Back to bed, then. For a month, maybe?

Oof. Up before the 3.20 alarm – just. Quick hot lemon and honey then just as you’re settling, Aleem interveneth.

Cruelly late – and surely influenced by an enormous appeal from Australia (the whole continent) – Dar raises that cruel finger on Woakes.

On review there is clearly no white spot… but snicko suggests a tiny feather: Woakes is gone.

It feels tough and possibly terminal; second ball – SECOND BALL! The locals are horribly rampant. When Root also edges Hazlewood behind, in his very next over, the thing feels over. Despite Moeen’s craft and Bairstow’s quality, the hope not so much gone as annihilated. At 3.38 you do, you confess, think of bed.

Both were straight balls. Woakes then Root beaten by that extra four miles an hour, only – or that and their nerves. The key to the series, right there.

Us cra-zee England fans (contemplating bed) are also thinking maybe Bairstow and Moeen could yet find their flow; battle quietly for half an hour then begin to erode that 170 lead. We know they’re both fabulous players when the juices are flowing and we like to think Smith and co may not deal all that well with purposeful counter-attack. Then Cummins comes on and beats Bairstow all ends up with an 86 mph leg-cutter.

Moeen becomes becalmed. Bairstow looks under pressure – which of course he is. Credit Australia. Cummins and Lyon come in early after Hazlewood and Starc and absolutely maintain the squeeze. Moeen’s response against the latter is to try and break out with a sweep. Clunk. He’s leg before.

So thirty-something minutes in and the match seems done. Likewise the series. Likewise the whole purpose of life.

Given the spike in enmities between the sides, this is a catastrophe unleashed for England. Another humiliation at the hands of some jeering, sneering Aussies. Bottom line is these barsteds are better; or three or four of them are.

Cummins has looked class: quick, skilled, disciplined. Starc has actually been less good than he might have been thus far – which is clearly rather concerning – but he’s winkled people out, nevertheless. Lyon has been all over us. Hazlewood bowled beautifully for that critical first period today. The upshot of the barely credible hoopla and drama of this test has been that their bowlers have smashed us more decisively and predictably than we’ve smashed them.

We’ve barely started but Overton is in; ridiculously. Cummins torments him and then hits him, hard, in the chest. Then Bancroft weakly drops one. There’s a lull but not anything to *actually encourage* the tourists. Wickets simply feel medium-likely instead of immediately inevitable, for about three overs. My god Overton and Bairstow are clearly trying but they’ve not settled; merely survived, to the 200 mark. 200 for 7.

4.52 a.m. Enter the new ball. Starc bowls full at Overton. It shapes in late, in the air – it’s too good. Full enough to be hitting… and the finger goes up. Overton has again earned some respect, for his guts and his stickability but this was a peach. 207 for 8.

Bairstow strikes one of very few confident drives down the ground: four, off Starc. The sun is shining but is it me, or does this seem principally to exaggerate the alarming lustre of that new, pink cherry? The cherry that’s suddenly hooping – comically down leg, for four byes, in the case of a rare loose one from the returning Hazlewood. People, this ball looks unplayable, immediately.

Bairstow has 27. There are 134 runs required to win. Broad faces Starc, who again goes fabulously full. Broad escapes, off the toe-end – twice! This can’t last.

Australia have been excellent, goddammit. Interestingly, too, they’ve chosen to stow away the bouncer almost completely. When Starc has Broad caught behind off a tremendously full delivery, that policy seems entirely wise, as well as creditable. Again there was a touch of swing, again it was too quick for the batsman – so why wouldn’t you bowl that way? Anderson is in for the last rites.

Starc offers Bairstow drives and briefly, he partakes. But then he plays on. England are all out for 233, meaning Australia win by 120 runs. The handshakes seem pretty good-natured.

The inquest, for England will focus on the batting, whilst acknowledging the bowling was poor in that critical first session. Anderson, so often and so rightly lauded for his prodigious, refined skills, bowled distressingly short – embarrassingly short, given his knowledge and experience – and set the tone for chronic underachievement. (Later, he did the opposite and took a deserved 5-fer but that later was what it said on the tin).

One view might be that we gifted an ordinary Australian batting line-up some respite: they gathered and Marsh was able to cash in. A sensational turnabout for the second Aus innings was always going to be against that context and those numbers… and would mean nothing should our batters fail again second time round.

The batsmen did fail. When the big moments came, Australia powered through. Hazlewood found length and bounce. Starc – I maintain, without bowling remotely to his full, frightening capacity – blew people away. Cummins was magnificent and Lyons supremely consistent. On the final day, again, Australia rose to it and England did not.

So what’s to be done? Only if Mark Wood is electrifying in the next ten days or if Stokes becomes available will there be a change amongst the bowlers. (Moeen will not be dropped, I suspect, despite his lack of a contribution so far). They have been fallible but also effective and we probably have none better.

Batting-wise I wondered aloud a fortnight or so ago about Bairstow being hoisted up to three and though that’s a big ask for the lad I return to the thought. Vince has probably carved his way out so there’s juggling to be done. Ballance may add some doughty resistance but my hunch is he’s more likely to do that at five than three. Plus he’s essentially defensive and we’re two down. Hales is a huge talent but you’d probably play him five, not three, if at all. Cook stays, obviously but gets the general bollocking about playing nothing you don’t need to play. The coach has work to do.

If Bairstow does go up the order, does Foakes play? Not necessarily, in my view. Bairstow is so bloody fit and temperamentally such a gem that I don’t think there’s a concern around his extra workload. But only the coach, seeing Foakes in the environment, seeing Bairstow’s energy (or otherwise) can judge that. (Incidentally, only the coach can bully the other possible, significant change – stick Root in at three).

If I’m calling it I put Bairstow to three and bring in Hales  – we’re going to have to attack to win matches, right? Hales can do that blazing away thing – if he can ever get in.

I don’t personally foresee a whitewash here, despite the consistent failure (do we call it capitulation?) during those key moments. The thing that might change that is if Starc gets to his absolute peak. So far Australia have been too good without Starc finding his scariest, most unplayable best. God help us if he does.

 

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Whites’ Mischief.

