Happy Cricket!

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If like me, you’re in the habit of trawling through cricket blogs, then you’ll have become accustomed to an awful lot of cynicism, pessimism, scepticism and delusion. It appears that anything can be blamed on the ECB’s Tom Harrison or possibly Andrew Strauss. I mean anything! Your wife didn’t buy you those new shiny white cricket socks that you wanted for your birthday, then it’s probably Tom Harrison’s fault!

Nineteen-year-old Sam Curran can be written off as a 77mph trundler, three overs into his Test debut. Any uncapped England qualified player is the next best thing until they play. Anything less than fifty on debut, no wicket in their first over or simply that they bowl at less than 90mph, well they’re damaged goods now. Move onto the next cab off the rank! Any genuine fast bowler should play for England regardless of whether or not they can actually take wickets at domestic level and irrespective or any ability to play consecutive matches. This is the general ideology of bloggers and those who bother to post comments at the bottom of the internet!

All Stars Cricket has got kids playing bat ‘n’ ball but let’s slag it off anyway! If women are outside socialising and playing softball, then let’s slag that off for good measure too!

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Well, I’d like to break the mould. I’d like to write about happy cricket: Last night I scored my first run in nearly two years… YEY! I enjoyed getting some exercise and challenging myself in the fresh air and outdoors on a lovely summer’s evening.

Morne Morkel finally made his debut for Surrey and got me some Telegraph Fantasy Cricket points… YIPPEE!

All associate cricket nations will soon have full T20I status. That means players can regularly check their Cricinfo player profile page and look at their stats… WHOOPEE!

Tomorrow, cricketers up and down the country will be outside playing cricket. Some will be keeping communities together. They’ll be competing, learning, improving, breaking personal, team or league records, getting exercise, visiting new places, and living new experiences. Some people will even be playing for the first time. Said people will enjoy the company of their teammates, the weather and a drink or two (Doesn’t have to be alcoholic) post match… GREAT!

Spectators will enjoy watching and listening to international, county and village cricket, both at grounds and at home as well as in the car or anywhere else for that matter. They’ll be inspired and impressed by lots of what they see… YESSS!

Cricket. It’s fun, it’s hard, it’s rewarding if you put the effort in. The bigwigs get slagged off like any politicians do, regardless of whether or not they care, try or are any good. Moan, criticise, whinge… I’m sorry, this was supposed to be happy cricket! I’ve been blogging for nearly two years now. I write my own stuff (Of course I take inspiration from headlines and articles) and take my own pictures. I don’t just copy and paste. I don’t illegally use photos that I don’t have the rights too. I may write or say some rubbish but at least it’s my rubbish. This is probably (Possibly!) my first rant article.

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Some patronising and condescending advice to everybody (I’m being hypocritical aren’t I?): Support the England cricket team. Support cricket. SUPPORT!!!

Ed at the Head!

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Former Middlesex and Kent batsman Ed Smith seems to have emerged as the favourite to be selected as… selector, the England National Selector that is.

Firstly, let’s address the obvious criticism. Smith played three Tests and there will be those who will suggest that he doesn’t have enough experience at the highest level to be qualified to perform the role. However we’ve seen numerous ex-professional players, extremely good ones at that, fail to transfer their skills to the commentary box and punditry arena. There’ve been many a successful football manager who didn’t have a particularly decorated domestic career but succeeded in management. Smith has immense experience of English county cricket and of observing the international game in his roles as commentator, pundit and writer. I’m of the impression that he’ll make a measured and methodical National Selector and for one will be happy and instilled with optimism for the England side, if Andrew Strauss provides him with the gig.

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

Andrew Strauss

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I’m a little late to the crease here because not surprisingly the first headlines that I read stated nothing more than family reasons. However it turns out that England Director of Cricket Andrew Strauss has left England’s Ashes tour to be with his wife who has been diagnosed with cancer. There’s no need for an in-depth article here, just some crossed fingers for the family of a man who has been an integral part of English cricket this century.

Matthew Wade, Yuvraj Singh, Michael Carberry and Tom Fell are amongst current cricketers who have managed to battle back from cancer. Let’s hope that Mrs Strauss can do the same.

Edit: It’s since come to my attention that one of my favourite players, Australian Michael Klinger, is also absent from cricket for the very same reason as Andrew Strauss. Fingers firmly crossed for the Klinger family as well.

