Archive for Ashes

Close of Play

Posted in Cricket with tags , , on September 29, 2017 by telescoper

Yesterday saw the end of this year’s County Championship season, which I take to be definition of the official end of summer.  It’s happened very late this year. Is this the latest end to a County Championship season ever?

There is, of course, an inconsequential 50-overs game still going on between England and the West Indies but the proper cricket is over and done with until next spring. Glamorgan won their last game earlier this week against Kent in three days, and finished 7th in the 2nd Division. Some good performances by young players (many of whom came through the Academy) adding a ray of optimism to what has been a fairly disappointing season (though with one highlight in a semi-final spot in the Twenty20 `blast’). Worcestershire finished top of the Second Division and Nottinghamshire were second, so they’ll both be playing in Division 1 next season. Essex won the County Champions in great style, unbeaten for the whole season.  The main drama on the final day involved who got relegated along with Warwickshire (the latter having been adrift at the bottom of the Table for some time).  Going into the last round of matches, Somerset looked the most likely to go down but they beat fellow strugglers Middlesex. Hampshire clung on for a draw against Warwickshire, giving them the points they needed to overtake Middlesex who will play in Division 2 next season.

Other big news yesterday was the selection of the England squad to tour Australia and play for the Ashes this Winter: Joe Root (capt, Yorkshire), Moeen Ali (Worcestershire), James Anderson (Lancashire), Jonny Bairstow (wk, Yorkshire), Jake Ball (Nottinghamshire), Gary Ballance (Yorkshire), Stuart Broad (Nottinghamshire), Alastair Cook (Essex), Mason Crane (Hampshire), Ben Foakes (wk, Surrey), Dawid Malan (Middlesex), Craig Overton (Somerset), Ben Stokes (Durham), Mark Stoneman (Surrey), James Vince (Hampshire), Chris Woakes (Warwickshire). I’m not particularly impressed with some of the choices (especially Ballance and Vince), and it looks likely that Stokes won’t be available owing to his recent fracas outside a nightclub, but we’ll see.

Anyway, yesterday was also National Poetry Day so it seems apt to mark the end of the County Championship with one of the classic cricket poems, Close of Play  by Thomas Moult.

How shall we live, now that the summer’s ended,
And bat and ball (too soon!) are put aside,
And all our cricket deeds and dreams have blended —
The hit for six, the champion bowled for none,
The match we planned to win and never won? …
Only in Green-winged memory they abide.

How shall we live, who love our loveliest game
With such bright ardour that when stumps are drawn
We talk into the twilight, always the same
Old talk with laughter round off each tale —
Laughter of friends across a pint of ale
In the blue shade of the pavilion.

For the last time a batsman is out, the day
Like the drained glass and the dear sundown field
is empty; what instead of Summer’s play
Can occupy these darkling months ere spring
Hails willows once again the crowned king?
How shall we live so life may not be chilled?

Well, what’s a crimson hearth for, and the lamp
Of winter nights, and these plump yellow books
That cherish Wisden’s soul and bear his stamp —
And bat and ball (too soon!) are put aside,
Time’s ever changing, unalterable score-board,
Thick-clustered with a thousand names adored:
Half the game’s magic in their very looks!

And when we’ve learnt those almanacs by heart,
And shared with Nyren … Cardus ….the distant thrill
That cannot fade since they have had their part,
We’ll trudge wet streets through fog and mire
And praise our heroes by the club-room fire:
O do not doubt the game will hold us still!



The Ashes Regained!

Posted in Cricket, Poetry with tags , , , on August 8, 2015 by telescoper

Well, there you have it. England’s cricketers have won the Fourth Test of the Ashes series at Trent Bridge (in the Midlands) by an innings and 78 runs, to take an unassailable 3-1 lead with one game to play. When I settled down to watch the opening overs of the opening match in Cardiff I really did not think England had any chance of winning the series, and even after England won in Cardiff I felt that the Australians would come back strongly. That horrible defeat at Lord’s in the Second Test confirmed that opinion, but emphatic victories in the Third and Fourth Test have proved me wrong. The amazing first day at Trent Bridge, during which Australia were all out for a meagre total of 60 with Broad taking 8-15,  made an England victory and the Ashes virtually certain. It all just proves how little I know about cricket.

