Posted by: tootingtrumpet | August 1, 2015

The Ashes Lexicon – England

lexiconIn a return to an old favourite, here is an England Ashes Lexicon for 2015.

Lyth (v.t) – To chase something compulsively even though it is harmful to the person. (We were able to track the accused on security cameras as he lythed after his dealer round the back of the shopping mall).

Cook (v.t) – To do something well, but unconvincingly. (Your daughter has cooked impressive results at A level, but I feel that she’ll need to interview strongly to secure a place at an Oxbridge college).

Bell (v.t) – To do enough to retain a place in a hierarchy. (The drones include bees that travel great distances to discover new sources of nectar, but many simply bell the nearby meadows to satisfy the needs of the Queen and so enjoy the security of the hive).

Root (n) – An visually pleasing, but noisy object. (It’s all well and good riding round Italy on a Root, but a Ducati is just as stylish and speedy and has a better resale value).

Bairstow (v.i) – A lift’s stopping before it reaches the top floor of a building. (To get to the tenth floor roof garden, please walk the last flight of stairs of the fire escape as directed, because the lift bairstows on the 9th floor due to works access requirements).

Stokes (v.t) – To succeed and fail alternately at a task. (Murray must hope that he continues to stokes this match, as he serves to start the fifth set, with 6-0, 0-6, 6-0, 0-6 on the scoreboard).

Buttler (v.t) – To promise more than is delivered. (I prefer not to watch the trailers in the cinema these days – they just buttler too many movies).

Moeen (n) – A rare, beautiful, yet somehow unexplainable object. (We’ll know if this moeen is the biggest archeological find since the Rosetta Stone once we decipher its pictograms).

Broad (v.i) – To make a weak case to an authority. (The cutbacks in Legal Aid have inevitably led to less broading to Employment Appeals Tribunals, which has led to fewer delays in the administration of justice).

Finn (v.t) – To fail to drive a car smoothly when learning how to use the clutch. (On Sunday mornings in many supermarkets carparks, you can see teenagers getting impromptu driving lessons from parents, clumsily finning family hatchbacks backwards and forwards until they eventually smoothly shift from first to second to third).

Anderson (v.i) To make the most of favourable conditions. (With Ed Miliband failing to convince in England and the nationalist vote still angry after the post-referendum promises, in hindsight it was obvious that David Cameron would anderson his way back to Number Ten).

Posted by: tootingtrumpet | July 26, 2015

The Final Over of the Week in County Cricket – 26 July 2015

Obligatory picture of Scarborough looking fantastic of course

Obligatory picture of Scarborough looking fantastic of course

Ball One – Yorkshire’s bowling gives Andrew Gale plenty of options

Yorkshire powered to a 34 points lead at the top of Division One (with a game in hand) after swatting aside Worcestershire by seven wickets at the evocative North Marine Road, Scarborough. Andrew Gale, having had a good look at the pitch while compiling 164, had no hesitation in enforcing the follow-on, his unorthodox selection doubtless playing a part in his considerations. Yorkshire fielded six frontline bowlers, with Adil Rashid and Tim Bresnan considered all-rounders at Six and Seven supporting the returning Liam Plunkett and the regular seamers Steve Patterson, Ryan Sidebottom and Jack Brooks. Not every county will enjoy such depth of resources, but its benefit was clear. Despite Worcestershire batting 76 and 91 overs in their innings, no bowler’s workload was more than Rashid’s 21 in the Pears’ second dig and all six picked up at least a couple of scalps. Not just the right selection for late July, with six matches still to play that workload management may pay dividends come August and September too.

Ball Two – Tom Abell is able to step up when the call comes

Of the three counties struggling to cling on to the Tykes’ coattails (Warwickshire, Durham and Middlesex) the Bears’ win over an ageing Somerset XI, lifted them to second place in what looks increasingly like a squabble for the place money. With Marcus Trescothick’s men sliding into a relegation dogfight, he will be comforted by the performance of his fellow opener, 21 year-old Tom Abell, who carried his bat for 88 in almost four hours of old-fashioned resistance, seemingly untroubled by this year’s excuse for failure of application, scoreboard pressure. The Somerset captain is 40 in the close season and his days (at least as an opener) must be numbered – sooner or later, Abell, a Taunton boy in every sense, will have to take on additional responsibility. Knocks like this one (against the nous of Jeetan Patel, Rikki Clarke, Chris Woakes and Keith Barker) suggest that he has what it takes.

Ball Three – Read writes his own scripts

Just one month ago, Nottinghamshire were rock bottom of the table wondering where their next win was coming from. Enter Peter Moores in a consultancy role and Chris Read back from the physio’s table – now they are 23 points clear of the drop and playing the best cricket outside the three ridings. The influence of the skipper cannot be overstated – arriving at the crease to replace Samit Patel with the score 186-5, Read added 365 in the company of selector-nudging James Taylor (291) to set up an innings win over a demoralised Sussex, now deep in relegation trouble themselves. And there won’t be a Lancashire fan alive who failed to raise a smile reading of Gary Keedy’s five wickets, the 40 year-old summoned from weekend league cricket to turn the ball as he turned back the clock.

Ball Four – Plain sailing for Prince and Petersen at Colwyn Bay

Lancashire didn’t really need to beat third placed Glamorgan at the traditional match venue, the picturesque Colwyn Bay, but they did, smashing 698-5 at more than five an over and then beating the Welsh county and the Welsh weather by an innings and plenty. Some may point to the monumental stand between the two South Africans, Alviro Petersen and Ashwell Prince, a record wrecking 501, and grumble, but Lancashire fans see Prince as very much one of their own, a successor to the likes of Clive Lloyd, Faroukh Engineer and Wasim Akram. Having made his Red Rose debut in 2009, the 38 year-old is in his sixth season at Old Trafford (having missed 2011) averaging over 50 in first class cricket, 37 in List A and 32 in T20 – that’s over an impressive 153 appearances. In an era of contracted guns for hire, Prince’s contribution to Lancashire is both unusual and deeply appreciated.

