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England v Sri Lanka at Lord’s, day one – match report

Lord's Cricket Ground pavilion

We weren’t going to do this, but when we started writing something else we sort of felt obliged to ‘fess up that we’d actually been at the ground yesterday and by that point a match report seemed unavoidable.

New rule

We always include a brief italicised outline of what we want from match reports submitted to this site (send them to king@kingcricket.co.uk), but one thing we increasingly feel the need to mention is that you don’t actually have to be Ged Ladd to contribute one. Much as we enjoy the man’s offerings, it would be good to break the Ged hegemony because variety and fenugreek are the spices of life.

Ged doesn’t even have to be there.

Although he was on this occasion.

Ged

We know Ged through this website. A couple of years ago, we met Ged for a pint and we now know him in that sense. But we don’t know Ged. For example, until yesterday, we didn’t know that Ged was the kind of person who could tell you in what year you’d met him for a pint and Ged didn’t know that we were the kind of person for whom past, present and future are just one murky impenetrable dream state, meaning we rarely know if things happened yesterday, five years ago or not yet.

So this was not one of those we-always-meet-up-for-the-cricket things. It was a very kind invite from Ged which was completely unexpected. We were particularly struck by it because we would never even dream of inviting someone to something unless we’ve known that person for at least 20 years (a threshold which also increases by the year).

Be prepared

Ged told us he would take care of food and kindly reminded us that Lord’s Cricket Ground’s greatest attribute is that you’re allowed to take some booze in.

Going by the guidelines, a bottle of wine seemed the most sensible thing to bring. However, we have never drunk wine at a cricket match and what little we know of Ged also made us suspect that a bottle of SPANISH RED WINE in upper-case letters probably wouldn’t be to his normal standards, so we instead plumped for the two beers option.

At the same time, we didn’t want to be the northerner who turns up with two cans of Skol, so we opted for two bottles of Belgian beer as this seemed nicely ambiguous.

Real world skills

What we didn’t bring was a bottle opener. Fortunately, Ged’s front row seats provided us with a perfectly adequate concrete step in front of us and we were able to put this to use for the old ‘position bottle top on corner and hammer with side of hand’ opening technique.

We were somewhat taken aback when not just Ged, but also his two companions Charley “The Gent” Malloy (slight suspicion of a made-up name) and Big Al Delarge (slight suspicion of a made-up name) were astounded by this hitherto unseen method. When we employed it a second time later on in the day, people in neighbouring seats also looked on in awe. One guy, wearing a blazer, said: “That’s pretty impressive,” and really seemed to mean it.

We felt a little like we’d just cracked open a can of Skol, but mostly we felt proud to have helped spread a vital life skill which we had always taken for granted.

The Home of Cricket

While there certainly were a few beer drinkers in our stand, it wasn’t 98 per cent of the crowd as it is at the cricket grounds we normally attend. The most popular beverage was instead Champagne and the day was punctuated by popping sounds.

Surveying the patch of grass beyond the boundary, we put it to Ged that a more appropriate nickname for Lord’s would be The Home of Corks. He seemed to find this amusing. Acutely aware that we are nowhere near as witty in real life as people sometimes expect us to be, we made a note and repeated the joke hourly.

The Home of Real Tennis

At the end of the day’s play, Ged offered to show us the ground’s real tennis court. This was everything we hoped it would be – which is to say an almost entirely baffling experience. As far as we can work out, those who commit to real tennis from an early enough age must at some point hit some sort of sweet spot where they have had sufficient time to attain a rough grasp of the rules without yet having been consigned to a wheelchair through old age.

After that, it was time to shake hands and part ways. We politely reminded Ged to try and keep his match reports as short and pithy as possible and then the next day wrote 800 words about meeting him.

Did Ged make Lord’s throdkin?

Did he ever. Top man. Recipe here.

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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It’s the Lord’s Test – you know what that means, right?

Lord's Cricket Ground pavilion

It means it’s time for great swathes of flowery sentimental guff about what is, at the end of the day, a load of grass surrounded by plastic seats, overlooked by blocks of flats.

The only way we can get through the misty-eyed paeans to Lord’s these days is to turn it into a game. If you’re actively looking for eye-watering sentiment, it isn’t quite so eye-rollingly infuriating when it happens.

As ever, we’ve got particularly high hopes for Mark Nicholas so we’re recording Channel 5’s highlights show specifically to hear his monologue.

This year we’re hoping for a ‘hallowed turf’. We’ll be punching the air if we get one.

