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!

England Cricket Trading Cards

Who’s the guy top left? He doesn’t play for England!

Dawid Malan, Tom Helm, Katherine Brunt: Where are you? There’s only so many Dom Bess and Fran Wilsons that I can stand! In fact, I’ve got more Keaton Jennings than Keaton Jennings has got runs this year!

Ben Duckett, Haseeb Hameed, Nick Gubbins: Why is it so hard to find an English opening batsman?

One England opening batsman I have found is no longer an England opening batsman!

In summary, I’ve got most of the standard cards. The missing few are:

Men’s Test: Jonny Bairstow, Ben Duckett, Steven Finn (I have the shiny version but not the white version), Dawid Malan, Ben Stokes

England Lions: Haseeb Hameed, Joe Clarke, Nick Gubbins, Alex Davies, Tom Helm, Sam Curran

Women’s: Katherine Brunt, Laura Marsh, Any Shrubsole

Though Amy Jones is one of my favourite players, I don’t need one of her for every day of the week!

Men’s ODI: Sam Billings, Steven Finn, Alex Hales

Men’s T20I: Moeen Ali, Sam Billings, Liam Dawson

Actually that’s more than a few. What Sam Billings’ repeated absence tells us about his international career is unclear!

Fire & Ice: James Anderson/Joe Root, Danielle Hazell/Heather Knight

Here’s where it gets patchy…

Milestones: Stuart Broad, Alastair Cook, Moeen Ali, Ben Stokes, Chris Woakes, Joe Root, Alex Hales

Portraits: Joe Root, Alastair Cook, Stuart Broad, Heather Knight, Ben Stokes,

Patch Card: Stuart Broad Reemption, Stuart Broad Patch Card… there’s one selling on ebay for £500.00 though. I’m keen but I’m not that keen!

Cricket Captain 2018: A Sinking Feeling in New Zealand!

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We ended a run of six Tests without a win by defeating New Zealand in the first Test in the Land of the Long White Cloud. This was despite our hosts, who opted to bat first, been in a position of extreme supremacy when placed at both 150-0 and 217-1. Much like his debut in the Ashes, Jamie Porter endured a wicketless first spell but came back to deliver senational figures of 6-71 with New Zealand collapsing to just 290 all out. Ben Stokes’ magnificent 148 then lifted us to 399 before Porter (3-54) again and left-armer Mark Footitt (4-82) dismissed the hosts for a second time, leaving us requiring 186 for victory. We knocked them off for the loss of four wickets to assume a 1-0 series lead.

In the second Test, with a tour of South Africa on the horizon, we rested Stuart Broad and recalled Yorkshire’s Ben Coad. Having won the toss, we opted to bowl first and Mark Footitt maintained his strong from with career best Test figures of 5-36 to help bowl the home side out for a paltry 204. At 244-5 we seemed well set for a healthy first innings lead but there was no wag in our tail as we collapsed to just 254 all out. New Zealand then made 337 in their second dig, despite Mark Footitt (4-79) causing yet more havoc! Requiring 287 runs for victory, yet again we put ourselves in pole position. We were 91-0 and 155-1 courtesy of Alastair Cook (94) and Haseeb Hameed (75). Hameed hung around as wickets fell but again our tail offered next to nothing. We folded for 256 and to a 31-run defeat.

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As is often the case, we competed, we got ourselves in good positions but let them slip. What could’ve been an excellent away Test series win ended in a disappointing draw.

For the record: Ben Stokes topped the run charts for our side with 241 at 80.33 whilst Mark Footitt, 13 wickets at 20.00 was our leading bail knocker.

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There then followed a five-match T20I series in which the only senior played rested was Test and ODI skipper Joe Root. Unfortunately, following a 3-0 defeat at home to Australia in the summer, new T20I captain Ben Stokes is still seeking his first win. We went down 5-0 in New Zealand and found all manner of ways to lose. Among the positives were Tom Kohler-Cadmore’s 179 runs at 44.75, Jofra Archer’s six wickets at 14.83 as well as a swashbuckling 49 not out from 25 deliveries on debut as well as Ben Sanderson’s five series wickets at just 10.40 apiece. Unfortunately the likes of Matt Critchley and Ross Whiteley endured tough series. Derbyshire’s Critchley conceded 20 from his first over in international cricket whilst Whiteley has a highest T20I score of just 16. Dawid Malan possibly saved his place in the side with a rapid 53 (29) in the fifth and final match, a match lost by just 3 runs!

