Ben Duckett and Nelson Mandela in the same Sentence!

The last time that England’s cricketers were in Asia, batsman Ben Duckett was there. Despite scoring three fifties (ODIs/Tests) in Bangladesh, he had a torrid time of things in India then literally pissed off top brass the following winter in Oz. Whilst the senior team lap it up in Sri Lanka and the Lions travel to UAE, Duckett can be found playing in the Mzansi Super League in South Africa. It’s the latest T20 league to pop up on the global calendar (Yeah that’s right, Canada and Hong Kong had competitions before SA!).

Representing the wonderfully named Nelson Mandela Bay Giants, The stocky left-hander smashed 75 (5×4, 5×6) runs from just 45 deliveries. Hopefully it’s a sign of things to come after some lean patches post that run-laden summer a couple of years ago. Next year he’ll join Ben Slater and Joe Clarke in an exciting new batting line-up for Nottinghamshire at Trent Bridge. He’s probably still quite some way off an England recall but the shoots of recovery have started sprouting.

Another left-handed batsman who’ll be hoping to use the Mzansi league as a springboard back to international selection is Dawid Malan. The discarded Middlesex stalwart will lead Cape Town Blitz while domestic colleague Eoin Morgan will turn out for Tshwane Spartans. Morgan is a left-hander who doesn’t need to work his way back into the England fold, he’s already there!

Ticketmaster Disaster!

The ODI Cricket World Cup takes place in England next summer and I’m delighted to have got my hands on tickets for games involving Afghanistan, Pakistan and West Indies at Headingley… or at least I think that I have.

This week Ticketmaster sent e-mails to many fans who’d entered the ballot informing them that they’d won tickets. Some of those fans would’ve then paid for flights from all corners of the globe and booked accommodation only to then be informed that the e-mails had been sent in error and they hadn’t won tickets at all.

Well done Ticketmaster!

2018 Women’s World T20

In just under a week’s time on November 9th, the 2018 Women’s World T20 takes place in West Indies, the land of the defending champions.

Click on the link below for full details…

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/2018_ICC_Women%27s_World_Twenty20

The hosts will hope to defend the title in their own backyard via performances from players such as Cheandra Nation and the destructive Deandra Dottin. Current World ODI Champions England will also be confident however. Their squad includes inventive players such as Nat Sciver and Danielle Wyatt while Amy Jones (Pictured above) will wear the ‘keeping gloves in the absence of Sarah Taylor.

In captain Meg Lanning, Australia have the women’s game’s best player but in truth, T20 isn’t her strongest suit. Ashleigh Gardner could be key in this format. Neighbours New Zealand have talented individuals such as run-machine Amy Satterthwaite and spin sensation Amelia Kerr to keep them competitive.

India, with players such as Mithali Raj and Smriti Mandhana, will have high hopes for the tournament, though their neighbours, an out of form Pakistan, seem less likely contenders. They’ll rely heavily on the exploits of Diana Baig.

South Africa have some high quality cricketers, Laura Wolvaardt and Sune Luus amongst them but will need to discover consistency if they’re to challenge for this year’s crown. Chamari Atapattu will lead Sri Lanka’s charge.

It’ll be interesting to see how competitive the likes of Bangladesh and Ireland can be. Both teams had to make it through the qualifier to get this far. For Bangladesh, keep an eye out for eighteen-year-old spinner Nahida Akter. For Ireland, who took an almighty battering at the hands of New Zealand in ODIs not all that long ago, look out for talented all-round sportswoman Mary Waldron. Not content with representing her nation at cricket, she’s played football at international level as well as playing hockey to a high standard.

Here’s hoping for a great tournament to further develop and promote the women’s game.

Preparation Stagnation

England commence their long anticipated Test series in Sri Lanka very shortly but their preparation has lacked serious intensity. I appreciate that the climatic conditions have dealt an unfavourable hand but this scenario is nothing new to England’s cricketers.

I have always been in favour of a couple of official First Class matches on tour. These whole squad get involved matches are little more than a glorified net and are not treated as competitive matches. Whilst the individual element may seem like good prep, I strongly believe that an individual playing only one First Class warm-up rather than participating in two exhibition affairs, would be more akin to playing Test Cricket. Had Rory Burns and Keaton Jennings opened in the first of two official warm-up games in the knowledge that Joe Denly was to be presented with a chance in that slot in the second match, the pressure on them to perform would surely be more akin to actually playing Test cricket.

On the subject of Denly, he may well have played himself out of a Test debut with a shoddy performance in the warm-up matches. With mid-series tour matches almost eradicated, how do the likes of Denly or Ollie Pope restate their case for selection in situations such as these? This is a feeling that’s all too familiar to Gary Ballance!