At one point it looked like the game would be wrapped up yesterday, inside two days, but Adam Voges and the remaining Australian tailenders clung on doggedly in the fading light of yesterday evening to end the day on 241-7 in response to England’s first innings total of 391-9 declared. The main question this morning was whether they could accumulate the 90 runs needed to make England bat again.

As it happened, neither Starc nor Hazlewood nor Lyon could cope with the swing of Wood and Stokes. Hazlewood in particular led a charmed life for 10 deliveries, during which he never really looked like putting bat to ball, before finally losing his middle stump to Wood. Moments later, Lyon fell in the same manner. In some ways it’s cruel sport when bowlers have to bat in a futile attempt to save a game that’s lost, but the end was mercifully swift.

Nevill battled well to end on 51 not out, but he might have tried a bit harder to protect his tailenders. No doubt he was hoping a not out score would improve his chances of continued selection.

Commiserations to Australian cricket fans. Their team just wasn’t as good as England, with bat or ball. They have a lot of rebuilding to do, and I think it won’t just be the Captain Michael Clarke who won’t be playing another Ashes series, but you can be sure they’ll be back challenging for the Ashes again before long.

And as for England, there are some interesting questions about the next Test at the Oval. Will Jimmy Anderson return, or should England rest him even if he is fit? Does Adam Lyth get another chance to establish hismelf with the pressure off, or do England try to blood another opener? And although Moeen Ali  is an excellent find as a batting all-rounder, he’s not the kind of bowler that’s likely to bowl a team out at Test level. Can we find a world-class spinner to balance the attack? Answers on a postcard, please.

It’s been an extraordinary series so far, consisting of four relatively one-sided matches (three to England and one to Australia). A far cry from the brilliant Ashes series of 2005 which had so many close games, so I guess it’s not been such a great series for the neutral. But then I’m not neutral, so I don’t mind at all..

The England Cricket Team – An Apology

Posted in Cricket with tags , on July 21, 2015 by telescoper

Some days ago I wrote a post on this blog about the 1st Ashes Test between England and Australia at Cardiff which resulted in an England victory. In that piece I celebrated the team spirit of England’s cricketers and some memorable performances with both bat and ball. I also suggested that England had a realistic prospect of regaining the Ashes.

However, in the light of Australia’s comprehensive victory in the 2nd Ashes Test at Lord’s during which the England bowlers were ineffectual, their batsmen inept and the team spirit non-existent, I now realize that my earlier post was misleading and that they actually have absolutely no chance of regaining the Ashes. I apologize for any inconvenience caused by my ealier error.

I hope this clarifies the situation.

P.S. Kevin Pietersen is 35.

Cricket, Lovely Cricket – Ashes Victory in Cardiff

Posted in Cardiff, Cricket with tags , , , , on July 12, 2015 by telescoper

Last Wednesday (8th July 2015) I had the good fortune to be in the crowd at the SWALEC Stadium in Cardiff to see the first day’s play in the First Test between England and Australia of this summer’s Ashes series. I have to say that I was very apprehensive about how the game would go, but as I was in Wales anyway I couldn’t resist being there to watch it. I think I can say without fear of contradiction that it didn’t turn out too badly.

It wasn’t a very auspicious start to the day – light rain was falling as we walked to the ground and at the scheduled start time the England team were still in the pavilion:


Play eventually got going about fifteen minutes late, though it could have started earlier had the Powers That Be dispensed with some of the silly preliminaries. It did rain a little before lunch too, but the players didn’t come off. Thereafter the weather steadily improved and we got a full day’s play, closing at about 6.45pm. I even had sunburnt knees as a souvenir, as I had decided to wear shorts for the day and the stand we were in offered no protection from the afternoon sun. Good job I had brought my sunhat.

