England’s Alternative Batting Options

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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

England Uncapped XI

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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!

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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…

Ireland Debut as Morgan Returns!

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There’s a certain irony or at least a coincidence that Ireland’s cricketers should play their inaugural Test match on the same day that former player Eoin Morgan should return to First Class cricket after a near three-year absence. Okay, we’ll ignore the fact that the first day got washed out!

http://www.espncricinfo.com/series/8204/game/1127690/middlesex-vs-gloucestershire–county-championship-division-two-2018/

It’s not been a bad return for Morgan either, making 76 against Gloucestershire in the County Championship before falling late on the first day to former Middlesex colleague Ryan Higgins. Remember that Morgan of course does have a Test hundred to his name and there are some people who think that he was ahead of his time, that he could have been a successful Test cricketer. Maybe he still could! Morgan has been an excellent captain for England in ODI and T20I cricket and has been a good player. He seems to suffer from lengthy lean spells with the bat but if the team are winning (England are currently ranked number one in ODIs) then Morgan’s returns with the bat are irrelevant.

Will any part of Eoin Morgan wish that he was turning out for Ireland today? To be honest, there’s probably a little part of everybody that wishes they were being presented with a Test cap this morning. Many thought that Tim Murtagh would play Test cricket for England. It’s been a long road but he’s a Test cricketer now.

It’ll be a proud and emotional moment for Ireland’s debutants but for every Andy Ganteaume or Rodney Redmond there’ll likely be a Bryce McGain or Mike Smith. Hopefully Ireland’s batsmen can avoid the dreaded debut duck or wicketless outing. Who knows when their next Test will be and one sub par performance may be the beginning and the end of a player’s Test career. They’ll forever be Test cricketers though, having made their Test births when some feel that the format is facing certain death.

Keep track of the score in Ireland’s first Test at home to Pakistan in Dublin at Cricinfo…

http://www.espncricinfo.com/series/18025/game/1127284/ireland-vs-pakistan-only-test-pak-in-ire-eng-scot-2018/

Meanwhile, Guerrilla Cricket, a controversial outfit in the opinion of many, provide the radio commentary…

https://www.guerillacricket.com

Maddinson Searches for Joy and Redemption!

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To say that the selection of batsman Nic Maddinson in Australia’s T20 squad to tour England and Zimbabwe has been met with scepticism is to put it mildly. A brief flirtation with social media is all one needs to do to sense that the Ozzie fans’ vibes aren’t great. To put his selection into context, please be aware that despite a decent finish to the Sheffield Shield season, Maddo has actually been released from his state contract with New South Wales. He has however recently transferred and signed a three-year deal with Melbourne Stars on the back of good Big Bash form. His last T20I cap came over three years ago but to say that he looked like the proverbial young buck in extra strong car headlights when he graced the Test arena would be an understatement. In that form of the game, Maddo averages just 6.75.

http://www.espncricinfo.com/australia/content/player/333780.html

After a seemingly traumatic time, Maddinson even took time out from the game. Hopefully the shorter format is where he can relax, excel and prove the doubters wrong.

England’s Alex Hales and Adil Rashid are focusing on white-ball cricket only and there are other players out there such as Maddinson’s compatriot Ben Laughlin who only play T20 cricket. The fact that Maddinson doesn’t have a First Class or List A contract shouldn’t really matter when it comes to T20I selection.

I’m an England fan but never like to see someone struggle as horrendously as Maddinson did in Test cricket. Fingers crossed that the still only 26-year-old can make a mark as he and Australia seek redemption!

2019 Cricket World Cup Tickets

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The ticket ballot for the 2019 Cricket World Cup in England is now open.

https://www.icc-cricket.com/media-releases/672392

When I read that about half the tickets were priced at £20 I got excited. Unfortunately an adult ticket to see England against Sri Lanka at Headingley will set you back £55.00 and that’s for a ‘cheap’ seat. This might be a major tournament but our game needs to reach out to both loyal and new fans. £55.00 might be on a par with other sports but even as a cricket fan, quite frankly, it just isn’t worth it!

I’d love there to be more countries participating at the tournament as I would definitely go and watch Papua New Guinea against Nepal or a match-up of that ilk. As it is, I’ve applied for tickets for two of the paltry four matches being played at Headingley. If I’m successful then Pakistan vs. Afghanistan will set me back £20.00 per adult whilst Afghanistan vs. West Indies will cost just £16.00 per adult and only £6.00 for a child.

Hopefully I’ll get my hands on some tickets, the rain will stay away and I’ll see some thrilling match-ups!