End of summer…Highlights and reflections.


My cricket watching for the summer ends today with a final visit to Lord’s for the last day of Middlesex v Derbyshire. This brings my total watching up to 48 days and 14 of the 18 counties. Yorkshire, Northamptonshire, Leicestershire and Worcestershire missing out on my opinions! But what a summer!

World Cups come and go (ok…England did well but so did NZ who played the better cricket but England had the better luck), Ashes series seem to have been around since time began (1877 in reality) but innings like Stokes at Headingley less so (Botham 1981 – twice!) but for me there’s only one true highlight – seeing Steve Smith bat ‘live’ (again…was able to witness every run of his 2017/8 Ashes series) but he seems to be getting better and better.

A player of his calibre comes along once every 100 or so years and now is his time!

Sheer brilliance.

Ok…some will argue about his involvement in ‘cheating’ in the great sandpaper series but players have been interfering with the ball since the game began – WG Grace, JK Lever (allegedly), MA Atherton (dust in pocket), and countless others from every playing nation over the years so, this is nothing new. What was the problem was that the Aussies thought that it was a minor issue – and Smith did himself no favours in trying to laugh it off but as Wade said this summer “you don’t want to know what goes on in Smudger’s head”. Whatever does go on is clearly batting related…the guy is pure skill and genius!

But he’s won any detractors over by his skill and talent.

The County Championship comes to an end this week, the conclusion as to promotion to the First Division and the destiny of the Championship itself. There’s always a risk in playing first class cricket at the extremes of the season when weather plays such an important role. And so it seems this season. As we enter Day 4, most matches have been rain affected or finished early as draws since the final tables come to a finish and most of the games have little relevance.

There’s one exception- Somerset v Essex – for the overall title and it heads east as the weather wins. There is a certain amount of sympathy for Somerset – leaders for so long and seemingly the best side of the summer but one massive failure last week condemned them to second place (again). Essex have not only built their own publicity around ‘fortress Chelmsford’ but actually do ‘walk the talk’ for once. Luck with the weather, fighting hard for every result at home (and away as Kent will testify), but also the finest spinner in England (ok…South African by birth and a Kolpak player) in Simon Harmer and ably supported by Porter and more recently Cook (S) and Beard.

Add in Sir A at the top of the order, some fine performances from the batsmen (even though it did take for ever for any team to score more than 300 in an innings at Chelmsford) and an all round belief and you’re champions again!.

Interestingly each of the teams I follow – Essex, Middlesex and Surrey- have won the Championship over the past four seasons! Perhaps I’m a lucky charm?

Perhaps the strategy needs to be to lead the Championship by a very large margin well before the final rounds start? In other words, win it by late August…but then we don’t know (yet) what the fixture list for next year and beyond looks like!

In such diverse weather, you take your chances as to whether you’ll see any play and luckily wherever I’ve been this week there’s been play. So to end off the season…a few action photos…

Firstly from the Oval where Surrey were playing Nottinghamshire – 8th v 9th but no relevance since only the 9th team are relegated and Notts achieved that weeks ago! Thankfully last years champs don’t become this years chumps although they’ve done a good impression for most of the summer!

Coughlin…every hair (and muscle) strained
Enjoy whilst we can!

One wonders if the Notts team have spent too much time at the hairdressers – these were the only ‘highlights’ of their bowling attack!

No need for snicko here – the camera lied! It just looks like a nick

Surrey did find the second new ball more of a challenge but then…they were chasing batting bonus points!

Meanwhile on day 4 at Lord’s…things clearly meandering to a draw. Too much time has been lost and there’s nothing at stake except pride and professionalism. What is noticeable is that Derbyshires whites seem to be the whitest of all the sides I’ve seen! Clearly the laundry adds a certain sparkle to the whites…almost iridescent!

The body language of the umpires suggest that they don’t really want to be out there…it’s a long season for them too! And today it’s off and on with such regularity that by tea it’s clear there’s rain on the way and the game is called a draw in gentlemanly circumstances in the Long Room as both captains agree.

Work on the new stands…progressing well!

All this means no more blogging for a while? Yes, but not that long…Australia and New Zealand beckon before Christmas and Sri Lanka in the Spring…so keep looking out for the blogs…tourist and cricket combined!

First class counties but first class facilities?

As the season draws to a close and the frenetic test series comes to an end, it’s time to turn attention to the County Championship.

The pennant flies over Chelmsford

More than enough has been said and written about the Ashes series so I won’t add unnecessarily to the font of human wisdom other than to say it’s been a privilege to be able to watch Steve Smith ‘live’; he is a phenomenon and we won’t see his like again in many generations. So…if you ever have the chance to see him play, cancel everything else and go!

