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How long until someone suggests Moeen Ali is battling to keep his Test spot?

Photo by Sarah Ansell

It feels like one of those rare moments when very few people are talking about whether or not Moeen Ali will be able to keep his place in the England side. While many all-rounders benefit from being able to contribute in two separate disciplines, the beardster always seems to be viewed as someone who has been underperforming in one or the other.

You’ve got a pet favourite batsman from the County Championship? Maybe he should be playing instead of Moeen Ali. You fancy the look of a new young spinner? He’s probably a better bet than Moeen Ali.

Meanwhile, England keep on picking him and he keeps on contributing something or other in every match he plays. As well as the ten wickets and the 87 runs in the first innings of the first Test against South Africa, our man also took a couple of blinding catches. It’s all part of the job – if only because everything’s part of Moeen Ali’s job.

We reckon that a match-winning performance like this should be sufficient to buy Moeen a period of grace of approximately one Test match. After that, someone somewhere will again deem him to be under pressure.

Moeen doesn’t care. He’ll turn away from it all like a blind man and then – same as he’s done many times before – do something, anything, to earn himself one more chance.

These last chances are really stacking up for the lad. We wouldn’t bet against him stringing a hundred of them together.


Moeen Ali and Stuart Broad follow by example

With their feisty batting in the morning and a pair of wickets each, Moeen Ali and Stuart Broad truly delivered non-captains’ performances.

This is what good team members do. They set an example for the captain to follow. It’s like they always say: he who leads the leader slightly reduces the duration of the group’s journey by arriving early.

Yes, they do always say that.

Broad’s batting is now a perfect combination of timing and terror, with exquisite back foot drives bubbling atop a constant undercurrent of jeopardy. His innings are so much more enjoyable for being so fragile.

Moeen Ali’s batting is not dissimilar, although the general experience is dreamier and the end more sudden. Where Broad is keen that you never forget his dismissal is an everpresent danger, Moeen only intermittently reminds you that his is a possibility.

Other events of the day were South Africa going after Liam Dawson a bit (because why wouldn’t you?) and an ICC announcement that Kagiso Rabada would serve a one-match suspension after becoming the first person in the history of the world to instruct Ben Stokes to fuck off.


Joe Root sinks a few and then wanders off on his own

Joe Root (via England Cricket Twitter video)

If Joe Root’s going to try and lead by example, he might want to check whether anyone’s actually following him. If no-one does, then we’re afraid it’s just plain old ‘batting well’ – which is what he always used to do anyway. What kind of captaincy is that?

If you’re outperforming everyone else in your team by an order of magnitude, you’re not actually leading. You’re just wandering off and having breathtaking adventures on your own. That’s excellent. Decidedly handy. But it is not leading.

Leaders have followers. That’s just the way it works. Found an ashram, give people spiritual guidance, somehow raise obscene sums of money – that’s leading. Say exactly the same sorts of things after five pints in The Pheasant’s Arms and everyone will ignore you because you’re a mental.

Alternatively, leading by example isn’t really a thing.


Dog’s eye view of baseball-bat-wielding thug David Gower

Okay, not strictly speaking a dog’s eye view unless (a) the dog has its eyes behind its ears or (b) there’s a tiny dog piloting the larger dog.

However, that genuinely is a blurry David Gower up ahead and he really is wielding a baseball bat, the thug.

Like almost all baseball-bat-wielding thugs, he’s standing in the middle of a field in the Cotswolds.

Here’s the dog rushing towards him to get an autograph or something.

In the ensuing melee, you can sort of tell it’s Gower – provided someone’s already told you it’s him and you know who to try and recognise.

Here’s another shot, for no other reason than that you can never have too many low quality stills of a man you’re taking it on trust is David Gower.

He has his mouth open in that last one, like he sometimes does when he’s masterfully anchoring cricket programmes on the TV.

The footage was from a police dog demonstration at this year’s Cotswolds Show that ITV saw fit to cover.

