Two years ago I was preparing to embark on a voyage of discovery. One month spent exploring Athens and the Greek islands. A time of sun, sightseeing, sand, sea, se… you get the picture. What am I doing on the anniversary of this adventure of a lifetime? Celebrating by sitting here in this mouldy classroom and teaching. How times have changed. Less working on a tan, more daily tantrums. Deep sigh. Well best get this over with pronto, before I can go back to daydreaming about that Santorini sunset. Here’s some wild west studies, baking, rocketry and more.

1) Wild West Studies

Yehaw partners and welcome to the Wild West, where outlaws roam, ponchos are the only clothing and smoking tiny fags is a must. A place where overcoming certain death is the norm. No matter how great the odds are stacked; hard work, belief and luck can see you through. We start with the magnificent seven. Cue theme music.

Two nil down in a series is exactly the kind of tricky situation Yul Brenner and his gang of spicy characters faced. In protecting a village from an army of ruffians the odds were bleak. Just like Kohli and India’s chances of a series win were void coming into Trent Bridge. Instead, galvanising his troops, as the seven roused the villagers, a brilliant performance occurred. Virat and Rahane shot down England’s pace attack. Yes India had a tail end collapse of 3 for 6 runs but a total of 329 was far more than cocky Root anticipated.

England batted like ‘The Wild Bunch’, without an ounce of self-control. From 54-0 Pandya lit the spark, which blew Root and Bairstow to smithereens. In their second innings Kohli batted supreme. Unlike the man with no name, the crowd bellowed as one, ‘Kohli, Kohli, Kohli.’ A twenty third test century. Not declaring until 352, England were ground into the desert floor. To ensure their total submission Bumrah used his spurs to flatten five of their hopes. Pope was outdone by the savagery of the attack. No blessings in this remote land.

The only standoff occurred with Buttler and Stokes. Batting for three hours they caused a gunfight at coral bookmakers as punters began shifting bets in England’s favour. The reality was bleak. When they fell, England died. A resurgent India had undermined the law.

This was India’s seventh victory in England. A truly magnificent occasion.

2) Baking

Mary Berry can eat her… well doughy heart out as I demonstrate how to bake a cake. First you need to line a baking tray with butter. Then wash your hands to remove the grease. No, Alastair don’t touch those eggs without washing off the butter. Splat! Oh hell no, you’ve cracked seven eggs on the floor.

And that sums up England’s catching. Need we say more?

Overall in the three match series England have flailed at nearly twenty opportunities. Wasting those eggs, which are adding up in expenses. Just as batsmen accumulate runs. Some of the attempted grabs at Trent Bridge were truly horrific. Cookie must surely be on the verge of firing from the slip cordon. He is the worst slip catcher in world cricket over the past three years. Dropped so many buns the ten second rule is the norm, otherwise he’d have no produce to sell.

Granted at Nottingham he clung onto an absolute meringue, which was badly burnt and useless once he shelved three later in the day. Combined with Keaton Jennings I reckon we’ve found the two messiest bakers ever. Keaton contrived to make Alastair as efficient as Paul Hollywood with his comical hands and legs splayed effort against Kohli. Anderson could’ve given Jennings’ soggy bottom an almighty kick.

England’s two best grabbers, Root and Stokes were never in the slips. Puzzling. Instead Joe patrolled mid-wicket with all the serenity of Delia Smith as she burst onto the pitch at Carrow Road. ‘Where are you?’ she angrily cried.

A question Root has every right to ask England’s bakers.

3) Debating

A key skill in debating is rebuttal. Hence if an opponent brandished the statement that, ‘In England’s first innings they were all out in one session. This is becoming the norm as it is the third time in two years.’ You might think he’s won. But you have a little spark up your sleeve. Today the rebuttal comes in the guise of Jos Buttler. Yes, England collapsed like a pack of cards built on jelly but in the second innings Jos Buttler proved otherwise. Aha!

Entering the fray at 62-4, Jos registered a first within two balls. An actual defensive shot. Calm, poised and determined, Buttler set about restoring pride. Alongside a sensible Stokes they battled for more than four hours, scoring 169 runs. Don’t forget this comes from England’s two most attacking players. Consequently they give rise to a slim hope that some have their heads screwed on.

