Cricket 19: Humbled at Home!

In our attempt to fight back and record a series draw in the ground breaking Trans-Channel Test series against England, we made three changes to the playing XI for our historic first Test match on French soil. Gabin Sauvage, Patrick Pierre and Mehdi Qadri were the unlucky trio to miss out with Youssef Rizvi, Paco Georges and Louis Martin the beneficiaries. As much as we would’ve liked to present the jettisoned personnel with another opportunity we felt that it was necessary to freshen things up and present England with opposition that they hadn’t become familiar with.

Captain Xavier Le Tallec won the toss and chose to bat. The decision to bat or bowl was in the balance but we felt trying to put runs on the board first up was the right thing to do.

Put runs on the board is exactly what opening duo Jean-Luc Chevalier and Enzo Petit did. Having compiled 77 in the second innings in London the pair picked up where they had left off at Lords. Now In Brittany they constructed foundations of 49 for the first wicket. It required England’s leading wicket taker of all time James Anderson, rotated in at the expense of Stuart Broad, to make the breakthrough. The erstwhile Lancastrian found Chevalier’s (14) edge to present a slip catch to Rory Burns. Gilles Smith joined Petit and the latter soon reached his second-consecutive Test half-century. It was actually Petit’s (55) fourth fifty in five innings in First Class/Test cricket but on none of those occasions has he reached 60. He’s basically the French Mark Stoneman! Petit’s dismissal had an air of familiarity about it in that it came just two balls before a beverage break (An unhealthy habit that we’ve developed!) but at least both batsmen to fall had been ‘Got out’. In Petit’s case Jofra Archer was the bowler responsible. 86-2 were the numbers at rehydration respite.

Post thirst quenching Youssef Rizvi (5) didn’t last long on debut. To only his seventh delivery the right-hander played an audacious pull off Archer that resulted in him being caught by Stokes at slip. Smith (41) and Pitko (25) steadied the ship with a stand of 38 before both succumbed to first Test spin nemesis Dom Bess. Neither batsmen were out playing silly shots mind as the batting unit maintained their enhanced application and contribution that had been displayed in the second innings at Lords. When wicketkeeper Marwan Leroy joined Zidane Thomas at the crease the score was 152-5 but both combined defence and run-scoring finesse to lift us to a more than respectable 182-5 at lunch on day one. Whilst our players dined on soup de jour the Bretagne faithful soaked up the rays!

In the second session Thomas et Leroy continued their procession taking the partnership up to 68. Unfortunately the combo came to a halt in freak fashion! Archer got a delivery to strike Thomas in the undesirables and with the batsman losing his bearings he back heeled the pink orb onto his stumps. Cue more pink in the form of the zing bails and Thomas’ (40) knock as well as the partnership was over. It was such a sorry way for an excellent effort to be brought to its conclusion.

Soon after Thomas’ demise Leroy (38) tried to turn an Archer delivery to the leg-side but a leading edge was collected by a grateful Dominic Sibley scampering forward from mid-on. Paco Georges (0) then wafted first ball on debut and as a result of Buttler’s safe hands Archer had a five-wicket haul. Archer (6-60) didn’t stop there as Le Tallec (7) was suckered into a pull shot and 220-5 had become 244-9 in scenes all too reminiscent of the first Test.

Last men standing Alexandre Riviere (12) and debutant Louis Martin (9*) dragged the innings on past drinks before the former fell to Bess (3-20). The innings curtailed at 255. Having been 152-4 that was a hugely disappointing total but still there were contributions throughout the order providing innings for our batsmen to build upon in the future. We can take huge confidence from the way our batting unit saw off James Anderson (0-66) and Sam Curran (0-51).

In only the third over of England’s reply Riviere trapped Rory Burns LBW courtesy of a superb piece of deception. Riviere delivered a painfully slow yorker that had Burns all at see but DRS saved the Surrey left-hander by a matter of millimetres. Burns then pulled for four before being struck on the pad again. This time the finger didn’t go up but Le Tallec opted to review. Sadly for us it was not out once again. After all that drama we’d lost a review but England hadn’t lost Burns.

