Ben Duckett and Nelson Mandela in the same Sentence!

The last time that England’s cricketers were in Asia, batsman Ben Duckett was there. Despite scoring three fifties (ODIs/Tests) in Bangladesh, he had a torrid time of things in India then literally pissed off top brass the following winter in Oz. Whilst the senior team lap it up in Sri Lanka and the Lions travel to UAE, Duckett can be found playing in the Mzansi Super League in South Africa. It’s the latest T20 league to pop up on the global calendar (Yeah that’s right, Canada and Hong Kong had competitions before SA!).

Representing the wonderfully named Nelson Mandela Bay Giants, The stocky left-hander smashed 75 (5×4, 5×6) runs from just 45 deliveries. Hopefully it’s a sign of things to come after some lean patches post that run-laden summer a couple of years ago. Next year he’ll join Ben Slater and Joe Clarke in an exciting new batting line-up for Nottinghamshire at Trent Bridge. He’s probably still quite some way off an England recall but the shoots of recovery have started sprouting.

Another left-handed batsman who’ll be hoping to use the Mzansi league as a springboard back to international selection is Dawid Malan. The discarded Middlesex stalwart will lead Cape Town Blitz while domestic colleague Eoin Morgan will turn out for Tshwane Spartans. Morgan is a left-hander who doesn’t need to work his way back into the England fold, he’s already there!

Six to Watch: T20I Status – Team Special

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Following my article regarding players in the men’s game to look out for come T20I status being applied to all associate nations, here’s a Six to Watch Team Special…

Argentina

The South American side used to benefit from regular visits from touring MCC sides and therefore played First Class fixtures. They’ve appeared in the ICC Trophy but have slipped off the ICC World Cricket League structure so it’ll be interesting to see what route back to cricket recognition they can take.

Canada

The inaugural Global T20 Canada kicks off this month, complete with the usual T20 franchise brigade, Chris Gayle, Steven Smith and Shahid Afridi included.

https://www.gt20.ca

It’s to be hoped that the competition ignites interest amongst the local community in The Land of Maple Leaf. Canada have had their moments in cricket history, most notably when John Davison smacked a record-breaking century at the 2003 World Cup.

They’ve also had some shockers though, including being dismissed for 36 by Sri Lanka in the same tournament. They were also routed for 45 against England in 1979. Canada will be relying on expats for now but hopefully native Canadians will be inspired to take up the game and break into the national side.

Denmark

Not that long ago Denmark were one of the there or there about nations beyond the Test world. Their place on the cricket scene was somewhat akin to how Netherlands have been in the past couple of decades. Players such as Ole Mortensen and Freddie Klokker appeared on the county circuit with Mortensen averaging just 23.88 with the ball in the First Class game. When Demark defeated Israel by all ten wickets at the 1994 ICC Trophy, Mortensen claimed figures of 7-19! They’ve somewhat fallen away since, though former England Test player Amjad Khan has helped them return to prominence in recent years. Expats are almost vital to developing cricket in the associate nations but it’s great to see some young local talent in the Denmark squad. Danish born Klokker who was on the books of both Warwickshire and Derbyshire tends to don the gloves these days and his county experience complete with First Class hundreds will be vital if the Danes are to be great again!

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Frederik_Klokker

Fiji

In bygone years Fiji benefited from their proximity to Australia. They even toured Oz and hosted New Zealand as well as been regulars in the ICC Trophy. In recent years they’ve been well down the ICC World Cricket League spectrum, falling as low as division seven. Their squad is full of indigenous talent including many players still in their teens.

When Fiji defeated Wellington in a First Class fixture in 1948, it was the man with the longest name (IL Bula) in cricket history who led the way with 88 in Fiji’s second innings to set the Pacific islanders up for a heart-pumping one-wicket win…

http://www.espncricinfo.com/review2012/content/player/24046.html

Rwanda

Rwanda have put a lot of effort into raising the profile of cricket in their country and if for no other reason than their cricket ground is so beautiful then it’s to be hoped that they can join the African forces to be reckoned with.

