On the field
July seems to have been designated as white ball month, with enjoyable ODI & T20 series between England and both Sri Lanka & Pakistan. Complete domination against Sri Lanka was spoiled by Bristolian rain (*shakes fist*), but it was the ODI series against Pakistan that was the most satisfying; England had to pretty much field a 2nd/3rd XI after the squad from the Sri Lanka series had to isolate, however they gelled instantly under Ben Stokes’ captaincy and produced an immaculate set of performances. The T20 series (back to regular players) wasn’t all plain sailing, but still ended up as an England series win.
I got properly into the Vitality Blast, mostly watching the Somerset livestreams (they are the best on offer, I’m not just being biased) but also catching a few on Sky – including the Roses clash, which featured some excellent sportsmanship from Joe Root & Yorkshire (don’t pay any attention to the Surrey mindset of Mark Butcher on comms). I did catch some of England women’s T20 series with India, though not as much as I would have liked due to it clashing with other plans & other games. What July meant for everyone in the UK, however, was the much delayed start of The Hundred. I decided to get in early and see the very first game – partly to see more women’s cricket, but also to be able to say I was part of cricket history – and was hooked from that moment on. I’ve not seen every game, but I have caught as many as possible and kept on top of the results & individual performances. All the better for forming a well-judged opinion.
On the page
Simon Jones – The Test: My Life, and the Inside Story of the Greatest Ashes Series ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️
First off, this book brought back so many memories. The 2005 Ashes series was a seminal moment for me: my cricket watching had slowly been building up, I was a Somerset regular, and then Australia came to play. I watched pretty much every minute of that series, living the agony & ecstasy with the players. Jones’ book vividly recreates key moments, bringing in added details from behind the scenes – for example, I had no idea how much he had been struggling with injury throughout the series, and just how much pain he soaked up to keep playing. In and around his memories of that five-match series, Jones completes his cricketing story – one that didn’t end in the glory it should have, but you get the feeling that he wouldn’t have done much differently.
On the box
Howzat! Kerry Packer’s War (Amazon Prime) ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️
Two 90-minute dramas charting the birth of Kerry Packer’s World Series Cricket back in the 1970s. Cricket’s governing bodies are often accused of being conservative and not seeing an opportunity when it presents itself – but, judging by the storyline of this miniseries, it has actually come a long way. My main issue with the show is that I found it difficult knowing who was who; it does introduce the players involved, but with them and those involved behind the scenes, I was fumbling around in the dark for much of it. It may be easier for people who already know about World Series Cricket in great detail, but programmes like this should be targeting wider audiences than that.
Not lots of Tailenders on offer this month, though I did boost it by re-listening to the World Cup live episode on the second anniversary (I think that will be a long-held tradition) – however the big news was that the team had created their own gin! You bet I ordered a bottle of Spiced Mango ‘Go Well’ Gin, which arrived in time for me to drown my self-isolation sorrows; it basically tastes like a gin version of mango chutney, which sounds weird but is actually really good.
I was gutted that my isolation meant I had to skip (no pun intended) my trip to Lord’s for London Spirit against Trent Rockets, and had government restrictions not been extended I would have been back at the County Ground to see Somerset take on
the scum Gloucestershire in their Blast clash – though I did at least get to watch it in 2D. I did finally get to watch Somerset in person for the first time in seven years by going to the Oval for their Championship clash with Surrey, spending an enjoyable Sunday watching James Hildreth scoring a hundred and then sneaking over for the final afternoon after a morning at the office; thanks to a mad couple of sessions of spin it almost led to a victory, but eventually it petered out into a draw.
Featured image credit: PA Wire