Jos Batters Sri Lanka, Downton Humiliated

Had we won yesterday’s game at Lord’s, I think people would be hailing Jos Buttler’s century as the finest ODI innings ever played by an Englishman.

I don’t care that Buttler didn’t get us over the line. In my eyes, it was still the best innings I’ve seen by a man representing England in 50 over cricket.

The nearest rival I can think of is Kevin Pietersen’s debut ton in South Africa. That was a truly special innings in the circumstances (remember the crowd turning their backs on him?) but for sheer creativity I think Buttler’s knock was better.

To score 121 off 74 balls against a good attack was breath-taking. Up to that point, all England’s batsmen had struggled to score quickly. Mendis and Co were on top and looked like clear winners.

The fact that Buttler got us so close to victory was incredible. What a shame he couldn’t quite finish the job – denied by sluggish batting at the other end and some brilliant yorkers by the slinger.

What struck me about Jos’ innings was not only his quick hands and flexible wrists (which generate unfathomable power through pure timing) but his ice-cool temperament and the placement of his shots:

I lost count of the number of times what looked like a regulation single turned into a two because the placement between Sri Lanka’s boundary riders was inch perfect.

I might be overdoing the hyperbole a little here, but I was genuinely gobsmacked at times. This lad can play.

The question, I suppose, is when he’ll get into the test side. People on twitter were attributing his likely absence from the first test squad to the selectors fear of unorthodoxy. I can’t agree with that. It’s his keeping that’s the problem.

If it was down to batting ability, and the potential to change games from number seven, I think Buttler would definitely get the nod if Prior is ruled out through injury. However, Jos’ keeping is still a work in progress.

Remember how much stick Bairstow got during the winter? Well, Buttler’s keeping isn’t yet as good as Bairstow’s. That’s the problem.

In other news – and I’m afraid we can’t let this go unmentioned (especially as Sky deliberately ignored the issue yesterday) – Paul Downton was absolutely humiliated on Friday evening when he was forced to apologise for breaking the confidentiality agreement put in place when KP was sacked.

Obviously, the news made a lot of people quite happy. The ECB have long briefed against Pietersen, and this time it looks like they went too far.

The main concern, from where I’m standing, is that the episode makes Downton seem utterly incompetent and naive. Is this the kind of bloke we really want running English cricket?

Paul Downton has bungled this whole affair and he’s rightly getting his comeuppance. I will never understand why, at the very outset, the ECB didn’t just argue that Pietersen was dropped for cricketing reasons.

I for one always expected Pietersen’s batting to go downhill pretty rapidly when he reached his mid-thirties. His technique isn’t particularly sound (remarkably he lacks any kind of back foot game) and his modus operandi throughout his career has been to lunge down the pitch to bowlers of all kinds, no matter how fast, and take the game to them.

When you look at side-on pitch maps, KP hits the ball about about a yard closer to the bowler than any of his teammates. That’s one whole yard less time to react. The game’s best ever batsmen predominantly played the ball late.

Pietersen is a player who relies on his astonishing eye to be successful. Once his eyes start to decline (even by one to two percent) he will struggle. Judging by his performances over the last twelve months (particularly in the IPL) perhaps that time has come?

Basically, what I’m saying is that there were very legitimate cricketing reasons to move on from Pietersen. I personally think he had a year or two left in the tank, but I don’t think he would have been the force he once was.

Had Downton simply argued that Pietersen was somewhat in decline, and they wanted to pick younger guys who would be improving (rather than regressing) at the time of the 2015 Ashes, there would be no need for confidentiality agreements, a fraction of the ill feeling, and England could always recall KP if the team struggled and public opinion demanded it. But when did common sense ever reign at the ECB?

Rather than thinking things through the ECB got themselves into a pickle, made themselves look devious and underhand, fell out with the public, and have now incurred the wrath of Pietersen’s lawyers – hence this hasty, excruciating, apology.

What a shower.

James Morgan


  • Wonderful from Buttler, but dire from the top 5 – how much rope is Cook in particular going to get? He’s been rubbish in the format for roughly 2 years now.

  • James – I am not sure that I agree that Downton was incompetent in breaching the confidentiality agreement. I am more inclined towards an altogether more cynical view.

    It was a very carefully worded “apology” for breaching the confidentiality agreement. It is implicit that the ECB was not apologising for the content of Downton’s remarks.
    It was not even an apology for being caught. The ECB will not have been too concerned about being caught. I have little doubt that a risk assessment on the consequences of breaching the agreement through leaks or on-the-record statements heavily favoured breaching with relative impunity.

    During the 18 April press conference unveiling Moores as coach, Downton said – “I watched every ball of [the fifth Test in] Sydney, and I have never seen anyone so disengaged.” During the TMS interview on 23 May, Downton said – “I then watched every ball of the Sydney Test live, and I’ve never seen anyone as disinterested or distracted.”