Our relationship with Australia and its inhabitants is extraordinary. Put simply, we can’t stand each other. We think they’re boorish and dumb (but noisy): they think we’re stuck-up and feeble. But who are these ‘we’s’ and ‘they’s?’
Hang on. I’m simply not the man for an epic deconstruction of this stuff. Partly because I suspect a three year research project into What Gives With Ashesness could only come up with with the same conclusions as my own hunches; partly because I get that it’s only Level 2 serious – where Level 7 is outright racism and Level 12 is war. So my general, sub-considered view would be let’s flick the vees at each other and crack on.
However, in passing, let’s also agree that the English (as seen by the Aussies – and please note this maybe really doesn’t include all The Brits) are Middle Class (or worse), pretentious, privileged, moneyed, ‘Imperial’. People you want to put in their place, rob, subvert, expose, humiliate, exact your own justice upon. (Note that historical issues unquestionably play a role here, in a frozen-in-chip-fat kindofaway).
I reckon there’s marginally less bile going in the other direction but maybe the sense that there’s something essentially superior about the dismissal of the Aussies by the English is telling. Like they’re the shepherd at the door, reporting a problem with the ewes but we don’t want to hear just now, thank you – dinner is served. In our heads they’re still rural underlings.
At the full, twisted and/or comedic extent of this we can pull out the criminal thing: The Banished. But is this really part of our framing now, or do we just revisit this for the larfs? As in Brian Moore and his SD’s wind-up? (Shackle Draggers, if you’ve missed that). Personally, now, I’m thinking the origins of (white) Australia barely register in the gathering of factors… but I may be wrong.
Incontrovertibly, though, there is feeling around this. The relationship is not so much loaded or complicated as part-sunk, with strangely, disturbingly animated baggage. England v Aus at anything has become charged but the cricket is something else.
There is proper history there. Facts and everything but mainly rivalry and dislike and increasingly, hype. A dash of romance, lorryloads of mischief, some outstanding sport and every now and then some real sportsmanship. But – and here’s my concern – the matrix in which the Ashes are enacted is (wouldn’t you say, currently?) more weighted with bitterness than any healthy game should be. Begging the questions, in 2017, post everything from Bodyline to Ball Of the Century to Buttgate, where do we go with this and how do we forensically isolate sociological import from banter, from That Which Transgresses?
I don’t think we can.
Jimmy Anderson has written in The Telegraph. He says (effectively) that the Aussies don’t say much when they’re scrambling but they like to bully folks when they get on top. They won’t like that but there may be some truth there.
Interestingly and probably controversially, Anderson says he asked the umpires in Brisbane about levels of intimidatory bowling against the England tailenders: something he knows will stoke the fires in more ways than one.
He also talks of how the current crop of Brits are quietish by nature and how they agreed, given that prospensity, to let their cricket do the talking. Clearly now, they have to turn that volume up.
Anderson is no angel. He’s clever and toughish and coolish and (I think) not that easy to like. The absurd thought strikes me that it will take bigger, better blokes than him (and David Warner, and Steve Smith, probably) to break the log-jam of spitefulness characterising much of what we see, hear, read.
If anything can sort this – and my expectation could only be that this might be temporary, until the next provocation, or ‘incident’ – it will be proper, unashamed, natural big-heartedness, a quality that may be lurking behind the bravado in certain cases but which has lately been reigned in (or ‘whipped’) for the appearance of team machismo.
Shame. Shame when Warner and Lyon talk utter, provocative horse-s**t and then *maybe* have reason to think that it’s worked. Shame when any professional in the media – on either side – toes that particularly grubby party line.
It feels impossible to appear unbiased in this so forgive me if I unleash one or two more contentious ‘views’; take them as seriously as you like. The central one being that the Australians, regrettably, are worse at this unravelling of the opposition. (Yes, more guilty than England are – guilty is the word I would use). They have made a kind of weirdly heightened machismo a badge of honour, a weapon, a pre-requisite almost, for Proper Aussieness. This idolises, breeds and infers violence. As a notion this is so plainly pitifully neanderthal, it’s a huge shame that it’s been notably successful.
Aus have made a virtue (hah!) of going beyond mischief – I, like most of us have no issue with mischief – to a place where they hope the opposition will break down under their assault. This is the plan.
The association they make between realness – real, successful Aussieness – and winning Big and Nasty is both juvenile and ugly. Mitchell Starc’s forced confrontationality, post-delivery. The endless chirp – wot Lyon and Warner sed. Smith’s ludicrous badge-kissing and slightly faux hysterics in the Buttgate interview. The Team Mentality. A psychologist really would have a field day – and surely words like ‘insecurities’ might crop up in their notes. Surely?
But I would say this cos I’m a Brit, right? Maybe.
I am a Brit and a cricket man – a sportsman. I don’t buy the argument that tolerances are different at the top level (which I never played). I don’t buy the idea that we’re simply not getting the (Aussie) joke, here, that we just need to chill on out and there will be handshakes at the end. Cobblers. There is too much that is unnecessary, too much that is anti-sport, that we can’t claim back or re-coup.
David Warner may not need to care how he is regarded over thissaway but many actively dislike him for his bullishness, his place at the forefront of Australian aggression. We view his claims to have ‘matured’ with some contempt. Really good player, total arse; still. That will always be part of his legacy.
Warner has role-played his way through a very successful career, opting to push his luck a bit in regard to his relations with the opposition. Almost certainly, he’s either been directly encouraged to be a pain-in-the-arse or the Team Mentality has supported that idea that maybe that would be good. I guess I’m saying that this is in no way good. It’s unnecessary and ugly and mean-spirited.
There are the laws and there are things undrawable, abstruse, beyond legislation. We all know, though, where the lines of fairness and decency are; know too, where understandably adrenalin-infused mischief veers off into distraction, anti-sport, intimidation. The game needs the players to manage some of this.

We All Know Better Than The England Coach.

Chemistry. The blend. Knowing the human, knowing that stats aren’t everything – but, yes, that they are something. Understanding (without the thesis) the stuff about gathering the group; how there has to be both freedom and hierarchy. How there’s no algorithm for genius or leadership; nothing which stands above your feeling for the game, for the individual.

Sure, there’s process: it’s the elite coach’s mode, their first point of reference. So you attend to the process, in every respect. Players are developed, through contact, through care, through challenge. You just don’t personally buy the need for process as safety net.

You’re good; they see that you get it. They don’t need to disentangle how but later – years later, pre the book – they might talk warmly of your intuition. About how they weren’t sure what it was, at the time.

This is the picture. You carry it around. It’s palpable.

In training there’s a sustained intensity: lungs are bursting, eyes ablaze, minds trimmed and alive. You’re easy but spikily funny. You measure out – but again by instinct – the qualities of your staff. The right people are working with the right people: there’s no coasting, no wastage, no boredom. You ask the right questions. There are laughs.

You deal generously but without ego, with the media. Pretty soon – did they even notice? – there’s no flak to draw, no eyes averting, no knives. The scoops, the intimate words, the cheery beers together get shared around. When the tensions come, you snaffle them with a joke; with self-effacement; with impregnable good will. The journo’s use words like ‘remarkable’.

