It’s the quiet before the storm. The World Cup semi finalists are known, the recent round of Championship matches has finished, and there isn’t a controversy in sight. Somebody smoke some drugs or look out a window quick! We’ve got precious little to talk about.

There was one morsel of news that caught my eye today though. Sky have announced that the World Cup final, should England get there, will be broadcast on free-to-air-television. Bravo!

Perhaps this is a tacit admission that viewing figures have been less than stellar – at least compared with the women’s football World Cup which drew in a peak audience of over 11 million on Wednesday? The viewing figures for England’s cricket matches are rumoured to be around 500k to one million.

Although we don’t yet know what ‘free-to-air’ will involve – they could allow a terrestrial channel access or put it on YouTube for example – the most likely outcome (in my humble opinion) is that Sky will simply show the game on Sky One or the Sky Sports Mix Channel rather than Sky Sports.

If this was the case, and I really have no idea if it will be, the game wouldn’t technically be ‘free-to-air’ because you’d still need to be a Sky customer, or a customer of another broadcaster that shows Sky channels, to watch it.

However, at least this is a step in the right direction. And who knows, maybe Sky will surprise us all by making it as accessible as possible to everyone? At this point I’d like to thank Liam Plunkett wholeheartedly for putting the cat amongst the pigeons :-). We all saw through your contrived, or perhaps I should say ‘well-briefed’, strategic retraction.

The YouTube option is also intriguing. This is what BT Sport did with the Champions League Final between Liverpool and Spurzzzzz a few weeks ago. It was a bit of a shame really that it ended up being the most boring game of football played since the first half of Monty Python’s philosopher’s bowl back in the 1970s.

In other news, competition for Ashes places is beginning to hot up. I’m not sure how much stock Ed Smith will be placing in championship runs – he’ll probably pay more attention to the Euro T20 – but Warwickshire opener Dom Sibley is really beginning to put his hand up / move himself to the front of the taxi rank / come to the party / or whatever cliche you want to insert here.

Now I should probably make an admission here. Normally I’m well enough informed to give an opinion on whether player X or Y is likely to succeed in test cricket. I might occasionally get it wrong, but at least I can give my tuppence worth. Unfortunately I haven’t got clue when it comes to Sibley. He’s just one of those players I’ve always ignored; after all, his career has been pretty unremarkable up to this point.

With the World Cup hogging the spotlight, and my time somewhat limited due to work and family, I just haven’t had the time or opportunity to study Sibley’s game. On one hand it’s pretty hard to argue with 922 runs at an average of 71 with four 50s and three 100s (this includes his 244 against Kent the other day). On the other hand he could just be a flash in the pan.

Remember when Ed Smith himself had a purple patch in county cricket? He got picked for England on the back of it, looked a bit out of his depth, and never played again. I wonder if Smith will wonder if Sibley is another him. The problem, of course, is that England don’t really have too many other options.

Just looking at the championship averages, the other opening candidates have performed adequately but haven’t made an unanswerable case. Rory Burns has put up decent numbers as usual (505 runs at 42), Joe Denly boosted his average to 39 after an impressive ton against Notts a couple of weeks ago, and Zak Crawley has caught the eye with 639 runs at 43.

But can you see any of these guys scoring heavily in The Ashes? Burns will probably play (and rightly so) but Denly has his knockers and it’s probably a bit early for Crawley. Consequently the conversation will inevitably return to Jason Roy. However, even if one picks Roy there’s still a vacancy in the top 3 with Root determined to bat at 4.

I know that many of you come to The Full Toss for strong opinions and ‘analysis’ (of sorts) but I’m afraid I’ve got little to offer when it comes to this dilemma. I simply don’t know what I’d do if I was a selector. At this stage I’d probably pick Roy, even though it goes against every traditionalist bone in my body, and give Sibley a chance. But I’m not too excited at the prospect to be honest.

The other batsmen who have scored heavily in division one are sadly all has beens, never wases, or should never have beens. Gary Ballance averages 61 this season (no thanks), Ravi Bopara (is he still a thing?) averages 59, and there’s some bloke called Alastair Cook averaging 46. I can’t see Chef coming back, can you?

The one exception to this rule is Mr Sam Northeast, who continues to make some very pleasant and substantial scores. He averages 60 this season with three hundreds. However, I fear Sam has about as much chance of playing for England as James Hildreth. He’s destined to appear on those ubiquitous ‘best players never to play for England’ lists.

The other problem with Northeast is that he bats No.4 – like most of the best players in the country; therefore it’s incredibly difficult to find space for him in the team anyway. England simply have too many middle-order players between 4-7. Dawid Malan is also enjoying an exemplary season in division two but he’s got the same problem.

