GOOGLIES & CHINAMEN
An Occasional Cricketing Journal
1. Moustache Man: They are sending out boys these days.
2. Paul Stirling: Does Roly get anything for being a Wisden Cricketer of the Year?
James Franklin: Yeah, he gets to bowl two hundred more overs this season.
3. Ridiculous man in MCC blazer: If it gets any colder I will have to wear my MCC overcoat and my MCC Balaclava helmet.
4. Ravi Bopara: People who dress like that at Chelmsford get thrown in the River Can.
5. Angus Fraser: What we are looking for is a strong and stable opening partnership.
6. Woman in purple jacket: That stain hasn’t come out of Samuel’s sweater.
Out and About with the Professor
What effect will the captaincy have on Joe Root’s batting?
I ask the question since there are generally two schools of thought on this issue. There is “the burdens of captaincy will make him lose focus and reduce his effectiveness school” versus “the responsibilities of captaincy will make him even more determined to succeed” school. Personally I think the real issue is: will he be any good at the job? But I have been set off on these musings by Lawrence Booth’s “Notes” in this year’s Wisden where he gives the before and after averages for the other members of what I fear will become (has already become?) the “fab four”, namely: Kholi, Williamson and Smith.
At the time of writing, Booth gave these figures as: Williamson (49 beforehand, 55 afterwards), Smith (51 and 73) and Kholi (41 and 63). Now Root’s Test average (according to Cricinfo) is 52.8, so it is hard to see how he could do much better. Not too many England captains in the past have, I suspect, an average of over 50. But will it improve or decline? Judging by his performances in the Hampshire match, Root just seems to be out of form. He has been so “rested” that he can’t get to double figures. Moreover, I don’t think the “captaincy will settle him down” argument will have much traction in Root’s case – he has, after all, seemed very settled from Day One.
But there is another issue here, or at least another (maybe more than one) explanatory variable. The Fab Four are very young. Time was when players served a long county apprenticeship, got into the Test side and then when sagacity and wisdom had been acquired, were given the captaincy (OK excluding Gatt). Now players scarcely have time to finish their A-levels before they become captains of their country (“What are you doing for your Gap Year Steve?” “Oh, I thought I might captain Australia”). Now this is not to decry the policy of having younger captains, the point is that their improved averages might simply reflect that they are getting older, getting better and more experienced at batting and, irrespective of the captaincy, are getting towards their prime. In other words , they would have improved anyway.
A spectacular counter example is provided by our very own Gary Ballance. This born and bred Yorkshireman was made captain at the start of this season. He had a moderate county Championship last year, averaging 34. This year he can hardly get to the wicket without scoring runs – three figures, three times, in five matches. Over 500 runs already.
It is, of course, a very small sample, but it would be hard I think to argue that captaincy has had a deleterious effect on his batting.
One more example came to me when I watched a part of David Warner’s extraordinary innings in the IPL. Amid the slogs and heaves there were some stunning cricket shots and when he went to his hundred the commentator said that captaincy (of the Hyderbad Hypnotists or somesuch) had improved his batting: made him “less wild, more responsible”, more “team focussed”. He also noted that Warner had married a couple of years’ ago and had two children. In other words, even Australians grow up. Well…some of them.
The Great Jack Morgan keeps us appraised of all things Middlesex
W Macph has a long article on Finny in today's G, but I do not think that I learned very much. It is also reported that Warwickshire, Middlesex and Hampshire are all interested in signing Moeen when his contract expires at the end of the season: but why are counties keen to sign players who play for England in all three formats and therefore hardly ever play for their counties?
J Harris has gone on loan to Kent initially for three Championship matches and "some" 50 over games. If he strikes his 2015 form, Middlesex will want him back.
TSRJ is one of the Wisden Five Cricketers of the Year. The others are C Woakes, B Duckett, Misbah-ul-Haq and Younis Khan.
Ali Martin also thinks Middlesex will be 2nd in the Championship, but he thinks the champions will be ... Surrey! J Gillespie also tips Surrey... along with Middlesex, Somerset and, of course, Yorkshire!
