Numbers Up!

Numbers on shirts during the Ashes. Farewell tradition!

Now obviously players participating in the County Championship wear numbers on their shirts and I can understand the logic in that. In Test match cricket though, I’m not so sure. Beamed on TV players are easily identifiable and even for those at the ground, isn’t trying to figure out the identity of the players part of the beauty of attending? The scoreboard will tell you who is batting and bowling. You know who the wicketkeeper is and can soon figure out regular field placements.

I think that the qualities of both Test and T20I cricket are enhanced by maintaining as much difference between them as possible. Keep the flashing bails, coloured clothing and names on shirts away from the most testing form of the game please.

Oh, errr, ignore my custom kit creation in the pic above… hypocrite!

278-3 (20.0) – Enough Said!

Okay, so there’s a little more to be said…

Afghanistan have just totalled a record-breaking 278-3 in a Twenty20 International against Ireland. Opening batsman Hazratullah Zazai scored a whopping 162 (11×4, 16×6) from just 62 deliveries. He has form as I’ve mentioned more than once here at http://www.sillypointcricket.com. Strike stealing Mohammad Nabi denied Zazai the opportunity to topple Chris Gayle’s record individual T20 innings of 175* as well as Aaron Finch’s international record of 172… cheeky beggar! Zazai is one of the hottest young players anywhere in world cricket right now.

Looking forward to Ireland’s reply…

Twenty20 Vision?!

England have named their squad for the T20I series against West Indies and I can’t say that I’m enthused…

https://www.ecb.co.uk/england/men/news/1058447/sam-billings-and-dawid-malan-named-in-england-s-it20-squad

I back whoever plays for England (Unless there’s a serious reason that I shouldn’t. We’ll come to that!) but some of the selections in this squad are puzzling.

I’m a huge Dawid Malan fan but he’s hardly been tearing it up on the franchise circuit recently. Yes his international record is outstanding but he’s in no form whatsoever to maintain that record. This opportunity, as with his previous ones, have only come about because of squad rotation. He fully merited selection when he replaced a ‘rested’ Eoin Morgan however, in what was effectively at T20I final. Contrary to his recent franchise efforts, he had been tearing it up for England Lions. I just don’t feel that he’s primed to perform at international level right this moment. I hope that I’m wrong though and that a strong showing can put him back on the Test radar.

The selection of Chris Jordan is a generous one for me. He struggled in the Big Bash this season but is part of the T20I fabric for England. He benefits from the absence of senior bowlers to get game time in this format and of course he does take wickets. Anybody should be able to keep tallying wickets when the opposition are slogging away at the end though. He’s a good fielder but needs to take more wickets for less runs… obviously!

James Vince was superb in the Big Bash, Harry Gurney was steady away and Laurie Evans has backed up strong white-ball seasons in England by becoming an in-demand player on the franchise merry-go-round. None of the above make the squad but…

… Sam Billings does! I can understand the frustration for and with Sam Billings. It’s not easy when you’re a fill-in player, particularly in T20Is when there’s often just one match in a series. This series has three matches though, so Billings will desperately hope to bat in the top four to have a chance to impress. If he can hit the ground running then he could make the most of the series but then again, he’s just filling in. Like Malan, he’ll likely then get dropped again to accommodate the returning Roy, Buttler and Stokes.

I understand the logistical reasons but did England really need to name their squad so soon?

Liam Plunkett could be letting his World Cup place slip away though knowing him, he’ll probably take four wickets in the next ODI. If he fails to take a wicket and gets dropped during the series though, will he still be what England want in the T20Is?

What if Vince hits a couple of hundreds in the PSL between now and the start of the series? Could he be drafted into the squad? Ed Smith is sending out very mixed messages regarding Vince. He was pretty curt when he originally axed the Hampshire man, despite Vince making 76 in his previous Test innings. He did recall him because of injuries for a One-Day International, only for Vince to run himself out… again! Now following sparkling form in the Big Bash, he’s been omitted again.

