Twenty20 Vision?!

England have named their squad for the T20I series against West Indies and I can’t say that I’m enthused…

https://www.ecb.co.uk/england/men/news/1058447/sam-billings-and-dawid-malan-named-in-england-s-it20-squad

I back whoever plays for England (Unless there’s a serious reason that I shouldn’t. We’ll come to that!) but some of the selections in this squad are puzzling.

I’m a huge Dawid Malan fan but he’s hardly been tearing it up on the franchise circuit recently. Yes his international record is outstanding but he’s in no form whatsoever to maintain that record. This opportunity, as with his previous ones, have only come about because of squad rotation. He fully merited selection when he replaced a ‘rested’ Eoin Morgan however, in what was effectively at T20I final. Contrary to his recent franchise efforts, he had been tearing it up for England Lions. I just don’t feel that he’s primed to perform at international level right this moment. I hope that I’m wrong though and that a strong showing can put him back on the Test radar.

The selection of Chris Jordan is a generous one for me. He struggled in the Big Bash this season but is part of the T20I fabric for England. He benefits from the absence of senior bowlers to get game time in this format and of course he does take wickets. Anybody should be able to keep tallying wickets when the opposition are slogging away at the end though. He’s a good fielder but needs to take more wickets for less runs… obviously!

James Vince was superb in the Big Bash, Harry Gurney was steady away and Laurie Evans has backed up strong white-ball seasons in England by becoming an in-demand player on the franchise merry-go-round. None of the above make the squad but…

… Sam Billings does! I can understand the frustration for and with Sam Billings. It’s not easy when you’re a fill-in player, particularly in T20Is when there’s often just one match in a series. This series has three matches though, so Billings will desperately hope to bat in the top four to have a chance to impress. If he can hit the ground running then he could make the most of the series but then again, he’s just filling in. Like Malan, he’ll likely then get dropped again to accommodate the returning Roy, Buttler and Stokes.

I understand the logistical reasons but did England really need to name their squad so soon?

Liam Plunkett could be letting his World Cup place slip away though knowing him, he’ll probably take four wickets in the next ODI. If he fails to take a wicket and gets dropped during the series though, will he still be what England want in the T20Is?

What if Vince hits a couple of hundreds in the PSL between now and the start of the series? Could he be drafted into the squad? Ed Smith is sending out very mixed messages regarding Vince. He was pretty curt when he originally axed the Hampshire man, despite Vince making 76 in his previous Test innings. He did recall him because of injuries for a One-Day International, only for Vince to run himself out… again! Now following sparkling form in the Big Bash, he’s been omitted again.

Another player that’s been mentioned on forums is Joe Clarke. I think that a lot of people don’t know or don’t care why he’s been ignored. My understanding is that he wasn’t dropped from England Lions because of what a teammate may have got up to in his bed. He was dropped because of the list of women on his phone and the competitive element of that. If he matures then I’m quite happy for Joe Clarke to play for England in years to come. As it stands however, I (And that’s just me. I’m not speaking for anyone else) don’t want him anywhere near the England cricket team. Clarke can argue that he’s unfortunate it all came out and of course we don’t know what all players get up to away from work but… tuff!

Another thing that I may have mentioned before. ODIs are ODIs so I call the T20 version T20Is not IT20s… so there!

Cricket Captain 2018: Test Hat-trick!

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India, done! Ireland, done! Zimbabwe, done!

That’ll be three one-match Test series wins out of three then. Having previously benefited from an opposition bowler getting crippled in each of our first two Tests, this time it was ourselves who had the misfortune of going a bowler down. After an impressive World Cup, Rashid Khan finally won a Test cap but retired hurt having made 13 before even having a chance to bowl!

It mattered little though as yet again all our players contributed in one way or another. After losing both openers a little early, Nasir Khan, promoted to three after making 72 on debut, made 53 in an impressive partnership of 127 with another youngster, Waheedullah Shafaq.

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Shafaq won his Test cap on the back of impressive performances at the World Cup and went onto make 102 in his first Test innings.

