the value of nous in the shortest form of the game. Kent are top of the South Group and Surrey are bottom.

Ball Six – Kent’s shirt is plain awful

Proceeds from sales of Kent Spitfires’ replica shirts include a donation to the Battle of Britain Memorial Trust – but can even that good cause excuse such eye-bleedingly horrendous design? Well, the public have spoken – it’s already sold out. And let’s not even start on the trousers…

 

Posted by: tootingtrumpet | June 14, 2015

The Final Over of the Week in County Cricket – 14 June 2015

Fidel enjoys the sweet smell of victory

Fidel enjoys the sweet smell of victory

Ball One – Four players do the work of 11

The musical chairs at top of Division One continued this week, with Durham finding themselves at the summit when the music stopped, with a handy cushion of 11 points as we head to midsummer. That’s almost entirely thanks to the bowlers who, collectively, had a good match with the ball and with the bat. When Durham were 119-6 in the first innings and again at 101-6 in the second, Somerset must have thought they were in with a shout, but Paul Coughlin (0, 54), John Hastings (28, 79), Chris Rushworth (13, 43) and Graham Onions (1*, 3*) gave themselves something to bowl at and then shared 19 of the 20 wickets between them. All four are exactly the kind of resourceful cricketer any side intending to compete hard in 16 four day matches spread over six months needs – though the quartet will hope to get a bit more help in the future.

Ball Two – Bairstow for Buttler for England?

Yorkshire beat Middlesex at Headingley in a low scoring match that finished with both teams level on points in the table with the Tykes holding a game in hand. 14 wickets fell on the first day, 10 on the second and 12 on the third – so it was the kind of match in which one innings can make all the difference. That knock was played by Jonny Bairstow, whose 125* was 55 runs more than the next best in the match (that from another ex-England man, Nick Compton). Bairstow is averaging over 80 in the County Championship, two tons and three fifties already notched in his three matches to date. With Jos Buttler’s batting for England becoming crucial in all formats, is there a case for his following the likes of Kumar Sangakarra and Alec Stewart, with the masterblaster selected as a specialist batsman? If so, the Yorkshire keeper (if he plays straight and not round his front pad, as he did when last having a taste of the international game) will let nobody down at Number 7, nor with the gloves.

Ball Three – Fidel’s industry means Hampshire can get the cigars out at last

The nine team format in Division One allied to the 16 points for a win does reward attacking cricket / result pitches (delete to taste) and nowhere more so than at Hove, where Sussex (three wins, four defeats, no draws) are enjoying a topsy-turvy season. Hampshire won’t complain though, their first win of 2015 lifting them to mid-table respectability. That result was always likely once Fidel Edwards had shot out four of the home team’s top five at the end of Day Two, Sussex already half way through their second innings on a capricious track. It’s good to see Fidel (33 now), an uncomplicated bowler who simply gets it down to the other end as quickly as possible, back in the county game and doing well. One can’t help but cast a thought towards Jamaica though, where the once mighty West Indies can field just the two quicks against Australia in the Test match.

Ball Four – Smiles under Giles at Old Trafford

Lancashire marched on towards promotion with their fifth win of the season taking them a yawning 60 points clear of third place Glamorgan with two to go up in September. Though there was another handy contribution from World Cup Final Man of the Match, James Faulkner (covering for the absent Peter Siddle, away with Australia but not in their Test team), Zimbabwean quick, Kyle Jarvis, took nine scalps in the match for just 106 runs. Jarvis has 47 wickets at 21 with half the season left to play and the magical 100 wickets mark just about in sight. He, like his fellow players and the often difficult to please membership at Old Trafford, is enjoying life under Ashley Giles.