Ball Five – T20 Blast finishes with a damp squib of a day

In the T20 Blast, the climax to the group stage was largely washed away in an otherwise decent summer. In the North Group, Warwickshire, Worcestershire, Northamptonshire and Lancashire progressed, the latter by run rate (so it does count for something after all). Amongst the bowlers, the outstanding performer was Rikki Clarke, whose bag of tricks brought him a strike rate of 5.19 across 42 overs, outstanding numbers from a cricketer often under-rated in the media, if not on the field. Catching the eye amongst the batsmen, step forward Worcestershire’s journeyman pro Ross Whiteley, whose 27 sixes and just 11 fours marks him as a rare Englishman with the combination of bat speed and power required to clear the boundary consistently when he opens his shoulders. Both Midlands men will be looking to progress to the Finals Day jamboree.

Ball Six – Ravi Bopara still doing a decent job at Essex

In the South Group, Kent, Sussex, Hampshire and Essex go through to the quarter-finals, after Glamorgan lost to Gloucestershire in one of those highly unsatisfactory five overs each way “matches”. Ravi Bopara, perhaps now gone forever from England’s plans, was just about the most valuable bowler in the Group, his skiddy medium pace (still never quite there to hit), bringing him 18 wickets at 15 with an economy rate well below 7. His experience and nous will be valuable in the knockouts to come. James Vince, like the rest of the Hampshire team having a nightmare season in red ball cricket, found salvation in the shortest format, smacking over 500 runs as he led his side to the quarter-finals and a chance to salvage something from a disappointing 2015.

Posted by: tootingtrumpet | July 26, 2015

For Ian Bell – three inspirational innings at number three

Ian Bell’s move from four to three for the Edgbaston Test gives him the opportunity to play a series defining innings, to stamp his mark on the 2015 Ashes the way he did just two years ago. Below I look back on three such innings and that set the bar very high indeed for the Coventry cover driver.

No Holding at Trent Bridge, but no holding back either

No Holding at Trent Bridge, but no holding back either

Viv Richards – 232 First Test England vs West Indies Trent Bridge 1976

We had seen the West Indies new number three before of course, specifically in the World Cup Final of the previous summer where he had distinguished himself not with the bat, but in the field, disposing of opener Alan Turner and both Chappells with an athleticism seldom seen back then (an athleticism fostered under fitness coach, Dennis Waight, that would mark the West Indies as decades ahead of their time). We also knew that he had not capitulated during the subsequent tour Down Under, as Australia wreaked revenge with the pace battery that would inspire Clive Lloyd to stoke his Fire In Babylon strategy with fast men rotating without respite. There may even have been a mention or two of big runs back home in the recent controversial series vs India in which Bishen Bedi had more or less taken his bat home in the face of a relentless bouncer attack. Like most of the West Indian batsmen, he had played a bit of county cricket, but he had only picked up one Man of the Match Award in the one day stuff and averaged around the mid 30s in first class cricket in both his seasons for Somerset.

But there was also “Grovel” to stir into a heady mix.

So we didn’t know much about the gum-chewing, bearded Antiguan under the maroon cap as he walked out, an hour into the morning session, introducing the British public to a ringwalk of an entrance, that of a man who would take no backward step, not now and not ever – a gladiator in the Colosseum.

Five hours later, he walked back to the pavilion, to the applause and can-rattling of the crowd, having compiled an undefeated 143 full of punches through midwicket, cuts sending the ball to the boundary as he fell away just a little to leg, the better to offset the force imparted and drives hit on the up straight or through extra cover, the stroke finished with the bat high above his now imperious head.

There was more to follow on the Friday, as the cameras would focus on Trent Bridge’s Australian style scoreboard to mark his 150, then 200 and on to 232, before he was dismissed with his team 408-3, a huge score in those days.

The match petered out in a draw – with Michael Holding not available, Clive Lloyd held back Andy Roberts and Wayne Daniel in the second innings, the two quicks bowling just 18 of 78 overs, the nuclear button only being pressed at Old Trafford after another draw at Lord’s had shown just how much weaponry the big Guyanese had at his disposal.

And though the most vivid memories of that unforgettable red hot summer will always be Holding and Daniel vs Edrich and Close of an early evening at Manchester and then Holding again, simply powering through England’s batting as Tony Greig crawled back to the sanctuary of The Oval pavilion, it was King Viv at three at Trent Bridge in an otherwise unremarkable match who had set the tone for a series that, on and off the field, would challenge received opinions of how Test cricket could be played and watched. It was never the same again.

Oh well, we're still over 400 in front...

Oh well, we’re still over 400 in front…

Ricky Ponting 142 Second Test Australia vs England 2006-7 Adelaide

Not many England fans expected much at The Gabbatoir, Brisbane’s grim concrete citadel of Australian ruthlessness and, sure enough, they got nothing. England went to Adelaide one down, but, after the extraordinary events of 2005, a drawn series would be enough to retain The Ashes and that would be plenty for me and my fellow all-nighters in cold, dark Blighty.

So, with Paul Collingwood quietening the tedious sledges about his OBE with an epic 206 and KP chipping in with another brilliant 158, the platform was set for England to take the game well beyond Australia’s reach securing a foothold in the series with (at the very least) a draw. Until Andrew Flintoff, going well himself on 36 in company with Ashley Giles, whose fragile confidence was bolstered with every stroke of their 60 runs 14 overs partnership, suddenly chose to declare! Had he not seen (as I had) India overhaul Australia’s first innings 556 to win by four wickets at this very ground just three years earlier? An old-fashioned third morning declaration was all I wanted, guaranteeing that the prediction of the toiling Glenn McGrath (30-5-107-0) could be written off early for the second series running.