    This was a pre-prepared ECB position statement and not a slip during an off-guard moment under heavy interrogation from the affable Agnew. While Agnew did ask Downton why this stuff had not been revealed in February, the better question would have been “If the ECB was bound by a confidentially agreement in February, why was it not similarly bound at the time of the TMS interview?”

    Downton will have been thoroughly coached before taking part in the interview, and the description of Pietersen as being disengaged and distinterested was almost certainly planned for broadcast. There was no downside to the ECB in breaching the confidentiality agreement. The worse-case scenario for them was having to issue an apology. And the wording was so drafted that it actually amounts to a further public statement accusing Pietersen of disengagement from English cricket. While it may seem counterintuitive, in many ways, the apology compounded the original offence.

    Pietersen should sack his lawyers for being in sleep mode when Downton breached the agreement in April and for not seeking an injunction against the ECB on the grounds that an apology was not a suitable remedy.

    • I so agree with you on all points. I do believe that Downton and Clark thought they could carry on and on dripping their poison so that the public would eventually believe them. It has seriously undermined their collective ability to be in charge of England Cricket. Moreover, their actions and press conferences have shown them to both be utterly inept, callous, nasty and vengeful.

      I do agree with James that had the ECB decided to say that KP was at the end of his career and time for change, they would have saved themselves a great deal of outrage from the public. Trouble for the ECB and Cook was that they couldn’t keep their mouths shut. Every time they did open their mouths it was a PR disaster. I wonder if the biggest problem for the ECB was their lust for revenge on Pietersen. They just couldn’t hold back and wanted to make him pay for the Texts in South Africa and for the failure in Australia. I also think that had Vaughan been the Captain none of these things would have happened. Cook’s pathetic Captaincy on and off the field and Flower acting like Attila left management wide open for ridicule. Clearly Cook could not cope with the Captaincy and someone had to pay for it.

      I just cannot understand how Downton and Clark are still in the position of leadership over our beautiful game. Every time they opened their mouths, collectively or individually, they dug a bigger hole for themselves and England Cricket. A great shame.

      As for Downton’s “apology” well it was more an apology for flouting the gagging law that he imposed. Nothing more and nothing less. Perhaps the biggest problem for Downton now is that the allegation he has made will have to be backed up with evidence; evidence he does not have. And that faux pas may well cause him all sorts of legal problems later on when the gagging order is done. Downton, Clark and the ECB may well wish they had never started this fire.

      KPs lawyers were indeed inept waiting for so long before acting. However, Downton, Clark and Cook’s constant dripping may well play into KPs hands. All he has to say to Downton: “You’ve made these allegations, well now prove them?”

      Jos Buttler is a real shining hope for a future England team. As someone remarked on the Telegraph today, it was interesting that Buttler scored more runs in one match than Cook had in a very long time playing for England. And yet Cook says Buttler isn’t ready for tests? Admittedly Buttler said he didn’t think he was ready and that others had said the same to him. Given that Cook was dropped into test matches at the age of 21 I cannot see any reason in not trying him out against Sri Lanka. It will be a damn sight harder for him if they give him a test chance again India or Australia!!! His innings showed how it can be played, with flair, with aggression, with sheer brilliance and presence of mind. Wonderful playing. Of course his weakness is as a wicket Keeper. Surely someone else could do that and let Butter concentrate on his batting.

      Have a look at Ian Chappell’s analysis of both Dhoni and Cook – he has Cook down to a tee. Very interesting reading. In Cricinfo.

      Thanks James!

      • That was your post Tregarkis I was agreeing with. Old age catching me up!!!

      • I quite like Ian Chappell if only because he is the last “grown up” in the Channel 9 commentary team. However, the cric info article is just his usual pro-Aussie propaganda. Clarke lost 4 – 0 in India and 3 – 0 in England. Then when he wins 5 – 0 at home he is suddenly unbeatable as a captain. But how much of the credit lies with Clarke? Or Lehmann for that matter. I don’t think the players get enough credit and Bill O’Reilly was right, his dog could have lead that side to victory. (so could mine if he would get off the damn couch) The difference between the sides was Mitchell Johnson and David Warner. I’m not sure who was responsible for these guys turning round their careers but it wasn’t Clarke or Lehmann – they just get the credit.

        • Please, carry on thinking this. England got smashed by fluke. It’s nothing to do with leadership either on the pitch or in the dressing room. It’s obviously just a random event where a couple of the Australians got lucky.
          I think I first heard this analysis on day 2 at Brisbane.
          What ever you do, don’t learn any lessons from how Australia dragged itself out of it’s slump, at least not until after the 2015 Ashes.

          • Who said it was a fluke? They lost to a better side. I’m saying give credit to the players. They had the same “leadership” in England and lost 3 – 0.

          • There is no way the Aussies didn’t deserve their 5 – 0 will against England. Michael Clarke was aggressive and quick thinking on the pitch and the whole team were firing on all cylinders and importantly had done their homework on England team. You are absolutely right, we do need to learn the lessons. Let’s face it the Aussies were not given a chance by some commentators, but they did the job. They had passion and self believe and Michael Clark was a good leader. England were all over the place and Cook was hopeless both on and off the field. Management failed utterly and completely and that showed throughout the whole team. There were flashes of good stuff but most of it was abysmal. Australia deserved their wins. England were humiliated and rightly so.