England had progressed to 32 when we did eventually make the breakthrough. In a repeat of the first innings of the first Test Sibley (16) was out caught Pitko off the bowling off Riviere. In truth it was not a shot that a batsman of Test calibre should be getting out playing, certainly not when opening the batting. England were 52-1 at tea when the lights came on.

In the first day’s final session Joe Denly had a reprieve on 11 when Leroy grassed an edge off Paco Georges. He failed to capitalise though, falling to the always in the action Pitko for 25. As with Sibley’s shot it simply wasn’t good enough and Riviere repaid the earlier favour by holding the catch. Not content with batting and catching well in this series, Pitko had promptly rocked up and commenced his spell with a wicket maiden!

Burns brought up back-to-back Trans-Channel tons and with his captain Root had lifted England to 177-2 at close, still 78 runs behind but with eight wickets in hand.

Riviere and Martin failed to make a breakthrough early on day two but captain Le Tallec needed less than three overs to send Burns packing. Again Pitko was the catcher and again, as was the case in the first Test, Burns (139) rather threw the chance of a gargantuan score away. Le Tallec’s spin had made the breakthrough and then it was the turn of pace in the form of Paco Georges. The tall express left-armer angled one past Joe Root’s blade to send the illuminated stumps flying in all directions. The wicket of Root (48) was a prize maiden Test scalp for Georges (1-106) as England stuttered from 226-2 to 235-4 bang on beverages.

Ben Stokes and Ollie Pope steadied the visitors with a stand of 51 (A lead of 31) before Thomas became the fifth bowler in the innings to claim a wicket. The right-arm slinger trapped Stokes (25) LBW and though there was a hint of leg-side about it Stokes opted not to review thus becoming Thomas’ belated first Test victim. Shortly after that the session concluded, a session in which we’d claimed a more than respectable 3-113.

The new ball had the desired effect with our opening duo both getting among the wickets. In his first over with the new pink cherry Louis Martin had Ollie Pope (51) nonchalantly caught by his captain. For Martin, who’d kept things tight up to that point, it was a fully deserved first Test wicket to join Pitko (1-16) and Thomas as christened wicket takers on the second day. As for Pope, like in the first Test he got to fifty but got out, a little like our own Enzo Petit! Riviere (2-123) then had an out of sorts Curran (3) feather an edge to Leroy but our gloveman was slow to react to a nick off Buttler soon after. Martin (2-86) wasn’t to be denied though as Bess (2) perished next ball with Le Tallec snaffling another catch at about fourth slip, this time courtesy of an excellent dive to his left. England had crashed from 332-5 to 357-8 but Buttler and Archer weren’t to be easily removed. Despite both being beaten occasionally the pair batted superbly to lift the score to 397-8. With one session left in the day and the floodlights switched on, the visitors held the aces to the tune of 142 runs.

Sadly the day’s final session was a torturous one for our players as Buttler and Archer took their partnership all the way to 137. The excellent Archer (58) eventually edged to Leroy off Thomas (2-76) but Anderson (10*) reached the close alongside Buttler with England on 517-9.

Our captain Le Tallec (2-77) did at least knock over Buttler’s (138) stumps in only the second over on day three to dismiss England for 524. To have bowled out an established Test nation is something that we should be proud off but we required 269 to avoid an innings defeat.

Chevalier and Petit continued their trend of producing solid starts by compiling 42 for the first wicket in the second innings on the third day. The breakthrough for England came when Petit (27) was caught and bowled by Curran having presented a leading edge to the Surrey left-armer. Gilles Smith (1) was emphatically bowled by Archer resulting in debutant Youssef Rizvi joining Chevalier at the wicket. Having scored only 5 in the first innings it would be an understatement to say that Rizvi looked all at sea early in his innings. To his credit though he somehow survived and soon grew in confidence to display some strong stroke play. By beverages the pair had hauled us from 43-2 to 99-2 with an encouraging half-century stand.

