The last time that England’s cricketers were in Asia, batsman Ben Duckett was there. Despite scoring three fifties (ODIs/Tests) in Bangladesh, he had a torrid time of things in India then literally pissed off top brass the following winter in Oz. Whilst the senior team lap it up in Sri Lanka and the Lions travel to UAE, Duckett can be found playing in the Mzansi Super League in South Africa. It’s the latest T20 league to pop up on the global calendar (Yeah that’s right, Canada and Hong Kong had competitions before SA!).
Representing the wonderfully named Nelson Mandela Bay Giants, The stocky left-hander smashed 75 (5×4, 5×6) runs from just 45 deliveries. Hopefully it’s a sign of things to come after some lean patches post that run-laden summer a couple of years ago. Next year he’ll join Ben Slater and Joe Clarke in an exciting new batting line-up for Nottinghamshire at Trent Bridge. He’s probably still quite some way off an England recall but the shoots of recovery have started sprouting.
Another left-handed batsman who’ll be hoping to use the Mzansi league as a springboard back to international selection is Dawid Malan. The discarded Middlesex stalwart will lead Cape Town Blitz while domestic colleague Eoin Morgan will turn out for Tshwane Spartans. Morgan is a left-hander who doesn’t need to work his way back into the England fold, he’s already there!
The hosts will hope to defend the title in their own backyard via performances from players such as Cheandra Nation and the destructive Deandra Dottin. Current World ODI Champions England will also be confident however. Their squad includes inventive players such as Nat Sciver and Danielle Wyatt while Amy Jones (Pictured above) will wear the ‘keeping gloves in the absence of Sarah Taylor.
In captain Meg Lanning, Australia have the women’s game’s best player but in truth, T20 isn’t her strongest suit. Ashleigh Gardner could be key in this format. Neighbours New Zealand have talented individuals such as run-machine Amy Satterthwaite and spin sensation Amelia Kerr to keep them competitive.
India, with players such as Mithali Raj and Smriti Mandhana, will have high hopes for the tournament, though their neighbours, an out of form Pakistan, seem less likely contenders. They’ll rely heavily on the exploits of Diana Baig.
South Africa have some high quality cricketers, Laura Wolvaardt and Sune Luus amongst them but will need to discover consistency if they’re to challenge for this year’s crown. Chamari Atapattu will lead Sri Lanka’s charge.
It’ll be interesting to see how competitive the likes of Bangladesh and Ireland can be. Both teams had to make it through the qualifier to get this far. For Bangladesh, keep an eye out for eighteen-year-old spinner Nahida Akter. For Ireland, who took an almighty battering at the hands of New Zealand in ODIs not all that long ago, look out for talented all-round sportswoman Mary Waldron. Not content with representing her nation at cricket, she’s played football at international level as well as playing hockey to a high standard.
Here’s hoping for a great tournament to further develop and promote the women’s game.
England commence their long anticipated Test series in Sri Lanka very shortly but their preparation has lacked serious intensity. I appreciate that the climatic conditions have dealt an unfavourable hand but this scenario is nothing new to England’s cricketers.
I have always been in favour of a couple of official First Class matches on tour. These whole squad get involved matches are little more than a glorified net and are not treated as competitive matches. Whilst the individual element may seem like good prep, I strongly believe that an individual playing only one First Class warm-up rather than participating in two exhibition affairs, would be more akin to playing Test Cricket. Had Rory Burns and Keaton Jennings opened in the first of two official warm-up games in the knowledge that Joe Denly was to be presented with a chance in that slot in the second match, the pressure on them to perform would surely be more akin to actually playing Test cricket.
On the subject of Denly, he may well have played himself out of a Test debut with a shoddy performance in the warm-up matches. With mid-series tour matches almost eradicated, how do the likes of Denly or Ollie Pope restate their case for selection in situations such as these? This is a feeling that’s all too familiar to Gary Ballance!
