The Hundred! (Not even bothering to come up with a title!)

2020. What a fantastic year to launch a new Twenty20 cricket competition. It’s a marketing dream but wait, here in England, where we’re led to believe that cricket was invented, they’re not launching a new Twenty20 competition. Eh?! They, the cricket hierarchy geniuses and marketing supremos that’ve been drafted in are launching an unofficial (*), overly-complicated, snack food sponsored tournament.

* By unofficial I mean that the matches won’t have T20, List A or First Class status. Are Cricinfo going to create a new row in the Player Statistics section? I doubt it!

THEY told us that they wanted to simplify cricket and just count down from one hundred balls. I can handle that, it’s not actually a terrible concept but how is having varying lengths of overs and different opportunities to bowl from one end or the other, sometimes halfway through an ‘over’ simpler than allocations of six alternating from each end every six deliveries?

AND THE KITS! If you thought that it was bad in Australia with KFC sprawled on the front well look out for Joe Root (Will he actually play?) wearing a Skips packet. They may as well have put gambling companies on the front!

People can spout unoriginal opinions such as “You’re just scared of change” but what I’m scared of is inconsistency and our sport embarrassing itself. The fact that it’ll be on terrestrial television could be great but not if the product is compromised and therefore of poor quality. Of course it’ll be the same players hitting, picking and throwing the ball so at its core, it will still be cricket. The fact that Jonathan Agnew could be presenting it certainly won’t help attract the untapped market the ECB head honchos would like. Hopefully they and the BBC will have the foresight to get Ebony Rainford-Brent or heck, even Graeme Swann at the forefront.

Franchise sport and drafts bring an end to the already dying concept of player loyalty in sport but they do, in theory, help keep teams even and prevent the sort of Barcelona and Real Madrid dominance that you’ll find in La Liga as just one example. The financial aspect if relegation is involved in a draft selected team sport is probably for a whole other post.

Let’s be clear, this tournament is not about creating history and legacy like our game has leant itself too so magnificently. It’s about forgetful entertainment to compete with X-Factor and Dancing on Ice etc that you’ve forgotten about by the following afternoon at the latest.

The Hundred is nearly here folks and I don’t like it. Give me Test Cricket, ODI Cricket, T20 Cricket even T10, Beach, Indoor and Cage but the inconsistency of this format bites away at me. Can you tell?!

Will I be watching? Of course. It’s an opportunity to see some cricket. Will I purchase a Northern Superchargers shirt? Maybe. The shirts are kind of cool in a tragic way and may be a collector’s item in a few years.

This is a muddled article. Even as I write I’m coming around to part of it. The draft and kit launch etc should and are exciting but the adjustment to the rules irk me. Roll on 2020 for our new Twenty20 comp… er, I mean The Hundred!

Taylor Calls Time!

England Women’s wicketkeeper Sarah Taylor has retired from international cricket due to her ongoing management of anxiety.

To say that Taylor raised the bar for Women’s cricket and particularly wicketkeeping in general, regardless of gender, would be an understatement of epic proportions…

Hopefully Taylor will continue to play, enjoy and succeed at domestic level at the same time as inspiring the next generation of cricketers, male or female!

Six to Watch: 2019 – Season Review

Hi all

Here’s the link to this season’s original Six to Watch…

… and here’s this season’s review now that the 2019 county campaign had concluded…

Daniel Bell-Drummond

Bell-Drummond has done okay (892 CC runs @ 35.68) this season and it’s particularly pleasing to see him move back to the top of the order for Kent. Of course his Kent teammate Zak Crawley has leapfrogged him in terms of England selection, a pick based on style over substance. Bell-Drummond has become a useful bowling option which makes him of even greater value to the team. Still only 26 the signs are encouraging and hopefully his most fruitful seasons can yet be ahead of him.

Danny Briggs

After a renaissance of sorts last year it’s now hard to see what the future holds for former England-man Briggs. Fellow slow-left-armer Delray Rawlins, a genuine all-rounder, has grasped his first team opportunities at Sussex whilst Will Beer has also had more game time this year thus limiting Briggs’ output. Briggs claimed only four County Championship wickets at 63.75 this term, did okay in one-day cricket but was largely ineffectual in the T20 game particularly when compared to many other spinners who thrived.

Jack Burnham

Burnham’s season has been far from outstanding (598 CC runs @ 27.18) but he’s been back on a cricket pitch and got some runs under his belt. This year was about getting back in the groove and though still only 22, Durham will need him to crack on in 2020.