On that point of information, Buttler had not reached 100 in four years. Hence you would presume he would fold at some stage. Proving doubters wrong, Jos reached his debut England tonne with a wide grin on his face. Who cares it was in a losing position? It means Buttler can play more than one way. Likewise Stokes solidly made his slowest half century. Their mind-set of playing each ball patiently is exactly how England must go forward. Which incidentally should not be with Keaton Jennings. Come next Thursday let’s hope Rory Burns strides to the crease. Moeen Ali, with 219 and six wickets in Worcestershire’s annihilation could replace a fractured Bairstow. Whatever happens, England must be wary of a renewed India.

Learning from Jos Buttler is England’s way forward. I rest my case. No need for a mass debate here. Put your hands away.

4) Rocketry

At the start of July we witnessed a phenomenal rocket launch. The setting off for uncharted territory of the Vitality Blast. Now, having landed on planet ‘QF’ we reach knockout stages.

Due to some expert punditry over here at HFAL HQ, the first QF is predictable. Kent Spitfires host Lancashire Lightning. With Buttler and Jennings released from England duty, Lancs’ batting is seriously bolstered. At Old Trafford, Lancashire have relied upon spin, in the form of Parkinson and overseas Khan. Should Canterbury offer any, Kent’s batting will be tested. Taking early wickets is key. That top order of Bell Drummond, Denly, Kuhn and Billings is impressive though.
Verdict: Home advantage huge for Spitfires who will land safely in semi-final.

Durham host Sussex at a venue which has the lowest batting average. Without Rashid Khan the visitors will be exceptionally weakened. Pace is therefore key, in form of Joffra Archer, Chris Jordan and Tymal Mills. Durham’s unheralded names have been impressive thus far; however they have scraped through on tight bowling displays.
Verdict: Rashid Khan’s absence will be felt but Sussex have enough.

Worcestershire face Gloucestershire in insane form. That batting line up is a thing to behold. Joe Clarke, Moeen, Callum Ferguson and Ben Cox face a varied Gloucs attack. Andrew Tye’s pace has been impressive. Michael Klinger provides a clinging anchor for the visitors who won’t want to lose early wickets, exposing a weak middle order.
Verdict: Tight one to call. Expect high scores, with Mo key.

Saving best until last, it’s Somerset hosting Nottinghamshire. Holders travel to Fortress Taunton, which has seen just one loss all season. Despite a powerful looking line up, the Outlaws have been caught out often; Alex Hales spending time in the stocks. With match winners, such as Dan Christian and Samit Patel however, they should not be discounted. Somerset have never chosen to bat first, winning 86% of chases.
Verdict: Y’know the tune. ‘Robin Hood, Robin Hood, trips up in the Quarter Final.’

5) Podcasting

Last Friday class I was privy to an event which gives me hope that someday HFAL will be famous. For Derbyshire hosted the match of the season, between Test Match Special and Tailenders. A host of loved voices and ex-players, such as Simon’s Hughes and Mann, Vaughan and Swanny turned up confident of victory against a laughable Tailenders side. With the likes of Chris Harris, Becky Adlington, Laura Wright and Felix White it was easy to see why.

However through quality batting by Harry Judd and Chef Tommy Banks, Tailenders rose like a soufflé to 161. Highlight being Wes Brown smacking Swann for a maximum. Tuffers conceded 20 off one over, whilst Simon Hughes struggled to analyse his performance. Defending that total was helped through Love Island’s pacy looker Chris Hughes. He may have failed in love, but he was the poster boy for this bowling unit. Banks completed a MOM performance with 4 wickets for just 2 runs. White’s captaincy was in perfect rhythm as not even Michael Vaughan could rescue TMS. The Tailenders side were full of flavour and too spicy for the so called experts.

Greg James watched on proudly as his podcast, featuring Felix and Jimmy Anderson has been brought wholly to life. A momentous occasion for cricket podcasts. Who knows this time next year our little website could have taken over…

We can but dream. Exactly what you daydreamers have been doing for the past hour. Now you can snap out of it and bugger off. Homework is to listen to all our podcasts, watch John Wayne’s western canon and have a quick fire mass debate. I’m off to the nets. Class dismissed!