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Haseeb Hameed might carry his bat

England are still very much in the market for a Test opener, you feel. Mark Stoneman is making a fist of things, but they’d quite like another top order batsman or two to take to Australia.

At the time of writing, Lancashire are four wickets down but Haseeb Hameed is still holding firm. We wouldn’t bet against him carrying his bat – although neither would we put much money on him breaching 20 even if he manages it.

When Shivnarine Chanderpaul makes 23 of the runs in a 24-run partnership, you can be fairly certain that the guy at the other end hasn’t really been looking to impose himself on the bowlers.

Doubtless this is the right approach though. Haseeb Hameed is not a blocker, so if he’s playing that way then it’s surely for very good reason.

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With the Ashes decided, England and Australia will look to determine which has the better ODI second XI

England v Australia ODI at the Riverside (CC licensed by Steve Parkinson via Flickr)

England and Australia fans who enjoy answering the question “so why isn’t this the Ashes then?” will be delighted to hear that the two sides are going to do that thing where they follow the Test series with five don’t-give-a-toss one-day matches six months later in the other country.

The news comes as part of the ECB’s announcement of England’s 2018 summer fixtures.

Pakistan will turn up first in a somewhat forlorn bid to try and breathe a bit of life into the springtime two-Test non-series.

After that, it’s a one-dayer against Scotland and then five against Australia, during which both sides will doubtless make an attempt to ‘blood some exciting new talent’.

Then it’s India for the main event. After three T20 internationals and three one-day internationals, the tourists will play five Tests: three in the South-East and two in the Midlands.

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2017 Twenty20 Finals Day – most of the story in scorecards

Notts win T20 Blast (via ECB)

We rather love Twenty20 finals day, which has always seemed to strike a good balance between elite sport and village fete.

A lot of short format competitions seem to be striving for the po-faced tribalism of football, but the annual climax of the original has always erred on the side of fun. It’s a day-long festival centred on cricket. There are worse things in the world. Like AIDS.

You probably didn’t need an example.

We only managed to follow this year’s edition via the intermittent checking of scorecards. In a world of video clips, Twitter and live blogs, it was a refreshing experience. There’s something to be said for telling the story to yourself based wholly on a bunch of numbers.

We see Samit Patel did well, which is never a bad thing, and so did Steven Mullaney. We’re afraid that no matter what he does in his career, the latter will always be the guy whose mum’s his biggest supporter.

We’re also aware that the Natwest lady jammed her angular trophy into Dan Christian’s eye at the post-match presentation.

The one thing we couldn’t find was a scorecard for the mascots race, so if someone could fill us in on how that one played out, we’d really appreciate it.

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Arrow stopped play at The Oval

As a rule of thumb, you shouldn’t fire arrows at people – or indeed anywhere near them. It is what is known as “very dangerous”.

Someone fired an arrow into the middle of the Surrey v Middlesex match today.

Here’s the arrow.

Cricketers don’t wear armour. That thing would absolutely tear through a cable-knit sweater, so everyone went off.

Any of you say “that’s a crossbow bolt, not an arrow,” you’re missing the bigger picture here, which is that medieval projectiles shouldn’t barge their way into cricket matches uninvited.

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Books to read at the cricket? Iphigenia Among The Taurians by Euripides

Ged writes:

Plays are generally quite good for reading during a day of county cricket. It doesn’t take all that long to read a play. In my case, this means I get to see cricket, read a play, do some general reading (e.g. from The Economist and/or The Week) and have time to do some socialising too.

In the spring of 2006, I was contemplating trying to write a second play before really having a go at amending my first one. Seeking ideas for underlying plot structure and devices, my mind turned to Greek drama, which I hadn’t really looked at since school. I bought a clutch of cheap paperback collections, one of which was Bacchae and Other Plays (Oxford World’s Classics), a collection of Euripides’s dramas including Iphigenia among the Taurians – click here for Wikipedia entry (which contains spoilers).

On 8 June 2006 I ventured to Southgate, to see Day Two of Middlesex v Yorkshire – click here for Cricinfo card (which contains spoilers) with Iphegenia in my hand (so to speak). I read the book’s introduction during the morning session. This was harder reading than the play itself, but I knew I needed to get my head back into Greek drama generally and Euripides in particular to stand any chance with reading the play.

After lunch, I found a quiet spot on the far side of the ground. After a short while, Michael Vaughan (who was then England captain, rehabilitating after injury) came to field right in front of me.

“What are you reading?” asked Vaughan.

“Greek drama,” I replied, showing him the cover of my book. “Euripides.”

“Greek drama! Is reading that more interesting to you than watching County Championship cricket?” asked Vaughan.

“I have learnt to do both at the same time,” I replied. “Hardly ever miss a ball if it’s pace bowling. Harder with the spinners.”

Michael Vaughan made one of his “I’m not convinced” grunts and then wished me well.

In truth, Iphegenia was hard work while watching cricket. It is basically an escape play, but the plot hinges on siblings Orestes and Iphegenia failing to recognise one another until a vital “big reveal” watershed moment. Lots of room for dramatic irony in that device but you need to suspend a heck of a lot of belief throughout the play.

