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July T21

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


The Hundred: Initial Reaction

The hype and speculation over The Hundred has been absolutely insane – and its COVID-induced delay definitely hasn’t helped matters – but last night at the Oval, we finally got to see what it was all about. The women kicked things off as the Manchester Originals (a.k.a. McCoy’s) took on the Oval Invincibles (a.k.a. KP); usually the group matches will be double headers, with the same franchises competing in a women’s game, followed by the men’s game, but audiences are being eased into the competition with the first two clashes being spread over two evenings.

I’ll admit that I had my doubts; red ball cricket will always be my number one priority, for one thing, and the lack of clarity over the rules & how everything would work was a tad off-putting. It might have been useful to have some sort of exhibition game to clear up any confusion over terminology, etc. but then I suppose last night’s match wouldn’t have had quite the entrance it was aiming for. I do prefer to give things a chance, unlike many snarky commenters, so I thought it was probably best that I headed to the very first game to see how it played out.

In the build-up to the match, there were a few brief films on the big screens that explained some of the rules & terminology – it was just too loud in the ground to hear most of this properly, so I hope that a programme or scorecard with a primer might materialise sooner rather than later (mostly for the benefit of complete cricket newbies). I didn’t see anything referring to the cards the umpires hold up, but eventually during the game I managed to deduce it was to signify a change in bowling. Not really sure that’s needed, especially as most people would associate a card being held up with a team being penalised in some way.

It was really interesting to see two different approaches, both batting & in the field. Oval Invincibles played around with the ‘fives’, sometimes having a bowler take all ten balls from one end and occasionally mixing & matching, whereas Manchester Originals stuck rigidly to bowlers working in fives; I’ll be intrigued to see how much tinkering goes on in other teams & other games, depending on whether batter or bowler is on top. I have to say I would have followed Dane van Niekerk’s instincts and bowled first, not knowing what a good total would be (she got her wish when Kate Cross chose to bat) – Manchester’s circumspect start did make me think they might have been a bit below par, but when Oval’s early attempts to attack cost them wickets it looked a lot more intimidating!

Linking cricket with music has definitely been tried before – for example, in the early days of domestic Twenty20 there was a big emphasis on a side’s walkout music, which has now dwindled a bit. I do like the idea of incorporating live music, as it provides a bit of variety from whatever the DJ is spinning, but at this point in my life most of the artists playing are just jumbles of random words! But it’s not really me that section is aimed at, so I can live with it – though a little more range in the tracks played to mark boundaries, etc. every now & then would be much appreciated. Inclusivity in music tastes, please!

A big plus is that it did all run pretty much to time (unlike in international or IPL fixtures) – it will be interesting to see how the men fare, as their over rates are often less efficient. I would like to see the penalty dished out at some point though (one more fielder kept inside the fielding restriction area); anything to give them an incentive to hurry up a bit. This is where bowlers taking the full 10 balls helps a bit as well, though I do think changing ends less frequently did contribute a bit too.

Once I got my eye in I was trying to make some predictions – both in the app and my own ones. By that point it was fairly obvious I was locked in. First I tried to apply the rule of doubling the score at 30 overs in Manchester’s innings; they were on 75 after 60 balls, so I suggested they should get 150 – they ended up with 135, which isn’t miles out! I was more successful right at the end, however, as I had a gut feeling with 20 balls to go that Oval would just nick it – they needed 35 at that point, and ended up chasing it down with two balls left. Smug. As. Hell.

It may end up being something that is much better to experience in person – certainly hearing the music thumping and feeling the heat from the flames (not to mention the surprise firework display as the teams took to the field) can’t be replicated through a TV screen, but that’s something that viewers will have to compare and contrast. Certainly those who go in with closed minds aren’t going to enjoy it, but that just means there’s more for the rest of us to gobble up! I already have tickets to a couple more group games, so I’ll get the double headers for them, and I’m contemplating going to the Eliminator as the final is already sold out. If there wasn’t an ongoing COVID situation then I would have definitely travelled to a couple of other locations to try and see as many of the teams as possible, but for now I’m sticking with the Oval and Lord’s. I’m excited to see what the Home of Cricket makes of this format, and I look forward to checking out the other teams on TV.

