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

In the Land of Maple Leaf

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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.

From One Extreme to Irish Cream!

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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!

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!