Sim Nineties: the 1990s-est Ashes – day one

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Last week we picked our 1990s-est England team and our 1990s-est Australia team. This week we’re pitting them against each other in a one-off exhibition Test match with the aid of Cricket Captain 2018’s ‘All-Time Greats’ mode. (This follows Sim Series: Sri Lanka v England last month.)

The match is being played in England because that’s what we decided.

If you think that gives England an advantage, consider (a) what happened in the Ashes during the 1990s (Australia won every series, home and away) and (b) Australia’s bowling line-up for this match – Brendon Julian, Paul Reiffel and Damien Fleming constitutes a pretty English-style attack.

It’s worth emphasising at this point that these very obviously aren’t Nineties best XIs. Our aim was to pick the 1990s-est XIs, which is a subtly different thing. That explains how Australia ended up with those guys instead of Shane Warne, Glenn McGrath and the like.

All the same, it has to be said that Australia’s batting is rock solid (you can see the teams below). You’d have to have them down as favourites on that basis alone – particularly when you consider that England’s batting is flaky as hell. Their top order’s vulnerable, their middle order’s soft and they have a ridiculous tail. The batting’s Atherton and Stewart, basically.

But it’s a one-off match. Anything can happen. Let’s get started.

The toss

Tails…

… fails.

England are losing already.

Australia decide to have a bat.

The weather looks pre-tty, pre-tty good for all five days, by the way, so can’t imagine this’ll be a draw.

Morning session

Devon Malcolm and Alan Mullally share the new ball. Devon opts for short and straight. Mullally opts for nine miles outside off stump.

After five overs, Devon’s utterly shagged-out and Mark Ealham comes on for some dobble.

Ronnie Irani replaces Mullally and oh-Jesus-Christ-what-have-we-committed-to-here, make-it-stop-already.

Barely an hour in and this is the field.

That’s not going on to hit middle, by the way, that’s going straight back over Ealham’s head for four.

Oh, wait. Two overs later Mark Taylor makes as if to pull, but then doesn’t really and therefore manages the unique feat of being late on a Mark Ealham delivery. The stumps are splattered.

“That was absolute dogshit,” says Jonathan Agnew on commentary, about a shot that was indeed absolute dogshit.

Then – what fresh madness is this? – Greg Blewett plays across an Irani delivery. Agnew says he was clean bowled, but it was anything but clean. Round the wicket, aimed at leg stump – perhaps even missing leg because it might have come off the pad – this was about as filthily bowled as it’s possible to be.

Blewett was also late on the delivery. You can’t say the batsmen were beaten for pace. It’s more like they had so much time to think their brains fused.

Mark Waugh edges Irani, but there’s no fielder. Phil Tufnell then comes on for a couple of overs before lunch, but gets wellied by Michael Slater.

At lunch, Irani – Ronnie bloody Irani – is the pick of the bowlers. He’s persisted in bowling round the wicket to right-handers and has continued to cause completely inexplicable problems by doing so.

Afternoon session

Malcolm returns after lunch and he does beat Mark Waugh for pace. The stumps are spread again.

Slater reaches his fifty, but Ealham, Mullally and Irani keep things pretty tight for most of the rest of the session.

With around 20 minutes to go, Malcolm and Tufnell come back on.

Malcolm and Tufnell concede 38 in six overs.

Tuffers is really getting some tap.

Evening session

In an ostentatious display of lack-of-intent, England resume with Ealham and Irani operating in tandem.

Slater reaches his hundred and does that over-exuberant, running, leaping punch thing. Everyone in the ground sits and stews and fantasises about punching his lights out.

Steve Waugh gets stuck into Ealham a bit, so Athers decides to let Graeme Hick have a short spell before the new ball. Slater greets him with a couple of fours. His second over’s a little tidier though.

Tuffers returns at the other end. The field spreads in anticipation. After four dot balls, Waugh drives and sweeps a pair of fours.

Credit to Athers though, he keeps The Cat on and in the next over Waugh gets on the back foot and punches one straight back to him. It’s a loopy, floaty chance that even Tuffers can’t shell. It’s 238-4 and the new ball’s due in 10 overs.

Things go pretty quiet. Tuffers beats Michael Bevan with one that turns about a foot. That’ll worry England with Shane… no, wait – Australia have gone with Colin Miller! That won’t worry England at all.

