Ed at the Head!

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Former Middlesex and Kent batsman Ed Smith seems to have emerged as the favourite to be selected as… selector, the England National Selector that is.

Firstly, let’s address the obvious criticism. Smith played three Tests and there will be those who will suggest that he doesn’t have enough experience at the highest level to be qualified to perform the role. However we’ve seen numerous ex-professional players, extremely good ones at that, fail to transfer their skills to the commentary box and punditry arena. There’ve been many a successful football manager who didn’t have a particularly decorated domestic career but succeeded in management. Smith has immense experience of English county cricket and of observing the international game in his roles as commentator, pundit and writer. I’m of the impression that he’ll make a measured and methodical National Selector and for one will be happy and instilled with optimism for the England side, if Andrew Strauss provides him with the gig.

First Class Farce!

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The County Championship has already been ushered towards the margins of the cricketing summer and its opening offerings of the 2018 season were a nail in the coffin of First Class cricket in England.

Kent were dismissed for 64, Northamptonshire for 71 and Gloucestershire won a match in which the top score was the lowest of any result match in eons. Nottinghamshire also lost four wickets when chasing… ten! Cue excitement around the country at the prospects of those bowlers that claimed a sackful of wickets receiving national call-ups. I’m completely opposed to this idea of the first few weeks of the season being perceived as the national side shop window. England shouldn’t be selecting players based on the first couple of weeks of the season.

As soon as 2020, the structure of domestic cricket in England is set to change even further, when rather appropriately, the city based T20 competition arrives. The current format of the County Championship is set to be done away with but I do like the idea of a knockout competition that involves the minor counties… very retro isn’t it?

I’m sure that there was some skilful bowling on show in the opening round of County Championship matches this term but so many low scores can’t help but devalue the competition. Some may argue that results are better than draws but if it’s batsmen that England are seeking then they’re going to struggle to find them at this rate!

Bookends

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England’s long winter has reached its conclusion. It began with fifties for each of England’s Ashes virgins and it has ended the same way.

Mark Stoneman, James Vince and Dawid Malan have each bookended their Australasian adventure with half-centuries in Brisbane and Christchurch.

For Hampshire’s Vince, it began with 83, run out on that fateful day Down Under. The Ashes were lost there and then. It ended with 76 across the Tasman and in truth, there wasn’t a lot in between.

Dawid Malan

For Middlesex man Malan, there was the most extreme performance of the three. His 140 in Perth means that whatever happens, he has a Test ton to his name. He made three fifties in four innings in the T20Is as well. His one failure coming when he was fantastically run out by… David Warner! Though he contributed little in his first three innings in The Land of the Long White Cloud, he has at least rounded things of with a fifty.

Mark Stoneman

For Surrey’s Stoneman, well, he did what everybody expected and what his track record, particularly when he was up at Durham, suggested he would do. He fought, he battled, he occasionally punched a couple of boundaries in quick succession but he didn’t go on. He didn’t register a century.

Without fifties in their final innings of the tours, Vince almost certainly and Stoneman possibly, would have bid farewell to their Test careers. Even another failure for Malan could have proven critical provided England’s desperation to have Ben Stokes bat at five. Malan need only look as far as Stoneman’s former county colleague and opening partner Keaton Jennings to know that a hundred doesn’t necessarily keep you in the team for long.

Of course England are currently advertising for new selectors, so whether or not any of said three batsmen ever play for England again is very much up in the air!

Ashes Cricket (PS4): Global Test League – Pakistan vs. England

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Another match, another win. That’s four in a row now for the team. Next up we host South Africa in a top of the table clash at Sussex. Like us, they’ve won four matches and lost only one.

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We were pleased to be pushed hard by Pakistan. We’ve performed well to win four consecutive matches but would’ve welcomed stronger opposition. We got that from Pakistan, well, for three quarters of the match at least.

In our first innings, opening batsman Keaton Jennings (125) cemented his place at the top of the Global Test League run charts with yet another hundred. Dawid Malan (80 & 142) stayed in touching distance of Jennings with a counter attacking ton in our second outing. Jennings now has 712 tournament runs to Malan’s 688 despite Malan having four tons to Jennings’ three.

Pakistan gained a healthy first innings lead of 105 however, courtesy of three batsmen (A Shehzad 132, H Sohail 109 & J Khan 100) scoring centuries. This was despite the efforts of our opening bowlers, messrs Broad (3-87) and Woakes (3-101). Adil Rashid (2-86) also claimed two victims to add to his first innings knock of 61. The Yorkshireman has cemented his place as both England’s number six batsman and number one spinner. Rumours of him focusing on white ball cricket only are purely that. Fellow twirler Liam Dawson, 43-7-147-0, toiled however.

