Cider and Sandpaper

Welcome to the A&E. Otherwise known as the England dressing room. Players should form an orderly queue and use the Savlon sparingly. It’s got to stretch a long way.

Here’s the current injury report:

Mark Wood – Chronic foot / ankle condition

Adil Rashid – Long-term shoulder niggle

Chris Woakes – Long-term knee niggle

Eoin Morgan – Bruised finger

Liam Dawson – Cut Finger

Jofra Archer – Unspecified something

Team culture – Bruised by Hales debacle but showing great courage and unity.

Thankfully only the Mark Wood injury looks serious at this point. Fortunately it was also the most predictable. Poor Mark just can’t catch a break at the moment. Although I should probably use the word ‘break’ cautiously.

Worst of all though, we managed to lose to the Canary Yellows yesterday. Yes it was only a practice match, and some of our big guns weren’t playing, but my weekend really didn’t need a reminder that Steve Bloody Smith exists. The ginger curse looks in fine fettle after his year long sabbatical. Even the chorus of boos didn’t seem to affect him. The bastard.

So what did we learn from yesterday’s game? Nothing new really. The pitch wasn’t a belter and so we found it harder to win. One can’t help thinking that it might have been better to play on different kinds of wickets during the Pakistan series. We already know our batting line up can blast 360 with regularity on roads. What we don’t know is how we’ll respond on more challenging decks.

Yesterday’s surface wasn’t exactly a mine-field, but with the admirable exception of Jos Buttler, the Aussie batsmen adapted to conditions better than ours. It took David Beelzebub Warner 55 balls to score 43. Many people probably thought that was slow-going at the time. But when a player as good as Bull takes his time there’s probably a good reason for it.

Having said all that England can ‘take some positives’ from of the game. And I mean genuine positives rather than ‘let’s clutch at some straws’ ones. James Vince managed to pass 30, and Chris Woakes (playing as a specialist batsman) proved once again that he’s possibly better than some of the so called specialist batsmen we’ve picked over the years.

As for the bowlers, Ben Stokes seemed to find an extra gear, Tom Curran acquitted himself well, and Liam Plunkett picked up a few wickets too. And Moeen did the steady but unspectacular job we’ve become accustomed to in ODIs.

The big game of the weekend, however, was at Lord’s rather than just outside Southampton in the middle of nowhere. And it witnessed Hampshire, weakened by the enforced absences of Vince and Dawson, lose heavily to a jubilant Somerset.

I’m actually pretty pleased that Somerset won. They’ve been runners up multiple times in big competitions so it was good to see them get over the line for once. Their players deserve a lot of credit. It was also amusing to hear stories of Peter Trego partying in the Lord’s Tavern pub (dressed in full whites) well after the game had finished.

Hampshire failed on this occasion because they just didn’t put enough runs on the board. Although I sympathise with them, because Vince may have made all the difference in this regard, Somerset’s bowlers were excellent. It was great to see Jamie Overton bowling with gusto and hostility. I’ve seen him bowl more quickly, but rarely with as much control.

Hants probably needed early wickets if they were going to defend 244 but the breakthroughs never arrived. Who else was impressed with Tom Banton? He looks a good player for a mere 20-year old. His partnership with Azhar Ali – the precocious youngster and the wily old fox – basically sealed the game.

The icing on the cake was provided by James Hildreth’s run-a-ball 69 not out. I still have absolutely no idea why he’s never played a single match for England in any form of the game. The fact that players like Tom Westley, Sam Robson, Ian Blackwell, Ed Smith, Ian Ward, Darren Maddy, Steve James, Aftab Habib, and Mark Lathwell have an England cap (or caps) and Hildreth doesn’t, is surely one of the great absurdities of our time.

James Morgan


  • That seems like a lot of niggles to be taking into a tournament. (Is Morgan’s finger bruised or fractured?)

  • Somebody must have an inside line on why Hildreth has been ignored by successive committees?

  • ECB schedules two matches against each other and neither sells out. Well done, chaps!

    I don’t live far from Southampton and had considered going but am not paying £25 for a warm-up game (especially as we’ve seen all sorts of nonsense going on in warm-up games in recent years). The pricing and scheduling are just naked greed.

    • I agree entirely about the cost. I went to the ODI v Pakistan at the Ageas Bowl. That was a real contest as you know and well worth the ticket price. Not this.

      I would just question whether ECB scheduled both of these matches yesterday. Wasn’t the game in So’ton ICC led? I thought that was why, despite ECB agreement, Vince and Dawson were not released to their County.

    • £25 is pretty decent for an international friendly, whatever the sport, especially when you consider it amounts to about £4 an hour of cricket. It’s the price of World Cup tickets that bothers me, where £400-500 is the order of the day, well beyond the pockets of the more democratic audience the ECB is looking to attract to the game.