Everywhere, you build trust. And nobody betrays it. If they did you would judge the transgression supremely fairly, with flawless discretion and then you would act. Without bitterness or favour. Decisively.

The key is, you make things work: the environment you’ve built breeds results. Not that the team is unbeatable but it’s improving, it’s ‘ahead of the curve’ – way better than folks imagined. The players come to love you and the fans respect you. The Barmies sing songs; musically, metaphorically and whenever the chance arises, they man-hug you. You can enjoy it; we can all enjoy it.

If there was time, you’d reflect. You could’ve managed KP. And Botham. You could put Bairstow in at three, now – could make that possible by just a few words. The black dogs who’ve skulked around for aeons… you would have anticipated every raw moment. Over the years. Words would have been found.

You could get round the counties, too. Sure, there’d be moans but it would be clear; no-one’s missing, there’s no diamond left out in the sticks. You know them, you’ve watched, you’ve said hello, seen them, been in their company just enough to fix them and select.

Friends, it’s a quiet, shared, redemptive joy. Whilst we *actually work* in schools, or ‘at The Council’, or for Leyton & Co. by the bus stop on the river, this is the thing: we all know better than the England Coach.

 

This Blokey Universe.

Let’s watch. The volume of negativity (either overt or less so) around this might be interesting. It might tell us a good deal about things – that and the quality of the arguments raised.

Let me, crass, or’nary bloke wot I am, unleash a coupla looseners about how This Blokey Universe might have affected or conspired or coloured all judgements, pretty much, around and against this one and only Day-Night Test: then maybe – maybe perversely? – finish by saying I enjoyed it. Despite the draw.

  • The pitch was dead. Deader than a very dead thing. So dead I wondered if it was patronisingly pacific because *somebody* thought it needed to be ultra-safe… cos this was for wimmin? Wimmin who might not last on or cope with a lively one.
  • The result – or rather one result? Nineteen wickets only, fell.
  • The context. There is almost no Test Match context, because there is no Test Cricket… for women. And, shockingly, Heather Knight and Ellyse Perry may have two years to wait, now, for their next opportunity to don the whites.
  • The implications. The implications of having almost no competitive tests are several but they include a complete lack of opportunity to rehearse innings-building or preserving or countering strategies, in this format, when (for example) under Ellyse Perry’s boot. Such opportunities might, let’s be honest, be handy.
  • Small wonder then, that England, in their second knock, had little more to fall back on than the general, conservative imperative.

Charles Dagnall, a solidly decent citizen, tweeted mid-final day that it was ‘dreary’… and he had a point. And he may have said that about a men’s test which was ambling towards anti-climax too.

(In case you’re wondering, in no way am I targeting the tall, northern seamer; he does seem a good, intelligent fella and he can bowl a half-decent outswinger 😉. I have no doubt his comment was neutral.)

With Elwiss and Knight on the steady side of steadfast, the game was shall-we-say uneventful. A fair, consensual view of the contest at this stage might indeed have been that it was dreary. But this is what Test Cricket is.

Test cricket is the England captain batting and batting and batting, without offering encouragement to the opposition. It’s Elwiss doing that annoyingly-held, forward defensive pose-thing. It’s the very suffocation of drama – sometimes.

It’s dull of me to remind you of that which you already know but… it’s okaay when this stuff happens. We don’t want it all the time but it’s okay when you read the paper for a bit because the game’s gone to sleep. It may be part of it. There may even be an argument that it’s important, this as a statement; so tremendously against-the-grain-of-the-psychotically-immediate now, so philosophically gentle, so redolent of the value of the (remember this word?) pastime.

Absurdly but maybe wonderfully and preciously it may not matter if you miss a wicket because the essences of what’s happening are readable, feelable from the long-format ether: you know what you need to know.

This is an experience over time, where the unique daftnesses or voids are ab-so-lutely central – whilst being obviously also undeniably gert hig black-holes of glorious inactivity. Here, I loved the non-battle of it, the knowing nullifications: Ar Heather saying to Your Shooter ‘you’ll have to show me more, girl’. It was proper Test Cricket.

Live, I wrote this…

Day-Night, Pink-ball Test. Easing towards a likely draw. Australia having been utterly dominant – essentially through the brilliance of their shining star, Ellyse Perry. England still behind on the numbers as the final session begins but just the two wickets down.

So, like a zillion Test Matches before (and hopefully a zillion after) this is winding down to no result. Unless the Day-Night, pink ball, festival-of-carnage explodes from nowhere.

The pitch is slow and flat; there have been very few false shots from England skipper Heather Knight and her batting partner Elwiss. Nerves do not appear to be a factor.

As I write Knight has gone past her fifty and Elwiss has seen out 150 balls for her 30-odd. The numbers don’t seem critical. The crowd has drifted; we have spin-twins twirling away; the faint possibility that Schutt or Perry might take a rapid 6-fer seems invisible ink faint.

There have been moments but after the dinner-break the assumption is there may be no more. The Worldie of a delivery from Wellington that bamboozled the previously immovable Beaumont may have to suffice. (People will be saying that was Warnesque.) The toe-ender from Winfield that saw her fall to McGrath, leg before, likewise. Otherwise, no dramas.

It was the middle session of the day that settled this: Knight and Elwiss coming through unscathed.

In doing so – rather brilliantly, in my view – they recalibrated the possibilities back to the draw, only. England now know they must win all three of the upcoming it20s, the first of which will take place at the very same North Sydney Oval, god-willing, on a brand new, zoomer-boomer of a track.

(In fact there was talk – EEEK! – on social media that the same pitch might be re-used. Fascinating to see if the verbals around this duvet can influence, belatedly, that process).

Maybe – I wrote, as the minutes ticked away – in the face of this wicket-worry, we need to get back to Things To Like about this Test Match. Because I, for one, have really enjoyed it.

Let’s do that. Most obviously, this has been (one individual aside) an even contest; as were the One-Dayers. This has already made for a really good series.

Beaumont and Winfield have been mostly excellent against the Australian opening bowlers, getting their side into the Ashes event. (Imagine how things might have been if England had had flaky starts against Schutt and Perry. Hats doffed to the top two, for that: absorbing clash).

England’s seamers, meanwhile, have seemed relatively impotent but there have been spells where Shrubsole and Brunt have executed that Plan B – for containment – well. Importantly, the spinners backed them up competently on this, even when Perry was a) well in and b) ideally, surely, looking to accelerate away. That she didn’t, entirely, was down to decent, competitive work from England… and that pitch.

However let’s get real. Most reflections on this match, now and in the future, will rightly focus on Ellyse Perry. Because genius; because all-time great.

She’s a gift to the sport – to us all. Athlete par excellence. Batswoman and strike bowler, with the fabulous, natural movement and proper elite-level sporting temperament that sets her apart, above. She with everything.

