A Women’s T20 International cricket tournament will be part of the 2022 Commonwealth Games and England have qualified (Yey, well done!)… as hosts!
All games will be held in Birmingham (Booo!) and there’ll only be a women’s competition, not men’s?! Still, it’s an opportunity for cricket to be screened on the BBC and pique the interest of young girls (And boys).
Because it’s the Commonwealth not the Olympics, Heather Knight’s England can compete as England, so as per usual in this sort of thing, it’s West Indies that complicate things. They’ll have an individual island competing (If they qualify) which presumably will strip some games of official, or at least international, status. There is no official status for women’s matches played at domestic level.
Hopefully the Commonwealth Games can go ahead but let’s be honest, we aren’t going to be in a position where people are attending sporting events huddled together as before.
I’ve long been an admirer of Peter Della Penna’s work. I’ve read articles by him on Cricinfo that focus on Associate Cricket with USA often at the forefront of his efforts. When I saw that he had a book out that was about selecting a team beyond the Test world, I just had to get my hands on it…
And so it was that a 453 page tomb in size 10 (Maybe ?!) font arrived through my door! Even I felt daunted but it turned out to be right up my street.
The book details the trial and selection process for an ICC Americas XI that competed in the West Indies domestic 50-over competition in 2015. We’re provided with back stories of the players and later, a Where are they Now? section. If you’re not already aware, this book highlights the fact that cricket beyond the Test world relies heavily on players from celebrated cricketing nations, namely in Asia. It also pinpoints what those players are up against in a constantly changing and often poorly organised system both in their own countries and in international tournaments. As well as all this, it highlights, as is one of the main points of the book, that T20 franchise cricket could be an absolute game changer for some of these players and inspire many more from all over the world.
Cover star Ali Khan is the, errr… star of the book. The chapter surrounding IPL auction day highlights how many people are interested beyond the player themselves and the pressure this brings. His desire for opportunity on the franchise circuit whilst being in demand to represent USA, does showcase the challenging and often fixture clashing environment that players face. Of course this happens for Test players too but an Associate player having to decide between what competition to play in can have serious consequences… good or bad!
I suppose one criticism could be that the book displays a hint of repetition when referencing players’ past achievements etc. To be fair, so many player’s histories straddle the same events that it’s unavoidable.
This book isn’t for everybody but if your a stats freak who is passionate about cricket beyond Test stars and even T20 icons then it could be for you.
Obviously this season was a little different but still, here’s a review of the six players that I identified were worth watching this year. Remember that it was a transfer special!
Paul Coughlin, Durham
13 T20 Blast wickets at an average of 16.23 from just 20 overs back up north at Durham, was a healthy return for Coughlin. The all-rounder was injured almost as soon as he arrived at Nottinghamshire and just never really got going. He was an England Lion but despite his blast showing, is surely a long way from full international recognition. Averaged a whopping 101.33 with the ball in the Bob Willis Trophy!
Josh Shaw, Gloucestershire
Limited opportunity in the Blast but claimed 8 wickets at 41.00 with a best of 3-13 in the First Class format. Having finally made his frequent loans from Yorkshire to Gloucestershire permanent, he’s displayed wicket taking effectiveness in the past and should be an integral part of the Bristol based bowling attack moving forward.
Jack Leaning, Kent
After a tough debut, Leaning soon made a score of 220* in a record-breaking stand for Kent. That he only totalled 279 runs in eight innings however confirms what a struggle the campaign as a whole was! Clocked up a respectable 201 runs at 33.00 with a best of 55* in the T20s.
Luke Wood, Lancashire
Picked up seven wickets at 20.43 in the Blast but only three wickets in the Bob Willis Trophy. Still, an underrated left-armer with time on his side.
Dawid Malan, Yorkshire
Malan’s arrival in Yorkshire soon resulted in a First Class double ton and he’ll be pleased to have remained in the mix for England if only in white-ball cricket. Frustratingly, he really could’ve been a fine Test number four/five though. Failed to show up for Yorkshire in the T20 Blast however, scoring a paltry 36 runs at 9.00!
Haseeb Hameed, Nottinghamshire
Hameed registered a hugely encouraging 272 First Class runs at an average of 38.86 in seven innings. His top score was 87 and unlike Malan, he could yet play Test cricket again. Fingers crossed for one of sports great comeback stories!
In this year’s edition of the Big Bash in Australia, teams will have the option to utilise an X-Factor replacement (Basically like the hugely successful supersub!).
Can you detect my lack of enthusiasm?