In summary, Iphigenia among the Taurians is:

  • Good for getting your head back into Greek drama
  • Not really useful material for a modern play
  • Good for attracting the attention of the England cricket captain (in my experience)
  • Otherwise not really suitable as cricket match reading

Have you tried to read summat while at a cricket match? Let us know how it went at

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When should a captain declare?

Declaration aftermath (via ECB)

The timing of a declaration will often elicit heated discussion among commentators. However, it seems safe to assume that the actual importance of the decision rarely justifies the level of debate, which is almost certainly artificially exaggerated by the fact that such questions generally only arise when not much is happening on the field.

Ex-cricketers entrusted with microphones always feel obliged to talk about something and many a one-sided match has elicited a great deal of fiery and impassioned wailing about delayed declarations only to be decided well within the allotted time anyway.

Joe Root’s second innings declaration at Headingley was unusual in that it left the West Indies with a chance. We thought at the time it was odd.

Not in a critical way. We didn’t necessarily think “this is a mistake”. It was more the low-key surprise you feel at the sight of something unexpected, like happening across a fly-tipped sofa on a country walk.

It also came after we’d suggested that England had maybe been a little overconfident in selecting Chris Woakes, so we wondered whether it might have been symptomatic of the same mentality. The batsmen had been scoring quickly and a slight delay could have meant setting a stiffer target in fewer overs.

That would have been England’s (and indeed most sides’) standard way of doing things, but it was a better match for Root calling his men in sooner and it would be wrong to assign the decision too great an importance. Of far more significance to the eventual result was what happened afterwards.

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The West Indies make use of some quality imports

Brathwaite and Hope (via ECB)

The great thing about alternative dimensions is that every now and again you can pluck a similar-looking cricket team from one of them and deploy it in your own world.

The incarnation of the West Indies seen in this Test was an unusually gritty one. Like a team-mate’s belt within the trousers of Dwayne Leverock, it simply would not buckle.

Rarely has the discrepancy between expectation and outcome felt greater. In their last match, they conceded 500 before shipping 19 wickets inside a day.

Looking at the second Test scorecard, it gives the sense of an easy batting match in which England were hoodwinked by their own first innings incompetence, but that would be to overlook just how many chances were being created.

Set in that context, the sheer invulnerability of Shai Hope and Kraigg Brathwaite to England’s bowlers shines like all of Headingley’s floodlights an inch from your retinas.

England defeats don’t come much more enjoyable or heart-warming.

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The real story of the West Indies’ dropped chances is just how many England’s batsmen offered

Another one goes down (via ECB)

It’s like we always say, to take 12,841 wickets, you need to create 15,516 chances. (We should stick that on a T-shirt).

At the time of writing, the second Test between England and the West Indies had seen 12 drops, which is rather more than you’d expect.

The Windies were responsible for seven of those in the first innings alone. Based on the average run value of a ‘chance’ in Test cricket, they could quite reasonably have expected that to cost them 200 runs.

England made 258, which just goes to demonstrate the home team’s impressive commitment to providing chances during that innings.

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West Indies improve their attack, England don’t

Shannon Gabriel’s fun, isn’t he? An old school fast bowler who doesn’t half-arse it and who has plenty of arse to deploy. He is a good selection.

Gabriel’s efforts have contrasted with those of Chris Woakes in this match. At the start of day one, Woakes was the only one of England’s all-rounders whose batting average exceeded his bowling average. This is no longer the case.

It’s not that he isn’t trying. It’s just been a while. He’s got the air of a middle-aged man cajoled into a five-a-side football match by his workmates. His mind knows what to do, but his body’s not quite following instructions.

Woakes is bowling the ball less quickly and not necessarily pointing it in the right direction. We presume such things should be noticeable in the nets, even if fatigue will have compounded them. You get the impression he’s been selected primarily to get him back into the swing of Test cricket, not because he’s primed to perform. This is a decision of unjustifiable confidence from a team that’s already carrying about half its batting line-up.

The upshot was that England once again looked a bit fast-medium. We don’t want to be one of those people who looks ahead to the Ashes when there’s an entirely different series currently underway – because that’s precisely what we’re criticising really – but we can’t help but fear for a bowling attack that only seems to look good when the ball’s doing a bit of something.

They won’t get as uch swing or seam Down Under and it’s not like the Aussies are going to be preparing Bangladesh-style turners either, is it?

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The one thing England need to do to resolve their batting frailty

Dawid Malan (via ECB)

If England could find three really mediocre batsmen, they’d be a hell of a side.

They’re after a two, a three and a five. Fill those spots with players like Chris Tavaré, Ravi Bopara and – hell, why not – Jos Buttler and together with the runs from their all-rounder surplus, they’d be onto a half-decent thing.

The trick is to be more realistic. Aim lower. Don’t look for great batsmen. Clog your order up with journeymen instead in the knowledge that you’re only filling cracks. The bricks are in place – they merely need securing.

Brendan Nash. Now there was a cricketer. What England wouldn’t do for a batsman of his determined-but-ultimately-somewhat-limited competence.


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