16 March 2017

Article 50, my dear. And it seems not a moment too soon...

You probably weren't watching on Saturday night. After all, I wouldn't expect many in the UK to. I am, of course, referring to the popular Swedish television program Melodifestivalen, which, to all intents and purposes, is the selection program Sweden use to pick their Eurovision entry. After changing an explicit lyric to "freaking", Robin Bengtsson emerged as the pride of Sweden that will be representing his country in Kyiv in May.

Speaking of representatives sent to European countries, Theresa May recently returned from the European Council Summit, where a number of rather dull things were discussed; Brexit was not among them. But earlier this week, the European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) Bill was passed through the Houses of Parliament and was given Royal Assent on 16 March 2017. Mrs May has said she will trigger Article 50 within the next two weeks.


In the 9 months since the referendum, the political landscape, both at home and abroad, has changed substantially. On the morning after the referendum, Jeremy Corbyn called for the immediate triggering of Article 50, something which many people forget. A couple of hours later, David Cameron announced he would be resigning as Prime Minister. It is, perhaps, a testament to the organisation and the rules of the Conservative Party (which have been around since 2001) that the whole process of finding candidates only took two weeks, and the system, whereupon candidates are nominated by MPs and then the final two are put to the party's membership. That Andrea Leadsom, my pick for leader, had to withdraw was unfortunate, but it has to be said it looked inevitable after she walked into the trap of The Times. The Labour Party also had a leadership election, but the less said about that mess, the better.

Then, we had the intervention of Gina Miller, which, to the surprise of many, the High and then Supreme Courts agreed with, interpreting Article 50 differently to how pretty much everyone else did and stating that in order to enact Article 50, Parliament would have to vote for it based upon the rationale that the royal prerogative cannot be used to remove what was made law by Parliament. The only problem with this, however, is that Article 50 only states that a member state must "provide notification" of intention to withdraw. I have the view that the European Communities Act 1972 and Article 50 are two mutually exclusive events and thus I do not believe the ruling was correct. But now that it has passed, it is somewhat immaterial.

The problem with all of this is that the longer the posturing over this has gone on, the bigger the amount of virtue signalling and generalisation, and that all of this has led people to forget the real reasons that people voted to leave the EU. After all, let us not forget that if anybody was playing on fear in the referendum, it was Remain: our households are meant to lose £4,300 per year, don't forget, as well as World War III, the global Brexit recession, and the slaughtering of the first-born. OK, I lied: they never said the last one, but the tone of "project fear" was such that it would not have been out-of-place.

Cynics say that this is no better than the Leave campaign, talking about immigration and how they're all coming over here, stealing our jobs, and so on. But those who say that are guilty of conflating the official and unofficial Leave campaigns. The official Leave campaign, Vote Leave, did nothing of the sport. Yes, immigration was the trump card of the Leave campaign (because there really was no credible defence Remain could offer), but the argument put forward by the Vote Leave was not one of reducing immigration, but only seeking to end the postcode lottery of free movement of people from within the EU.

In fact, I will take this opportunity to quote this bit of Gisela Stuart's speech in the House of Commons on 31 January, which acts as mythbusting:

"I chaired the official leave campaign. The leave campaign was clear that it was about taking back control of our borders. That meant we wanted an immigration policy based not on geography, but on skills and economic need. We wanted to take back control of our laws and of our trade negotiations. I also happen to think that the Government should actually honour the election pledge that was made that [...] money saved from not making direct contributions to the EU should go to the NHS, which is short of money."

All of this posturing, however, including the "missing NHS money" (which, as you will note above, Gisela Stuart has not backed down on), has led to people forgetting the positive vision that was set out as a basis for leaving. I include myself in this. When we look at the "Wirtschaftswunder" between 1945 and 1957, and indeed, the Thatcher revolution of the 1980s, it goes to indicate what can happen when you deregulate your economy. European regulations, not least on a political and economic level, have stifled our economy for decades now. We don't live in an era of regional trading blocs. In the last 30 years, we have seen a breakdown of the USSR and Yugoslavia - both protectionist trading blocs. The EU is such a protectionist trading bloc. We live in a globalised world - as the 6th Doctor (Colin Baker) puts it - "whether you like it or not". For our youth - my generation - the dream is no longer to work for MNCs, but to create new ones. We still have a fantastic entrepreneurial spirit in this country, and it's time that what we do is to deregulate our economy massively. By leaving the EU, we have a fantastic opportunity to do that. The trade deals of the EU are lower than many other nations - even if you include the value of the single market.

Even at a more micro level, when we look at the tariffs that are placed on imports coming into the EU, and the disastrous buffer stock schemes, which combine to push up the prices of agricultural produce somewhere between 10% and 20%, hurt consumers. That is, of course, not even taking into account the fact that the African producers are finding it harder to sell their goods within the EU. We have such a fantastic opportunity, seeing as how an independent nation outside of the EU, as the United Kingdom will become, will be able to do so. Only a government of complete incompetence would slap tariffs on these new produces. This will, of course, drive down inflation - and quite right too. It is largely for these reasons that I will never support Donald Trump or Bernie Sanders's protectionist policies in the United States, but it is perhaps indicative of US politics that the election there became about personalities rather than policies.

