Tuesday, 8 July 2014

The vengeance

"...I took inspiration from Gloria Gaynor.  Like her, at first I was afraid, I was petrified..."

Monty Panesar is giving his giving his post-match interview, moments after laying waste to India's batting line up for the second time in a day.

"...when I took the call from James Whittaker I thought it was Swanny playing one of his pranks; but then he said the password, I knew it was him.  He explained that even though I could only get into Essex seconds, I was still the best spinner in the country..."

There is a stunned glaze in Panesar's eyes. It has been a busy 24 hours.

"...I certainly wasn't expecting to get much turn, what with it being day two, but I just decided to pitch the ball up and give it a bit of a spin..."

He glances up at the scoreboard - India bowled out for 122 late on the second day, following on after their hapless first attempt at responding to England's 457 (Cook 188).

"...Cookie promised me that if I took three wickets, he would take me on a special trip to El Splendidos in Chelmsford on ladies nite...after I'd got Kohli on review, he said he'd buy me a season ticket...he's got a great sense of humour, Cookie. Ah well, maybe it was just funny at the time..."

And there it is on the dot matrix - Panesar 8-2-13-7. He smiles.

"...I'm delighted with how I bowled. And I haven't finished yet..."

His face turns.  He looks into the camera lens angrily, and jabs his finger.

"...Michael Clarke, I'm after you..." 

NWS - An(other) Apology

My name is NWS and I am a cheat.

I have shamed my country, I have shamed my sport. I have shamed those close to me. For that I am now proud.

I should have posted my vision for the second test against Sri Lanka, especially given that I was aware it would have a tight ending, and I failed to do so.

Any good apology gives an explanation for the shortcoming, even if it is not satisfactory, and in this case the reason for my lapse was just that I was too busy with things at home, and I basically just forgot.

I will try to not let it happen again, but I have said that before.

Tuesday, 10 June 2014

Lords gets boreds

"The trouble with Kevin was that we all found him incredibly annoying," explains Alistair Cook, with the fuzzy head of Nasser Hussain's Sky microphone thrust in his face, "we're looking to bounce back from the disappointments of the winter, and that's why we've introduced three debutants.  It's what management consultants call a "fresh start"".

But unfortunately, there is nothing fresh about Cook's sodden footwork, as he edges Chanaka Welegedara to Mahela Jayawardene at first slip in the very first over. Unfortunately, Hussain forgot to ask Cook about the batting order, so there is some degree of uncertainty as to who is to replace him, but Moeen Ali eventually makes his way through the Long Room to meet fellow freshman Sam Robson. Welegedara pitches the ball up; it swings away a little, and the heart of every Englishman in the crowd is in his mouth. But Ali reaches forward, and clatters the ball past Tillekaratne Dilshan at cover point. The ball whistles down the slope into the boundary boards, and makes a resonant boom as it hits a boundary hoarding.

And so it is that the spirits of the Sri Lankans slip through the morning and then the day, as Moeen and Robson steadily accumulate. Farveez Maharoof in particular looks like he would rather be playing one day "cricket", perhaps because he would. Moeen departs for a well-crafted 86, but as Cook sits on the balcony, manfully watching replays of his dismissal on the video analyst's iPod, Robson and Ballance increase the scoring rate. Rain curtails the day's play, but England are still very well placed on 315 for 2 (Robson 132*, Ballance 99*).

Ballance is run out in a mix-up the following morning, but England's pursuit of a painfully high score is unrelenting. In an innings later dedicated to Jonathan Trott, Robson bats for hour after hour, as he drives onwards towards his double century. He is eventually dismissed for 192, but as Chris Jordan cheerfully smites Maharoof into the Mound Stand, everyone in the ground knows that England are going to take 600 off Sri Lanka.

England finally declare on 602*; Sri Lanka are bowled out for 213 (Jordan 5-45), follow on, and are bowled out again, also for 213 (Moeen 3-13).

Wednesday, 1 January 2014

A significant improvement

In his New Year's message, English Head Coach Andy Flower announces that the England team for the final test match will be Cook (*), Root, Bell, Pietersen, Ballance, Stokes, Bairstow (+), Borthwick, Broad, Anderson and Finn.

Relying on advice from the Most Reverend Justin Welby, Alastair Cook wins the toss, and England decide to bat.  Happily, they bat well, and amass 606-6 before declaring. At the close of play on the second day, the England dressing room is pressed for an interviewee at the press conference: but Andy Flower declines, politely commenting that a risk of press conferences is that you may believe your own publicity. He adds that he was more right than he could ever have imagined, all those years ago, when he told Jamie Foster than he had to walk the walk as well as talk the talk.