One example, maybe the least obvious. With the draw already almost sealed, Perry’s plan deep into the game to bowl short and sharp to Elwiss, made for great viewing – made me smile, in fact. Digging it in to try to prompt some fear or anger or reaction from the batter; this after the bowler has spent a lifetime batting herself. Impressive, hearty.

At one stage hopes were raised as Elwiss rather weakly patted one over her shoulder towards deep backward square. No joy, but great, great effort from the Australian superstar.

Perversely, perhaps, given all the talk around dourness, I also enjoyed (on this occasion) England’s boldness re their use of the sweep. Although there will be a certain level of flak going their way due to the dullish nature of their rearguard action, England strategically used the sweep, if not to aggressively counter, then to ask a polite question or two. Knight in particular used the shot to make a wee statement about confidence, deliver the occasional boundary and force changes in the field.

The attendance – 12,674 over the four days – was also encouraging, without being a triumph.

Many if not most of them will have queued for Perry’s autograph after those final handshakes but I hope some supporters sought out Wellington, too. She’s been good to watch, really turned the ball. As she flipped them out and over and down, the threat never really went away, the frisson never really died, even on a lifeless pitch.

Through to the final session she got edges – thick and thin – which might have yielded wickets. When Wellington develops some variations (which she surely will) the young leggie will be both a force and a profound source of entertainment, for years to come.

Having criticised her previously I’m pleased to report I liked too, the work with the bat from Knight. Firstly with her quality and circumspection – under real pressure, remember – then, late in the game, sensing she might even nick a test century! As the universe nodded off, Jonassen was suddenly dispatched for a couple of emphatic fours, bringing up 75 for the Western Storm skipper… and it seemed, briefly, that her eyes twinkled. (Knight finished unbeaten, on 79.)

This threatened to lead, in fact, to a discordantly spicy conundrum. As we entered the negotiable final hour at 8.30p.m. local, it appeared that Knight disagreed with an instruction from the boundary to carry on – this being technically possible.

Minutes later, as the captains shook hands on a draw, we could only speculate on what was said by England Coach Mark Robinson. Did he want to grind the tired Aussie bowlers down as well as offer Knight the opportunity to chase a rare ton? Would he be that mean? Who knows?

Finally, us Poms laughed more or less good-naturedly at the inevitable Ozziness of Megan Schutt being affectionately known as Shooter. (Accent required: if you missed it, Shooter/Shoodah hung in there for a crucial 1 not out, in the Perry 200 story.) Bless.

Resting, before acting.

I’m not much of an actor but I have been resting; between performances, or bundles of performances.

Pretentious? Moi? Well, that’s kindof what our sessions in schools are; more-or-less theatrical projections or expressions of strategy, policy, faith in our sport. And I have been waiting for the next launch, the next tour of our Community Cricket show to begin, so it’s felt like a rather welcome lay-off as well as a time to gather, before going again.

As I guess there must be for the average thesp, so there’s a weirdly seductive tension around my own downtime. Part of this arises from the fever going on in the background, as a discreet fury of discussion over strategy rises or rages to its conclusions. It feels as threatening as it does exciting. It feels big.

I mean of course the ECB/Chance to Shine/All Stars/Player Pathway stuff that has occupied the lives of most Cricket Development people over the last two years or more. The Seminally (Semenally?) Sexy Questions about how cricket needs to be, to be bubble-burstingly present for the next generation.

Hard to imagine? The sweeptastic revolutions on the pitch being mirrored by off-the-fullest-run-imaginable stylee pow-wows for admin staff and cricket people at all levels?

It’s been happening. It’s been spicy – and probably, I’m guessing still is – but given the preciousness of the raw material and the (honestly!) radical nature of some of the ECB proposals, no surprises that opinions might veer towards the antagonistic.

I’m at arms length from most of this, admittedly, being Coach rather than Development Officer. But I’m close enough to know that massive calls are being or have been made on everything from player pathways to All Stars to Coach Education. Big Stuff around the recreational game. Big Stuff around re-inforcing the rationale and execution of All Stars. Big Investments in change; a) because the belief is change is right and b) because the confident expectation is that there will be money. All this llus arguably Even Bigger Stuff in relation to the professional game, which I will all but ignore, here.

Year 2 All Stars is almost upon us. If you’re not clear what this is or means, here’s a view, or review, of some of the whats and whys.

All Stars Cricket is the ECB headline project for young children, begun this year, enacted through clubs. For 5-8 year-olds, very much aimed at boys and girls, very often via their mums, after shedloads of research showed this was the way to attract new families into the cricket universe.

All Stars is bold and welcoming and new: it represents a break away and forward (arguably – your choice) because Matt Dwyer, the Australian guru/driver/leader-in-possession of The Rationale has a) done this successfully before (in Aus) and b) believes only this level of ambition and dynamism can keep pace with or make sense with the kaleidoscope of change around the pro game. All Stars is defiantly in your face: not just an extraordinary investment but also a considered (and therefore philosophical) commitment to breaking out from the narrow heartland of the status quo towards something simply but strikingly more popular.

I have no doubt that there are one or two key words in that last paragraph that put the beejeeebers up some good cricket folks. But there’s no going back on this. All Stars is populist, yet the powers that be (or enough of them to back it, ultimately) plainly view it as essential to delivering new blood, new impetus. Resources are flowing that way again.

However, Roadshows to support the project and answer questions were delayed: I can’t honestly tell you whether this was due to alarm bells ringing or logistical stuff re kit or accessories or what. I can tell you that in a striking departure for us Community Coaches, our work in schools (as of any minute now) will be aimed primarily at a kind of parallel All Stars course, heavily linked to the general Primary curriculum and that we will be coaching the younger age-groups – Years 1 &  2. This is significant.

In previous years, the objective was more about enthusing 7-11 year-olds for the game and ‘signposting’ them into clubs ready to receive and support a new Under 11 side. The switch of focus to All Stars at 5-8 was initially to gather a new audience earlier, compete earlier with other sports and plant the cricket flag more visibly into school playgrounds: Dwyer (not entirely wisely, in my view) openly talks about ‘winning the battle of the playgrounds’.

All Stars has always been more sophisticated than might appear at first glance – probably as a result of the huge lump of research that preceded it. Year 2 will build on this by being ver-ry savvy in relation to what Dwyer & co. have understood to be the aspirations of the broader curriculum. In other words, the crossovers between mere cricket and all manner of learning skills (over and above the obvious developments in physical literacy) are being strongly emphasised.

