A little bit about me and my little blog

This is by far not the first cricket blog to be written and it certainly won't be the last (or necessarily the best). But it's mine.

This is mainly an excuse for me to carry on about a sport that has been something of an obsession since I was knee high to a middle stump. An obsession which has never left throughout the many highs (behave, there have been some) and lows (and boy have there been many of those…..) of being and England cricket fan in the years since.

The views and opinions in this blog are entirely my own. Sometimes light-hearted, occasionally irreverent, hopefully never offensive.

What gives this fool the right to have an opinion on this great sport? Where are his credentials I hear you ask? Well I think my catch at mid-on in the inter-house final at Heath Grammar school in 1981 speaks for itself…..

Sunday, 13 November 2016

The cricket blog - Back despite popular demand!

I know, I know, to many people producing one blog article very six months may seem like it's taken from my own unpublished autobiography 'Lacking in any real effort and just plain lazy'. Though of course there are those who would argue that there is a flip side of that argument. In other words there may well indeed be many more people who have previously read this blog who would no doubt suggest two articles a year is still too high for those who actually have some semblance of a life. Harsh, but probably accurate.

Well in fact I will have you know that after numerous enquiries as to whether I would ever put finger to keyboard again in the name of god's own game I decided that it was time to do just that. Actually......... it was just one enquiry, but it sounds far better in my mind to think rather like the Brexit vote here in the UK, or the election of Donald Trump over there in the U.S of A, that the silent majority are out there willing for the return of Harold and his cricket blog. 

The rather insignificant fact that the Brexit and Trump voters are borderline moronic imbeciles who may be taking us to the edge of social armageddon is something that I won't dwell on for now.

I know what you're thinking - "Yep this is just like old times now that the blog has returned' - in other words I'm blathering on about things that have very little to do with cricket and simply splashing around in my personal swimming pool of self indulgence. Well I said that the blog was back, I didn't say that it had actually improved in any way.

However, as we're on the subject..........

The horror in Bangladesh.....look away now.
The germination for putting together a cricket article probably took seed a day or so ago,  just after I had finally recovered from my incredulous fits of laughter at the Aussies being bowled out for just 85 runs in their first innings against the South Africans. Ahh, good times. It was at the moment though that I realised that I really had no room to be smug, as we know, being an England supporter means very few moments of ever remaining smug at the misfortunes of other cricket teams. 

The sobering thought was that only a week or two ago I felt that I had time-warped back to those crazy depressing days of the 1990's when England teams seemed hell bent on formulating ever inventive ways of losing a cricket match. The capitulation in our second innings in the final Test against Bangladesh from a position of match winning strength to an unseemly dive into match losing collapse was a thing of bizarre horrific beauty. In truth I didn't know whether to laugh or cry - so I did both in equal measure.

In time-honoured fashion this lead all the so-called experts to predict a 5-0 kicking and thrashing from the Indians on the tour straight after Bangladesh that seems to want to break the world record for cramming as many cricket matches in that they can before Christmas. To be honest, I too wasn't all that confidant at the prospect of suffering the same recent fate as the South Africans who were well and truly tonked into oblivion on pitches where the ball turned every which way but loose. After all, the phrase "England can't play spin' has been uttered in cricketing circles almost as often as the phrase "England collapse again' for many a year.

Well, far be it for me to get carried away, but if the first Test in Rajkot is anything to go by then the series may well be a little bit closer than many people were predicting.

At the time of writing this article the final hour of the first Test match of the Indian tour is underway with England threatening to pull off an unlikely victory but seemingly to be stopped not by the opposing teams, but because time is quickly running out. Oh the little teasers.

So what has led to this blogger's bout of optimism? Well perhaps the main contender my optimism/delusion would be the possibility that for the first time since a certain Mr Strauss was busy giving the Aussies a much needed slapping England may actually have an opener that actually looks comfortable, er, opening. At 19 years of age (19 for crying out loud!) Haseeb Hameed already looks like sending the message that the conveyor belt of opening partners for brave Captain Cook may finally be grinding to a welcome halt. I know that it's the time-honoured tradition of fans to build someone up well before we decide that actually we were given duff information and it turns out that they're not the next Botham/Gower/Gooch et al. Somewhere in the world Graham Hick is currently looking sheepishly at his shoelaces whilst trying to avoid eye-contact.......