Middlesex are playing at Cambridge and closed day 1 on 392 a/o, Robson 42, Gubbins 38, Eskinazi 20, Malan 116, Franklin 9, Simpson 57, Higgins 32, TSRJ 51*, Rayner 4, Murtagh 7 Finn 6 (Sam Rippington, who ought to be a spinner, of course, but I fear he is not, 5-91). Actually, that was not the close, Cambridge U are now 0-2! This turned into the usual university joke game with CU making 123, Middlesex reversing the batting order and making 175-4 dec, Ollie got 91 but Franklin got another globe, making 3 noughts in 4 visits to the crease this season and CU making 111 leaving Middlesex the winners by 333, all of the bowlers enjoyed some success.
Sam Robson's younger brother Angus is leaving Leicester, he did not have a great season in 2016, but it sounds as if he has another offer.
Middlesex will not support a change of rule to allow the city T20 competition to take place in 2020. They do not like the fact that they will not get any revenue from the tournament: presumably, MCC take all the Lord's revenue?
J Harris has been dropped by Kent.
W Macph got a full length article in the O today, but it is a dismal tale unfolding there: Hampshire went on to 438 a/o, R Rossouw 99, M Carberry 98, G Berg 43, D Malan 2-19 and Middlesex soon lost Robbo for 8. Middlesex are also in deep trouble at 32-2, Gubbo gone for 11. Middlesex and Surrey both hung on for draws (Voges 92, Borthwick 108*, Sangakkara 136). Middlesex took 10 points and are above Somerset and the badly struggling Warwick in the table.
A Voges goes to the top of the Middlesex bat avs (58), followed by TSRJ 57.5 and Simmo 56.5, M Holden (Np) now averages 53.5. T Helm is top of the bowling (15.2) followed by Ollie (16.25) and TSRJ (23.83), J Harris (Mx and K) averages 13.73, Harry Pod (Mx and Gla) 24.13.
Middlesex have signed T Southee for this year's T20.
I went to Lord's today, but quite good light was deemed to be bad, so I was wise (as it turned out) and went home about 4pm as there was (ridiculously) no more play.
I managed to watch some of the early matches in the IPL. The most annoying feature of the coverage is that Danny Morrison is back with his supremely irritating style of commentary. He almost makes the African guy, Pommy something, bearable. Most welcome is Isa Guha, the ex England opening bowler, who clearly understands the game and makes appropriate and insightful comment. I also found out that she has become the first female representative on the PCA. Their gain. Oh, and KP was on some of the early panels and was not obnoxious.
The two best death bowlers have ended up in the same side, the Mumbai Indians. It must be a daunting prospect to know that the final four overs will be delivered by Malinga and Bumrah. These two are specialist deliverers of the slow ball and Yorker. The strange thing is that few others try to bowl the Yorker. There are plenty of slower balls and wide deliveries aimed at the wide line.
The Royal Challengers Bangalore are able to start their batting line up with Messrs Gayle, Kholi and de Villiers, or at least they can when all are fit. Gayle was their sole representative in the early matches and when de Villiers made his season debut against King’s XI Punjab Gayle dropped out. RCB made a rather poor 148 for 4 on this occasion of which ABdeV contributed 89 not out from 46 balls in an innings which included nine sixes. But it wasn’t enough as Amla and Maxwell knocked them off with more than five overs to spare.
Against the Gujarat Lions Kohli was back but ABdeV was rested. Kohli opened and made 64 from 50 balls but the star was Gayle who made 77 from 38 balls including seven sixes. RCB totaled 213 for 2. In reply McCullum scored 72 from 44 balls including seven sixes, but it wasn’t enough as Chahal tied them down.
ABdeV was also missing against the Kolkata Night Riders. KNR batted first and were dismissed for a paltry 131 with Chahal again the strangle factor. In reply the RCB innings lasted only 9.4 overs which surprisingly not because they had blasted their way to victory but because they had been skittled for 49 with Coulter-Nile, Woakes and de Grandhomme doing the damage.
All three turned out against the bottom placed Gujarat Lions today and they amassed 23 between them in a total of 134. Aaron Finch hit six sixes in a 34 ball 72 as the Lions swept to victory with six overs to spare.
The big name this year is the teenage leg spinner Rashid, not the Yorkshireman, Anil, but the Afghan, Khan. He bowls with accuracy and composure which makes him just about the opposite of his English namesake.
