Suggested England Squad for Tour of Sri Lanka

First XI

Zak Crawley

Dom Sibley

Joe Denly

Joe Root (Captain)

Ben Stokes

Ollie Pope

Ben Foakes (Wicketkeeper)

Dom Bess

Chris Woakes

Sam Curran

Matthew Parkinson

Reserves

Dan Lawrence

Sam Billings (Wicketkeeper)

Liam Dawson

Craig Overton

Mark Wood

Amar Virdi

Young opening batsmen Zak Crawley and Dominic Sibley merit retaining their places at the top of the order. At number three and despite drying up somewhat with the bat, Joe Denly is a good fielder and useful leg-spin bowling option. I’ve therefore resisted the temptation to recall Keaton Jennings. It seems likely that in reality Jennings will be recalled. Yes he has scored hundreds in Asia but he’s also had quite a few failures. He’s a useful part-time bowler but not a spinner and Ollie Pope is equally adept in the short leg position. I’ve named experienced England Lions player Dan Lawrence in the squad because as well as being a competent batsman, he’s a useful spin-bowling option.

In the middle order, captain Joe Root, who deserves credit for his leadership in recent times, Ben Stokes and Ollie Pope pick themselves. The time has come however to omit both Jos Buttler and Jonny Bairstow. Ben Foakes has performed well in Sri Lanka before and deserves an opportunity to own the wicketkeeping gloves. Sam Billings is a bit of a wildcard but he’s a good player of spin and if selected would, unlike his limited overs opportunities, be able to contruct an innings. As oppose to selecting Buttler or Bairstow as backup, having somebody fresh to the Test environment would be good and could be the making of Billings. We’ve seen recently how illness and injury can present opportunities for reserve players. He and Lawrence both provide good top/middle order cover.

On the spin front, Dom Bess fully merits retention having displayed both control and wicket taking ability in South Africa. I’m also backing Matthew Parkinson to get some warm-up games under his belt and press for selection. It’s been a frustrating winter for him having been usurped by Bess but he provides the leg-spin to compliment Bess’ off-spin. If Jack Leach isn’t fit then slow-left-armer Liam Dawson is a dependable alternative to help England cover all angles of spin. There really aren’t many other left-arm options available to England. Off-spinner Amar Virdi will benefit from being around the first team squad. If Moeen Ali isn’t up for it then England shouldn’t go begging him.

Messrs Anderson, Broad and Archer may as well be rested to ease injury niggles. It makes sense to go with the all round abilities of Chris Woakes and Sam Curran to help yield as many runs as possible. A right-arm/left-arm contrast in the attack is also maintained. Craig Overton can hit the deck hard for a few overs if required as can Wood. Wood has performed superbly in South Africa so could be used to bowl a few overs at the beginning of the innings. Like Overton he can bat too but it may also be worth resting him rather than him being primarily just a fielder in a spin dominated environment.

What are your thoughts? Should some of the senior players be retained? Do England have any other spin bowling options?

Ben Stokes: Not SPOTY!

I’m extremely disappointed with Ben Stokes for his alleged reaction to a taunt from the crowd in the fourth Test match against South Africa.

I appreciate that Stokes has experienced a lot in life and has some serious worries at the moment. If he did use personal characteristics in his response however then it hints at an ugly undercurrent to Stokes’ own character. He should be above responding to such things though of course I can understand frustration boiling over somewhere along the line. That said, the nature of the barb simply wasn’t good enough from our nation’s Sports Personality of the Year. He deserves to be reprimanded by the ICC. End of!

Howzat! Blogging: Content and Imagery?!

I’ve been blogging for over three years now and I’m still amazed at some of what I see when searching for interesting original content… and I don’t mean in a good way!