England had won the toss and decided to bat. The desire to have first use of a good batting pitch must have been tempered in England Captain Alastair Cook’s mind by the likelihood that the overcast conditions would help the Aussie fast bowlers. England struggled early on with the bat, Lyth getting out cheaply playing across a straight one from Hazlewood (who was in the team to replace the injured Ryan Harris) to leave England at 7 for 1. Ballance battled hard at Number 3 but Cook at the other end looked relatively comfortable. Then Michael Clarke threw the ball to offspinner Nathan Lyon to have a go at the lefthanded Cook who seemed impatient to score off him. That proved his downfall as he was out for 20, caught at the wicket, trying to cut a short ball. Ian Bell came, scored one run off a nervous looking lofted drive and was then dismissed leg before wicket by a good inswinger from the excellent Mitchell Starc. At 43-3 England were on the brink, and could have fallen over it a few balls later when new batsman Joe Root played a strange shot at his second ball, a very full swinging delivery from Starc which resulted in an edge that went at a good height to wicket-keeper Brad Haddin diving (somewhat theatrically) to his right. Fortunately for England, Haddin spilled what looked a relatively straightforward chance; having seen the replay a number of times I don’t understand why Haddin didn’t go for it with both hands. At 43-4 England would have been in deep doo-doo, but as it happened Ballance and Root steadied the ship and after a tense morning England reached lunch at 88 for 3.

The ball certainly did swing in that morning session, but the predominant impression I got was that it was a very flat pitch, with very little bounce. Watching from a position square of the wicket to a batsman at the River Taff end, it was noticeable how many balls didn’t carry through to the wicket-keeper. Indeed, Warner’s excellent slip catch to take the wicket of Lyth was harder than it needed to have been because the slips were standing too deep for much of the game. Mitchell Starc was easily the pick of the Australian bowlers; the other Mitchell (Mitchell Johnson) laboured ineffectively on the kind of pitch he clearly doesn’t like to bowl on. He was expensive too. England’s Nemesis of the 13/14 Ashes Tour down under was to finish with 0-111 off 25 overs.

After lunch the sun came out and the character of the play changed. Root and Ballance completed partnership of 153 before Ballance fell for 61 with the score on 196 for 4. This ushered in the belligerent Stokes who didn’t have it all his own way – he got into a tangle trying to hook a Mitchell Johnson bouncer, sending it high over Haddin’s head for six – but Root at the other end had ridden his early luck and made an excellent century. Root is currently in unbelievably good form and it says something for his temperament that he looked bitterly disappointed when he eventually got out for a superb 134, shortly followed by Stokes who made 54. The score was then 293 for 6, by no means enough runs on a good batting pitch but a good recovery from 43-3. Buttler and Moeen Ali added another 50 partnership in quick time until Buttler fell nearly at the end of the day’s play. I was particularly impressed with Moeen’s batting late on and it was he who produced the short of the day for me – a magnificent sweep into the stands for six off the bowling of Lyon. Broad survived a torried couple of overs to leave England on 343-7 at the close of play.

I couldn’t help recalling that the closing score on the first day of corresponding fixture in 2009, which ended famously in a draw, was 336-7. On that occasion, England’s tail wagged brightly the following morning (when I was in the ground) to take their score to 435 all out. As things stood, I felt that the match was evenly poised. If England could do something similar to their feats of 2009 on the second day of this match then they would have a good chance of winning, but if Australia could take quick wickets they would have the edge.

Unfortunately I only had tickets for the first day so I ad to keep up with the rest of the match on the radio and via Twitter. On Day 2, England’s tail did wag – Moeen scoring an excellent 77 – to finish on 430 all out. So far the pattern remained similar to 2009, but that was about to change. Australia got a much better start to their first innings than England had, but lost wickets at the end of Day 2 to close on 264-5 – a far cry from the 248-1 which was their position at the end of Day 2 in 2009. The following morning they were all out for 308, a deficit of 122. England batted again on Day 3 and, not without moments of alarm, accumulated enough runs to build an imposing lead; they were eventually all out at the end of Day 3 for 289. Australia needed to score 412 to win with two days left, though the forecast for Day 5 was for heavy rain.