Cynics might fear this is driven by box-ticking rather than the joy or brilliance or undeniable value of ‘games’ in itself: it certainly appears to cosy up to contemporary notions of what’s good educationally, as opposed to what makes wonderful and enriching sport. The All Stars proponents – and I am largely though not uncritically in this camp – would say that the project can deliver Big on the physical and the educational side.

You may not believe me when I tell you that I/we Community Coaches probably do need a rest between tours: I think we do. I know I’m pouring most of the bestest, truest, most generous-personal energy I can muster into trying to light up kids (mainly) through cricket-based games. Honestly, at the end – not during, not for me anyway – you do find the battery has run a tad flat.

Right now, then, I’m waiting, before doing some re-training or further training specific to the All Stars delivery. Then I’m on it.

In fact I may start with some work with Secondary School Girls, as we’ve run a really successful Lady Taverners competition here in Pembs, for some years. If logistics allow – and there can be issues around travelling for matches or clashes with other sports – all eight of our Secondary Schools try to enter teams. I try to get round the schools to lead some sessions and encourage, as well as attending the matches themselves.

Always sounds a bit corny when some bloke says something like ‘I really do want to make girls feel like they can and should be playing cricket’ but… that’s the way I feel. Indoor, festival-type cricket can be a great way in.

Two new teams were set up last season in the Pembs Ladies League. Having led pre-2017 season training sessions, I was struck by the proper keenness and quality and pride (actually) amongst the cricketing women. I am really hopeful and optimistic that more girls will step up as the opportunities feel more real – and as the role-models become yet more visible. In all the turmoil and change, the profound development of women and girls’ cricket will surely be a constant; undeniable and undeniably good?

Over to you, Sarah Taylor, Nat Sciver…

 

 

Don’t say Knight Knight.

Must win? For England, you would think so. Six points down if they lose, Robinson’s side must collect the two points on offer at Coffs Harbour tonight or face the prospect of either utter humiliation in the series or a climb of the vertical-ascent, ropeless and in the dark variety, to make the event remotely competitive. So no hiding from the disappointments and only one way to go – upwards, onwards, with determination.

The England coach, however, does seem well-equipped to steer through challenges to his (and by implication his squad’s) resilience; it’s a word he uses a fair bit, although not entirely without that corporate-sounding vibe so prevalent in interview, these days. Whatever, it’s refreshingly and unavoidably plain that this is action time, for England.

My previous coverage suggested the differing contributions of the two captains has been important. It would be wrong, I think to overstate this but Knight’s relative passivity with the bat so far, coupled with the sense that Haynes has been arguably more proactive in the field has surely contributed to where we’re at – with the home side dominating.

The Australian skipper has impressed, with a broadly dynamic contribution, having been flung rather surprisingly into the spotlight. Haynes was fabulous with bat in hand in game two but has also been positive and intuitive around bowling changes and field placement. She has that knack of anticipating and making things happen. Gratifying for her, then, that it is widely appreciated things have gone well partly because Australia have been led well.

Schutt starts with a maiden to Winfield. Attempted in-duckers with two genuine yorkers. Then Perry gets some away swing to Beaumont, before trapping Winfield playing marginally but fatally across one on middle and leg.

Enter Taylor, who seems scrambled, early on  – playing a weak attempted ramp-shot and two horrible wafts, half-charging, outside off, in the first handful of overs. 5 for 1 after 4 overs feels like an intimidatingly good start from the home side.

It’s risky but Taylor does seem intent on a reaction – ‘breaking the shackles’.

Schutt’s going well – getting some more of that trademark inswing and finding the blockhole with regularity. Both batters do seem to happy to play through to leg (which may, as it were, use that swing) but this may bring lbw into play again. Certainly, in the first six overs, almost nothing is driven to off. With Beaumont and Taylor batting well outside the crease, Healy comes up to the sticks – initially to the out-of-sorts opener.

After 7, Beaumont has managed only 2 off 11 balls, Taylor 10 off 22, confirming the strength of the Australian start. Signs, though, that Taylor may be settling as she puts Perry away twice, in the 8th, either side of a wide and a full-toss. Next over Healy comes up to Taylor, too.

Beaumont finally strikes one from Schutt through extra for four: the outfield looks slick in the sunshine. With McGrath replacing Perry and Taylor finding another level of timing now, runs do begin to come. After 10, we are 45 for 1. Haynes responds, right on cue, by introducing Wellington.

The young leggie again drops beautifully into her full, loopy groove and concedes just the one from the over; getting a little turn in the process: great contest breaking out.

McGrath backs this up with some very full stuff, getting some away-shape as Perry had done before her. An important time as both teams wrestle for momentum: or rather Australia contest this with Taylor, as Beaumont is doing little more than hanging on in there whilst her partner takes it to the bowlers.

That is, until she throws the hands through at McGrath – clouting one straight at mid-on then the next for four over mid-wicket. Thought strikes that somebody in the contest will get big runs very quickly – not sure that will Beaumont, despite her increasing conviction. Three hundred seems do-able again, here: eleven come off  Wellington in the 15th, as England move to 73 for 1.

Jonassen replaces McGrath for the eighteenth; again you sense that Haynes has the timing of this just right. England rotate, within themselves, for four singles from the over: acceptable to both sides but merely a stalling before a further surge? Gardner replaces Wellington.

Taylor deflects Jonassen down behind square leg to reach her 50 off 55 balls: she’s been excellent, fluent and expansive, after that unconvincing start. After 20, England are 97 for 1; they break the hundred as Taylor thrashes Gardner through midwicket and the hundred partnership comes up soon after.

The visitors, then, are nicely set but the necessary ‘kicking on’ must be emphatic and sustained, you suspect, as a) the pitch is again a beauty and b) Australia have batters who can hurt you; Healy, Perry, Haynes, Gardner. Etc. A genuinely big score is imperative; could be a great game then, this.

With the opposition now having some measure of control, Haynes turns back to Schutt. Taylor reverse-sweeps her for four first up but then cuts aerially to backward point next ball. Unforced error but good captaincy again – huge moment. Now, can Knight maintain or build the momentum of the innings? Previously, she’s failed to do that.

Beaumont’s contribution continues to develop – albeit slowly. She has 43 off 66 – good enough for a supporting role but England will need her either to change gear or bat through whilst Knight and possibly Sciver really launch. Perry returns for the 26th and Beaumont continues to pick out the fielders. 133 for 2 and now more from Wellington.

Beaumont gets to a determined fifty: both she and her captain have the necessary experience to read the game situation and judge what the target should be. For me, looking at the strip, outfield and the (un)likelihood of England taking bundles of wickets, they have to be going over 300.

Jonassen contributes to the surge by dropping short twice and getting duly punished. Eleven come from the 30th as England get to 160.