As is often the case with any selection related article that I’ve scripted, either the landscape has changed very quickly or I was just completely misguided in my initial assessment. Surrey’s Ben Foakes now looks a likely Test debutant in the first Test and could really muddy the selection waters ahead of Jonny Bairstow’s return to fitness, by producing a good performance. Imagine if Jos Buttler falls twice to spin for single figure scores!
Somerset spinner Jack Leach also seems likely to return to skipper Joe Root’s XI and hopefully he and Foakes can convert consistent county career contributions to the international stage. England will be desperate to bounce back in Asia following their abysmal attempts in Bangladesh and India a couple of years ago.
My long retired gimmick still gets the occasional outing and so in honour of Bangladesh batsman Fazle Mahmoud… here it is!
Mahmoud quacked on debut against Zimbabwe and today followed it up with another inglorious duck. Having debut ducked he was made to sit and wait second time around as his side’s opening batsman compiled a century stand that lasted in excess of twenty-six overs. Against such weak opposition as Zimbabwe, it’s not really an excusable start for Mahmoud. It’s a small sample size though and many legends of the game have come back stronger after inauspicious starts.
There’s one match left in the series and Bangladesh have recalled another batsman in the form of Soumya Sarkar but still retained Mahmoud. It’s Mahmoud style ineptitude that endears a player to me so I sincerely hope he has a third opportunity in the final ODI and makes some kind of score.
It’s a massive step forward to see cricket beyond the Test world having some genuine structure applied to it. Clearer pathways to major or even minor and qualification tournaments should help prevent the sort of early retirements that we’ve seen from some Associate cricketers. Having official status, whether that be international (Test, ODI, T20I) or just domestic (First Class, List A, T20) must really help Associate players feel like real cricketers.
Hopefully before too long we’ll see match-ups between nations such as South Africa and Malaysia or Argentina and Bangladesh. This then presents the opportunity for more epic encounters such as when Scotland hosted England earlier this year!
For many years it was South Africa who wore the tag of ‘Chokers’ in international cricket. It’s now safe to say that we’ve assumed that unenviable title! Having blown opportunities to win ODI series against both West Indies and Pakistan by failing to perform in the final match of said series, we crumbled when it mattered most at the 2019 World Cup. After a long slog of nine games where we suffered a heartbreaking one-wicket defeat against Afghanistan, fell apart in a run chase to end with only a tie against Sri Lanka and failed to defend 340 against Australia, we meekly limped to 229 when chasing just 253 against New Zealand. Sam Billings ten ball duck was a torturous end to his World Cup!
As a consequence, we failed to reach the knockout stages of our very own World Cup. There were positives however, three straight successes against Pakistan, Bangladesh and West Indies were a welcome response to defeat at the hands of South Africa in our opening match. Frustratingly, we then contrived to win only one (Versus India) of our final five matches.
For the record, Jos Buttler who came into the competition with next to no match fitness following injury, topped our batting charts with 454 runs at a healthy average of 75.67. The ruthless axing of Alex Hales and Jason Roy at the top of the order, replaced by Moeen Ali and Jonny Bairstow hinted at being the right one but didn’t quite come off. Moeen’s place in the side certainly helped us from a bowling perspective.
Given the dry summer of 2019, we were heavily reliant on our spin bowlers. Each of Matthew Parkinson, Adil Rashid, Moeen Ali and captain Joe Root did their bit. Root, who replaced Eoin Morgan as ODI captain earlier in the summer, marshalled the troops superbly. As per usual, Somerset quick Jamie Overton struggled to maintain a strong start but kept bustling in, meanwhile left-arm paceman Chris Wood continued to enhance his reputation as one of the leading bowlers in ODI cricket.
As for the competition as a whole, the magnificent Afghanistan finished joint top of the group with Australia but it was South Africa (No longer chokers!) who ran out competition winners.
Next up for us are yet more ridiculously scheduled limited overs (T20I/ODI) matches with white-ball affairs against Australia either side of the marquee Ashes Test series.