The rules are that the player been subbed out can’t have batted or bowled more than one over. The X-Factor can only be introduced after the 10th over of the first innings. Teams will have named a 12th and 13th player and can bring either person into the game.
For me, cricket is an eleven per-side sport. If a team has to turn to a batsman that doesn’t usually bowl for an over or two or a lower order batter has to come up trumps with some runs or even just hold an end up then that’s part of the beauty of the game. That’s how players increase their experience and skillset. If teams keep subbing in a batter for a bowler (I know it’s only if they bowled one over) when chasing in the second innings, bowlers will continue to regress as batsmen. Take England for example. We all know how capable Adil Rashid, Jofra Archer and Mark Wood etc are with the bat but because they only very occasionally come out slogging at the end of a T20 innings, when they’re required to construct an innings following a collapse in a fifty-over game or perform in a Test match, they’re already struggling to do so. Stripping them and their peers of more batting opportunities may take us to a game where we literally do divide batsmen and bowlers… maybe batsmen bat twice and bowlers never do!
What does it say about a team’s preparation if they’re having to utilise this option and maybe admit that they got their team selection wrong or misread the surface?
I just feel that it will ruin the integrity of the game. Yes it’s the same and available to everyone but though we have tactical substitutes in other sports as well as concussion and currently Covid replacements in cricket, for me… X-Factor just isn’t cricket!
I’m currently reading The Selection Room by Peter Della Penna. The book revolves around the selection, performance and post tournament careers of a number of trialists attempting to get into an ICC Americas XI that competed in the West Indies domestic 50-over competition.
Could a similar idea work elsewhere to help promote cricket in Europe, Africa or anywhere else in the world?
It would probably make sense to focus on the T20 format. That’s the logical vehicle that is helping get the game going in many corners of the world. Most nations now have international status in said format.
Could a squad of fifteen players from the likes of Sweden, Germany and Greece compete in England’s T20 competition… or even two teams if we need to stick to round numbers?
Could players from Kenya, Uganda and Nigeria compete in South African cricket? Namibia certainly have done. Could the Big Bash accommodate a team consisting of players from Papua New Guinea, Vanuatu and Fiji? They seem set on introducing two new teams so maybe alongside a new city based team, an Oceania Associate XI could be introduced. The same could be done in one or two leagues in Asia with players from Qatar, Saudi Arabia and South Korea etc comprising a team. Just imagine a Chinese player taking a prize wicket in the PSL or a Spaniard striking a six-laden fifty in England’s T20 Blast. Such performances would make headlines and inspire kids across the globe to start playing cricket.
The franchise circuit is there and could truly be filled with players from across the globe. That would then lead to national T20 teams from Mexico to Malaysia getting stronger and to cricket having a proper T20I WORLD Cup!
For too long cricket has given with one hand but taken with the other when it comes to developing the sport across the globe. This could be a fantastic opportunity to unearth talent, change lives and gets kids (And adults!) in Israel, Chad and who knows where, picking up a cricket bat. Imagine a Japanese guy performing for an Asian Associate XI in the BPL then getting a contract in the CPL or Big Bash, then playing for Japan against West Indies or Australia in a T20I series, then playing in the T20I World Cup, gaining fans for him, his team and the sport all along the way. Stars would be born!
It may be that a team could have two/three players from a Test playing nation in their squad to provide experience and pass on knowledge. So say for example a European Associate XI with players from Czech Republic and Italy etc are competing in the T20 Blast. They might be able to recruit a player who is looking to move into coaching, an out of contract player or even a full international, just to make sure that some quality is there and like I say, help develop players throughout the continent.
Another vehicle might be an FA Cup style competition, well, with some sort of group stage to guarantee the Associate team at least a few games. Maybe it could be a Europe XI and World XI competing in the T20 Blast. Maybe the Irish league could have a team feature in their T20 competition. Heck, they’ve only got three teams!
There must be so much talent out there, so much opportunity. At the risk of being a bit corporate, untapped markets could become, well… tapped!
What do you think? How would you help cricket grow around the globe? Do you even want cricket to grow or are you content with watching the same players from the same countries?
Wales 126-9 (20) Edwards 35, Thomas 21, Schmidt 11/Suarez 2-10, Alvarez 2-18, North 2-19
USA 118 (19.3) Alvarez 31, Trujillo 24, Sanders 17/E.Williams 4-5, Khan 3-24, Alexander 2-32
Won by 8 runs
Our seemingly underwhelming innings of 126-9 was built around knocks from opener Aled Edwards (35) and in-form Rhodri Thomas (21). Dwayne Alexander (9*), who hadn’t shown his best with the bat on tour, struck two boundaries late in the piece that would later prove crucial.
