Keep calm and carry on…

Another crucial lesson in why you should back-up your work! Now back to normal it seems….

Luckily, however, it doesn’t seem as if I have missed very much, other than the repercussions of Ben Stokes’s moment of madness, the continuing QPR mediocrity (no reason to dispense with Ollie’s services though) and increasingly obvious BREXIT negotiation absurdities.

Ben Stokes married Clare Ratcliff on 14th October 2017
Mr & Mrs Ben Stokes

Ben Stokes has got married and that may be a better answer to the long-term losses of temper than any amount of disciplinary action.

 

 

 

QPR logo 2017At QPR there seems to be some madness afoot questioning Ollie’s tenure after a pretty mediocre (but entirely normal) run of draws against Burton, Barnsley and, most recently, Sunderland, interspersed with a depressing loss at home to Fulham.  Positioned in the middle of the table after only 12 games and only 6 points away from contention in the play-off zone, now is not the time to kick over the apple cart. Ollie must stay and manage some consistent improvement.

Jean-CLaude Juncker proposes an EU defence force
EU State of the Union

WIth BREXIT on the other hand it seems like reasonable progress is being badly mis-spun to the media.  It’s incredibly upsetting to see the UK’s negotiating team out-spun by Michel Barnier’s rag-tag crew. Forget your actual feelings about BREXIT, or even more calculating hopes for the outcome of the negotiations and plan for a total UK withdrawal in March 2019 without any “divorce” payment and defaulting to WTO trade rules.

Smash the ball back in to Michel’s court and say “Now, if you want anything any better than that, let us know!”  Then re-start the chat only if and when a new offer appears.  This is such child’s play it’s very hard to see why no-one on the UK team seems to grasp how to do this.  I’d be tempted to reshuffle the BREXIT team and move BoJo to DExitEU to make the point (fairly obviously) to Michel & Co that they are going to have to do better.

Just prepare to buy more stuff made in the UK
No need to panic

Doomsayers will scream about how we will need lorry parks the size of Kent to cope with the customs process (which is nonsense – just an opportunity to require pre-clearance of all traffic in goods in both directions, heavens it could be done with a handheld app, AND deliver improved traceability etc!) Everyone seems to forget that the bulk of UK exports are services and aren’t put on the back of a lorry and we should be doing our level best to reduce such traffic for environmental reasons….

Keep calm and carry on has never been more pertinent.

 

 

 

but then on the wrong side of the scoreline(s)

A disappointing day on the sports field, with England’s 21-run loss to the Windies in the Durham T20 and QPR’s 3-2 loss to Middlesbrough, but both were great matches, so it was “only” the results that were upsetting. As winning is the point, however, that’s not great solace.

Middlesbrough v QPR, 16th September 2017
Straining ever sinew

QPR’s trip to the Riverside Stadium was full of potential, but it’s the story of unfulfilled potential that is QPR’s most consistent feature.  It’s early days and if the scoreline had been reversed, as it might easily have been of course, then QPR would be sitting where Middlesbrough are, 7th and looking at the play-off places rather than 11th and a mid-table story.  It looks as though it’s a story of “can you up your game when you think you’ve delivered your best already?”  Come on Ollie.

West Indies win Durham T20, 16th September 2017
Another good effort from Plunkett

Then the T20.  Also a great match.  After a great start from Hales and even after losing Root and Morgan cheaply, at 118-4 after 14 overs with Buttler and Bairstow in charge it looked as though England could and really should win.   Morgan misfire turned out to be crucial.  I can’t see a more concerted demonstration of Jos Buttler’s qualifications for a place in the Ashes side (side, not squad and not for keeping reasons…)

Damn shame. Nevertheless, a great piece on West Indies T20 skills and history by Tim Wigmore provides excellent context to understand the mountain still to climb for England’s T20 side.

Heartening sports afternoon….

Henry Blofeld retires from TMS commentary, Lord's 9th September 2017
Bye Bye Blowers

After the unexpected thrills of the West Indies series there was always a chance of an upset at Lord’s, but Jimmy Anderson delivered the goods (again) with a career best of 7-42 for a fifth entry on the Lord’s honours board and a nine innings victory for England to deliver a 2-1 series win.  Thankfully. Stoneman seemed in much more convincing form to make the selectors’ task a little easier.

The big moment of the day was, however, the departure of Blowers who I thought the Beeb could have allowed a double-session to take him through to England’s victory, but who made up for this by a unique and brilliant lap of honour.

Luke Freeman scores for QPR at Loftus Road, 9th September 2017
Luke Freeman scores

Then news drifted in of a home win for QPR against Ipswich with two goals from Luke Freeman and James Mackie before half-time and what sounds like plenty of other chances before Ipswich pulled one back in the 89th minute to make it 2-1.  I shall have to return to Loftus Road again!  Phew. 8th in the table after 6 games… not awful.

