Sunday 2nd March – England one day cricket game 2

The morning was spent finishing the second stage of the shoe rack, it is all ready for the staining (an oak finish) and then clear varnish.  I had to clean up the dust from sanding it, which took a while, so that was the morning gone!

In the afternoon and evening I watched England playing in the one day cricket match from Antigua.  I haven’t seen the end of the game yet, but already I was amazed by one controversial moment – an obvious missed stumping was sent to the third umpire, he took an age to make a decision (I think there should be a time limit), which means there must have been doubt, but instead of finding in the batsman’s favour (as would have happened before TV review) he gave him out.  The doubt was far to great for such a decision and in my view it was clearly a missed stumping.  So, we have another problem with the review system and I think the resolution must be to enshrine the “benefit of the doubt” into the regulations covering TV review.  This could be combined with a sensible time limit that should force such a decision when there is too much doubt.

BravoThe other notable happening was Dwayne Bravo being struck by a short pitch delivery from Stuart Broad.  It looked like a nasty blow via the helmet onto the back of his neck, but it was good to see that Broad went straight up to him to check he was okay and that he was able to continue after a few minutes.  I have to say I worry that the protection afforded by helmets sometimes makes the batsmen take their eyes off the ball and this seemed to be an example, but helmets are a must as they do protect the batsmen.

At least England went on to win despite looking poor in the early stages and it took an eighth wicket stand to ensure the win!

One test down, four to go!

AshesWhat a dramatic and controversial start to the Ashes tour for England!  However, despite my love of test cricket, I cannot help but feel that this is too much cricket against Australia, in too short a time – I certainly have not got the enthusiasm that I would normally expect to have.  I always thought that it would be tougher for England in Australia, but even I was surprised by the level of aggression being used in the media to undermine England’s confidence.  I think this hype is what has led to the “over the top” sledging both on the field and in the press sessions after play.  Whether this has also contributed to the depression affecting Jonathan Trott is another matter and only Trott himself would know.

Stuart-Broad-and-Mitchell-001For England, the first test was a disaster after what seemed like a good start for the England bowlers.  A quick summary would be that England were simply out bowled and this was a result of Mitchell Johnson hitting some form (he is quite variable in his ability to bowl accurately), but I am not sure it is that simple (sport rarely is).  I wonder how well England were prepared for the level of aggression they would face in Australia, it has been known for years that sledging on the field and aggressive reporting are an important part of a successful Australian cricket team (it is also true for other successful sports such as rugby).  But, this is the first time I have seen it used, to such a high degree, by a less than successful team, which may reflect the unusual situation of a back-to-back Ashes series.  Aggression is a key part of sport at any level and I have used it myself to gain advantage, but you have to be ready for it and not let it dominate how you play – I think this might be England’s problem and the batsmen were not ready for the verbal and physical battering they were about to receive.

For me what I found interesting was the way Australia were able to continue to exploit the well described weaknesses of the England batsmen – Cook flashing outside of the off stump, Trott with the short ball etc. – England only managed to get one Australian batsmen out based on a well known weakness; although it was their captain.  What I am suggesting is that England’s batsmen have not been able to overcome their problems associated with a known weakness (e.g Trott always playing through the leg side for any ball on the stumps) and it has been this batting frailty that has caused the downfall.  I also think this knowledge has played on the mind of the batsmen (often seen as a slow sown in runs as the Australian bowlers begin to exploit the weakness) and this has got into their mind set.  Of course, no one may agree with me, but that is my view.

What is next?  Well, no matter how many fines are put in place, the Australians will not stop sledging, barracking or being aggressive so England will face all of that again.  The only way to counter the problems is for the top-level batsmen, with the most experience, to stand up and demonstrate they can bat through the aggression – kevin_pietersen_paPietersen, Cook (who showed some of this metal in the second innings), Bell and Prior (who maybe has the biggest problem.  Carberry was unlucky in the second innings and I hope his luck is better in the next test, but Pietersen has a major role to play as he may find himself having two types of game to play – a defensive role to sop a fall of wickets, or an attacking role to move the game along at a key time.  He has done both and is very capable of doing this again, but he must concentrate and get past the flack that will come his way.  Are there any positives for England – well, tongue in cheek, they are better than Australia at reading DRS decisions!

