On Top of the World!

How great is it to see Reece Topley playing regularly and amongst the wickets?

Topley has eleven wickets at 12.64 in this year’s T20 Blast for Sussex including figures of 4-33 taken in his comeback match against former employers Hampshire. The Suffolk born left-armer has ten ODI and six T20I caps to his name but it would be foolish to be thinking about England consideration so soon after returning to first team action. It’ll be great if the twenty-five-year-old can go onto play List A and First Class cricket but if not then he could still make a healthy buck specialising in the shortest format.

It’s also encouraging to see another left-arm quick bowler in the form of Topley’s teammate Tymal Mills playing regularly and being amongst the wickets too. Mills may only have seven wickets but an average of 17.14 is healthy and most notably, his economy rate is just 6.32. This compares favourably against a career economy rate of 7.82.

https://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/cricket/english-twenty20/averages

Looking through the averages another left-armer caught my eye. Nottinghamshire’s Harry Gurney has already committed to a white-ball world having made an impression at both the Big Bash and IPL. Soon he’ll be turning out in the Euro T20 Slam. In this year’s Blast he’s picked up 13 wickets at 15.85 including a career best 5-30 against Derbyshire. He’s leaking runs at an eye-watering 9.36 per over though so will want to temper that.

It’s not impossible that the above players could yet turn out for England again. David Willey has never dominated for England as would’ve been hoped and hasn’t (To be fair often hasn’t been able to) make his batting provide him with an edge. To say that he’s been ordinary in this year’s Blast would be an understatement as he comes to terms with his World Cup omission.

Dawson and Vince Hard Done by ECB not ICC!

Following on from my latest audiocast where I touched upon the subject of Liam Dawson and James Vince being unable to represent Hampshire in the One-Day Cup final, I feel that it’s necessary to look into things a bit further.

It’s a huge shame that these two players, both of whom are likely to more often than not be sub-fielding and carrying drinks for England (But you never know what can happen?!) can’t play in the domestic season’s marquee showpiece. It is of course only appropriate in the interest of fairness that they can’t. It would be unfair for them to be getting match practice, keeping their eye in, staying in form and gaining confidence when the players of the other World Cup participants can’t do so. You do have to question the ECB’s structuring of the English county season though as it is they who should’ve seen this coming and prevented it from happening. The One-Day Cup was played in an exclusive block up to a couple of weeks ago so why on Earth did we then return to First Class cricket for a couple of weeks before the One-Day final randomly slots in to the fixture list?

It’s a shame for the players in question and a kick in the teeth for devoted fans of a county game that in most people’s eyes is seriously struggling as a spectator sport. Remember that Vince is Hampshire’s captain and Dawson has been their star player this year.

Regarding Dawson, there are rumours that he’s been courted by Warwickshire but also that he may have hinted to Hampshire that he only wants a white-ball contract in the future. I’m disappointed to hear that but realistically he’s probably struggling to play Test cricket again. He’s been mightily effective in the PSL for a couple of years and if he can get IPL and CPL gigs as well as playing One-Day and Twenty20 cricket in England then there’s just about enough cricket to occupy him in the summer. This is before we consider the PSL, BPL and Big Bash etc in the winter time, not to mention the Hong Kong Blitz, Global T20 Canada and whatever pops up next! The riches of these gigs are far greater than the county game and a lot less gruelling so the appeal is understandable but it’s also confirmation that the standard of the four-day game in England in particular will continue to decline. If the best players desert it when still in their twenties, we could be left with only young players pre peak and old players post peak to fill the teams.

As for Vince, his appearances in an England shirt this summer have been exactly what everyone expected of him. Pretty but unsubstantial. Not out of his depth but not excelling. How will bench warming for England help him press his case for a top three Test vacancy come the Ashes?

Hopefully Dawson and Vince will get some game time at the World Cup. I’m a big fan of involving the whole squad when it comes to major tournaments but whether or not the structure of the 2019 competition and England’s results will allow it only time will tell.

Wright Wronged!

Former England player Luke Wright recently signed a white-ball only contract for Sussex, putting an end to a First Class career that earned nearly 8000 runs and in excess of 100 wickets.

http://m.espncricinfo.com/england/content/player/23460.html

Remember that Wright was extremely close to winning a Test cap in South Africa some years ago but England plumped for Ian Bell.

If anything Wright was rather perversely both ahead of his time but also picked too soon. At a time when England, despite inventing it, had no idea how to play T20 cricket but belatedly attempted to select a squad somewhere near resembling a T20 outfit, Wright was sent out to swashbuckle from ball one and promptly scored a paddle of ducks at the World Cup.

Strip away ODI and T20I career bests against then Associates Afghanistan and Netherlands and his stats make for even grimmer reading than they already do. A lack of a consistent defined role may not have always helped him. Was he an all-rounder or just a batsman who bowled? He bowled that last over against New Zealand alright!

