Strangely chipper

Joe Root, England loses Second Ashes Test, Adelaide 6th December 2017
Well, not so much…

Well, winning in Adelaide was a brief and rather unlikely dream.  TMS in the dark with a cup of tea as England faded from hope at 176-4 to defeat by 120 runs at 233 all out was not exactly entertaining, but it was so much better than it might have been at the end of England’s first innings that I felt really OK about it.

It turns out to depend on Cook and Root.  While/if Cookie stays in, England can accumulate and if Root gets set then the side can deliver.  The bowlers showed they could “do it” in the Australian second innings.  The sides are closer than the first two scorelines have suggested and it could still fall England’s way in Perth next week.

 

David Davis, House of Commons Brexit Select Committee, 6th December 2017
“I’m enjoying this” (not)

That and then the DUP intervention in the Brexit negotiations: a disaster that might just salvage a sensible conclusion to the first round of negotiations despite the appearance of confusion and incompetence.

but then, as always, the clouds part

Joe Root, Steven Smith, Nathan Lyon Day 4 of the Second Ashes Test at Adelaide, 5th December 2017
Joe batting at the end of “Day” 4 in Adelaide

The most thrilling night’s Ashes cricket I can recall.  The phone buzzed me awake Lyon’s dismissal taking Australia to 71-5 at about 4am.  Stay with TMS and forsake sleep?  Preparing myself for an Australian rear-guard action, Handscomb almost immediately followed Lyon back to the pavilion.  Oh the joy…who needs sleep??? From 90-7 to 138 all out. Thrilling.

What on Earth was Steve Smith’s decision not to impose the follow on all about?  It makes no sense to me at all.  Thinking ahead to the rest of the series before the game was in the bag maybe?

Still, if you were going to bet on something an England second innings batting failure would have been a fair guess – but, no! lo, verily 179-4 with Joe Root still in and Woakes kind-of-nightwatchmaning and 177 runs to win on the last “day”.  It doesn’t get much better than this.  The odds must still be with Australia, but still….there was a fight and some fair cricket…it’s what the Ashes are about.

In other news

Arlene Foster rejects Ulster "alignment" with Ireland
Bowled Arlene!

All this cricketing wondrousness came after a day of shock and surprises in Brussels as the DUP (predictably) exercised their muscle to prevent a disastrous potential concession by the UK desperate to get the trade talks underway.  It’s kind of embarrassing that it took Arlene Foster on the stairs at Stormont to snatch negotiating success from dismal failure.

I guess there’s a slight glimmer of a chance that May knew that the DUP would do this and so played the Irish, but it seems likelier that Foster and the DUP saved the Union.  Which is quite something.

Theresa May and Jean-Claude Juncker
No deal today thankfully!  It was the wrong deal.

 

…a bit depressing

England collapse to 227 all out in Adelaide, 4 December 2017
Despair in Adelaide

England lost the first test of the Ashes Test in Brisbane by 10 wickets.  That sounds apocalyptic but, in a spirit of fairness, it was a better, closer match than the final score suggested.  Now, however, in Adelaide, there’s an unmitigated disaster unfolding.  Root took a punt and put Australia in to bat and then, well, there’s no avoiding it, the England bowlers simply failed, allowing Australia to accumulate 442 for only 8 wickets.  Even that wouldn’t be a catastrophe, but then overnight there was a classic England batting collapse, leaving England 15 runs short of the follow-on, all out for just 227. Despair.

I doubt if Australia will enforce the follow-on in the modern manner, but I have no idea why not.  Instead, they will pop in to bat and clock up 200 probably for the loss of only two or three wickets at worst and then leave England to try to bat out two days to try to salvage a draw.  They won’t.  A leathering beckons.

 

That QPR feeling

QPR have lost away at Derby and Preston and only managed a 2-2 draw with Brentford at Loftus Road. They’re 18th in the table and they’ve got 8th-placed Leeds at home next Saturday.  It’s not looking like a year for the return to the Premiership and a slow-motion drop down to the relegation zone seems to be in prospect.

 

 

Unnecessary negotiating faiure

BREXIT discussions meanwhile seem to veer between QPR’s and England’s cricket performance.   Having offered the EU £50bn to pay off obligations and accepted the continuing remit of the ECJ in the “transitional” period, there is an obvious Irish manoeuvre to try to gain political points over Northern Ireland. Depressing.

Thor: Ragnarok

I usually keep film to my wittily named “films” page, hoping to keep the larger-circulation publications at bay.  However, although I was a reluctant viewer of Thor: Ragnarok, I was astonished by this belly-laugh of a movie. Totally setting seriousness aside this is a masterclass in “banter.” It’s worth seeing just for Tom Hiddleston as Loki as Thor’s “Oh shit!” when discovered ruling Asgard in his father’s assumed identity.

Hiddleston does comedy.  Who knew? This is, in fact, a comedy masterpiece. Hemsworth, Hiddleston, Ruffalo (who I love) and Tessa Thompson banter effortlessly. Goldblum out-Goldblum’s himself. There’s a gloomy gladiator made of stone (?Korg?) worthy of a comedy award and a permanent place on “Mock the Week.” (I think he’s aiming for a raise from minimum wage assignments as he seems to have directed the thing too.)

Blanchett, Hopkins and Cumberbatch are put in the shade – which is in itself quite an achievement. They may not have got the “play it large” memo. Elba seems to have channelled his inner Shakespearian, but found a way of meshing that in to the slapstick context.

Absolutely brilliant.  Top of the banter charts.

A Home winning streak…for now

QPR beat Wolverhampton Wanderers 2-1 at home at Loftus Road, 28th October 2017
QPR 2 – 1 Wolves

The Home winning streak continues with an unexpected-by-some 2-1 victory over Wolves at Loftus Road.  The unexpectedness makes it worth more somehow. It won’t last.

In other news, the Ashes squad left for Australia without Ben Stokes but, more perplexingly, without Jos Buttler.  Nuts.  I’m all for Steven Finn, but… Gary Ballance in and Jos Buttler out? That makes no sense. No sense at all.

Finally someone has costed the structure of “no deal”

BREXIT talks head over the cliff edge

There has been a worrying lack of interest in actually establishing the comparative costs and benefits of the potential outcomes of the Article 50 BREXIT negotiations.  The entire country seems to be content to just trade  soundbites: “cliff edges”, “no deal is better than a bad deal”, “une impasse qui est extrêmement préoccupante”… nothing terribly enlightening.

 

 

 

Brexit and the EU Budget, Report of the House of Lords Committee, 2nd March 2017
Costing BREXI

The report of the Lords Committee has been the most illuminating source of information about the status (and size) of the “divorce bill” to date.  However Patrick Minford and the economics group at Cardiff University have used their economic model of the UK economy to model the comparative effects of potential EU BREXIT deals versus withdrawal on WTO terms.  Of course, Minford and Miller are unabashed free trade enthusiasts and unlikely to ascribe significant benefits to anything the protectionist EU might , but it’s at least a stab at establishing “hard exit” costs and benefits.
 

Over the “cliff edge”

 

Gradually, as the EU process remains locked in to the “divorce before trade” approach continued to erode the possibility of any deal before the Article 50 deadline, it’s more and more important that we understand what the potential economic consequences of the hard version of departure would be.  Minford is undoubtedly a free trade optimist and an under-player of the costs of structural disruption.  Nevertheless his conclusion that there would be a potential trade benefit equivalent to ~7% of GDP for a UK “hard” exit starts to set a target for the possible benefits of the no-deal departure.

 

Time to start getting real.

 

 

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.