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Langoustines? From England?

We kept an eye on this one-day series between England and New Zealand while we were away, but we were rather too preoccupied eating squid to read as much about it as we normally would. It was therefore slightly odd to return to lots of articles of the oeuvre ‘is this the greatest one-day series EVER?’

Betteridge’s law of headlines applies of course, but it’s still interesting that some people feel it might be okay to ask such a question. Quite how you’d judge the bestness of something that spans several thousand separate deliveries is perhaps irrelevant. It’s been a good series, but more pertinently it’s been a welcome series – in particular for England fans.

One-day cricket has often been the standard bearer for English cricketing underperformance. Even when his Test and Twenty20 brothers have been strong, you could still rely on the middle sibling to disappoint you. However, over the last year or so, English cricket has been more far-reachingly sad and so the 50-over side has responded by dropping its game still further.

In the same way that a poky little office with failing equipment leaves employees tetchy and fractious, so this general all-round rubbishness provided ideal growing conditions for melodrama. In the absence of entertaining cricket, people who have played cricket for England became the entertainment. It was all very depressing and no-one who likes cricket really enjoyed it.

That was the backdrop to this series. Desperate England fans would have settled for a small portion of whitebait, but they have been treated to a fish platter for two, all on their own. Not all of the fish on there is necessarily of the highest quality, but it’s unfamiliar and exciting and it’s far more than was expected.

Is it the best one-day series ever? Of course not, but it didn’t require anything close to that for people to have been blown away. The important thing is that for once everyone’s full and enjoyed the meal.

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Ireland v England at Malahide – match report

Chuck writes:

The last time Ireland played England in a one-day international in Malahide, Dublin, in 2013, I injured my back whilst emptying the dishwasher (at home, not in Malahide). This year, to avoid any such health and safety issues, I took myself along to the rematch instead, with a number of colleagues in tow. Having booked the tickets last autumn on the back of a cursory check of the long range weather forecast, we were somewhat disappointed in the run up to the match itself to see a storm brewing over Dublin, with its eye seemingly centred on the Malahide cricket club around noon on Friday. Oh well, we thought, they’re never right about the weather, those forecasters.

On the morning of the match, it was dry, if a little overcast. I arrived at the entrance to the grounds just as the announcer, well, announced the arrival of President Higgins to greet the two teams. Thankfully, there was no ensuing crush from those outside the ground eager to see the President, although I was worried how he was going to clear the boundary. I took my seat at 10.45am precisely, alongside the first two of my colleagues who were already seated with a pint in either hand. They were proud to tell me they had been second in line at the bar at 10.30am, just behind an English supporter who was berating the staff for not serving him at 10.29am. Having vowed not to have a drink before 11am, I contented myself with a cup of tea and a couple of chocolate digestives, a packet of which I had brought along with me with a view to sharing, but they don’t go with beer, seemingly. We agreed that the darkening clouds overhead suggested the forecasters might just have got it right for once.

One of a group of English supporters in front of us was wearing a full wet suit, snorkel and goggles as a commentary on the forecast. We gathered it was his stag weekend. They were ribbing one of the programme sellers, whose perm did make her look a little like 1970s-era Kevin Keegan, so there were some “I will love it if we beat them, love it!” type commentaries, which she either ignored or didn’t understand. I had a pint. We were slagging off the announcer, who in between every over ended his unnecessary score updates (we can see the scoreboard, thank you) by saying, v-e-r-y s-l-o-w-l-y indeed, “… at this, the Royal London One Day Cricket International between Ireland and England at Malahide Cricket Club.” I think he was worried that somebody might be at the wrong event.

We had all brought our sunglasses to encourage the weather to do its best but in the end they weren’t much good against the rain, which arrived around 12.15-ish. We repaired to the beer tent and had another beer. Then we repaired to the food tent and had some food. I almost mastered the art of holding a pint, an umbrella, a burger and a basket of fries at the same time. Not quite the cuisine or the setting I had imagined for this, my first cricket match. We did spot the usual gang of Richie Benaud impersonators, who looked miserable enough wandering around the ‘tented village’ in their cream coloured linen jackets, although at least their wigs were keeping them dry, if somewhat itchy.

