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?

Proposed England Squads for Tour of New Zealand

England tour New Zealand this winter with five T20Is and two Tests scheduled.

My squads are listed below roughly in batting order followed by reserves but particularly in the Test format Sibley or Pope could slot in whilst a bowler is rotated/rested. I’d also anticipate some workload management for players such as Stokes, Woakes and Archer in the T20Is and particularly Stokes and Broad in Tests.

T20I

Jason Roy

Jos Buttler (Wicketkeeper)*

Jonny Bairstow (Wicketkeeper)*

Eoin Morgan (Captain)

Ben Stokes

Moeen Ali

Sam Curran

Tom Curran

Chris Woakes

Jofra Archer

Adil Rashid

Tom Banton

Liam Livingstone

Liam Dawson

Saqib Mahmood

*Can both be deployed as wicketkeeper during the series.

Test

Rory Burns

Joe Denly

Joe Root (Captain)

Ben Stokes

Ben Foakes (Wicketkeeper)

Jos Buttler*

Sam Curran

Chris Woakes

Jack Leach

Jofra Archer

Stuart Broad

James Anderson

Dominic Sibley

Ollie Pope*

Dom Bess

Jamie Porter

*Jos Buttler and Ollie Pope can both act as wicketkeeping cover for this two-match series.

Jonny Bairstow would be dropped from the Test side. Players can be rested/rotated where necessary during each series as oppose to being omitted entirely.

Some extremely good players (Too many to mention) miss out. A variety of spin bowlers have made cases particularly in the T20 format but Dom Bess remains a better back-up option for now in Tests despite a less than stellar domestic season. Numerous other players pushed for selection in both formats and those players would be selected for England Lions in the appropriate format.

Cricket 19: GODII – Going Dutch!

In Amsterdam we reduced our hosts to 74-7 before Suman Engels (29 not out from 25) and Shane Snater (28 not out from 22) belatedly put their feet on the pedal for the Netherlands.

Sam Curran (2-28), Ben Stokes (2-7) and Tom Curran (2-22) led the way with the ball. Ben Foakes seized his opportunity behind the stumps by claiming five catches including a couple of absolute stunners.

Disappointingly we lost a few wickets in the chase but Joe Root (39 not out) led us to a six-wicket win after Ben Stokes had top scored with 44.

At the halfway stage of the inaugural Global ODI Invitational we stand undefeated and two wins clear of second place the Netherlands who’ve now lost their last two matches.

Disclaimer: This is a short write-up. Please look out for an update on my plans and how I intend to play the game given that things have become a little easy.

Cricket 19: GODII – States of Play!

We posted 354-8 from our fifty overs before a confused American outfit delivered their Second Class reply.

The Trumpets spent about 45 overs of their chase seemingly under the impression that despite the coloured clothing (Their kit was beautiful by the way!) and white ball that this was a Test match, summed up no more so than opening batsman J-J Morrison’s 26 from, wait for it… 114 deliveries! “TEST MATCH”. They then switched into T20 mode for the final few overs led by Henry Wilks (54 not out from 61 balls) but still fell an agonising… 203 runs short!

All our batters chipped in after Dawid Malan (51) and Liam Livingstone (66) had compiled an opening stand worth 98. After that, Joe Root (69) and Moeen Ali (59) put on 120 in tandem. Spin bowler Tahla Pittman claimed figures of 10-0-74-2 with the cork and leather before later making a decent 22 with the willow. Rufus Suarez also collected a brace finishing with analysis 8-0-47-2 and was the visitors’ most economical bowler.

As regards our bowling unit, all were impressive: Stokes (2-23) was the pick whilst Moeen (2-41) and Archer (2-39) also snapped up two wickets each. Liam Dawson’s figures of 10-2-22-0 were also impressive and some consolation after he was run out without facing a ball. Moeen was superb in the field and Jos Buttler also had plenty of running to do.

Gloveman Jonny Bairstow claimed another seven (7SEVEN!) catches to cement his position as the world’s leading wicketkeeper.

That’s three wins from three and now it’s onto Edgbaston to take on opposition from the Orient in the form of Hong Kong.

Cricket 19: NWHTC – Finding Netherland is Nether Easy!

