England Test XI

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Please ignore any previous suggestions for England’s Test XI. Like any good selector, I’m prone to the odd wave change though of course some will criticise England’s selectors for not changing the side but now the selectors themselves are changing!

Here’s my England Test XI for the start of the summer. This does of course highlight the fact that I’m not picking a team based on the first few weeks of the First Class season.

Opening Batsmen

Haseeb Hameed and Ben Duckett

I genuinely think that the defensive/offensive contrast of messrs Hameed and Duckett could blossom for England. That’s not to say that I don’t think Hameed is capable of attacking when necessary and Duckett can’t survive when he has too. Yes I’ve criticised England for not preparing properly for New Zealand and Duckett is currently injured but he can be England’s David Warner. He has the ability to make big hundreds. He struggled in Asia but in home conditions against subcontinental opposition is the perfect scenario in which to just let him at ’em!

Number Three

Moeen Ali/Liam Livingstone

This is a tough one because I’ve always wanted Moeen to have a run in his domestic role but such has been his ineptitude recently that Livingstone is pushing his case. Both offer something with the ball to support my number one spinner (We’ll come to him later) but it’s for batting alone that we need to select a number three, though Livingstone is a bloody good fielder. Both are attacking batsman and could help England really get themselves ahead of the game by the time Joe Root comes to the crease. Joe Clarke and Daniel-Bell Drummond will be waiting in the wings should Mo and Livingstone fail to deliver.

Middle order

Joe Root and Dawid Malan

Move them back to four and five for goodness sake!

Root doesn’t want to bat at three and Malan has delivered at five so I just don’t understand the logic of moving them each up a position. Based on the XI that I’ve selected, I’m sticking with Root as skipper. If the top three can perform as I believe they can then the burden and pressure on Root will be eased. The captain can come out and play, enjoy himself and not just have to look to survive. With Hameed, Duckett and Moeen/Livingstone up top, Root can come to the crease with the score more 100-2 not 20-2, sometimes at least.

Malan performed well in Australia but must now back it up. I’m very content with him staying at five. I guess that it’s the easiest place in the order for a specialist batsman but he’s earned that right. There’s still enough to come after him for him to be able to make big scores.

Late Middle Order

Ben Stokes, Jonny Bairstow and Chris Woakes

A fully fit and focused Stokes at six helps England immensely with bat and ball. Now is the time for him to deliver some Flintoffesque performances.

Jonny Bairstow has been efficient behind the stumps and if he can transfer his ODI batting to the Test side, not that he’s been performing that badly in Tests, then England are in for a treat.

The higher Chris Woakes bats the more England will get from him. Like Moeen, it’s about mentality and if you bat higher and closer to your domestic position then you’re more likely to bat appropriately. In England against India and Pakistan should be the sort of summer that Woakes enjoys with the ball.

Opening Bowlers

Ben Coad/Mark Footitt and James Anderson

James Anderson can and should still lead the line for England. His skill coupled with his current fitness mean that there’s no need to rush to replace him. I’ve dropped Stuart Broad. He could be recalled based on domestic form and rotating of the pacers. He could also very likely be in my ODI and possibly T20I side but I’d start the summer without him in the Test XI.

I see Ben Coad as a Josh Hazlewood type bowler. I mean this in the sense that he can go a little under the radar when batsman are worrying about Mitchell Starc, James Anderson or have been with Ryan Sidebottom at Yorkshire. I’m sure that lots of people would campaign for others. In fact Toby Roland-Jones would be mighty close and probably come into the equation during the summer.

I’ve campaigned for Footitt before. The variety of a left-armer in the attack would be welcomed by Joe Root. I’d just leave Sam Curran for now, probably introduce him in ODIs. I don’t see Footitt playing every Test or taking hundreds of wickets but as an occasional option to turn to from time to time, he could be invaluable. Yes he would leak a few runs but that can be tolerated if Anderson and Woakes etc are keeping it tidy and Footitt can deliver three or four unplayable wicket taking deliveries to see off opposition batsmen. Craig Overton is a little unlucky to miss out but would also be considered for ODIs. I don’t see Mark Wood as our saviour.