Resuming after rehydration it took only two deliveries of spin to bring our progress to an abrupt halt. Rizvi (32) was comprehensively beaten and bowled by Bess (Bodes well for the tour of India!) before Pitko (5) was a little unlucky to nick behind via his pad off Curran’s (2-44) left-arm seam. Zidane Thomas (15) attacked Bess (2-17) but was only at the crease for a fun time not a long time. Despite using a review he fell LBW to the Somerset off-spinner. A promising position of 109-2 had become a disappointing 139-5 but Leroy dug in alongside Chevalier who brought up a maiden Test fifty in the over before the interval. 156-5, 133 in arrears the details at 4pm.

Our knight in shining armour Chevalier (51) was gutted to be caught at mid-on when uppishly toe-ending a full delivery from Anderson. Then in a horrible sense of deja vu, Leroy was bowled through his legs by Archer. Thomas had suffered a similar fate in the first innings and this time it was Leroy (9), who’d applied himself maturely for 42 minutes, who saw the ball (Or didn’t!) deflect off the bat, go in between his legs and clip high on the stumps.

Le Tallec (1) was LBW to Anderson (2-34) despite a review. Our captain’s batting efforts in our maiden series read 0, 1, 7 and 1 which is a great shame provided how well he bowled, fielded and led the side. Alexandre Riviere (3) was then outrageously caught and bowled by star man Archer (4-25) to put us in peril at 167-9. Paco Georges (6) resisted temptation for a while but gave into playing a big shot and was phenomenally pouched by Buttler. Having been 42-0 and 109-2 a total of just 172 was disappointing but wasn’t the result of a series of awful shots. We succumbed by an innings and 97 and 2-0 in the series. In general though I think that we can be hugely proud of our efforts against an established and professional Test side in our first two Tests. There’s a lot to build on.

Look out for news on our future series soon!

Cricket 19: Tour News!

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We’re delighted to announce that England have agreed to stay on at the conclusion of the second Test and provide the opposition for our inaugural Twenty20 International. We’ll then be heading to India for an extensive tour consisting of three T20Is and two Tests. They’ll be one warm-up fixture in each format. A spin-bowling camp will run parallel with attendees to be named in due course. After that it’s onto Australia for two more Tests but only one T20I. Again, they’ll be warm-up fixtures in each form of the game. Following that we’ll host Zimbabwe for one T20I and our first ever ODIs in a three-match series before playing one Test. To alleviate strain on Stade de France Cricket in Bretagne, construction on a second national stadium, to be built in Corsica, will begin shortly.

Our squad for our first ever T20I to be played against England at the Stade de France Cricket is as follows:

Jean-Luc Chevalier (Vice-captain)

Hippolyte Gregory

Zidane Thomas

Matteo Phillipe

Zvonimir Pitko

Christophe Martinez

Marwan Leroy (Wicketkeeper)

Xavier Le Tallec (Captain)

Paco Georges

Phillipe La Roux

Mehdi Qadri

Maurice Noe

Louis Petit

Anthony Toure

Who Will be Test Cricket’s Next Nation?

Nepal currently sit 12th in the T20I rankings and are playing ODIs against USA and Oman at present. Star player Sandeep Lamichhane recently expressed his desire to play Test cricket for Nepal.

Papua New Guinea are ranked 18th and have been on the fringes of major tournaments for the past decade or so.

Singapore are in 21st and have been one of the success stories of recent times. They’ve defeated a Test nation in the form of Zimbabwe and have soared up the T20I rankings.

USA has always seemed like an untapped market and it’s hard to fathom that cricket can’t really take off stateside.

Nigeria, an exceptionally populous nation, and Japan, have both made encouraging strides at under-19 level.

Whether or not the transition from T20I to Test cricket will remain relevant in the years to come is an interesting thought. How do amateur players prepare to play multi-day multi-innings cricket. Can these nations implement First Class leagues and afford them and the players?