The Kolkata Nightriders are top of the IPL table at present. They are captained by Gautan Gambhir who leads from the front with his batting ably supported by Robin Uthappa who regularly plays match winning knocks. He featured briefly in the international side a few years back and played a memorable innings at the Oval. Both can consider themselves unfortunate not to have gained more international honours.
Kolkata Knight Riders broke the record for the highest successful chase without losing a wicket in Twenty20 cricket, beating Gujarat Lions by 10 wickets. Openers Gautam Gambhir and Chris Lynn took Kolkata to their target of 184 with 31 balls to spare in Rajkot. Australia international Lynn reached his half-century off just 19 balls, finishing unbeaten on 93 off 41. Gambhir hit 76 not out off 48 deliveries. Lynn and Gambhir also claimed the record for the highest opening stand in IPL history, surpassing the previous best of 167 by Chris Gayle and Tillakaratne Dilshan for Royal Challengers Bangalore against Pune Warriors in 2013.
The Great Jack Morgan kicks off his season on enemy territory
Warwickshire skipper Ian Bell opted to bowl first, which many thought was an odd decision, on the first morning of the Championship match against Surrey at the Oval on Friday 7th April. It was a very early start to the Championship season, but the weather exceeded all expectations. Rory Burns and Mark Stoneman got the home team off to a great start with an opening stand of 154 before Burns departed for an impressive 71 off 101 balls with 11 fours and a six. Scott Borthwick then kept his former Durham colleague Stoneman company in a stand of 76 before Kumar Sangakkara joined Stoneman in another good stand of 84 for the third wicket which concluded when Stoneman finally fell for a tremendous 165 off 267 balls with 24 fours and a six. Sangakkara went on to an accomplished 71 off 161 balls with 8 fours.
Dominic Sibley and Ben Foakes both contributed 34, but Surrey were slightly disappointed that their last 7 wickets tumbled for only 76 runs. Chris Wright (5-113) was the main cause of Surrey's collapse, while Tim Ambrose claimed 4 victims behind the stumps.
However, Surrey's total of 454 was soon put in a much more favourable light by Warwicks' dismal first innings batting performance. Will Porterfield and Alex Mellor were not in a lot of trouble during an opening partnership of 30, but when Mark Footitt came on as first change the game turned dramatically. Five visiting batsmen failed to get off the mark, no 10 Wright was the top scorer with 28 not out and collectively they managed only 91. Footitt returned the excellent figures of 9-2-14-6 in a fine display of left arm seam and swing bowling while Borthwick held 4 catches at second slip.
Warwicks followed on 363 in arrears and again the openers looked in control during their stand of 35. The big difference this time, however was the form of their Test batsmen Jon Trott and Ian Bell, who had both made 0 in the first innings. They now added 107 for the third wicket, with Bell slightly the more fluent of the two. However, Bell departed first for a useful 64 off 94 balls with 10 fours and this began a collapse from 140 for 2 to 181 for 6. However, Trotty was still there and now he was joined by Keith Barker in a praiseworthy stand of 124 for the seventh wicket before Barker fell for an admirable 57 off 130 balls with 9 fours.
Jeetan Patel contributed a useful 29, but when Trott finally departed for an outstanding 151 off 291 balls with 19 fours, the game was up for the visitors and Surrey were the victors by an innings and one run an hour into the fourth day. Tom Curran was the most successful of the Surrey bowlers with 4 for 88. Surrey 23 points, Warwicks 1. This took Surrey to the top of the embryonic Championship table: only they and Lancashire have won a match and some have not yet played one.
The Great Jack Morgan reports from Lord’s
There was a distinctly green tinge to the wicket at Lord's for the Championship match between Middlesex and Essex starting on April 21st and visiting captain Ryan ten Doeschate had no hesitation in opting to bowl first. However, he was soon regretting his decision as home openers Sam Robson and Nick Gubbins found the conditions entirely to their liking. Middlesex took lunch on 105 for no wicket and Robson reached his century well before tea was taken when Gubbins finally fell for an excellent 101 off 195 balls with 13 fours and 2 sixes with the score on 241-1.
