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Stuart Broad is ‘due’

Stuart Broad (via Channel 5)

It’s not just batsman who can squirrel performances away for a later date. Stuart Broad has told George Dobell that he doesn’t really mind that he hasn’t taken all that many wickets this summer because he’s been creating chances. He then added: “If I’m saving all my wickets for Australia, I don’t mind.”

Wise rationing of outcomes, Stuart. Very wise.

He also had positive and accurate things to say about the current England team.

“It’s one of those teams at the moment that feels like someone different is stepping up each day, which is really exciting.”

He’s not wrong. When it comes to the batting, one days it’s Alastair Cook who makes runs, the next day it’s Joe Root and then every now and again it’s one of the all-rounders before going back to Cook and then Root again.


When only being good enough to play for the West Indies became a crime

When a system’s broken, a large proportion of people will only lose their temper with whoever’s closest.

Overworked due to cutbacks? Blame the colleague who just asked you a question. Huge queue of traffic on the motorway? Focus your bad mood on the driver of the car in the adjacent lane who’s trying to filter in.

Similarly, a lot of people seem to be angry with the West Indies players for their performance in the first Test. Actually angry.

“The West Indies are a disgrace; they aren’t even trying; and the series is going to be three embarrassing innings defeats.”

We’re collating and paraphrasing there, but this was the tenor of some of the broadcast coverage of the match.

Every time the West Indies tour England, a certain proportion of this nation’s commentators seem surprised that the team isn’t as good as they thought it was.

It’s not so much they expect them to be all-conquering; it’s not so much that they expect them to win. It’s more that whatever standard they are, they’re expected to be slightly better.

Maybe it’s a slow slide or maybe some people’s perceptions are so well-anchored that they have to be dragged with a good deal of force.

The Windies weren’t very good in the first Test. This doesn’t necessarily mean they will also be poor in the next two matches, but they were bad enough that it’s not an entirely unfair assumption.

The case for the defence is that they are an inexperienced Test side, if not quite as young as you might think. The Edgbaston day-nighter was perhaps the most high profile five-day match several of them will have played and that can impact performance.

They may well lose the next two Tests. If they do, disappointment is natural, and sadness. But anger at the players? They’re almost certainly doing their best – even if that isn’t quite so majestic as some might hope.

This is a bunch of guys who probably aren’t quite as good at cricket as the people they’re playing against. There are bigger crimes.


What’s it like to attend a day-night test in England?

Edgbaston (via Channel 5)

England are playing the West Indies at Edgbaston in the first day-night Test match in this country. Everyone’s been wondering what the experience would be like for the fans.

We’ve had a handful of early reports and we’ll add any more we get to this page.

Day one attendee, Tom

1) Until it got dark, I simply thought it was just three hours earlier than it was.
2) Patrons of the Hollies stand turned up drunk and got drunker. Watching and listening to them throughout the day – from a safe distance away in the South Lower – was as entertaining as the cricket at times.

I wish I could go tomorrow.

Day one attendee, Ged

We had an enormous picnic hamper of sandwiches and goodies for our group of six. But, despite the fact that play started at 2pm  and no-one had eaten since breakfast, we still did that “hold off for the first hour of play” thing, because that’s what we do.

Just before the start of the final session, the soprano who had sung Jerusalem at the start of the match sang Nessun Dorma to commemorate the first day/night Test match in the UK. The meaning of Nessun Dorma made the choice especially strange to me; “none shall sleep”. Is that an order from the WCCC Committee?

There was a lot of Eric Hollies Stand business, not least a long conga line led by Mr Blobby, which looked quite splendid from the safety of the Raglan Stand opposite. I don’t think this had anything to do with the day/nightness of the occasion.

One of our party decided that session three was a two-trouser occasion and donned a second pair just before the Nessun Dorma.

Day two attendee, Sam

We got to the ground early. The bars were already heaving. There were many more food stalls than usual. I quipped that it was like a food festival with a cricket match on the side.