USA were 101-3 in pursuit of the target but collapsed to 118 all out! Leg spinner Eifion Williams was 3-0 at one stage and finished with astonishing figures of 4-5 to seal the deal, just as he had done in the Netherlands. Wicketkeeper Thomas claimed five catches in an innings for the third consecutive full international (ODI/T20I) on this tour. A couple of players held their nerves for some crucial catches on the boundary too.
Wales 104-7 (20) Schmidt 22, Duke 19, Davies 12*/North 3-20, Suarez 2-9, Kennedy 1-14
Lost by 23 runs
Having won the toss, we opted to bowl first in order to challenge ourselves. This turned out to be a regrettable decision and we need to be far more ruthless in the future!
As was the case in the first match, we fought back to restrict USA to an at best par total. Having been extremely well set at 98-2, they finished on just 127-7. Their total included a 21-run over bowled by fast bowler Dwayne Alexander where USA opener Steven Sanders struck five successive fours. Spinners Maxwell Khan (3-26) and Cai Hughes (2-5) did their usual however to apply the brakes.
Come our pursuit, our inexperienced top order batsmen Steffan Schmidt (22) and Marcus Duke (19) both made career best scores. However the two left-handers used up far too many deliveries getting there. That put the rest of our batting unit under huge pressure in what should’ve been a routine chase. The pair will have to develop methods to score quicker and… quickly!
USA didn’t concede the excessive amount of extras that they had in the previous match and fair play to them. Sanders came into the side mid-tour and made a huge difference at the top of the order. Even if he didn’t make substantial scores, he set the tempo. What we’d give to have somebody like him at the top of our order.
It was a disappointing defeat to bookend the tour with losses but all in all, much was gained from our trip to America.
Wales 254-9 (50.0) Roberts 46, Edwards 42, Shah 36/Napier 3-39, North 2-35, Jeffries 1-27
USA 211-9 (50.00) Kennedy 56*, Trujillo 35, Pittman 33/Khan 4-27, E. Williams 1-14, Evans 1-29
Won by 43 runs
An opening stand of 82 by Shah and Edwards, two fours and a six from Roberts, our top seven batsmen all making double figures, off-spinner Khan striking with the first delivery of each of his first two overs, leg-spinner E. Williams conceding just 14 runs from his ten overs and all six bowlers used claiming at least one wicket… saw us bounce back from the Test drubbing and go 1-0 up in the ODI series.
Wales 188 (36.2) Thomas 54*, E.Williams 34, Hughes 28/Kennedy 4-28, Jeffries 2-15, North 2-41
USA 173 (45.2) Trujillo 64, Morrison 26, North 20/E.Williams 4-22, Alexander 2-15, Evans 2-48
Won by 15 runs
We recovered from 44-5 to post 188 then bowled out USA for 173 after they’d been 80-2 and 129-4. Despite dropping Trujillo on 38, Alexander later stepping over the rope when taking a catch and some atrocious fielding from our fatigued bowlers, we secured a second consecutive ODI series win with a game to spare. Wicketkeeper Rhodri Thomas, having top scored with 54 not out, held no less than six catches in the match.
USA 220-8 (50.0) Trujillo 88, Sanders 33, Napier 25*/Hughes 3-14, Khan 2-5, Roberts 1-22
Wales 181 (36.1) Thomas 34*(?), Shah 30, E.Williams 29/Suarez 5-16, North (?) 2-??, Hampton 1-21
Lost by 39 runs
Won the series 2-1
Having already won the series, we opted to field first in order to challenge ourselves. USA made use of us resting opening bowler Rhys Evans and utilising some part-time bowlers to reach 124-2 before slow-left-armer Cai Hughes (3-14) turned the tide. He claimed the prize scalp of Trujillo (88) as the hosts collapsed to 174-8. Gloveman Rhodri Thomas added another five catches to his tour tally but an unbroken stand of 46 between host captain Napier (25*) and Kennedy (17*) lifted USA to a competitive total.
We then collapsed from 55-0 to 181 all out and that was despite the help of 29 extras! USA made three changes to their playing XI and the incoming personnel made their team stronger. Though we didn’t succumb to a rash of poor shots, I was extremely disappointed with our batting collapse. In hindsight, we should’ve batted first, in which case I’m confident that we would’ve clinched a series whitewash. Remember that we also reduced USA to 174-8 only to allow them to reach 220.
Despite defeat in the final match, it was an excellent second successive ODI series win having previously beaten England. We’ve only lost ODIs once we’ve assumed an unassailable lead. It was our first series win of any kind away from home and an excellent riposte following our poor show in the Test match. Now it’s onto two T20Is in what should be some close encounters.