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Captain Ashgar Stanikzai also picked up where he left off at the World Cup to make a national record 167. Zimbabwe spinner Graeme Cremer claimed a solitary wicket for all of 142 runs. Ouch!

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Left-arm pacer Shapoor Zadran, who after an impressive start to the World Cup failed to take a wicket in his last six matches, repaid the faith with fantastic figures of 5-30. That analysis, as well as his match figures of 6-82, were, like his skipper’s knock of 167, a new Test record for Afghanistan. He was far too hot for Zimbabwe’s cool batsmen.

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In the second innings, spin bowler Mujeeb Ur Rahman stepped up in the absence of Rashid Khan. Selected for the Test on the back of strong T20 form, Ur Rahman claimed figures of 3-31 to ensure that no batsman made forty let alone fifty in the entire match for the hosts.

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Having defeated bottom placed sides Ireland and Zimbabwe, next we set our sights on hauling ourselves above Bangladesh in the Test rankings. We also play West Indies before long and will be seeking World Cup revenge as well as Test superiority. First though are some white-ball games against the Chevrons.

Cricket Captan 2018: World Cup Wonders… well almost!

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Prior to the 2019 ODI World Cup, we participated in a ODI tri-series involving Ireland and Bangladesh. The less said about that the better! Safe to say that few people were expecting much from us come the World Cup. Had we beaten West Indies in our final game however, we would’ve qualified for the semi-finals. So fine were the margins that losing that match meant we finished third from bottom in the table!

Here’s how our World Cup played out:

Australia, lost by 6 wickets

Shahzad 56, Zazai 56, Ghani 50

Ahmadzai 2-46, Janat 1-28, Zadran 1-40

Sri Lanka, won by 7 wickets

Khan 4-41, Zadran 3-41, Nabi 2-41

Shahzad 72, Ghani 60, Zazai 41

New Zealand, lost by 20 runs

Shahzad 73, Zazai 43, Ghani 40

Janat 1-33, Nabi 1-41, Zadran 1-51

South Africa, lost by 8 wickets

Zazai 52, Khan 38*, Hassan 19

Khan 2-57, Hassan 0-24, Zadran 0-31

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England, won by 111 runs

Shahzad 132, Zazai 128, Shafaq 25

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Janat 7-50, Nabi 1-41, Khan 1-61

India, lost by 4 wickets

Shahzad 116, Stanikzai 107*, Janat 37

Janat 1-43, Hassan 1-52, Khan 1-61

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Bangladesh, tied

Stanikzai 81, Shafaq 66, Shah 30,

Janat 3-39, Khan 3-48, Hassan 2-47

Pakistan, won by 10 runs

Ghani 104, Shafaq 65, Stanikzai 55

Khan 5-54, Janat 4-30, Ahmadzai 1-80

West Indies, lost by 6 wickets

Janat 49*, Shafaq 47, Ghani 46,

Khan 3-43, Janat 2-33, M Ashraf 0-52

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Well, we did better than host nation England!

Leading run scorer: Mohammad Shahzad – 485

Best batting average: Ashgar Stanikzai – 58.50

Leading wicket taker: Karim Janat – 20

Best bowling average: Karim Janat – 16.20

Rooted!

Why is Joe Root so comfortable walking out to bat at three for England in ODI cricket but so reluctant to do so in Test cricket?

If Root were willing to operate at three in Tests, it would make it so much easier for England to accommodate a promising middle order player… or James Hildreth!

It’s the sort of inconsistency that irks me and talking of things that irk me… I wish that England were playing a Test tomorrow and Jason Roy was playing because I can’t stand all these ‘clever’ sods claiming that Roy could be our saviour in red ball cricket any longer. I CAN understand the logic if he scores over six hundred runs at the World Cup and the England management want to go with the flow but after all the talk of needing batsmen to reign in their attacking instincts, people want a feast or famine white-ball dasher who is at best a First Class number five to open in Tests against Starc, Hazlewood, Cummins and Lyon!

Oh and the Mark Wood bubble has burst already… 7-0-49-0!