From the start, the pink ball was easier to see from the crowd than the red ball. That was a good thing.

The lights came on before tea as a thick black cloud rolled in. The rain we had been expecting all day arrived with gusto at about 7pm.

The Hollies stand was typically raucous. But overall it was a bit of a flat day.

What I took away from it was this. You can add all the bells and whistles you like – floodlights, pink balls, hashtags, re-useable beer glasses – but if the cricket isn’t compelling, something is missing.

I got the sense many spectators weren’t completely tuned in to the action because there was no contest.

I enjoyed my day/night experience, but it would be nice to have stronger opposition next time.

Day three attendee, David

Going off for rain after one ball wasn’t a great start but because it was already 1.30pm we didn’t feel so bad getting a beer.

The biggest issues were that the late start played havoc with picnic habits that have been developed and refined over many years (do we still have sandwiches at “lunch” or a Mr Kipling fruit pie at 4pm?) followed by poor batting from the Windies and deciding whether a collection of Donald Trumps in the Hollies was ironically funny or politically worrisome.


Jason Holder’s old ball half-over

Alastair Cook walks off having scored loads of runs (via ECB)

Many things happened during the UK’s first day-night of Test cricket, but the most memorable was the 81st over.

The whole focus of the day was on what would happen when a new pink ball was used under lights – but no-one told the captain of the bowling side.

It was like going to a Lou Bega gig only for him to finish with one of his earlier Mambos. It was like queuing up at the Westvleteren Brewery only to be handed half a mug of lukewarm Ovaltine. The whole reason why people were here was wilfully overlooked.

Jason Holder opted against taking the new ball when it became available and instead bowled three insipid nothing deliveries with the old one before limping off. Roston Chase finished the over with a bit of off-spin and then opening batsman Kraigg Brathwaite bowled the next over.

Sometimes a delay can build tension, but in this case it was only an exercise in pissing it all away. The West Indies didn’t have an excellent day.

Alastair Cook did. He was top-scorer and bats on. Joe Root also made a hundred.


Are you attending the day-night Test at Edgbaston?

Fella changing a few floodlight bulbs (via ECB)

With its short surges of action and long playing hours, cricket is an unusual sport to watch in person. This is why we started publishing match reports from our readers that don’t actually mention the cricket.

We’ve always been interested in other people’s live cricket experiences. A day at a Lord’s Test is unlike a day at an Old Trafford Test, and a day at any Test is unlike a County Championship game, which in turn is unlike a T20 match. It’s not so much about the on-field action as the demeanour of the crowd and the things people do to fill the gaps in play.

The day-night Test at Edgbaston seems likely to present a new experience again, but the exact vibe is as yet unknown.

Fortunately, it sounds like a number of you are going, so we’d like to request, perhaps even demand reports from you all.

We don’t want endless paragraphs. It doesn’t even have to be funny. Just send us a few thoughts and if there’s enough submissions we’ll collate them into a little snapshot of the experience of watching day-night Test cricket in England.

We know we have a well-earned reputation for publishing match reports about a year after the match in question has taken place, but in this instance there might be a bit of queue-jumpery. If there’s early submissions, we might even publish while the match is in progress for the benefit of those attending on subsequent days.

Was it cold? Did everyone get too drunk? Were you confused about the breaks in play and did you end up eating more meals than you normally would? Could you see properly?

What else? Let us know at king@kingcricket.co.uk


Cricket is getting used to pink balls

Day-night cricket in whites (via Sky Sports)

Pink balls have been around for a while. We were making jokes about them a decade ago, but interest really spiked when they held the first day-night Test in Australia in 2015.

The weeks and months leading up to that match were characterised by endless versions of the same two interviews. Players either said that the ball was the same, only pink; or they talked at great length about how it was so different from the red one that day-night matches shouldn’t be considered cricket and this was in fact the birth of a new sport.

