Afternoon all. I hope you enjoyed the weekend more than I did. England lost the rugby, my club side lost their relegation showdown at London Irish, and obviously our cricketers lost their ODI against New Zealand too. It was one of those weekends that felt like a kick in the crotch … a kick in crotch delivered by a steel-capped miner’s boot. Ouch.

Anyway, at least my weekend was better than Mark Wood’s. The poor bloke pulled out of the 1st ODI because he was suffering ankle pain again. I really don’t know where he goes from here. He’s now had multiple surgeries and the problem never seems to go away. We’ll have to wait and see what the medical bulletins say but I imagine he must be close to calling it a day. What rotten luck.

Wood’s mood wouldn’t have been improved by his team’s performance either. England weren’t at their best at Hamilton and succumbed to a three wicket defeat – even though it looked like we would win comfortably at various stages.

After scoring 284-8, with Joe Root and Jos Buttler making valuable half-centuries, we reduced the Kiwis to 27-3. However, a huge partnership between Latham and Taylor temporarily swung momentum New Zealand’s way. It looked like they’d canter home until a flurry of wickets put England back in the ascendancy.

I fully expected us to win when Taylor came dancing down to pitch to Rashid, missed by a country mile, and was stumped. The Black Caps were seven down and needed 41 off 4 overs. Unfortunately, however, Santner played an absolute blinder and stole victory from the halitosis plagued jaws of defeat. What an absolute bastard.

The big story of the game though was the return of Ben Stokes. How did he do? Well, he was ok I suppose. He didn’t get any runs but he did bowl a lively first spell and take a decent catch. And at least he didn’t punch anyone in the process.

Talking of Stokes and Wood, it only recently came to my attention that Stokes was the main reason why the latter secured a minor IPL contract. Well, I say ‘minor’ but it was still worth £166,000 dollars. Not bad for a bloke with one good leg.

Apparently Stokes recommended his Durham teammate to Chennai coach Stephen Fleming, whose team was only too happy to shove a large wad in his direction. Talk about doing a mate a favour.

However, one can only imagine what the likes of Root, Curran, Willey, Plunkett, Rashid, Hales, and Bairstow felt. They must have been thinking “thanks a lot Ben, you could’ve told Fleming and your Indian buddies how good we are too”. If I was an England player I’d be sucking up to Stokes big time over the next 12 months.

In other news, Liam Livingston has injured his ankle and might not be available for the test series in New Zealand. In normal circumstances this might mean a call-up for one of his Lions colleagues, however the Lions have played so dreadfully against West Indies A that it’s hard to justify picking any of them.

Consequently, I’m going to go out on a limb and suggest that Sam Northeast will get a call-up if Livingstone’s ruled out. Why? Because he’s just signed for Hampshire. Well, playing for Hants was a good enough reason to call up James Vince so why not send Northeast to the Southeast of the planet too?

Before I sign off, I also want to mention the news that Morne Morkel has decided to retire from international cricket at the end of South Africa’s test series against Australia. It’s a shame for the Proteas, as Morkel has been a very fine bowler indeed for a long time, but he’s now 33 years old and the schedule is obviously beginning to wear him down.

We haven’t seen the last of Morkel, however, as it’s rumoured that he might accept a Kolpak contract in county cricket. I hear it’s very nice up at New Road, Morne. And the cakes in the Ladies pavilion are much nicer than the ones they serve at Headingley and The Oval. Money isn’t everything you know.

One assumes he’ll also receive a lot of interest from T20 franchises around the world too. Whatever he decides to do we wish him well. I can’t think of many bowlers I’ve enjoyed watching more over the years. International cricket will miss him.

James Morgan