Ball Five – Vince convinces in well timed chase

We’re roughly at the halfway point of the T20 Blast too with no county completely out of it, the top four in each group progressing to the quarter-finals (though Derbyshire and, perhaps surprisingly, Surrey and Northamptonshire need to get a move on). Performance of the Week goes to Hampshire captain, James Vince, who, on a misty, drizzly night, steered his team to the sanctuary of 187, the 18 overs target achieved with a ball to spare at Canterbury. The skipper’s contribution was a perfectly judged 99* off 57 balls, including five sixes off a flogged Kent attack. With one England ODI cap (in the subsequently abandoned match in Ireland last month), Vince will act as a useful touchstone for England’s brave new world of white ball cricket. When a slot becomes available in the upper order (as the madcap international schedule makes almost inevitable), do the selectors go for an Ian Bell or a Ravi Bopara or do they embrace the future and go with the 24 year-old Vince?

Ball Six – Scheduling is tricky, but cricket has to be smarter

Fitting three domestic competitions into the English summer is tough enough – roll in demands for “appointment events”, an easily followed narrative and at least some time for players to adjust from one format to the next and you have a puzzle that might fox Magnus Carlsen. But it seemed ill-judged to schedule eight T20 matches on Friday night directly against England’s second ODI of a thrilling series (and another three on Sunday against the third ODI) while Saturday featured just the one T20 match. With no domestic football, nor England Euro 2016 qualifier, nor any rugby, nor tennis to distract the casual sports fan, if they did fancy a bit of cricket, there was no match in England to watch. June 13 was unlucky for them.

 

 

Posted by: tootingtrumpet | June 7, 2015

The Final Over of the Week in County Cricket – 7 June 2015

A butler offering his hosts nothing

A butler offering his hosts nothing

Ball One – Does Toby Roland-Jones deserve more attention? In a game affected by weather, Middlesex never really got going in pursuit of 270 to beat Warwickshire at Lord’s. Indeed, when stumps were drawn, the score was 152-5, so perhaps it was the Midlanders who were more likely to go top of the table with last week’s leaders, Durham, having a week off. The stalemate gives me the opportunity to highlight an issue that continues to puzzle me. With England’s schedule particularly punishing for seamers, why is Toby Roland-Jones never mentioned as a man who could do a job? Okay – it’s because he’s labelled as not quick enough, but maybe some bowlers can get wickets without express pace. His career average of 24 at a strike rate of 46 compares favourably with Steven Finn and a batting average of 21 is not too shabby either. The last time I kept seeing figures that suggested a man should be considered for England but was never in the reckoning was eight years ago, when I wrote this about someone people were soon to hear of and haven’t stopped hearing of since – Graeme Swann.

Ball Two – Look it’s Luke! The only positive result in Division One came at Trent Bridge where Nottinghamshire notched their long-delayed first win of the season beating the inconsistent Sussex by 159 runs. 41 years ago an unknown teenage all-rounder was hit by an Andy Roberts bouncer, spat a tooth or two out on to the pitch and got on with winning the match for Somerset – yes, IT Botham always knew how to get noticed. With deeds less heroic, but just maybe as significant, Luke Wood, Nottinghamshire’s teenage all-rounder arrived at the crease with the score 98-7 and scored a round 100 from Number 9. He then got on with the day job, shooting out international cricketers, Mike Yardy and Matt Machan with the new ball, before returning to nail Chris Jordan just when he was starting to motor. In at crisis point again at 108-7, his half-century contributed to a stand of 133 with Samit Patel, as Notts set a stiff target of 310. After an hour’s bowling he had another two wickets and his team were on the way to a comfortable win. It was Wood’s fifth Championship match – and quite a way to get spotted.

Ball Three – Mitchell back in form at the right time Worcestershire will feel a little hard done by running out of time with Hampshire just 64 runs ahead with four wickets in hand at The Rose Bowl. Skipper, Daryl Mitchell, was in fine form this time last year laying the foundations for their promotion, but had not registered a 50 this time round, until he batted over six hours for 142* in this match. Those runs will be needed to give Moeen Ali and Saeed Ajmal something to bowl behind over the next few weeks – weeks crucial to Worcestershire’s survival chances I feel.