Yet, come that third morning, things were looking good, Flintoff’s aggressive captaincy appearing to pay off as handsomely as his aggressive batting and bowling had done a brief 16 months previously. Australia were 78-3, Matthew Hoggard bowling swingers and cutters beautifully, when Ricky Ponting, at that very moment the owner of the third highest batting rating in the history of Test cricket, lifted a long hop in a gentle high parabola out to deep square leg. Even with the camera following the ball, every England fan knew there would be a man underneath and there was, but Ashley Giles never looked like catching it and didn’t. He was never to play a first class, List A or T20 match again.

Ponting, who knew not to look a gift horse in the mouth, took guard again and found a willing accomplice in Mike Hussey, then 13 matches into his remarkable introduction to Test cricket and they took the score to 257 constructing the platform for Michael Clarke and Adam Gilchrist to give Shane Warne something to bowl at – and, boy, did he bowl at it.

Ponting has many higher scores, many more fluent and accomplished innings, many more important knocks, but few more definitive in shaping a series, indeed, shaping a narrative that continued in 2013-14 and is all the talk again now as the 2015 Ashes tilts Australia’s way. The Tasmanian fighter had seized his chance and the ghosts of Adelaide 2006-7 still loom large in English minds today.

We can be heroes, and not just for one day.

We can be heroes, and not just for one day.

VVS Laxman 281 Second Test India vs Australia 2001 Kolkata

Like Ian Bell, VVS Laxman is not a natural number three, but, like Bell, circumstances dictated that he play that role in one of the most celebrated innings of all-time.

The famous numbers bear repeating. Having lost by ten wickets in Mumbai, India were following on, 222 runs back, when Saurav Ganguly sent in the elegant Laxman at first drop reasoning that, as last man out in the shambles of a first innings, he might still have his eye in for the second dig. Ten and a half hours later, including a fourth day comprising 345 runs scored by Laxman and Rahul Dravid, Ganguly’s hunch had paid off more handsomely than he could have imagined.

The tide well and truly turned, Harbhajan Singh took six wickets on the fifth day and then another 15 at Chennai to secure perhaps the most remarkable come-from-behind series wins ever, against one of the greatest Test teams in history. VVS had also secured something almost equally rare – the unequivocal respect of every Australian who had ever lifted a bat in anger.

Though more appreciated for his sublimely old-fashioned strokeplay than the output of Sachin Tendulkar, the grit of Dravid or the combative nature of Ganguly, Laxman averaged a tick under 50 against Australia’s all-conquering early 21st century team, making scores of 200*, 178, 167, 148 and 109 in addition to his monument, four of his six centuries coming on the hard, bouncy tracks Down Under. He was on the winning side nine times in the 29 matches he played against the Aussies, passing 50 a remarkable ten times in his fifteen completed innings in those matches. (India also registered six draws and 14 defeats in 29 matches against Australia for which VVS was selected, a commendable record against so ultra-strong a team).

So when Ian Ball takes guard at his home ground, the Australians buoyed by taking the first England wicket, I hope he’ll be thinking of the opportunity that lies before him, not just to match his own feats in 2013, but also to shape a series to his will as those lionised above did so memorably.

Richard Burton dead, Guardian front page 6 August 1984We took them for granted of course, those sprawling match reports that filled pages in the broadsheets all those years when everyone was happy to wait until the next morning to read about what had happened the previous day.

In the long hot summer of 1984, I was living in South Kensington with all the time in the world before college cranked back into life in October and enough money to indulge simple pleasures. So rising late after watching the Daley, Seb and co at the Los Angeles Olympics deep into the night, I would stroll round to the newsagents at the tube station, hand over, what, 20p or so, and feel the thick weighty (in all senses of the word) Guardian in my hand, the print already leeching its daub on my skin. Opening a packet of croissant purchased at 9.45pm the previous evening (and hence reduced from 60p to 12p), I’d press down the plunger on the filter coffee and sit back for a slow read.

It always annoyed me that, having grown up in a tabloid household, I had to work a few pages in from my customary starting point when reading any newspaper – the back page – but soon enough I’d got the folding right to prop the awkwardly sized, reluctantly flattened paper to display a full report (why were those panels so oddly shaped – as if the layout was done as a daily tribute to Piet Mondrian) and I could whisk myself away to Horsham, Old Trafford or Wantage Road. Reports then were full of phrases like “Slack and Butcher accumulated steadily through the afternoon to post their century stand a quarter of an hour before tea, their hundred raised in just 140 minutes.” One could almost smell the St Emilion gurgling into the glass as the note was scribbled for later typing. Cricket correspondent on a national may well have been a wonderful job, but it was wonderfully done too.

Forward a few years and thud of The Cricketer dropping through the letter box was a monthly thrill, leapfrogging above (wait for it) Private Eye, When Saturday Comes, Procycling, Cycle Sport, The New Yorker, The Atlantic and three or four other magazines I would subscribe to intermittently – they all had to wait their turn. The photos in the opening pages caught the eye, so too the news updates, the major interview, the County news panels, the reports of home Tests and ODIs, but the real pleasures were towards the back – suitably, as pleasures deferred were pleasures savoured all the more.

I loved the reports from overseas Tests, especially any played on the subcontinent, which were invariably peppered with local colour by the local stringers doing a fine, fine job. “Fires were lit on the popular side of the ground to celebrate Miandad’s 150 and it was ten minutes before police, acting, it has to be said, with little restraint, restored order and Reid was able to complete his over”. Sentences like this (if not quite identical) lit up the page, and my imagination.