Despite his international struggles, Wright was making a name for himself on the franchise circuit long before many of his compatriots. His performances in the Big Bash were record-breaking and over a sustained period of time, confirmed his ability. It’s a shame that it had been lost on England by then.

All-time Big Bash leading run-scorers:

http://stats.espncricinfo.com/big-bash-league-2015-16/engine/records/batting/most_runs_innings.html?id=158;type=trophy

Highest individual Big Bash innings:

http://stats.espncricinfo.com/big-bash-league-2015-16/engine/records/batting/most_runs_career.html?id=158;type=trophy

Wright could still have a few years in him yet and let’s hope to see some boundary laden innings from the now 34-year-old, wherever in the world he shows up!

Stars in Their Eyes!

Tonight Matthew, I’m going to be… Matthew Kelly!

If Australia need another pace bowling option then they need look no further than the twenty-four-year-old.

In this season’s Big Bash, Kelly claimed eleven wickets at 19.00 apiece whilst tracking at under eight runs per over. In this season’s Sheffield Shield, he’s claimed thirty victims in ten matches at 28.53. That’s taken the former under-19 international up to 54 First Class career victims at 25.66 per scalp. Remember that due to the number of teams, many Australian players don’t get their break until a little later than in England and tend not to rack up as many career appearances.

Kelly has definitely displayed good temperament and ability during his career so far and could well make the step up. With state teammates Jason Behrendorff, Nathan Coulter-Nile and Jhye Richardson getting game time for the national team though, theory of numbers could cost him!

The Canberra Conundrum

The Big Bash could be set to expand come the 2020-21 campaign but which cities could adopt new franchises and assume a place in the league?

How about Canberra and Darwin?

Canberra is the capital city of Australia but the state of New South Wales already has two Sydney based franchises. Canberra technically lies within the Australian Capital Territory which is entirely encompassed within New South Wales. To complicate matters, current BBL participants Sydney Thunder, actually play at Manuka Oval which is located in Canberra. For a team moniker, how about Canberra Centurions, Canberra Cricket Cosmos or just Canberra Cosmos, Canberra Conventional Swingers, Canberra Cover-Drivers or Canberra Cyclones.

The Northern Territory isn’t currently represented in the Big Bash so state capital Darwin could fill the void. Marrara Oval has hosted international cricket matches before. There’s a whole host of team names the city could choose from: Darwin Ducks, Darwin Dot-Ballers, Darwin Drifters, Darwin Diamonds, Darwin Drivers or Darwin Drinks-Breakers. Darwin needs a Big Bash of its own!

Cairns, Launceston and Alice Springs are other possible locations for new franchises. Oh and how about the Norfolk Island Knights?

Disclaimer: Whilst writing my article, I became heavily distracted by this one…

https://www.google.com/amp/s/amp.theguardian.com/australia-news/2015/may/21/were-not-australian-norfolk-islanders-adjust-to-shock-of-takeover-by-mainland

What if Archer Doesn’t Hit the Target?

England coach Trevor Bayliss has all but confirmed that Jofra Archer will win his first cap for England in the home ODI series against Pakistan. Presumably Selector Ed Smith is on the same page as Bayliss but what if Archer doesn’t merit selection? What if he’s only taken two One-Day Cup wickets @ 92.50 when the series comes around?

Archer is a good player but whether or not he’s worth all the furore remains to be seen. English cricket has a habit of demanding undamaged goods but should Archer record figures of 10-0-87-0 on international debut and go onto claim only a few wickets at 50 apiece in the series, will it be seen as part of his development or will he be written off as another tried and tested player who didn’t cut it?

http://m.espncricinfo.com/westindies/content/player/669855.html

Mark Wood has cemented his place (Fitness providing) and good for him. As for Liam Plunkett, Tom Curran and even Chris Woakes, their World Cup places suddenly don’t seem so certain. As for David Willey, who couldn’t even get on the pitch in the West Indies ODIs, a strong showing in the shortest format is vital. I was particularly disappointed for Curran. He was a star in the Big Bash but couldn’t impose himself in the ODIs.

When England line-up against West Indies in the World Cup, it’ll be interesting to see which personnel form their pace bowling attack. How has it come to this on the eve of the World Cup? Did England’s attack peak a year or two too early? Will Barbados born Jofra Archer take to the field in English colours against the maroon of West Indies that he wore at youth level?

Olivier, Jayasuriya & Cricket 19 Audiocast!

Hi loyal followers… and new visitors, here’s my latest audio cast. Please have a listen to my thoughts on South African bowler Duanne Olivier’s Kolpak deal with Yorkshire, Sri Lankan legend Sanath Jayasuriya’s suspension from all things cricket and the release of Ashes Cricket 19.

Howzat!