EU negotiating unanimity more fragile than previously believed

EU team haven't got time to spend negotiating because they need to spend all their time in discussions with EU27 - hilarious
Mnsr Barnier in Turmoil

So Michel “we have an agreed mandate and a unified negotiating position” Barnier is actually having to work so hard behind the scenes to keep the EU27 governments on the same page that he can not allow the EU Brexit negotiations team to work any harder than one week (in EU terms, therefore, 4 days) per month….

This beggars belief.  It looks as though the UK’s negotiating position in August’s abbreviated week of discussions must have rattled Barnier considerably as there has been a tsunami of exculpatory “It’s their fault!” comments made in public. Although it does seem a little peculiar that David Davis doesn’t actually stay in Brussels while these negotiations continue between civil servants, you might have thought that Barnier could leave his bureaucrats in place to do the negotiating while he spends his life trying to keep the fragile unity of the EU27 fully serviced on the phones…

In reality, it probably reflects the EU negotiators’ final comprehension that the UK’s position on the “divorce bill” is that UK contributions to the EU budget will cease in March 2019 and that further contributions made after the Exit date will only be made on the basis of specific commitments made to the 2014-20 budget or in return for access and involvement in (and benefits from) specific EU projects that the UK wishes to continue participating in.

Brexit and the EU Budget, Report of the House of Lords Committee, 2nd March 2017
A breath of fresh (or at least meaningful) air

Why this would come as a shock to the “Oh, we’ll just huff and we’ll puff” EU negotiating team is something of a mystery given that the position was comprehensively trailed in the House of Lords report that even I mentioned on 4th March 2017. (Well, I was on the ball at least, the day of publication no less!)

 

Perhaps the EU were just hoping that by huffing and puffing and holding the prospect of a free-trade deal to ransom they could force the UK to sign up to a limitless contribution to cover the EU’s budget deficit?  No, they wouldn’t be that simple-minded.  Would they?

Unexpected drama

Batting was a bit tricky at Lord's today
Root cPowell bHolder 1

While a little drama is good for the game, finishing the first day of a Lord’s Test at 46-4 with The Chef and Rooty back in the Pavilion is a little more excitement than the game really needs.  Stokes’s 6-22 was a bonus of course, but even so… not the sort of situation that preparation for the Ashes required.

Updated at 4:30PM – only to say that it’s a little surprising that this new-style England team didn’t declare at 163-9 to give themselves a chance of bowling the West Indies out tonight. Who needs a third day of Test cricket really, eh?

IRMA – Nevis OK, but Anguilla and Barbuda need help

Map of Nevis and other Caribbean islands
Irma turned North, missing St Kitts & Nevis

It was an enormous relief to hear that Nevis came through Hurricane Irma pretty much unscathed after a late move Northwards took the storm away from direct impact.

Not such good news for lovely little Barbuda and Anguilla and I can not fathom why we did not have more military and aid resources on standby. RFA Mounts Bay is all very well, but very clearly too little too late.  Transporter with helicopters, Marines and Engineers should have left Brize Norton for Antigua and onward deployment yesterday.

The wafer thin margin

West Indies beat England in the Second Test Match at Headingley, 29th August 2017
“That were a proper match!”

I was delighted that the West Indies averted English hubris with their 427 first innings batting display at Headingley.  Was it strictly necessary to inflict immediate nemesis though?  As everyone has said, it was a thrilling match – after a joyful tea at the Design Museum I only just caught the last 10 minutes of the match.  It certainly demonstrated that the difference between hubris and nemesis in cricket is wafer thin.

No doubt someone somewhere will be calling for Root to be sacked and Kevin Pietersen recalled, but in fact “these things happen.” It should certainly banish over-confidence for The Ashes.  For which, my own suggestion is try out Woakes a lot higher up the order at Lord’s (taking on the cup of doom and opening with Cookie perhaps even?) and recall Jos Buttler to the Test side.  Just saying…. #everyonehasanopinion

hubris averted

Bairstow receives throw from Stokes to stump Blackwood at Headingly, 27th August 2017
Don’t bet on Stokes not hitting the stumps, or Bairstow not flicking the bails off

Well….the WIndies batting display at Headingly should put paid to English cricketing hubris pre-Ashes, so a useful exercise after all despite all the criticism.  Now the key is to avoid actual nemesis, much though that is England’s new tradition in second Tests.

Ending the day on 171-3, effectively only 2 runs of the WIndies with three wickets down makes it look as though it might actually be an exciting fourth day, but one in which you might fancy a wager on the WIndies.  Much will depend on Root in the first session and then at some point on Stokes no doubt, but the edge must surely be in the West Indies favour.  We shall see.