But the longer the debate goes on, the more we are losing sight of all of this. It is not about the opportunities that Brexit provides any more. It is about virtue signalling and labelling Leave voters as racists, sexists, homophobes, and so on. One person even told me recently that:

"The same people who insist "marriage" can only be between a man and a woman are the same people who voted for Brexit."

I don't think this is true, and nor is the standard of this debate good for our country. What we need is to get on with Brexit. Because not doing so will not allow us to see the opportunities that Brexit is offering. Instead, the longer we dilly-dally, the more we can go on posturing about how "racist old white people" have "ruined" the country. That is not what I want to see. I want to see a United Kingdom making the opportunities work. Because, as Robin Bengtsson sang on Saturday, "I Can't Go On".

8 March 2017

6 Predictions for the 2017 County Cricket Season

Here are 10 things that I predict will occur in the 2017 county cricket season, encompassing all 3 formats.

1 - The Kia Oval will become a raging turner

With three of the best English spinners around in Gareth Batty, Zafar Ansari, and Scott Borthwick, Surrey will be forced to turn the Oval - for four-day matches - into a raging turner. Or at least a pitch that begins flat which deteriorates sharply (then gamble on winning the toss and batting).

2 - Somerset will be a huge contender for the Championship title

The already-strong Somerset squad will have Steven Davies in their ranks this year in an attempt on his part to return to full-time wicket-keeping (having been usurped by Ben Foakes at Surrey), and an attempt on Somerset's part to fill the hole left by Chris Rogers' retirement from First Class cricket. Jack Leach's form could go either way. If his disastrous tour with the England Lions is anything to go by, that may just sink them. Either way, one swallow doesn't make a summer, and the rest of their squad is more than capable of a big title push.

3 - England call-ups will hurt Middlesex and Yorkshire

With England's horrendously packed schedule in 2017, Middlesex (Finn, Roland-Jones, possibly Gubbins and Robson) and Yorkshire (Bairstow, Root, Rashid, Willey, Plunkett, possibly Ballance) will have their squads decimated for a lot longer this year, not helped by England allowing their players to miss the one-day series against Ireland to rack up some Indian money. Whilst these teams could still mount a title challenge, it's likely to be a lot closer to Somerset this year.

4 - Surrey's T20 top four will break records

I'm not sure which records they will be, but with a top four (for part of the tournament) of Jason Roy, Aaron Finch, Kumar Sangakkara, and Kevin Pietersen, any bowling attack that gets Rory Burns (#5) and Zafar Ansari (#6) in can count themselves as being very, very lucky. Or very, very good.

5 - Durham will cakewalk Division Two

Hard to see how Durham won't win Division Two, frankly. Their squad hasn't been decimated too much by their surprise and arguably unfair relegation. They've only lost Mark Stoneman and Scott Borthwick (both to Surrey), but they've kept hold of Keaton Jennings, and, as with Essex last year, his runs alone will be enough for Durham to easily cakewalk Division Two. Or, if nothing else, get maximum batting points.

6 - Northamptonshire and Glamorgan will concentrate on one-day formats

With Northamptonshire in dire financial straits, they used the T20 competition brilliantly to get some glory on the pitch, and frankly they're going to have to repeat this for a good few years yet. Glamorgan, however, have what I believe to be the strongest T20 squad and this, combined with their decent one-day cup performances last season, will be the bedrock for a good challenge for both trophies this season.

24 January 2017

Why The Eurovision Points System Needs Reverting to 2013 - 2015 Rules

Last year, the Eurovision Song Contest organised a new voting system that came straight out of the Swedish selection program (which is bigger than Eurovision itself in Sweden), Melodifestivalen. The factoring of the 50:50 split between juries and televoting was to be changed - again. But in doing this, the EBU and SVT lost sight of why juries were introduced in the first place. Between 2013 and 2015, the EBU had perfected the voting process and delivered fair results every time. We need to return to this.

After the controversial results of the 2008 final and 2007 semi final, the EBU finally decided that something had to be done about bloc voting. To an extent, bloc voting can be justified as voting for a good song that just happens to be one of your neighbours. Bosnia & Herzegovina's 6th place in 2011 can justify this as a result; ex-Yugoslav countries picked it over the likes of Serbia (with the help of some rather odd voting from Austria). 

Juries were introduced to try to curb bloc voting. The factoring between 2009 and 2012 didn't really help, though. Bloc voting still had an effect and bloc votes would normally end up with at least 6 points in the final standings for a particular country. 