Cricket 19 and BBL Console Game… Confirmed!

I can announce that Big Ant CEO Ross Symons has confirmed that there’ll be a new Ashes game released this summer… yes!!!!!

The game will be released on console and will include the ability to upload photos of players!

Big Ant advise that they’ve been working on the game since the last one (A whole two years!) and that the game will have extreme added depth. Symons advises that it’ll be “… the biggest update in cricket games since Don Bradman 14…”.

England and Australia will be fully licensed and the players have already been photographed.

Big Ant are also making a licensed Big Bash League game.

Excited!!!

Twenty20 Vision?!

England have named their squad for the T20I series against West Indies and I can’t say that I’m enthused…

https://www.ecb.co.uk/england/men/news/1058447/sam-billings-and-dawid-malan-named-in-england-s-it20-squad

I back whoever plays for England (Unless there’s a serious reason that I shouldn’t. We’ll come to that!) but some of the selections in this squad are puzzling.

I’m a huge Dawid Malan fan but he’s hardly been tearing it up on the franchise circuit recently. Yes his international record is outstanding but he’s in no form whatsoever to maintain that record. This opportunity, as with his previous ones, have only come about because of squad rotation. He fully merited selection when he replaced a ‘rested’ Eoin Morgan however, in what was effectively at T20I final. Contrary to his recent franchise efforts, he had been tearing it up for England Lions. I just don’t feel that he’s primed to perform at international level right this moment. I hope that I’m wrong though and that a strong showing can put him back on the Test radar.

The selection of Chris Jordan is a generous one for me. He struggled in the Big Bash this season but is part of the T20I fabric for England. He benefits from the absence of senior bowlers to get game time in this format and of course he does take wickets. Anybody should be able to keep tallying wickets when the opposition are slogging away at the end though. He’s a good fielder but needs to take more wickets for less runs… obviously!

James Vince was superb in the Big Bash, Harry Gurney was steady away and Laurie Evans has backed up strong white-ball seasons in England by becoming an in-demand player on the franchise merry-go-round. None of the above make the squad but…

… Sam Billings does! I can understand the frustration for and with Sam Billings. It’s not easy when you’re a fill-in player, particularly in T20Is when there’s often just one match in a series. This series has three matches though, so Billings will desperately hope to bat in the top four to have a chance to impress. If he can hit the ground running then he could make the most of the series but then again, he’s just filling in. Like Malan, he’ll likely then get dropped again to accommodate the returning Roy, Buttler and Stokes.

I understand the logistical reasons but did England really need to name their squad so soon?

Liam Plunkett could be letting his World Cup place slip away though knowing him, he’ll probably take four wickets in the next ODI. If he fails to take a wicket and gets dropped during the series though, will he still be what England want in the T20Is?

What if Vince hits a couple of hundreds in the PSL between now and the start of the series? Could he be drafted into the squad? Ed Smith is sending out very mixed messages regarding Vince. He was pretty curt when he originally axed the Hampshire man, despite Vince making 76 in his previous Test innings. He did recall him because of injuries for a One-Day International, only for Vince to run himself out… again! Now following sparkling form in the Big Bash, he’s been omitted again.

Another player that’s been mentioned on forums is Joe Clarke. I think that a lot of people don’t know or don’t care why he’s been ignored. My understanding is that he wasn’t dropped from England Lions because of what a teammate may have got up to in his bed. He was dropped because of the list of women on his phone and the competitive element of that. If he matures then I’m quite happy for Joe Clarke to play for England in years to come. As it stands however, I (And that’s just me. I’m not speaking for anyone else) don’t want him anywhere near the England cricket team. Clarke can argue that he’s unfortunate it all came out and of course we don’t know what all players get up to away from work but… tuff!

Another thing that I may have mentioned before. ODIs are ODIs so I call the T20 version T20Is not IT20s… so there!

Edit:

James Vince next PSL innings: 84 off 41

Dawid Malan next PSL innings: 1 off 6

Jack of All Trades

Jack Leach was somewhat harshly omitted from the England Test XI that took to the pitch in the Caribbean. This was despite the Somerset spinner playing a pivotal role in England’s success in Sri Lanka just a few months prior.

Leach has performed exceptionally well in First Class cricket as well as appearing in a smattering of List A games but he has never taken to the pitch in a T20 match.

http://m.espncricinfo.com/england/content/player/455524.html

I really think that Leach could thrive in the shortest format and that such exposure could make him a better player in all formats. I can understand not wanting to compromise him but whether it be in the Big Bash, BPL, PSL or wherever, Leach could be well worth a punt.

Given the fashion for spinners opening the bowling in T20 franchise cricket, it’s in that role that I think Leach would be suited. Ed Smith recalled Jos Buttler to the Test side based on his IPL exploits. Could he make another left-field selection and pick Leach for T20Is based on County Championship form?