If they can and the Test world does expand then who do you think will be cricket’s next Test nation?

Cricket 19: Fourth Umpire… If Only!

Three days ago at Lords, eleven men became France’s first ever Test cricketers. Captain Xavier Le Tallec called heads but it was tails that faced skyward when the coin settled on the ground. On a frighteningly verdant deck, home skipper Joe Root had no hesitation in opting to bowl.

Left-handed batsman Jean-Luc Chevalier had the honour of facing the first ball in France’s Test history and immediately grasped the honour of scoring the team’s first ever run. Unfortunately soon after that he had another honour… that of being the first France wicket to fall in the history of Test cricket. Chevalier (5) pushed a little too hard at an over the wicket delivery from Stuart Broad (1-29), got turned inside out and edged to wicketkeeper Jos Buttler who gleefully snaffled the catch.

Fellow opener Enzo Petit, fresh from fifties in each innings against Middlesex on the same ground, was joined at the crease by Gilles Smith. The pair repelled the England attack until DRS drama intervened to shatter French dreams. In his first over, Jofra Archer successfully appealed for an LBW against Smith. It looked out but after some deliberation Smith opted to review, seemingly in hope more than anything. Replays soon confirmed however that the right-hander had actually hit the ball prior to impact with his pads. It might’ve been the back of the bat and barely a scrape but it was enough to merit a reversal. A stunned crowd audibly gasped when Smith (19) was given out once again on the big screen. He pleaded his case with the umpire and though we understand the fine dished out and the reasons why, we remain disappointed by it, as I know that many in the cricket community are. It wouldn’t be our last occasion in the match to be underwhelmed by the standard of officiating!

All-rounder Gabin Sauvage (8) survived alongside Petit (30) until the final delivery pre-drinks when the latter edged a beauty of a delivery from Ben Stokes (1-17) to Buttler… who dropped a pretty regulation chance! I’m sure that the beverages tasted better at 59-2 than they would’ve another wicket down.

Buttler’s butterfingers mattered little however as a promising beginning only led to an embarrassing collapse of epic proportions! 68-2 became 104-9 as our batsmen found all manner of ways to get out, namely playing unnecessarily attacking shots as the application we’d applied up to that point evaporated. Included in those dismissals were Zidane Thomas, run out for a third ball duck and captain Xavier Le Tallec, who had his stumps castled first ball by spinner Dom Bess (4-33). To say that those dismissals were an inglorious start to their Test careers would be an understatement. Last men standing Alexandre Rivière (11*) and Mehdi Qadri swung handsomely to at least ensure that we avoided the ignominy of being bowled out before lunch on our first day of Test cricket. 133-9 were the specifics come salad serving.

One ball after the interval and our first innings had reached its conclusion, Qadri (17) wildly edging to slip off Jofra Archer (2-9).

Rivière had the honour of claiming our nation’s first Test wicket when an unconvincing Dominic Sibley (5) edged an unplayable delivery to Zvonimir Pitko at Gully. The muscular Pitko displayed agility and rapid reflexes to execute a stunning catch. Joe Denly (16) played a couple of glorious shots but was run out courtesy of sharp work by Marwan Leroy behind the stumps. As our players appealed for LBW against Rory Burns, Denly scurried to the other end. Replays suggested that he’d completed the run but maybe the umpires were evening things out when they flashed ‘OUT’ on the board, much to Denly’s chagrin.

Despite regular edges that just wouldn’t carry, England progressed from 51-2 all the way to 203-2 courtesy of Burns and captain Joe Root. In the final session we turned to spin and after Qadri had bowled a promising premier over, with only his third delivery skipper Le Tallec rapped Burns on the pads. The left-hander was on 99 as the ball ricocheted off his pad, clearly hit his bat and was expertly caught by Leroy running forward. Burns didn’t move and the decision went upstairs. An LBW decision was rejected by the third umpire. Fair enough but what about the catch? The officials blatantly ignored it and as with the Smith decision in our innings we were left aghast. Our players had dug deep to find a breakthrough. Our captain had stepped up with a clever tactical change by introducing spin with Burns on 99 but the system or/and the officials had failed us and the sport as a whole.

