GOOGLIES & CHINAMEN
An Occasional Cricketing Journal
1. Ben Stokes: Where’s Woody?
Joe Root: Sick list.
2. Ben Stokes: Where’s Jimmy?
Joe Root: Sick list.
3. Ben Stokes: Where’s Halesy?
Joe Root: Shit list.
4. Steve Finn: How did you get on in the Championship Gary?
Gary Ballance: Can’t remember.
5. Stuart Broad: Why is Gareth Batty here. He’s not in the squad is he?
Jonny Bairstow: No, I think he is a mate of Ben Duckett’s dad.
6. Jonathan Agnew: What is your reaction to the Bangladesh defeat, Alistair?
Alistair Cook: Well, personally I think that we have taken a lot of positives from the match. We bowled better than the figures suggest and our batters were still adjusting to the conditions. We were resting two of our front line performers and blah, blah, blah………
Ian Harris(Ged) gives us his version of the title win
Tuesday 20 September
Charles (Charley “The Gent” Malloy) Bartlett joined me for the first day’s play; a more or less traditional meet for a day of the last Lord’s match of the season. Janie was to join us later in the day and all three of us were to attend the sponsors’ evening that night. Janie was hoping that Dot would join us too, but she really doesn’t care much for the longer form or that sort of party, apparently.
Chas let me know that he was running a little late, but I soldiered on as planned to ensure that I was on death row before the start of play, securing a couple of good seats. We stuck to those excellent seats all day, much against the better judgement of our aching backs and limbs. I made a scaled down version of Chas’s favourite picnic, with smoked Alaskan salmon bagels as the centrepiece. We went dry during the hours of play, as Chas had a medical appointment the next day. Shame, as I had tracked down his favourite Villa Wolf Riesling.
Middlesex had been inserted under leaden skies and I thought did pretty well to avert disaster. Nick Gubbins in particular batted like the emerging star he undoubtedly is, surviving the day.
Janie (Daisy) turned up a few minutes after tea, but only got to see 10 or 12 overs before it got gloomy, so an hour or so of play was lost to bad light. Many eyes were on the Somerset match (the third team still in contention for the trophy), which initially had looked like it was going the maximum points route for Somerset until they collapsed late in the day.
After watching some of the interviews on the outfield we sauntered over to the party, which was a very jolly wine and cheese affair. Ryan Higgins, who was our sponsored player this year, took the trouble to seek us out and chatted with us quite a bit. I also got a chance to chat with quite a few of the regular Middlesex folk, all of whom seemed to be feeling as squeaky as me. Surprise surprise.
Wednesday 21 September
I don’t know what sort of idiot organised a Z/Yen Board meeting and lunch on such a crucial day of the County Championship. I tried to keep an eye on the score discreetly and as many brain cells as possible focused on the business at hand.
When I finally got away, soon after three, I guessed that I’d catch most of the last session, as the weather/light looked much better today. So it proved. I enjoyed that two hours or so in the Committee Room. Middlesex had taken several early wickets, but were finding it increasingly hard to take more. I witnessed a couple that evening and/but we were all hoping for more. The game seemed poised at stumps, perhaps starting to tilt Yorkshire’s way. Somerset were on the way to a 23 point win, so Yorkshire would need to score 350 or more runs in their first innings to stay in the hunt.
I walked home and made a light supper of smoked trout, prawns and salad. One or more of the prawns sought revenge overnight; more leaky than squeaky…with hives thrown in. Yuk.
Thursday 22 September
I thought best to rest off my condition in the morning, getting some work out of the way gently while following the match from home. I was due to play tennis at 14:00.
The morning went worse for Middlesex than the night had gone for my guts; Yorkshire edging towards that 350. I set off for Lord’s during the luncheon interval, intending to watch for about half an hour before changing for tennis. Yorkshire continued edging towards that 350 mark as I watched from the Upper Allen.
I needed to change – surely it would be on the TV in the dressing room anyway. It was. My opponent was also interested. With the score tantalisingly poised at 349/9 both of us left the dressing room with some reluctance. I wasn’t even sure whether I wanted Yorkshire to score that extra run or not. Earlier in the day, of course, I had hoped for them to subside below Middlesex’s score of 270. But now they had gone that far past, it seemed Middlesex’s only chance of a win would be for Yorkshire to still be in the hunt needing to chase runs on the last day.