Amy Jones

It seemed that everything had fallen into place for Jones with an excellent run of form in limited overs international cricket earlier this year. Disappointingly however, after a fifty (64) on Test debut her form tailed off dramatically against Australia. Still, after struggling to build on solid starts she produced some crucial performances late in the domestic T20 campaign and is good enough to come again for England.

Jack Plom

Plom has regularly featured for Essex 2nd XI and has appeared in the 1st XI squad in the latter part of the campaign. Technically he made a washed out First Class debut in 2018 but awaits a real opportunity for the current county circuit’s dominant outfit. Jamie Porter, Sam Cook and Aaron Beard don’t make Plom’s route to the first XI easy.

Issy Wong

Wong debuted for Southern Vipers this year in the T20 format having already turned out for Warwickshire Women in one-day cricket. She claimed figures of 4-25 against Yorkshire (Typical!) in May. She can also solve a Rubix cube!

Telegraph Fantasy Cricket: CC/ODC 2019 – Season Review

I set myself the target of a top thousand finish and I’m pleased to say that I achieved it!

I can only repeat what I’ve said before: pick players who play, generally don’t pick England players and select batsmen who bowl or the reverse. Also, you need to find those gem cheaper selections that aren’t in everybody’s team. Look at Luis Reece below. Yes he’s ended up in 30% of people’s teams but he probably wasn’t initially. At a rating of 5 he’s been great value.

You must check team news, ideally fifteen minutes before the start of play, use your transfers but keep some in hand. Watch out for overseas players coming and going and injuries etc. These are my key tips.

If anything I tinkered a little too much during the one-day cup but still had transfers to play with come the season finale.

The above graphic displays the top points scorers. As you’ll see they’re generally all-rounders or bowlers who can bat. The highest scoring batsman was the next man on the list which is Marnus Labuschagne, a batsman who bowls. Remember that a bowler scores 25pts per wicket but a batsman only scored 1 pt per run (-20 for a duck). There are other caveats to the points scoring but clearly it’s a bowler’s game. Getting your captain right and changing him when appropriate is absolutely crucial.

I’ll be back next year (Depending on the domestic schedule I guess) with my sights firmly set on a top 500 finish.

Cricket 19: NWHTC – Over and Out!

As was the case against Scotland, opening duo Dawid Malan and Haseeb Hameed laid solid foundations constructing an opening stand of 94. Malan (52) will have been gutted to be superbly caught and bowled by the threatening Ned Daly the very ball after reaching fifty. A century on his home ground had seemed written in the stars. Ben Stokes made a brisk 23 but to last only twelve balls was criminal.

Debutant Rob Keogh got off the mark first ball before Hameed (44) inside edged to Canadian wicketkeeper and captain Dougie Jordan. Hameed had been fortunate when Daly’s first delivery found his edge but didn’t quite carry to slip. Once again the Lancastrian began well but failed to convert. Credit to quick bowler Rico Ewing (9-0-112-2) who was expensive but dismissed Stokes courtesy of a tempting wide delivery and excellent diving catch by Noah Dodd at gully. Ewing then accounted for Hameed just two balls later.

Keogh was starved of strike then fell for just 4 from 7 unconvincing deliveries.

Stand-in skipper Jos Buttler (1) was caught after playing an inexplicable shot before Sam Curran was naively run out for the same score. All the while Moeen Ali batted beautifully to maintain his magnificent form. At 222-6 we’d collapsed but still had optimism. All that optimism disappeared immediately after the interval.

Moeen was run out for 73 to only the second delivery of the session before Chris Woakes fell to Dodd for 16 in the same over. Stuart Broad soon followed for 3, bowled around his legs before James Anderson had his stumps rearranged first ball as Dodd (4-33) scythed through our tail. Debutant Jamie Overton remained unbeaten on 10. After such an encouraging start our innings fell apart in all too familiar and unacceptable fashion. Meaning no disrespect to Canada who bowled well after an inauspicious start, it simply wasn’t good enough on our part.

Anderson and Broad then bowled some threatening deliveries but Canada’s opening batsmen Daly and Rayyan Goode applied themselves well.

