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…..

Saturday, 30 March 2013

Tour of New Zealand 2013 - part 5 - the 3rd and final Test

3rd Test - Auckland.

I sit here in front of the empty screen on my iMac, a freshly brewed cup of Coffee by my side ( some good cafetiere stuff, not instant rubbish) and a rather fine Radiohead album gently playing in the background. It's a few days after the final day of the Test match, a game that once again had everything good (and some bad) to show that Test cricket has still so much to offer and yet I have been struggling as to how I should personally view the result. Yes, once again this band of brothers showed that none of them have the faintest clue when they are beaten, as they defied the odds to deny the Kiwi's a somewhat deserved victory. However, on the other hand part of me is wondering whether we as ranked second in the world should be celebrating a draw against the eighth-ranked team. It's conundrum that I hope to solve by the end of this blog entry……. yes, besides a forum for other people to read my musings, this blog also serves as a medium for my own self-analysis.

DAYS 1 to 4 had witnessed a strange state 
Captain Cook about to do a 'Nasser Hussein'
 o f affairs with Alistair Cook stunning the 
cricketing world by winning the toss. The fact that he then decided not to bat and instead decided that the drop-in pitch had enough green tinges to interest the bowlers, so put in a clearly flummoxed Brendan McCullum into bat. McCullum, bless him, decided not to embarrass his cricketing role model and muttered that he would have done the same if he had won the toss - he even kept a straight face when he said it, so it must be true……. Our own Geoffrey Boycott on TMS was his usual reserved self about the choice of bowling first saying

 "I don't know why you would want to field first, possibly for two days, before you have a bat. There was nothing in the pitch, there has been no reverse swing and no spin for Monty."

So, the standard assumption is, you put in the opposition, bowl well on a helpful pitch and anticipate getting them out for a decent figure somewhere well-under 300. Well, erm,  it didn't quite work out that way as our boys were thoroughly outplayed over the first four days in practically every department. For a start, NZ ended their first innings on a 'paltry' 443 all out after 152.3 overs  - the first day alone saw them close on 250 for the loss of one bloody wicket. Yep, that pitch was a real demon….. 

England's first innings reply quite obviously was the result of some crafty replacement of the drop-in pitch for one that made it nay-on unplayable by the time they came into bat - either that or there is the other possibility that NZ bowled much better than our boys did. Perish the thought. The score of 204 all out after just 89.2 overs was pretty dire….things were looking bad overall for the whole series and indeed our continuing status as the number 2 Test nation in the world….. the 8th ranked team were making us look like chumps. Indeed, not only were they outplaying us at this point, they took the mickey in refusing to enforce the follow-on and despite one or two scares, continued to pile on the runs. 

The Kiwis have a good laugh at our expense - again…..

As it turned out, we made it quite clear to the Kiwis that we didn't actually need their help to make us look like chumps, no, we were perfectly adept at doing that ourselves. The 4th day witnessed some truly bizarre fielding decisions as it became abundantly clear that a mammoth deficit for our final innings was on the cards as the Kiwis annoyingly decided not to collapse. For possibly the first time I can remember, the captain and his bowlers seemed completely devoid of ideas, to the point that the only strategy now was one of containment and hoping for a miracle. At one point, all the outfield players were placed on the boundary - meaning that the Kiwis could take ones and twos as they pleased….I never seen the like. As neither had Aggers...

"It was one of England's poorest days in the past 20 years. I have never seen an England Test team with all nine fielders on the boundary as they had during the morning session. I never want to see it again; it was the equivalent of throwing in the towel."

By the end of the 4th day, prospects of losing the Test match and with it the series and our status were staring at us in the face. The day ended with our brave boys on 90 for 4, a whopping 390 runs needed to win, or more likely, a whole blooming day to bat with just 6 wickets left……So far we had been out captained, out thought and out played - we needed a miracle.

