It’s Back to the Cricket…

Face it folks, Christmas is over… so it’s back to the cricket and there are Test matches galore all over the globe this Boxing Day…

Australia are hosting India where Mayank Agarwal has registered an encouraging 76 on debut for the touring side:

http://www.espncricinfo.com/series/18693/scorecard/1144995/australia-vs-india-3rd-test-india-in-aus-2018-19

Sri Lanka take on New Zealand for whom Tim Southee struck a typically Tim Southee-like 68 to rescue his side from the depths of 64-6 to what will be a competitive 178. He then went onto claim three wickets before Sri Lanka planted the seeds of recovery:

http://www.espncricinfo.com/series/18812/scorecard/1153839/new-zealand-vs-sri-lanka-2nd-test-sri-lanka-in-nz-2018-19

Meanwhile in South Africa, Imam-ul-Haq is already back in the hutch having dined on duck not turkey for visitors Pakistan:

http://www.espncricinfo.com/series/18649/scorecard/1144153/south-africa-vs-pakistan-1st-test-pak-in-sa-2018-19

Lions Ready to Roar!

Batsman Ben Duckett has been recalled to the England fold meanwhile there is also a fully merited call-up for Lancashire seamer Tom Bailey and an exciting selection in spinner Matthew Carter for England Lions’ tour of India this winter.

http://www.espncricinfo.com/story/_/id/25565122/ben-duckett-returns-england-lions-tour-india

With an ODI World Cup and Ashes series on the horizon next year, this is as good a time as any to stand up and be counted for ‘The Pride’!

A Fix of 26! (But not that sort of fix!)

Australia’s latest opening batsman is twenty-six-year-old Marcus Harris. Fittingly, he scored 26 in both innings of his Test debut against Kohli & co. It’s a good job that he’s not a one-year-old!

India will expect to assume a 1-0 series lead provided their current position of superiority.

http://www.espncricinfo.com/series/18693/game/1144993/australia-vs-india-1st-test-india-in-aus-2018-19

Given Australia’s penchant for changing their opening batsmen, Harris will have to do better than a pair of twenty-sixes to retain his position for next year’s Ashes series in England.

4-3-1-5: Doctor Who?

Doctor Zhivago… maybe he’s not a doctor but Zhivago Groenewald claimed amazing analysis of five wickets for just one run from four overs complete with three maidens… obviously, for Namibia against Swaziland (Or is it eSwatini?) in Botswana’s capital Gaborone earlier today.

Swazi opening bat Alexander Nicholas actually carried his willow to make an undefeated 17 from 52 balls as Swaziland accumulated 72-6 from their full allocation. It took the Namibians only twenty-two deliveries to complete the chase as detailed by clicking on the link below…

http://www.espncricinfo.com/series/19010/scorecard/1163048/namibia-vs-swaziland-2nd-match-icc-world-twenty20-africa-region-qualifier-c-2018-19

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For the record, ‘The Doctor’ only had three career Twenty20 wickets prior to his 5-1 epic. It’s just a shame that these matches don’t have full T20I status until next year.

Keep up to date with what’s going on in ICC World Twenty20 Africa Region Qualifier here:

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/2018–19_ICC_World_Twenty20_Africa_Qualifier

Cricket is a global game and these matches matter. There aren’t only ten international teams and let’s hope that developing cricket nations such as these continue to progress by playing meaningful and competitive matches like the ones currently being played out in Botswana.

Four Star Denly!

Need I say more?

Okay then, if you insist!

Welcome back Joe Denly. After 384 matches and eight years in the international wilderness, the Kent all-rounder gate crashed England’s T20I against Sri Lanka in Colombo. earlier today. He promptly contributed 20 from 17 with the bat and claimed 4-19 with the ball.

http://www.espncricinfo.com/series/18602/scorecard/1140384/sri-lanka-vs-england-only-t20i-eng-in-sl-2018-19

It was really good to see Denly open the bowling. That’s what he does at domestic level so if it’s performances in that part of the game that got in him in the team then let him perform that role for the national side. It was also good to see England return to winning ways following the fifth ODI debacle. Another failure for Alex Hales however means that his international career stands at a crossroads.

The suggestion is that Denly claimed his wickets with some pretty ordinary deliveries so it remains to be seen whether or not this performance helps his Test cause.

Associate Advances!

