Jason Roy has one wheel in the air

Still taken from Sky Sports

Still taken from Sky Sports

It’s good to see Jason Roy making hundreds in one-day internationals. Earlier in the year, we were concerned that he wrongly thought he should give himself time in Twenty20. While he ultimately got over that, we’ve since been worried that he might subsequently do the reverse and try take his Twenty20 approach into the middle format.

England have found success in T20 through successfully encouraging their batmen to put a low price on their wickets. They bat right on the cusp of irresponsibility in the knowledge that there is always – to quote every commentator ever – “plenty of batting to come.”

In 50-over cricket, there isn’t always plenty of batting to come. Sometimes you run out of batting. 50-over sides need the proper batsmen to hang around. They still need them to score quickly, but not with almost complete disregard for their own survival.

Like pulling a wheelie, it’s tough to find the right balance, but Jason Roy is currently somewhere near the right spot.

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What shall we do this afternoon?

You know, with all the rain and stuff? If you’re actually at the ground, the escapism can continue regardless of whether there’s any play or not. But what about those of us more dependent on the cricket itself for such a thing?

Basking in the drizzle at the Oval, spectators can revel in their collective stoicism. They are unencumbered by the guilt that arises alongside the nagging feeling that you should be doing something else. The day has already been set aside and in many ways the cessation of play frees them from their one remaining obligation.

They take turns buying their maximum permissible order of four pints and they relax. They chat unhurriedly, about whatever-the-hell lurches into their half-cut consciousness.

Beyond the ground, people make great efforts to follow the cricket and rain delays sentence them to that most horrific activity known as “doing stuff”. As often as not, the stuff to be done is stuff you’re in some way obliged to do as well, which is of course the worst stuff of all to have to do.

People always talk about the paying public being the ones who are worst affected when a cricket match is rained off, but there are unseen, unpaying millions who suffer way, way more than them.

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Shortening cricket matches in anticipation of rain

We were in Bristol to see England play Sri Lanka yesterday. Without wishing to saunter too far into match report territory, we and our companions finished the day by setting a strict departure time when we would cease standing around in the rain and would instead head home.

It wasn’t that we thought there was still some outside chance of play. It was more that this is the traditional way of going about things when a match is being rained off. You make a deadline and you stick to it in defiance of reason. Watching cricket on a rainy day is very much about summoning optimism in the face of facts and to stand there in the rain, knowing the match was finished, seemed the purest example of this spirit.

We knew the match had finished not because it had been officially announced, but because, like everyone in the crowd, we had access to all manner of weather apps and rainfall radars and the like. If truth be known, long before their arrival at the ground, pretty much everyone in the crowd knew that the players would depart mid-afternoon, never to be seen again.

The match was viewed in that knowledge. Most people knew they were there to see a one innings game; that all that was taking place before them was in all likelihood meaningless. This seems an odd situation.

When a one-day match is hit by rain, it is shortened. However, matches are never shortened in anticipation of rain. Is this right?

The danger of shortening a match for rain-that-is-yet-to-come is of course that said rain might never fall, leading to the bizarre spectacle of the match ending prematurely in bright sunshine. This does however seem to us a more acceptable outcome than the going-through-the-motions half game we witnessed yesterday.

Perhaps the umpires – or better yet, some well-informed locals – could be entrusted to make a call on shortening a match based on the likelihood of impending rain. There are days of scattered showers and there are days where a wall of water is slowly looming into view from the west and it’s just a matter of time. In the latter case, a halving of the overs would seem sensible.

And if informed people in positions of power are unwilling to take such a decision, they could always absolve themselves of responsibility by putting it to a public vote.

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Hales and Roy

Completely missed this. Personally, we blame those who call for and schedule public decisions on matters of national importance for distracting us from the chance to witness a spectacular England run-chase.

Except where the opposition for some reason fold, 10 wicket England one-day victories come around, what, once every thousand years?

It’s almost like England are a proper one-day side these days. Odd how quickly things can change.

Oh and England have won the Super Series, no?

Super.

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England cricket greats to be reclassified as “bad immigrants” in wake of referendum

Large numbers of England cricketers, both past and present, will be recategorised as non-England players as a result of plans being drawn up in the wake of the UK’s decision to leave the EU.

A member of the Leave campaign explained: “One thing this referendum has told us is in no uncertain terms is that the British public have no time for nuance in the matter of national identity. We are therefore looking to impose a clear definition of who can and cannot represent the England cricket team.”