Disclaimer: Sorry but I had some serious issues with uploading photos following an iPhone update which also led to me losing the third ODI scorecard, hence it’s got a few ???. Also, I’ve never actually seen that film in full!
For our first overseas Test, we made one change from the XI that opposed England in our inaugural five-day encounter. Batsmen Bryn Jones, who made an excellent 66 in our warm-up match, came into the side at the expense of opening bowler Osain Williams. Jones, an opener by trade, who batted at three (Then nine) in the practice game, had to contend himself with a place at number five in the order. That meant a reshuffle with off-spinning all-rounder Maxwell Khan a little unfortunate to drop down from number five to eight. The remainder of the batting line-up all dropped down a place.
Captain Ioan Powell won the toss and had no hesitation in choosing to bat first. We’d seen how the pitch had performed in the warm-up match and with three genuine spinners in our line-up, wanted to allow the surface to deteriorate as much as possible and leave the home side to chase.
Wales 149 (37.2) Edwards 57, Shah 53, Thomas 11/Pittman 5-10, Jeffries 2-10, North 2-8
Opening batsmen Stephen Shah and Aled Edwards began the day by making hay on the field of play. The duo brought up their nation’s first ever century stand at international level to be exactly 100-0 at drinks. Not long after however, USA brought spin into the equation and that literally turned the game. After an over or two of prodding, Shah (53) survived an LBW review only to edge to the wicketkeeper off the following delivery. Edwards (57) survived a little longer before he edged to slip off the spinner bowling from the other end. The pair had done tremendously well to achieve an opening partnership of 110 and though they soon fell to spin, they didn’t get out wafting and the pitch was offering assistance to turners.
Dylan Roberts, our best batsman on the international scene to date but having not played in the warm-up match, soon followed for just 7, edged and caught at slip. Debutante Bryn Jones, having performed so well in the tour game, was then flummoxed by the surprising introduction of a pace bowler, one who didn’t bowl particularly fast. Jones defended a delivery that he could’ve left and like many before him, was out caught at slip, in his case for just 2. Eifion Williams, who had a poor practice game but whose spin bowling skills made sure that he was retained in the Test XI, was bowled by spin for just 1, meaning that he hadn’t reached double figures in three innings since arriving Stateside.
Skipper Powell and wicketkeeper Rhodri Thomas reached lunch at 133-5. A somewhat disappointing score having been 110-0. First ball after the interval, Powell (5) edged behind but it didn’t carry. Second ball after the interval, he edged behind again… and it did carry! Maxwell Khan (6) soon followed, adjudged LBW on review having not offered a shot. Cai Hughes was bowled for a duck in the same over before Dwayne Alexander slapped one straight to the fielder first ball! Rhodri Thomas (11) was bowled in the next over.
We’d collapsed from 110-0 to 149 all out, primarily at the hands of spin with one of their bowlers claiming 5-10. It was an embarrassing collapse after messrs Shah and Edwards had made such an encouraging start. The only other positive was that the performance of the home spinners provided our own turning threesome with huge optimism.
USA 420-7 dec. (110.00) Morrison 114, Trujillo 96, Potter 71/E.Williams 3-76, Hughes 3-132, Jones 0-2
Despite a good standard of bowling from opening bowlers Rhys Evans and Dwayne Alexander, USA reached 31-0 at thirst quenching. Cue the introduction of spin. Despite beating the bat on numerous occasions, USA ascended to 71-0 at the interval.
Finally, with the score on 131, slow left-armer Cai Hughes, bowling around the wicket to the right-hander, made the breakthrough by bowling Martin The Wizard Potter for 71. The Wizard would wave his wand no longer, at least not in this innings.
The home side progressed to 189-1 with Potter’s opening partner JJ Morrison on 91, however left-arm pacer Evans knocked over his stumps with a sensational inswinging yorker… off a NO BALL! Minutes later, overthrows took Morrison from 95 to 99.
USA closed the day on 209-1, a lead of 52 and Morrison sleeping one run shy of a century on Test debut. For us and our travelling fans, a day that had begun with such promise, saw us staring down a possible innings defeat. This having won the toss and been 110-0!
On day two, we agreed to put the opening day behind us, enjoy ourselves and bowl out the home side. Again, both Alexander (0-47) and Evans (0-63) were genuinely unfortunate not to take a wicket. Morrison soon brought up a fantastic ton in his country’s first ever Test and fair play to him. Eifion Williams eventually terminated Morrison’s (114) excellent knock courtesy of a catch by gloveman Thomas with the score 253-2. At that stage USA already led by over 100 runs. Number three Stuart Trujillo feasted on Cai Hughes bowling but with the game already well out of reach, captain Ioan Powell made the brave call to persist with the slow left-armer. The decision reaped dividends when Hughes had Trujillo (96) edge behind just four runs short of joining his teammate Morrison in registering a debut Test ton.
