Cricket Captain 2018: Heading North Down South… then Heading South Again!

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I’m delighted to announce that the England cricket team, selected and coached by myself, sealed a magnificent 2-0 Test series win in South Africa.

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Following draws in the first two Tests, our strength in depth, particularly in our pace bowling depths, helped us claim a sensational series win.

In the first two Tests, opposition opening batsmen Aiden Markram (195 in the first Test) and Dean Elgar (251 in the second Test) prevented us from being able to gain anything more than a draw. This was despite Alastair Cook (105), Joe Root (135) and Haseeb Hameed (104) all registering tons in the first match. We were perilously placed at 29-4 in the second Test but again skipper Root (121) as well as Jonny Bairstow (117) ensured we avoided defeat.

In the third Test, we bravely opted to bowl first. James Vince (182) and Joe Clarke (195) both recorded career best performances in a partnership worth 268. Clarke’s innings was particularly satisfying following a lean spell after which he’d been left out of the XI. He performed well in the warm-up match to get the nod ahead of Ollie Pope and after a quiet first two Tests, stepped up to surpass 1000 Test runs.

Olly Stone claimed 3-51 on Test debut before we went onto win by six wickets in the final session of the match. Bairstow (27) and Ben Stokes (4) opened the batting with Joe Clarke (4 not out) and Dom Bess (5 not out) promoted to number six, seeing us to a famous win.

In the fourth Test we again bowled first. Yorkshire’s Ben Coad was recalled and swung the ball prodigiously in claiming Test best figures of 4-40. Hameed (93), Vince (82) and Root (77) led the way with the bat before Jamie Porter, who like Coad was brought into this match for the first time in the series having been extremely unfortunate to miss out in the first three Tests, took 4-57. The old wise heads of Alastair Cook (70 not out) and Joe Root (40 not out) saw us home in a fashion far more comfortable than our run chases sometimes are.

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As the above graphic shows, all our senior batsmen averaged in excess of forty.

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We rotated our bowlers well, making bold decisions to rest players when it would’ve been tempting to stick with them and risk burning them out. James Anderson (14 wickets @ 24.79) continued to defy his age as the younger bowlers ran in hard alongside him. Stuart Broad, dropped after a wicketless first Test, has an uncertain future given that our next tour is just a two-match trip to Sri Lanka. He may come into contention for selection in the ODIs.

Though the young spin duo of Matthew Parkinson and Dom Bess didn’t excel statistically, they stuck to their task hard and will hope to reap the fruits of their labours as we seek another second Sri Lanka away series win during my tenure.

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We’ll need a win to retain third place in the Test ranking. Only three points separate ourselves, Pakistan, Australia and New Zealand down in sixth place.

Unfortunately, come the limited overs matches, we reverted to type and lost both the ODI and T20I series by 2-1 scorelines.

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Warwickshire opener Ed Pollock was in scintillating form in the ODIs. He accumulated 251 runs at an average of 83.67. His series contrasted with Alex Hales, who though he scored runs, they were rather laboured innings. The pair compiled back-to-back century stands (153 and 109) in the second and third ODIs.

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Joe Root’s rollicking 92 not out from just 43 deliveries did at least seal us a phenomenal consolation victory in the third and final ODI. Jonny Bairstow (61 not out from 41 balls) also made a welcome limited overs contribution. Disappointingly Stuart Broad went wicketless in two outings having been recalled to the ODI team.

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The T20Is were lost 2-1 having gone 1-0 up. Sussex’s Jofra Archer continued his encouraging introduction to international cricket, as the above graphic highlights. The recalled Jake Ball was in outstanding form. He claimed seven wickets in three matches at just 10.71 apiece. Joe Root again demonstrated why he should be an automatic selection in the limited overs side by striking 84 not out from 59 deliveries… but we still lost.

Next it’s to Sri Lanka for two Tests but no white-ball matches.