June T21

On the field
Now we’re talking! Plenty to be going on with this month, as the weather largely behaved and international & domestic fixtures came thick & fast. The first big event was England’s mini-series against New Zealand; it’s always a shame when there are only two Tests, but I certainly made the most of them (even if England largely didn’t!). This was all part of the lead-in to the World Test Championship final – understandably not being held at Lord’s, in a bid to keep things as COVID-secure as possible, but I might’ve chosen Old Trafford over the Aegeas Bowl myself… What was more frustrating than the rain was the inevitable comments from fans in India who don’t understand the concept of weather; the UK has a maritime climate, it’s bound to be unpredictable – plus there’s, y’know, climate change involved as well. Needless to say, Southampton had the last laugh, as the one reserve day set aside to make up for lost overs was more than enough for New Zealand to claim the sceptre! Simon Doull’s line that “sometimes, just sometimes, nice guys do finish first” was a really touching tribute to a team that neutrals across the world were undoubtedly rooting for.

I also started to get stuck into the Vitality Blast, taking advantage of Somerset’s superior livestream where I could, as well as taking in snippets of the England vs. India multi-format women’s series (annoyingly it clashed a lot with other plans), and the tiniest amount of the rescheduled PSL. It was nice to see Sri Lanka back in England for some white ball cricket, after the short Test stint over there in the winter – unfortunately for them it all went the same way in this format too…

On the page
Chris Gayle – Six Machine ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️
What more could you expect from the Universe Boss, Chris Gayle? I must admit, before listening to this audiobook I didn’t really know anything about his upbringing or how he got into the game – and he gets plenty personal in this autobiography! It’s good to hear his anger & passion for the game come through, as he has been considered something of a T20 mercenary by certain quarters for a while now; even if he didn’t make it clear that he loves the game itself, you couldn’t blame the boy from Rollington getting the taste for earning big bucks in quick time. Some sections (usually at the beginning/end of chapters) can be a little repetitive, but overall it’s worth a read – for his mention of scrumpy alone!

On the box
Fire in Babylon (Sky Documentaries) ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️
Cricket history is something that I always feel so far behind on, even two decades into my love for the game. I’ve been meaning to watch this documentary for a while, but after the events of last summer and an extraordinary piece of broadcasting from Michael Holding (& Ebony Rainford-Brent) pushed me to get round to it this year. It’s a really enlightening film, and especially useful for those of us who weren’t around at the time and want to know more – not just about the matches contested, but about the whole culture of West Indies cricket, and the challenges & abuse the players had to overcome. I bought the book off the back of watching it, so I look forward to digging a bit deeper with that.

As well as (finally) continuing with Zero Ducks Given, I had some more cricket to watch! First I had to put up with watching rain all day (though I was grateful that my lovely Edrich Stand seat was undercover and allowed me to do this), but then I got my reward the next day with a hastily bought ticket to day 4 of the New Zealand match – well, it was to make up for not being able to go to my original booking of day 1, made prior to government announcements about restrictions being lifted. I got all emotional as Jerusalem blasted out around the ground, but was quickly brought back down to earth when Joe Root got out on the first ball of the day! At least later on I saw my first ever Lord’s century when Rory Burns nudged his way over the line. It was even worth the hideous bus trek home.

Oh, and I finally managed to get some scoring in! Once the WTC final started I decided to make the most of it, scoring the morning session and everything up until their break for bad light. It felt good to be back! So good, in fact, that I did my first ever score-along to a Vitality Blast game a week or so later; county cricket is punishingly fast. For the first time I got lost & couldn’t catch up straightaway, but did manage to pick things up a couple of overs later – thankfully Somerset made it easy in the second innings by not losing any wickets, beating Kent with ease.

Featured image credit: Gareth Copley-ICC/ICC via Getty Images

May T21

On the field
This was a bit of a barren month, as far as cricket was concerned. Yes, there was plenty going on around the world (and even in England, when the weather behaved itself), but perhaps the disappointment of the IPL being cut off snapped me out of it for a while. I was just gearing up to do a scoring session over the bank holiday weekend, as I hadn’t done one since the end of March, and then the IPL was snatched away as COVID cases started to really soar. It was a surprise they managed to go on as long as they did, I suppose; hopefully it brought India some much-needed joy while it was around – I do wonder why they didn’t consider planning a more compact version just for 2021, rather than continuing with the bloated template they’ve set themselves. It was just over halfway through when it was officially postponed, so had they done half the games it might have been completed by the first week of May.

I did begin to peruse the County Championship, and caught the odd game that was hastily added to Sky’s schedule when the IPL went down, but then the rains came. It literally pours.