Thanks to The Guardian’s Ali Martin for drawing it to our attention, but not so much for demanding that we write about it. You all know our position on requests. Don’t the rest of you be getting ideas.


Jason Holder starts to play how you always imagined he would

India failed to chase down 190 against the West Indies and there were a couple of prominent reasons for this.

Firstly, MS Dhoni hit India’s slowest half-century in 16 years – although ‘hit’ seems an entirely inappropriate word to use for an innings of 54 off 114 balls. MS Dhoni bobbled India’s slowest half-century in 16 years. He was there until six balls to go too, so his soporific knock actually took in much of ‘the slog’ .

Another reason for India’s low score was Jason Holder.

When we first caught sight of Holder, we thought ‘ooh hell’ or something along those lines. Two metres tall, a seam bowler who could bat, we had visions of Curtly Ambrose as an all-rounder. After watching him play, he came across as more of an Angus Fraser/Chris Tavaré character.

While that would be many people’s dream cricketer, it was nevertheless an interesting contrast to one’s expectations. He was clearly a committed cricketer, but a labouring one to whom results didn’t appear to come easily.

For a long time the effort-plus-raw-ingredients-equals-results equation didn’t really add up for Holder, but the final part has been increasing in value for a while now. He took 5-27 against India and if he’s still coming on second or third change in Tests, here he was opening the bowling.

There’s more to come. Albeit probably in the form of a self-destructive diktat from the West Indies Cricket Board.


It rains more at night

This is the conclusion we drew from last week’s round of pink ball County Championship fixtures. Only one of four matches in the first division ended in a result – and even that one saw only 23 wickets fall.

Despite the experiment only resulting in the confounding situation where Essex are even more top, we’d like to see a lot more day-night cricket.

Clearly, that’s because of this kind of thing.

 

We believe this constitutes an unarguable case.


BBC to show “some” live cricket from 2020 as highlights move from Channel 5

The England and Wales Cricket Board has recently accepted that it needs to get some live cricket onto free-to-air TV. The question most of us have been asking is what constitutes “some”.

From 2020 (appropriately enough) the BBC will be showing two men’s and one women’s T20 internationals each summer. They’ve also won the right to broadcast Test highlights from Channel 5. After Champions Trophy highlights were dumped at midnight, Test Match Special’s Jonathan Agnew made it clear that highlights will be shown at prime time, which is something of a relief.

The Beeb will also broadcast 10 men’s matches from the ECB’s new T20 competition, including the final, and up to eight matches from the women’s T20 tournament, again including the final.

What does this mean?

It means everyone will be able to watch some cricket and with the finals of the domestic T20 competitions secured, much of that will have some sort of context too. It won’t just be random T20 matches in a competition you can’t follow to the end.

Conversely, you can well imagine the T20 internationals might be the kinds of low priority fixtures we’ve just seen played out between England and South Africa. Or maybe the very fact that they’ll be broadcast live on the BBC might mean a proper turn-out from all the stars. That could prove an interesting development. If that proves to be the case, the next rights deal for 2025 onwards could be an interesting one.

Where’s the rest of the live cricket going to be broadcast?

On Sky Sports – which, considering they announced a channel called Sky Cricket earlier this week, should have been pretty bloody obvious. It was highly unlikely they’d have been keen to devote a whole channel to an insect.

There’s good news there though with talk that you might be able to subscribe to just that one channel, which would presumably work out a bit/lot cheaper.

What about Channel 5?

Nowt. We’re a bit sad for them really, because they’ve been holding the fort all this time and have been doing a super job. It’ll be interesting/irritating to see how quickly the BBC get up to speed highlights-wise.


Chamari Atapattu can hit a cricket ball

Chamari Atapattu (via ICC)

Chamari Atapattu – full name, somewhat confusingly, Atapattumudiyanselage Chamari Jayangani, so that she appears on scorecards with the one name she doesn’t appear to use – has played an innings.

