The State of the Union

So, here we are.

We’ve been cluttering your inbox / news feed / Google search results for over a year now. We were rather too busy to mark the occasion with a proper, flag-waving ceremony, complete with lip-syncing major artist, but now the time is ripe to look back over the last year. A lot of interesting stuff has happened to England cricket in that time, so we thought we’d take our own, probably not all that unique, look at that.

The catalyst for this blog, as the web address might suggest, was England’s utterly abject subsidence to Pakistan a year ago (a Pakistan, we note, that got bowled out for 49 this very morning). We can still picture it now, rather too vividly for our liking (you see it’s imprinted on the inside of our eyelids and we still lie in bed at night in a cold sweat thinking about it) but if you’re not quite as haunted by it as we are, the full, horrible evidence can be viewed here. It was a spur of the moment thing – a combination of anger and embarrassment coupled with the need to vent those emotions led to our establishment.

We thought England might have learned their lesson in the third Test, bowling Pakistan out for 99, but they reverted to type in the end, losing badly again. In typical schizophrenic mode, they then proceeded to destroy the Pakistanis 4-0 in the ODI series, with Cook and KP batting like a dream. Had we had moustaches, we would have been tearing them out in utter frustration. As it was, we made do with typing furiously on the blog and occasionally banging our heads on the table for a bit of variety.

Then it was off to Sri Lanka for one of the ICC’s flagship two-Test series. Wait, what? Well, anyway, England once again found themselves being taken by the soft-and-danglies by another subcontinental mystery spinner in the form of Rangana Herath. Except they were so mentally shot that there was very little mystery about this one but they nevertheless proceeded to fall over anyway. Herath took twelve in the first Test and England lost, again. That was when Pietersen decided to play one of the great innings and, along with Swann, who took ten, bailed England out. There wasn’t, to everybody’s delight, a pointless tacked-on ODI series and England’s winter was over. They returned home to lick their wounds and somehow hope they could recover some mental fortitude in time for South Africa.

As we all expected, England at home, away from the hot, sapping sun, were a very different proposition. Incredibly, given that most of the country was wading around in snow, or swamp-like conditions, or other freak weather, England managed to get two-and-a-half Tests in against the Windies, who presumably feel like they get a fairly raw deal in series with England, as it’s usually about 20 below with a vicious north wind. We were at Lord’s on the fourth day and, although the sun was out, the icy blasts left us with pretty much every ailment in the book, except perhaps Housemaid’s Knee. Chanderpaul and Samuels apart, the Windies were by and large atrocious, even allowing Stuart Broad to get eleven in the match at Lord’s. England, controversially, took one look at the forecast and rested most of their attack in the final match at Edgbaston, allowing Graeme Onions to thrive in his natural habitat (nearly ten on the bog saturation scale). A pretty forgettable series pretty swiftly forgotten. In the one-day series, Ian Bell channelled the spirit of KP and scored a ton, while Cook carried on where he had left off in Sri Lanka.

Cue the pointless series of the year (as awarded by us in our annual gala ceremony). Australia came to England for an ODI series. We’d have rather they saved the aviation fuel to be honest. We’re not going to talk about it any more.

Enter stage left South Africa. Everyone licked their lips and awaited a titanic clash. This particular titan, though, had already had both legs amputated in the form of the series only being three matches long, owing (at least according to the ECB) to some trumped-up school sports day happening in East London. In the first Test, everyone sat around watching Hashim Amla bat, bat and bat some more, ably assisted by Jacques Kallis. England took two wickets in the entire game, Ravi Bopara reminded everyone yet again that he was not a Test batsman and everyone suddenly realised that it was abundantly obvious who the world’s number one side was. In the second Test, England inexplicably didn’t play a spinner and paid for it, as KP was left to take 4 wickets. They at least escaped with a draw. KP then had a mental meltdown and was dropped for the last match, paying the price for being a bloody idiot. In our view he was pretty lucky not to get punted into the long grass for good. South Africa won the third Test but it was a closer match than the first two. And then the series was bundled into the back of a van and never seen again.

Exit stage right Andrew Strauss. Which was sad.

There was a ODI series, which apart from it raining in Cardiff (who knew it rained there?), was actually pretty good. What a shame they couldn’t have played another Test match instead.

Then there was the T20 World Cup. You know us well enough by now to realise that you’re lucky to get two lines on it. England were crap; that’s all you need to know. That the West Indies could win the whole thing suggests T20 cricket has a bit of a credibility problem.

Once the jamboree was over, England took a trip to India and promptly won, which, given what you’ve read at the top of the post, was quite an achievement, although there’s still the lingering suspicion that it was as much to do with how awful India are as how good England are. Swann and Panesar (when he played) were majestic, as was Cook and, at times, KP. Sachin Tendulkar was a sad shadow of his former self and still he wasn’t dropped. On the upside, the grounds were pretty full. Is T20 wearing a bit thin, these hopeful correspondents ask?

And here we are. The last year in 1000 words. What has changed? England are no longer Number 1 in the world in Tests (although they are, bizarrely, still joint first in the ODI table), South Africa deservedly taking that title. KP is still an England player; Andrew Strauss is not. It’s been a fascinating year – we’ll hopefully be here for another – the tickets for the Ashes Test at Lord’s dropped through the letter box yesterday – and we hope you’ll carry on reading about it on our humble blog.

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