Ashes Cricket (PS4): Global Test League

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Top of the Global Test League… but for how long?

The Global Test League is here folks!

Unfortunately due to contractual issues neither Australia or Sri Lanka feature in the competition. There are eight teams (England, India, Ireland, New Zealand, Pakistan, South Africa, West Indies and Zimbabwe) and each side will play each other home and away. That’s a total of fourteen matches per side to decide the best Test team on the globe.

As Team Manager and Chairman of Selectors of the England team, it’s my responsibility to keep you up to date with how the side perform during the competition. So here it goes…

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Liam Dawson (1-83 & 0-65) struck early in Zimbabwe’s first innings but was a juxtaposition of maidens and expensive overs from there on.

Our first match of the inaugural Global Test League was a home fixture against Zimbabwe at Old Trafford. Many observers rather disrespectfully suggested that the result was a formality. It turned out to be anything but!

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James Anderson (3-107) didn’t immediately find his groove but came back in sensational style, at one point being on a hat-trick!

Zimbabwe won the toss and batted first. At 344-4 early on the second day, the visitors seemed destined for a huge score. James Anderson (3-107) had other ideas however as the Lancashire quick found another gear on his home ground. Zimbabwe lost their last six wickets for just 38 runs to subside to 384 all out (Masakadza 106, Raza 88). A still decent total but not as imposing as they would have liked given their position before Anderson’s exploits.

In our first innings, we seemed guaranteed to claim a first innings lead when a 126-run partnership between Mark Stoneman (77) and James Vince (71) took us to 162-1. Both batsmen were naively run out though and there then followed what can only be described as kamikaze batting by the home side. 162-1 rapidly became 239 all out. A loss of nine wickets for just 77 runs. This included the fall of captain Joe Root for a golden duck. Part-time spinner Sean Williams (4-31) was the chief destroyer, backed-up by seamer Chris Mpofu (3-61).

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Craig Ervine survived a clear glove behind as Zimbabwe set England a mammoth 471 to win the Test match.

Zimbabwe then maintained the pattern of the batting side laying a strong platform and had reached 167-1 before Dawid Malan (2-32) intervened. The part-time Middlesex spinner struck with his second delivery immediately after the interval and went onto claim a further wicket as well as effect a run out and take a catch. Malan’s success with the ball only served to highlight Liam Dawson’s lack of penetration. England then took regular wickets but not in clusters as the away side totalled 327 (Mire 90, Broad 3-75) second time around. Not wanting to be bitter, we were frustrated by some of the umpiring decisions during Zimbabwe’s second innings, not least the clear glove behind by Craig Ervine (See image above) that was given not out.

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James Vince, having been run out for 71 in the first innings, posted a maiden Test hundred in the second.

Ultimately that left us needing to score a world record 471 to win the Test match. At various intervals including when positioned on 127-1, 221-3 and 375-6 we had high hopes of making history. James Vince (107) led the way with a maiden Test century at a little over a run-a-ball but the Hampshire man was dismissed not long after reaching his hundred.

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Moeen Ali smashed the record for Test match cricket’s fastest ever half-century in a thrilling demonstration of clean hitting entertainment for the loyal but bedraggled England following.

Alongside Jonny Bairstow (71 from 45), Moeen Ali had the home crowd struggling to believe their eyes as we dared to pull off cricket’s greatest ever heist. The Worcestershire all-rounder clobbered 58 from just 17 deliveries. Though it was part-timer Sean Williams that dismissed Moeen, it was Zimbabwe captain Graeme Cremer who held his nerve as we went on the attack in our quest for victory. In regards to field placements, the away side’s bold skipper didn’t panic in the face of Moeen and JB’s onslaught. Cremer would finish the innings with sensational figures of 7-105 and deservedly claim the Player of the Match award!

