Over to you Craig!

Craig Overton.JPG

There’s a major flaw in regard to my cricket blog. It’s that I don’t actually watch much cricket! I don’t have a TV and I certainly don’t have BT Sport or Sky Sports. I don’t spend all my days camped at county cricket grounds either. When I woke up this morning and checked the score of the second Ashes Test, I realised that being a day/night match and a delayed weather interrupted one at that, that if I popped around to my parent’s house I could catch plenty of the action. I gained authorisation from the wife and got in the car (Having got dressed obviously!). I’d missed Cameron Bancroft’s cricket class day one dismissal but saw David Warner’s impatience and necessity to keep scoring cost him his wicket. What the silly little jump was for I don’t know! I then saw Mark Stoneman drop a catch. I like Stoneman’s phlegmatic demeanour but the drop was a shocker and had Usman Khawaja made 150, would Rocky have been ruffled come his turn to bat? Fortunately James Anderson did for Khawaja straight after the interval, courtesy of a smart catch by Hampshire’s James Vince. Then came the moment. I remember watching cricket on TV during my teenage years. I remember Dominic Cork’s knock against West Indies, Ryan Sidebottom being robbed of an LBW against Pakistan and Usman Afzaal celebrating an Ashes fifty as though it were a double hundred. I remember being in a small cabin in Scotland watching Geraint Jones hold ‘that’ catch via a tiny, fuzzy, black and white TV. I’m honoured to say that Craig Overton’s maiden Test wicket, that of Steve Smith clean (Or dirtily?!) bowled in Adelaide will live with me forever. In a world where footballers are yellow carded for celebrating, the unbridled joy on Overton’s face, the reaction of his teammates confirmed that sport is a better place for a show of emotion. Had Anderson or Broad claimed that wicket, England would have been cock-a-hoop but not in the way that they were for the Somerset man. Of course it will never be the same for Overton. You only take your first Test wicket once and he may never take another. Whatever happens in his life though, he will have that moment to share with the grandkids!

Batting Mentality

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Moeen Ali, Jonny Bairstow and Chris Woakes currently find themselves at positions six, seven and eight in England’s Test batting order. If it weren’t for the absence of Ben Stokes then Moeen would be at eight not six and Woakes would drop to as low as number nine.

At domestic level, in First Class cricket Moeen would either open or be first drop, JB would find himself positioned at four or five and Woakes would come in at six. If England are to get a grip or at least be competitive in the 2017-18 Ashes then each of the aforementioned players must remember that they are top order batsmen, regardless of where they sit in the England line-up. They each have many a First Class century to their name. Moeen and Bairstow obviously have a few at Test level too and Woakes is capable of achieving such.

It’s this supposed strength in depth of England’s batting order that should be crucial in helping the team compete in Australia. England’s tail, in particular Stuart Broad, have regressed over recent times and are likely to be peppered with short stuff for the remainder of the series. For that reason it’s even more important that England’s engine room deliver. Of course it’s understandable that when there is less batting to come, a player will be more inclined to be extra aggressive and risky but Moeen and JB should be comforted by the knowledge that they’ve still got one (Woakes for JB) or two (JB and Woakes for Mo) quality batsman behind them.

Australia will be cocksure after their victory in the first Test in Brisbane but England were on top on more than one occasion during the series opener. If the visitors can put the home side under pressure again then they are there for the taking.

Switching to the home side’s batting, Usman Khawaja is under extreme pressure to convince otherwise his international career may become like Shaun Marsh. Marsh is another man who remains under pressure and unloved by some, that’s despite a vital half-century in Brisbane. Wicketkeeper Tim Paine is also part of the Ozzies’ batting line-up and his domestic record won’t fill any home fans with confidence. England may need to turn to the likes of Mark Wood, Craig Overton or more excitingly Tom Curran, if they are to exploit Australia’s weaknesses.

It’s quite simple then. Bat like batsmen and bowl better. That’s England’s tactical pep talk ahead of the second Test in Adelaide. Come on boys!

Four Day Test Matches

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Four days, four innings, one innings of 100 overs per day, as simple as that… or is it?

You know about my plans to restructure world cricket…

https://sillypointcricketsite.wordpress.com/2016/12/12/a-complete-restructure-of-international-cricket/

Well maybe to aid this, chopping a day off Test matches wouldn’t be a bad idea.

In the third Test between Australia and South Africa in Adelaide last November, centuries were scored in the first three innings of the match. Usman Khawaja used up 308 deliveries and 465 minutes in his first innings before the perceived to be rather attritional Stephen Cook, scored at a strike rate of 43.33 in compiling 104. Following that, debutant Matthew Renshaw faced 137 deliveries in making 34 not out to get Australia home… on the fourth day!