Ashes Cricket (PS4): Global Test League – New Zealand Run Out… of Ideas!

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When your bowlers need claim only fourteen wickets, you can’t help but think that Test match victories shouldn’t come quite so easily!

Post victory in the Shamrock state, Warwickshire’s Chris Woakes was recalled to the side for the hosting of New Zealand at Edgbaston. Woakes soon snaffled a wicket on his home ground, that of Kiwi opener Jeet Raval, caught behind for seven by debutant wicketkeeper Ben Foakes. That’d be bowled Woakes caught Foakes then! Brought into the side at the expense of Jonny Bairstow following the Yorkshireman’s shabby showing against Ireland in Malahide, Foakes duly put in an exemplary performance behind the timbers. Surrey head honcho Alec Stewart will be proud.

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Woakes made the most of his familiarity with the surroundings. With the new ball in hand whilst Stuart Broad sat this match out, Woakes claimed impressive figures of 3-28 as New Zealand capitulated to 143-9 in their first innings. Only a last wicket stand of forty between Neil Wagner and Trent Boult helped lift the visitors to a slightly more respectable 183 all out. New Zealand’s ineptitude with the bat on such a run-welcoming surface was soon highlighted by England’s willow wielders, not to mention the Kiwis’ own efforts come their second innings.

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Mark Stoneman compiled a career best 82 in an opening partnership of 186 with former Durham colleague Keaton Jennings but was rightly gutted on missing out on a maiden Test century. The Surrey lefty played an unnecessary and inexplicably expansive shot when three figures were peeping above the horizon whilst crying out “Come and get me Mark, please!”.

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Perennially in-form Jennings made no such mistake. His monumental 222 was a dominational knock that left him sitting pretty at the top of the Global Test League run charts whilst averaging an epic 83.29! #Bradmanesque was soon trending on social media. In the interest of fairness, Roston Chase, Dean Elgar and Ross Taylor have all clocked up higher GTL scores in the first four rounds of games.

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Dawid Malan registered his third hundred of the GTL, the most by any individual thus far in the inaugural edition of the competition. The Middlesex man fell for a Test best 155, his partnership of 194 with Adil Rashid was England’s competition high so far as was the team cumulative of 765-9. Regarding the bowling, Neil Wagner claimed absurd figures of 3-256!

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Following his reintegration to the Test side against Ireland, Adil Rashid continued his authoritative all-round performance and seemed destined for a maiden Test century. The Yorkshireman was controversially adjudged run out when on 79 however, though in truth it was an almightily risky run, even if the cameras suggested he’d made his ground.

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As was the case against Ireland, England saw their opposition produce a strong second innings batting display. It was only day three and the pitch was still a good one. How much more the Kiwis 410 could have been if it were not for five run outs in the innings, added to one in their first, will forever remain unknown. Had the tourists not conceded such village dismissals (No disrespect to village cricketers across the land!) and had they applied themselves better in their first innings then this could have been a far more evenly contested high scoring affair. Tim Southee’s run out for a career best 87, a dismissal that sealed the home side’s victory was disappointing, embarrassing, amateur, heart-breaking and inevitable all at the same time. Even the England fans wanted to see him reach a ton.

Moving on from my journalistic report and bringing to the fore my role as Team Manager and Chairman of Selectors of the England national side, we’d prefer to have to work harder for our wickets, even if we can claim to have applied pressure to bring them about. Our performance against spin, Jeetan Patel finished with figures of 0-98 on his home ground, was extremely encouraging. Pakistan in Lahore however will be a different kettle of the proverbial fish. We look forward to the challenge though. We currently sit joint top of the GTL table alongside South Africa and India. They too have won three matches and lost one. Entertaining ‘The Proteas’ at home will follow the trip to Pakistan.