Apparently there’s a match on too.

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Is Rory Kleinveldt the archetypal South African pro?

As you may well have seen, Michael Lumb and Riki Wessels shared a 342-run partnership in a one-day game last night. Even more dispiritingly for the opposition, they did it as openers while batting first.

You could easily have been forgiven for thinking that the game was essentially over even before the fall of that first wicket, but Northamptonshire bounced back well, even if they couldn’t ultimately chase down Notts’ final total of 445. After falling to 206-5, Rory Kleinveldt came in and made 128 off 63 balls. He was batting with a runner due to a calf injury – although with 10 fours and nine sixes, there wasn’t an awful lot of running to be done.

Rory Kleinveldt is very, very South African indeed. If we try and imagine the archetypal South African county pro, he is in his early thirties, a solid seam bowler and capable of lower order batting that demands the description ‘muscular’. Muscular means fairly sloggy but somehow not suicidally so – enough to average about 20.

You’d expect such a player to have played a small handful of international fixtures and while you may sort of remember them being in the team, you won’t recall any specifics.

The ageing South African pro is also liable to be carrying a bit of extra heft. You would never call him Rory Kleinsvelte.

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England v Australia at Edgbaston Test – day one match report

Ivan Meagreheart The Smart Phone writes:

It’s hard work being Ged Ladd’s smartphone. I get pretty run down by the end of most days. Still, there are perks. One of those perks is cricket. During the cricket season I get to look at the scores a heck of a lot. And sometimes I get to go to matches.

Ged has a regular meet with friends for Thursday and Friday, the first two days, of the Edgbaston Test. This year [Editor’s note: last year now] threw them into confusion. The match started on a Wednesday. So what exactly is their tradition? They plugged for the Thursday and Friday; days two and three this year.

So on day one, the Wednesday, Ged decided to get his packing and some work done early in the morning, go to the gym to watch a fair chunk of the morning session on the TV while exercising, then head to Euston during the luncheon interval.

When we got to Euston, Ged called Daisy; a task for which I am ideally suited, but increasingly rarely employed. Daisy told Ged that her two o’clock patient had cancelled and that she now had an unexpected break until half-three. She intended to slob out and watch the cricket. “Great,” said Ged. “Give us a call or text if anything happens – the wifi/digital signal on the trains is ghastly, but strangely, mobile phone signals get through fine.”

It’s only a short journey to Birmingham, but Daisy must have phoned Ged half a dozen times while we were on the train. Girls. Ged seemed happy enough about it, though.

When we got to the hotel, Ged collected his key and then wheeled his bag to the bar; stood watching the TV for a short while, then turned around and headed towards our room. Moments after we turned and walked out, the punters in the bar gave a huge cheer. I didn’t realise that Ged was so unpopular.

Ged took about 10 minutes to unpack a bit and grab some reading matter, then we headed back to the bar. Ged found a quiet corner with a good view of a second TV, ordered a potta and hunkered down for the rest of the afternoon.

About an hour later, Nigel “Father Barry” White arrived and joined us in the bar. He had received a peculiar text from Charley “the Gent” Malloy and “the Boy” Malloy, who said they were running a bit late and had stopped for a snack at a service station. Ged and Nigel debated the causation sequence in that two-part statement. There ought to be an app for that.

After a while, the Malloy pair turned up. The four fellas had a drink together as stumps approached. Soon after stumps, Nigel raised the subject of dinner. Charley announced that the Malloys’ late afternoon snack had turned into a bit of a junk food feast and that they weren’t hungry.

Ged and Nigel searched for a restaurant nearby – I have an app for that – and settled on Bengal Delight. They had a very enjoyable meal by all accounts, although neither ruby looked anything like the posh drizzle-laden pictures on the website. I was quite rundown by the end of the evening, as was Ged, in excited anticipation of spending day two at the match.

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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Weather to play cricket – talking points from Colin Graves’ recent interviews

Meant to do this the other day. Midway through the first Test, England and Wales Cricket Board chairman Colin Graves smooshed around all of the various media present, saying the same things to different people.

The two main things that he said were that the T20 Blast is “mediocre” and that day-night cricket is coming to England.

We have two very quick points to make and once again, they both hinge on weather. If we sound obsessive, we’re not. It’s just a simple truth that in the absence of giant tarpaulins draped over our grounds, playing cricket in England and Wales demands that we consider atmospheric micturition.