The penultimate round of County games concentrate on the duel between Somerset and Essex for the Championship and any number of second division teams vying for the remaining promotion slots (Lancashire are assured of being Second Division winners and Notts were condemned to relegation from the first division weeks ago).

So the match between Essex and Surrey (immediate past champions) held attention as did Hampshire v Somerset (the latter in pole position and aiming for their first ever Championship).

Early starts in September advancing the rest of the season starts by 30 mins has led to some odd shaped scorecards this time; not least Kent struggling at 39/5 before going on to declare with eight wickets down for 482! Or Hampshire showing no backbone against Somerset at 88/7 before Liam Dawson (of World Cup game) making a century! And so it continues into Day 2 with Middlesex actually gaining a lead over Lancashire.

On day one, bad light at Chelmsford prevents any play before 2.15pm in the game against Surrey but Somerset plough on as above. A truncated day at Chelmsford sees Surrey at 137/4 in overcast swinging conditions while the forecast is for warm sun for the next three days! Such are the decisions and implications at the toss!

Large crowds on both days …not seen in September for many a long year! Perhaps it’s the prospect of being champions, or the last home match of the season, or the fine weather or dare one say the effect of the World Cup or the Ashes? But looking around the crowd demographic hasn’t changed from the standard ‘old, white and male’ dominance. One wonders how the nation will cope once all these old folk are released back into the community after being corralled all summer at the cricket! Libraries could be inundated!

It may be photogenic but the facilities…?

The CloudFM County Ground can never be described as luxurious and these two days have underlined that. It’s a ground where you either sit being roasted by the September sun like bacon in a pan or freeze to death in the shade and cold wind which always seems to have come straight from the Urals. Add to that the seating which can only be described as dire – at one stage I was squeezed into a space smaller than a Ryanair economy sized seat with the pleasure of a large leg belonging to a portly gentleman digging into my back whilst the spectator in front decided to lean back as much as possible. Where has the concern for your fellow spectator gone?

The best option was to move to a sunny yet only slightly windy spot but the cricket is so far away it may as well be played somewhere in the neighbouring county!

Early morning dew sees the end of a feeble Surrey effort for 174 and yet even as the sun shines and the pitch flattens Essex lose the first three for 51 but by tea reach to within 50-odd of the Surrey score.

Sir A – picture of concentration

Meanwhile the wheels come off the Somerset innings but as often seen in champions-elect they bounce back and have skittled out the first four at Southampton for next to nothing. There’s all still to play for!

But while the wheels may creak, Essex storm past the Surrey score…and more so with fine century from Lawrence and a 70 from ten Doeschate. And still there at the end of the day with power to add and bonus points to win!

What is of concern – and it’s been expressed before – is that playing the Championship at the extremes of the season be it the cold of Spring or the mists of Autumn can’t be a true reflection of the game nor suitable training or grounding for aspiring test players. But we are where we are and until the wheels really come off the test team, then the ECB will do nothing.

So do we have a first class competition with first class facilities – well not everywhere!

Morne Morkel in full flight
Scott Borthwick – remember him spinning for England?

Dance of the diggers, trousers dropping and herding cats – Middlesex v Durham

Apologies for the lack of photos in this blog. I’ve broken my wrist and bruised my ribs which mean that I can only carry essential items and my camera is too heavy at the moment but once the ribs heal…!!!

The redevelopment of the Compton and the hole where the clock used to be!

Lord’s looks different as the builders are in for the Compton and Edrich redevelopment- access around the ground is restricted, the Clerk of the Works clock has gone, the urinals demolished and so forth. Ok, so I’m no building expert but to me the amount of double and treble handling seems excessive – rip out the seats from the Edrich, throw them all in a heap and then put them in the skip within throwing distance? Store scaffold poles at the top of the Edrich but then get a team to take an afternoon and a fork lift to move them again? But all this is of nowt when the diggers get into action (not quite sure what they were doing) but the choreography was wonderful and a distraction from the game…and enhanced by their flashing lights! A pure spectacle only fully appreciated from the Long Room!

The Pavilion
You can begin to appreciate the scale of the slope!

Watching cricket is an art and a skill all by itself. If you haven’t don’t it for a little while or are changing format between ‘red’ and ‘white’ ball cricket as it’s so delightfully phrased nowadays then it takes a little time to adjust and training is needed.

It doesn’t take long to get back into the swing of things and Middlesex were certainly swinging it after the first hour of the first day in their game against Durham. Nip, swing seam and bounce were all in evidence coupled with some inept batting. For a long time I couldn’t decide if it was good bowling or inept batting which had the upper hand – but by the time Middlesex batted it’s the bowling’s which was good – from both sides; Durham’s aided by the cloud cover from mid/late afternoon but nonetheless poor batting all round and low scores across the land.

