Six to Watch: 2018 – Season Review

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A little premature with the season not quite concluded but here’s 2018’s Six to Watch Review. This year two players from my selection have been promoted to the full England side. One has already debuted and one likely will in Sri Lanka. For the others, it’s been a bit of a mixed bag but should get better.

Tom Fell  (Worcestershire)

Another difficult year for cancer survivor Fell. There were glimpses of his determination and ability but little consistency. Fell has registered only four fifties in 22 innings this term but two of them, including a season best 89, came in the same match against champions Surrey. He’s currently averaging a disappointing 27.82 in the County Championship. Despite an impressive career record in List A cricket, white-ball opportunities have been harder to come by. Fell has only ever played three T20s.

Ollie Pope (Surrey)

So good have been Pope’s numbers (He’s averaging 70.50 in CC2018) that he was fast tracked into the England team. Unlike some sceptics, I think that Ed Smith has got a lot of qualities but his decision to parachute Pope in at number four in England’s Test side was misguided. Pope had never batted higher than six for Surrey! The Chelsea born bat has a good head on his shoulders however and will be better for the experience. This year he’s a Championship winner and breeding that winning mentality can only be good for his development. He’s likely to commence the Sri Lanka tour on the bench but the opportunity to tour will serve him well.

Hamidullah Qadri (Derbyshire)

A frustrating year with limited opportunity and limited success for Afghan born Qadri. Last year the then sixteen-year-old announced his arrival with an outstandingly effective performance against Glamorgan to help Derbyshire win for the first time in… years!

http://www.espncricinfo.com/series/8204/scorecard/1068618/glamorgan-vs-derbyshire-specsavers-county-championship-division-two-2017

This year’s appearances have been fleeting but four more County Championship appearances is more than most for a man his age. He’s claimed eight wickets at 39.88 in CC2018.

Delray Rawlins (Sussex)

Precocious talent Rawlins’ opportunities have been limited to limited overs cricket but his batting caught the eye of many in this year’s T20 Blast. Rawlins made it to the final with Sussex and made starts in both matches on Finals-Day. The Bermuda born bat ended the campaign with 203 runs at 25.38. His strike-rate was 146.04. Little was seen of his bowling however or the red ball this term. Rawlins could be a potentially good draft for a Big Bash or PSL franchise this winter.

Will Rhodes (Warwickshire)

The move from Yorkshire to Warwickshire seems to have worked well for Rhodes. Yorkshire didn’t seem to know what to do with him and have had Harry Brook (Better suited to the middle order) opening while losing Alex Lees to Durham. Keeping and making the most of Rhodes may have been a good move by Yorkshire but Rhodes is yet another talent they failed to fully develop. Warwickshire are grateful to have been the beneficiaries of Yorkshire’s slacking. The Midlands outfit have persevered with Rhodes and former Surrey man Dominic Sibley as an opening pair, even when the runs haven’t flowed. Sibley can be feast or famine but Rhodes’ consistency has meant that he’s been one of the county circuit’s more successful openers this year. The left-hander has compiled three tons plus four fifties, a top score of 137 and is averaging a healthy 41.05. He’s also a viable bowling option.

Olly Stone (Warwickshire)

Rhodes’ Warwickshire ally Stone commenced the County Championship campaign with figures of 8-80 against Sussex, cue lots of calls for him to make the England side. Of course he promptly got injured again! Like his main rival for the speedster’s role, Somerset’s Jamie Overton, Stone has recently taken wickets in T20 and First Class cricket, crucially… he’s been on the pitch at all! The former Northamptonshire man has claimed 37 wickets in just six matches at a mightily impressive average of 12.27. With Liam Plunkett and his wedding arrangements undone by a flip of England’s tour schedule, Stone will go to Sri Lanka with both the ODI and Test side if not the T20I side. He should debut sometime on the tour and will have an eye on the West Indies trip too.

Cricket Captain 2018: Suggestions for 2019

In previous versions of Cricket Captain, I’ve flirted a little with Career Mode at domestic level but on the 2018 version, I’ve focused exclusively on my England Career (International Only). I think it’s relevant that I point that out and that the following suggestions are based on my experiences of playing the game in that way…

County Championship Averages Separated by Division.

Having this as a filter option would be a really useful tool when selecting the England team. Obviously runs and wickets etc scored in division one are a better indication of a player’s ability to adjust to Test cricket than contributions made in division two. The same split could be applied where appropriate in the domestic competitions of other countries as well, for example: I think that Sri Lanka has three tiers in First Class cricket.

Women’s Cricket

Even if it would be too much to ask for a full Women’s career mode to be implemented, surely World Cups and Custom Series could be playable options. All that is required are the names of women and maybe some long hair where appropriate. Career records are of course a pre-requisite.