After a difficult start to our second innings, Malan (142) and Rashid (40) put together a combo of 201 for the fifth wicket. This was our highest partnership of the competition thus far. Moeen Ali stroked a useful 43 not out to help set the hosts 318 for victory.

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They couldn’t have got off to a worse start with first innings centurion Ahmed Shehzad run out first ball. Their next two wickets were also run outs and they were soon 21-4 before stumbling to 89-7. Gloveman Sarfraz Ahmed contributed a well fought but stylish 43 before Junaid Khan (51 not out) and Imad Wasim (47) showed resistance and ability in the lower order. If only their top three hadn’t gotten themselves out in such shambolic circumstances, then this could have been a great Test match. Adil Rashid (2-18) claimed ‘Player of the Match’ and this was probably deservedly so, despite competition from the likes of Dawid Malan. Stuart Broad wrapped things up in Lahore. The above DRS confirming that there was no doubt about the final wicket. He and Chris Woakes both bowled well and look in good form ahead of the hosting of fellow table toppers South Africa.

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As for Liam Dawson however, his match figures of 61-10-210-0 leave him with a Global Test League average of 328.00. It seems unlikely that the Hampshire all-rounder (He made just 4 & 10 with the bat), will wear England whites again anytime soon.

Set in Stone?

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No sooner have you scripted an article in which you’ve dropped messrs Stoneman, Vince and Broad from England’s Test side…

https://sillypointcricketsite.wordpress.com/2018/03/24/england-test-xi/

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… do they go and do just about enough to save their places come the start of the summer…

http://www.espncricinfo.com/series/10883/game/1115781/new-zealand-vs-england-2nd-test-england-tour-of-australia-and-new-zealand-2017/

In Broad’s case, he’s actually done more than enough. Rocky and Invincible will still need to start the County Championship convincingly to be assured of their places. An England win in Christchurch should help their cause. Their 123-run partnership has been vital to England’s chances of a rare away win.

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Hopefully in New Zealand’s second venture to the crease, bowlers Mark Wood and Jack Leach can secure their immediate Test futures as well. As the old adage goes, never change a winning team (Of course we haven’t won this match… yet!).

Antarctic T20 Ice Blast! (Silly Point Ultra-Exclusive Story!)

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Cricket’s administrators recently proposed suggestions to help preserve Test cricket. This was in part due to the potential risk of some billionaire creating yet another global T20 franchise tournament and stealing players. Well those moves may have come too late because an unnamed mogul is rumoured to be ready to inject millions into the launching of a new T20 competition. The Antarctic Ice Blast is believed to be prepped for launch as early and appropriately as 2020. Like the identity of the league’s founder, the potential franchise owners remain unknown though TV’s Jon Snow, former Netherlands footballer Arron Winter and New Zealand cricketer Tim Southee are all rumoured to have put down a deposit. Silly Point has however seen the names of the proposed teams and they are as follows:

Bentley Subglacial Trench EmperorsLake Vostok LakersMcMurdo Station PinnipedsMount Erebus MountaineersOnyx River NematodesRiiser-Larsen Ice Shelf IcefishRoss Island Seals and Vinson Massif Explorers.

Englishmen Samit Patel, Ravi Bopara and Joe Denly are all rumoured to have signed up for the inaugural draft as is Test captain Joe Root. There is even a suggestion that recently retired Kevin Pietersen may come out of retirement for one last Blast. English players are perceived to be a vital addition to the franchises because of their experience of playing in cold conditions. Northerners in particular, players from the likes of Durham, Yorkshire and Lancashire are particularly sought after. Franchise owners are rumoured to have been dialling the mobile numbers of Steve Harmison, Darren Gough and Andrew Flintoff in audacious bids to lure the former England trio out of retirement.

West Indies’ Chris Gayle and Kieron Pollard, Indian skipper Virat Kohli, Pakistan’s Shahid Afridi, Afghanistan’s Rashid Khan and Australia’s Michael Klinger as well as former national skipper Steve Smith, are also rumoured to have put their names forward for the first draft. With Silly Point having seen exclusive advertising, we can advise that former Italy all-rounder Gareth Berg has already emerged as the league’s poster boy. Soon it’ll be hard to move around London Underground, Sydney Business District or the streets of Mumbai without seeing Berg’s flop of blond hair, his arms folded, in front of a mass of ice and a set of stumps… made of ice! That’s right, they’ll be replaced every time they’re broken or maybe they’re unbreakable ice!