Asked what this would entail, he continued: “We all know that there are only two kinds of immigrants – the good kind and the bad kind. We need to distinguish between these and the obvious place to start is with a person’s place of birth. We all know that British people are born in Britain and, ideally, in England.”

Under the proposals, current England cricketers including all-rounder Ben Stokes and current one-day captain Eoin Morgan would be immediately excluded from the team. However, players born overseas who have represented England in the past would also be expunged from the records.

The Leave spokesman demanded the immediate resignation of England’s director of cricket, Andrew Strauss, who was born in Johannesburg, and listed a number of other players born outside the UK who would be struck from the history of England cricket. One of the players mentioned was Basil D’Oliveira, about whom the spokesman said: “He should have represented his own country.”

It seems highly unlikely that the project will stop there, however. The spokesman said that birthplace would merely be the first of a number of criteria that would need to be met to ensure eligibility. “Take someone like Moeen Ali,” he said. “Moeen was born in Sparkhill in Birmingham, so if birthplace were the only criterion, he would be considered English – which is plainly ridiculous.”

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Mop-up of the day – in, out and not out

An inadvertently topical but quite possibly inaccurate-by-the-morning headline for UK readers.

In

Anil Kumble’s… well, he’s not exactly back. He’s back in the public eye, we suppose. He’s India’s new coach.

Kumble is a hard, smart and determined man. Coaching India demands more than those qualities, but it’s a fair start.

Out

Poor Nick Compton. For 20-odd years he’s worked towards being an England cricketer. Last week he was just such a thing. This week it seems rather obvious that he is not – and nor shall he ever be again.

That kind of thing is not easy to take. It’s the nature of top level sport, but to have played and been found wanting is nevertheless a crushing blow for the individual. Understandably, he isn’t quite sure what he’s doing any more. He’s taking a break from the game and who knows whether he’ll find a reason to return.

Not out

Earlier this season, we mentioned that Durham’s Keaton Jennings might have been one to watch this year if we still did such things. Today he denied Yorkshire what had seemed a highly likely win by making 221 not out in the second innings.

In fact, that score was sufficiently large that it was actually Durham who were pressing for victory towards the close, despite having conceded a sizeable first innings deficit.

Fortunately for Yorkshire, Tim Bresnan and Jack Leaning remained not out. Wonder whether the nation will follow their lead.

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England v Australia at Edgbaston – day two match report

Ged Ladd’s smartphone, Ivan Meagreheart, writes:

It can be quite exhausting being Ged Ladd’s smartphone; day one of the Edgbaston Test had been such a day. Normally a good rest overnight and I recharge my batteries without difficulty, but I had a bad night and in the morning I felt even more run down than I had the night before.

Ged went to put the kettle on and the cause of my low energy was revealed to him.  Although the lights were working, the sockets around the walls were all dead. Ged spoke to a member of staff and the problem was sorted very quickly. Ged let me lie in for 90 minutes or so before we set off for the ground and promised that I’d be allowed to rest for most of the day. Ged certainly wouldn’t need me to look up the cricket score today.

Soon enough several other Heavy Rollers turned up. There would be 10 humans this year, perhaps a record number. First to arrive was Big “Papa Zambezi” Jeff and his charming pal Biff (possibly the best Northamptonshire batsman never to represent Northants in first class cricket). Soon after that, Harsha Ghoble, famous for getting barracked by the Indian supporters for holding the Indian flag upside down, vintage Trent Bridge, 2002. Then David and his son Dan Peel, chauffeured to our meeting point by their delightful wife/mother (respectively), Lemon. One more, Peter Doubt, would meet us at the ground, so we were ready for the off.

Dan Peel, a local lad, offered to lead the trek from Hagley Road to the ground.  2.1 miles by my reckoning – I have an app for that. Ged insisted that I rest and that we could manage without apps or use other people’s smart phones. Dan took us a fair bit further east into Birmingham than was necessary – which is why humans should never be trusted with directions. The Boy Malloy kept pointing out that his app was suggesting a different route, while Charley “The Gent” Malloy was happily counting his footsteps using his exercise app, delighted that a bit of route confusion was increasing his footstep count.

Eventually we got to the ground, which was heaving with people, but we were in very good time for the start of play. I know – I mustn’t tell you about the cricket. I’m a machine. I can do rules.

