Ashes Cricket (PS4): Career Mode – Captain Fantastic!

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Following the disappointment of the one-day cup final defeat at the hands of Scarborough in my first match as captain, the team headed into the T20 competition determined to go one step further. As was the case with my team selection for the fifty-over final, I made bold changes to the XI for the T20 campaign, ignoring the scars of the final defeat. In our first two matches at Bradford and Sheffield, such was the application of our side that I wasn’t even required to bat as we notched back-to-back victories. It was against Scarborough again that we would come undone, this was despite my 26 from 14 deliveries. My swashbuckling 45 from just 15 balls helped us get back to winning ways at home to York before we then beat Hull in the final round of matches, again with me not required to bat. That meant another final against guess who? That’s right, an opportunity for revenge against Scarborough. Again, a ruthless alteration to the team was made and we restricted the seaside side to just 121-9 from their allotted overs. Soon though, we were 15-3 and in real trouble. My 46 from 35 deliveries however helped steady the ship but I was gutted to be dismissed with just four runs required for victory. It didn’t matter though, as we ran out winners by four wickets. Without doubt, it was the proudest day in my Leeds career. It won’t only be Leeds that I’ll be playing for in the future though…

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I’m delighted to announce that I’ve accepted a First Class contract offer from Yorkshire County Cricket Club. I’m reliably informed that I’m not too far away from joining the List A and T20 sides either. I’m due to make my First Class debut at home against Kent and there are three First Class matches remaining after that. It’s up to me to take my best ever club form into the professional arena and earn the right to play for the mighty Yorkshire for years to come. I’m delighted to sign off this campaign for Leeds in style but it’s onto the professional circuit for me now!

Ashes Cricket (PS4): Career Mode – One-Day Highs and Low!

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Off the back of my productive three-day campaign, I took my good form into the 2022 one-day season and delivered the most productive 50-over summer of my career so far.

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In the premier round of matches, I chalked up 102 from 72 deliveries (Including an all ran 5!) at Bradford Recreation Park. The innings meant that I now had centuries in each of the amateur three-day, one-day and T20 formats. I then went onto plunder 35 from 20 balls at Sheffield Gardens before notching up 45 not out from just 25 deliveries at home to Scarborough.

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Maintaining my momentum, I racked up a career best 125 from 92 deliveries at home to York to maintain my run-laden summer. We had been precariously placed at 25-4 and 58-5 but I was only dismissed two runs short of our target of 220.

I would go onto make another half-century in the final round of matches, 68 from 40 balls at home to Hull. In truth, there was another century there for the taking that I didn’t snap up. A win in that match however meant, after defeats in the first two games, we’d won three matches on the bounce and qualified for the final.

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That was a heck of a time to be handed the captaincy and I made a couple of bold changes to the XI. Unfortunately it turns out that the ‘Art of Captaincy’ is not to change a winning team and bring in untried players for a final. I wish somebody had told me that in advance!

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On a personal level though, I contributed one of my best ever knocks in the final. With wickets constantly falling around me, I applied myself appropriately to total 100 from 75 deliveries. If only I could have helped yield another 20 runs or so from the remaining few overs. As it was, we always seemed a bit short having failed to post 300.

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Though we claimed four wickets, Sheffield ran out comfortable winners. To see their players celebrating on the podium was tough. Though the players I brought into the first team for such a big occasion didn’t disgrace themselves, neither did they do enough to really justify their selections. As captain of Leeds, I take full responsibility for those calls!

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To reach a final is no disgrace however and on a personal level I’m now firmly on the radar of the English county sides. Scores of 102, 35, 45*, 125, 68 & 100 in a final amounted to 475 runs at an almighty average of 95.00. It goes without saying that I topped the one-day run charts in the north but there… I said it! Now my captaincy skills will be put to the test in the T20 format. I’ll endeavour to lead the team to the best of my ability as well as continuing to press my case for county recognition.

Ashes Cricket (PS4): Career Mode – 555 @ 61.67!

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Like a letter arriving through your mailbox, the 2022 cricket season soon arrived at my door. Following my limp efforts during the run drought of 2021, I was steadfastly determined to deliver the runs and post some big scores whatever the weather.

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At Bradford Recreation Park, one of my favourite grounds, where the palm trees decorate the full playing sphere, I started the season as I meant to go on and even if I didn’t go on as I’d started it was still a good start! My run-a-ball 169 represented more than double last year’s maximum effort of just 79. My teammates as well as some in the media were quick to point out the irony of me, the husband of a French lady, being dismissed by A.French. Oh how we all chuckled at that one! I was controversially adjudged caught behind when on 26 second time around before the match petered out into a draw. Thrilling run chases wouldn’t rise to prominence until the second half of the campaign.

My mid-season form then followed a similar trend of campaigns gone by, with dismissals in the twenties and thirties occurring with alarming regularity. I made 36 and 29 in defeat at Sheffield before falling for 7 and 31 at home to Scarborough. The fall on 31 was at least in part down to an attempt at an admittedly unlikely achievable run chase.

The penultimate match of the season was somewhat of a juxtaposition for me. I contributed scores of 90 (61 balls) and 82 (44 balls), the latter in a partnership of 98 that I clearly dominated. With reckless disregard for the risk to my batting average should I come unstuck, I took the attack to the York bowling… attack! My innings end came about only because of my selfless attempt to win the match for my team and my batting partner’s selfish concern for his own statistics. With five wickets still in hand, I was appalled, disgusted, dismayed, insert appropriate adjective, with the defence minded approach our late middle-order batsmen applied in the final overs. Our number six finished a shameful 8 not out from 33 deliveries when the game finished a draw. Victory was just 38 runs in sight!