Current players seem unable to switch between the formats of matches than in times gone by. Some of us can remember the times when a first class match (now so delightfully known as ‘red ball’) started on a Saturday (day one of three); the players then moved to a 40 over game on the Sunday (not necessarily against the same opponents or even in the same county), back to the first class game on the Monday and Tuesday and then probably another one day match (60 over knock out cup) on the Wednesday.! And so it continued. Nowadays there are swathes of the calendar devoted to one form or the other…but I still don’t get how the mindsets and approaches can move…but then I’m probably too old to feature in any ‘key demographic’ but they’ll still take my cash!

Talking of ‘olds’ you can never be quite sure what you’ll see at a cricket match and this was no exception. An elderly MCC member managed to drop his trousers (accidentally I’m sure) as he struggled down the steps at the top of the Pavilion. The expanse of exposed flesh required a strong stomach! He was suitably apologetic!

Overnight Middlesex rested some 60 runs behind with three wickets left (Durham eking out only 147) but they managed to almost draw level in 90 minutes of a range of batting strokes – one day hoicks, forward defences and playing and missing so often we all lost count. What was noticeable was that batting got easier when the sun came out which it did fleetingly on what was otherwise an overcast grey day; in years gone by the day would have been lost to bad light. So I suppose there’s some progress!

Overall I’d say that the bowling was good, the batting mediocre and unable to cope with the change of format and the variable bounce especially from the Pavilion End. Interestingly neither side picked a spinner!

Over the years MCC stewards have come in for some severe stick (no need for the Home Guard in WW2, just position a few MCC stewards at Dover…none shall pass!) but I witnessed today at close quarters what they have to put up with! I’m not sure if it’s easier to teach a class of infants or herd cats but the stupidity and crassness of some MCC members is unbelievable! You don’t move during an over, you don’t move when the bowling is from this end, you sit down when asked politely, you don’t use your mobile phone for calls or photos, you don’t wander around with pints of beer in both hands and a barman in tow! Unbelievable! And these members should know what the etiquette is!

So as Day 2 ends for me (need to leave at tea) with Durham leading by 100 with six wickets left. There wasn’t a lot of dancing among the batsmen on either day as playing and missing seemed to be the preferred way and few fast bouncers to encourage a bit of dancing but then the diggers would win any glitter ball on offer!

The end of reassimilation for me – two days of Ashes strife awaits! And there’ll be dancing there!

Blog #200 – English Pope sets Oval alight but these you have missed!

For those of you who have ploughed through my previous 199 blogs (well done!) the most exciting thing I can say about Surrey v Hants at the Oval is that you haven’t seen it all!

The match got more exciting after this local van fire!

Interestingly it’s more noticeable of late how many players need their tongues to help them concentrate – seen it already this season with Cook (Sir A) but it’s also noticeable for Cummins and Archer (both of Ashes fame) but also here Liam Dawson and Scott Borthwick (on opposing sides here but doing it together in the field!). Wonder why?

Scott Borthwick – tongue out on his way to a century
Dawson joins in…

The cricket was overall about as nondescript as you can make it but there’s something I’ve never seen before at any match (although history tells me there’s a precedent) in that Ricky Clarke signalled after the fifth ball of an over that he needed a substitute for the next over. Nothing unusual in that but he then dismissed Rillee Rossouw with a master catch by Stoneman only to dash off the field (clearly with only one thing on his mind), up the stairs and into the dressing room without a change of pace – so much so that he overtook outgoing batsman and left him for dust in his wake. He returned one over later and went straight back to bowling mark!

Whatever he had worked well since he eventually takes 7/74 in the innings (which doesn’t say a lot about the other bowlers)

The slow over rate on the first three days -not helped by rain breaks on days 1 and 2 just added to the general apathy of approach. There hasn’t been any clear imperative to grab the game by the neck since ball one. I suppose it’s endemic of the division where only one team will be relegated, neither can realistically be champions and both are mid-table with Nottinghamshire so far behind that they look certain to go down.

On day 1, rain delayed the start (and a lot of faffing around by both sides ‘in preparation’ but could have been faster as they were supposedly taking lunch) and rain and bad light eventually day ends play after 70 overs with Hampshire at 222/7. Hampshire progress on day 2 to 234/8 with the prospect of new ball but Surrey don’t take advantage – Hants reach 327/8 after a shower delayed lunch but a storm at lunch delayed the restart until 3.20 pm and lost 26 more overs; the game then shoots itself in the foot by announcing tea at 4pm – sun is shining, half naked sunbathers but still no play! Ground staff wonderful as ever but think…the ECB could ‘do better’

Eventually Hampshire are dismissed for 367 – with tailenders Abbott 72 Stevenson 51; Clarke 7/74 but this is a flat track and getting flatter

A random question – why are seats outside pavilions so uncomfortable? Lord’s is a back breaker after a couple of hours, Chelmsford rock hard and risk of splinters and the Oval, cramped? Is the idea not to watch ?