Okay, that is my rant after just one test, but let’s not get too down.  England have done this often and can recover, just make sure the games are not lost because of a lack of sports psychology in the dressing room, but are won or lost through sheer sporting ability.  Everyone knows the ability of the England batsmen, but it is hard to know their mind set.

Update as of 14/12/2013:

The second test was not the England batting success I hoped for and there seemed to be some real fear of fast bowling in the eyes of the middle order batsmen.  A few bright sparks that might signal a recovery, but my main concern was the ability of Australian bowlers to slow England’s run rate and then take wickets.  This was continued in the first innings of the third test, where England started to show some fighting grit at last, but are still behind after two days play – they need to get the thoughts of failure out of their heads and start to attach back.  Put the Australian bowlers under some pressure, they do not look that solid when forced into long unsuccessful sessions!

18/12/2013:

Well, the Ashes have gone, but we have ben Stokes to thank for some entertainment and for at least attempting what I suggested above – interesting that the Aussies looked less than solid when he was batting.  The sad aspect of the game was the way all of the senior, experienced batsmen once again crumbled, playing poor-choice shots yet again!  That was compounded by some woeful fielding by England – we gifted Australia the Ashes.  I am in total agreement with Sir Ian Botham when he says England have been bullied out of this series – maybe there is a place for a new Sports Psychologist in the England setup (I never thought I would have to suggest that)!

02/01/2014:

The title of this blog should now be four down and whitewash imminent!  The 2nd innings  batting by England in the fourth test was the worst performance I have ever seen by professional cricketers.  I have just read Alec Stewart’s views on this and I agree with his views, but I find it sad that Michael Carberry is struggling to score freely – I have always know his defensive leave was suspect, but he seems to have completely withdrawn his shots.  It will be interesting to see how England approach the final test of the series, but I do not hold out a lot of hope.  Changes to the batting line-up are likely to be more important than to the bowlers, who have done okay.  However, my view remains unchanged – there is a problem with the mind-set of the England batsmen, who have lost the ability to make good shot selection when the bowling gets tight and runs dry up.  The question for me is “who can sort that out and how”?

05/01/2014:

So that is it – 5-0 a white wash!  Introduction of new blood made very little difference to the performance of the senior players, all of whom played terrible shots – the leaves being two of the worst since Gatting vs Warne – and showed no resilience.  There is very little to take from this series and I simply will go back to my opening comments about a ten match series being too much for everyone.  I think it has been for England as it was clear during Australia’s time in England that they were beginning to get the measure of England and it is clear to me that they gained an upper hand in Australia through psychological pressure (both in the media and on the field) and by changing tactics to attach the recognised weaknesses of the England top batsmen.  In contrast, England’s tactics did not vary much and they stubbornly stuck to what they have been successful with before – but that was never going to win in Australia.  Bowler’s lengths, fielding close to the bat and the positioning of fielders all need to improve in pressure situations!

The next real test of England comes from India in the summer!

The end of another cricket season – many thoughts!

Ageas-Bowl-410Tuesday (24th September) saw the start of the last cricket at The Ageas Bowl this year – it seems to have gone quickly – and that probably means the end of summer and cooler weather!  But, at least we had a good summer when it eventually arrived (despite the snow at some early matches in April) and the t20 was a resounding success in the summer sun.  I haven’t really written much about the cricket this season (a few groans about why the County Championship points system tends to encourage too many draws), so maybe now is a good time to summarise what I have enjoyed about this year’s cricket.