We had plenty of time to think about it. Soon after we started playing tennis, we heard rain on the roof and soon quite a crowd gathered in the dedans gallery. “Is the score still 349/9?” I asked. Several people nodded.
Our tennis must have been quite stunningly excellent, as most of our crowd sat in stoney silence throughout the hour. I spotted Ed Griffiths in the dedans gallery too, although mercifully he seemed more interested in his conversation than observing the finer details of my sporting talent.
We came off the court to see (on the TV) that the score was still 349/9 and that play had just resumed. Ryan Sidebottom duly hit the run that kept Yorkshire in the hunt and then helped take them yet further beyond the Middlesex score.
I was feeling quite drained, so decided to walk/tube it home and catch the end of the play on the TV. I ran into Angela Broad on the tube, so I was able to show her in actual use the marvelous tennis racket bag she handed down to me when I took up real tennis.
Closing the day just two wickets down and getting closer to parity, I felt that the final day could still turn out to be a corker, as long as Middlesex were to bat well in the morning.
I had a rest, then went out again to Holborn for an Ivan Shakespeare Memorial dinner with the old NewsRevue crowd. Only about half-a-dozen of us this time, but great to meet up as always. I decided to stay dry and eat a simple, chicken meal. A very light, cautious supper by Ivan Shakespeare Dinner standards. I probably looked and seemed both peaky and distracted. I was.
Friday 23 September
What a day.
I was scheduled to play tennis at 10:00. I made a bit of a mess of getting away in timely fashion and the tube wasn’t at its best that morning, so I jumped in a cab at Edgware Road and cabbed it the last mile to be sure not to be rushing.
Now in good time, I had a chat with Joe on reception, who was quite gloomy about Middlesex’s prospects and seemed surprised that I really thought we still had a reasonable chance, albeit an outside one.
I played a really good game of tennis today; my opponent (whom I had played a few times before) correspondingly had a poor match; we’ll rematch soon I’m sure, as we now play level and it is normally a very good match when you play people whose handicap is level (or all-but level) with one’s own.
Anyway, after changing, I felt like superman and went to try and find a seat on death row for a while. I spotted Westy, who was able to make room for me, just about, with thanks also to the very pleasent vicar from Skipton who also made space for me and interesting conversation with me.
Westy pressed me to join him and others in the Committee Room just before lunch; due to the match position they had (uncharacteristically for the last day) ordered a heap of lunches and probably now had fewer takers than lunches.
So, I quite unexpectedly enjoyed a splendid Committee Dining Room lunch. We saw Messrs Gale and Franklin in conversation outside the doors of those official dining rooms; clearly keen to make sure that any negotiations they were undertaking were visible and reported to the authorities.
We had a grandstand view of the large crowd perambulating before we sat down:
Final day of the season, mass perambulation
Very pleasant company at lunch, both Yorkshire and Middlesex. Then an opportunity to see some cracking good cricket from that wonderful vantage point, just above the away dressing room. What an honour and privilege on such an auspicious day:
Cricket, lovely cricket, from the Committee Dining Room Balcony
Then the declaration bowling, then an early tea with the season set up as a 240/40 run chase. If Yorkshire got the runs, they would be county champions, if Middlesex bowled them out, Middlesex would be champions, if the game ended as a draw (the light might have seen to that) then Somerset would be champions.
Perhaps a final 150 minutes or so of squeakiness ahead of us.
We returned to the Committee Room itself to watch events unfold from there.
I had texted Janie about 14:00 to suggest that she leg it to Lord’s. She demurred, something about banking her cheques. I tried to persuade her that just occasionally there are more important things in life than doing one’s bankings.
Events unfolded. Middlesex seemed to be chipping away at the wickets, but we knew as the ball got older it would be harder to force wickets. Still, the consensus among the Middlesex folk was that the declaration had been very generous; among the Yorkshire folk that it had been mean and very challenging. I entertained the possibility, in those circumstances, that the captains might pretty much have got it right.
After what seemed like hours while still four down, I decided to take a strategic “leg stretch” and was delighted to hear a massive cheer just as I came up the stairs to return through the Long Room to the Committee Room; Tim Bresnan was out LBW. “Why didn’t you go earlier?”, asked one Middlesex notable. “Go again”, suggested another.