T20 in a block

A lot of people want to see the domestic Twenty20 competition played in a block rather than throughout the season. If we consider only the cricket, this makes an awful lot of sense. You’d probably be able to get more big players involved and the competition would hold people’s interest better. Set against that, what if it pisses it down?

It can rain at any time of year in the UK, but sometimes it rains in a block. Sometimes it rains in a block across most of the country and cricket is barely played for a fortnight. What if that fortnight coincides with a large portion of your ‘flagship’ cricket thing? It also seems highly likely that the tournament will be played in August, during the school holidays, which is very much the rainy season in some parts of the country but not others, which seems a tad unfair.

We’re not entirely against this idea. We’re just pointing out that designing great cricket tournaments in the UK really isn’t as straightforward as it is in other countries.

Day-night Test matches

We also have reservations about the idea of playing day-night Test cricket in England.

In India and Australia, people are quite keen to watch cricket at night because it’s cooler. In England, people generally aren’t – because it’s cooler.

British people want to sit in the sun and get moderately shit-faced, don’t they? Maybe they don’t. Maybe they want to turn up after work and get moderately shit-faced while wearing a parka.

Yeah, okay, give it a try. Might as well see what happens, but again we’d like to emphasise that Britain and the British climate really don’t have all that much in common with the rest of the cricket-playing world and sometimes you have treat different things as if they’re different.

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Hampshire’s innovative approach to losing ground on rivals

Uninformative lead-in paragraph. Brace yourselves. Uninspiring but undeniably informative subheading to come.

Middlesex v Hampshire

This was our favourite match this week, largely because Hampshire scored -1 points. They did actually score a point for taking three wickets in Middlesex’s first innings of 467 but were deducted two for bowling too slowly.

Excellent work, Hampshire.

Somerset v Surrey

Hampshire’s ability to cede ground against the odds was great news for Surrey who arguably put in the performance of the season to engineer a breathtaking defeat to Somerset.

Having taken a 162-run first innings lead after bowling out the home side for 102, Surrey subsequently did everything in their power to lose. Surrey’s match-losing powers are, apparently, phenomenal.

Bowled out for 138 they then permitted Somerset to reach their target of 301 with nine wickets down despite no batsman managing to make more than 56.

Excellent work, Surrey.

Nottinghamshire v Durham

This match was more like the classic 2016 first division fare we’ve come to expect – a big fat draw.

Scott Borthwick took eight wickets bowling leg-spin either side of scoring 188 not out. Scott Borthwick is playing dream cricket.

Excellent work, Scott Borthwick.

Yorkshire v Lancashire

We know as a Lancashire supporter that we’re supposed to get really upset when Lancashire lose to Yorkshire because of that whole bitter rivalry thing, but we can never really muster the emotion. The truth is, we quite like Yorkshire – not as much as Lancashire obviously, but easily enough to subdue tears.

This match pretty much confirmed that Yorkshire are the best team around. That might seem like an odd thing to say when their specialist batsmen mustered just 135 runs across two innings, but it’s striking that they still would have won had each of them made a pair.

Yorkshire have a lot of good cricketers. With a bit of batting and a bit of bowling, Adil Rashid and Tim Bresnan all but won this match on their own. Liam Livingstone couldn’t stop them. He made 60 not out in the first innings and now averages 70 in first-class cricket.

Excellent work, The Great Neil Wagner.

The table

Someone somewhere really needs to provide a way for us to embed this.

Screengrabs it is.

CC div 1, June 1

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James Anderson and the very definition of greatness

Photo by Sarah Ansell

Photo by Sarah Ansell

Last week we sort of maybe vaguely agreed to possibly think about putting down a few words about James Anderson and whether or not he was a ‘great’. As with most things we agree to do, we put it to the back of our mind and just sort of hoped it would go away.

Now that Anderson has become the number one Test bowler in the ICC rankings, bringing forth all the comment section scorn such a noble position entails, we figure we may have to tackle this topic after all.

What is greatness?

Any argument about whether or not a player is a great of the game always boils down to this and only this. For some weird reason, people develop very specific ideas about what constitutes a great player and nobody agrees with anyone else as to what that definition is.

Arguments may appear to be about the player being discussed, but in reality they are invariably about the definition of the word. This cannot be resolved and the player’s eligibility for the greatness club can therefore never be established. For all the heat and passion they inspire, such discussions are endlessly pointless and infinitely dull.

As for our own definition of greatness – we don’t have one. To be honest, we don’t really see the point in having a word if no-one agrees on its meaning. Our only definition is the more commonplace secondary one: a throwaway description of something impressive but inconsequential – a great shot, a great catch, a great cup of tea.