Knight and Beaumont are comfortable but not yet explosive, at drinks on the 32 over mark. They are running well and rotating notably coolly, given the heat and that series pressure. Strike rates are decent – meaning 70-80% – and there have been few false-shots, until Beaumont mistimes one over the keeper from Wellington.

It’s absolutely the kind of platform England would have aspired to. So when? When will they go boom? Or will they decide that just the one of them goes? My reservations against Knight – who, let’s be clear, is a quality player and is batting well now – centre on exactly this kind of scenario. Is she bold enough, free enough to make the decisive bolt for glory?

Whilst I contemplate this one, Beaumont is slightly freakishly stumped, falling forward. Great work, from Healy but does this change the situation vis a vis that target? Hardly.  Hardly, that is, until the impressive Schutt cleans out Sciver.

The question around Knight daring to (as the hashtag said) #goboldly (enough) may be becoming less relevant as England transit from 192 for 3, to 200 for 4 and crisis looms.

Ah. It becomes 201 for 5 as Fran Wilson is given lbw to a peach of a yorker from Perry. Sadly for her, she edged it. 3 wickets have fallen for 9 runs – a horror show for England.

All of this may relieve the captain from the responsibility of leading the charge – or a prolonged charge. It feels spookily clear right now – 01.47 a.m. Pembrokeshire time – that Australia will again go on and win this and that the series may be gone. Just do not see Knight plundering enough runs quickly enough from here or leading a dismantling of the Australian batting. Pitch is too good, Australia are too good and Knight is insufficiently inspirational to overthrow the odds. It’s over.

All this may sound unwise or unfair when followed by the fact that Knight has (at this moment) made 50 from 54 balls. Still I stand by it, miserablist or not.

England are 234 for 5 after 43. A brilliant finish gets them to 300, still but 280 is more likely. My gut feeling is that even though this would be a half-decent total, Australia would get 320 on this strip, today, if necessary. Hence the Morrissey-like disposition. Did I say, by the way, Brunt just holed-out to Perry?

So let’s examine this negativity. Part of it is around Haynes’s dynamism trumping Knight’s relative lack of spark. In addition, my hunch is that Shrubsole and Brunt may not do quite the damage (in Australia) that Schutt and Perry will or have done. Plus – despite her lack of wickets – I reckon Wellington is the best spin bowler on the two sides…

Knight strikes the first six of the innings, going powerfully over straight midwicket.

First ball of the 49th and Gunn is caught behind by Healy, who is standing up to Schutt. Early candidate for player of the series, the squat-then-run-in seamer finishes with 4 for 34. Shrubsole is then taken by Schutt, in the outfield, off Jonassen for 1.

Knight finishes on 88 from 80. I can’t fault her for that. Disproportionately, for me, the Aus commentators on BT Sport talk up the ‘pressure on Australia’: it’s clearly a goodish score… but surely 40 short of where it might be – where it needed to be.

There is unforeseen rain during the break.

Brunt inevitably opens up for England. Healy cracks her powerfully through the covers for four. Shrubsole then draws a sloppy cut from the wicketkeeper-batter but Wilson fails to take a regulation catch at point… ouch.

(Note that it was raining… then insert own cliche about ‘taking every chance’).

Brunt is getting some shape away but Healy smoothes her over mid-on then through extra cover for successive fours. Impressive timing, impressively bold.

Bolton gets in on the act with four but it’s her partner who’s making the statement here. She races to 25 from 33 for 0 after 5 overs. Will Knight change something early?

Bolton, pushing hard, edges towards but short of third man. It may be that the aggression of the batters could be more of a threat than the bowling – not because the bowling is especially wayward but because the boldness is pret-ty remarkable. Knight does withdraw Brunt, for Gunn but rain reappears: could be better for the visitors than the home side, who are racing away…

After a break of forty minutes or so, we have a revised target of 278 off 48 overs, which, as we go again, feels like it makes little difference. Gunn continues. Healy again wastes no time in lifting one carefully to the midwicket boundary. It’s great cricket; positive but not wild; challenging. At the 8 over mark, Australia are 46 for 0.

Shrubsole is bowling reasonably tightly but there seems no threat, until Bolton misreads a single badly and offers Danii Wyatt (on for the injured Beaumont) a viable shy at the stumps. Missed. Similarly, Healy almost gifts Gunn her wicket by spooning one towards mid-off. It may, to be fair, have stuck slightly in the pitch. The flow of runs has checked very slightly but Australia are 63 for 0 after 11- so bossing it.

Ecclestone replaces Shrubsole but starts with a rank full toss. She gets away with that but not with the third, slanted well down leg and dismissed.

Gunn continues. She may contain but will she take wickets? Not convinced and England need a break. Healy reaches 50 off 44. Gunn does get one to lift and cut away from Bolton but only gains the dot ball.

Ecclestone flights the ball nicely but lacks turn and therefore threat, tonight. Healy, in the 14th decides to put her away. Holding her form superbly, the Australian creams her left and right; Knight has to act and next over, Ecclestone is withdrawn in favour of Hartley.

Sciver replaces Gunn – good, from Knight. Just 3 from the over. *That picture* in my head – that Australian will win, with something to spare – remains but as Sciver puts down a sharp chance at midwicket, the universe reminds us that this is not over. Australia get to 100 off 18.4 overs.

England need a period of pressure. Hartley and Sciver suggest they may just offer that: the game is statistically closer – Aus 108 for 0 where England were 106 for 1 at 21 overs completed – and there is the sense that the batters, maybe for the first time, feel cramped.

Bolton, this time, breaks out, with two fours off Hartley but Healy, in trying to follow suit – rather unecessarily(?) – is caught by Brunt in the outfield. That’s the good news for our lot. The bad news is the incoming bat is Perry.

Bolton, absurdly for this potentially key moment, swooshes hard at Sciver towards midwicket. Gunn misjudges it: it was catchable, she parries it away. Poor cricket all round and another low-point for England, whose fielding is moving into the dodgy-to-embarrassing spectrum now. Brunt will come in to bowl the 25th.

A warning comes in via social media that more rain is heading in: in fact we have no further interruptions.

Bolton has drifted into a strange phase of her innings, despite having gathered fifty. She may be trying too hard to bully the rate: the result is a series of mishits which may contribute to Perry’s slow start. There may be edginess.

Brunt is going well – tight and with variation. However even she offers a shortish one just outside leg, which Bolton accepts. The opener finally does run out of luck though, when miscuing Ecclestone – this time fatally – to mid-on. It’s been an important but rather dysfunctional innings, yielding 62 important but hardly stylish runs.

Perry has 19 from 28 when Villani joins her in the 30th. Are there more signs of nerves, when the former lofts Shrubsole rather weakly towards mid-off… but escapes?