I’ve always said that “My blog might be rubbish but at least it’s my rubbish!”. The content is mine and the images are mine. Yes I’ve often been inspired by a headline or even an article though if the headline’s inspired me I try to avoid reading the article, at least until I’ve written my own. Regular readers will know that my recent content has been Cricket 19 dominated and not actually opinions on the real game. Life, errr… and Cricket 19 can get in the way. Of course part of my inspiration and style of writing those posts stem from being inspired by reading match reports online etc but just like some people have trodden a fine line on “Being inspired” by my content there’s no patent on writing about cricket. I wasn’t the first person and I’m not the only one allowed to produce Cricket gaming content. Just head over to YouTube! Anybody writing a cricket match report is likely to script a familiar chronological format at the very least before we consider applying any original flavour. The perspective from which it’s written will of course effect the narrative. I’ve particularly enjoyed the genuine first hand write-ups that I’ve done having attended a match. I’ve avoided reading another report when doing so only confirming a few details from the scorecard.

When I first started blogging the leading cricket bloggers on WordPress seemed to just copy and paste articles from major sites, amend the headline and claim the post as their own. Some just direct you to another site entirely. Where’s the pleasure? What’s the point?

Then we come to imagery. The amount of bloggers who are naively, sinisterly or foolishly and illegally using images that they don’t own stuns me. As for streaming live footage, I’m no running water expert but I’m going to hazard a guess that it isn’t all legit.

What do people think? Am I over reacting? Are these professional and polished images from top matches actually free for all to use? Where do other bloggers get their images, their content, their inspiration from?

Cricket 19: Caught in the Middle… sex!

For our final preparation ahead of our Test debut we had a big decision to make…

Do we play our best team, providing those players with the opportunity to gain valuable experience of playing at Lords and spending more time together on the field as a unit?

Or…

Do we wrap our best players up in cotton wool, breed competition and answer some questions regarding the one or two places in the team still up for grabs?

We chose the latter. Our team was as follows:

Enzo Petit, Omar Sissoko, Youssef Rizvi, Gabin Sauvage, Timothee Clement, Zvonimir Pitko, Maxime Bernard (C&W), Paco Georges, Phillipe La Roux (2) Louis Martin (1), Mehdi Qadri

After a shower sprinkled the field of play Maxime Bernard won the toss and without hesitation chose to bowl. Debutant new ball pair Louis Martin and Phillipe La Roux were licking their lips at the lush green deck provided to them. By the time lunch arrived both players had made a case for Test selection. La Roux trapped Sam Robson (A Test centurion don’t forget!) LBW for 17 having already had an appeal incorrectly rejected.

Martin then accounted for Nick Gubbins (3) via a brute of a delivery that Bernard held comfortably.

A period of frustration ensued before Paco Georges got in on the act when he bowled Stevie Eskinazi (34) off his pads. The enthusiasm for wicket-taking was infectious and soon Gabin ‘Jacques Kallis’ Sauvage shattered Martin Andersson’s (2) stumps.

Batsman Timothee Clement (1-20) did his chances of a Test call-up no harm by tempting John Simpson (7) to inside edge onto his stumps in his first over… in First Class cricket… at Lords! That made it five wickets by five different bowlers.

Max Holden and James Harris then survived numerous scares particularly from leg-spin demon Mehdi Qadri. Middlesex reached 257-5 (A partnership of 90) at close of play with the new ball imminent.

With his first delivery on the second day La Roux toppled Harris’ (35) stumps and Martin (2-48) soon accounted for Roland-Jones (3) in a high-quality display of new ball bowling. Tim Murtagh resisted alongside Holden however. The experienced Irishman benefited from a dolly of a drop by Bernard off the luckless Sauvage. It was in 1640 that Nicolas Sauvage opened the first taxi company. Gabin Sauvage (1-39) may well have wanted his stand-in skipper to flag one down for him when he saw the ball fall from his gloves and hit the turf!

Paco Georges responded to Holden’s upping of the tempo and boundary filled batting by forcing the opener to nick to Sissoko at slip. It was a sharp catch by Sissoko to terminate Holden’s magnificent knock of 193. Frenchman Phillipe Kahn invented the camera phone and spectators click click clicked on their devices as Holden soaked up the crowd’s adulation.

The following delivery Georges (2-103) enticed Sowter to edge through the slips and that brought with it the end of the session with the lord of the manors on 314-8. At first we thought the hosts were declaring but that wasn’t the case.

After the resumption Qadri (26-7-41-1) bowled fellow leg-spinner Sowter (14) with a stunning googly before La Roux, having claimed a wicket with his first delivery of the day, struck in the first over of a new spell to end Murtagh’s (35) vigil and conclude the innings. La Roux’s debut figures of 19.5-0-71-3 were an encouraging if slightly expensive start to his career.