However, something tells me that we may onto the real deal with Master Hameed. I must admit that the fact that he's 19 makes me more than a little bitter and envious, after all at 19 my sights were set more on how many girls I could avoid getting up the confidence to chat to an a Saturday night rather than confidently facing the world's best bowlers....... the fact that I had very little observable cricket talent has nothing to do with it. So putting aside my unbridled envy for one moment......

To say that he looks confident and assured would be something of an understatement - in fact I would say that, particularly in the second innings, he was the far more calmer of the two as brave captain Cook jumped about as he did his best to install some nerves by proxy in our new hero. After scoring 31 in the first innings Hameed went on in the second innings to make the highest score by an England under 20 batsman since 1937 - not bad eh?

I know that he has a reputation as something of an old school throwback in his 'steady as she goes' approach to batting, not for nothing is he nicknamed 'Baby Boycott' (I would hope more for his batting rather than talking an endless pile of crap). However I have to say that the straight six that he hit as he made sure that he imposed his will on the spin bowling of Ravindra Jadeja was simply stunning, a thing of beauty if truth be told.

I know that I'm joining the 'build them up before knocking them down brigade' but this boy looks a genuine player.

So beware, more will come from this blog as the series progresses - don't say that you haven't been warned.

And talking about sweet timing because as I write this last sentence the first test has finished in a draw. 

Saturday, 4 June 2016

England v Sri Lanka: 3rd Test pre-amble

A version of this article also appears on the Blasting News platform - if you are so inclined you can access my pearls of wisdom (sic) on cricket and other matters via my Blasting News profile RIGHT HERE.


Lord's will witness whether Captain Cook and the rest of the England cricket team can achieve a 3-0 series clean sweep.

The Test series so far has seen Sri Lanka comprehensively outplayed for the vast majority of the first Test at Headingley, and the first half of the second Test match. However, the England cricket team being, well, the England cricket team meant that a fair degree of confidence will have worked it's way through the tourists after their formidable fight back in their second innings at Durham. The Lord's batting-friendly pitch will surely mean that whichever batting team holds their nerve will surely have the upper hand.

Captain Cook - record breaker

You know, it still beggars belief that after the Durham Test match Alistair Cook was still receiving a distinct lack of respect from some quarters (yes Pierce Morgan, I'm talking about you). Putting aside his Ashes and other Test match winning record as captain his record as a batsman reached a pivotal milestone in the 2nd Test, and with it garnered a slew of other record-breaking achievements. Just think about this for a moment; The youngest player (beating Sachin Tendulkar's record by six months) to reach 10,000; the first Englishman and only the 12th batsman in the history of the game to reach that total. 

If that wasn't enough only one other opener in cricket history has achieved the milestone..... well actually it's not enough as I could also add that he's scored more runs as England captain then any of his predecessors after recently surpassing Michael Atherton. And yet, and yet..........

I can't help but feeling that in some quarters the praise has been somewhat muted. Maybe it's because he may not be the most flamboyant of batsman (and men), maybe it's because he's calmly methodical and has clearly identified his limitations, or maybe it's simply because he's not Kevin Pietersen. The fact is that he

C'mon people, he's a bona fide cricketing great. Let's treat him like one.

Another catch bites the dust

The 2nd Test was going swimmingly for the first two days having been shredded for a paltry 101 all out and then having the England batsmen pile on the ignominy by declaring on 498 for 9 as Moeen Ali finally had the chance to remind is that he was actually picked as a batsman in the first place with a classy 155 not out. 

However it seems that old Cricket habits take an age to die as England began to forfeit the momentum that had been gained so far. It was partly due to a combination of loose England catching as Jonny Barstow forgot that wearing keeping gloves actually helps to keep hold of straightforward watched and James Vince forgetting that running backwards may actually inhibit one from catching a cricket ball. This lead to Sri Lanka skilfully giving the English fielders some of their own medicine as they accumulated that confidence raising total of 475 to make England bat again.

And so to Lord's

The 3rd and final test match starts this Thursday at Lord's. Sri Lanka have been forced into at least one change having called up uncapped owler Chaminda Bandara for the game to replace Dushmantha Chamber, who suffered an injury in the previous meeting. So what will the final match bring? 

We all know that the Lord's pitch is traditionally batsman friendly, but of course there is the small matter of the slope which has often caught even the most experienced of players out over the years. The 'home of cricket though hasn't always been kind to our boys and visiting teams annoyingly seem to be inspired by the history and surroundings and have often given us a bit of a mullering  - I hate it when that happens.

