Dawson Disaster!

Poor Liam Dawson. He did okay with the ball in Tests, providing something to build upon (Even if he batted abysmally after a strong start) only for England to go old school, succumb to media pressure and… drop him!

He’s thrived in the Pakistan Super League and performed well batting as high as five for Hampshire but… he only carried the drinks at the World Cup before doing the same in the recent ODI series against Ireland. Now he’s ruptured his achilles in his first game back for Hampshire and will surely miss the rest of this truncated county campaign. It’s such a shame for Dawson and a huge blow for the second White Rose County (Yorkshire being the first of course!).

Fingers crossed that Dawson can regain fitness as soon as possible and feature in whatever cricket is available upon his return, whether that’s next season or if any franchise jaunts are possible.

On Top of the World!

How great is it to see Reece Topley playing regularly and amongst the wickets?

Topley has eleven wickets at 12.64 in this year’s T20 Blast for Sussex including figures of 4-33 taken in his comeback match against former employers Hampshire. The Suffolk born left-armer has ten ODI and six T20I caps to his name but it would be foolish to be thinking about England consideration so soon after returning to first team action. It’ll be great if the twenty-five-year-old can go onto play List A and First Class cricket but if not then he could still make a healthy buck specialising in the shortest format.

It’s also encouraging to see another left-arm quick bowler in the form of Topley’s teammate Tymal Mills playing regularly and being amongst the wickets too. Mills may only have seven wickets but an average of 17.14 is healthy and most notably, his economy rate is just 6.32. This compares favourably against a career economy rate of 7.82.

https://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/cricket/english-twenty20/averages

Looking through the averages another left-armer caught my eye. Nottinghamshire’s Harry Gurney has already committed to a white-ball world having made an impression at both the Big Bash and IPL. Soon he’ll be turning out in the Euro T20 Slam. In this year’s Blast he’s picked up 13 wickets at 15.85 including a career best 5-30 against Derbyshire. He’s leaking runs at an eye-watering 9.36 per over though so will want to temper that.

It’s not impossible that the above players could yet turn out for England again. David Willey has never dominated for England as would’ve been hoped and hasn’t (To be fair often hasn’t been able to) make his batting provide him with an edge. To say that he’s been ordinary in this year’s Blast would be an understatement as he comes to terms with his World Cup omission.

Agonising Agnew!

Having watched a few clips of the 2019 Cricket World Cup final via BBC Online, it hit me why Channel 4’s coverage had been so good… it was because we didn’t have to listen to Jonathan Agnew’s excruciating tone and insight! Nor did we have to endure Graeme Swann. We were treated to nearly everybody else in a game of musical commentary chairs as some people popped in from Sky for short stints and they contributed to a great spectacle for television viewers.

We all have voices and minds that we prefer or dislike just like music, the movies and various other things in life. How Jonathan Agnew gets away with being the voice of cricket on BBC I have no idea. I can’t quite put my finger on one word to describe what it is about him but if he were the face of free to air television coverage then it wouldn’t help cricket appeal to young or any potential new fans.

There are no Words… but here are some anyway!

Not actually an image from the World Cup final!

Only England could win the Cricket World Cup by not actually winning the match or the Super Over and losing more wickets than the opposition… and they needed a six that went along the ground that you’ll never see again in your life!

https://www.espncricinfo.com/series/8039/game/1144530/england-vs-new-zealand-final-icc-cricket-world-cup-2019

Huge respect to New Zealand who were immense.

Credit to Sky for letting everybody watch it. It’s been a long time but that was up there with Edgbaston ’05. Maybe Sky could allow a few more matches, even dead rubbers and the occasional day’s play from Tests on Channel 4. They might even gain some subscribers!

Spare a thought for the guy moaning towards the very end on the BBC online comments section who seemingly didn’t know that the match was being shown on Channel 4. If he was for real… ouch!