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Here’s some great news from the always excellent Peter Della Penna at Cricinfo…

http://www.espncricinfo.com/story/_/id/25033717/associates-pathway-2023-world-cup-undergoes-major-revamp

This brings the structure of world cricket more inline with suggestions that I’ve proposed previously…

https://sillypointcricket.com/2018/01/09/a-complete-restructure-of-international-cricket-again/

https://sillypointcricket.com/2016/12/12/a-complete-restructure-of-international-cricket/

https://sillypointcricket.com/2017/08/31/a-complete-restructure-of-international-cricket-revisited/

It’s a massive step forward to see cricket beyond the Test world having some genuine structure applied to it. Clearer pathways to major or even minor and qualification tournaments should help prevent the sort of early retirements that we’ve seen from some Associate cricketers. Having official status, whether that be international (Test, ODI, T20I) or just domestic (First Class, List A, T20) must really help Associate players feel like real cricketers.

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Hopefully before too long we’ll see match-ups between nations such as South Africa and Malaysia or Argentina and Bangladesh. This then presents the opportunity for more epic encounters such as when Scotland hosted England earlier this year!

Stone Certainty?

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Warwickshire’s Olly Stone is a player who featured in Silly Point’s Six to Watch feature this year…

https://sillypointcricket.com/2018/01/14/six-to-watch 2018/

https://sillypointcricket.com/2018/09/22/six-to-watch-2018-season-review/

He follows in the footsteps of another player from this year’s selection, Surrey batsman Ollie Pope, to have now graced the international stage.

Coming off the back of a productive domestic campaign, Stone made his international debut for England in the ODI series in Sri Lanka that started last week. Both matches were affected by the rain but after not getting an opportunity in the first (Due to the weather in Dambulla), Stone collected his maiden England wicket in the second match.

http://www.espncricinfo.com/series/18602/scorecard/1140379/sri-lanka-vs-england-1st-odi-eng-in-sl-2018-19

Stone possibly owes his chance in part due to the hosts flipping of the tour schedule, leaving Liam Plunkett (Wedding arrangements already made) high and dry. If the pictures are anything to go by, high and dry is not something that many Sri Lankan cricket grounds are at the moment. The rain has been of biblical proportions!

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Stone could be a real asset for England come next year’s World Cup and future Ashes tours. He’ll need to remain fit and it could be that another player with a history of injuries, Somerset’s Jamie Overton, could help provide some healthy competition for Stone. Then there are also the likes of Saqib Mahmood, Zak Chappell, George Garton and in time, Jofra Archer.

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Another player that I’m delighted to see get further opportunities in an England shirt is Hampshire’s Liam Dawson.

http://www.espncricinfo.com/england/content/player/211855.html

I felt that he was badly handled during his stint as a Test spinner. He performed admirably against India and South Africa, dismissing Hashim Amla twice but the England management buckled under media pressure and dropped the slow-left-armer. As a fill-in player, he’s been victim to attack when playing limited overs matches for England before but performed superbly in last year’s edition of the Pakistan Super League. He’s a constantly evolving player and England could do a lot worse than stick by him.

England Ignored XI

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England have named their Test and ODI squads for the winter tour of Sri Lanka as well as announcing the Lions squads for matches against Pakistan A in UAE:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/English_cricket_team_in_Sri_Lanka_in_2018–19

http://www.espncricinfo.com/story/_/id/24802981/jason-roy-named-england-lions-four-day-squad

Here’s a party of players who must feel unfortunate not to have at least made the Lions cut…

First XI

Ben Slater (Derbyshire/Nottinghamshire) 349 CC runs @ 43.62 (Div 1) / 676 CC runs @ 42.75 (Div 2) / 386 ODC runs @ 55.14

Left-handed opening bat Slater’s consistent run plundering earned him a move from Derbyshire to Nottinghamshire. He made runs in both the First Class (Divisions 1 & 2) and List A format. Next year he’ll hope to continue to go well amongst many new faces at Trent Bridge.

Will Rhodes (Warwickshire) 972 CC runs @ 44.18

Having departed Yorkshire, Rhodes grew and grew at his new home finishing the campaign with four tons in the County Championship. He and Dominic Sibley look a strong foundation for a Warwickshire side that like a signing!

Daryl Mitchell (Worcestershire) Captain 957 CC runs @ 38.81

With a lot on his plate off the field, Mitchell made four tons in Division One having previously been criticised for scoring the majority of his centuries in Division Two. He’s a more than handy asset with the ball too and could captain the side.