As England take the field on the third day, there is great delight in the press box that the England players have refrained from using hair gel, and they have made a collective commitment to shaving each morning. It certainly seems to have had an effect on morale on the field, as the England fielders take some excellent catches as Australia slip to 50-5. There is a brief delay to England's progress as Mitchell Johnson and Brad Haddin play some counter-attacking blows, but a leg break and a googly from Scott Borthwick see off the Australian batsmen. Later, Johnson admits that he too should have had a shave. Australia are dismissed for 133, and England captain Cook orders the follow on - wearing a nice blue blazer.

There is no escape from this for the Australians, and they eventually subside for 198 (Borthwick 5-87, Root 3-38). Asked about the upturn in England's fortunes, in a single interview on the outfield with Jonathan Agnew, Flower explains that the England team have adopted a new attitude. Each player has agreed to accept personal responsibility for his own performance and behaviour. In general, the expectation is that when one is in Rome, one will do as the Romans - unless one is in Australia, in which case one will do as the English.

Sunday, 22 December 2013


"It was a little unhelpful of Graeme to retire mid-way through an Ashes series," explains Alastair Cook, shortly after winning the toss. But after pausing for thought he adds "but then again he's allowed some latitude because he took 255 test wickets for England, and made off-spin splendid again. I expect he'll change his mind by the fifth test anyway. Either way we wish him well in next year's Strictly Come Dancing: beyond that he will have a guaranteed success in his career as team captain on A Question of Sport, Sky TV's county cricket coverage or even I'm a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here - at his election."

Cook sensibly decides that England will bat first; but it is clear that he and Michael Carberry are under pressure from Mitchell Johnson and Ryan Harris. After one ball too many has passed by Cook's outside edge, Johnson finally snaps and calls Cook a pommie bast@rd who can't bat. After just a moment, Cook replies sadly that he couldn't disagree, based on the first three test matches of the tour.

Cook struggles on, but is eventually snared by Johnson for a canine 48. But the Australian focus on the English captain seems to take some pressure off Carberry at the other end, who bats sensibly, as he finds his feet. When he cuts Harris past point just after the drinks break, it becomes clear that the Australians have been trying to shoot the wrong fox. Carberry is away; with his shaven hair he looks as cool as he is splendid. Joe Root falls just before lunch, and Kevin Pietersen falls after lunch but Carberry carries on with Ian Bell. The Boxing Day crowd quieten as the Australian bowlers wilt, and England progress. 302-3 at close of play, with Carberry on 164 not out.

Carberry falls early on the second day, and Ben Stokes is out for 15 after batting pleasantly. But Matthew Prior bats selflessly for partner Bell, and although he only makes 12, he is able to add 87 with the increasingly dominant Warwickshireman. It is a struggle after that, but England eventually eek out a further 78 runs - and are eventually dismissed for 499 mid-way through the second afternoon.

Chris Rogers and David Warner bat well against James Anderson and Stuart Broad, and see off the new ball. But Tim Bresnan and Monty Panesar keep the scoring rate low, and eventually Panesar is able to have a frustrated Warner stumped, trying something remarkable to a ball with a bit of delicate flight.  In the following owner, Shane Watson is out lbw to a pleasing in-swinger from Bresnan. Bresnan and Anderson then bowl in harmony, using reverse swing expertly. Eventually, Anderson is able to send Michael Clarke back to the Australian dressing room, with an lbw on review from the third umpire. Suddenly, batting seems more difficult, and England are able to make steady inroads. By close of play, Australia are on 188-7, crucially with Brad Haddin out - to a straight ball from Panesar.

It doesn't take long for England to wrap up the innings on the third day. It might be poetic justice that Johnson is out gloving a fierce bouncer from Broad; but against that, it might not be. In either case, England enforce the follow on.

On a degrading pitch, it is the combination of Panesar of Bresnan which does the job for England. It takes 89 overs, but only the most inhumane of Australians would fail to understand the smile on Anderson's face as an inswinger takes out Nathan Lyon's off-stump, to tie up the victory for England.

Thursday, 12 December 2013

Australia, and all of it, suffer

Day one has gone England's way, with Chris Tremlett and Stuart Broad rolling out Australia for a lowly 162. In reply, Michael Carberry and Alastair Cook bat well, seeing off Mitchell Johnson and Ryan Harris. Worryingly for Australia, Harris and Shane Watson limp off at close of play, both with hamstring tears. 

It is now time for Andy Flower to read Joe Root's bedtime story.

"Can you tell me the one about Stuart Broad's daddy winning the Ashes in 1986/7?"