I started to get occasional texts from Janie saying she was on her way, looking for somewhere to park etc.
Then the flurry of wickets to end the season. I knew Middlesex had taken three wickets in three balls at the very end (Finn, then two for Roland-Jones) but none of us at the time realised that the denouement was also a hat trick for Toby Roland-Jones.
In any case, we were in a euphoric state. Celebrations on the outfield. Players coming through the Long Room to uproarious applause and cheers. Players going back out again.
Janie turned up, took some photos and joined in the celebrations. It’s a bit difficult to explain how this all felt and feels. I’ve left it nearly a week before writing up this piece, but there’s no sense of distance from the extraordinary events yet in my mind. As much as anything else, we have the end of season lunch (tomorrow at the time of writing) and members’ forum (Monday) to look forward to, so it still feels alive.
Then back to the reality of trying to see through the Middlesex strategy and build that medium to long term future for the club. Success should, of course, make some aspects of the strategy easier to implement, as long as we can avoid the complacency that sometimes comes with success. I think we have a good chance of going from strength to strength; there are enough wise heads around and the club seems hungry for more success.
For pity’s sake, Ged, live in the now for once. What a day. What a week. What a month. What a season.
Ged gets his hands on the trophy
The Great Jack Morgan is still savouring the big win
B Duckett becomes the first to win both the PCA Player of the Year and the Young Player of the Year in the same season. C Woakes was the Test Player of the Summer. The PCA team of the year was A Lyth, K Jennings, B Duckett, J Root, J Bairstow, L Dawson, T Bresnan, C Woakes, K Barker, TSRJ, J Patel, 4 from Yorks, 3 from Warks and 1 from Middlesex!
Here are the first class figures for 2016 for the leading Middlesex players (all first class matches included). 1993 figures are Championship matches only.
Batting (qual 100 runs) 2016 1993
Runs Average Runs Average
A Voges 388 77.6 M Gatting 981 65.4
G Bailey 284 71.0 J Emburey 638 49.07
J Fuller 129 64.5 P Weekes 144 48.0
N Gubbins 1409 61.26 J Carr 848 47.11
S Robson 899 44.95 K Brown 714 42.0
S Eskinazi 609 43.50 D Haynes 793 39.65
J Simpson 779 43.28 M Ramprakash 813 38.71
D Malan 951 43.23 M Roseberry 679 33.95
J Franklin 641 42.73 M Feltham 288 19.2
P Stirling 199 33.17 M Keech 137 17.12
TSRJ 327 32.7 N Williams 140 14.0
J Harris 207 29.57 P Tufnell 113 12.55
N Compton 487 25.63 A Fraser 106 8.83
T Murtagh 168 21.0
S Finn 139 11.58
Bowling (qual 10 wkts)
O Rayner 51 23.43 N Cowans 15 13.46
H Podmore 17 27.35 J Emburey 68 18.39
TSRJ 54 28.2 P Tufnell 59 20.5
T Murtagh 43 28.53 A Fraser 50 24.38
J Fuller 12 32.75 N Williams 39 28.12
S Finn 43 33.98 M Feltham 29 31.2
J Harris 17 53.24
J Franklin 11 58.64
Fielding (qual 10 victims)
J Simpson 45/1 K Brown 37/6
O Rayner 16 J Carr 39
S Robson 16 J Emburey 18
N Compton 10 M Ramprakash15
M Gatting 11
It is interesting to compare Ollie's bowling record with those selected for the Test tour: G Batty 41 wkts at 31.21, Z Ansari 22 @ 31.4 (both of those bowl at the spin-friendly Oval) and Rashid 32 @ 33.84. I have no comparable figures for Moeen as he hardly ever plays county cricket.
Embers had a decent season didn’t he? Averaging 49 with the bat, 18 with the ball and the second most catches by a non-keeper! I bet Gus was gutted to be below Tuffers in both batting and bowling!
21,595 attended the Championship finale at Lord's which is reportedly "the most in a Championship match at Lord's since 1966", but how do they know: I do not think there have ever been accurate figures in the past. This season all members had their cards scanned on entry so they knew how many were there, but this has never happened before, so how could there be accurate records?
My old friend Mick Cope must live in some fairy tale dream land if he thinks that Middlesex and Yorkshire might have just sat back, played out a dull draw and handed the title (and the glory and the prize money) to Somerset, when they had the opportunity to create an exciting finish to the season and give both teams a chance to take the Championship (and the kudos and the cash).
