On the field
With the BBL coming to an end (with a ‘finals’ series to rival the complexity of the IPL), I largely kept to my routine of working from my armchair in front of the TV in the mornings and then sloping off upstairs for my afternoon shift. I’d been mostly supporting Brisbane Heat, as they had constant Somerset representation in the form of Lewis Gregory (and were also due to have Tom Banton back, though he needed a break from bubble life by that point), so was gutted they just lost out on a spot in the final after rediscovering a bit of form at the right time to make it through the eliminator & knockout. I loved the characters in the Sydney Sixers, though, so was pleased for them to get their hands on the trophy once again. Slightly less bothered by the end of the Abu Dhabi T10 by the end, but it was a good distraction in the afternoons (and meant I was armchair working all day sometimes). The last bit of franchise cricket to mention is the PSL, which I’m already finding eminently more entertaining than the IPL; whether it’s the opening credits (& the little fanfare at the end) or the hilarious graphics (tuk-tuks when the team takes a review, decorated trucks for milestones, a duck chick hatching when a player scores a duck), I’m in. I even don’t mind literally everything being sponsored, as it’s so incredibly cheesy – plus it’s nice seeing things like a good old cover drive being celebrated (Brighto Colourful Drive) as well as sixes.
The main event this month, however, was England’s Test series in India. We were on such a hot streak that I was naïvely surprised at pundits not expecting us to do as well prior to the series; the comprehensive win (and double hundred by Joe Root in his 100th Test) in the first match only served to confirm my thoughts – not that I wasn’t as excited as everyone else, mind. All change for the next two Tests though, coming back down to Earth with a bump on pitches that looked & behaved as if they’d been played on for two days prior to the start of the match. The third Test being completed within two days was the most galling, as it was a day/night match and therefore airing at convenient times over here; a waste of the 9am starts and not a good advert for Test cricket. Back to the 4am grind for the final match…
Some other bits & bobs to keep the cricket flowing included the second Test & T20 series between Pakistan & South Africa, occasional helpings of New Zealand women v. England women (ODI series), and the first two T20s between New Zealand & Australia – the latter should have been contesting a Test series in South Africa at the same time, but perhaps understandably called it off for COVID reasons (after what England went through last year I don’t blame them, though it has rather manipulated their chances in the World Test Championship).
On the page
Jimmy Anderson – Bowl. Sleep. Repeat. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Ghostwritten by fellow Tailender Felix White, this is a great combination of autobiography and practical cricket tips (in a similar vein to cyclist Geraint Thomas’ According to G series). Jimmy’s dry sense of humour leaps off the page as he hunts for any advantages bowlers have over batsmen, recalls key moments in his career, and gives an insight into his mindset when preparing to bowl. Everything you’d expect from the world’s greatest fast bowler.
On the box
The Edge (BBC iPlayer) ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
I’m not sure why it’s taken me until now to watch this, although I’m obviously familiar with some of the music courtesy of Tailenders Live. For starters, it’s a great reminder of some of the high points of modern English cricket – an enhanced highlights package with thoughts from the players involved. It’s also a mixture of fascinating & rather sad to see the behind-the-scenes machinations and the mental torture players were trying to deal with. All really cleverly put together, and with a perfect score from Felix White.
Unsurprisingly, given the lack of ODI series coverage, there was nothing of the Bangladesh v. West Indies Test series – and, given the drama that unfolded, that was an even bigger shame than anticipated. The draft for The Hundred was held, plus it was confirmed that the very first game (a clash of the women’s Invincibles & Originals) will be shown on BBC on Wednesday 21 July; whatever your feelings about this new tournament, it’s an incredible result for the women’s game and will hopefully provide them with a great new platform for the future. I’m still at the stage of being amused by crisps & snacks sponsoring the teams in The Hundred, and am intending on referring to them by their sponsors rather than their real (terrible) names.
Another big result for English cricket came in the form of Channel 4 winning the rights to the India series – the first time they’ve had coverage since the 2005 Ashes – and returning with Mambo No. 5! That choice was as big as the result, as far as I’m concerned. Just a shame that it was Mark Nicholas-less, is all. I got stuck into Zero Ducks Given, another new cricket podcast – this one with Steven Finn as the featured cricketer – and enjoyed there being regular pre-Test Tailenders episodes as well. This led to plans of a score-along for the day/night Test, though picking Saturday (day 4) ultimately turned out to be a bit too ambitious; the England women’s tour of New Zealand saved the day, however, as it was rescheduled to the third ODI of that series on the same Saturday night. I have been scoring regularly, a mix between Test and T20s, but an ODI innings was my longest continuous stretch (even though England were bowled out after 47.5 overs) – and it was so nice knowing that hundreds of fellow Tailenders were sat doing exactly the same thing, leaving the #tailendersoftheworlduniteandtakeover ablaze with activity. As it was a longer scoring session than usual I didn’t tweet along too much, but I made sure to post my before & after shots; I also shared them via my Instagram feed & stories.
Featured image credit: @BBL Twitter account