But my favourite section of Pelham Warner’s grand old publication was a much calmer backwater, tucked away near the classified ads and back page questionnaire. Incredible as it may seem today, as many as a dozen cricket books were reviewed each month in a highly individualistic style (in keeping with the rest of this piece, I shall not name the writer). Histories of Lancashire League clubs, lovingly researched and written, were lovingly reviewed; biographies of long forgotten umpires considered over 500 words or so; an encyclopaedia of cricket-related stamps given another 500 or so words, this time with accompanying illustrations. It was an eccentric selection which surely only cricket could produce – and, though the opinions expressed were seldom aligned to my own, I loved those pages.

To the new media of the new century and a technological advance on staring at Ceefax (and later Cricinfo) waiting to see if Robin Smith would get that century you just knew he deserved. The Over-By-Over coverage at was a joyous re-creation of the kinds of conversation one would revel in at the ground itself. Here were the key developments in the Test (in as close to real time as made no difference) and the conversation that took a love of the game and a keen understanding of its nuances for granted. Layered over that vital information were not references to cake and public schoolboy pranks, but the wit, humour and pop culture I knew, delivered with a winning self-deprecation that took its craft seriously, but its subjects lightly. Between the grind of replying to emails and the drafting of papers for committees, this new form of reading broke up the most tedious workday afternoons with good company – men and women whose company remains delightful and welcome online and in real life to this day.

Much of the subject material of this reading was a chronicle of grim cricket – bore draws and England’s long losing streaks, home and abroad – but the actual cricket didn’t matter. What mattered was the whisking away from one’s narrow world of work, bills, washing up – whatever… to the green expanses with the brown strip in the middle, the white flannels so, so bright under the high midday sun and those consecutive sounds of bat on ball and hand on hand, as a boundary is applauded and the scoreboard rolls round.

To anyone who wrote any of those words I, and thousands like me, are very grateful.


Posted by: tootingtrumpet | July 20, 2015

Wisden – The Lost Obituaries

Ivor Gordons arrives at Lord's to cover the 1967 Test vs India

Ivor Gordons arrives at Lord’s to cover the 1967 Test vs India

CANE, Brian Derek Simon Michael. Played in three successive Eton vs Harrow matches in which he neither batted nor bowled but did drop MJK Smyth at slip during his celebrated 1937 innings of 276 in three hours. A long time stalwart of club cricket in Rutland and staunch Conservative, he was awarded the OBE for services to tea-rotaing in 1982. He spent 30 years as the Headmaster of a minor public school in which his introduction of a more humanitarian approach to corporal punishment, limiting lashes to single figures once bleeding became apparent, was resisted by parents for many years.

GORDONS, Ivor. Cricket correspondent of the Daily Worker from 1967 until 1986, he became a legend of the Press Box at home and overseas without ever filing a match report, since his newspaper believed the sport bourgeois but had agreed a “no redundancies” policy with the NUJ. Gordons’ exploits were notorious and all meant in good fun, though Raymond Illingworth and Graham Gooch may disagree. (It should be noted that Gordons paid for the dry-cleaning and made a small donation to the Hotel Workers Benevolent Fund in both cases).

NOTCHER, Norman. His service as scorer for Much Belching IIs is believed to be a record, after he kept the book every weekend from 1947 until 2013, a unbroken sequence of 1674 matches. Though some claim that he missed a no ball in 1976 when distracted by a microlight aircraft crash landing in the next field, nothing was ever proved, as the Court of Appeal eventually ruled. His wish to be buried under the scorebox was granted after a two year delay due to a faulty planning application.

NTIFADA, Riseup. Played for the “Blacks” in South Africa’s Annual Non Whites Quadrangular Tournament in matches homeland and away against the “Very Blacks”, the “Probably Subcontinentals” and the “Hard To Know, But Definitely Not Us” in matches subsequently awarded first class status. His fast bowling was feared throughout Soweto and his politics was feared throughout Johannesburg. Once dismissed Barry Richards, Clive Rice and Mike Procter in a devastating opening spell, before being arrested at lunch by the South African police and charged with breathing in a restricted area.

SASSOONER-ORLATER, Reginald MC. A useful schoolboy cricketer at Winchester, he was controversially sent home from the front having displayed all the signs of shell-shock after a particularly aggressive sledging in the notorious 1915 “Tommies vs ANZACs” match played at Gallipoli during a break in the action. Sir Winston Churchill recommended him for the Military Cross which many believe diminished the medal. Sasooner-Orlater published a short volume of war poetry in 1920 which was reputed to have sold no copies at all.

SPEKSAVA, Deepak Ravi Singh. Umpired the first two Tests of England’s 1957 tour to India after impressing in the only other first class match in which he stood, Mysore Is vs Mugabata. Has a claim to instituting the referral to the third umpire when he left to field to clarify his understanding of the laws having initially ruled a catch fair when taken one-handed on the bounce at first slip. He later forged a successful career in being the son of a man who forged a successful career.


Posted by: tootingtrumpet | July 19, 2015

The Final Over of the Week in County Cricket – 19 July 2015

Punching his weight with the ball

Punching his weight with the ball

Ball One – James Franklin gets a game on

Middlesex, needing points in a rain-affected game at Northwood, almost squeezed a win after James Franklin declared and challenged Somerset to score 219 in 40 overs. His bowlers fell three wickets short with Marcus Trescothick’s batsmen still 72 off their target (which they had, unsurprisingly, had a real go at before the wickets / runs equation tilted against them). Middlesex’s veteran stand-in skipper knows a bit about rain having played most of his cricket in New Zealand and England, but his willingness to risk defeat for the chance of victory fashioned a fine finish to a match that had lost 144 overs to the weather. More of this stuff please, as the season reaches the point when the cliche “a must-win game” applies to matches at both ends of the table.

