The 1990s-est Ashes, day two: Hard toil for England bowlers

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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.)

Australia are 306-5.

Here’s what happened on day one.

Michael Bevan and Ian Healy walk to the crease at the start of day two. England will be keen to break the partnership early. They have a ball that is only eight overs old.

There’s a bit of cloud forecast for the afternoon session, but little chance of rain.

Morning session

Devon Malcolm starts with five catchers and a short mid-on. At the other end, Alan Mullally bowls to a packed off-side field.

There are boundaries on offer for Bevan, but he looks uncomfortable against Malcolm. The bowler pushes him onto the back foot and then knocks back leg stump.

On commentary, Jonathan Agnew makes a snide reference to Bevan being a one-day player.

Wary of overbowling Malcolm, Mike Atherton replaces him with Mark Ealham. New batsman Brendon Julian on-drives him over the in-field for four. Shot!

Mullally beats Julian outside off. Quite a way outside off, if truth be told.

Tufnell comes on and play alternates between appeals and fours.

Julian inside-edges Ealham and Alec Stewart leaps like a crested salmon to take a blinder down the leg side.

Malcolm comes back for a quick burst just before lunch and it does not go well.

Healy reaches his fifty. Australia reach 400.

Athers bowls an over.

Afternoon session

With thick cloud cover, Athers opts for Mullally and Ealham, hoping to see swing. Australia progress steadily in thick edges and sound cover drives.

Mullally is starting to look tired, but eventually he finds Healy’s edge and Nick Knight takes a fine diving catch at slip. Damien Fleming scores 10 runs off his next three balls. Mullally is overdue a breather.

Australia are pretty much slogging now. Ronnie Irani is going for runs but repeatedly hitting the pads. Malcolm is only going for runs.

Time for a change of tempo. Tufnell returns and bowls a wicket maiden.

Graeme Hick takes the final wicket.

Change of innings

Mike Atherton and Nick Knight walk to the crease. Expectations are not exactly high among home supporters.

There are four minutes until tea.

Nothing happens.

Evening session

Damien Fleming has taken the new ball with Paul Reiffel. The first notable event is Knight backing away and square cutting one for four off middle. Demented stroke.

Then he drives one off middle, which is almost as unhinged.

Colin Miller creates the first real chance in the 20th over, beating Knight outside off with one that turns. Miller has shocked everyone by taking the field with plain brown hair.

Looks like a rug.

The game settles into a slow and unremarkable pattern.


England trail by 453 with all 10 wickets intact.

Join us tomorrow for day three.


Mike Gatting wasn't receiving the King Cricket email when he dropped that ludicrously easy chance against India in 1993.


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  1. It didn’t go quite as my Day 1 analysis predicted, but no matter. This is still England’s match to lose.

    Atherton and Knight are well settled into a rhythm. The rhythm is that of the organ in the church in Halberstadt. Two runs per over is excellent scoring for a 90s England pair. Early in tomorrow’s morning session, the commentators will say that it sets them up nicely for an acceleration, and indeed they will accelerate for exactly five balls till they are both out.

    But there is plenty batting to come. Hick and Ramprakash in particular have excellent county form going into this match, and as we all know in the 90s, county form IS test form. So no bother, the Aussies must be quaking in their boots. It’s not like they’ve been a dominant team – that 1989 series win will turn out to be just a blip.

    I firmly predict that England will be well on the way to a first innings lead by stumps tomorrow, and will definitely NOT be all out for 260 just after tea.

  2. This is the part where England fans would start thinking ‘maybe, if they can make a few before the first wicket falls, you never know…’ before having their fragile hopes crushed like a crisp packet in the path of a bulldozer.

    1. People sometimes say that Nineties England fans were pessimists but that’s entirely wrong. The ability to find some crumb of hope in even the most dire situations was a defining feature.

      1. The emotional rollercoaster of alternating hope and despair, the isolation from family and colleagues, the constant fear of checking the news, the time spent wondering if life would have been easier if you’d been born in New Zealand instead …..

        …being a 90s England fan was great preparation for These Troubled Times

  3. Missed opportunities. Not least of which Atherton’s back which does have ankylosing spondylitis.

  4. Expectation, realisation, despair and hope are the four emotional horsemen of England cricket’s 1990s apocalypse.

    I have written a genuine 1990s match report illustrating same, which I hope you received yesterday, KC. It might have gone to junk of course.

    1. You are greatly overestimating how frequently we are able to read our emails at the minute.

      … yes, we have it.

      We very much like the first two sentences, which is all we’ve read so far.

      1. Oh joy, oh rapture.

        KC has fallen for the old “write two short sharp sentences as a hook, then the remaining verbiage will sell itself to the attention-deficit-addled editor” trick.

  5. Its the hope that kills you. Was expecting at least 2 wickets down in the first 50. Maybe they’ll keep their heads and score big. Maybe.

    1. Need to avoid the spoiler titles…

      England’s bowlers toil, we knew what was coming. Will it be like watching highlights avoiding the score as we have to avoid the title.

      1. We do try and make them *fairly* vague.

        Doesn’t make for good headlines, it has to be said.

      2. Yer maj, for this piece, you could have gone with “Athers gets a bowl” instead of “hard toil for England bowlers”. Anyone with memories of 90s Test cricket will realise this means England’s bowlers must have had a hard toil, yet somehow it gives less of the game away.

        If you had wanted a bit more suspense, I’d suggest “Athers gets a bowl but can he nab his first Ashes wicket?”

        If you wanted to tease and jest with your readership a little more, perhaps “Athers gets a bowl but can he take a hat trick?”

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