A word of warning to Sri Lanka

Yes it may be that the tourists are on a high after the 2nd Test, but there is the little matter of Jimmy Anderson, because not only does he love Lord's but he's further bolstered by now becoming only the fourth England bowler to head the Test bowler rankings reaching 451 wickets in the 2nd Test. So watch out Sri Lanka, Jimmy's gonna getcha!!

Saturday, 21 May 2016

A little whisper about Well Bowled, Harold and Blasting News.

It was with great pleasure that Well Bowled, Harold. An England Cricket Blog last week agreed to contribute a series of news articles for the social media phenomenon that is Blasting News.

There may indeed be some of you who don't know what's happening with those fab and groovy hipster kids on the street, Daddy-O (I think that's the modern vernacular). Well Blasting News is a fully independent online magazine based on the principle of social journalism and powered by the voices of thousands of people called Blasters. So now Harold is, apart from being quite possibly the finest cricket blog on the planet, now a blaster. I know I've been called worse.

If truth be told I was a little unsure at first what specifically to contribute, because each news article had to be in essence relatively short (no more than 800 words) and punchy. Of course, those poor unfortunates who have regularly read any of my blog articles will know fine well that if there’s anything I particularly struggle with, it’s being short and punchy – waffling and punch drunk is more my style I’m afraid. And to those who muttered that I can add to the list of struggles piffling little things such punctuation, grammar and a reasonable level of interest – well you can leave the room now. No matter how correct you may well be.

So there I was, frantically trying to think of the angle my news pieces should take until I finally stumbled onto what should have been blindingly obvious in the first place. The decision I eventually made was to provide a few select musings each week on the summer’s England internationals, but not a full review mind you. Because that would imply a level of detail, structure and expert subject knowledge that would be better left to those reviewers who take themselves far more seriously (and rightly so) than I'm capable of. No, the plan would be to put forward to the unsuspecting general public a few musings each week

I mentioned earlier my initial reticence about contributing to, there was reason for that. There is a saying that has developed over the years about life on the Internet that I rather like which goes something like this; There are two steps to causing a major fight on the Internet. 1) State an opinion; 2) Then wait one minute.

Because inevitably, once news articles like this are published the result is a volume of responses such as "I can't believe you didn't mention........!" Or the "are you sure you watched the same match as me??!!! Then there's the age-old classic " I think you'll find your talking absolute bullshit and I hope your dog dies a slow painful death..." - or words to that effect. Well, it's my article, my rules and my own particular take on a cricket team which happens to be just a little bit special to me. But, feel free to disagree and suggest alternatives as much as your hearts desire - after all we're all entitled to our opinions and will probably have a multitude of viewpoints, just don't call me names - I'm delicate you know.

You can access my pearls of wisdom (sic) via my Blasting News profile RIGHT HERE.

As well as reading the aforementioned selections of attempts at proper type news articles you also have the option of following me on the site - though of course there's  no pressure to do that. I mean, it's not as if it will provide me with all your personal details, online passwords and home address - believe me, I've checked and unfortunately it gives me nothing about you. In all said and done, it's just a bit of fun and essentially yet another medium to enable me to further talk about myself. This of course is what it's all about!

England v Sri Lanka. 1st Test (day 2)

Captains Cook, Matthews and, er, a Zebra
At this very moment in time an air of gloom and despondency has enveloped the country and possibly, even further afield. I imagine that wherever one looks worried parents are desperately trying to calm inconsolable children, not only that but frantic messages of warning are beginning to proliferate social media. Even the most macho of grown men are wandering the streets wondering just how and why on gods green Earth it ever came to this. All I can do is apologise in some vague and barely believable manner, but yes, Well Bowled, Harold: An England Cricket blog is back. Sorry about that.

Yes I know it's been a while since the world experienced the my cricketing insight (some may say 'bullshit' would be a more accurate description), but what can I say? I suppose there are two possibilities for the delay in updates ; Firstly, that this has all been part of some malicious yet emotionally rewarding master plan of mine to lull the world into a false sense of security - namely to go six months without a blog article, let all and sundry think they'll thankfully never have to listen to my cricketing musings ever again.....then boom! I'm back! The second possibility is that I've simply been perfecting my lifetime quest of being a lazy good for nothing bugger who has any number of plausible yet ultimately ridiculous excuses for not putting finger to keyboard. I'll leave it up to you to decide which of those it is.