So is James Anderson a great?

If it’s not clear by now, we’re not going to answer that question.

What we will say is that while Anderson’s performances are perhaps more dependent on conditions than some others, the skill he shows when the ball does swing and seam is truly extraordinary. In those circumstances, we can’t confidently name a single player who has been his superior.

That has to be worth something. Imagine a hypothetical scenario where a player won half the Tests he ever played for his team but contributed nothing in the other half. A player who single-handedly gave his team victories in 50 per cent of its matches would be a name for the ages. With just two such players, you’d be doing all right.

This hypothetical player isn’t Anderson. It’s an nth degree exaggeration. Our point is that having huge influence in home Tests isn’t negated by less effective performance overseas because half your cricket is still a hell of a lot of cricket.

Conclusion

James Anderson isn’t hopeless overseas. If he isn’t as consistent as he is at home, he’s still put in any number of match-winning performances over the years.

In England, he’s better still. When he’s gone, we will not see the thing he excels at done quite so well for a long, long time. It’s possible we never will.

It strikes us that the only thing that’s really up for debate is the exact worth of the craft that he has undeniably mastered.

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Swing, seam and no place to go – the joys of touring England as a modern overseas batsman

Touring England’s never been easy. The conditions, for most overseas batsmen, are as weird and difficult as one of those early-Nineties computer games made by one slightly unhinged bloke in his bedroom. Nothing works how they expect it to and they search for a solution with no real certainty that such a thing even exists. The challenge is even greater nowadays when few players benefit from long stints in county cricket.

When Kumar Sangakkara first toured in 2002, he played three Tests, didn’t pass 40 and averaged 21. On his second tour, in 2006, he averaged 38.50 with a top score of 66. On his third tour, in 2011, he finally made a hundred, but pretty much no other runs and averaged 30.66. It wasn’t until 2014 that he finally cracked it, making a hundred and three fifties and averaging 85.50.

It takes a while.

Sangakkara was a half-decent batsman and he had it relatively easy as well. He didn’t have to face this current England attack. Snooty comments about the quality of this Sri Lanka team – and there have been many – show a real lack of comprehension of just what the tourists are up against.

Bowling well in England requires two main qualities. You need to find some movement – either swing, seam or both – and you need to bowl with enough control to exploit that. At this point in their careers, James Anderson and Stuart Broad do both of those things just about as well as anyone ever has.

There may have been better England bowlers, but in Tests taking place in England there have rarely been more consistent performers.

Touring England’s never been easy. In 2016, with these two at their peak, it’s rarely ever been much harder.

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Turns out we’re really rather delighted that Moeen Ali made a daddy hundred

Cricket - England v India - Fourth Investec Test - Day Two - Old Trafford, Manchester

A daddy hundred’s anything over 150, right? Sounds about right. Graham Gooch should get in touch to correct us if we’re wrong.

Sometimes it’s not entirely obvious how you feel about a player until you’ve seen what they’ve done without actually watching it happen. We were out all day and when we thought to check the Test score, Moeen Ali had made a hundred. We were somewhat unexpectedly delighted by this.

Checking the score gives you a purer experience. You don’t get chance to come to terms with what’s happened. The facts just hit you and you’re forced to react instantaneously. Turns out we really like Moeen Ali.

We sort of feel pleased for Chris Woakes in a ‘good on him’ kind of way as well. There’s a bit less clarity on that one, we’ll be honest.

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Fringe players and pressure – the Nick Compton story

Photo by Sarah Ansell

Photo by Sarah Ansell

You often get the impression with Nick Compton that if it weren’t for media scrutiny, the doubters and his own desire to succeed, he’d be just fine. That would be some luxury though.

Test cricket doesn’t work that way. You don’t really earn a Test place. You earn the right to justify a Test place. And even then you always have to earn the right to keep it. When you’re on the fringes of the team, a borderline selection, the pressure is all the greater.

That’s the game though. That’s life. Nothing’s ever quite how you want it to be. It’s never a true pitch beneath sunny skies against a mediocre bowling attack with all your DIY jobs at home done and just the right beer in the fridge. More often than not you’re out of form, a bit pressed for time, have everyone on your back and need to find some way to get the job done anyway.

The stars never frigging align, so you just have to make the best of things. The car breaks down, the digibox stops recording properly, work commitments expand (or unexpectedly disappear). It’s always something.

Everyone gets derailed. Those who crowbar themselves back onto the tracks against the odds are the ones who make successful Test cricketers.

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