            I think Ian Chappell has made a good analysis about Cook. I think he is bang on. I don’t know enough about Dhoni to comment.

            Don’t take any notice of sour grapes from the Brits. As a cricket fan for over 30 years, I am always shouting for England to win, but they were not good enough and the Aussie outplayed them. As my Aussie cousin would say: “Fair go!” Well done all.

    • You may well be right Tregaskis. You’ll notice I said the whole thing makes Downton ‘seem incompetent’. Even if these leaks are calculated, the ECB look terrible in the eyes of most fans. That’s a problem for them.

      • Incompetent, pathetic, PR disasters, I mean what more can you say about the ECB that hasn’t already said about the them! If you read the Guardian and of course Mr Derek, I know it all, Pringle, you’d think the ECB were the greatest thing since sliced bread, Cook was the best captain we’d ever had in England Cricket. If it wasn’t so serious it would be laughable! The ECB has brought England Cricket into disrepute. Why have these morons been allowed to carry on ruining England Cricket. Clark wants lucrative contracts and Downton just wants to tarnish KPs whole career and reputation. I do not think any decent cricket lover can wash over KPs stupid stunts. He himself is ashamed for what he did in South Africa and how he hurt Strauss. However a great many people have done some very foolish things in cricket in the past and there will be more stupid things done in the future. However, KP has given his time and effort and brilliance to shine for England. He could have had a much more lucrative career making a great deal of money playing in IPL and the rest. He wanted to play for England and he did very well a great deal of the time. A “Maverick?” Certainly. A nuisance and questioning Captains? Most certainly. Vaughan spoke on the radio about KP saying he was always asking questions. Vaughan said: He always listened to KP – as he did to all his players – but would sometimes say: that was very interesting KP and now bugger off and get on with it. Would Vaughan still choose him to play for England? Of course he would. KP and Freddy were not close friends buy Freddy also said that he wouldn’t dream of not choosing him. KP was happy under Vaughan as were all the players and supportive of each other. I say please bring in Vaughan to look after the players and do what no one else in or attached to the ECB appear to be able to do with any credibility.

  • Kind of curious that if there is a legally binding agreement in place, there ought to be a penalty for breaking it – shouldn’t there?

    • Surely Downton and Clark and Cook and the ECB will get their come-uppence when the Gagging order is lifted? They have to prove their allegations against Pietersen and may have to do that in court. They will certainly know then what a big hole they have all dug for themselves.

  • Downtown & ECB’s apologies put an interesting slant on the ‘Agnew’ issue… Perhaps the questioning did draw Downton out, that or Tregaskis is right and that is probably worse than anything to date.

    • It certainly “feels” like a conspiracy to ensure that KP never puts on an England Shirt again. There seems also to be mounting evidence from what Downton, Clark and Cook have said that seems to suggest that they are making a concerted effort to ensure that KPs reputation is tossed around in the gutter. I think Downton is a PR disaster. He has managed to break his own gagging order whilst simultaneously rubbishing KP in any which way. He has also managed to make Cook look completely inept as a Captain. Not that Cook needed much help in that department. I cannot believe he put his brain in gear before exchanging his mouth when he went on about England once having a very strong leadership and now it is not strong and therefore cannot accommodate KP. Did he realise what he was implying about Cook in that press conference? Not exactly a promising start for Moores either for the same reason. He is inept, and nasty, and naive. He is totally out of his depth in the job. He and Cook and Clark make a good team all round for ineptness and lack of professionalism in the way they have handled themselves. Before one of the matches Cook just could not string a few sentences together and was so ill at ease. Having told the world and his wife that there is no strong leadership now, Downton has managed to put Cook under immense pressure to perform or even out-perform his ability, such as it is. At County level he was doing very well, When he puts on an England Shirt everything goes to pot. It is sad really. England say they have no alternative? There must be other people at county level who can captain a national team with aggression and verve. Wish Vaughan was still available!!! I can dream.

  • One of the many issues still to be unravelled – and which the ECB must explain – is why the gagging order was necessary in the first place, and which side asked for it?

    Paul Downton concedes that there was no “smoking gun”. So what would have been KP’s incentive to insist on a confidentiality clause? He had nothing to specific to conceal, by the ECB’s own admission.

    The ECB, by contrast, would have had every reason to draw a veil over their murky and self-interested motives for KP’s assassination. It allows them to hide behind the vague language of “disinterested and distracted” – in itself complete bollocks – and then, whenever the questioning gets awkward, wheel out the gagging clause as an excuse not to answer.

    The main reason the ECB have not/can not provide proper reasons for axing KP is quite simple – they don’t have any. They got rid of him due to grudges and prejudices.

    Regardless of that, the ECB owe us an explanation for the gagging clause. It is their duty to explain, not conceal.


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