Despite his reprieve it would be spin that extinguished Burns’ night. In truth the Surrey stalwart played an inexplicably poor shot that was swallowed by Sauvage at square leg. Burns fell for 110 and England were on double nelson three wickets down.

Surprisingly spin continued to dominate at Lords. Le Tallec (1-13) got the wicket he deserved when he forced Ben Stokes (7) to drag onto his stumps. England recovered from the departure of the Durham man and reached 240-4 at the close, 107 runs to the good. Root and Ollie Pope elevated England to 315-4 when the latter, on 41 at the time, should have been run out. Mehdi Qadri (1-52) inexplicably failed to break the stumps from just inches away. After the pair had compiled 112 in each other’s company, Alexandre Riviere required only three deliveries with the new cherry to induce Pope’s (52) edge and Leroy claimed a good diving catch.

Sam Curran (27*) was promoted ahead of Jos Buttler and alongside Root (177*) raised England to 405-5 come the declaration. Riviere (2-62) was the pick of the bowlers but messrs Pierre (0-67), Thomas (0-90) and Sauvage (0-88) endured tough Test initiations.

We commenced our second innings effectively -272-0!

By the time the first wicket went down that deficit had been reduced to 195 as Chevalier and Petit restored French pride. The duo constructed a hugely encouraging opening stand of 77 before Chevalier (18) was bowled by Ben Stokes. I have huge sympathy for Chevalier because such was Enzo Petit’s dominance of the strike that it wasn’t easy for an instinctive stroke player like him and he just lost his rhythm a little. At the time the left-hander was bowled by the 22nd delivery that he received (He didn’t score off his final four) Petit had faced 49 balls, more than double Chevalier. Still, the pair had put on 77 for the first wicket to plant seeds of optimism for the future of French cricket.

Frustratingly Petit (56) was caught behind in the final over of the session. He seemed surprised by the removal of Archer from the attack and change of ends and angle for Curran. You could debate over the choice of shot let alone the execution of the pull but Petit deserves nothing but praise for his efforts both in the warm-up matches and our first ever Test. 100-2 still 172 runs behind was the scenario at tea and scones on day two.

After the interval Sauvage (3) soon succumbed to Curran, caught off a leading edge that ballooned to mid-on. Shortly after Sauvage’s demise Smith (27) naively fell to Bess’ first over of spin, caught on the boundary by that man Curran when a score of substance seemed on the table.

We’d slipped to 114-4 but Zvonimir Pitko and Zidane Thomas began building a partnership that soon had even the home fans on their side. The duo showcased their discipline as well as array of stroke play and had added 142 when Thomas was plumb LBW to Bess’ first ball of a new spell. It was typical that Thomas’ (65) run-a-ball knock ended with him trying to defend when he may have been better attempting to score.

Leroy (1) fell in the same over bringing Le Tallec to the crease. The skipper avoided the ignominy of a pair on Test debut but nicked to the slips off the returning Curran (3-48) to be outstandingly caught by his opposing number Root for just a single.

Patrick Pierre (1) was foolishly run out before Alexandre Riviere smashed back-to-back maximums straight up off Bess. Those strikes ensured that England would have to bat again and we’d avoided an innings defeat (With a little help from a declaration!) on our Test bow.

Bess (5-51) got sweet revenge when Riviere fell for 25 off only eight deliveries before Pitko (73) was out next ball. To avoid an innings defeat was a superb effort from the team but 289 was a disappointing score having been 256-4. England required 18 runs to win the first Test. After limiting the score to just 3-0 from one over we did at least take the game into a third day.

Despite a few LBW shouts and an edge through the slips England won by all ten wickets.