After an early alarm, Curran is promoted in the batting order since he’s off to join the England squad on the morrow – clear instructions came from ECB to give him as much match practice as possible – else, why bowl so much with the new ball when he was so off colour/direction/length?

Surrey end day 2 on 109/2 seemingly without any further alarms. Unless something dramatic happens here…this will be a four day bore draw.

Day 3 sees three wickets fall all day as bowlers toil and batsmen flourish – Stoneman grafts a 63 but with more runs this year he could have been in contention to get his England place back, Borthwick (remember him? One test wonder but as a spinner! Now a fine middle order batsman – that’s the same path as one SPD Smith – whatever became of him?) makes 100 and fails to press on but Pope (back after injury and surely due to get back in the England side) makes his highest first class score of 176no and ably accompanied by Aaron Finch (90) push the Surrey score close to 500 with the power to add.

A lead of 200 would give them something to bowl at on day 4 but as the pitch dries, flattens out I fear it will be more of the same. Strange how skills and pitches can be so different – 26 wickets fell at Canterbury as Kent succumbed to Essex! Same game, different scenarios!

Pope combating Dawson by plonking outside leg stump but this ball ran up his pad!

That’s what a century feels like!

Just over an hour into day 4 sees Pope make his double hundred and ends at 221no as Foakes (eventually declares) at 579/7 – a lead of 212. Hampshire should bat out the day and we’re sent on our way about 5pm but this lead is enough for Surrey to make things interesting! Pope really has brightened up this match and played a fine innings – how many more for Surrey after England call him up?

Olly Pope…batting comes so easy, he can do it laying down!
And that’s what a double hundred feels like!

It transpires that this match is really the 13 of Surrey vs the 12 of Hants. The England team have called in Pope as concussion cover as they try to regain the Ashes (and that explains the odd timing for the declaration), Curran left ages ago and now Donald who left the field yesterday afternoon after a hit on the head has been replaced by Harry Came. I appreciate all the reasons but it looks like the ECB are demeaning the Championship. Now where have I read that before? What would Surrey have said if they really needed these two players to force a win for maximum points?

One of the drawbacks of blogging cricket matches as you go along is the risk of being made to look foolish when early predictions blow up in your face. At tea on day 4, Hants trail by 28 runs with 5 wickets left and 36 overs to go! Could we see an unexpected Surrey win from nowhere? The match has only really got to be interesting after the local fire yesterday- perhaps it’s added fire to players’ bellies? But no…it peters out to the draw expected for so long. Nearly 1,200 runs in four days for less than 22 wickets.

And for those readers who haven’t ploughed through the previous 199 blogs, you missed…seagulls with diarrhoea, bananas used as contraception, Australian ‘out houses’, odd named players, new guidelines on streaking, groping, drooping, best hairstyles, fairy rings, diplomatic incidents over tea, how to sex an elephant…and much more! All 199 are still available on line…and who said cricket was boring?

And at one stage, it looked like a remake of Hitchcock’s ‘The Birds’




With the wrong headset the Ashes will stay down under! And Lord’s goes red all over!

Red wine also needed – not to compliment the red wardrobe but to dull the pain of England’s batting!

Ok…people would have us think test cricket is so last century (if not, the one before), outdated, yet traditional and historic, and needs to be played in that way…or less like the crash, bang wallop of the shorter more ‘modern’ game.

But with the current headset/mindset stuck in the glory of the One Day World Cup win, there’s little hope of England regaining the Ashes this summer (would love to be proved wrong) from what I’ve witnessed today at Lord’s. Nothing seems to have been learnt from the drubbing at Edgbaston.

The brightest thing about today was Lord’s turning red – red ball, red clothes, red signs – everything to support the first Ruth Strauss Foundation Day supporting cancer research and pre- and post-event bereavement counselling – such valuable work and with £ 382,000 raised in one day, there’s money to start it off! Well done everyone but especially the Strauss family – an inspiration to all!

But when it came to the red ball, England decided that it was there to be hit – in one day mindset with poor shot selection, lack of application and patience. There was no ‘bat the ******s out of the game’; Roy aimed to hit every ball he faced (only three before edging a catch behind); Root batting just after 11 am – and not in the right mindset since he wants to/think he has to…bat at #4; Denly is still trying to find his feet in the Test arena but doesn’t instil confidence; Stokes and Buttler probably still ‘tired’ after the World Cup efforts (I’d be ‘tired’ on £ 700,000 pa for a central contract and being paid for doing something you love or would have as a hobby!).