Sorry, I’m being cynical (Or just joking) which is the reason why I stopped following 95% of all the other cricket blogs on WordPress!

Cricket Captain 2018: You Win Some You Lose Some!

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Following Test success we played Ireland again, this time in yet more limited overs matches. Having won the previous ODI series against the shamrock side by a margin of 3-0, we soon assumed an unassailable 3-0 lead in this series too, making it six wins out of six in the format against the Greens. Only after clinching the series did we let our guard down having rotated the squad, the series finishing 3-2.

In the opening encounter we posted 337-3 however an incredible maiden bowled by spinner Andy McBrine in the final over of our innings left Najibullah Zadran (98 not out) and captain Ashgar Stanikzai (99 not out) short of their centuries. This was despite compiling an unbroken partnership of 205. Ireland reached 165 without loss courtesy of Ed Joyce (108) and William Portefield (85) but crumbled to 271 all out. Twenty-one-year-old debutant spin bowler Zia ur-Rehman claimed figures of 3-63 from his full allocation of overs on debut.

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Opening batsmen Usman Ghani and Mohammad Shahzad etched their names into the record books.

In the second match, Mohammad Shahzad (223 not out) and Usman Ghani (138) compiled a gargantuan first-wicket stand of 364.

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A breakdown of Mohammad Shahzad’s monumental knock, beehive included.

Shahzad’s 223 came from just 165 deliveries and included a whopping 40 fours (160 of his runs!). The only wicket to fall came when Ghani was run out off the last ball of the innings.

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Painful reading for Irish fans!

The partnership was only eight runs short of equalling the world record for any wicket in ODI cricket set by West Indies duo Chris Gayle and Marlon Samuels just three years ago. Ultimately we defeated Ireland by 146 runs.

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Not for the first time, Andy McBrine frustrated our bowlers as Ireland recovered from 58-6 to post 197.

In the third game we had Ireland in all sorts of strife at 58-6 but lower order batsman Andy McBrine, who frustrated us with a fifty in the Test, did so again before being stumped of Mohammad Nabi for 62. Leader of the attack Hamid Hassan…err, led the attack with figures of 4-37. The insatiable Mohammad Shahzad just picked up where he left off in the last match and carried the team to victory with an unbeaten 88. We won by seven wickets to seal the series.

For the fourth match we rested Shahzad and Hassan and paid the price. We were going steady at 80-0 (Ahmadi 44, Ghani 39) but could only double our run tally for the loss of all ten wickets. Beanpole Boyd Rankin claimed 5-30 to bundle us out for just 160. Despite some serious nerves, Ireland got home with four wickets in hand. Eighteen-year-old debutant wicketkeeper Ikram Ali Khil snaffled the first two Irish wickets in style but it wasn’t enough.

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Noor Ali Zadran returned to form in style but also in vain.

In the final match, we generously invited Ireland to bat first and they posted 266-5 from their fifty overs. After scores of 28, 11 and 8, Noor Ali Zadran returned to form in spectacular style with a knock of 159 but was run out near the end as we fell five runs short. Only opener Javed Ahmadi (42) offered anything else with the bat, the next highest score being only 12.

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Confirmation of the 3-2 series win.

Unfortunately the theme of one side dominating over a period of matches remained when we headed into the T20I series. Ireland won the first two matches to make it four wins on the spin against us in all formats before, as Ireland did in the ODIs, we won the dead rubber.

Such was Ireland’s onslaught in the opening exchanges of the first match (38-0 from 3 overs) that we adapted our tactics by bringing on spin during the powerplay. Rashid Khan and Mohammad Nabi both struck in their first overs but Ireland still totalled an imposing 184-9.

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Hazratullah Zazai came into the side at the top of the order and duly took his excellent domestic form onto the international stage.

Despite Hazratullah Zazai’s 73 from only 49 balls and despite losing only three wickets to Ireland’s nine, we succumbed by 28 runs.

In the second match we fell fifteen runs short when chasing 163. Dave Rankin (38) was dropped, including early on, twice by Mohammad Shahzad who was not wearing the gloves but stood at slip.

