CricketXI – County Championship 2018: Season Review

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At the start of the year I stumbled upon CricketXI, an alternative fantasy cricket competition. This game focused purely on the County Championship (First Class) campaign.

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I selected a team of young guns and as you can see things went really well! It was great to see the likes of Jonny Tattersall, Zak Crawley and Will Jacks develop. Harry Brook, Ben Twohig (Love his name!) and Matthew Carter also made great strides.

Unfortunately Surrey pacer Matt Dunn got injured early in the campaign and disappeared from the professional radar once again. Wicketkeeper Lewis McManus lost his place in the Hampshire First XI. Teammate Asher Hart and Essex spinner Aron Nijjar (Who fooled me by playing in a pre-season university match!) couldn’t get near their respective first XIs. Neither could spinner Sukhjit Singh who was sadly released by Warwickshire at the end of the campaign. Warwickshire clearly have little interest in developing their own young players and much prefer to sign absolutely anybody. While that’s great for players like Will Rhodes and Olly Stone, it’s not for players like Singh and Andy Umeed.

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As well as my outfit of kids, I also selected a more ‘serious’ side but following early season injury, Sam Northeast failed to really get going having relocated from Kent to Hampshire and has fallen way down the England pecking order. Disappointingly, Sussex batsman Luke Wells and Nottinghamshire’s Riki Wessels failed to back-up productive 2017 campaigns.

On the plus side, James Hildreth was amongst the runs as ever, meanwhile Tom Bailey, Ben Sanderson and everybody’s favourite ex-England cricketer Jade Dernbach, contributed with the ball.

Well, there’s always next year!

England Ignored XI

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England have named their Test and ODI squads for the winter tour of Sri Lanka as well as announcing the Lions squads for matches against Pakistan A in UAE:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/English_cricket_team_in_Sri_Lanka_in_2018–19

http://www.espncricinfo.com/story/_/id/24802981/jason-roy-named-england-lions-four-day-squad

Here’s a party of players who must feel unfortunate not to have at least made the Lions cut…

First XI

Ben Slater (Derbyshire/Nottinghamshire) 349 CC runs @ 43.62 (Div 1) / 676 CC runs @ 42.75 (Div 2) / 386 ODC runs @ 55.14

Left-handed opening bat Slater’s consistent run plundering earned him a move from Derbyshire to Nottinghamshire. He made runs in both the First Class (Divisions 1 & 2) and List A format. Next year he’ll hope to continue to go well amongst many new faces at Trent Bridge.

Will Rhodes (Warwickshire) 972 CC runs @ 44.18

Having departed Yorkshire, Rhodes grew and grew at his new home finishing the campaign with four tons in the County Championship. He and Dominic Sibley look a strong foundation for a Warwickshire side that like a signing!

Daryl Mitchell (Worcestershire) Captain 957 CC runs @ 38.81

With a lot on his plate off the field, Mitchell made four tons in Division One having previously been criticised for scoring the majority of his centuries in Division Two. He’s a more than handy asset with the ball too and could captain the side.

James Hildreth (Somerset) 1089 CC runs @ 45.38 / 438 ODC runs @ 62.57

Runs, more runs for the Somerset veteran, not just in the First Class arena but with the white-ball too. Somehow he remains ignored by yet another selection panel.

Tom Abell (Somerset) Vice-Captain 883 CC runs @ 40.41 / 19 wickets @ 25.89

Similar to Mitchell in that he’s a batsman come all-rounder, Abell’s batting has started to fall into place again and he and Mitchell would make a good leadership brains trust.

Ed Barnard (Worcestershire) 516 CC runs @ 23.45 / 49 CC wickets @ 23.22 / 153 ODC runs @ 76.50 / 16 ODC wickets @ 28.88

It’s utterly absurd that Barnard’s efforts haven’t been recognised by the selectors this season. With both bat and ball and in red and white-ball cricket, Barnard has  consistently starred.

Ryan Higgins (Gloucestershire) 48 CC wickets @ 18.38 / 195 ODC runs 65.00

Like Rhodes, a move has been a good move for Higgins and like Barnard, he’s performed in all facets in all formats having joined Gloucestershire from Middlesex.

Ben Brown (Sussex) Wicketkeeper 912 CC runs @ 43.43 (52ct/1st)

Another strong campaign from the Sussex gloveman. A genuine top six willow wielder and has handy captaincy experience to support Mitch and Abell behind the stumps.