Ball Four – Six down, but Glamorgan fight back With the top two (Lancashire and Surrey) playing out a rain-affected draw in which Gareth Batty, perhaps infected by the battle-fever at the sight of the Red Rose, chose to bat into the third day, Glamorgan seized the chance to close on a promotion slot with a win over Northamptonshire. As is so often the case, the turning point came at the fall of the sixth wicket, Glamorgan 150-6 and struggling. Cue a century from Craig Meschede at Number Eight and another 221 runs added to turn the game towards the Welsh county, who were able to enforce the follow-on and cruise to a ten wickets win. As Australia showed again in this week’s Test, batting down the order really matters in 21st century cricket.

Ball Five – Buttler cleans up at Headingley With some sides having played seven fixtures and others three, the T20 Blast tables are still sorting themselves out, with Durham leading the North Group and Kent the South Group. Chris Gayle’s masterblasting average of 328 made a few welcome mainstream sports headlines, but my Performance of the Week goes to Jos Buttler, the England and Lancashire wicketkeeper. In with more than half the overs gone and still over 100 to get, he rode his luck, hit the bad ball to the boundary (and some good ones too) and delivered the win for his team in the cauldron of Headingley, heaving for the Roses Match, if not the Test Match. It was a Bevanesque display of the art of finishing, the calmest head in the ground on the shoulders of the man with the greatest responsibility. Buttler wasn’t the only England man who found the adjustment to white ball cricket not quite as challenging as we are led to believe: Ian Bell made 90 to guide Warwickshire to the win and Moeen Ali’s 90 helped set a winning score for Worcestershire.

Ball Six – Crowd behaviour an issue on Friday nights at The Oval

Dismal scenes at The Oval on Friday night as plastic glasses and bottles were thrown from the OCS Stand at stewards protecting the outfield at the end of the match. It had been loud and very boozy all evening, with the patient and professional stewards booed every time they broke up the tedious, anti-social and dangerous beer snakes. Many of the crowd appeared to be somewhat uninterested in the cricket, but perhaps that’s what’s intended, with the PA encouraging Mexican waves in the middle of a tight run chase and play held up briefly while the words for the karaoke “Delilah” scrolled across the big screen. The cricket was good, with Essex getting up in the last over to beat the home side, but it was overshadowed by people who seemed not to notice the score and, even if they did, may not remember it the next morning. Quite the change from the ECB’s original desire to attract women and children to cricket through the Twenty20 format and the BBL’s family focus.

Posted by: tootingtrumpet | June 3, 2015

England vs New Zealand Series – New Zealand Report Card

BMac disappointed to miss out on First Prize in a Dennis Wilson lookalike competition

BMac disappointed to miss out on First Prize in a Dennis Wilson lookalike competition

Martin Guptill (70, 0, 0, 70) – Not entirely sure where his off stump is located but definitely knows exactly where the middle of his bat can be found. And that’s what he used twice, his careful carnage with Ross Taylor in the second innings at Headingley a brilliantly conceived and executed plan that swung a tight match New Zealand’s way.

Tom Latham (59, 0, 84, 3; 3ct, 2ct) – The quiet man amongst the Kiwi extroverts, he played two well-judged innings that allowed the strokemakers to express themselves at the other end. Answered the call to keep wicket at Lord’s after BJ Watling’s injury and then had to open the second innings too. Not surprisingly, that was too much; not surprisingly, he didn’t complain.

Kane Williamson (132, 27, 0, 6; 0-2, 0-5, 3-15) – New Zealand’s form batsman made a classy hundred at Lord’s that got his team’s nose in front, before three failures showed how the game can bite anyone on the bum. But, as Kiwis over the years have proved, he wasn’t to be denied another day in the sun, his off-breaks snaring Cook, Stokes and Broad as New Zealand charged towards the winning post and the series levelling win.

Ross Taylor (62, 8, 20, 48) – The ex-captain played for his team with a smile never far from his lips, his second innings 48 off 48 at Headingley worth much more than the numbers suggests, as he and Guptill wrested the initiative from the home side. Never looked in perfect nick, but still hits the ball hard on the legside and did his job to perfection.

