Month: July 2018 (page 1 of 2)

Which is more likely: a Virat Kohli hundred, an Adil Rashid five-for or a Kuldeep Yadav five-for?

Virat Kohli (via BBC video)

Many things will happen when England play India from tomorrow. It’s tempting to imagine that the first Test match is some sort of newspaper headline final which will only feature those who were prominent during the quarters and semis in recent weeks.

Viewed from that perspective, which is more likely: a Virat Kohli hundred, an Adil Rashid five-for or a Kuldeep Yadav five-for?

Virat Kohli is one of those people for whom the ‘is this actually news?‘ threshold is set very, very low. Virat could make the news for cutting his nails. Virat could also make the news for not having cut his nails.

The one area where he’s legitimately headline-worthy is hundred-scoring. He has made 21 in 66 Test matches, so this is something that happens in almost a third of the matches in which he plays. However, this also means that it is actually considerably more likely that he won’t make a hundred at Edgbaston – particularly when you factor in his record in England up until this point.

The Adil Rashid brouhaha has been dominating people’s attention this week, with almost every significant Yorkshire figure queuing up to have a pop at him (and in so doing perhaps giving us a better explanation than Rashid ever could as to why he doesn’t enjoy spending four days at a time hanging around with them all).

Rashid has one five wicket haul in 10 Test matches. He’s not likely to deliver a second purely because he’s been in the news a lot. You could argue that he has five four-fors in addition to that five-for, but then we’d counter that by pointing out that he might not even play. It is very, very hard indeed to take Test wickets while ferrying drinks around in the high-visibility tabard of squad membership.

Kuldeep Yadav was the big story for the first part of this tour. Kuldeep has played two Test matches and never taken a five-for. There is a very good chance he won’t play this week.

Our conclusion is that of the three possibilities – a Kohli hundred, a Rashid five-for and a Kuldeep five-for – the first is the most likely and the last is the least likely. We will also say that the odds are we’ll see none of these things and the cricket will instead be shaped by Murali Vijay or Jonny Bairstow or someone else no-one’s currently paying much attention to.

Also, to quickly add to a detail from the very first sentence of this article – you’ll notice that it’s a Wednesday start. The second Test at Lord’s starts on a Thursday because of the chicken-and-egg argument that it always gets good crowds. The third Test at Trent Bridge starts on a Saturday. (Good luck with the second half of that one.) After that, there’s a bit of a gap and then a Thursday start in Southampton and a Friday start at the Oval.

The Lord’s Throdkin dispute

You may or may not remember the Lord’s Throdkin. If you do, you will be very excited to hear that there has been a development…

Ged writes:

Lancastrian nephew-in-law Escamillo Escapillo is partial to my Lord’s Throdkin cookies.  I was to spend the first of three days at Lord’s watching the West Indies test with Escamillo, so it seemed an ideal week to bake a batch.

I decided to vary the original recipe a little this time around, using an extra 30% of every ingredient except the sweet ones, plus the use of two eggs rather than one.

The reduced sweetness proved non-controversial, but the extra egg meant that the new version didn’t spread and flatten, resulting in a more dough-ball type cookie than the original biscuit-type cookie (depicted).

Escamillo voted the new version better; more true to the gloopiness of real throdkin. I agreed, but Daisy was adamant that the more biscuit-like texture of the original recipe is more appealing.

I wrote to Iain Spellright, summarising the dispute and concluding, “…you are the only person in the world who is not a member of our family and yet has tasted both varieties of my throdkin cookies.  No pressure, but could you please provide some independent judgement on this vital matter for us?”

Iain wrote back: “I am with Daisy on this…my impression is that last year’s version had more ‘bite’ to them. The taste of the bacon seemed more startling in what the mind said was a biscuit. The ‘porridge’ version seemed less compelling to me…”

When I related the result to Escamillo at the Middlesex v Lancashire match, he merely said: “Southerner, Iain Spellright, isn’t he? You need to get Big Al DeLarge to try the new throdkin cookies and provide an expert opinion on the subject. He’s Lancastrian and cheffy.”

I pointed out that Big Al has now gone ever such a long way south (Sydney) and is bound to have gone soft in transit. Further, I suggested that the throdkin cookies might also denature on the journey to Australia if I were to send samples to Al.

