Cricket 19: NWHTC – By the Skin(ner) of Their Teeth!

Brexit uncertainty continues, power outages frustrate and flooding wreaks havoc. Food prices go up as does fuel but protestors are shot down. TV shows reach their season finale, VAR prevents a goal and people find themselves unemployed after years of dedicated service. House prices go up as does the cost of your holiday but trees still fall. Promiscuous youngsters are considered role models, endangered animals go extinct before our very eyes and uncontacted tribes become contacted and face the possibly deadly consequences. Despite all this, cricket continues…

After seven ODIs on the bounce we returned to the Test format in the territory of arch-rivals Scotland. The players survived the treacherous voyage north of the borderline but found re-adapting to the game’s longest format challenging. Maybe we need to rethink our selection policy and have fewer players straddle dual formats.

Dawid Malan (25) displayed promise at the top order in an opening stand of 49 with Haseeb Hameed but committed the schoolboy error of not having a look when part-timer Roman Bruce came onto bowl and immediately became only Braveheart’s second Test victim.

Ben Stokes, who you might have anticipated would be a little more at home in the alien conditions provided his familiarity with northern surfaces, was bowled when opting to leave having made only 8 (My wife walking up to me with our youngest daughter in hand contributing to the Durham man’s demise!). Leader of men Joe Root was caught at slip for 11 before Hameed and Moeen Ali set about repairing the damage. Hameed (67) was needlessly run out however when a century beckoned and Moeen (51) was caught behind the very delivery post posting fifty.

Jonny Bairstow was bowled first ball but an under pressure Jos Buttler (75) alongside Sam Curran (56) batted maturely to propel us from 180-6 to 295-7. Chris Woakes was less mature when caught behind for 6 which left last men standing Stuart Broad and James Anderson to extend the score. Coming together at 301-9, Broad was dropped just three runs later and Scotland were made to pay somewhat. Our opening bowlers lifted us to 329 with Anderson falling for 18 and Broad left not out on 10.

It was a rather juxtaposed innings with a number of batsmen looking in glorious touch and executing some majestic shots but only Moeen and Curran can really say that they were got out. Spin duo Martin Law and Mark Watt astonishingly claimed identical figures of 3-57.

In Scotland’s first venture to the crease, Stuart Broad soon dismissed opener Mahdi Clay (5) to leave the home side 9-1 before the ultra-aggressive Kyle Coetzer (150) alongside a more steady away Caden McCarthy (81) batted for the rest of the day. Possibly distracted by thoughts of a century, McCarthy soon fell to Broad the following morning. The impressive Broad then claimed a third victim when he trapped Burke (6) LBW before Chris Woakes stoked the fire further by claiming three wickets of his own. Coetzer was roughed up by Sam Curran bowling around the wicket before Woakes terminated his expansive innings. Out of nowhere Warwickshire’s Woakes was suddenly bowling at his peak. Curran himself as well as Stokes then both got in on the wicket taking action as Scotland collapsed from 195-1 to 302-8 at the end of day two.

Scotland’s tail wagged a little the following morning before Watt (21) and Abdulrahman Egan (12) fell to the excellent Broad (4-59) and Anderson (1-51) respectively. The home side’s efforts equated to 318 meaning that we effectively commenced our second innings on 11-0.

Dawid Malan (37) and Haseeb Hameed compiled 63 second time around before Malan edged a tame chance skyward when trying to deflect to leg. The Middlesex man had once again laid the foundations but only produced a promising not substantial innings. Ben Stokes made a brisk 31 whilst compiling 67 with Hameed before Hameed himself, who’d gone over the top a few times, inside edged when attempting another grand shot and looked rather ugly in falling for 76. 175-3 was the score come the respite.

The evening session’s premier delivery resulted in Root (13) edging behind and Jos Buttler (14) didn’t last much longer. The unheralded medium-pacer Roman Bruce (3-111) was chief-tormentor yet again. Jonny Bairstow should’ve been out to the next delivery but Scotland’s close fielders inexplicably failed to attempt the catch despite replays confirming that the ball had deflected off the Yorkshireman’s glove. As a result, YJB avoided the ignominy of a king pair but it mattered little as he soon succumbed to spin for just 2.

Just as Scotland sniffed a serious chance of making their run chase more manageable, Moeen Ali and Sam Curran (60) combined for an exhilarating 104-run partnership to seemingly take the game away from the hosts. Chris Woakes fell for a breezy 11 when attempting a maximum but to the next delivery Moeen Ali performed something possibly unique. The left-hander reached a century from only 56 deliveries courtesy of an all run 5!