Brendon McCullum (42, 0, 41, 55) – Is it too soon to talk of “McCullumism”? The will to attack and the big smiles where one has grown used to the big snarls, is a philosophy that is both attractive and successful. It was no surprise to hear English supporters interrupt his post-match interview at Lord’s with applause and few will begrudge this most engaging of men his drawn series. Didn’t get everything right as a captain (too attacking at times) nor as a batsman (ditto), though his 55 in his last innings of the series was exactly what his team needed. English fans will hope to see him again for a last hurrah in the World Cup, but it’s unlikely that he will captain a Test XI again on these shores. Vale Brendon… and thank you.

Corey Anderson (9, 67; 0-14, 0-13) – Met fire with fire when Ben Stokes went short to him, his pull into the Tavern Stand about as big a hit as I’ve seen at Lord’s. His injury allowed Luke Ronchi to come into the side and improve it, but Anderson will be back for the white ball stuff to which his game is more suited.

BJ Watling (61*, 59, 14, 120; 2ct) – Compact, watchful and positive, the wicketkeeper did not keep wicket, but he batted immaculately, his 120 in the second dig at Leeds a master class in how to pace an innings when setting a target. He came in with the lead 141 and left with it on 368 – job most definitely done.

Luke Ronchi (88, 31; 2ct, 2ct) – He must think Test cricket is a breeze. At 34 years of age, he has waited plenty long enough for a chance at the five day stuff and set about it like it was a one-dayer, smashing 88 in Gilchristian style off just 70 balls. Didn’t block many in the second dig either and his keeping was plenty good enough to meet the standard required these days.

Mark Craig (0, 4, 41*, 58*; 1-77, 1-96, 2-48, 3-73) – Looked short of Test class at Lord’s but showed that he was lacking only the rhythm every spinner needs with some lovely bowling at Headingley, usually considered a spinner’s graveyard. How Alastair Cook would have enjoyed calling upon a bowler with Craig’s control – but he couldn’t. Batted well and caught pigeons in the slips with a nonchalance that oozed confidence. A late starter in Test cricket, he looks here to stay.

Tim Southee (11, 20, 1, 40; 1-104, 2-162, 4-84, 1-43) – Straight off the plane from the IPL, he was searching for his line and length at Lord’s and got dragged into a muscle-off with Ben Stokes that the Englishman won. He was much better in Leeds, where his extra accuracy (and better thought-out lengths) did not stop him bowling the occasional jaffa that has always been his hallmark.

Matt Henry (10, 10*, 27, 12*; 4-93, 2-106, 1-92, 1-49) – A decent debut series for the quick who – like so many Kiwi bowlers (and I can go back to Cairns Snr) – enjoys a biff with the bat. He shares the same desire as England’s debut boy, Mark Wood, to bowl fast and hit the deck hard, but he’ll need to develop a game that can allow him to sit in when the going gets tough.

Trent Boult (0, 10, 15, DNB; 4-79, 5-85, 2-98, 2-62) – Consistently magnificent, swinging the ball past the bat at good pace and on challenging lengths, he was the class of the field on either side. Might not have the raw pace of a Mitchell (Johnson or Starc) but has the craft of a Zaheer Khan – and Zak did okay. Could easily have taken a couple more wickets in each innings, but never let his head drop, laughing as yet another play and miss denied him the edge for which he was searching. It’s not always easy to warm to the opposition quicks, but Boult was as much of a delight to watch as he was a menace to play.

Posted by: tootingtrumpet | June 3, 2015

England vs New Zealand Series – England Report Card

Brendon McCullum behind the wheel of the New Zealand batting

Brendon McCullum behind the wheel of the New Zealand batting

Alastair Cook (16, 162, 75, 56) – Back to something near his grinding best, keeping batting simple, waiting for the balls he can hit square of the wicket and only punching down the ground when absolutely sure and absolutely set. A less attacking opposition captain would have bottled him up, denied him obvious run-scoring opportunities and played on his anxiety – but that’s not The McCullum Way. As is the case with all captains, he is limited by the strength of his bowlers, but he surely allowed too many easy singles whenever the Kiwis started to look for the boundaries – too often, he did too little to stop the fours or the ones, as the scoreboard clicked over ever more rapidly.