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The highest partnerships for each of our first three wickets in T20I cricket have all been recorded during my tenure.

In the final game, we gained an important consolation victory to end the bad streak. Shahzad (102 from 73) and Zazai (58 from 45) batted the entire twenty overs without being dismissed. 163-0 was not a massive score though but we kept Ireland down as they fell 24 runs short. Slow-left-armer Sharafuddin Ashraf claimed outstanding analysis of 3-12 from four overs and there was a welcome return to form for Rashid Khan.

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Coming in off the back of strong domestic showings, leg-spin sensation Rashid Khan returned to the side and returned to form.

Khan claimed two wickets in each match to finish the series with six wickets at 16.50.

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Mohammad Shahzad’s insatiable appetite for runs just doesn’t quench. Whatever the format, wherever the location, whoever the opposition… runs, runs, runs!

It was disappointing to concede ranking points in the T20I format but it’s been a fabulous year for our side. We look forward to next season with much anticipation and are confident of putting in a good showing at the 2019 ODI World Cup in England. Look out for the squad announcement nearer the time.

Extras

Bye: Oman 24 all out!!!

https://www.indiatoday.in/sports/cricket/story/oman-vs-scotland-24-all-out-cricket-score-al-amarat-ajay-lalcheta-1459594-2019-02-19

Can Scotland, who beat England remember, push for Full Member status?

Leg Bye:

Salman Butt is back!

https://www.thenews.com.pk/latest/434092-salman-butt-replaces-mohammad-hafeez-in-qalandars-squad

Well he was already back but now he’s back on a much more high profile stage.

No Ball:

Ross Taylor has become New Zealand’s leading run scorer in ODI Cricket…

http://www.espncricinfo.com/story/_/id/26033257/taylor-goes-fleming-new-zealand-highest-odi-run-getter

Meanwhile Bangladesh batsman Sabbir Rahman made a maiden ODI century in the same match that Taylor snatched his record…

http://www.espncricinfo.com/series/18805/scorecard/1153846/new-zealand-vs-bangladesh-3rd-odi-bangladesh-in-nz-2018-19

Wide:

Hamilton Masakadza will lead Zimbabwe in all formats for the immediate future…

https://www.cricbuzz.com/cricket-news/106758/hamilton-masakadza-retained-as-zimbabwe-skipper-across-formats

Peter Moor will act as vice-skipper.

Cricket Captain 2018: Afghan Ascending!

Following our seismic victory against India on Test debut, we entertained Ireland for a limited overs only tour. We were ruthless against our old Associate adversaries, winning both series.

We claimed the T20I series 2-1, only losing when having already assumed an unassailable 2-0 lead. A magnificent undefeated partnership of 171 between Noor Ali Zadran (80*) and Najibullah Zadaran (85*) helped us recover from 4-2 to win the first match. Right-arm-quick Yamin Ahmedzai’s 5-29 led the way in the second.

We then emphatically won the ODI series 3-0. The scintillating form of our opening batsmen, Mohammad Shahzad and Usman Ghani, laid the foundations for our victory. The pair compiled partnerships of 109, 166 and 84 in the three matches. Ex-England duo Ed Joyce (107) and Boyd Rankin (7-46) could consider themselves extremely unfortunate to be on the losing side in the first match of the series. In the second, the record-breaking 166-run partnership between Shahzad (116) and Ghani (93) more than laid the foundations for a successful chase of 289. In the third match, part-time spin bowler Rahmat Shah claimed figures of 4-14 whilst Ghani (80) continued his strong ODI form after a disappointing T20I series to seal an emphatic whitewash. He has though thrown his wicket away on more than one occasion when a hundred looked on the cards.

Then came another great Test match, our first at home. The easy option would’ve been to select the XI that downed India but given the time that had elapsed since that glorious occasion and taking player form and conditions into consideration, we bravely made four changes. Najibullah Zadran and Hamza Hotak were dropped altogether, a decision based primarily on poor domestic form. Mohammad Nabi, who performed well with the ball in the white-ball matches but had been playing almost exclusively T20 cricket and Dawlat Zadran, who made a vital 53 against India, made the squad but not the playing XI. Without a club, Zadran may struggle to represent Afghanistan again.