Captain Eric Dusingizimana famously broke a world record with an epic fifty-one hour net session.

http://www.rcsf.org.uk

South Korea

South Korea have played at the Asian Games but looked like they’d have made a good ODI side ten years ago. Technically correct they’ll need to adapt their skills to T20I cricket. The talent and hunger is there and it’d be great to see a side from the Far East come to the fore in the cricket world. Maybe some of their players can have great Koreas (Careers!)… sorry!

On the subject of Associate Cricket, Roy Morgan’s Real International Cricket: A History in One Hundred Scorecards is well, well worth reading. Tim Brooks’ Cricket On the Continent as well as Second XI: Cricket in it’s Outposts by Tim Wigmore and Peter Miller are also essential reads for the Associate fan.

In the Land of Maple Leaf

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It seems a shame that the inaugural Global T20 Canada, should be tainted by potentially having cheat and former Australian skipper Steven Smith take part in the ICC sanctioned tournament. The fact that the ICC have sanctioned the competition though, confirms that these are exciting times for cricket across the globe. Coming of the back of T20I status being applied to all 104 associate nations, Ireland and Afghanistan’s elevation to Test status and even though it’s not perfect, the Test Championship.

The Global T20 Canada is a great opportunity to help promote the game in a nation where potential has yet to be maximised. Though I love First Class cricket, T20 is, for reasons of practicality, the logical way forward in emerging cricket nations. The cities of Ottawa, Montreal, Toronto, Vancouver and Winnipeg are those to be represented as well as an all-Caribbean outfit.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2018_Global_T20_Canada

Many have suggested that Smith and co’s suspensions were harsh but they misunderstand. Though the cheat crew (Smith, David Warner and Cameron Bancroft) were in part banned for their offence, they were for the most part banned for, as somebody eloquently phrased it… brand damage. Of course, like an ex-con being reintegrated into society and provided a chance to contribute value then Smith and collaborators deserve the opportunity to redeem. They say that all publicity is good publicity and for cricket in Canada, having Smith in the mix will help court attention.

It’ll be interesting so see which other well known cricketing figures from across the globe rock up in North America. Could Nick Compton, who recently finished a successful campaign playing in Sri Lanka but currently unable to get a gig at Middlesex, head to another far flung destination in the quest for runs?

http://www.espncricinfo.com/england/content/player/11718.html

Fingers crossed that Global T20 Canada can help spur cricket on in  the ‘Land of Maple Leaf’ and as well as international stars, we see some local talent on show too.

Application for Role of National Selector

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https://www.ecb.co.uk/news/642891/ecb-announces-new-approach-for-england-men-s-selection

Dear Andrew Strauss

Please find enclosed my application for the role of National Selector as advertised on http://www.ecb.co.uk

On the MAC version of Cricket Captain 2017 (Admittedly on Easy Mode!), I was responsible for the selection of the England side that won the 2017 Champions Trophy on home turf. Who can forget David Willey’s 8-58 against Australia?! That summer, I had already made the brave decision to recall batsman Ben Duckett to the Test side despite his tough baptism the previous winter.

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Duckett repaid the faith by averaging 82.89 in the respectable 2017-18 2-2 away Ashes series draw.

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In 2018 I introduced Yorkshire seamer Ben Coad to Test cricket and he duly struck with his first delivery against Pakistan. Coad went on to claim just shy of 200 wickets as well as surpassing 1000 runs during my time as selector. As was the case with the recall of Duckett, there was resistance from some quarters towards the selection of Coad. Some in the media believed that I was applying Yorkshire bias and only selecting Coad because we were born in the same town. Proving the doubters wrong, his performances with bat and ball throughout his career confirmed that I possess nous when it comes to identifying under the radar talent.

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Mason Crane’s dismissals of three Indian batsmen, all first ball on T20I debut was another highlight of that summer.

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Another spinner, Adil Rashid, excelled in Sri Lanka where he famously followed up figures of 7-66 with a monumental knock of 161. Again, there were those that campaigned against the selections of said spinners, at least in the respective formats in which they would go onto succeed. Again, those doubters were silenced.