So anyway, here we are in the early days of a Cricketing Summer - the county championship (c'mon Yorkshire!) is well and truly underway, the T20 slog in the park Bash (c'mon Yorkshire!) started this week and the Aberdeenshire league recently (c'mon, er,  Fraserburgh!) began just a week or two previously. However, just a couple of days ago the most significant event of all took place, namely the first day of an England Test summer as Captain Cook's brave boys began the first Test match against Sri Lanka. Oh summer of British Cricket, how I have missed thee.

My thoughts exactly........
When I was pondering how to begin the first Well Bowled, Harold: An England Cricket blog in six months I considered a detailed recap of the winters events. Initially it seemed such a good idea. To begin with there was the exciting Test series in South Africa where Ben Stokes proceeded on his merry way to cricketing all-rounder immortality. Yes the series was drawn but boy at times it was a doozy.

Then later there came, bugger, sorry....... I still can't talk about THAT world T20 final against the West Indies, or more specifically, that gut-wrenching final over without me feeling physically sick and still just a little bit on the emotional side of tearful disbelief. Oh god, that was a brutal experience ..... find your happy place, Stuey, find your happy place. 

So no, there will be no recap of the Winter.

But really, who cares? Because this week the 1st Test match of the summer began, and two days into the contest - well let's just say that so far it's been glorious. This is in spite of the collection of geniuses at the ECB who decided that the first international of the summer should take place in the middle of May in the North of England. In other words, it's technically still winter there. I do wonder what some of the Sri Lankans who may touring here for the very first time are thinking about the cold, and the wet, and the dark, and the cold wind, and the 27 seasons in a 'Spring' day in Yorkshire. They must feel that they're on another planet - a cold distant rainy planet. Well done ECB. 

At least the ECB have probably learnt their lesson and planned the 2nd Test (still in the famous English summer month of May) somewhere more southern and therefore more conducive to going somewhere to providing a modicum of uninterrupted play. I mean, the ECB wouldn't have done anything even more stupid and arrange for the match to take place even further up the country in the most northerly Test match ground in England would they? Oh, hang on.......... Yep they have. Durham. Genius.

Despite all that, the first couple of days, in between the wind, rain and stoppages for bad light, from and England point of view has quite frankly been rather excellent. Of course, this being the England team it didn't go initially to plan as some of our batting order on the first day thought they were still playing some of that T20 malarkey with apparently a few of our batsmen being involved in the 'let's come up with some stupid ways of giving our wicket away'. They were seemingly enjoying this game immensely with even the likes of Joe Root (obviously still a bit tired from carrying all those recent cricketing awards) getting in on the party game. It could be that the team felt a little sorry for the Sri Lankans who were quite clearly confused at having to play cricket near the Arctic circle. Nevertheless, at 83 for 5 part way through day 1 it seemed that this new dawn of 'fearless cricket' from Captain Cook's brave boys was going to make fools of us all (well no change there in my case). 

However that was until Jonny (I'm from Yorkshire tha knows) Bairstow came to the crease to join one day basher Alex Hales to show the rest of the batting order how it should be done. Even despite the best efforts of the likes of Moeen Ali and Stuart (walk? I don't walk) Broad to continue the 'let's come up with some stupid ways of giving our wicket away' the first innings finished with England on a respectable 298. I know that I may be a cynical old git (I realise that I hide it well) but seeing Jonny reach his 100 at his home ground brought a lump to my throat. It really did. In all seriousness (for once) it really should now be about time that the doubters get off Bairstow's back and accept that we have something special here in a number 7 that can instill fear into bowling attacks in much the same way a certain Mr Gilchrist did for the Aussies back in the day. How the heck Jonny isn't in the one day set up is beyond me. But what do I know?....... Whoever said 'bugger all' can leave now!

I managed to catch most of the Sri Lankan innings (well, what there was of it) on the radio via the still majestic Test Match Special. I do have to say that ex-spin King Graham Swan is surprisingly excellent in his radio role and a perfect fit into what is quite rightly a cricketing institution. So it was the ideal accompaniment to witness the collapse of the Sri Lankan batting order at the hands of what now should be regarded as perhaps (I said, perhaps) England's greatest ever pace bowling partnership. Yes I know that there are many who would quite rightly extol the virtues of the likes of Trueman/Statham or Willis/Botham, but for me the Anderson/Broad attack in statistical terms is stunning. 