The squad to travel to Pakistan will be named after careful consideration has been provided. Rotation of our pace bowlers continues to be of paramount importance as we look to sustain our intensity throughout the duration of the competition. Thoughts of adding additional spin options to the XI will be weighed up as will selecting spin-skilled batsmen. The players continue to be humbled by the support of the fans.

Maiden Test Wicket for Roland-Jones!

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Middlesex legend Toby Roland-Jones, aka Toblerone has snapped up his first Test victim in the third Test against South Africa. Dean Elgar had the honour of being TR-J’s maiden Test scalp and at the time of writing Roland-Jones has added Heino Kuhn and Hashim Amla to his list of Test dismissals. His figures currently read 3-8 to add to the 25 runs he posted in England’s innings.

Start as you mean to go on Toby!

International Duck Watch!

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Well if we thought that Australia’s Nic Maddinson had arrived on the Test scene in style then we hadn’t seen anything. Pakistan’s Mohammad Rizwan went golden in his maiden Test innings against New Zealand as his side slipped to 76-5 in pursuit of New Zealand’s first innings total of 271 in Hamilton. Neil Wagner (2-15) the bowler responsible.

Meanwhile down under South Africa’s opening batsman Dean Elgar fell for a duck which ties in nicely to our piece on fellow opener Stephen Cook…

https://sillypointcricketsite.wordpress.com/2016/11/26/anatomy-of-trying-to-save-a-test-career-revisited/

https://sillypointcricketsite.wordpress.com/2016/11/24/anatomy-of-trying-to-save-a-test-career/

… and nightwatchman (Or not as it turned out!) Kyle Abbott also joined the illustrious International Duck Club today.

Anatomy of Trying to Save a Test Career: Revisited

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Remember how Silly Point wrote an article about England’s spin bowling options and then Cricinfo wrote a similar article a couple of weeks later…

https://sillypointcricketsite.wordpress.com/2016/10/31/a-familiar-spin/

… and remember when Silly Point wrote an article about Shai Hope potentially being the West Indies new star and then he scored a hundred just few days after…

https://sillypointcricketsite.wordpress.com/2016/11/19/hundred-for-hope/

… and remember how earlier this week Silly Point wrote an article about South Africa’s Stephen Cook trying to save his Test career…

https://sillypointcricketsite.wordpress.com/2016/11/24/anatomy-of-trying-to-save-a-test-career/

… well check out the scorecard below…

http://www.espncricinfo.com/australia-v-south-africa-2016-17/engine/match/1000855.html

… we’ll touch base again tomorrow in the final trilogy of Anatomy of Trying to Save a Test Career, which rather ironically might end Dean Elgar’s!

Anatomy of Trying to Save a Test Career

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South Africa’s Stephen Cook had to wait a long time to play international cricket. Despite scoring run upon run at domestic level year after year the selectors had ignored him. Finally at the age of 33 the right-handed opening batsman made his debut against England earlier this annum. Representing South Africa A he had carried his bat for an unbeaten 53 in a warm-up match against the tourists before eventually getting the call-up to the full side following failures by the likes of Stiaan van Zyl.

He made 115 on his first Test outing and added 25 in the second innings. At home to New Zealand Cook recorded scores of 20, 56 and 4. He has struggled to get going down under registering contributions of 0,12 and 23 in the first two Tests. All this added up to Cook needing to deliver in the third and final Test, a pink ball day/night affair against Australia in Adelaide. Though South Africa have already won the series there is still much to lose… or gain for Cook. Remember that star batsman AB de Villiers is absent through injury and will almost certainly be immediately reinstated to the side. The other aspect that Cook is up against (Other than Australia’s bowlers!) is South Africa’s selection quota. Current regulations state that they must have six ‘black’ players in the XI. Stand-in captain Faf du Plessis certainly isn’t getting dropped and Cook’s fellow opener Dean Elgar probably has enough in the bank too. Basically Cook needed to go big in the third Test.

Did he?