Tom Kohler-Cadmore and Alex Hales broke the record for our T20I first wicket stand but despite putting on 134, we still managed to mess that match up too!

Bring on South Africa. We’ve always wanted to go on safari!

Cricket Captain 2018: Caribbean Cruise!

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Another Test series, another victory and a comprehensive one at that. We comfortably saw off our hosts by a whitewashing scoreline of 3-0.

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Having assumed a 2-0 series lead, courtesy in no small part due to Alastair Cook’s mammoth 238, the highest individual Test score of my tenure so far, the opportunity to perform some squad rotation was performed in the third Test.

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In the final match of the series, debuts were presented to Sam Hain, Ollie Pope, Ed Barnard and Dom Bess. Despite the absence of many senior players, our strength in depth was highlighted with yet another victory. Hain hit a magnifienct 195 not out at the top of the order, Ollie Pope sealed victory with 43 not out in the second innings, Ed Barnard made 90 and spinner Dom Bess claimed his maiden Test wicket.

Nottinghamshire’s Stuart Broad led the way with 16 series wickets at just 10.44 apiece. Left-arm quick Mark Footitt also stepped in and claimed 9 victims at 23.22. That’s four consecutive Test series wins  for the team during my tenure.

The ODI series wasn’t quite as successful and ultimately began and finished with frustration. Despite losing only two wickets, we messed up a run chase of just 230 in the first encounter. Well set to assume a series lead, we somehow contrived to only tie the match. West Indies then gained the upperhand before we fought back to lead 2-1. Having posted 314 in the decider, we were confident of sealing a much needed series win. Disappointingly, West Indies knocked off the required runs with consummate ease, leaving the score all square at 2-2.

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A series draw is however a step in the right direction, coming as it was off the back of two series defeats. The left-field selection of Chris Wood continued to prove one of my shrewdest selections to date. The Hampshire left-armer claimed two four-fors in the series and finished with 9 wickets at 28.44. He has been a constant wicket taking threat throughout his short England career so far and provides a point of difference for the team.

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A familiar pattern emerged for Wood’s new-ball partner Jamie Overton however. Once again the Somerset quick started well before falling apart at the seams. Figures of 10-0-96-0 in the final match of the series confirmed that Overton is a player whose workload requires managing. He has claimed wickets since coming into the side though and needs to remain part of the squad even if not playing in every match.

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Worcestershire all-rounder Ed Barnard’s versatile qualities in both multi-innings and limited overs cricket have been a vital addition to our composition. Still only 23, Barnard should bring a lot to our culture in the future.

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Following the ODIs, we emphatically won the T20I series with a scoreline that mirrored the Test series result, 3-0. Alex Hales totalled 214 series runs at an average of 71.33. This included a top score of 116. Middlesex man Dawid Malan returned to the squad following injury and promptly blitzed 60 and 77 not out before being run out for 42. Those runs were achieved at a whopping strike-rate of 182.6! Josh Tongue claimed figures of 4-23 on debut whilst Olly Stone claimed 3 series victims at 15.67 in his international induction. Craig Overton and Yorkshire wicketkeeper Jonny Tattersall also made their T20I debuts.

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The series result was a great one for skipper Eoin Morgan but he has struggled for runs in both the ODI and T20I format throughout the past year. Without an ODI series win in three, the Irishman’s place in the team comes under serious scrutiny ahead of the 2019 World Cup.

England Test Squad Announcement (The Real Life One!)

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Hi followers

Please have a listen to my latest audio cast here…

The England squad in full can be found by clicking below…

https://www.ecb.co.uk/england/men/news/788975/england-name-squad-for-first-test-against-india

Cricket Captain 2018: England Squad Announcement

England Test squad for the three-match tour of Sri Lanka:

Joe Root (Captain), Moeen Ali, James Anderson, Jonny Bairstow (Wicketkeeper), Ed Barnard, Dom Bess, Stuart Broad, Rory Burns, Joe Clarke, Alastair Cook, Liam Dawson, Mark Footitt, Sam Hain, Haseeb Hameed, Matthew Parkinson, Ollie Pope (Wicketkeeper), Ben Stokes, Mark Wood

Jack Leach, Dawid Malan and James Vince were not considered due to injury.