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Following our Champions Trophy success in 2017, we promptly won the 2019 ODI World Cup. Once again the nation were euphoric in their celebrations of home soil success.

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My insistence that Moeen Ali replace Jason Roy at the top of the order was both ruthless and crucial to our success. Moeen’s blazing knock of 112 from 80 deliveries in the final against India will live long in the memory of many.

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Alongside Moeen, Ben Duckett totalled 562 runs at 80.29, again this demonstrates my ability to get the best out of mischievous players. Many would’ve left the Northamptonshire batsman on the international scrapheap but his performances in both the Ashes and ODI World Cup were immense.

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Chris Woakes claimed twenty tournament wickets at just 12.55 apiece and please don’t ignore the contribution made by left field selection Luke Fletcher. This included a vital wicket in the final at Lords.

Yes we lost the 2019 Ashes 3-0. Thirty-five-year-old Daryl Mitchell failed to back-up his debut knock of 73. He didn’t make another fifty before being dropped for the fifth Test and James Harris (0-102) had an ignominious introduction to Test cricket. The selection of thirty-nine-year-old Jimmy Adams’ (34 runs @ 8.50) in T20I cricket didn’t work either.

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Nor did the selection of Ross Whiteley (99 runs @ 9.90). However, there would be over 200 Test wickets for Jack Leach, a Test century for Max Holden and many Test tons for Will Rhodes as well as numerous ODI tons for Daniel Bell-Drummond during my time as Selector. Sometimes you have to sift through the dirt to find the diamonds.

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I would like to think that the T20I career of sometime captain Benny Howell…

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… and ODI career of Ollie Rayner, the latter also earning two Test caps, will reflect well on my ability to identify talent and think outside the box when selecting the composition of a side. Even if these players didn’t excel statistically, they were under rated efficient contributors to the side.

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Other highlights during my tenure included: In Bangladesh in 2021, having lost the first Test by just one wicket courtesy of Jofra Archer’s no ball, we chased down 431 in the second Test to level the series. Liam Livingstone (122 & 166) and Will Rhodes (111 & 128*) famously made tons in each innings.

Middlesex’s Harry Podmore claimed figures of 3-51 on ODI debut but disappointingly we failed to progress from the round robin stage of the 2022 Champions Trophy. Paul Coughlin (Two six-wicket hauls) though was for a time the number one bowler in the world in ODI cricket.

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In the 2022 T20I World Cup we reached the semi-final before we were cruelly defeated by India. Hampshire’s Lewis McManus, another shrewd selection, contributed 225 runs at 56.25 including a swashbuckling ton against Pakistan.

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Another gloveman, Sussex’s Ben Brown, registered fifties in his first two T20I caps.

Unfortunately by the time 2023 came around we were ranked as low as 8th in ODI cricket and 9th in both Tests and T20Is. We scored 447 in the fourth innings of an Ashes Test but still lost!

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On the plus side, Surrey all-rounder Sam Curran, originally bravely selected whilst still in his teens, passed 100 wickets ODI cricket. Another find was Nottinghamshire batsman Billy Root, who stepped out of his brother’s shadow to register an ODI century against West Indies. I’m extremely proud of his selection because both the media and public were extremely sceptical.

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After a run of ten straight Test defeats, we did at least beat Zimbabwe 2-0 at home. Liam Livingstone and Ben Foakes’ partnership of 351 proving crucial.

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Somerset speedster Jamie Overton claimed nine wickets at just 15.56 upon his introduction to Test cricket.

Opening batsman Mark Stoneman went onto pass 4000 Test runs though we probably shouldn’t have allowed him so much opportunity to close in on 5000 when clearly past his sell by date!

Lewis McManus and Sam Northeast recorded a record-breaking partnership of 263 in an ODI and Sam Evans scored centuries in each of his first three Tests.