The superstar quick and number three goes soon after, caught – just – by a weirdly wooden-looking Gunn. Not sure if the England veteran didn’t see the ball ’til late; whatever, it was another oddish submission suggestive of tension in both camps. 106 are needed of 93 deliveries. Enter the captain. (To prove my theory, right?)

Now we do get weird. Villani offers more catching practice to Winfield at deep mid-off… and she’s gone. Poor, poor match sense from Australia to be going aerial so often when the moment is so charged. I did not think they would give England a sniff. I still think England’s total was markedly short. Alex Blackwell, with an astonishing 250 games to her credit, has joined Haynes to try to sort out the mess. 104 from 83 needed; can Australia gather?.

Sciver returns and backs up the previous wicket maiden (Hartley’s) with a maiden. Meaning England are really battling. We enter the powerplay but the runrate required has just topped 8. Sciver has bowled 5 overs for 11. I do not mind if my earlier,confident prediction of a straight-forward and series-defining win for Australia turns to poop. I really do not.

In the previous game at this ground, Haynes batted superbly and aggressively; she found a higher level: she has to find that again.

Hartley dives over one in the 38th – concedes four. Then Sciver claims the wicket of Haynes, attempting to clear the midwicket boundary – Brunt coolly taking the catch.

England become strong favourites – my favourites, even! Gardner, who can hit, as we’ve seen in Brisbane, has joined Blackwell but the flow is truly against them, extraordinarily. As we enter the 40th over, with Gunn’s slow medium-pacers denying pace off the ball, the required runrate is 8.8 and rising again.

The stats on telly are showing that after that stunning start, the Australians failed to build. Despite England gifting them three or four lives, scoring stalled and continued to stall. Without being unplayably good, the England attack ground away. Shrubsole and Brunt were okaaaay rather than threatening, Sciver and Hartley good.

Hartley claims a third wicket – that of Jonassen – caught and bowled. Blackwell, with all her experience, remains, but she has looked doughty and skilled rather than explosive. Australia need explosive. By the time McGrath and Blackwell get themselves to the last (48th) over, they need the small matter of 31 runs. Blackwell picks out Sciver off Gunn, Taylor stumps Wellington brilliantly and Australia finish on 257 for 9.

Is it ironic then that the strategic boldness exemplified by Healy, early doors, proved so costly? She broke open the game, or so it seemed, chiefly by going over the top – straight or wide. She steered the ball around the place to bring England’s total back into sharp focus. (Of course it was good but by no means inviolable).

Healy’s team members did not necessarily all freeze, but there was some brain-freeze out there. Too many blows into the outfield lacked direction or real power or both. Or they were played at manifestly the wrong time. England could then build on that profligacy.

Knight led with the bat and managed in the field. The series – alleilujah! – is alive and the England skipper’s role… was key.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fun with Space and Time.

When I watched Moeen cart the Windies for 61 off 14 deliveries in Bristol and Gayle smash Ball in Southampton, the sense that something wonderfully unavoidable had happened was unavoidable. Admittedly we were in silly season – Ingerland in the autumn, with the visitors surely neck-deep in thermals – but did this account, in any way, for the co-bubbling of fate and freakishness? I think not.

In both cases I was privileged to be right behind the unlucky bowlers’ arms – behind the lustrous glass of the Media Centre – having mildly subverted the seating plan so as to maximise the seeing-and-explaining quotient: hopefully. Lil’ ole brilliant me, easing my way into that totemic roost to savour, discern, dismantle and demystify the event better than everybody, because I have The View That Makes This Possible.

Don’t hold your breath, people.

I’m not exactly sure where the respective coaches were, during these timeless, chartless, thrillingly renegade moments. I’m guessing either raising a discreet hipflask or patting cold, co-old water against their ashen cheeks, depending on their batting/receiving status. Or lost, fumbling for some cosmic but transferable truth. Something in the moment lurched or levered us towards dumb, ecstatic diversions – but from where, or to where?

Slap! Time bent! Kaboom! Things redefined. Now fetch that ball please?

I’m wondering about fields of influence, here: also – what were the coaches thinking? And were these developments actually developments – from what did they actually spring?

But back to the coaches. Were they exploding in rage at the mind-boggling, plan-defying incompetence of their miserable, ungrateful pie-chuckers… or (miraculously) doing some eye-rolling, centre-testing ce sera? Were they even watching – could they watch it all through live – or did they slink off, sighing, accepting or determined, towards their branded lap-tops?

Actually, they may have made notes – I’m sure they did – on every ball punished; this being the difference between the level they work at and most of us.

Sure, later, foolish to rule out a secretive flick through the ECB/WICB manuals in search of half-remembered buttresses around Player Ownership: paragraph six, Problem Solving – down to them. Or meetings where nothing was said.

Dealing with the runaway moment is a profoundly philosophical challenge: the coach might recall and indeed be comfitted by this widely accepted notion – that players must execute, must own, must accept that ‘coaching is not about answering’. It’s players who do the playing.

Bayliss or Farbrace or Radford or Simmons or Springer or Law, Estwick or Einstein. Excuse the pun but no matter – no matter whom: each and every one useless, hopeless, atomised – as were we all – irrelevant, in the warp of the event. Moeen decided what would happen. As did Gayle.

The England man was in a rich vein of form, which helps. He is a beautiful striker of the ball but in interview after the Bristol game, claimed not to see himself as a bringer of undeniable, match-winning carnage.

Grounded, humble, Moeen is good on the self-awareness front; he knows he tends to be a threat of the groovicious variety; that he makes strokes more often than he explodes.

Initially, he was doing the day job, alongside Chris Woakes, England having revisited their tendency for gifting clutches of wickets: Moeen with that responsible head on, with an agreeably stoic partner, quietly rescuing.

Looking back, the fact that the word ‘circumspect’ was used in the press to describe how Ali’s subsequently historically outrageous innings began, seems appropriately ludicrous. Thirty-nine in thirty-nine balls, as rebuild mode was dutifully engaged, following the about-par-for-England loss of three wickets for eleven runs.

At Southampton a few days later I again found my way into the perfect spot, by now slightly curious as to why other, senior scribes seem so ambivalent towards magisterial stump-to-stump-hood; when it seems a denial of the most fundamental privilege to be seated anywhere else.

(I pictured either a ruthless policing of the accommodation or some Media Cool that I am as yet unaware of. Turns out that most journos simply watch reasonably well… but then turn to the TV screens left and right to check for turn, appeals, seam, etc. Hope I never lose the naïve compulsion to froth from on high, straight, straight in line).