Finally, for those of you who didn’t read the PS on my last article, we have a new discussion tool on the blog called Conversful. It’s like a live chat feature where you can discuss anything and everything from the contents of David Warner’s pockets to the contents (or empty spaces) inside Colin Graves and Tom Harrison’s skulls. All you need to do is click the globe in the bottom right corner of the screen.

This tool is something we’re experimenting with, and I’ll be interested to see what value it brings. I don’t want everyone to stop commenting on articles in the traditional way, but it might useful when a discussion between two people either goes off on a tangent or becomes too long. You’ll now have the option to go ‘off-line’ and chat directly to the other person without every comment becoming public.

All discussions on Conversful remain private. Not even I will know what’s being said. So feel free to slag me off to your heart’s content. I’ll be none the wiser :-)

Right then. It’s 5.30 so I’m off for a beer. Have a great evening y’all. I’d also like to bring your attention to a bit of fun we had on Twitter yesterday evening:


I asked our followers for further suggestions and these were the best:

Salmon Butt (that one was mine)

Ar-tuna Ranatunga (Hamish Allen)

In-salmon Ul-Hake (Andrew Dow)

Stephen Fin (David Bertram)

Mark Eeelham (Michael Gillette)

Turbot Reeve (David Meers)

Jonathan Trout (David Meers)

Muttiah Machlitharan (Nabeel Shakeel Ahmed)

We’re all off to get our coats :-)

James Morgan


  • In my view Sibley will probably be held in reserve in case there are failures by others. Roy and Burns should probably open. Which allows James Hildreth to bat at 3, where he’s been for Somerset this year, in a fairly obvious nudge to Ed Smith.

    • Would love to see Hildreth at 3. I think it might be Roy at 3 with Vince opening (or vice versa). That’s the way I think they’ll go.

  • The story that Warwickshire have offered a contract that guarantees a place in the Birmingham franchise squad is an important one, not so much in itself but for what it shows about how the future is going to work.

  • Sibley used to play for Surrey before a move to Warwickshire seems to have at long last prospered his career. Anyone who can bat for over 10 hours for 244 even on a flat track at Canterbury has Alistair Cookes powers of concentration, and I see no other Alistair lookalikes. Does anyone? Can he do the same at Test level? Only one way to find out. I doubt he’ll play though. The way England bat he could be 40 not out carrying his bat in 180 all out. It will probably be Burns, Roy and Denley. Roy might come off but I doubt he’ll make double figures. I can’t see England playing Vince yet again, surely. And Root will bat 4 come what may.

  • I have a nasty feeling that whoever plays we’ll find ourselves 30 for 3 after an hour or so batting. Sorry.

    Turning to the more important matter of fish in cricket who can forget the great Shark Kallis? And Kemar Roach is a fine bowler.

  • I understand this mini climb down is the result of public and wider media pressure. Who knows maybe it’s will start a trend of sponsors looking for high profile coverage on terrestrial TV, over mere cash, but limited publicity, inspired by the success of the women’s footie World Cup. How high would that tournaments profile have been if it was exclusive to Sky?
    On the fishy side there’s a whole shoal of Pollocks. There’s even a cricket biography double header, available on the Pavillion Lobrary called, ‘The Shrimp and The Lobster’, after the nicknames of a couple of Victorian bowlers. It’s a bit obscure but an entertaining read none the less.

  • Sibley won’t get a run at Test level. He did bugger all at Surrey. The standard of county cricket is so low these days it beggars belief.

  • Wonder what the viewing figures for the womens world cup would have been had it been on Sky..hmm…

  • A fishy bedtime thought wracking my brain after a late evening visit to the chippy to soak up a few beers.
    Lawrence ‘Roe’, the West Indian batsman whom I seem to remember was lauded as the new Bradman when he first came on the scene, now in the annals of history he seems a forgotten man. Does anyone on this blog remember watching him bat? I have vague recollections only.

    • I remember Laurence Rowe batting, and he was a stylish and good player who (like a fair few others) failed to fulfill his full potential. Still a Test batting average of 43 over 30 Tests isn’t bad! I seem to remember he had health problems…was he allergic to grass, I wonder?

      • That’s correct. He was allergic to grass. Not well regarded in West Indies cricket because he lead the 1982 rebel tour of South Africa.

        • Is that smoking it or batting on it. I don’t remember him being a Rasta man.
          I guess palling up to apartheid would explain a lot about his expunging from history.
          It’s odd how the artistic community seem happy to take pretty much anyone into their bosom whatever their political or moral persuasions, yet sportsmen have to be squeaky clean and PC, or the self righteous media can destroy them.