Escamillo and I then debated whether the changing character of the cookies in long-distance transit would make the experiment Schrodinger’s cat-like or not, proving that grown men can talk pseudo-intellectual bollocks at cricket matches hours before they even think of having a drink.

Strangely, Escamillo didn’t suggest employing King Cricket himself as the ultimate arbiter of this throdkin dispute, but perhaps that will be the only way.

Adil Rashid’s back!

As in ‘returned’. He hasn’t got ankylosing spondylitis or anything.

Is Adil Rashid a bowler who can take wickets when others cannot? Yeah, probably. Sometimes.

Does Adil Rashid’s selection for the Test squad having previously jacked in red ball cricket maybe raise a couple of awkward questions? Erm, yeah, probably. But let’s focus on the wickets, eh?

What was the point of that red ball retirement?

Earlier this year, Adil Rashid supposedly gave up first-class cricket to become a white ball specialist. A major reason why he did this was because he suspected that he was not going to play Test cricket under England’s current captain.

Rashid didn’t think this for no reason. He’d been England’s first-choice spinner for the tour of India and while he didn’t perform spectacularly, he did better than everyone else and well enough that he’d have expected to retain his place. Instead he was dropped. Double-dropped even.

England picked Mason Crane as their second spinner on the Ashes tour, even though it was clear to everyone that he was never actually going to play.

Rashid thought about this and he thought about how he could make an unarguable case for reselection bowling leg-spin in the County Championship. With half the matches played in April and May and England clearly not much interested in picking him for Tests, he concluded that he’d be pissing in the wind.

We’re not sure whether you’ve ever tried pissing in the wind, but honestly, there’s little to be gained from it. More often than not you’ll end up thinking that you never should have commenced the piss in the first place. Rashid therefore binned red ball cricket to focus on his England career. It’s worth noting that he subsequently played very well.

Worked out well though, didn’t it?

Who knows what happens next, but thanks to a change in selection policy and good form in limited overs cricket, Adil Rashid has won back his place in England’s Test squad.

When Jos Buttler came back into the Test team off the back of his IPL returns, he said that it wasn’t a question of playing the right format.  He pointed out that in an alternate universe, maybe he’d have made five first-class hundreds for Lancashire and won his place back that way.

That’s true, but the same doesn’t hold for Rashid. The chances of a leggie tearing it up in the Championship on damp seamers is nil because no matter what form he’d been in, he simply wouldn’t have been given the ball. He’d have been lucky to get three overs. He might not even have been picked.


Plenty of people will moan about Adil Rashid’s return, but it’s hard to envisage any other way he could have won his place back.

Good luck to him.

The three main changes you can always make to the England Test team

Joe Root (via Channel 5)

When a Test squad’s due to be announced, everyone normally has a default XI in mind and then we all make swaps according to our own prejudices.

Typically, everyone wants to make between one and three changes.

Change No 1 is when you replace the rubbish batsman you hate with the rubbish batsman you like because “X has had his chance” and “it’s time Y was given a chance”.

Change No 2 is when you replace the accurate seam bowler with the faster bowler who leaks runs because the attack is “too one-paced.” Either that or you do the exact opposite because the former has a better bowling average or something.

Change No 3 is when you replace the spinner-who-can-bat with the spinner-who-can’t-bat because the latter’s a better bowler – or you do the reverse because actually he isn’t.

Maybe you get into all-rounders and ‘the balance of the side’ and all that, but generally only if the side’s already pretty settled because otherwise there are too many knock-on effects and you can’t hold it all in your head after your third pint.

The problem is that it strikes us that we currently have no real idea what the default England Test XI is. You need a default so that you’ve got something to work from.

We think it’s probably this:

  1. Alastair Cook
  2. Keaton Jennings
  3. Joe Root
  4. Dawid Malan
  5. Jonny Bairstow
  6. Ben Stokes
  7. Jos Buttler
  8. Stuart Broad
  9. Mark Wood
  10. Jack Leach
  11. James Anderson

Except that this XI has never played together and Stuart Broad 2.0 is at number eight – a batting position that only really made sense before he top-edged a Varun Aaron bouncer into his own face.

Three of them didn’t play in England’s most recent Test match and there’s a chance that three won’t play in this one. Mark Wood is injured; Jack Leach isn’t long back from injury and is hardly established anyway; while Dawid Malan is apparently vulnerable if England play a second spinner.

