If you asked me to name my favourite sporting occasions, then one of them would be watching the England Cricket Team play in Antigua which I have been lucky to have done twice. The Antiguan people are the friendliest you will meet anywhere in the world and it is an unbelievable experience to watch cricket sat with Antiguan families. We buy the drinks and they bring the lunch!
With all the hype around the Euros the second and final test against New Zealand took a back seat at the weekend but I managed to watch it for a few hours last Saturday and it was certainly a depressing experience. England lost the series on Sunday in double quick time and it was their first home series defeat since 2014 and the first against New Zealand this century.
On a day when fans were allowed back into Edgbaston the atmosphere was (as it always is there) excellent and I love all the ingenuity that goes into the costumes people wear to the matches, but the reality is that in this two-match series we were given a lesson in both batting and bowling.
Worrying for England was yet another batting collapse and some very indifferent fielding and wicket keeping. Indeed, during their coverage on Sky TV, they reported that England has the worst percentage of catches in the slips in international cricket over the last 3 years.
It would be wrong not to recognise that the loss of Ben Stokes, Jos Buttler and Jofra Archer did weaken the side and that the top seven in the batting order is England’s youngest ever. The bottom line is that English Cricket has a much higher level of funding than New Zealand Cricket so the gap between the sides shouldn’t be as big as it appeared in this test series.
I have no idea why we have this ongoing batting issue but perhaps the reason is to be found in Nasser Hussein’s assessment. He said “It was an abject batting performance. It is like they are reinventing the wheel. They have all these odd techniques and idiosyncratic movements. In county cricket, they are all standing on off-stump and flashing at balls outside off. It’s like everyone else is wrong — all those great players of the past, people like Sir Viv Richards and Graham Gooch — and they are right.” Whatever it is we need to sort it out and quickly.
If the cricket worsened the mood of the nation, it was a good weekend on the football front with England not only winning 1-0 against Croatia but playing well in what were very testing weather conditions.
Maybe football is coming home even if the cricket isn’t!
Peter Varney, Chairman – Integral Sports Management
Photograph: Peter Cziborra/Action Images/Reuters