          • There is an article on Cricinfo (written about 12 years ago I think) about that ill fated tour) which is well worth a read. Basically all the players who went on it became pariahs and a number succumbed to drink and drugs. Oddly the ability of the team (which was not far off a West Indies A team: Croft and Sylvester Clarke opened the bowling) may have helped break down Apartheid.

            • I’m sure the players believed they could do some good. It’s always better to try and change things from the inside that shouting from the rooftops on the outside. They must have realised there would be negative implications on their careers and ‘Disgusted’ of Tunbridge Wells never changed a thing.

  • James, can you clarify for me that this blog is for the English male cricket team. With the women’s Ashes underway I thought there may have some comment here. Same for the Women’s T20 World Championship some time ago. If it is only for the male team, perhaps that should be mentioned in your intro…

    • I would like to broaden discussion to women’s cricket over time. There’s no rule that this blog should only cover men’s cricket or specific competitions. The problem is that I personally don’t have time to watch the women. It’s hard enough finding time to write about the men with my day job and young family. If someone wants to write about women’s cricket for TFT that would be brilliant!

    • It seems the women are having the same trouble getting to grips with the Aussies as the men. As we have a Virgin package we get sky sports mix, so I have access to the series. Unfortunately there’s no highlights package available, so you have to trawl through some pretty ropey club standard stufff for the good bits. As these girls are professionals we should judge them as such and for me women’s cricket doesn’t really cut the mustard. A bit like the Rugby it seems pedestrian and largely unexciting. I remember decades ago watching a certain Sally Potter, daughter of playwright Stephen, he of ‘The Singing Detective’ fame, bowl with real hostility in a man’s team. The present England bowlers are not in that league.
      Now the footie is different, they’re highly skilled, extremely fit (not in the way you think lads) and produce an entertaining package. The intensity differences between the women and men aren’t that detrimental to the women here, whereas in their Cricket and Rugby counterparts it certainly is.
      With Wimbledon now in full swing have to include a comment about women’s tennis. Serena and her crew want equal prize money for playing fewer sets, at a lower standard. If you take this into civvy street it’s like a part timer asking for the same wage as a full timer, but try telling little miss PC that and you’ll get a mouthful.

    • Some of us watch the women as much as the men. Sadly this englsnd side is poor and very over hyped.. more so I’m fact than the men’s team !

  • Does anyone know why Northeast is constantly overlooked by England? Is it a face fits problem? I have the impression that, because of weak captaincy, the England set-up only has room for sycophants and is terrified of including anyone with a mind of their own.

    • I hardly think the like of Bairstow, Stokes, Anderson, Broad and Rashid could be called sycophants. They all clearly have a mind of their own and have displayed this on and off the field.
      I do agree Roots man management side of the captaincy needs work, but aside of him, who is guaranteed a place in the test side to be given the captaincy? There’s clearly no Brearley around to pick for this role.
      The problem with Northeast is he’s another middle order batsman, of which there are plenty around. Considering how long we’ve had an issue with the no3 position I can’t understand why Hildreth hasn’t been given a go, ahead of the likes of Denley.

  • As we have a Virgin package we get sky sports mix and this includes occasional live coverage of a World Cup match. Yesterday it was South Africa v Australia. It’s the first time I’ve watched an ODI live on telly in years. Planned just to watch the start and finish, but much to my missus’ chagrin, as I was supposed to be engaged in a variety of domestic chores in house and garden, I stayed on board for the whole game. Must confess it’s one of the most enjoyable few hours of cricket I’ve seen in a while. Despite the relatively meaningless consequences both sides seemed up for it from the start. Once the Aussies had recovered their mojo, clearly missing at the start after a 6 day lay off, South Sfrica, playing with the sort of commitment and intelligence not seen so far in this tournament were in the ascendency, batting intelligently to give themselves a realistic target to defend. As drama followed drama with a series of batting, bowling and fielding brilliance and lapses, including a few injury scares for the Aussies, as first Stark, limping around bandaged to the eyeballs, then Khowaga pulling a hamstring and having to go off, only to come back later and almost win it and Stoinis,unable to run properly with a strained side trying to deal in blocking and boundaries. During all this the new ‘sensible’ Warner held things together with one of the best hundreds you’ll see in any form of cricket, scampering singles to farm the strike and finding gaps with unerring accuracy. Whilst he and the wonderful Carey, doing similar, were together they had a great chance to win after being 119-4 with Khowaga injured against some good South African bowling and astute captaincy from Du Plessis. It was a genuinely dramatic finish and could have gone either way into the last over. 2 quality sides going toe to toe. I doubt the semis or the final will display such consistent quality throughout. The highlights did it no justice.