Clouds had returned to Cardiff for Day 4 (Saturday) and the Australian batsmen were in all sorts of difficulties against the swing on Anderson and Broad. Rogers fell cheaply, Warner was having trouble laying bat on ball, and the runs had dried up. Then Alastair Cook made I think his only tactical mistake of the match: he brough Moeen on to bowl too early. Warner seemed to relax and played some good shots. Moeen was withdrawn after just two expensive overs. The momentum had been handed back to Australia, who began scoring freely. In the last over before lunch they were 97-1, with two batsmen at the crease who were both perfectly capable of posting big scores. Then Cook brough Moeen back for one over before lunch, whereupon he trapped Warner lbw for 52. It was just the fillip England needed. After lunch Smith, Clarke and Voges fell in quick succession to leave Australia in the mire at 106-5. Neither Haddin not Watson stayed around long and Australia were soon 151 for 7. Mitchell Johnson batted defiantly in difficult circumstances, adding 72 for the 8th wicket with Mitchell Starc until their partnership was broken by none other than Joe Root, who as well as being a superb batsman is a spin bowler with an uncanny knack of taking important wickets. Root also took the catch, off the bowling of Moeen Ali, that sealed the game. Australia were all out for 242 about an hour after tea. England had won by 169 runs. Man of the Match: Joe Root, obviously.

So, first blood to England. Of course there are another four Tests to go, starting at Lord’s on Thursday where the pitch may well be much more helpful to the Australian quick bowlers, but this result is better than I imagined at the start of the game and if England can keep it up they at least have a chance of winning back the Ashes. Don’t expect the Aussies to roll over, though. They will be stung by this defeat, and I full expect them to come back hard.

P.S. This was the weather situation in Cardiff earlier today, which would have been the fifth day.


Had Australia batted through to the close on Day 4, it is quite possible that there would have been no play on Day 5, which means the game would have ended in a draw. Now I understand why this Test started on a Wednesday!

P.P.S. Only three members of the current England team played in the 2009 Ashes Test in Cardiff: Anderson, Broad and Cook.

Ashes Whitewash Woe

Posted in Cricket with tags , , on January 5, 2014 by telescoper

I’m hoping that writing a blog post about the Ashes tour might provide some kind of catharsis, so here goes.

England lost the fifth and final Ashes test today by 281 runs and so have lost all five tests. It’s not that long ago that they suffered a similar fate on tour in Australia (2007, in fact) but I think this series has been a lot worse. None of the matches have been close-fought, as the following summary proves:

21-25 Nov: First Test, Brisbane: Australia won by 381 runs

5-9 Dec: 2nd Test, Adelaide: Australia won by 218 runs

13-17 Dec: 3rd Test, Perth: Australia won by 150 runs

26-30 Dec: 4th Test, Melbourne: Australia won by eight wickets

3-7 Jan 2014: 5th Test, Sydney: Australia won by 281 runs

The final Test summed up the series. England briefly promised with the ball, having Australia in trouble at 97-5, but were unable to push home their advantage as the hosts recovered to 326. England’s batsmen then capitulated for a paltry 155 having been in danger (at 23-5) of being all out for their lowest-ever Ashes total of 45. The Australians amassed another 276 in only 61 overs and then watched England crumble again in pitiful fashion, for 166 in only 32 overs. Hopeless by England, but well played Australia.

So what has gone wrong? The obvious answer is England’s batting; they’ve scored under 200 in six innings in the series, and only one England batsman (Stokes) managed a century. Credit to the Australian bowlers, of course – Mitchell Johnson’s total of 37 wickets at an average of under 14 was truly outstanding – but good bowling can’t be the only factor. Experienced batsmen like Cook, Bell and Pietersen have all been found wanting. I know they had to hostile and determined fast bowling, but this is Test cricket. Top players have to stand up and be counted. The failures of less experienced players such as Carberry and Root are more forgivable, given the poor example set by senior batsmen, but I think they’re also symptomatic of something drastically wrong with the coaching system employed by the England team management. Good batsmen don’t spontaneously turn into bad ones.

The England bowling hasn’t been much to write home about either, with only Stuart Broad turning in a respectable statistic of 21 wickets at 27.52. Jimmy Anderson is a dangerous bowler when the ball swings, but that hasn’t happened for him on this tour and he only managed 14 wickets at an average of 43.92. Swann’s bowling average was a woeful 80 before he threw in the towel.

