GOOGLIES & CHINAMEN
An Occasional Cricketing Journal
Old Wanker’s Almanac
His venerable self was only too happy to spout off at me in the queue for the booster shot
Track and Trace is abandoned as pointless in the Omicron era.
Following England’s extraordinary Ashes series win Joe Root says: “we mustn’t get carried away. There are plenty of negatives that we can take away from this series and this will help to keep us grounded.”
In a pathetic attempt to regain some popularity the Prime Minister announces that Covid restrictions will be relaxed on all Public Holidays, Valentines Day and Bonfire Night.
In the New Year’s Honours List the NHS is puzzlingly given an OBE, David Cameron and George Osborne become Viscounts and Lord Hancock says that he is delighted that his service has been recognised.
The Middlesex players report to Radlett for outdoor practice. The nets take place in a huge marquee but are abandoned when the weight of snow on the roof causes the whole structure to collapse.
Lord Patel announces that that Yorkshire have adopted Blue Mink’s “Melting Pot” as its theme song, and it will be played before each session at all matches played at Headingley.
Following the postponement of dozens of matches a spokesman for the Premier League announces that a catch-up format will be arranged involving “clusters” of matches in a geographical, chronological and alphabetical sequence. No one has any idea what he was talking about.
MP and former Prime Minister, Johnson, takes an advisory role to the “Back to Europe” pressure group at an advertised salary of £250k. When asked about it he denies having received any cash and says that he never really believed in all that Brexit nonsense anyway.
Questions are asked in Parliament over doubts as to whether Yorkshire should still call itself the White Rose County.
Middlesex are forced to change their name to “Outer London” following complaints by the LBGTQ community, CIS Women and Wokes that “middle sex” fails to be inclusive of all sexual proclivities.
First Class cricket resumes without restrictions.
The streets are littered with discarded toasters as electricity price rises mean that the cost of a slice of toast rises to £3.50.
Tim Murtagh opens the bowling for MCC in the season’s opening first class match against the Champion County. At the other end is Darren Stevens and it is believed to be the oldest first class opening bowling partnership in history.
First class cricket continues but without spectators.
England’s new leg spinning find, Dawid Malan, is preferred to Adil Rashid in the white ball side. Eoin Morgan said: “It was a hard decision, but it affords the opportunity to play a third wicket keeper”.
At the Annual Irony Awards Boris Johnson unanimously wins the Lifetime Achievement category and at the Cockney Ceremony he wins the Pork Pies Section.
Serious concerns are expressed about the viability of electric cars as escalating electricity prices mean that many households are abandoning electric heating systems and reverting to coal, gas and any wood they can lay their hands on. It now costs the same to charge an electric car overnight as a tankful of unleaded.
First class cricket is suspended until October because that is when the next fixtures are scheduled.
The Premier League season restarts after lockdowns and postponement of matches largely caused by those whose lives matter refusing to get vaccinated. Many of them are unable to take the knee as they are still in hospital recovering from Covid.
Out and About with the Professor
The Professor hasn’t learned his lesson and is back on his sofa
Well, we expected it to be bad, but this is at the bad end of bad. The team is in disarray, there appears to be little or no chance of getting back into the series and the Ashes may well be lost (not recovered) in 14 or 15 days’ play. Not quite a record but not far off. I paid my BT ransom money and took my place dutifully on the sofa but it has been truly grim. It’s not easy to list the problem areas since almost all areas have problems, but I suppose most people’s lists would include: the openers, No.6, the ‘keeper and more or less all the bowlers for one reason or another. We should also, I think, throw in: the captaincy and the team management. Not too much left is there?
To start at the end, Root was made captain, so it seems to me, because he could get into the side – he had hardly any experience of captaincy at first class level. In Test matches, in modern times, I think you can get away with that. If the captain carries the team with him and performs well then a great deal of on-the-field direction can come from the management by means of numerous messages, either signalled or delivered by hi-viz messengers. There is so much of that you could almost have a non-playing captain. But that just moves the decision making elsewhere. They still have to be good decisions. Who thought it was a good decision to not play Broad at Brisbane and not play Leach at Adelaide?