Snowcapped mountains, palm trees and Warnesque spin bowlers. Quite what part of the Netherlands we were in we still have no idea but it hosted some thoroughly good cricket!

On the first morning (Or afternoon, it was a day/nighter) we were untroubled at 54 without loss just one ball before the beverage break and looked destined for a big first innings total. Ben Duckett, not content with just liquid refreshment, couldn’t resist a nibble however and out of nowhere we were one wicket down. His replacement at the wicket, another Ben in the form of the recalled Ben Stokes then went on the attack to carry us to 102-1. In the blink of an eye though that became 108-4! Stokes dragged on after striking a punchy 39, Jos Buttler (4) executed an awful leave for the second time in the competition and Haseeb Hameed, who made 39 in 56 deliveries more than it took Stokes, was caught both in two minds and behind. Moeen Ali looked in excellent touch once again but fell for 34 before captain Joe Root and wicketkeeper Jonny Bairstow batted brilliantly to brighten our outlook.

The Yorkshire pair lifted us from the wreckage of 158-5 to 287-5 when Root (62) was bowled courtesy of a Buttler-like leave soon after tea. That was Root’s sixth half-century of the North Western Hemisphere Test Championship (A competition best) but his top score remains 77 not out.

Bairstow’s batting bloomed however and the white rose flowered amongst the tulips. His innings of 104 was a composed and truly masterful innings that in part made you frustrated at how poor his batting returns have been in the competition up to this point. Let’s celebrate the now though. It was a class knock that demonstrated ability, intelligence and application.

Sam Curran (10) and Stuart Broad (1) joined YJB in departing in a hurry before we declared on 345-9 from 75 overs. Chris Woakes finished unbeaten on 16 alongside debutante Jamie Porter on 5.

The Dutch openers, not a fifty in sight in their Test careers to date, then danced to the floodlit wicket. Darren Toonen, top score 16 and averaging 4.25 in four Tests was worked over by England’s new new ball pair of Broad and Anderson prototype Porter but got off the mark with an edge for four.

Having reached an average enhancing 7, he nicked via pad towards Root who sprinted forward from the slips and helped Essex man Porter become a Test match wicket-taker. Our hosts had reached 32-1 when at 9pm the floodlights were switched off to conserve energy. The NWHTC actively supports and promotes efficient energy usage and environmental respect.

On day two Netherlands progressed to 67-1 before opener Shaun Mortier, having compiled a career best 42, was outstandingly caught behind by Jonny Bairstow off the bowling of Ben Stokes. Due to a lack of bounce on the wicket, Bairstow was stood up to the stumps but somehow managed to cling onto the pink ball high to his left. Nobody had expected to have to wait until round five for Ben Stokes to claim his maiden NWHTC wicket but he was finally up and running. Keen to make up for lost time the Durham tyrant then had Dutch captain Warren Beelen caught by Bairstow again for a second ball quack quack.

From 67-3 Netherlands moved onto 75 before the controversial episode that sent shockwaves throughout the cricket community. Batsman Bryan Long, on 1 at the time, pulled the ball behind square and never left his crease. Moeen simply lobbed the ball back towards the stumps and by accident rather than design it dislodged the bails. There was no appeal from our team but the umpires took the decision upstairs. Despite replays clearly showing that Long was in and had never left his ground, ‘OUT’ appeared on the big screen. Captain Joe Root, backed by his teammates, politely but passionately protested with the umpires. This is not how we want to take wickets! Umpire Symons insisted that Long must leave the field of play however and despite further protestations from our players, Netherlands slumped to 75-4. I’d like to reiterate that none of our players appealed for the wicket and the team were unanimous both at the time and now that Long should not have been given out. It was disappointing officiating and a unnecessary stain on the inaugural North Western Hemisphere Test Championship.

Feeling aggrieved, the bottom of the table side regained their composure and recovered to reach 107-4 before Moeen, legitimately, accounted for Maxwell Rabe. Rabe batted well for 18 but nicked behind a ball that spun off the blades of green grass protruding terra firma more than the blades on a Dutch windmill! Broad then gave Bairstow yet another dismissal when he tempted Pluto Schmidt to play away from his body and edge behind. Pluto might not be a planet anymore but Schmidt’s bowling (3-48) was out of this world. Unfortunately his batting failed to launch!