There were periods yesterday when the deliveries were at times unplayable as the tourists were faced with a stellar exhibition in the art of swing bowling. In the process it saw Jimmy Anderson reach 6th in the all time list of leading wicket takers. I know that bowling on home soil in the Arctic during our pretend Spring may be something of an advantage, but honestly - that Jimmy boy can swing it round corners. All we need is for him to stay fit for another 20 or 30 years and I'll be happy.

By the end of the day Messrs Anderson & Broad had claimed nine wickets between them as Sri Lanka crumbled to 91 all out and thus amazingly eight runs short of the follow-on target. The evening was set for one of those magical crowd induced periods of glorious swing bowling as our brave boys went for the jugular. Well it would have been if not for the winter weather moving back in as bad light meant the players came off for the day to sit by the fire and get warm again.

Yeah baby......

So here I sit, patiently waiting for day 3 of the match that might see victory without the need for England to bat a second time. The rumours that I may wait another six months to produce my next blog article have yet to be confirmed.

Monday, 9 November 2015


I really wanted to write something about the recent Cricket fiasco in the U.A.E. However, In all honesty the embarrassment, pain, anger & masochistic bemusement that I and many other log-suffering England Cricket fans felt after the final Test match is still rather raw. I can take the annual never-ending optimism that I always stupidly feel before every trip abroad. I can even take the subsequent self-inflicted misery that follows as touring England team after touring England team still continues to heap upon my ever fragile cricketing consciousness. I just can't face having to write about it and so relive the whole sorry experience once again.

So it was with relief that a few days ago I was asked to check out something a little different for this blog. The request took the form of a web platform, going by the name of Enjore. I must admit that before this week I hadn't heard too much about Enjore, so being the intrepid and diligent blogger that I am (shut up, I really am!) I decided to do a little bit of detailed research. OK, OK you've got me...... there's a first time for everything.

After hour upon hour (well, a few minutes) of research, it seems that Enjore essentially is designed to help tournament organisers to manage sports competition ranging from football to rugby, from tennis to volleyball and even Futsal (that's indoor 5 a-side football to you). As yet I haven't been able to see if there are any Cricket tournaments, but if I have my way, well it's only a matter of time.

The platform, which finds it's way to UK shores imminently, has apparently been gaining a good deal of momentum around the globe with the number of registered users exceeding 100,000 and more than that, every month 400,000 people make use of the platform. 

"So how do people make use of the delights of Enjore?" I hear you ask. Well, dear reader, that's an excellent question if I may say so. For example, organisers can manage teams and players, create round-robin and knock-out schedules, assign users managing tasks and fill in the match reports, both from the Enjore website and even from your smart phones. If that wasn't enough you can also generate tables and statistics both for teams and single players, get in touch with participants as well as manage advertising spaces on their tournament’s pages..

Lets say that you want to be all posh and make your league  unique by customising your  particular football tournament's teams and players by adding pictures, logos, positions and staff members - well all the information is at hand by clicking on - - It tells you everything that you need to know;

However, we fans (as well as the players) are not left out. We can view tables and schedules, leave comments on the matches, judge the players’ performance, upload photos, receive notifications on our smart phones and share our team’s results on other social networks. If all that wasn't enough, manage those round-robin or knockout tournaments, rounds plus final stages, view tables and statistics for teams and players, fill in the match reports with scores and disciplinary sanctions, vote and comment on the players' performance and publish the match photos and videos.

Now I know that you're thinking, that this all sounds a little bit exciting and that it's probably more than enough to get even the most depressed cricket fan like myself out of the doldrums. But what about the cost? Well I have news for you, because it's absolutely free.

All you have to do to create your tournament is sign up. In the near future, Enjore will release premium service packages for the most demanding and professional organisers. Furthermore, it will soon launch a white label service with new features. 

You can find much more information about at


Monday, 19 October 2015

England v Pakistan - 1st Test

If only they had lights to help them finish the game......
When the clueless cretinous toss pots who are running and ruining Cricket International Cricket Council next get together for their decision making shindigs, I would suggest that there are some items that should be added to the agenda. I suppose that you could call them the Well bowled, Harold formula for saving Test Cricket. It has a nice ring to it if I say so myself, though far be it from me to suggest that it makes perfect logical sense (but it does). In essence the formula is a list of 5 things that one shouldn't do, thereby stopping Cricket from shooting itself in the proverbial foot. They are;

1) Do Not have a Test match taking place in the middle of nowhere (i.e - a desert). There are fewer and fewer Test Match supporters as time goes on and not many of us have a helicopter or charter plane.