Tuffers hits Bevan on the pads. There have been two runs and two chances in the last five overs. Athers decides to give Hick and Tufnell another over each. There’s still 35 minutes to go, so England will get two bites with the new ball.

Hick concedes 10. Tuffers finds the edge, but it goes through point, where there’s no close fielder.

Malcolm takes the new ball. Opting for a fuller length, he concedes 13.

At the other end, Mullally accidentally angles one towards the stumps. Utterly taken aback, Slater is bowled through the gate for 151.

Malcolm greets Ian Healy by reverting to bowling at the batsmen’s faces.

Stumps

Ealham and Irani did a better job than expected, but things could have really got away from England if Tufnell hadn’t got his act together in the evening session. As it is, Australia will be content, but probably no more than that.

Join us tomorrow for day two.

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16 comments

  1. Abandon hope, all ye England fans who enter here.

    Alternatively, lick your lips in fervent expectation, all ye Aussies who enter here.

  2. Thanks for doing this. It makes me yearn for Ceefax p341.

    As far as selection goes, I assume the Habib decision was down to this being one of the alternate tests that Nasser didn’t play?

  3. Having not known of the existence of cricket during the 90s, I’m delighted by reports that this makes for a very realistic 90s England fan experience. Indeed, I find this infinitely preferable to highlights or some such. Highlights fail to catch the ebbs and flows of Test match cricket. It’s a strange testament to your writing KC, but somehow by reporting on a video game you’ve caught the ebbs and flows of Test cricket which successfully scratches my itch for it.

  4. A finely poised match at stumps with all three outcomes still very much possible: utter, abject and ignominious humiliation. All to play for!

  5. Ian Healy has a red dot by his gloves… this is confusing me a little. Is this not Cricket Captain’s indication of a wicketkeeper who can bowl? It’s not the same as the “O for Opener” on Stewart’s gloves. But I have no recollection of Healy ever bowling?

    My favourite instance of a wicketkeeper bowling was Tatenda Taibu taking 8/43 in the final innings of a Logan Cup match against Midlands. One of his wickets being Craig Ervine, out for exactly 100. Previously in the game, Taibu had kept wicket during Midlands’ first innings (3 catches and a stumping) and in Mashonaland’s second innings whacked 175 off 171 balls (27 fours and a six). Off the back of that, what with being captain and all, he thought in Midlands’ second innings he’d have a bowl for a change. Good call, that.

    1. When trying to find a link to the scorecard for that factoid, I discovered I already had mentioned it in a KC comment dating back to 2014… which despite making me feel old, and also that I may just have wasted the last six years, does make up for it by providing suggestions for some AMAZING novelty matches you could play if you get bored of Era-iest Test Matches.

    2. Another factlet I discovered in my scorecard search is that Tatenda Taibu’s wife is called Loveness which made me feel all awww inside.

      One more bowling wicketkeeper I can recall from early 2000s Cricket Captain was the multitalented Sri Lankan Samantha de Saram, who sadly seems to have done neither at international level, playing only as a specialist middle-order batsman, yet who did have some success bowling in the domestic game.

      But I dimly recollect there being at least one wicketkeeper on Cricket Captain who had the “O for Opener” mark AND the “Ball for Bowler” mark too. Can anyone fill me in? That surely would qualify for some kind of award as Most Rounded All-Rounder.

      1. Mark Waugh has an “O” but I don’t ever remember him opening in tests (he did regularly in ODIs though). Greg Blewett too, was he ever really an opener???

      2. @Micko

        In Cricket Captain you got The Mark if you did The Thing at domestic rather than international level or even only in one format. But also sometimes it seemed to be at random. Wasn’t Blewett dropped in the end precisely because his opening wasn’t as good as his middle-ordering?

  6. 306 for 5, a brilliant start for 90s England. Deep into the test match and already we’ve not lost. 306 for 5 could easily become 330 all out. Easily. And then all that’s needed is a hundred each from the openers, a couple of 50s, and then a resurgent drive from the lower middle order. If you think about it, we really ought to get a comfortable first innings lead.

    I’m going to draw a curve that represents this scenario, and then see how closely the curve that represents what actually happens follows it. We can call it 90s Optimism Vs Reality. I think it will all turn out beautifully.

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