      • For me it’s not so much the price itself but that you don’t really know what you’re going to get with these warm-ups. It could be a real, competitive warm-up game (which was what the Pakistan ODIs were!) Or it could be 15-a-side, use 9 bowlers, batsmen-can-bat-twice-if-the-bowling-side-hasn’t-got-enough-practice, neither side trying very hard to win (all of which have been glimpsed in warm-up matches recently). That’s not a warm-up game to my perception, nor really a game of any sort; it’s a glorified net session. If they were honest about which of these was going to be served up and set ticket prices accordingly (so about 50p for the latter, then!) it would be fine. If not, it probably makes a lot of sense to stay away.

        As`regards the scheduling, I have a little sympathy for the ECB…but really not very much. Yes, the extension of the “protected period” by the ICC into the warm-up games is over-zealous and nonsensical. However, I find it difficult to believe it wasn’t known about months if not years in advance–and it could have been a much bigger issue than it was (it’s not hard to imagine a Yorkshire–Surrey final where seven players would have been unavailable). The ECB could simply have asked them to reconsider it given the circumstances and, if not, changed the fixture list–which would have required fairly small adjustments to the county schedule and one, even smaller one to the Pakistan series.

        If they were kept unaware of this rule until the fixtures were already out, I don’t see why they couldn’t simply have told the ICC it was unreasonable to apply it for this one match–and at the very, very least they could have bent their other rules to accommodate an unusual situation and allowed Rahane to play.

        The people I have most sympathy for in the situation are Hampshire, who were effectively deprived of their all-rounder, their best bowler, best batsman, and captain. It’s not difficult to imagine that could easily have been the difference between winning and losing–and of course it devalues the cup final.

  • Players play so much high profile cricket these days that niggles are going to be something you have to live with. Cricket is not a natural game for batsmen or bowlers (baseball for example is the natural way to hit and throw a ball) and many of the muscles and bones under constant stress are not ones we overuse in daily life. We have a plentiful supply of quality batsmen and Ok bowlers, so presently we cannot make this an excuse for losing.
    Yesterday was about as uncompetitive as it’s possible for an England v Australia cricket match to get. It was a close affair and with Dawson able to bat we might have won, so I see no reason to be pessimistic. If someone had said the Aussies would win with another Smith century how many of us would have been surprised enough to disagree. The important thing is to get rid of results like this before the serious stuff begins, I don’t see this England side collapsing under the pressure of expectation, but it has to cast doubt on whether Wood is worth the risk anymore. If he can’t get through 10 overs what price a test match? O

  • Agree that wickets in the recent Pakistan series should have been more testing. We already know that England can blast away on flat pitches. Jason Roy for example looked uncomfortable. He needs to practice what it’s like to adapt under pressure. Only one more practice game though? Very sorry for Mark Wood. If he’s injured then he’ll have to be replaced. I thought Morgan had a very slight fracture to his finger? He’s supposed to be OK by the time the tournament starts for England.

    • Agree totally about Roy. You can’t drop the guy, but decent bowlers on less than flat tracks will expose his one dimensional game, however good that dimension is, At least this sort of performance should put to bed the idea of making him into a test opener.

  • Hildreth is certainly unfortunate not to have played for England. I think it’s purely because the Taunton pitch was a road for so long, the selectors just have it in their head that he got his runs too easy.

  • I’ve just clocked for the first time how long this tournament goes on for – it doesn’t end until the middle of July! I’m rather likely to be fed up with it all by then.

  • Excellent article at ‘The Cricketer’ by Nick Howson on the f&b and merchandise pricing he encountered at the Oval and which is likely to be the model for the WC. Beer of £5.70 (plus £1 for the cup), pizzas at £13, T-shirts at £50 etc etc.

    Only contactless payment accepted.

    Of course most other entertainments do this – but at least they don’t usually accompany it with homilies about how they are just about to rip everything up to “grow” their product.

    • No sympathy. You know if you pay the rip off prices for tickets that you’ll also be stiffed for drinks and food. Ge rover it or simply don’t go.

      If enough don’t go then they will drop the prices but currently there are enough idiots who go

  • Worth noting that Australia are the only team to have won both their warm up matches. Obviously peaking too early.

    The ECB and the grounds are well aware that they have a captive audience and price their food and drinks accordingly.

  • I think England have peaked far too early and Australia are playing it just right. You know all this talk about England being favourites, well all teams are scoring just as highly in these silly warm ups, including 427 from the West Indies yesterday. Simply any of 6 are equally able of winning a slogathon on short fronts, and anyway most of he population won’t see it anyway.

  • Half the band missing…. English cricket represented by KP and English culture by someone from Love Island…. rain forecast….

    The opening ceremony sounds like it’s going to be a humdinger!

  • 6 16.66 names make their way into the public domain (see the Standard).

    Not as bas as had been feared. Worse.

  • According to ever-useful idiot Simon Hughes a while back –

    “Research has been undertaken and many inhabitants of participating cities interviewed as part of the process, and the idea is for the team name to reflect a defining aspect of each city drawn from the stories of the residents and the area itself”.

    Funny how it looks like they flicked through a book of corporate cliches and came up with any old nonsense.

    It’s interesting how the names of predatory animals that have often been used don’t feature. Are they just too hackneyed – or is it part of the push for veganism? (I’ve nothing against veganism but there is now a definte agenda promoting it).


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