Certainly Somerset's V Marks, in the Guardian, raised no complaints at all and thoroughly congratulated Middlesex. Anyway, Somerset are no angels, they only rose anywhere near the top of the table after they started preparing ridiculous pitches that turned square for the likes of Leach, Bess and van der Merwe. Jack Leach only played 5 matches in 2015, this season he played 15, took 65 wickets and is now in contention for England.
Out & About with the Professor
One of the very last things my father said to me before he died was about the England cricket team. To be more specific, what he actually said was: “What are we going to do about England’s bloody opening batsmen?” That was a fair time ago now, England had just lost 3-0 to India and the openers Stewart and Gooch had not had the best of times. For the up-coming Ashes series, Atherton and, I think, Lathwell (?) got the opening slots but we were well beaten in that series as well.
This, I trust, not too morbid a dip into family history, came back to me this week after watching the splendidly exciting Test in Chittagong. In essence I think we all might reasonably restate the question, what indeed are we to do about the opening partnership…and one or two other spots in the top order come to that. I don’t know how many times I heard commentators say that England have a long tail (or as it is now fashionable to say: “Bat deep”) but the virtue of a long tail is that it can add useful runs towards the end of the innings; if you’re 60-5, the “tail” becomes the dog.
The opening partnership seems particularly problematic in that so many partners for Cook have been tried since Strauss’ retirement. I haven’t looked it up but my memory includes: Hales, Lyth, Robson, Trott, Carberry, Compton, Ali (a very brief experiment I seem to recall?), and now Duckett…and I’ve probably left a couple out. And all that lot are in, what, four years? Of those, Lyth is the one I have watched most frequently and while he is obviously a very fine and destructive county batsman, I have never thought he was a Test match opener. A couple of the others seemed to have psychological problems - which might not be helpful when facing 90 mph deliveries - and I imagine the Ali experiment will not be resumed. If Duckett gets “big runs” (ye gods) it might place Hales under some pressure, but for the moment he looks to be the man in possession on the basis, one assumes, of his runs against Sri Lanka.
Apart from the problem of which person to pick there seems also to be the issue of what type of player to go for. Specifically, a “traditional” opener, or a David Warner who will get you off to a flyer but may well go early. From what I’ve seen of Hales, they have gone for the latter but got him to play like the former…which seems very odd. Clearly if you go for a biffer to open the innings he is going to get out early from time to time; obviously the accomplished ODI/T20 players may well prove vulnerable outside off stump when there are three or four slips (he will “nick off”…more commentator claptrap), but that’s the deal isn’t it?
If you don’t want to run the risk then go for the classical opener who “sees off” the new ball, doesn’t hit the ball off the square before lunch and never late cuts ‘til July. I doubt if there are any such players these days but the question of whether to have a foil to Cook, or go for someone who is similar in approach, remains. Of the latter the best example I have seen in the last few years of watching county cricket is Durham’s Jennings (although, in truth, I have never seen him make that many runs…he just “looks the part”). Jennings is mid-twenties and had an excellent county season in 2016 and also has the (once compulsory) South African accent. The Lions tour to UAE may (or may not) give some pointers to the future (…or do I mean how players “step up to the plate, going forward”).
Assuming they stick with Hales, I just hope they tell him to bat in ODI mode. It is, after all, what he does best, and I still haven’t quite recovered from sitting in the Radcliffe Road stand under more or less constant fire as Hales and the others clocked up the 444. However, should he try this and fail a few times (and India, as we all know, is an easy tour on which to fail) then we will be back to the question of what to do about the bloody opening batting.
Jim Revier sent me this article that he had spotted in Private Eye
Through no fault of their own Durham’s county cricketers will start next season relegated to a lower division and hobbled with a 48-point deduction before a ball is bowled. These were the extraordinary punishments imposed last week by the ECB in exchange for giving the club a $3.8m bailout.
Durham will also be banned from staging Test matches: a fine irony, given that the county’s financial problems began when the ECB ordered it to build a stadium fit for international matches.
The penalties are supposed to deter other clubs from getting so far into the red. But several counties have debts even bigger than Durham’s though the ECB doesn’t punish them. The difference is that they have more amenable lenders.