"No, I have to tell you another story - this one is about a nasty Australian - are you ready for it?" replies Flower.

Root looks a little worried, and five minutes later, he is shaking a little.

"So Mitchell Johnson's great-great-grandfather was convicted of stealing the frankincense off Jesus? Thank goodness he was sent to Australia, so everyone in England could be safe. I must score a triple century against him tomorrow, I must, I must."

"Yes - and Michael Clarke's great-grandfather was King Herod. Mmmm. That's right, you didn't know that did you? Now, you'd better get some sleep. You've got a lot of batting to do tomorrow." 

Day two is a good one for England, and for Root in particular. With his assiduous concentration, he bats well against a decaying Australian bowling attack. When Johnson finally limps off, Root seems to relax a bit and eases into his game. He is finally dismissed on 239, but with Ben Stokes weighing in with a brutal 112, England look very well placed on 512-5. 

Rumour circulates Perth that England will declare overnight, but with temperatures hitting 55 degrees centigrade, Cook is having none of it. By lunchtime, with the score on 612, Clarke is seen pleading with Cook, but on England go. Finally, when Clarke himself is seen limping after bowling 15 overs on the trot, England declare on 713-8 (Root 239, Broad 168*, Stokes 112, Johnson 2-278). 

Australia do not last long, and with twenty minutes to go before the end of Day 3, they are bowled out for 68 (Tremlett 8-22). Afterwards, Clarke resigns his captaincy of the Australian team, with a sad lick of tears a hapless press conference. 

The Australian parliament threatens to abolish Joe Root and Chris Tremlett, but following intervention from Prince Charles, they relent. 

Tuesday, 3 December 2013

So who's batting at three?

"Actually, we're not going to tell you yet," responds Alastair Cook to Bill Lawry's question on Channel 9 "although I can confirm that Monty Panesar and Ben Stokes come in for Chris Tremlett and Jonathan Trott."

Before leaving the field to get ready for play, the two captains announce to the cameras a magnificent gesture; the umpires will maintain an onfield swearbox, with AUS$1 going to local charity Save the Orphaned Kangaroos for each on-air profanity or blasphemy. By the time the umpires pull stumps for the final time, AUS$76 has been raised.  

England make a good start.  Picking up where they should have left off at Brisbane, their clever bowlers take a series of wickets, first with Chris Rogers surprised by a lifting delivery from Graeme Swann - who opens the bowling - and then the recalled Ed Cowan pads up to an in-swinger from James Anderson. When Michael Clarke gloves a Stuart Broad bouncer, things are looking splendid for England, as an interested spectator looks on.

Prince William is standing amongst the Barmy Army, wearing a delightful T-shirt which reads: "England may have batted so badly as to have made him look like Wasim Akram in the first test, but Mitchell Johnson remains naturally erratic". The T-shirt really suits the heir to the throne, who enjoys his day under the shadow of the Adelaide cathedral.

The morning does not improve for the hapless Australian batsmen, as Shane Watson tweaks a hamstring, sprinting to beat a strong from the boundary from Stokes. At first, his running is hampered slightly, but then the hamper turns to a limp, and foolishly eschewing Cook's generous offer of a runner, Watson is finally reduced to a standstill. He and Steve Smith have to resort to boundaries and extras for five overs, before Watson finally plays across a straight one from Panesar, falling lbw. He is only able to return to the field on the second day with heavy strapping.

There is a brief fightback from Brad Haddin, who is the last man out in the over before tea, with the score on 198. The England openers see out the final session on a drying Adelaide pitch, following erratic bowling from Johnson and Smith, and the score is 123-0.

The second day is a tough one for the Australians. Regrettably, the author cannot presently be bothered to write about it in any detail, but briefly, it turns out that Stuart Broad is England's number three, and although he fails, England close the day on 526-4 (Cook 188, Stokes 123*, Johnson 1-199). In addition, the Australians unfortunately lose their strike bowler Ryan Harris to a torn calf muscle. England declare overnight.

Absent the injured Watson, makeshift opener Cowan pads up to an in-swinger from Anderson, falling lbw, and their are concerns amongst the Australian press that he has a problem with Anderson - there are calls for him to be replaced by Usman Khawaja.  But back out in the middle, the surface is wearing, and it's not long before the England spinners are tormenting their Australian prey. After Clarke and Smith fall to Swann in quick succession, Watson bravely comes out to bat: but he edges Panesar's first ball, shouting "oh no" as the ball flies to Cook at slip.  There is a brief fightback from Brad Haddin, but he is the last man out in the over before tea.