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Defeats against Namibia and Canada in the 2023 ODI World Cup was a disappointing way to bow out. Durham bowler James ‘Killer’ Weighell’s figures 0f 10-0-102-0 against the North American side were confirmation that I’d persisted with him too long.

I don’t think Hamidullah Qadri’s Test bowling average ever got below 60.00 and Mark Footitt (7 wickets in 5 Tests) was another one I probably got wrong. Don’t let those performances against associate nations, world rankings or runs of defeat after defeat deflect from my achievements though. A Champions Trophy and ODI World Cup win are not to be scoffed at, particularly when under the pressure of playing in front of the expectations of a home crowd. The selections and performances of Will Rhodes (Tests), Daniel Bell-Drummond (ODIs) and Lewis McManus (ODIs/T20Is) as well as Jack Leach, Ben Coad, Jofra Archer and Liam Norwell (Tests), Jamie Overton and Paul Coughlin (ODIs) demonstrate my ability to see beyond the obvious and identify players capable of succeeding at international level.

I’m extremely confident that I can transfer my success (Mediocrity, call it what you will!) in virtuality to reality and excel in the role of National Selector. I’m available for interview at any time and await your response with much anticipation.

Yours faithfully

 

Paul Morris

It’s a Blogging World

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It’s been over a year now since I commenced writing this blog and like the world of cricket the globe has been constantly evolving.

It’s hardly surprising that the United Kingdom provides my most hits but that the USA comes second is interesting. Is there a growing interest in cricket in America or just a strong expatriate community in a large and diversley populated country?

If anybody should holiday in China, Iceland, Mexico, anywhere in either North Africa or South America then please don’t forget to view my site. I’d love to get my entire map coloured in and will be forever grateful to my one (To date) visitor from Lebanon, oh and the guy from Russia who painted nearly half my map in one click!

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5,507 would be a decent career tally of runs for a Test batsman. The USA would be proud to total 505 all out. India would take 359 on a difficult pitch and England would love to dismiss Australia for 279. Italy would have liked a little more than 107 in any format and unless it was this ‘new’ T10 stuff then South Africa would be disappointed with 103 all out. My family in France have progressed to 68 (We’ll say without loss!) but Pakistan will be bitterly disappointed to have been rolled over for just 63. Germany scratched their way to 57 whilst Canada totalled 55. To be fair, that’s a lot more than they usually rack-up at major tournaments!

Many thanks to all who have viewed my blog and to cricket enthusiasts in Madagascar, Mongolia and Papua New Guinea… if you’re out there!

World Cup Equality

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You’ll have to forgive me for committing the ultimate sin on a cricket blog but I’m about to ramble on (For quite some time!) about football. This is of course my blog so I can do what I want!

Qualification for the 2018 football World Cup in Russia has well and truly reached the business end. All that remains are the heartbreaking play-off matches to determine which counters join the likes of Panama, Iceland and Iran in Russia next year. I’ll hazard a guess that Iceland will find acclimatising to the Russian climate just a bit easier than Panama. It’s also safe to say that none of the three nations mentioned above will be qualifying for the cricket World Cup anytime soon.

Back to the footy, here’s a breakdown of the percentage of teams from each continental region that will qualify for the football World Cup:

South America: 4 out of 10 teams = 40%

Europe: 13 out of 54 teams = 24%

The Americas: 4 out of 35 teams = 11%

Africa: 5 out of 54 teams = 9%

Asia: 4 out of 46 teams = 9%

Oceania: 1 (And maybe not even that) out of 11 teams = 1%

Disclaimer: Please be aware that the above calculations are based on a couple of assumptions regarding who qualifies via the intercontinental play-offs. Oceania are not guaranteed a World Cup representative and for the record, Australia qualify through the Asian pathway because they got bored of thrashing Solomon Islands, Vanuatu and Samoa time and time again.

Referring to the percentages above, the tournament title of World Cup starts to lose some of its credibility. There’s clearly a disproportionate amount of teams that qualify from the historical footballing hotbeds of Europe and South America. That historical bias is of course something that is extremely prevalent on the international cricket stage too.

