Twice last May, we wrote about England’s overwhelmingly reactive batting approach. First we described Kevin Pietersen as being England’s only proactive top order batsman; the only one prone to trying to set the field while at the crease. A week later, Pietersen wasn’t playing and Jonny Bairstow took on the role.
Even then, we were concerned that the batting was a bit one-dimensional. If that was the case, what do we have now? Sam Robson’s another steady opener and Gary Ballance is pretty meat-and-potatoes, three-an-over as well. Cook, Root, Bell – all are more likely to respond to what they’re confronted with than to really try and take the initative.
This isn’t about one approach being better than another and nor is it about having some lunatic coming in to try and hit sixes. It’s about having a balanced batting line-up. There’s a simple reason why teams look to field a balanced bowling attack and batting is no different. There are times when one approach doesn’t work, in which case it’s good to have summat else up your sleeve.
All the best sides have had batsmen who complement each other. We worry that England’s Test batsmen are all a bit samey and that the side’s still courting one-dimensionality.34 Appeals
We all knew that Sam Robson was going to get picked. He’ll play sensibly and probably quite well. If so, we’ll be quite happy about that while simultaneously wishing that we didn’t have to endure hilarious Australian ‘banter’ about his place of birth every time he gets a half-decent score.
We all knew that Moeen Ali was going to get a game. No-one’s blown away by that, but we also know there’s little point arguing about it because there ain’t really owt else on offer. To rail against his selection would be as futile as wailing at the empty shelves in a derelict bakery. Throw as big a tantrum as you like – loaves of sourdough will not materialise. You’re going to have to make do with the day-old half a baguette in your hand.
We also suspected that Matt Prior was going to come back. He’s scored some runs and he’s Matt Prior. By the flaxen locks of Gower, it’ll be a relief if he’s back to something approaching normal.
So far, so unremarkable
Steady batting, cross-your-fingers-and-hope-it’ll-be-at-least-semi-competent spin bowling and the same wicketkeeper as before all the good stuff completely evaporated leaving only a sticky, unsavoury residue. What’s far more interesting is the fairly fast bowling.
Chris Jordan’s selection was as predictable as those above, while about a month ago we said that Liam Plunkett was hovering near the door, unable to find a doorbell, trying to muster the courage to knock. His selection was forseeable, but is still quite intriguing. Could he unsame the bowling attack a touch?
How fast is ‘fairly fast’?
James Anderson is so fit that he can effortlessly bowl at 84mph all day long. If he really puts the effort in, he gets up to about 87mph. This isn’t really worth the extra energy expenditure, so he generally doesn’t bother.
Stuart Broad definitely has it in him to bowl quickly. This is how he’s found his way into the England team in all three formats. Playing so much has worn him down to a good, solid 85mph bowler.
Chris Woakes is also in the squad. Not so long ago, he was a medium-pace all-rounder and it was thought he wasn’t quite quick enough to thrive in Test cricket. As a consequence, he’s worked really hard to increase his pace so that he’s now a good, solid 84mph English seamer, same as everyone else.
Chris Jordan’s a bit quicker. Liam Plunkett’s a bit quicker still.
Proper fast bowlers operate above 90mph all the time. These pair are more the kinds of bowlers who can deliver the ball quicker than that from time to time. However, this might, occasionally, allow England to attack a batsman in a slightly different way. Dull afternoon sessions just became fractionally less dull! For a bit! Until whoever plays (possibly both?) is worn down to generic English seamer pace by the relentless demands of international cricket!12 Appeals
It was a beautiful sunny day, the London Underground was on strike and I had arranged to work from home. I thought it would be a good idea to head over to Lord’s, catch some of the cricket and catch up with an increasingly large pile of background reading. The office staff more than understood.
I had a conference call scheduled for 10am and a few other bits and pieces of work to get out of the way before heading off. The call went as planned, but a few other bits and pieces came in while I was on the call. By 12.30pm, I realised that any thought of the morning session was futile, other than grabbing a quick bite of lunch at home and listening to that last half hour before lunch on the Internet radio while I ate.
