“Second, third and fourth you on Wendell Pierce, there,” says Guy Hornsby. “One of the best episodes of DID I’ve ever listened too. Utterly inspirational, and all delivered in that rich baritone drawl. While we’re here, I’d nod to Stephen Graham’s as well. Another brilliant actor, whose story was as fascinating as it harrowing. We’re lucky to have him around. It beats talking about the rain, certainly.”
His performance in the first episode of Shane Meadows’ the Virtues was astonishingly brilliant.
What’s the most stupid thing you’ve done on a cricket pitch? The first time I ever played, they sent me out to open because I’d batted well indoors. I didn’t know how gloves worked and I’m a lefty, so picked up any old pair, wondered why I couldn’t hold my bat, got a straight one. Golden duck.
Breaking news: it’s raining.
“Conspiracy theory,” begins John Starbuck. “You can see why the ECB wanted the Hundred: having been too dim to see how successful T20 was going to be, they are trying to re-invent the game again but monetise it better. In this instance, what about the proposals for 4-day Tests? Everyone with some authority has rejected this, but could it have been meant as a distraction from the Hundred all along?”
I think it’s slightly harsh to criticise the ECB for being dim as regards T20 when then introduced it to the professional game. I doubt there’s a connection between four-day Tests and the Hundred, save their cockeyed rationale and financial underpinnings
“Kim Thonger might also be interested in last Sunday’s Desert Island Discs as Lewis was on that too,” says David Wall. “I know it’s a cliche but given his previous interest in baseball you’d think developing an interest in cricket would be natural.”
Tangentially, everyone should listen to the Wendell Pierce episode, which is absolutely sensational. He is an absolute mensch, and one I’m absolutely certain would appreciate cricket in every single aspect.
“Since it’s still raining,” says Alistair Connor, “it’s not too late to offer you some cake. I’m breakfasting on a plateful of delicious leftovers from last night, Day Two of my first Moroccan wedding, my brother-in-law’s. They used to be as long as a Test match, but that’s rare these days. Dancing and singing in a fancy ballroom with a traditional orchestra — ladies only, while the men take tea and cakes in the lobby. It’s much more fun than it sounds, honestly.”
I know the koo. Jewish weddings do, in some circles, entail seven days of celebration. Often, with too much parents’ friend involvement for comfort, but nonetheless they extend the simcha, which is very nice. There’s also a custom for the groom to get together with his male mates and family before the ceremony to sing and – not for the groom, who’s fasting – tip down buckets of whisky while guzzling crisps and fish balls. It is never not glorious.
“Once upon a time, players proved they had the temperament for international cricket in ODIs before getting a gig in the Test XI,” emails Gary Naylor. “But hasn’t the Trevor Bayliss era proved the opposite? The ‘no-fear’ cricket that led to the World Cup doesn’t work in Tests, whether batting with freedom (the doomed ‘natural game’) nor going through the variations with the ball. Test cricket demands almost the opposite – forbearance, strategy, marginal gains through incremental victories. Red ball success breeds red ball success (as does white ball). England, with Sibley and Pope established and Bess and Leach doing a job, have learned this at last.”
At close of play on Friday, Ollie Pope gave a (great) interview on the wireless, and when he was asked about the ramping, basically made a pitch for limited-overs recognition. Anyhow, I disagree that ‘no-fear’ cricket isn’t what you’re after, more that sensible thinking is also in order. In all formats.
“I’m reading The Fifth Risk by Michael Lewis,” emails Kim Thonger, “a thrillingly informative book about the utter wilful incompetence and complete intransigence of the Trump team during the transition from the Obama presidency. This is a plea for Michael to make his next book about the ECB’s ridiculous plan to introduce The Hundred this summer. Equally stupidly stubborn and disrespectful of the good judgement and advice of everyone whose opinion about Test cricket I value. I’m so cross my grammar went wonky there. *strikes face with rigid palm*.”
Talking Politics’ interview with Lewis – on this topic – was excellent. David Runciman is the best analyst around by an absolute aeon, and gave by far the best lectures that I didn’t go to at university.
Lunch is over, but the rain is not.
It’s not heavy but, so hopefully we’ll get some play this afternoon and make up what we’ve lost this evening. In any event, England can’t have expected to be where they are, so will still feel ahead of the game.
“‘When Wood, Archer, Broad and Anderson are fit’…” says Chris Drew. “Not a time we are ever likely to see.”
It’s coming around the time we get a Labour government. All four will be retired.
No value judgment from me – what people do with their lives is absolutely none of my business – but I wish AB de Villiers was playing in this Test, not the in the Big Bash.
Malan feels bat on ball.
Elsewhere: Australia are 174-4 off 32 overs; Mitchell Starc, batting 5, is out. Follow that here:
Bad news I’m afraid: it’s raining again and that’s lunch. I’ll be back in 30 or so.
“Re the Curran question,” begins Nico Bentley. “When Wood, Archer, Broad and Anderson are fit surely you rotate them like Australia did with their pace attack in the last Ashes? Three seamers with a spinner, plus Stokes on all but a few pitches around the world.”
But you still have a first XI. And when do you pick our quicks? On a pitch expected to something, to make them even more terrifying, or pitch expected to do nothing, to try and find something?
Bill Hargreaves has another on the war-film issue: “Saving Private Ryan Sidebottom’s bowling average”.
No way he’s getting away with that barnet in the army.