The system between 2013 and 2015 was perfect. Whilst the points awarded overall did not change, the combinations were now done by taking all 26 countries into account. The best way to explain why is to look at an example, and this is the UK's voting in the 2014 final. The public's favourite entry was the erotic entry from Poland (you know, the one with the tits). The juries ranked this disgusting pre-watershed filth 25th and last. As a result, with a total score of 26, the voting system treated this as a bloc vote, and as a result Poland got 0 points from the United Kingdom, whilst the 12 went to Austria (total score of 6). 

The new system, however, does not weed out bloc voting at all in this way. Under the last system, Australia would have won last year's contest, instead of Ukraine. This was done in an attempt to add drama over fairness. However, had the previous years' results been decided in a similar way, especially in a landslide year like 2012, it would become clear who the winner would be when the televotes are being read out. Simply, the system needs reverting for those two reasons.

20 December 2016

Now What? - England in Bangladesh and India - Review

Let's make one thing clear: England were never expected to win this series. An embarrassing failure to beat Pakistan on home soil in the summer, exasperated by an even more embarrassing defeat to Bangladesh in Dhaka, and England landed in Rajkot, as reported by ESPN Cricinfo, "weary and unprepared".

England's performances, however, got worse as the India series went on. From being the stronger side in a drawn Rajkot game to making 400 and losing by an innings in Mumbai and Chennai, England have now reached what must be their nadir. They must not stoop any lower.

England's record in 2016 is played 17, won 6, drawn 3, and lost 8. It means England have failed to win their last three test series - and have only won three out of their last nine in a barren spell now stretching over 19 months. The blame game for the Indian disaster has already begun - The Daily Telegraph being particularly unsavoury - but there was a catalogue of avoidable management errors both on and off the field. It's time for Cook, in particular, to go. Ostracising bowlers on the field who aren't bowling terribly - and continuing to bowl players who were - is a sackable offence in itself.

We'll begin with the batting. England finally got their act together in the first innings in the final two tests by making over 400. To an extent, therefore, the defeats in Mumbai and Chennai cannot be exclusively blamed on the batting. In the second innings, yes, there were some utterly terrible pieces of batting, but when you put 400 on the board in the first innings, you expect to have done your job. However, Liam Dawson, Joe Root, and Jonny Bairstow were the only Englishmen to have made it into the top 10 for the series averages.

Indeed, these numbers aren't exactly shockingly bad for these three, and indeed there are a few bubbling under it. The issue is that for somebody like Moeen Ali, there was not enough consistency. Look at this graph on your right. Throughout the series, this highlights Bairstow's consistency with the bat as he kept his average stable. Moeen Ali, on the other hand, in his nine innings, made 2 centuries, 1 fifty, and 1 forty, but did not score above 20 in any of the other five, hence the volatility in his series average over time. 

It's OK making 400 in the first innings, but in the second innings England's batting was woeful, as this shows:

Only Haseeb Hameed, Alastair Cook, and Chris Woakes had a higher 2nd innings average in the series than the 1st innings. Only Root, Cook, and Hameed had anything respectable in the second innings. Everyone else couldn't average 35 in the second innings. This is also one of the reasons England lost. Time after time. Right?

No, the fault really lies with the bowlers, and with Cook's terrible (mis)management of them, and Batty in particular. No matter what you score, you shouldn't be conceding 759-7 on any pitch, even a road. On Batty, he was probably England's best spin bowler in Chittagong - so why was he ostracised after that? Well, in Dhaka, they wanted to give Ansari a go. For some bizarre reason, probably to do with thinking that's 20 years out of date, for Rajkot it was decided that off spinners can't bowl to right handers (despite Batty getting 3 of his 4 wickets by bowling around the wicket to right to handers). Ansari duly played in Rajkot and Visag. In Visag, Ansari was taken ill and so England found themselves a bowler short. In Mohali, Batty was finally selected, but did nothing except run around the outfield all day, as it transpired that 3 spinners was not the right answer. England made completely the opposite mistake in Mumbai, and picked 2 spinners, but then ostracised Woakes. In Chennai Cook ostracised Stokes. Ostracising your bowlers *on* the field is something no captain would ever do unless it was not spinning (so he would not bowl any spin) or vice versa. But he didn't ostracise a discipline, he ostracised good bowlers. Only in Rajkot in the India series did Cook make full use of the tools at his disposal.

After Mumbai, where Ali and Rashid were made to bowl over 50 overs each with only 10 for Joe Root, Alastair Cook declared those two were England's best spinners. Sorry, Alastair, but the series stats disagree. Whilst Rashid finally came good in the India series (after a poor Bangladesh one), Moeen Ali had an absolute shocker with the ball, and must be time to drop him - or at the very least use him as a specialist batsman. 

Arguably England's worst spinner on this tour, Moeen Ali averaged a pathetic 64.90, the worst of any English spinner (save for Batty, who didn't take a wicket in his "thank you for coming" outing in Mohali). Ali only took a wicket, on average, every 18.5 overs, and went at 3.45 runs per over, worse than Dawson and Batty. 