Adam Lyth (7, 12, 107, 24) – Showed real application on his home ground after his debut double failure, getting a bit of luck, but using it to post a maiden Test century that looked better with every wicket in the subsequent collapses. Has plenty of shots and a willingness to play them – as is the way with Test openers post-Sehwag – but the most important stroke against the new ball remains the leave, something that demands an absolute confidence in knowing the location of one’s off-stump. There were signs that he was getting it right at Headingley but the real examination will come against the McGrath de nos jours, Ryan Harris. Keep his new ball spell out and England will have the successor to Andrew Strauss at long last.

Gary Ballance (1, 0, 29, 6) – He can bat – nobody who has converted 25 of 55 first class fifties into centuries can’t bat – but the trouble with a quirky technique is that small problems become magnified, especially in one’s own mind. Number 3’s just cannot be clean bowled five times in four Test matches and expect to point to their figures and survive indefinitely with the selectors. Needs to go back to first class cricket and line the ball up properly so that his back foot technique looks like an asset again instead of a liability. If he does that, he certainly deserves to hold on to his place for a while yet. Few players come into Test cricket and avoid a crisis: it’s how they react to it that shows if they have what it takes.

Ian Bell (1, 29, 12, 1) – Will the real Ian Bell please stand up? Or is this the real Ian Bell? It’s certainly not the Hammer of the Aussies of just two years ago, a run of poor scores and some very fallible catching setting all the old hares running about soft cricket and cheap hundreds. How can he be such an enigma, 11 years on from his debut and after 22 centuries? He will probably keep his place for The Ashes (while they are live at least) but a middle order of Hales, Root, Buttler, Stokes and Bairstow (wk) begins to look more and more suited to the way cricket is played these days. In the absence of Ceefax, he is well advised to have his Twitter account notifications switched on for the announcement of the squad for the First Test.

Joe Root (98, 84, 1, 0; 0-6, 1-7, 0-23) – He was due a failure and so, like buses, two turned up together at Headingley, but only after a couple of superb knocks at Lord’s that stood between England and a pair of collapses that could have seen the brave new dawn of English cricket fizzle out before the new coach met his team. The vice-captain is only 24, but he’s a big presence in the field and, increasingly off it (though the McGrathian bullishness with the predictions does have to be earned Young Joe). He is the batsman who makes the difference between scores that set up wins and scores that invite defeats – and will remain so until Numbers 3 and 4 deliver. He will, like his near-contemporary, Steven Smith, be permanent captain one day and perhaps that’ll come to him just as soon as it’ll come to his fellow fair-haired batsman too.

Ben Stokes (92, 101, 6, 29; 0-105, 3-38, 1-70, 0-61) – Played a match for the ages at Lord’s, backing up a brilliant first innings with an astonishing second, both played under pressure in critical match situations. Then he castled the Kiwi skipper first ball for good measure! Inevitably, there was a bit of an emotional comedown at Headingley, where he looked a bit of a bunny for the swinging ball and could summon neither the hostility of Lord’s nor much accuracy when curiously given the ball ahead of Anderson when the New Zealand tail needed to be dismissed. Of course, he can’t do miracles all the time, but he’ll need to develop stock bowling and stock batting for days when the magic isn’t quite there. He’s a hero though, so he’ll be cut slack that others won’t enjoy – and rightly so.

Jos Buttler (67, 14, 10, 73; 2ct, 1ct, 2ct, 3ct) – Showed more glimpses of his gigantic talent, the ball simply speeding off his bat with barely any apparent effort at all – the best English timer of a ball since Alec Stewart (maybe even since David Gower). To realise all that potential, he will have to avoid crazy shot selection’s like the one that saw him suckered by Trent Boult off the last ball of the first day at Lord’s and watch the ball more carefully, the better to leave it when swinging and tight to the stumps. His keeping standing back is improving all the time, but there is still work to do standing up where he can appear to be caught by surprise too often for comfort. Is he really a Number 7? Sangakkara and Stewart gave up the gloves to explore their batting potential and he might have to soon too.