I’ll admit that when I got up early doors to watch the Test I had hoped to watch a fellow Yorkshireman, Middleborough born debutant Matthew Renshaw opening the batting for Australia but it was the tourists that won the toss and chose to bat. Having got off the mark with a streaky boundary Cook was soon the very definition of plumb LBW to Mitchell Starc. He shook his head as Dean Elgar hinted at a review and marched towards the pavilion. But hold on!

Is it a no ball?

The big screen replays suggest that it might be. Cook is stopped from crossing the boundary rope. Had he done so he would not have been allowed to return. He looks up at the screen but he’s not sure, he looks rather bewildered and the episode goes on for what seems like an eternity. Part of you thinks that he doesn’t particularly want to go back. Almost with a sigh of resignation he returns to face Starc again. You sense that this is Cook’s moment. That dismissal could have been his Test career dead and buried but for an epic second innings century. He would have been stuck in the field for a day or two mulling over all that he’s worked towards slipping away from him when he’s barely had a sip. Now he has the chance to go on and make a score, plunder thousands of Test runs from this moment forth and look back on that no-ball as the moment that changed his entire life.

Before long Dean Elgar is out. Hashim Amla and Jean-Paul Duminy both follow soon after, all freakishly for five runs. This seems to be shaping up as a Stephen Cook type innings, it is everything that he is designed for, him to just stay there as wickets tumble at the other end. The commentators, nearly all past Australian players are tearing his technique to shreds but hold on, he’s the one that’s still there and runs are starting to flow. Cook is having a torrid time against Starc. He is averaging 46 against right-arm bowlers in Test cricket but just ten against left-armers, i.e. Starc & co. Josh Hazlewood is bowling really well too but Jackson Bird’s opening spell is a pressure reliever and when Nathan Lyon, wicketless for about a fortnight comes on, skipper du Plessis and Cook step to off and work singles on the leg-side. At lunch Cook has made it to 40 and soon after he and du Plessis register a fifty partnership but Cook just can’t get going again and following some not so subtle field changes he’s expecting a short one. He doesn’t get it and edges Starc to Steven Smith at second slip. Cook punches his bat in frustration.

In all probability he needed at least another ten runs to save his Test career, fine margins. One senses that at 33 once he’s gone he’s gone. Barring an Australian batting debacle he’ll have one more innings in this match but will need to get toward triple figures to ensure that it isn’t his last in Test cricket.

Hopefully he can cook Bird, starve Lyon, send Starc around the park and …err… get Hazlewood… err… stuck in the mud!

Australia 0-1 South Africa

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South Africa have gained a 1-0 lead in their Test series in Australia with a 177-run victory at Perth. Australia had actually been 158-0 in their first innings response to South Africa’s 242 but suffered an Englandesque collapse losing all ten wickets for just 86 runs and so finishing 244 all out, a lead of just two. Dean Elgar (127) and Jean-Paul Duminy’s (141) partnership of exactly 250 helped South Africa soar to 540-8 declared against the Birdless Ozzies (See previous post: The Bird and the Lyon). Despite 97 from Usman Khawaja and 60 not out from wicketkeeper Peter Nevill, Kagiso Rabada’s 5-92 saw the hosts bundled out for 361.

Australia’s selectors will now surely ponder possible changes to the side for the second Test and might do no worse than to ‘Go West’ as the Pet Shop Boys would say. Western Australia’s Ashton Agar (Remember him?) was unlucky to finish on the losing side as his team were beaten by New South Wales in Sydney in the latest round of First Class fixtures down under. Agar recorded career best bowling analysis of 6-110 in the first innings and match figures of 10-141. He also registered scores of 15 and 35 batting at number five. The Australian selectors might be tempted to bring the twenty-three-year-old back into the fold though national selector Mark Waugh already seems to have confirmed that it won’t be at the expense of Mitchell Marsh.

The second Test of the three match series commences on November 12th at Hobart down in Tasmania, down in Tasmania!