However, Middlesex's hopes of building on this brilliant start were thwarted by the umpires' ridiculous decision to halt play because of "bad light" and nearly 29 overs were lost on day 1, though it is now possible to make up some of the time lost on subsequent days. Robson's dismissal for a superb 149 off 208 balls with 25 fours following a late start on day two, left the stage free for Steve Eskinazi to control the remainder of the home first innings and he took his chance admirably and later received brilliant support from John Simpson in a magnificent stand of 149 for the fifth wicket. Eskinazi finally fell for 100 off 199 balls with 11 fours, leaving Simpson to go on to 90 off 111 balls with 10 fours and 2 sixes and his demise prompted the declaration on 507 for 7.
Nick Browne (47 off 114 balls) shared a stand of 52 for the second wicket with Tom Westley, but Essex had slumped to 126 for 5 when Dan Lawrence was joined by Adam Wheater in their side's best stand of the match. These two added 127 for the sixth wicket before Wheater departed for an impressive 64 off 127 balls with 10 fours and the remainder subsided rather meekly to 295 all out with Lawrence being ninth out for a praiseworthy 75 off 185 balls with 9 fours. Steve Finn (4-51) was the best of the home bowlers and Toby Roland-Jones assisted with 3 for 81.
There was plenty of poor weather in the forecast for day four, so not all of us agreed with Middlesex’s decision to bat again on the third afternoon instead of enforcing the follow-on. However, the Middlesex second innings was outstanding with the three centurions from the first innings each entertaining us royally: Robson hit 77 off 84 balls with 13 fours in a stand of 146 for the first wicket with Gubbins who contributed 64 off 62 balls with 4 fours and 2 sixes. This left Eskinazi to dominate the rest of the innings with 62 off 34 balls with 5 fours and 5 sixes, Dawid Malan gave useful support in a stand of 75 for the third wicket and the declaration finally came on 239-3 off 36 overs, leaving a target of 452 for Essex to chase with six overs and a full day in which to get them. Again, some of us felt that, in view of the expected poor weather, Middlesex could have allowed themselves a little more time to clinch the victory.
The weather was indeed very ordinary on day four and there were indeed several interruptions for light rain and bad light (worse light than on day one when the poor decision to go off was made), but Middlesex were also taking wickets during the spells of play. Alastair Cook made 37, Ravi Bopara 32, but wickets were tumbling regularly and Middlesex would surely win if they could stay out on the pitch for long enough, but alas, they could not and the match ended in a draw as the players retreated again for bad light with Essex on 160-8 with 74 overs bowled. Roland-Jones took 3 for 42. Middlesex took 11 points to Essex's 8 and remain sixth in the table with 22 points from 2 matches, one less than six of the others.
At last, the new season proper, i.e. a day of live cricket at Lord's with Charley "The Gent" Malloy.
I made something close to our traditional picnic, with Alaskan salmon bagels, plus some variations on a theme, using Brunswick ham and some soft cheese with chives for a slightly more smokey-flavoured afternoon roll.
A bottle of Gewurtztraminer to help the salmon go down - I might have gone Gewurtz rather than Riesling before, but tend to go Riesling for Chas (who likes that stuff) but thought that today was the day to broaden his horizons just a tad. Thanks to Edwardian over on King Cricket for recently tweaking my memory on that idea.
The white wine aspect worked for sure; Chas was so convinced that Mrs Malloy would like the Gewurtztraminer, he even photographed the label so he could hunt down the wine.
Chas's desire to please his good lady was a charming and endearing theme, until his ulterior motive was revealed. This Monday is Mrs Malloy's birthday and also day four of this Lord's match. Chas was hoping (I think more than expecting) that Mrs Malloy might enjoy part of her birthday treat being a visit to Lord's. Given the match position, the weather forecast and Mrs Malloy's predisposition towards the shorter forms of the game, I'd offer long odds on seeing the Malloys at Lord's this Monday. Then again, Chas is a master of persuasion.
We sat in our traditional, back-breaking death row seats (front row of the pavilion terrace) for the first session and quite deep into the second; unable to move until Sam Robson had secured his hundred. A charming brand new Middlesex member, named Barry (not Father Barry I hasten to add), joined us on death row for a while, towards the end of the morning session - he really seemed to be delighting in the benefits of his new membership.