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Matt Coles

Of course, the most enjoyable thing this season has nothing to do with Hampshire, but connects me back to my northern ties – Durham have won the County Championship again, well done lads!
But, what of Hampshire?  Well the last game was a wonderful win in only three days by an innings and 31 runs.  There was little to gain other than some respect, but Essex had an outside chance of reaching second place.  There performance was poor in the light of that factor and I would have batted first if I won the toss, but they chose to field and Hants managed to reach maximum batting points.  In reply Essex collapsed twice and only Napier showed any real grit.  So, Hants boosted themselves to fourth place in the table with this win.   However, nine draws out of 16 games played sums up the problem of County Cricket and I really think it is time for the ECB to make a re-think of the points system.  A few games have involved declarations, which should have enable a positive result (and that is to be applauded even when Hants loose), but it is clear from some games that such an approach is frowned upon in certain circles and that generally there is no real encouragement (from the powers that be) to engineer results in rain affected matches.  But why is this happening, why are games ending up in a draw?  At the Ageas Bowl I think that the wicket, when dry, is very flat and easy to bat on (after all when any sort of spinning wicket is produced the club gets fined as we have seen in the past), but Hants also face a problem in the four day matches of not having a genuine strike bowler who can take wickets through sheer pace (the recent arrival of Matt Coles has illustrated the problem as did well at Leicestershire and in the last match at The Ageas Bowl, where he took 10 wickets in the match, but, he is not what I imagine as a strike bowler, but he is quicker than the other bowlers at Hants) and the flat wickets make this problem worse!  If it is not possible to change the wickets and it is not possible to find a bowler who can take 10-12 wickets per game, then the only solution lies with more declarations and, as I have said before, this requires an incentive, probably through the points system, but also a financial incentive from promotion.

Yet, despite these problems we do very well at limited over cricket, where there is an increased need for the batsmen to take risks and play across the line – this tends to increase the success rate of swing bowlers such at Chris Wood and explains some of the success Hampshire have had.  When combined with the batting capabilities of Carberry (now selected for England), Vince (who has improved dramatically this season), Dawson and Adams the team is an excellent unit for one day cricket and especially t20, but these forms of cricket tend to encourage loose shots and I have seem too many such shots during the four day matches (this was Vince’s problem in my view).  We have seen some amazing cricket this summer and perhaps the most memorable moment was CarberryCarberry scoring his 100 off the last over of a t20 match, almost being run out in a match that saw over 400 runs scored in only 40 overs!  There were some wonderful overs bowled by Mascarenhas, who will be sorely missed, and despite his loss of pace he remains one of the most difficult bowlers to score off in limited over cricket.  Despite failure at the semi-final level in the YB40 game (to Glamorgan) and in the semi-finals of the t20, we played some wonderful limited over cricket and the batting looked deep, but occasionally likely to fail at the top.  However, the question rises should we be happy with limited over success, or should there be more determination to return to the top flight County cricket?  One of the topics of discussion during some of the cricket this year was the incentive for player and club to win County matches – our conclusion was that there is very little financial benefit for the club and even player transfers appear not to benefit the club financially.  There is little likelihood that gates will change for County matches and the only possible change might be the demographic change in age groups that might increase the numbers of retired people who watch cricket ( not a particularly viable solution to the problem).

There are many changes planned for next year and one area of concern is that the t20 cricket will be spread out across the season.  I am surprised by this, and I am not sure I totally believe that spectators wanted this, but the format will be primarily Friday nights through June, July and August (I believe), but problems attracting foreign players for such a tournament may be a problem and may lessen audience size!
The 40 over competition will be replaced by a 50 over tournament, to match international games, but I think these longer games may have a smaller audience as they take most of a day to play.
I also understand County matches may start on a Sunday, which may cause some problems with infrastructure support (public transport) if they run late!

So, I am sure there will be plenty to discuss next year and I foresee some problems attracting larger crowds to the longer tournaments, but at least we have a test match at The Ageas Bowl to look forward to (even though the ground had to be “inspected” to get this generous award, lol!

Durham vs Hampshire – YB40 on TV

Up to now I haven’t had many chances to watch a live match on TV that involves my two favourite teams – I guess I will support Hants though.  It is nice to see that the skies are clear, only a slight amount of cloud and some sunshine; although, the wind looks strong.  Sadly, the ground looks quite empty.

