Cricket / test match
I Told You So!
So this is what it must feel like to be my wife! All the nagging and whining and knowing that you are right about everything all the time. It's a wonderful buzz I have to tell you. Now if only I can find a way of transferring it from the world of analysing cricket matches into my everyday home life - therein lies the real challenge! So England have finally managed to work out how to play Test Match cricket again. You would have thought that after 1000 matches played across the best part of a century and a half they'd not need too much reminding about the fundamentals of what makes a successful team in the longest form of the game. But then I guess if you were to pick up any newspaper this morning you'd probably see that the human race has an uncanny knack of being able to repeat the mistakes of the past ad nauseam and cricket doesn't appear to be any different. My major gripes about the England team since I started posting on Scorum in July have revolved aroundA lack of quality opening batsmen The unwillingness of the coaches and selectors to pick a recognised number 3 batsman The vast quantities of attack-minded batsmen in the side at the expense of players with a bit more durability at the crease The failings of Joe Root as a captain Terrible catching A lack of variety in the bowling attack or at least the inability to select the correct line-up to suit the conditions All of the above have contributed towards England losing matches over the past 12 months including the catastrophic failures that occurred in the first 2 Tests of the series with the West Indies where all the above shortcomings were evident. However, at least for the recently completed 3rd Test in the Caribbean, England seem to have heeded my words of advice and in doing so completed a very comfortable win. Here's what changed ..... A Solid Top 3 Leads to Runs for the Middle Order Strokemakers While they only added 69 for the first 3 wickets in the first innings of the 3rd Test, it was obvious that England had finally decided to knuckle down and actually look to see off the new ball. Rory Burns was the chief blunter of the attack on this occasion with a patient 29 from 103 balls. Both he and Joe Denly will have been disappointed to have gotten out after reaching the 20s but in truth, there was enough movement in the air and off the surface on day 1 to keep the bowlers interested throughout and as such their main task was to see England through that 1st session relatively unscathed. What happened next is perhaps the biggest breakthrough since we discovered that 1+1 does indeed equal 2. Once the new ball had been seen off and the bowlers had a few overs in their legs, batting became easier! (the sounds of gasps echo around the room) Off the back of this major discovery Jos Buttler and Ben Stokes were able to play disciplined but fluent innings and while England will be disappointed to have lost their final 6 wickets for 45 runs, you always felt that a score of 277 was slightly above par on a wicket that continued to nip around. Getting ahead of the game has been a real struggle for England in recent times and as such this kind of gritty performance should serve them well in matches to come. Changes to the Bowling Attack & England take their Catches It was a bold move for England to drop the 2 young Surrey players in Sam Curran and Ben Foakes. They have both made match-winning contributions since they came into the side last year and I'm sure we'll see plenty more from them in the future although it must have been a bitter pill to swallow for 2 guys who can't be accused of under-performing in their brief careers to date. While Foakes removal allowed for an additional top order batsman to be played, dropping Curran meant that there was a place for Mark Wood. In my previous blog, I was a little uncertain as to whether Wood would really be the kind of bowler that would make an impact in the series given his time away from the Test arena and injury problems of late. However, he proved my doubts to be unfounded with a blistering spell of bowling on the 2nd Day that led to him claiming his first 5 wicket haul in Test cricket that put England into a position of dominance that they never looked likely to give up. Backing up the bowlers, we finally saw the England fielders take a few catches! Up until this point in the tour, England appeared to be playing with a bar of soap such was the frequency with which they let slip golden opportunities to take key wickets. However, in this match a few sharp grabs in the slips and gully region were followed up by an absolute worldy by Stuart Board who for a 6ft 4' fast bowler showed fantastic agility to pick a lofted ball out of the sky when it looked for all intensive purposes like it would lob over the top of him. That helped Wood reach his milestone and there was genuine delight for him amongst the England players. Wood has always come across as a very likeable and bubbly character and but for a spate of injuries, I'm sure he would have made more Test appearances for England. In a weird coincidence, I actually wrote my very first blog on a blockchain about Mark Wood almost exactly a year ago. Of, course the post got absolutely zero attention because I had absolutely no idea how to go about promoting my work in the strange world of steemit but it does show that with a little persistence and a willingness to learn you can gain some recognition, especially here on Scorum. Joe Root Shows Maturity in More than just his Batting The major frustration with Joe Root is that you know he is a world class player trapped inside the mind of a very good player. He needs to find that hunger for runs that the absolute best have so that he has more days like he did in this Test in completing his and England's only hundred of the tour. Root's innings was similar to some of Virat Kohli's recent performances particularly those against England this summer where he decided to pack away his ego and leave the flashy drives through the covers alone. Let the bowlers toil out there all day long if they like, they'll get bored or tired or bowl a bad ball and that's where you cash in as a batsman. Of course, having already lost the series the pressure was really on Root both as a player and the captain. A few months ago I started to put together a blog looking at the records of England captains and considering why it is that their indvidual performances seem to drop off once being handed the big job, perhaps I need to revisit that piece. Again Root only needs to look at his peers Steve Smith and Virat Kohli to see that international captaincy has actually improved their records as a player. Could this be a landmark innings for Root the batsman/captain? Root also came in for praise in regards the stance he took against West Indies bowler Shannon Gabriel who used the term "gay" as an insult when sledging the England captain during his 5 hour innings. While the stump mic can't pick up what was said by Gabriel the England captain's response to the taunt is clearly audible as he tells the West Indies quick "don't use it as an insult, there is nothing wrong with being gay". I'm sure Root has had worse in his career and it would have been easy for him to ignore such a throwaway comment but credit to him for saying enough is enough despite the obvious problems with homophobia that exist in almost all professional sports. The questions now remain for Root, his team and the selectors as to whether this Test match victory can provide that Eureka moment in regards the balance of the side and the manner they play in for what should be a hotly contested Ashes series this year. My major concern is the lack of red ball cricket that any of the players will play either domestically or internationally in the interim as a result of the upcoming World Cup. England need to bottle up the attitude and professionalism shown in this game and ensure that they are ready to go again when the Aussies arrive mid-summer. Solid ROI on my betting picks for cricket I've incorporated betting tips into a few of my cricket posts of late. Those picks are based on a lifetime of watching and playing the greatest summer sport that the world has to offer and as such I like to think that I have an eye for some good long odds. Some of my best calls of late include Marcus Harris to top score for Australia in India series @13.0 Jason Holder to be Man of the Match in the 1st Test @17.0 All in all, I've returned profits of 276% on 27 predictions made on Scorum to date