In conclusion, results can still be achieved and there would still be room for ‘old-fashioned go-slow’ players.

Say for example that in the first innings of a Test between England and Zimbabwe that England are 300 all out in 75 overs. Spectators who have paid their money deserve near enough a full day’s play, so Zimbabwe could acquire England’s lost 25 overs and therefore have 125 overs in their first innings, 25 of which would begin on day one. The exception to this could be that if a team only acquires 10 overs or less, they could have the option not to take them because of the risk of losing wickets late in the day and start with the standard 100 overs, not for example, 110 overs, the following morning. If England made 355-8 in 100 overs then so be it, wickets not lost would not be carried forward in any way. Innings could still commence at any point during the course of the day as we enter the third and fourth innings but the slate is clean at the halfway point. For example: England 300 all out in 75 overs, Zimbabwe 280 all out in 66, England would start their innings the 42nd over on day two but would not acquire Zimbabwe’s lost overs or if they did they would only acquire 34 not 59… or maybe they could acquire all 59, these are all possibilities to be considered.

Rain. Bloody rain! Why can’t things be simple?

Would it be only fair that both sides lose an over for every five minutes lost?

There’s definitely room for thought but as a starting point for trimming Test matches to four not five days, I don’t think that my idea’s that wide of the crease.

Beau Casson: Tetralogy of Fallot, Heart Surgery and Meeting Ajmal Shahzad!

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Spin bowler Beau Casson played a solitary Test for Australia in West Indies back in 2008…

http://www.espncricinfo.com/ci/engine/match/319141.html

… bouncing back to claim three second innings wickets after a chastening first innings experience. Three years later however, at the age of just 28, Casson was forced to retire from the game after collapsing during what turned out to be his final First Class appearance. That collapse was a consequence of the congenital heart condition that terminated the Perth native’s career, the condition is called Tetralogy of Fallot. It happens to be the same condition that my six-month old daughter suffers from and having already undergone heart surgery aged just six weeks, she’ll be undergoing open heart surgery in around two to three months time. Just over a week ago, she went to hospital for what was supposed to be the ‘in-between’ surgery. Unfortunately the operation didn’t go smoothly, hence my absence from the blogosphere for the past week or two. Fortunately the Silly Pointettes and I are now back home and catching up with PSL dramas and other cricket Jazz!

Back to Casson, I’ve read contradictory articles regarding Beau Casson, one that stated he underwent three open heart surgeries by the time he reached his first Birthday and another that advised he wasn’t diagnosed until he was twelve. If the second is true then he’s extremely fortunate to be alive, especially provided the life expectancy we were informed our daughter would have if she hadn’t undergone her first surgery.

It’s obviously a shame that Casson had to retire probably ten years earlier than could be expected for a spinner but given his condition, I’m sure that his rise to play professional international sport can serve as an inspiration to many.

Please see the links below for further information on Beau Casson and Tetralogy of Fallot.

http://www.espncricinfo.com/australia/content/player/4825.html

http://www.chfed.org.uk/how-we-help/information-service/heart-conditions/tetralogy-of-fallot-fallots-tetralogy/

In amongst all the dramas of last week, my path unexpectedly happened to cross that of Sussex and former Yorkshire, Nottinghamshire and England bowler, Ajmal Shahzad.

http://www.espncricinfo.com/england/content/player/21431.html

Needless to say, it wasn’t an appropriate occasion to request an autograph or selfie but it was, for a cricket fanatic like me, a bizarre experience at a ridiculously random time. We spoke about the difficulty of catching the train after a late night Yorkshire T20, Sussex hosting women’s internationals and fielding on the boundary in Adelaide. He seemed like an easy going guy, though whilst I myself exhausted the menu, I’m not sure what effect a week of dining in Costa all day every day will have taken on a professional sportsman.

I’ll be keeping an eye on Shahzad’s performances come the county season with added interest and he might even sneak into my fantasy team, as that’d be just the sort of sentimental, heart over head selection that I tend to go for but always let me down!

Don Bradman Cricket 17: Jake has a Ball!

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A squad of twelve jetted into Adelaide to take on Papua New Guinea. We made just one change to the team following the humbling defeat at the hands of West Indies. Jake Ball, 12th man in LA, came into the XI at the expense of Mark Footitt. Spinner Jack Leach, who went wicketless against the Windies, kept his place.

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Jake Ball (32 not out) and Jack Leach (11) put together a vital last wicket partnership of 48 in our first innings total of 212.

Our first innings was a familiar story of twenties, thirties and forties. Two run outs, including that of skipper Joe Root didn’t help our cause. Wicketkeeper Jonny Bairstow top scored with 42 and Jake Ball made a crucial 32 not out from number ten, ably supported by number eleven Jack Leach (11) in a heartening last wicket stand of 48.