Having reduced the home side to 167-5 to concede 363 and be out in the field for so long was frustrating. Their tactics of continuing to bat in a rain-affected three-day fixture was disappointing both for us but particularly for entertainment-seeking fans.

Our opening duo of Enzo Petit and Omar Sissoko negated two overs unscathed so that we reached tea on day two with all ten wickets in hand. You sensed that the last thing Sissoko needed was a break in play and so it proved. The cluttered mind that had been so pronounced in recent innings reared its ugly head and to the first ball of the day’s final session, a short pitched delivery, an attempted pull went predictably and familiarly wrong. A score of 12 was enough to put an end to a run of five consecutive innings without reaching double figures but not sufficient to secure a Test debut. By the time drinks came Petit and debutant Youssef Rizvi had propelled the score to 83-1 and put their Test aspirations in far more promising positions than the serially struggling Sissoko.

Post pause Petit and Rizvi progressed to 106-1 before Petit got giddy having despatched spinner Sowter into the stands for a maximum.

The right-hander was ingloriously bowled through his legs for 58 the very next delivery. He’d applied himself superbly though and almost certainly cemented his place in the line-up for our inaugural Test match. Sadly Petit’s demise prompted an all too familiar middle order collapse as 106-1 slumped to 116-6, a collapse of 10-5! Rizvi (36) was beaten by a good delivery but Sauvage (5), Clement (0) and Pitko (2) all failed to cover themselves in glory. Bernard (12) and Georges (17) entertained briefly but Sowter (6-38) continued to claim wickets with alarming regularity. Having subsided to 152-8 La Roux (16*) and Martin (17*) lifted us to 180-8 at the second day’s end. At best the pair were competing for one bowling spot in the team so a significant batting contribution could’ve been vital to their chances of making the XI when we revisit Lords to take on England.

Yet again it had been a sense of deja vu and with rain delaying the start of play for a third consecutive day our batsmen were left sweating as to whether or not they would get another opportunity… so we declared… and were made to follow-on! Middlesex were obviously trying to win the game but we appreciated them refraining from being awkward.

With less than one over of our second innings on the scoreboard need I tell you what happened?

Sissoko (3) presented a leading edge to bowler Tim Murtagh (1-68) and his Test dreams were extinguished… for now at least.

Rizvi (6) pushed hard at a delivery from Roland-Jones (2-48) to be caught in the slips and Sauvage (12) played down the wrong line resulting in his stumps being rearranged. It was a disappointing showing with the bat in this match for Sauvage having performed well against Yorkshire.

Petit picked up where he left off in the first innings and Clement avoided the ignominy of a king pair on First Class debut.

The duo batted with a hint of swagger to rescue the score from 36-3 to 93-3 at lunch on the final day. We still required another 90 runs to make Middlesex bat again.

Far too predictably spin soon proved our downfall. Just when he was pushing his case for Test selection, Timothee Clement (24) nicked behind off the first ball he faced from Sowter (4-49). Zvonimir Pitko steadied the ship but Enzo Petit (59) could only go one better than his first innings score. Petit had set the standard for other batsmen to follow though.

Bernard (10), Georges (16) and La Roux (20) all made contributions of sorts as we chalked up 217-8. With one session remaining the lead was 34. Could we hold out for a draw?

Pitko (58) and Martin (4*) battened down the hatches and the overs ticked by before the former fell to the 100th delivery that he faced. Qadri (0) was also bowled next ball by Harris (2-8) to leave Middlesex needing 43 runs to win and plenty of time to do it.

We opened with spin but it was Georges (1-12) and Sauvage (1-11) who accounted for Robson (12) and Gubbins (19). The less said about an all-run 5 to level the scores the better as Middlesex secured an eight-wicket win.

Despite another defeat there were some huge positives for our team. Petit, Rizvi, Clement and Pitko all made contributions with the bat while debutant quick bowlers La Roux and Martin made encouraging outings with the ball. There are some tough decisions to be made in regards to our playing XI for our inaugural Test match.