When Chas and I finally moved, we went for the further reaches of the Grandstand, to which we had to walk the long way round while workmen are putting the finishing touches on the new Warner Stand. We found a nice quiet spot at the front of the Grandstand, wonderfully close to the action, as the pitch in use for this match is well to the north of the square.
Shortly after tea, play was suspended for bad light. I was hopeful that some slightly better looking light might be on its way but only the umpires returned periodically to test the light and shake their heads. While waiting in vain, Chas and I chatted for a while with a nice couple who turned out to be visiting West Midlands folk, just taking advantage of being in London on a match day to see a day of cricket at Lord's. Chas and I shared some Edgbaston stories with them and I showed them some of the pictures Chas had taken at close quarters in the Eric Hollies stand, the day that he and Nigel "Father Barry" White made their bucket-list visit to the dark side.
It started to get quite cold, but Chas and I naturally braved it until the umpires bowed to the inevitable. In the meantime, we made some more headway into the delicious bottle of Rioja Chas had brought. This was ideal for the Brunswick ham and soft cheese rolls; it also warmed us up as the afternoon got cooler. I was being a little careful with my wine intake - my limits are lowering as the years go on - but Chas was keen neither to waste any nor take any of the red home with him, so he polished off the Rioja before we went our separate ways home. As Chas said in his e-mail to me the next day: “I must have seen the Red off too quickly as I was a little wobbly on the way home!!”
The format of the new ECB T20 competition
Alex Bowden gives some idea of the new competition
Here’s a coagulation of plans, proposals, assumptions and best-guesses for the format of the ECB’s new 20-over competition which is due to begin in 2020:
1. Eight sides
Eight group matches each
Home and away local derbies (to permit that eighth match)
IPL style play-offs
ECB-produced TV coverage with some matches free-to-air
2. The teams
There’s an assumption that the league will feature city teams, but the terminology being used is actually ‘city-based’ which isn’t precisely the same thing.
There’s an interesting breakdown of what the teams could be from Nick Hoult of The Telegraph. Based on grounds likely to host matches, he has suggested (possibly with some prompting):
The West Country
This list has a ‘working title’ air about it, but it does give an idea how things might eventually pan out.
It’s also interesting to take those sides and see who’ll be playing each other twice. Presumably we’ll have an extra War of the Roses, Birmingham v Trent Bridge and North v South London. That leaves us with the famously bitter rivalry between the West Country and the South coast in a fixture we’d like to see branded Battle of the Leftovers.
This format is a tad tricksy, but actually kind of vital if the league phase is going to retain interest until the end.
The first-placed team plays the second-placed team with the winner going through to the final.
In contrast, the third and fourth-placed teams have to get through two matches to get to the final. First they play each other and then the winner plays the team that lost the first v second play-off.
So basically there’s something to be gained from finishing in the top two rather than scraping through in fourth place.
4. Subject to change
We honestly don’t know why we report on these things sometimes. This’ll doubtless all be out of date by the time we click ‘publish’.
Loads of people are really angry
There are a fair few people who absolutely loathe the very idea of this tournament; angry to the extent that it’s like the ECB have said: “Put down the bat, let’s use the stumps as goalposts and have a kickabout instead.”
We are slightly nonplussed by this reaction because we believe that Twenty20 really can serve as a gateway format and Test cricket can never die.
Where some people get angry about the transient nature of a T20 match, we tend to see this as precisely the reason why the format won’t steamroller its way to total dominance.
Even if it does take on greater prominence in coming years, it feels like there’s a ceiling to what T20 can offer with the longer format retaining almost all of its unique selling points when set alongside it.
Royal London Matters
The Great Jack Morgan reports from Lord’s
Like all the other toss-winning captains in the first round of Royal London Cup matches played on April 27th, Sussex skipper Luke Wright chose to bowl first in the game against Middlesex at Lord's. Paul Stirling was quickly into his stride for the home team, but Dawid Malan and Nick Gubbins did not last long and it was good to see Adam Voges (40) settle in and stabilise the situation during an excellent stand of 66 with Stirling before the latter departed for a flamboyant 71 from 60 balls with 9 fours and a six. John Simpson and James Franklin embarked on a brilliant fifth wicket stand full of great shots before Franklin, who had been slightly the dominant partner, fell for 69 off 60 balls with 3 fours and 5 sixes after a partnership of 117.