Stuart Broad (14) briefly entertained before becoming Martin Law’s (4-76) fourth victim of the innings. Moeen (120 not out) and James Anderson (12 not out) lifted the score to 399-9 before we declared. Bizarrely, spinner Mark Watt wasn’t called upon to bowl during our second innings. Scotland were set 410 for victory with a few overs to negotiate at the end of day three.

Scotland’s chase got off to an inauspicious start when Clay was comically stumped by Bairstow of the bowling of Anderson to the last delivery of the first over. 0-1 soon became 13-2 when Anderson struck again. This time it was was key man Coetzer trapped LBW for only 7. McCarthy and Bruce resisted despite Stokes originally winning an LBW appeal before it was overturned however Moeen Ali struck first ball to dismiss McCarthy (40). Bairstow pouched the edge to end the 74-run combo with Scotland still a mammoth 324 runs shy of victory. Unbelievably, Moeen then repeated the trick with the first ball of his second over. Left-hander Gene Moore was caught behind without scoring to complete a disappointing Test match for the left-hander and another dismissal for Bairstow.

On the fourth morning the home batsmen saw off James Anderson but Dorian Burke perished to the Moeen/Bairstow combo having crafted an elegant 29. Roman Bruce then converted form with the ball into form with the bat by compiling a magnificent career best 148. Bruce compiled a 167-run stand with Martin Law and really opened up having passed the century mark. However, with 104 still runs required for victory, Bruce was bowled by Moeen off the second ball of day five. Captain Joe Root, whose captaincy on day three was heavily criticised in the media, deserves huge credit for starting the day with Moeen when the ball was only ten overs old.

Law then added an immensely frustrating 70 runs with the resolute Saul Skinner as Scotland closed in on victory. Eventually, having switched to bowling around the wicket, Sam Curran got Law to play on to his stumps via an unnecessarily excessive forward defensive shot. Law (127) had finally fallen having contributed a superb maiden Test ton to put his side within touching distance of a famous win.

James Anderson soon snapped up Mark Watt for 1 courtesy of Joe Root in the slips with Scotland still 30 runs shy of victory and suddenly we looked like favourites. It wasn’t to be…

With Scotland requiring 7 runs for victory, Moeen Ali and James Anderson bowled back to back maidens before we gifted the home side four overthrows. More maidens followed but Scotland went onto win by two wickets with a composed Saul Skinner (39 not out) and Abdulrahman Egan (18 not out) seeing them home. Huge respect to Skinner in particular who endured a chastening game with the ball but faced 119 deliveries to seal an amazing run chase.

To say that Moeen Ali didn’t deserve to be on the losing side would be an understatement of epic proportions.

For us, it’s back to the drawing board after another defeat against a Scotland side that we failed to defend a total in excess of 400 against for a second time in this competition. That’s six wins from six for the Scots and, with us level on points with Ireland, means there’s little room for manoeuvre if we hope to make the final where we’ll almost certainly take on Scotland once again. Next up we host Canada (W3L3) at Lords. Our squad for that match will be announced soon.

Sliding Doors!

Joe Denly was dropped on 0 in this innings…

https://www.espncricinfo.com/series/19430/game/1152850/england-vs-australia-5th-test-icc-world-test-championship-2019-2021

Having been reprieved by the woeful Marcus Harris, a player so out of his depth that it’s almost unimaginable that he’s here, Denly went onto make 94. The drop was a sliding doors moment if ever there was one. Denly actually had a second sliding doors moment when Australia opted not to review an LBW decision when he’d reached 54. Ultimately he didn’t quite make it to a ton and yes he benefited from some fortune but so did Brian Lara when making his famous 501! Many batsmen have benefited from drops and incorrect umpiring decisions during the history of cricket. They’re nothing to feel guilty about.

There was some chirp during Denly’s knock from the likes of Matthew Wade and Steven Smith. Smith apparently suggested that the pressure was off Denly (Some England fans made the same accusation) now that Australia had retained the urn. That suggests that Smith isn’t too bothered about the result of this match which is both odd and unprofessional. It also suggests that he’s got little understanding of the consequences of this innings on Denly’s future prospects. As for Wade, he’s surely in the same boat as Denly was, one innings away from the end of his international career. The boisterous left-hander would be best served learning from Denly’s attitude and application to find a way to prolong his own Test lifetime.