With the score on 54-0 Overton entered the fray and promptly dismissed Daly (30) with his first ball in Test cricket. Right-hander Daly was out courtesy of a sharp catch by Curran at gully having edged a ferocious snorter. Overton soon struck again when he trapped Niall Klein LBW for 15, this time via a much fuller delivery. Not one to be far from the action at the moment, Moeen then accounted for Goode (25). The left-hander was superbly caught by Malan at first slip just above the turf after the ball had deflected off gloveman Buttler. 54-0 had become 74-3 before Canada reached the interval with no further damage.

After the interval it was, like the opening stand, a left-hand/right-hand combo, this time in the form of Brooklyn Anderson and Hamza Turner who batted maturely to combine for a partnership worth 84. It was Overton yet again who, to quote Elvis Presley, shook things up, this time with an absolute beauty to demolish Turner’s (33) stumps. Seven Tests into his career and still Turner remained without a half-century. He applied himself well in the first innings at Lords however to aid his team’s recovery. Moeen then trapped the tortured soul that was Darcy Harris LBW for a duck. Playing in his seventh Test, Harris walked to the crease with a Test batting average of 2.45 and was out when he missed an ill-advised sweep. 157-3 was suddenly 158-5 but captain Jordan helped see Canada to the close some 62 runs behind. It had been a topsy turvy first day of thrilling Test match cricket and ended with the game finely balanced.

The Canadians frustrated us on the second morning as Jordan went on the attack whilst Anderson calmly continued towards three figures. After Anderson (0-39) and Broad (0-35) were removed from the bowling attack, Woakes (1-33) produced a fine spell of high quality swing bowling and accounted for Jordan (25) LBW. The Warwickshire man was unlucky not to claim more than one wicket. Moeen then attributed for the key wicket of Anderson for 95 courtesy of sharp work by Buttler behind the stumps. The pair then combined again to see off Dodd, who used up 48 balls for a useful 16 and Ewing for 6.

Countless replays eventually confirmed that Ewing’s bat connected with the ball via possibly the thinnest edge in Test history. Canada had acquired a lead of 30 runs before quinoa salads were served.

Just nine deliveries into the next session and Canada were all out for 270, a useful lead of 34. Overton struck with a brand spanking new ball to finish with outstanding debut figures of 4-41. Fittingly Moeen (5-46) held the catch to dismiss Napier (1) with Breen left on a well played 20 not out.

Freakishly, our opening pairing of Malan and Hameed then put on 94 for the first wicket having done exactly the same in the first innings. This time it was Hameed (39) who perished first, once again edging to Jordan, this time off left-arm quick Harris having failed to convert a strong start… once again! Malan moved to another fifty on his home ground and after a little working over from Daly, the runs were soon flowing from fellow left-hander Stokes’ bat. The score 188-1 at tea, a lead of 91.

With Canada’s spinners unusually failing to pose serious threat, skipper Jordan turned to the expensive but wicket-taking potential of Ewing. With the leg-side almost devoid of fielders, Stokes (56) got underneath one when trying to go big and after some serious hang time, Dodd, the one and only fielder remotely in the vicinity, covered ground and held his nerve to claim the catch. Debutant Keogh then lasted only three torturous deliveries before nicking behind off Harris without scoring. It was a bitterly disappointing show for the Northamptonshire man having only made 4 in the first innings.

Malan and Moeen then lifted the total from 221-3 to 327 before a visibly fatigued Malan (153) was bowled by Sydney Napier’s spin. Moeen then put on 60 with Buttler but threw his wicket away for 98 when needlessly going for a huge hoik to raise a ton. An ultra-aggressive Buttler soon fell for a quick-fire 35 but after that giddiness messrs Curran and Woakes saw us to the close of day two on 430-6, a lead of 396.

Curran then went ballistic on the third morning, dominating a stand of 99 with Woakes (28) before the latter was caught with the score on 500. Overton helped Curran add another 51 with Curran reaching his ton via a six off Napier.

The left-hander finally fell at the hands of Dodd for Nelson, 111 off just 51 amazing deliveries including four maximums. Broad crashed and burned for 5 but Overton and Anderson (13*) added yet another 52 runs for the final wicket before Overton’s (60 from 30) superb knock was terminated by Ewing (2-185). 619 all out was out sum total, meaning that Canada required 586 runs to achieve the highest run chase in Test history. Credit to Canada’s bowlers (Dodd 2-69, Harris 2-99, Klein 2-101, Napier 2-138 and Ewing 2-185) who persevered and despite taking some major tap still picked up wickets. Spare a thought though for Rico Ewing whose match figures of 28-0-299-4 (10.68 rpo!) broke the undesirable record for runs conceded in a Test by just 1 run.