Don Bradman Cricket 17: Ireland v England Day/Night Test Match

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With coaches Trevor Bayliss and Paul Farbrace taking some time off after a couple of difficult tours to the sub-continent, I snatched at the chance to take charge of the England cricket team on a part-time basis. I was humbled to lead a Test side to Ireland and for England to be the opponents in our hosts’ first ever Test match, a one-off day/night affair at Malahide. I opted to rest Moeen Ali, Stuart Broad and James Anderson and presented Test caps to county stalwarts James Hildreth and Mark Footitt as well as Footitt’s Surrey teammate, South African born youngster Tom Curran. Following the difficult decision to remove Alastair Cook from the position of captain, Joe Root had the honour of leading the side for our nation’s first ever day/night Test match.

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Having been put into bat by Ireland skipper William Porterfield, we slumped to 36-4 before debutant James Hildreth went about rebuilding the innings. Unfortunately when the Somerset batsman was dismissed for a Ramprakashesque 27, we found ourselves in dire straits at 93-6!

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This isn’t quite how I had envisaged things at the end of day one. Just look at all those Ramprakashes! (That’s slang for 27). We were bowled out just before lunch with only a last wicket stand of 59 between numbers ten (Jake Ball, 27) and eleven (Debutant Mark Footitt, 35 not out), saving face for my troops. Ball and Footitt were actually smacking the ball to all parts and only when, as lunch approached, ‘they decided to bat properly’ did Ball get run out. On the plus side another debutant, Tom Curran, was swinging the ball like… well, a swing, to help make inroads into the Irish batting line-up.

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After a difficult night’s sleep in the team hotel, it was a relief when Jake Ball eventually dismissed Niall O’Brien for 89 early on the second morning. That wicket provided our players with great hope of limiting the first innings defecit…

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… unfortunately we then watched in horror and were powerless as Ireland’s number ten, ex-England Test cap Boyd Rankin (55) led the way in a partnership of 93 with Niall’s brother Kevin. When Ireland finally declared on 439-9 the younger O’Brien brother was left undefeated on 127.

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In our second innings, opening batsmen Haseeb Hameed and Keaton Jennings constructed an attacking partnership as we attempted to eat into the first innings defecit. After racing to 47 without loss Hameed had his stumps rearranged on 26 and almost immediately after that Jennings was caught behind for 20 with both openers falling to our nemesis Rankin. Our middle-order batsmen then struggled to adapt to the pink ball coming at them under lights with Bouncing Boyd in particularly hostile form.

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When Ben Duckett, who seemed to have weathered the worst of the tempest was run out for 35, our hopes had all but faded…

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… but a counter-attacking innings of 46 off 28 deliveries from Adil Rashid gave us hope of avoiding an innings defeat and possibly taking the match into a third day.

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It wasn’t to be however as Ireland ran out comfortable winners by an innings and 37 runs. I haven’t heard from Andrew Strauss and fear that the offer of a full-time position may have been retracted!

Finnished?

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In the post Duckett Dropped!…

https://sillypointcricketsite.wordpress.com/2016/12/05/duckett-dropped/

… Silly Point touched upon the notion that Steven Finn’s time as an international cricketer may be up. Having played one wicketless (And runless) Test in Bangladesh the Middlesex man hasn’t graced the turf in India and was omitted from both the ODI and T20I squads for when England return to India after opening their presents and feasting on some turkey.

It almost seems hard to believe that Finn has thirty-six Test matches under his belt complete with 125 wickets at an average of 30.40. He’s currently stranded on 98 ODI wickets at an average of 28.96 and hasn’t disgraced himself in T20Is either. However it’s all seemed a bit of a struggle in recent times and it’s as though the England selectors keep providing him with one more chance to rediscover the Steven Finn that first arrived on the international scene way back in 2010.

His omission from the limited overs squads did seem to spell the end for the Watford Wall but maybe there’s hope yet. Andrew Strauss’ radical North v South idea (Okay, it’s not that radical, he nicked it from New Zealand and actually they did it in England years ago!) allowed a computer to pick some players but the England selectors have found a place for Finn in the, to quote Moby, Southside…

http://www.espncricinfo.com/england/content/story/1073030.html

… With Jake Ball seemingly the heir apparent to James Anderson, life in the old dog Broad (Despite recent injuries), the ECB’s evident desperation to get Mark Wood fit and the likes of the Curran Brothers (No they didn’t sing Let Your Love Flow, that was the Bellamy Brothers!) and Finn’s county colleague Toby Roland-Jones also in the selectors thoughts, twenty-seven-year-old Finn will need a confident showing and ultimately a wicket taking one in the three one-day games to be played in Dubai in March. A poor showing however and Steven Finn may become, despite his lack of Scandinavian heritage, Steven Finnished!