Even worse, who thought it was a good decision to bat first at Brisbane? It had been raining almost non-stop in Brisbane prior to the match and all reports of the pitch were of a green top. More to the point, do any of the people making these decisions have even a cursory knowledge of the history of the game? To win the Ashes in Australia you must not lose the Brisbane Test. Surely they know that? How many England sides, since the War, have lost the Brisbane Test and gone on to win the Ashes? It is not a large number. So who is making that decision and the decision about the composition of the team? I read somewhere that Silverwood said that this was the best prepared England team ever to compete in Australia. Really? The evidence for that is, shall we say, a little sparse. It is not even clear if the management know what the best team is.
This Test laid the Buttler problem out for all to see and, if it could not be seen, the good folk at BT kindly supplied Matt Prior to tell us. Prior reflected on the top ‘keepers in his time: Read and Foster. Compared to them, he said, “I was a batsman with a pair of gloves”. And that, of course, is the problem. England are playing Buttler for his batting. Although, and it seems a bit mean to point this out after his marathon defensive innings, he hasn’t scored 50 since the start of the year. Ditto Woakes. We play a batter who can keep wicket and a bowler who can bat. If you add to that the sight of Robinson bowling offspin it does not feel, to put it mildly, like a carefully thought out strategy. Buttler took some wonderful diving catches (in among the drops) but Prior’s point (without ever quite saying so) was that if you don’t move your feet (or move them enough) you end up having to dive. The comparison with Carey was depressing. Incidentally, the Prior/Cook observations during the breaks are some of the best bits of punditry I have heard in a while and a welcome rest from the incessant prattle of the Australian commentators.
The management also, surely, must take responsibility for the pre-play injury to Root. Who lets our best batter into the nets for practice without wearing a box?
It is easy to list the problems but much harder to seek solutions. Perhaps there will be some reshuffling in selection: the normal rule is that batting failures are followed by bowling changes. Perhaps Wood will return (the MCG drop-ins can be quick). Perhaps Bairstow might get yet another go or Crawley come back…yet further evidence of the management not knowing what their best team is. There are not that many options and I doubt if the wicketkeeper will be replaced (we need his batting).
In the end we have the players we’ve got and they are not as good as the Australians. Even more reason, therefore, to make the best decisions you can to maximise the use of the resources available: get the selection right, get the tactics right and don’t injure your own players before they take the field.
But it’s hard to be optimistic…my Christmas cheer might run dry on the sofa on Boxing Day.
Spot the Ball
Photo taken during the Bob Willis Trophy Play off Match at Lord’s, courtesy of Ian Harris
This & That
They are showing the Ashes on BT and so I don’t get to see any. But I have watched the three T20s from Karachi where the visitors, West Indies, have been well beaten by the hosts. It occurred to me that they still call these fleeting visits “tours” which has to be a misnomer. Jack pointed out that the aborted England tour to the same country turned out to be just four days. At best these outings can be called nothing stronger than visits. It also seems that such arrangements tend to favour the home side not only because they are more familiar with the home conditions, but they are more likely to have had some match practice.
England for once attempted to have a couple of games before the Ashes and were thwarted by the weather. But one of these was a knock about with the Lions which doesn’t count as proper match practice. When Ashes cricket was serious the batsmen would plan to have at least one first class hundred under their belt against a strong state attack before the first test. The only way to make net practice remotely a substitute for the real thing is to have an umpire stand who gives the batsman out (inc. an assessment of catches) and when dismissed the batsman has to leave the net and not return for 2 to 3 days. That would create a real incentive to get “in”.
For a bowler to take all ten wickets is a rarity. The South African, Sean Whitehead did it and then only weeks later Ajaz Patel did it for New Zealand in a test match. I am going to put it down to global warming.
Why don’t they publish attendance figures at football matches anymore? Or perhaps they do in the newspapers, and I never get to see them?
Why don’t linesmen signal anymore for offside? As I understand it offside should be to the detriment of the attacking side and to the benefit of the defending team. As play is allowed to develop things can only get worse for the defending side. They can concede a foul, get a yellow card, get a red card, concede a corner, concede a penalty, get seriously injured and so on. It makes no sense for the linesman not to flag immediately and someone is going to seriously regret it soon.