It’s been one hundred and twenty years since our nation claimed the silver medal at the 1900 Summer Olympic Games. There are 120 deliveries in a Twenty20 match but it’s the limitless possibilities of Test match cricket that await the current generation of French cricketers. Fill the cafetière, butter your croissant and smell the camembert. Fingers crossed that one of our batsman can score 120 against the mighty England at Lords!

Six to Watch: 2020 – Transfer Special!

Paul Coughlin, Durham

Following an injury hit couple of years at Nottinghamshire former England Lions all-rounder Paul Coughlin has returned north to home team Durham. It appears to be a sensible move to help reignite his stalled career. Coughlin is a bowling all-rounder and Nottinghamshire’s bowling attack has extreme depth so chances at Trent Bridge would be limited Durham have some useful all-rounders with the likes of Ben Raine and James Weighell so Coughlin will be a further assett.

Josh Shaw, Gloucestershire

Shaw has almost existed as a co-owned player switching between Yorkshire and multiple loan stints at Gloucestershire in recent seasons. Opportunities have been few and far between at home county Yorkshire what with Coad and Olivier etc but Shaw’s seemed at home in Bristol and now being a fully fledged Gloucestershire player should make their bowling attack stronger.

Jack Leaning, Kent

Following the theme of players seeking fresh challenges Leaning, like Shaw, has departed the ‘White Rose County’ for pastures new at Canterbury. Leaning previously featured in the North v South series, has been highly rated for some time and at 26 could yet come good. He’s an underused spin-bowler and a fresh start could be just what he requires.

Luke Wood, Lancashire

Wood has grown frustrated at Nottinghamshire where he’s often found himself down the pecking order amongst a strong attack year after year. The left-armer is a capable First Class bowler, can bat and made great strides in the T20 format. He’s had useful loan stints at Northamptonshire and should be a great asset for Lancashire. For me, he’s a dark horse for England selection in the shortest format particularly if Sam Curran were to get injured.

Dawid Malan, Yorkshire

A player who has travelled in the opposite direction to Shaw and Leaning, Malan has ended a long association with Middlesex to try and regain an England place. Yorkshire, particularly in the shortest format, desperately need more firepower though Malan may have to settle for a place at number four behind Lyth, Kohler-Cadmore and Willey. He and Gary Ballance help provide ballast in the four-day game and should help the likes of Harry Brook, Matthew Revis and Tom Loten develop.

Haseeb Hameed, Nottinghamshire

Another batsman hoping to reignite an England career… but one step at a time, is Haseeb Hameed. Hameed has suffered an alarming fall following early success with England and there’s no doubt that a fresh start is what’s required. Coach Peter Moores might not have had great success at international level but he could be just what Hameed needs. Nottinghamshire have the likes of Ben Duckett, Ben Slater and Joe Clarke, all batsmen who’ve voyaged to Trent Bridge, are competing for top order spots and England recognition so it’ll be interesting to see where Hameed fits in both in the order and in each format.

Cricket 19: First Class Livraison

In the majestic surroundings of our new home ground we won the toss and were inspired to bat.

It was always going to be a tough ask for Enzo Petit (3) to come in from the cold and open the batting and the right-hander soon nicked behind. Jean-Luc Chevalier (19) and Gilles Smith (42) put on 46 to enhance their reputation as a strong pairing. They’d compiled two sixty-something partnerships in as many warm-up games prior to our First Class debut. The recalled Gabin Sauvage looked a much improved player but Christophe Martinez and Zidane Thomas both fell first ball as Ben Coad claimed a hat-trick. Marwan Leroy (22) batted maturely but soon after his dismissal came the controversy that marred the very first morning of our professional existence…

Sauvage (40), having applied himself so well, was adjudged run out when scampering through for a leg bye following an LBW shout against our captain Xavier Le Tallec. Replays from multiple angles confirmed that Sauvage had grounded his bat before the stumps were broken. Please refer to the below image for evidence…

The decision was hugely frustrating for the player in question and the team as a whole. We’d underperformed but were fighting hard against the strongest opposition that we’ve faced so far.

