Cook’s Last Test As Captain?

2-1 up. India utterly broken; plenty of runs at Southampton… “Role on Australia!”. Etc.

Let’s start this off by stating that England will probably win this Test. India don’t win Tests away from home very often, let alone get series’ results – and make no mistake, a drawn series here would be a huge result for a young Indian side.

However the big picture still doesn’t add up for Cook. By my reckoning this is the most likely Test for a captaincy change since the loss to Sri Lanka, and it feels almost as likely for it as the final Test of the drubbing Down Under did. If India manage to summon the spirit they showed just two Tests ago, and England again fold under pressure, I think it *will* be Cook’s last.

The sacking might not come immediately. In fact at this stage I would imagine it probably wouldn’t – the ECB have invested a fair amount in Cook, and a 2-2 draw is poor – but not necessarily that poor.

However what then comes next would be next to insurmountable for any England captain, let alone a man of Cook’s abilities. Even Cook’s best form still isn’t really suited to one day cricket. Even if he scores lots of runs in the World Cup, he’ll score them at a rate too slowly to be match-winning; and possibly at a rate which is match-losing. His captaincy won’t defy expectations in the field; his off-the-cuff intuition for the game is one of his weakest points. He doesn’t react naturally to things which deviate from the set plan, and the bowling attack at his disposal is going to be pretty poor – Anderson and Broad can only bowl 40% of the overs in ODI cricket.

If England have a nightmare World Cup – and I cannot remember the last time they had anything else, Cook will surely be removed from his post for the 50 over format with immediate effect. If they’re considering his role in ODIs, they will surely also cast a long glance at his record in Tests – which could theoretically look like this:

  • No Test centuries for 33 innings
  • Three Test series without victory, including hosting two ‘weak’ subcontinental sides
  • Complete disintegration of Strauss’s successful side

This is why the Oval could be Cook’s final act as Test captain. So it is now over to you, India. All you have to do is turn up.

English Test Century Makers since May 2013

  1. Sam Robson
  2. Gary Ballance
  3. Joe Root
  4. Ian Bell
  5. Jos Buttler
  6. Moeen Ali
  7. Ben Stokes
  8. Kevin Pietersen
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The Rising Cost Of Test Cricket

There have been a couple of excellent articles from people outside cricket (TheFullToss and Dmitri) regarding the attendances at the recent Test matches held in England, published alongside some excellent comments BTL which are worth a read too. Graeme Swann presumed people paid “about twenty quid” to watch a day at the cricket – given I paid £60 for a ticket at the Rose Bowl last week, and face value was £65 for an unremarkable view at Lords the week before, Swann was only “about” 200% wrong.

So I thought I would do a bit of research into ticket prices over the years. The method was unscientific: in the absence of any actual data, I have gone on random online ticket stubs. The results were not surprising: obviously inflation means that costs *should* rise. But by this much? By my reckoning, they’ve increased 33% in the past 5 years.

1. 1984. The West Indies at the peak of their powers. Lords, the home of champagne. Ticket cost: £7.50.

The Lords Member’s tie colours went particularly well with the Doc Martins in the 1980s. They were oft spotted in the stands trying to work out their Rubix cube’s.

2. 1991. The West Indies still pretty much the best side on the globe. Edgbaston, England’s second city; the home of Ashley Giles. Ticket price: £12.

Just seven years later in 1991, ticket prices had increased by 160%. This caused cricket fans’ jaws to collapse quicker than the Soviet Union.

3. 2001 Australia at the peak of their powers. The economy at the peak of it’s biggest boom period since the post-war period; even Manchester is thriving. Ticket price: £34.

Another 10 years; 2001. Ticket prices go up the best part of 300%. Al-Qaeda respond by plotting 09/11.

4. 2004. The declining West Indies rock up to The Oval (the home of Mark Ramprakash).  Cricket is still on terrestrial TV. Ticket cost: £40.

2004. A mere £6 rise in three years. Ronald Reagan so shocked that he, erm, dies.

5. 2008. South Africa, consistently one of the best two sides in the world for the previous decade, visit the home of Neil Carter. Cricket is being funded by SKY, for SKY. Ticket Price: £45.

2008. Question to ebayers…why on earth would anyone want a ticket stubb from this Test? Or for that matter, any Test? It’s weird. Anyway, the cost went up another fiver across four years until this Test.

