I sledged Steve Smith for England

In this summer of sporting dramas, every patriotic sports fan likes to think he’s done his bit to help. I went up to Manchester with my brother last Thursday and in the evening we found ourselves in an Indian restaurant with the England wicket-keeper Jonny Bairstow at the next table. I feel sure it was Edward’s and my manly cries of ‘Good luck, Jonny’ as he left that helped him bat so brilliantly for his 99 not out. Though I suppose it could have been the vindaloo that fired him up. My major influence on the Ashes series came a few days earlier, when I bumped into the Australian all-time-great batsman

If you thought Lord’s was rowdy, get ready for Leeds

Shouldn’t we all just calm down a bit after Lord’s? Once prime ministers decide to intervene, you know things have gone too far. Rishi Sunak has made it clear he wouldn’t want to win a match that way apparently, which feels very much like Tony Blair’s decision to wade into the case of Corrie’s jailed heroine Deirdre Barlow. Mark you, that really was important. So… was Jonny Bairstow out after being stumped by sharp-eyed Australian keeper Alex Carey? Undoubtedly. Should the Australians have withdrawn their appeal? Possibly, because Bairstow had good reason to think the over was finished when he moved out of his ground. But had England gone on

In defence of Australia

What a week it has been for cricket. It began with that scalding ICEC report on the ‘racist, sexist and elitist’ state of the game in England. This report was commissioned by Ian Watmore, briefly the chairman of the England and Wales Cricket Board, as a kneejerk reaction to Azeem Rafiq’s accusation of institutional racism. The report was presided over by Cindy Butts, who has been an activist for Black Lives Matter and perhaps has an axe to grind. As it stands, the report is devastating for English cricket, but much more needs to be known about the way in which it was put together and about the credentials of

Why we all need an Ollie Robinson

It’s a long way from Edgbaston to Karachi, but that’s where my thoughts were turning after Australia’s last-gasp victory in an unbearably tense, always thrilling, wonderful Ashes Test on Tuesday. Ominously for England, Australia’s three best batsmen, and the three best in the world, misfired simultaneously over five days. But they still managed to win. Oh well… Anyway, we were at the Sind Club ground on a cricket tour to Pakistan. It hadn’t been that long since the Sri Lankans had been shot up in Lahore so there was still a bristling police presence at our game, reassuringly unsmiling blokes wielding very large submachine guns. Pakistan being a country where

Why England lost the Ashes

England’s wretched performance in the Ashes – which saw the side lose three tests and so the series to Australia last week – has been more abject than even the most inspired pessimist could have imagined. No sane observer expected England to win against Australia, but to lose the five match series little more than two days into the third test was a pitiful show. Inevitably, even as England continue to play the fourth test this week, there have been calls for a cricketing inquest. The standard of the domestic game, the structure of the English season and England’s pivot towards the one day and T20 formats are all expected