According to the indispensable Cricinfo, the covers are coming off and the players are coming on…
Yes! Robert Key has just pluralised “the Overtons”, but I think he meant “your Overtonses of this world.
“Wanted to get your thoughts on a proposal I sent in yesterday,” says Abhijato Sensarma. “A day in Test cricket should be divided into four sessions of 23 overs each instead of three sessions of 30 each. This will allow players to be more refreshed and on top of their game, especially in strenuous weather like the Australian summer. Thoughts?”
I’d worry that by extending the day you leave yourself open to rain and light at the end of it. I might think about extending the first two sessions to avoid marathon final ones, though when those are good, they’re so so good.
Update: the rain stopped, they started to take the covers off, then the rain started again. Lovely stuff.
“Your preamble and the makings of a decent England Test team,” tweets Andrew Curray. “If Bairstow and Buttler aren’t scoring runs, could we have Ben Foakes back in the team please?”
It’s a tricky one, this. I’d say that if the team is functioning, you can afford the wild-card that is Buttler; though I guess you could say the same about Foakes’ superior keeping. If England had a serious spinner, or if Buttler was missing lots of chances, I’d probably feel differently, but in the meantime, I prefer the thrill of what might happen.
“Ever since Rob Smyth (aptly) described Joe Denly as the ‘pretty boy who went to war’ on this MBM two tests back, I can’t shake the idea that this England team would make the ideal cast for a middling war movie,” says Isaac Parham. “You’ve got Dom Bess as a farm hand turned ruddy-faced private, Root as the seen-too-much-too-young Captain, and Stokes would be your maverick, devil-may-care sharp-shooter. And let’s face it, Anderson would make a rather dashing lead.”
Zak Crawley is definitely getting it at the end of Act I.
Update: it’s bucketing down. That will, I imagine, be our morning session.
“Do you know what is the win and loss percentage for international test teams who has won and lost the toss respectively?” asks Braam Visser. “Faf needs to do something to win the next toss.”
Not as high as you think it is, though this was a good one to win. For some reason, Stasguru is failing me, or, more likely, I am failing it. But Ric Finlay investigated this in Jukly 2018 and discovered that, this century, the captain who calls correctly wins 42 percent of the time and the captain who does not wins 36 percent of the time.
“Steven Finn is in the Sky studio, speaking very eloquently about his bowling issues over the years,” emails Kevin Wilson. “I’ve seen players come and go and careers briefly flicker and fade out, but none make me more sad than Finn never hitting the ceiling his ability offered. He could’ve been a very, very good quick bowler with 300 Test wickets by now.”
Yes, I agree. First of all, that he’s great on telly – and also on the radio – and also that he had it in him to be better than he turned out to be. He was never quite the same after that stump-flicking incident – Graeme Smith was a ruthless man.
“I don’t know what happened at the tail-end of our innings because I was sorting out the fire,” says Piet Morant, “which gives you some idea of how moody the weather here in PE is. I do know however that I’m now in Dante’s circle of hell since the fire has gone out again and I don’t want to move, in case Elgar and co again go down in a puff-flash of crap cover drives!”
In fairness, Maharaj aimed for midwicket. The variety of the left-armer.
In the meantime, let’s reflect on a ridiculous morning for both teams. England bowled really well first up, but South Africa’s batting was something else. I am in awe of anyone able to play elite-level sport, and have not a scooby what it takes, but I do know that when you’re fighting to stay in the game, you don’t go out and play like a blacksmith.
I guess there’s a fair chance that’s that for our morning session; if it rains for half an hour, it’ll be half an hour before we can get going again. I’d expect an early lunch, then two extended periods.
In the studio, they’re less optimistic, and think we may have a fairly long disruption.
Rain stopped play.
Hoepfully not for too long, but in the meantime, has anyone got any cake?
7th over: South Africa 15-0 (Malan 1, Elgar 13) Here comes Mark Wood; “It should say ‘right arm very fast’” says Shaun Pollock of the caption, and yerman start from around to the left-handed Elgar. Wood looks so lean and whippy; I daren’t think he’s found the balance, but of course I’m assuming he’ll bowl Australia out at the Gabba in just under two years from now.
6th over: South Africa 15-0 (Malan 1, Elgar 13) Our camerawoman tells us it’s definitely going to rain; in fact it already is raining, and the cameras have got their coats on. In the meantime, Curran scurries through another over, Elgar nudging a single in the drizzle. It doesn’t seem like it’s going to get too heavy for too long.
5th over: South Africa 14-0 (Malan 1, Elgar 12) Sake; no, not what South Africa had on their Ricicles, but an expression of dismay that there’s some rain coming in. In the meantime, Malan gets away with a shove to cover, a leg-bye follows, and the groundsman waves arms like the air traffic controller in Jimbo and the Jet Set.
4th over: South Africa 12-0 (Malan 0, Elgar 12) They’re piling them up now! Curran, who was so accurate first up, strays to leg again and gets the treatment again, Elgar easily flicking him away to fine leg for four. He’s a funny cricketer, Curran, and I wonder where he fits into England’s long-term plans. He’s not a good enough bowler or batsman to get into the team solely for one of his two disciplines, but he has the priceless gift of timing. On the other hand, including him means you need to leave out one of Broad, Anderson, Archer and Wood – let’s assume for a second all are fit at the same time – and medium pace gets whacked in Australia.