The seamers don't get away with it either. Of the bowling averages list, only 4 Englishmen made it into the top half:

Broad, Stokes, and Rashid are probably, therefore, the only bowlers to escape this tour with their dignity somewhat intact. But when you have a look at the worst bowling averages of the series, only three Indians are in it. Jake Ball played two games (one more than Gareth Batty incidentally) and yet could only take one wicket in 246 tries, spilling 140 runs in the process. Chris Woakes could only do a wicket per 154 deliveries at 81.33 runs each. It was also a lacklustre performance from Anderson, with a strike rate of 118.50, a far cry from his career figure of less than half of that, 57.47. 

Captain Cautious made too many mistakes, and it's time for Joe Root to have a go. If his 3 overs in Mumbai when he made the best captaincy decision England made in the entire series are anything to go by, England may have a better captain again. An attacking captain. Like Vaughan. In Visag, Cook turned to Ansari before either Ali or Rashid - why? Ansari was picked as England's third spinner, and indeed after Dhaka, if you had to pick between Batty and Ansari (as England did), what did Ansari provide that Batty didn't? On the evidence of Bangladesh, nothing.

Going forwards, England's 2017 schedule is so packed that England will inevitably rest some of their players (a policy I'm not a fan of - Gareth Batty, who was 38 in the summer, played every single Surrey fixture bar one). Root, Stokes, Buttler, Rashid, Ali, Woakes, and possibly Bairstow currently play in all formats. That's not even accounting for players such as Jason Roy or Stuart Broad who want to get into the other formats' teams. They may find themselves missing the dead rubber in each format. We may end up with a situation where we get to the final test against the West Indies and we go in with Cook, Hameed, Jennings, Roy, Foakes (wk), S Curran, Broad, Batty, Wood, Finn, Anderson - or something equally ridiculous.

Time for England to let go of the lacklustre Cook and move on.

23 November 2016

The downfall of the Renault F1 Team

Our tale beings at the 2005 Brazilian Grand Prix, where Fernando Alonso wins the Drivers' Championship. Renault also introduce the mass damper, a suspension device which is effectively a form of active suspension, although this was cleared to race. The team designed the Renault R26 around the device in 2006, and Renault and Alonso, led by Flavio Briatore and Pat Symonds, dominated the first half of the season. After a poor weekend in Round 10 at Indianapolis, the FIA reversed their decision and banned the mass damper, claiming it was a moveable aerodynamic device, even though it never saw the light of day.

Nonetheless, the team and Alonso held off a charge from Michael Schumacher and Ferrari to win back-to-back drivers and constructors' titles. With Fernando Alonso leaving to McLaren, the team's test driver, Heikki Kovalainen, would step into Alonso's seat whilst the more than capable Giancarlo Fisichella made it three in a row... right?

Wrong. 2007 was a total disaster for Renault. After being very quick in winter testing the team arrived at Australia, took up their place in the pit lane, and found themselves in for a shock when Fisichella qualified only 6th and Kovalainen was beaten by both McLarens, both BMWs, both Toyotas, and to top it off, both Super Aguris to qualify 14th. Fisichella finished 5th in an uneventful race, but after spinning on lap 40, Kovalainen could only muster 10th. Briatore described his debut as "rubbish".

The rest of the season was terrible, including a rookie error from Giancarlo Fisichella in Canada when he was disqualified for running a red light when points were a real possibility, and thanks to a faulty fuel rig, lost points in Spain to - of all people - Super Aguri. The team finished 2006 with the second-fastest car; in 2007 they were behind McLaren, Ferrari, BMW, and were on a par with Williams. McLaren and Ferrari locked out the podium in 2007 - only five podiums were taken out of 51 by someone other than Alonso, Hamilton, Raikkonen, or Massa: the one high point for Renault was when Heikki Kovalainen took 2nd in a soaking Japan in a race described by Rubens Barrichello as the scariest moment of his career, including his incident at Imola in 1994.

Off-track, the McLaren vs Ferrari spying scandal led to repercussions for Renault. A man who had worked for McLaren but moved to Renault in the winter of 2006 used his knowledge to provide details of the 2006 and 2007 McLaren cars to Renault; the FIA found Renault guilty of "bringing the sport into disrepute" but escaped punishment. Fernando Alonso, a major player in the implosion of McLaren in 2007, switched seats with Heikki Kovalainen in the winter of 2007. Fisichella was replaced by Lewis Hamilton's GP2 rival Nelson Piquet Junior.

2008 initially started poorly; Piquet couldn't even beat Takuma Sato's Super Aguri, bolted together with chewing gum and sticky tape, and qualified a miserable 21st. Alonso was one of only 6 cars to be running at the flag and picked up four points for it. The cars ran around at the bottom of the top 10 until Spain, when both cars finally got their act together and made it into Q3. Alonso qualified 2nd and Alonso's pace suddenly changed, if not his fortunes. Piquet wasn't faring well, though, failing to make it out of Q1 in the next two rounds despite Alonso getting into Q3. The team secured a double points finish in France - although Alonso went backwards from 3rd on the grid. Piquet got the team's first podium of the season with a clever strategy and a heavy slice of luck in Germany - he was leading with 7 laps to go as a result. By Belgium, the team looked on par with BMW as the third-fastest car on the grid, even though Piquet was terrible.