Le Tallec soon fell for 13 courtesy of a catch at short leg when fending off a fierce bouncer from Coad (6-31). 89-2 ultimately subsided to 157 all out and we actually lost our last four wickets for the addition of only five runs. The middle order collapse was frightful but the application (If not the results!) was there and there were some hugely encouraging signs. The run out decision undermined all that however and though it was only one of ten wickets we were robbed of our most set batsman. We hope that the standard of officiating in the Tests will be of a higher calibre.

Moving on, our premier wicket in the First Class game wasn’t a brute that nicked the batsman’s edge or a sensational inswinging delivery that knocked over the stumps but a run out following some calamitous activity between the wickets. Three of the six wickets that we claimed on day one were achieved in such fashion and at times it was hard to distinguish which team were the experienced professionals.

Patrick Pierre had the honour of claiming our first bowler’s wicket with a full delivery that was far too good for Will Fraine and dismantled the batsman’s stumps. After slumping to 42-3 courtesy of two run outs (The big wickets of Kohler-Cadmore and Ballance) Harry Brook and Jonny Tattersall performed a high-quality rebuilding job. The young pair compiled 76 before the ever-reliable Pierre (2-76) got Brook (44) to edge behind to stumper Leroy in the first over after tea. There was another run out and a maiden First Class wicket for Zidane Thomas (1-75) but all the while the imperious Tattersall batted on. By the end of the first day’s play Yorkshire were already a healthy 51 runs ahead.

We made a scintillating start to the second day with Alexandre Rivière (2-53) striking twice in the first over.

First he had dangerman Tattersall (90) snapped up by Martinez in the slips before Poysden was superbly caught by Enzo Petit at gully off the very next delivery. Steve Patterson survived the hat-trick ball and having survived he thrived. Experienced Patterson (45) compiled 96 alongside Jared Warner before the former nicked behind to Leroy off Sauvage (1-60).

Another 41 frustrating runs were yielded by the last wicket pair but in the first over after lunch Petit (1-10) rolled his arm over for the second time in the match and promptly trapped Warner (78) LBW to terminate an excellent innings from the youngster. Ben Coad remained undefeated on 19. The sum total was 347 meaning that Petit would walk to the crease alongside Chevalier effectively -190-0! “Bonne Chance” to them we said.

With the help of a little extras, 25 by the end of the innings, the opening pair put on a hugely encouraging 29 for the first wicket before Petit (8) nicked a brute of a delivery to the ‘keeper. It was a huge shame as the debutant had applied himself well and got out trying to defend a ball that he could’ve left alone. A horrible misjudgment saw Gilles Smith trapped LBW first ball but there would be no second hat-trick for Coad. Chevalier (22) and Sauvage (26) looked in good touch but would’ve loved to have made scores of substance. As was the case first time around a decent score looked on the cards but from 66-2 we slipped to 125-8.

A knock of just 5 means that it’s the end of the road for Christophe Martinez but Zidane Thomas (21) and Marwan Leroy (15) hinted at better things to come.

The less said about Leroy’s brain freeze dismissal though the better!

Patrick Pierre registered a king pair on professional debut, a shame for him having made runs in the warm-up games. Captain Le Tallec was left undefeated on 17 after Alexandre Rivière whalloped 36 from 22 deliveries. The number ten, who had struggled for runs in the practice matches, sensibly got his eye in before feasting on Poysden’s spin though the leg-break bowler (3-35) ultimately had the last laugh. When Qadri was out to Coad (3-19) the game was up. We went down by an innings and 13 runs. It was bitterly disappointing not to make Yorkshire bat again but individually there were plenty of starts with the bat and collectively we bettered our first innings total.

Next up it’s Middlesex at Lords, our final preparation for our Test debut!

2020!

A huge thank you to those of you who’ve viewed, shared, liked, commented, followed or interacted in any way on my blog in 2019. I’m extremely grateful and the odd like or comment from time to time really does make it that little more worthwhile.

2020 seems like an appropriate year for a cricket blog and I intend to keep going strong. It’ll be more of the same from me with polls, quizzes, lots of Cricket 19 content and maybe even some thoughts on real cricket… it does happen from time to time!

Like I say, 2020 is a fitting year for our sport and it’s great that England is launching a new domestic Twenty20 comp… oh no, wait!

Happy New Year to you all wherever you are in the world!