If anyone else had bothered to help her, Sri Lanka would have won. At the same time, if anyone else had bothered to help her, it would have undermined the sheer solo magnificence of her knock.

Context is a great deal. In scoring 60 runs and losing nine wickets, Atapattu’s team-mates embiggened her 178 not out enormously (there were also 19 extras). It was a God damned shame that Australia couldn’t have delivered something similar for even greater embiggenment. Instead, they chased down their target for the loss of two wickets, the spoilsports.

Having watched the highlights of her innings, Atapattu is not averse to a mow. You put the ball in front of her, she will mow it. She will mow it mightily. Cow corner didn’t know what had hit it. (It was a cricket ball. Many times.)


Sky Sports Cricket is going to be cheaper and you won’t have to subscribe

We were bemoaning the out-of-date way in which broadcasters sell sport to consumers a month or so ago. We said it was too expensive and you had to sign up to too much that you didn’t want.

Maybe they listened.

Sky Sports has announced a series of changes which will (eventually) address all of these concerns. They didn’t announce a new deal that would see the company break away from Rupert Murdoch, unfortunately – but time will take care of that eventually. You can’t persuade time to call off its assault, Rupert. You can’t scare away the Grim Reaper with a load of bullshit headlines.

The Guardian reports that Sky Sports is going to do away with its policy of peppering cricket across multiple channels and is instead going to stick it all on Sky Cricket. You will then be able to subscribe to that channel alone at reduced cost, as you won’t also be signing up to a whole bunch of football you couldn’t give a toss about.

But that hasn’t been the only issue. TV sport subscriptions are merely the tip of an investment iceberg which also requires you to get a base TV package and probably your phone and broadband from the same provider. It looks like this too could change.

When we wrote about using Kodi to stream live cricket, we pointed out that the fragmented marketplace meant there were no guarantees that the TV channel you subscribe to would even be showing all of the matches you’re interested in. If the broadcasters can’t afford to provide everything you want, chances are you don’t want to commit to paying them for a year when they’re only doing half a job.

This is where Now TV comes in.

Now TV is a pay-as-you-go subscription-free TV service. At present, this flexibility means it is a pay-through-the-nose-as-you-go TV service where one day of Sky Sports will cost you eight quid, a week will cost you £11 and a month will cost you £34.

But again, you’re paying for six channels you aren’t even watching and so the changes to Sky Sports subscriptions should drip down to the cost of this service as well.

This is good news. You may however be concerned that much of this is irrelevant as BT Sport is buying up more and more cricket. Well, rest assured that anything Sky Sports does, BT Sport will also do, only slightly later. We fully expect their own subscription-free TV service to materialise before too long.

Immediately before this winter’s Ashes series would a very good time to launch.


Liam Livingstone’s golden duck was one of the finest

Liam Livingstone’s England debut was pretty spectacular. He didn’t just fail to display his talent to a wider audience, he actively concealed it.

He dropped a catch; mishit everything, including the one boundary that he hit; bust his bat; and then got run out. He also found time to enrage Chris Morris beyond all human comprehension.

We were therefore rather excited to see what he’d deliver in  his second match.

Liam Livingstone didn’t disappoint.

Unless you wanted to see runs, in which case he fully disappointed.

Ducks don’t come much more golden than this one.

As you can see, Dane Paterson hasn’t even released the ball yet and Livingstone’s right foot is already making preparations for his dismissal.

All images via ECB

By this point, we start to get a feel for what’s happening. Could be aiming for an LBW. Could be looking to get caught at fine leg.

But now things start to crystallise. This is a very strong stance from which to be bowled for a golden duck.

Class.

Arguably, he came closer to hitting his airborne bails than the ball.

Then, after he realised what had happened, Livingstone briefly tried to style it out by pretending that someone had speared him in the chest with the handle of his own cricket bat.

If you’re going to get clean bowled, do it with a bit of panache.

We think you’ll agree this was a quite magnificent first-baller and we can’t wait for Livingstone’s next international outing.


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