Or maybe they’ll pick semi-all-rounder Sam Curran again. In place of whom, we don’t know, but whoever it is, that feels like it would precipitate further changes as a consequence.

This is a basically just a rambling way of saying that the England Test team is a bit unsettled. We’ll know when it’s settled again when we’re back to the three standard changes listed above.

Sorry about this but we’re going to report the latest rumours about The Hundred

T20 Blast Finals Day (ECB)

That joke isn’t funny any more. You know the one. The one where you make up an outlandish format detail about The Hundred in an effort to satirise the ECB.

The problem is that while The Hundred seems like rich source material, it really isn’t. The joke suggestions are too close to home to actually be amusing. The ECB sees your ridiculous idea and raises you a ludicrous one.

The latest – since denied – was that teams would be able to field 12 players or 15 players or something. Can we propose that they make it 100-a-side so that they can keep the name but go back to normal overs?

You see? They’re not funny are they?

We honestly, honestly, honestly believe that the ECB is deliberately spreading disinformation, calibrating our expectations so that when they eventually deliver something semi-normal, there’ll be much less resistance to it. Perhaps even mild rejoicing.

A quick bit of housekeeping

Two other things to mention.

(1) British riders are currently first and second in the Tour de France. If you’ve any interest at all in following the final week of the race and want to catch up, we’ve done recaps of each of the first two weeks over on our cycling site. The week two recap’s here and you’ll find links to other relevant stuff within the article. You can also sign up to get that site’s long but very occasional articles sent to your inbox. Sign-up page here.

(2) There’s an email for this site too. It used to be near-daily, but it probably only goes out three or four times a week these days. You can sign up for that here. We’re also on Twitter (which we do actually use) and Facebook (which is basically just links to the articles).

Watch the Al Jazeera match fixing documentary

If you want to watch that Al Jazeera documentary about match-fixing (spot fixing, actually) to see for yourself whether the allegations have any merit, here it is (or click here).

The film went out in May, but it’s in the news again this week because Glenn Maxwell’s been talking about it. He’s understandably less than delighted to have been all but accused of involvement.

Maxwell wasn’t named, but the film makers say at what point in an India v Australia Test match the alleged fix took place and then when they’re talking about ‘suspicious’ activity by the batsman, they show some blurry footage of a guy who moves like Glenn Maxwell wearing Glenn Maxwell’s clothes using Glenn Maxwell’s bat.

The fixing fella says that a given over will result in a ‘low score’ and then it turns out to be a maiden. The narrator says that the batsman “appeared to be trying not to score runs.” (In a Test match! Whatever next?)

Examining the footage, Ed Hawkins (who wrote Bookie Gambler Fixer Spy: A Journey to the Heart of Cricket’s Underworld) describes the batsman as being “like a cat on hot coals” – which sounds precisely like a fully normal Glenn Maxwell innings to us. (You kind of wonder whether Ed would watch old footage of Phil Tufnell backing away and also find that suspicious.)

Ed adds that the batsman is, “just desperately trying to get on top of the ball and cover any edge that might squirt off and concede a run.”

Or, you know, squirt off into someone’s hands and lose him his wicket.

Cricket Australia have said that there’s “no credible evidence,” and without discounting the possibility that something might eventually come of this, the documentary does at the very least seem to us to be an excellent exploration of the way in which humans actively root for meaningful signs once they’ve been primed to expect something specific.

“You wonder whether he’s taking his helmet off deliberately, don’t you?” says Ed at one point. Well, yes, he probably was taking his helmet off deliberately. You don’t tend to take a helmet off accidentally. Helmet removal can of course be a covert sign that a fix is going to take place – or it could just be a bit hot out there.

Nevertheless, spot fixing has happened before now and it probably will again. The suggestion that someone at the ICC might be keeping it quiet seems to imply that the scale of the problem is greater than people think – but then it’s hard to imagine one person operating alone achieving anything at the ICC, whether good or bad.

Maybe they’re all in on it? That level of agreement at the ICC would literally be unprecedented.

Essex v West Indies indoctrination of a young mind match report

Dan writes:

My seven year old son looks a demon with the bat in his hands in the back garden, and he actually pays attention when the cricket’s on the TV. He seems to reserve special interest for the Test matches, which is very pleasing.