James Hildreth (Somerset) 1089 CC runs @ 45.38 / 438 ODC runs @ 62.57

Runs, more runs for the Somerset veteran, not just in the First Class arena but with the white-ball too. Somehow he remains ignored by yet another selection panel.

Tom Abell (Somerset) Vice-Captain 883 CC runs @ 40.41 / 19 wickets @ 25.89

Similar to Mitchell in that he’s a batsman come all-rounder, Abell’s batting has started to fall into place again and he and Mitchell would make a good leadership brains trust.

Ed Barnard (Worcestershire) 516 CC runs @ 23.45 / 49 CC wickets @ 23.22 / 153 ODC runs @ 76.50 / 16 ODC wickets @ 28.88

It’s utterly absurd that Barnard’s efforts haven’t been recognised by the selectors this season. With both bat and ball and in red and white-ball cricket, Barnard has  consistently starred.

Ryan Higgins (Gloucestershire) 48 CC wickets @ 18.38 / 195 ODC runs 65.00

Like Rhodes, a move has been a good move for Higgins and like Barnard, he’s performed in all facets in all formats having joined Gloucestershire from Middlesex.

Ben Brown (Sussex) Wicketkeeper 912 CC runs @ 43.43 (52ct/1st)

Another strong campaign from the Sussex gloveman. A genuine top six willow wielder and has handy captaincy experience to support Mitch and Abell behind the stumps.

Matthew Carter (Nottinghamshire) 16 CC wickets @ 32.81 / 13 ODC wickets @ 15.23

Carter didn’t rack up phenomenal stats but the potential is there and it was good to see him get more experience under his belt. England should ‘Get Carter’! Sorry, I’ve used that one before but couldn’t resist!

Tom Bailey (Lancashire) 64 CC wickets @ 19.66

Bailey’s consistent wicket-taking means that he’s another odd one to be so obviously neglected. He poses a constant threat for batsman and averaged sub 20 with the ball in County Championship Division One.

Ben Coad (Yorkshire) 48 CC wickets @ 16.33

Like his Lancashire rival and in this squad, opening bowling partner, Coad is another strange one to miss out. Despite his excellent Division One performances he’s rarely mentioned in England dispatches. There’s possibly a reluctance on the part of the selectors to pick another Yorkshireman.

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The following players could also make the squad with some selections geared towards limited overs cricket in particular.

Ian Cockbain (Gloucestershire) 208 ODC runs @ 69.33

Laurie Evans (Sussex) 243 CC runs @ 60.75 / 614 T20B runs @ 68.22

Ben Cox (Worcestershire) Wicketkeeper 396 ODC runs @ 79.20 (18ct)

Sam Cook (Essex) 27 CC wickets @ 25.33

Ben Sanderson (Northamptonshire) 60 CC wickets @ 16.70

Amir Virdi (Surrey) 39 CC wickets @ 30.36

Even beyond this squad there are yet more England qualified players to have been neglected. Maybe Ed Smith and crew will pull another surprise on us soon!

NottinghamSure are a Buying Side!

Clearly they don’t produce batsman in Nottinghamshire. The Trent Bridge outfit’s reliance on signing players from across county borders is akin to a Premier League football side. On the batting front the two Bens, Slater and Duckett, have arrived from Derbyshire and Northamptonshire, followed by Joe Clarke from Worcestershire. All-rounder Zac Chappell has also joined from Leicestershire. Of course Notts have history here. They acquired both Stuart Broad and the retired James Taylor from The Foxes. It’s a shame that a player such as Worcestershire’s Clarke deems it necessary to relocate to a more ‘fashionable’ county from one that not only plays in the same County Championship division but just won one of the country’s three domestic competitions. If international ambitions are more easily recognised by being at Notts then that’s a sorry advert for the county game. Worcestershire seem far more qualified at developing young players anyway and count England regular Moeen Ali amongst their ranks.

I wish Clarke and the other new recruits at Trent Bridge all the best but Surrey, slagged off for being successful, have built their success around young homegrown talent as well as shrewd recruitment. They’ve got the balance right. Yorkshire, a county reliant on signings but who missed out on Duckett and and his ex-Northants teammate Richard Gleeson, could learn something from The Oval side. The White Rose county have failed to develop the likes of the appallingly handled Karl Carver and have been shown up by the strong performances of Jonny Tattersall, a player they originally let go after just one List A innings!

http://www.espncricinfo.com/england/content/player/517247.html

Glamorgan are another county who have mucked around a young talent and now lost him. Hopefully Aneurin Donald’s move to South Africa, sorry Hampshire, will reignite his stagnated but still embryonic career.

http://www.espncricinfo.com/england/content/player/562281.html

English cricket’s transfer system continues to come closer to resembling football’s Premier League. Players representing more than one county in the same season is becoming all too common a sight. With new horizons constantly appearing on both the domestic and global cricket front, it’ll be fascinating to see how the future of cricket’s transfer market evolves. With both old-fashioned contract meetings and now draft systems a part of things, the future, like cricket in general, is anything but certain!