That left USA 299-3 but a middle order collapse ensued and they were soon 308-5. Firstly, Williams struck again by bowling Pittman (3) then Alexander ran Jeffries (21) out via an incredible direct hit from deep in the outfield. At lunch on the second day, USA were 325-5, a lead of 176.
Post bagels and OJ, Jackson North and Henry Wilks batted well in tandem to take USA to 345-6. North (21), who batted with reasonable intent, became Williams (3-76) third victim when he dragged onto his stumps. Wilks continued with Rufus Suarez for company and the pair put on fifty to take the hosts past 400. Suarez was adjudged LBW off Hughes when on 30 but successfully reviewed. Incredibly, following an eleventh maiden from Williams, Hughes (3-76) then took out Suarez’s middle stump the very next ball he faced after overturning the LBW decision.
Wilks (53*) went past fifty and USA were 271 runs in the black on 420-7 at tea. Just as we prepared to come out and mop up the tail, we were informed that the hosts had opted to declare. Openers Stephen Shah and Aled Edwards put their pads on.
Wales 127 (23.0) Powell 40, Jones 33, Edwards 16/Suarez 5-33, Pittman 2-14, Napier 2-35
To just the second delivery of our second innings, we lost Shah without scoring. Fellow opener Edwards and the promoted Jones then moved comfortably to 28-1 before an all to familiar dismissal for Edwards. On 16, he wafted outside off stump and was caught by that man Morrison with the gloves.
Jones, promoted up the order having done well in the tour game and to try and make life easier for an undercooked Roberts, looked a quality player whilst compiling a partnership of 46 with his captain. Having made a run-a-ball 33 however, he feathered an unnecessary push outside off stump to slip. Skipper Powell, having walked to the crease with just eleven runs in three Test innings, finally displayed some of his undoubted quality with the bat. The left-hander made a really important 40 both for him personally and the team. His innings included three boundaries before he dragged onto his stumps when trying to cut.
From 94-4 an alarming trend of incompetent wafts outside off stump saw us capitulate to just 127 all out on the third day. Change right-arm pacer Rufus Suarez (5-33) accounted for Williams (1), Thomas (3) and Khan first ball. Having already accounted for Jones, Suarez would complete a debut Test fifer by having Alexander (8) caught behind, a fourth catch of the innings for Man of the Match Morrison. Alexander had at least hit the first ball that he had faced for 6!
Despite an optimistic review, Cai Hughes (1) was LBW to spinner Pittman’s first ball of the innings. Then, not for the first time in his career, last man Roberts (15) was bowled by spin (Pittman again!) when opting to leave the ball. Pittman finished the match with figures of 7-24. Clearly we need to improve against spin but lost wickets all too regularly against pace in the second innings as well.
Lost by an innings and 144 runs
At 93-3, though still a long way behind in the match, the likes of Edwards, Jones, Powell and later Roberts, all briefly looked the part in Test cricket. The lower order failed to apply themselves as they are capable off though and our batsmen have to find ways to turn starts into scores of real substance… and fast!
We won the toss and were 110-0… but lost by an innings!
Congratulations to USA who thoroughly deserved their maiden Test win and left us still seeking ours. Though we’ve done well in white-ball cricket thus far, we’ll desperately need to up our game to compete with the home side in the upcoming ODIs/T20Is.
With the help of a little shuffling (Resting/rotation), Liam Livingstone and Lewis Gregory are included in the England ODI squad for the white-ball only tour of South Africa.
I’ve long been a fan of the oxymoronic named Livingstone. He’s a fantastic all-round cricketer who has performed well in all facets of the game in all formats of the game. He’s done well in county cricket, on the franchise circuit and with England Lions, despite his path to those destinations been one less traveled.
Yes he didn’t quite get going when in full colours before but he’s now a much more experienced player, a potential match winner and as he’s shown as a substitute, an excellent fielder.
Gregory has underwhelmed in his T20I appearances. He wasn’t provided with much responsibility against New Zealand and didn’t seize his opportunities against Australia. It’s fair to see him provided with potential further opportunities though.
Jake Ball comes in out of the cold, well, sort of. He’s officially a reserve. He did well in the T20 Blast and though has been known to be particularly expensive for England, I always felt that he was up against it after continually being carried around as 12th man.