Day 5 was going to need a rear guard performance of gargantuan proportions - only twice before had a team successfully batted out the final day to save a match. Whispers of a rear guard action were being muted, so much so that Matt Prior admitted in an end of day interview that a certain Michael Atherton's name had been mentioned that morning in saying what needed to be done. So, to help my potential solving of my conundrum of whether to get carried away with the final result, I began to ponder on some classic examples of drying the cricketing odds….

Three classic rear guard actions……...

Classic rear guard No1 - Atherton's masterful 185

Faced with a seemingly impossible task in the final Test against South Africa in 1995, England were a precarious 167 for four and having to bat out the final day.

Michael Atherton's  innings lasted 643 minutes; he faced 492 balls for his 185 and with the able assistance of wicket-keeper Jack Russell, the Test Match was saved.  Michael Atherton would also be pleased to know that he instantly became one of my cricketing heroes - his confrontation in this match, and repeated at home the next year with Allan Donald, has gone down as one of the classic cricketing confrontations.

Classic rear guard No2 - "arm guard's are for wimps"

The 1963 Lord's Test against the West Indies. After having had his arm broken by Wes Hall the day before, Colin Cowdrey came in, arm in plaster, to play out the final moments of the match. 

Not only did this confuse the West Indians, the fact that he walked to the crease with a beaming smile on his face made them realise that this particular Englishman was also a bit mad. 
Indeed, some 9 years later when he was flown out to Australia at the age of 42 to face Lillee and Thompson at their frighteningly fastest it showed that he was a gentleman, a fine player, and clinically insane….

Classic rear guard No3 -  Ney with the French in1812

During Napoleon's Invasion of Russia, the three-day Battle of Krasny concludes. In reality it was a series of skirmishes fought in the final stage of Napoleon's retreat from Moscow. Total French losses in the Krasny skirmishes are estimated between 6,000 and 13,000 killed and wounded, with another 20,000 to 26,000 lost as prisoners to the Russians. The French also lost close to 130 cannon and a huge portion of their supply train. Russian losses are estimated to have been no more than 5,000 killed and wounded. At Krasny, Marshal Ney's steely courage in defeat immortalised him in the annals of military history. Thanks to for this piece of information.

I know, it's not exactly cricket - but it's almost as important……….

DAY 5 - and boy what a day, I think the term 'roller coaster' would be rather apt for what was about to take place - and for much of it I was actually awake, which makes a nice change. The morning session wasn't too bad from an England perspective as the proverbial anchor was dropped as Bell and Root did their best impression of digging in - only for Root to get out before lunch. 

In fact, for a large part of the afternoon things still seemed comfortable as the impossible now seemed as it may happen. 

Matt quickly hides the glue he used for the bails

Well that was apart from Matt Prior deciding to give the odd bit of catching practise to the Kiwi slips ( they failed the assessment) and then letting a ball hit his stumps but the bails refusing to fall….it was all good. 

However, the cricketing gods (Yes W.G. I'm talking about you!) decided it was time for my stress levels ( yes, its all about me) to increase as Ian Bell was dismissed in the last over before tea for what had been a disciplined 75. Matt Prior was now the only recognised batsman left….. and with three tail-enders going into the final session.

Matt badly needed someone to shore up the other end while he still played his shots. Stuart Broad kindly stepped up and took to heart this advice as he decided scoring runs was for Cissy's and instead brought a whole new level of definition to the term 'digging in'. His decision to only weaken and eventually get off the mark to the 62nd ball he faced was admirable. As was hisTest record of 103 minutes in the middle. Geoffrey would be proud.

 It was all going swimmingly with only a handful of overs to go as the Kiwis, who looked increasingly disheartened as they through everything at the batsmen when suddenly Kane Williamson had Broad and Anderson caught at slip in the space of three balls. That brought in the last 'batsman' Monty in for three overs - it was about 3.30 in the morning and I was about to have a heart attack. Monty, bless him, did his best to put us all at ease by almost getting involved in a comedy run-out when he dived for the crease half a mile too soon…….. 