Middlesex’s new man Shaheen Afridi was impressive again against the West Indies and indeed the Pakistan attack of quicks: Afridi, Wasim and Rauf and spinners: Shadab & Nawaz all looked pretty good. In the third game they rested Afridi and Rauf and their replacements Hasnain & Dahani looked just as good. In the third match in which Pakistan made mincemeat of chasing down 208 Rizwan scored his thirteenth T20 fifty of the year. He and Babar must be the No 1 T20 opening pair at the moment.
In the Big Bash the Sydney Sixers made 213 for 4 against the Melbourne Stars with Josh Philippe making 83 and Henriques scoring 76 not out. In reply the Stars were bundled out for 61 in just eleven overs in what must be one of the most one sided T20 matches of all time, In the return match at Melbourne the Stars did better making 177 for 5 with Glen Maxwell scoring 103. But it still wasn’t enough for the Sixers who strolled to victory with Philippe making 99 not out.
I haven’t seen Buttler’s hit wicket dismissal in the second test but I am surprised that there aren’t more hit wicket dismissals in modern cricket. The batsman often takes guard deep in the crease and then has a substantial backlift which I am amazed does not result in the dislodgement of bails more often.
I hadn’t realised that the expensive, but hapless Rondon had found his way from Newcastle to Everton in the transfer window. He must be beginning to wonder why he bothered.
The Great man exposes his diary to us yet again
John Sillett is dead aged 85.
The December Cricketer tells us:
- that the hosts for the major one-day tournaments for the next ten years will be Oz 1, Ind 2, USA/ WI 1, Pak 1, Ind/SL1, SA/ Zim/ Nam 1, Oz/NZ 1, England/ Ire/ Scot 1, Ind/Bang1. In addition, England will play 7 T20s in Pak in Sept/ Oct 2022.
- Steve Scott (ITV sports editor) tells us that Courtney Walsh was the hardest-working overseas pro in county cricket ever. British sprinter Allan Wells tells us that he "needed cricket skills when appearing on Superstars, ran at the SCG and now loves trips to Lord's".
- Nasser Hussain chooses only Buttler and Moeen from England for his "composite XI" from the T20 WC. Simon Hughes tells Joe Root's men that they should copy Mike Gatting and Andrew Strauss in the upcoming Ashes series.
- Vic Marks thinks the toss is becoming increasingly important in modern international cricket. There are 25 pages of the "Ashes Preview" so it is a bit hard to precis it down to one sentence.
- Adam Patel thinks the T20 WC "favoured the chasing side to an absurd degree".
- Nick Friend tells us that an "extensive absentee list proved insurmountable" in England's attempt to land the T20 WC.
- Richard Gibson tells us that "Tim Murtagh has been appointed club captain and Mark Ramprakash returns as a winter batting consultant as Middlesex continue to ring the changes".
- Derek Pringle gives us an excellent obituary of Alan Igglesden the "laid-back but talented Kent and England seamer who was beset by a brain tumour for his last 22 years" and died aged 57.
- While David Frith provides equally fine obits on the Aussies Alan Davidson (aged 92) and Ashley Mallett (76) who died on consecutive days at the end of October.
- Guy Williams gives us an interesting "Whatever happened to..." Bill Athey of Yorks, Gloucs, Sussex and England who taught at Dulwich College for several years and now lives at Bircher in the Herefordshire countryside near Leominster.
Gloucs have re-signed Pak spinner Zafar Gohar for the 2022 Championship. Last season he took 20 wickets at 14.35.
Director of Cricket Martyn Moxon, head coach Andrew Gale and all members of the coaching staff are among 16 to leave Yorkshire amid the racism scandal.
Jeff Thomson is one of very few who are prepared to be honest about T20, he says it "is hit and giggle stuff".
4/12: The G has a full-page spread (inc a large photo of J Anderson, G Swann, A Cook and C Tremlett) on the 2010-11 tour of Oz, which England won 4-1 with plenty of fine performances from the likes of Bell, Cook, Trott, Strauss, Finn, Swann, Pietersen, Tremlett, Anderson and Prior.
NZ spinner Ajaz Patel has become the third bowler to pick up all ten wickets in a Test innings (10-119) v India in Mumbai, joining Jim Laker (1956 v Oz) and Anil Kumble (1999 v Pak). However, that was the end of the good news for NZ as they were shot out for 63 in 28.1 overs.