Ball Two – Colly’s Durham wobbles again

There was another excellent advert for the four day game at Chester-le-Street where Durham’s chances of closing on Division One leaders Yorkshire soared and sank with each Warwickshire partnership. Chris Rushworth, Graham Onions and John Hastings (as fine a trio of bowlers as one could want for a job like this) had knocked over half Varun Chopra’s men with the target still in three figures, but they met their match in Bears’ trio of all-rounders, Tim Ambrose, Rikki Clarke and Chris Woakes, who all chipped in with useful knocks. It still took a couple of bowlers who bat, wise old Jeetan Patel and young seamer Tom Milnes, to get the 38 required, but they did it, leaving Paul Collingwood contemplating two home defeats in a row and a 25 points gap to Yorkshire.

Ball Three – Surrey’s young charges charge to victory

In Division Two, Surrey consolidated their position in the second promotion slot with what turned into an easy win over Kent. After so many false dawns since the trophy-laden Hollioake reign, Surrey supporters may have genuine cause to hope for a return to the big time in the shape of the young bowlers who took 16 Kent wickets between them: Tom Curran (20); Sam Curran (17); Zafar Ansari (23); and James Burke (24). Add Matthew Dunn (23) to that list and one can surmise that the days of Chris Tremlett, Stuart Meaker, Tom Linley and Jade Dernbach running in at The Oval must be limited.

Ball Four – Essex canter to victory on the back of Ryder’s ten-fer

The rather older men of Essex may still have a say in Surrey’s promotion chances, James Foster’s team putting together a run of three wins in four, the latest over third placed Glamorgan. For that, much of the thanks goes to gnarly old pro (but, incredibly, still only 30) Jesse Ryder who, ever the contrarian, is making a late-career switch from a batsman who bowls to a bowler who bats. The Kiwi’s canny medium pace brought him 10-100 in this match, his 33 wickets this season coming at an average of less than 22, showing that last season’s 44 at 18 was no flash in the pan. There’s plenty of rough with Ryder, but plenty of smooth too, the huge cricketing talent still shining after all those ups and downs.

Ball Five – T20 Blast Group Stage set for thrilling climax

In the T20 Blast, it’s perm any two from three in the North Group as Lancashire, Northants and Nottinghamshire look to join Warwickshire and Worcestershire in the quarter-finals. Things are less clear in the South Group with Sussex, Essex, Hampshire, Gloucestershire, Glamorgan and Surrey jostling to join Kent in the last eight. It’s quite a finish to the group stages but, despite decent crowds when the sun shines, the competition’s presence in mainstream media is minimal. After a largely successful move towards Friday night matches, it’s time for the ECB to look at how its showcase domestic tournament can be make a bigger splash and find at least a corner of the press not crowded out by football transfer “news”.

Ball Six – James Taylor gets it right at the death

Performance of the Week in the Blast goes to James Taylor – who was almost my Villain of the Week. T20 may be derided for its “hit and giggle” simplicity compared to the complexities of Test cricket, but a tight game needs clarity of thought, as the last over of Lancashire’s match against Nottinghamshire showed. Needing seven off four balls, Chris Read went aerial, but could only get it to James Faulkner at deepish mid-off and was caught. Surprisingly, James Taylor had not hurtled down the track to ensure that he crossed to get on strike, so the inexperienced Sam Wood was left with three balls to get the runs required. But when he (predictably) missed with his swing, Lancashire keeper, Alex Davies, was standing back instead of up, so Taylor scrambled the bye to get back on strike. Head now clear, the wee man stroked two boundaries and walked off a hero as Notts got home off the last delivery. As is the case in all cricket, it’s the next ball that counts and Taylor recovered from his error on ball three with three perfect results from balls four, five and six – and bagged the Man of the Match award to prove it.


Posted by: tootingtrumpet | July 13, 2015

The Final Over of the Week in County Cricket – 12 July 2015

Lucky Ryan inherited his father's bowling skills as well as his looks

Lucky Ryan inherited his father’s bowling skills as well as his looks and hair

Ball One – Sidebottom smashes Bears as Yorkshire march on

Yorkshire consolidated their lead at the top of Division One with a comfortable win over Warwickshire. Star of the show for the Tykes was ex-England man, Ryan Sidebottom, 37 now his international days five years in the past, but still a formidable force in the domestic game. The left-armer delivered figures of 31-12-76-11 to give him 21 wickets at 16 in his four Champo matches this season. Of course, he won’t play every week, but, with Yorkshire’s conveyor belt of youngsters feeding county as well as country, he won’t need to. But when he does get the call, the nous built up taking 976 senior wickets is brought to bear and Andrew Gale can look forward with growing confidence to raising the pennant himself this season, after being barred by the ECB from doing so in 2014.

Ball Two – Chris Read rides to the rescue again

A good week for Yorkshire got better when their only rivals with a match, Middlesex, came up against resurgent Nottinghamshire and the Midlands weather, the match petering out into a tame draw. Even then, the Londoners had a sniff of a chance when Notts lost their sixth wicket 145 in arrears with what proved to be another 107 overs left in the match. As so often the case, Chris Read came to his team’s rescue with another ton, ably supported by all-rounder, Brett Hutton, with whom he put on 157 for the so often crucial seventh wicket. Notts are one of six clubs that may go down with Hampshire – who look doomed – so they’ll be hoping their wicketkeeper-batsman-captain-talisman stays fit for the rest of the season.

Ball Three – Worcestershire win basement battle as relegation beckons for Hampshire

Rock bottom Hampshire had a golden opportunity to kickstart their disappointing season away at fellow strugglers Worcestershire, but spent day one watching opposition skipper, Darryl Mitchell, compile a century and day two watching him convert it into a double, as he carried his bat for 206. As has been the case all season, Hampshire could find no partnerships, with 65 the best they could muster, as they slid to a horrible innings defeat, Saeed Ajmal bagging eight victims. Hampshire have no batsman with 200 runs or more averaging 36 this season – and you just won’t win cricket matches with form like that.