We started well with the bat but lost our way. We stuck to task with the ball then committed as a unit with the bat second time around. Yes we collapsed in all too familiar fashion in both innings but three of our top six recorded fifties and we had two partnerships of real substance. That bodes well for the immediate future. Next up we host England for out first ever Test match on home shores. Gabin Sauvage and Patrick Pierre may be sweating over their places as we look to square the series. I’d like to provide players with plenty of opportunities but it may be necessary to freshen things up. We’ll take a look at the surface before making a decision. We can’t wait to entertain a home crowd who will have had their appetite wetted by a brave display at Lords.

Suggested England Squad for Tour of Sri Lanka

First XI

Zak Crawley

Dom Sibley

Joe Denly

Joe Root (Captain)

Ben Stokes

Ollie Pope

Ben Foakes (Wicketkeeper)

Dom Bess

Chris Woakes

Sam Curran

Matthew Parkinson

Reserves

Dan Lawrence

Sam Billings (Wicketkeeper)

Liam Dawson

Craig Overton

Mark Wood

Amar Virdi

Young opening batsmen Zak Crawley and Dominic Sibley merit retaining their places at the top of the order. At number three and despite drying up somewhat with the bat, Joe Denly is a good fielder and useful leg-spin bowling option. I’ve therefore resisted the temptation to recall Keaton Jennings. It seems likely that in reality Jennings will be recalled. Yes he has scored hundreds in Asia but he’s also had quite a few failures. He’s a useful part-time bowler but not a spinner and Ollie Pope is equally adept in the short leg position. I’ve named experienced England Lions player Dan Lawrence in the squad because as well as being a competent batsman, he’s a useful spin-bowling option.

In the middle order, captain Joe Root, who deserves credit for his leadership in recent times, Ben Stokes and Ollie Pope pick themselves. The time has come however to omit both Jos Buttler and Jonny Bairstow. Ben Foakes has performed well in Sri Lanka before and deserves an opportunity to own the wicketkeeping gloves. Sam Billings is a bit of a wildcard but he’s a good player of spin and if selected would, unlike his limited overs opportunities, be able to contruct an innings. As oppose to selecting Buttler or Bairstow as backup, having somebody fresh to the Test environment would be good and could be the making of Billings. We’ve seen recently how illness and injury can present opportunities for reserve players. He and Lawrence both provide good top/middle order cover.

On the spin front, Dom Bess fully merits retention having displayed both control and wicket taking ability in South Africa. I’m also backing Matthew Parkinson to get some warm-up games under his belt and press for selection. It’s been a frustrating winter for him having been usurped by Bess but he provides the leg-spin to compliment Bess’ off-spin. If Jack Leach isn’t fit then slow-left-armer Liam Dawson is a dependable alternative to help England cover all angles of spin. There really aren’t many other left-arm options available to England. Off-spinner Amar Virdi will benefit from being around the first team squad. If Moeen Ali isn’t up for it then England shouldn’t go begging him.

Messrs Anderson, Broad and Archer may as well be rested to ease injury niggles. It makes sense to go with the all round abilities of Chris Woakes and Sam Curran to help yield as many runs as possible. A right-arm/left-arm contrast in the attack is also maintained. Craig Overton can hit the deck hard for a few overs if required as can Wood. Wood has performed superbly in South Africa so could be used to bowl a few overs at the beginning of the innings. Like Overton he can bat too but it may also be worth resting him rather than him being primarily just a fielder in a spin dominated environment.

What are your thoughts? Should some of the senior players be retained? Do England have any other spin bowling options?

Ben Stokes: Not SPOTY!

I’m extremely disappointed with Ben Stokes for his alleged reaction to a taunt from the crowd in the fourth Test match against South Africa.

I appreciate that Stokes has experienced a lot in life and has some serious worries at the moment. If he did use personal characteristics in his response however then it hints at an ugly undercurrent to Stokes’ own character. He should be above responding to such things though of course I can understand frustration boiling over somewhere along the line. That said, the nature of the barb simply wasn’t good enough from our nation’s Sports Personality of the Year. He deserves to be reprimanded by the ICC. End of!