Moeen Ali (58, 43, 1, 2; 3-94, 1-35, 0-48, 1-73) – Did a decent job as spinner at Lord’s (and more than a decent job as Number 8), but could offer his captain neither wickets nor control at Headingley as the batsmen stroked and slogged so positively. The on-screen rev counter still goes into the red zone, but the rip that last year produced drift, dip and turn is now only producing spin. With Ben Stokes locking down the Number 6 slot for the foreseeable future, he’ll have to force his way into the top five as a second spinner (and Joe Root is not the worst in that role at the moment) or show he can bowl long spells at under 3 runs per over.  Perhaps the need for a spinner – any spinner – and the lack of credible rivals in county cricket will keep him in the XI, but the long term Test future of this popular and talented cricketer looks a little bleak just now.

Stuart Broad (3, 10, 46, 23; 3-77, 3-50, 5-109, 2-94) – Kept taking wickets, but often seemed down on pace until he caught a break and lifted his game. Not yet 29, but he has the wear and tear of 79 Tests and 175 white ball appearances in his legs and there are times when it shows. At Headingley, with the New Zealanders facing an awkward four overs before lunch and a new ball in hand, he was off target and down at about 80mph – that it was no surprise is what will worry Trevor Bayliss. Still lacking any sound technique with the bat after the grilling from Varon Aaron last summer, he did middle a few making 46 in the first innings of the second Test and showed some discipline in a lost cause on the fifth afternoon, but there’s only so far batting talent can get you when your feet move away from the ball instead of towards it.

Mark Wood (8*, 4*, 19, 17; 3-93, 1-47, 2-62, 3-97) – A breath of fresh air, a natural talent and a man who showed the kind of joy we hope to see in those wearing the Three Lions (but, recently, they so seldom have). The short straight run leads to a big, back-bending shoulder turn at the crease and a naturally tight line that makes the batsman play at balls that may swing and seam just enough and, at close the 90mph, bounce too. The Durham man went for a few, but he made things happen too and no batsman in world cricket will look forward to facing him. Whether his action will need to be compromised to deal with back-to-back Tests remains to be seen, but, for now, he looks likely to play all the Tests his body will allow.

Jimmy Anderson (11, 0, 10*, 8*; 1-88, 1-31, 2-43, 2-96) – The newest member of Test cricket’s 400 Club can look back on a fine career, but, perhaps, not a fine series. His mantle as the most skilful bowler in world cricket was certainly challenged by Trent Boult, who doesn’t have all Jimmy’s variations, but swung the ball more consistently at a generally higher pace. Deserves to be able to bowl some spells at less than full throttle, but the trouble is that his new ball partner is doing the same thing for the same reason. Might need to tighten his line to “off and fourth” from “fourth and fifth” stump and pitch the ball up a little further to present his full wicket-taking threat in The Ashes – and he might go for as many as Mark Wood then. Who said this game was easy though?

Posted by: tootingtrumpet | May 30, 2015

The Final Over of the Week in County Cricket – 31 May 2015

seaside

Seaside cricket

Ball One – Durham’s ex-Test Match men show plenty of fight at domestic level

With leaders Middlesex sitting out last week’s round of fixtures, Durham needed a win to leapfrog the early season pacesetters and, captain to the fore, Paul Collingwood’s men duly delivered. It hadn’t looked promising when Graham Onions walked out at Number 11 to join Scott Borthwick with Durham 220 behind, but the first class game can accommodate more unexpected plot twists than a Roald Dahl tale, and so it turned out. The two local lads may have only 10 Tests between them and are unlikely to add any more, but they are fierce competitors at domestic level, with the medals to prove it and they got Colly and co a foothold in the match with a stand of 95 in two hours. The responsibility then passed to the bowlers and another man just short of international class, Aussie John Hastings, whose muscular seam saw off seven Worcestershire batsmen, leaving Durham the stiff target of 318 to win. Cue Colly, who started his innings on his 39th birthday and finished it a day later within sight of a come-from-behind-win and top notch in Division One – a fine present for the skipper from a team as teak tough old Brigadier Block himself.