Ball Four – Coles on fire as Kent leapfrog Leicestershire

In Division Two, the battle for the wooden spoon may have taken an irreversible step in favour of Kent, as they swapped places with Leicestershire after crushing them by eight wickets. Kent’s hero was big all-rounder Matt Coles, whose match figures of 10-98 were a career-best. Still only 25, he has plenty of time to re-build his stalled career – and, if he looks across the dressing room at 39 year old Darren Stevens, plenty of inspiration too.

Ball Five – Scramble to get out of the group stage intensifies in T20 Blast

Kent will be pleased to be eighth and not ninth in Division Two of the Champo, but they’ll be more pleased to sit in pole position atop the South Group of the T20 Blast, as the league stage reaches its conclusion – it’ll take a freak set of results to deny them progression to the quarter-finals. In the North Group, Warwickshire’s Birmingham’s nine wins have booked a slot in the knockout matches, but all but Derbyshire will fancy their chances of joining them. It may boil down to net run rate – so not so much a case of hit and giggle as hit and calculate.

Ball Six – Azharullah holds his nerve to win the match for Northamptonshire

Performance of the Week in the T20 Blast came at Chesterfield, where Derbyshire needed nine runs off the last over with Tom Poynton and Scott Elstone both set. Northants’ skipper, Alex Wakely, threw the ball to his Pakistan-born bowler Azharullah, a man with plenty of white ball experience and the nerve needed at the death. No wides, no no-balls, two dots, a wicket and just five runs comprised the over and Wakely had his two points. T20 is a batsman’s game, but sometimes bowlers can win a match with the equivalent of a 22 run over. Such was Azharullah’s.

Posted by: tootingtrumpet | July 13, 2015

England vs Australia First Ashes Test – Australia Report Card

Australia's batting on the fourth afternoon

Australia’s batting on the fourth afternoon

Chris Rogers (95, 10) – Upped his boundary count as he notched yet another Test fifty in the first innings, anchoring the Australian reply until his impatience unexpected got the better of him. Looked all at sea in the second dig when Anderson went round the wicket negating the easy leave / tuck off the legs that gets him through the new ball. Like all his batting colleagues, he has some thinking to do before Thursday at Lord’s.

David Warner (17, 52; 2-0-9-0) – Two starts, so he will be angrier than ever to have thrown them away chasing a wide one and missing a straight one. He looks more orthodox at the crease these days, and, denied his slashing cuts by England’s disciplined lines, less likely to change a game in a session. He may need an hour or two on the bowling machine looking for scoring options from a tight, round the wicket line, before taking guard at Lord’s.

Steven Smith (33, 33) – Out twice while set for more of the huge scores that have propelled him to number one in the world batting rankings, Smith can expect more bowling well outside off stump making his working to the legside at best uncomfortable and at worst a liability. After a golden period of form, Cardiff may prove a wake-up call for him to show more patience and reassess his over-enthusiasm to walk towards the ball, rather than letting it come to him

Michael Clarke (38, 4) – Just when he had demonstrated his old athleticism in taking a magnificent diving catch at slip to see off Adam Lyth in England’s second innings, his stiff-backed prod at the ball contributed to his side’s horror Saturday afternoon, one of five wickets surrendered in the session. He was disarmingly honest as ever in the post-match interviews, but he’ll want more application from his batsmen and greater accuracy from his bowlers at Lord’s (and, though he can’t say it just yet, more pace in the pitch).

Adam Voges (31, 1) – After the late but wonderful start to his Test career, the experienced old pro plummeted back to earth with two dismissals at exactly the wrong time for his team. Having looked settled in the first innings, he was out just before the close on Day Two, then, when the collapse was on in the second dig, he touched a regulation delivery through to the keeper. Five is a pivotal slot in the order, especially if Australia continue to play Shane Watson at six, so Voges will be looking to build partnerships as the series progresses.

Shane Watson (30, 19; 8-0-24-0, 5-0-23-0) – Lucky to be selected ahead of the in-form Mitchell Marsh, he did is cause no good at all with two dismissals almost comically predictable, as the front pad lurched towards the ball and the bat followed behind, hopefully. His bowling too, on a pitch made for his wicket-to-wicket mediums, is barely an option these days so do Australia stick or twist with Watson? In the past, the selectors have almost always stuck, but perhaps this may be the time to twist.

Brad Haddin (22, 7; 2ct, 3ct) – His good work on a difficult track for keeping will be lost in the shadow of his one-handed, slightly showy, failed attempt to catch Joe Root on 0, a miss that determined the course of the match and, perhaps, the series. His batting, once so feared, especially by England, looks tired now, his recent run of low scores unsurprising to read. He’ll be 38 in the Autumn and wicket-keeping 100+ overs, then leading the counter-attack with the bat is a physically and mentally demanding gig. Will this be a series too far for the man who pulled off the remarkable feat of following Adam Gilchrist in Ashes Tests with similar results – if rather less grace?

Mitchell Johnson (14, 77; 25-3-111-0, 16-2-69-2) – 22 yards of dry Welsh soil emasculated the fire-breathing dragon of 2013-14, as England were able to treat Johnson as they would any other fast man, rather than as a terror from the Bush. He bowled better than his figures suggest, but with the physical threat diminished, batsmen could get into line and then punish the width that he has, as the old song has it, always offered. Clarke needs his strike bowler striking again and soon.

Mitchell Starc (0, 17; 24.1-4-114-5; 16-4-60-2) – Bowled some jaffas amongst the scattergun spells to show why he is both feared by batsmen around the world, but also pays more than 31 runs for his Test wickets. Showed plenty of heart to keep running in while clearly injured to some extent, and might benefit from a rest this week as Peter Siddle’s nagging line and length may suit the team’s balance better at Lord’s.

Josh Hazelwood (2*, 14; 23-8-83-3, 13-2-49-2) – Lived up to his billing as the next McGrath, Clark iteration, as he hit his lines and lengths and moved the ball just enough to trouble all the batsmen. The tall right-armer took five top order wickets in the match, but was curiously under-bowled by his captain, who seemed to be pining for his champion, the now retired Ryan Harris. If Starc does miss a match or two, Hazlewood can expect more work and England can expect fewer four balls.