Then came Singapore, and the team looked like they could win. Alonso was quick all weekend - as usual, Piquet was nowhere - and looked like they could win the race. A fuel pressure problem in Q2 meant that Renault had done no better than to lock out row 8, when Alonso could very easily have been on pole position. That night, Piquet and Symonds got together and conspired to exploit a quirk of the regulations to get Alonso into the points - if not win - from 15th on the grid. Alonso was put onto a three-stop strategy (odd for a street circuit, one might think) and promptly got stuck behind a one-stopping Jarno Trulli (who else?). He pitted at the end of lap 12 and fell to last place. Two laps later, Piquet crashed - deliberately - so as to bring out the safety car. As no car could pit for fuel until the FIA said so, Fernando Alonso, Mark Webber, David Coulthard, and Rubens Barrichello - the only four cars to pit before the safety car - benefited massively. Barrichello retired with a gearbox problem, but on the restart Nico Rosberg led the Grand Prix, but would have to stop for a penalty for refuelling under the safety car, followed by Jarno Trulli, who hadn't pitted, Giancarlo Fisichella, who hadn't pitted, and Robert Kubica, also due a penalty. That left Alonso leading Webber, Coulthard, and Lewis Hamilton, the highest-placed person who pitted after the safety car without a penalty. Mark Webber later retired, and with the pace in Alonso's car, he pulled away from Coulthard and Hamilton. Nico Rosberg slotted into that gap after his penalty, and when Hamilton overtook Coulthard, that's how the podium ended up. With Renault seemingly on top again, the rest of the season for Alonso became better still, after a skillful victory in Japan, where the team proved that the Alonso-Renault combination was better than the Kubica-BMW combination as they beat the BMW on pure pace. Alonso also raced to second in Brazil on pure pace too. He finished fifth in the Championship and Renault finished fourth.

But in 2009 it all collapsed downhill, and collapsed is an understatement. Nelson Piquet binned it in Australia, whilst Fernando Alonso struggled to fifth. In Malaysia Alonso's KERS system turned him into a mobile chicane, as he rocketed past several drivers off the line but a heavy fuel load meant that he was gazumped within the first few laps by Jenson Button, Rubens Barrichello, Mark Webber, and Kimi Raikkonen. He qualified 2nd in China but due to the race beginning under the safety car and a poor strategy, Alonso was last when the racing got going. Piquet frustrated Barrichello in Bahrain thanks to his KERS system turning him into a mobile chicane. Nothing went right for Renault in the first half of 2009, with Alonso picking up minor points on low downforce and high mechanical grip tracks, but, as with McLaren, tracks that didn't suit them really didn't suit them. In the UK, Alonso and Hamilton battled for a lowly 16th, and Alonso was beaten by Piquet. Despite a "fake" pole position in Hungary (running on a low fuel load), Alonso retired after Renault forgot to fit his right front wheel on correctly. Flavio Briatore then left the circuit - whilst Piquet was still racing. Piquet finished 12th and was promptly sacked, replaced by Romain Grosjean.

Then the chaos begun. The team was hit with a one-race ban for Alonso's unsafe release, although this was reduced to a fine after appeal. Then Piquet - along with his father - took legal action against the team for the events of Singapore. Whilst Alonso and Grosjean struggled on the track (with Grosjean driving terribly), Renault were hit with a permanent disqualification from F1, suspended for two years. Briatore and Symonds resigned and were then banned. ING withdrew their sponsorship. For the last few races, fortunes declined further; Alonso took third in Singapore, but there no more points after that. Alonso announced he was leaving for Ferrari, Grosjean crashed in exactly the same place Piquet did a year earlier, and the team could only beat Force India and Toro Rosso in the world championship; Alonso scoring all of the team's points.

The nightmare was ended when Genii Capital bought the team in the winter of 2009. Although the team raced under the "Renault" name for 2010 and 2011, Renault were out of Formula One.

18 November 2016

Benjamin Reacts to India vs England

Here, as it happened, are the tweets as I react in a harsher manner than Bob Willis and Geoffrey Boycott combined to a weak and feeble England performance on the second day of the second test match between India and England at the Dr Yeduguri Sandinti Rajasekhara Reddy Andhra Cricket Association Visakhapatnam District Cricket Association Cricket Stadium (and I'm not making that up).

All times GMT. Don't ask why I wasn't asleep.

Here are the edited highlights:

04:20: "I get the sense the Ashes in 2017 will be a low-scoring affair. Neither side looks like winning it, if you get my meaning." 