Ryan Higgins joined Simpson at the crease and, if anything, the tempo increased as the pair put on 78* in the last 6 overs as Middx reached 341-5 in their 50 overs. Simpson finished on 82* off 80 balls with 8 fours and Higgins hit an astonishing 48* off 23 balls with 4 fours and 3 sixes. Of the Sussex bowlers, only the spin pair of Will Beer and Danny Briggs were able to reign in the home batsmen and finished with quite respectable figures.
341 certainly looked like a winning score, but unfortunately, the umpires suspended play after four overs of the Sussex innings because of very slightly poor light or was it because of the 2 or 3 raindrops that fell? There is really no point in scheduling matches for April if the umpires are going to take the players off as soon as clouds come over. In fact, the four overs of the Sussex innings were rather eventful as Tom Helm dismissed skipper Wright with his very first ball and finished with figures of 2-1-2-1, while Steve Finn suffered some horrible stick from Chris Nash (25*) and ended with the ugly figures of 2-0-24-0. Shamefully, 26-1 was the full extent of the visitors' innings. Of course, the outcome of the match was "no result" and both teams took one point, for which Sussex will surely have been grateful.
Innings of the Month
Van der Merwe came in to bat with score at 22 for 5 as Somerset chased Surrey’s 290. Somerset went on to win with six overs and four wickets to spare and van der Merwe was 165 not out.
Danes, Rangers & Jackson Matters
Terry Hunt sent me this
Thank you for the latest issue of Googlies. I was particularly interested in the article of Dave Smith, who was my exact contemporary, as was Andy Paterson, photographed with Dave Richardson. I was also present at the match at QPR and still have a copy of the programme. However, Dave’s reference to “one of their star players, George Bristow” is surely incorrect. Bristow joined QPR from Brentford, together with the ‘Terrible Twins’, George Francis and Jim Towers. Towers lasted a whole season before joining Millwall for the next season; Francis rejoined Brentford only a few months later, but, George Bristow did not play a single match for QPR first team, and left in 1962 to join Yiewsley, so hardly qualifies for the appellation ‘one of their star players’. Brentford missed Towers, who lived in Emlyn Gardens flats, and were relegated at the end of the season.
One further comment. John Jackson, also a contemporary of mine, was offered a place at Christ’s College, Cambridge, to read Economics. But it was a requirement at that time, that all undergraduates had to have ‘O’ Level Latin. Jacko stayed on an extra year just to take ‘O’ Level Latin...and failed. As a consolation prize, he turned professional with Crystal Palace, where he won an England ‘B’ cap under Alf Ramsey.
The Tale of Two Terriers and the Somerset Cat
Tim Cawkwell sent me a copy of his new book, The Tale of Two Terriers and the Somerset Cat. The final days the 2016 season have been covered extensively in these pages by Jack Morgan, Ged and myself. Tim Cawkwell has produced his own version in this book. He lives in Norwich and so has limited opportunities to watch first class cricket live. Like certain other readers he does not subscribe to Sky and so was unable to watch at this remove either.
However, he contrived to visit North Devon for a holiday in mid-August and was able to attend the two days and twenty two balls that it took Somerset to defeat Durham. The first half of this book is taken up with a description of this match, the ground at Taunton and the fans from both sides who were present.
As we all know a month later Somerset were again at Taunton playing Notts whilst Middlesex and Yorkshire locked horns at Lord’s. Cawkwell was back in Norwich preparing for a trip to Ferrara in Italy with his wife. His reports of these matches are based on local radio commentary on days one and two and sporadic internet intelligence thereafter. As a result we get uninformed comment on the matches interspersed with a travelogue on his Italian trip.
Despite these reservations he generates the excitement of those days and his own frustrations in gleaning information. His love of the four day game shines throughout. But if you want to know where the title came from you will have to buy the book.
It is published by Sforzinda Books, 30, Eaton Road, Norwich, NR4 6PZ.
Old Danes Gathering
The next Old Danes Gathering at Shepherds Bush CC is scheduled for 2018.
All the back editions of Googlies can be found on the G&C website. There are also a large number of photographs most of which have never appeared in Googlies.
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