On the page
Ben Stokes – On Fire ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️
What better way to distract myself from the terrible weather and lack of cricket than re-living the highlights from the year that hooked me back into the sport? 2019 was an incredible vintage, and this book is a good way of getting to grips with it as Ben Stokes was pretty much at the heart of everything! Whether it was the World Cup Final or a crucial day’s play in the Ashes, he was there not only to witness it but to get the job done. It’s not the height of analysis or particular depth, but it does give you an insight into Stokes’ mindset and definitely captures the emotions of the 14 July & 25 August.

On the box
Fibber in the Heat (Amazon Prime) ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️
I went to see this show at the Brewhouse in Taunton back in 2011, so was pleasantly surprised to find that it had been captured on film and was available with my Prime Video membership. It’s a really fun story of Miles Jupp’s adventures in India, attempting to become a cricket journalist with very few contacts, no equipment, and not a lot of an idea of what he should actually be doing. He weaves the tale very well, and his enthusiasm for cricket shines through every step of the way – even when it seems as though there’s no hope. Part of the reason I connected to his story in the first place is because I went through the same thought process of ‘I love cricket – how could I get a job that allows me to watch it for free?’; the only difference being I was about to go to university when I started having those deliberations, so I could theoretically have worked out a way of doing it by following a slightly more recognised path. It’s really enjoyable and well worth an hour or so of your time.

Fanfare please… I’m finally, FINALLY up-to-date with Tailenders! Had I not got myself neck-deep with podcasts I might have finished it sooner, but it’s still only taken 10 months (I think it might be less, actually) so I count that as a proper win. I also did a slightly less epic catch-up of Middle Please, Umpire in time for the final episode of the series – what a collection of interviewees they’ve managed!

Probably the biggest news of all, however, is that I actually went to a real-life cricket match and saw it with my two real (very short-sighted) eyes! Who would have thought that day 1 of Surrey vs. Gloucestershire could bring me such joy? 673 days after my last game (day 1 of England vs. Ireland at Lord’s), and I was back. Amazing to cheer on Hashim Amla to a well-deserved century, which also elicited my first standing ovation of 2021 (take that, theatre!).

Featured image credit: BCCI

Back In The Game

Project Mobilisation continues! As I need to start building my cricket shirt collection back up again, I think I will be opting for my #TailendersOfTheWorldUniteAndTakeOver t-shirt for a while – and I bought a Bangladesh hat partly because it’s thanks to them that I got back into watching cricket properly, but also because they’re just generally wonderful.

Surrey vs. Gloucestershire – County Championship (day 1), The Oval
673 days after my last trip to a cricket ground, and I was finally back! As a Somerset fan, both Surrey & Gloucestershire are not exactly on my Christmas card list, but I opted for the lesser of the two evils and supported Surrey this time – made easier by them batting and their stand-in skipper Hashim Amla scoring a classy century. It felt so good to be back, especially as the weather turned just in time for the game: from horrendous downpours to glorious sunshine (and accidental sunburn on my right hand).

Thursday 27 May 2021
Friday 4 & Saturday 5 June 2021

England vs. New Zealand – 1st Test (day 3 & 4), Lord’s
Initially I was due to go on day 1, but then Lord’s had to have a rethink when the government’s ‘roadmap’ was published; some new tickets went on sale a few days before the match started, so I gobbled up a ticket for day 3 – and then it chucked it down. As nice as it was to get six hours of fresh air, catching up on audiobooks, it wasn’t exactly what I had in mind. Fortunately, I checked the website on the train home and discovered that for just a fiver more I could go back & sit in nearly the same spot on the Saturday, so without thinking I bought it – and what a great idea that was! I may not have been able to see Devon Conway’s double century, but I did get to see Rory Burns score a hundred. He played with great character and was ably partnered by Jimmy Anderson, who received such an amazing welcome as he came in to bat. I certainly got my money’s worth, as the final wicket went down and we headed out to bowl later on in the day. Pimm’s in hand and shielded from the glare of the sun: what a way to spend a Saturday evening!