It’s understood that the Blast’s benefactor is willing to contribute funds towards the building of renewable energy laden environmentally friendly stadiums for each franchise. These stadiums will have both training and accommodation facilities as well as purpose built wickets. Retractable roofs will come as standard.

Again, Silly Point has gained exclusive access to information and the names of the stadiums are set to be as follows:

Bentley Ballpark, Vostok Park, McMurdo Station, Erebus Arena, Onyx Bowl, Riiser-Larsen Cricket Ground (RLCG), Ross Dome and Vinson Field

The league’s creator is also set to launch their own airline, Antarctic Fantastic Air, to assist fans when travelling to matches.

Some in the cricket world are sceptical regarding the prospect of yet another T20 league in an already congested calendar, about the less than desirable cricket weather and how exactly fans will attach themselves to a team. For some though this is seen an excellent advert for spreading the global appeal of the game. Given the reduction of teams at the 2019 ODI World Cup, many cricket lovers as well as administrators are delighted to see cricket venture into an untapped market. The ICC are already lining up Antarctica as host for both an ODI World Cup and T20 World Cup as well as Champions Trophy venue post 2030.

One frustrating thing about the proposed tournament is that it’s expected to be played out behind a TV pay wall. Rumours are that the competition will have its own channel and will cost a one-off fee of around £250.00 before requiring subscribers to enter a 20 digit code followed by another 20 digit code on their remote control. Pommie Mbangwa, Michael Slater and everybody’s favourite insighter Graeme Swann, are tipped to be among the commentary and punditry team. Instagram and Dave are believed to have exclusive rights to highlights packages whilst if you sign up with the league founder’s rumoured planned new mobile phone company, Antarctic Connexions Mobile, you can gain exclusive access to almost immediate video wicket alerts! Continuing on the screen front, renowned film maker Werner Herzog is set to return to Antarctica and shoot a documentary about the competition’s inception, infancy and general learning to walk.

With some international teams still reluctant to travel to Pakistan for security reasons, Pakistan are rumoured to have already enquired about the possibility of playing home matches there following some disappointing results in UAE conditions. English county side Hampshire are said to be extremely frustrated to have missed out to Antarctica as an English Test venue. Because of the technicalities of Antarctic ownership, it’s understood that all nations could potentially play home games in Antarctica if they wish. Boyd Rankin, Ed Joyce and Johan Botha are believed to have already relocated to the southern continent in order to meet residency requirements ahead of rumoured bids to join the Antarctic national team. Peter Moores is slated as coach… slated, he will be if results don’t go too well! Essex are believed to have enquired about whether players, hell just people, could join them on Kolpak deals as soon as this summer.

Silly Point is delighted to present this exclusive story to you and will keep our loyal followers abreast of any further developments.

Burns, Renshaw & Handscomb: 12-3 – Welcome Back Boys!

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Steven Smith, David Warner & Cameron Bancroft. Please come back. All is forgiven. (Say Australian fans!)

For those of you that have been living in a cave for the past week, I feel obliged to inform you that batsmen Steven Smith, David Warner and Cameron Bancroft have all returned home from Australia’s tour of South Africa.

The good news for Australia fans is that Joe Burns & Matt Renshaw have joined the squad whilst Play Station Portable Handscomb has been promoted from 12th man duties. Unfortunately for Australia’s fans, the trio’s combined contribution to their team’s response to the home side’s first innings total of 488 is… 12-3. Renshaw made an epic 8, Burns a fluent half as many and Pistol Pete kept it simple… quack quack. Shaun Marsh is at the crease having failed to reach fifty in the series. He’s made starts but hasn’t backed up his Ashes tons.

There’s still hope for Australia. They’ve got their new captain Tim Paine to come, he of one century in 100 First Class matches (172 innings!). No Seriously, I like Paine and hope that he goes well.

It was great to see Temba Bavuma in the runs for South Africa though he rather unfortunately got left stranded on 95. This was in part due to Morne Morkel’s anti-climatic follow-up to receiving a guard of honour… quack quack first ball! It does seem a bit weird that the home side have mucked Bavuma about. They brought Theunis de Bruyn into the side again but don’t seem to understand what de Bruyn’s role is and have promptly mucked him around again by dropping him again.

Keep tabs on the fourth Test in Johannesburg by clicking on the link below…

http://www.espncricinfo.com/series/10908/commentary/1075985/south-africa-vs-australia-4th-test-australia-tour-of-south-africa-2018