That’s a reference to something Shane Warne said late on day five.
“59 cherries left. Four poles to get.”
Okay, you’re Australian, we get it. Just speak normally, okay.
The cherry shortfall
Following the nine wickets down draw between England and Sri Lanka, it’s hard to avoid pointing to the overs lost due to slow over rates. We have two points to make about that.
Firstly, an over in the middle doesn’t exactly equate to an extra over at the end. Sometimes it’s the escalating tension that comes with the countdown that leads to mistakes. You still only get the same number of closing overs. It’s the flat, lifeless ones England could have had more of.
Our second point is that the flat, lifeless ones might have been enough. Shitloads of overs were lost in this Test. Okay, we just said that earlier overs are perhaps less likely to result in wickets – but not by that much. Another 10 or 15 overs is a hell of a number when you finish one wicket shy of victory.
Plus there was the declaration thing.
The pole shortfall
This was a very good draw in that there were a couple of chances in the final over, but we’d have to say it fell down in one key respect. If you want real tension, it needs to be protracted.
That’s what Test cricket can give you – the one-ball-away final hour with two incompetent dingbatsmen at the crease, edging and missing and cowering and surviving. This wasn’t quite like that in that the action came in an accelerating rush towards the end. It was exciting in a different way, but it didn’t really wring your innards like the very best finishes can.
Great draw though. In no other sport does that make sense.
Cook’s exciting field settings
We were going to give Alastair Cook a bit of credit for some nicely creative field settings on the final day. It’s easier to dick about when you’ve a stack of runs in the bank, but even so there was some real weirdness going on and it was most welcome. Sadly, he revealed in his post-match interview that they were all Jimmy’s doing.
Anderson of course cannot become England captain on account of his being a Northern bowler.19 Appeals
We spend about 40 per cent of our waking hours trying to work out which attributes we’d include were we to develop a stats-based cricket management computer game. For batsmen, there’d be things like patience and shot selection; for bowlers, there’d be fitness and accuracy. We’d also include ‘unarsedness’.
The key passage of play today was the partnership between Gary Ballance and Chris Jordan. One’s a debutant, the other’s a two-Test veteran and yet both seemed entirely unarsed by England’s eye-rollworthy position.
It wasn’t that the home team were throwing it away. They were just making a very poor fist of things. In fact it wasn’t even a fist. It was more like a limp claw. They seemed to be making a very concerted effort to entirely undo the few repairs they’d made during the first innings, during which the middle order had managed to emit a faint whiff of solidity.
Imagine Gary Ballance had scored 4 instead of 104 and that Chris Jordan had made 5 instead of 35 and now look at the scorecard again. That would have been a fairly normal outcome by recent standards and we probably wouldn’t have judged that pair too harshly either. The cricket watching public would have pointed their vast collective finger at Cook and Bell instead.
Ballance in particular has brought us back to a world where it’s not so ludicrous to assume that at least one of the batsmen might make a few runs in any given innings. He achieved this, at least in part, through having a very high unarsedness rating.17 Appeals
This latest England team is a stumpy. It’s not completely without tail – there’s an Anderson-shaped nub there – but there really isn’t much. Presumably, should he return, Ben Stokes would replace Liam Plunkett, which would only strengthen the main spine further.
Lower order batsmen rarely contribute on tougher days – when runs are more valuable – but they can definitely make the difference between decent scores and intimidating ones.
But if there’s any side unlikely to succumb to that modern panacea, scoreboard pressure, it’s Sri Lanka. They play most of their cricket in Colombo and have therefore been tempered to withstand far greater run pressure than any other team.
To Sri Lanka 575-9 is nothing to write home about. Whereas to most of us, anything over 500 is simply ‘loads’, the Sri Lankans probably distinguish between a 575 pitch and a 650 pitch. We’re not sure which they think this is.17 Appeals
Let’s just go with that, eh? Let’s just go with ‘everything’s rosy’. They’ve even addressed our concern that Gary Ballance bats too low for Yorkshire by making him go in first drop for England.
Speaking of the batting order, Joe Root clearly benefited from getting one innings in a row in the same slot. Do they call it ‘role clarity’? If he’s clear that his role is to score hundreds, all’s well.
And Matt Prior’s back! As in ‘returned’. He hasn’t got ankylosing spondylitis or anything. He does have a longstanding Achilles problem of course, but that didn’t seem to be unduly troubling him.16 Appeals
Twice last May, we wrote about England’s overwhelmingly reactive batting approach. First we described Kevin Pietersen as being England’s only proactive top order batsman; the only one prone to trying to set the field while at the crease. A week later, Pietersen wasn’t playing and Jonny Bairstow took on the role.
Even then, we were concerned that the batting was a bit one-dimensional. If that was the case, what do we have now? Sam Robson’s another steady opener and Gary Ballance is pretty meat-and-potatoes, three-an-over as well. Cook, Root, Bell – all are more likely to respond to what they’re confronted with than to really try and take the initative.
This isn’t about one approach being better than another and nor is it about having some lunatic coming in to try and hit sixes. It’s about having a balanced batting line-up. There’s a simple reason why teams look to field a balanced bowling attack and batting is no different. There are times when one approach doesn’t work, in which case it’s good to have summat else up your sleeve.
All the best sides have had batsmen who complement each other. We worry that England’s Test batsmen are all a bit samey and that the side’s still courting one-dimensionality.34 Appeals
We all knew that Sam Robson was going to get picked. He’ll play sensibly and probably quite well. If so, we’ll be quite happy about that while simultaneously wishing that we didn’t have to endure hilarious Australian ‘banter’ about his place of birth every time he gets a half-decent score.