Spin Bowling

Jack Leach

He’s earned it, had more than just one good season now, returned from technical changes and should be provided the entire summer to take the rough with the smooth. There’s enough batting to not be concerned about that. So he took some tap in Australia on tour but so did Nathan Lyon. If anything, Leach’s main threat may come from his Somerset teammate Dom Bess but come trips to the subcontinent or West Indies, pairing the two of them together is the same applied logic as Dele Alli playing behind Harry Kane for England’s football team… although that’s a poor comparison because I’m hinting that Alli hasn’t really performed recently (Start a football blog Paul!).

There it is:

Hameed, Duckett, Mo/LL?, Root (C), Malan, Stokes, Bairstow (W), Woakes (VC), Coad/Footitt, Anderson, Leach

I’m certain that many people will scoff at the notion of players such as Duckett, Coad and Footitt being anywhere near the England team but I don’t want this new selection panel to sit on fences. They need to make big and brave calls. I believe the selectors should be seen more than they are. I mean that rather than television and newspaper reporters interviewing the coach it should be the selectors, the one at the top at least, that are interviewed. They should be very open and honest about players, those in the team and those that are not and players should be able to deal with what the selectors say in public.

That’s my team and I’d stick and run with it for the summer, only rotating one pacer every Test or two which I think is necessary.

Now let’s all watch Mark Stoneman score a century and Moeen Ali, Craig Overton and Stuart Broad each score fifties and take a five-for in the second Test in New Zealand!

World Cup Judgement Day for Khan

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Afghanistan’s teenage spin sensation Rashid Khan is just one wicket and one match away from becoming the fastest player to chalk up 100 ODI scalps. If he achieves it in his next match then he’ll have shaved a whopping nine games off Australian quick Mitchell Starc’s current record of 52 outings required to reach the ton but…

40 of Khan’s wickets have come against Zimbabwe and 33 against Ireland. That’s 73 out of 99 whilst his best of 7-18 came against West Indies in St. Lucia. Contrary to some old fashioned opinions, the Caribbean is as much a spin bowler’s paradise as is India or Pakistan. That’s 80 wickets right there. In total, he’s claimed eleven victims against West Indies, a side perceived by many to be the weakest Test nation as backed up by the fact that they’ve been playing in the ICC World Cup Qualifier. For the record, the rest of Khan’s wickets have come against Bangladesh (7), United Arab Emirates (5) and Scotland (3). He averages 14.12 and has an ODI economy rate of 3.94. These are absurdly good figures. His First Class average is 15.05 and his highest figure is actually his domestic T20 figure of 15.14! He averages over 40 with the bat in First Class cricket (Admittedly a very small sample size) and is still only nineteen years of age.

http://www.espncricinfo.com/afghanistan/content/player/793463.html

Khan is clearly head and shoulders above his associate and latest Test nation peers. He’s also performed admirably well in the Big Bash and IPL amongst other global T20 competitions but at full international level and despite his stats, he is ultimately unproven. Given the fact that the ICC have limited the 2019 ODI World Cup to ten teams, it is against the supposed world’s best and in English conditions, not generally favourable to spin, that we’ll really find out how good Khan is.

This article is not meant to be a slight on Khan nor the opposition that he’s faced. As the old adage goes “You can only beat what’s in front of you”. It’s great to see Afghanistan cricket thriving, particularly during a competitive ICC World Cup Qualifier filled with promising associate nations. Khan is at the very heart of that.

Proposal for Restructure of Domestic Cricket in Ireland

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Domestic cricket in Ireland has had First Class, List A and T20 status since the start of 2017 but only has three teams. They are: Leinster Lightning, Northern Knights and North West Warriors. There are two other cricket unions in Ireland (Connaught and Munster) but they aren’t qualified to compete at official level. They need helping to do so because with five teams Irish cricket would have more value. With three teams it’s… sorry but a little bit of a joke!