Monty dives……then dives again….and again.

Those last 18 balls were something I could barely watch - in fact Captain Cook admitted later to not bang able to look at all as Monty fended ball after ball away. The crowd were baying, the fielders were camped en mass around the bat whispering words of encouragement to Monty and Matt……but our boys were up for it at last as Monty decided to let Matt have the final glory for the last couple of balls for yet another famous rearguard to add to the annals of cricket history.

So this brings me back to my initial conundrum. Is snatching a draw from the 8th placed test team in the world worthy of the celebration and jubilation displayed in some quarters? Well I think it's certainly fitting celebrating the character and dedication shown on that final day. For a start, the performance of Matt Prior is one that certainly should be celebrated. His display in this match confirmed his ever growing reputation as the best wicketkeeper-batsman in the world. He scored a century and a fifty and took five catches, which is an unusual accomplishment in Test cricket. We should be thankful to have him in our ranks.

Moreover, I think its safe to say that we didn't play well throughout the whole of series, New Zealand were better at times than us and far more aggressive. They have an excellent proactive captain and a young hungry talented side that if properly managed, could attain good things in the future. We did play well at times, but maybe we underestimated the Kiwis while having one eye on a certain Ashes series in the summer. One thing is for certain though, that when the chips are down and some character has to be shown, our boys never know when they are beaten. 

Monty thanks Matt Prior for supporting him in their partnership….
There are times as an England cricket supporter that could certainly never be said - so we should give the players every plaudit for saving this match….. they were magnificent.  


  1. Great article as article ever Stuart, written with your usual dry wit.....

    1. Many thanks Liz for the comments - but no International cricket now for two months, just what are we going to do?

  2. Dear Sir
    I formally request that you remove your English Rose (tinted) glasses and recognise that this wasn’t a result to celebrate, rather an opportunity to get a kick up the backside.
    Would you be of the same opinion after the Kiwis have come over here to play on a fixed pitch and the same results occur? I suspect not, nay, I hope not.
    Could your next move be to follow the Scottish route and celebrate losses? This rejoicing in a defeat, cos it certainly wasn’t a win, will be manna from the Aussie heaven to the Antipodean convicts. Who, even in their homework troubled times, will be itching to take on a team and its supporters that will accept any result. In Australia it’s only the victories that are celebrated; anything else is a loss. As Eric might say “Little Urn could be heading south this summer and staying there over the winter”.
    In order to get things sorted before it’s too late, I suggest all England cricketers and supporters form a circle, facing inwards, turn to the left and kick the backside in front of you. Problem solved!!
    Yours sincerely
    Signed “A reader of your amusing blog”

    1. Wotcha Dod
      I wasn't in any way suggesting that we should celebrate a draw. As I mentioned in the blog, it was the manner of stubborn determination not to lose the match, the character and determination to bat out he final day that should be celebrated.
      Is not becoming only the 3rd side in the history of Test cricket to bat out the final day to save a game something to celebrate in itself? I believe it is.
      It shows that one thing that has often been lacking in previous England teams, namely showing an (Australian) desire to never give in, to not capitulate, is there in this current side in spades.
      You say that In Australia it’s only the victories that are celebrated; anything else is a loss - well the scenes from the Aussies back in 2005 when they held on for a last ball draw at Old Trafford would suggest that isn't necessarily the case.
      I agree completely ( again as I mentioned in the blog) that England might been under-cooked coming into the series, had under-estimated the NZ team and been 2nd best throughout some parts of the series. A reality check for my boys was certainly in order.
      The old British adage the 'it's the taking part that counts' is palpable nonsense - winning is all that matters in Sport……however, celebrating the manner of performance is not a sign of weakness. If we had of lost I would not have celebrated anything - glorious defeat is not my bag! ;-)
      Seriously mate, thanks for the comments as ever.