04:28: [the umpires change the ball which is only about 10 overs old] "Just do what they did earlier this year at the Oval - pick a brand new one then thump it in the ground twice!!"

04:42: "Terrible fielding from Buttler. Absolutely village. I would have stopped that one, and I'm really not a great fielder."

04:48: [Stokes drops Ashwin then catches Kohli next ball] "OH GIVE ME STRENGTH. Two fielding cock-ups from Stokes today. Third time lucky, though!"

05:08: [Kumar Dharmasena takes approximately forever to give an LBW] "Dharmasena reviving the ghost of Steve Bucknor!"

05:14: "Maiden for an English spin bowler!!! Stop the press!"

05:44: "England spinners in this series: 190.3-20-645-16. Avg 40.31, Econ 3.39, Strike Rate an appalling 71.44..."

07:00: "Bairstow was so surprised by that he forgot to appeal."

07:27: "Would really like to see some consistency from the media on how to list Moeen Ali's name. "Moeen", "Ali", and "Moeen Ali" all used... For the record, I use "Ali"."

07:39: "I have a feeling we're going to get one of those Alastair Cook specials where he faces about a million balls." [watch this space]

07:47: [Cook bowled - off stump broken in two] "Stumps all over the place. In more ways than one."

08:22: "I know he's from Lancs, but with 5 from 29 Hameed is probably doing @GeoffreyBoycott proud..."

09:18: [Hameed is run out] "Another bloody omnishambles. Quote unquote Clarkson... WHOSE FAULT WAS THAT?" [...] "Joe you idiot. You have to go on and make a big hundred now."

09:36: "I really don't want to be batting on that pitch..."

09:38: "I have the same technical issue as Duckett. The difference is I don't claim to be a test batsman."

09:50: "Only three things are certain in life: death, taxes, and England being less than 100-3."

09:59: "Someone send for Ian Bell and Jason Roy please."

10:01: RT @TheAnalyst: "Hmmm. England are in the sh1t 'ere..."

10:18: RT @bbctms: ""England either bat beautifully or collapse - it's always one or the other, there's no in between" @GeoffreyBoycott"

10:19: "Completely agree with Boycott. England either bat beautifully or terribly. When was the last time England put in a par performance?"

10:55: "Yay, Stokes reaches double figures!"

14 November 2016

How did Trump win?

Yep, this is another one of my stats pieces, so if you're looking for lots of speculation about sociological factors, you're not in the right place.

Donald Trump defied the odds to win the US Presidential election. But how did he defy the odds and the polls? What did he do that we got completely wrong? Let's delve into it to find out.

Trump really had no right to go down the board as far as he did, really. Taking Michigan, for example: Trump needed a 4.8% swing to take this and he got a 4.9% swing here. We don't have any figures yet for the congressional districts in Maine and Nebraska, but all throughout the night the the BBC were predicting that the second one in both states would swing to the other party. I found this odd considering how deep they were in "safe" territory on both sides. As it was, Nebraska II stayed red.

Whilst 306 vs 232 seems like a big margin, it really wasn't. Had Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Maine II gone blue, we would have had a 269 vs 269 tie, and then, would Paul Ryan really have voted for Donald Trump in the House of Representatives? We will never know. 

Just how uniform is America? Actually, all the swings in each particular state were close to the national swing of 1.9% from Democrat to Republican. We can further look at this by use of a box plot, indicating the swings in each state. 

Immediately, your eyes are drawn to Utah, where there was a huge swing to the Democrats. There wasn't, really - Evan McMullin ran as an independent and gained real momentum, taking many votes off Donald Trump, but ultimately unsuccessful in his bid to win the state. And that leads me onto the third party effects.

Gary Johnson hit 9% in New Mexico but it really was a terrible election night for him, and he is the reason Donald Trump won, one might argue. Two days before election day, Johnson was polling at around 7%, and with Trump looking like he couldn't win, Johnson's campaign team released a video telling the public that a vote for the Libertarians would be a vote to block Hillary Clinton from becoming President, as Donald Trump couldn't win...

As I explained in my first blog post on the election, Johnson's support was mainly from dissident Republicans who had voted for Mitt Romney in 2012 but did not want to vote for Donald Trump. But it appears they did not recognise this fact; throughout the campaign Johnson's campaign targeted dissident Bernie Sanders supporters, highlighting his similarities on social and foreign policy to Sanders'. But by telling his supporters that Trump couldn't win, in effect he was telling them it was safe to vote for Trump. Oops. On election day, his poll numbers dropped by 3% and Donald Trump's increased by 3%. Gary Johnson's campaign manager put Donald Trump in the White House.

But let's go back to the swings between the Democrats and the Republicans, The national swing, as has already been stated, was 1.9% from Democrat to Republican. Not enough on a uniform national swing? Correct. But in the swing states, that figure was much higher, 2.8%. It is therefore a great targeting strategy from the Trump campaign, and poor from Clinton's campaign that she did not visit Wisconsin once. Wisconsin should have stayed blue; it went red.