Ball Two – Yorkshire’s bowlers need more penetration if they are to defend the pennant

There were a remarkable 13 partnerships between 55 and 129 in the match between Somerset and Yorkshire at, you guessed it, Taunton, where the inevitable draw did neither side any favours. Last year’s champions, Yorkshire, are still unbeaten, but their three stalemates have yielded one fewer point than they would have garnered from two defeats and one victory. Their problem this season is that their main pacers, though still taking wickets, do so at relatively high strike rates: Jack Brooks 50; Steve Patterson 58; and Tim Bresnan 59. Leaders Durham have six seamers striking at below 50: Mark Wood; Paul Collingwood; Chris Rushworth; John Hastings; Graham Onions; and Usman Arshad. That’s 100 wickets in six matches for the table-toppers coming at a rate that creates the time needed to force the win.

Ball Three – Chris Jordan finds that Hove is where the heart is

Match of the Week was a three day thriller on a sporting strip at Hove, the wickets coming in waves at the seaside. After wicketkeeper, Ben Brown, had strode in and played a few shots to get the score from a hopeless 45-5 to a hopeful 153-7, it was left to England reject, Chris Jordan, to marshal the tail to get the 37 runs required with just three wickets in hand. Down to Number 11, Matt Hobden for company (no bunny, but down there for a reason ), Jordan went 4 . . 1 6 from the last five balls he faced to return to the county game in some style.

Ball Four – Lilley in clover as the Red Rose blooms at the top of Division Two

There were more fun and frolics on the coast up north, where Lancashire zoomed off into the distance with their fourth win of their Division Two season at Southport’s lovely Trafalgar Road ground. After Ashwell Prince’s magnificent 230, a 13th Championship century that surely puts the veteran South African up with some of Lancashire’s most celebrated imports of the past, the spinners got to work on a worn wicket. That Simon Kerrigan snared four Derbyshire men for 80 runs was no surprise – he’s been doing that for years now – but Arron Lilley, in just his third outing for the first team, caught the eye with what look like figures from another age: 26.1 – 16 – 23 – 5. He also made 63 in Lancashire’s only innings – so he certainly does like to be beside the seaside.

Ball Five – Gayle breezes in as Northeast blows hot in the suburbs

Standby your Instagram accounts – Chris Gayle is back in town and swinging – to the effect of 92 runs off 59 balls, as Somerset to beat Essex off the last ball at Chelmsford. Gayle is, of course, a global gun for hire and good on Somerset for landing their big fish after a few years of effort. And good on the big Jamaican for opening his stance and showing his class with barely time for a net and a selfie before striding to the wicket. Rather lower in profile is Kent T20 captain, Sam Northeast, whose 96 off 47 balls helped Kent set a target at Beckenham that Surrey never really threatened. Gayle may put more bootys on seats, but will Northeast put more runs on the board? T20, with its balance of showbiz razzamatazz and proper competitive cricket (clubs really, really want to be at Finals Day, the biggest jamboree in domestic cricket), shows that there’s plenty of room for both the flamboyant import and the faithful local.

Ball Six – Sterling effort

Performance of the Week in the Blast goes to Paul Stirling, who smashed 90 off 50 balls at Lord’s on Thursday and then 88 off 47 at Hove on Friday, two wins the reward for Middlesex. The Irish international and white ball specialist is in a bit of nick at the moment, compiling 556 runs over the last 12 days in all cricket. He has never quite made it as a regular for Middlesex and, 25 in September, he should be worried about spending too much time playing Second XI cricket. With his positive attitude, destructive strokeplay and handy off-breaks, he might be just what a Division Two outfit needs as captain for the 2016 season. I’d enjoy seeing this most attractive of players doing more in the English game.