Durham_DynamosDurham won the toss and elected to field and dropped an early catch off Vince, not too good a start, which was followed quickly by an optimistic hack from Carberry that did not go to hand.  The loss of both openers was a major set-back for Hants, leaving them at 36-2.  this forced Adams and McKenzie to slow down the scoring and try to stage a recovery.  But the loss of McKenzie for 18 was a further set-back that gave Durham the upper hand. Adams continued to bat well scoring boundaries whenever a wide ball was presented until he fell to Collingwood for 32 leaving Hants on 112-4.  It was Liam Dawson, described by one commentator as “not a six hitter”, who rescued a reasonable score for Hants out eventually for 69 at 150% scoring rate.  But Wood went cheaply attempting an extravagant shot instead of giving the strike to Tanvir, which left Hants on 224-9 off the 40 overs.

This TV coverage gave me my first opportunity to watch Tanvir’s bowling in details (impossible at full speed and live), I had already noticed something odd about his run up and TV analysis shows he bowls more off his back foot and has a shortened delivery stride.  This may account for the no balls and it will be interesting to see how he goes in this match.

Hampshire_Royals_LogoTanvir struck early for Hants, bowling the Durham captain Stoneman for a duck, but Durham struck back quickly, looking aggressive with early boundaries.  Mascarenhas did not come out to bowl and apparently had a back spasm, while Carberry was unable to field after having being hit on the thumb when out.  However, Tanvir and Wood settled into a rhythm and Durham were quieter over the next few overs, but Ervine’s drop of Mustard, an easy slip catch, might haunt Hants.  Eventually, at the end of the first Powerplay, Durham had reached 29-1, slightly behind Hampshire’s score at the same stage of the game.  James Vince came on to bowl at this point, because of the loss of Mascarhenhas, and promptly missed an easy caught and bowled chance off Borthwick.  Sadly rain arrived after 12 overs and the fielders left the field to sunshine, rain and a rainbow!  The target was lowered by 7 runs and two overs were lost.  Durham took hold of the game after the rain break and immediately attacked Briggs and Vince, while Mustard moved to 50 off 55 balls (an expensive dropped catch now).  As the Durham innings grew in strength, Hampshire looked ragged in the field and, along with the dropped catches, this was not Hants at their best.  That both Borthwick and Mustard were dropped early added to the frustration of Hampshire as Durham moved to 164-2 when Mustard was caught out on the boundary for 92 off 90 deliveries. The arrival of Paul Collingwood meant there was no loss of momentum and despite the loss of Borthwick for 80 off 82, Durham were now 201-3.  the loss of Stokes to Tanvir for only 3 was only a slight hiccup.  Tanvir was Hampshire’s best bowler with 4-39, but the loss of Mascarenhas was too great and Durham won in the 36th over by 6 wickets.

For me the interesting take home message was that Tanvir can bowl well without no-balls.

Hampshire vs Derbyshire – YB40 match

derbyshire-cccHampshire had slipped off the top of the Group B table by the start of this match and needed a win to secure that position again with a game in hand on many of the other teams.  For me derby shire represent something of an unknown in this 40-over competition, they got promoted in the County Championship last year and must have some strength, but would that work in a 40-over situation – Hampshire have shown how different the games are and have done poorly in County Cricket and yet win one day trophies.

This was a 16:40 start and would be a day-night match under the splendid lights at The Ageas Bowl.  The weather was warm at the start and it looked as though it should be a good game.  Derbyshire won the toss and, much to my surprise, asked Hampshire to bat first.  However, Hampshire got off to the worst possible start loosing Vince for nought off the fifth ball of the first over.  This was a shame, Vince was in very good form at the start of the season, and it looked like Vince didn’t think he had hit the ball, which was caught by Turner in the slips.  Despite this early loss Carberry looked in top form once again and was well supported by the Captain Jimmy Adams as they added 41 before Adams was caught on the boundary for 24 off 18 balls.  This partnership added momentum to the Hampshire innings, which was continued by McKenzie.  Sadly, the excellent innings by Carberry ended with the score on 114 when he was caught behind on 53 off 62 deliveries, this loss was worsened when Ervine was run out for only 9 runs, leaving Hants on 133 for 4 and when McKenzie went the score was 137-5, which was worrying and the large crowd was a little restless.  Despite this difficult situation, the Hants batsmen continues with their positive approach and Dawson made a solid contribution (a run a ball 34), but it was the diminutive Wheater who turned the game, ripping into the Derbyshire bowlers, scoring 70 runs off only 41 balls to turn the game Hampshire’s way.  Despite the loss of Wheater’s wicket Mascarenhas added a quick 19 and Hants ended up on 277-8 after the 40 overs.  This left Derbyshire to score at almost seven runs an over.Wheater