Like many players adapting to a higher level, Steven Smith included, former Middlesex man Denly needed time to adapt but has now made fifties in each of the last three Tests. Despite National Selector Ed Smith’s fandom, a double failure here could’ve been terminal. As it is the Kent veteran remains the man in possession ahead of tours to New Zealand and possibly South Africa. That’ll frustrate the likes of Dom Sibley, Zak Crawley and some England fans but at the age of 33, Denly could still have a useful year or two alongside an increasingly assured Rory Burns at the top of the order. The right-hand/left-hand contrast of England’s incumbent opening pair is particularly welcome. Sceptics may use the term stop gap about Denly but many players have bloomed post thirty years of age and if it allows others to develop further before gaining selection then that’s great.

Denly will likely continue to get worked over and look uncomfortable at times yet sprinkle his innings with glorious strokes and somehow find a way. He’ll certainly be brimming with confidence now following his recent run. To axe him after he’s strung together a string of scores superior to any alternative England have tried in recent times would be idiocy. Sibley, Crawley and company will have to wait for now.

Well played Joe!

Catching Commentary Standards!

“Oh what a catch”. “Wow, an amazing catch”. “That’s the best catch I’ve ever seen”.

It’s become a bug bear of mine this current penchant for cricket commentators to label ordinary run of the mill catches as something special.

Last night a commentator got carried away with a catch by Middlesex’s AB de Villiers to dismiss Somerset’s Eddie Byrom. I can’t find the particular BBC clip but the word used to describe this absolute dolly of a catch was something along the lines of “Outstanding” or “Sensational”. Maybe the commentator was simply in awe of an extremely talented player but he could still avoid using hyperbole in his work.

Later in proceedings, Somerset’s Max Waller executed a genuinely high quality catch to remove de Villiers but for the record the commentator described that catch incorrectly…

https://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/av/cricket/49532155

Waller caught the ball in his right-hand not his left hand! There was also an error when identifying the coloured clothing of a catch held by a spectator. If you’re going to commentate please describe things accurately. On radio I guess that you can get away with it but when there are online clips you can be made to look incompetent. We all make mistakes (Heck, read my blog!) but this was poor and cricket desperately needs better from its professional and qualified media at the moment.

Back to my original point, please don’t describe something as “Great” or “Brilliant” when it’s only “Very good”. This is not meant to belittle anybody’s efforts but only to confirm that reasonably high standards should be maintained.

Please click the link below for match highlights but it’s not the same commentary. De Villiers’ catch barely gets a mention from the commentator here…

This attitude has become an all too familiar thing on BBC commentary. Oh and on that note, if cricket (In the form of The Hundred!) will be on the BBC next year, do we really want Jonathan Agnew fronting it?

What’s the Point?

WARNING! This is a random blog related moan!

What exactly is the point of writing a blog but not allowing comments?

Nothing on this website baffles me more than such a thing. Aren’t articles meant to be thought provoking and… provoke a response? So why do some people leave that option unavailable? I’m like Billy Crystal in When Harry met Sally. I’m going to go to the end first and if it won’t allow me to comment then I won’t bother reading!

Come on fellow bloggers! Enable comments. Even if you don’t want to reply or even read them, let us vent our frustration or even… agree with you!

The Edge DVD Review

Do you dream of being an international cricketer?

Then this film probably isn’t for you!

The 90 minute piece taps into the minds of England cricketers past and present, mostly past as it focuses on England’s rise to number one earlier this decade.

There’s some artsy shots of Jonathan Trott in a sun laden field and later a dark cityscape provides a stark contrast. Trott also frolicks under water and like Kevin Pietersen and Steven Finn, opens up about the travails of being an England cricketer. There are of course those who will shut down these privileged souls bemoaning their hard lives. No they’re not down a pit but their work is dangerous, at times unsavoury and results in lots of time away from family but in the company of people that you might not even get along with!

Monty Panesar pops up too as do many others including ex-coach Andy Flower. A pre-Ashes trip to Bavaria gets a lot of focus as does, as already touched upon, the state of mind. The Edge is not all ‘Happy as Larry’ bat ‘n’ ball tales! If you followed England during the featured era then this is essential viewing.

The Edge scores… 78

County Lines

The County Championship returns tomorrow and not soon enough. I appreciate the skills required in white-ball cricket but just love the twists, turns and infinite possibilities that First Class cricket provides. Its return presents a great opportunity for numerous batsmen to make a case for an Ashes call given the indifferent form of some of England’s incumbent Test batters.

It also means keeping an eye on things in the hope of performing a late surge up the Telegraph Fantasy Cricket table.

Hopefully the weather will be kind up and down the land. Enjoy your cricket folks!