If there were five teams and we first suggest applying a straight forward home and away league structure in each format of the game then that’s eight First Class matches, Eight List As and Eight T20s. You could possibly add a final to each or at least the limited overs tournaments. That volume of games wouldn’t be too much or too little and should help breed competitive cricket that is better preparation for international and particularly Test level for the players. To aid with the development of the game, each side could be allowed to sign an English county pro, maybe one sick of the long slog of the English season as well as a loan or two of younger players during the course of the campaign. It’d be great for an English county second-teamer to get some game time in Ireland to push for a place in their county first XI and bring some experience of professionalism to Ireland. That’s not meant as a slight on the Irish, just that the experience of having being groomed in a professional county environment could be passed onto the players in Ireland. Building those relationships may also contribute to Irish players getting signed up by English county sides or other teams around the globe as a result of their connections gained.

Repeating the notion that three teams isn’t enough, quite simply it just doesn’t breed competitiveness. The other recent addition to Test cricket, Afghanistan, have a far greater number of teams but also a much larger population. Some amy argue that the fourteen or sixteen matches a season per format in the English County Championship is too much and the the six state structure of Australia is more ideal. Actually, New Zealand, a country that has an almost identical population as Ireland (Around 4.7 million) also has six domestic teams and provides an excellent example for Irish cricket. Said number of teams equates to enough matches to identify the superior team and allow players to find form but not too many so as to alleviate the risk to injury and general wear and tear of, in particular, fast bowlers.

Zimbabwe’s domestic cricket has been a disaster in recent times but hopefully Ireland’s can continue to grow, provide a competitive competition (Isn’t that the least you’d expect in a competition?) and furnish the national side with quality.

http://www.cricketireland.ie

A Shaw Thing?

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Whilst Cameron Bancroft does okay opening the batting for Australia’s Test outfit, his predecessor Matt Renshaw is sniffing for a recall at the earliest opportunity. Since the turn of the year the nearly twentytwo-year-old has reeled off First Class scores of 56, 32, 170, 0, 112, 12, 3, 143* & 8. If the opposition get him early then fair enough but if they don’t then the Middlesbrough lad cashes in. Remember that he’s got a Test high of 184 and averages just shy of 37.

Back to Bancroft. He produced one good knock during the 2017-18 Ashes and under huge pressure for his place, has made starts and got one fifty in South Africa. It’s a good little battle for the Australian selectors to have being played out. Western Australia’s Bancroft has three or four years on Renshaw and experience of opening at county level in England for Gloucestershire that will serve him well. Queensland’s Renshaw is clearly made of tough stuff though, even if he recently rather naively conceded five penalty runs!

Don’t forget Renshaw’s domestic partner Joe Burns either. He had a bit of a stinker in his last Test but he’s still only 28 and has three Test tons to his name. South Australia’s Jake Weatherald is another one to keep an eye on, though he’s failed to convert starts this term. Travis Dean is another who despite not backing up the absurdly good start to his First Class career, has recently notched up a couple of hundreds. His average is a disappointing 34 exactly but six tons seven fifties is a good conversion rate. Remember that opening the batting isn’t easy. I should know because I’ve done it in Division Seven of the Nidderdale League and Division Five of the Harrogate and District Evening League!!!

Like Renshaw, another player from the north of England worth keeping tabs on is Charlie Hemphrey. Despite a duck on First Class debut, the Doncaster native registered a century early in his Australian domestic career and following a difficult time thereafter, has made hundreds in each of his last two outings. Twentyeight-year-old Hemphrey has produced these performances batting at four for Queensland. Burns, Renshaw and Hemphrey helping contribute to a strong batting order.

Current Test incumbent David Warner is only thirty-one so there’s life in the old dog yet and unlike some, he seems committed to the Test cause and not yet seeking a purely T20 franchise existence.

Competition for the opening slots for Australia’s Test side is scorching hot and the selectors will be chuffed at the tough decisions to be made.

Application for Role of National Selector

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https://www.ecb.co.uk/news/642891/ecb-announces-new-approach-for-england-men-s-selection

Dear Andrew Strauss

Please find enclosed my application for the role of National Selector as advertised on http://www.ecb.co.uk

On the MAC version of Cricket Captain 2017 (Admittedly on Easy Mode!), I was responsible for the selection of the England side that won the 2017 Champions Trophy on home turf. Who can forget David Willey’s 8-58 against Australia?! That summer, I had already made the brave decision to recall batsman Ben Duckett to the Test side despite his tough baptism the previous winter.