Six to Watch: 2018 – Season Review

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A little premature with the season not quite concluded but here’s 2018’s Six to Watch Review. This year two players from my selection have been promoted to the full England side. One has already debuted and one likely will in Sri Lanka. For the others, it’s been a bit of a mixed bag but should get better.

Tom Fell  (Worcestershire)

Another difficult year for cancer survivor Fell. There were glimpses of his determination and ability but little consistency. Fell has registered only four fifties in 22 innings this term but two of them, including a season best 89, came in the same match against champions Surrey. He’s currently averaging a disappointing 27.82 in the County Championship. Despite an impressive career record in List A cricket, white-ball opportunities have been harder to come by. Fell has only ever played three T20s.

Ollie Pope (Surrey)

So good have been Pope’s numbers (He’s averaging 70.50 in CC2018) that he was fast tracked into the England team. Unlike some sceptics, I think that Ed Smith has got a lot of qualities but his decision to parachute Pope in at number four in England’s Test side was misguided. Pope had never batted higher than six for Surrey! The Chelsea born bat has a good head on his shoulders however and will be better for the experience. This year he’s a Championship winner and breeding that winning mentality can only be good for his development. He’s likely to commence the Sri Lanka tour on the bench but the opportunity to tour will serve him well.

Hamidullah Qadri (Derbyshire)

A frustrating year with limited opportunity and limited success for Afghan born Qadri. Last year the then sixteen-year-old announced his arrival with an outstandingly effective performance against Glamorgan to help Derbyshire win for the first time in… years!

http://www.espncricinfo.com/series/8204/scorecard/1068618/glamorgan-vs-derbyshire-specsavers-county-championship-division-two-2017

This year’s appearances have been fleeting but four more County Championship appearances is more than most for a man his age. He’s claimed eight wickets at 39.88 in CC2018.

Delray Rawlins (Sussex)

Precocious talent Rawlins’ opportunities have been limited to limited overs cricket but his batting caught the eye of many in this year’s T20 Blast. Rawlins made it to the final with Sussex and made starts in both matches on Finals-Day. The Bermuda born bat ended the campaign with 203 runs at 25.38. His strike-rate was 146.04. Little was seen of his bowling however or the red ball this term. Rawlins could be a potentially good draft for a Big Bash or PSL franchise this winter.

Will Rhodes (Warwickshire)

The move from Yorkshire to Warwickshire seems to have worked well for Rhodes. Yorkshire didn’t seem to know what to do with him and have had Harry Brook (Better suited to the middle order) opening while losing Alex Lees to Durham. Keeping and making the most of Rhodes may have been a good move by Yorkshire but Rhodes is yet another talent they failed to fully develop. Warwickshire are grateful to have been the beneficiaries of Yorkshire’s slacking. The Midlands outfit have persevered with Rhodes and former Surrey man Dominic Sibley as an opening pair, even when the runs haven’t flowed. Sibley can be feast or famine but Rhodes’ consistency has meant that he’s been one of the county circuit’s more successful openers this year. The left-hander has compiled three tons plus four fifties, a top score of 137 and is averaging a healthy 41.05. He’s also a viable bowling option.

Olly Stone (Warwickshire)

Rhodes’ Warwickshire ally Stone commenced the County Championship campaign with figures of 8-80 against Sussex, cue lots of calls for him to make the England side. Of course he promptly got injured again! Like his main rival for the speedster’s role, Somerset’s Jamie Overton, Stone has recently taken wickets in T20 and First Class cricket, crucially… he’s been on the pitch at all! The former Northamptonshire man has claimed 37 wickets in just six matches at a mightily impressive average of 12.27. With Liam Plunkett and his wedding arrangements undone by a flip of England’s tour schedule, Stone will go to Sri Lanka with both the ODI and Test side if not the T20I side. He should debut sometime on the tour and will have an eye on the West Indies trip too.