Another player that’s been mentioned on forums is Joe Clarke. I think that a lot of people don’t know or don’t care why he’s been ignored. My understanding is that he wasn’t dropped from England Lions because of what a teammate may have got up to in his bed. He was dropped because of the list of women on his phone and the competitive element of that. If he matures then I’m quite happy for Joe Clarke to play for England in years to come. As it stands however, I (And that’s just me. I’m not speaking for anyone else) don’t want him anywhere near the England cricket team. Clarke can argue that he’s unfortunate it all came out and of course we don’t know what all players get up to away from work but… tuff!

Another thing that I may have mentioned before. ODIs are ODIs so I call the T20 version T20Is not IT20s… so there!

Edit:

James Vince next PSL innings: 84 off 41

Dawid Malan next PSL innings: 1 off 6

Cricket Captain 2018: You Win Some You Lose Some!

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Following Test success we played Ireland again, this time in yet more limited overs matches. Having won the previous ODI series against the shamrock side by a margin of 3-0, we soon assumed an unassailable 3-0 lead in this series too, making it six wins out of six in the format against the Greens. Only after clinching the series did we let our guard down having rotated the squad, the series finishing 3-2.

In the opening encounter we posted 337-3 however an incredible maiden bowled by spinner Andy McBrine in the final over of our innings left Najibullah Zadran (98 not out) and captain Ashgar Stanikzai (99 not out) short of their centuries. This was despite compiling an unbroken partnership of 205. Ireland reached 165 without loss courtesy of Ed Joyce (108) and William Portefield (85) but crumbled to 271 all out. Twenty-one-year-old debutant spin bowler Zia ur-Rehman claimed figures of 3-63 from his full allocation of overs on debut.

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Opening batsmen Usman Ghani and Mohammad Shahzad etched their names into the record books.

In the second match, Mohammad Shahzad (223 not out) and Usman Ghani (138) compiled a gargantuan first-wicket stand of 364.

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A breakdown of Mohammad Shahzad’s monumental knock, beehive included.

Shahzad’s 223 came from just 165 deliveries and included a whopping 40 fours (160 of his runs!). The only wicket to fall came when Ghani was run out off the last ball of the innings.

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Painful reading for Irish fans!

The partnership was only eight runs short of equalling the world record for any wicket in ODI cricket set by West Indies duo Chris Gayle and Marlon Samuels just three years ago. Ultimately we defeated Ireland by 146 runs.

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Not for the first time, Andy McBrine frustrated our bowlers as Ireland recovered from 58-6 to post 197.

In the third game we had Ireland in all sorts of strife at 58-6 but lower order batsman Andy McBrine, who frustrated us with a fifty in the Test, did so again before being stumped of Mohammad Nabi for 62. Leader of the attack Hamid Hassan…err, led the attack with figures of 4-37. The insatiable Mohammad Shahzad just picked up where he left off in the last match and carried the team to victory with an unbeaten 88. We won by seven wickets to seal the series.

For the fourth match we rested Shahzad and Hassan and paid the price. We were going steady at 80-0 (Ahmadi 44, Ghani 39) but could only double our run tally for the loss of all ten wickets. Beanpole Boyd Rankin claimed 5-30 to bundle us out for just 160. Despite some serious nerves, Ireland got home with four wickets in hand. Eighteen-year-old debutant wicketkeeper Ikram Ali Khil snaffled the first two Irish wickets in style but it wasn’t enough.

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Noor Ali Zadran returned to form in style but also in vain.

In the final match, we generously invited Ireland to bat first and they posted 266-5 from their fifty overs. After scores of 28, 11 and 8, Noor Ali Zadran returned to form in spectacular style with a knock of 159 but was run out near the end as we fell five runs short. Only opener Javed Ahmadi (42) offered anything else with the bat, the next highest score being only 12.

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Confirmation of the 3-2 series win.

