England’s Alternative Batting Options

IMG_4028

James Hildreth (Somerset)

http://www.espncricinfo.com/england/content/player/15348.html

Tom Kohler-Cadmore (Yorkshire)

http://www.espncricinfo.com/england/content/player/470633.html

Ross Whiteley (Worcestershire)

http://www.espncricinfo.com/england/content/player/288617.html

In the Land of Maple Leaf

IMG_4074.JPG

It seems a shame that the inaugural Global T20 Canada, should be tainted by potentially having cheat and former Australian skipper Steven Smith take part in the ICC sanctioned tournament. The fact that the ICC have sanctioned the competition though, confirms that these are exciting times for cricket across the globe. Coming of the back of T20I status being applied to all 104 associate nations, Ireland and Afghanistan’s elevation to Test status and even though it’s not perfect, the Test Championship.

The Global T20 Canada is a great opportunity to help promote the game in a nation where potential has yet to be maximised. Though I love First Class cricket, T20 is, for reasons of practicality, the logical way forward in emerging cricket nations. The cities of Ottawa, Montreal, Toronto, Vancouver and Winnipeg are those to be represented as well as an all-Caribbean outfit.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2018_Global_T20_Canada

Many have suggested that Smith and co’s suspensions were harsh but they misunderstand. Though the cheat crew (Smith, David Warner and Cameron Bancroft) were in part banned for their offence, they were for the most part banned for, as somebody eloquently phrased it… brand damage. Of course, like an ex-con being reintegrated into society and provided a chance to contribute value then Smith and collaborators deserve the opportunity to redeem. They say that all publicity is good publicity and for cricket in Canada, having Smith in the mix will help court attention.

It’ll be interesting so see which other well known cricketing figures from across the globe rock up in North America. Could Nick Compton, who recently finished a successful campaign playing in Sri Lanka but currently unable to get a gig at Middlesex, head to another far flung destination in the quest for runs?

http://www.espncricinfo.com/england/content/player/11718.html

Fingers crossed that Global T20 Canada can help spur cricket on in  the ‘Land of Maple Leaf’ and as well as international stars, we see some local talent on show too.

You can Only Take ten Catches!

IMG_3658

I’ve previously written about naivety in sport and during the excellent commentary on Ireland’s inaugural Test match against Pakistan provided by Guerilla Cricket, there was, I’m sorry to say, a classic example of the sort of thing that really irks me!

The commentators were discussing the amount of dropped catches off the bowling of the likes of Mohammad Amir, Stuart Broad and Ravi Ashwin. They explained how because Amir had had say twenty-six catches dropped off his bowling, that he would have twenty-six more wickets to his name had those chances been held… but he wouldn’t! You can only take ten wickets in a match. Had some of those catches been claimed then some of the other chances that were dropped and even wickets that were taken would not have existed. If a team claims ten wickets in an innings then you can’t add another five dropped catches to a player’s potential wicket tally. Three dropped catches might have gone to ground when the opposition were nine wickets down. If for example, the very first drop had been taken then the whole sequence after would be different. Maybe a left-hander not a right-hander would have been on strike to the next ball, maybe the bowler wouldn’t have taken another wicket, been dropped from the team and never played again.

I’ll revert to the classic example of a football commentator saying that a team have missed three great chances in the first half, that they would be 3-0 up but the score is 0-0. If the first chance had been taken then the next passage of play would’ve been a kick-off not a goal-kick or continuation of open play, therefore the whole sequence there after changes. Yes the team might have created more chances and been 3-0 up but the opposition might have scored straight from kick off, the opposition might lead 4-2 at half-time.

As in any walk of life, even the slightest adjustment to events can result in a completely different chain of events and outcome. I’m going to stop short of providing countless examples but I guess that I don’t believe in fate or destiny, just the consequence of events or the ability to manipulate the future… or of course, maybe that is the fate or destiny?

Disclaimer: Sorry, this is supposed to be a cricket blog and I went down a rather profound path there!