England coach Andy Flower has stated that this is the End of An Era for English cricket. I hope the powers that be have the courage and vision to take the steps needed to pull English cricket out of its calamitous downward spiral. That means rethinking the entire coaching set-up rather than just tinkering with the team selection.

It will, however, be interesting to see which survivors of this debacle will play Test cricket this summer. Trott and Swann are already out of contention. I’d be surprised if Cook remains as skipper, though he might keep his place as an opener if he shows form in county matches. Carberry does not look like a top class opener to me, and Root is no world class number 3 either. Let’s hope Bell can recover some form and provide some stability while the selectors look to blood new players. I think Pietersen should stay too, exasperating though he is.

The only ray of sunshine I can find is in the performance of young Ben Stokes, who topped the England batting averages with 34.87 and took 15 wickets at 32.80. It’s early days for him, as he is only 22, but has England at last found the genuine all-rounder that it has missed for so long?

An Ashes Lament..

Posted in Cricket with tags , on December 17, 2013 by telescoper

It seems like yesterday that I was celebrating a famous England victory in an Ashes series in Australia. In fact it was a little under three years ago. In that series the difference between the two teams was primarily in the batting, with opener Alastair Cook having a particularly brilliant series. Now England captain, Cook has struggled with the bat on this tour. Yesterday’s dismissal, first ball, more-or-less sums up his team’s weaknesses. The batting has been fragile, their bowling ineffective and their fielding unreliable. A bit more resolve in the batting, a few more opportunities taken in the field and things might have been different. The truth is, however, that since the opening Test in Brisbane England have been playing like a side expecting to be beaten. Once you’ve lost confidence like that it’s difficult to get it back, especially with Test matches coming up in such quick succession. Australia took the initiative early on, and have been ruthless in exploiting it. In the early  hours of this morning, Australia won the Third Test in Perth to lead 3-0, and so take the Ashes having an unassailable lead in the 5 match series..

England had a good run of luck during this summer’s Ashes series in England – the weather getting them out of a couple of rather deep holes – but the Australian summer rarely shows such mercy on visiting teams, and England’s weaknesses have been cruelly exposed. I always thought England would have a tough time trying to retain the Ashes down under, but didn’t expect them to be so thoroughly outplayed.  I wouldn’t bet against a 5-0 whitewash the way things are going. Shades of 2006/7.

But enough of England. I would be churlish not to congratulate the Australians on their deserved victory. They have had a lean time for many years and I’m sure will enjoy the celebrations. There’s no doubt that the better side has won; they have trounced England in all departments. Well played the Aussies!

Respect to Jonathan Trott

Posted in Cricket, Mental Health with tags , , , on November 25, 2013 by telescoper

News broke this morning that Jonathan Trott who batted at No. 3 for England has left the Ashes tour because of a “long-standing stress related condition”.

Jonathan Trott in happier days

Jonathan Trott in happier days

Jonathan Trott isn’t the first England cricketer to have been forced out of the game in such a fashion – Marcus Trescothick and Michael Yardy are two others who have found themselves unable to cope with the pressures of the modern game; neither Trescothick nor Yardy played for England again and this may indeed be the end of Trott’s career. I hope it isn’t because he’s an immensely talented player but that’s his decision to make. I think he’s right to leave if he feels he can’t give 100% to his team. He will almost certainly be feeling that he’s let his side down, but he hasn’t. Had he been forced to withdraw because of a bad back or a hamstring problem nobody would have said such things; a mental health problem is no different.

I think his decision shows considerable personal courage. It’s not easy to admit that you can’t cope. Whether or not it was triggered by David Warner’s unpleasant comments makes no difference to me. I know which of these two I respect more. I hope he gets all the help he needs to get over his problems, and that he makes a full and speedy recovery unhindered by press intrusion.

In any case, as Mike Selvey put it in today’s Guardian

… when all is said and done, it is just a game. There are more important things in life.

Quite so.

The Ashes: an Apology

Posted in Cricket with tags , , , on November 24, 2013 by telescoper

In common with much of the professional sports media, this blog on a number of occasions has given the impression that England’s cricket team boasts excellent team spirit, a strong batting line-up and powerful bowling attack so, as a consequence, has a realistic prospect of retaining the Ashes on their current tour of Australia.