As I've already said, the biggest Democrat swing was in Utah, but aside from that only 10 out of 51 "states" for which we have data (we are missing the 5 congressional districts, but we do have the District of Columbia) produced swings from Romney to Clinton. The other 40 all produced some sort of swing from Obama to Trump.

Clinton, to give her credit, did very well to hang on to Virginia and Colorado. At the beginning of the night, Arizona and Georgia were not "called" immediately, and as these were safe in Republican territory, this was a good sign for Clinton. Nonetheless, the fact that these states stayed red despite swings to Clinton showed us just how terrible the strategy was - that they decided to attack marginal Republican states rather than defend their own states like Wisconsin and Michigan. Her attack board was a complete failure:

Trump missed Virginia and Colorado (number 3 and 4 targets), but he picked up states lower down the board that required such a large swing we didn't even consider them individually - Michigan, Maine II, and Wisconsin. This compensated for his failure earlier on.

For the Democrats to win the presidency back in 2020, the easiest path to victory (notwithstanding the congressional districts) is to take Michigan on a 0.2% swing, Wisconsin on a 0.5% swing, and Pennsylvania on a 0.6% swing. That would put the Democrats back in the White House - and it gives Donald Trump no room to mess up. At all. Ohio may be out of reach for the Democrats (4.3% swing required), but it may not be necessary.

2 November 2016

US Election 2016 - Update

There's now under a week to go until election night, and since my blog post in May, a lot has happened, but this is what the ramifications mean.

As I said in May, it's incredibly difficult for the Republican candidate to win, irrespective of the fact that person is Donald Trump. As such, on a uniform national swing, he needs a 2.7% swing from the Democrats to the Republicans to win. In other words, everyone who voted for Mitt Romney in 2012 needs to vote for Donald Trump, as well as 2.7 out of every 100 people who voted for Barack Obama.

A poll of polls is the cumulative amalgamation of several polls over a very short period. So I'm going to construct my own poll of polls, looking solely at polls published on 1 November. They show the following:

This was weighted in favour of polls with larger sample sizes. Now, what does that mean on the change on 2012, and then on the Swingometer?

On a Uniform National Swing, Donald Trump would become president as things stand. The biggest problem for him, however, is that he's not, in terms of constituency state polls, doing enough. He wouldn't win Virgina (#3 on his target list), Colorado (#4) and Pennsylvania (#5), Incredibly, that would be 269 vs 269. Otherwise, the swingometer is consistent uniformly. Making a bad situation worse is that there would be a Democrat gain in North Carolina. Clinton is on her way to the White House.

Furthermore, the indepedent Evan McMullin in Utah means that Donald Trump could lose 6 electoral votes.

A lot of air has gone out of Gary Johnson's balloon sadly, meaning that his potential targets in New Mexico, for example, are heading to Clinton and not to Trump. Johnson's highest state at the moment is Maine, but he's 34 points behind Hillary Clinton there. Gary Johnson can stop Hillary Clinton from becoming President. Donald Trump will not win.

21 September 2016

Yes, we should pick Moeen Ali, but No, we should not bowl him...

Despite winning 4 out of 7 test matches, many would regard the summer of 2016 as disappointing for England, failing to beat Pakistan thanks to selection incompetence at Lord's and sheer incompetence at The Oval. 

England's failure - as I've said before - was in part down to the fact Yasir Shah completely outspan Moeen Ali in the Pakistan series. Even in England's near-perfect Sri Lanka series, Moeen Ali only took two wickets.

You could say "Moeen Ali's bowling average this season is lower than his batting average, he's therefore a great all-rounder". Well, he's averaged 63.13 this season with the bat. And a shockingly bad 53.23 with the ball. That's 159.4-24-692-13. It was a shocking 90.00 against Sri Lanka, and that's not what you want from a spin bowler.

A bowler who hasn't taken a single five-fer since 2014 is still England's first choice spinner, somehow. Adil Rashid has taken a five-wicket haul since then in Tests and isn't still being picked regularly, so what on earth are England thinking?

If it were not for Ali's batting, his place in the England team would surely be under consideration, particularly now that Michael Vaughan has finally got his way and Gareth Batty has been picked. 

Although I wanted him to be included, I was surprised at the inclusion of Zafar Ansari considering he's spent nearly all year out with various injuries. He may be a shoo-in for the second test.

Alastair Cook should treat Moeen Ali as a specialist batsman and look to Adil Rashid and Gareth Batty to deliver for the first test match. Batty is a far better bowler than he was 11 years ago, plus Rashid is good in one-day situations - much like Samee Badree, who didn't spin a ball in the entire World T20 but did very well for that precise reason - but as has been proved this year is not great on slow turners.

There has been a clamour for the inclusion of Jack Leach, but frankly it's hard to see why considering Taunton has been spinning square miles from day 1 in every match they've played. To illustrate the point, Gareth Batty took a 10-fer in the Championship match down there and still lost, including the best Surrey figures for the season of 7-32.