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My facial expression in the above photograph aptly sums up my thoughts regarding my teammates’ efforts in our draw at home to arch rivals York. I was not a happy chappy!

In the final round of matches, hosting Hull at home would bring about another thrilling run chase, this time one that had a much happier ending. That wasn’t before I suffered the frustration of being run out when well set and playing beautifully in our first innings. I had reached 39 (Those frustrating thirties again!) when I was caught short attempting a third. Such was my angst at my dismissal that I honestly don’t remember whether I was still attempting the third or had turned back. I must also offer further apologies for the smashed window in the changing room. It wasn’t a moment to be proud of and of course I will cover the repair costs and accept my fine without appeal.

From one end of the emotional spectrum to another, it was with rapture unbound that I should be at the crease when we completed a cheeky run chase on the final day of the three-day season and righted the wrongs of York. When I entered the theatre, we needed 64 runs from 18 overs however when it came to the crunch, despite there being four overs left, the clock had already ticked past the close of play. So it was that with just three deliveries remaining and with myself undefeated on 46 from 36 deliveries, my teammate drove the ball to the ropes to seal a stunningly deserved victory on a rocky horror picture show of an end of season pitch. We embraced, the bevvies flowed and another cricket campaign, in this format at least, reached its conclusion.

We (Leeds) finished a respectable second in the Northern Division (err… really, we only won one game?!) and on a personal note, I too finished second in the run charts. 555 runs at 61.67 was a far better effort than recent years. I was only just pipped to the premier post by my teammate and opening batsman who too played his hand in the run chase against Hull with a classy 74 from 75 deliveries. No looking after his batting average, just playing for the team!

Ashes Cricket (PS4): Career Mode – Stumped but Still Pumped!

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Following my agonising dismissal for 95 against arch-rivals Bradford there came another strong knock of 76 at home to Scarborough. The three-day league campaign then concluded with a pair of stumped twenty-somethings (24 & 26) against York at the LSC.

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As the photographic evidence confirms my final dismissal of the competition was a controversial one!

I ended my first three-day league season for Leeds with a respectable 380 runs in nine innings at an average of 42.22. That placed me as the sixth highest run scorer in the Northern Cup. As well as striking 14 sixes my tally of 37 fours was the most in the league whilst my strike-rate of 102.98 meant that I was the only batsman to score at more than a run-a-ball!

Leeds finished a disappointing 3rd place out of six with Bradford claiming the title.

Next it’s onto the 50-over stuff followed by the T20 campaign.

Ashes Cricket (PS4): Career Mode – The Curse of Michael Slater!

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Michael Slater fell in the nineties on nine occasions during his Test career. Although I’m not a Test cricketer (Yet!) I’ve now succumbed twice in the space of three innings when within touching distance of a century. This time against Bradford I was just one shot away and in hindsight should have carried on sweeping but an attempted push into the covers on the off-side saw me edge behind and yes, it was spin again. In the first innings I’d actually fallen to pace for the first time in my career when I threw my wicket away having been well set on 45.

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I batted positively but not recklessly however former Australian opener Slater’s constant chat in my ear clearly wore off on me once I entered the nervous nineties. No doubt next time I’ll be a quivering wreck! Still, scores of 0,4,19,91,45 & 95 make for an impressive start to my career.

Catch up next time…

Ashes Cricket (PS4): Career Mode – Slogmaster/From Zero to Ninety in a Matter of Seconds!*

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*By seconds I mean upto two hours.

Start as we mean to go on! Yes that’s right, I ducked on debut but did make a stoic second innings four against the mighty Hull. Only by getting both my mind and fingers crossed between classic and standard buttons did I come unstuck. It’s the usual six local teams league structure but Career Mode now incorporates Three-Day, One-Day and T20 cricket making it impressively more immersive. I’ve signed up with Leeds and as well as Hull will enjoy days out to Bradford, Scarborough, Sheffield and York, flood defences provided!

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Against Sheffield I responded by reaching 19 before both a change in the commentary box (Thanks Mel Jones!) and the introduction of spin, immediately combined to distract me and send shivers down my spine. I’d fallen against spin in both innings on debut and followed suit here too.

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Come the second innings and with the field up, I launched a huge straight six early in the piece. It was my first career maximum and I struck another the following day. The bowling attack encountered was a challenging mix of both pace and spin as well as right and left-arm.

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I reached my maiden fifty, with a little help from my Kookaburra Ghost, at more than a run a ball. The sweep shot was particularly effective for me though in truth it often ended up being executed more like an out and out slog!. We’ll take the runs any way they come though!

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My avatar has ended up not looking particularly like me but my teeth have had a nice shine, although I appear to have an extra head growing out of my right shoulder. This is a concern because it could effect my batting!

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Whether or not either my glove or bat actually made contact with the ball that was caught behind off yet more spin to end my epic second innings inversion of my first innings score remains unclear. Just look at that crack. Off the richter scale in Yorkshire!

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Of course there’s no DRS at this level. I’m not bitter at the decision though, only proud of my innings of 91. Of course a further nine runs would have been welcome but though I could barely open my eyes as I left the crease, deep down I know that my career best knock puts me in good stead to attain my career ambitions.

Big Ant appear to have made huge strides with their follow-up to the Don Bradman Games and I can’t emphasise how much better club (Amateur) level is for having two innings matches. I’ll keep you up to date with my career travails as I begin the quest for Yorkshire and England recognition. For the record: I’m middling every difficulty level, that’s pro level (So 3rd out of 5) and medium specifically on the batting and bowling front as well as selection difficulty and am playing on a PlayStation4 console.