Eventually we decided to walk down to Malahide village for some proper drinks, knowing we’d only be a few minutes walk away for the inevitable resumption of play. However, the ridiculous and unnecessary abandonment of play around 3pm-ish intervened, although at least it meant that we didn’t have to stir from the pub, which was just as well because it was really tipping down outside. We agreed that the guy in the wetsuit had the right idea. We got a train around 5pm and I walked a couple of miles home in the rain to clear my head, arriving just in time for dinner.

Saturday and Sunday turned out to be dry and warm, either one of which would have been just perfect for cricket. Bloody cricket administrators.

Send your match reports to 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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Cricket gold amid the everyday silt

All Out Cricket have a regular feature where a writer celebrates an especially glorious summer and all the great memories it brings back. We had to rewrite ours because the first draft was too depressing.

Our Golden Summer was 2000. Obviously it’s not. Obviously it’s 2005. But they can’t have everyone repeating the same bloody summer every month, so for the purposes of this feature, ours was 2000.

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How New Zealand kept their distance from ‘the line’

New Zealand’s performance against England in the recently-completed Test series was the most relentlessly aggressive we can remember. There have been examples of individual players adopting a persistent attacking approach before now, but look back on those series and you’ll tend to find obdurate batting and dry bowling from a fair proportion of their team-mates.

Aggressive teams are, in general, a myth. We did a piece for Cricinfo a year ago in which we highlighted this using the Ashes-winning Australia side as an example. That side was – and its current incarnation still is – a side with a reputation for playing aggressively which was based on the exploits of the few. The highlights packages show Mitchell Johnson bouncers, but when asked to outline the team’s overarching bowling strategy, Peter Siddle said simply: “The key stat for us is maidens.”

But there’s another angle to this, and another of our old Cricinfo articles as well. Why do people think that acting aggressively is somehow part of playing attacking cricket? New Zealand have, surely, driven home the message that such a view is a complete pile of crap.

Through the World Cup and now this series against England, the Kiwis have attacked with both bat and ball in a way few other sides would ever even consider. Yet they have never once gone close to the mythical ‘line’ that separates perfectly acceptable behaviour from that which is universally condemned. Attacking cricket and verbal aggression – turns out they’re entirely different things.

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Middlesex v Nottinghamshire – match preview

Ged, titfer and provisions

Ged writes:

It was a strange, bittersweet day, 10 April 2015. I woke up looking forward to buying in provisions ahead of Monday, which was to be my first day of cricket of the year – a traditional early season visit to Lord’s with Charley The Gent Malloy. Indeed, this year the tradition continues even down to the same two teams at play. But soon after rising, I learnt that Richie Benaud had died that morning, which put rather a dampener on my spirits.

Still, by late afternoon I had got my work done and also had convinced myself that Richie would have wanted me to lift my spirits and prepare for the new cricket season, as planned. So I dug out my picnic bag, stuck the picnic crocks in the dishwasher along with the breakfast things, donned my new titfer and headed off in the direction of the shops.

Charley is very particular about his favourite picnic foods. A few years ago he became partial to my wild Alaskan smoked salmon bagels or sandwiches, but these last couple of years I could never find an example of the Pacific species of salmon in M&S or Waitrose. I raised this important matter with Daisy over the Easter and she informed me that Tesco seems to have bought up the entire UK import quota of the smoked stuff.

But could I bring myself to set foot in a Tesco Metro en route to the Mini M&S? And would such a place stock the cherished sockeye comestibles? As I got near to the grocery-store block, I asked myself “what would Richie have done?” and concluded that he would have given Tesco Metro a try in these circumstances. I entered. The place seemed quite unfamiliar – nothing like the Little Waitrose and Mini M&S. Where on earth might they put the wild Alaskan smoked salmon, if indeed they stock it at all in this size of branch?

I considered asking a member of staff, but then went through my “what would Richie have done?” thought process and concluded that Richie was a real man. Real men NEVER EVER ask directions, not even in Tesco Metro. Anyway, there was little or no sign of staff to be found. And then, as if guided by a celestial spirit, I happened upon the very aisle and the very refrigerated shelf in that aisle which contained the smoked variety of the Oncorhynchus in question (nerka). I considered letting out a bestial roar at that juncture, but that didn’t feel very Richie. I also considered gently adjusting my trousers and shaking hands with a few nearby fielders, but that didn’t seem quite right in Tesco. Had it been Waitrose, then handshakes and polite applause for the departing salmon (unfortunately caught) would have seemed perfectly in order.