In the wake of their humiliating defeat in the First Ashes Test in Brisbane, however, I realise that this opinion was misguided and in fact they are poorly prepared, lacking in determination and confidence, their batting is flimsy and prone to collapse, and their bowlers ineffectual and unconvincing.

I would like therefore to apologize for having misrepresented the situation and for any inconvenience caused by this error.

Geoffrey Boycott is 73.

The Ashes Retained

Posted in Cricket with tags , , , on August 5, 2013 by telescoper

I’m back home after a few days’ enforced absence. Don’t worry – nothing too serious! As soon as I got in I nervously switched on the radio to find out the score in the 3rd Ashes Test Match at Old Trafford. To my relief that stalwart of English cricket – The Weather – had intervened in decisive fashion. “Rain stopped play” never sounded so sweet..

It was just as well, actually, because England’s batsmen were struggling along at 37 for 3 chasing a formidable total of 332 to win (or, more realistically, trying to survive all day to secure a draw).

Anyway, with England 2-0 up going into the 3rd Test, this result means that England retain the Ashes; the best Australia can hope for now is that the series of 5 Tests will end 2-2 and in such a case the side holding The Ashes keeps them.

Commiserations to the Australians, though. They batted and bowled much better in this game and without the interruptions for rain and bad light would probably have won.

So do I feel guilty that England keep the Ashes because of the rain? Not at all. Test cricket is played outside, over five days. The changing weather and condition of the pitch have always been part of the game. If Australia had won, would anyone have asked them if they felt guilty that they won the toss? By batting first they had by far the best of the pitch and the weather. Rain is part of the game and long may it remain so. Especially if it plays for England.

The Wonderful Game

Posted in Cricket with tags , , , , on July 14, 2013 by telescoper

Just crept inside out of the sweltering heat to post a quick item for posterity about the First Ashes Test at Trent Bridge, which has just ended in a victory for England by just 14 runs. I missed the first two days of the match, and most of the third, on my travels, apart from the odd update on the internet; it seems that Germans aren’t all that interest in cricket, for some reason. Yesterday I followed the action on the radio. Gripping stuff. Of course as an Englishman I’m delighted with the victory, but the Australians showed incredible pluck in this match, recovering from 117-9 in the first innings to post 280 thanks to an amazing knock of 98 from No. 11, the nineteen-year old Ashton Agar. England began their second innings in a state of shock after Agar’s onslaught and were 11-2 at one point, but gradually clawed their way into it. Ian Bell’s century and a determined contribution from Stuart Broad took them to a total of 375, a lead of 310. I always felt that a target of 300 in the last innings would be beyond Australia, and so it proved – but only just. They fought gallantly to 296 before Haddin was given out on an umpire review. Throughout the match the initiative ebbed and flowed. No quarter was asked and none given. It was magnificent.

It wasn’t quite as close as the famous Edgbaston Ashes Test in 2005, which England won by just two runs, but it certainly had my stomach tingling, nerves churning, and metaphors mixing as the plot twisted one way then another. I couldn’t even eat my lunch. No wickets at all in the first hour, then two in quick succession, then the dramatic fightback, snuffed out by the final twist of a “not out” overturned by the third umpire.

You can say what you like about the DRS system, but it certainly adds an extra element of tension to the proceedings. The world seems to stand still as we wait for the third umpire to ponder the decision with the use of replays, hawkeye, hotspot, snickometer and the rest. One crucial factor in this Test was that Alastair Cook used his reviews much more intelligently than Michael Clarke.

I would say, though, that I think this was a game England should have won much more easily. The hapless Finn  fell apart when Agar had a go at him and contributed very little to the rest of the match. With only four bowlers to start with, England can’t afford to have anyone underperform. I strongly suspect Finn will not figure in the next match, but I remain uncomfortable with the policy of picking only four bowlers. If only England had a proper all-rounder. Still, at least they’ve got Jimmy Anderson, who bowled magnificently and took ten wickets in the match.

Anyway, there are four more Tests in this series and if they’re all like this one was it will be like 2005 all over again. Except that series began with a defeat for England.

Test Cricket is the best game in the world. Discuss.