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Duckett repaid the faith by averaging 82.89 in the respectable 2017-18 2-2 away Ashes series draw.

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In 2018 I introduced Yorkshire seamer Ben Coad to Test cricket and he duly struck with his first delivery against Pakistan. Coad went on to claim just shy of 200 wickets as well as surpassing 1000 runs during my time as selector. As was the case with the recall of Duckett, there was resistance from some quarters towards the selection of Coad. Some in the media believed that I was applying Yorkshire bias and only selecting Coad because we were born in the same town. Proving the doubters wrong, his performances with bat and ball throughout his career confirmed that I possess nous when it comes to identifying under the radar talent.

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Mason Crane’s dismissals of three Indian batsmen, all first ball on T20I debut was another highlight of that summer.

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Another spinner, Adil Rashid, excelled in Sri Lanka where he famously followed up figures of 7-66 with a monumental knock of 161. Again, there were those that campaigned against the selections of said spinners, at least in the respective formats in which they would go onto succeed. Again, those doubters were silenced.

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Following our Champions Trophy success in 2017, we promptly won the 2019 ODI World Cup. Once again the nation were euphoric in their celebrations of home soil success.

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My insistence that Moeen Ali replace Jason Roy at the top of the order was both ruthless and crucial to our success. Moeen’s blazing knock of 112 from 80 deliveries in the final against India will live long in the memory of many.

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Alongside Moeen, Ben Duckett totalled 562 runs at 80.29, again this demonstrates my ability to get the best out of mischievous players. Many would’ve left the Northamptonshire batsman on the international scrapheap but his performances in both the Ashes and ODI World Cup were immense.

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Chris Woakes claimed twenty tournament wickets at just 12.55 apiece and please don’t ignore the contribution made by left field selection Luke Fletcher. This included a vital wicket in the final at Lords.

Yes we lost the 2019 Ashes 3-0. Thirty-five-year-old Daryl Mitchell failed to back-up his debut knock of 73. He didn’t make another fifty before being dropped for the fifth Test and James Harris (0-102) had an ignominious introduction to Test cricket. The selection of thirty-nine-year-old Jimmy Adams’ (34 runs @ 8.50) in T20I cricket didn’t work either.

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Nor did the selection of Ross Whiteley (99 runs @ 9.90). However, there would be over 200 Test wickets for Jack Leach, a Test century for Max Holden and many Test tons for Will Rhodes as well as numerous ODI tons for Daniel Bell-Drummond during my time as Selector. Sometimes you have to sift through the dirt to find the diamonds.

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I would like to think that the T20I career of sometime captain Benny Howell…

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… and ODI career of Ollie Rayner, the latter also earning two Test caps, will reflect well on my ability to identify talent and think outside the box when selecting the composition of a side. Even if these players didn’t excel statistically, they were under rated efficient contributors to the side.

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Other highlights during my tenure included: In Bangladesh in 2021, having lost the first Test by just one wicket courtesy of Jofra Archer’s no ball, we chased down 431 in the second Test to level the series. Liam Livingstone (122 & 166) and Will Rhodes (111 & 128*) famously made tons in each innings.

Middlesex’s Harry Podmore claimed figures of 3-51 on ODI debut but disappointingly we failed to progress from the round robin stage of the 2022 Champions Trophy. Paul Coughlin (Two six-wicket hauls) though was for a time the number one bowler in the world in ODI cricket.

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In the 2022 T20I World Cup we reached the semi-final before we were cruelly defeated by India. Hampshire’s Lewis McManus, another shrewd selection, contributed 225 runs at 56.25 including a swashbuckling ton against Pakistan.

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Another gloveman, Sussex’s Ben Brown, registered fifties in his first two T20I caps.

Unfortunately by the time 2023 came around we were ranked as low as 8th in ODI cricket and 9th in both Tests and T20Is. We scored 447 in the fourth innings of an Ashes Test but still lost!