Proposed England Test Squad

Hi all

Here’s my suggested England Test squad for the match against Ireland and ultimately the start of the Ashes…

Dominic Sibley

Rory Burns

Joe Root (Captain)

Dawid Malan

Jos Buttler

Ben Stokes

Jonny Bairstow (Wicketkeeper)

Mark Wood/Jofra Archer

Jack Leach

Stuart Broad

James Anderson/Chris Woakes

12th men

Moeen Ali

Sam Curran

The suggestion is that Archer and Woakes have injuries that need managing and may have to wait their turn. Of course Anderson is currently out of action and Wood is not going to play five consecutive Tests. Extremely good players are going to have to miss out and that may be the case for Sam Curran. I think that variety is essential in an attack but with slow left-armer Leach meriting selection ahead of Moeen that doesn’t help fellow leftie Curran’s case. I still believe in Moeen but he’s gone AWOL as a batsman and Leach should’ve played in West Indies. His batting and fielding have come on too. Moeen would be best served getting some county cricket under his belt. If somebody in the top/middle order fails after a few Tests then the others could be shuffled to accommodate Moeen as a second spinner or even allow Curran to come into the side. He himself is capable of batting at least as high as six.

On the batting front, Sibley merits selection. His ‘form’ isn’t just that. His sensational run started last year and included a hundred overseas. He clearly has a lot of ambition and concentration and could be just what England need. I’d have no concerns about tempo from the openers. Test matches last five days!

I also firmly believe that Malan is good enough to succeed at this level but his optimum batting position is number four. That’s why Root must move to three and embrace it. He might not like it but he’ll have a better team for it. Yes Malan has played before and averaged 27 like everybody else but he hinted at being good enough and is knocking the door down with an axe. You only have to look at the likes of Mark Butcher, Justin Langer and Marvan Atapattu, even Jonny Bairstow for players that came back stronger and age wise look at Mike Hussey, Kumar Sangakarra and Misbah-ul-Haq, even Andy Flower. Malan could yet have his peak years ahead of him. His inclusion helps maintain a good left-hand/right-hand balance throughout the batting order.

The likes of Gary Ballance and Toby Roland-Jones as well as Dom Bess could all be hitting form at the right time to keep incumbents on their toes. Sam Northeast is another one for whom a place in the XI is a genuine possibility. Like I say though, good players will have to miss out. That’s theory of numbers. Coad, Gregory, Porter, Denly and Roy etc, you cant squeeze them all in.

Regarding Roy, he simply can’t be trusted to be fit enough to field long enough to be allowed, in accordance with the rules of the game, to open the batting thus rendering his inclusion pointless if everybody else has to move higher up the order than they want too.

One more thing. What a shame that the England Lions players as well as most county squads can’t watch the World Cup final. Who scheduled this?!

The Sky is not the Limit!

Sky Sports are responsible for the demise of cricket in our country. There are other factors mainly revolving around families and Saturday night TV but ultimately Sky Sports is responsible. They took the game away from our screens and denied children the opportunity to witness cricket and be inspired. They’ve robbed us of a whole generation of both fans and players.

Fair play to them though… if only for one day!

They’ve allowed the 2019 Cricket World Cup final to be aired on free to air TV. England’s players have one day to inspire a nation. If kids watch the match, pick up a bat, go into the garden with their family, to a local club or strangers playing in a park end up playing together then it was worth it. I guarantee that at least one future professional player will exist because they saw Saturdays match when they otherwise wouldn’t have.

You can tell me that Sky took cricket into schools but when you don’t have idols to follow the inspiration isn’t always there. You can tell me that Sky funds a chunk of the England player’s salary but so be it. Take that chunk out and see if the players still want to play. There are plenty of other potential sponsors who will fill the void if their company name is going to be regularly shown on free to air TV.

The monster that is Sky Sports has robbed a generation but for one day cricket can inspire a nation!