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Our tail were soon back in the pavilion as Zimbabwe claimed a deserved victory, one that has sent shockwaves around the cricket world. The margin of defeat a mere 78 runs. We’re obviously disappointed to have lost but I’m proud of the team for sticking at it with the ball in each of Zimbabwe’s innings and restricting them to sub 400 totals on both occasions. I’m also proud of the boys for scoring nearly 400 on a worn and degrading pitch in the fourth innings of a Test match. It was our inept batting display in our first innings though that has cost us the match. Things won’t get any easier next up against India at Lords, as we go in pursuit of  our first Global Test League points. Despite the loss we don’t anticipate wholesale changes to the side. A squad for that Test match will be named in due course with Toby Roland-Jones possibly coming into contention on his home ground.

Disclaimer: The simulation of other teams’ matches crashed when Australia featured and the on-disc Sri Lanka team has not yet been complimented with genuine players, hence their absence from the Global Test League. As the old adage goes: “You can only beat what’s in front of you”, or not as the case may be!

The Drop Shop

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I’ve previously written about the value of persisting with players, particularly batsmen, specifically Shai Hope. Now it’s the turn of his brother Kyle. The elder Hope sibling totalled 41 runs during the Test tour of England, his average a paltry 6.83. A Test series in Zimbabwe provides an excellent opportunity for Hope to enhance his average and book himself a few more international caps. In the first innings of the first Test in Bulawayo he’d made it to 16 before becoming Solomon Mire’s maiden Test victim. With his average raised to 8.14, Hope arrived at the crease in West Indies’ second innings for potentially the last time. Two balls later he was dropped at short leg. Had Craig Ervine held the chance then Hope’s average would have been 7.13 and likely remained that way for eternity. As it was, he went onto make a career best 43, putting him on exactly 100 career Test runs. Following his dismissal courtesy of his namesake, the returning home side’s pacer Kyle Jarvis, his average has risen to 12.50. That 43 must be frustrating both for Hope himself and the West Indies’ selectors. It was an improvement, albeit with a little fortune but he’s not the first batsman ever to benefit from a drop however just seven more runs could have earned him another few Tests and filled him with confidence and relief for the second match of the series. As it is, you can’t help but feel that he remains in the proverbial last chance saloon. Come the second Test, either a maiden half-century is needed or some extremely pretty, gritty, stoic, classic or match winning 30s and 40s are required in order to prolong his Test career.

Utterly bizarrely, and this only highlights Kyle Hope’s struggles, despite the fact that he bats at three and his brother Shai at four, over the course of eight innings they are yet to bat together in a Test match!

International Duck Watch!

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A few Ozzies join the club today. First, please let me apologise because in the excitement of Zimbabwe’s Craig Ervine ducking yesterday, I neglected to mention that Australia’s opening batsman Joe Burns got burned fourth ball in Hobart to leave him with a series batting average of 0.5!

Joe (Not too) Mennie (Yes I know I’ve used that before!) who was selected ahead of Jackson Bird for his superior batting as much as his bowling (See previous post: The Bird and the Lyon)

https://sillypointcricketsite.wordpress.com/2016/11/02/the-bird-and-the-lyon/

… also joined the club as did Mitchell Starc who made our longest duck so far, being dismissed by his (Unlucky?) thirteenth delivery.

Callum Ferguson, a player that Silly Point detailed last week (See previous post: Ferguson Not Forgotten)

https://sillypointcricketsite.wordpress.com/2016/11/07/ferguson-not-forgotten/

… managed to avoid International Duck Watch ignominy by scoring 1 in Australia’s second innings to add to his rather tragic run out for 3 in the first innings.

International Duck Watch!

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Zimbabwe’s Craig Ervine joins the club today, aided in no small part by our old friend Suranga Lakmal. Ervine was out second ball as Zimbabwe limped to 154 all out (Moor 47 / Gunaratne 3-21) against Sri Lanka in Harare. Sri Lanka then knocked off the runs for the loss of only two wickets in just 24.3 overs with Dhananjaya de Silva hitting a career best 78 not out.

The next match in the series sees Sri Lanka take on a Darren Bravoless West Indies on November 16th.