I am a big fan of bowling in partnerships and so I would look towards the following starting XI in Bangladesh:

1 A Cook (c)
2 H Hameed
3 J Root
4 B Stokes
5 J Bairstow (wk)
6 M Ali
7 C Woakes
8 A Rashid
9 S Broad
10 G Batty
11 J Anderson

Batty may go ahead of Broad, but otherwise it's a pretty safe bet. England may go for a fifth seamer over Batty, or an extra batsman in Gary Ballance, but I can't really see England playing fewer than 5 bowlers (plus Ali and Root). 

The unlucky ones:

Z Ansari
G Ballance
J Buttler
B Duckett
S Finn
M Wood

14 September 2016

4 nights and 3 days

Well, halfway through Freshers' Week, I can't quite work out what it is that has transpired to make my life so bonkers in the last few days - whether that be a million and one things I need to do but haven't found the time to do yet, or just pure madness and brilliance.

So, I have a new address, which, because I cannot remember it, is currently one of one three things on one of my pinboards (I have another one currently occupied by my British and Surrey flags), and Flat 30 (Park Village, University of Sussex, Falmer, Brighton, BN1 9RD) is one of the most bizarre. Right next to the recycling, 12 people live in a three-storey flat (although I always thought a "flat" was a singular floor), 4 bedrooms to a floor. Snug, rather than cramped, is what I would use as a term.

Some arrived on Saturday, some on Sunday, and one on Monday. Thanks to my inability to become completely inebriated - perhaps a blessing or perhaps a curse - I don't want to just recount all of my experiences, because it would be boring.

As I write this, it's Wednesday morning. No one's sleeping pattern is normal. It's almost as though we are living on Australian time. Imagine my surprise to see experimental cooking experiments from Florence (I don't even ask what goes into them) at 0430. And the day itself - whilst keeping some things to myself - turned out to be brilliant.

Having made an effort to actually, you know, wake up today before the sun went down, I decided I would do what I had been wanting to do for a couple of days and head to the beach. Having not yet completely familiarised myself with the local transport network, I managed to overshoot the pier on the number 23 bus by a good two miles. So as I began walking back along the seafront, I found a footpath that was labelled as being "for the beach". It lived up to it, but the footpath turned out to be near vertical. Incredibly there's an electric railway that one has to cross to get to that beach at a proper crossing point (if you are east of the pier). And thanks to my security briefings in past jobs, I had no problems here in crossing live rails. I crossed over... and that's where the problems sort of began. Being from London, I am not at all used to walking on pebble beaches, so three twisted ankles and two miles later I found myself buying an ice cream, relaxing on the beach, and "chilling". Or rather, cooking. It was 28 degrees Celsius in Brighton today. 28. And that really told. Only just now have I looked in the mirror and realise that half of my face got sunburnt (the half that the sun was beating down on).

Boris Johnson claimed that London had a drugs and homelessness problem... it's nothing compared to Brighton, which is really one of the only two downers (the other being a lack of an underground railway), meaning that I found myself having to specify that I would like some "Coca-Cola", a habit I will have to get used to. Don't ask for Coke. You won't get what you want.

So, one bottle of Coca-Cola, an ice cream, and a sunburn later, and I thought it best to have a look on and at the pier. Having wasted £1 in 2p coins in those Tipping Point-esque machines, I had a go on the arcade's Deal or No Deal. I spent £2 on it for two goes and did, well, OK. You win - as with many amusements these days - tickets which can be exchanged for prizes. The first was an utter disaster as I only won 2 tickets. The best I could have done on that game (i.e. get a "banker spanking") was 9. Out of 200. On the second try, I spanked the banker, being left with the values of 1 and 100 tickets, I decided to deal at 50. Good - my box was only worth 1, and I know I would not have swapped the boxes.

It just felt like a holiday, like I was 10 years old except allowed to do all the adult things this time (a fact I'm still getting used to!), and I never want it to end. With a beach and pier 4 miles away, a 30,000 stadium whose roars I can hear from my bedroom on matchdays, and 11 wonderful, wonderful people to live with, I never want it to end.

More drinks, more ice cream, and then I thought it would be best to head "home" before the football fans descended on the place, Brighton playing Huddersfield. A flatmate had got a ticket to the game, incidentally. But I had decided to try out the train service (having only used buses up until now), and that really went quite well. With over two hours until kick-off, fans had already descended upon Brighton rail station, so in the 1822 sardine service to I-can't-remember-where-the-destination-was, I slowly ended up cooking and sweating. Even so, I do think it was a damn sight better than the buses, paying 20p more for an infinitely quicker journey. And that's without a railcard!

Got back and listened to Fulham's woeful performance against Burton Albion, then went out for a bit, won some pool, then got home. Not going into any more details here.

And now, it's 0608, let's do it all again...