Surrey vs. Somerset – County Championship (day 1 & 4), The Oval
Seven years after I last saw Somerset play – I decided to make the most of it. I could do the entirety of day 1, as it was a Sunday, and as it looked like it had been set up nicely for the end of the day I spent the afternoon of day 4 at the Oval as well. I had hoped to see Conway score big on day 1, but it wasn’t to be; James Hildreth rolling back the years and scoring a century was an excellent replacement though, especially as he’s been playing for the first team as long as I’ve been into the game. I was hoping Somerset might sneak a victory on the last day, as the pitch was turning & wickets had been tumbling from the word go, but neither team was really pushing for it (despite Surrey going 4 down) and an early finish was called at 5pm. So good to be able to see Somerset with my own eyes again, after being glued to their excellent livestreams.

Sunday 11 & Wednesday 14 July 2021
Wednesday 21 July 2021

Oval Invincibles women vs. Manchester Originals women – The Hundred, The Oval
There had been a lot of talk about this competition, as it controversially clogs up an already very busy domesetic schedule in the UK, so I thought I should be there for the very first match (a women’s game!) to see what it was all about. I think it’s definitely best to be in the crowd at something like this early on, as I don’t think I would have been as invested in the competition if I’d just watched it on TV; despite it not being full, the atmosphere was fantastic, and hearing kids really getting into it was worth the admission fee alone. Not too difficult to adapt, as the tweaks to overs, etc. were pretty self-explanatory – and just great to see the women’s game on as big a stage as the men’s for once.

England vs. India – 1st Test (day 1), Trent Bridge
My first visit to Trent Bridge! It’s about time… I also inadvertently managed to get a seat next to my parents, despite them booking a few days before me – so I wasn’t risking being isolated with an ‘interesting’ crowd. We were sat in what I named the Zoo Stand, as there were several groups of people dressed as various animals – the ones in our row included a rhino, and managed to get me on TV..! I had been so looking forward to this Test series, as I thought we stood a good chance of doing well; baffling to most of us as to why Root chose to bat, when it looked like a bowling morning and our batting line-up is not exactly stable. I almost started wishing us to lose wickets to put everyone out of their misery, in the hope we’d get a few quick dismissals before the close – the former happened, but sadly not the latter… A fun day’s play, nonetheless.

Wednesday 4 August 2021
Tuesday 10 August 2021

Somerset vs. Leicestershire – Royal London Cup, County Ground
Finally back at the County Ground! (I refuse to call it anything other than that.) In an ideal world I’ve have been at a Blast game prior to this, and so had the chance to see the full first XI in action, then watched this slightly less experienced outfit in the one-day cup – that was not to be, however. Somerset could definitely have done with a) winning the toss, and b) having talismanic skipper Ben Green back from COVID isolation. It was great to see George Bartlett return to form with a well-paced century, as well as debutant George Thomas hitting 75 (not to mention quickfire cameos from Marchant de Lange & stand-in skipper Josh Davey. Unfortunately, Taunton proved once again to be a tough ground on which to defend, with Lewis Hill scoring a hundred of his own, ably supported by Louis Kimber on 85 – Leicestershire ended up easing to victory with 5.2 overs to spare. It was definitely brilliant to be back at the County Ground though!

England vs. India – 2nd Test (day 5), Lord’s
After sitting at home scoring all of day 4, I simply couldn’t resist buying a 20 quid day 5 ticket – it definitely felt like something special could happen, but sadly it went in the wrong direction. It was all very exciting in the first few minutes, as England swiftly removed Pant and exposed India’s tail; nobody reckoned on Shami & Bumrah digging in and confidently taking on England’s bowlers. By lunch I had moved from the prospect of an England win to a slightly disappointing draw, but it couldn’t be that predictable, could it? The lights came on after lunch and, despite it brightening up later on in the afternoon, were kept on for the rest of the match – I don’t think the result would have been different had the conditions been changed once natural light was available, but I do reckon it might have gone to the last few overs instead of ending roughly half an hour early. Gutting to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory, but it was quite an experience to be around the India fans for that final hour or so.

Monday 16 August 2021
Friday 20 August 2021

Oval Invincibles women vs. Birmingham Phoenix women – The Hundred (Eliminator), The Oval
I had been hoping for an all-neutral clash, especially as I’d seen the Oval women before, but I was pleased that Birmingham had qualified as I was keen to see Issy Wong bowling, after being impressed by her in previous games. It did seem as if Oval hadn’t quite reached par in their batting effort, posting 114-7, but their bowling was absolutely spot-on. At times the fielding in the women’s games has been a bit average, but it has definitely improved over the course of the tournament and hit great heights when the Invincibles took to the field. An excellent team display, and a thoroughly enjoyable match.