Our hosts then displayed some Dutch courage with a partnership of 61 between the defiant Shuman Engels (19) and Bradley Claessens (91). Ahhh, the classic inverted innings! Engels was athletically caught at short leg by Moeen off Sam Curran before Claessens suffered his heartbreak. Having passed fifty for the first time in Test cricket, the left-hander was within sight of a hundred when a bowling change caught him off guard. To the second ball of a new Stokes spell, he edged to Hameed in the slips to end his dreams of a Test ton, for now anyway. Shane Snater (5) then fell in the same over, a fifth catch for Bairstow to give him more NWHTC dismissals than some of the Dutch batsmen have runs! Last men standing Klassen (17 not out) and van Meekeren (2) lifted the Netherlands to a respectable 212 before Jamie Porter (2-55) terminated the innings. Stokes was by far the pick of the bowlers with figures of 4-55 and wickets taken at crucial times.

Come our second dig, messrs Duckett and Hameed, as has been the case many times before, looked at ease in reaching 44-0 before Duckett fell in the first over of spin. The left-hander looked sprightly in making 24 and executed a glorious reverse sweep for four before being dismissed the very next ball. He looked good, built up everybody’s hopes but got out. It was all too familiar and Ben will now be better served returning to domestic cricket. That is the harsh truth but we can persist no more.

Stokes was then superbly caught and bowled by van Meekeren for just 6 before Hameed and Root set about repairing the damage. The pair combined for 61 before Root (32) dragged on in Toonen’s first over. Unfortunately there then followed a horrible little episode late in the day. Hameed, struggling with injury, was slow to get on his bike and thus run out for 61 before Buttler (7) fell in single figures again. After a promising start to the competition, he’ll need a good showing in the first stage of the Global ODI Invitational to be in with a chance of retaining his Test spot. Moeen (8 not out) and Bairstow (4 not out) survived until the close. We finished day two on an underwhelming 147-5 but a healthy 280 runs to the good.

The following morning was pretty inglorious with Moeen soon run out for 29. Run outs have crept into our batting and need eradicating quickly. Bairstow (23) was then caught behind off a horrendous swoosh off Snater. Woakes (13) also edged to Engels and Broad was caught and bowled for 1 with both men falling to van Meekeren (3-70). We were keen to get on with things on day three, what with the threat of rain and an opportunity to potentially have an extra couple of days rest ahead of the ODIs but our batsmen could’ve applied themselves better. Thankfully Sam Curran (27 not out) and Jamie Porter (11 not out) lifted us to 239-9 and we declared at drinks. Curran’s innings included an all run five! Netherlands were left requiring 373 for a duck breaking win in the competition.

As in the first innings the home team made some sort of start by reaching 22 without loss before messrs Broad and Porter accounted for openers Mortier (11) and Toonen (12). Then in the first over after lunch, captain Root handed the ball to Sam Curran. Curran, our leading wicket-taker in the competition but a little quiet in recent innings, promptly clean bowled first innings hero Bradley Claessens (5) with his and the session’s first delivery, had the luckless Long caught in the slips for a golden duck and despite Rabe negotiating the hat-trick ball, Curran sent him back to the pavilion for just 2 with the final delivery of the over. Curran didn’t stop there, soon trapping Dutch captain Beelen (9) plumb LBW before Stokes got in on the act when Schmidt (20) nicked behind. Schmidt had lifted the homeside from the wreckage 47-6 to a slightly more respectable 76-7 and looked a good player on both sides of the wicket.

Snater (11) then dug in with Engels to help the hosts pass three figures before being clean bowled by Moeen. Next man Klassen didn’t dig in as like Curran, Moeen (2-22) struck twice in as many deliveries.

Curran then returned to claim his third five-wicket haul (5-29) of the NWHTC. Van Meekeren had held out for seventeen deliveries but edged to Bairstow for only 1 in the first over under lights. Gloveman Engels, who applied himself extremely well, was left undefeated on 38 from 83 balls. Netherlands were all out for just 112 meaning a crushing 260-run win for us. It was another positive result for us but we’d still like our batsmen to kick on more and apply a little gloss to our victories.

Our fourth consecutive win leaves us 10 points behind the unbeaten Scots and 10 ahead of Ireland at the halfway stage of the inaugural North Western Hemisphere Test Championship. Netherlands remain winless and on course for the wooden spoon. We now take a respite from the rigours of the longest format and turn our attention to the early rounds of the Global ODI Invitational. Look out for our squad announcement soon.