B Stokes is expected to return to the Test team at the Gabba this week. The main debate over the team seems to whether Bairstow should be preferred to Pope. J Anderson looks like missing out because of "concern over his fitness". I have to say that I have no confidence that England will be able to compete with Oz on even terms in this series.
The G has a long article on John Morris who scored a hundred for England in his last ever Test innings before being banned for the infamous Tiger Moth incident.
D Gough is Yorkshire's "interim director of cricket" and this has been given the "seal of approval" by J Root.
FA Cup 3rd round: Rs are at home to Rotherham.
At the Ian Healy Oval (Brisbane), England Lions had Australia A out for 213 (L Norwell 5-58, D Bess 4-80),). E Lions managed 103 a/o, J Bohannon top scored with 22, M Neser 5-29. Oz A 158-1 lead by 268... just goes to show the strength in depth of England cricket, doesn't it? Oz A: 349-4 dec (B Street 119*). The Lions managed 347 v Oz A (J Bracey 117, B Foakes 83, J Bohannon 51) not bad, but they still lost by 112.
Test: England reverted to type on day 4, collapsing to 297 a/o the last 8 wickets fell for 74. Oz 20-1 won by 9 wkts. Pathetic. M Atherton had been very optimistic in today's Times! N Lyon now has 400 Test wickets, he is the 17th to join that elite club. J Agnew says the big problem was leaving Broad out.
R Illingworth (who is undergoing cancer treatment) is supporting assisted dying after watching his wife die from breast cancer.
Middlesex news: Robbie White and Martin Andersson have both extended their contracts for a further 3 years.
Buttler is getting some justified stick for dropping Labuschagne twice: I do not know why he is an automatic choice as he is not the best keeper available and there are good keepers who can bat as well as him. My vote goes to B Foakes.
This article was published by King Cricket before Leach became England’s third spinner behind Root and Malan
The England Test team run by Joe Root and Chris Silverwood is not big on picking spinners. It is even less big on picking Jack Leach. A rare appearance in the first Ashes Test saw the left-armer get walloped, so how comfortable will the two head honchos be about picking him again? Perhaps the two of them should consider going back in time to try and build their first-choice spinner up a bit.
It seems fair to say that Root has a somewhat peculiar record when it comes to managing the spinners available to him. Adil Rashid was binned at the start of his captaincy before being brought back again on more than one occasion. It was also during his tenure that England gave three consecutive Test caps to spinners: Mason Crane, Jack Leach and Dom Bess.
Moeen Ali appeared to be one man who was at least sometimes blessed with the confidence of his captain - but how much of that was down to his spin bowling and how much due to his magnificent malleability?
For his part, Leach has never especially let anyone down, but he has been left out in the name of team balance so many times he must be starting to think he's made of dark matter.
Sometimes England think Leach's batting unbalances them, even though he once made 92 opening the batting in a Test and also hit the greatest 1 not out you're ever likely to see.
On other occasions they convince themselves that the mere inclusion of a spinner unbalances them - a bizarre belief that seems to have manifested itself ever more frequently in the Silverwood era. His England teams have now played without one on half a dozen occasions. Not smart.
The upshot is that Jack Leach is the first-choice spinner who England would do almost anything not to pick. And now he has been savaged.
What does that mean, both now and into the future? Does it mean that Root and Silverwood were justified in their reluctance to trust him? Or have they in fact missed a whole host of opportunities to build up their best spinner so that he had more to fall back on when times got tough? More experience, more self-confidence, more goodwill from the men who pass judgement on his worth from one game to the next? All of these things come as a package.
England's management team will no doubt talk supportively. Bowling coach Jon Lewis has already called Leach "a pretty resilient fella" - which is just as well given the team's broader attitude to him and his art. Root and/or Silverwood will presumably back him in some way or other after the Test too. But these are just words.
Actions are famously more audible and this England team have opted to play without any kind of spinner on no fewer than six occasions. They have played without Leach a great many more times. At what point during a Test does a bowler start to dwell on the fact that his foundations are built on quicksand? After the match? After 10 overs? After being hit for the first six?