Southern Brave men vs. Trent Rockets men – The Hundred (Eliminator), The Oval
My dream clash would have been Birmingham Phoenix against Trent Rockets, purely for the players involved (I’d have loved to have seen Liam Livingstone attempt to clear one of the stands at The Oval!), but this neutral face-off was the next best thing. As a Somerset supporter, I’ve been in no-man’s land with this franchise system, but slightly gravitated towards the Lewis Gregory-led Rockets (also featuring de Lange, for the most part) – so this was a rather chastening evening. Not being able to bowl first definitely affected them, but overall they were thoroughly outclassed by the Braves in almost every way. I wasn’t unhappy that it finished a bit early, purely for transport reasons, but it was a real shame that the match wasn’t more competitive. One positive from an England perspective, however, was the way in which James Vince took Rashid Khan apart – book him in for the T20 World Cup, now!

Friday 20 August 2021

April T21

On the field
A reasonable amount of cricket still going on, but not very much available for me to actually watch – except, of course, the Indian Premier League! That’s right, the IPL is back to its normal time of year, and I’ve really enjoyed watching as much as possible this month. After getting well & truly stuck into the BBL over the winter, I’ve found a big benefit of the franchise tournaments is that they’re effectively a crash course in who’s big in world cricket (both international players & those who haven’t quite made the leap yet); given how far behind the times I’ve managed to get myself, I need all the help I can get. And the best way is to watch the games and see how these people play – reading names will only get you so far.

I do intend to keep up with the County Championship and the other domestic tournaments this year, but I haven’t got into watching the livestreams just yet. Give me time.

On the page
Sachin Tendulkar – Playing It My Way ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️
The Little Master has always been a quiet presence on the world stage, preferring to do his talking with the bat, so it was nice to hear his story – so nearly from the horse’s mouth, as I decided to get the audiobook version (unsurprisingly global sports stars leave this work to others!). It was really interesting to hear how his love of cricket began, and how he took on the burden of such a large nation’s hopes from a young age; it’s a pretty comprehensive work, related in a straightforward manner.

On the box
Inside Edge season 1 (Amazon Prime) ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️
An interesting premise, and really shows you how big cricket is in India – if you didn’t understand that already. I guess you’d probably class it as the Footballers’ Wives or Dream Team of cricket, though the match- & spot-fixing storyline does take it to dark places. I found it tough to keep up with who’s who for a long while, as there are so many characters who don’t get decent introductions; you have the Mumbai Mavericks squad, coaching staff, executives, other teams & players, media, partners, etc. – it’s lucky Prime Video lets you see who is in a particular scene, and the character they’re playing! Some of the acting is a bit wooden, and the dubbing doesn’t really help matters, but it definitely pulls you in.

My main additional news is that I’ve finally caved and booked a ticket to the very first game of The Hundred! Who knows what it will actually be like, but it’s exciting that the women’s game will be kicking everything off – and that the BBC is going to be covering it on TV.

Featured image credit: Allan McKenzie/

March T21

On the field
Still plenty of cricket this month, and I did my best to make the most of it while I was still hibernating at the family home in Somerset: guaranteed television and definitely no commute or office time getting in the way of my cricket watching. As I had instantly got hooked on the PSL when it began in February, I kept getting a decent dose of it – until it had to be postponed due to COVID outbreaks… Oh well, I’ll see the hilarious graphics & hear the fanfare in June.

As with February, the main event this month was the closing stages of England’s tour of India. It was a disappointing result in the final Test; I really did think we might pull things back a bit, and though India absolutely did deserve to win, I think the 3-1 scoreline didn’t accurately reflect the series as a whole. I was rather more hopeful for the T20 series, especially with a comprehensive victory in the first match and getting the toss advantage for the final match, but things didn’t quite work out – and at least by the end of the series, winning the toss wasn’t as much of an indicator as it had been in the first three games. This series loss aside, I then thought that this put us in pole position for the ODI series: many first choice players available, players finding some form. But again it wasn’t to be. It’s a shame, as anyone who didn’t watch the whole tour would see the three series losses and presume it was a complete disaster, when in fact there were plenty of positives dotted through each format – and obviously some clear things to work on. And the emotional reaction to a debut half century from Krunal Pandya during the ODI series showed a human side to the Indian team that has perhaps been overshadowed by Kohli’s onfield antics since the second Test, and brought me back to the realm of opposition appreciation after some time in the wilderness.

