Antarctic T20 Ice Blast! (Silly Point Ultra-Exclusive Story!)

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Cricket’s administrators recently proposed suggestions to help preserve Test cricket. This was in part due to the potential risk of some billionaire creating yet another global T20 franchise tournament and stealing players. Well those moves may have come too late because an unnamed mogul is rumoured to be ready to inject millions into the launching of a new T20 competition. The Antarctic Ice Blast is believed to be prepped for launch as early and appropriately as 2020. Like the identity of the league’s founder, the potential franchise owners remain unknown though TV’s Jon Snow, former Netherlands footballer Arron Winter and New Zealand cricketer Tim Southee are all rumoured to have put down a deposit. Silly Point has however seen the names of the proposed teams and they are as follows:

Bentley Subglacial Trench EmperorsLake Vostok LakersMcMurdo Station PinnipedsMount Erebus MountaineersOnyx River NematodesRiiser-Larsen Ice Shelf IcefishRoss Island Seals and Vinson Massif Explorers.

Englishmen Samit Patel, Ravi Bopara and Joe Denly are all rumoured to have signed up for the inaugural draft as is Test captain Joe Root. There is even a suggestion that recently retired Kevin Pietersen may come out of retirement for one last Blast. English players are perceived to be a vital addition to the franchises because of their experience of playing in cold conditions. Northerners in particular, players from the likes of Durham, Yorkshire and Lancashire are particularly sought after. Franchise owners are rumoured to have been dialling the mobile numbers of Steve Harmison, Darren Gough and Andrew Flintoff in audacious bids to lure the former England trio out of retirement.

West Indies’ Chris Gayle and Kieron Pollard, Indian skipper Virat Kohli, Pakistan’s Shahid Afridi, Afghanistan’s Rashid Khan and Australia’s Michael Klinger as well as former national skipper Steve Smith, are also rumoured to have put their names forward for the first draft. With Silly Point having seen exclusive advertising, we can advise that former Italy all-rounder Gareth Berg has already emerged as the league’s poster boy. Soon it’ll be hard to move around London Underground, Sydney Business District or the streets of Mumbai without seeing Berg’s flop of blond hair, his arms folded, in front of a mass of ice and a set of stumps… made of ice! That’s right, they’ll be replaced every time they’re broken or maybe they’re unbreakable ice!

It’s understood that the Blast’s benefactor is willing to contribute funds towards the building of renewable energy laden environmentally friendly stadiums for each franchise. These stadiums will have both training and accommodation facilities as well as purpose built wickets. Retractable roofs will come as standard.

Again, Silly Point has gained exclusive access to information and the names of the stadiums are set to be as follows:

Bentley Ballpark, Vostok Park, McMurdo Station, Erebus Arena, Onyx Bowl, Riiser-Larsen Cricket Ground (RLCG), Ross Dome and Vinson Field

The league’s creator is also set to launch their own airline, Antarctic Fantastic Air, to assist fans when travelling to matches.

Some in the cricket world are sceptical regarding the prospect of yet another T20 league in an already congested calendar, about the less than desirable cricket weather and how exactly fans will attach themselves to a team. For some though this is seen an excellent advert for spreading the global appeal of the game. Given the reduction of teams at the 2019 ODI World Cup, many cricket lovers as well as administrators are delighted to see cricket venture into an untapped market. The ICC are already lining up Antarctica as host for both an ODI World Cup and T20 World Cup as well as Champions Trophy venue post 2030.

One frustrating thing about the proposed tournament is that it’s expected to be played out behind a TV pay wall. Rumours are that the competition will have its own channel and will cost a one-off fee of around £250.00 before requiring subscribers to enter a 20 digit code followed by another 20 digit code on their remote control. Pommie Mbangwa, Michael Slater and everybody’s favourite insighter Graeme Swann, are tipped to be among the commentary and punditry team. Instagram and Dave are believed to have exclusive rights to highlights packages whilst if you sign up with the league founder’s rumoured planned new mobile phone company, Antarctic Connexions Mobile, you can gain exclusive access to almost immediate video wicket alerts! Continuing on the screen front, renowned film maker Werner Herzog is set to return to Antarctica and shoot a documentary about the competition’s inception, infancy and general learning to walk.

With some international teams still reluctant to travel to Pakistan for security reasons, Pakistan are rumoured to have already enquired about the possibility of playing home matches there following some disappointing results in UAE conditions. English county side Hampshire are said to be extremely frustrated to have missed out to Antarctica as an English Test venue. Because of the technicalities of Antarctic ownership, it’s understood that all nations could potentially play home games in Antarctica if they wish. Boyd Rankin, Ed Joyce and Johan Botha are believed to have already relocated to the southern continent in order to meet residency requirements ahead of rumoured bids to join the Antarctic national team. Peter Moores is slated as coach… slated, he will be if results don’t go too well! Essex are believed to have enquired about whether players, hell just people, could join them on Kolpak deals as soon as this summer.

Silly Point is delighted to present this exclusive story to you and will keep our loyal followers abreast of any further developments.

