The Monday Mutton

I was at Wembley yesterday watching two teams in body armour beat the living crap out of each other; therefore I didn’t have a chance to write about England’s T20 defeat. It seems a bit late to write exclusively about a short-form bash that concluded 36 hours ago so today’s post will chew the fat about a few different topics instead.

But first let’s get that T20 out of the way. It wasn’t particularly good I’m afraid. It was as if Eoin Morgan’s men were doing their best to imitate our rugby players. They simply didn’t show up and couldn’t emulate their impressive win a few days beforehand.

The most disappointing aspect was the fielding. James Vince’s career continued on its typically James Vince trajectory when he followed up his man-of-the-match display in the first game by dropping two (possible three) catches and scoring sod all. He’s a talented but highly frustrating cricketer. Unfortunately Dawid Malan and Sam Billings also put down opportunities.

Once again it was the brilliant Chris Jordan show with the ball but the other main bowlers (with the exception of Sam Curran), let the side down somewhat. Any bowler can take a pasting in T20, so I don’t want to be too harsh, but the attack has been a little too reliant on one or two players on this tour.

Unfortunately the batsmen never looked like chasing their target of 176. Jonny Bairstow made a golden duck, so I assume everyone was being nice and charitable to him that day, and the middle order failed to fire too. Malan and Morgan made scores of 30-odd but a win never looked likely.

Chris Jordan managed to swipe an angry 36 off 19 balls – the kind of innings that seemed to say “guys, do I have to do everything?” – but we lost wickets at regular intervals and eventually limped to 155 all out.

After the game Eoin Morgan was quite critical of the team and claimed they hadn’t been aggressive enough. The fielding performance was definitely a little passive so a kick up the jacksie was probably in order.

It’s interesting to see just how authoritative and commanding Eoin has become. I can’t imagine Joe Root talking so candidly about the test side after a bad day at the office. He’d be far more likely to seek comfort in ‘the positives’. Morgan obviously feels more secure in his role. He’s indisputably in charge and he’s not going to shy away from saying what needs to be said.

In other news, Jofra Archer was at Wembley yesterday watching the NFL too. We didn’t go together (!) or anything like that, but I know he was there because he made a guest appearance at the toss and was interviewed on the big screen.

At the risk of sounding a bit like Dominic Raab discussing the Channel Tunnel, it hadn’t quite struck me beforehand just how brilliant Jofra performed this summer. Obviously I realise that he bowled superbly (I haven’t been living under a rock) but I hadn’t really given this subject the thought or attention it deserves.

One wonders how the summer might have panned out without Archer? Let’s say, for example, that he had to wait another year to qualify for England or that he got injured. It’s quite possible that we wouldn’t have qualified for the World Cup knockout stages without him, and I certainly think we would’ve lost the Ashes series too.

Jofra was our leading wicket-taker in the World Cup with 20 wickets at 23, and he was also our most economical bowler conceding just 4.57 runs per over. This is an amazing performance for a player who hadn’t played a single ODI before May.

Archer was also our spearhead in the Ashes. He took an incredibly impressive 22 wickets at 20 in just four test matches. He was also our most economical bowler (again) and had the best strike rate too – a wicket every 42.5 deliveries. For the sake of context, Malcolm Marshall averaged 21 in his test career with a strike rate of 47!

Although Jofra has a long way to go before he can match legends of the game like Marshall, the start of his international career has been nothing short of extraordinary. He’s surpassed all expectations and it’s exciting to speculate what he might achieve in the future.

What boggles my mind is that he’d only played 28 list A games for Sussex before making his England debut. And he’d only played 32 first class games before his Test debut. Yet he performed like a seasoned professional and showed few signs of either nerves or inexperience. Quite simply he’s a natural.

I just hope that Archer can keep himself fit and stay motivated in the coming years. I have no idea whether he has the hunger to become an all-time England great – guys like Jimmy Anderson don’t come along very often – but he certainly has the natural talent.

One just hopes that the ECB manage him well. He’ll need regular time off and the opportunity to ply his trade in the IPL and elsewhere. I don’t mind if he doesn’t play every single game for England. I just want him fit and firing for the games that really matter – which is why I was quite delighted to see him at Wembley yesterday when he might have been down under in Wellington playing T20s.

My final thought returns to the old cricket on free-to-air television debate. It’s interesting that the BBC is quite prepared to show three full live NFL games every year (two games from Wembley plus the Super Bowl) and yet they’re supposedly reluctant to show live cricket. Hmmmm.

For those who don’t follow NFL, a typical game lasts for approximately 3 to 3 and a half hours. When you add in the pre-match entertainment and the post-match analysis, broadcasts can last significantly longer than that.

And yet we were told that the BBC were the ones demanding The Hundred because T20 is too long. It just doesn’t add up.

Why would the Beeb insist on cricket matches lasting just two and a half hours when they’re quite prepared to show American football games that last considerably longer?

Do I detect the smell of bovine excrement in the air? Surely not.

James Morgan

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  • It is often said that BBC have not got the space to show hours of live sport, and that they do not have much live sport. But this is cobblers as if you look at the BBC1/2/red button listings during the year there is a lot of live sport – football, Rugby, tennis, snooker. cycling etc.

    The 16 over a side format is due to people at the ECB wanting to get credit for inventing a new format.

  • Would imagine that the NFL are almost giving coverage away to the UK (BBC) in order to promote the game over here, whilst no doubt the greedy ECB are demanding millions for the BBC to show any form of cricket.

    • That’s a good point Andy. The NFL have a clear objective to grow the game throughout the world, and the UK is one of the main target audiences. Perhaps they’re seeing the value of terrestrial coverage over here rather than focusing merely on the price?

  • I love your “bovine excrement” phrase James – I suspect it can be applied to anything that emanates from the ECB!

  • Probably a factor too is that the USA is quite a lucrative market for BBC programmes – news, drama and soaps – they have a joint venture for marketing and distribution with AMC Networks.

  • Maybe it’s me but I don’t get how sportsmen representing their country, which they all bang on about being the highest honour in the game, can ever be passive and unmotivated.
    Even the relatively inconsequential T20’s must surely still inspire those selected to perform. I can understand failure when you try too hard to impress and it all goes Pete Tong, but to be lax under those circumstances is totally unacceptable. If you can’t motivate yourself at this level you shouldn’t be playing.

  • It’s odd with the NFL, as when it first arrived on Channel 4 with James Richardson presenting in the 1980’s, (who now incidentally is co-presenter on the wonderful ‘Great Model Railway Challenge’) it was a huge draw, with millions becoming weekly addicts, me amogst them, looking forward to the latest exploits of the likes of William ‘The Fridge’ Perry and his LA Raiders dirty boys and Dan ‘The Man’ Marino throwing ridiculous passes for the Miami Dolphins. There were huge sales of team shirts over here, I still have my Raiders all black. 10am Saturday on channel 4 became as much a date for sports fans as Match of the Day for a while.
    Then it seemed to ebb away, almost overnight and Sky took over the mantle, showing once again that cable cannot have anything like the efffect on generating public interest as a terrestrial channel. It’s fag end spot on the BBC after Match of the Day merely caters for the already converted.
    Ok it fills Wembley when it comes over to play but there’s no sign of growing public interest in the hinterland. Even the Super Bowl all nighters seem a pretty tame public draw. So what was it that originally ignited so much interest aside of the novelty value? Until they find that I fear the NFL will be small fry in this country.


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