Who Should Captain England? – The Results

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The results of my latest poll are in and… errr, we’re none the wiser!

To be fair to Joe Root, he’s tied at the top so possibly deserves to retain his place. Most of the votes were submitted in between the first and second Test in Aotearoa, so after England lost and before Root struck 226 as England drew the second match. I’m not convinced that this should effect whether or not he retains the captaincy. Of course Root was never likely to be stripped of the role mid-winter but with such a cramped international schedule the seasons almost role into one. Could a hiding in South Africa result in Root being out of a job (Or at least one of his roles) come Spring?

The alternatives are limited though. I backed Jos Buttler (As a player not to be captain) for the New Zealand series but South Africa may be the right time to get behind Ben Foakes as gloveman with Ollie Pope returning to solely batting duties. Is Ben Stokes fit enough to assume the role? Is Rory Burns proven and, not meaning to be rude, but respected enough by his teammates just yet to take on the burden? Would it really help Stuart Broad and the team to make him skipper?

Of course the system doesn’t really allow a player to be groomed as captain. The best players make their respective international sides when still young before domestic captaincy opportunities have presented themselves. If a player lingers at county or state level and does well as captain then they’re playing catch up in regards to proving themselves as international cricketers once selected.

Root will lead England in South Africa and likely for years to come. I’ll back him but like many I’m not convinced that leadership comes naturally to him. Just because his teammates like him isn’t really a good enough reason for him to remain captain, particularly when the side isn’t in the habit of winning!

Who Should Captain the England Test Team in South Africa?

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Following a heavy defeat in the first Test in New Zealand the question marks over Joe Root’s captaincy are now firmly written in bold font and possibly in red ink! Root registered his lowest Test aggregate score, dropped out of the top ten batsmen in the world for the first time in five years (I’m surprised that it’s taken that long!) and was once again lacking inspiration in the field.

Does the Yorkshireman remain the best man to lead England or would he and the team as a whole be best served if he returned to being just one of the ranks?

Such a move has the potential to rid Root of the additional strain of leadership and allow him to thrive as the high quality batsman that we know he can be though in turn it obviously burdens someone else… or possibly brings out the best in them. Captaincy certainly isn’t bringing out the best in Joe Root.

Ben Stokes is currently vice-captain, Jos Buttler has stood in for limited overs matches, Stuart Broad has captained England in T20Is and Rory Burns is a County Championship winning captain.

Who do you think should lead England?

Cricket 19 – NWHTC – Final Statistics

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Having reached the conclusion of the inaugural North Western Hemisphere Test Championship here are our statistical highlights…

Highest Team Total: 619 vs. Canada at Lords

Highest Individual Innings: Haseeb Hameed – 154 vs. USA at Edgbaston

Highest Batting Average: Moeen Ali – 63.38 (Minimum 500 runs)

Leading Run-scorer: Haseeb Hameed – 942

Most Catches: Jonny Bairstow – 59

Best Bowling (Innings): Sam Curran – 6-26 vs. USA at Edgbaston

Best Bowling (Match): Sam Curran – 10-127 vs. Canada at Ottawa Oval

Best Bowling Average: Jamie Overton – 18.28 (Minimum 10 wickets)

Leading Wicket Taker: Sam Curran – 39

Cricket 19: NWHTC – Final Fling in the Valleys!

After ten rounds in the ring, or possibly cricket ground, two teams travelled to Wales to fight it out for the right to be crowned inaugural North Western Hemisphere Test Champion. An administrative error meant that the awe-inspiring Ottawa Oval in Canada had been double booked and so a quaint little ground in Glamorgan was the neutral territory selected to host the final between Scotland and ourselves. If nothing else, carbon emissions were limited and Greta could at least raise a smile!

Scotland had of course performed the double over us during the round robin stage, chasing down in excess of 400 on both occasions. Provided such history and having been presented with a lush swing inducing green deck, it was no surprise that having benefited from the fall of the coin, Scotland opted to insert us into bat on the grand finale’s premier morning.