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On the plus side, Surrey all-rounder Sam Curran, originally bravely selected whilst still in his teens, passed 100 wickets ODI cricket. Another find was Nottinghamshire batsman Billy Root, who stepped out of his brother’s shadow to register an ODI century against West Indies. I’m extremely proud of his selection because both the media and public were extremely sceptical.

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After a run of ten straight Test defeats, we did at least beat Zimbabwe 2-0 at home. Liam Livingstone and Ben Foakes’ partnership of 351 proving crucial.

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Somerset speedster Jamie Overton claimed nine wickets at just 15.56 upon his introduction to Test cricket.

Opening batsman Mark Stoneman went onto pass 4000 Test runs though we probably shouldn’t have allowed him so much opportunity to close in on 5000 when clearly past his sell by date!

Lewis McManus and Sam Northeast recorded a record-breaking partnership of 263 in an ODI and Sam Evans scored centuries in each of his first three Tests.

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Defeats against Namibia and Canada in the 2023 ODI World Cup was a disappointing way to bow out. Durham bowler James ‘Killer’ Weighell’s figures 0f 10-0-102-0 against the North American side were confirmation that I’d persisted with him too long.

I don’t think Hamidullah Qadri’s Test bowling average ever got below 60.00 and Mark Footitt (7 wickets in 5 Tests) was another one I probably got wrong. Don’t let those performances against associate nations, world rankings or runs of defeat after defeat deflect from my achievements though. A Champions Trophy and ODI World Cup win are not to be scoffed at, particularly when under the pressure of playing in front of the expectations of a home crowd. The selections and performances of Will Rhodes (Tests), Daniel Bell-Drummond (ODIs) and Lewis McManus (ODIs/T20Is) as well as Jack Leach, Ben Coad, Jofra Archer and Liam Norwell (Tests), Jamie Overton and Paul Coughlin (ODIs) demonstrate my ability to see beyond the obvious and identify players capable of succeeding at international level.

I’m extremely confident that I can transfer my success (Mediocrity, call it what you will!) in virtuality to reality and excel in the role of National Selector. I’m available for interview at any time and await your response with much anticipation.

Yours faithfully

 

Paul Morris

Century Seeking Siaka Seriously Stalling!

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No that’s not Papua New Guinea batsman Lega Siaka’s mobile number. It’s his last seven innings in ODI cricket! His contribution to Papua New Guinea’s attempt to reach the 2019 ODI World Cup has been a pretty limp one. His most recent outing against Zimbabwe, caught in the field having accrued just 7 from all of 31 deliveries when batting at three with his team chasing 264, pretty much sums up where he’s at at the moment.

This is an especially frustrating time for the island nation’s great hope, one of the few associate cricket teams to actually field mostly if not entirely indigenous players. Siaka has an ODI ton against Hong Kong early in his career but now averages just 17.47 from 17 innings. Remove his 109 against Hong Kong from the equation and Siaka becomes fiftyless and would average 11.75. I’m always wary of chopping and changing a player’s statistics, it’s a little unfair but put that one extreme career best aside and Siaka has struggled big time. The Port Moresby native actually has three List A tons but an average of only 25.27. Again this highlights the extremes of his scoring pattern. It’s either feast or famine but the feasts are rare, like at Christmas or on your birthday!

Siaka is twentyfive-years-old. He’s not a kid, has represented Melbourne Renegades in the Big Bash and turned out for the Australian Prime Minister’s XI. Of course the problem for associate players such as Siaka is the quality and volume of cricket they’re playing between tournaments. Siaka has represented Essendon in rookie cricket Down Under but compare that to the likes of Netherlands’ Ryan ten Doeschate and Roelof van der Merwe, both of whom are regulars on the English county circuit or Afghanistan’s young skipper Rashid Khan playing in the IPL and Big Bash and the experience aquired just doesn’t compare. It may be that Siaka is more suited to the longer format, he averages 32.69 in First Class cricket but in truth, that’s not the format to prosper in if you’re an associate player. That of course opens a whole can of worms regarding developing Test cricket around the world but I’ve written plenty on that already!

Fingers and toes crossed that if Siaka is presented with another chance in the ICC World Cup Qualifier that he can reach double figures and then clock up at least a second ODI half-century.

http://www.espncricinfo.com/ci/content/player/440990.html