Windies batted first at the Ageas; meaning some bloke called Gayle. Meaning also a fabulous test for the likes of Ball and Curran – the latter making his debut. However, it was the taller-bouncier former who opened up, almost certainly in the knowledge that I was immediately above and behind, monitoring like a twitchy but medium-scholarly hawk.

Ball I hope won’t mind me saying that he is relatively inexperienced, at this level. In a curvaceous, duplicitous, space-bent universe the allegation that he had played, before this game, just the fifteen One-Day Internationals might pass for a fact. At the moment the inevitably altitudinous young man first raced in towards Gayle, I have to confess I was unaware of this number: I’m not that big on numbers.

I watched Ball intently and continued to do so, throughout his spells. Partly because this was an obvious test of how he is in the environment, partly because I was a bowler (at a distressingly lower level) and partly because the whole Ball equation here was loaded to the max with Gayleness.

Dear reader, it may not surprise you to learn that I am no scientist: and yet I do wonder. Especially when prompted (by my son) towards the deep, dark, black-holed mysteries personified and neatly packaged into the seminal ‘Seven Brief Lessons on Physics’ – this being a sort of fine convenience store of a place where staggeringly heavy stuff can be swept trolley-wards in (ahem) relatively good time.

(Did you guess? I’ve been doing precisely this kind of shopping around now).

Consequently it occurs to me that there are correlations both broad and specific between the General Theory of Relativity and what Gayle and Moeen did. Let me deal with a specific one first.

Einstein proved time at height travels marginally more swiftly than time at sea-level. Ball is twelve foot seven. No wonder then, that his contribution in Southampton was shredded by Forces Beyond His Control.

I will return to this (probably) after sharing the following general observation, from the rear cover of Carlo Rovelli’s extraordinary book, as though it translates across, uniting in glorious revelation our Moeen/Ball/Gayle/Einstein Axes.

‘By God, it’s beguiling!’ – Michael Brooks, New Statesman.

The Ageas, first over. Ball to Gayle. Crowd keyed, batsman waiting. Nottinghamshire’s finest bounds in, puppyish but also committed. Repeatedly, the ball skits or pads pretty much exactly where the bowler would want. There is an incremental incidence void. Gayle defends, defends, before being comprehensively beaten by an absolute pearler – the fifth – which gets unplayably lively from that killer length. Then more justified caution – and a maiden.

Those of you who follow these things will of course know that Gayle, despite the reputation for vulcanism, is quite prepared (well-prepared, in fact) to wait. Tempting but reprehensible then, to assume that his nation as a whole or Gayle in particular may be preparation-averse, or in some way less sharp than England or Australia when it comes to planning. Just read around.

The West Indies have been ahead of the game. The carving folks about has been less ‘instinctive’ than you think. Gayle and Hope and Lewis are as stat-aware and marginal gains/run-rate savvy as anyone. As noted elsewhere, white-ball cricket has become their currency.

So maybe no dramas, for Gayle to simply hold, when the first over from Ball is commendably lively and accurate. The record will show that the Universe Boss can and will wait.

At The Ageas, the opening four overs from Ball and Curran yielded but nine runs to Hope and Gayle. The combination of goodish bowling and circumspection from the batsmen should on reflection have been neither the surprise nor minor disappointment it was received as. The crowd’s readiness for intensity was merely stalled.

Back at Bristol, Moeen’s gone beyond big. He’s gone beyond any previously-known ‘zone’. With the crowd utterly participant – and yet irrelevant, like the bowler, the moon and the stars – he follows some flow, ‘keeps his shape’, re-invents or slashes through to something new and deeper. Cummins and Holder merely feed the narrative.

Earlier, Cummins had bowled Root with a peach and seemed to be finding something. Yet Moeen dismissed him and his captain as though the Windies process was mindless. As though they weren’t scrambling through a repertoire of deeply considered defensive options – Death Bowling Brought Forward.

But what were or are the options? When there is very little help from that dull, white ball?

Laser-guided Yorkers, straight or wide. Variations. Taking some pace off, trying for some cut. Sudden venom; bluff. Percentages – knowing where Moeen is likely to hit – so field placement; then bowling to that field. Looking in-cred-ibly hard at the foot movement, reading the pre-meditation. In the age of T20 (and the laptop) international teams are covering and knowing this stuff like never before.

Anyone who has seen and heard Holder in interview will know his side are unlikely to be short of an intelligent voice. Yes, flusteration might have taken hold but there is time, between deliveries, for re-commitment to plans or discussion and re-focus.

Moeen smashed all of this consideration into the middle of next week. True, Root and Stokes may have been instrumental, in their partnership of 132, towards his stunning acceleration: had they not provided the platform, blah di blah. But the fella from Brum created his own event.

Things went pear-shaped for Ball but it was different. Or was it?

The universe knew that the longer its boss was forced to wait, the surer it was that boom-time would come. Somewhere something triggers and Gayle, miscuing, clubs one over midwicket before battering one straight for six. I note both that one delivery is clearly but marginally over-pitched and that there is an ‘utter energy change, irrespective’.

Curran is less heavily targeted. Ball retains the responsibility from beneath me but is heaved over extra, first delivery in the next, then top-edged for four. The plainly unfit Windies talisman has burst through to 40 (out of 52) by the end of the seventh over, dismissing the ball at will to the boundary.

Curran eventually has Gayle caught, superbly but in the finger-ends, by Plunkett.

Ball’s initial five over spell defies characterisation; he opened up brightly and with discipline and he may not have strayed far from that. The lines between him straying into the batsman’s natural arc and not were lost in the mercifully temporary evisceration. It felt, during the barrage, that the batsman (for it was a one-man assault) had simply chosen a moment from which to launch – as opposed to an individual, or individual delivery, to persecute.

Gayle’s was an all-out, conceptual explosion in the sense that every ball would receive the same brutal treatment with barely an ‘unless’ in sight.

This is not to entirely exonerate Ball. Though I liked his continued commitment and apparently unwavering spirit, he offered just a few here and there – and was punished, crazy-disproportionately at times, because.

With specialist knowledge and specialist coaching and the scope these days to practice almost endlessly the death (or power-play) skills, a worldie of a thrash might be expected, predicted and prepared for. Particularly, of course, when Christopher Henry Gayle is amongst the chief protagonists. Cricket provides for almost every indulgence.

Brathwaite knew a lot about what Stokes would do in that ecstatic car-crash in Kolkata – and vice-versa. Cummins and Holder are pret-ty familiar with Moeen and Ball with Gayle. Much has been anticipated and rehearsed. How fabulous that despite the wonders and luxuries of cricket science it can be true and real and undeniable, when bat is swung, that all considerations become an irrelevance.

Ball: 10 overs, 1 maiden, 1 for 94.

Gayle: 40 off 29.

Moeen Ali: 102 off 57.