By the time soup was served Canada found themselves in deep trouble at 31-2. Broad (2-46) prized out both Daly (3), caught at slip and Klein (8), caught behind. Broad’s opening spell included one of Test cricket’s greatest ever overs, dismissing Klein with a ball that he had to play at before beating Anderson four times out of the following five deliveries.

Stokes (1-48) backed up the theme of bowling brilliantly and clean bowled Goode (24) with a superb inswinging delivery. Another good start for Goode but further confirmation of why he only averages in the early twenties. Curran then claimed the key wicket of Anderson (22) via an inside edge to Buttler but the visitors fought back courtesy of messrs Harris and Turner. Both batsmen produced career best performances to raise the score from 71-4 to 122-4 at cuppa time.

After refreshments the not out pair then continued to plough on with Harris’ survival instincts contrasting well with Turner’s fluid attacking nature. Having finally found fifty for the first time in Test cricket and having compiled 123 with Harris, Turner (90) nicked behind off another excellent Overton delivery to fall ten runs short of a ton at the home of cricket. Despite an optimistic review, Turner had to turn around and walk back through the Long Room to the pavilion. Turner had turned many heads though with his performance. Turner’s demise didn’t deter Harris however as the right-hander brought up a maiden Test half-century from 150 epic and gritty deliveries. It was a monumental effort from a man averaging little more than 2 when he strode to the wicket. Canada closed day three on 209-5 still 376 runs in the red.

First thing on day four, Canada went all Groundhog Day on us by repeating their day two efforts and frustrating us by moving to 243 before Jos Buttler displayed his captaincy nous. Buttler ignored the new ball and finally brought a refreshed Moeen into the attack. Having claimed a five-wicket haul in the first innings, Moeen (1-12) terminated Harris’ 178-ball vigil by knocking his middle stump out of the ground with his very first delivery. Harris had fallen for 54 defiant runs but head honcho Jordan, in the words of the Beautiful South, carried on regardless and soon passed fifty. By the time lunch was taken Jordan and Dodd had added 67 and the North Americans were still plugging away on 310-6.

Having already seen two of his troops in the shape of Anderson and Turner fall in the nineties in this match, skipper Jordan was determined not to do the same. Unfortunately for him Buttler pulled another rabbit out of the hat when he recalled Anderson to the attack and just four deliveries later Jordan was gone for 94, defining plumb LBW. Kudos for having the balls to review the decision! Anderson (3-27) then dismissed Breen (7) thanks to a phenomenal leg-side dive from Buttler after Breen got an inside edge before trapping Ewing LBW for a golden duck.

A struggling Woakes (1-58) then unearthed a beauty of a delivery to dismiss the valiant Dodd for a 134-ball 64 to seal a hard-fought but impressive 212-run win. The Canadians represent what this competition is all about and have the makings of a strong side.

One blemish on our efforts was the performance of debutant Rob Keogh who managed scores of only 4 & 0 with the bat and finished with combined analysis of 41-9-90-0 with the ball. He looked out of his depth with the bat but actually bowled some good deliveries and conceded runs at little over two per over. We hope to be able to provide him with further opportunity but Joe Root and Jonny Bairstow await recalls to the side for our next match in the USA.

We’re now joint second in the table alongside Ireland after they defeated table-toppers Scotland by just 30 runs to throw the competition wide open.

Our squad for the voyage to America is as follows: Dawid Malan, Haseeb Hameed, Ben Stokes, Joe Root (C), Moeen Ali, Jonny Bairstow (W), Sam Curran, Rob Keogh, Chris Woakes, Jamie Overton, James Anderson, Ben Foakes, Lewis Gregory, Mason Crane

Jos Buttler and Stuart Broad are rested.

Telegraph Fantasy Cricket: T20 Blast 2019 – Season Review

A disappointing T20 campaign with my best placed team only finishing as high as 2,228th place. The winner accumulated 12,566 points and won by a margin of 23 points.

In truth I should probably have tinkered a little more early on. Leaving as many as three/four captaincy changes unused is just wasteful.

See below for the best performing players. Note how many are batsmen who bowl.

I remain optimistic of at least one top thousand finish in the CC/ODC competition and will update after the final round of matches this week.