Back to the three nations mentioned earlier. Iran qualified for the football World Cup as far back as 1978 but for Panama and Iceland, 2018 will be their first time at the tournament. That variety of nations on the big stage and the novelty of seeing virgin World Cup competitors is part of what makes the tournament so special. USA beating England in 1950, North Korea beating Italy in 1966 and Senegal beating France in 2002. Without these results the football World Cup just wouldn’t be what it is. Admittedly there have been a few thrashings as the likes of Saudi Arabia (8-0 against Germany in 2002) and Zaire (9-0 against Yugoslavia in 1974) will attest too.

The 2019 Cricket World Cup is unlikely to see such a variety of international representatives or virgin teams as Russia will next year. There will only be ten teams, yes just ten teams at the ‘World’ Cup. Eight of these teams will have qualified as the highest ranked ODI nations. It’s great that the ODI rankings comprise more nations than just Test teams but no promotion/relegation profile is in existence at the upper echelons of international cricket. Referring to the historical bias detailed in football earlier, little scope is left for a changing of the guard as the years go by. The head honchos eat at the main table with one or two varying visitors from time to time.

I’ll be honest, every time I try to get my head around the meritocracy of lower division international cricket and World Cup qualification, I end up closing the page out of sheer bewilderment. From what I can gather, it’s possible that teams in ICC World Cricket League Division Two can qualify for the 2019 Cricket World Cup but some teams from Division One may not. Don’t quote me on that though! In all likelihood none of them will anyway, such is the convoluted qualification process.

Feel free to put me to shame and figure the whole thing our for yourself…

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2018_Cricket_World_Cup_Qualifier

Teams such as Papua New Guinea and Ireland could be there though the likes of West Indies and possibly Afghanistan will be favoured to qualify for the ten team tournament. Surely a straight forward main tournament of sixteen teams comprised of four groups of four followed by quarter-finals etc would be logical. Yes there have been some horribly one-sided encounters at cricket World Cups, think Namibia at the hands of Australia in 1970 and one or two Canadian performances (36 & 45 all out in 2003 and 1979) but there has also been Zimbabwe beating Australia in 1983, Kenya beating West Indies in 1996 and Ireland beating Pakistan in 2007.

There are so few teams at the Cricket World Cup that a comparison with football for regional disproportionateness is completely irrelevant. In fact to be fair, there isn’t really a geographic disproportion, just a lack of global representatives in general.

Anyway, I guess what I’m getting at is that regardless of sport, a World Cup should be exactly that, a tournament that has a fair and even distribution of teams from across the globe. The football World Cup isn’t perfect but hopefully in the future cricket will allow for the Senegals and North Koreas of the footballing world to have the opportunity at least to produce some shocks that will reverberate around the cricket world.

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Cricket Captain 2017: 2023-24 – Namibian Desert and Canada Dry!

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The 2023-24 campaign culminated with back-to-back ODI World Cup defeats against associate nations Namibia and Canada. Against Namibia, England’s skill set simply deserted them, whilst against Canada, their quality ran dry.

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James Weighell’s figures of 10-0-102-0 against Canada, summed up a selection policy that has been found out and confirmed that competitiveness is a trait long since departed from England’s cricket team.

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Following the World Cup exit in India, Middlesex legend Toby Roland-Jones retired at the end of an injury hit campaign. TR-J had his moments in an England shirt, most notably his 49-ball 75 against South Africa in a Test match and strong Test and ODI series against Zimbabwe at home at the start of last year.

England finished the season placed 9th out of ten in Test, ODI and T20I rankings, superior only to Zimbabwe, another team that defeated them in the World Cup.

Among few positives, young batsman Sam Evans scored centuries in the first innings of his first three Test matches. Those matches were in South Africa and it is the same opposition that England will entertain in the summer of 2024. Such is England’s fall from grace that in the 2024 T20I World Cup they will face the might of Nepal, USA and once again, Canada. The days of such encounters being ‘walk in the parks’ for England’s cricketers are long, long gone!