To avoid the sorts of Edgbaston shopping confusion described in the final paragraph of the piece linked here, Nigel and Charley had, between them, brought masses of “man nibbles” with them for the outing. Pork pies, sausage rolls, cheese and onion rolls, chocolate marshmallow sandwich biscuits, jaffa cakes – that sort of stuff. And Doritos, naturally. Most of the group washed this feast down with copious quantities of beer, but Ged is off beer these days, so he drank buckets of water instead.

Soon it was time to walk home. The Boy Malloy took charge and insisted that we follow his app home. Even Dan Peel admitted it was a shorter, quicker route.  After changing/charging respectively, Ged and I joined the group for a drink in the hotel bar early evening (Ged imbibed, I didn’t) and most of us went out for a light Italian meal across the road, which was a popular choice with all other than Harsha, who referenced the Bland Food Sketch, but came along anyway and seemed to enjoy his bland evening.

When we got back after dinner, Ged’s power sockets had gone down again, but this time he got someone at reception to put a shilling in that particular meter before bedtime.

Send your match reports to king@kingcricket.co.uk. If it’s a professional match, on no account mention the cricket itself. If it’s an amateur match, feel free to go into excruciating detail.

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The next Ben Stokes

England have long been on the lookout for someone who might one day fill the gigantic, timeless boots of Ben Stokes. Ever since the combative all-rounder suffered a knee injury in May 2016, they have yearned for a frontline bowler who can also play memorable major innings.

In many ways, it is an impossible quest and player after player has buckled after being unfairly labelled ‘the next Ben Stokes’. Chris Woakes is the latest to attract that unwanted description, but in the first one-day international against Sri Lanka, he gave further evidence of the quality we saw in the preceding Tests.

He may never become the next Ben Stokes – not least because he’s older than him – but maybe the public can one day come to warm to him as the first Chris Woakes.

The match was tied. It was tied because Liam Plunkett mullered a six off the final ball. Liam Plunkett was able to tie the game because Chris Woakes had made a frantic three of the penultimate ball. Woakes set himself up for that vital three with another 92 runs before that.

It’s not often your number eight top scores with 95 not out. Good knock, Woakes-o.

 

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England are eight up with 12 points still available

Is that the score in the Super Series? Cricinfo helpfully – and somewhat surprisingly – provides a points table for Sri Lanka’s current tour, but you then have to check the fixture list and guess at each match’s value to work out what’s still to come.

We’ve said that a format-spanning points system can only work if people buy into it. This most definitely hasn’t happened yet, but we suppose nothing much has been on the line in that regard yet. Maybe people will start to notice it as the one-dayers wear on.

Considering it’s near enough the longest day, it feels rather like cricket’s in a bit of a lull at the minute. Or is it us?

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Following the protagonist through the formats – players and audience in the T20 era

We had an interesting (to us) chat to Charles Dagnall of Test Match Special (TMS) via Twitter yesterday. At one point he said something closely related to a number of our recurrent themes/hobby horses on this site and we were faintly annoyed with ourself for not having put the thought into words ourself.

We were discussing how people become cricket fans in the first place and more specifically where Test Match Special’s future audience will come from. In response to our comment that some people (not him) seem to think that it’ll arrive fully-formed, grey-haired in blazer and tie, Daggers said: “Much like the actual players who are playing tests via T20, expect audiences to do exactly the same.”

We immediately felt that there was a lot of truth in this; that a hypothetical fan might grow with a player and follow him/her through the formats. We’ve always felt that cricket’s shorter formats offer a route towards Test cricket and we’re also big on the following of a sport being about narrative and characters. Despite this, we’d somehow never taken this to the logical conclusion of one fan following one player to their five-day destination.

To provide some background to the conversation…

It came about after we had bitched and moaned about an article by Roy Greenslade in the Guardian. Roy basically thinks that cricket’s going to die because he sat a child down in front of a session of a Test match and they weren’t instantly enthralled.

He might as well have sat this kid down for episode seven of series three of The Wire. You need to work your way up to and then into these things and to draw conclusions without comprehending that seems almost wilfully wrong-headed.

This is almost certainly unfair, but it seemed symptomatic of the sort of person who became a fan of Test cricket by listening to TMS when they were 10 and who cannot comprehend that others may have arrived at the same destination via a rather different route.

There are many paths. As a 10-year-old, we struggled to sit and watch more than five minutes of cricket. We’d have much rather been doing something else. While that something was quite often cricket, it could also have been football or it may not even have been sport at all.

If that were today, there would doubtless be those who would despair at our impatience and lament modern society’s role in the slow demise of Test cricket. But it wasn’t today. It was 1988. In 2016 we write about Test cricket near enough daily and near enough for free.

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