2) Do Not broadcast to the world from bone empty stadiums - let a few local people in for free or at least strategically place a few mannequins around the ground.

3) Do Not produce a Test match pitch which when used  for Cricketing purposes actually resembles a cross between a hard lifeless lump of concrete and a really hard lifeless lump of concrete.

4) Do Not (when viewers have sat through four mind-numbingly slow days of cricket witnessing a zillion runs scored and in the process pushing the spinners to a suicidal nervous breakdown) formulate rules for the Umpires to stop play for bad light.......when, er, we have lights.

5) Do Not continue to make Test Cricket a laughing stock - or I may have to put on my very stern angry face.

There may be some reading this who may think that that I'm sulking at proceedings that saw England denied an improbable and stunning victory at the hands of Umpires held both hostage to the cock-eyed rules of the ICC as well as the laughably slow over rate antics of the Pakistan players - well nothing of the sort, particularly on that second point. If England had been in the opposing position I would have perfectly understood and accepted the need to 'slow things down'. After all, we have indeed been in that situation ourselves on a number of occasions recently where heroic defence has been used alongside inventive time wasting. I seem to remember on one instance, though which precise Test match it was eludes me) where Jimmy Anderson proceeded to change his gloves three times during one over. No shenanigans there, I'm sure.
Er, sorry lads - I dropped, lads?

No, the fact is that, apart from the nonsensical decision to curtail the run-chase by the umpires, we didn't really help ourselves at times and arguably should never have been in that situation in the first place after 'gifting' a hatful of runs to the opposition. The Pakistan first innings for example saw Ian Bell doing his very best to help Mohammad Hafeez and Shafiq onto big scores after dropping both of them at slip early in their innings. Stuart Broad obviously didn't want to be left out, so as part of his worldwide self-rehabilitation plan to make the world love him again, he dismissed Shoab Malik off a no-ball......... It could have been worse though, he only went on to make 245.

The Pakistan first innings went on to produce 528 for 8 until they decided to rub the salt further into England's tired and sweaty wounds by deciding to declare. Perhaps the only man on the planet from an England perspective that probably cheered at the declaration was Adil Rashid who had suffered the ignominy of producing the worst ever figures by a Test debutant. It wasn't as if he bowled terribly first time around, in truth his accuracy and speed were a trifle inconsistent with nerves clearly playing a part. In all truth, his fellow spin king, Moeen Ali didn't fair too much better on the lifeless pitch as he conceded 121 runs, also without taking a wicket. The consensus amongst the 'experts' was that the Pakistan spin bowlers would show the little Tyke how it was really done on a pitch that surely wasn't as bad as people thought. 
The pitch, just before play started......

Well, erm, actually they didn't - and it was. If truth be told, the pitch was a complete joke with little bounce and even less pace to provide virtually no assistance to the bowlers. I know that recent recent years have seen all formats of the game benefit the batsman rather than bowler, be it the technology in making bats the size of a house and having cricket playing areas the size of a, er, house. For crying out loud, it was three days into the match before we finally say a wicket fall to a spinner. Even the ever amiable Mushtaq Ahmed, the previous England spin bowling coach and now with Pakistan, could barely hide his anger at the state of the lifeless piece of concrete that we seemed to have.

Test Cricket is constantly trying to maintain its status as the elite form of the game and if there's one thing that will continue to damage the future of the format (though believe me there are others) it's the joke of a pitch like the one used here.

There were of course one or two positive outcomes from the pitch that enabled a number of England batsmen to find their mojo when it came to their turn to bat. Moeen Ali, for example, soon forgot the horrors of bowling by doing more than a passable impression of a solid opening partner for the courageous Captain Cook. Speaking of whom - god I love that man. After the levels of abuse and ridicule that at times bordered on vicious abuse (yes Mr Warne, I'm talking about you) that he faced a year or two ago, it's a joy to see him back to what he does best - namely score runs by the bucketful. Yet, for some reason he still doesn't seem to get the plaudits in some quarters that he surely deserves, and I really don't know why. For some, the simple reason is that he's not Kevin Pietersen still seems to be some peoples only visible reason. Cook's score of 263 before being given out to a no-ball (you couldn't make some of this up) broke any number of records.....

Cook's knock beat the previous record for longest England innings by time, set by Len Hutton's 797-minute innings of 364 against Australia in 1938.