I saw a teeny tiny amount of the New Zealand v. Bangladesh ODI & T20 series, but not as much as I would’ve liked – I could only do so much late night cricket watching and early starts. Similarly, I didn’t see too much of the West Indies v. Sri Lanka tour (ODI/T20/Test) as it clashed with a few things, plus there were a few later starts for those of us in the UK. I’m always happy to see a bit of Afghanistan, so I made sure to catch a bit of their short Test & T20 series against Zimbabwe.

On the page
Andrew Symonds – Roy: Going for Broke ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️
This book has been sitting on the shelf patiently waiting to be read for many years, so I thought it was about time it got an outing. I didn’t really know anything about Symonds – other than his destructive cricketing abilities – so it was interesting to find out about his adoption and relationship with his nationality & race; it would have been nice to dig a bit deeper into this area (especially given the high profile incident later in his career with Harbhajan Singh), but it’s his personal life after all – it’s entirely up to him how much to share. The inclusion of graphics makes the stats sections less dry (and I say that as a stats fan), plus it’s a nice touch to have little stories from his closest teammates & friends dotted throughout. It’s a quick read, but pretty entertaining.

On the box
Beyond the Boundary: ICC Women’s T20 World Cup Australia 2020 (Netflix) ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️
I’m still finding my feet as far as current players go, so it was great to find this hour-long highlights show of the most recent Women’s T20 World Cup. After getting my head around the fact that they just managed to get the entire tournament in before the world shut down, I was filled with joy at the story of the Thailand team (especially their excitement at playing against some of their idols) as well as disappointed at the England team’s results. Overall though it was brilliant to see how well attended the final was, and that women’s cricket seems to be going from strength to strength.

Not much else going on this month, as everything’s warming up either for the County Championship or the IPL… I was very happy that Middle Please, Umpire returned for a second series – and their first guest was only Joe bloody Root! I’d definitely recommend giving it a listen, for the interview and also for Miles absolutely losing it at the end. I also started listening to Mark Nicholas’ new podcast, Not Just Cricket, which opens with a fascinating chat with Virat Kohli.

Featured image credit: BCCI

February T21

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

January T21

On the field
A veritable feast of cricket! I think there was pretty much something going on every single day (and most mornings), so I got into a nice little routine of working in the living room in the morning whilst a match was on and then heading upstairs to my desk in the afternoon. A lot of my focus was on Australia; the second half of their Test series against India took up the first couple of weeks (even forcing an emergency Tailenders pod), and I continued my occasional early starts & scoring sessions on leave days & weekends. Elsewhere in Australia was the Big Bash, by far my favourite domestic T20 league in the world – don’t @ me. As I’m still re-familiarising myself with the cricketing world it was invaluable to study this league closely, both for up & coming Australian players and the range of overseas players the teams had attracted; the innovations for BBL10 grew on me – I think the power surge & Bash Boost could have benefits elsewhere, though I don’t think the X-factor substitutions really worked out.

The other major series was England in Sri Lanka; I would’ve liked to have seen one more Test, and some one-day matches (in an ideal world), though what we got was an enjoyable pair of matches and pretty decent remote coverage via Sky Sports. It was so good to see Jack Leach back in the side alongside Dom Bess, as well as Joe Root in full flow – and his bouts of cramp reminded Athers of an absolutely hilarious incident involving Mark Richardson a few years back. The most hilarious thing ended up being the superlative Moose Cup: there’s no cricketing trophy quite like it.

My cricket snacks, if you will, were the ODI series between Afghanistan & Ireland, the first Test between Pakistan & South Africa (the long-awaited return of Test cricket to Pakistan), and smatterings of the Abu Dhabi T10 league. I couldn’t quite get my head around the latter (especially as the fielding was universally dire), though getting to see some Somerset players in action was a good bonus – as was the presence of a typically exuberant Danny Morrison on comms.

On the page
Michael Clarke – My Story ⭐️⭐️⭐️
One of my favourite players from back in my cricket heyday (despite being Australian), when I discovered that he had an autobiography I decided that I really should give it a go – I ended up getting the audiobook version. It’s not the best cricket autobiography ever; though he was a remarkable player, it didn’t always feel like a particularly remarkable story to tell. It’s not helped by the fact that it jumps back & forth in time, overlapping events in a way that made me wonder if it had been a copy & paste job – plus there was definitely a chip on his shoulder that left a bitter taste.

