Plodders And Pies

Back in the late 80s, I think it was 1989 to be exact, a famous Aussie journalist referred to England’s bowlers as “pie-chuckers”. It was the first time I’d heard this remarkably effective insult. It seemed so apt. The Aussies had bowlers like Merv Hughes, a cricketing psychopath who bristled with aggression. He behaved (and looked!) like a wookie who’d just been poked by a cattle prod. England, on the other hand, had harmless and slightly gormless looking medium-pacers like Derek Pringle.

The expression “pie-chucker” therefore really resonated. Whenever Geoff Boycott referred to “buffet bowling”, I used to imagine Mark Ilott strolling to the front of a Lord’s cafeteria, picking up some mini-chicken and mushrooms pies, lobbing them in the general direction of Steve Waugh, and then quickly hiding behind Alan Igglesden before the fearsome Aussies identified the culprit. England’s cricket was about as intimidating as an episode of Peppa Pig. The Australian side was packed with dynamic athletes with real swag. Dean Jones seemed as cool as Indiana Jones. England had Kim Barnett.

Oh how times have changed …

Yesterday at Chester-le-Street, the difference between England’s modern and vibrant ODI side and Australia’s anachronistic teddy bears had never been starker. Australia’s batsmen plodding along at a pedestrian pace. And their bowlers looked nothing more than, yes you guessed it, pie chuckers. There was only ever going to be one winner. The fact that some Australians probably thought 310 was a competitive score says it all really.

I know England’s win came with caveats. Australia are missing their two best batsmen in Smith and Warner, and they’re also missing Starc, Cummins, and Hazlewood too. However, England would be able to cope with a few absentees. Jos Buttler was rested in the last game, and Eoin Morgan has also missed time in this series. And Ben Stokes hasn’t featured at all. What’s more, England can call on reserves of the calibre of Dawid Malan (who’s a better white ball cricketer than a red one).

What’s more, I don’t think we’d really miss any of our bowlers if they got injured either. We don’t really have any world class bowlers. Guys like Willey and Plunkett are pretty much interchangeable with reserves like Chris Jordan and Craig Overton. England’s strength is their ability to score big runs quickly. And that’s proved far too much for Australia in this series. Just like the fantastic Australian teams of the early 1990s needed to travel to South Africa or the West Indies to get a good contest, this England ODI side will only be tested once India arrive.

Yesterday’s game therefore followed a very familiar script. It’s hardly worth elaborating on events in too much detail – especially as I suspect most of you were watching the football anyway as England closed in on victory. Basically Australia batted like England under Ashley Giles. The approach was very twentieth century: bat cautiously at the beginning, lay a platform, keep wickets in hand, and then hope the slog comes off. The best case scenario is a score around 300, which simply isn’t enough these days on good pitches with modern bats.

Two of Australia’s top three scored centuries and the other one made a fifty. But the individual scores masked somewhat inadequate strike rates. The fact that the Aussies were happy to milk Joe Root (a part time spinner) for just four runs per over summed it up. Personally I think Australia played with too much fear. However, their real fear should’ve been scoring too slowly and setting England a total that was meat and drink.

Most observers thought at the time that 310 was probably 50 runs too short. And it soon became apparent they were right. Roy and Bairstow are on top form at the moment and showed the Australian openers what they should have done. Roy raced to his century in 82 balls, and he never really got out of fourth gear.

If only Roy could tighten up his defence because he has all the talent in the world. Although he tends to slog a bit, he also plays some high class proper cricket strokes. One sumptuous back foot drive was perhaps the shot of the summer. I wonder if there’s a red ball player hiding in there somewhere?

Jonny Bairstow also batted superbly yet again. It’s amazing to think that he couldn’t get in the side just a year ago. My only slight fear is that playing all this ODI cricket might affect his test form. In fact, the same might be said for half this England team. Remember when playing white ball cricket damaged Alastair Cook’s rhythm in test cricket? Maybe the others aren’t immune and that’s why we’re playing so poorly in white these days.

However, that’s a concern for another day. Yesterday was all about England’s destructive batting, again. This series will surely end in a 5-0 success unless the team take their eye off the ball. As for Australia, they’ve now dropped to sixth in the rankings, which makes them officially the worst Australian team ever. Justin Langer has a tough job to turn this team around before next year’s World Cup. I just hope that England aren’t peaking too soon.

James Morgan

PS Argentina …. ha ha ha ha ha.