Only Burns showed any signs of tenacity – taking a few blows on the body to boot – and scored a fine 50 before failing to go on and Bairstow who steadied the innings with Woakes when it looked like the wheels were coming off and scored a half century before falling to a one day ‘scoop’ when Leach (the night watchman par excellence in his last innings at Lord’s) looked more than capable of holding his own. But once the mind is set…it’s set. Hopefully there were red faces from embarrassment in the England dressing room!

Early resistance from Burns
And Bairstow playing and missing against Lyon

The pitch looks good for batting (from afar) once the new ball has been seen off – so the quicks could be important here – and the Aussie’s were just that! Hazelwood (who didn’t make it to the team in the first test) teased and tormented England like a man possessed – they didn’t have a clue! Add Cummins to the mix and some spice and lively bounce from the Pavilion End, then England’s top order looked clueless. Siddle was not on his best but Lyon warmed up mesmerising as only he can!

The only blemishes for Australia were their missed catches and poor use of reviews but they would have taken England’s 258ao at the start of the day as a good day. Paine as ‘keeper had a day below par but I suspect (and I’ve said this time and again) ‘keepers seem to be half a pace too deep! I can see it, other spectators can see it and comment on it and even TV commentators can see it, so why can’t the coaches?

Australia’s response was controlled and measured – Warner fell early (he is due a century at Lord’s at some point) and the hype around Archer looked reasonable with his speed but he started at the wrong end – he should have been at the Pavilion End from his first over but I suppose there’s a pecking order and Broad is such a strong personality that he wasn’t going to let a youngster take centre stage.

Archer is photographers delight – power, muscles and hair to fly in every direction!

Overall, England’s batting is not good enough (yet) to take the series but I suppose that when the captain says it’s more important to score quick runs rather than more runs than the opposition, it looks like the strategy is wrong. It looks like the Ashes won’t be coming home any time soon!

What is equally worrying is the future of the test game – just look at the demographics today…largely pale, male and aged; and in school holidays, if 1% of the 30,000 were of school age, I’d be very surprised – so who’s going to be watching test cricket in 20 years? Will there be tests to watch? So…when it comes to marketing the pinnacle of the game we need to start with price – £ 100+ for a ticket today, takes it out of the reach of families (oh, sorry, Mr Graves…the Hundred next year will attract families); but Ashes clashes will always sell, so it’s a sellers market to price it as they like.

It’s only until the matches become so one sided that audiences stay away (it was very clear in Australia in 2017/18, that tickets for the last two tests went unsold (despite claims to the contrary) since the series was won by Perth and there’s no need to go and watch a team of weak Poms!). Patriotism bordering on jingoism will always sell – wherever you are!

Secondly…how about telling people that the Ashes are being played? Ok, so most, if not all tickets for all days for all matches have been sold…but how about telling the rest of the nation or city that it’s being staged and get behind the home side? In Australia every city had ‘Beat England’ banners everywhere (and I mean everywhere) but here in the UK…well, a few banners outside Lord’s was the best we can do!

So, it’s clear that the ECB’s next goal after emasculating the 50 over game and the County Championship has to be Tests! It will take longer but they will do it! And don’t get me started on over rates – it took both sides 6 hours 50 minutes to bowl the 90 overs they should have bowled in a normal day but today they should have bowled 98! I feel short changed (again) and fining players a percentage of their match fee (paid on top of their £ 700k or goodness knows what Aussie dollars) is not working – it’s just loose change! And docking points in the World Test Championship is just as toothless…but I said I wouldn’t get started! Apologies!

In conclusion a good day at Lord’s for Australia, the Strauss Foundation and an advert for everything red but on a personal note…I hadn’t had tickets in the Mound Stand for 20 years and watching from the top half of the Stand was like watching cricket in a tube station – people going in every direction all the time – no etiquette in only moving at the end of the over, not standing up mid-over, not caring about blocking your fellow spectators view – after all, some of us have come to watch test cricket before it dies and not look at the back of people’s backsides all the time!

Time for more red I think!

Can you spot Merv Hughes in the midst of so many Aussie fans and corked hats?

Triumph and disaster – time for a kiple?

Before he had a career change to make ‘exceedingly good cakes’ (or so it’s claimed) Mr Kipling waxed lyrical in his ‘If’ about treating triumph and disaster just the same as part of your development but as I’ve seen this week it also applies to teams in many fields.

Ireland has had its share of triumph so far this week. Shane Lowry beat all before him to take the Open Championship, whilst his playing partner of earlier rounds vying for the lead before he stepped onto the first tee at Portrush found disaster and moved from first to almost last in the blinking of an eye (in golfing terms) and his potential triumphant pay cheque of £500,000 disintegrated as did his golf and he walked away with only £ 22,000 for his toils.