From One Extreme to Irish Cream!

IMG_4008

Whatever happens on the final day in Ireland’s inaugural Test match against Pakistan in Dublin, whether they go onto a famous victory or brave defeat, Kevin O’Brien, who is already written into Irish cricket folklore for his limited overs efforts, will go down in history as Ireland’s first ever Test centurion.

http://www.espncricinfo.com/series/18025/scorecard/1127284/ireland-vs-pakistan-only-test-pakistan-tour-of-ireland-2018

For Andy Balbirnie however, there will be no such euphoria. Even if Ireland were to win at Malahide, Balbirnie’s joy at his team’s success will be tempered by the fact that he failed to register a run. He scored a dreaded pair on Test debut and though he took a catch, is unlikely to bowl. Balbirnie has a couple of ODI tons to his name, a reasonable First Class average and time, he is twentyseven-years-old but there are no guarantees that there will be further opportunities for the Dublin lad. Ireland aren’t exactly planning on playing a multitude of Test matches in the immediate future but we should know their fixtures in the next few days. I sincerely hope that Balbirnie gets another chance and can display his qualities.

http://www.espncricinfo.com/ci/content/player/303423.html

At the halfway stage of Ireland’s first Test, like Balbirnie, the ridiculously inexperienced Tyrone Kane had neither a run or a wicket.

http://www.espncricinfo.com/ci/content/player/571707.html

He’s currently hanging on and is, at the time of writing, an epic and selfless 8 not out from 67 deliveries. In contributing with the bat he’s increasing his chances of taking a maiden Test wicket. Even if he were to be dismissed first thing tomorrow morning and fail to take a wicket, he would at least have eight runs beside his name in the record books and at just twenty-three, time to come again.

Meanwhile, when Ireland were slipping to 7-4 on their Test bow, neglected wicketkeeper Stuart Poynter was racking up 170, a maiden County Championship century for Durham against Derbyshire. Poynter’s stats don’t exactly cry out “Test call-up” but if their status played even a small part in motivating Poynter then that can only be good for Irish cricket.

http://www.espncricinfo.com/ireland/content/player/308294.html

It remains to be seen but the Irish can dream!

England Uncapped XI

IMG_4028

Imagine that England’s cricketers have gone on strike. They’re upset about that car sponsorship deal ending or they all want to play in the new Kazakhstan T20 league. England’s selectors are reluctant to return to players that’ve failed to produce the goods at international level before. They decide to select an extremely experienced squad so ignore the likes of Ollie Pope, Joe Clarke and Sam Curran amongst others. The below is what an England Test squad might then look like.

First XI

James Adams

Daryl Mitchell

Sam Northeast (Captain)

James Hildreth

Darren Stevens

Keith Barker

John Simpson (Wicketkeeper)

Ollie Rayner

Luke Fletcher

Steve Patterson

Chris Rushworth

12th Man

Steven Mullaney

Tourists

Luke Wells

Riki Wessels

Ben Brown (Wicketkeeper)

James Harris

Stand By

Chris Nash

Joe Leach

I’ve selected Northeast as captain so as not to burden either of my openers, Adams and Mitchell who make for a strong left-hand/right-hand combo. Hildreth is at four ahead of Stevens and Barker who provide all-round options with Barker’s left-arm variety essential. Simpson dons the gloves meanwhile Patterson and Rushworth take the new ball backed up by Fletcher as well as Barker and Stevens. Spin options are a bit limited but Luke Wells makes the touring party as spin back-up to Ollie Rayner. Steven Mullaney makes the squad as 12th man, providing strong all-round cover with bat and ball.

As well as Wells and Mullaney, Wessels and Harris provide a good variety of cover. Brown backs up behind the stumps whilst Wessels is also an emergency ‘keeping option.

Top order bat Chris Nash who can bowl decent spin and dependable all-rounder Joe Leach are officially on stand-by.