So since in the five years from 2008 to present, there has been the biggest rise in ticket prices since the 1990s, up just a fraction over 133%. I won’t post too many conclusions, but let’s just say that this increase coincides with the ECB creating the horrific ‘bidding process’ – which basically aims to squeeze every last drop from the County grounds hosting the matches, and the County grounds in turn have to squeeze every last drop from the paying fans. Thanks ECB! Again…

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Test Three – The Saafampton Bowl

The last time I found myself at the Rose Bowl, Aaron Finch bludgeoned his way to a world record 156 in an international T20 match, and England, in spite of posting 200+ themselves in the chase, found themselves falling rather short. It was Finch’s greatest innings to date, and one suspects it’ll retain that mantle for the rest of his career.

It wasn’t the first Australian ‘innings for the ages’ I have been witness to; I was there for Michael Clarke’s elegant treble against India at the SCG, as well as a brutal 160* from Shane Watson against England in an ODI in Melbourne which saw Australia chase down a record total. Three Australian batsmen, performing the greatest acts of their lives, in front of a miserable and bitter Janner, sat there wishing them to fail.

I honestly can’t remember much from English batsmen that would compare to any of these three knocks that I have seen live – I certainly don’t think I’ve seen a “career definer” of an innings like the three above, though.

Actually that’s a lie – “I WUZ THERE” for Samit Patel’s 5fer against the South Africans in an ODI at the Oval in 2008. Err, yes that is right: some people get to see Bell’s and Trescothick’s double tons, KP 150s, Vaughan in Adelaide, etc, and I get fat Samit’s five-for in a bleddy One Day International – (“scalps”: Ntini, Boucher, Morkel, Morkel and Botha). Harumph. I think it’s time to take this post back to Finch and the Rose Bowl:

Since that day in late August last summer, England’s record is not so grand: beaten 1-2 in the following ODI series at home, then  rotten tour Down Under which saw 0-5 in the “Return Ashes”, 1-4 in the ODI series and 0-3 in the T20 series. A patchy tour of the West Indies (a 2-1 series win and a 1-2 series loss) was the warm-up to a shocking World Cup (W1, L3) which of course included humiliation at the hands of the Netherlands. Edging desperately home to English conditions didn’t help; series’ losses to Sri Lanka is Tests (0-1), T20 (0-1) and ODIs (2-3) and we are now facing a (0-1) reverse at home to India.

W8-L27 – not a pretty stat. I could include the one off fixtures against Ireland and Scotland; if I were a Cook/ECB fan I probably would. It still wouldn’t make good reading, though.

As for tomorrow, there might be a spot of rain about. It has threatened to hum it down all week here in a very humid and warm Hampshire. It hasn’t done so yet, though. No doubt saving itself for mid-morning tomorrow.

The Rose/Ageas/Pudding Bowl tends to play true and reasonably fast – Finch’s knock wouldn’t have been achievable at Lords. Thus unless there’s extremely good overhead conditions for swing I’d back the side batting first to score runs. Whoever bats second will probably score runs too. Third and fourth might be slightly trickier, but only slightly. If there is a winner it’ll be down to which side collapses unnecessarily worse, but the verdict must be for a draw.

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Photos From Lords

Vijay taking evasive action from an Anderson bouncer

Vijay taking evasive action from an Anderson bouncer

Jadeja hooking...spot the ball?

Jadeja hooking…spot the ball?

Kumar's impenetrable defence

Kumar’s impenetrable defence

Sam Robson. Nothing to say about this shot other than my timing was shocking.

Sam Robson. Nothing to say about this shot other than my timing was shocking.

The man of the hour; Ishant Sharma

The man of the hour; Ishant Sharma

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A Trip To Lords

Tomorrow. It’s my birthday. Well done her – much better than the usual codswallop she gets me on these occasions.

Naturally this means I hope today gets completely rained out and the extra time is made up when I’m actually there. Weather forecast for this scenario looks promising.

Considering making a sign to take and get myself exposure on TV:

#FreeCook

#RootForSkip

#£20ticketLOL

#lashedasBallance

#hashtagwanker

Who am I kidding – like I’m even remotely bothered enough to make a sign. Also going to see Jeeves and Wooster in the theatre this eve. Not really my bag, but, I have it in my head they like cricket.

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Goodbye to Mike Selvey

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Yet Another Hypothetical Cricket XI

The Worst XI Where Every Player Has Made A Minimum Of Ten Test Centuries

> Ashwell Prince

>Mike Gatting

>Ijaz Ahmed

>Nasser Hussain (c)

>Ramnaresh Sarwan

>Nathan Astle

>Alec Stewart (wk)

>Thilan Samaraweera

>Ian Botham (new ball bowler)

>Paul Collingwood (new ball bowler)

>Carl Hooper (frontline spinner)

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