I'll hit you for four....then I'll hit him for four....then.....
  • Only two Test innings have ever lasted longer: Hanif Mohammad's 970-minute 337 for Pakistan against West Indies in 1958, and Gary Kirsten's 878-minute 275 for South Africa against England in 1999.

    * Cook became only the second player ever to bat for more than 12 hours for the second occasion in his Test career - after Brian Lara.

    * During his innings, Cook also overtook the record for the most Test runs ever scored by an overseas batsman in Asia: he now has 2,065, beating Jacques Kallis's previous record of 2,058.

Before anybody contacts me to congratulate my impressively detailed level of statistical research, don't bother. Though you can thank the BBC whose page I took the information from. Thanks BBC.

The bottom line is that we have in out midsts one of the all-time greats - it's time we all acknowledge what he can do, not what he can't.

So after 22,000 runs were added in the first innings of both teams, Pakistan decided quite decently to make a compete muck-up of their second innings. From what had seemed a remorseless plod towards one of the most boring matches in recent test history, England were suddenly on the roll. Things become ever more surreal when Adil Rashid went from worst debut figures ever to become the first ever bowler to go for over 100 wicketless runs in a first innings and then get a five-for in the second.

 (AP Photo/Hafsal Ahmed)

Suddenly Pakistan were all out after losing their last five wickets for just 14 runs ....... suddenly England we in sight of an improbable victory ........ suddenly courageous Captain Cook took Mr Warnes 'you've got to lose to win' bullshit and threw it back in his face by reorganising the batting line up ........ suddenly England had a target of just 99 runs to win ......... victory was going to be ours!!!

Except that it wasn't. The umpires, followed quite correctly (some may say blindly) the guidelines about the light. The fact that they had curtailed play at the end of the previous day (when it was still eminently fair and playable), they had subsequently painted themselves into a corner when the light meters showed the same level as England were an excruciating 25 runs short of the target.

Sometimes Cricket shoots itself in the face, occasionally it tales a pump-action shotgun and well and truly blows its brains out. Oh well, onwards and upwards to the next Test. Suddenly optimism has returned.

Sunday, 9 August 2015

Ashes 2015 - 4th Test, Trent Bridge: My role in regaining the Urn.

Airwolfhound -
When I scribbled what some regarded as overtly optimistic musings just before the beginning of the Ashes about England's chances, it's safe to say it created something of a minor stir amongst a few who read it. In particular, a few of my Aussie friends seemed to take especial issue with me. The fact that my thoughts went against the tide of considered opinion both within and outside the game ensured one or two responses to the article suggesting that I was talking complete rubbish. I know, I know, it wouldn't be the first time that I didn't know what the hell I was blathering on about. If you have the keys available to let you out of your padded cell then you can read the article RIGHT HERE. However, if you think that idea is quite frankly pointless and a stretch too far for anybody's sanity, then I'll summarise the points quickly here.

In essence, my near suicidal (it's all relative) pessimism after scraping an uninspiring draw in the West Indies only then to see the Aussies go there and give them a real tonking meant that I initially feared the worst about the coming summer. That was until the ODI series against New Zealand where, instead of of our time-honoured method of pathetic capitulation, we decided to win the series and not only that, but to win it with a form of cricket that was both exhilarating and a joy to watch. We were attacking, aggressive, innovative and fearless in our approach to winning. If that wasn't enough we then had a go at that slog in the park 20 over malarkey and strewth almighty, we only went and won that too with that cunning and very un-English method of trying to win cricket matches in style. It was all very confusing in that it inspired a feeling that things may not be quite as bad as many feared.

The last paragraph in the article especially was singled out for one or two comments; 

" Of course the big question is whether brave Captain Cook and the players from the Test match team who didn't play in the ODI series (i.e. most of them), can take up the mantle of 'lets do it to them before they do it to us' and show some mettle in the upcoming Ashes series. The newly regained optimist in me says that we can, or at least I believe that we may not now get the kicking I thought at one time was in store for us. I'm feeling good about our chances." 

The vast amount of comments I received were good natured, except for one in particular, and I'm still not quite sure just how I can stick my blog where the sun doesn't shine - I'm assuming the person in question was referring to Lancashire.... Essentially, the constant opinion was that we were facing a far superior side in terms of skill and mental strength and that at best England might just about avoid a complete tonking at the hands of the Aussies. Few, if any, seemed to share my optimism.