Leach averaged 29.98 going into this series, but he last played a Test in March. He has shown himself to be be a pretty good bowler, but it's hard to move from 'pretty good' to 'good' when you're only picked in conditions that suit you. Leach is not great on flat pitches and the way Root and Silverwood treat him, he never will be.
John Williams sent me this
A couple of cricketing mates have passed away this year - Anthony John Colbeck -AJ- Pinner stalwart and later President of the Bush. There is a wonderful obit by David Perrin which I think you can find on internet. Also, Robin Peppiatt captain of Beaconsfield in 60's aged 91. In 1993 I went to an old Harrow Town colleagues Silver Wedding party in Hale Barns and on the way I called in at Bangor on Dee racecourse and bumped into Robin and also Michael Stoneman of Uxbridge who had a horse running. Small world.
Will it really matter by then?
King Cricket throws light on Perth
Fifth Ashes Test plus 14-day quarantine requirements could have equalled one one of the all-time great England team selections
The fifth Ashes Test is a very important thing, even when - in fact, especially when it's a dead rubber. We hereby retract our knee jerk suggestion that
they simply abandon the match in light of the two teams' decision not to
travel to Perth because of Western Australia's 14-day quarantine requirements.
That was our initial feeling upon learning that they were going to move
the Perth Test: Why bother? Just bin it. It’s not like anything will be at stake by that point and no-one plays fifth Tests any more anyway.
But then we remembered.
The fifth Test of an Ashes series Down Under has in recent times been an extraordinary thing. All the talk, all the planning, all the build-up and then come the fifth Test, England start distributing caps almost entirely at random. It’s spectacular and hilarious and probably the most interesting thing that’ll happen all series.
2013/14 was the high water mark. That series drew to a close with a
trio of debuts.
Gary Ballance was, comparatively speaking, the ‘success story’ out of
The three. He was joined by Boyd Rankin, who played both his first and last Test for England, and Scott Borthwick, who can currently make the same
claim. (Borthwick could theoretically still add to his tally given he
hasn’t changed nationality.)
Ballance made 18 and 7
Rankin had to leave the field twice on the first day because of cramp and
took 0-34 and 1-47
Borthwick made 1 and 4. He took 1-49 off seven overs in the first innings
and 3-33 off six in the second. Half of his wickets were from full tosses
The fifth Test of the 2017-18 series wasn’t quite in the same league, but
Mason Crane is nevertheless still kicking around looking for an
opportunity to bring his Test bowling average of 193 down a smidge.
Viewed in this light, the unacceptability of Perth’s 14-day
quarantine requirements seems… not all that unacceptable at all actually.
Why not just go the whole fifth-Ashes-Test hog and select an entirely
new England squad for that match out of whoever happens to be in the
vicinity with roughly the right accent?
This seems to us to be the perfect solution: less disruption, more fun
and a pretty decent excuse for the tourists when they get annihilated.
Marcus Rashford has reappeared after injury and has clearly been spending time with his barber, or hairstylist or image creator. He has opted for a modification of the “Cheese on Toast” which has a thick strand running down the back tapering to a point rather like a tail. We shall obviously have to refer to it as a “Davy Crocket” since it is clearly modelled on his famous fur skin hat.
I didn’t recognise the sometime England goalkeeper, Jordan Pickford, who has uncovered a tub of Brylcream in his grandfather’s cabinet and smeared it across his head and then combed all his hair flat back against his head. Old Danes will know why we shall have to call this style the “Drac”. A style also sported at Spurs by Liverpool’s Alisson. It must be a goalkeeper thing.
Nicholas Pooran was captain of the West Indies for their T20 series in Pakistan. To celebrate this elevation he has shaved his head at the sides and cut it shortish on top and I believe it has been straightened. Nevertheless, unlike Pickford, he has spiked his up and bleached the tips and the resulting effect is like a pin cushion with coloured pin heads.
Dele Ali made a rare appearance against Liverpool and marked the occasion with a series of mini dreadlocks sprouting out of his head in all directions. These were rainbow coloured leaving him looking like a refugee from a Gay Pride rally.
All the back editions of Googlies can be found on the G&C website. There are also many photographs most of which have never appeared in Googlies.
Googlies and Chinamen
is produced by
Broad Lee House