Disclaimer: The likes of Rory Burns, Benny Howell and Tom Bailey are among the unfortunate omissions. Daniel Bell-Drummond, Sam Hain, Liam Norwell, Lewis Gregory, Jamie Porter and Ben Coad join that list but I was generally plucking for the most experienced players.

Guerilla Cricket – You’ve Saved Us!

IMG_4072.JPG

Guerilla Cricket won exclusive rights to provide commentary on Ireland’s inaugural Test match against Pakistan and how they’ve put BBC Test Match Special to shame.

https://www.guerillacricket.com

I’m grateful for TMS’s efforts and some of their pundits and commentary team are intelligent and insightful. Jonathan Agnew and Graeme Swann amongst others are not but at least Henry Blofeld has departed. They’ve also lost Ed Smith. I’ve enjoyed listening to Smith’s measured and methodical approach and expect him to apply the same to his new role.

TalkSPORT will be commentating on England’s winter tours and hopefully they too can heighten the competition. I can’t say that TalkSPORT have won me over when I’ve listened to their football commentary, Sam Matterface… please God no!!! Hopefully they’ll be on the ball though.

Having been an excellent and successful player doesn’t necessarily make one a good pundit and maybe that’s where Guerilla Cricket have got it right. For the most part if not the whole part, they don’t seem to be ex-players, They’re one of us. I look forward to listening to more of their commentary. The ECB’s 100-ball idea is nonsense but some people are keen to shove the word innovation down your throat when you criticise it. Cricket is constantly evolving. Guerilla Cricket have some gimmicks so here’s some innovation for you TMS!

Stoneman’s Rocky Patch!

Mark Stoneman

No sooner have you’ve released an audio recording proclaiming that England’s batting options are limited, do all the contenders go big right on cue!

Mark Stoneman’s grip on the England opener’s slot is rapidly slipping from his grasp, literally as he’s just grassed teammate (?) Jonny Bairstow in Surrey’s match against Yorkshire. Of course knowing my luck, he’ll register a double ton in the second dig and cement his place in the England XI. In my audio post I mentioned that Stoneman’s challenge could most likely come from his domestic partner Rory Burns. Burns made 193 in Surrey’s last match and many have wondered how, with a record far superior to Stoneman’s, that Rocky got the gig in the first place.

Middlesex man Nick Gubbins, who batted well in the North v South series has recovered from injury and made 99 last time out for the London outfit. He could be primed for the call. Another left-handed opener, Keaton Jennings, has ticked off a maiden ton for his new home side Lancashire. Stoneman desperately needs runs and soon.

The middle order is a little trickier, unless captain Joe Root will move to number three. Dawid Malan has made a ton and a seventy-odd in his last two County Championship matches but is best served staying at five for England. He deserves to stay in the team following his Ashes hundred, a fifty in England’s last Test (Stoneman and Vince made fifties in their last innings too!) and his domestic form. He may have to move to four though in order to accommodate either Surrey’s Ollie Pope of more likely, Worcestershire’s more experienced Joe Clarke. Both have made two Championship tons this term but neither are batting at number three. If England do select the obdurate Burns alongside Cook (Assuming Cook is in!) at the top of the order then that may save the more aggressive and fluent James Vince at number three, meaning Pope and Clarke will have to wait. If Pope and Clarke don’t get their chance now then they may do so in the future or they could become the next James Hildreth. The Somerset stalwart also now has two County Championship centuries this campaign. That’s just the 43 First Class tons at an average of… 43 for Hildreth then!

Of course picking players on early season form is what England did with Gary Ballance and Stoneman (And Ed Smith!) and look where we are now? When Stoneman hit the ground running last year, so many supposed experts came crawling out of the woodwork claiming that they’d campaigned for Stoneman for England for years. Where are they now? Weren’t they the same people that have been banging on about Hameed? Runs or no runs only serves to highlight how difficult Ed Smith’s job is. It’s so easy to be swayed. It’s not art or science but a little bit of both!

Quite frankly, I give up predicting England’s batting order for the first Test against Pakistan. Let’s just wait and see…