I would love to say that I'm far above being all smug and 'I told you so', being humble has never been close to inhabiting any part of my personality so....................


However, even I will admit that I never expected us to regain the Ashes in quite such a spectacular manner. 

I have seen hundreds upon hundreds of matches in my time, either in the flesh, as it were, or on TV. In truth, I'm not sure what the first game was that I actually watched. I can't remember who England were playing, or the ground that it took place at, or even the year that the Test match took place when I saw my first game on the BBC. I know what you're thinking, "Not really the most sparkling of reminisces so far, Stuey old boy".... But bear with me.

I'm guessing that it was around 1972 or 1973, so by my advanced mathematical abilities that would make me around 6 years of age. My mum had taken me along to visit a friend of hers and so in order to keep me quiet they had employed the time-honoured pre-video games days of sitting me in front of the TV in the hope that something would take my attention while they chatted about grown up women stuff.  I can remember that after been given free reign to 'surf' through the channels (this was the early 1970's, we had three channels, it took a three seconds) I decided to ignore the cartoon on one channel, the test card (wikipedia that one kids) on the other and decided to watch the first over of the day instead. I recall that England got a wicket in the very first over, everybody at the ground became very excited and from that moment Cricket became one of the loves of my life.

Broad's reaction to THAT catch....
(Picture courtesy of Reuters)
Ever since that time I have witnessed any number of highs and lows, some great games and many great moments. However, nothing, but nothing has ever compared to what I witnessed on the first day of the Trent Bridge Test.....Nothing. I'm also proud to say that I'm pretty sure that the events were in a large part thanks to me.

I know what you're thinking, surely the victory was probably more to do with Stuart Broad producing a spell of bowling that will surely still be talked about in 40 years time? Well yes partly, I'll give him that, it was pretty special I suppose. However, in my mind the victory was more due to my redecorating my house meaning that I had to forgo my usual room and with it my favourite cricket watching couch, and watch it in the kitchen......on a far less comfortable couch. Now I'm not normally the superstitious kind, in fact quite the opposite to the extent that I tend to mock such nonsense thinking in everyday life. The fact is that I may now have to reconsider my thinking, because not only did my complete change of cricket watching location inspire Broad's heroics, but the fact I never left the couch for one moment during live play on that first day meant that my own personal heroism in holding for the loo ensured potential victory. As I said, it is a very uncomfortable couch.

Alright,  I concede that possibly it wasn't just my personal heroism that caused the Aussie collapse, the simple fact was that the 18 or so overs in that first morning provided perhaps the most exhilarating cricketing experience I have ever witnessed. It was simply incredible. Yes the conditions were suitable to the English bowling and yes, the Aussie batting at times resembled my own levels of batsmanship  (i.e. crap). However the consistency and skill of Broad's spell to produce figures of 8 wickets for 15 runs.......yes that's what I said, 8 wickets for 15 runs was something that should now place him in the realm of greatness. Not only that but the fielding on that first day was simply incredible, and yes, the catch from Stokes is better than Strauss's in 2005. 

I know for scientific certainty though that me and my new cricket watching conditions were the main cause for victory. The second day saw me miss a large chunk of play as I had already (foolishly) arranged to go walking and climb Aberdeenshire's highest hill, Bennachie with my son and a friend. Though I did manage to get a signal and listen to a little of the play it soon became apparent that the team was missing my influence as Mitchell Starc began to regain his mojo by ripping through the England middle order. Luckily I managed to get back home later in the afternoon and sat down (in the kitchen, naturally) just in time to see David Warner sky his shot into the grateful hands of wonder boy Broad. In one action I put a halt on the impressive start to the Aussie innings and a mini-collapse of almost English proportions quickly followed. You're welcome.

If you didn't manage to catch any of the coverage of that amazing first morning than I suggest that you take a few moments and click on the link below to listen to the stunningly marvellous Test Match Special coverage. Not only can you hear the legendary Henry Blofeld near explode with emotion, but Phil Tuffnel's reaction in the background to 'that catch'......priceless. Believe me, you won't regret it.

I would love to think that somewhere on that first morning there was another 6 year old who had been put in front of the TV to keep him quiet and having stumbled across the Cricket coverage for the very first time (providing they had SKY TV of course) became well and truly hooked. Well I've got news for you kid, buckle up and get ready ready for a roller coast ride of delirious highs and gut-wrenching'll have the time of your life.

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