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Jake Ball, having belted 32 not out with the bat in our first innings, then recorded figures of 5-43 with the ball in PNG’s.

Ball was then the chief destroyer with the… ball, claiming excellent figures of 5-43 but PNG, in making 213, edged ahead by one run. They may have made more had Charles Amini not shockingly allowed himself to be run out to the very last ball of the day. In PNG’s second innings he would also be dismissed to the final ball of a session, playing an inexplicably expansive shot on the cusp of tea!

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In our second innings, captain Joe Root lead from the front with 57 from just 44 deliveries.

In our second innings we lost both openers, Keaton Jennings (5) and Haseeb Hameed (10) early but Ben Duckett (29) and captain Joe Root (57) put on a match defining combination that totalled 65 before the former was run out. Not for the first time Duckett wasted a promising start in the Test arena. Bairstow (27) hit two huge sixes and Sam Curran (23) and Stuart Broad (39), in a partnership worth 54, bolstered our total to a competitive 249. That meant that PNG would need to make 248 to claim a famous victory.

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Lega Siaka determinedly scored Papua New Guinea’s first ever half-century in Test match cricket.

Though we chipped away at the PNG batting line-up with regular wickets, composed opening batsman Lega Siaka stood firm, compiling his country’s first ever half-century in the Test arena.

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It would be Jake Ball however, who for the second time in the match would cause panic amongst the PNG side. Despite the best efforts of our fielders to prevent him from claiming a ten-for, a catch was eventually held to take us to our first Test victory and Ball (5-48) to Man of the Match figures of 10-91. Ben Stokes also stepped up, finishing with match figures of 5-80. It was a tougher experience for spinner Jack Leach though, the Taunton twirler ended the match with analyses of 25-3-85-0. That’s now two wicketless Tests in a row for Leach and questions will have to be asked regarding his place in the team come the selection meeting ahead of our next Test outing. In truth he looked extremely inaffective with the ball. His support of Jake Ball in a last wicket stand of 48 in our first innings in a match that we won by just 44 runs should not be forgotten though.

On behalf of the team, I’d like to thank those fans that flew to Adelaide and indeed all our followers, after what has been a string of frustrating results. We look forward to finding some consistency now and providing our supporters with more positive results in the future.

Anatomy of Trying to Save a Test Career: Re-Revisited

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Name: Stephen Craig Cook: Mins: 368 Balls: 240 Runs: 104

Stephen Cook scored a hundred on Test debut and now he’s scored one in what many would have suggested could well have been his last Test innings. In-between Cook hasn’t completely disgraced himself (One fifty against NZ) but neither has he set the world alight. His two centuries suggest that he is a player, a man that can dig deepest come the big occasion. His 104 in Adelaide may not have been the most aesthetic and some may argue that he put pressure on his teammates by scoring so slowly but that simply isn’t true. The third Test finished with more than a day to spare, if the likes of Jean-Paul Duminy and Temba Bavuma got out playing rash shots because they felt that their team were getting bogged down then that is their fault, not Cook’s. For now at least Test cricket still lasts five days and whilst many spectators wouldn’t pay to watch Cook but would rather see De Villiers and the like batting in a more aggressive (Attractive?) manner if all players were the same that wouldn’t be very interesting.

There is still a place in Test cricket for players like Stephen Cook.

International Duck Watch!

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Welcome to Test cricket Nic Maddinson! One of three Australian debutantes Maddinson lasted twelve deliveries before falling victim to South Africa’s Kagiso Rabada in the third Test at Adelaide. For the record the home side’s other debutantes, Middlesbrough born opening batsman Matthew Renshaw and former Gloucestershire middle-order player Peter Handscomb faired little and much better, registering scores of 10 and 54 respectively. Let’s not forget that successful Test players such as Graham Gooch, Phillip Hughes and Marvan Atapattu all registered ducks on their Test bows so all is not yet lost for Maddinson though the state of the game could leave the twenty-four-year-old without a second innings opportunity.

In Hamilton New Zealand opening batsman Tom Latham fell first ball to Mohammad Amir in his side’s second Test against Pakistan. Latham made scores of 1 and 9 in the first Test so is currently averaging a mighty 3.33 in the series! New Zealand were 77-2 in their first innings when rain curtailed play.

Finally, in a crucial Tri-Series match in Zimbabwe the home team’s Sean Williams fell first ball to Ashley Nurse, caught by our man Shai Hope. As a result Williams will need nursing better! West Indies had their own goldie in the form of Johnson Charles. Charles was caught and bowled by Zimbabwe hero Tendai Chisoro. Chisoro scored 42 not out off 35 deliveries batting at number ten, putting on an unbroken stand of 91 with Sikander Raza before recording figures of 6-1-23-2 as Zimbabwe claimed a spot in the final.