On the box
The Test (Amazon Prime) ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
This was a really interesting one. You do wonder with something like this whether you are actually seeing people’s true reactions (though some obviously were – like the numerous incidents of frustrated batsmen getting out), but either way it’s a great insight. I particularly enjoyed the introduction to Adam Zampa’s coffee bar, as well as re-living the Ashes clashes at Lord’s (Archer v. Smith) and Headingley in 2019. I’m rather hoping for another series at some point, either following Australia or perhaps an Asian side.

I was rather gutted that there was no UK coverage of the Bangladesh v. West Indies ODI series, as I always love to watch the Tigers and they executed a pretty comprehensive series victory. In podcast news, I’ve continued to catch up on Tailenders (I only have a few more ‘old’ ones to listen to now) and also finally got my hands on a #tailendersoftheworlduniteandtakeover t-shirt – plus Middle Please, Umpire finished its first series in style with some fascinating interviews (Merv Hughes was possibly my favourite).

Featured image credit: Danny Reuben

My origin story

The first definitive memory I have of watching cricket is the end of Mark Butcher’s masterful, match-winning knock of 173* against Australia at Headingley in 2001; I’m English – of course it had to be an Ashes match. I obviously knew of cricket well before this: when summer came round in my school days the Kwik Cricket sets would make an appearance, for one thing. I was never much good, instead making more of an impression as a safe pair of hands in the field during rounders…

I’m not sure why I had the TV on for this particular match. Was it even down to me? I can’t remember. It just sticks out as Butch managed to imprint himself on me following that innings, becoming a firm favourite as I began to watch the sport on a more regular basis. The following summer is slightly clearer in my mind, especially the one-day series featuring India (including Nasser’s three-fingered gesture to the press box in the tri-series final), then the summer after that is even more solid – Jimmy made his debut in the Test series against Zimbabwe, and was very much flavour of the month. We were on a family holiday in Yorkshire, but set aside a decent chunk of time to watch the match, I seem to recall. Some things never change.

It was 2004 when things really stepped up a notch: I started going to games. County cricket, to start with, as Somerset’s ground is only about half an hour away from the family home. I went with a school friend & her family, who were regulars, and saw Ricky Ponting make his debut for the club in the Twenty20 Cup (back in the days when six an over was still pretty good). Somerset won and I was hooked.

The next year (2005 – a big ’un) I became a member and continued to support the club in this way for a few seasons in a row. Plus I, er, attempted to run my own stats spreadsheets; they were pretty basic and took a lot of work, but it definitely helped me pay attention a lot more. Turns out I couldn’t have picked a much better time to get obsessed with cricket – as my most complete scrapbook will attest! 

Yes, I kept scrapbooks of autographs, photos of my own, details of the scores, newspaper cuttings… Looking back through them all, I’d forgotten how many prize scalps I got! In Australia’s 50-over warmup match, for example, I managed to get Glenn McGrath’s autograph, despite the whole squad seemingly being under orders not to sign anything – served them right that Somerset ended up beating them! A great omen for the forthcoming Ashes series (still one of the most stressful sporting weeks of my life). Later visiting international teams have been much more forthcoming & friendly, such as Sri Lanka, India, West Indies, Pakistan & South Africa (the likes of MS Dhoni, Shahid Afridi, Lasith Malinga, Chris Gayle & Dale Steyn all feature in my autograph collection).

County games were also the best way of meeting England players and pundits, helping me become the proud owner of the signatures of Michael Holding, David ‘Bumble’ Lloyd, Stuart Broad, Alastair Cook, Andrew Strauss, Simon Jones, Alex Tudor, Eoin Morgan, Matthew Hoggard, Benedict Bermange (Sky stats guru!), and the one & only Mark Nicholas – plus many others. 


A few England women in there, too, as Taunton used to be the home of women’s cricket – I even gave captain Charlotte Edwards a pleasant surprise when she noticed I had her name on the back of my shirt instead of one of the men’s. I even took to having my photo taken with some players, or just asking if I could take a picture of them (I’d seen other fans doing that). I was rather industrious in my day!