Player Editor

In the early versions of the game, you could at least change a player’s name, I think that the players even had pen pics. It would be great if you could create a player from scratch,  choose their name, age, batting/bowling hand/style, nationality, ethnicity, at the very least their hair colour/style and maybe even which team they begin their career with. You could then for example play an England career, make yourself captain and follow your performances as you soar the run/wicket charts as the years go by. If you could edit as many as twenty players then you could even make up your entire national side out of friends and family.

Stop Early Retirements

I appreciate that early retirements happen (e.g. Fabian Cowdrey) but Delray Rawlins has disappeared from the last two versions of the game aged about 21. In the previous version he did this despite the fact that he had been capped in ODIs. What’s additionally weird about this is that in my current game, there are players that are as old as 36 who have never even played a domestic game but they can still be selected for England!

Squad Injury Replacements

If a player gets injured on tour, it’d be great if you could be provided the option to call-up a replacement. It’d also be good if even when playing at home, occasionally a player might get injured on the morning of a match, so in a Test match for example, your options would drop from thirteen to twelve.

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A-Teams

Tying into the injury replacement, it would be hugely beneficial to have A-Teams/England Lions squads in the game. You could have three options:

  1. Select and play
  2. Select and simulate
  3. Auto select and simulate

This would be hugely beneficial during winter tours when it can be difficult to get the best out of players that are out of form.

More Tour Matches

The tour match feature is half-baked, it’s an unreal element of a game that’s good because it seems real! It would be really helpful for the same reason as mentioned previously. When players are out of form on winter tours you need some way to get them back into form. Currently some tours have warm-up matches and some don’t. If gamers don’t want to play them they can simulate them or, similar to my A-Team suggestion, it could be an option at the start of a career to either have them in your game or not.

Breakdown of Dismissals

Let’s say that my best bowler has taken 500 Test wickets. I’d like to know how many were  bowled, how many were LBW, how many were stumped etc. Also, it’d be great to know how many left to right handers have been dismissed by the bowler. This information could be presented in pie chart form similar to some of the graphics already in the game. Similar stats would be welcome for batsmen too. How many times have they been dismissed caught etc, how many times have they been dismissed by a left-arm bowler or by a spin bowler. This information could be used when selecting a team.

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Cap Number

In each player’s personal section, it could list which cap number the player is in each format. In Player Records it would be great if you could arrange each match Type (Test/ODI/T20I) by cap number.

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Jack Leach to be Bald!

As it says on the tin, Jack Leach to be bald.

Captaincy Record

It’d be great for a record to be kept of how many matches you’ve played in each format and how many you’ve won and lost. If this was also recorded for each player in the game as well as the gamer then that’d be great. What I mean by that is that there’s an overall record for me playing the game but if for example I’ve had Max Holden and Sam Hain both captain my Test side, I can see their individual captaincy records by format.

Medium Difficulty Level

Currently, the only difficulty levels are Easy and Normal. I’ll be honest, I don’t exactly dominate at Easy level and based on previous experience the less said about hard the better. Having three difficulty levels: Easy, Normal and Hard could really help some gamers stick with the game.

Have you played Cricket Captain recently or in seasons past? Do you have any viable suggestions to enhance the game without compromising its core qualities?

Spinning Around!

Moeen Ali, Adil Rashid, Jack Leach, Dom Bess, Liam Dawson, Mason Crane, Matthew Parkinson, Sukhjit Singh, Hamidullah Qadri, Matthew Carter, Amir Virdi, Ben Twohig, Matthew Critchley, Josh Poysden, Adam Riley…

There is an oft-repeated myth that English cricket lacks a healthy stock of spin bowlers. That assumption couldn’t be further from the truth. There is no doubting the abundance of talent on the county cricket scene. Admittedly many of the aforementioned players are far from the finished article. They are young guns and it remains to be seen whether or not they’ll be presented with the opportunity to develop as one would hope. If they are, then the competition for places in the England team will be intense!

Through misfortune (AKA injury), England have accidentally bred competition. Moeen Ali and Adil Rashid have returned to the Test side. Jack Leach has quite rightly been left to rediscover his groove at Somerset and Mason Crane was making promising strides in white-ball (List A/T20) cricket before injury recurred its ugly head. It’s been great to witness Adam Riley return to the Kent fold and Matthew Parkinson is surely a candidate for at least England’s T20I side in the short term. Josh Poysden has relocated to Yorkshire where he can hopefully blossom (Like a white rose!). If Nottinghamshire provide him with opportunity then England may want to get Carter (See what I did there?!). Fingers crossed that Sukhjit Singh and the rest can break into their respective county first XIs sooner rather than later. Meanwhile the much maligned Liam Dawson is one of the most ever-improving cricketers in the English game. He did little wrong during his Test outings (With the ball at least. His batting went awol post debut), suffered from being a fill-in player under attack from the opposition but performed admirably well in the Pakistan Super League.

