Test cricket is not only a demanding game, both physically and mentally, it is also beautifully unpredictable. Anyone who saw the Headingley test in 1981 knows just how the tables can turn: England were down and out, it seems, following on against Australia and heading for an innings defeat to go 2-0 down in the series. Ladbrokes judged the situation so hopeless that they offered 500-1 on an England victory.
Fraser Nelson - another howler on his watch
The rest, as they say, is history: Ian Botham, assisted by Graham Dilley and Chris Old, ensured not only that Australia would have to bat again, but that England would have something to bowl at. That something was 130: Australia were shot out by Bob Willis, and those who had put money on England at 500-1 were very happy bunnies indeed.
So when, in this year’s Headingley test, England were bowled out for a paltry 67 in their first innings, no-one should have written them off. But Marcus Berkmann, writing for the increasingly alt-right Spectator’s blog, had already asked “who deserves to be sacked after England's Ashes defeat?” He was, he told anyone not yet asleep, “at a stage beyond rage, beyond reasonable doubt”. He mused “I suppose the question is who we sack first”.
Getting it wrong meant someone getting the sack, it seems. Given how the test turned out, with England winning thanks to Ben Stokes’ heroic 135 not out, some uncharacteristic fumbles in the field by Australia, and a highly fortunate umpiring decision, perhaps it is those at the Speccy who should be walking the plank right now.
The Twitter derision has been swift in its arrival. “This aged *sooooo* well. Stay away next test match … Surely you deserve to now be sacked from your job on this basis? … I think the [Spectator Coffee House] team need to be sacked, given their current performance … Well it’s not like [the Spectator] to not wait for the full facts before unleashing their BS. A bit previous [Fraser Nelson], who’s in the firing line for this?” Who indeed? There was more.
“Given that this article is about as good as England’s first innings, should we be calling for Marcus Berkmann to be sacked? … Bit premature there … Premature evaluation!!! … Marcus Berkmann, who deserves to be sacked after writing that article. That’s how this works, isn’t it?” Wasn’t going too well, was it? And the ridicule wasn’t over yet.
“What a poorly conceived article. If anyone should be sacked, perhaps Berkmann for suggesting people should lose their jobs for an event that didn't even happen (yet)? … [You’re getting sacked in the morning] … Marcus Berkmann deserves to be sacked, that's for sure”. And then the pièce de résistance: “Who would have thought that a publication that pays money to Rod Liddle would produce such utter shit?” Ouch!
You never, but never, call test match cricket until it’s over. Even at the death, there could have been three different results - a win for Australia, a tie, or a win for England. Deciding the result on just the first two days’ play was the most elementary of errors.
So that’ll be Fraser Nelson and his team presenting themselves for dismissal, then. Or is this one of those “do as we say, not as we do” moments? I’ll just leave that one there.
Enjoy your visit to Zelo Street? You can help this truly independent blog carry on talking truth to power, while retaining its sense of humour, by adding to its Just Giving page at