Throw in a few T20 finals days, a few ODIs, and the final morning of England’s Test against Bangladesh at Lord’s in 2005, and my diaries became rather full. Only recently Somerset have introduced reserved seating, so our trips always involved us getting to the ground when the gates opened so we could sit where we preferred, plus there were always decisions to be made about food (with matches always coinciding with at least one of the day’s meal times); it was all becoming a bit of a kerfuffle, to be honest. Even with a bit of an enforced break due to uni; I did go to a couple of matches at Chester-le-Street though (I was a student at Newcastle University) and almost froze to my seat it was so cold! I was still keeping up with international fixtures on TV in the summer, but post-graduation I eventually started getting into theatre – that became the new obsession, taking up most of my time and prompting a move to London in 2014.

As I was initially living in Kilburn, during the Lord’s Test of the 2015 Ashes series I ended up walking to the ground every day – just to get a feel for the atmosphere, as well as a bit of fresh air. Whilst I would occasionally see or hear some of the scores & results in England or Somerset games, I just didn’t have the capacity to keep cricket in my life once full-time work and theatre blogging came along.

Enter the 2019 World Cup. A few days into the tournament I was back at home for a brief stay, and Bangladesh vs. South Africa was on before I had to leave for my National Express (or train, whatever) back to London. I’ve always had a soft spot for the Bangladesh team – partly from their brief stint over here in 2005 and partly because of the growing Bangladeshi community in West Somerset – so obviously I was supporting them. And they won! I was so excited by that I was then fully locked into the rest of the tournament, listening to England’s games whenever they clashed with work, and discovering the joy of TMS for the first time.

Disappointed that I was way too late for tickets, I searched for competitions to win my way into the final and found an easy one from the wine company Wolf Blass. I only went and won! I had some drama getting hold of the tickets themselves, which I don’t want to relive now, but my dad & I finally got in after an hour of play (who else could I invite?!) and… Well, you know the rest. It was a brilliant, stressful, adrenaline-inducing day!

And then we were back at Lord’s just over a week later, as one thing I had managed to book tickets for was day 1 of the Ireland Test match – again inviting my dad (this one had been a birthday present back in February), and again having quite the day of it. Two-and-a-bit innings in a single day’s play! Gutting not to have bought day 2 tickets as well, to be able to cheer on Jack Leach to almost a spot on the batting honours board…

No Ashes tickets (I did apply), but I was glued to TV & radio coverage of the matches – Archer vs. Smith at Lord’s being a real highlight. Stokes at Headingley, you say? Didn’t see it, mate. I’m a superstitious old bird at the best of times, and once it seemed as though things were going better while I wasn’t watching or listening, I relied on Cricinfo’s live text. Yup, that’s how I followed that outrageous day of cricket! Only afterwards did I get to see the treat that was Leach cleaning his glasses, ever so calmly.

A couple of months later I was at the Hackney Empire for Tailenders Live, having only listened to the pre-show pod in preparation – but loving it all the same. The loosely cricket-based safe space was exactly that, whether you were an early adopter or latecomer. I can’t really remember what prompted me to book the ticket, but I’m so glad I did!


Rather predictably, I lost touch with England’s 2019-20 winter tours a bit, but I was determined to follow as much cricket as possible in 2020 – and perhaps go to some London county games (after rain put paid to my County Ground return in August 2019), or try out The Hundred. I think we all know how that went, too…

I may have waited too long to get properly into podcasts, missing the infamous ‘Mood Wank’ incident on the Tailenders Instagram quiz (as well as the replays & score-alongs), but 2020 still ended up being my real cricket renaissance year. I’m mostly up-to-date with Tailenders (and very glad for face masks that hide my weird grins as I listen to it on public transport), caught every England summer fixture, and took advantage of a BT Sport trial to have some Australia vs. India and Big Bash games playing on my phone at my desk in the office. I bought myself a score book in time for Boxing Day, and have since scored a couple of Big Bash games and some sessions of Test cricket; I did try scoring back in the day, but with my own notebooks, template & scoring system – now I’m doing things properly. Well, as properly as possible, anyway. Making the most of COVID restrictions keeping me at home and able to watch on an actual TV.


And 2021? If our government decides it doesn’t want us to be a complete embarrassment & perennial danger zone, I should be at day 1 of the Trent Bridge Test against India (ticking off another ground), and I have three Tailenders Live shows booked for early October… I’d also love to see New Zealand while they’re over here, plus Somerset’s opening championship game away to Middlesex at Lord’s – April attendance seems like a wild dream right now, but if I can be there I will.

For now, it’s 4am starts and sleepy afternoons as England continue their tour of Asia – and I attempt to work from home.

Go well.