Unfortunately the theme of one side dominating over a period of matches remained when we headed into the T20I series. Ireland won the first two matches to make it four wins on the spin against us in all formats before, as Ireland did in the ODIs, we won the dead rubber.

Such was Ireland’s onslaught in the opening exchanges of the first match (38-0 from 3 overs) that we adapted our tactics by bringing on spin during the powerplay. Rashid Khan and Mohammad Nabi both struck in their first overs but Ireland still totalled an imposing 184-9.

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Hazratullah Zazai came into the side at the top of the order and duly took his excellent domestic form onto the international stage.

Despite Hazratullah Zazai’s 73 from only 49 balls and despite losing only three wickets to Ireland’s nine, we succumbed by 28 runs.

In the second match we fell fifteen runs short when chasing 163. Dave Rankin (38) was dropped, including early on, twice by Mohammad Shahzad who was not wearing the gloves but stood at slip.

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The highest partnerships for each of our first three wickets in T20I cricket have all been recorded during my tenure.

In the final game, we gained an important consolation victory to end the bad streak. Shahzad (102 from 73) and Zazai (58 from 45) batted the entire twenty overs without being dismissed. 163-0 was not a massive score though but we kept Ireland down as they fell 24 runs short. Slow-left-armer Sharafuddin Ashraf claimed outstanding analysis of 3-12 from four overs and there was a welcome return to form for Rashid Khan.

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Coming in off the back of strong domestic showings, leg-spin sensation Rashid Khan returned to the side and returned to form.

Khan claimed two wickets in each match to finish the series with six wickets at 16.50.

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Mohammad Shahzad’s insatiable appetite for runs just doesn’t quench. Whatever the format, wherever the location, whoever the opposition… runs, runs, runs!

It was disappointing to concede ranking points in the T20I format but it’s been a fabulous year for our side. We look forward to next season with much anticipation and are confident of putting in a good showing at the 2019 ODI World Cup in England. Look out for the squad announcement nearer the time.

Cricket Captain 2018: Omani Odyssey!

It was both an honour and a privilege to perform the dual role of Team Manager and Coach of the Oman Men’s Cricket Team at the T20I World Cup in India. I’m immensely proud of the effort of the squad and how competitive we were at various times in the tournament. I’m only sorry that we were unable to achieve even one victory for the people of Muscat and beyond to celebrate.

Here’s a recap of how our matches played out.

Match One versus Ireland

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Despite losing the toss and being put into bat, we soon reached 82-1 against Test nation Ireland. At the top of the order, Khawar Ali’s 38-ball 54 laid the platform for a competitive total before Aaqib Ilyas’ 42 not out from thirty deliveries helped us kick on. Frustratingly, very few runs came from the last two overs. Seamer’s Shane Getkate’s three-wicket over and Craig Young’s outstanding analysis of 2-17 from four overs, saw us collapse from 148-5 to 149-9!

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We kept Ireland in check during the powerplay but our spinners lacked both control and penetration as Ireland coasted towards victory courtesy of messrs. Stirling 74 not out and Porterfield 73. Only a late run out of the latter helped us avoid a ten-wicket defeat.

Match Two versus Netherlands

Again, we lost the toss but this time were made to bowl first. What’s frustrating about Netherlands massive total of 216-5 is that, in part at least, our bowlers performed well. Spin duo Mehrab Khan (2-40) and Khawar Ali (1-31) were much improved from the Ireland match but a third spinner, the experienced Ajay Lalcheta, brought in having been omitted for the opening match, was expensive, conceding fifty-two wicketless runs from his four overs. Who else but Ryan ten Doeschate (67 not out) was destroyer in chief.

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Khawar Ali then followed his 54 in the opening match by carrying his bat when making an excellent 86 not out. He faced exactly half the innings’ deliveries and twenty-five of his runs were gloriously driven through the extra cover region as the above graphic demonstrates.

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He shared an opening stand of 54 with Zeeshan Maqsood. Maqsood swashbuckled 35 from just sixteen deliveries to keep the Dutch honest. Ali then went onto share a stand of 70 with gloveman Naseem Khushi. Khushi only fell for 30 to the last delivery of the innings.