Yorkshire, for instance, has debts of more than $20m. Until 2015 the county’s main moneybags- and executive chairman- was Colin Graves, who made his fortune from Costcutter convenience stores. He left the club last year after being appointed to a five year term as chairman of, er, the ECB. Yorkshire’s latest accounts reveal that it still owes the Graves Family Trust $18.9m.
He resigned as a family trustee last year, saying that when he became head of the ECB ”there must be no conflict of interest” since he would be involved in national decisions that could affect the county. He also declared: ”The bank of Colin Graves has gone. This business has got to stand on its own two feet and generate cash.
Until then, however, if the Graves family demanded repayment Yorkshire might find itself in the same predicament as Durham- and suffering similar punishment from Graves’ ECB. Happily, however, before leaving the county he reassured supporters that his family trustees “are quite happy…. They are looking at it as a pure investment. People don’t have to worry.”
Transferring his investment to a trust may pass a legal test of conflict of interest. But does it pass a sniff test? For Graves is now urging the ECB to introduce a Big Bash style T20 tournament which would be contested by eight “city franchises”, including Leeds, while leaving the other ten first class counties out in the cold. He says the competition will “excite new fans, attract the best players and fuel the future of the game.”
It would also mean big TV money and gate receipts for Yorkshire. Hence the unhappiness of some cricket executives at his energetic promotion of the scheme, which would help his old county to “stand on its own two feet” and repay the Bank of Colin Graves. As one tells the Eye, even if Graves has avoided a technical conflict of interest at the ECB by putting his Yorkshire assets in a family trust, should he be so crucially involved in a decision which benefits his family?
PS: At least Yorkshire’s finances are in safe hands. Colin Graves’ successor as county chairman is a partner in PwC, Steve Denison- the beancounter who recently had to explain to a Commons committee how PwC could sign off BHS’s accounts as a going concern five days before Philip Green sold the company to former bankrupt Dominic Chappell for $1!
King Cricket Matters
My shelves are groaning under the weight of cricket autobiographies. The best – among them Coming Back To Me by Marcus Trescothick and Nasser Hussain’s– are well-thumbed.
The others tend to blur together. Tales of pushy parents, age group potential, Test debuts and tearful retirements can almost be written by numbers.
If you’re feeling particularly masochistic, give Michael Vaughan’s A Year In The Sun a whirl. Bet you won’t make it to the end without chewing your own face off.
When Jonathan Trott’s new effort appeared on my doormat, I raised a sceptical eyebrow. Would this tell me anything I didn’t already know?
I needn’t have worried. Unguarded is a wonderfully honest, brutally painful account of how one of England’s most reliable batsmen decided he could bear the pressure no longer.
As a long-time Warwickshire fan, I have followed Trott’s progress since his county debut but never entirely warmed to him.
Regular readers will know all about my obsession with Trott’s middle order colleague, a chap named Ian Bell. While Bell flashed, dashed, posed and perished, Trott was the guy at the other end. A solid plodder, quietly getting on with the job.
Needless to say, as the years went by he became a firm favourite. He proved you don’t have to be a show-pony to win the hearts of England fans; you just need to score runs. Lots and lots of runs.
Most sportsmen and women sit in press conferences and burp out platitudes about how their chosen discipline has come to define their very existence. “It means the world to me,” they gush. “I’ve worked so hard to get here.” This is the story of a man who became so consumed by cricket that it swallowed him whole.
King Cricket once wrote an amusing piece of fiction in which Trott plays his kids at table-tennis for two whole weeks, relentlessly refuses to let them win a game and “feels immense satisfaction with his performance.” Reading that again now, it takes on a whole new perspective. Living every second for cricket is all very well when you’re churning out the hundreds. When things started to go wrong, there was nowhere else to turn.
The book is structured in an odd way – it might have made more sense to tell the story chronologically rather than jumping around – but there is no disputing its power. Wisely, he decides not to spend too much time on his childhood and dives straight into the beginnings of what was later diagnosed as situational anxiety.
Unusually for such a self-centered genre, each chapter features contributions from Cook, Pietersen, Ashley Giles, Andy Flower, and Trott’s wife Abi. The other voices only serve to reinforce Trott’s fundamental character traits: decency, modesty, determination and a hard-won sense of self-awareness which was perhaps lacking during his international career.
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