So this summer we signed him up at the local cricket club (can I give Rankins of Rochford, Essex, a plug and a thank you?) as part of the ECB’s All Star Cricket programme for 5 to 8 year olds. He loved it.

I loved that one of the coaches was very encouraging of the high elbow when playing straight – something I tried to instil in the boy in the back garden, due to my aesthetic love of the straight drive. A good one really can make me tingle.

The ECB threw in some extra benefits, such as child +1 freebie tickets to see the county play. We got a pair for Essex against the touring West Indies side before the Test series started.

I had a plan to keep him from getting bored during the long day and the morning session went very well.

Watching the opening spell, there was a very amusing small group of West Indians being marvellously vocal for such an event. They did make everyone smile. All day long.

We ate the packed lunch early, so we could get the boy on the outfield for a bit of coaching with the young lads from the Essex Academy.

The young ‘All Stars’ had a whale of a time out there, and even the rain couldn’t stop them.

They did get told off by the announcer – “I’ve told you once!” – when asked to clear the outfield for the start of afternoon play.

The plan for the afternoon was to walk around the ECG to enjoy different vantage points and views. And, of course, buy some surprisingly reasonably priced branded stationery and a belated score card and programme from the club shop.

Before we knew it I was embarrassing myself giving him some throw downs during tea.

Assuming he’d be bored by now, I’d prepared the wife to expect us home for dinner. But one portion of chips later, scorecard on his lap and pencil at the ready, he sat transfixed by the evening session.

You can’t imagine how happy it made me as someone desperate to have a conversation in my own home about cricket that elicits more than a weary wife’s sigh and how much of a success the day was in terms of indoctrination of a young mind.

If we have more young people like this out there, Test cricket will survive at least one more generation.

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.

We made up a word and Wisden published it

Joe Root (via England Cricket Twitter video)

The word is ‘schedusfaction’ and it means ‘satisfaction with the scheduling of a cricket tour’. We didn’t realise the world had use for such a word until this summer.

England are about to play a Test series against India. You may be aware of this and that might be because the two teams have already warmed up by playing each other in progressively longer formats.

This arrangement – limited overs first – is great for the narrative of the tour. It means the Test stories have a head start and you don’t have to go through quite so much of that time-consuming character development stuff.

Here’s the Wisden piece.

Virat Kohli’s ‘I’ve just been bowled by Adil Rashid’ face

When we wrote about what it’s like to be Virat Kohli, we didn’t for one minute think that there would be any overlap with what it’s like to be Mike Gatting.

Turns out there is. Virat Kohli and Mike Gatting both do a thing where they make an astonished face after being bowled by a leg-spinner.

Here’s Kohli’s ‘I’ve just been bowled by Adil Rashid’ face.

Virat Kohli (via BBC video)

Please can we very quickly talk about that very fine MS Dhoni innings in the last one-dayer?

MS Dhoni (via Sky Sports video)

Imagine a tiger hunting a deer. He’s squatting down in the undergrowth, taut and primed to strike. The deer is ambling around just in front of him, oblivious. When the deer gets close enough, the tiger will leap out and bite him in the neck.

The deer mills around. He mills around for ages. Sometimes he gets closer. Sometimes he moves further away. Sometimes he gets really, really close. But still our tiger does not move. Our tiger knows best. Timing is everything.

Eventually, the deer is so far away as to be almost out of sight. Then he does move out of sight. Then night falls. Then the sun rises. Then night falls again. It is at this point that the tiger briefly leaps out before deciding to head home.

This was MS Dhoni’s innings of 37 off 59 balls in the second one-day international between England and India when India needed about 12 an over.

Dhoni famously likes to ‘take it deep’ when he bats, preying on bowlers’ nervousness when the game gets close. On this occasion he went to Mariana Trench depths in some sort of specially-designed bathscaphe, but at no point did anyone feel the faintest hint of nervousness because depth without closeness does not a nervous fielding side make. Quite the opposite in fact.

The match had to a great extent been lost before MS Dhoni appeared, but we cannot help but applaud him for playing with such extraordinary passivity and complete lack-of-intent. This was one of our all-time favourite one-day innings. It was unforgettable.

MS Dhoni.

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