Derbyshire did their best and all of the batsmen got some runs, but they were continuingly falling behind the asking rate, which was soon up to 8 and then 9 runs per over.  As each batsmen tried to “open their shoulders” and increase their scoring rate, wickets fell and by the time they were 194-5 it looked an impossible task and the last few wickets fell quickly.  Hampshire eventually won by 46 runs and returned to head the Group B table – an excellent performance showing, once again, that their strength is with the limited over game!  The t20 season starts next week and it will be interesting to see how well Hants defend two limited over titles.

Thoughts about engineering an exciting finish in County cricket.

The last game at The Ageas Bowl showed the value of sensible declarations in producing good cricket on the final day, especially after a rain disruption.  Recently, we have seen some terrible negative cricket, where the lack of a sensible declaration has been justified by the need to avoid a loss.  Such a situation leads to small crowds and a loss of interest in the sport, which must be a worry for all the clubs in the tournament.
It is clear from one-day cricket that crowds want excitement from the game, the question is “should County Cricket encourage more exciting finishes”?  My view is that the points system should be used to encourage wins and try to discourage draws, the excitement will come from such a situation.  I firmly believe that crowds will improve when the cricket produces more positive results.
So, the question is how to use the points system to encourage a win?  I have hinted a few times that I believe that bonus points should be forfeited if a batting side does not try to engineer a win through sensible use of a declaration.  I think I should build on my thoughts with a more solid proposal……
Bonus points are currently awarded in the first 110 overs for both batting and bowling progress.  No bonus points are available in the second innings, only points for a draw or a win.  It seems that most captains are too cautious to risk loosing the game and that the points for a draw are the preferred option, which prevents any sort of declaration!  What I propose is an extension to the regulations governing bonus points as follows:
Bonus points should be awarded for a declaration provided the declaration is AFTER 110 overs during the first innings, or BEFORE 40 overs are left in the second innings.
Where the game ends in a draw, one bonus point will be awarded for each declaration.
Where a game is won, the winning side will be awarded two bonus points for each declaration they have made.
Where a game is drawn and the batting side has not declared before 40 overs of the final day’s play, ALL bonus points earned by that side will be forfeited.
I think this would greatly improve the final day’s play, improve attendance on the final day and make the championship much more exciting – I wonder if anyone agrees, or can see any problems implementing this.

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Hampshire vs Kent – County Championship match

Kent-Cricket-logoWednesday 5th June saw a warm sunny day at The Ageas Bowl and the arrival of Kent for a four day match.  Hampshire won the toss and sensibly elected to bat.  It was a steady start, at times slow as Carberry and Adams scored at two an over! The first wicket fell at 80
, bringing Dawson (36) and then McKenzie to the crease. The highlight of Hampshire’s first day play was McKenzie who, with Ervine (86) shared a fifth wicket partnership of 189.

The second day saw Hants score 455 all out, but after failing to get more than 3 batting points, an earlier declaration could have occurred – too much caution in my view. Kent looked solid at the beginning of their innings against the nee ball, but lost four wickets by close of play.

Day 3 saw the heavens open (luckily I was in Emsworth at TOFC), but Kent made an early declaration to help make a result possible. Hants had a first innings lead of 134, but lost three early wickets for 53!

This brought us to day 4, bright sunshine and the possibility of declaration by Hants. I didn’t really expect to see Northeast and Key bowling total rubbish and I think this was too contrived! This farce eventually ended when Hants declared at 207-3 leaving Kent 342 off 84 overs. Key and Northeast went for 108 off 9.3 overs! There must be a better way to engineer a victory for one of the sides without resorting to such poor quality cricket.  However, the rest of the day was entertaining and the crowd stayed to watch a finely balanced match.  Kent lost 8 wickets before finally closing up shop and ensuring a draw, but it was close!  A much better finish than other draws.

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The crowds stayed.