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Our effort of 173-6 is something to be proud of but having conceded 216, we fell short by 43 runs. As with the batting, it was a player with exhaustive experience of county cricket that proved the difference. Roelof van der Merwe finished with figures of 5-25. Take away the county stars and there really isn’t much between the two teams.

Match Three versus Bangladesh

In our final match against the mighty Bangladesh, we made it a hat-trick of toss losses and if we thought that Netherlands’ 216 was an imposing total, The Tigers 270-4 was always going to be an ask to chase down!

If you blinked, you’ll have missed Tamim Iqbal’s amazing 101 from a meagre 47 balls. Animul Haque (54 from 26) helped Tamim put on a gargantuan 153 for the first wicket. Shakib Al-Hasan then smacked 62 from just 22 deliveries to propel Bangladesh to within sight of 300!

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Debutant Jayesh Odedra’s international debut (4-0-63-0) was one to forget and he may never get another chance.

Mehran Khan’s 2-56 meant that he finished the tournament as our leading wicket taker with four victims at 34.00 apiece. His economy rate of 11.33 is nothing to write home about however.

Khawar Ali followed up his 54 and unbeaten 84 with… a golden duck, to end his World Cup on a low. He did finish as our leading run-scorer with 140 runs at an average of 70 and an impressive strike-rate of 141.40.

Against Bangladesh, it was his namesake Aamer Ali (28 from 18) and Alyas Iqbal (38 from 20) who put on an entertaining 58 to help us put a score on the board and avoid a truly embarrassing scoreline. Ilyas finished the tournament with 91 runs at 45.50. Noorul Riaz, a thirty-nine-year-old batsman who before the competition had played only one List A game… and duly ducked in it, followed up his nine against Netherlands on international debut with an ability demonstrating 39 not out. Throughout the tournament our batting unit fully committed to playing a selfless and attacking brand of cricket.

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The efforts of Ali, Ilyas, Riaz and co. amounted to 150-9 from our allocation. A respectable effort against a Test nation but still 120 runs short of parity.

In summary, I’d like to put on record my appreciation for the efforts of the team during the World Cup. As hinted at, every individual in the squad committed to the tactics of the collective and gave their all in the pursuit of glory. Though we were soundly beaten, we did manage to express ourselves against two Test playing nations and the most experienced non-Test playing nation. I’d like to thank the Omani Cricket Board and the fans for providing me with this wonderful opportunity and the support provided. Having reached the conclusion of my contract, we part on good terms and I wish all involved with Oman cricket the very best in years to come.

China’s Batting as Brittle as Porcelain… or Fine China Even!

China Women succumbed to a record-breaking defeat at the hands of UAE in a T20I encounter in Bangkok today. Both the margin of defeat (189 runs) and their brittle batting effort (14 all out) mean the players enter the record books for all the wrong reasons!

With T20I status now applied all across the globe, it’s to be hoped that such humbling defeats don’t discourage players from emerging nations and that cricket continues to evolve into a truly worldwide sport.

It was Kings of Convenience who said that “Failure is always the best way to learn”…

Looking forward to China posting competitive totals in the future.

Great Britain Olympic Cricket Team

Please take a look at my latest YouTube video. Remember to ‘Like’ and ‘Subscribe’. My videos will get better, I promise!

Here’s my Great Britian Olympic Cricket Team in full:

England: James Vince (C), Sam Billings (W), Liam Livingstone, Dawid Malan, Scotland:  Matthew Cross (W), Josh Davey, Calum MacLeod, Safyaan Sharif, Ireland: Paul Stirling, Stuart Thompson, Wales: Aneurin Donald, Brad Wadlan, Jersey: Harrison Carlyon, Jonty Jenner, Guernsey: Matthew Stokes, Montserrat: Quinton Boatswain

Please let me know your thoughts on my squad and whether or not cricket should be at the Olympics at all…