To a chorus of rapturous applause from both the locals and travelling fans, opening batsmen Dawid Malan and Haseeb Hameed bounded to the wicket in confident mood but aware of the stern challenges that lay before them. Hameed, fresh from scores of 102 and 90 against Netherlands will have been disappointed to fall for only 20 in the final. Following a century of his own in said match, Dominic Sibley reverted to type with a promising but unfulfilling 38. Malan (74) continued to justify his selection as opener but like skipper Joe Root (84) will have been disappointed not to make a ton on such a magnificent occasion. Moeen Ali, excellent in all facets both in the final and the competition as a whole, made 65 but Sam Curran (4) missed out. It was a great shame for the Surrey youngster given his swashbuckling contributions in the competition up to that point. Chris Woakes (14), Jamie Overton (23), Stuart Broad (28) and James Anderson (10) all made handy contributions alongside a fine Jonny Bairstow (65 not out). There were contributions from throughout the batting line-up but it was disappointing that nobody went big and thus 427 only seemed a par total against a Scotland side that have regularly been amongst the runs during the NWHTC. Spin bowler Martin Law (3-96) and pace bowler Abdulrahmann Egan (3-111) stuck to task with the ball to claim three wickets apiece.

Having batted so well in the league stage of the tournament, Scotland simply failed to show up in the final. Opening batsman Mahdi Clay top scored with 42 as the Saltires crumbled from 90-2 to just 196 all out. Moeen (3-28) led the way with Broad (2-47) and Curran (2-23) collecting two wickets each. Our varied attack that consisted of pace, swing, spin as well as a mixture of right and left-arm helped keep Scotland on their toes and unable to settle. The efficient Martin Law was left stranded not out on 39. Some great bowling changes as well as an excellent decision review by Root helped limit Scotland’s total.

We opted to enforce the follow-on and Scotland were soon in trouble once again. First innings top scorer Clay was amateurishly run out for just 6 (Village!) and Scotland were soon 59-4 staring down the barrel at an innings loss. Once again Root was on the money with his bowling changes as the likes of Overton and Moeen struck almost if not immediately. Finally resistance came in the shape of Gene Moore (88) and Dorian Burke (73) as the right-hand/left-hand pair batted out the day before lifting the score to 205-4 on the third morning.

It seemed almost certain that we would be set a tricky total to chase but having spent the night dreaming of scoring a match-defining century in the final, Moore (88) was run out after fine work from Malan and Root on the boundary. Stuart Broad (4-46) then ran riot dismissing Law (2) in the same over followed by Skinner (1) and Watt (3) in the overs that followed.

It was the economical James Anderson (12.3-2-23-2) who had the honour of sealing the inaugural North Western Hemisphere Test Championship when he dismantled Carter Scott’s stumps to seal victory by an innings and six runs.

Defeat was a sickener for the Scots having beaten us in both round robin matches but they flatlined in the final. Despite not quite been at our most ruthless with the bat and becoming sloppy in the field during the Moore/Burke partnership, our batsmen outperformed the opposition including finally getting on top of the spin combo of Law and Watt whilst our bowlers made breakthroughs at regular and crucial intervals.

The team, both players and backroom staff are honoured to claim this title and would like to place on record our support for the… support of our fans. As a reward for your undying support all official merchandise both in store and online has a 20% markdown for the immediate future and the players will be holding a meet and great at Lords in the next week or so.

I’d like to place on record my praise of the players in particular captain Joe Root whose captaincy has evolved greatly during the competition culminating in final success. Moeen Ali (824 runs at 63.38 and 28 wickets @ 24.14) beat off stiff competition most notably from the likes of Haseeb Hameed and Sam Curran to be named Player’s Player of the Competition.

Disclaimer: Unlike most match reports of recent times, this one was written entirely post match. Playing such match was obviously spread over a reasonable period of time with a lot of ‘life’ sandwiched in-between, hence it may not seem as in depth as other match reports. It’s a better way of playing the game though and slightly less obsessive way of writing up the report.