England don’t want to make any RASH decisions, go down a dark ALI, succumb to blood sucking LEACHes. They want to get the BESS out of their spin bowlers by POYSDENing the opposition batsmen. They want to PARKinson up and SINGH from the hills. They don’t want to be CARTERed around, they want to go at no more than TWOhig an over. They want to CRANE over the opposition and live a life of RILEY!

The Rise and Fall… and Rise? of Haseeb Hameed

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Less than two years ago and whilst still a teenager, a stoic but adaptable young batsman from Lancashire made his Test bow in India. He promptly made 82 on debut and even made 59 not out when batting with a fractured finger in his last Test. Despite requiring surgery, it seemed as though England had found an opening batsman for the next decade or more. That man was Bolton-born Haseeb Hameed and when Keaton Jennings, Hameed’s injury replacement scored a ton on his debut, it looked as though some competition for the years to come had really been bred. Jennings however has been found wanting at Test level ever since and the same can be said of Hameed, if only at domestic level. Hameed’s performances in the County Championship have been so woeful that you seriously have to question whether or not he’ll add to his three Test caps. Given that England seem unlikely to ever drop Alastair Cook regardless of form, it could be that Cook will still be at the top of England’s order for another twenty years!

In 2017, Hameed totalled 513 runs in 21 County Championship innings, He averaged 28.50 with a top score of 88. After a horrendous start that made him unselectable for the national side, he did at least recover slightly. Unfortunately, he’s gone completely the opposite way during the current campaign. In 17 innings this term, Hameed has compiled a limp 165 runs at a miserable 9.71. His highest score is just 31. This is an opening batsman don’t forget! No matter how many times he returns to the second XI, scores a big ton and comes back (Full of confidence?), he just can’t translate his abilities to the First Class arena. His career average is now only just above thirty at 30.91

http://www.espncricinfo.com/england/content/player/632172.html

Current incumbent Keaton Jennings has seventeen First Class tons with an average of 34.02 and just look how much he’s struggled in home conditions in Test cricket. It could be that Hameed is, like the oft-used examples of Marcus Trescothick and Michael Vaughan, more suited to the higher level and that it brings out the best in him. In order to be presented with the opportunity to prove that though, he’s going to have to score SOME runs at county level. If Rory Burns can’t get a game given the amount of runs that he compiles year after year then Hameed is a long way from England selection. The romantics will push for his recall however and they’ll point to that Test average of 43.80 (From six innings!).

Will Hameed, in the words of former Zimbabwe player Henry Olonga ‘Rise Again’?

We’ll have to wait and see but let’s hope so.

Simon Hughes: Who Wants to be a Batsman? Book Review

I’ll be honest, I’ve never been a huge fan of Simon Hughes and this book has done nothing to alter that. The writing is a little too self-indulgent for my liking. In Hughes’ defence, it’s obviously understandable that he should be inking based on his own experiences.

Hughes is clearly obsessed with Mark Ramprakash and of course he’s not alone in being so. The author also seems particularly keen to raise the profile of his daughter, a very talented cricketer according to Hughes’ unbiased opinion!

In amongst the drivel are a couple of really insightful passages, which in a perverse way are what make this book disappointing. By that I mean you must plough through a chapter or two to find interesting content. I’m possibly being a little harsh but Hughes’ onscreen persona has never endeared himself to me. He joins the long list of analysers who confirm that to have played the game doesn’t automatically make you an insightful pundit!

That said, I’ll repeat that there are one or two profound insights amongst the pages and all this adds up to a Silly Point score of…

Stumped on 59!

Lees of Life!

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Opening batsman Alex Lees has headed north to Durham from Yorkshire and made an encouraging start following a truly torturous end to his time at Yorkshire.

A career that had promised so much petered out with just fifty flimsy runs in eight First Class innings at a paltry average of 6.50 this term. However, the tide has turned for the twenty-five-year-old on Durham debut against Glamorgan in Cardiff. At the end of the first day’s play, Lees is unbeaten on a run-a-ball 53…

http://www.espncricinfo.com/series/8204/game/1127714/glamorgan-vs-durham-specsavers-county-championship-division-two-2018

That’s right, more runs in one innings for his new county than in four matches for Yorkshire. Okay so he’s playing in Division Two now but as the old adage goes, “You can only beat what’s in front of you!”.

Alongside Lees is his new opening partner, everybody’s favourite American cricketer Cameron Steel. Cam from Cali is currently unbeaten on 22. Meanwhile another former Yorkshire opener, Warwickshire’s Will Rhodes, is currently 101 not out against Gloucestershire in Birmingham. That’s now three County Championship tons since heading south and two in his last two games. His average is soaring and at only twenty-three, like former county pal Lees, Rhodes’ best years should lie in waiting.

Adam Lyth has been an excellent contributor for Yorkshire over the years and his current opening partner Harry Brook, has already demonstrated that he’s got the temperament to succeed. Hopefully each of Lees, Rhodes and Brook can continue to blossom at their respective counties and possibly push for international honours in the years to come.