Nathan Lyon (6, 0*; 20-4-69-2, 20.1-4-75-4) – A good match for the spinner who got the ball to grip and turn as well and bounce occasionally, picking up five left-handers amongst his six victims. The key to success for Lyon as the series progresses will be his batsmen’s capacity for posting good scores quickly, allowing him to work long spells on the England men without scoreboard pressure tugging at his captain. That’s a comfort his opposite number enjoyed in this match, but it surely won’t stay like that over the whole series.


Posted by: tootingtrumpet | July 12, 2015

England vs Australia First Ashes Test – England Report Card

Some more happy shiny people

Some more happy shiny people

Alastair Cook (20, 12) – He will be disappointed with his returns with the bat – but ecstatically pleased with every other aspect of his game. As captain, everything he touched turned to gold. Hackneyed moves, like giving the spinner an over before an interval, suddenly looked Brearleyesque, as the wicket magically arrived. Funky fields looked like good uses of data, as the ball went where the man stood, not least to himself as he spectacularly juggled a catch from Brad Haddin at silly mid-on (one of three good catches for the skipper in a much improved England fielding performance). All this good news for him should rub off on his batting, which needs to revert to its natural rhythm – not every match has to be won in four days. Still looks a little like a forty-something teacher at the prom, as his young charges delight in the relaxed freedom cultivated by Paul Farbrace and now Trevor Bayliss, but he is growing into the New England – and results like this one help!

Adam Lyth (6, 37) – He is another batsman who may be able to relax a little at Lord’s with England one-up, knowing that if he can block the good balls, he won’t have to wait too long for a four ball. Nathan Lyon’s combination of big turn and bounce is a notch or two above what he will have faced in domestic cricket, so he’ll need to work out a way of leaving as many balls as possible from the off-spinner to turn past his off stump, while keeping out the one that runs on with cut or jumps with overspin.

Gary Ballance (61, 0) – Came to the crease under personal and scoreboard pressure, but was in occupation as the first innings advanced from 7-1 (and 43-3) and on to 196-3, when he lost his wicket, predictably pinned LBW on the crease. He still has a lot of work to do to get his individualistic technique fully working again and he needs to deal with the short ball more securely at Lord’s, which will have a bit more pace in the track than was the case at Cardiff. His ticker though, is not in question, after what was the second most valuable innings of the match.

Ian Bell (1, 60) – In some ways, a similar report at Number Four to that of his colleague at Number Three. Bell was under the same kind of scrutiny as Ballance, needing runs to quell the doubters (never far away over his 100+ Test career). After his first innings failure, he was back at the crease with the scoreboard showing 22-2, with the lead just 144 and stayed until it was 292, giving licence to the late middle order to swing from the hip.

Joe Root (134, 60; 6-1-28-2) – Dropped catches happen to batsmen – it’s what the batsman does after the drop that marks them out as good or great. Having been reprieved by Brad Haddin on 0, the third Yorkshire batsman in England’s top five proceeded to go forward or back as required by length and defend or attack as required by line, as he seized control of the match. That innings had something of Michael Slater’s opening salvo in the 1994-95 Ashes, a knock that was worth so much more than the runs accumulated in the scorebook – so will Root’s 134 prove to carry the same weight? Added a useful 60 in the second dig, picked up a couple of wickets when England need them late on the fourth afternoon and then took the catch that finished the match. As compelling a case for Man of the Match was one could wish to see.

Ben Stokes (52, 42; 14-5-51-1, 8-2-23-1) – Bristled with channeled aggression that was put to good use with bat and ball, he’ll be well advised to hold on to the DVD of this match as I’m sure Australia will be much more “in his face” in the four Tests to come. Came to the crease in almost perfect circumstances in each innings: the platform constructed, but an proper knock needed rather than merely wanted. With Moeen being targeted by the Australian batsmen, his bowling too had the edge of necessity to it and his modest figures do not reflect its worth to the team. He maintains his happy knack of finding the best way to contribute to any match situation in which he finds himself.

Jos Buttler (27, 7; 2ct, 1ct) – A quiet match for one of England’s gamechangers, though he still outplayed his opposite number. With adrenaline coursing through the veins of the other 21 combatants, his calm presence was welcome, even if it led to two tame dismissals. His day in this series will come.

Moeen Ali (77, 15; 15-1-71-2, 16.3-4-59-3) – If last year he was learning to be a frontline spinner, this year he’s learning to bat with the tail – and, as usual, he’s rising to the challenge. His gorgeously stroke-filled first innings took England from the 200s into the 400s and gave plenty of confidence to the men who follow him in the order, particularly his pulling and hooking which (on this pitch) negated the bouncer attack Australia had planned for him. The Aussies went hard at him with the bat too, but, possibly buoyed by the fact that he had 77 of his own runs on the board before he came on for a bowl, he never flinched and counted Warner, Smith, Clarke and Haddin amongst his victims. A fine match for the all-rounder.

Stuart Broad (18, 4; 17-4-60-2; 14-3-39-3) – Unrecognisable from the bowler of a few months ago who delivered medium pace spells in the West Indies, the whole thing looking just too much of an effort for a jaded man. Fast-forward a hundred days or so, and this was Broad at his best, charging into the crease, bowling with rhythm and the accuracy to make the batsman play, as the ball moved just enough from side-to-side and up and down to make lining him up near impossible. He knocked the top off the Australian second innings just as England fans started to consult the history books for highest run chases and even chipped in to a 52 run first innings stand, showing that his valuable batting may just be on the way back.

