Category: England cricket news (page 1 of 135)

Stuart Broad’s batting has peaked

Stuart Broad slapping one into the off side (via ECB)

Stuart Broad’s batting just gets better and better. Maybe not by the traditional metric of batting average, but there are far more sensible ways of assessing a cricketer’s worth.

Once upon a time, Broad was a good batsman: high left elbow, great timing and solid defence. Then he top-edged a Varun Aaron bouncer into his own face and everything changed. (We were there when it happened but apparently didn’t think to write anything about it.)

The after-effects were enormous. Speaking to the BBC seven months later, he said: “If I have two glasses of wine I have black eyes.”

Weird. And it affected his batting too.

For a while, Broad became a bad batsman; a (justifiably) cowardly tail-ender who backed away from even the full balls. But then gradually he started piecing his game back together and rebuilt it so that it was even better than before.

The sweetly-timed drives remain, but the defence is gone. There is now a glorious fragility to every innings, a feeling of impermanence that makes you savour every boundary.

He’s also introduced some new shots. Rather than dodge the short ones, he’s instead resolved to flail at them like a cornered madman. Woeful shot selection, panic and unusually good hand-eye coordination don’t half make for an exciting stroke.

As Broad contorts himself, unreeling those long arms in a hard-to-predict parabola, no-one can truly know what will happen next. Even if he middles it, you can’t say for certain at what height the ball will be travelling – although you can be sure that it will be airborne.

So anything can happen, but no innings is likely to last too long. As such, Broad is rapidly becoming our favourite batsman. This new improved version might even rank right up there with Steve Harmison and Murali.

“You don’t see Alastair Cook drop too many”

Alastair Cook drop (via ECB)

So said Michael Vaughan after Cook had shelled an easy one early on. Where has he been looking? We’ve always felt like he drops a fair few – although maybe not by Vaughan’s own almost criminally low catching standards.

We wouldn’t go so far as to say that Cook’s a bad slip fielder. If we were called upon to deliver a one-word appraisal of his ability, we’d go with ‘serviceable’.

Maybe people have now seen him catch so many that they forget all the misses and assume he’s some sort of bucket-handed Flintoff figure. He’s not though – and it’s not just a feeling.

When Charles Davis counted up all the drops in Test cricket from 2000 to 2016, no non-wicketkeeper had dropped more than Cook. If plenty were perfectly forgiveable short leg snatches, the opener was nevertheless responsible for 62 non-catches in that time. Vaughan must have seen at least a couple of these. He was Cook’s captain in 18 Tests, after all.

Fortunately for Cook, England’s bowlers created a veritable barrage of opportunities on day one at Lord’s which allowed him to secure his 152nd and 153rd catches by the end of the day. (If you feel moved to compare that with the incomplete tally of Cook drops above, it’s worth knowing that around a quarter of chances are grassed in Test cricket.)

Ben Stokes, in particular, made even jaded old seen-it-alls leak oooohs, such was the swing he mustered. The misses were so near and so frequent that at one point even the umpire did a sharp intake of breath and a ‘how did that miss?’ face.

It was all rather glorious for England until the West Indies came out and did exactly the same thing only without dropping any.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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?

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.


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.

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