The triumph of staging the Open in Ireland must have spread to the Test cricket side (yes…Ireland are one of the new boys of test cricket) as they approached their first ever test against England and at Lord’s. So, the opportunity of witnessing history for the first two days of the test could not be ignored.

England are expected (as one of the leading lights of test cricket) to roll Ireland over by a significant margin without breaking into a sweat so triumph and disaster for each side is regarded as a ‘given’. Failure to do so and also to dominate in every area of the game would be regarded by England as a disaster especially as the Ashes follow hot on the heels of this game – and England need to be mentally on top of their game for those tests because Australia will be!

No leprechaun luck needed!

So, to witness an abject batting performance on the first morning was expected but it was not expected was that it would be England who would be done like a kipper! All out for 85 on the stroke of lunch (a four day game instead of the standard five but not that many fewer overs meant that timings are all over the place).

The weather was warm and sunny – verging on hot later – no real cloud cover; a pitch which looked from afar not to be too green but what followed at 11.00 am was an exhibition of seam/swing bowling by Tim Murtagh (Middlesex player of many years standing so he knows every blade of grass here at Lord’s) to stand tall in the pantheons of bowling. England’s batsmen played as if they had never seen a bat before, let alone a ball and collapsed (more than embarrassingly) to be all out in just over two hours and Tim taking 5-13 in nine overs – so he gets himself on the honours board at Lord’s which is a career highlight in itself but with one of the best set of figures in the history of the game seen at Lord’s.


Tim wreaking havoc!

The excuse being rolled out (by those that know) is that the England team had been focussing on winning the one day World Cup that there were mentally tired – that may be so but not all of this team are World Cup winners, so why were they so bad? Some were in one-day mode so why didn’t the ECB organise some four day cricket for them – perhaps, even dare I say, a county championship game? Or even, why play this test now…if England don’t win by a large margin in next to no time it would be seen as a disaster and at lunch on Day 1 that looked likely.  Regular readers will be well versed in my frustration at being unable to understand the ECB!

Tim wreaking havoc with the bat!

But anyway…we are where we are. By tea Ireland move to 120-odd for two and the England bowling ineffective and once Plan A didn’t work, Plan B was just to repeat Plan A (now where have we seen this before?) but by the close (as clouds rolled in) Ireland had been dismissed for 207 and a lead of over 100. England send out Leach as night watch man for one over (seen that before!) but for the first time since the early 1950s three innings were seen on the first day of a test.

A casual observer would have looked at the headlines and seen one side out for 85 and the other for over 200 and thought England were all over Ireland like a rash but the opposite was true. Triumph and disaster in one day! Excellent bowling – especially by Ireland – but batting dire in the extreme by England and capable by Ireland.

Day 2 dawned with lists of records and events at Lord’s and the prospect of the hottest day ever recorded in the UK as well as the risk of recently-retired Prime Ministers and other sacked/resigned Cabinet ministers trying to occupy their time at the Test whilst the circus they had left behind transformed itself into the true three-ring variety just down the road – again triumph and disaster in equal measure.

England needed to establish a lead and also get some of the side into some kind of batting form but the one-day approach (seemingly highly contagious as it spread to the non-World Cup guys) reappeared; the shock and delicious irony was that Leach as night watchman made 92 and Roy on debut 72 provided the bulk of the runs. Perhaps Leach is the solution to the opening problem?

Stylish Leach
And reaches 50!

But England collapsed around tea time as the clouds rolled in and the Irish seamers found their forte; by the close (taken early since there was a thunderstorm brewing in the Croydon area) England strained to reach 300 and a lead of 180 but with one wicket to go.

Probably the shot of the day by Roy
And more Surrey style/class!

And I musn’t forget one of my stable of hobby horses before I close – 12 overs were lost on Day 1 due to slow over rates and 22 on Day 2 – but no one seemed to mind of being cheated out of paid entertainment! Others may not but I do!

So as the match reaches Day 3, there’s the opportunity of triumph and disaster for both sides – but who knows how it will go.

What is clear from two days is that England’s batting was poor, their attitude and approach suffered a shock on that first morning and first day and what are the mental implications for the Ashes?

Ireland did themselves proud as they stepped onto the large arena and embarrassed England with their professionalism and better skill on the first day. And I can say that I was there!


And…there’s the opportunity for more triumph and disaster across the Channel as the Tour de France reaches its climax; disaster for last year’s winner as he slips down the order and probably out of contention, and possible triumph for France in having their first Tour winner for over 30 years.

But then just as the Maillot Jaune changed hands in the Alps but with an opportunity to change back as they descended from the highest peak of the whole Tour, a freak hailstorm caused the stage to be abandoned so from triumph to disaster to the hope of triumph to disaster was unprecedented!