As is often the case with any selection related article that I’ve scripted, either the landscape has changed very quickly or I was just completely misguided in my initial assessment. Surrey’s Ben Foakes now looks a likely Test debutant in the first Test and could really muddy the selection waters ahead of Jonny Bairstow’s return to fitness, by producing a good performance. Imagine if Jos Buttler falls twice to spin for single figure scores!

Somerset spinner Jack Leach also seems likely to return to skipper Joe Root’s XI and hopefully he and Foakes can convert consistent county career contributions to the international stage. England will be desperate to bounce back in Asia following their abysmal attempts in Bangladesh and India a couple of years ago.

Frustrated Foakes!

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Surrey’s Ben Foakes spent last winter warming the bench during a lengthy Ashes tour and could now be set to do the same in Sri Lanka. Since last winter, Jos Buttler has returned to the side not only as a specialist batsman but also as second choice wicketkeeper. As a result, even though Jonny Bairstow injured himself playing football, former Essex-man Foakes remains unlikely to play in the first Test. If Bairstow is anything shy of 100% fit then based on his attempts at playing when injured during last summer, he should be nowhere near the XI. The England management need to be brave enough to make the sort of calls that Italy’s football coach Arrigo Sacchi did with star player Roberto Baggio during the early stages of World Cup USA ’94. England also have Foakes’ Surrey teammates Ollie Pope and rather less likely, uncapped opening batsman Rory Burns as alternative wicketkeeping options. That’s just the five glovemen in the squad then!

Based on what we saw last winter, it’s quite possible that England’s XI in the third Test may be rather different to what we see in the first encounter. With little game time under his belt, Somerset spinner Jack Leach may be unlikely to start the series but if England fall behind then he may well be called upon. It may also be the case that the delicate Olly Stone benefits from not playing though you’d think some overs under his belt would be helpful.

Much maligned opening batsman Keaton Jennings missed out in his only opportunity on tour so far as did Joe Denly. Though Denly’s return to England’s T20I side went romantically well, the nature of the game means that he was able to claim wickets without bowling at his best. That is unlikely to be the case in the Test series. It’s tough to call but with rumours that Stuart Broad may be rested and Sam Curran’s left-arm variety useful, particularly if Leach is omitted, could England’s line-up in the first Test look like this?

Rory Burns

Keaton Jennings

Joe Denly

Joe Root (c)

Ben Stokes

Jos Buttler (w)

Moeen Ali

Chris Woakes

Sam Curran

Adil Rashid

James Anderson

If the weather allows, England basically now have a one-day game before the first Test. Wickets for the likes of Broad and Leach or runs for Pope or Foakes could yet have a bearing on the make-up of England’s XI. Of course if Buttler were to get injured during a Test, it’d be perverse if Foakes and Pope were sat on the bench alongside Bairstow whilst Rory Burns assumed the gloves on what would turn out to be a heck of a demanding introduction to international cricket for the Surrey skipper.

4-3-1-5: Doctor Who?

Doctor Zhivago… maybe he’s not a doctor but Zhivago Groenewald claimed amazing analysis of five wickets for just one run from four overs complete with three maidens… obviously, for Namibia against Swaziland (Or is it eSwatini?) in Botswana’s capital Gaborone earlier today.

Swazi opening bat Alexander Nicholas actually carried his willow to make an undefeated 17 from 52 balls as Swaziland accumulated 72-6 from their full allocation. It took the Namibians only twenty-two deliveries to complete the chase as detailed by clicking on the link below…

http://www.espncricinfo.com/series/19010/scorecard/1163048/namibia-vs-swaziland-2nd-match-icc-world-twenty20-africa-region-qualifier-c-2018-19

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For the record, ‘The Doctor’ only had three career Twenty20 wickets prior to his 5-1 epic. It’s just a shame that these matches don’t have full T20I status until next year.

Keep up to date with what’s going on in ICC World Twenty20 Africa Region Qualifier here:

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/2018–19_ICC_World_Twenty20_Africa_Qualifier

Cricket is a global game and these matches matter. There aren’t only ten international teams and let’s hope that developing cricket nations such as these continue to progress by playing meaningful and competitive matches like the ones currently being played out in Botswana.

Four Star Denly!

Need I say more?

Okay then, if you insist!

Welcome back Joe Denly. After 384 matches and eight years in the international wilderness, the Kent all-rounder gate crashed England’s T20I against Sri Lanka in Colombo. earlier today. He promptly contributed 20 from 17 with the bat and claimed 4-19 with the ball.

http://www.espncricinfo.com/series/18602/scorecard/1140384/sri-lanka-vs-england-only-t20i-eng-in-sl-2018-19

It was really good to see Denly open the bowling. That’s what he does at domestic level so if it’s performances in that part of the game that got in him in the team then let him perform that role for the national side. It was also good to see England return to winning ways following the fifth ODI debacle. Another failure for Alex Hales however means that his international career stands at a crossroads.

The suggestion is that Denly claimed his wickets with some pretty ordinary deliveries so it remains to be seen whether or not this performance helps his Test cause.