We all knew that Moeen Ali was going to get a game. No-one’s blown away by that, but we also know there’s little point arguing about it because there ain’t really owt else on offer. To rail against his selection would be as futile as wailing at the empty shelves in a derelict bakery. Throw as big a tantrum as you like – loaves of sourdough will not materialise. You’re going to have to make do with the day-old half a baguette in your hand.
We also suspected that Matt Prior was going to come back. He’s scored some runs and he’s Matt Prior. By the flaxen locks of Gower, it’ll be a relief if he’s back to something approaching normal.
So far, so unremarkable
Steady batting, cross-your-fingers-and-hope-it’ll-be-at-least-semi-competent spin bowling and the same wicketkeeper as before all the good stuff completely evaporated leaving only a sticky, unsavoury residue. What’s far more interesting is the fairly fast bowling.
Chris Jordan’s selection was as predictable as those above, while about a month ago we said that Liam Plunkett was hovering near the door, unable to find a doorbell, trying to muster the courage to knock. His selection was forseeable, but is still quite intriguing. Could he unsame the bowling attack a touch?
How fast is ‘fairly fast’?
James Anderson is so fit that he can effortlessly bowl at 84mph all day long. If he really puts the effort in, he gets up to about 87mph. This isn’t really worth the extra energy expenditure, so he generally doesn’t bother.
Stuart Broad definitely has it in him to bowl quickly. This is how he’s found his way into the England team in all three formats. Playing so much has worn him down to a good, solid 85mph bowler.
Chris Woakes is also in the squad. Not so long ago, he was a medium-pace all-rounder and it was thought he wasn’t quite quick enough to thrive in Test cricket. As a consequence, he’s worked really hard to increase his pace so that he’s now a good, solid 84mph English seamer, same as everyone else.
Chris Jordan’s a bit quicker. Liam Plunkett’s a bit quicker still.
Proper fast bowlers operate above 90mph all the time. These pair are more the kinds of bowlers who can deliver the ball quicker than that from time to time. However, this might, occasionally, allow England to attack a batsman in a slightly different way. Dull afternoon sessions just became fractionally less dull! For a bit! Until whoever plays (possibly both?) is worn down to generic English seamer pace by the relentless demands of international cricket!12 Appeals
It was a beautiful sunny day, the London Underground was on strike and I had arranged to work from home. I thought it would be a good idea to head over to Lord’s, catch some of the cricket and catch up with an increasingly large pile of background reading. The office staff more than understood.
I had a conference call scheduled for 10am and a few other bits and pieces of work to get out of the way before heading off. The call went as planned, but a few other bits and pieces came in while I was on the call. By 12.30pm, I realised that any thought of the morning session was futile, other than grabbing a quick bite of lunch at home and listening to that last half hour before lunch on the Internet radio while I ate.
The walk from my front door to the Grace Gate takes me 37 minutes, give or take one minute or so. That makes me 10% faster than Google Maps’ (other route planning apps are available) expectations. Conveniently, if I leave home as soon as the umpires call lunch, I know from experience that I can get to Lord’s on foot just before the resumption.
As I arrived at Lord’s, one of the female stewards said: “Hello, nice to see you. Hurry up, they’re just about ready to start,” as if the officials and players had been waiting for my arrival. I grabbed a seat at the sunny end of the Warner just in time. I soon relocated to the Grandstand for a while, before moving on to catch the end of the session in the Pavilion.
I read some stuff on big data. I also pondered three philosophical questions on ethics in financial services, the answer to all of which, sadly, was almost certainly no. I watched some cricket. I chatted briefly with some Middlesex friends before walking home.
I spent roughly as much time walking as I spent at cricket. It certainly was worth it.16 Appeals
Is anyone else starting to find this kind of thing grating?
“Sometimes you just have to put your hands up and say the opposition were better than us with the bat.”
So said Alastair Cook after the fourth one-day international. There’s been an awful lot of ‘accepting that the opposition were better than us on the day’ recently. It’s not always ‘on the day’ either. Sometimes it’s ‘in this Test’ or ‘over the winter’. Pretty soon it’ll be ‘for the last decade or so’.
To be honest, this whole ‘being magnanimous in defeat’ act is really starting to get on our nerves. It’s not that we expect England cricketers to be bad losers. It’s that the subtext seems to be that they played really well and that sometimes the opposition are slightly better and there is NOTHING YOU CAN DO ABOUT IT WHEN THAT HAPPENS.
Similarly, who has ever suggested that the opposition aren’t allowed to play well? No-one. Yet ‘the opposition are allowed to play well’ is a phrase we hear again and again in response to defeat.
Let’s make this simple. When someone says ‘the opposition are allowed to play well,’ or ‘they were better than us on the day,’ that person is trying to tell you that this is some mystical phenomenon that’s beyond anyone’s control. Don’t believe them.
Why? Because the person who’s says these things is invariably someone whose job it is to prevent the opposition from playing well and being better than them on the day.39 Appeals
That’s what you can expect from our latest knock for All Out Cricket.
In the preamble, All Out Cricket have accused us of having a ‘beady eye’ which is pretty much libel – we have two beady eyes and we make use of both of them.
We’ve decided not to take this to court because they could quite easily change it to ‘Alex Bowden takes a sideways look at cricket’ if they were to lose the case.8 Appeals
Or listened to it. Or paid a bit more attention to the scorecard than we did. In which case, please could you leave some sort of pithy synopsis in the comments section so that everyone else can feel like they got something of value out of visiting this website today?
That’d be great. Cheers. It’s much appreciated and we promise we’ll start doing things properly again in a bit.
That timeframe again: ‘in a bit’.
Also, here’s a link to the Jos Buttler section of the site. We’d definitely have linked to at least one of these articles had we written something about the match ourself – probably the one about him batting at five, but we can’t be sure. Presumably at least one of them’s relevant in some way. You’ll have to judge for yourself.14 Appeals