The walk from my front door to the Grace Gate takes me 37 minutes, give or take one minute or so. That makes me 10% faster than Google Maps’ (other route planning apps are available) expectations. Conveniently, if I leave home as soon as the umpires call lunch, I know from experience that I can get to Lord’s on foot just before the resumption.
As I arrived at Lord’s, one of the female stewards said: “Hello, nice to see you. Hurry up, they’re just about ready to start,” as if the officials and players had been waiting for my arrival. I grabbed a seat at the sunny end of the Warner just in time. I soon relocated to the Grandstand for a while, before moving on to catch the end of the session in the Pavilion.
I read some stuff on big data. I also pondered three philosophical questions on ethics in financial services, the answer to all of which, sadly, was almost certainly no. I watched some cricket. I chatted briefly with some Middlesex friends before walking home.
I spent roughly as much time walking as I spent at cricket. It certainly was worth it.16 Appeals
Is anyone else starting to find this kind of thing grating?
“Sometimes you just have to put your hands up and say the opposition were better than us with the bat.”
So said Alastair Cook after the fourth one-day international. There’s been an awful lot of ‘accepting that the opposition were better than us on the day’ recently. It’s not always ‘on the day’ either. Sometimes it’s ‘in this Test’ or ‘over the winter’. Pretty soon it’ll be ‘for the last decade or so’.
To be honest, this whole ‘being magnanimous in defeat’ act is really starting to get on our nerves. It’s not that we expect England cricketers to be bad losers. It’s that the subtext seems to be that they played really well and that sometimes the opposition are slightly better and there is NOTHING YOU CAN DO ABOUT IT WHEN THAT HAPPENS.
Similarly, who has ever suggested that the opposition aren’t allowed to play well? No-one. Yet ‘the opposition are allowed to play well’ is a phrase we hear again and again in response to defeat.
Let’s make this simple. When someone says ‘the opposition are allowed to play well,’ or ‘they were better than us on the day,’ that person is trying to tell you that this is some mystical phenomenon that’s beyond anyone’s control. Don’t believe them.
Why? Because the person who’s says these things is invariably someone whose job it is to prevent the opposition from playing well and being better than them on the day.39 Appeals
That’s what you can expect from our latest knock for All Out Cricket.
In the preamble, All Out Cricket have accused us of having a ‘beady eye’ which is pretty much libel – we have two beady eyes and we make use of both of them.
We’ve decided not to take this to court because they could quite easily change it to ‘Alex Bowden takes a sideways look at cricket’ if they were to lose the case.8 Appeals
Or listened to it. Or paid a bit more attention to the scorecard than we did. In which case, please could you leave some sort of pithy synopsis in the comments section so that everyone else can feel like they got something of value out of visiting this website today?
That’d be great. Cheers. It’s much appreciated and we promise we’ll start doing things properly again in a bit.
That timeframe again: ‘in a bit’.
Also, here’s a link to the Jos Buttler section of the site. We’d definitely have linked to at least one of these articles had we written something about the match ourself – probably the one about him batting at five, but we can’t be sure. Presumably at least one of them’s relevant in some way. You’ll have to judge for yourself.14 Appeals
No, like, we REALLY wrote about Paul Collingwood this time. It’s like a proper article for a proper website. You may have read it a couple of days ago, of course. If you did, we apologise, because this is all you’re getting here on King Cricket today.
But why not read it again anyway? Come on, it’s a good one. On Twitter, none other than Paul Collingwood himself said of the piece:
“Very kind words!!”
Two exclamation marks! For once we’re actually happy about that, rather than irritated. If you think that betrays a certain inconsistency in our attitude to punctuation, why don’t you toddle off and score a double hundred in an Ashes Test? Do that and we’ll be perfectly happy for you to use two consecutive exclamation marks, providing you’re also expressing approval for something we’ve written.21 Appeals
Which is a shame, because it looked rather fun.
You may have noticed that some of our updates have been a little
half-arsed cursory of late. However, you don’t get to be King Cricket without coming up with some really rather ingenious ways round being completely uninformed about things. Fortunately for you, we’ve already put one of these ploys to use and so you probably won’t even notice that we’re not really doing any kind of a job here.