Mark Wood (7*, 32*; 20-5-66-2, 14-4-53-2) – Played with a smile on his face and seemed to love every minute whether batting, bowling or fielding, Wood looks like a remarkable find by the selectors. His bowling is uncomplicated, holding the seam up, delivering the ball on or about a length with the bouncer and yorker as variations, all from a tight wicket-to-wicket line, offering no freebies. He has enough pace to bother set batsmen and his skiddy trajectory complements Anderson’s classical swing and Broad’s high arm perfectly. His happy knack of belting tired bowlers around the park is a handy asset too.

Jimmy Anderson (1,1; 18.5-6-43-3, 12-3-33-0) – Australians may jib at the description of England’s all-time leading wicket-taker is an all-time great bowler, but his swing and seam in home conditions is always demands respect. He bowled much better than his figures suggest, particularly round the wicket to Australia’s openers in the second innings. If he can make Chris Rogers play at balls we would prefer to leave from that line and induce David Warner to chase fuller balls outside his eyeline, a major Australian threat will be nullified and England’s attack leader will justify that moniker.

Posted by: tootingtrumpet | July 5, 2015

The Final Over of the Week in County Cricket – 5 July 2015

Yorkshire's seamers

Yorkshire’s seamers

Ball One – Yorkshire’s unsung bowling heroes

Yorkshire’s victory over title rivals Durham sent the Tykes 11 points clear at the top of Division One: had the result been reversed exactly, Yorkshire would have trailed Paul Collingwood’s men by 29 – so it was a big win in more ways than one. Ex-England men (for now at least), Jonny Bairstow and Tim Bresnan, even managed to attract the attention of the generalist sports media, so epic was their record obliterating unbroken stand of 366 for the seventh wicket, but such batting feats lead to draws as often as defeats. Not this time. The Yorkshire bowlers (Jack Brooks, Ryan Sidebottom, Steve Patterson, Bresnan and Adil Rashid) got to work and, having seen the follow-on enforced, bowled 156 overs without a break at Durham (eight more than Durham’s exhausted toilers had delivered in Yorkshire’s monument). No surprise then to see coach Jason Gillespie, a bowler himself, ensure that his five man attack shared the overs, and the wickets, pretty evenly, with Brooks the pick of the quintet with six scalps. Even with men on England duty, Yorkshire look very strong from one to eleven – and, as defending champions, they know how to pace their efforts over a season. They’ll take some catching now.

Ball Two – Adams’ batting unit continues grisly form

At Lord’s, Middlesex cruised to a nine wickets win over Hampshire, who remained rock bottom of the table. Jimmy Adams’ team’s highest partnership in the match was just 58, another demonstration of Hampshire’s biggest problem this season. After nine matches (yielding just one win), Hants have put together just three century stands – bizarrely, all for the eighth wicket. Whilst, as Ball One demonstrates, a captain needs bowlers to force wins, as Ball Two shows, he needs batsmen to set them up.

Ball Three – Read books into Nottinghamshire’s middle order after injury spell

Nottinghamshire welcomed the return of captain Chris Read (and heralded the arrival of ex-England coach, Peter Moores) with a much needed win over fellow strugglers Worcestershire. The skipper walked to the crease with half his second innings wickets down and the lead 158 – a position made for the kind of busy, ship-steadying innings his team had missed during his six weeks absence. 44 overs later, he was out for 73, the lead almost 300 and the match tilted, irrevocably, Nottinghamshire’s way. 37 years old next month, Read knows that Notts will be planning for life without him, but for now, they (and we) can relax in the knowledge that one of county cricket’s best servants is fit again and firing.

Ball Four – Whatever the question, Ansari is the answer for Surrey

In Division Two, Surrey lifted themselves 33 points above Glamorgan (albeit having played two more matches) in the race for the second promotion slot with an easy win over a poor Gloucestershire outfit. While 20 year-old Tom Curran caught the eye, hitting the stumps four times in a first innings bowling performance that yielded the remarkable figures of 15 – 7 – 20 – 7, Surrey’s long-suffering followers may have caught a glimpse of yet another new dawn for the Brown Caps in Zafar Ansari’s best bowling figures, his second innings 21.2 – 3 – 30 – 6. Still only 23, Ansari is being asked to drop anchor as an opener in red ball cricket, while batting as a finisher in the white ball game; then, with ball in hand, he’s asked to take wickets in the County Championship and contain in the T20 Blast. Perhaps only of a man who progressed through Surrey’s age group cricket squads as an all-rounder, whilst achieving academic success at school sufficient to take him to Cambridge and also learning to play the piano to a very high standard, could such a various tasks be demanded. Even then, maybe they shouldn’t be.

Ball Five – 17 clubs could still blast their way to the T20 Blast knockout stage

With four or so matches to play in the T20 Blast group stages, only Middlesex (who surrendered the London derby vs Surrey very meekly on Friday) look completely out of contention. In the North Group, Warwickshire (especially with Brendon McCullum on board) look a shoo-in for one of the four places, with neighbours Worcestershire likely to take the second. The other qualifiers look like they’ll come from two of Lancashire, Durham, Northants and Notts (though one should never rule Yorkshire out). In the South Group, all clubs except Middlesex have a shout, with Kent perhaps the favourites to progress, but with all to play for, I won’t be calling it! be prepared for it to go all the way to July 24 before we know the eight quarter-finalists.

Ball Six – Mahmood hits Miles for miles

Performance of the Week in the T20 Blast (well, mine anyway) came at The Oval on Wednesday night when fresh-faced 20 year-old Craig Miles ran in to bowl the last ball of the match to chubby 40 year-old Azhar Mahmood, with a six needed for the win. Incredibly, and apparently following captain Michael Klinger’s orders, Miles did not deliver a widish yorker outside off stump (as I and anyone else who as ever bowled at the death of a match would have done), but served up a short one on Azhar’s body. The Pakistani swung it high and handsomely into the South London night sky, as the full Ramadan moon rose – and I had witnessed my first “six needed and six scored” off the last ball (outside of winter nets anyway).


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