  • Sp James, you’d like to include Women’s cricket. Fine – well England are dire, utterly dire. They have regressed considerably in the last two or three years. If Mark Robinson were a football (ugh!) manager, he’d be on his bike. The girls have been overhyped and need to get back to mastering (or should that be mistressing?) the basics. If your product is duff, over-hyping just makes it worse.
    A few years ago, at New Road, Idi was within a few yards of the lovely Elysse Perry as she went through an extensive warm-up exercise before going in to bat. She works hard at her game and that’s why she’s the best. England, take note.

    • There was quite an interesting interview with a couple of ex England women internationals who were bemoaning the fact that a lot of girls are being lost to the game because of the penchance for creating elite academies, where promising youngsters are brought together to groom them for the professional game, under the thumb of professional male coaches. On the surface this copying of footballs Lilleshall experiment seems to make some sense, but because the structure of the women’s game is still well behind the Mens, largely due to lack of funds and profile, there is no slack to take up by those youngsters who aren’t kept on to play for the counties, there’s just club cricket, which is at a far lower standard and can’t afford to pay them, so although they stay in the game for leisure purposes, the need to earn a crust forces them back into civvy street. As we all know sportsmen and women develop at different rates and ages, so many are slipping through the net, never to be heard from again.
      As I mentioned in a previous article Sally Potter, the left arm quickie who played in the seventies and eighties, became so good because she played Yorkshire league cricket with the men and guested in minor counties sides, so her development was constantly challenged. Maybe the present set up should go back to playing in Mens teams, rather than amongst themselves, to improve their competitive development.

      • The women’s county sides and age groups could easily play Saturday league cricket but choose not to. This would develop them far better than the crap women’s leagues they pay in where some real dire cricketers are leading county players

    • Entirely agree. I have no problem with the ladies playing cricket at all. I wouldn’t watch it in a month of Sundays, but to tag this as professional sport is absurd.

      • I know it was the 70’s, not exactly the most pc decade, but we had a female cricketer in our 2nd X1 for a couple of seasons. She was a talented wicket keeper and a good enough batsman to hold her own down the order, but becaise she was young and scrubbed up well, she was the subject of constantly patronising banter on the pitch and unwelcome attentions off it. Also she had to change on her own in the ladie loo, as there were no separate facilities. In the end it got the better of her and she left. Would things be that different now? It’s debatable.

  • Great win for the Kiwis. A thoroughly exciting and entertaining game which I doubt will be emulated tomorrow.

  • awesome game for the kiwis. 2nd final in a row. England and Australia cheering on that result.

  • These New Zealanders know how to play, read pitch and conditions better than anyone in this contest, including us. Great game today, so much better than England’s teeing off cricket any day of the week. I hope NZ win it, they deserve too.

  • Delighted for NZ – but every match at OT has been won by the side batting first. That’s not good.

    As for the future, expect the ICC to arrange a 3rd place play-off for Lord’s on Sunday with the Final re-arranged for an outground in September. In the longer term, a re-designation of India-England-Australia trilaterals as the WC may be necessary.

    BTW, Kohli has played three WC SFs and averages 3.66 in them.

  • Kohli wants the format changed so the top team gets two bites of the cherry? It’s such a terrible idea it’ll probably happen. I wouldn’t necessarily be against giving the table topping teams some extra reward – how about the top two teams automatically win the toss in the SFs? But if you loss you’re out and that’s that – all Kohli’s doing is distracting from how India’s current crop of millionnaires have been serial chokers in recent ICC tournaments.

    The logic of the Kohli’s idea is built in to the way sport generally and cricket specifically is going. The game isn’t about competition, the unexpected and meritocracy – it’s about worshipping superstars. The logic is that these superstars should be in as many episodes – sorry, matches – as possible. Dhoni should’ve put the bails back on and said “sorry Martin, they’ve come to watch me, not you”.

  • Can’t say it was a great surprise given the conditions. Just shows this white ball can swing and seam given the right conditions. Always felt india’s batting was vulnerable, a bit like our champagne batsmen. The last 3 centuries Rohit made he was dropped early on by sitters. After their top 3 they don’t seem to have century batsmen in their line up. Good to see Jadega playing well though, I think he’s a fine cricketer.
    Hard to see the winner of the other semi not taking the trophy. Can’t see where New Zealand’s runs are going to come from outside Williamson and Taylor, and neither of them score fast. England has its best chance ever, especially at Edgbaston, a decent batting wicket and an incredibly loud and partisan crowd.
    Whatever happens now I think it’s been a good tournament, not the slogfest on roads people predicted. In almost 50 matches, that’s 100 innings, there’s been less than 350 sixes and only a handful of scores over 350.

    • A good tournament yes but far too long and far to many games. It’s all about maximum exposure for India and the superstar context plus Sky only showing one game a day. Today? I’m afraid unless England bat first Aussie will win it. They have more strings to their bow especially handling pressure.


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