2015 was supposed to be the final year we would witness an unbastardized county cricket campaign. A franchise T20 competition beckoned. The first-class season was to be slashed. County cricket, as those who loved the competition recognized it, was to be put to death.
And yet, despite the grim future these developments heralded—after county cricket’s obituary had been penned—the unbelievable happened: nothing.
The momentum within English cricket to fundamentally alter the county season seemed to have finally reached the point of no return. For years, there have been various instances of both rumored and aborted structural changes, yet—blissfully unaware—the 16 match first-class season has managed to survive scare after scare. This year, however, the County Championship was to finally meet its maker in the form of a limited-over reaper—specifically, an eight-team 20-over competition modeled after the IPL, BBL, and CPL.
Perhaps no competition in the cricketing world engenders more scorn than the T20 Blast. Despite soaring attendance
, it is derided as tinpot—many times, justifiably so. When Chris Gayle—one of cricket’s biggest stars—made a brief cameo appearance in the Blast, one would expect that the competition’s administrators would have done anything possible to ensure the proceedings would be televised. In this case, you would be mistaken.
Unsurprisingly, given the circumstances, Gayle put on one of his greatest performances. Yet, beyond a scoresheet, the only evidence we have to show for it is several minutes of handycam footage that has more in common with the Zapruder film than any televised cricket broadcast. It would be embarrassing—but English cricket administrators commit similar blunders with such shocking regularity that, at this point, all one can do is shrug.
In a series thus far defined by the unpredictable, it’s only fitting that—despite suffering a humiliating loss in Edgbaston—Australia enter the fourth Test as favorites. To someone following the series from afar, knowing England are up two matches to one—and on home soil to boot—such odds may seem baffling. Yet, for those who have been following ball by ball, such an off-kilter prediction seems based in the purest of logic. The sole predictable trait of this Ashes series has been its sheer erraticism: A crushing defeat or stunning victory in one match has offered little to no insight into the following Test’s outcome. If Nietzsche killed god, than these Ashes have laid the myth of sporting momentum in its grave. In short, every possible outcome is in play at Trent Bridge—which is exactly why this has been such a magnificent series.
Filed under Test, The Ashes
As the Ashes moves on to the third Test there is certainly no lack of headlines and talking points. Although the players got an extra day of rest following Australia’s thoroughly dominating victory at Lord’s, the same cannot be said for the media who have written or talked about every way to fix English cricket since Sunday. To be honest, most didn’t wait that long and some merely never stopped since the World Cup.
For all the stories, many of them non-stories, the Ashes carnival picked up its tent stakes and moved north this week from London to Birmingham with the series not over and done, but actually level at one all. Sure, there is no denying that England were absolutely walloped at Lord’s. They couldn’t bowl and when they went to bat, well they couldn’t do much of that either. Australia from the top to the bottom defeated the hosts in every facet of the great game. And now it is merely history. Edgbaston awaits and gives both teams the opportunity to take a firm grasp on securing the urn.
In front of a packed Queen’s Park Oval, Trinidad and Tobago fought their way to a 27 run victory over Jamaica in the first semifinal of the 2015 Caribbean Premier League. With each six struck or wicket claimed, the telecast was quick to cut to the partisan Port of Spain crowd in an attempt to capture their rapturous celebration. Yet, of the thousands in attendance, one in particular stood out amongst the rest: Trinidadian off-spinner Sunil Narine.
So with most of the cricketing world focused on The Ashes and Lord’s this weekend, it’s a good reminder that there is another pretty intriguing tour going on between Bangladesh and South Africa. The visitors made easy work of Bangladesh in the opening two T20 series matches, winning by 52 and 31 runs respectively. Three ODIs followed and South Africa got off to a red hot start in the first match when debutant Kagiso Rabada took 6 wickets in 8 overs including a hat-trick. Yet as quickly as South Africa started the series, they fell back to earth with similar speed. Bangladesh took the next two matches and the ODI series with impressive skill and win margins of 7 and 9 wickets.
And so here we are on the eve of the first of two Tests. It is going to be a different Protea side than the one that has been playing on the tour so far, with Dale Steyn, Vernon Philander, and Morne Morkel joining their teammates in Chittagong. It will certainly be interesting to see how those three do having been on a decent break from all forms of cricket for a couple months.
Given that South Africa have been sluggish thus far on the tour, Bangladesh will be confident that their spinners can grab some wickets and put up a good fight against the number one Test team. The hosts are certainly hitting their form and proving to be a challenge for teams in the ODI format. It would be great for not only Bangladesh and their rabid home fans, but cricket as a whole if their good ODI form can transfer over to sustained success in Test matches. The opportunity to prove themselves has arrived with bigger challenge than the Proteas. With a break in the Ashes tomorrow, this should hold over any fan before Australia and England meet again at Edgbaston.
As for a prediction, it seems impossible to bet against the Proteas in this one. They have the depth and the bowling attack to get wickets, but they’ll need better partnerships than they had in the tour’s earlier ODIs. Although a draw in the first Test would not be a shocker to anyone who has watched the impressive Bangladesh side develop over the last 9 months.
Thus far, in this edition of the Ashes, groundskeepers have seemingly gotten more press than any individual batsman or bowler. Much was made of the first pitch in Cardiff—and while it eventually proved to be a surface conducive to entertaining cricket—the claim that England is intentionally preparing slow, flat wickets will only gain steam after Lord’s proved to be even more lifeless than Sophia Gardens.
England, however, were not the beneficiary of the deadened pitch. In a day that saw only a single wicket fall, Australia—who had won the toss and chose to bat first—suffocated any chance of a victory for the home side after a mere three sessions. By evening, the tourists were 337-1, with the loss of David Warner’s wicket attributable to the batsman’s foolish bravado rather than any menace from England’s attack. For Alastair Cook and company, it was, as they say, a bad toss to lose.