  • I seem to recall a game England played against Sri Lanka, 2015 World Cup I think where we scored what seemed at the time a decent 300 ish. Sangakkara, Dilshan etc knocked them off for 1 wicket down and 3-4 overs to spare. It was so easy it was embarrassing. I had exactly the same feeling yesterday when the Aussies only made 310. So so easy. Oh how times have changed!

    • I was at a Champions Trophy game at The Oval that went exactly the same way against the same opposition.

  • Funny how the likes of Harrison aren’t rushing to a microphone to proclaim how this series shows the obvious superiority of county cricket to the BBL….

    By the way, Article 13 became law a couple of days ago. There’s some good coverage in the Independent about what it could mean in the long term.

  • It could just be that our exceptional batting performances have intimidated these Aussies to such a degree that they have effectively frozen, bereft of any belief that they have the wherewithall to compete. Their admittedly ordinary players are being made to look inadequate. This would be down to our abilities over their deficiencies. Tim Payne has been in the game a long time and has publically stated he can’t remember ever facing anything like this. I still can’t think of any present batting line up that’s played this well down the line in any form of the game. Let’s celebrate it while it lasts as we’re not renowned for consistent excellence. At some point the bubble will burst, hopefully not before next year’s World Cup. Our tendency to implode was evident even yesterday when Payne spilled a sitter off Hales which would have been 3 wickets in no time and who knows what might have happened then, as we were still the best part of 100 short.
    Incidentally James have you watched the Women’s highlights this week. If you want one-sided this was it it. Be interested to know what you and your bloggers think of the women’s game. I know it’s early doors but the problem seems to be that the development of the game is at different stages in different countries. Clearly South Africa are behind us and some of their bowling would have been friendly on the village green. I found it quite embarrassing at times. Would you pay to watch this?

    • Hi Marc. I’m afraid that I hardly watch any women’s cricket at all. I simply don’t have the time with two young kids. It’s hard enough simply to watch the men and keep this blog going. I think it’s fantastic that women’s cricket is expanding so rapidly, and I’ll certainly encourage my baby daughter to play when the times comes, but I don’t really cover it on TFT because I know sod all about it. This makes me feel quite inadequate!

    • “Would you pay to watch this?”

      I would, and I do. Frequently. England’s women are a good outfit, well worth anybody watching. It’s harsh – understandably so, after Wednesday – to go in so hard on South Africa. The format meant they had to come off the back of a mauling from a red hot NZ batting line-up straight into another from England. Heads went, and the game was probably lost before it started.

      However, less than two weeks ago I was at New Road to see SA pretty much trample over England by 7 wickets, and it was easy to envisage at that point that they might run away with that series. Sadly for them, their one or two weak links have proved to be an achilles heel too far, and their better players (Van Niekerk excepted) have not back up that initial performance.

      Let’s see how England cope with playing twice tomorrow, and then NZ doing the same on Tuesday.

      I’ll leave it at that. I realise women’s cricket is not (for entirely understandable reasons) James’s raison d’etre, and wouldn’t want to force it on his readers

      • I’m not disparaging the women’s game in general, we look the business, but clearly there is a gap in class that reduces the ability of many other teams to provide adequate opposition. We must have had a real off day to be beaten by them. I know Australia and New Zealand are better, but I would like to see our national team competing against men, maybe a minor counties X1, to bring their game on quicker. That I would pay to watch. I remember a while ago watching the England bowler Sally Potter playing league cricket and she was impressive.

        • I watch all the women’s games that are televised because tbh, I used to enjoy the women’s games more than the males as it wasn’t just a power packed hitting session. However, what I’d say is that the women’s game is still dominated by a few good players and then the best of the rest (including englsnd). SA are ok but they rely so heavily on one or two players and inconsistent players. England rely on one or two as well though and the ecb pump vast sums in.

          The fielding is still village and bowling doesn’t look out of place in the mid range amateur leagues but there are a few high quality batsmen around (Bates, Taylor, Edwards, panning, Perry, Indian capt who I can’t re,ember her name )

  • James, your inability to watch much women’s cricket is entirely understandable and for the best of reasons. I do not suppose you had the chance to hear the BBC podcast yesterday, which comprises an interview by Jonathan Agnew of Adam Gilchrist. Gilchrist, who I think ought to know about these things (!), is of the firm opinion that Sarah Taylor is the best wicket-keeper in the world – man or woman. Of course, she can also bat rather beautifully, too. It is pointless to suggest otherwise but if we ever picked teams in which pure ability with the gloves trumped all for keepers, I wonder who she would be playing for?