Does England’s Ashes Squad Really Matter?

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Hameed or Stoneman?

Jennings or Westley?

Hameed and Stoneman?

Malan or/and Ballance?

Does it really matter?

England Lions (Or A Team if you’d rather be old-fashioned about it) will, like England’s senior side, be in Australia this winter. The last thing England want is another Boyd Rankin episode, i.e. get to the fifth Test and pick a player who isn’t prepped to play. I appreciate that Australia’s a big country and England need cover for any last minute dramas (Glenn McGrath step on the ball style) and fielding substitutes but once a Test is under way then it would seem logical to rotate the non-playing squad members with Lions players. This way the first team reserves can keep their eye in and/or clock up some overs incase they’re required for a Test outing. If by any chance the Lions players supersede first Team squad members then so be it. England need to make the most of what resources they have and be ruthless when it comes to selection. This philosophy may seem rather un-me like provided my penchant for a ‘pick and stick’ approach but this is a tough long tour and England need to select the players that are primed and ready to perform. Australia are renowned for providing pretty limp opposition for a touring England side but Test playing nations are obliged to present touring A (Or Lions) teams with reasonable opposition, otherwise there’d be little point. Come the later Tests in the series, England can’t expect players that have been ferrying the drinks and netting for a month to just rock up and produce the goods in the hostile auditoriums of Australia.

So whether Hameed or Westley make the full team or Malan or Jennings make the Lions, any of them could turn out for England come the Ashes. A broken finger in the nets or calf strain when scampering a single in a warm-up game could force England into a change of plans. Don’t forget what happened the last time England went to Australia when opening batsman Michael Carberry was selected as back-up. He scored 150 in a tour game and went onto play five Ashes Tests.

Don Bradman Cricket 17: Home Nations ODI Series

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In the first match of the series against Ireland in Malahide, ODI caps were presented to Daniel Bell-Drummond, Aneurin Donald, Sam Curran and Tom Curran.

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Jake Ball struck with the very first delivery of the match but our hosts went about laying a solid platform thanks in the main to Ed Joyce. Once we dismissed Joyce we ripped through the Irish middle order and had them well and truly on the ropes however an immensely frustrating 8th wicket partnership between Boyd Rankin (67 not out) and George Dockrell (57 not out) saw Ireland propel themselves to 294-7. Needing to score at nearly a run-a-ball, a number of our batsmen made starts but failed to convert them into a big score and we went down by a mammoth 120 runs.

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Having headed north to Scotland our batsmen displayed a welcome ability to battle through some probing periods of bowling and convert cameos into innings of substance.

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Ben Duckett in particular displayed a Test match temperament in making 63 from 88 deliveries before eventually falling to Con de Lange. De Lange would finish the innings with devil like figures of 6-66.

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Having risked wasting the efforts of Duckett, we were indebted to Liam Dawson who top scored with 71 not out batting at number nine.

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Surrey teenager Sam Curran impressed with figures of 2-47…

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… but it was Jake Ball (3-50) who led the way again as we held off the Scots to claim a 30-run victory and our first points of the series.

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After getting a first win under our belt we were confident of putting on a better showing against the Irish on home territory at Headingley. Our nemesis Boyd Rankin (64 not out) had other ideas however. For the second match in a row between the sides he was ably supported by George Dockrell to take Ireland past 300 despite the ever impressive Sam Curran’s 3-55. After Daniel Bell-Drummond (30) and Ben Duckett (28) put on 50 for the first wicket, Rankin (4-24) and Dockrell (5-31) sent our middle order packing in the blink of an eye. Aneurin Donald’s series continued to peter out, the young Welshman falling first ball, one of George Dockrell’s five victims.

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The sum of all parts added up to a 172-run mauling at the hands of our Irish enemies.

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Following another thrashing at the hands of the Irish it was felt necessary to make changes for the second match against Scotland at Trent Bridge. Moeen Ali, Aneurin Donald and Tom Curran were all dropped. Adil Rashid was also axed following a poor showing on his home ground. ODI Debuts were handed out to Middlesex duo Dawid Malan and Ollie Rayner whilst there were international recalls for Sam Billings and Chris Jordan. Replacing Moeen at number three, Malan hinted at international quality when striking a run-a-ball 20 and would later prove effective with the ball.

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German born off-spinner Ollie Rayner had almost immediate success, striking in the first over of his ODI career.

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The psychological scars from the Irish trauma were too much to bear though and after Daniel Bell-Drummond was run out for the second time in four innings and Jos Buttler threw away an impressive start we collapsed to a paltry 149 all out. That man Con de Lange leading the charge again with impressive figures of 4-14. Despite some tight bowling from part-time leg-spinner Dawid Malan (1-9) and Rayner’s debut wicket we went down by six wickets.

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A bottom of the table finish was not what we had expected at the start of the tournament but hopefully our young players will have benefited from some harsh lessons ahead of even sterner tests in the future.

Getting Sentimental on New Year’s Eve!