And as Mr Kipling muttered through his crumb filled face – treat triumph and disaster just the same and you’ll be a better person/team etc – let’s hope England don’t get kipled by the Aussies but we shall see

Cannabis or revolver? County Championship cricket!

I fully understand the need for increased security in the current times we live in but I’m fascinated about the varying levels of scrutiny I’ve experienced.

At Lords I’m questioned about any miniatures I may have under my hat, at the WACA in Perth umbrellas were regarded as blunt instruments (trombones were ok), in Sri Lanka no one worried, at the Oval it’s a open arm welcome and jolly banter when there’s a search (tests and internationals only) but at Chelmsford it just gets bizzare!

The last two days my bags were thoroughly searched and the contents broadcast by the security guy for all to hear. Rest assured there’s never anything inappropriate in my backpack!

When asked if he could do ‘the usual bag check’ I asked what that was. I was told that he’s looking for cannabis or a revolver! Now, whether that’s for his own use I didn’t ask but I sit here wondering what such a combination would do at a first class cricket match.

Given the average age of those attending I would venture that some may have experimented with the former many years ago (remember most of the Tory leadership candidates had done something at sometime) but I reckon the most radical thing the current group of spectators would do is join the provisional wing of the Women’s Institute and use strawberry rather than raspberry jam in a sponge! And as for the revolver…not quite sure about that.

Anyway today’s check was ‘any glass in there mate?’ as he pointed to my backpack. No…I replied, ‘Ok… thanks’ and I was allowed in. What worries me now is who in the crowd has the revolver!

By the way, after 45 minutes Warwickshire can’t remove the Kiwi night watchman as Essex progress to 116/1 and Sir A another 50. Lead is now 200

By lunch, the Essex ‘net’ progresses to 169/4 off 62 overs (33 in session!); thanks in the main to 83 by Sir A (still not converting those 50s into centuries…but then no one else is doing so either here at Chelmsford- home or away teams).

A minor collapse in losing three quick wickets was somewhat stabilised but losing another two in the first over after lunch by Brookes sees the score move to 190/6 by 2pm and a lead of 275.

Only two scores of over 300 have been made here all season (and both by Essex) and on the evidence of Warwickshire’s first innings, this should be ample but bat until tea, lead by 350 and bowl after tea.

Tea arrives, almost on time, as Essex reach 299/7 and a lead of 383. Lawrence has made a fine 74 and Harmer 43 as they grind the opposition down. There’s been an element of declaration batting but nothing too serious.

Wickets today fall in clumps; Wheaters attempt at a second reverse sweep ending his innings prematurely. Reverse sweeping 32 years ago didn’t look good (M W Gatting will know) and it doesn’t work now.

Wheater leans on his bat after the reverse sweep fails

There’s only one result for this game now and Warwickshire have been off the pace ever since ball one on Saturday and don’t look like working miracles.

Yates – ready for close fielding

The World Cup effect seems to have started with an excellent crowd here for a working Monday – the top of the Pearce Stand looks full. There’s also a bigger smattering of youth here today – some I suggest have played truant – but also younger people than average. Nonetheless care homes must be empty today and people can roam the streets free in the knowledge that most of the old folk are at the cricket!

Pearce stand…packed out
Wonder if anyone’s got the revolver?

What will be interesting is how long the effect lasts – shall we see such numbers when we have to wear ski suits to watch cricket ? And also the response of the ECB to the public reaction and the vast numbers watching the free to air Final and following on line – I’m told the final had more on line followers than all other sports combined yesterday. Come on ECB…ride this wave, make the changes, ditch the Hundred, resurrect the county 50 over game and bring cricket back to the people!

Rush of blood after tea by Lawrence sees him return to the Pavilion post haste. The only reasons the cognoscenti can see for continued batting are – Lawrence to reach 100 (didn’t happen), Harmer to reach 50 (which he didn’t), Essex to score over 300 (yes they did) or to set a target of 400 (which they did).

Rush of blood – fish eye view

Warwickshire reappear (Essex with substitute keeper) to bat for 3 and a bit sessions, 110 plus overs or score 400. Based on their first attempt that doesn’t look likely. But they stick to the task manfully and reach the end of the day at 67/1. The one falling to Beard. The plan tomorrow must be for Harmer to take one end and rotate the quicks from the other.

But that’s for tomorrow and I wonder what I’ll be searched for but I couldn’t find the revolver!

Supersport Sunday but for me…the Aussie takes it!

On a day overrun with the prospect of excellent sport – Wimbledon, Grand Prix, Tour de France and the World Cup Final – all on TV as I’m not prepared to pay exorbitant prices even if tickets could be obtained- I take myself off to the CloudFM County Ground for Day 2 of Essex Warwickshire.