Matthew Carter (Nottinghamshire) 16 CC wickets @ 32.81 / 13 ODC wickets @ 15.23

Carter didn’t rack up phenomenal stats but the potential is there and it was good to see him get more experience under his belt. England should ‘Get Carter’! Sorry, I’ve used that one before but couldn’t resist!

Tom Bailey (Lancashire) 64 CC wickets @ 19.66

Bailey’s consistent wicket-taking means that he’s another odd one to be so obviously neglected. He poses a constant threat for batsman and averaged sub 20 with the ball in County Championship Division One.

Ben Coad (Yorkshire) 48 CC wickets @ 16.33

Like his Lancashire rival and in this squad, opening bowling partner, Coad is another strange one to miss out. Despite his excellent Division One performances he’s rarely mentioned in England dispatches. There’s possibly a reluctance on the part of the selectors to pick another Yorkshireman.

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The following players could also make the squad with some selections geared towards limited overs cricket in particular.

Ian Cockbain (Gloucestershire) 208 ODC runs @ 69.33

Laurie Evans (Sussex) 243 CC runs @ 60.75 / 614 T20B runs @ 68.22

Ben Cox (Worcestershire) Wicketkeeper 396 ODC runs @ 79.20 (18ct)

Sam Cook (Essex) 27 CC wickets @ 25.33

Ben Sanderson (Northamptonshire) 60 CC wickets @ 16.70

Amir Virdi (Surrey) 39 CC wickets @ 30.36

Even beyond this squad there are yet more England qualified players to have been neglected. Maybe Ed Smith and crew will pull another surprise on us soon!

Cricket Captain 2018: A Sinking Feeling in New Zealand!

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We ended a run of six Tests without a win by defeating New Zealand in the first Test in the Land of the Long White Cloud. This was despite our hosts, who opted to bat first, been in a position of extreme supremacy when placed at both 150-0 and 217-1. Much like his debut in the Ashes, Jamie Porter endured a wicketless first spell but came back to deliver senational figures of 6-71 with New Zealand collapsing to just 290 all out. Ben Stokes’ magnificent 148 then lifted us to 399 before Porter (3-54) again and left-armer Mark Footitt (4-82) dismissed the hosts for a second time, leaving us requiring 186 for victory. We knocked them off for the loss of four wickets to assume a 1-0 series lead.

In the second Test, with a tour of South Africa on the horizon, we rested Stuart Broad and recalled Yorkshire’s Ben Coad. Having won the toss, we opted to bowl first and Mark Footitt maintained his strong from with career best Test figures of 5-36 to help bowl the home side out for a paltry 204. At 244-5 we seemed well set for a healthy first innings lead but there was no wag in our tail as we collapsed to just 254 all out. New Zealand then made 337 in their second dig, despite Mark Footitt (4-79) causing yet more havoc! Requiring 287 runs for victory, yet again we put ourselves in pole position. We were 91-0 and 155-1 courtesy of Alastair Cook (94) and Haseeb Hameed (75). Hameed hung around as wickets fell but again our tail offered next to nothing. We folded for 256 and to a 31-run defeat.

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As is often the case, we competed, we got ourselves in good positions but let them slip. What could’ve been an excellent away Test series win ended in a disappointing draw.

For the record: Ben Stokes topped the run charts for our side with 241 at 80.33 whilst Mark Footitt, 13 wickets at 20.00 was our leading bail knocker.

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There then followed a five-match T20I series in which the only senior played rested was Test and ODI skipper Joe Root. Unfortunately, following a 3-0 defeat at home to Australia in the summer, new T20I captain Ben Stokes is still seeking his first win. We went down 5-0 in New Zealand and found all manner of ways to lose. Among the positives were Tom Kohler-Cadmore’s 179 runs at 44.75, Jofra Archer’s six wickets at 14.83 as well as a swashbuckling 49 not out from 25 deliveries on debut as well as Ben Sanderson’s five series wickets at just 10.40 apiece. Unfortunately the likes of Matt Critchley and Ross Whiteley endured tough series. Derbyshire’s Critchley conceded 20 from his first over in international cricket whilst Whiteley has a highest T20I score of just 16. Dawid Malan possibly saved his place in the side with a rapid 53 (29) in the fifth and final match, a match lost by just 3 runs!

Tom Kohler-Cadmore and Alex Hales broke the record for our T20I first wicket stand but despite putting on 134, we still managed to mess that match up too!

Bring on South Africa. We’ve always wanted to go on safari!