We enjoyed both of these extremes immensely – and indeed ran Pink Ball Watch in Cricket Badger for a time. We’re therefore gravely disappointed by the relative lack of kerfuffle in the lead-up to the first day-night Test in the UK. What little comment there’s been has been measured. If we had to sum up, pretty much everyone has said that the pink ball will be “sort of different but hey-ho”.

We can only conclude from this that cricket’s kind of got used to the idea of day-night cricket and if the breaks in play still aren’t satisfactorily-named, then at least everyone’s happier with the colour of the ball they’ll be using.

That does of course leave the tricky question of whether or not it’s worth bothering with day-night cricket in a country where it tends to be both cold and light in late evening. Our thoughts are that it’ll be a great success this year but that this is basically meaningless as everyone who attends may just end up feeling that they’ve learnt their lesson.


The best part about Jack Leaning’s catch

Yorkshire’s Jack Leaning took a cool catch.

It went like this.

But this was the best part.

Also this guy.

Yorkshire fans.


Mark Stoneman took the long way round

Mark Stoneman (via Surrey Twitter)

We’ve done this one already. Mark Stoneman has finally turned up in an England squad about a month after we expected him to. He’s a patient man though – the oldest something-or-other to maybe do something, according to a piece we read earlier.

We’ve covered Mason Crane too, so you’ve no excuse for not being ahead of the game on this one too. In contrast to Stoneman, he will be the youngest something-something who might be about to something. Probably.

We haven’t actually read anything about Crane’s call-up yet, but he is very young, so it seems safe to assume that he can lay claim to at least one ‘youngest to…’ type thing. Youngest double-surnamed leg-spinner to carry the drinks for England, say.

Poor Adil Rashid. He appears to have been deemed too flakey for Test cricket.

Also, Chris Woakes’s back! As in ‘returned’. He hasn’t got ankylosing spondylitis or anything.


England should think about playing their main spinner

Photo by Sarah Ansell

When Moeen Ali was first labelled England’s second spinner, it was widely assumed that Liam Dawson must therefore be the first spinner. It stood to reason.

However, Moeen supposedly remained the second spinner even when he was the only one of the two selected, which raises the possibility that Dawson was actually the third spinner all along.

So who is England’s main spinner? No idea, but they should seriously consider picking him. If the second choice fella can take 25 wickets at 15.64 in a four-Test series – including a hat trick – then just imagine what kind of an impact the first choice guy would have had.

It also seems highly likely that England are failing to pick their best five specialist batsmen, so they might want to address that one too.

But back to Moeen, because we have a theory to posit. Our theory is this: Moeen Ali is engaged in an ongoing post-modern joke that no-one else is in on. We believe he is actively going out of his way to give the most boring answers to post-match interviews.

We finally saw through his ruse while watching Channel 5’s highlights of the fourth Test. Mark Nicholas tried to corner him with a leading question that positively demanded an interesting answer. He asked whether Jimmy Anderson had been getting any stick from his team-mates for having an end named after him.

Of course he has. Everyone knows he has. All Moeen had to do was say one of the things that had been said. Instead, he chose to answer a different question; a blander question. He said that it was a great honour for Jimmy to have an end named after him and everyone in the team was happy for him.

Moeen is fundamentally smart, self-aware and interesting. He is doing this on purpose. Next time you’re watching him being interviewed, entertain yourself by playing “how the hell will Moeen get out of saying something interesting this time.”

It is a game that will hopefully run and run.


The more batsmen England pick, the fewer they have

The big question before this fourth Test was could England’s batsmen start making some runs and maybe win a few more Tests?

When the answer revealed itself to be “no and yes” it became apparent that these were actually two separate questions.

England somehow cobbled together a half-decent first innings score while simultaneously making their batting appear even less solid. The second innings was more of the same.

In Top Gun, Maverick’s “hit the brakes and he’ll fly right by” trick is a neat one, but probably not a ploy on which to base a career. We feel similarly about England’s current approach to building totals.


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