Yet there was still one more fiendish ordeal for me to negotiate before I could progress to M&S for the rest of my shopping. The queue for the regular checkout was extensive, but the dreaded self- service checkout machines were unoccupied. What would Richie have done in this circumstance? “You have to take chances in this game of life,” said my inner Richie. “Those machines are 90 per cent luck, 10 per cent skill, but don’t try it without the 10 per cent skill.”

I convinced myself that I must have at least 10 per cent of the skill required to operate such a machine, so put my basket down, bracing myself for the automated reprimands about bagging areas and unexpected objects. As if from nowhere, the one free-floating member of staff appeared beside me and asked me not to use that vacant machine but to use one of the others, because she needed to do something on “my” machine. This intervention seemed excessive, given that I only had one item to buy, but I was exiled to the other bank of vacant machines, to be robotically reproached by a machine other than the one of my choosing.

Yet I emerged having purchased my goods and progressed to M&S. There I bought the other items I needed and also bought some little packets of wheat-free tortilla chips. I always thought that tortilla chips were made of corn anyway, but apparently wheat free ones are a special thing. Old friends of me and Charley will know of a legendary shopping trip while at Edgbaston a few years ago, when Charley and I debated vociferously the relative virtues (in Charley’s case) or evils (in my case) of Doritos as picnic food. “Like an old married couple rowing” was the cruel but perhaps not unfair description. Anyway, these little bags are not Doritos, they are M&S wheat free tortilla chips with lime zest etc. – which is an entirely different thing. Guaranteed to raise a continuity smile, if not a laugh, come Monday. Richie Benaud would have liked that touch.

Send your match reports to 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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Next week on King Cricket

Brace yourselves. We’re taking a week off. Apparently it’s not just fast bowlers who need to recharge from time to time.

As ever, we’ve got stuff lined up for next week: match reports, summat about New Zealand and stuff we’ve done for other people that you may have missed.

Those of you who aren’t reading this particular post, please ensure you leave outraged comments about how we’re not covering some major news story or other (as if we ever actually report on anything).

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What do you want from your spinner? Control? Magic balls?

Adil Rashid bowls one at the moon

Photo by Sarah Ansell

Shortly before Adil Rashid bowled his ninth over in the first one-day international, the 28th of the innings, one of the Sky commentators said that captain Eoin Morgan would be delighted that he had ‘got through his overs’ by this early point.

That’s the kind of banality you’ll often hear during a one-day match, but it seems to betray a common (probably English) belief that a spinner is somehow a vulnerability; someone you bowl in the hope that you can get away with it. Presumably you can then revert to your nice, safe, right-arm fast-medium bowlers who have proven so economical in recent years.

In those last two overs, Rashid took three wickets and if the game had been tighter, Morgan would surely have been wishing he could have bowled a few more.

Watching the ball turn sharply one way while lower order batsmen played as if it was going to turn sharply the other way, it was hard not to also think of the many tail-end shellackings England have endured in Test matches. Control is clearly an attribute, but it is only a primary attribute if your approach centres on stifling repetition. If you’re instead looking to get people out with magic balls, it becomes secondary to… well, the ability to bowl magic balls.

There’s no right and wrong here. Both approaches are valid and each day one will be better than the other – who’s to say which? What’s important is that people assess players according to the right criteria.

A long hop doesn’t undo a wicket, allowing a dismissed batsman to return to the crease. At the very worst, it concedes six runs. In fact in general, as totals increase, a poor ball becomes less and less costly while a wicket becomes more and more valuable.

Excellent control is not an entry requirement any more than the ability to turn the ball both ways is. It’s all well and good landing the ball exactly where you want if it doesn’t then do something to trouble the batsman.

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Jos Buttler and Joe Root get the message

England v Sri Lanka Royal London One-Day Series 2014

Why, England, why? Why do you only now bat with no fear of consequences in this inconsequential one-day game? Why couldn’t you bat with no fear of consequences in the World Cup, back when there were consequences?

That’s only partly jaded cynicism

It’s mainly just our way of saying that England’s performance in the first one-day international against New Zealand was a welcome change rather than proof of the fundamental rightness of this side and the equally comprehensive wrongness of the World Cup team. A large proportion of the problems that afflict England’s one-day cricket won’t actually be tested again for quite some time. They may be latent. But never mind, there’s still much to be lauded for now.

For all that this is ‘an exciting young side,’ one thing that struck us is that the two players who made the biggest contributions with the bat – Joe Root and Jos Buttler – would have been playing even if England hadn’t made a single change. They’re top players anyway, but they appeared to go up a notch.