So that you could still get top-notch cricket coverage here at your ninth-favourite cricket website, we asked our mate who doesn’t even like cricket what happened in the cricket.
He said something like:
“We were shallot on Sunday at Chester le Street and livid about that so were intent on proving ourselves today. I don’t know what the fungi happened. Load of knobs pissing about in the rain and nobody watching as far as I can tell.”
Take THAT, Cricinfo!12 Appeals
We honestly thought that someone would have left some sort of tirade in the comments section of our latest article for Cricinfo, but alas, it’s mostly just confusion. We demand a tirade!
Fortunately, on Twitter someone said: “hey u never always boss nd god sachin” which might be a tirade.
Someone else said: “who is alex bow nvr heard????” after earlier saying: “And wiz team better dan english team currently sure ne school cricket team of world…..haha”
We guess we’ll have to settle for that.
Early season, I always try to take in a day of county cricket with my old friend, Charley “The Gent” Malloy. It helps us both to get over those winter withdrawal symptoms.
Charley has his favourite place to sit at the start of play – “Death Row” right at the front of the Pavilion, close to but not exactly behind the wicket. By 11am, we were well set in those seats. But Charley was in thoughtful mood.
“I’m going to be very careful what I say today,” said Charley.
“Why’s that?” I asked.
“Because anything I say might end up in your King Cricket report, showing me to be the idiot and you to be the clever clogs.”
“But if you don’t say anything worth reporting at all, you know I’ll just make stuff up,” I replied. Charley laughed.
We tucked in to smoked salmon rolls (whisky smoked – the salmon, not the rolls) with a nice little Alsatian Gewürztraminer to wash them down. Later we had Parma ham in Ciabatta bread, washed down with a rather elegant albeit Australian Shiraz. Between and beyond those major courses were other tasty morsels, including honey-roasted cashews, savoury sesame cracker-thingies and some very jolly posh chocolate biscuits.
We discussed many things during the day, including my latest hobby, learning to play the baritone ukulele very badly; the latest exploits of Charley’s son and daughter; together with news of the house refurbishment carried out by Charley and Mrs Malloy over the winter.
While in the Grandstand for the middle session of the day, a chap sitting with a friend not far behind us, started to snore, increasingly loudly as the session went on. At tea, the sleeper woke up and said: “It really is lovely being with you here at Lord’s,” to which his mate replied: “I’m not sure you have entirely been with me.”
“Hmm,” said the sleeper. “I suppose I might have nodded off for a moment just then.”
At stumps, Charley wondered what I might report about him on King Cricket. “Will you tell them about me trying to remember a pint-sized cricketer who looked a bit like that little-feller on the field of play, only to discover that the little feller was the very chap I was trying to remember?”
“Unlikely to make the cut”, I replied.
“What about me not realising that your baritone ukulele is different from the instruments that George Formby used to play?” asked Charley.
“A mistake that many would make, Charley. The baritone ukulele is normally tuned as a four-stringed guitar, very different from the banjolele and conventional ukulele, but the distinction is a bit music-geeky.”
Charley and I decided not to have a final, post-stumps drink – I needed to get home and prepare for work the next day. I walked home my usual route. Three minutes from home, as I’m walking past the Prince Edward, a loud voice rings out, “Ged Ladd” (or words to that effect).
“Stentor Baritone”, (or words to that effect), I reply. An extraordinary coincidence for several reasons, not least because I had never heard of a baritone ukulele, let alone a Stentor Baritone ukulele, when I granted my MCC friend that KC pseudonym some years ago. Also because Stentor no longer lives on my patch, nor does the publisher chum, also an acquaintance of mine, with whom Stentor was having an outside drink, en route to a restaurant.
Being an MCC member, Stentor Baritone was naturally unaware that today had been a match day at Lord’s, nor indeed that the cricket season had even begun. Equally naturally, I joined the pair for a quick drink, leaving my work preparation to a slightly foggier, later hour.6 Appeals