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A few months ago I started writing a blog about cricket. If you’ve found your way here then you probably already know that. The idea was to occasionally write an in-depth article about one or two theories, ideas or proposals I have about the game and to compose the odd book or DVD review.

However I struck upon the idea of International Duck Watch and due to the incompetence of batsmen around the world the said gimmick has kept me rather busy.

In the new year I intend to continue providing my thoughts, crap headlines, nursery school standard drawings and general ramblings about our sport and Shai Hope that any readers out there appreciate my attempt to strike a chord between seriousness and humour (No really, I have attempted to be humorous on this blog!), between being a professional journalist (Which I’m not!) and an amateur blogger (Which I am).

Please accept my double-century of thanks for the time that anybody has taken to even leg glance at my words, particularly the guy from Russia who in one viewing helped me colour in almost half my visitor map!

Wishing all my followers and occasional visitors the very best in 2017, a year in which we can expect the landscape of cricket to continue to evolve with such things as:

Due to unprecedented monsoons in United Arab Emirates, the first ever Test match is played on the Moon. Though the pink ball is easy to see, England’s batsmen still fail to reach 200 in the series as Pakistan’s spinners run riot on the turning pitches!

On Jane McGrath day, Australia’s batsmen all use a pink bat!

Peter Moores is made coach of England… again!

Silly Point himself bludgeons 99 not out from just 20 deliveries in the dizzy heights of division six of his local T20 league!

Boyd Rankin and Ed Joyce make themselves available for England again and are immediately recalled to the side to play against Ireland in the Emerald Isle’s first ever Test match. However the match is a complete washout so Rankin and Joyce return to Irish colours for a winter jaunt to an even newer Test nation… Ibiza!

Peter Moores is sacked as coach of England… again!

Umpires are replaced by robots.

England return to the Moon for a triangular ODI series with Pakistan and Venus and recall 218-year-old spin bowler Shaun Udal in the hope that he can repeat his Indian heroics!

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!

Bravo for England!

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No seriously, think about it. Darren Bravo has fallen out with the West Indies board (There’s a first for everything!). He didn’t get the contract offer that he wanted and to be fair to Bravo, a Grade C contract was probably a little harsh for a guy that seemed one of the more committed West Indies players, i.e. one that tended to choose the hidden backwaters of Test cricket ahead of the glitz, glamour and razzmatazz of global T20 tournaments. Now he’s suing the WICB!

So what does the future hold?

Bravo isn’t generally perceived to be your stereotypical Twenty20 basher, though to be fair his domestic record (Ave 33.60, S/R 118.01) is pretty reasonable. Even if he wants to play in the Big Bash, BPL, IPL or whatever, Bravo comes across as the sort of guy that will want a little more substance to his career.

Could he be destined for the County Championship?

The appeal of Bravo, a man with 3400 Test runs at an average of exactly 40.00 including eight centuries, to an English county is an obvious one, particularly if he’s rid of international commitments and likely to be available for most of the season.

Fast forward three or four years (Or whatever the qualification period is?) and could Bravo even play Test cricket for England?

The idea isn’t as far fetched as you might think and he’s not the only one that could be in such a position. I hope that my fellow blogger Bimal won’t mind me posting the link to his article about someone already in the hypothetical national allegiance switching position I’ve considered for Bravo…

Botha open to playing for Australia

In England we’ve seen the likes of Ed Joyce and Boyd Rankin represent the country of their birth and heritage, Ireland before qualifying to play for England. Their moves were understandable as they had been playing domestic cricket in England for some years and it was the only way that they could play Test cricket (Apart from doing the same in another country of course) Once they lost their places, Joyce quite harshly and Rankin after one abysmal but rather set-up to fail Test and despite an excellent showing in ODIs, they soon returned to Irish colours.

In football, Brazilian born Diego Costa represented his home country before joining Spain and Ivory Coast born England cap Wilfired Zaha has now ‘signed up’ for the country of his birth more than three years after his second and last England appearance. There are many examples of players who if born elsewhere would have won more international caps.

Imagine if uncapped Australian batsman Jamie Cox (FC runs: 18,614 incl. 51 centuries) had been born across the Tasman in New Zealand and not Tasmania? (Of course if he’d been born in New Zealand he might not have been a cricketer at all but you get my drift).

The world is constantly changing, people move, children are born to parents of different nationalities (Just like my own) who may then relocate and relocate again. There are many reasons and examples of why international selection isn’t as straight forward as some people would like it to be but this isn’t club football. The global T20 leagues don’t lend themselves to loyalty, one only needs to look at the list of teams that the likes of Chris Gayle has represented to see that but international selection should bring with it the afore-mentioned loyalty. In my humble opinion, once you’ve represented a nation then you’ve made your bed and you must lie in it.

Back to Bravo, for all we know they’ll be a kiss and make-up soon enough but if his Test career has ended at the age of just 27 then 3400 runs at an average of 40.00 including eight centuries with a top score of 218 in 49 appearances are figures that many would crave but for Bravo they’ll leave a lingering sense of unfulfillment and what if?