Bring me sunshine?

There’s about 600 or so others here at the start of play so it’s not being played to empty grounds; although there is the option of watching two of the above events in the Pavilion (members only) but why would you when you’ve..,

Warwickshire start their first innings and reach 57/4 lunch off 30 overs; not a poor effort but a very poor one. No one seems to have any idea against some excellent fast bowling and seem dumbstruck by spin; ok, they’ve lost two key men to the Lions match but the standard on display would surely shame second eleven games.

Appealing…Sri Lankan style!
Tongue out…concentrating!
Spin finger protection
The look in Ambrose’s eyes say it all as he edges Siddle down Westleys throat!
Looks a nice cover drive…except that it went down cover’s throat. Siddle again!
Not such a good shot…caught by the keeper!

An extended afternoon session…just because Warwickshire were nine down at the appointed time sees them dismissed for 161 off 66 overs. No one really settled although Burgess and Ambrose (not sure if spies or a comedy double act) showed the most cohesion but when clouds rolled in a bit more, Siddle was offered the ball and ripped out the middle and lower order as if turning a herring into a kipper. But with a lot less smoke! Five for 33 all told was as fine a display of fast bowling, seam and swing as you’d ever see and the experts here at Chelmsford have him picked for the Aussies in the Ashes.

Overall it’s five wickets for the Aussie, two for SA, one for NZ and one for England born players! Suppose it says it all about County cricket!

Essex have a lead of 84 – not quite what they had in mind earlier before lunch and Warwickshire making a bit better effort this afternoon; but we’re half way through the game, it’s still cloudy and forecast to be that way, but I wouldn’t want to face Harmer batting fourth!

Essex enjoy what looks like an extended net with no alarms or concerns and have a lead of 150 or so at the close. The only blemish being Browne falling to Rhodes just before the close. Rhodes is becoming a ‘golden arm’ – the player you turn to when you need a wicket.

The World Cup Final is building up nicely…time to pop home and see the end. Wonder how it will go?

Patience, perseverance and concentration.

Look at the spectators in the background- some found it too exciting!

After two weeks of being a tourist, I’m back to the day job of self employed cricket watching. It’s day 27 of the season for me and rocking up at the CloudFM County Ground for Essex v Warwickshire; originally scheduled for September but swapped since Worcester was not able to cater for the home fixture due today. Confused? Warwickshire and Worcester are different counties, home matches switched round and so forth…It will all become clear!

However the cricket today was absorbing and a true four day pace. Essex reach 73/2 at lunch off 32 overs with Cook (Sir A) taking root whilst Browne And Westley were too extravagant on such a day and surface. Overcast yet on the cool side of warm meant that the Warwickshire bowling caused issues from early on. Hannon-Dalby so far bowling seven overs, six of which were maidens! Slightly indifferent bounce especially from the Hays Close end meant that patience and perseverance are key.

Now that’s how to concentrate!

By tea Essex reach 169/4 off 65 overs (bowled within the four hours expected!) but could have been better. Cook (Sir A) went to a false shot outside off, Lawrence caught behind having made 84 and 61 respectively and were sitting pretty at 157/2. The Warwickshire bowling has looked indifferent this afternoon, lacking the penetration needed but applying pressure via maidens. It wasn’t until Will Rhodes appeared just before tea to nip out the two batsmen that things improved. Rhodes looks quite slippy and is more of a handful than batsmen think.

Not the score from Wimbledon! Just v tight bowling!

But by tea I suppose each side is reasonably happy, Essex the more so but given that there’s only been two scores of more than 300 here all season, then a clattering of wickets can only be expected later. Warwickshire would have 240/250 in their heads as a good days work having elected to field, but let’s see.

Honestly…I write each part of the blog at convenient intervals so my hint of an Essex collapse was no more than that; but I’m equally not surprised when they collapse from four down at tea to be nine down an hour or so later at 197/9. Other than Lawrence and Sir A, no one has shown any tenacity or more importantly patience to wait for the bad ball…too many loose shots for most people’s liking.

Workmanlike approach by Olly Stone

A waggle of the tail – Beard and Quinn – add a level of respectability – and wag until the 94th over of the day before the innings closes at 245. Both sides are probably content with their days work…but a bit more patience could have meant…

Quinn dodging a bouncer

And to make it clear why this match is being played now:

Warwickshire’s home ground – Edgbaston – has been under the control of the ICC for the World Cup

No other Warwickshire Ground was available/made the grade

Agreed to move the home fixture to Worcester

Worcester is then flooded during June and Ground is not fit for play.

Solution – move the Essex away fixture to a home fixture and move the home one away in September!