    Please keep up the good work!

    • Many thanks Mark. I’d love to see Sarah Taylor keep to Tymal Mills or someone of that ilk. It would be great to see how she gets on. I imagine that Gilly has seen her at close quarters. High praise indeed.

      • Having seen a lot of her I think she would do ok, but ONLY after a suitable amount of practice time to “acclimatise” to the faster pace. The same goes for a lot of batsmen in the women’s game. They would struggle at first but batting is essentially about technique, reaction time and practice. There’s no logical reason why a woman should lack any of the first two compared with a man. It’s just the third one where an obvious discrepancy would lie here and now.

  • Went to the women’s ashes test here in Brisbane last year and agree Sarah Taylor took the eye as a brilliant wicket keeper. Stand out even at that level

  • Have to disagree with James’s psychodrama about the Australian relapse into the 20th century. I was at the Riverside and the consensus was that Australia batted cautiously because after Stoinis the next batsman was Agar. He can’t remotely be called a No 5. And Carey was No 6!! Australia have only 3 batsmen of any repute. It was easy to predict that very few runs would come from 4, 5, 6, 7. Even so their top 3 would have delivered a decent platform if they had anyone to follow.
    What it does highlight however is their alarming lack of depth in their squad given the missing players. England by contrast has built up a squad – which includes nearly all the players incidentally that were in the last World Cup – that allows injuries or other issues not to affect the side too much. Is Australia really bereft of one day batsmen or is it just pure selection?
    What did impress me was that Jason Roy has obviously responded to advice. His stroke play in contrast to his former style was very controlled – a very straight bat – and he rotated the strike nicely. What a difference! Perhaps the influence of Graham Thorpe? He still produced the runs but not in a hit or miss fashion. This is a major step forward. If he bats like that maybe a Test career is not unthinkable. However defensive technique is another matter. We still don’t know how this team will play on a more challenging pitch.

    • Hi Jackie. I think Australia’s ODI team have displayed an old fashioned approach for a couple of years so I’m not just going on the evidence of yesterday. BTW I agree that their lack of depth would’ve been playing on Finch’s mind yesterday.

      I’ve heard quite a lot of ex-Australians bemoan the fact that the game has moved on and left them behind. I think this became evident to a certain extent in the ODIs after the Ashes. Quite a few of the Aussie commentators seemed really surprised by England’s approach. It’s almost like they’ve been ignoring what’s been going on in the rest of the world.

  • Incidentally, while we’re on the subject of women’s sport (promise I will stop in a minute, James!) it’s worth seeking out the TV coverage of the Women’s Rugby League State of Origin game this morning, played at North Sydney Oval – the venue for last winter’s Women’s Ashes Test. A crowd of nearly 7,000, brilliantly marketed, and a fantastic contest. Australia are setting a benchmark in many sports for how to grow the women’s “product”. The ECB have actually done a good job (no, seriously…) growing women’s cricket in England, but the Aussies have taken it to another level pretty much across the board.

  • Agreed that England are a team of terrific one day batsmen and not very terrific bowlers, although I’d be happy to watch Rashid bowl all 50 overs. Makes me think somewhat of the old Brazil football teams who were successful with awesome attacking players and dodgy defenders

    • I was slightly surprised to notice that Rashid has beaten Swann’s one day wicket record for England… in 10 fewer matches.

    • He’s the Marcello of English cricket, can be brilliant or all over the place, from one minute to the next, but is always an entertaining watch.

  • One game is the same as the next, teeing off against a poor bowling attack. Like to see how they do against a proper side rather than a second 11. To be frank after a dozen sixes I find it all a bit samey, probably won’t even watch the highlights. Just seen a cracking top of the table clash Surrey vs Somerset, which Surrey won. Patel 3.9 overs 6 for 4! Give me that any day to a ODI.
    Women’s cricket is fine, but I have no interest in watching it. Sorry fans.

  • Thank heavens for Toni Kroos – so the next WC isn’t re-designed to give Germany nine guaranteed games before they could possibly be eliminated.

    That drama is what real jeopardy does!

    • It’s the age old story commentators still don’t get. Germany play poorly, go behind, the opposition makes a stupid mistake and they end up winning. The only thing that stops you believing is the final whistle. Wouldn’t surprise most folk if they make the final now, even playing like that. It’s what our present group of cricketers have to learn, winning the key sessions when it matters. Our 2 ‘naughties’ Ashes victories were based on this.


copywriter copywriting