Let’s develop a blind spot to the point made at the start of this article and try and identify some other cause for this.

Show, don’t tell

In fiction, it’s generally accepted that if you have to explicitly state how a character is feeling, you’re not writing well and your story will be weak. Events and reactions should let the reader know what’s going on without the author having to explain things.

Similarly, you can tell a batsman to play freely, but he’s not necessarily going to buy that unless you can somehow show him that’s what you really want.

We’re basically in ‘actions speak louder than words’ territory here. Telling a batsman one thing and then dropping him or shifting him in the order for the next match might mean a coach is sending mixed messages. You could also argue that making no changes whatsoever might conflict with a verbal message of positivity if the side as a whole doesn’t really seem all that positive.

What we mean by that is that the constitution of the side sends a message to each of the players who comprise it. Sam Billings made three and Jason Roy was out first ball, but their very presence spoke of positive intent. Root and Buttler accepted that this truly was the philosophy of this remodelled England team and played accordingly.

You can’t just say ‘play positively’ – you have to commit to it.

What else?

No ending with a pithy-yet-throwaway line that makes little sense in isolation today. We’ve got more to say. Specifically, we want to say ‘Adil Rashid’.

It is nine years since we first became unjustifiably excited about Adil Rashid and we still feel much the same and for almost exactly the same reasons. Watching tail-enders miss hard-spun googlies by a foot isn’t going to make that feeling go away.

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England attempt to relight their one-day fire

As the old saying goes, if you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen and if the smoke drifts into the dressing room, you should probably exit there as well.

A number of England one-day players have exited both kitchen and dressing room for this series, although some of them seem to think they’ll be walking back in once the heat has subsided.

A good one-day player at the eye of a storm of mismanagement during the World Cup, Gary Ballance may well return before too long, but what about the others? Ian Bell, James Anderson and Ravi Bopara have all played well over a hundred one-day internationals, none of which we can remember. They have competent to good records, but each retains plenty of detractors.

Then there’s Stuart Broad. His record is not dissimilar, but he’s a few years younger than that trio so is perhaps fractionally more likely to play again. He does however appear to be in denial. Even though the selectors have made it abundantly clear that he’s been dropped, Broad still thinks he’s being rested. In the weeks leading up to the next World Cup, he’ll be telling anyone within earshot that England have been doing the right thing keeping him fresh over the preceding four years.

Oddly, James Taylor – one of the few players to emerge from the winter with reputation marginally enhanced – is unlikely to play today. This seems hard on the man who played England’s best – although admittedly pointless – innings during the World Cup and who had shown great promise leading up to that.

We’re not quite sure how a team that can’t bat can’t find a place for a player who can bat, but actually, once you look at the team, it is quite hard to get him in. Cricinfo are predicting that Hales, Roy, Root and Morgan will be the specialist batsmen with Stokes as a top-order all-rounder and Buttler at six.

Will new-look England fire or will they merely deliver a slightly different brand of self-immolation? Let’s draw conclusions based on today’s match alone and then stick with them for the next few years regardless of what happens in the future.

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Glen Chapple is playing cricket and pretending he’s not great at it

Photo by Sarah Ansell

Photo by Sarah Ansell

So we’re calling him out on it.

For every Shivnarine Chanderpaul, trying to convince people he’s still got it at the age of 40, there’s a Glen Chapple, sidling into a coaching position and inexplicably trying to convince everyone that he hasn’t still got it.

Chapple’s not fooling anyone.

Playing against Gloucestershire, he’s not opened the bowling and he batted at eleven. He made 29 not out off 13 balls and we fully expect him to prove his worth with the ball later today.

Presumably, the thinking is some sort of misguided ‘give youth a chance’ thing. Bollocks. Youth has plenty of chances. The whole sport’s geared up towards youth. People are forever getting selected on promise and potential. Give middle-age a chance, we say.

None of this self-effacing last-into-bat, coming-on-second-change cobblers. Get stuck in. Whippersnappers are there to be spanked by wily old gnarldogs. That’s the natural order of things. Do what you are meant to do, Glen, and don’t stop doing it until you are either 100 per cent grey or 100 per cent bald.

You give youth a chance and you end up having to come to terms with names like Fynn Hudson-Prentice. What the hell is that? This is something worth fighting to hold at bay.

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