Afghanistan v West Indies World Cup ODI

It wasn’t quite as hot as Saturday but yet again Afghanistan flirted with the idea of causing an upset at Headingley only to fall short one more time. Three times in this competition they’ve could’ve achieved seismic victories but failed to do so.

West Indies were solid if unspectacular with the bat but still finished with enough to leave Afghanistan requiring in excess of a run-a-ball. Evin Lewis (58) was regaining his form, Shai Hope (77) was Shai Hope, Shimron Hetmyer (39) and Nicholas Pooran (58) upped the tempo and Jason Holder (45) with Carlos Brathwaite (14*) lifted the score to 311-6

After captain Gulbadin Naib’s World Cup horror show continued, Afghanistan were cruising courtesy of a 133-run partnership by Rahmat Shah (62) and Ikram Ali Khil. Never did I convince myself that they were actually going to win though. Every time the big screen informed those in the stadium that Afghanistan were ahead of where West Indies had been, you still knew that they needed to put their foot on the accelerator.

Shah was horrendously dropped by Sheldon Cottrell but fell soon after. I witnessed Ikram make a career best 24 (Previous best was 11) on Saturday and today, having been promoted to no. 3, he bested again with 86.

Cottrell, having not originally picked up that earlier drop, later claimed a very good catch and Fabian Allen, who’d already claimed one to silence the crowd, sealed the match with a stunner running backwards. The less said about his bowling or his career stats the better and the same goes for Hope’s atrocious wicketkeeping. Brathwaite claimed 4-63 but Kemar Roach (10-2-37-3) was the pick of the bowlers.

For the record, if I understood correctly from the multiple cries, the Caribbean colours draped West Indies fan sat next to me is not convinced by Jason Holder as captain. He got the blame for a no-ball when too many fielders were outside the circle, which seems fair enough. He also got the blame for Pooran’s run out!

As for the overall standard in the field…

https://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/av/cricket/48876706

West Indies were going through the motions waiting for wickets and they predictably came. Perhaps I expected too much of Afghanistan at this tournament. They’ve come a long way and only lost this one by 23 runs.

https://www.espncricinfo.com/series/8039/game/1144524/afghanistan-vs-west-indies-42nd-match-icc-cricket-world-cup-2019

Too many of their players including the big names, notably Rashid Khan, haven’t stepped up though. Gulbadin Naib may have contributed to their journey but isn’t meriting a place in a losing team let alone being the captain.

West Indies have a potentially powerful batting unit if the hierarchy can keep them all interested and not lose them to more and more global franchise gigs. Afghanistan need to meet in the middle between the heroic generation that got them this far and the youngsters coming through.

Afghanistan v Pakistan World Cup ODI

I’ve just returned from a scorching Headingley where Pakistan’s senseless top order batsmen did their best to throw the match away but Afghanistan’s captain did instead!

To say that the atmosphere was vibrant would be an understatement… and that was just outside the ground!

Afghanistan ground their way to 227-9 and though Pakistan lost an early wicket they soon looked in command. Both Imam and Babar got out though when trying to force the pace even though the required rate was far less than a run-a-ball.

Needless run outs also contributed to Pakistan’s demise but Imad Wasim seized the initiative while Afghan skipper Gulbadin Naib conceded 18 in a torturous over before absurdly still bowling the final over. Though Hassan was injured and I’m not sure what happened to Rahmat who seemed set to come on at one point, any other bowler (Player even!) who bowled anything slower than Gulbadin would’ve been a more sensible choice.

It was the hottest day of the year but my three bottles of water and big hat helped me through. I still managed to get burnt and had to buy a t-shirt just to protect my legs!

The match went to the wire and for England and romantics out there, a Pakistan victory is disappointing but they scraped through in the end. Fair play!

https://www.espncricinfo.com/series/8039/game/1144518/afghanistan-vs-pakistan-36th-match-icc-cricket-world-cup-2019

This will take some coming back from for Afghanistan who also let victory slip away from them against India. It also leaves England likely needing to defeat both India and New Zealand to progress to the semi-finals.