Posted by: tootingtrumpet | May 24, 2015

The Final Over of the Week in County Cricket – 24 May 2015

Alex Blake's handiwork

Alex Blake’s handiwork

Ball One – The draw helps neither Middlesex nor Hampshire

Coupled with Durham’s defeat, Middlesex’s draw at the Rose Bowl was enough to extend their lead at the top of Division One to 13 points after five games. With Hampshire still awaiting their first win of the season (and bottom of the table), it was perhaps surprising that an old-fashioned captains’ deal was not made to put a result in sight (it was eschewed in the Division Two game between Surrey and Northamptonshire too). Hampshire started the fourth day with a lead of 55 and all ten wickets in hand – surely a few lollipops and a bit of smiting would have constructed a target of 275 or so in two sessions and made a match of it? Declaration bowling is said to bring the game into disrepute by some, but I prefer it to standing by while a game fizzles out.

Ball Two – Barker bites Durham again

Durham, not for the first time, ran into an in-form Keith Barker as the Midlanders got home comfortably by eight wickets. Barker made a fine, counter-attacking undefeated century from Number Eight and then took nine wickets in what was, with the follow-on enforced, 43 overs without an opportunity to put his feet up. At 28, Barker has played only 63 First Class matches (having spent his teens trying to make it as a footballer) but he has five centuries and ten fivefers already and has a positive all-rounder’s average: 30 with the bat; 26 with the ball. He’s probably too much of a bits and pieces man to get international recognition (for England or West Indies since he qualifies for both) but that doesn’t stop him being a very useful player at domestic level – much like his team mate Rikki Clarke.

Ball Three – Somerset’s first win of the season takes them from ninth to sixth – thanks to their bowlers

Winning first class cricket matches isn’t easy and the reward should be substantial, a statement that will find some agreement in the West Country as Somerset’s 22 points lifted them from bottom of Division One to mid-table. For that they have much to thank their seamers, who defended a fourth innings target of just 248 as Nottinghamshire failed to get their chase going. And it wasn’t just the wickets that will have Marcus Trescothick buying a jug of cider for his seamers – Somerset were 101-5 in the first innings and 45-5 in the second before the bowlers showed the batsmen how to do it.

Ball Four – Lancashire larrup Leicestershire to lead Division Two

Lancashire swept aside poor Leicestershire to extend their lead in Division Two to 24 points, their yoyoing between divisions looking likely to continue in 2015 if form can be maintained. Steven Croft’s declaration set Mark Cosgrove’s men a target of 323 runs in 59 overs – not exactly sporting, but gettable if a couple of batsmen could get in and get on. But all those matches since their last win can weigh on a team and Leicestershire were blasted out for 78 in little more than half the overs available. They’ll celebrate long and hard at Grace Road when the win eventually does come, but the champagne bottles are getting very dusty now – and might get dustier still unless they catch a break soon.

Ball Five – Coles fires for Kent

A couple of years ago, two talented combative young all-rounders were sent home from an England Lions tour to Australia for, well, doing the kinds of things that young men do when away from home. One, Ben Stokes, spent last week at Lord’s playing for England and being hailed as the Future Of English Cricket; the other, Matt Coles, spent last week at Bristol, playing for his beloved Kent in Division Two. That his bustling pace picked up five scalps as Gloucestershire lost by eight wickets was no surprise, but Coles’ performance with the bat showed what one hopes is a growing maturity. With new ball duties his main responsibility, he could easily have come in at Number Nine with the score 98-7 (trailling by 95) and slogged a few and got out. Instead he made 66 putting on 119 with Calum Haggett which gave his team a foothold in the game that they did not relinquish. I hope Coles raised a glass or two – but not too many – in celebration.

Ball Six – Blake blasts off in Blast

Performance of the Week in the T20 Blast goes to Kent’s white ball specialist Alex Blake. In the Friday night televised match, Sky’s WASP (Win And Score Predictor) showed Kent’s chance of winning to be 4% and, at 70-5 halfway through their overs with still 103 to get, I went with the 96% and gave the game up. Not so Blake, nor his captain Sam Northeast who fashioned an undefeated century stand to see off Hampshire’s bowlers (including three internationals) and take two points back to Canterbury. Blake’s contribution was 71* off 30 balls with 6 sixes and 3 fours. “WASP stung” indeed.

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