Twenty-year-old batsman Nasir Shah beat off lots of competition for a middle order berth. Knocks of 234 and 84 in the most recent round of First Class matches cementing his place. Karim Janat, who performed well with the ball in the limited overs matches combined with scoring 126 in his last domestic match also debuted. Yamin Ahmadzai was rewarded for his five-wicket haul in a T20I and consistent threat with a Test debut at the expense of Zadran. Eighteen-year-old spin sensation Qais Ahmad held off more experienced internationals for the sole spin bowling spot. Rashid Khan failed to make the squad and still awaits a Test cap.

Having won the toss, we chose to bat but stumbled early on and at 276-7 the innings could’ve petered out.

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A breakdown of Haji Murad’s Test best innings of 96 in our first innings. As the above graphic demonstrates, the wicketkeeper cut well and scored heavily on the leg-side in front of square.

Heroically, Haji Murad (96) found support from the lower order to lift the team to 398 all out. Yamin Ahmadzai (37) and Fareed Ahmad (28) provided excellent support. Wicketkeeper Murad, who performed so well against India, was cruelly denied a maiden Test century courtesy of an outstanding catch from Peter Chase. What the lanky quick was doing positioned at short leg is anybody’s guess but he held a stunning catch. The tireless Chase also stuck at his main task to finish with exhaustive figures of 4-157.

Ireland then reached 53 without loss before capitulating to 208-9. It should be noted that after suffering the dejection of so narrowly missing out on a Test century, gloveman Murad snaffled an outstanding leg-side catch to make the breakthrough when Ireland were going strong. Andy McBrine (50 not out) and Craig Young (27 not out) bookended the innings with another 53-run partnership to revive the tourists. Young was forced to retire hurt however so as was the case in our first Test against India, the opposition found themselves a bowler light for our second innings of the match. I hope that sceptics won’t point to Young’s misfortune as pivotal. We gained a 137-run lead on first innings after all.

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Debutant Karim Janat claimed the prize scalp of Irish veteran Ed Joyce with his first ball in Test cricket. Janat would fully justify his selection in the Test side with a strong all-round showing.

Absurdly, Karim Janat and Usman Ghani both claimed wickets with their first deliveries in Test cricket. Nasir Khan claimed one with his third and the part-timer went onto claim excellent figures of 3-25 to lift his confidence having only made 13 batting at four in the first innings. Qais Ahmad also didn’t have long to wait for his first Test wicket, striking after only a few overs.

We then posted 291-8 declared in our second innings. Messrs Shahzad (49) and Ghani (51) maintained their outstanding combo with an opening stand of 88.

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Debutant Nasir Khan’s measured knock of 72, dominant on the off-side, in our second innings helped put us firmly in the driving seat before a rush of blood to the head saw him frustratingly throw his wicket away!

Young Khan made 72 and looked destined for a debut ton but was rather foolishly stumped for 72. We lost a few wickets unnecessarily in the limited overs matches and need to eradicate occasional poor shot selection from our play. Khan compiled 121 with Karim Janat (61) who would fully justify his inclusion in the side via performances with both bat and ball. Spinner George Dockrell claimed match figures of 7-157 for Ireland. He was unlucky not to take more wickets and to finish on the losing side.

Staring down a daunting target but having made an encouraging start, Ireland then collapsed from 107-1 to 210 all out as we maintained our 100% winning record in Test cricket. We didn’t panic after Ireland made good progress early on before a double strike from Karim Janat (2-24) halted the visitor’s progress. Dave Rankin top scored with 48 but young spinner Qais Ahmad (3-50) wrapped things up after the pace bowlers had done their bit.

That’s two wins out of two in the Test arena and now it’s onto yet more more white-ball games against the side form the Emerald Isle. We’ll be looking to maintain our dominance against our friendly foes, continue to breed competition amongst the squad and develop our game in all formats.