Cricket 19: NWHTC Round Five – Squad Announcement

Following a hard fought win against Ireland we now travel to the Netherlands for round five of the inaugural North Western Hemisphere Test Championship. After defeat in our opening match we’ve since won three games on the bounce. We’re keen to get another win under our belt before switching our attention to the newly announced Global ODI Invitational.

Our squad for the NWHTC match in the Netherlands is as follows:

Ben Duckett

Haseeb Hameed

Ben Stokes

Joe Root (Captain)

Jos Buttler

Moeen Ali

Jonny Bairstow (Wicketkeeper)

Sam Curran

Chris Woakes

Stuart Broad

Jamie Porter

Liam Livingstone

Craig Overton

Ben Stokes returns to the side and will bat at three with Ben Duckett moving to his preferred position of opener. Essex’s Jamie Porter comes into the squad for his Test debut and will take the new ball alongside Stuart Broad. Porter replaces James Anderson who is rested as a precautionary measure following injury sustained against Ireland.

Liam Livingstone returns to the full England squad and provides strong cover should injury or illness occur. Liam is a versatile all-round cricketer capable of batting in a variety of positions, bowling both leg and off-spin and is an excellent fielder. Craig Overton also returns to the Test squad on the back of consistent contributions at domestic level. We envisage both players pushing for a place in the team during the Global ODI Invitational.

Unfortunately Rory Burns drops out of the squad. The door is not closed on Rory and it’s up to him to churn out the runs in the County Championship during the Global ODI Invitational in order to make a case to regain his Test spot. Liam Dawson, having acted as 12th man for the Ireland fixture, returns to Hampshire to get some game time ahead of our white-ball adventures.

We’re expecting a soft grassy pitch devoid of cracks in Northern Europe. It’s a tricky one in terms of selection but bring it on!

Frustrated Foakes!

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Surrey’s Ben Foakes spent last winter warming the bench during a lengthy Ashes tour and could now be set to do the same in Sri Lanka. Since last winter, Jos Buttler has returned to the side not only as a specialist batsman but also as second choice wicketkeeper. As a result, even though Jonny Bairstow injured himself playing football, former Essex-man Foakes remains unlikely to play in the first Test. If Bairstow is anything shy of 100% fit then based on his attempts at playing when injured during last summer, he should be nowhere near the XI. The England management need to be brave enough to make the sort of calls that Italy’s football coach Arrigo Sacchi did with star player Roberto Baggio during the early stages of World Cup USA ’94. England also have Foakes’ Surrey teammates Ollie Pope and rather less likely, uncapped opening batsman Rory Burns as alternative wicketkeeping options. That’s just the five glovemen in the squad then!

Based on what we saw last winter, it’s quite possible that England’s XI in the third Test may be rather different to what we see in the first encounter. With little game time under his belt, Somerset spinner Jack Leach may be unlikely to start the series but if England fall behind then he may well be called upon. It may also be the case that the delicate Olly Stone benefits from not playing though you’d think some overs under his belt would be helpful.

Much maligned opening batsman Keaton Jennings missed out in his only opportunity on tour so far as did Joe Denly. Though Denly’s return to England’s T20I side went romantically well, the nature of the game means that he was able to claim wickets without bowling at his best. That is unlikely to be the case in the Test series. It’s tough to call but with rumours that Stuart Broad may be rested and Sam Curran’s left-arm variety useful, particularly if Leach is omitted, could England’s line-up in the first Test look like this?

Rory Burns

Keaton Jennings

Joe Denly

Joe Root (c)

Ben Stokes

Jos Buttler (w)

Moeen Ali

Chris Woakes

Sam Curran

Adil Rashid

James Anderson

If the weather allows, England basically now have a one-day game before the first Test. Wickets for the likes of Broad and Leach or runs for Pope or Foakes could yet have a bearing on the make-up of England’s XI. Of course if Buttler were to get injured during a Test, it’d be perverse if Foakes and Pope were sat on the bench alongside Bairstow whilst Rory Burns assumed the gloves on what would turn out to be a heck of a demanding introduction to international cricket for the Surrey skipper.